"Be that as it may, my Father knows best, and I'm confident that He has placed me here; my task is to labor quietly until the pillar cloud removes and leads farther, working out God's purposes in God's time." -Jim Elliot


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Swains!!! We have been beyond blessed this year. As we take time to reflect on the incredible ways God has shown us His love and grace, we just want to share some of the highlights from this past year!

We have been reminded of how gracious Jesus has been to us this year.  God has used the highs and lows in our family for His glory to share the Gospel, and in the midst of it all, He has continued to be so kind and loving to us.  We know that He intends all for our good.  We have rested in the midst of many unknowns that He is our Source. 

We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this month, and we continue to be reminded daily of the precious gift He gave us in one another. God continues to use marriage in this beautiful refining way to show us that our deepest need is for Christ.  We are cherishing the days He has given us together!

Ben has been enjoying his job as a Senior Engineer II in the water engineering planning bureau in the Department of Water for the City of Dayton.  He has been leading the implementation of asset management for the Department, and has taken a lead role in preparing a proposal to take over the water and sanitary systems for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  He is learning a lot of new things, and working with a lot of great people.  His job has continued to be an incredible blessing to our family.

I enjoy staying home with our boys. I have loved seeing little windows of learning unlock in their minds, and how quickly they are growing has reminded me daily to cherish these little years that will truly be gone so fast! One of my favorite ways to spend our time is with other mothers and their little ones at play dates. I have an incredible group of friends who share life with me, and their children have become Bryson and Lincoln's best friends! I am really looking forward to gathering with several of these moms this coming year for Bible study together. Close friends who want to study the Bible and discuss real life??? My heartbeat!

Bryson turned three years old this summer, and he began preschool this year which he loves so much! He is thriving there. He also played on his first indoor soccer team, fell in love with the log ride at Kings Island, and enjoys anything that calls for creativity and innovation. We think he may be our little engineer! Puzzles and crafts are some of his favorite things to do, but of course, trains, planes, and trucks are always a hit! It is an understatement to say that he has brought incredible joy into our lives!

Lincoln turned one year old this summer, and he is our little bubba brute! He is everywhere, into everything, and fears nothing! He keeps us on our toes, and we truly adore his laughter, expressions, and adventurous spirit so much! He has really taken off with talking too, we love his little baby chatter! He has really enjoyed 1:1 time with Mommy while Bryson is in preschool, but he loves playtime with his brother too! He runs to the door when Daddy comes home with arms wide open! He has developed a love for books, balls, and anything "techie" like remote controls, cell phones, and anything else that is off limits for a baby. Did we mention he keeps us on our toes??? ;)

Probably the biggest change in our lives this year has been our receiving of God's call to adopt a little girl from China. We have completed our home study and all of our paperwork, and we are now waiting for the file of a special little sweetpea who we will be matched with! We will definitely keep you posted as we progress through this process. Our blog is a good way to stay updated! We have been so blessed to have received the support and love from so many family and friends through our adoption journey.  Below is a song that Ben downloaded for me this year for Christmas.  There were many tears in listening to it, for it is like the fingerprint of our hearts for our daughter in China this Christmas.  (Here is the link for mobile devices: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8RW6aHXWQ )

One incredible experience we had a few months ago was hosting the first annual "Orphan Love Run" at our church to advocate for orphans worldwide, as well as to help raise funds to bring our daughter home. It was a 5K benefit, and we truly were blown away by the family and friends who came out to support us in these efforts! God truly does take care of the orphan, and this was a sweet reminder of that truth! We still have a financial need for the travel to pick up our daughter, as well as a small portion of the donation given to her orphanage to help care for the orphans remaining there. If anyone else would like to give towards our adoption need, a tax deductible donation can be made at: https://www.adopttogether.org/sacredscribbles. We appreciate all of you so much, and prayer for us and our daughter is the greatest gift of all!

Please keep us updated on your lives too! We hope you all enjoy this Christmas, and may it stir our hearts with wonder and beholding of Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost!  Much love to all of you from the Swains!

"And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)


Beautiful Tapestry

Early on during my first pregnancy, God flung my heart into Psalm 139 with a vengeance. He wanted my soul anchored to the truth that my children were formed and knitted together in my womb by a Creator Who doesn't make mistakes. Not one part of who this life within me was to become was outside of the sovereign hand of He Who fashioned him. Every one of his days were counted before one came to be. These truths have been etched upon my heart through the last four years of pregnancies, parenting, and our adoption journey today. He has continued to be so sweet to remind me why Psalm 139 is my anchor especially through the life of our oldest son, Bryson. 

