This blog is a chance for us to tell our story and shine the light on the God who wrote it.

It is also a place for me to bring into the spotlight the millions of orphans around the world who are waiting for the Body of Christ to fulfill God's command to "care for orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27)

Soli deo Gloria... (All Glory to God Alone).

12.24.2014

He Came Anyway

It's one hour before Christmas Eve and one more day before the end of my favorite time of year.  Advent.  Those few weeks leading up to Christmas where we slow our lives and light the candles each night and we prepare our hearts for His coming.

This year was going to be the best.  I decided this one week before Thanksgiving when I bought a Children's Advent devotional just released by my favorite author.  Ann Voskamp and Advent.  Be still my heart.
.  
This year we would slow and breathe and seek Him.  We would make space and read our devotions (almost) every night and I would not give in to that stress that everyone says "just comes with the season".  Looking back I can see I wanted so much to "get it all right"- my version of what it looks like to "prepare Him room".  And my intentions were (mostly) pure.  Truly, at the heart of it all, I don't think it was about performing but really came from a deep desire to welcome Christ into our home and our hearts this season.

Which is why, in His grace, He saw what I really wanted in my heart and blew my carefully laid plans out of the water.



This is what my actual Advent looked like...



I am going to give you a mental picture that perfectly epitomizes our Advent season.


Picture me.  Stressed-out mom trying to run this mothership.  One week into Advent and I am failing real good at this slow and peaceful thing and feeling pretty guilty about it.

Now picture me driving my Zoe-girl home from ballet one evening.  As we pull into the driveway a song comes on the radio and I catch the words and my mind stops going in a thousand different directions. I am reminded of grace and drawn back to Jesus.  So I just slow down and stop in the driveway and turn up the music and listen and forgive myself.  I remember how gracious He is and what this is all really about.  I smile at how God's glory can come into our craziest moments and I let Him come.

Now Zoe is dancing in the yard to the music.  And she is beautiful really, and I remember how blessed I am.  And how can I just keep going and going and forget to be thankful?  Awed.  Her dance just fits the music and it feels a little heavenly and I'm tearing up some.  This is what I wanted my Advent to look like.  

Now if you could just close your eyes here and picture beautiful Zoe dancing free and flowing and rejoicing.  The music fills the air-



Hallelujah, hallelujah 
Heaven's love reaching down to save the world 
Hallelujah, hallelujah 
Son of God, Servant King, 
You're here with us 
You're here with us 



And then it happens.  That perfect Advent scene comes to a screeching halt.  As one of Zoe's graceful leaps goes terribly wrong.  Now she is on the ground crying out and clutching her foot and this is the kind of cry that means something actually happened.

Indeed my Tiny Dancer had landed on her brother's foam sword, which caused her to twist and subsequently break a small bone in her foot.  One week before she was to perform in the Sleeping Beauty ballet she had been rehearsing for the past two months.  Awesome.


I give you this mental image to characterize what our entire Advent looked like.



Now here is an actual visual image of what our Advent looked like.  A hot mess.




That is our Gingerbread House we made this year.  Impressive, eh?


This Advent was hard.  And messy.  Really messy.  

But He came anyway.

I am dancing along all free and joyful and then I fall.  Over and over.  And He comes to me.  Over and over.

And I see it now.  I don't want to miss it.  I was never going to have the "perfect" Advent.  No, He loves me too much for that.

He knew from the beginning we'd miss more of our Advent devotionals than we'd make.  That we'd be a mixed-up, broken-down mess this year.  That I would fail time and again in so many of the ways I was trying to make a quiet, clean, sacred space for Jesus to come in.



But the reality is that this Advent He came to me exactly the way He came into our world two thousand years ago.   It wasn't like God didn't know where Mary and Joseph would be when He sent His Son- Himself- into our world.  In fact, He planned it that way.  It may not have been Mary's "birth plan" but it was His.  The long journey away from home, the messy stable, a feeding trough for a crib, and rags for a layette - these were all a part of the Divine Plan for how God would come quietly into our world.

