water ripple

The Trump presidency is behind us and I say thank goodness for that. I normally don’t care much about the president or get too opinionated politically. This time around though I was struck by not only a really horrible president, but by the influence and power of that position over other people.

Two things really stood out to me. The first thing that really surprised me was the way that Trump could completely lie about or create artificial realities and people actually followed him. I guess I personally can handle someone who lies and distorts reality and lives in their own imaginations. But it really surprises me that other people get swept away in his imaginations. Trump’s claim of a stolen election is probably the biggest and most recent example. He didn’t win the election so of course he’s going to be a sore loser and say it was rigged or cheated. He said it before the election (or hinted at it) and then shouted it after. Of course there’s no basis for that claim. This was one of the smoothest and most secure elections in a while. Coincidentally, there was a lot more fraud and interference (particularly from Russia) from the election four years ago that got him in office. But for Trump, it doesn’t matter if what he says has any basis in reality. People believe what he says and follow him. That is so dangerous. And I’ve never seen anything like this in our country before. His ability to completely make stuff up and somehow it becomes credible really stood out to me. I guess to me it shows me the frailty of people, the susceptibility of people. Some people will follow and believe just about anybody. That’s scary. This, to me, tells a lot more about people than it does Trump

The other thing that really stood out to me from this presidency, again that was unique, was the extent that people were willing to support and vote for a bad person. This one strikes much closer to home because although I don’t personally know anyone who actually believes all of Trump’s lies, I do know quite a few people, friends, family, who voted for him. Trump, to me, stood out as a particularly bad person, the worst president we’ve ever had in terms or character, morals, decency, respect, and leadership. In short he’s a rude, selfish, and aggressive narcissist, only caring about what’s best for him and his interests. And again, I can put that in a box and handle it from one person. But the thing that I’ll never understand is that so many people could vote for him. I would expect that good people wouldn’t vote for this horrible man. Is it because he’s Republican? Is it because he’s “pro-life”? It seems like it takes very little for people to cast their lot in with someone. It will take me a long time to figure out or understand how good people can vote for a bad man, but that’s the other thing that stands out to me. I’ve often wondered how bad somebody has to get before people won’t vote for them. Where’s the line? Is there a line? That’s the question that’s run through my head many times. It’s surprising. It’s alarming. And I think it was noticeable this time around because Trump was noticeable. His character and personality stood out more than other presidents. And because he stood out so much it’s easy to make an opinion, and that opinion is very revealing about who people are. It demands a judgment, a decision.

So those are the two most lasting things I learned from all this- the ability of so many people to get swept away in one man’s delusion, and the extent that good people were willing to support and vote for a bad man. I suspect it will take me years or a lifetime before I figure these things out.


This is a journal entry I wrote the other day about Christmas and the need to untangle some of the traditions that get all jumbled together. As my kids get older I feel the need to make some sense of this! If you have ideas about how your family does this I’d be curious to know in the comments.

“Christmas is here again and this year, like several years before, we’re  trying to celebrate in a way that is God-honoring and fits our family. I feel a little stress around Christmas because the culture can be so overwhelming and dominant it gets overrun. I’m referring to the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. These are the parts that are close to my heart and noteworthy this season. These are the things we would like to celebrate. But, like I said, if we do nothing this will completely be replaced by reindeer, Santa Claus, and presents.

I would say we do a pretty good job of keeping the focus on Jesus. We usually do advent stories everyday in December, we sing Christmas songs, and talk about all these in our home. The hard part is trying to make sense of and incorporate all the other things too, like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and presents. And as our kids get older we simply can’t avoid these other aspects of Christmas. In years past they could mostly remain ignorant, but that isn’t possible anymore. And I don’t want ignorance to be the solution to tough cultural issues. I would rather walk through these things with them and have constructive conversations about it. So how do we work through it? As it stands Christmas is one big jumbled mess of Christmas trees, presents, angels, shepherds, baby Jesus, Santa Claus and reindeer. Is there anyway to untangle this?

Saint Nicholas was a man who loved Jesus and shared his great wealth with poor people.