Psalm 139:1-18: "O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.  Where shall I go from your Spirit?   Or where shall I flee from your presence?   If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.   My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.   Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!   How vast is the sum of them!  If I would count them, they are more than the sand.   I awake, and I am still with you."

I have been avoiding writing on our blog for a few months. Not out of shame or wanting to hide, but more because of how sharing some of the deepest struggles in one's life can fillet the heart wide open. But through the power of Christ, we are choosing to share our family's full story. We will not hide the beautiful tapestry He is creating even in the midst of various trials. But just know that this moment has been one truly prayed over and courageously embraced by the grace of God.

His cup for us is different than what we would have imagined it would be. We knew early on that Bryson had some challenges with his speech, and we pursued speech therapy which eventually led to an awareness that he was also facing some sensory processing needs as well. For about 6 months, we were in weekly speech and occupational therapy appointments to help work with Bryson on some of the struggles he was facing. Over that period of time, he was continuing to show need for further help and was not making the progress his therapists were hoping to see. So after much prayer and wise counsel, we decided to see a Developmental Pediatrician at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

It was through hours of assessments, interviews, history review, and evaluations this September that Bryson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is one of those moments as a parent that you can't sugarcoat. These are the moments when life is hard and we are either going to see reality through the lens of the Gospel, or we are going to see it through the lens of despair. By God's grace, Psalm 139 was already our anchor. "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." These beautiful truths within flooded my heart as I heard this word that threatened to be bigger. But it isn't. And it never will be. Because Autism does not define our son. God does. His love and fine intended handiwork in creating every little neuron from the top of his head to the tip of his toes was done exactly as God intended. No mistakes. "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." 

Bryson's needs in these areas can be very subtle. He has challenges, but to those who don't know us well, these may not even be very apparent. The team who worked with us at Nationwide Children's as well as his team of teachers and therapists at his preschool seem to think that he may even one day not have some of these challenges. That he could learn tools to handle sensory input differently over time. We look forward to walking with him through this, teaching him slowly, taking one step at a time. However, as we pursue therapies and interventions to best meet his needs, we want him to be who he is. We adore him in all of his ways, his quirks, what makes him tick. He is our delight.

Bryson is exquisite.   He is joy.  He has taught us so much about unconditional love.  He loves to explore.  He is innovative and so creative.  His excitement and zeal for life cannot be contained. His heart for others is endless.  He can charm the socks off just about anybody.   There is much to be unlocked in that little mind and spirit.  He is our little "us".  Autism does not define him.  Nor is he defined by what he cannot do and may never do.  Autism may explain some of the struggles he faces with processing speech and sensory input, but it surely does not define him.   It is merely one part of who he is, a beautiful tapestry of unique and incredible qualities that make him Bryson. "My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth."

Do we have hard days? Yes. Are there times when I am moment-by-moment clinging to God's Word to
remind me of what He promised in Psalm 139? Yes. Are there days when I am angry at God and ask Him why? Yes. Are there times when I just wish that God's cup for us was easier? Yes. But are there also days that I embrace this cup, and truly would not change one thing even if I could? Yes. These are the range of emotions and thoughts a mother experiences when discovering that her precious child is facing some of the hurdles that our son is destined to experience. "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

We are reminded through this season with Bryson that we live in a fallen and broken world. Things are not as they should be. But God came to redeem us out of that brokenness. Jesus came to ultimately restore and to make all things new. This we pray He will do not only in the heart of our sons, but also in the life of our daughter. For she is now an orphan, but this too does not define her. She is defined by God, her Maker and Sustainer. And she too will have some hurdles and challenges as a child with special needs who spent her first year or so of life in an orphanage. She will also face the struggles with identity, belonging, and grieving the loss of her birth parents. She will have many hurdles. And I know there are some of you who may be concerned for us. Could this be too much for us? Do we have what it takes to meet the needs of our children? This is the good news. God has created the tapestry of our family by His love. Do we have what it takes? No. But He does. We rest in His plan and what He has called our family to be. Our daughter is not a broken child being brought into a perfect unbroken family. No. She is coming home to a place where the people within will share in her brokenness. We will journey with her, all of us imperfect and all of us reminded through different challenges our need for a Redeemer to make things right. We are a beautiful tapestry fashioned in His design. We wouldn't want it any other way.

There is a song by Daniel Doss Band called "Stained Glass Windows" that I am going to share below.  This song is such a beautiful picture of the work that God is doing in our family to take our many shapes, colors, needs, and gifts to make a tapestry displaying His love. One of my favorite lines in this song is, "When the light shines through, the colors form a tapestry. 100 different images of how You keep loving me." Jesus, thank you for loving us so much to give us this cup. Thank you for entrusting these beautiful, precious children into our care. Thank you for refining us in the ways you see fit. Thank You for how you display Your glory through the broken, through your beloved. We are Your's. Amen.