 There wasn't any space for Jesus when He came then.  No room in the inn.  No quiet, clean, sacred cradle in a warm home to welcome Him in.  

But He came anyway.  And maybe it wasn't quiet and clean but He made it sacred.


He planned that He would come right there into that mess and maybe He still does.  Maybe He came that way- made His grand entrance that way so that we would never doubt He could come into our mess, our broken places.


Down here on earth we build cathedrals and play organ music hoping to find ourselves a space where we can just meet God.  A place where He might come.   If we make it beautiful and reverent, won't He come?
And He does.  He does often come there and it is expected and all we have to do is construct it, right?

Look, I am all for creating sacred spaces to meet with God.  I read all these books with titles like "Sacred Rhythms" and "Sanctuary of the Soul" in the hopes that they will give me insight into practices that will deepen my fellowship with God.  And sometimes I practice these things- like meditation and listening prayer- and He comes and I am thankful.

But a lot of the time, I don't.  And He comes anyway.  And it is unexpected and takes my breath away.  And it's why I love Him so much.

Truth is, He is bursting in on the scene whether we've got it all together or not.

It's not quiet and clean here.  But let me tell you this... It is sacred.  Holy.  And I won't try to clean up my mess before I let Him in.  Because I just might miss Him.

Jesus, you are welcome here.

Right here.



I'd pictured you coming near in those quiet moments as we gathered around the Advent wreath.

Instead you came this Advent season in those quiet moments where I wept and cried out to you with friend betrayed, another heartbroken, a marriage grabbing for some lifeline, a child fighting depression, a loved one thinking it might be better to just end it all.  Because we're all bleeding here.  And you just keep coming into our mess with your redeeming love.

And again, you came last week when I gathered up my son and drove him to the same ER where last year we were told we could've lost him.  And you were there when the traumatic memories came flooding back.  And I felt peace.  Not peace that came from lighted candles but from the Light of the world pushing into my darkness.  This isn't singing-Kumbaya peace.  This is Emmanuel, God-with-us-in-the midst-of all-the broken-and-hard peace.

You were there when I got too busy- again- and put silly temporal things before Eternal You.  And when I repented and felt like an Advent-failure, you reminded me that you came just for the likes of me.



Look- (this is going to come as a shock to those of you who know what a Domestic Goddess I am... ahem)- my Advent isn't going to be on Pinterest or featured in "Perfect Advents for Christian Families".  For the love of Pete, I already showed you our gingerbread house and I just looked up at the star on the top of our tree and it is tilted at almost a 90- degree angle - (which is 45 more degrees than the tree is leaning so maybe it balances it out?).  Scott has had walking pneumonia for a week and several of us have succumbed to the Puke Plague.  We are limping into Christmas here people.  Limping.



My Advent might not have been pretty.  But my heart is ready for Him this Christmas.  There is no doubt in my mind eighteen years after I met my Savior that I still need Him just as much now as I did then.  I wonder if I'd gotten it all "right" and this season had gone as I'd planned, would I love Him less?  If He came in all those "perfect" moments I'd expected Him to, would I be filled with all this awe and wonder... and a deep, humble gratitude?


Emmanuel- God with us.

We weren't ready for Him then and truth be told, we aren't really ready for Him now.  

But He.came.anyway. 

He comes anyway. He comes over and over into our world in a thousand broken but sacred places. 


There is no greater Love.  No greater Gift.  I am Held.  We are Loved.  Christ has come!




9.21.2014

A Letter to My Son... On Being Colorblind

Dear Beniam-

There's something I want you to know.

I am not colorblind.

Some say "Love is blind"- meaning when you love someone you overlook their faults.

Your skin color is not a fault.  It is a gift from the God who made you in His image.  



Your dark brown skin... those long lashes... that amazing smile... and that one little dimple in your cheek.  He thought about each feature and He made only one you.










