Help us Bring Noah Home

January 20th, 2016

We so appreciate your prayers, and many people have asked us how they can help! Here are several ways:

If you’re in the Columbus, OH area, come to one of these events, bring your friends, and like and share them!

Feb. 4th at 7 pm at Encounter Church in Dublin, I will be doing a one-night women’s conference called “Adopted” with my good friend and Abingdon Women speaker, Melissa Spoelstra. All proceeds go to support Noah’s adoption and medical expenses. All the info can be found here!

Feb. 20th at 7 pm at Bethel Church in Columbus, I will be doing a family concert that is open to all. All proceeds go to support Noah’s adoption and medical expenses. All the info for that one can be found here!

If you’re not in the Columbus area, you can make a donation to Noah’s adoption and medical expense through PayPal on our contact us page here. If you scroll down a bit to the section that says “Support Jennifer’s Ministry,” you will see the PayPal link and you can leave us a note that it’s for Noah.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help!

Year of the Precious Dragon

January 1st, 2016
We got some updated pictures of our precious dragon - he looks so grown up!

We got some updated pictures of our precious dragon – he looks so grown up!

Okay, I know that this year is technically the year of the monkey (and if we’re getting super technical, Chinese New Year isn’t until Feb. 8), but since I don’t believe in the Chinese zodiac anyway and I’m in the US and today is our New Year’s, I’m changing the name! For our family, at least, this is the Year of the Dragon. Year of the Precious Dragon, to be precise. :)

We haven’t been allowed to release our new son, Noah’s, Chinese name, but I can tell you that it translates to “precious dragon.” What I love about this so much is that dragons are the symbol of China. Our son was abandoned because of his heart condition. No one adopted him because of his heart condition. Special needs children are often abandoned in Chinese society because of the pressures of the One Child Policy. He was not precious in the eyes of China. But to us, he is precious. And to God, he is priceless. God’s love for this boy is unmatched, and I love that his name reminds me that he is precious, and he is from China. He is our precious dragon! His Chinese name will legally become his middle name and Noah will be his first name, but if he wants us to use his Chinese name, we will – we do not want him to lose such an important piece of his identity.

We are likely leaving in six or eight weeks. He will stay with us the entire three weeks we’re in China completing all the paperwork to finalize his adoption and immigration to the US. I can’t wait to meet him!

Here’s a quick overview of our trip:

Day 1-2 Travel via Beijing to the capital of Noah’s province in northern China
Day 3 Meet Noah!
Day 4 Adopt Noah! Apply for his passport.
Day 5-14 Waiting for the passport, so we will do some traveling both to Noah’s hometown and in Beijing to understand more of his history and Chinese culture.
Day 15-19 Fly down to Guangzhou in southern China for Noah’s medical clearance, visa process, and immigration process.
Day 20 or 21 Bring Noah home. :)

Article in Crosswalk and Christmas special

December 12th, 2015

Hey, all, quick post – we’re doing a Christmas special to support our adoption of Noah. Our Christmas card CDs are marked way down to $35 for 10 which is less than you might pay for a regular card in the store and these have a 3-song Christmas CD tucked inside! Also, for every physical order of a full-length CD or book this Christmas, we’re going to send you a free Christmas CD! And if you download an album, we’ll send you a free download of my Christmas single “Christmas is Forever.” So head over to the store and help us get Noah home!

Speaking of my Christmas single, it’s been really fun to see how many stations have picked that up this Christmas season – we’re on about 60 stations right now that we know of. Feel free to call your station and request the song – that helps more than you know!

And I also had an article come out in this week called “5 Ways to Put the Spirit of Thanksgiving Into Christmas” – you can check that out here!

Pittsburgh Television and Christmas

December 6th, 2015
Filming at Cornerstone Television

Filming at Cornerstone Television

Orchard Hill's Women's Christmas Brunch, just a while ago

Orchard Hill’s Women’s Christmas Brunch, just a while ago

Just got back from a couple of days in Pittsburgh. That’s always fun now, because one of my brothers, Mike, and his family moved to Pittsburgh a while back, so it’s always good to get to see them!

