Yearly Archives: 2017

Together Called Swag

What’s the magic word?

Believe it or not, it’s not please.

It’s not sorry or thank you or hello. It’s actually together. Science says so.

Some years ago, social scientists put willing participants in small groups and then separated them to work on difficult puzzles on their own. Some participants were told that they would be working on the puzzles together even though they were separated into different rooms and that they would share strategies with their teammates. Other participants never heard the word together at all. They were were still promised help though, but their strategy sharing would be with the researchers only. All the participants were doing the same puzzles and getting the same measure of support really; the only difference was the feeling produced by being told they were working together. In the end, the participants who believed they were working together with a team endured the challenges 48% longer, solved more puzzles correctly, and had better recall of the challenges when it was over. Also, compared to the other participants, their own reports showed that they felt less physically tired and less depleted by the challenge and that they weren’t as frustrated with the challenge itself.

It’s remarkable really.

There’s something powerful about being reminded that we are part of a team–and we are. There something powerful about knowing that we are not facing whatever challenge is before us alone–because we aren’t. That awareness of togetherness literally changes us, giving us precisely what we need to be producers of change around us. It almost is a magic elixir. So magic in fact that in celebration of our 5th annual Together Called retreat, we are wearing reminders.

These shirts are cute and comfy in and of themselves. But, they and the matching hand-stamped necklaces we’re selling right now are more than cute; they are wearable post-it notes, wearable ribbons on our fingers to remind us that we are not alone, that our family whole is better than the sum of it’s parts even in the midst of hard things. We don’t have it all together; but we’re better together.

 

We’re offering these only as a flash sale. All orders are due by Friday. Together Called attendees can order by filling out the form HERE.

Not attending Together Called 2017 but want to order some goodies? Email info@sparrow-fund.org and let us know. We’re glad to let you in on the Together Called loot.

Sneak Peek at Together Called 2017 Breakout Sessions

In addition to hearing from Nate and Sara Hagerty during the keynote sessions, Together Called 2017 attending couples have the opportunity to hear from others who have been prayerfully preparing to share Saturday afternoon during two different breakout times. Here’s a sneak peek at what will be shared this year and who is sharing.

HIS: Bringing Out the Best in Her – Jeff Nitz
Whether she is Super Mom or is running on fumes, you play a critical role as your wife’s parenting partner. What should that look like? Unwavering support? Gentle challenge? How do we address concerns? And, where does the priority of our marriage versus our parenting fit in? Come and hear as Jeff leads in a discussion about how we can help our wives to be all that God intends for them to be–for her sake, for our sake, for our children’s sake.

About the speaker:
Jeff has spent the past 30 years working in the field of child welfare social work with experience in foster care, residential treatment, foster care adoption, international and domestic infant adoption as well as Safe Families For Children. For the past 21 years, he has served in various capacities for Bethany Christian Services, currently as the Sr. Vice-President of Adoption and Family Services where he helps to lead the U.S. based service and marketing teams. Jeff has been married for over 30 years to his college sweetheart, Cheryl, and counts her as his very best friend. Together, they are the parents of four adult children ages 24 to 38, two of whom were adopted. Jeff and Cheryl attend New Life Presbyterian Church in Dresher, PA where Jeff serves as an elder and together he and Cheryl are involved in marriage ministry. As a licensed clinical social worker, he also enjoys serving with his wife in providing counsel to couples who are struggling in their marriage.

HERS: Bringing Out the Best in Him – Cheryl Nitz
Whether he is Super Dad or is running on fumes, you play a critical role as your husband’s parenting partner. What should that look like? Unwavering support? Gentle challenge? How do we address concerns? And where does the priority of our marriage versus our parenting fit in? Come and hear as Cheryl leads us in a discussion about how we can help our husbands to be all that God intends for them to be–for his sake, for our sake, for our children’s sake.

About the speaker:
Cheryl Nitz, ACSW, LCSW has worked in the field of adoption and foster care for over 30 years. In 1997, she began specializing in working with families impacted by adoption, trauma, and attachment challenges and is now a therapist and the Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA where she and her staff are committed to joining with parents to help their children find hope and healing through the love and security their families provide. In addition to her professional experience, Cheryl often says her best education has come from being a parent with her husband to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparent to four. She presents as a fellow sojourner, sharing with other adoptive parents joys and challenges and lessons learned both in the trenches at the Nitz home and from the families with whom she has had the privilege of working.