I really think a little bit of knowledge of church history would help here because it hasn’t always been this way. How have Christians in different countries and in the past done this? For example, Christians have historically celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on December sixth. Saint Nicholas was a man who loved Jesus and shared his great wealth with poor people. And the tradition of him delivering toys and presents sprung up from his extreme generosity and love for the Lord. Clearly there’s a good man here and something we could celebrate and try to emulate. From him we get the tradition of gift giving, stockings over the fire and Santa Claus. So what does this have to do with the nativity story and Jesus’ birthday? Well, nothing really, except that Saint Nicholas loved Jesus and probably celebrated his birth just like every other Christian. If we could pull out just this much of it from the tradition it would help a lot. It would untangle just one piece of the mess it has all become.

I want to get Christmas right. There’s a whole lot that is praiseworthy this time of year and there is a whole lot that is confusing and hard. I want to help our kids understand what is going on and what the season is all about. And the traditions we do and do not celebrate reinforce what is important and reflect what we believe.”


Vinyl records are totally redeeming the way I enjoy and listen to music. Yes, you heard that right- vinyl records. You know… the things that came around and were popular during the 1960’s. Yep, those. It’s pretty astonishing the way vinyl records are making a comeback.

So what’s up with records anyway? Well, for starters I should say that for the most part I have completely skipped the whole digital music phenomenon. I rarely purchase digital music. I don’t subscribe to any online music services. I’ve always been a bit of a music purist. And music purchased or streamed over the internet doesn’t have the same quality as, for example, a CD.

But besides quality, there are other reasons why I have avoided digital music. I guess you could call it stubbornness. The problem with digital music is that it’s tied to digital devices. You’re probably thinking, uh duh…. but for me this is a big factor when it comes to my ENJOYMENT. I don’t want to listen to music if it means I have to find my phone first… or make sure the battery is charged… or be within range of internet or cell service… or login to the site first… or locate my headphones… or, oh wait, I have to update this app first… You see? Music becomes part of a much larger more complicated and convoluted thing when it gets tied to a digital device. It gets mixed in with email, and news feeds, and Facebook. Ultimately, this detracts from my enjoyment of it in many ways.

I don’t want music tied to a complicated digital device or service. It should be free. I want to be able to hold it in my hand.

So, back to the question at hand. Why vinyl? Well, I’m discovering that vinyl actually sounds really good. It has a warm inviting quality to it. It feels like a friend. I’m used to listening to CD’s. I would say vinyl matches the quality of CD’s but with a nicer sound to it. I won’t get all technical but, to me, vinyl just sounds better.

The other nice thing about vinyl: It is dirt cheap! I went to an antique store and picked up two records for a dollar. There are three record stores where I live and they sell a lot of records for a dollar a piece. Granted, these records are old. But this is good music for super cheap!

Not everything is available on vinyl. But a lot is. And when it is, it has become the format I prefer.

I see that the last post we had on this blog was from last year, Aug. 2017. And that was quite a LONG time ago. You know, the funny thing about having a lot going on in your life is that you never have time to write about it. You have a lot to say, but no time to actually say it. Thus, several months…

Yes, that’s my horrible attempt at an excuse. But here, let me catch you up a bit.

It’s really satisfying and humbling to say that “We have our new son, Gabe, with us!” Our adoption process is complete!! We made two trips at the end of last year to meet him. The first was a week before Thanksgiving. And yes, we had MUCH to be thankful for. We took the whole family to Korea to meet him and stayed for about twelve days. It was quite chilly, but we did manage to walk around on the streets of Seoul, go to a couple parks, ride the subway, etc. And yes, we took lots of photos, made some good memories, and played with Gabe at the agency where we stayed. Memorable times.

Visiting a really big palace in Seoul.

And again, just before Christmas, Kim and I returned (just the two of us this time) to pick up Gabe and bring him home. This trip only lasted five days. We had one day just to ourselves and we took an elevator ride up the world’s 5th largest building. It was fun just hanging out, me and Kim. We so rarely get to do that these days anymore.

Atop Lotte World Tower, the fifth largest building in the world!

The three of us arrived back home Dec. 23rd, just in time for Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas present we received this year!