Thursday I was back at Cornerstone Television Network to be on their show “Real Life.” I’ve been on several shows produced by Cornerstone, and it was great to be back! They’ve redone all their sets and they looked great! I sang a couple of songs and had an interview about my book and also about our upcoming adoption of Noah, our reasons for choosing to adopt, and God’s faithfulness to us through the whole process. It was a great morning and will air next week. Afterwards my mom and I went down to the strip and had lunch at Pamela’s so you really can’t do better than that. :)

We spent some time with Mike’s family and then on Saturday I had a women’s Christmas brunch for Orchard Hill Church. I did this event for them about 5 years ago, and it was just spectacular – I love working with their women’s ministry director, Kay. They have such a heart for outreach, and that is my favorite part of this event – it’s women inviting their moms and sisters and neighbors, and I get to share the love of Christ with them. So fun! Somehow we forgot the camera this time, but since it was in the same ballroom with the same layout, I’m just putting up the picture from last time – add about 50 people or so and make my hair longer (not that you can see it anyway!), and you’ll have it. :)

Frightening week for Donna – love your prayers

November 29th, 2015
This is so typical of Donna's personality!  Right after having her head shaved and trying a new wig.

This is so typical of Donna’s personality! Right after having her head shaved and trying a new wig.

Many of you have heard me mention my scheduling coordinator, Donna. We’ve worked together for about 4 years now, and she is just a blessing and has become a good friend. Donna told me when I hired her that she has had cancer several times, and it’s really only a matter of time before it comes back. Donna was given 4 months to live about 11 years ago, so that in itself is a miracle of God.

Last year they found a new breast cancer and again, Donna was diagnosed at stage four. This was devastating news, but her faith is amazing. She had surgery before Christmas and then went through chemo and radiation last winter and spring. She was doing well through the summer and fall, but this past week she was visiting a friend in Atlanta and was having absolutely excruciating headaches. Then she started having trouble walking. She flew home with a friend (she told me they almost didn’t let her on the plane because she couldn’t walk in a straight line down the gangway and they thought she was drunk) and immediately went to the ER. She texted me that night that they had found a fairly large tumor in her brain.

That was Tuesday night. I went to see her Wednesday and they were running lots of tests. Clearly, they were trying to figure out how far it had spread to see if surgery was worth the risk. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time of prayer together. Praise God, they found the cancer was no where else, so they went ahead with surgery. They had to wait for some medication to get out of her system, so her family all brought Thanksgiving dinner down to the hospital and celebrated with her, and then she went in for surgery Friday morning. She did amazingly well, and they felt confident they’d gotten all of that tumor which was just amazing news! She will undergo radiation after Christmas again.

Please keep her and her family in your prayers. While everything went well, as Donna says, it’s getting harder and once it’s in the brain, it’s not a good outlook. She is absolutely my hero, though – God has carried her through and she has such peace! She wanted me to tell people that just because we believe in Christ, it doesn’t mean things will go the way we want them or that we won’t suffer. It does mean, though, that Jesus will be with us and give us peace and hope and joy in the midst of it. Amen, sister! And she is the embodiment of that.

I’ll keep you all updated, but please pray for my Donna – she is precious to me!

How Do We Know God’s Will?

November 20th, 2015

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

How can we know if we’re in God’s will? This is an important question, one of the most important for our day to day living. If we really want to serve God, how do we know what His will is and then do it?

For me, this is a really timely topic. As most of you know, we are in the middle of the adoption of a medically fragile nine-year-old boy from China. He looks amazing. But I also know many, many adoptive parents, and I know the strikes against this being lots of fun. He doesn’t speak English. He might hate our country. He is an older child and we don’t know how he’s been treated all these years. He may not attach to us. He may die. Just like Peter getting out of the boat, sometimes when I take my eyes off Jesus, these waves seem terrifying and I start sinking.

How do I know that God wants us to do this? What if I’m just making this up in my head? What if I just think this boy’s picture is cute or want to feel like a hero and have no idea what I’m getting into? These are real questions. And what if he’s just wonderful and we fall madly in love with him and his surgery isn’t possible or goes badly and then we lose him?

I have three great kids who are healthy and growing up into kind and loving adults. I am married to a wonderful guy and we’re happy. We live in a nice suburban house in one of the richest countries in the world. I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t had the thought, “Why are we messing with this?” Well, because we felt called to it. And because we knew we couldn’t leave this boy where he was. And how does that work? And how do we know if we’re right?

Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed the pattern of this world. That means we need to get the world’s version of wisdom out of our heads and be transformed to hear God’s wisdom. The world’s wisdom would tell me I was foolish to mess with the good life I have. That I might harm my other children if this goes badly. That it’s not my problem and there’s no reason for me to step in there. But God’s wisdom is different. God values all people, and He sure doesn’t love me any more than he loves this little boy. Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families. If God has given me everything I have, how can I be selfish and tell Him I’m not willing to put it back into His hands? And what if He means all this as a blessing? Why would I say no to that?