Building a Circle of Security – Amy Brady
Imagine what it might feel like if you were able to make sense of what your child was really asking from you. The Circle of Security® Parenting™ program is based on decades of research about how secure parent–child relationships can be supported and strengthened. It strives to work with parents to help them (a) understand their child’s emotional world by learning to read emotional needs, (b) support their child’s ability to successfully manage emotions, (c) enhance the development of their child’s self esteem, and (d) honor the innate wisdom and desire for their child to be secure. As a registered Circle of Security® parent facilitator, Amy will share a brief overview of the program and ways to build security into the attachment you are developing and deepening with your child.

About the speaker:
After being a national conference speaker, Bible teacher, and Bible study author for over a decade, God began to reveal His greatest journey for Amy and the Brady family yet by steering them down the adoption road. From years of waiting for her daughters to arrive to years waiting for God to send a reprieve from the most difficult places on the adoption road, Amy has journeyed with God into places, hidden and sometimes dark, or beautiful and filled with light to find one thing in them all: He is there. Amy and her husband John just celebrated 25 years of marriage. They have 4 children and a beloved daughter-in-law. Amy is cofounder of PAUSE, a postadoption support network, and is a registered Circle of Security parent facilitator.

Tuning Into God – Anna Balfour
What if when you “tuned into God,” you sometimes, just sometimes, felt He spoke back to you? Maybe not in an audible voice but perhaps an impression, a sense of someone you should reach out to or pray for, or something you felt you needed to do or check out? And then later, you discover you were spot on. What might happen to us in our walk with God, in our relationship with Him, if we expected Him to speak personally to us? Come to this session, listen to stories, and learn how to do that and practice it, believing that God will show up!

About the speaker:
Anna and her husband Doug, two Brits, have done a few wacky things over the last 30 odd years including working with street children in Columbia, working in Liberia between the civil wars in the early 90s, living by faith and living in community with young children. They moved 10 years ago to the USA to live in the ‘burbs with their their three teenagers. In every circumstance, they have had to rely on God, expecting Him to speak and lead. He always showed up! Anna is a clinical psychologist specializing in schema therapy. She is also a motivational speaker who is passionate about helping men and women be all God created them to be and do all He has laid out for them.

How We Can Love the Wounded and Protect Our Children – Carolyn Ruch
We’re all in the trenches with a mission to love deeply and protect fiercely. Maybe there are children in your home who have been wounded by sexual abuse. Maybe you were wounded yourself and want to make sure you are doing all you can to protect your children. Maybe you have a heart to fight the fight for the most vulnerable. Come to this session ready to learn as Carolyn reminds you of your call to love and encourages you in ways to do that well and teaches four simple and specific relational action steps that will build trust and increase prevention against sexual abuse.

About the speaker:
Carolyn is an author, speaker, child advocate, survivor support group leader, and founder of the Rise and Shine Movement. But, her role as mother to seven children (three biological, one adopted, and three foster) is where she’s had her most joyous successes . . . and her most painful failures. Carolyn has protected and won, protected and lost. She joins you in the trenches as we fight for our children’s safety and bring healing to the wounded.

Connecting as Husbands and Wives Together Called – Mark and Kelly Raudenbush
Parenting is no easy thing. It’s a task that requires a large part of our personal resources, especially as we seek to meet the needs of our children with hard starts. As we pour ourselves out to connect with our kids, so often even the best partners in parenting find that we can fall away from the practice of connecting with each other. Come to this session to be reminded of how nurturing our foundational relationships individually with Christ and with our spouse can help us best nurture our children and to learn one new way that we as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers can do it in the midst of our inevitable busyness.

About the speakers:
Married over 18 years, Mark and Kelly Raudenbush are passionate about serving together as a team. They founded The Sparrow Fund in 2011, having been changed by the adoption of their youngest child and desiring to meet what they saw as a need among adoptive families. While Kelly serves families as a therapist through the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, they work side-by-side as Mark is the Director of Operations for a large nonprofit’s efforts serving students in Asia. They consider it a joy to pour into mothers and fathers who are eager to do the right thing for their families, encouraging parents to understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for the hearts of their children. Mark and Kelly have 4 children, their youngest joining the family through adoption from China.

