Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beauty from Ashes

Oh y'all. These have been some of the sweetest moments of my life. Definitely on par with the birth of each of our children, the day The Engineer and I said, "I do," and the day I came face to face with the inescapable love of Christ.

Monday, May 5, 2014…I woke early and spent time in the Word and journaling…the children crawled into bed with us and we prayed for our sweet boy. Breakfast…back to the room to blog and finalize our list of questions for the orphanage (when does he eat, how often, etc.)…the gathering of gifts, etc. Finally 2pm came and we made our way to the hotel lobby. I stood in that vast space - it's gorgeous! I breathed deep, trying to stop the tears that threatened to spill over. I looked around and the lobby was filled with people from ALL OVER THE WORLD and I wondered if that wasn't a tiny taste of the makeup of heaven. People from every tribe and tongue. Other families gathered. You could spot them coming…each had arms laden with gift bags and a look of nervous excitement and anticipation. 

Our guide arrived. The drive to the Civil Affairs office was twenty the rain. We rode the elevator to the eighth floor and waited…our guide reported our little guy hadn't yet arrived. A few minutes later the children shouted, "Mama! It's him!!!" And there he was, in a carrier worn by the orphanage worker. He was grinning, dressed in orange. They disappeared into a curtained room so she could dress him in traditional Chinese clothing. Minutes later, our names were called and we were ushered in front of the curtained door…and he was brought to us. 

I thought my heart would burst. I took him in my arms and we all touched him and called him by his new name, and the name his nannies called him, "Dong Dong." He never cried, but looked overwhelmed…we completed the paperwork, asked our questions, and the orphanage worker gave us gifts…a little back pack for our son filled with two outfits and two pairs of socks and two bibs, a can of formula and rice cereal, the bottle he used in the orphanage, and a replica of a well known statue from the city in which he spent his first 14 months of life. The girl was so kind and cried as she told him, "Bye" and we carried him away. What an encouragement to my heart. 

He is quite a trooper, definitely a "fighter" as our surgeon stateside referred to him. (The children misunderstood this and thought he possessed special Kung Fu powers…being from China and all. Ha ha ha!) The poor little guy (henceforth referred to by his Chinese name, "Heng," if you can imagine a cross-pronunciation between "hung" and "hong,") has a double ear infection. One ear was oozing infection and he has pulled and picked at and rubbed both…he's also cutting a tooth…the boy is in pain. I'm wondering if he's been in chronic pain?

Until this afternoon, he only cried when we did ear drops and the first day or so, he would freak out if he thought we were taking his food away. The first day we had him, he ate so much food I thought he'd pop. Because of his cleft, he's still taking a bottle mixed with rice cereal and is eating congee - it's like watered down grits with bits of meat and veggies…the boy ate a HUGE bowl and drank an entire bottle! 

He loved his bath. I loved his bath! Sister donned her suit and joined Heng, as well as Little Man. The three of them had a blast playing in the tub. The stacking cups we'd brought were a hit! He loved them! And then he had that fresh baby smell! 

We gave him half a bottle more and around 8pm, he fell contentedly asleep in The Engineer's arms. We transferred him to his crib and didn't hear a peep until 8am.

I'm learning how to feed him - it's a mess! But we are figuring each other out and it's getting better with each feeding. I think he's trusting us more each day.

The day he became ours, as we waited for our turn, we watched other families open their arms to these orphans and give them a home, a family, and I could not stop the tears. One family will forever stand out to me. They already had a Chinese daughter, probably around 10 years old…and they were adopting a little boy who was around 7. That little boy's face was BEAMING. He kept throwing his arms up and spinning in circles and shouting things in Chinese and then running to his new family and throwing his arms around them and shouting more in Chinese followed by, "Mama, Papa!!!!" Y'all - he got it. He was an orphan. They chose him - over all the other little boys - they chose him! He was so excited! He was so happy! He'd been adopted and given the full rights of sonship - what a BEAUTIFUL picture!!! THAT is the Gospel! 

Thank y'all for rejoicing with us. This is a sweet time for our family. We miss the little girls something fierce! I can't wait to hold them and kiss them! I can't wait to ALL be together! And we are thankful to be here. Thankful for the ways God broke us…thankful that He is sovereign and good and knows what we need. I thought we'd have completed our family by now…biologically…and we'd have had our children boom, boom, boom - close together…and His plans weren't ours. He is the giver and taker and our precious Heng is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is beautifully knit together in his mother's womb. He is created with great intention and love and we pray God is glorified in and through his life. 

