Category Archives: Adoption

Changes and adjustments

I must admit…this new daddy role has taken some getting used to but it is sinking in more and more with each passing day.  There are many things I knew would change and others I didn’t know exactly how they would change.  I guess that just goes with the territory.  I keep learning and keep adjusting.  Eventually I will develop the illusion that I know what I am doing :-)

Anyway…

One of the big things I have been trying to get use to is working from home.  The congregation gave me the gift of working from home during the month of May so I could spend more time bonding with Mayah.  A couple days a week (when my wife is home) I do go into the office.

When this schedule first started I got a little frustrated because I didn’t anticipate how difficult this working from home would be.  I had big plans on how much I was going to get done while Mayah was sleeping.

Silly daddy…

The biggest problem was that I didn’t plan very well; so the first couple days at home not much work got done.  Now…I have planned my week out better and have set more realistic expectations for myself.  I have also adjusted my hours so I can get done everything that is expected of me by others and myself.

Wednesday was worship prep and sermon prep day from home.  I planned worship for Sunday and did some sermon prep reading and research.  Today (Thursday) I am home again but this time I will be fully ready to write the sermon while Mayah is sleeping…despite the fact I didn’t get much sleep last night.  Oh well…that’s what coffee is for.

So here we go…another day at home bonding with my little girl and doing ministry here in Jackson.  The best of both worlds.

The pastor/new daddy -|—

Daddy

Wow, it has been a while since I have posted here but believe me ~ I have a good reason:

I’m a daddy!

On April 26 my wife and I adopted the cutest little baby girl you will ever see.  We received a call on the 23rd that this baby was born on April 18 and that the birth mother has selected us to raise her daughter.  We were overjoyed, scared, nervous, thankful and a host of other emotions.  My wife and I packed up and left for Houston on Wednesday, April 24 at 10:30 p.m.  We drove through the night and arrived in Houston on Thursday afternoon.  Our daughter was placed in our arms on Friday night.

Her name is Mayah Jo.  Mayah is a Hebrew name meaning “close to God“.  And considering the ups and downs and ups we have been on, Mayah’s name is very appropriate and meaningful to us.  Our prayer is that Mayah grows up to realize this for herself; that God is close to her.

My wife and I will be sharing more about this amazing experience on our adoption blog ~ Adopted as an Heir.  We haven’t updated there for a while but it is coming.  And because of some privacy issues with adoption I will not be posting pictures of Mayah online (but like I said, she is cute).  I may sound over-protective but I am O.K. with that.  So I hope you understand.

Wow ~ daddy ~ it just boggles my mind that I can be referred as that.
God is so good!
God is so awesome!
God is so faithful (even when I’m not)!

Let all people praise and worship Him.

Let’s prayer together…
Loving God…you are so good.  You are so awesome.  Even when times are tough and the road looks bleak, you are there.  Even when the valley is dark and long, even when the storms rage oh so strong, you are there. Even when the hurt hurts so bad and the outlook looks so dim, you are there.  On the highest mountain top and lowest valley, you are there.  Satan would have us forget your goodness in the midst of despair; trying to convince us that you are some cosmic bully.  Satan would have us forget you in the good times; trying to convince us that we don’t need You.  But the Good News is that you reign supreme and you have chosen us.  We belong to you and Satan has no claim on us.  Help us to see you near us in the dark and tough times.  Help us to see you near in the bright and joyous times.  You are close to us always and forever.  God, Oh God, you are so, so good and we praise your holy name.  Through Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.

The Pastor a.k.a. Daddy -|—

Give1Save1

What in the world is Give1Save1?

The concept is simple:

It is an adoption website/blog that helps families raise money to help fund adoptions.  Give (at least) $1 and “Your dollar will be saving and restoring lives in all kinds of ways…

My wife and I were encouraged to check this site out.  Couples submit an application to be a featured family of the week; they make a short video talking about their adoption journey and that’s it.

Well…

…last week I got an email saying that we were selected to be a featured family.  Their web address is:   http://www.give1save1.com

Once there click on the United States and that will take you to the domestic adoption section.  We are the Hullstrom Family.  The “donate” button, below our video, connects directly to my PayPal account.

