Immeasurably more HOPE...

Sleep well, my precious angel!  God has great plans for you!... a HOPE, and a FUTURE!

Doctors have been astounded that Rachel could still be alive, in light of the reports from China.  But they refused, with us, to sign her off as "inoperable" and leave her there to die.  With much thanks due to these wonderful physicians, Rachel was rushed home for another "opinion"!  And today, that opinion is in... The little girl deemed "inoperable" and sent to the orphanage to die almost 7 years ago, was today proclaimed OPERABLE!!!  There is much HOPE that after a series of open heart surgeries... we can look forward to many happy years together as a forever family!  There are more tests to be done to completely figure out Rachel's very unusual "anatomy", but the echocardiogram revealed that though she has only one ventricle, and one functioning atrium, along with a whopping ASD, transposed "something", and plumbing flowing into and out of her heart in the wrong places... there is still HOPE!  And a lot of it!  Ironically, we have been told all along that one of the things that would prevent possible surgical interventions would be if the pressure in her lungs was too high.  This could do unrepairable damage.  BUT GOD... the one who fashioned her little heart, has actually protected her through something that could have proven fatal for the "average" heart patient.  Rachel has pulmonary stenosis... That means that the arteries that send blood from her heart to her lungs are very narrow.  What would have meant death to most of us, God actually used to preserve her precious life!  Because of those narrowing arteries flowing from her heart to her lungs... the pressure on her lungs has been minimal.  This makes surgery a very viable option!  She's a "half-hearted" little girl, but what she has (the left side!), is strong and has willingly done the work for her body and her lungs for over 7 years now!  A lot of "re-plumbing" and patching needs to occur, but she is in the hands of an incredible group of doctors who believe that God has preserved her life for a purpose and a future!  

We are beside ourselves with delight!!!  And yet, not even slightly surprised!  Though my heart jumped for joy at hearing this wonderful news, I felt deep inside as if I'd known it all along...  God's incredible mercy and grace, displayed so immeasurably in my life has taught me to expect the miraculous... to expect the immeasurably more than I could ask or even imagine!  What a mighty God I serve!!!

We have been admitted to the hospital for further testing... an MRI tomorrow morning and then a possible heart cath to determine exactly how to proceed with surgery on her heart.  As I type, my sweet angel is sound asleep in the big hospital bed beside my insanely little recliner "bed".  She looks like a princess asleep on her throne... and I am rather enjoying spoiling her by propping her up on fluffy pillows and surrounding her with snuggly blankets and sheets.  I want her to feel like the little Princess she is!  What an honor it is for me to have the opportunity to be Mommy to this little girl that God so obviously has "big" plans for... I believe that she will change the world for Christ and am beyond grateful for my front row seat for such a God-inspired occasion!

And you, my friends, who have been used by God to provide a way to get Rachel home and even an abundance to help with the expenses of the healing she needs.  You've stood in the gap for us and for Rachel!  Sleep well tonight!  God's got this one!  :-)  Stand back and be utterly amazed!

Signing off to join my princess in dreamy sleep!  I have to believe that tonight all of our dreamy dreams just might be coming true!!!

Your Little Girl...

I have a message to send across the sea
To a woman I will never meet
The baby girl left wrapped beneath the stars
She wears your eyes, she's won my heart

I have a song to sing over your thoughts
For I know you wondered from afar
About the girl who couldn't with you stay
She shares your smile, she lights my day

If you could see what I see
Here on the other side of the world
You would see the grace of God
In the face of your little girl

She has a prayer she speaks over your soul
Asking Jesus to go and make you whole
She prays knowing he hears and has a plan
She has your voice, she holds my hand

If you could see what I see
Here on the other side of the world
You would see the grace of God
In the face of your little girl

Love set free my liberty
Your sorrow not in vain
May joy abound, may love astound you
All your days

She has a future that we do not yet know
She may get married have children of her own
This love story will never know an end
This message out to you I send

by- Cindy Foote

Today Rachel is finally going to see the cardiologists who will be able to tell us if she is "operable"!  We covet your prayers for our precious little girl ~  That God would make us aware that He is fully present and has her life in His hands.  He is trustworthy!  Into your hands, Oh Lord, we place our treasured Rachel!  May you be glorified!

It Is Not Death To Die...

That's the name of one of my all time favorite books, about one of my all time favorite men of God- Hudson Taylor.  He is my hero in the faith!  A pioneer missionary to China who learned through sacrifice and great loss what it means to REALLY LIVE "in Christ"!  I've asked God many times throughout the years, since reading his biography, to increase my own faith and knowledge of Him that I might serve Him in some small way like Hudson Taylor did.

