"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Acts 20:24

To Tell of His Grace

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas - it IS the most wonderful time of the year....even if it doesn't feel like it at times!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.....in SO many ways! But for our little ones from hard backgrounds its just honestly not. At times they struggle in deep and profound ways and I can't even begin to understand the layers of pain within their hearts ~ but we see their pain manifest in hard ways over the holidays. Grief and loss, it all comes up this time of year. This particular year we have the added element of bringing home a new child just weeks before Christmas.
Besides Jesus, we all can say he's hands down our FAVORITE Christmas present ever!!! He's adjusting way better than I could have ever imagined (thanks to the help of an extra chromosome ;) ) and his joy just brims over ~ which helps our other 3 littles that have are having a tougher time this season. His sweetness and gentleness seems to calm them as they sit and play with him :)
Every year as they struggle at this time I try to figure it out ~ do they miss birth parents (which some never knew and others barely remember)? Is it the general feeling of loss they know they've experienced? Is it the early childhood trauma? But the truth is THEY don't even know. Adoption pain is so visceral. So hard to pinpoint.

So this year we're just choosing to roll with it as best we can - no trying to figure it out....no trying to fix it. We are expecting them to have harder moments than usual, we are expecting the meltdowns over seemingly nothing and the fits out of nowhere. We can't change their backgrounds, we can't change their pain......but we can choose to lower our expectations and roll with it better! It doesn't make it any easier or any more fun - but it sets us up to win as a family and sets them up for an opportunity to possibly heal another layer of pain.

Expecting Christmas to be all FUN and our kids to be so THANKFUL and life to be a big PARTY this time of year is unrealistic for all of us! I think of Mary and Joseph ~ that very first Christmas. It was HARD. They were lonely and couldn't even find a decent space to birth the King of the world. Yet our society continues to try and make Christmas something it never was meant to be. So many people struggle this time of year. Let's let them! We need to give each other space to hurt and miss and grieve and deal with the pain of this world.


As parents of adopted kids that have hurt that comes out in ugly ways at times THE TRUTH of JESUS and His healing power are all we can point them to! We do lots of practical things to like trying to keep things simple and calm, taking lots of deep breaths, sensory play time and extra cuddles, lots of talking and empathy. But in the end, Jesus alone can heal those deep places of pain. His Peace alone can calm them. His redeeming grace is all that matters in the end.....which is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place!
So for that reason alone, this IS the most wonderful time of the year! A time to slow down and focus in on the reason for our JOY - joy that is beyond circumstances. Joy that comes because HE CAME! He came near, He took our guilt and shame and sin and made us new in HIM. We always have reason to rejoice!!!

(pics by @jillianchristinephoto)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kaylee Grace ~ China Heritage Trip

So many emotions leading up to this trip! Many times when change is ahead our girl struggles more than normal. Going to China was a big deal for our girl! She went back and forth deciding if she even wanted to come with us. Kaylee is one of the most emotionally mature people I know. So much trauma early on, so much to process through the years and by the grace of God, He has healed her in deep places. We hoped coming back to China would replace some of her hard memories with good memories - learning about the history of her birth country, having fun as a family, and of course getting to experience the moment we got Kai.

The moment we first saw Kai ~ she was the first one in the room and she ran outside to get us to hurry,  excitedly telling us she saw him waiting for us on the couch! 

Here she is with Daddy in Guangzhou

All in all, I know Jesus had a plan for her coming and this trip will lead to deeper healing in her sweet life. But there were some hard days for her - I'm sure all the smells brought back memories, even if it was just at a cellular level. She regressed back to some old behaviors we haven't seen in a long time ~  and we were able to teach her in a whole new way how to battle with praise! She knows Jesus rescued her, she knows He healed her, and she's learning that He is the only One who can sustain her and keep her in His perfect peace :)

We learned all about the Pu'er tea trees in Kunming and got to make our own tea (poor little Kai, this was the day he was admitted to the hospital as he just kept feeling worse)
Green Lake in Kunming
Exploring China with Sissy
At the top of Canton Tower - highest tower in China and 2nd highest in the world :)

Visiting the Chen Ancestral Hall.....last time she was here she was in the baby carrier the whole time :)

She is SO ready to get home! She misses Kaleb so much ~ those two haven't been apart since Kaleb and Khloe came home in August and they are both missing each other (face-timing every day) :) 

The best part of her time here was meeting Callie ~ a sweet, new friend from Georgia who was adopted 3 years ago from China as well. These two had the best time together ~ we will have keep them in touch for sure. The Ficken's family was in our travel group from the beginning and we had the best time with them! 

