Category Archives: Begin the Journey

Our Source of Strength-Day 11

Sometimes the journey to find strength is an uphill climb.  Especially when our hopes keep getting dashed, and we begin to wonder if this desire of our heart is truly from God.  My friend Bethany Kortekaas has watched God do amazing things to restore her strength in difficult places–especially during her hard fought hope of holding a baby in her arms.  Bethany has shared some of the heartaches and joys of her journey.  I believe you’ll be strengthened by her beautiful story of Resurrection Hope on this Easter Sunday!

GUEST BLOG:  Bethany Kortekaas

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). 

“I would love to see Baby K grow into a young and beautiful version of the wonderful people that you and Adam are. We will be seeing you in just a couple of weeks now!” These were the words of the young lady who is giving us the gift of our baby girl.

Strength from the Lord comes in all kinds of vessels. There are no words to describe how I feel about this young mother who is willing to walk the hard road of a full-term unexpected pregnancy. In a time when everyone points to easy solutions, she was determined to bless us with this child regardless of what that meant for her.

See, strength is more than just muscles and a work ethic. Strength is the courage to stand when you want to hide. It is the willingness to walk when the way is not clear. It cannot be measured by outward appearance nor reserved for the privileged. It is turning everyday to something more than what is visible to others.

Adam and I have uncovered this strength in our path to parenthood. God provides Himself as a source of strength to each person. If you are willing to admit that you need it, He is willing to provide it. How do you cope with being single longer than you hoped to be? How do you respond to yet another round of infertility treatments? What do you do once you discover you have a brain tumor? Where do you turn when your adopted embryos die? When you miraculously get pregnant and then miscarry? Do you say yes to adopting a baby?

How do you keep praying, keep thanking God, and keep hoping? Our strength to answer these questions has come from God. He is the almighty, powerful Creator of all we know and the only trustworthy source of strength that can never run dry.

Our family has tapped into God’s strength through three main ways: reading the Bible, prayer, and community:

  1. There is a deep comfort when you pick up your Bible and read Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We read our Bible for encouragement, insight, and to learn more about our Father who loves us and wants the best for us even in the pain. The Bible reveals that there is more to our story than what we can see right now.
  2. Prayer is direct access to God. Because of Jesus, we have the freedom to talk openly with the One who created starfish, Jupiter, and all the synapses firing in our brains. In prayer is where we acknowledge that the world is outside of our control and we need more strength than we can muster up for ourselves. It is safe for me to cry, question, feel, and hope as I pray. Prayer is where we respond in relationship with a God who can provide strength in the waiting and in the wonder.
  3. God created community. He made it clear that it is not good for man to be alone and He reinforced this by how He instructed the people of Israel to work, worship, and celebrate together. Without our friends, family, and the community of believers around the world, we would be lost in this journey.

We have seen others adopt embryos because of our story. We have heard how God provided financially in other adoptions. We have felt overwhelmed by the love at our baby showers. We have even been strengthened by the very words of our future daughter’s birth mom.

God has given us vessels of His strength through promises like Psalm 46:1, through prayer, and through the give and take of community. By His strength, we can walk forward in confident hope toward our next adventure.


30 Days of Hopeful: day 17

Our God-given hopes and dreams can impact the entire direction of our life.  The Bible reminds us of the importance of dreams:  “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).  Some of the most courageous women I know are mothers raising their children in fragile neighborhoods.  These moms know that dreams can divert their children from drugs, gangs, and prison.  Dreams mean survival.

My young friend Dominique was just ten when some gang members befriended him.  “I was kind of a mascot,” as he puts it.  But gang mascots eventually become gang members, and he was headed for trouble.  One day, Dominique discovered an online chess game.  He got the hang of it and became good—really good.  Before too long, he was “busy” when gang members called.  Dominique was way too busy finding his purpose to run with gangs.

By the time he was in high school, Dominique had become the top scholastic chess player in the state of North Carolina.  In his college application, Dominique wrote: “By getting closer to the One who allowed me this chance, and continuing with the plan that we dreamed up together when I was a young child, I feel that I will be able to help someone else and make a lasting impact.”

Dominique didn’t attend church growing up.  But as a small child he had a sense of God’s destiny and a mysterious awareness of His calling through his childhood dreams of playing chess.  And when he heard a clear presentation of the Gospel his first semester in college, the vibrant young man accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

Dominique recently graduated from college–the first to do so in his family.  He plans to pursue a master’s degree.  And he continues to play chess.   He’s made his way into the realm of international competition.  This week, he’s playing against some of the best in the world at a match in London.