He made me in His image, too.  Your mama with the skin you call salty-caramel... and a hundred million freckles.



You might wonder how can this be?  We are so different from the outside, you and me.  How can we both be made in His image?  Which one of us really reflects who God is?

And the answer, my son, is both of us.  Or really, all of us.  You and me and your Chinese sisters and your biracial friend and his Puerto Rican father and little Sela in Indonesia.




Hey, Ben, can I tell you something awesome?  


God cannot be contained in a race or a gender and the truth is it takes all of us.  All of us put together portray the truest image of God.  God has chosen to reveal himself through our diversity.  (Diversity is when everyone is different and when you put us all together we make something beautiful.  Breathtaking.)


Just like he makes the sun set every day in a different way- one day bright orange with hues of pink and purple.  And the next covered by clouds with only faint yellow streaks poking through.  Every one is different.  Designed by a creative God to get our attention and whisper to us- "I am here."  Because if they were all the same, we would never stop and look and all of the sudden feel small and free and know we are not alone.  Crazy how a sunset can do all that.






And it's crazy how I feel when I look at all these kids God gave us.  You and your brother and sisters.  When you're playing together and I stop and really look at you... like so many sunsets.  And I feel small and free and know I am not alone.









So you see, Beniam, your mama... she's not colorblind at all.  Doesn't want to be.

I'm just standing here with eyes-wide-open not wanting to miss one second of this breathtaking view God has given me.   I see you.  I. see. you.  

I see you and your beautiful brown skin.



And I love it.




7.28.2014

So Grateful I Get To Be Your Mom

Beniam Ananya,

Six years ago today you became our son.







Ben, you bring so much laughter and joy to our home!  You love to make us all laugh and always surprise us with the funny things you say.  Someday I will write them all in a book and get rich.  You give the best snuggles and kisses... and always keep us on our toes.  I think you were three when you first tried riding the garage door all the way up and letting go.  And four when you pulled the fire alarm in the middle of Pastor Max's Sunday sermon. (It's all good because he worked it in as an illustration.  After everyone evacuated of course.  And at least that time we didn't have to pay for the fire engine coming.  That time.)


"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?  Indeed you are our glory and joy."  1 Thessalonians 3:9


Today, Beniam, we celebrate six years since you became a part of our family.  And I don't know what else to say.   I am just. so. grateful that I get to be your mom.



(This post from 2011 shares a little more about the day we met Beniam.)

7.23.2014

What We Look Like Now



One day I'm going to change the header on this blog.  It's like three years old and well, a lot has happened in the past three years.  Like that bald baby with the impish smile is about to start Kindergarten.

But honestly, the header is an accurate reflection of how up-to-date I am in general.  So I am presenting an authentic portrayal of what you'd see if you came to our home.  I decorate almost never and the pictures on our walls are incredibly outdated (so is the paint).

And the last time we all got dressed up and took family portraits was... well, never.
Until last month.

Some sweet friends of ours offered to take some pictures and all the kids came and actually smiled.  Not simultaneously but really really close.





Being realistic here, it may be awhile before I change the header (partly because I have no clue how).  So I'll share these for now.  This is what we actually look like now.




Naw, I'm just playin'.  We only looked this cute that one day.  But I'm gonna frame it and call it my life anyway.




I think this looks... serene.

Much better scripted than the slightly more authentic Easter morning picture that I must throw in here because I honestly just cannot handle when everything looks scripted and perfect.  It just ain't real people.  This.  This is real.


If you had any idea how hard it is to get Beniam to be present in a family photo.  The irony of it all is that he has the best smile in the family, in my opinion.  His dentist calls it his "Hollywood smile".  (He also said to start saving now because "Hollywood smile" now means overcrowding and braces later.  Awesome).



One time in my goddaughter's three year old preschool class they asked the children "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  The answers were posted for all the parents to see at the Open House the following week.  Hers said "When I grow up I want to be ... Asian."