Roman’s 12:2 also tells us that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How do we let God change our minds? By spending time with Him. Through prayer and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And, so importantly, by knowing His Word. That is how He talks to us. And God’s Word is transformative – it will change you. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

And then, Roman’s 12:2 gives us the incredible promise that if we do those things, we will be able to know God’s will. That is stunning!

So here are a few things I use to check myself, things I’ve used as a yardstick over the years. I’d love to hear yours too.

1. Repetition. God seems to use this a lot in my life, and in many other believers that I know. God placed a desire on my heart for adoption for many years before we acted on it. But last year I started to hear it from all directions, including from my husband who hadn’t been at all on the same page with me before. That’s when Nathan and I started listening closely for the Lord and doing that together. We prayed about it a lot and felt God confirming it in our spirits. We kept getting Bible verses or running into people who would talk about their adoption. The sermon every week at church seemed to be echoing our thoughts. It came from all sides at once.

2. Does it line up with Scripture? To me, this is the most important one, because when we go on a “feeling,” it’s really easy to talk ourselves into whatever we want. One thing we know for sure is that God will not contradict His own Word. I had a woman tell me once that God was leading her to leave her husband. I asked why, had he been unfaithful or what was leading her to this conclusion? She told me, no, it was nothing like that, but she’d been bored for years. I can say with certainty that God was not leading her there. He will never, never contradict His Word. (And that’s another post, but that would be when I would be praying for God to revive my marriage!) In the example of our adoption, we just kept getting more and more Scripture about orphans and we know that caring for them is absolutely in the heart of God. It lines up.

3. Is it confirmed by prayer? When you pray about this decision, does the Holy Spirit confirm it in your heart? Do you have a peace about it (Phil 4:6-7)? Even in a terrifying decision, we can still have peace. It’s also important to remember that when we seek the Lord and ask him for wisdom, He promises He will give it (James 1:5). Are you following the wisdom He’s giving you in prayer?

4. And lastly, do other believers agree with you? Again, you need wisdom here because I don’t mean that everyone will always agree with you, but do some key believers that you trust agree that this could be God’s will for you? If you’re sharing your plan with solid believers who know you well, and none of them can see it, perhaps you should take it back to the Lord.

Finally, we need to remember that being in God’s will doesn’t always mean things will turn out beautifully immediately. Sometimes we think if we’re in God’s will everything will go well (and by that, we mean painlessly and preferably also to our advantage) and if things go wrong, then we must have missed it and are not actually in His will. But that’s just not true. We can be right in the middle of God’s will and it can still look bad for us. Look at Joseph when he was falsely accused by Potiphar and thrown into prison, or Daniel when he remained faithful to God and got thrown into the lion’s den. But in both of those examples, and countless others, we also see how God brought something much greater out of their pain, and that He had a bigger plan for them. When we’re seeking to follow God’s will for our lives through His Word and prayer and the Holy Spirit, and we do it to the best of our ability, we can be confident that He is always able to carry it out, and do it for our good. (Phil. 1:6, Rom. 8:28)

God’s not trying to trick us. He wants us to know His will and to do it in the world. Are we willing to seek Him, and then step out in faith to do whatever it is He’s giving us to do?

OH events, and our dossier is in China!

November 17th, 2015
Teaching at St. Lukes

Teaching at St. Lukes

Apparently we forgot the camera at Alliance!  But here's the view out my window that weekend.

Apparently we forgot the camera at Alliance! But here’s the view out my window that weekend.

And his name is Noah

And his name is Noah

Another couple of busy weeks! Our kids have had a ton of stuff going on, a piano competition and their debut performance in the youth worship band at church (yes, all three at once! Rinnah singing, Rachel on bass, and Toby on keys) among other things. It’s been so fun to watch them! And I’ve had two more women’s conferences plus a concert and worship services, our dossier is finally in China (more on that below), and our kitchen is complete! Halleluia! Can’t even tell you how fun it is to have a stove again. :)

I was back at St. Luke two weekends ago to do a conference on Esther on Friday night and Saturday. I love working with this church – the ladies are all so sweet, and they do an incredible job. Every detail is planned and their hearts are simply to glorify God! We had a great time there, and also got so many kids sponsored for Compassion – it just blew me away! They had about 5 times the normal number of sponsors for their event, and it says so much about their church!

The following weekend I was up in Alliance, Oh, closer to Cleveland, and did a concert on Friday night, a women’s conference, this time on Peter, on Saturday, and then their worship service on Sunday. Sometimes it’s hard to have that kind of weekend – you know some people will be at all three things so you don’t want to overlap too much, but you also know a lot of people will just be at one, so you don’t want to leave too much out! Friday was a great night, lots of visitors to the church, Saturday was a sweet time thinking about how God transforms us to be usable by Him, and then Sunday I spoke on Daniel and about whether Romans 8:28 is really true – can God really use all things for good? It was a good sermon for me personally, and I felt like God gave it to me specifically for that weekend. I’ve been struggling with some fear as we get closer to this adoption, and these were great reminders for me personally.

