Monday, October 5, 2015

Faith, Football and just being boys!

"Dad!  Did you just see that hit?  I smoked that kid!!" were the words my son Isaiah victoriously yelled as he ran off the field last night.  It was the final play of the game and Isaiah, all 60 pounds of him, plays offensive line for his fifth/sixth grade football team, the Knights.  The final play of the game concluded with Isaiah and the offense on the field and a 90 yard touchdown the other team.  And here, on the sidelines, as the clock ran down and the score read 38-0, was my boy running to me to let me know that he just knocked a kid off of his feet.  At that moment in time it didn't matter that for the sixth straight game the Knights had not scored a single point.  It never registered that a kid his size should not be playing offensive line against opponents twice his size or more.  And it certainly never sank in that when you are 0-6, scoreless, and undersized you are absolutely NOT supposed to have fun playing football!
Yet this is how all of our athletes left the field!  Focused on their one or two plays that they "rocked"!  Excited for the Gatorade and Rice Krispie bar waiting for them.  Not at all concerned with scores, records or yards.  On this night they were eighteen 5th graders, our only 6th grader out with an injury, that in two months had literally moved mountains just to stay vertical in this game.  For most this was their first experience with pads and helmets.  It was their first time learning that football hurts and the little guy has to work harder.
I've learned a lot from this group of boys, and I use the word boys respectfully. As a teacher to many of them and a dad to one of them I have never learned so much from 10 and 11 year olds.  In a society and culture where our news is riddled with negative images, school violence and religious debates about everything under the sun, these boys have been a breath of fresh air.  They have given me energy on Monday mornings with their excitement and recollection of the previous nights game.
  I don't bring a lot to the football coaching arena.  I'm what you might call the "get back coach" or the guy that yells the obvious stuff at the wrong time.  My goal when I agreed to help coach was to make sure my own son didn't get obliterated, so far so good!  Yet over the course of the last months I have learned so much more from these boys than they have learned from me.
In a league founded on the values of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes I have watched our team meet before every practice and devote a few minutes to connecting with their faith and each other. Isaiah, our prayer warrior at home, even volunteered in pregame to pray over his teammates.  An experience that every dad should have!
Boys like my own have had to pour every thing they have physically into a game that most would say is not built for them.  Their biggest asset has been their effort and attitude, something we preach to them daily!  Boys that when they stand across the field from their opponents they make the phrase "men among boys" ring true, just that we are truly the boys!
I've seen boys scared to death to take the field and yet when called upon to go slay the giant, their inner David comes out and they give the best their body can muster.  Not many giants fell this year with the Knights on the field but a lot of Davids have been showing up.
If football and life could be combined into one simple package, and a victor be named they would call on the Brandon Knights to take home the honor.  Being the underdog week in and week out has been a frustration for everyone on the sideline, but these boys!  They have tackled every obstacle, not necessarily every ball carrier, with a smile and sportsmanship like I have never seen.  Blow out or not they are ready to shake your hand and congratulate you on being the winner, not necessarily the better team!  Because we all know the Knights are the better team!
The way I see it, when you stand back and watch a group of boys, that are allowed to be boys you can learn an awful lot.  You see the simple things in life.  Where adults see failure because of a scoreless game, these boys saw success in their sweet new helmets.  When the adults were frustrated that another loss hit the books, these boys were happy to "whip the nae nae" to the music blaring overhead.  And where the adults were busy trying to find less than acceptable ways to win or score, these boys were excited for the hit the smallest kid laid on the biggest!
videoYou see, I love the spirit of these boys.  By all adult standards they should be down and out.  They should be mad, disappointed, discouraged and definitely NOT dancing!  As much as society says they should not be...they are!
They are champions!
They are fighters!
They are boys!
They are Knights!