One thing is clear. Dominique’s earthly dreams had eternal implications that went far beyond the mastery of chess.  A reminder to take seriously the hopes and dreams of those children entrusted to our care.  Mother Teresa put it this way: Tread gently around the dreams of a child.  You might be treading on the dreams of God.


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 10

I’m glad you’ve joined us for 30 Days of Hopeful. Perhaps life is hard for you right now–you’re struggling to find hope.  When all seems hopeless, I find encouragement from others who have passed through the furnace and come forth with faith shining. Their stories inspire me to hold onto my hope. I want to share one such story with you.  My friend Ange loves to encourage others with her story of hope.

I met Ange during one of my first missions trips to Rwanda and Burundi. Most everyone I met was a genocide survivor with a hard story to tell. But it was Ange’s journey of agony-turned-into-hope that inspired me most.

Ange was in high school when genocide broke out in Rwanda in 1994. She and fiancé, Emanuel, fled on foot to the neighboring Congo. They married and had baby Edna. The brutal war spilled over into the Congo. Soldiers attacked their refugee camp and Emanuel and Ange, with eighteen-month-old Edna on her back, ran terrified into the forest. They became separated as they fled for their lives.  A few days later while Ange was gathering firewood, soldiers kidnapped little Edna.

Ange ran frantically through the forest searching for the soldiers. She soon discovered the baby had become sick and died. Ange’s heart and her hope were shattered. She hid in the forest for weeks with no clean water, food, fire, or shelter. As she describes it, “It was like we were dead, but still living.”

Ange made her way to Kenya with the help of a relief organization, still searching for her husband. She cried out, “Oh God, You know that my beloved first born was taken away. And you know how I could be happy if I could find my beloved husband! Please Lord I hope you have not forgotten me.” Ange continued to seek God’s purpose for her own life while she waited for her dream to be fulfilled. Sensing a call ministry, she began attending Bible college in Kenya.  God gave Ange hope, encouraging her with these words:

We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5)

Ange continues her story, “One day, I received the amazing news that my husband was alive! It was like a dream!!! We stayed up all night praising and thanking God!” So, after eight long years, Ange and Emanuel were reunited in Burundi. God soon blessed them with a baby boy they called Cherubim. When I first heard Ange’s story, she had just given birth to twins Joshua and Geoffrey.

Ange shares from her heart: “We have nothing to give our Lord for what He has done for us, so we give Him our thanks: Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me (Psalm 50:14-15).”

Ange loves to encourage others to hold onto hope when times look darkest. I hope you will be strengthened by her story and her prayer for you: “May God bless you and help you to be patient in every situation you may pass through. Glory be to the Lord JESUS. Amen!”


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 6

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).

It’s when we stop running from God that we experience the lasting hope and true the freedom that only He can give. My friend Erin came to understand the love of God in a fresh way through her encounter with a stray puppy that refused to be rescued.

GUEST BLOG: Erin Fede

I have a habit of rescuing lost or hurt animals that cross my path. There was a tiny baby turtle trying to cross a road, a baby bird fluttering around a busy parking lot, a baby squirrel, and four stray dogs. Each animal’s rescue was unique—according to its needs and best chance for survival.

But then there are the dogs that didn’t want to be rescued—I remember them as clearly as the ones who welcomed my care. One particular pup looked so bad I convinced my husband to go back out with me that night to search some more. And we found her! But the little fluff-ball, whose once-white fur was now grayish brown and full of mats, continued to run. Sometimes we’d get really close, gently speaking to her and offering her treats. But again, she ran.

We went back home that night empty handed. And as silly as it may sound, I sobbed. Why wouldn’t the dog just trust me? I assume she was afraid—and maybe she had good reason, depending on the environment from which she came. But as valid as her fear of me may have been, it was unnecessary. And it prevented her from experiencing love. From being warm, clean and sleeping with a full belly. Why was this stirring up such sadness inside me? What was it that compelled me to keep looking? Why did I call the shelters the next day trying to find her? I believe it’s because I, myself, have been rescued.

I was once that mangy dog, running from God when all He wanted to do was nourish my soul and give me the best life possible. But I didn’t want to be “contained,” I didn’t particularly appreciate authority and I most certainly wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to do it.

But that’s just me. Perhaps you ran (or are running) for a different reason. Perhaps you had a bad experience with “religion.” Maybe someone who claims to reflect the love of Christ lives in a way that is the exact opposite of loving, and therefore gives you a false perception of God’s character. Or maybe you just feel plain unworthy, unlovable or unforgivable. Regardless of your reason for running, don’t let it rob you from seeking the Truth… from running toward the most fulfilling relationship you could possibly experience: the unconditional love of your Creator.