When I grow up I want to have Beniam's smile.



** Note- If you like the photos... They were done by some sweet friends who are working to build their skills in photography-- so they can do photos for other families for lower prices than the professionals.  So, if you are in the Gainesville area and want more info on connecting with them, let me know and I will give you their information.  Email me at haleyuf@hotmail.com.

7.18.2014

Eden's Ability

This is my daughter Eden.



She has Down Syndrome, which is usually described as a "disability".  When we began the process to adopt our daughter, there were those who wondered if we would be overwhelmed by her "disability".


The truth is today, four months into parenting our daughter with Down Syndrome, I can honestly say that yes, I am overwhelmed.  I am overwhelmed by her ability.



I sit on the grass at the splash park in the hot summer sun, and I watch her run through the water spraying up from the ground.  Her arms open wide to the sky, her head tilts back and she is taking this one moment and living it full and free.  She lives most of her moments that way.  And I am overwhelmed by her ability to embrace life and taste every moment.







Eden laughs exponentially more than any other person I've ever known.  And I am overwhelmed by her ability to find joy and delight throughout her day in all the little things the rest of us take for granted.

video



She wraps her arms around my neck and pulls me close to her.  We don't have too many words yet, but she looks right into my eyes and doesn't look away.  Plants a sweet kiss right on my lips.  She isn't afraid to love this way.  I am overwhelmed by her ability to love wholeheartedly and without the inhibitions most of us learn to wear over the years.


I am overwhelmed by her ability to go slow when all the world rushes around her.  My favorite writer says that hurry is a "sure mark" of an "amateur".  This girl's a professional.





I am overwhelmed by her ability to bring joy to those who are around her.  We visit friends overnight and I overhear my friend trying to describe Eden to her husband.  She's trying to find the word... "She's just ... just... delightful."  And I smile huge inside... God knew that was the perfect description for this child when he gave us her name.  Eden means "delightful".







I am overwhelmed at her ability to live freely.  She's not encumbered by worry or self-importance.  She isn't climbing any ladders.  It's like somehow she already knows the secrets about life the rest of us don't learn until we're eighty.



I am overwhelmed because when it's all said and done, Eden is able to do and be so many of the things I desire so deeply to embody myself, and yet never seem quite able to do.  Perhaps it is my disability.  I am often too hardened, inhibited, self-important, and cynical.

"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.'"  Matthew 11:25 

Perhaps I am too wise and learned. 

There is this childlike-ness that Eden will probably always possess.  It is part of her "disability".  And I can only pray that I will have the ability to learn from her.
"And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'."    Matthew 18:3


Thank you, Lord, for giving me a child with abilities that have eternal value.  As we journey through this life together, help me to overcome my disabilities as I learn from Eden how to live a life that delights you.







5.07.2014

The Wonders He Has Done- An Update on Eden and Family Life

I just realized that tomorrow Eden will have been a part of our family for two months.  We are way overdue for a little update and so many have asked how Eden is doing.  I hope to write more later, but for now I thought I'd just throw in a bunch of pictures of the kids and trust that this will bring more smiles and satisfaction than my writing anyhow. ( I dare you not to spontaneously grin when you see this picture of Beniam with his ice cream taken during our Mommy/ Ben date last week.) 



Thank you for all your continued prayers for our family as we transition, and especially for Eden.  This season is fragile and intense and often breathtakingly beautiful.  (When I remember to stop long enough and breathe :-)  Oh Lord, don't let me be so focused on getting all this "right" that I miss the wonder of now!)