It was such a great experience for all of us to learn more about Kaylee and Kai's birth country. We lived in Haiti for 4 months, so we were able to not only learn about Kaleb and Khloe's birth country but actually experience it. This being our 2nd time in China, we feel like we got to experience the culture much more than the first time and learn more about the rich history of China. So thankful for our time here and we are all so thankful to be going home today! 

So thankful for these two old-steadies ;)  They helped make China FUN for Kaylee!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

To CHINA for Kai ~ 2017

Four and a half years ago we were here bringing home Kaylee Grace.....and now she's here with us enjoying learning more about her birth country. 
She had a lot of mixed emotions leading up to this trip and the whole first week we were here, but she's really enjoying it now that we are in her province!

We really had no idea what to expect with Kai. We asked so many questions on all his updates and got pretty vague answers, so we came with no expectations other than to meet him where he was in his place of need and love him with Jesus' love as best we could. We were told he really didn't eat and that he only said two words (Mama and Baba). I was already planning on connecting with Kaylee Grace's feeding therapist when we got home to begin to get him eating. We left for the civil affairs office Monday, feeling unsure of what was ahead. All we knew was that we had seen Jesus move mountains before and we were about to see Him do it again!
 We got up to the civil affairs room and walked in and he was already there - just hanging out on the couch all by himself! We got down on his level, brought out some toys to grab his attention and fell in love immediately! What a sweet spirit this kid has! We could tell right away he was sick. He had a rash and cold-like symptoms. None-the-less he came right into my lap, let us feed him and didn't even look back when we left. 
We went back to the hotel and he continued to feel worse. We'd see little bits of his personality here and there but poor guy! He just felt awful!! 

We ended taking him to the hospital at his orphanage (he was in foster care up until the last 3 days before we got him....they took him back to the orphanage to help him transition away from the foster family- so hard!) He had to have IV antibiotics for 3 days - he had scarlet fever :(  Bless his heart, he was SUCH a trooper! We are so thankful that his orphanage treated him rather than us having to spend the week in the local hospital. They treated us so well.....they fed us great meals, kept our room nice and warm and took great care of our little man! 
We left his province with 3 rounds of IV antibiotics in his little body and some oral meds for us while we are in Guangzhou. He feels SO much better and it has been so fun to see his adorable little personality come out more and more. He is the cuddliest, sweetest, most gentle little love-bug ever! Super chill all day long! We are having so much fun with him. 
He eats absolutely everything.....so feeding therapy is now off our list ~ yay! He sleeps like a champ! He rolls with everything.....SO full of JOY all day long. Everything is a game to him ;)
We were trying to teach him the sign for "more" - we kept signing it and saying "more" over and over. Finally he just looked at us and said "MORE!" out-loud and so enthusiastically!  We were all laughing so hard - he didn't even use the sign he just went straight to the word, lol. Now he does both the sign and says "more". He says mama, dada, love you and more. He tries to copy anything we tell him to say and seems to understand most of what we want him to do :)
He for sure tries to be stubborn here and there but for the most part we just tell Kaylee to do what we are asking and he will copy her......he loves her!!! He loves us all but we can tell he has a special affection for his China sister ;)
We cannot wait to get him home to meet Kolson, Kaleb and Khloe (wow, Khloe and Kai are going to have some crazy-fun times with their similar fun-loving personalities). We have 4 more days here so we are soaking up this time with him and loving every minute of it! 
All I can say is that we came here feeling so unsure of what the Lord had ahead of us. In many ways it felt like we had no margin at all......and the thought of adding a 7th child (with down syndrome, which we admit we really didn't know much about) was sometimes overwhelming. Now that we have him it just feels like Jesus gave us the most lavish gift! I can't explain how blessed we feel to be entrusted with this child......I'm telling you, if anyone is considering adoption pray about down syndrome adoption! You have no idea what a crazy, lavish blessing it will be for your whole family!!!
Thank you all for praying and loving our family in so many different ways! 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Happy 17th Birthday Sis!!!

We love you!!!

 Keep laying down your life and finding True Life in Jesus!
Thank you for your peaceful, steady ways that keep us all in line :)  I love seeing Jesus grow you deeper in Him.....He alone is worthy!!!
7 years ago and today :) Beautiful inside and out...love you, Babe!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Kaleb Jasse is 7!!!