My heart swells with thanks as I think back on the years we spent praying, pleading with God for more children. He'd placed that desire in us, and though the desire never waned, He didn't provide like we expected. The years of heart ache and disappointment. The seasons of empty arms…celebrating as friends welcomed babies, all while my heart bled with pain and hope deferred. The hope we held for nearly 18 weeks…the loss that left me breathless. All of it - our ashes. Our pain. And all of it - every mite - He used. It was all part of His beautiful plan. He weaves our lives together like a beautiful tapestry…and the back side is ugly and knotted and it's often all we see. And here I sit, in Guangzhou, China, with my 14 month old baby boy asleep one room over, and with an 8 month old baby girl waiting for me at home…and I scarce can believe how full our arms are! How full our quiver is. He makes beautiful things out of us…out of our pain…out of our disappointment. And His timing, however frustrating it may seem, is perfect. We stand amazed. In awe. And thankful. Thankful for the pain. 

I have loved watching the older two love him and welcome him. They haven't missed a beat. There's never been a question or doubt or hesitation…Heng was placed in our arms and Sister and Little Man surrounded him. I'm so thankful they're here. I know his transition has been easier because they've been here…to giggle with him and to play with him, to sing to him…to play with one another…to splash in the tub...their presence has been a huge blessing!!!

As I cradle him in my arms, I sing, "Jesus Loves Me" and I whisper to him that he is wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. I tell him that God has a wonderful plan for his life. I tell him he is loved. Again and again and again…in English and then in Chinese. And I pray he will never recall a day he didn't know the love of God.

Enjoy the video below…pictures and footage of our first day together. (Sorry - it's not working on mobile devices…)


  1. Rejoicing and weeping! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Thank you! You made my heart sing this morning with your testament of love for your new son. Deng is so darling, so sweet and of course, he will have a full and joyful life, enveloped by his loving family.
    Congratulations, and now I feel as though I am his e-aunty :-)
    What a beautiful story, thank you for including us in your joy.

  3. Sweetest post! Love the video! Congrats!

  4. so beautiful! crying here on the computer:) he is so so precious. praise God for this gift!

  5. oh my goodness....soooo very precious... God is so good....
    "God sets the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:6a
    glad i had tissues close by <3
    happy new family day deng <3

  6. Absolutely beautiful. What a precious boy. What a precious Savior...Jennifer Drake

  7. You. Made. Me. Cry!!!!! SOOOO beautiful! XOXO

  8. Beautiful! This is such a beautiful depiction of the Gospel. Thanks for encouraging my heart as you share yours. He is precious! Jen Massey

  9. This is SUCH a beautiful story, full of God's love, strength, and amazing majesty! Thank you for sharing this, and for allowing God's light to shine through for others. God bless your dear family!!

    1. Love, Ashley Harris

  10. Oh, J, just couldn't be happier for y'all! This is so, so wonderful. All of it. LOVE the video. Sending much love to y'all!

  11. Love love love the video! Oh my goodness, soo precious!

  12. Howie (and Camille)May 7, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    Taylor & Jennifer; sister, little (BIG) man, little bit, babyf, Scout + Warrior, and now little (gonna be BIG) H...

    We rejoice with you on your new son and brother!! We've been struck with the conspicuous and amazing picture of grace echoed and displayed... little H pursued and taken up in the arms of love, adopted into incalculable blessing; isn’t this our story, too?

    One day H will surely stagger at this and, we pray, marvel more so at the amazing grace that you will teach him from the Scriptures; that Christ our Lord lived perfectly, died in our place, and rose again... “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

    We’re with you H is now part of your family!

    Love to all, Howie (& Camille) and family

  13. I love reading this and seeing what God is doing! What a good and perfect gift from above!

  14. Are there words? Beautiful. Our girls studied your blog yesterday carefully reading the words and studying the pics. They will be thrilled tomorrow when they find out they can see pictures of the newest Joseph. Thank you for taking the time to include us in this journey. Much love!!!

  15. Nestled in tight- he looks like he is right where he should be. Such a sweet baby, such a sweet family. Thrilled for y'all!

  16. Oh how I rejoice in your joy!!! I'm praising God with you! He is so good!!!

  17. OMG- How wonderful! You are an amazing family. God bless.
    -Linda, NY

  18. Oh Jenn, it is too much! My heart can't take this. He has made beautiful from your pain. It gives me such hope. To see my prayers being answered as that child was placed in your arms is more than I can take. My heart is so full it feels like it is going to burst. I pray that God will enable you to face all the challenges that you have coming your way. Surgeries, bonding, and just the fact that you have two small children very close together. God will give you enough grace for each day. Each moment. Each challenge. Strength up on strength, He will provide for you. I need to go blow my nose :)

    So excited for you and thank you for sharing with us your intimate moments. God will use your testimony in incredible ways.

  19. Wow! Your story is amazing! Thank you for giving this little guy a loving family and most of all for the hope that you will give him in raising him in a Christian home. The pictures and the video where beyond precious. Congratulations to you all!