(For mobile devices, you can go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piWcIRtsnhU )


Selah Grace

As you read through the Psalms, a word appears that is not familiar to us...Selah.  It means to stop and ponder.  The writers of the Psalms wanted us to really stop and consider what was being shared.

Selah Grace, Ponder Grace.  That is the name that God has placed on our hearts for our daughter.  It is the identity that she will need to carry with her as she discovers who she is, and who God has called her to be.

The word grace goes as deep and as wide as the love of our God.  I'm not sure that we can fully define it, describe it, grasp it.  We have much to ponder.  But specifically for our daughter, we want her name to always be a reminder of what is true and good in this world...His grace.  And we hope for her to never cease in reflecting upon it.  There are so many reasons she will be given to doubt...so much loss, uncertainty, and pain.  For her, there will be a lifetime of moving forward into a future that she most likely would not have picked for herself.  A life spent apart from her birth parents and being raised by another family.  And yet by His grace, her heart can be fully restored and healed through the love of Christ.  And by His grace, and only by His grace, can we offer her a safe place to walk through questions and grief, and to receive the love we have for her as our daughter.  We will not be able to fix it for her.  But grace will help some of it to make sense to all of us as we walk through the journey together.  It will only be by stopping to consider God's grace in her life that she will find healing, hope, peace, and love.  The loss of her birth parents, the home she was born into, and so many things that are tied to who she is will leave her struggling to understand her place in the world.  By resting in God's grace, she can find peace in knowing that before she even entered into this world, that she had a Heavenly Father who loved her, cared for her, and brought her to a family whom He has made her own.  Remembering that grace will help her piece together the story that God is writing for her life, and find hope in the life that God continues to create for her.

Her name is a reminder for us too.  God has invited us to stop and remember His grace that has brought this beautiful little girl into our lives.  She didn't enter into this world as ours, yet God saw fit to make her ours as much as our boys.  He invited us into her story, and His grace is writing our stories into one.  It is moments like tonight when our daughter is on our hearts in such a way, that we are overcome by the adoptive love of our heavenly Father.  He took us in, He grafted us into the family of God for eternity.  But even before He took us in, He called us by name and called us His own.  He set His love upon us before the foundations of the earth.  And this is the work He is doing in our hearts for our daughter...Selah Grace.  We call her by name, we call her our own, our love has been set upon her many years before she was even born.  We will take her in, and she will be grafted into our family forever.  We are humbled that God has seen fit to bless our family with such a gift as this little girl.  May we always be reminded to ponder the grace that has brought her to us.  We have shared with many loved ones through this process that we have a daughter just as much as we have two sons...we just haven't met her yet.  She is our child, in the deepest sense.  We know this to be true.  Oh the sweet, sweet day when we get to see her for the first time.  Our hearts swell just thinking about it.

Selah Grace, our daughter that we can't wait to meet.  Our lives have already been touched by you, little one.  Our prayer for you is that you may come to know His grace through the loss and through the gain.  That you would one day know that His grace has been upon you always, even in times when you felt alone and without hope.  May you always know that you are held by the Almighty.  That His grace sustains you.  Selah Grace, sweet child, Selah Grace.


Listen by Carissa Woodwyk

This was an amazing talk shared at the Summit 9 Conference.  A powerful reminder that everyone who is adopted has a story to tell.

Listen by Carissa Woodwyk from Tapestry on Vimeo.


Follow Me

Imagine being one of the disciples that Jesus called to follow Him.  He said "follow Me"... and through this call, they were given power to lay down their lives and follow.  This moment in time changed their lives and the world.  Throughout Scripture, God gives countless examples of how He invites us to be a part of a bigger story.  His story.  It isn't always easy, it rarely includes white picket fences.  It is a story filled with many unknowns and only one guarantee...He is with us through it all.  But God wants us to enjoy something far better than easy.  Something that surpasses the perception of guarantees.  Something that is more radical than playing it safe in the realm of knowns.  He has invited us to be a part of His story, and that's the greatest story of all.

The moment we were called to adopt a child from China was one of these moments.  It was an invitation for our family to be a part of God's story in the life of an orphan.  We had been praying about it for a long time.  But actually receiving the call from God to move forward with it was a moment we knew would change our lives forever...and that God would change many others' lives as well.  So many of us want to stick with the safe decisions...the ones that lead to a place of comfort, ease, and control.  We want to know the outcome, and we want it to conform with the life we always pictured.  Often times God uses something to change our hearts to direct them towards His course for us, and it rocks our world.  However, it is a gift and adventure to have our world rocked by God's plan.  