September 8, 2017

It's hard to believe this is Kaleb's 2nd birthday home! He had just come home last year.....so I'm not so sure what he understood or thought about birthdays. But this year he was ready! He knew what he wanted for his birthday breakfast, his birthday dinner and his gift :)

Kaleb it is a joy to celebrate you!! You bring a sweet calm to our family and we are so thankful for YOU!! Thank you for always wanting to help and for looking out for each one of us. Jesus delights in your kind spirit! Keep drawing near to Him. I love how you desire to know Him and His Ways! He is all we ever need :)))

Birthday dinner in Hawaii :) 
 Chosen Yogurt for his birthday dessert :)
 A new bike and the game Trouble
 Cupcakes from Ben and Alese
Which everyone enjoyed!

Happy Birthday, Kaleb! Let the light of Jesus shine in you all of your days!!! We love you!!

Hawaii ~ 2017

Four and a half years ago we went to Hawaii as a family of FIVE. A couple weeks ago we went with all 8 of us ~ LOTS of life has happened in the last 4 1/2 years!   About 4 months after our first Hawaii vacation we traveled to China and brought home our Kaylee Grace. We had no idea what was ahead of us. Jesus drew her out of darkness and into HIS glorious LIGHT!! We walked though trauma and grief we never could have imagined alongside her sweet little soul. Jesus did a deep and powerful work in and through her life. We still marvel everyday at the ways He has healed her. 

Without Kaylee Grace our hearts never would have been broken in the ways His heart breaks for the orphan. We gave up our rights to our lives and the plans we had. His Ways are so much higher! Then He blessed us with Kaleb and Khloe :) As we were in the thick of Kaylee's healing He invited us on this wonderful journey of being their parents. In the earthly realm it looked as if there was no way we could handle more. But with God all things are possible and He made our lives so much MORE beautiful with them!!

He has taught us that our lives are not our own though Kaylee's adoption and difficult transition. He has taught us that we must LEARN to be content in any and every situation.....we can't just pray for contentment. We must be put in difficult circumstances in order to learn contentment. Living in Haiti was our season of learning to be content. Learning to rely on Him alone. One of our most difficult and beautiful seasons as a family ~ we say all the time how thankful we are that He invited us to live there for a while as Kaleb and Khloe transitioned into our family! We will never be the same

Through it all we have grown so much with Jesus. When we have to give up all control He is gracious to do that- to make us more like Him and show us His ways are better. I thank Him everyday for the ways He invites us to see His glory! What if we had been too scared to say yes to His invitations of adoption? Or living overseas? Our lives would be so empty. And we wouldn't have half the fun we do with these littles! Sure there has been sacrifice - which is beautiful in itself - so we wanted to get away somewhere where we could pour into each other and have sweet time away before we enter a new season with Kai. Truthfully we have no idea what his needs will be. Jesus does and that's all I need to know. But we don't know what's ahead so this pause, this breath together as a family was a precious gift. 

 We pretty much lived on the lazy river!


 Even got a date night in ;)  19 years ago we were in Hawaii for our honeymoon!!!
 Kolson was always up for a swim with the littles whether in the ocean or pools

 Glamimng it up for the beach ;)

 The kiddie area was a favorite!

 Family dinner celebrating Kaleb's birthday (early) :)


Monday, July 31, 2017

Kaylee Grace is 7!!!

July 25, 2017

Happy Birthday, sweet Kaylee!
 We say it all the time, but WOW! We stand in awe of Jesus when we see you!!! He continues to miraculously heal your precious life and make you whole in Him. The plans He has for you are beyond what any of us can imagine. Keep turning deep into Him and His marvelous love!!!
So fun to celebrate you.......donuts for breakfast, swimming, Skywalk as a family, then pizza and games where you won the Ultimate Jackpot of tickets :))))) 
Keep shinning Jesus, girl!!! We love you :))))

Monday, July 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Kols!! (13!!!)

JULY 7, 2017

It's official! We now have 3 teenagers in the home :)))

 Kols, you are such a joy! You have the most caring, thoughtful heart.....always thinking of others! We know Jesus is shaping you into a godly, young man that will follow Him wherever! Keep growing strong in Him!!
We love you and we are so thankful for the fun, carefree, creative spirit you have been given that brings joy to our days :))))