Easter 2015: Passion into Action

My Family - Easter 2014

Has a year already passed since our first Passion into Action campaign? So much has happened in the world, in our communities, and within all of our families since wearing our Change Starts With One shirts to church last Easter. The decision to start a fundraiser alongside the Forget the Frock movement was born from the desire to inspire others to put their passion into action. Our family is passionate about defending the fatherless, which led us to bring Tucker home from China in October 2013. This past July, we felt the calling to return to China, and soon we will bring home our fourth son, whom we've named Tyson. I am convinced I am the luckiest momma in the world!

Tyson sticking out his tongue! He will fit right in with his brothers.

For those of you hearing about the Forget the Frock movement for the first time, let me explain. Instead of spending money on new dresses and suits for Easter, we will all dress with a purpose and put our passion into action! We will buy t-shirts that benefit others and wear them to church Easter weekend.

I have prayed about this year's t-shirt for many months, asking God to lead me to the just the right theme, verse, and design. In January, my prayers were answered. I hope you love this year's shirt as much as I do. I think the Greek translation of our theme is so beautiful.

τῶν ἐλαχίστων

The Least.

I don't think it is any coincidence that The Sheep and The Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) is the last parable Jesus shared before his crucifixion. Jesus knew that the end of his life was drawing near, and we can presume that this last lesson was of utmost importance, as all of his teachings were. If you knew your life was at its end, what would your last words be? What is the last thing you would want to tell your children or others that you love? Jesus began this parable by sharing how at the appointed time people would be separated as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep would be on the right, and the goats would be on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matthew 31-40 - emphasis mine).

Jesus came into our world and loved the most despised and devalued people of that time. The prostitute. The leper. The tax collector. The demon-possessed. The blind. The lame. As the end drew near, Jesus said to his disciples, ...everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). He reached out and loved the least of these and beckons us to do the same.

Friends, we bring the Kingdom to Earth when we step outside ourselves and focus on the needs of others, especially the least of our brothers and sisters.

The shirts will be offered in the in four different styles: Adult V-Neck (pictured above), Adult Crew, Youth Crew, and Toddler Crew. I chose the Canvas brand this year for the adult and youth styles, as the shirts are made with extremely soft, ringspun cotton. The toddler shirts are the Rabbit brand like last year. Instead of offering a women's fit this year, I am ordering a UNISEX V-Neck style, as it fits true to size and is much longer in length than last year's women's fit style. I have this shirt and LOVE it!!! You will see the link to place your order at the bottom of this blog post. All sizing information will be included on that website.

Just like last year, we have chosen FIVE nonprofit organizations. For EACH t-shirt purchased, you will be allowed to vote for ONE nonprofit organization. Whichever nonprofit organization receives the most votes will receive 100% of the proceeds from this year's Passion into Action fundraiser. So, if you buy 4 shirts for your family, you will vote 4 times. You might vote 4 times for the same organization, or your family may choose a combination of the organizations.

Last year, people purchased 434 shirts and donated an additional $470 in cash. Love Without Boundaries received 55% of the votes, and we donated the proceeds of $4,350 to their organization! You can read about how the funds were utilized to help orphans in China HERE.

The five nonprofit organizations were chosen with great care and consideration. Each are currently serving the least of these as they address the needs of the hungry and thirsty, invite strangers in, clothe those in need, help those who are sick, and visit prisoners in their affliction. Please read through the following descriptions as you make decisions about which organization you'd like to vote for this year.

Operation Smile is an organization near and dear to our family's heart, as two of our children have been affected by cleft conditions. This international children's medical charity performs safe, effective cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries, and delivers postoperative and ongoing medical therapies to children in over 60 different countries. In fact, Operation Smile is the largest surgical charity of its kind, leading research into the causes of cleft lip and cleft palate, and its prevention, treatment and eradication. Did you know that every 3 minutes a child is born with a cleft condition? A child with a cleft has twice the odds of dying before their first birthday. Children with who survive may have difficulty eating, speaking, hearing, or breathing properly. In many areas of the world, they are shunned and rejected, and oftentimes their parents can't afford the surgeries they need. Every child deserves access to safe, quality surgical care. Every child deserves a future filled with hope. For just $240, children can receive surgery to change their lives. See the Operation Smile website for more information.