We are in a new season now. Sure, the adoption PROCESS has finally and officially come to an end. But our life as an adoption family has only just begun. Gabe is doing really well overall. He has bonded and attached to me and Kim pretty much immediately. He is sweet, funny, smiley, and communicates with us really well. He has gone through a grieving process though and the trauma of losing loved ones in his life has left some deep emotional scars in his heart. He is SUPER clingy to me and Kim. If we walk away, or put him down, or give attention to our other kids he cries out. He wants to be with us ALL. THE. TIME. This wouldn’t be a problem if it were just him. But with three small children in the house, it makes it very difficult. We are sensitive to his unique needs, but where is the line here? We are trying to figure where the boundaries are.

It’s been an amazing ride. We thank God for the incredible-miraculous-jaw-dropping way that He provided for us these last couple years. I keep track of our expenses each month. So I can look back and see how all our (many) expenses were covered each month during this period. Did we have $40+ thousand dollars laying around when we started this? Absolutely NOT! But this is exactly how much money has come through when we needed it. Praising God! A true testimony of His faithfulness and blessing.

We look forward to the year to come. Many transitions are in store….

Trying to get everybody to pose for a family photo….. is NOT easy.

So, now we are in what they call the “real wait” or the “long wait”, but I have to admit, so far it is going much faster than anticipated, and we are pleasantly surprised. Then again, let me also say that it took about two years to get a chunk of our funds raised and our home study completed (which often takes others 3 months), so moving “quickly” is like a breath of fresh air. We also realize the situation can change or slow down quickly, so we hold the timeline quite loosely.

They said the referral would be 2-3 months. It was 3 weeks. They said the biggest wait would be 8-12 months. It was 3 weeks! So, we’re on the next step!!

In case people are curious, here’s our current step by step:

  • Referral (est. 2-3 mths. Actual: 3wks)
  • Acceptance (June 15)
  • EP Submit (est 8-12 mths. Actual: 3wks)
  • EP approval (Current phase. Estimated wait time ~2 mths)
  • Travel! Court Hearing (wait: 2-4mths)
  • Approval 1
  • Travel! Approval 2 (wait: 1-2mths)
  • Custody

All that said, they told us to expect travel in 6-8mths or less!!


So, what are we doing in the mean time?

Here are the biggies:


We just sent little Gabe his first care package. We are now part of an awesome FB group of ppl going through the same adoption process, so we had someone hand deliver it last week. We got some super sweet photos of the little guy opening it on Monday.

It was really neat to involve the kids in the process. We went to Target and told the kids they could each pick out a toy for “Gabe Jireh” as they call him. Although they wanted to throw every toy in the store in our cart for him, Eli eventually selected a small soccer ball and Ana picked out a small Daniel Tiger family. We were told it’s good to send clothes, so I converted all his weights and measurements and we picked out a few articles of clothes. From what I can tell our sweet 15mth old should fit right between 18 and 24mth clothes (big boy 🙂 ) That afternoon the kids loved playing with the toys before mailing them to their little bro. (In fact, they loved the toys so much we decided to let Ana and Eli keep two Daniel tiger family members and send the three others to Gabe. That way we all have a small piece of the family). In addition, we were told that Gabe liked trains. So, Eli and Ana both gave him one train from their big train set.

We also included a photo album with pictures of us, our home, and daily activities. I had my Korean friend help translate so the foster mom can read it with him. We also added in a letter and few American chocolates as a gift for the foster mom.

All that said, it was super sweet to get a picture of him playing with our gift yesterday. Plus, Eli and Ana were able to connect with the photos too! Eli kept saying, “I gave him that soccer ball.” And Ana would say, “and he has Daniel Tiger. We have Margaret and Tigey.”  I have to be honest, I might have teared up just a bit to see his little fingers on our photo. That was likely the first time he has ever seen our picture.

I appreciate them staging such a sweet photo for us, and like our caseworker said, it makes things seem more real to see him playing with tangible items we had in our own hands just a couple weeks ago.


My friend had me over for a Korean cooking lesson! We made kimchi fried rice and seaweed soup.  Anyone who knows me knows language and culture lessons + cooking = amazing day. YUM! 🙂

I’ll likely write a longer post on this later, but I have recently made a great Korean friend. She just moved to the States with her husband, who is getting his PhD at UW. She was looking for someone to exchange language and culture with and so was I. So far it has worked out great, and I’m slowly learning my alphabet and key phrases. I’m loving getting back into language learning (I’m sort of geek.) They have some VERY different sounds. But I’m chugging along and am hoping it will help me talk with our little boy and maybe alleviate a little stress. Plus, I’m super grateful for a new friend!