The other thing about this site is that there is no cost to us (except the time put in to create our video). And with the video we were blessed by many people bringing their gifts together to help us. I tell you…when God wants something done God doesn’t hold back.

Praise be to God!

But don’t get me wrong here though…I am not trying to solicit money from you; that’s not what I am doing.  If you feel called to help us…great…but more than anything I ask for your prayers for my wife and I. I also want to continue to raise awareness for adoption. There are so many couples out there called to adopt but adoption is an expense process; something that is difficult to do on your own.  My hope is that you will visit this site, read and watch the stories of other couples and decide if you are called to assist couples in bring a child(ren) into their homes.

Thank you for indulging me with all my adoption related posts recently.  I guess it is no secret that I am pretty excited and fired up about this topic.

God bless!

The pastor -|—

Adoption blog

Greetings one and all…what a beautiful morning :)

[Please excuse my chipperness (my new word for the day)...I am enjoying my morning coffee]

I wanted to let you know of a project my wife and I are working on.  We have started an adoption blog called Adopted as an Heir.  I wanted to have a central place for adoption related content instead of it getting lost in the shuffle with everything I write about here.

Our goal for this new blog is:
(1) To share what we have learned along our adoption journey.
(2) To share resources we have found helpful.
(3) To share how we have grown closer together.
(4) To share how we have grown closer to God.
(5) To educate
(6) To encourage
(7) And…whatever else God reveals to us in our journey.  The door is wide open.

I have written a few posts here already about our adoption journey (If you go to the “My Adoption Story” page above you can quickly find those posts). I (along with my wife) will be writing adoption related content on our new blog but you may still find adoption related posts here from time to time.

So feel free to stop by our new sight and share it with others.  We are still learning and growing and we are by no means experts.  My wife and I are just a couple of God’s children stumbling along in this process and seeing God’s blessings along the way.

I hope you enjoy :)

The pastor -|—

Praying scripture

The following is a prayer based on Psalm 23 that I wrote for a funeral; a prayer I prayed before preaching the message:

O Lord, you are our shepherd, therefore we shall never be in want; for you make us lie down in green pastures, you lead us beside quiet waters and you restore our souls. Thank you, Oh God. We ask now that you may guide us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake; for we want to give you praise and glory.

But during this time of mourning, Oh Lord, it feels as if we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  We ask that you may comfort us with your presence, keep us from fear and protect us from the evil one.

May we feast at your table in complete peace and comfort and security as You anoint us and fill our cups to overflowing.

Oh Lord our God, thank you, for your goodness and love follows us all the days of our lives, and through faith in Jesus Christ we are confident that we will dwell in Your house forever.

Amen.

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Don’t get me wrong here.  I am not trying to re-write scripture.  I just enjoy praying through scripture and using scripture to give my prayer a voice…and what better place to do this than in the Psalter.

When my wife and I were freshly grieving our failed adoption I immediately started reading in the book of Psalms.  I found those places where the psalmist was crying out to God; asking how long; wondering where God was at.  I was thankful that the psalmist gave me words to pray as I “borrowed” his words.  I was also thankful for the reminder that God is faithful. The psalmist may have been crying out to God but he usually ended with words of praise for God. I need those words too…so I “borrowed” them as well.

What a great diversity in the book of Psalms. No wonder Martin Luther called the Psalter a “little Bible”.

So…if you need some words for your prayer today…try the book of Psalms. If you don’t needs words right now…go to the Psalms anyway. You will need them eventually.

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Embracing Suffering

What I have posted here is the sermon manuscript from our joint Lenten worship service that we do with the Presbyterian Church here in Jackson.  We are exploring a book together called Embracing Obscurity by anonymous.