Restore International was founded in 2003 by Bob Goff after a trip to India where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. Their goal is to fight for freedom and human rights, work to improve educational opportunities, and help those in need of a voice and a friend. Restore International shines light in some of the most dire places in the world - Somalia, Iraq, Uganda, Nepal, and India. They strive to provide opportunities for education while helping people experience justice in the midst of their afflictions. While Restore International provides many unique and incredible services, I want to highlight their work with those who are/were imprisoned. They provide safe houses for girls who were sexually exploited in Uganda, help children who are enslaved in brothels or other forms of bonded labor in India, and support juveniles imprisoned in Gulu. Please visit the Restore International website for more information.

Kindred Image is a non-profit organization that works to support the vision and legacy of Pastor Lee in South Korea. After having a child with a disability, Pastor Lee Jong-rak brought several other orphans home from the hospital. One extremely cold, winter night, a woman abandoned her baby outside the gate of Pastor Lee’s home. The disabled baby girl nearly froze to death before Pastor Lee found her. Knowing that something had to be done, Pastor Lee built a "drop box" in December 2009. As of November 2014, nearly 600 children had come to Pastor Lee through his drop box. This organization helped create the film, The Drop Box, which is playing in theatres March 3-5. Get your tickets! Kindred Image is working alongside Pastor Lee on his mission in South Korea. Mothers who are considering using The Drop Box receive counseling, and those who choose to keep their babies receive Boxes of Hope, which include diapers, formula, and other essentials. They are striving to build a Rescue Center that is larger and more equipped where Pastor Lee and others can provide both crisis and long-term holistic care. A Maternity Shelter is also in the works and will be a home for mothers, right next to the drop box facility, where they can receive counseling, temporary housing, relational rehabilitation, and much more holistic help. Kindred Image also hopes to provide adoption assistance grants in the future. Please see their website for more information.

Amy Washington's heart and life was changed by the Lord when He planted her in Uganda to care for malnourished and orphaned babies in 2009. According to her website, Amy has adopted six sweet children from Uganda, which has been her home since that time. After witnessing a traumatic birth and death of a baby in a local hospital, Amy knew that God was calling her to love, help, and minister to expectant mothers and their babies. Kupendwa Ministries was founded in the summer of 2011 with the goal of sharing Jesus Christ and His love with mothers and babies in need, as well as everyone God brings through the doors of this ministry. For many mothers and women in Uganda, childbirth often means death for the mother, child, or both. Many expectant women and young girls live in rural villages or slum areas where there is very little, if any, access to medical care, birthing supplies or sanitary birthing conditions. Kupendwa is saving lives two at a time, in addition to spreading the gospel. They provide Village Maternity Clinics and Workshops, a Crisis Pregnancy Maternity Home for expectant mothers ages 12-18, and a Survive to Thrive Program that provides counseling, supplies, and other supports for mothers. Please see the Kupendwa Ministries website for more information!

Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. They work with people in more than 90 countries to create lasting solutions. Oxfam’s approach tackles the conditions that cause poverty in the first place, rather than the focusing solely on the distribution of material goods. Oxfam assists the poorest communities when disaster strikes but also works to ensure greater local resilience through local groups and governments responding to those disasters. Oxfam invests in programs to help people assert their rights so that they can improve their own lives. They work to change the laws and practices that keep people trapped in poverty. Oxfam also strives to educate the public, changing the way people think about poverty and its causes. One example of their work took place in during and after the recent bombing Gaza when the water supply became greatly damaged. Oxfam and a local partner helped to provide safe drinking water to more than 250,000 people. Donations to Oxfam can be allocated to provide livestock, emergency toilets, education, emergency soap, funds to start a small business, training for a midwife, mosquito nets, medical kits, stoves, water pumps, bicycles, donkey carts, fruit trees, solar lanterns, and so much more. Please visit their website for more information.

Let's Forget the Frock and wear something that shows our love for the least of these!

A few important reminders:

1. First add your t-shirts to your shopping cart.
2. For each shirt purchased, you may vote for 1 nonprofit organization. This can be done by either adding the nonprofit to your shopping cart OR by leaving your vote in notes to the seller on your PayPal transaction. 
3. Make sure your shipping address is current. Shipping is a flat rate of $5.00 for most orders.
4. If you are local and want to pick up your order,  please enter PICKUP under discount and click update total. The shipping charge will be eliminated. 