Following those prayers, I began to have the opportunity to speak to women's groups around the country - sharing stories of God's incredible grace and faithfulness in my life in spite of my great weaknesses.  I have been told that I have the uncanny ability to bring an audience of women to tears.  I like that!  It means that my words are powerful enough to evoke deep emotions.  What I liked most, was that God had found a way to use me that was so personally gratifying!  I'd finally found something that I thought I was "good" at and loved thinking that ministry could be so "easy" and personally rewarding.  In looking back now, I am beginning to understand that though I hope that my speaking glorified Christ and lives were truly impacted... In as much as it made me feel good about myself or brought applause to me as a dynamic speaker, it was about ME... not ministry!  Real ministry is never "easy" and sometimes not "personally rewarding" at all.  True ministry is actually found in following in the footsteps of Christ and it always (yes...always!) includes personal sacrifice and a death to "self".  If ministry makes me feel better about ME... I've missed the point all together!  :-(

Thus began my journey, my "ministry" of adoption.  There was no mistaking that it was a call directly from the Lord!  Why?  Because it meant that I would have to lay my selfishness aside and give myself to a child when I felt like it  and found it personally rewarding, and more importantly, when I didn't feel like it and when no one, save God himself, would see it or applaud.  Has the journey been worth it?  You bet it has!  Personally rewarding?  Like nothing else in my life!  But it has been hard... and lonely... and thankless at times... and a kick in the back side from the Spirit of God to get my sometimes lazy, overweight backside in gear and discover what it means to die ...and yet live

In the past few days I've been called "nobel", "really strong", a "wonderful person", and "incredible"...I like that! Even tonight, as I tucked my eight year old in, she told me that I am a great mom!  I like that too!  It makes me feel really good about myself!  It makes me feel really good that other people think those things about me, even though deep down I know the things they are saying are really not true at all.

If those people really knew my heart the way I know my heart... they wouldn't say those things... they wouldn't even think those things.  The Bible says that my heart is so deceitfully wicked that I can not even know it myself!  Praise God, that when He looks at me, He sees me through the lens of Christ- my perfect covering.  Apart from Him... there is really nothing extrodinary about me at all!  But life "in Christ" isn't about ME anymore anyway!  If I truly want to love wildly, and risk everything I have for the cause of Christ, and give my whole heart to reaching the lost with the Hope He offers,... it will have nothing to do with me... and everything to do with Him!

It is not death to die?  No!  Life is found in dying to yourSELF!  The Bible says that if a man wants to find his life He must lose it... and that in losing it, he will truly find it!  Losing my life?... I don't know... that sounds really painful!  And these days, I'm finding that it is!

My husband is a mighty man of God... flawed... but a man of God, none-the-less!  Doug loves Christ with all of his heart and he is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make Him known.  17 years ago he left a promising career with the FBI to go into full time ministry.  No paychecks promised from Uncle Sam, no benefit packages, no promise of worldly gain or fame... just simple obedience to what he felt the Lord was leading him to do.  He was called "crazy" by many... even "unwise"... but when his life is measured, it will be measured in light of eternal things... and I believe that he will be welcomed into the Kingdom with the sweet words "Well done, good and faithful servant"... Wow!  Deep down, THAT is what I really want!

...To be a faithful servant!  But wait!  Just the word "servant" makes me bristle.  It sounds like a lot of dirty work...whether I feel like it or not.  It sounds like obedience might be required... whether I feel like it or not.  It sounds like it may cost me my "freedom"!  It sounds a lot like God's call to the ministry of adoption!

Don't get me wrong!  If God calls you to the journey of adopting one of "the least of these"... I would applaud from the balconies... cheer you on... and yell "DO IT!" from the top of my lungs!  It is miraculous!  It is life-altering wonderful and will rock your world in every good way imaginable!  But I'd also have to warn you... It is stinkin' HARD!  It is servanthood at it's finest and not for the faint of heart!  Yes... I said it... SERVANThood!  You don't have to be "nobel", or "really strong", or a "wonderful person", or at all "incredible".  (I am, in fact, none of those things!) All you need is the willing heart of a SERVANT!  Maybe I should explain...

