…Because it must be time for a big life change…

I have this habit of not blogging until there is some big family announcement to make. And, well, today is no exception.

It’s big and it’s exciting and is beautiful and it’s scary…and it’s, well, all the things.

But most of all, it is fulfillment of our deepest hearts desires. It is an invitation to step out of our comfort zone and to do something big and bold and important. It is an opportunity to do something we have been called to.

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On June 1, Brandon will begin a new job as Director of Content and Distribution for Redeemer City to City based in New York City. You can find out more about the organization here.

In short, Brandon will get to be a part of training and equipping pastors to plant churches all over the world in very secular, hard to reach places. And, of course, there’s so much more to it than that. But, that’s easier to explain in person!

For the 11 years that Brandon and I have been married, we have dreamed about planting a church in this type of place. So with this move, we get to not only help with this mission around the world, but we are eager to join a church plant in New York City. And we will get to be a part of a big vision that started with Tim Keller and has reached cities around the world.

And, friends, I can’t even tell you how our hearts are bursting with this news. We know that nothing will be perfect with this transition, and that there will be good and not-so-good days ahead of us. But the calling and vision of City to City has been worked in our hearts and we just can’t wait to be a part of it.

And all that would be enough to make us go. But this move also hits something a little deeper for me.

One of my deepest hearts desires has been for my children to have a piece of what I grew up with in Singapore. And, while, I am always encouraging those around me to ask for big things from God and to trust him to fulfill them…I could never bring myself to ask about this one. I had decided that it was something that I could sacrifice. It was something that I pushed down and out of the way. I grieved it, but rarely acknowledged it.

And then Brandon began to talk with Mark Reynolds at City to City about this position… and I began to see this dream come to life. I began to see flesh on those bones. I began to see before me that God was fulfilling something he had whispered to my heart a long time ago.

And what better way for a dream to be fulfilled, then with a job that seems tailor made for my husband and his calling, gifts, and abilities. And with an organization whose calling has been worked in our hearts and minds.

So, here we go. There are a lot of things in front us as we prepare for this transition. We are selling our house, our cars and most of our stuff. And we are looking at schools and neighborhoods. But, we are also preparing to leave this place.

We have been trusted with much in our time in Conway. There is never a perfect time to leave, of course, but we increasingly sense God’s provision in transitioning these places that we love to new leadership. And, of course, we are committed to doing everything in our power to help these places not skip a beat. But we are also confidant God will take care of OBU at New Life Church, of NLC School of Ministry, and of Pediatrics Plus Developmental Preschool. We love these places. We have been honored by their trust in us as leaders. And we are confidant is the legacy they will continue to build.

And, well, I guess it’s it. Let me close by saying that we covet your prayers. We ask for your patience as we balance a lot of things in the next few months (and therefore do a poor job as friends). And we hope to spend time with many before we leave.

Let the adventure begin!

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A whole new kind of family

One year ago today we woke up in our home as a family of four for the very first time.

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Eliza was born early in the morning on June 28 and it took a week for the state of Oklahoma to let us leave. It was a stressful week with a lot of the unpredicted things coming up.

But I don’t think I’ve ever written how it ended.

The state of Oklahoma had been giving us lots of conflicting information. We had all of our paperwork done and completed, but after Eliza was born they asked for brand new paperwork and told us of requirements they had never mentioned before. My long suffering, incredibly patient husband had just about had his full.

At the end of the week, on Thursday, July 3, the state of Oklahoma tells us that Eliza’s birthmom (J) needs to go before a judge. This was a one more requirement they had never mentioned before. And we had to find someone get it done before the holiday weekend.

Through some very kind individuals we are able to get an appointment with an Oklahoma judge for 2 p.m. that day. J and her dad met us there.

At this appointment J held Eliza while the judge asked her if she understood her decision. I couldn’t take my eyes off the two of them. J looked at Eliza most of the time as she gave her statement. Then we went into a court room to wait and the judge said everything was done. J hugged Eliza one more time. Her dad did the same and then we said our goodbyes. A few minutes later we got official permission to leave the state and return home. That night we were home.

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This image has been forever burned in my mind. J knew what she was doing. And she did it out of love for her child. The state of Oklahoma gave J and her parents a lot of extra things to do. And they did them all.

