Prayer

The sweetest text from my dad about Winona

Last week I received literally hundreds of texts, emails, cards, messages and calls from all the over the world about the news that Winona (the baby we were working towards adopting) had passed away in China.

They all meant the world! Every single one. 

Here’s one that I’ll cherish forever and its from my dad

What I’m really sorry for is Winona won’t get the chance to experience the love that you and Tracie would have given her here on this earth. Right now she is the presence of perfect love. Right now Winona Raitz is playing with Winona Riker (Tracie’s grandma). Love you.

My dad is my hero. He’s my spiritual hero. He’s a man of great faith. He’s a man in love with Jesus. He’s a man in love with family. And, he seemingly always knows what to say.

We’re just heart broken and crushed

Yesterday afternoon we found out from our adoption agency, Children’s House International, that our sweet Winona Mae passed away over the weekend.

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We are absolutely heart broken and completely crushed.

For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men. ~Lamentations 3:31-33

From the moment we first saw her photo and read about her, we were just convinced that God had called us to be her parents.

I was in town working out when Tracie called me and I was just shocked. I immediately felt numb and just sat down and stared at the wall trying to wrap my mind around this.

We still don’t have all the details, but we do know a really bad virus was going around her orphanage. Winona was very small and frail and way under weight for her age. Plus, the orphanage doesn’t even have central heating and the air quality is very bad in that region of China. And, her little body just couldn’t fight off the virus.

It’s just heart breaking. We’ve been praying, our family has been praying and our community has been praying for this little girl. Her picture is up at our house, on our phones, her crib and stroller and have been bought and we were just getting ready to paint her room.

Honestly, in the midst of the sadness, I’m angry. We are jumping through hoop after hoop to bring her home and she has a home ready for her with a family and a community ready to love her, and she had to stay in an over crowded orphanage with barely any heat.

‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4 (esv)

Lot’s of tears have been shed. Lot’s more will be as we think about the memories we wanted to share with her.

Our calling to adopt hasn’t changed. There are so many kids who need forever homes. There are even more babies and toddlers with PKU. We will regroup. We will finish our home study and I know God will lead us to another baby who we can bring into our family.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4 (niv)

It’s my wife’s Birthday!! Happy Birthday TRACIE RAITZ!!!

Today is a very special day!! Why? Because it is Tracie’s Birthday!!!

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Happy Birthday!!!!!

What I love about my wife…

  • She loves Jesus!
  • She loves her family!
  • She puts everyone first.
  • She’s ridiculously selfless!
  • She’s unbelievably faithful.
  • She’s wise beyond her years.
  • She’s got the biggest heart ever!
  • She’s beautiful!
  • She never tells anyone how awesome she is!
  • She’s so dependable!
  • She is amazing with kids!
  • She is a FANTASTIC mom!!
  • She is a PKU genius!!
  • She’s a ROCK!
  • She can make any camp or hotel room feel like home!
  • She’s my partner. She’s my best friend. She’s my life!

A few things you didn’t know about Tracie…

  • She’s ridiculously courageous! When Zach was born with PKU, I fell a part! She did not! She never has! She just cares for our PKU’ers and has set them up for success.
  • She’s so STRONG! I have put her through so much crap and sometimes hell over the years! As I was trying to figure out my contentment issues and moved our family all over the place, she stayed strong and supported me!
  • She’s so GREAT with kids. It’s actually amazing to see with her babies and toddlers! God has given her a gift!
  • She’s one of the main reasons Thrive Church exists! Planting and starting a Church is HARD!! I was about to decide not too start Thrive! It just seemed like we would be inviting a lot of pain into our lives. Tracie sat me down and explained that this was God’s will and His calling on OUR lives and we were going to do this together!
  • She’s quiet, but she has a punch to her! Don’t mess with her, seriously!

To my wife…

  • I love you.
  • I don’t deserve you.
  • I’m amazed by you.
  • You’re an amazing mom.
  • You’re beautiful inside and out.
  • You’re my favorite person on the planet. Even more than Tom Brady! But, if he wanted to hang with us, that would be cool!
  • Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me a better man.
  • Happy Birthday!

 

 

My 2 word goal for 2016

Follow Jesus

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Yup, that’s it.

I want to passionately and whole-heartedly follow Jesus. 

Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:27-30).

I don’t want to be a fan. I want to be a follower.

A fan sits in the stands. A fan criticizes without being involved. A fan is great at hype.

I want to be a follower. 

A follower abandons their own ways for the ways of their master.

A follower puts aside their pride.

A follower helps others find the Savior.

A follower serves the needs of others.

A follower surrenders their finances to God.

A follower does life in circles not rows.

A follower changes to be more like who they follow.

So, for 2016, my goal is to follow Jesus. 

The Best moments of 2015 for the Raitz Family

The Raitz family had an amazing year in 2015! christmas card photo

There’s just no way around it. Yes, we had some bumps and experienced a descent amount of pain, but the joy we experienced…far outweighed the pain!

Here’s what I loved about 2015…

We traveled together.

  • We went to Camp Timber Lee twice for speaking engagements.
  • Bobby and I went to CA together. We hung out on the beach, we hung out in downtown Hollywood and then I spoke at a great ministry event.
  • We went to a Milwaukee Brewers game.
  • We went to Chick-Fil-A every chance we got.
  • We went to a Tigers game.
  • Tracie and I went to Vegas.
  • We spent a week in Grand Rapids as I taught at a summer camp.
  • Bekah and I went to Ecuador on a Compassion and Stadia vision trip.
  • Tracie and I went to Tampa with the Thrive staff for a conference.