One final thought.. I always enjoy the drive to the game with Isaiah.  It gives us a chance to talk and for me to see where his head is at.  Yesterday he didn't want to talk about football.  He wanted to talk about recent happenings in the news.  Some school violence only 10 miles from our door, followed by a horrific situation on an Oregon campus.  He knew details because of the news and he knew that people in Oregon lost their lives when they were asked if they were Christians.  He wanted to talk about that!  He just wanted me to know that he would have done the same!  He would have answered that Yes, he was a Christian, despite knowing the outcome.  What?! Did we just have this conversation?  At 10 years old my boy is making that decision?  It saddens me that he feels he has to make that decision but it gives me great pride that he has already made it.
I don't want my boy to grow up too fast, as I love to watch him be 11.  But I know that the lessons he is learning now from the other boys and men in his life are making him into a great person. Our world has put a lot of pressure on these boys as they grow into adulthood.  My prayer is that we can slow down and enjoy them for who they are and what they are, boys!
For today, as we get ready to celebrate an 11th birthday in our house I hope my son, and his little brother, always know and believe...
He is a champion!
He is a fighter!
He is a boy!
He is a Knight!
And...more importantly, in his own words, "#IamaChristian"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gracie meets Mother Nature!

We have been home just over 4 weeks now and have already experienced a lot of firsts.  I will write more about them later but the biggest one we have been waiting for was the first snow fall!

Everyone has had an opinion on whether or not she will like it, love it or just want to stay inside until summer.

So today we took her to meet Mother Natures best!  Attached is a video of the festivities.  We strapped the GoPro to Gracie's head so you can get a first hand look at what she saw!  We stayed out for over an hour and had to drag her back into the house!
Click here to see...
Gracie Loves the Snow!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


For starters I want you to know how much I love you.  From the moment I first saw your picture I knew you were supposed to be our daughter. And then a few weeks later your mom and I got to hold you and love on you for the first time.  They told us you were a failure to thrive baby and they weren’t sure how that would effect you as you got older. That we should expect some delays. But as soon as we first touched you we knew that you were going to be just fine.  As small as you were physically we knew that nothing would slow you down.  Perfection was the word we used!  You instantly won our hearts.  

I am sure you don’t remember our conversation, but on that trip I promised that I would do anything to protect you and give you the life that you deserved.  I told you that we wouldn’t be apart for much longer and that as soon as we could get you home you would be welcomed into a house with two big brothers that were so excited to help you grow.  You were loved before you ever even knew it.  You were guarded by prayer and love on levels you could never believe!  So many people loved you before they ever even met you. 

As we began the process to bring you home our hearts were ecstatic with all of the possibilities for your life.  We prepared for a process that could take a while and supported you from afar.  During that “waiting well” period, things began to unravel and we feared losing you.  However, I kept holding on to our little chat.  That one about doing anything for you.  So as things went badly you were surrounded by even more prayer and love.  People from all over the world knew you by name and were praying for your safety and health.   People that we didn’t even know were praying for you and asking God to make a way to bring you home to your family.  

It’s amazing what prayer and faith can do!  

        Over the course of the almost 2 year process to bring you home there were numerous times it would have been much easier to just walk away.  But your mom and I couldn’t do that.  God led us to you and no matter what people said or how badly our feelings were hurt it was never even an option to give up.  The doubters had no idea how hard I would fight for you.  They had no idea that at times we agreed with them, that this process was crazy and seemed like it would only end with disappointment.  Yet we clung to our faith.  We did our best to let their words and actions roll off our backs.  All because we knew that you were waiting on the other end of this fight. 

That “light at the end of the tunnel” was every picture and video we received of you.  It was plastered on fridge doors, screensavers, picture frames in countless rooms and just about everywhere we went.  You never left our side even though we were an ocean apart.  You were with me every step of the way as I trained for a half marathon and you were there when I crossed the finish line.  Your big brothers prayed for you every night.  They wanted to know everything about you and when they finally got to meet you they instantly knew it as well.  They knew they were supposed to be your protective brothers and right from the first moment they took their job serious.  

I want you to know today how much you are loved.  You are loved by the parents that gave you life and you are loved by the parents that are giving you a life.  Both sets of parents sat in hot Haitian court rooms and signed on blank notebook paper to give you the best life possible.  One mom and dad signed stating that they could not provide the proper care you deserved.  And the other mom and dad signed on stating that they would give you the life that you were destined to have.  A life filled with anything that your heart desires.  A life filled with love beyond anything you could have ever imagined.  A life surrounded by people that will always be there for you.  A life where if you can dream it, it can become a reality.  And a life where above all else, you will know that you are loved by a maker that created you to be someone amazing!  A God that knew before any of us did that you would cross an ocean and become part of a family that would walk through flames for you.  A God that loves you unconditionally and doesn’t make mistakes!