What a tremendous transition this is for sweet Eden as she navigates new relationships, new culture, food, language and more.  But she is so brave and strong.  And loved.  So incredibly loved.  By the One who moved "immovable" mountains to bring her here and has always had a good plan for her life.  And though our love isn't perfect like His, she's deeply loved by the six of us she now calls her family.  I have been amazed in the past month and a half to watch as the other children have embraced their new sister with a purity and abandon that I could never have expected.  It is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Eden is trying so many new things!  And sister Zoe is always right there to cheer her on. (Note the location of Zoe's
hand in all the pictures of her and Eden below :-)

Don't get me wrong, y'all.  It gets messy here sometimes... okay a lot of times.  We are seven people, one dog, a lizard, a fish-thingee, and two hamsters growing together in an 1100 square foot home (which, by the way, has not seemed small or cramped to me once in the past two months).  And I would not change it for a second.  It's wild around here but there is a peace and rest here I would not have living with just my husband in a 3,000 square foot house in Bora Bora.  Our lives may look crazy to some but we have this deep peace in the midst of it all that we are living the life God created us for.  We were made for this.  And we are just so humbled at all this ridiculous grace that we get to do this.


This girl has some serious ball control.  We were both shocked
at how great she is at basketball- she makes most of her shots.


This man has some serious love in his life.  Do you think
he's enjoying this?





We finally got to take Beniam on his long awaited train ride.
Fun day for the whole family.  Plus also we won a full size basketball net that day.  Which has come in really handy.
Who would've thought our newest daughter from China would be such a lover of basketball?!






So these are a few highlights from the past six weeks or so.  Or at least the "fun" ones-- mostly it's just day-to-day life around here mingled with lots of doctors visits :-)  Just trying to lay low and give Eden the space to transition and for her to get to know us and us her.  It has been such a gift to learn her a little more every day.

I'd love to share a little of what we are learning about Miss Eden.... She is so incredibly smart, people, and I am not just saying this because I am her mom.  She absolutely loves to learn and always loves when we sit down to do some schoolwork.  She is writing her full name in English already as well as her age (which is like her favorite word in the world- fourteen!  She is just so impressed that she is fourteen), the date, and learning my phone number quickly.  We are also doing some math and she masters concepts very quickly.  Oh, and she is learning so much English.  (She had the opportunity to learn some in China when she stayed at New Day South in 2012, so there was a foundation there of knowing her letters and a few words and songs.)  She picked up all the important words here very quickly- you know, like "no", "cookie", "Hello Kitty", "cake", and other essentials that every child needs for survival :-)  For now she is homeschooled and we are looking into her schooling options and plan to enroll her in the fall.

Eden is also so affectionate and cuddly.  Scott and I both agree that our favorite is when we are eye to eye with her... She will cup our face in her hands and just stroke our cheeks and look us right in the eyes.  What a sweet gift from God she is!  

Health wise, Eden is doing so well.  In the past two months, she has gained more than ten pounds (we think closer to fifteen or more)!  If you look at our pictures from China, I am holding her a lot.  Now, only Scott can hold her.  She is up to 53 pounds now and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.  This is such a blessing because it can be hard for her to gain weight due to a minor physical condition.

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you;  were I to speak and tell of them they would be too many to declare." (Psalm 40:5)

(Which is why this post that I intended to be short and sweet has kept me up til a quarter to one in the morning.  So hoping Scott lets me sleep in tomorrow :-) )

Update- make that one hamster.

3.10.2014

Overtaken



It happened today.  

We are sitting in our hotel room here in Guangzhou.  I am sitting on one couch reading and Eden is next to me in a chair working intently on her stenciling project.  I look up and stare at her, just taking it all in.  She feels me staring at her and looks up; her face lights up with that joyful smile and she says, “Mama!” 

And that’s when it happened.  I literally felt it flood over me.  This promise that God gave me in the darkest hours.   Back in the fall and early winter when I felt like my whole life was falling apart around me.  And the promise of this child He’d been speaking to me about for two years seemed a total impossibility. 

"Gladness and joy will overtake you, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isaiah 51:11)

That’s what I felt today.  Like gladness and joy had overtaken me.  

When she looked up at me and it just sunk in real deep.  He did this.  He really did this.  

Every weapon formed against us was destroyed.  Every mountain that arose to keep us from Eden was flung into the sea.