If your church would like to get involved or if you have any questions, please email me:


Preschool Christmas Programs (Better Late Than Never)

Although this post is nearly a month and a half behind schedule, I wanted to take the time to share a special night for Liam and Tucker. A week before Christmas, these little cuties got to participate in their first preschool Christmas programs. When Tucker first came home, we registered the our littles (as we've so sweetly called them the past 15 months) to be in the same preschool class. We feared that Tuck would be too afraid if he was separated from Liam. However, as the months passed, he adjusted well and was much more secure in his attachment to our family. Liam and Tucker went from fighting every 3 minutes for those first 3 months home to steadily growing to love one another. They truly are best friends now, which makes me sad that Noah and Tyson don't have "twins" (yet anyway!). As the boys grew closer, we decided to separate them into their own classes. We felt that they needed to establish identities apart from one another, make their own sets of friends, and have a break from each other. They are both thriving this year and love going to school a couple times each week.
Although having Liam and Tuck in two separate classes has proven a great decision in many ways, it also meant that we got to attend back-to-back Christmas programs that each had the same activities. They were both so proud and excited to perform for us. First cutie up to bat was Liam. I mean, just look at that handsome boy! My baby is getting so big.

Liam loves both of his teachers. They describe him as a very enthusiastic student. Love their choice of words and totally believe them! He is passionate about all things - I'm not sure where he gets it. Below is a sweet picture of Liam snuggling up to Miss Mary, who (he proudly told us) taught him to pee standing up at school this year. Thanks for taking one for the team, Miss Mary!!

As I mentioned before, Liam feels all things deeply. He will laugh harder, love more intensely, and show more joy than anyone I know. With that said, this little guy will cry harder, get madder, and have his feelings hurt more than anyone else. Deep feelings this one. Again, not sure where he gets that. Well, when it came time to put on costumes, no one called on Liam to choose one. I was helping students get dressed up when my mommy radar started beeping. I looked up and saw Liam with his arms folded, feelings hurt. I walked over to him, told him to come and pick out his costume, and he cheered right up! Thank goodness he is easily redirected!

How appropriate that he would choose an angel costume! Am I right, friends and family? Oh Bert Bert...you make my heart melt. He has been telling me lately that when he grows up, he is going to marry me. I LOVE IT.

When Liam's program ended, we had about a 10-15 minute break, and then it was Tucker's turn. He was really excited to have a turn. The preschool director opened up the program with a prayer. I don't know what it is about seeing this precious little boy pray, but it brings me to tears on a regular basis. I mean, look at him? Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever seen? I am always amazed how God is in all places at all times seeing all people in their circumstances. He saw Tucker, He saw our family, and he intervened in all our lives. Without God's call to obedience, we would not know Tucker. The thought of us living apart from one another makes my heart ache. I still tell him all the time how thankful I am that he is in our family...that I am his mom and that he is my son. To hear his sweet voice say, "I love you, mommy," brings a tear to my eyes. We have come so far!

I mean, seriously, when did this little guy get so big?! He wore 12 months clothes 15 months ago, and now he is comfortably wearing 3T. That smile just beams! I am convinced that I have the most beautiful boys in the world.

Tucker also loves his teachers, Miss Rita and Miss Susan. This was Tuck's first experience in a structured environment outside of our home with educational, social, linguistic, and behavioral demands. According to his teachers, Tucker has made so many strides. Miss Rita said he is a great friend to others, is learning readiness skills, is obedient, and takes redirection well. We couldn't ask for more! Don't you just love his skinny buns? That kid is solid muscle - tiny but mighty!

Tucker chose a sheep costume for the program and wore it well. The poor girl in the red dress to his right had the unfortunate experience of Tucker's curious hands on her donkey hat. He just couldn't resist himself and pet that hat not once, not twice, but maybe ten times. Tuck was so overstimulated by the end of the two programs, but he loved every minute of it. We are so thankful that he is home and has the opportunity to go to school in such a nurturing environment.

And last but not least, this sweet boy endured back-to-back preschool programs like a champ! Noah is such a good big brother. We tell him all the time that God chose him with great intention. We are so grateful for the leadership, compassion, and grace Noah shows Liam and Tucker.

Three boys and a fourth on the way. I can only imagine the adventures that lie ahead!!


Our New Love

Without further ado, please let me introduce you to our new SON!!!