While we haven't traveled very far down this road of adoption, we have been so blessed by the unexpected.  Our view of the world has changed.  We have met wonderful new people.  Our eyes have been opened to a world full of children without the basics...a family.  We feel invited into a story bigger than the one that maybe we would have designed for ourselves.  It is a great adventure, though we are aware that many unknowns lie ahead.  We sometimes ask the question, "Do we know what we are getting into?", but I think if we did we may have been too scared to follow.  But our faith is in a God Who is so much bigger than these unknowns.  We know that He has called us to be a part of a greater story than ourselves, and we are excited to surrender to this call fully.  Unknowns and all.

The last couple of weeks of our journey have been exciting.  The approval of our home study, preparing for immigration, and starting to feel like we are close to being matched with our daughter.  God has born her into our hearts.  We think of her with an affection and love that can only be knit together by the Author of such love.  We are thankful that God has said, "follow Me"... into the life of an orphan, into a world unknown, into My design for your family.  We are so thankful that our family has been called, and we are confident that this road will be filled with watching His amazing work effectual in the hearts of our family, our daughter, and others on this journey with us.  He is writing the story...He is knitting our hearts together as a family...and He has promised to be with us through it all.  We will follow You, Abba Father.


Our adoption journey begins...

We are excited to announce that we are "expecting"... however, this pregnancy is going to look a little different than the first two.  Instead of my tummy growing, another woman's will.  And this birth mother carries a gift that God is seeing fit to bestow to our family.  We are thankful for this woman, we are praying for her heart to know the love of God and to be redeemed by the power of Jesus through the midst of the pain involving pregnancy, childbirth, and relinquishing her daughter.  And as she loves this child by carrying her for many months in her womb, our hearts will continue to grow in love for her and the daughter God is giving us.  For reasons unknown to Ben and I, these beloved birth parents are unable to provide the home that this little girl needs.  God is growing in us a heart to provide her this home, and to be her family.  Her parents made the loving choice of adoption, and we are blessed to have been chosen to be a part of God's plan of redemption in the midst of this broken family.

So many of you are probably thinking, "Let's back up a minute.  Tell us how you arrived here.  Share how God has brought you to a place that seems, well, so different."  We can't wait to share.  It has taken everything within us to patiently wait for God's timing to express the incredible work of the heart He has done in our family to bring us into His plan for adoption.  We are honored to get to process this journey with you all through what may seem at times as ramblings and jumbled thoughts on a screen.  We know this will be such a huge part of us working through the joys and the sufferings involved in this calling as well.

The call to adopt.  We didn't go seeking it out.  We didn't know how, when, where...  We knew in our hearts that God was calling us to a life of redeeming those who are lost, alone, and in hard places.  Those who haven't experienced love in a practical, tangible way.  Those who do not have a family.  He was calling us to the orphan.  And yet He calls everyone so differently.  In His Word, He tells us that "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction." (James 1:27a)  And so we have known that He is calling us, and what that looks like has remained a mystery for many years.  Until now.

At the beginning of April 2013, God began to water the seeds He had planted many years ago in our hearts.  For many months, we were holding tightly to the desire to have more biological children.  And yet a still small voice spoke a deeper desire into our hearts within a few weeks of each other.  Through prayer, time in God's Word, counsel, worship, and intense times of solitude and silence...we knew.  His plan was unfolding before our very eyes, whether we were comfortable with it or not.  His plan for a child, a fatherless soul who He longs to redeem out of tragedy and loss.  He spoke to us and shared His will for the next step He has for our family to take.  To adopt a waiting child from China in need of a loving place to call home.  He wrote this into the plan for our family before one of our days came to be.  In Psalm 139:13-16, we read, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."  This scripture brings incredible peace into the heart of the adoptive parent as well as the one being adopted.  The days that we have on this earth were formed for us by God.  His storyline of redemption in all of our lives includes the loss and suffering involved with adoption.  This is His cup for our daughter and this is also His cup for us.  Our story collectively.

As we begin to share this incredible journey after tackling mountains of paperwork and nearing the completion of our home study, we rest in the truth that this is His plan for our family.  We couldn't have chosen a better life if we had tried.  "Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well"...  Wonderful are His works of bringing together a family from broken places, creating a family from different origins.  This is how He rescued us, and He will continue to do a wonderful work rescuing our daughter as well as our entire family through His adoptive love that is the foundation beneath our adoptive love.