There is a misconception about adoption that if a mother loves the child, she wont go through with it.

Adoptions get disrupted all the time for a multitude of reasons. And many mothers change their minds and make the decision to parent. And they have every right to do so.

(And there are many adoption situations that arise out of abuse or mistreatment. I’m not talking about those. )

Both the decision to parent and the decision to place your child for adoption can be loving decisions.

Many people have asked us about our relationship with Eliza’s birth family. And they don’t often understand what it must be like. If we’re honest, we don’t really either. We’re all figuring this out as we go. But the fact is, these people have become our very own family. We love them. They are a part of our daughter, they love her deeply and so they are a part of us. But it’s not just Eliza, they also love Jamie. We keep in touch and they are just as eager to hear how he is doing. They love him. They love me. They love Brandon.

We don’t know when Eliza will get to see them all again. We are praying for wisdom to know when it’s time.

But we are so incredibly thankful, honored, privileged and humbled that they would entrust our sweet baby to us.

Adoption is a beautiful and incredible thing. It’s hard. It can be uncomfortable. It’s messy and unpredictable. It’s full of brokenness and heartache. But the grace is so very rich. The mercy is overflowing.

And I love it.

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Friends.

What better picture to illustrate friendship?

I left behind some pretty awesome friends. The type that cry with you, laugh with you, go to Ikea or the outlet mall or the arboretum with you just so you can get out of the house. The kind that help you pick out a dress for your brother’s wedding, or show up to CE work-day (not because they love sorting markers but because they love you).

These were friends who let me share in their children’s lives, even before I had one of my own. And they were friends who would schedule play-dates at the drop of the hat to re-establish sanity.

When Brandon and I grieved multiple close-call adoptions, these were the friends who brought meals over. They listened. They cried.

When I was pretty sure I couldn’t function any longer, these were friends who rearranged their schedules to have breakfast, coffee, or just a phone call.

Seriously, these people are wonderful.

When we received the call about Jamie, these were the friends who leapt into action. They pestered me until I finished baby registries so they could shop. They cried with me in Target and brought me baby blankets. They supplied everything we would need to welcome a baby home. In less than 72 hours. Seriously. Everything from diapers, clothes, toys, blankets, detergent, bottles, meals for weeks after we brought him home… Absolutely. Everything.

And these were the people who came over to visit our new little man. They brought books. They brought their children. They brought diaper genies and onesies. They were as eager as grandparents to hold him, to tell him how much he was waited for. How much he was already loved.

You understand what I mean, right?

They babysat at a moment’s notice. They brought by surprise (freshly baked) gluten-free treats. They helped us move. Three times. They didn’t flinch when Jamie covered them in spit-up. (well, maybe they flinched a little). And when I was having a hard time figuring out the work / mom / wife / balance, it was these friends who volunteered to bring us a meal every week. And not just any meal, a gourmet meal.

They welcomed us into their homes for lunch or dinner. They got together really early every other Thursday with my husband.They lent us baby gates, saws, any tool we might want. They sent us cards, poems, thoughts, encouragements. They knitted us blankets and other items.

They read and even commented on our blogs.

They prayed. Oh, how they prayed.

They provided for our financial needs on more than one occasion. They gave generously towards our adoption costs.

They went to Alfies with us. They let me order for them at Asian restaurants. They heartily enjoyed Brandon’s redneck tales.

One of the things I love about my parents is that they always had good friends. And these friends became honorary Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. Even when they moved away, they still were a part of my life.

This move has brought us closer to family (and they’re pretty great, too). And it’s brought us closer to some very dear friends (you know, the kind who let you eat pork chops anyway you want). And we’re already building new relationships that we are so excited about.

But I’m so excited about Jamie knowing all the people who welcomed his birth with such excitement. Near and far. They are each and all a part of his story. And we are so thankful.

And what about this little gem? Jamie has many female admirers.

New Beginnings

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. And I’ve been struggling for days over what to write. I’ve decided I’m not going to write about the Zimmerman trial, even though it has been weighing heavily on my heart. For a thoughtful response you can see these entries: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2013/07/why-im-encouraged-after-trayvon-martin.html OR http://brandonjobrien.com/?p=870

I’m not going to write about my usually happy toddler who is being terrorized by molars and is therefore turning the terror on innocent bystanders.