Tyson AnTao Abell

Can you believe it? Ryan and I are having a baby!!! Oh my, this little boy has my heart, and he has no idea. At the beginning of July, when Ryan and I were praying through the possibility of adopting again, I opened my Bible, looked down, and immediately saw a verse that brought me such peace. Isaiah 9:6 states, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given." In that moment, I knew that God had another son across the world for us.

When we started our first adoption process, we planned to adopt a child with cleft lip/cleft palate.
God had other plans and led us to Tucker.
When we started this adoption process, we thought God might be leading us to certain child.
He chose another family for that precious boy (and they are amazing!).
We then thought we would adopt an older child of maybe 5 or 6 years old. with a limb difference, blood condition, and heart defect.
God brought us back to where we started: a baby with cleft lip/cleft palate.
I emailed our sweet friend and social worker, Karla, on Thursday, January 8th and told her that I had spent the past month frantically searching for our child. I was staying up until 2:00 a.m. many nights looking at waiting children. For much of December, I felt like God was telling me to be still, but I ignored Him and continued my frantic search. I wanted to make sense of why we were not chosen for the other sweet boy by finding who God had been leading us to all along. In my email that Thursday, I told Karla that I was done looking for our child. I was ready to obey and be still. I wrote Karla...
"...with that said, we are going to relax and be patient. We trust that you are walking closely with the Lord. If He leads you to a child that makes you think of our family, please let us know. After my frantic searching, I am ready to rest a bit, trust Him, and let you do your job."
I settled in with the idea that we might hear from Karla in a few weeks. The next afternoon, I put Liam and Tucker down for a nap, my phone rang, and my adoption agency's name appeared on my phone. I heard Karla's voice on the other end telling me that she had a file for us to consider viewing, one that she had just received. After hearing a few details, I stated that I would absolutely love to see his file. This was the face that awaited me when I opened the email.

Tyson is a 15 month old boy from Guangxi Province, and this is wild, but we were in China the day he was born - a precious little God wink for us. Like I said before, we were not expecting our son to be a little one this age or have cleft lip/cleft palate.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8)

We decided to take the weekend to open our hearts and pray for God to guide us. I knew that Ryan was especially drawn to children 5-6 years old because so many older children wait to be chosen by families. In my prayers, I told God that if this little boy was our son, He would really have to speak to Ryan's heart. I spent the weekend in prayer, studying God's Word, and awaiting His answer. On Sunday afternoon, I cannot explain it. I felt the most beautiful, most gentle peace, something I had not experienced for the past month.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7)
I sat in my living room and felt such a sense of completeness. Through this little boy, God was finishing the work He started in our hearts 2 1/2 years ago, and peace, the sweetest peace washed over me. I kept my feelings to myself, staying quiet to allow God to guide Ryan. I am so thankful to be married to a man who strives to follow Jesus and opens his heart to God's will. He felt God's moving in his heart at church on Sunday, in his Bible study on Monday, and at work on Tuesday. Ryan sent me a text that afternoon saying, "Maybe we need to get some chips and queso tonight?" This is our tradition when making a big decision and taking a big step forward in our lives. I WAS GIDDY WITH EXCITEMENT!! When we talked that night, God had given Ryan the same peace, joy, and excitement He had granted me on Sunday! My heart was bursting!

We submitted our Letter of Intent (LOI) to adopt Tyson the next day on Wednesday, January 14th. Karla sent our letter to China on the 15th, and the officials in China granted us PreApproval (PA) on Friday the 16th!!! Now we await our Letter of Acceptance (LOA). We are currently part way through that process, as our dossier was Out of Translation on December 22nd. God is growing a deep love in our hearts for Tyson, and we cannot wait to hold this precious boy in our arms. Thank you for sharing in our excitement that we will have a new son, the boys will have a new brother, and there will be one less orphan in this world! We love you, Tyson AnTao Abell!!


Difficult Decisions

Last night I tried to write about Christmas. I started the post and couldn't get past the first sentence. I wanted to share stories and pictures from all four of our very special Christmas celebrations to help document the memories we made together. I wanted to write about Christmas, but I can't. Not yet anyway. I am plagued today in such a hard way, and I know I need to write this down first. I need to share my heart and pour it out in order move forward.