We’ve continued our paper trail and have almost finished up on the US side. We are mostly waiting for approval on the Korean side now. In addition, I renewed my passport and we just received Eli and Ana’s passports in the mail yesterday! Woohoo!! (It was funny “renewing” Eli’s passport, as he was only 2mths old in his last picture. He is a pretty well traveled kiddo). Can’t wait to bring him back to Asia, even if just for a trip. Hopefully it will work out to bring them both with us. More in that later too.


That’s the update for now. Pleases keep this waiting game in your prayers. We are grateful things seem to be moving faster, but it also seems harder now knowing who he is. Also, keep the country of South Korea in your prayers, as you may have noticed some heightened tension in the news. We have been reassured that things seem stable for the moment, and are praying they stay that way.  You can pray for us as we prepare our hearts, lives, and finances and wait for our next call.

It’s been an interesting day. We took our friends Tehan and Junha to the Amish store today. They are Korean, and Kim has been meeting with Junha for a little over a month now for language practice. She is new to Madison and wants to learn English. And Kim (and I) want to learn as much about Korea as we can before our adoption. So it’s a fun and beneficial relationship.

Tehan and Junha are both new to American culture. They’ve only been married a couple years and don’t have any children yet. Tehan has been in the States for a while but his English is still just so-so. And Junha recently moved here and is wanting to learn more. They have Korean friends and go to Korean church, but haven’t had an opportunity yet to be around and practice with native speakers.

We really empathize with their struggles. I remember all too well that feeling- being in a new culture, not knowing the language, immersed in the culture but still too distant from it. We felt that in Indonesia. We struggled with the language. It was exhausting to talk to people. Exhausting to be social. But we also knew that was the ONLY way to overcome it. Dive in, head first.

And so when Junha reached out via Craig’s list wanting a friend, someone who could help her navigate American culture and language, Kim responded. Kim has met with her a few times, and like I said so far it’s been very helpful. We have lots of questions about Korea and could use a translator, and Junha is super-motivated to practice her English and learn American culture.

Today’s excursion was, of all places, the Amish community north of where we live. Junha had heard of the Amish and was curious. So we met at our house, had some breakfast, and drove to the Amish grocery store, furniture shop, and bakery.

Her fascination and excitement for such simple things was really cute and refreshing. She got excited about corn fields and cows. We pointed out the small towns we passed through like Wyocena and Pardeeville. And she nearly flipped out when we passed by a couple of Amish buggies. She had a lot of questions. It felt good to be around someone who didn’t take these things for granted but found them genuinely unique and interesting.

I could tell the grocery store was a little overwhelming for them- so many aisles and items, all in English…. And on a Saturday it was quite busy. All the conversation can be overwhelming. Again, I can sympathize. The furniture store was less busy, and we introduced them to angel food cake at the bakery.

It was a really fun day. I like being on this side of the culture. All too often I find myself at odds with American culture- like I don’t fit in or belong here. But days like today remind me that yes, this is where I’m from, and no, it’s not a struggle for me to be here. Not how a foreigner feels. Not how we felt as foreigners in Indonesia. For once I could be the cultural informant. For once I could help out a visitor who needed a little help. I’m really quite happy to do it. Like I said, I remember the feeling, and I remember the people who helped us when we needed it. It’s a debt of gratitude that I am happy to pay to others who need it.

The last few months have been a whirlwind. Basically, since our last blog post we finished a big work project, completed an intensive course, started to get settled into our home, joined a church, Josh switched jobs, switched placing agencies, finished our home-study, and got a referral. OH AND THIS JUST IN… ACCEPTED A REFERRAL!!

Last week we got the phone call we’ve been waiting years for. “We have a match for you!” Our caseworker continued to fill us in on a sweet little boy and offered to send us his full write up and photos. She asked that we send his info off to a medical adoption clinic for review, pray about it, and give an answer in the next two weeks.

