"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


Happy Birthday, Selah Grace AnLi!

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he shall be given over to the Lord." 1 Samuel 1:27-28

As we celebrate Selah's first birthday home in the United States today, we are reminded of this scripture that describes what the Lord has done in our lives through becoming a family together.  This little girl grew in our hearts for several years before she was in our arms.  We prayed for her safety, health, mind, and heart as she waited for a family to call her own.  The Lord has truly answered our prayers of bringing her out of orphan care, and setting her into our home...declaring her our daughter...no longer an orphan.  Only those who have adopted and fallen in love with their adopted children understand when I say that she is just as much our daughter as Bryson and Lincoln are our sons.  He knit her together in her birth mother's womb, but He grew her in our hearts from the beginning until now.  The call to "give her to the Lord for her whole life" is pretty humbling and amazing.  To know that He is trustworthy, good, and more than capable to take care of her is so freeing.  We don't have to have all of the answers on how life will look moving forward, we have His answer of trusting Him because of His track record.  He has taken care of us all, He brought our family together, and He promises to continue to be faithful.

We love you, Selah Grace AnLi!  We celebrate three years of beautiful life in His creation of you.  We are so happy that you were born, that you are home, and that we get to delight in you everyday.  Your enthusiasm and sense of adventure is so contagious!  You love deeply, and you feel deeply.  We adore your sass and charm.  Watching you grow into the little girl you are today has been such a gift to us.  We are so blessed that God has answered our prayers in bringing you safely to us, and He will see us through the valleys and the mountain tops to come.  You are chosen, cherished, adored, and beloved.  You are our own.  You can never outrun the love God has given our hearts for you.  Happy Birthday to you, our sweet Selah!


Legacy of Love

God has taught me in this season of loss so much about what my Mom spent her whole life wanting me to know.  Sometimes God takes us into the valley to show us what we cannot see when we are on the mountain top.  There is a vision one has in the valley that cannot be experienced anywhere else.  I think of these moments often as the valley of vision.  I want to share one of my favorite prayers with you all that describes the gift of reflecting  that God offers us in the valley:

“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.”

I have to say that the last three weeks have been the greatest earthly valley we have ever had to face.  Therefore, it has offered us the deepest moments of reflection on who this incredible woman was and what God wanted to teach us through her.  I do believe that in this valley, we realized more and more our deep need for God.  In the valley of standing next to Mom’s bed at the hospital and eventually saying goodbye to her here on earth, we began to see such a clear picture of the love that Mom had for each one of us.  Selfless unconditional love.  Life giving, pouring out, putting others before herself kind of love.  Gospel love.  Whether she was family or friend or teacher, her generous spirit touched each person she met.  And none of us will ever be the same because of it.  This is all because of how she displayed the heart of Christ in how she loved each person.  She was able to look at the smallest child, and each of us, and see someone that Jesus loved, someone of immense value and worth.  And then she gave selflessly of herself to make sure each of us knew that we were loved. In so many ways she embodied the love that Jesus has for each of us, and that was what touched each of our hearts in such a precious and special way.  

It was totally in her nature to cook up a feast for our family of 23, putting her heart into every dish she prepared to make sure each person in our family felt loved.  She would never serve herself first, but waited for each of us to be sitting and enjoying the meal before she would make herself a plate.  And then she usually was the first to hop up and begin cleaning up the food and dishes, knowing that time was precious and she wanted to get some quality time with her grandchildren.  Before the dishes had dried and while the food was still warm in containers tucked in the fridge, she would be pulling out crafts and games to engage the hearts of our children.  So much laughter and music…always playfulness and joy.  Her words towards them were life giving.  Never a criticism.  She encouraged each of us constantly.  She never put her feet up before anyone else.  And if she did, it was after everyone else had their feet up, and she usually still had two feet on the ground to rock one of her grandbabies.  And by the time our families were packing up to head home, she was in the kitchen swiftly packing up leftovers for all of us to enjoy a second meal from the generous meal she had provided to warm our hearts.  She set such a clear example of a mother who took care of her family.  She exemplified the Mom I want to be.

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 that, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

I know she would have laid her life down in a heartbeat for us to know how deeply loved we are by God, and to see us share this love with one another.  Her deepest prayers were that we would know God’s love for us and that we would love each other in that way.  Scripture shares with us in John 15:13 that, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  Mom has demonstrated the love of Christ to us through the incredible ways she has laid down her life for us again, and again, and again.

 So while facing this valley of saying goodbye to such a wonderful person here on earth, I also know that goodbye for now means see you soon.  Her memory carries on in all of us, and we can honor her by sharing with each other how we were touched by this wonderful woman.  We also have hope that her joy is complete in heaven where she is experiencing the love of Christ that she extended to each of us from Him in such a direct and personal way. This is my comfort in the valley.  I miss my Mom more than ever this morning, but I truly rest knowing she is in the presence of Jesus rocking her six babies and many grandchildren who had faith by sight before any of us.  She is home and she is in glory.  Death no longer stings for her, she is more alive than she ever has been before.  And on the day we are reunited with her in heaven, I have no doubt she will have prepared an amazing meal large enough to feed all of us and the hosts of heaven with enough leftovers for us all.