So today, little one, as we celebrate your “gotcha day” and finally can say our family is complete, I want to share just a couple things with you…

1. God Loves you!  
2. I love you!  Your mom loves you! Your brothers love you!
3. You won my heart the first time I laid eyes on you!
4. No matter what anyone says, you are perfectly made and will do great things!
5. Life is going to be tough at times, for all of us, but together we will get through it!
6. Your smile is beautiful, use it for good things!
7. No matter what you say or what you do, I am always going to be your dad and I will always be here for you!


Finally, the last thing you need to know as we prepare to be a forever family… I love you!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's Time!! And You are invited!!

In June of 2012, Anne and I made a decision that would forever change our lives.  The thought of adding to our family excited us both, but at the same time it brought reservations.  We were excited at the possibility of sharing our home with a child that would otherwise miss out on the life we could provide, and yet fearful that we were not at all prepared for the journey of adoption on many levels.  
Many family and friends stood up beside us and decided to join us on the adventure.  Adventure may be the most accurate word I can come up with at the moment.  Although the decision seemed so clear to us at the time, we would be challenged beyond belief over the next two years.  We originally planned on adopting a little boy, and when that fell through we were devastated.  From there we thought we would adopt through the Congo, and when that became clearly not the path, we were again disappointed.  
We were ready to give it an A for effort and enjoy our family of four.  And yet that thumping on our hearts just kept coming.  God kept telling us that He had a big plan for our family and we just needed to have a little more “faith”.  And so this became our mantra…FAITH!  We decided we couldn’t put our expectations of others so high on our list.  We couldn’t worry about the way others reacted when we told them of our plans.  We couldn’t go through this process and not be an example of how awesome our God really is!  He made a promise, and we needed to trust Him.  Faith.
So, in May of 2013 we traveled to Haiti and met the most beautiful girl in the world.  Gracie quickly stole our hearts and instantly became our daughter!  As a dad I made a vow on that visit that I would do anything to protect her and provide for her the life she deserves.  I didn’t know at the time that making that promise would involve more than going through a routine adoption process and bringing her home shortly after. 
Sometimes when you make a promise or say something out loud with your faith, I think that God accepts your challenge and makes you prove yourself.  I know that God enjoys watching His followers fight for Him and His people!  My simple words to Gracie were accepted by Him, and our faith was just starting to be tested.  
Over the summer of 2013 our adoption process began to fall apart.  Things weren’t as they seemed, and we were in jeopardy of losing everything from finances to Gracie.  Thankfully we only lost money and a little time.  It was a lot of money, but in the end we were able to walk away with the relief that Gracie was now somewhere safe, and our adoption would be allowed to move forward.  
This past April, Anne and I were able to travel to Haiti andbe present for court appointments and paper filings that declared us as her legal guardians.  We met her biological parents and watched as they signed away their rights.  It was one of the most surreal feelings in the world to see one mom sign a notebook stating she could not provide a quality life for her baby girl, and another mom pick up the same pen and sign on stating that she would do anything she could to give this little beauty a life she will never forget!  Two moms and two dads, all at the same spot in time but declaring their best intentions for one little girl that meant the world to all of them.
From there our process has moved rather quickly.  We were blessed to become great friends with the people that run Gracie’s crèche and to be in touch with them regularly about her care and needs.  A number of our family and friends have been able to spend time at NLL with Gracie and see what an amazing place she is currently calling home.  Both Grandmas and her two big brothers have even been able to enjoy loving on her.  
Which brings us today!  The day we have all been waiting and praying for.  The day that your prayers and support have literally made possible.  The day that a year ago looked to be so far away, and even impossible at times.  
It is with great joy and tears in my eyes, that we are able to share with you that...GRACIE IS COMING HOME!!  She has one more appointment to get her official Visa in two weeks, but she is coming HOME!  On October 16, at 4:20pm, Gracie Peters will be the newest resident of Brandon, South Dakota!  We will land in Sioux Falls at that time and would love to share the moment with you.  If you have supported this journey in any way we would like to invite you to be a part of Gracie’s homecoming at the Sioux Falls Airport.  If all travel goes as planned we will glide down the Sioux Falls escalators and hold our baby girl, and your prayers, high in the air!  
This adventure has taken our family to places we never could have imagined.  Across oceans, into dark hallways, and down paths of fear and doubt.  Yet in the end it was the prayers, support, phone calls, hugs and ultimately the “faith” of so many that has made this all possible!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank You isn't enough!