It’s an odd feeling having someone just email you a photo of your potential son. On the one hand there’s excitement and joy. But on the other, there’s also a sense of sadness and pain for the birth parents. There’s hesitancy and frustration in the wait but elation in what may come. A roller coaster for sure… but in all I’d say there is great assurance and peace. The more we talk about this little guy as a family, the more we can’t wait to have this him join us!

For those who are curious, he is a super cute Korean BOY. He has big dark eyes, a sweet little nose, and round cheeks. He just turned one in May. He appears to be extremely healthy which is a great blessing from the Lord.

We received a photo June 1 with all of the info. We just got an updated picture and measurements on Monday when we verbally accepted. They’ll keep sending us photos and measurements every month until we are able to travel. At this time we are not sharing his photos publicly online… but feel free to ask us in person and we’ll be happy to share!

Yesterday we took a huge load of paperwork to a notary and today we sent in our official acceptance!!

So, what comes next? THE REAL WAIT.

We’ve been waiting all this time for this wait. haha. We have submitted the bulk of our next steps paperwork and will wait for approval and clearance on both the US and SKorea side. This will likely take 10-16 months. Then we’ll take two trips to SKorea and on the second, God-willing, will be able to bring him home. I know the wait is long, and it’s something we’ve had to wrestle through, but we believe it’s worth it. In the meantime we plan to send packages, apply for grants, and learn some Korean.

I received a book the other day, called The Bridge that Love Built. Its words have been reassuring to me, reminding me that even if we can’t see him, experience his first steps, hold him, hear his laughter and his cries, God can. Even before we knew who he was, God has been with Him and us every step of the way, aligning our paths, and continuing to do so. It helps me rest knowing that he is in the Lord’s care even right now while we wait.



In other news, we had to take a trip to Milwaukee on Tues to report to immigration for our I-600A. We made a trip of it by visiting cousins and going to the Milwaukee Zoo. As you can see- lots of fun and totally wiped out the kids.


Looks like it’s been a bit since we’ve posted (although our facebook page is usually up to date and we sent an e-newsletter). See below for a more through rundown.

In case people are following our crazy timeline:

Mother’s Day (May) 2015: Started adoption process. Emailed friends, researched, interviewed, chose an agency.

Feb 2016: Applied to Lifelink & their SKorea program. (Josh suddenly got an amazing job!)

Feb-Aug: Saved and Fundraised like mad. God provided.

July: Lifelink Madison closed down (our home-study agency). Switched to LSS for home-study

Oct-Jan: Trudging away at our home-study. Moved. Delays. Waiting. Got ready to send in everything.

Jan 2017: Lifelink Intl (our placing agency) closed. Switched to Dillon Intl.

Feb-April: Revised paperwork. (A few more delays) Josh gets another awesome job.

April 5: HOMESTUDY APPROVED. Sent to SKorea



*Next up:  Wait on Emigration Permissions (10-16 mths)

Having a “Christian” Christmas in America is challenging. By Christian Christmas I mean a Christmas that truly celebrates Christ- Jesus’ birthday, and doesn’t get confused or lost in the mess that Christmas has become.

Ever since we returned to America Kim and I are constantly thinking about culture. We think and talk about culture all the time. We talk about Tv shows we do and do not watch. We talk about what kind of schools we want our kids in and how the ‘culture’ at that place will shape their thoughts and hearts. We do things so incredibly different from most of the people around us. It’s not right or wrong. It’s just different.

And when it comes to Christmas, culture and culture clash is on the burner. I think what bothers me most about this season is that it is supposed to be religious. Christmas is supposed to be a religious holiday. But people pretend it isn’t. It gets replaced by Santa Claus, presents under the tree and ‘happy holidays’. And that bothers me. It makes me want to throw the whole thing under the rug.

My problem is that I tend to see things as either black or white. I have a hard time with gray. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. So gray is hard for me. In the case of Christmas, I want to only make it about Jesus. I really don’t agree with societies interpretation and expression of this holiday so I mostly outright reject it. We don’t talk about Santa. We don’t hype up presents. Instead, we read Bible stories, every day this month. My kids made Bible-themed ornaments and hung them on the tree. We sang Christmas songs. I played guitar, Eli banged sticks, and Ana played the harmonica. I’m pretty sure we memorized Little Drummer Boy this year. I really enjoyed this simple daily celebration in the quietness of our home. The focus was on Jesus.