"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her!" (Luke1:45)

I am blessed.  Overtaken. 

I’d gotten used to the sorrow and the hard.  And then I looked up and there she was.  Gladness and joy have overtaken me and I am undone by the weight of His grace.

3.09.2014

Update from Guangzhou

We wanted to take a few minutes to update everyone and let you know how Eden is doing. 




We met Eden on Monday, March 3rd.  They told us that she is very timid and a bit afraid in new situations and we have seen this to be true.  She understands about being adopted and is very excited to have her own family.   Yet this first day was hard for her, too, because she had to say "goodbye" to her teacher that brought her and that she loves very much.  She is attaching very well with us and allowed us to comfort her.  We are so thankful for this.  Every day we are together trust and love grows.

Our official "Adoption Day" was Tuesday, March 4th- one day before her 14th birthday!  Just in time, God :-)  We are finding that the best bonding with her is when we can be playful and make her laugh.  She laughs easily and so we are goofy and she likes that.  She also likes it when we carry her, especially "Baba" (Daddy)- she gets this look of joy on her face when he sweeps her up into his arms.  

We have named our precious daughter Eden Xinmu.  Xinmu was her Chinese name (pronounced like "shin moo").  For now we are calling her Xinmu-- don't want to overwhelm her with too many transitions at once!  Eden means "delightful" and we cannot think of a better word to describe this child.  She is incredibly sweet and kind and when she smiles her whole face lights up and I think my heart might burst.




Eden turned 14 on March 5th.  She is teeny tiny- probably a size six or seven.  Just absolutely adorable.  She is super smart, too.  She knows many of the Chinese characters and had memorized her foster father's eleven digit phone number.  We found that she can count to ten in English and sings the ABCs so she loves that we can do that with her.  She doesn't understand much English yet but we've no doubt she will pick it up quickly.  Sometimes it is hard when we want to understand what she is thinking or feeling and don't know how to get to that.  But there are things that all children understand- lots of hugs, smiles, laughter- these things are universal.  Her beautiful personality comes out a little more every day.



On Thursday, March 6th, we were able to go and visit Eden's orphanage in Maoming where she has been for the past six years.  It was about a four and a half hour drive one way, but the car time was a sweet time of bonding and playing together.   It was an incredible gift to visit the orphanage, meet some of her friends, and see a little bit what her day to day life might have been like.  The love the teachers have for Eden was so obvious- she was adored there.  We also were blessed to be able to meet her foster mother.  Many of the children live in homes with foster parents and several foster siblings and return to the orphanage each day for school and meals.  Eden's foster mother loves her dearly.  They kept saying how happy they all were that she has a family now.  (In just a couple years she would no longer have been able to stay with the foster family/ orphanage).  What an incredible gift to meet these people who invested so lovingly in Eden's life.  She will miss them terribly and it breaks our hearts when we see her grieving.  But honestly, these moments have been rather short and she allows us to comfort her.  We know this is all a part  of the process of becoming family.  We pray God will give us patience and love and wisdom to guide her through the feelings of loss while pointing her toward a future of hope and love.





Friday, March 7th was the day for Eden's medical visit.  This is a step we must do in order to get her visa.  Unfortunately, because of her age, she had to get five immunizations since she has never had any.  On top of this, the congestion that she had had since we met her had become much worse and she was coughing much the night before and obviously feeling lousy.  Fortunately, we were able to get her some medicine to loosen things up in her chest.  When we got home that day after the medical she slept from about 2 pm until 7 am the next morning!  Girl was worn out :-)

On Saturday we took her to get some clothes since everything we brought was too big for her.  She wasn't too excited about new clothes but when we let her pick out a toy and an art set she was thrilled.  She is very into art and has been doing beading, cutting and designing collages, and lots of drawing/ coloring.  We were grateful to have a very restful day on Saturday and now her cold has been improving.