Same-Page Discipline and Correction – Jeff and Cheryl Nitz
God definitely made us different. Each of us has our own childhood history, personality, and life experiences that contribute to making us the kind of parent that we are. Even more than in marriage, parenting can really highlight those differences. Discipline and correction specifically can be challenging, even though ultimately we want the same thing! Join Jeff and Cheryl as they share some of their own journey as adoptive parents and offer thoughts on how to work through differences and become an even more powerful parenting team.

About the speakers:
Jeff and Cheryl Nitz bring both professional and personal experience as they offer insights, challenges, and encouragement to families whom God has brought together through adoption. Jeff is the Sr. Vice President of Adoption & Family Services for Bethany Christian Services. Cheryl is a therapist and the Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, specializing in working with families impacted by adoption, trauma, and attachment challenges. But, Jeff and Cheryl often say their best education has come from being parents to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparents to four. Most importantly, Jeff and Cheryl are presenting as fellow sojourners—sharing with other adoptive parents the joys and challenges and lessons learned and deeply committed to fostering a fun, growing, supportive marriage in the midst of chaos!

Where Are My Green Pastures? – Stephanie Smit
If the Lord is our shepherd, shouldn’t we be enjoying some green pastures? Perhaps your adoption journey has felt much more like the valley of the shadow of death than green pastures. Maybe His leading was clear and easy to follow early on in your adoption process; but, now that you are home, the new reality feels as if you’ve been left without a shepherd. Sometimes it’s just the day-to-day living that leaves us longing for some refreshment and green pastures. Whatever your circumstance, if you want to know more of the green pastures Psalm 23 promises for you specifically, come to dig deeper into the “what” and the “how” of green pastures. Using Biblical truth and practical applications, you will walk away with encouragement that you can embrace now and bring home with you.

About the speaker:
After 18 years as an elementary teacher, Stephanie transitioned to home as she and her husband Matt grew grew their family. Through struggles with infertility, joys of an unexpected pregnancy, stress of one adoption, challenges of an another independent international adoption, navigating the many surgeries of her cleft affected daughters, and simply raising three girls so close in age, she has seen God’s mighty hand and clear leading. Stephanie and her husband serve as board members of The Sparrow Fund and on the leadership team for Together Called. This past January, she joined The Sparrow Fund’s team as the primary teacher to serve in an orphanage in South China. Stephanie counts it a privilege to connect with and encourage those called to adopt.

The Nuts and Bolts of Family Worship – Philip and Jessica Morlan
Teaching our children to trust and follow Jesus is a great privilege and responsibility. In this breakout session, Philip and Jessica Morlan, our weekend worship leaders, will give encouragement on how to impress God’s Word on the hearts of your children. They’ll share from their personal journey and give ideas on how to shepherd your children to Jesus as you go through life.

About the speakers:
Philip and Jessica Morlan are worship leaders and teachers for Seeds Family Worship. They partner with churches around the country leading multigenerational worship events that equip families to seek God together. They are blessed with five amazing kids (two through adoption) and love to encourage families to live out their faith at home.

3 Spots Open Now for Together Called 2017

We expected it to fill back in October when registration opened. And, it did. It’s not because of any awesome marketing strategy or cool graphics. We actually aren’t that great at those. It was because ya’ll know what you need. You don’t need another conference. You need connection; you need each other. You need rest so you can press on in what you have been together called to do.

That’s what Together Called is about. Yeah, there’s a schedule. Yeah, speakers do prepare something. Yeah, there are breakout sessions and a resource table. But, all that is planned is planned to promote connection—connection to a kindred community, connection between the two of you, and connection to the One who made you and takes great pleasure in you.

Life can change pretty fast for each one of us which means that some of those couples who said yes to this and registered back in October have had to say “not this time” after all, leaving us with THREE OPEN SPOTS for this year’s Together Called being held the last weekend in March at Bear Creek Mountain Resort.

Nate and Sara Hagerty, renown author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and our very first Together Called speakers, are joining us again. We’ll also be blessed by singer/songwriters (and adoptive parents) Philip and Jessica Morlan from Seeds Family Worship; Jeff Nitz, Senior VP of Adoption and Family Services at Bethany Christian Services, and his wife Cheryl Nitz, Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of Pennsylvania; Carolyn Ruch of Rise and Shine Movement, Anna Balfour of Potential Difference, Amy Brady of PAUSE, and Stephanie Smit and Mark and Kelly Raudenbush of The Sparrow Fund.

HEAD OVER TO OUR TOGETHER CALLED PAGE
NOW to read more about the weekend
and
ADD YOUR NAME TO THE WAITING LIST TO GET ONE OF THESE THREE SPOTS LEFT.