We laughed together.

  • Yes, it’s not all roses and laughter. But, we have some amazing times together as a family!
  • We love watching movies together. We love watching ‘The Office’ together.
  • And yes, we’re big Pitch Perfect fans!

We helped build a Church together. 

  • For many families, their life equation goes like this:IMG_2972

Work/Family Stuff/Kids Sports/Camping/Hunting and then God/Church

Now, that’s just what I’ve experienced from over 20 years of serving at Churches and, it’s been that way for some seasons in our families lives.

We made a huge decision to reverse the equation when we planted Thrive…

God/Church and then Work/Family Stuff/Kids Sports/etc

It’s amazing what happens in your life and your families lives when you put God and the Church first. So, we have had a blast building and helping grow Thrive Church.

  • I love that our kids look forward to what’s next at Thrive!
  • I love that our kids all serve at their Church.
  • I love that our family talks about our Church and talks about how we can improve it.
  • I love that our family is so invested into our Church.

We bought a home.

  • Yeah, this was stinking awesome! In 18 years of marriage, we have always rented and we were finally able to buy our dream home in 2016!
  • The story behind this is just absolutely nuts and is one of those ‘ONLY GOD’ moments that you read about in books!
  • But, the short story is…God provided a down payment and we were able to use that to buy our home!
  • Honestly, I’m still shocked!

What does 2016 have in store?

  • We’re adopting Winona Mae from China! We can’t wait! At some point, we’re praying sooner than later, Tracie and I will need to spend 2 weeks in China to bring home Winona!
  • Bekah turns 16 on Feb. 22!
  • We’re hoping to take a family vacation to Disney World.
  • We’re praying somehow we’ll be able to buy a bigger vehicle once Winona comes.
  • I’m speaking a Camp Timber Lee again and in Orlando this summer.
  • Depending on when Winona comes, we’re going to travel together to INDY for the National PKU conference.
  • Next school year, we will have an 11th, 9th, 7th and 3rd grader!!

My family is truly blessed. I love my family. They’re the best part of my life.

My hope is to increase the number of date nights I take with my wife and each kid separately. My hope is to coach the boys baseball team again. My hope is to start taking Bekah to visit some colleges. My hope is to take Tracie away on a short 19th anniversary trip in May.

2015 was amazing. I can’t wait for what 2016 has in store for our family! 

Monday Reflections on Life, Family and Thrive Church

It’s Monday! Christmas is over! 2016 will be here soon! There are so many thoughts going through my head. Here are just a few reflections on life, my family and Thrive Church.

On Life

  • Christmas was amazing. I love my family. We had an absolute blast hanging out together!
  • On Wednesday night I got a gift from a student from Thrive! It meant the world! Seriously, a student! So cool!
  • I’m excited for 2016. I believe it’s going to be a great year.
  • I have found myself in quite a hole when it comes to managing my health. I’m going to through all the effort I possibly can into getting physically healthy again.

On Family

  • I scratch my head daily and ask God why He would bless me with the family that He gave me.
  • And, I can’t wait for our family to increase with the addition of Winona Mae! We found out last week that 2|42 Community Church is giving our adoption fund $10,000! So incredible and so humbling. IMG_3316
  • I was having a conversation with my 16 year old daughter today and she says…’Dad, why do so many adults have to act like high school students’? I said, what do you mean? She says…’It just seems like so many adults do and say such childish things to each other’. I laughed and said…yup!

On Thrive Church

  • Wow. The month of December for Thrive Church was just absolutely amazing! So many new faces. So many families. We celebrated. We laughed. We made decisions to follow Jesus. Here are some of my favorite moments from this month:
    • ‘The Force Awaken’s’ teaching series. We did a 3 week series on Luke 2 and it was great. Our artists did an amazing job of transforming our environments and people loved it.
    • We introduced Dr. Tom Rundel as our Spiritual Formation Pastor. People clapped! God is moving!
    • Starry Night was amazing! We took a risk and a leap of faith and we rented the Broadway theater. It worked out GREAT!

I so can’t wait for 2016!!

 

Merry Christmas from the Raitz Family!!

Merry Christmas from the Raitz Family! 2015 was an amazing year for our family!christmas card photo

As we finish this year:

  • Bekah is a sophomore in high school and doing great! She ran track her freshmen year and earned her varsity letter. She’s super involved in our Church and is just an absolute delight.
  • Bobby is an 8th grader and is an amazing young man! He loves video games. Like LOVES them. Like he watches youtube videos about how to play video games! Hah. But, he has a heart of Gold!
  • Zach is a 6th grader and is all life. He played football this past fall and loved it. He just started basketball. His PKU is doing good. He’s still addicted to slurpees of any kind!
  • Maddie is in 2nd grader and never stops talking! She’s a delight, but wow, she really never stops talking! Hah. But, she loves to sing. She loves school. She loves her teacher. And, her PKU is doing well.
  • Winona Mae isn’t with us yet, but we can’t wait to get her here! We’ve started the adoption process to bring this beautiful 17 month old from China and we’re walking through the process.

Tracie and I are doing great. Actually, we’re tired! Stressed at times! But, we’re great. We both love our jobs, I’m still the Pastor of Thrive Church and she is the Thrive Kidz Operations Lead.

We’re praying big prayers for 2016! We’re praying God will put his hand of favor on our adoption process and we’ll be able to get Winona Mae home soon!! If you want to help us raise the money to bring her home, please head here.

Thank you so much for all your support! Many of you financially support us through Thrive Church. Many of you pray regularly for us. Many of you send encouraging emails, messages and notes and everyone means the world!

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