What do you say and where do you start? How do you put into words, what is swelling your heart?
At a time when the battle was breaking you down, a community rose up and helped stand the ground.
At the beginning we knew we couldn’t do this alone, We prayed and we begged for God to show us the road.
A road that led through dark paths, and then out into light, A road that at times was pure joy and sometimes just fright.
But every time it got dark and we felt so incredibly small, A note would show up or the phone with a call.
The battle at hand was not ours to bear, because when times would get tough you were always right there.
Some people don’t get why and we completely agree, But God called us to take part and provide a family.
We will fight to the end and take our lumps as they come, and at the end of the day we hope to hear “Job well done”
So what do we say to the people that stood, to those that have promised to do all that they could.
Thank you is so small and we love you is true, we look for a way to acknowledge all that you do.
To walk in front of and beside us and shield all the blows, Means the world to our family, more than most people know.
At the end of this journey will be a great prize, A beautiful princess with the biggest brown eyes.
So as we try to say thank you for blessing our family, we stand tall right beside you and live for our baby.
Soon there will be a plane ride that brings an end to this part of the story, It will close miles between us and show us all of God’s Glory.
Again, thank you is small for all that you do, so from our hearts to yours all we have is “We Love you”
What a day it will be when we all come together, and Praise God for completing Gracie’s family forever!

There are truly times when thank you just doesn't seem to cover what we so badly want to say.  This would be one of those times.  This past Saturday we were blessed beyond measure and our family was extremely humbled.  We never expected the outpouring of love and support that filled Calico Skies, and we were blown away every time we turned around and saw a new face in the room.  Somewhere between 250-300 people showed up to support our efforts to Bring Gracie Home! 
It is never an easy thing to have a spotlight put on a situation like this.  The amount of stress, unknowns and straight up fear of losing our baby girl has been out of this world.  However, we have been graced with a community of family and friends that have realized that this has all happened in spite of who we are.  And we are standing strong today because of their commitment to Gracie and our family!  
If it simply was about money Gracie would have been home a long time ago!  However, it is about more than that.  The story goes deeper than even we know.  But by the grace of God those around us have been able to walk that path with us and share in the amazing testimony that is Gracie's life!

Since there is no easy way to thank the amazing amount of people that have shown their support; financially, prayerfully and by simply just being there as a shoulder to lean on, we once again turned to paper and pen.  Please, if we don't reach out individually right away, accept this as our thank you for the time being.  Our big  "Official" thank you will be when are able to step off of an airplane and introduce you to the pretty lady with an incredible story!
Peace and Grace!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Praying in 5P!