But I have a feeling black and white isn’t going to work when it comes to Christmas. Our pastor is preaching through Daniel, and a couple weeks ago he talked about participation, ie. how Daniel participated to a degree in the culture at large. He himself wasn’t Babylonian- he was a Jew- yet he studied their laws and customs, learned their language, wore their clothes, took on a new name. He held fast to his moral code and God’s law, but he also took on the culture around him. Daniel wasn’t black and white- he was gray.

Christmas, to me, then, is an opportunity to practice this. The culture at large celebrates this holiday differently than me. So rather than hiding from it, or pretending it doesn’t exist, I need to find ways to make sense of it. We have decided as a family not to make a big deal about Santa Claus and presents. It’s not that we’re stingy or un-imaginative. It’s just that we want to keep the focus on Jesus, and these other things are a distraction. But these things ARE a part of other peoples’ Christmas traditions. So how do we practice our tradition without negating the other? How do we participate?

I think open communication is going to be key here. It’s okay to talk about Santa Claus. He isn’t a curse word or anathema. He is somebody other people think is real. He’s a part of other peoples’ Christmas traditions. Same with presents and elf on the shelf. I think it’s how we talk about these things that will be important. I can help my kids put these things in context by explaining that all families are different. We don’t want to belittle or treat others as less spiritual than us. It’s just a choice our family makes. When my kids get asked about Santa Claus I don’t want them to be confused. I want them to know about these symbols of the holiday and be able to fit them into place.

Part of the success of this is creating a strong culture and tradition of our own- truly celebrating with the angels Jesus’ birth. But the other success will be bridging the gap between our beliefs and the rest of the world, and communicating these things to our kids.

A lil update for you:

Puzzle Progress Report: 91%!

I know this is long overdue… but wanted to do a puzzle progress report. I’m sure people have been waiting to see what it looks like, and so here you go…

All in all, we got our puzzle to 86% right before the art auction.  That’s huge.
We also decided that we wanted to honor all the artists that gave towards the auction, so we’ve added 20 pieces with each of their names.

So, that puts us at 455 pieces of our 500 piece puzzle.  That would be 91% 🙂


We are planning to finish up this puzzle over Thanksgiving weekend, as a way to remind us and our family how thankful we are for the community God has placed us in and for his great hand of provision in this season.  So, stay tuned for the finished puzzle and a more thorough explanation.


*We have had a few unexpected expenses come up (like an extra $2000 for having to change our home study and $1800 for our psychological exam required by SKorea)- not huge, but even finishing off this puzzle would be a great help.


Home Study Update:

We have been working hard to get all of our paperwork and physicals finished.  We have also had two out of three of our interviews, so we are just about there!  I’ll be honest, I was hoping the home study process would be a little bit more warm and fuzzy, but it’s been a lot of questions.  Our last two interviews were filled with our caseworker probing us and asking about any “curiosities” that may come up.

Questions like: Have you ever had anxiety?  Do you still struggle with anxiety?  How does this affect you? Have you ever gone to a counselor? Do you two ever disagree about discipline? Tell me about that. How do you feel about…(insert every awkward and intrusive question you can think of here).  Tell me about that. Haha.

(Note: I used to live somewhere where no one spoke my language, in a totally different culture. We went through a lot of culture shock, near burnout, and a time of illness. Plus, when we came back stateside our world was turned upside down (i.e. reverse culture shock and debrie like: how do I drive a car? how do i greet people? how do i make an appointment again? jobs?) Truly our time overseas was amazing and all, but there were definitely things to process through.)

All that said, I had to keep reminding myself that the agency, caseworker, etc. really do want us to adopt.  They just have to check for details to make sure that these sweet children who have already been through so much don’t wind up in a bad situation. There were totally no red flags. Our caseworker was very reassuring and encouraging- so that was helpful.  In fact, we spent a good amount of time after the interview talking about the best places to find Korean food in Madison. Yum!!

So, now our caseworker is writing up our home study. We’ll have one more meeting with her to wrap things up, a psychological exam, and then we should be able to submit everything to the agency in South Korea.

Then we wait. In the ideal world, we would have a referral in 2-3 months and pick up our child by Christmas of next year. (but it could be as late as the middle of 2018- as everything is always flexible with adoption).