This weekend we decided on our little guy’s American name. We’re going to name him Noah. I love the imagery, that God was the one who saved Noah and kept him against all odds, and I am praying that one day our Noah will know God as well and be as faithful to Him as Noah was. Since our Noah just turned 9, we were really struggling with what to do with the name thing. He’s already going to lose so much – his country, his culture, his language – and we hate to take his name too. But we have many Chinese friends here, and they all expressed to me that he would probably want an American name as well, at least legally, as it makes things easier. So we’re going to keep his Chinese name as his middle name, and then just ask him what he wants to be called day to day. And if he changes his mind at some point, we’ll roll with it too.

Our dossier was officially logged into China yesterday, so that is a huge step forward. Now we wait several more weeks as it’s all translated, and then there are several more steps as well such as our official approval, travel approvals, visas, etc. We know now that we won’t make Christmas, and they were saying perhaps February, but that is Chinese New Year, and a lot of the government offices shut down which would make it impossible for us to complete the adoption. So it looks like March it is. Please be praying for us! I am getting really anxious to get him, but I am also struggling with fear about his health, and if the doctors will say it’s too late for his surgery, and how the surgery will go, etc. God does not call us to fear, and he really does give me the peace that passes all understanding every time I give the situation to Him, but I will not turn down your prayers that I would be able to rest there. And I definitely covet your prayers for Noah and for his health! Thank you so much – it is such a blessing to me to know that people are praying!

Wonderful story from our event in Modesto, CA

October 24th, 2015
The Joy Sounds choir singing at the Christian Berets event in Modesto

The Joy Sounds choir singing at the Christian Berets event in Modesto

Presenting the Gospel

Presenting the Gospel

Just had to share this. I flew out to Modesto, Ca this past week with Donna to do a fundraising dinner for Christian Berets which is a camp that serves special needs people of all ages. It’s a special place with a great reputation, and I was honored to be there as their keynote.

The evening started with the “Joy Sounds Choir” which was made up of about 40 members, all special needs adults. They had all kinds of challenges, and a large percentage of them were cognitively challenged. They did a couple of songs and did a terrific job! After they finished, it was time for the banquet, so they sat them all down at tables on the floor closest to the platform.

After dinner, I got up to speak, and I had given the Gospel as part of my presentation and started to sing my song “God Loved the World.” We were using a video, so the lights were dimmed for it and as I was singing, I noticed that two of the women from the choir had come up on stage and were sort of wandering around on the platform. I didn’t think too much of it as I’ve done a lot of special needs events and this is not uncommon (I had a man come up on stage with me at one event and hug me and pet my hair in the middle of a song, so this was nothing), and I just assumed their helpers would come and get them.

Well, they didn’t! And here I was singing, so I couldn’t stop and ask them what they were looking for or help – they were obviously looking for something – so I thought I’d just finish the song and then if someone else didn’t help, I could talk to them. I was also praying the whole time, because I’d just presented the Gospel and didn’t want this to be a distraction!

So just as I was getting to the end of the song, the women came up right behind me, found a couple of chairs that were there which had been set up for the choir earlier, shrugged at each other, and then turned and knelt at the chairs to pray. That’s when I realized what they were looking for – they’d been looking for an altar to pray! I was blown away. I’m not sure if they were giving their lives to the Lord for the first time or just felt the need to respond to the Gospel that way, but whatever it was, it was beautiful. Such a picture of the Lord and His grace. Here I was praying that they wouldn’t distract from the Gospel, and instead, they were a picture of it to the whole event. Praise God!

As soon as I got to the end of the song, they got up and left, and I didn’t have any time to talk to them. I wish I knew what they were thinking, but they touched my heart! Hope that translates in the written word, but what a cool night, and a wonderful picture of the very ministry this organization does!

New Article on Sensory Published and lots of Esther!!

October 19th, 2015
With Eagle Church in Indiana

With Eagle Church in Indiana

Speaking at the Ohio retreat for the Evangelical Friends

Speaking at the Ohio retreat for the Evangelical Friends

The view out my window at the retreat in North Carolina - just beautiful in the morning!

The view out my window at the retreat in North Carolina – just beautiful in the morning!