In my last post, I shared how the precious boy we had been pursuing since February 12th was not going to be our son. I have never experienced a miscarriage after conceiving biological children, but I will say this, a miscarriage is the only thing to which I can liken this experience. When we conceive a child, the heart of a mother becomes attached, bonded to that child. We know we might miscarry. We know the pregnancy could result in a child being born too soon or a still birth. The child may be diagnosed with a condition that will end its life too soon. We know in our hearts that we may lose this child, but we hope and we love with abandon anyway because we are mothers after all. It is what God created us to do.

The same concept is true with adoption. You see a child, and with the knowledge that you may never meet this child - due to illness, injury, a halting of the adoption process, not being chosen as the child's family, etc. - you fall in love anyway. You hope. You dream. You imagine the future. Your risk it all, falling in love, because the child is worth it. One redeeming piece of this story, as it has been written so far, is knowing that the little boy's family is absolutely, positively incredible. With amazing courage and tenderness, his mom reached out to me, and her family is all that I could ever hope for this sweet boy. I adore them and pray that their new son will be in their arms very soon!

When waves of grief come over me, I have to remind myself that God is good all the time. I trust Him above all else, and His ways are not my ways. This life is not about me, my happiness, or my comfort, even though I selfishly wish it was. I told the Lord 2 1/2 years ago that I would follow Him. I made the decision to stop playing it safe by living for myself and gave my life over to Him in a new way. While waiting for the little boy's file, I told God that I am not willing to get what I want at the expense of missing His purpose for my life. Less of me. More of Him. The Lord's decision is clear, and Ryan and I really believe that the right family was chosen for the little boy. I am learning that I can experience great joy and heartache simultaneously. One does not negate the other. The emotions are not mutually exclusive. Our peace with this situation is the result of our deep trust and surrender to His Will, as well as knowing that the chosen family is going to shower their son with unconditional love all the days of his life.

In an effort to move forward, Ryan and I have been looking at pictures and videos of many children on our agency's website. For those of you outside the adoption community, this is an extremely difficult experience. For those adoptive mommas and poppas out there, I know you feel me. We honestly did not look at our agency's waiting children a lot during our first adoption. When we did look at the waiting children, our hearts broke into a million pieces. Oftentimes, we would look at their age and special need because looking at their pictures hurt too much.

If you remember from my post about how we matched with Tucker, our social worker called us right before we had our fingerprints taken to ask us if we would consider a sweet little boy from Chongqing. Soon after seeing his pictures, video, and file, we said, "YES!" and Tucker became our third son.

Almost two years later, I have looked at more pictures and videos of waiting children that I can count. These children consume much of my Facebook newsfeed thanks to the advocacy efforts of the adoption community. I see blog posts on No Hands But Ours and posts by our agency with children of all ages and with every medical need you can imagine. On Christmas morning, rather than immediately seeing presents under a tree, I awoke to the picture below in my newsfeed with an accompanying video. Are you brave enough to watch 30 seconds of it? Can you get through the entire video? On Christmas morning, I honestly made it through about three minutes with tears in my eyes and had to turn it off. It is painful to see REAL children behind bars, ALONE in their cribs, in a REAL orphanage. This is real life, heart-wrenching stuff.

Relational poverty, policies within countries, disease, lack of resources, etc. have created the status of an orphan. However, all of us allow children to continue living apart from families by not inviting them into our own. Yes, Tucker is home with us, and yes, we will bring another child home, but when do we stop? When does our responsibility end? The truth is, it never will. "...Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless..." (Isaiah 1:17). God does not say, "I will call only a few people to help the orphan." God asks all of us to help these children.

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead...I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:14-18).

"So many won’t do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait? For example: Why not assume you should adopt kids unless you hear a voice telling you not to? Wouldn’t that seem more biblical since God has told us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27)?” (Francis Chan, You and Me Forever)

The fact that there are children waiting for a family is a reality that we allow. The significance and depth of that statement is not lost on me, especially at a time when I am faced with dozens of children waiting to be chosen. Their orphanages have prepared their paperwork. The governing bodies have approved their files for international adoption. Agencies has been selected to advocate for them. Now they wait to be chosen.

For our current adoption, Ryan and I are approved to adopt a boy or girl between the ages of 0-6. Because we adopting through the China Special Needs program, we had to determine which medical/special needs that our family felt capable of addressing. Our list of special needs is quite broad, as we know what a gift children with medical/specials needs are to families.