There I stood!  Smack dab in the center of the large room.  A few others were there as well but oblivious as to what was about to happen.  Without hesitation he grabbed my hand and began to pray.  A prayer that wasn't just a "wimpy" request for God to do something. It was a prayer that, as I think back on it, laid out the facts and asked God to get rolling!  It wasn't a quick one either, it lasted!  It stuck!  It had that power that catches you off guard and draws strangers in.  It was amazing!
And it didn't happen in a church, or at a Bible study or where you might expect something like that to happen.
It all went down right in the middle of my fifth grade classroom!  In the middle of our parent teacher conferences!
I had just gotten done meeting with a mother and son about how great his year had been going.  The mother knew of our adoption process and was asking some of the usual questions about timeline and all of that.  Our conversation ended with just a simple explanation that we were once again back to ground zero with some things, but were ever so grateful that we were allowed to preserve our match with Gracie!  Our main priority now was to focus on the good things and get our baby girl home.  God would take care of the rest!
As I turned to leave that conversation I was immediately stopped by another parent.  A dad that I had met for the first time just a few minutes earlier.  He stood there staring at me and said he had a question to ask me.  That type of thing, during conferences, always gets a teacher a little nervous but I had to say yes!
His question was definitely not one I was expecting, at all!
"I just overheard your conversation with that family and I am wondering if I can pray for you?", he boldly said.
Without even thinking I agreed and was quickly swept up into one of those God moments!  Standing face to face, he grabbed my hands, took off his stocking cap and bowed his head.  Not worried one bit about the family still sitting a few feet away or the other family just across the room.  He broke into one of those prayers that would make my momma proud.  And it was bold and Loud!!
The view from my desk! 
He prayed for Gracie, the baby girl he had never seen.  He prayed for my family and our hearts through the process.  He prayed for the people in Haiti that are making life changing decisions as we wait.  For the many people involved in trying to help figure out the messy situation, and he prayed for God's grace and love to pour down on all of those involved.  Finally he simply just thanked God for all of the blessings and for bringing Gracie to our family.  Amen.
The prayer took a minute or two but oddly seemed like it was longer.  One of those prayers that you don't want to leave because the emotion, heart felt passion and the love is just right there.  I hope you can relate.  Those types of prayers aren't always easy to come by.  I am not a master of them by any means but when I get the privalege of hearing one, I am all in!  I am a big time fan of the powerful prayer!  No "wimpy" prayers for me, as a great friend once said!  Prayer has played a large part in my past and continues to be a powerful factor as we move forward with this adoption adventure.  Prayer got me through the passing of my father, exactly 26 years ago today.  It healed our oldest son when we thought we were going to lose him.  And it continues to break down walls and bring hearts together!  And one day it will bring Gracie home!
Shortly after the prayer ended this prayer warrior exited and I stood there for a second wondering what had just happened, and in complete awe of how God works.  How in the middle of a public school classroom I had just stood with a complete stranger and prayed!  Those types of things just don't happen and aren't supposed to happen!  God just seems to show up at those times when we least expect it and He shows himself through the people we would never assume He would.
God rocked my world last night while I stood in a 5th grade classroom, with a handful of people standing silently by.  For a small moment in time it felt like my room; filled with exercise balls, dirty desks and broken pencils, was a safe spot that two brothers could come together and get real with God!  I got served, as my kids would say!

So today I continue to ask for your prayers!  Above all we need to thank God that Gracie is in a safe place and being taken care of so well.  We also need to pray that those representing us in Haiti will be shown grace and wisdom as they try to clear up the dirty road laid in front of us.  Pray for Gracie's Haitian family and her family here that is just waiting for the day that we can snuggle up with her on these frigid South Dakota days.  And finally we boldly ask for God to continue to provide in big ways so that we can get our baby girl home!  Amen

Right now our biggest obstacle is sadly re-raising funds to bring our baby home.  We have been blessed by so many and continue to be but we truly can't do this alone!  Please continue to pray, we appreciate that more than anything, and if you feel at all led to help support us in bringing Gracie home please check out a few of these options...
1. On the top right of this page is a link to our family page at Adopttogether.  You can use this site to make a tax deductible donation!
2. Save the date, March 8th, at Calico Skies Winery.  Some great friends of ours are organizing an evening out full of shopping, raffle/auction items, supper and live music!  We will be posting more info on vendors and other details soon.
3. Support Vibella and Gracie.  By clicking here you can shop on the Vibella website for amazing jewelry made by some incredible Haitian women.  Not only do you help us bring Gracie home but you will also be helping to support the ladies that create these great masterpieces! Be sure to use the code FST09 when you checkout to make sure the Gracie Adoption Fundraiser gets credit. Together we can make a difference!
Our good friend Kayla with Gracie and her daughter Wishla!
Kayla is the Hands and Feet of Jesus in Haiti! She also
works with the Haitian ladies creating jewelry for Vibella!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A note to Gracie on her Birthday!

Today you turned two in a land far away,
I don't know if you were spoiled or heard the song for this day,
You probably don't even know it but this day is so sweet,
Because there is so much love out there just waiting for you to meet,
A mommy  that needs to hold you and touch your soft skin,
A daddy that longs to protect you from all the chaos that you've been in,
Two big brothers that wait in wonder at when you're coming home,
But they love you to pieces and they won't let you go,
We have loved you in person and we have loved you from afar,
We have sat up late at night and wondered if you see the same star,
Gracie, I want you to know how much you are loved,
That even though we aren't with you today that you are being watched from above,
Someday soon you will come home and be a part of our world,
You will join us forever and be Daddy's little girl,
So today on your birthday we pray, thank God and celebrate,
The little beauty that God led us to and for your homecoming we can't wait,
You are loved by so many that to describe there is no way,
So tonight in your honor we
sing Happy Birthday!
Love you Gracie Marie Peters!