Maybe you didn’t know about it back in October. Or, maybe you simply weren’t able to commit then. Now that we’re this close, we’d love for you to consider or reconsider. You’ll never regret an investment made in connection.

What in the world is a football block pool?

We love clever new ways to raise funds needed to keep on serving adoptive families. The Sparrow Fund Big Game Football Pool is one of those new ways. But, as we have been promoting it, we’ve realized something kinda important–a lot of you don’t know what the heck this is.

Oops.

Here’s the key to this whole deal: You don’t have to have experience with this sort of thing and understand it works to be a part of this. All you have to have is a desire to help us reach the goal of scoring $2,000 for our grant fund to support adoptive families AND maybe a little bit of playfulness. That’s enough.

But, in case you want a little more before you jump in, here’s a Cliff Notes version of how it works. We have created a chart that has 10 squares across the x axis and 10 squares across the y axis. One axis is one for the Patriots [insert cheers and boos here] and one for the Falcons [insert cheers and boos here]. Each of the 100 squares on the chart are available for a $20 donation to The Sparrow Fund until tomorrow night at midnight. Every person who donates to this will get to add their name inside the squares of their choice on the blank 100-square chart.

Before the big game, we will randomly assign each column and each row a single digit from 0-9. Each square will have a single digit for the Patriots and a single digit for the Falcons that will correspond to the last number in the score for both teams. So, a game score of 20 to 35 would correspond to a block labeled 0 and 5. A game score of 40 to 55 would also correspond to the block labeled 0 and 5.

At the end of the first quarter, halftime, third quarter, and end of game, whoever holds the square with the digits matching the last digits of the score at that time wins. If the score is 17-10 at the half with the home team winning, the person with the squares of 7 and 0 would win that portion of the game.

Make sense? Great. Jump on in and play along. We need you.

Still a bit unclear? That’s okay. Jump on in, fill out this form, we’ll coach you along. We need you too, and promise it will still be fun.

Here’s the game plan one more time:

  • Head over HERE now and fill out this simple form with your name, email, and how many cell blocks you want to claim.
  • Make your donation online right here at www.sparrowfund.org for $20 per cell.
  • We’ll let you know what the next play is after that, but we promise it’s easy peezy.

A little sneak peek because sometimes visual images are all that are needed.

Super Sparrow Big Game Football Pool

It’s that time of year. Chicken wings, chips, and guacamole abound. Super Bowl Sunday is not an official holiday, but maybe it should be given that it’s the second largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving. Oh, and there’s a big football game everyone watches as they eat, by the way.

We’re having a little fun with it ourselves this year with our own goal of scoring $2,000 that will go directly into our grant fund to support adoptive families. It’s called a block pool, and here’s how it works. We’ve created a 10×10 chart with a total of 100 blocks (simple math, keep tracking with us). With every donation of $20 before midnight Friday, February 3rd, you will get to put your name in one of those blocks. Before the big game, we will randomly assign each row a single digit and each column a single digit. So, for your cell, you will have two single digits, one for the Patriots [insert cheers and boos here] and one for the Falcons [insert cheers and boos here]. After each quarter of the game, if your two numbers match the last digit in each team’s score you win! And, when we say you win, we mean you win. We’ve got 4 donated gift baskets worth over $100 each of Lancaster Stroopie Co. magic (and by that we mean, the most amazingly addictive sweetness that we love so much we may declare them our personal mascot).

Here’s the game plan:

  • Head over HERE and fill out this simple form with your name, email, and how many cell blocks you want to claim.
  • Make your donation for $20 per cell
  • We’ll let you know what the next play is after that.

Go team!

Wayland {China Trip – Advocating}

I’d like to introduce you to a precious 7 year old boy.  His name is Wayland, and he’s amazing.  He delights in simple pleasures and always has a smile on his face.  He is joyful, friendly, affectionate, thoughtful, social, tender, and incredibly patient.  And he’s waiting for his family to find him.

I had the immense pleasure of meeting sweet Wayland.  He had such a positive attitude and a palpable zeal for life.  He smiled and laughed and looked into my eyes warmly.  He sought me out and called me ayi without prompting.  He affectionately hugged me and sweetly laid his head on my shoulder.  He talked to me during our time together, despite my limited understanding of Mandarin.  That didn’t hold him back though.  He taught me new words while patiently repeating each syllable over until I got it right.  Such a smart boy and a terrific teacher!  When he wanted something, he used words to ask respectfully, but accepted no when I couldn’t say yes.  He asked me to pick him up so he could get a better look at new sights, and he was curious about everything that he saw.  Handsome Wayland was a complete gentleman during our time together.