As you can imagine, I am overwhelmed by where things stand in our adoption process. To have been matched with the little boy would have been so much easier (because we loved him, felt a supernatural connection to him, and would not have to "find" our child since he was already known to us) than what we are facing, but God has not given us our desired easier road. We are faced with the reality of looking at pictures and videos and discussing special needs. We are asking ourselves, "What would it be like to parent a child who has lived in an orphanage for 5-6 years? What is it like to adopt a child without arms and how would he feel going to public school with his brothers? How would our friends and family feel if we adopted a child with HIV, and is that even something we would share with others? What would our lives look like if we adopted a child with cleft lip/palate, club feet, or thalassemia in terms of surgery, treatment, therapy, etc.?

The other day, I wrote down ten different names of children who are currently with our agency and fall within our age range and special need list. I'm sure there were many others. I found myself thinking, "Why not this kid? Why not her? Why not him?" I feel like I could choose any single one of them. They are all deserving of a family, and they all need medical care. How will we ever choose? And then, what is hurting the most right now is the fact that we are only bringing one child home. It is one thing to say yes to one child, but in doing so, we will say no to dozens of others. Some of them will be chosen, but others never will. It is heart wrenching, and I find myself wondering why all of these kids are waiting. They are all beautiful and amazing and deserving of a family, and the truth is, there are not enough families willing to adopt them. So they wait. Their pictures are posted on a list for days, weeks, months, and years. Out of the estimated 20 million orphans in China, 2,000 of them have files prepared, and they are waiting for 1 out of 7 billion people to bring them home. Of course I wish more than 2,000 children had files ready, but there aren't enough families coming forward to justify the expense of preparing them. Am I coming through to you? Does your heart break like mine? I am longing for people who share my heart.

So, today I really wanted to write about Christmas. I wanted to write about funny stories, generous gifts, and delicious food, but my heart is heavy with the decision we need to make. So many children are waiting, and I wish more families would rise up to bring them home. I am overwhelmed by the decision we have to make. Every single one of these children deserves a family, and we can only bring one home. Please God, lead us to the one you have chosen for us. Please guide us and make it so apparent that we know that this is the child you want us to bring home, just like we felt when we saw Tucker. We trust you and are willing to follow where you lead. For all of you reading, we appreciate your prayers, as we make what feels like an impossible decision and consider all the beautiful children who need families.


God Is Good All The Time

For the past 5 1/2 months, I have imagined what I would be writing in this post today. Would this be a time of celebration? A time of sadness? Would I be able to announce our new child?

I learned on June 30, 2014 that a miracle had taken place. The child to whom I felt a strong connection was having his file prepared for international adoption, and more amazingly, once complete, his file would be distributed to our adoption agency. A week later, after many prayers and discussion, we decided that this was either our son, or he was leading us back to China for whoever our next child would be.

Since that time, we have been racing the clock. Our home study was completed in  6 weeks - record time! We received our Immigration Approval a little more than 2 months later. Our dossier was authenticated and sent to China 3 1/2 weeks after that. In the meantime, this little one's file was taking longer and longer to arrive. Naturally, our hope that he would be our son grew stronger and stronger, as the arrival of his file was aligning to possibly arrive near our next big milestone: Log In Date (LID) into China's database, which would indicate their acceptance of us as adoptive parents. As our hope grew stronger, we took the opportunity to send the little guy Christmas presents. Shopping for him was very special, and my heart ached for him like it had longed for Tucker when he still lived half a world away. I was dreaming about him at night and imagining him playing with our other three boys.

But not everything we dream will become our reality. Not all of our pursuits will end as we hope. Sometimes we fall in love only to be left mending our broken hearts.

As it turns out, the gifts we sent this precious boy will be the only contact we will ever have with him this side of heaven. After making the decision to adopt again, I initially prayed that God would allow this boy to be our son. However, knowing that there was at least one other family interested in adopting him, as well, that prayer never felt right in my heart. So, I started praying that God would place this sweet boy in the family where he would draw closest to the Lord. If growing up in a different family would lead him to love God more than he would with our family, I prayed that he would be placed with them.

And I believe that God has answered that prayer. He has chosen another family to love, adore, and raise this precious boy.