Good news and bad news

So today we received good news and bad news. We will start with the bad news, as the good far outweighs the bad! The bad news is that the US Consulate cannot issue Selah's visa today, and they are unable to ensure when they will be able to issue it. So in a way, we feel as though we are temporarily yet indefinitely stuck in China. We will definitely keep everyone posted, but please pray for this issue to be resolved. We are officially homesick more than ever, and we want to get home to our boys as soon as possible.

Wren crying tears of joy after watching videos of Selah this past week with us. She is so thankful that her Mei Mei has found a forever family!!!
Now on to the good news! We have been in touch with the adoptive mother of Selah's best friend and big sister "Jie Jie" from her orphanage. Her name is Wren, and her mother expressed interest in allowing the girls to continue a relationship and connection in America! They live near Peoria, Illinois, only about five hours away from us. What a small world! We cannot express the incredible answer to prayer this is! Not only does Selah get to come home to her forever family, but she also gets to maintain a friendship with a sister she has known since she was one year old when she was brought to the orphanage. Wren's mom also said that they maintain connection with her favorite Nanny from the orphanage too, so there will possibly be a way for her to keep in touch with this young lady as well. We are already planning a visit to get these two sisters together. ;) Here is a picture of Selah, Wren, and their Nanny (who is wearing glasses).

Selah, her Nanny, and Wren by a river near their orphanage
Another really neat thing that we were able to receive back in Nanchang was a picture and name of her foster mom who cared for her during her first year of life following her time in the NICU. We are going to be able to write her letters and send pictures through the orphanage to keep in touch with her. One day, we will return to China if Selah wants to see her homeland, visit her orphanage, and meet her foster mom who cared for her during her first months out of the hospital. This is such a huge praise, for we can rest knowing that she is not saying goodbye forever to these important relationships from her past, but we are able to foster those relationships to continue to grow in a different way. What a blessing!

Selah with her foster mom


Zoo, Visas, and a Taste from Home

Today we visited the Guangzhou City Zoo with the four other families that we are traveling alongside. Selah loved seeing the animals there, and this was her first experience at a zoo! We love being a part of her "firsts", she really enjoyed checking out all of the animals! Here are some pics!

Also, we found out today that the Visa database glitch has been fixed, so we will not be delayed in returning home! Yay!!! We are truly celebrating! 3.5 more days in China to go before we board a plan to bring her home. We are ready to see our boys, and for her to meet our loved ones waiting for our return.

Lastly, this afternoon I found some solice during nap time in a taste from home that is right across the street from our hotel. I took time to pray and talk with God about all that has been going on. I also shared some things with Him that have been heavy on my heart in navigating these waters, especially in the area of Selah's trust with mealtimes and that we are going to take care of her needs. I really felt the Lord closely draw me in to say, "I have appointed you to be this little girl's mother. Give her time." I truly walked out of this coffee heaven with a sense of peace and assurance that God's got this. Even when it is hard, He knows and He cares. And He has already written the story to reveal His redemption in the end. But I can truly say from across the world, Starbucks never tasted so good! 


The many moods of Selah

Today we visited a beautiful little island in Guangzhou called Shamian Island. It had fun shops where we could buy little silk Asian dresses for Selah for $5 each. We also ate some American food at a great little diner called Lucy's Cafe. Selah had such a fun time playing in the garden area with the leaves and her doll. As we get to know her heart more and more, we are learning that mealtime and sleeping schedules are incredibly important to her. (Which is very typical for kiddos who have lived in orphanages.) We continue to try to build trust with her to reassure her that we will feed her, care for her, and provide breaks for her to rest and recharge. All of these needs can sometimes feel overwhelming at times to us, because things can change very quickly if she senses that her needs aren't going to be met. We have found this especially while traveling and being on a set schedule that is crucial to getting in needed appointments, and to attend outings that were arranged for all of the traveling families to enjoy. As she gets more and more comfortable with us, we are seeing more of her needs being expressed. This is all a part of the bonding process, as many adoptive families refer to as the "trenches". ;) Sometimes it's pretty, sometimes it's not. Overall, we understand that bonding and attachment will not happen overnight, and that it will take years of building trust with her for a secure healthy expression of needs to be the norm. For now, we are just taking each moment as they come, desiring to show her that she can count on us to meet her needs as much as we are able to. We want her to always know that we care, and that we have compassion for the last several years when her needs were not always attended to. It helps us to keep this in mind when we have tough moments. We were able to capture several pictures of her in the garden today, reflecting several of her moods! She is our delight! Enjoy!

Full belly happy!