Friday, March 21, 2014

Places Where Grace Is

Eight years ago today I went for my 12 week prenatal visit and found out the baby we had been trying to conceive for two years did not have a heartbeat.

The first day of spring – a day that is supposed to signify renewal and life and hope was one of the darkest, deadest, most hopeless days of my whole life.

The pain was so deep, and still is. But that day marked more than the death of my baby. That day marked a shift in my whole outlook. That day I realized there was something much worse than not getting pregnant. That day I completely surrendered the plans and dreams I had for my family. I couldn't have possibly known what God knew.

God knew that seven and a half months later (only weeks after the due date of our baby) we would be bringing Jackson home. My son was already in existence on March 21st. God knew my son still had a heartbeat, but that it just wasn't beating in my body.

God knew that exactly 3 years to the day I would write in my journal that a birth mother expecting a baby boy in less than a month had chosen us to adopt her son.

God knew that exactly 6 years later we would accept the referral for a two-year-old little girl in China.

Do you for even a moment think it is a coincidence that God moved in that way on THAT DAY?!? It isn't. God tells me every year on March 21st that He does not make mistakes. He tells me that today IS a day of RENEWAL and LIFE and HOPE. He changed the trajectory of my life on March 21st, and if He can use my pain ... my loss ... my brokenness to fulfill HIS plan, then I offer it with all of my heart.

God does not waste anything. He can bring good from even the most painful situations. I'm reminded of that every time I look into the faces of my children. Those broken places are where HIS grace is. That loss may be unfulfilled. It may be unrestored. But when anything that's shattered is laid before the Lord, it WILL NOT be unredeemed.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One Year

That was me ... one year ago today. Sitting in a restaurant in Shanghai. Just a normal looking tourist eating dumplings and sipping Sprite. But you can see the anxious smile on my face. I was a nervous wreck inside ... waiting to meet a total stranger who I loved like the daughter sitting next to me. I knew this was going to be BIG. Life changing – big. But I really had no idea. 

Today, as I look through pictures of this year and reflect on how much has changed ... I am overcome with emotion. I have had a front row seat to a miracle. 


The physical changes are the most obvious. 
Charlotte has grown! 
Her hair is longer and shinier. 
Her skin has color. 
Her eyes sparkle.

But the changes inside are even more remarkable. 
Fear has been replaced with trust. 
Reluctance with enthusiasm. 
Anxiety with peace.
She knows she belongs here. 
She understands that she is deeply loved.
She loves us back.

One of my favorite things to 
watch was her changing relationship with her Daddy. It has been a longer process than we hoped for. At first he was tolerated. (See right! :) Over time, Charlotte warmed up to him if he was doing something that appealed to her. She willingly went to him if he was going outside or joined the other kids if they were playing on the floor with him. But now... NOW when she hears the garage door open in the afternoon, she squeals and yells for Daddy!  She runs to him after a long day at work. She loves her Daddy! 

As much as Charlotte has changed, though, I wonder if the bigger transformation hasn't been inside of me. Charlotte needed the love of a family. But God has used the love of this child to change my fear to trust. My reluctance to follow Him has been replaced with enthusiasm because I've seen His provision. I am more peaceful. My Father loves me more deeply than I can imagine.

I'll never know why God found me worthy to be Charlotte's mother. I would go to the ends of the earth all over again. Sacrifice every material possession I have just to bring her home. Just to see that smile. 

Thank you, Father, for giving me a picture of Your beautiful, redemptive, sacrificial love for me through my daughter. 

Happy Gotcha Day to my precious Charlotte Abigail Mingdu!

Friday, May 31, 2013


Viewing the world through the eyes of your child is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. But viewing it through the eyes of a child who never had anything – who spent her first two years in an institution – is really beyond description. It changes who you are.

This week Charlotte went on her first family vacation. We spent a week in Myrtle Beach, and it was the thrill of a lifetime to watch our sweet girl experience so many firsts!

And to top off this wonderful week of firsts ... we celebrated Charlotte's first birthday. Today she turned three years old, but it was the first time to celebrate with a family. 

One year ago we had a cake sent to Charlotte's orphanage for her 2nd birthday. It was so hard to be a world away from her on her birthday.

What a difference a year makes! Charlotte was so excited that her family was celebrating her!!

Look at that smile! 

Happy birthday, dear Charlotte! We love you!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Little Harmless Bragging ;)

I try not to brag too much about my awesome kids, but today it must be done. Aside from being beautiful and sweet, my daughter is super smart and talented! Two weekends ago, she won second place for her presentation on target sports (archery) at 4H District Project Achievement!

Rylee and her good friend Julia after winning at Project Achievement 

And last weekend she was given a "Superior Rating" at her piano festival!! She just started taking lessons in September, and was not expected to be ready to perform this year. But she has definitely exceeded expectations, and proved that by earning the highest rating! I'm so proud of my girl!!

"Air piano" ... A little mental practice while she waited!
All smiles!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Today Was a Gift

Last Spring we took a day trip to the aquarium with two other adoptive families who had recently brought little ones home from China. We had such a good time, and all day I especially watched one family's two-year-old little girl (who I don't have a photo of!) and imagined what it would be like when we came back to visit the aquarium with our two-year-old Charlotte in just a few months.

Just a few months after that, we were in China. There were lots of activities planned for us while we were there, including a trip to a beautiful park and the city zoo. While at the park we saw a pond where children could feed these swarms of huge fish. It was amazing to watch! And of course, at the zoo we saw all kinds of animals including my favorite, the pandas. But Charlotte had zero interest in any of it. We couldn't get her to really even look at the animals anywhere. Nothing of any entertainment value even showed up on her radar. Her mind just wasn't geared for that. All she was concerned about was getting food and staying very, very, very close to me. She refused to sit in the stroller and would only stop screaming if I carried her (in the scorching south China heat). This sweet baby had no idea how to enjoy a trip to the park or the zoo.

I was afraid for Rylee to get too close for fear they would gobble her up!

Not sure how we got this smile, but it was certainly NOT the fish!

When she wasn't screaming at the zoo, this was the expression she had!

What?! Mommy can't carry me 24 hours a day? Seriously, though, this was the first time Scott held her in public and she was in total shut down mode by this point!

But TODAY!!! Today, we went to the aquarium. And today ... my baby "oohed and aahed" over fish and otters and penguins and turtles all day long! Today she refused to sit in the stroller because she wanted to run and climb to see everything with her brothers and sister. She wouldn't even let me hold her hand!! :) Today was a gift.

Sorry this one's blurry ... that's how fast she moved all day!

Petting the stingray ... I think she would have jumped in if we'd let her! :)

The little red bow in front of Jackson is Charlotte!