God was relentless in pursuing my heart. He is endlessly patient, forgiving and loving. He captivated me with his kindness. By submitting to His authority, I actually became free and full of hope.

Freedom cannot be achieved by running from God any more than that dog could find freedom in roaming the streets. She chose to keep fighting for herself when someone exceedingly more capable wanted to fight for her.

God not only fought for us but, through Jesus, He won the battle for our eternity. He died to give us life, and was raised from the dead to give us HOPE. We are not unwanted, nor unforgivable. We were each uniquely created with a great purpose. And we are loved beyond anything our brains are capable of comprehending.

The love and hope I wanted to extend to that little dog didn’t disappear when she ran away. But the stray animals who trusted me got to receive all I had to give. If a broken human like me would go out of her way to help little creatures (even getting up at 3am for weeks to prepare a special formula and feed a baby squirrel), how much MORE love and care does our Father in Heaven want to lavish on US!! Anything good we do is just a tiny glimpse of the goodness of our gracious God.


30 Days of Thankful: Day 28

Today’s guest post was written by my friend Ashley nearly three years ago.  I was impressed to post it again today as part of our 30 Days of Thankful.  First, because you will see Ashley’s beautiful and thankful heart.  And second, because looking back, we can now see that God was preparing Ashley for a special calling.  This calling included not only a fourth child (a biological child), but a missions assignment that took Ashley and Peter and their four children to Japan where they are sharing the love of Jesus with this largely unreached nation.  Ashley was open to what she thought was God’s call to adopt a child from Asia–instead, she is now loving many of God’s lost children in this part of the world.  In observing Ashley’s journey,  I’ve come to believe that a trusting and thankful heart is the open door through which God invites us to our destiny.   

GUEST POST:  Ashley McKenzie (February 13, 2013)

God is my Provider. He often reminds me that He can be trusted to meet my every need.  I am humbled that God speaks to me.  I am nothing special.  Many days I feel less than ordinary.  I have no credits to my name, no college degree, no extraordinary skills, no great power of speech or commanding leadership abilities.  All I have is the love of a beautiful Savior—a kind and gentle King who has captured my soul and filled it with life. 

A few months ago, right before Thanksgiving, I was packing up my car for a trip to my parent’s house.  With three children four years old and younger, this is no small feat.  Amazingly, all three kids were in the house napping so I was able to pack the car without distraction.  It was an ordinary day that turned holy in seconds.  I saw an eagle flying right above my head- so close that I could actually hear it soar.  Immediately, I felt The Lord asking me to sit and watch the bird.  My heart was beating out of my chest; I had no choice but to sit and watch this majestic creature.

I watched it for at least 15 minutes as it soared back and forth in front of me until it finally flew away.  Over the next two months, I had the oddest encounters with birds.  And every time God said, “Watch the birds, Ashley.  Watch the birds.”  I had vultures in the back of my yard, saw at least two more eagles, and every day had a whole flock of little black birds fly across the sky in front of me.  I have been asking God what is it with these birds.  And then he answers just as I need it.

 Blog photo-eagle

To back up a bit, God has asked some fairly big “faiths” of me for 2013.  Long ago he asked me to allow him to “grow” my family.  For whatever reason I feel a big growth this year. My heart aches more and more for orphans.  I yearn to adopt a child, and he has given me several verses and glimpses of hope and faith in this lifelong dream.  But with this dream comes a dependence on his provision, resting in the assurance that as we expand, he will meet every need as he always has.

And so, as I’ve prayed for faith in all these things, I continue to see birds.  God says quietly to my soul, “Watch the birds, watch the birds.” And I pray that he reveals what these crazy birds mean.  He gives me verses like Roman 12:12, asking me to be “joyful in my hope and faithful in my prayers,” and Isaiah 49:8, reminding me that he will “provide in His timing”.  He is my salvation and help in all things.

 And then in a moment of desperation, as worry and doubt set in over and over again, as I wonder if God will really provide and if I will ever be given this gift of an adopted child–is he really going to do what I feel in my heart he has said–during a sacred moment in his word, he whispers, “You are the bird.  I give you food.  I provide.  I watch over you.  you are mine.  That eagle?  He soars because of me.  I build his house.  I give him strength.  You are my bird and I will provide.  Trust in me.”

What do you say to this except thank you?  How do you respond to such kindness, such love except a complete surrender of worry and doubt?  Finally, I am drawn to John 15:16:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

I am chosen, and because I am chosen I have a responsibility to bear lasting fruit.  I don’t think that I can remain a worrier and doubter and believe in John 15:16.  I am a bird, and whatever The Lord asks of me, he will provide.