Today is Sunday and we spent the morning out shopping with the other families from our adoption agency that came in to Guangzhou this week.  We have noticed that Eden is most comfortable when we are in the room together.  She is very relaxed and playful with us.  But when we go out she tends to withdraw alot.  So we are staying indoors as much as possible and that has been really good.  Not a problem anyway, as it is rather dreary and rainy outside most days.

We are so grateful for so many that have let us know that they are praying for us!  We have truly felt God's presence with us and can see how He is answering our prayers for Eden and knitting us together as a family.  Such an amazing mystery ... and it is a process that takes time.  But to already see some fruit in that is such a gift!

The kids back home are doing great!  They enjoyed several days with "Mena" (my mom) including a trip to Adventure Island in Jacksonville with several of their cousins.  Now "Ma" (my stepmom) is with them back in Gainesville and taking them to school, etc.  They went to the Retired Horse Farm yesterday and managed to feed the horses 25 lbs of carrots.  Lots of good memories with the grandparents :-)

Some have asked for specific ways they can be praying for Eden.  These are the things that are on our hearts for her-

- God's comfort through process of grieving leaving her foster family/ orphanage

- trust and bonding to grow between Eden and Scott and I... and that we would rest in the Lord and trust in His timing for each step of this (ie- not worry :-)

- for us to be able to understand and meet her needs well ... when she needs to be held and when she needs assurance or to be left alone to draw, etc.

- Eden has a narrowing of the esophagus that can cause food to come back up if she eats the wrong thing or wrong amount.  Please pray that we will know what to best feed her and that she will keep her food down.

- for God to begin to prepare Eden's heart for meeting her new siblings.  She has "met" them over Skype and knows all their names.  But there are lots of new relationships forming here and we are just praying for God's hand to bring love and attachment in His perfect timing.  (You can pray for the other four children on this note as well.  They are all thrilled about getting Eden home, but I think the older ones are nervous as well.  Please pray they'll have much peace).

- we fly out on March 14th and are grateful for prayers during our travel time.  The trip over went much better than usual (especially for me as I usually can't sleep at all and get extremely sick).  

Thank you so much for following along on our journey!  We have been overwhelmed by the love that so many of you already have for Eden... how you have prayed for her, wept for her, and rejoiced with us when we were able to come and get her.  We cannot wait for you to meet this precious child who will, no doubt, bring joy and love wherever she goes.  Just in total awe that God chose us to be her parents.  There are no words to explain what a gift this is.  What grace...

3.03.2014

Introducing.....!

Eden Xinmu Long
Born- March 5, 2000
Forever Family- March 4, 2014






3.02.2014

The Night Before I Meet My Oldest Child

It’s 2 am (a la jet lag) here in China- March 2nd, 2014.
In just twelve hours we will meet our fifth child.  Our oldest.
Scott and I were married August 14th, 1999.  She was born just seven months later and we didn’t even know it.  Didn’t even know there was a little girl growing up on the other side of the world that would one day be our daughter.
Tomorrow I will have an almost-fourteen year old daughter.  Who speaks Chinese only.  And has Down Syndrome.
I’ve never parented a teenager.  All I can say in Chinese is “Thank you”, “Hello”, “Sister”, and “I love you”.  And I’ve much to learn about Down Syndrome.
There is so much I don’t know.   I don’t know how she is feeling or how hard this transition may be for her.  I don’t know what makes her happy, what scares her, or what comforts her.  I don’t know what she likes to eat or how to make her laugh.  I don’t know any of the things I often think I need to know to parent and love my children well.
There is so much I don’t know.  So.very.much.   And this could paralyze me with fear.