Rachel is precious... beyond words really.  One of the happiest human beings I've ever met on the planet... in spite of 7 years of doing life alone with a broken heart... HAPPY!  99.999% of the time!  I'm certain that I am probably one of the luckiest Mommy's in the world.  If China only had 3 angels... God gave them all to ME!  :-)  But... I like to sleep late! - Rachel's still on orphanage time, which means she's up before 8 am! (Anyone that knows me at all, knows that this is just simply unacceptable! Just joking... kind of') ~~~  I like sitting and reading a magazine with a big glass of southern sweet ice tea while the kids ride their bikes and scooters in our circular driveway - Rachel's never sat on a bike or stood on a scooter in her 7 year old life!  Sitting, reading magazines is just not an option anymore! ~~~  I love to ride bikes to the pool or to the ocean and lay flat on my back tanning in the Florida sun, while the waves splash up and cool my feet and the kids play happily by themselves-  It would take Rachel at least half a day to get to the beach on her new little bike clad with training wheels, and let's just face it... I would not be lying flat on my back! ~~~  Worst of all, I am energized by time alone reading my Bible, riding my bike, walking along the beach... anything, really... as long as it's ALONE! - Rachel needs me/ wants me every waking moment of every single day.  She even thinks that I must go to the potty (into the stall) with her each and every time she's got to go!  I don't think I could even calculate how much time I've been spending in bathroom stalls lately! (Doug and Ryan find this insanely funny!  Me...not so much!) ~~~  I'm a "hard-liner" kind of mom... especially when it comes to the issue of respect.  I've prided myself in the fact that my kids have known since they were tee-iny that saying "no" to Mommy or Daddy just doesn't fly in our home! - Rachel didn't get the memo!  She missed the tee-iny stage in our home and she's still trying to figure out how things work with a real family and real parents... Imagine my shock when I told her to pick up the books she had just thrown all over her bedroom floor today and she looked at me and simply said "no".  Oh mylanta!  This isn't going to be as easy as I imagined it!  :-) ~~~ I could probably go on all night expounding on my extreme selfishness, but I will conclude with this most relevant example...  I hate hospitals!  I'd rather die than go sit in an ER all day!  And PLEASE don't leave me to sit with a little patient for hours on end without relief!  24/7 just isn't my cup of tea! (hence my aversion to home-schooling!) -  Why God would ask ME to adopt a little girl with a life threatening heart condition that will likely mean weeks or even months inside the 4 walls of a hospital room, I haven't quite figured out yet!  I'll let you know when I do!

Oh, wait a minute... I think I just did!!!  God's great agenda in my life is to teach me that "it is not death to die"!... to MYSELF that is!  Death to "self" is painful!  Don't be fooled!  It's no easier for me than it would be for you!  I am not "nobel".  I am not "really strong", "wonderful" or "incredible".  Left to myself, I am none of the above.  I am just like you!  Just "crazy" enough to ask God to use me,... to give my life significance,... and to enable me to meet Him one day completely emptied of mySELF!  Several times in the past few weeks I've wondered what I could have possibly been thinking when I asked the Lord for such things???  But deep down I know... I was thinking that I want to know HIM, and be made into HIS likeness.  Yes... even in His "death"!  I know too, that it is the ONLY place that I will truly find LIFE!  God is, indeed, a God of miracles!  I'm asking that He will do a miracle in Rachel's heart... and I'm asking Him while He's at it... to do one in mine too!

Bible Story time with Daddy...

A most important "first" for our newest princess!  Only a video could do it justice!

Every little girl...

...should feel like a princess!

Rachel looked at herself in the mirror in her pretty princess dress and proclaimed... "Beautiful!", then twirled around a few times in happy delight!

"Home"- through the eyes of a 7 yr old...

(Bear with me friends... This post may take a night or two.  Being home means that I am up to my eyeballs in laundry, with no cheap laundry service to wash, dry, fold, and deliver clean clothes to my hotel room.  It also means there is no breakfast buffet, with American and Chinese cuisine --- not to mention the cooked to order eggs and omelets!  No waitress to come take our order, deliver the prepared food to our table, and then clean it all up when we leave!  And no maid service to come in and make our beds, clean our room, and replace wet towels...  I think you get the idea!  Here goes anyway!)

28 hours after leaving our hotel in Guangzhou, China ~ We arrived HOME!  It was an awesome, awesome trip!  It would be hard to beat some of the sweet "moments" we shared with Rachel in China... but bringing Rachel through the front door of her very first HOME as a seven year old last night would rank pretty high on my scale of awesome ~ spectacular ~ moving ~ humbling ~ sad beyond words ~ and immeasurably more incredible than almost anything I've ever experienced!