Embracing Obscurity

The chapter we spoke about on Wed, March 13 was titled “Embracing Suffering”.  Below is my portion of the message:

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As I begin this message I want to share with you a couple short paragraphs from the book Chris and I are talking about, Embracing Obscurity.  These paragraphs will help set the stage as we talk about Embracing Suffering tonight as a way to help us embrace obscurity.  This is what our anonymous author writes:

In A Path through Suffering, Elisabeth Elliot muses, “The word suffering is much too grand to apply to most of our troubles, but if we don’t learn to refer the little things to God how shall we learn to refer the big ones?” Perhaps that’s why her definition of suffering seems so fitting: Having what you don’t want, or wanting what you don’t have. This is the perfect definition of suffering for our discussion about embracing obscurity because it’s in the little “sufferings” of demotions, hard breaks, layoffs, out-of-state moves, menial jobs and (allow me to add…failed adoptions), that we learn to defer to God our dreams of being well-known, respected, and admired. It’s in these trenches that we realize God is big and we are small, where we exchange our will— our dreams, desires, and plans— for the opportunity to make much of Him and less of ourselves.
[Anonymous (2012-09-20). Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything (pp. 108-109). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

And that is the embracing obscurity part ~ to make much of God and less of us.  That is what we should be about, but when we are in the midst of suffering, that can be very hard to do.  After all, we are sinful, self-centered and glory-seeking people.  We want what we want and this makes it hard for us to embrace the obscurity that Chris and I have been talking about for a few weeks.  We naturally look inward but when we do that, our suffering is what we focus on…not on what God is doing.  So when something happens that we can classify as suffering some initial reactions include (but not limited to):

Why is this happening to me?  Where is God?  If God loves me then why did this happen? If God exists then suffering shouldn’t exist either, right? How long, O Lord, how long?

Sound familiar? Those are tempting questions… aren’t they?  And I have to admit…I was asking questions like that last week.  As Connie and I were in Florida on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; waiting to adopt a baby, I have never prayed harder for anything in my life.  I so wanted to be able to bring home a baby.  I prayed for the birth mother and family.  I prayed for the baby.  I prayed for our attorney.  I prayed for wisdom and strength.  I prayed, I prayed and I prayed some more.  You know 1 Thessalonians 5 where it says “Pray without ceasing”?  That was me.  But then on Wednesday afternoon we got the news we were dreading the most: “The birth mother has decided to parent the baby.”  My first prayer following those words was “Why God, why?”  My heart began to ache. And if we are to use Elisabeth Elliot’s definition then one could say I began to suffer.

The walk through the long hospital parking lot, back to our car, felt like the longest walk ever.  When we finally reached the car, I sat down and placed my hands and head on the steering wheel; not knowing what to do.  I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t want to believe what just happened.  I was at a loss. The only thing I could think of doing was to cry out to God.  So we prayed…again.  We continued to pray for the birth mother and the baby and the family.  We continued to pray for strength and wisdom.  But this time we added healing and understanding. We had so many questions.

As we began the long 1600 mile trip back to Jackson I can remember thinking through my tears:  How in the world does anyone do this without God?  It totally baffled me.  How does anyone deal with any kind of suffering without the Almighty?  How does anyone move on with life without the awesome love of our Father?  At that moment, I needed God more than ever.  I didn’t like feeling the way I did (and I still don’t) but what I pray for now is for understanding and wisdom in how to best use this for the glory of God.  Because, no doubt, someone else will go through something similar. If they don’t know Jesus I want them to or if they DO know Jesus, I want them to remember, because true healing can only be found in Jesus. You can’t do this alone.

When we are suffering we have a couple choices to make.  We can wallow in our suffering; in self-pity, drawing attention to ourselves (which does not glorify God) or we can use what we are experiencing to help others; to give glory to God…to make more of God and less of ourselves. It is all a matter of faith.  If you truly believe that God is sovereign then you know that life is not about you.  The world does not revolve around you and me. And as I thought about that I even struggled to write these words to say to you tonight.  I didn’t want this to be a therapy session for me or something to portray me as some hero of the faith. So please don’t look at me as some kind of hero for not falling apart or for not being angry, because if you were in my home on Friday afternoon when we got home, you would have seen a person falling apart…still asking questions; emotionally raw.  I am no hero…I’m a child of God.