Upon hearing this news, I will be honest, I collapsed and wept in Ryan arms. My heart shattered piece by piece as I processed the fact that I would never be this little boy's mother. I would never pick him up, kiss his cheeks, or put him to bed at night. He would never play with our three boys, open birthday presents with them, or watch movies snuggled under blankets together. This beautiful, little boy would never be my son.

When I attempted to tell Ryan what our agency had shared, he told me that he heard every word. He said that he wanted to throw my phone, shield me from the words, and put me in his pocket. His heart ached for mine, while my heart ached for what we had lost. Many would agree that for men, they become fathers when they meet their children, while women become mothers during pregnancy. This has been true for us during both our pregnancies and both our adoptions. Ryan grieved mostly for me, while I grieved for the tiny one who was never coming home.

The next day when I awoke, my first thought was driven by the aching in my heart. I went to a breakfast with the women in my Bible Study group and tried to repress the sadness I felt. I wasn't ready to share the news. I volunteered in Noah's class, had lunch with him at school, and spent the rest of the day on the couch sleeping and grieving. My heart was heavy with deep sorrow, and at the same time, my mind was strong with God's Truth.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

We always knew, from the very first day, that this was a possibility. We knew that God was possibly using the connection we felt to this little boy to get us back to China. And indeed, he has done just that. The only reason we are adopting again is that this little boy's file was being prepared, and it was being sent to our adoption agency (versus any other agency in the world), and we are 100% certain that we wouldn't be adopting right now otherwise. For that reason alone, we will always be grateful for this precious boy's life and the time we have loved him. It is pretty astounding that without having any knowledge of doing so, he is leading us to our next child. And there is so much beauty and wonder in that alone.

I wrote a sweet friend, an adoptive mom, to ask her to pray for me the day after hearing the news. She wrote back, "I was praying as I was putting [my daughter] to bed...asking God to give me something profound and not cliché to say to you. And all I kept hearing was, "I AM GOOD!" And you know what? She is right. God is good all the time. Even in the heartache, the brokenness, and the loss, God is always good.

I spent most of the following day pouring into my Bible, my devotional, and another book I am reading called, Straight-Up Crazy: A Call to Radical Faith that coincidentally arrived on my doorstep at the same time I learned that the little boy would not be our son. The book was a gift from the same adoptive mom I spoke of previously. The knowledge in my mind slowly began to seep into my broken heart, covering my sadness with love and truth. One line of my devotion read, "You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow me wholeheartedly (there are those words again you guys - FOLLOW ME), you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe." The devotion contained three supporting verses:
Psalm 23:4 stated, "...you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Psalm 9:10 read, "And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."
John 12:26 stated, "If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." (emphasis mine)

Reading these verses and opening my heart to God's Word provided incredible comfort to me. The news we received was not intended to hurt us but to guide us deeper in our journey with Him. You see, adoption is most definitely about inviting the fatherless into your family, but adoption is also an avenue for growing more faithful and into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Despite our hope not being realized, we have complete trust in God and continue to seek Him as we navigate the unknown waters ahead. My heart has been transforming the past 2 1/2 years from someone who wanted to live a happy life to a woman who wants to serve and follow Christ above all else. In doing so, life hasn't always been comfortable or easy, but being close to the Father is right where I want to be.

The next day, my devotion read, "When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me...trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence." The first supporting verse stated, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am  your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). The more I read, the more this knowledge poured into my heart, and I began to feel what I knew to be true. Psalm 139:10 read, "Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." I love the visual of that verse so, so much. In a time when we have no idea where God is taking us, He is leading us with one hand, guiding our way through the unknown, while simultaneously holding us with his other hand. As we are held, the Lord is comforting us, giving us His strength, and protecting us from harm because He loves us so much.

At the same time, we are rejoicing that this precious little boy will be loved and adored in the arms of his family! We are thankful that there is one less orphan in the world. We celebrate that He will know Christ and how much He loves him. Maybe someday this story will reach him, and he will learn how God used his life to bring another child home.

Just as we guessed, we coincidentally received our Log In Date (LID) on December 9th! Now more than ever we are curious and wondering who our child will be. Will God lead us to a 1 year old girl? A 5 year old boy? Will he have a serious heart condition? Will she need her club feet repaired? There are so many things that we do not know, but this we know for certain. God is always good, and we trust Him above all else no matter where He leads.

"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have light of life." John 8:12
And so we follow.
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