Imagine with me for a moment what it would be like to be 7 years old and to have never experienced a bubble bath because you were showered in groups of 6 - "locker room" style- in an orphanage instead.  Or to never experience the simple summer fun of swimming... not in a lake, or an ocean, or a swimming pool.  Or being a little girl that could never have long hair with braids, bows or pigtails, because it was too much work for the nannies.  Or to love "frilly" things like dresses, makeup, and jewelry, but to grow up with almost all special needs boys that couldn't care less what their reflection looked like in a mirror.  Or longing to run and play, but never experiencing the thrill of learning to pump yourself on a swing or sliding down a simple slide. Or to long for a Mommy and Daddy of your own, but be forced to watch as others leave for "home", while you wait because your needs are just too great.  Or to be dying of a failing heart and never hear the hope found in Jesus, because you live in a culture that believes that blessings come from rubbing the belly of a buddha.  

Last night, Rachel walked into HER home for the very first time... a home filled with love; with a Mommy and Daddy who are crazy about her; with brothers and sisters that fill every day with fun; with bubble baths at night before she is rocked and tucked safely into her snuggly bed; with a bedroom fit for the princess she is and where frilly, little girl things abound; where long hair is allowed and bows are encouraged; where there is makeup and jewelry and mirrors to admire herself in and plenty of people to tell her how beautiful she is; where swimming, dancing, swinging, jumping, biking, and sliding are something to enjoy almost everyday; where doctors are willing to try just about anything to fix her broken heart;  and where she can learn about a Jesus who loves her, who can heal her, and who can make her life "whole", regardless of what the future holds.

That's Rachel's new home!  Watching her take that all in was miraculous in itself!  To realize how much most of us take completely for granted was humbling.  And to be slapped in the face with the reality that for this little girl, these normal, every day things, existed only in a dream world before last night.  And most precious of all?... The look on her face when she noticed the blown up photo of herself - taped to the front of the refrigerator door many months ago-  as if realizing for the very first time that we had been dreaming of HER too!  It makes me cry just to type it-  These things should NEVER be!... Not for Rachel... Not for any child!  But sadly, they are!  For over 160,000,000 ~ they are!  Thank you Lord, for giving me the incredible opportunity to be a part of your beautiful redemption story in the life of this one ~ our precious Rachel!  And for the many people that you used to make this day possible for us and for Rachel ~ our lives will never be the same!  May you find this Mommy worthy of such a great calling.

(OK... I admit it!  Once I got started, I couldn't help myself!  I finished this post in one sitting... But it's already after midnight and my very jet lagged body is going to feel this in the morning! - Continued prayers on our behalf are appreciated, as we only have a few days before our medical "journey" begins...)


I don't know who started it, but I like it!  "Red Couch" photos are an adoption tradition!  I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to celebrate such a tradition for the third time!

Here's to our precious Rachel's Red Couch photos~

God sets the lonely in families!

"Red Couch" Photo Memories~  Take One: Kate ~ 2004  (Oh mylanta!  It appears I've reused the same bow 7 years later!!!  :-)

Take Two: Ellie ~ 2006

God has been so incredibly good to me!

Let the little children come to me...

...for such is the kingdom of heaven.

There are days when it seems that God cracks the door of heaven and allows you to peek inside... Today was one of those days.  I'm sitting here trying to figure out a way to put words to such a beautiful story, but I am speechless!  This is a story that must be told though, so I'll do my best with His help...

Since "meeting" Rachel online and committing ourselves to be her parents, Doug and I have had ONE desire... to introduce her to Jesus!  I, of course, want that more than anything else for all of my children.  But because of Rachel's very uncertain prognosis, there is a real pressing urgency that she be introduced to Him NOW!  She needs a Savior... she needs a healer... she needs a friend.  We will be all that we can be for her... but we will ultimately fall short of all that she really needs.  There is only ONE that can truly meet her needs!  Jesus can save her... Jesus can heal her (and will, in His perfect way!)... and Jesus can be her best friend, walking beside her places I may not be able to go.

It is one thing to introduce your children to the Lord as little bitties... You start with the absolute basics and you build on that foundation as they grow.  I feel confident in that.  I've had 5 practice runs so far and it was a natural expression of my heart on a day by day basis as they grew.  But to start at scratch with a 7 year old... Add to that, a 7 year old who is considered "terminal", or at best, "critical". OK.  I admit it.  My confidence is out the window.  I'm feeling a little bit overwhelmed!  Do we really have to wait until she has some command of the English language before explaining how much Jesus loves her?  By the time she half way figures out the language, she'll likely have gone through more than a few very critical procedures and surgeries or be diagnosed as "inoperable" and living on borrowed time with her forever family...  