His repaired congenital heart defect does not hold him back – he is energetic and runs everywhere!  He has way more energy than I do!  He can dress and feed himself, use the bathroom alone, and understand directions.  He also sometimes helps the nannies with chores.  He goes to school at the orphanage, and is taught by a wonderful teacher who really cares for the children.  He is working on typical age-appropriate skills, and can speak in complete sentences.  He can sing preschool songs and loves to join in with games.  He appears to be at age-level for most skills.  He seems well-attached to his nannies and loves being social with the other children in the orphanage.

Sweet Wayland needs a family!  I truly feel that whoever has the privilege of becoming his family will be incredibly blessed.  He is a precious boy, but needs the title of son!  He is designated Special Focus and is currently with Madison Adoption Associates.  They have video and more pictures to review.  Also, up to $2000 in grants are available for his adoption fees!  Please, if you are at all nudged to find out more about Wayland, email Sarah Hansen at Sarah@MadisonAdoption.org.

____________________________

NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

In My Heart Forever {China Trip}

I’m home.  And I’ve been awake since 3am thanks to jet lag.  I gave up trying to fall back to sleep at 4:30am, and finally got out of bed.  With the children from the orphanage taking over my dreams, and their precious little faces dancing across my closed eyelids, I knew it was a lost cause.  While everyone else on this side of the world rests, I am wrestling with what I experienced and captured through my camera this past week.

Thinking of the children and the reality of their daily lives brings me to my knees.  While I can drink coffee without boiling water first, and write a blog post without a sometimes-working, buggy VPN, the children are most likely finishing up dinner halfway across the world.  While I will soon hug and kiss my beloved little ones good morning, and tell them how much I love them, the children will prepare for bedtime with no mama and baba to tuck them in and tell them how much they are adored and so very worthy.  While they sleep, my day will carry on in the peace and warm serenity of my home and church, surrounded by my treasured family and friends.  And some variation of my comfortable life will play out every day while the children in the orphanage remain inexplicably grateful and joyful and happy, despite all that they’re missing.

The incredible disparity of our worlds is almost too much to fathom.

I was invited into a community of His people that I didn’t know before.  A community that’s real, even though it’s easy to ignore because it seems so distant and far away.  A small community of His children who are hurting and longing for mamas and babas of their very own.  A community of His nannies who give their very best every day to help the children live and grow.  But even their very best simply isn’t enough because there are too many children and not enough of them.  Because nothing replaces the love and belonging of a family.

I think of precious Wayland and the way the Father literally put him in front of me, despite my ability to remain emotionally unattached behind my lens.  My job as photographer makes it easy to observe from a distance.  It’s a role that I’m comfortable playing because it allows me to stay focused and complete the task at hand.  It’s the role that I signed up for when I said yes to this trip – to document our time and bring home pictures of waiting children to help them find families.

Though I wanted to be open to what the Father had waiting for me during this trip, I did not expect to fall as hard as I did.  He wrecked me.  Not just for Wayland, but for all of the children.  For the nannies.  Although I was the designated photographer on the trip, the Father used the short time in mighty ways to show me why I was really on that trip.  Despite myself, I got to see a small glimpse of His love for all of His children.  To understand what’s truly important.  Not medical diagnoses or adoption files or questioning whether a nanny is feeding children the right way.

But people.  Loving people is what’s important.  No matter their status or special need.  Orphan, nanny, or otherwise.  That’s what He wanted me to see.  Because the Father wants all of us to be adopted as His sons and daughters.  And He’ll use anyone to accomplish His mission, if we just humbly offer ourselves to be available.

As Mike Foster wrote in his book, People of the Second Chance, “Bring what you have, no matter what it looks like.  His standards are embarrassingly low, and he will work with everything you’re willing to put into his hands.  You are imperfect, but you can be perfectly loved and perfectly used by him.” (pg. 30)  I’m resting in that truth this morning.  As I reflect on this past week and try my hardest to make good on my promise to Wayland, my prayer is that He perfectly loves and uses me and all of my team members, despite our imperfectness.

_____________________________________

NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.