Another catch up post here, but it’s been a really busy month! I’ve taught Esther for the last three weekends at women’s retreats in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina, had a new article published for Sensory Awareness Month, and we’ve gotten US approval for our adoption and have moved on to the next step. Still don’t have a working kitchen (somehow I don’t think they’re going to make their projected completion date of Aug. 15…) but hey, someday, right? I don’t think our life would be our life without some serious chaos (or as my son pronounces it from reading too many books and not hearing it in person, cha-cos. Rhymes with tacos. Too cute to fix yet.)

The first weekend of October I was with the women from Eagle Church at a camp just outside Indianapolis. Beautiful weekend, and frankly, lovely, lovely women. I had so much fun with them! Mary Schumm, the coordinator, also works for Remember Nhu, a phenomenal organization that rescues kids in danger of trafficking. We went to Thailand with them a few years ago and I wrote this song for them when I can home on Micah 6:8. Mary rocks, and so did the rest of her team! Such a fun weekend.

The next two weekends I was with the women from the Evangelical Friends denomination. They do regional retreats, and I did the first weekend in Ohio and the second weekend in North Carolina for their southern churches. Both weekends also on Esther which I love, so that was fun! One great perk of two weekends with one organization was that I got to work with the same planning team and tech people at both, and it was so fun to get to know them and not have to say goodbye after the first weekend!

One interesting connection was that there was an Indian missionary couple there whose work is to rescue the children of the devadasi who are temple prostitutes. The children are usually from the lowest caste, and will almost certainly also end up as temple prostitutes if someone doesn’t intervene and offer them education and a different future which is what this couple is doing. We were talking about their work, and I said something about Nhu from Remember Nhu, and they said, “Wait, are you talking about Nhu? And Carl and Laurie? From Remember Nhu? They sponsor us!” I had no idea there was a connection! It was really wonderful to hear all that the Lord is doing through them and to protect them, and also to see how well the girls are doing at their homes! Please check out their ministry here, and make sure to watch the video at the bottom of the home page – it’s awesome. They need help right now to raise money to keep the home they are in; could you help them?

In the middle of all these weekends, The Christian Post published my article about Sensory Processing Disorder for Sensory Awareness Month. You can check that out here!

And, we were told (after our third fingerprinting!) that we were approved by the US government to proceed with our adoption! We thought that meant that we could send our dossier to China immediately, but there always seem to be steps we’re unaware of. In this case, I got all the documents for the dossier together and verified at the state level, but now they need to be authenticated at the national level and then sent to the Chinese consulate to be authenticated there before they can actually go to the Chinese government, a process that will take several weeks. This is discouraging for us, because it means we almost certainly won’t be able to get through all the other steps to go at Christmas time, but we know God holds the timing, so we’re just going to keep on keeping on! At least things are still moving. Keep on praying for our little guy! We want him here!

Ministry around C-Bus

September 20th, 2015
Grave City Vineyard

Grove City Vineyard

Leading a worship song before speaking at Grove City

Leading a worship song before speaking at Grove City

My daughter doing a great job at the table while I talk to people about Compassion at St. Luke's

My daughter doing a great job at the table while I talk to people about Compassion at St. Luke’s

I haven’t written in a while, mostly because we’ve been concentrating on getting our adoption paperwork in and also working on getting our kitchen redone. We were told it would be done by the end of summer, but here we are, and as far as I can tell, we are no where close to being finished. It’s a little discouraging as I’m going into a busy ministry season, but God’s got it! Just not super fun to have a family of five with no kitchen for the foreseeable future. But on the adoption front, we finally got our finalized home study at the end of August and as I had everything waiting on my desk ready to go for the next step, we had it all mailed out two hours later. So now we are waiting for our approval from US Immigration to proceed, and that could take a while. While we’re waiting, I’ve been getting all the paperwork ready for the the next phase so hopefully we can keep everything moving as much as it depends on us! At this point, it looks fairly unlikely that we’ll be able to get everything done and get him by Christmas, but we’re still hoping and praying.

This weekend I had some great ministry opportunities right in my hometown of Columbus, OH. On Saturday I did a women’s event for Grove City Vineyard which is on the south side, and on Sunday I led worship for all the services at St. Luke’s on the east side. Since I live on the northwest side, it was a lovely tour of the city. :)

Seriously, I had a great time with the women at Grove City Vineyard – we’d been talking with them and planning that event for a long time, so it was fun to see it come to fruition! And it was great to be at St. Luke’s as well – love their team, and I’ve done several things with them in the past, so it was good to see everyone again! I’ll be doing a women’s conference there later this fall on Esther.

Keep praying for our little guy’s heart and this whole process! It just seems to take forever, and it’s been really heavy on my heart to pray for his protection and peace, and really keep his health in front of the Lord. We need to get him here!