I’m not even going to write about how annoyed I get over complete strangers who read my husband’s blog and then feel the need to comment, not about the post, but about dear husband’s integrity. No, I wont write about that.

And I wont bore you with the weather. (though it is stinkin’ hot. Seriously).

Instead I thought I’d talk about our move. I know, you’re probably thinking those other topics sound far more interesting (except for the weather, that one’s never interesting). But I promise I’ll make this worth it. Seriously.

It would probably surprise you to know that this move to Conway was first suggested by me. This past Christmas we were here visiting family. After a lovely visit with dear friends to their church, I felt an overwhelming sense that this was not only a place we could afford to live, but was a place we could flourish. That, perhaps, this was the place God had been preparing us for. I know, it surprised me, too. So we talked in the car as we drove to each family stop. We talked when we got back and by mid-January we had made the decision.

You see, we had been feeling for quite some time that God was preparing us to leave Wheaton. We loved our 7 1/2 years there, but we just couldn’t shake that this was not permanent. But, when you’re husband’s a freelancer, it’s not a job that takes him to another city. It’s a family decision.

So in mid-January I told my pastor of our decision and we prepared to leave. We knew it would take quite a bit of coordination to make this move possible, so we gave ourselves 6 months to get all the details squared away. In February I told the rest of the staff. In March we announced it to the church. People were more gracious and encouraging than we could have asked for and most definitely more than we deserved. They generously expressed their sadness at our leaving, and their hope for what this next stage might bring.

We began to get more and more excited about what would come next. And we became more and more sad at what we were leaving behind. Bitter. Sweet. We had been blessed by a church family that welcomed us and enfolded us almost immediately. I had served on staff for 6 years and we had been members for just over 7. Brandon had been a deacon for the last several years. This family had walked with us through an incredibly hard four years as we waited for our first child. They had cried with us as we shared of our infertility. They rejoiced with us when we moved forward with adoption. They even got frustrated along with us as the process took longer than any of us expected. They wept with us at each close call that didn’t bring our baby. And they came around us with the great joy when we welcomed our James David home. Every time I dress him or see him play with his toys I am reminded of the generosity of this community. Friends, we are truly, truly blessed.

But God was calling us on. So, just over a week ago we packed up our belongings (again with the help of our community), we said goodbye to dear friends and we drove 13 hours to Conway.

Brandon was in the truck with the cat. I was in the car with the toddler. We joked beforehand that it was a toss up over whose trip would prove most difficult. Well, friends, I definitely won that battle. But we made it.

And it’s all sort of surreal. I have had my freakout moments over how much I miss our dear friends. It’s kind of hard to go from constant contact (text, email, phone calls) to almost nothing. I didn’t handle it so well.

After over 3 weeks of frequent babysitters and a house increasingly full of boxes, Jamie was struggling to adjust. We had lots of tears, tantrums and just plain crankiness.

And that’s the hard. But you want to know the good? We were greeted at our temporary apartment by family who helped unload those things we needed immediately. Then the next day a group met Brandon at the storage place to unload our entire truck. They were done within 30 minutes. Several came over to the apartment to help me unpack a few things. We had lunch with dear friends who now live just over an hour away. And we had dinner that night with new friends.

Within a week of being here we had met a whole host of people and Brandon has even spoken briefly at an evening Worship service. We have had dinner with another family and have several more appointments this week with new and old friends.

We are overwhelmed by God’s great provision. I’m still adjusting. Brandon is still adjusting. Jamie is still teething. But God is also still faithful. We are not only making it but we are thriving.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t know yet exactly what our lives will look like long term. We’re looking for a long term place to live (and have a few encouraging leads) and we’re figuring out how this balance of life, ministry, publishing and academics really works. And I still have a class to plan for.

And, on our good days, we’re loving it. But, as much as we felt God leading us to this new place, we still miss the old. But, honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We know that it is such a blessing to have loved a community so deeply. I don’t think I would want to leave any other way.

And with that, I will make you this promise: I will blog at least once a week. You may not need it. But I do.

And now to change a dirty diaper.