What we need to remember, my friends, is that God does not delight in the pain of his children.  God does not take pleasure in the suffering of his children.  The Good News in the midst of pain and suffering is that God has overcome suffering through Jesus Christ.  If we make suffering about us then we fail to proclaim this Good News to the world.  But…if we embrace suffering to the glory of God then we shift the focus from us and highlight the conquering and glorious King; drawing others to Him.  If you are looking inward; focusing on your own suffering, then you fail to see the awesome love of God.  Like I said, life is not about you and me.  So we might as well point to the one who it is about…God, for God is indeed in control. And that is my prayer each and every day; that I remember who is in charge and who it is that should be glorified.

As I close my portion of this talk, allow me to share one more paragraph with you from our book: How has God allowed you to suffer? Have you lost a home? Received a startling diagnosis? Been plagued by self-doubt or troubled relationships? Longed for a dream that evades you? Suffering is inevitable. You know it; I know it. We also know that how we respond says much about us. Will we be teachable through the dark moments and difficult seasons? Will we allow God’s Spirit to humble and transform us through our pain and disappointments? Will we allow our suffering to multiply what we have to offer others?
[Anonymous (2012-09-20). Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything (pp. 111-112). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

In this sin-torn world we live in suffering is a reality; we can’t escape that.  And to deny that is foolish.  But the the bigger reality that we all can take great joy in is that God has overcome the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the one who suffered more than anyone can possibly imagine…and he did all that just FOR YOU and FOR ME.  We won’t suffer like Jesus did, but we can use our suffering to glorify God like Jesus did.  So in the meantime…do not let Satan use your suffering for his purposes but rather let God use your suffering for His purposes; to draw people to Himself.  Make more of God and less of yourself and know true healing; healing that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  For through faith in Jesus Christ you will know a life ABSENT of suffering.  And that is what it is all about; proclaiming that Good News in the midst of a world of suffering.

May GOD be praised, always and forever.

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The pastor -|—

Worship and a baby soon…Come Holy Spirit

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Let us pray…

Ever-loving and grace-filled God, You bring us from death to life through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Through the cross you have offered forgiveness.  Strengthen our faith that we may turn away from sin and strive to be perfect as You are perfect.  And…when we fall because of our inability to be perfect in this life, show us compassion through Jesus’ sacrifice and bring healing to our souls. We are deserving of death but You have shown us mercy.  We are deserving of judgment but You have shown us grace.  We are deserving of condemnation but You have shown us love. May we find strength and hope in your unexplainable and incomprehensible love for us, through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

I have a lot going on today.  Much is on my mind and heart.  A baby girl is due to be born soon; and soon we will be traveling to meet her and hopefully bring her home as our daughter.  It’s hard to not to be completely submerged in thinking about all that needs to be done. In the mean time, though, I have two worship services to prepare for and a people to deliver God’s Word to.  What a perfect moment for Satan to use something “good” to distract me from something that is more important.

Come Holy Spirit.

May Your Word, O God, be proclaimed this morning.  May You, O God, be glorified and worshiped.  May You, O God, receive all praise.

Hopefully soon, my friends, I will have good news to share with you.  In the mean time…may God bless your day :)

The pastor -|—

Our God

The world is big but God has overcome the world.
Satan is powerful but God has defeated Satan through Jesus.
We are weak but God is strong.
Life can be overwhelming but God is for us.
We are limited but God is infinite.

To quote Chris Tomlin from his song Our God is Greater:

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God...

Nothing in this life can take away the fact that our God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-57).  You may feel overwhelmed, you may feel defeated, you may feel outmatched, but our God is bigger, stronger, more powerful than anything that Satan and this world can through at us.

Because the fact of the matter is that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave to overcome this world and to defeat Satan. Jesus also died and rose that our sins would be forgiven and that we could have hope in the resurrection to eternal life through faith.  God’s grace encompasses us even though (and because) we are sinners.  God’s love is massive and true.  God’s compassion is abundant.

Satan is strong.  This world is powerful.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Embrace this Good News and celebrate, but more importantly worship — Worship our awesome God.

Why?

Because…

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God...

Praise be to God!