But.  But this I do know.
I know the God who created my daughter.  Knit her together in her mother’s womb. 
It is, after all, the same God who created my other four children.  The ones I know so well.  Yeah, I know what makes them laugh and what they like to eat and what scares them.  I know them so well.  Except not really.  Except how many times have I been on my knees in tears before the Lord acknowledging that This is beyond me!  I do not know this child.  I do not know why he acts this way or why she seems so angry or sad lately.  Nothing I’ve tried to speak to his heart seems to be getting through.  And I just.don’t.know. how to comfort this baby so she will sleep or convince this child not to be so hard on himself.
Maybe there’s a lot I don’t know.
And maybe it’s supposed to be that way.  Maybe it puts me in the perfect place for God to parent through me?  Is there any greater role in life where a woman ought to just cry out- Oh, that I might decrease… that He may increase?

So here is what I know.  All I really know.
I know God.   I mean I don’t just know Him from a distance- like I know He’s there and it will all be okay.  I know Him intimately.  His spirit lives in me and guides and instructs me in ways I could never articulate.  Ways I don’t even see.
And the Truth is that I know what I need to know to love because I know Him and He is Love.  His Love lives in me.  And I cannot even believe I am writing that. He lives in me.  His love lives in me.  What a crazy, presumptuous thing to say!  Unless it is true.  And then there’s nothing to say.  You just bow your knees in wonder because you know it’s all gift and it doesn’t have a dadgum thing to do with you.  It’s all grace.  So.much.grace.  And how does it ever cease to bring me wonder?  How am I not always walking around in wonder?  God is not just near to me.  He is in me. 
I could have read a hundred books about Down Syndrome and garnered counsel from fifty adoptive parents with older children.  And those are all good things.  I have done and will continue to do some of these things and God will often use them to instruct my heart.
But when it comes down to it tomorrow…  when I bend down and look at my daughter for the first time, I’m not banking on what I’ve learned from books or the eleven years of parenting I’ve got behind me or the two adoptions we’ve done before.   I’m whispering a desperate prayer (because it’s okay for me to be desperate)… a hope-filled declaration of belief (because he who asks for wisdom must believe and not doubt)… and I’m letting go.  Letting Him love her, speak to her, parent her
Look, we’ve done this adoption thing before.  It’s still beyond me.  So far beyond me.  The pain, the loss, the brokenness … the redemption, the hope, the creating of a new family. 
So far beyond me that it has to be… God.  All Him.
And I’m just here … just standing on this Holy Ground.

2.16.2014

Update on Eden

I'm not going to lie.  I wanted to believe.  But it all seemed so. very. impossible.

We almost lost Eden.  She almost lost her chance for a family.  But God...

It is only by the grace and power of our faithful God that we are where we are today.  We have less than two weeks left for all the paperwork to be expedited and for us to be able to get on a plane and fly to China.  We are praying to receive L.O.A this week.  Will you join with us in praying for these final steps to come quickly?  Eden turns fourteen on March 5th and must be adopted by this date.

We are hopeful.  Expectant.  God has given us a crazy-huge love for this child, and we are longing to be with her and bring her into our family.


In preparation, all four kids worked diligently in the backyard Friday on a project that we were not allowed to see until dark.  They are making a garden.  Isaac has named it "The Garden of Eden".

For Valentines Day, Isaac bought me a little bamboo plant.  I thought it was just a sweet gift.  He was quite unimpressed that I didn't "get it".  "Mom!  It's a bamboo plant!  It means good luck in China.  Get it- good luck... China... Eden?!"



Our kids have prayed diligently every single night since August for Eden.  Even when we thought the door was closed.  Even for a season when Scott and I weren't bringing it up at prayer time because we knew if we prayed about it with them, we would cry and we didn't want them to see how upset we were.  But they never stopped praying.

Today we were on the way to church and Beniam piped up from the back seat: "We need to get dressed up and throw a party!"  When we asked him why he said with his signature smile, "Because Eden's coming home!"



Oh God, you are making a way in the desert.  We are in awe.  Bring this miracle to completion.  So that we all might "see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this!" (Isaiah 41:20)

I myself will go before you,    and I will level mountains.I will shatter bronze doors;    I will cut through iron bars.(Isaiah 45:2)