Let's just be clear on this one... We are in over our heads!  But God knows that and He is oh, so good to have everything taken care of in His miraculous way before we've even thought to ask!  While shopping in Guangzhou, where the shop owners cater to the many families here adopting little ones, we met a wonderful Christian woman who sells Bible's in her shop and donates the proceeds to her local church.  We were thrilled!... not only to own an English-Chinese copy of the Scriptures, but to have the opportunity to support the work of the Lord in this country we love so much!  Jenny had such a sweet spirit about her and we so enjoyed getting to know her and talking about our shared faith in Christ.  We told her about Rachel's heart condition and asked that she and her friends lift her up in prayer.    

Suddenly an idea flooded over me that was obviously straight from the Lord... Maybe Jenny would be willing to share the Gospel with Rachel NOW... in the language she already understands!  Jenny was touched by Rachel's story and said that she would count it a privilege to have the opportunity to tell our precious daughter about Jesus Christ!  We would return with our video camera on Sunday following the church service, so that we could document this special time for Rachel to listen to again and again... 

We met in her shop a few minutes after the service ended.  A hush fell over the place as she put her hand on Rachel's shoulder and told her about Jesus.  Rachel listened quietly and shook her head several times to say that she understood. Jenny told her that many people already loved her and were praying for her... asking that the Lord would heal her heart.  She told her of our love for Jesus and of our love for her.  She told her that we would never leave her and that we wanted more than anything for her to know and love Jesus...  

There are some moments in life that are so beautiful, you wish you could freeze time just to take them in.  Those moments in that little shop alone with Jenny will forever be remembered as one of my life's most precious memories...   I honestly don't know how much of it Rachel understood.  I know that I understood Christ' message of hope when I was her age, and I believe that God has a special way of revealing Himself to little children like Rachel... so I am resting there and rejoicing that God's hand is so evidently covering our little girl even now!

Long after we'd left Jenny's shop, a young friend of hers suddenly found us and beckoned us back to her shop to speak with her husband.  "He can do this so much better than I", she said.  "Please let him share Jesus with Rachel too!"  So, there in her shop, for the second time, Rachel heard about Jesus love.  Her husband showed Rachel some tracts and explained how to know Jesus as Lord.  He gave the tracts to her for her to take home.  Then he prayed over her and we left... stunned, silent...  God's grace so fully sufficient!  I am humbled to be His!

Rachel didn't let those tracts out of her sight for the rest of the day!  She insisted on holding them while riding in the stroller and then even taking them to bed with her that night...  I even "caught her" looking through the tracts by herself when she thought no one was looking...  Oh Lord, you are GOOD! 

Today we returned to the area to check Rachel's TB test and to finish up some shopping before heading home to Florida.  Again, Jenny's friend found us in the streets near her shop!  She handed me a little red box with a cross necklace inside  along with a hand written note from Jenny to Rachel,  encouraging her to trust Jesus... What a precious gift!  The Lord's kindness overflowing through a precious sister in Christ... I will be forever grateful for her obedient heart to share with "one of the least of these".

This afternoon, Rachel came to me and started asking me for something.  She knew that I couldn't understand, as anything beyond "hello" in Chinese would be beyond my limits!  She tried hand motions and repeating the words again and again, as if doing so might finally make me understand what she wanted.  She walked away, and I figured she'd finally given up.  It is so beyond difficult to try to love and parent a child that you can not communicate with!  It breaks my heart for her... she is trying so hard!  Then suddenly she returned for another try!  She had the tract in her hand... turned to the picture of the cross!  She pointed to the cross and repeated her request several more times!  OK... I'm obviously dense, but I finally GOT IT!  She wanted to wear the cross necklace that Jenny had sent to her!  She wanted it so much that she simply would not give up!  I don't think I can express how much my heart wanted to explode every time I looked at that precious child today... wearing the cross of Jesus around her little neck!  

My incredible God... still busy doing immeasurably more than I could ask or even imagine on behalf of a little 7 year old girl and the Mommy that loves her so much!  I covet your prayers, along with my own, that God would do a miracle in Rachel's heart... helping her to understand His love and that she would come to know Him as Savior, Healer, and Friend!