The pastor -|—

Community — My adoption story

As I reflect on my adoption journey I find myself feeling very thankful for the community of people around us.

Monday night we had an adoption fundraiser at the Pizza Ranch here in Jackson.  The event was called “Tip Night”.  How it works is that my wife and I received a percentage of the proceeds from dine in meals, deliveries and carry out orders starting at 4 pm…and the community turned out.  My wife and I (along with a crew of wonderful friends), cleared off and cleaned tables, visited with people and provided adoption information.  Our case worker was also in attendance helping us.  A huge thank you to everyone who attended and helped us.  Also…a huge thank you to the Pizza Ranch for doing this for us :)

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Pizza Ranch manager, Jeff, handing me a check from the sales proceeds.

We received just over $900 from proceeds and “tips” that people gave.  That doesn’t included the money people gave us in the weeks proceeding this event.  In a word…my wife and I were –> Overwhelmed.

Praise be to God!

Ever since we started this adoption process we have received so many well wishes, prayers, financial support and other displays of love.  We have said over and over how blessed we feel to live in such a caring community with such wonderful friends.  The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child“.  Well…we are blessed to be living in this “village”.

And now…we anxiously await the birth of our daughter.

That’s right…a girl…due March 1.  The call could come at any time.  But we also know a lot can happen.  Nothing is final right now.  The one thing we do know is that God is faithful and that God is in control.  If this adoption falls through we will be sad, disappointed, etc…but…we know God will continue to guide us in this process.  In the mean time we pray for this birth mother and her baby.  We pray for her family.  But most of all we pray that God’s will be done and that we may have the eyes of faith to see that because in the end, glorying God is what matters.

Loving God, you have blessed my wife and I with a wonderful family; caring and supportive friends, and a caring and supportive “village”.  Thank you for showing love through all these avenues.  In Jesus name, Amen!

The pastor -|—

Goose bumps — My adoption story

When instances of God’s faithfulness humbles you to the point of tears welling up in your eyes you just have to share the story…and that’s what I am doing here.

A couple weeks ago friends suggested a fundraiser idea to us: Tip Night at the Pizza Ranch.  What happens is that the indivdual(s)/organization schedules a night with the Pizza Ranch (usually a Monday or Wednesday) and they receive 15% of the sales from 4 to 8pm plus any tips.  The people bus tables, clean up and talk to the customers.  Basically anything that doesn’t involve working in the kitchen or running the till.  So Connie and I scheduled a Tip Night for Monday, Feb 18.

Now the advertising begins.

I created a Facebook event and invited people; a friend offered to create a poster for us and I emailed the local churches about a bulletin announcement.  Yesterday (Thursday) I decided to email the editor of our local newspaper (Jackson County Pilot).  I told him about the fundraiser and wondered if they would be interested in helping us promote it and/or do a story about adoption.  I mentioned that I have encountered a number of people touched by adoption since we announced to the community we were adopting; stories we probably would not have heard otherwise.

Today I got an email back from the editor and I was…
Blown away
Humbled
Embraced with God’s love

The editor told me that my email was uncanny as they were discussing on Thursday about doing a story about adoption.

[Cue the goose bumps]

I told my wife this and tears started to well up in her eyes.  She said, “Guess who was involved with that?

GOD

…and Praise be to God!

Through out this process I have felt God’s gentle touch on my shoulder as we deal with preparations and decisions.  God continues to assure us that we are on the right path.  But more importantly, God continues to show us His faithfulness that leads us to glorify God.  Because you know, in the end, that is what matters; glorifying God.

My prayer now is that any story that is published, whether in the Pilot or not; or through our testimony, that people see God’s glory and run to God in worship.  I continue to pray for the child God has chosen for us.  I continue to pray for that birth mother and family.  And I pray that God may strengthen, encourage and guide us as we raise this child.  In all we do, may God be praised and glorified.

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Thank you, God, for your gentle touch this morning and for your continued messages of love through supernatural acts in our lives.  This was no coincidence but your hand was and is involved.  Thank you for the wonderful reminder. May you always be praised. Amen!

The pastor -|—