New Album Coming!

July 10th, 2017

Okay, you all. This is a big announcement. We are making a new album! It’s my first major album in 5 years, and I am super excited to share the songs with you and to see how God will use this! I’ve needed new songs for a while because my ministry topics have changed a lot over time, but frankly, an album is a huge expense and undertaking, and the music industry has changed so much that we weren’t sure whether we should do it or not.

I basically had to stop and ask the Lord if He wanted this ministry to continue. We really need new music if it’s going to continue, but I’m also looking at two more adoptions, and maybe this is God gently telling me to stop this ministry now. After all, it’s been 11 years.

So I took it to the Lord in prayer, and we prayed hard about it and for a long time. I’ve been praying about this issue for two years, really. And what I’ve come up with is that we are still supposed to be doing this. I’ve written the songs – they are already here. They just need to be produced. Just this past 5 months alone, I counted it up and I have presented the Gospel to nearly 12,000 people. I’m taking 6 months off to get the kids settled, but I already have so many requests for when I come back. And I love what I do.

To be very honest, it all comes down to money. I absolutely adore the creative process of making an album. I love everything about it. I love the writing, the arranging, the production (love, love, love!!). It’s like painting with sound. I love seeing how the songs fill out and the collaboration with other amazing artists. I love seeing what the studio players bring. Okay, I don’t so much love the packaging and design, but I love the people who do it!! But the cost of doing an album professionally is very high. And we have adopted 3 kids in the last two years and been through an open heart surgery with one. It’s the worst possible timing.

I’ve decided to step out in faith in two ways. One, we’re making the album. I feel like God has called us to, and so we will, whatever happens with the money. But two, for the first time ever, I’m going to ask for help. I really don’t want to – it could be embarrassing, it could hurt my feelings, it could look unprofessional. All things I really don’t want. But I realize we are supposed to count on each other. I’m hoping you will want to support our family in this way. And I’ve decided to be humble and open enough to ask.

I launched a Youcaring page to fundraise and am hoping to get half the costs covered – you can find that here. There’s tons of info over there including song lists and descriptions and gifts we want to give to those who support us. I’ll also be updating with the stories behind the songs, and even stuff from China as the fundraiser will be going on while we are in China adopting our two new children, Ethan and Anna. The songs are written, production has started, we just need help getting to the finish line.

Thanks so much for your support!!

Ministry and Family in NY

June 11th, 2017

Rinnah’s graduation!

Waiting for the Hershey Trolley in Hershey, PA!

Singing cows!!

Getting ready to speak at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle in New York

Totally un-posed and one of my favorites on the beach in New York


Ministry at Island Christian Church in New York

Our old church!

At Ellis Island

At the Statue of Liberty

More crazy business over here. Life is moving at light speed right now, we are really focused on the adoptions, but remembering to try to stop and take in what is happening right now.

It was a big month. Our oldest graduated high school, and we are so proud of her! Rinnah graduated with highest honors and got so many scholarships and awards, and we are so proud of her hard work. But far more than that, we are so excited for who she is, her character, and the woman of God that she has grown up to be! She has had a really hard last couple of years with the work load, anxiety, tough things with friends, and also tough things at home with Noah’s heart surgery and adoption, and she has persevered with the Lord and grown so much in her faith! I am so happy for her that she has endured and achieved and grown, and we are thrilled for her future! She’s going to attend Taylor University in the fall intending to double major in art and writing and we think it’s a perfect fit. It’s so fun to see her excited for her future! Love you, Rin.

We had all the hoopla and fun and seemingly endless concerts and ceremonies that accompany May with four kids, and we tried to soak it all in and appreciate it rather than getting caught up in getting to the next thing. And then right after Rinnah’s graduation party, our family headed to New York. I had some ministry events and the kids were out of school, so we decided to take everyone and show Noah some of our old stomping grounds.

We drove out and spent one night in Hershey because Noah loves chocolate. That’s my boy! We didn’t go to Hershey Park because Noah can’t ride coasters with his heart, but we DID ride the free how-chocolate-is-made-complete-with-singing-cows-and-singing-candy-bars ride at the store multiple times. We admit it – our motivation might have been swayed by the free candy bar at the end. And we took him on the trolley tour and that was fun too! Great way to break up the drive.

When we got to New York, one of the churches was letting us use their guest house so we just moved in and crashed. The next morning I was off to Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle to do their spring women’s luncheon. This is a church that has such a heart for outreach! That’s what this event was, and it’s so dear to my heart – we had a wonderful time. I spoke on John 10:10 and “Life Not Typical.” We had a great response and got so many kids sponsored – I love that!

Back in the afternoon, and I headed to the other church, Island Christian, to soundcheck for the services the following morning. Sunday morning I spoke and sang on their services. What a fun thing to watch God coordinate! They were doing a focus that weekend on the value of life, and here we were able to come at it from so many directions! They’d already invited the director of the pregnancy help center to give a short testimony, and then I was able to present God’s heart for children with special needs, orphans, and those in poverty. It was a really wonderful morning, and again we had such a response for Compassion! I love it. And to make it even more special, there is an adoptive family there with 3 daughters from China, all of whom are now lovely young women, and one of them asked to be our helper at the Compassion table, and did such a wonderful job! I had connected with this family as we were planning for Noah’s adoption, so it was so fun to see them again and have them meet Noah!

Monday we went to the beach and walked out to the lighthouse and played in the sand. It was totally freezing for the beach, but it was supposed to rain all week and it was holding off and this was Noah’s #1 request so we went. We actually had a great time in spite of freezing! And we got some good sand castle making in.

Tuesday I did the year end women’s ministry event at Island Christian and spoke on “Life Not Typical.” Again, just absolutely love this church. Mike and Mary, the pastor and his wife, are just some of my favorite people. Loved working with Mary on this and we had a wonderful response!

That night we took the kids into New York and saw Aladdin. This was a huge splurge, but we thought you really can’t go to NY and not see a show. How the heck do they make that carpet fly?! It was a super fun night, and fun to be back in Manhattan for a bit, even though I have PTSD from the traffic.

The next day we took the kids to all our old stomping grounds – our old house, the hospital where Rinnah was born, our old church, the restaurant where I waited tables, the beach we used to hang out on. It was fun just to go back in time a bit.

Thursday morning we headed out and drove to New Jersey and then went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I had no idea you could do this from Jersey (I’ve always gone to Battery Park in Manhattan) but the parking was great so we tried it and it was fascinating in itself! You go through the old train station where they sent people from Ellis Island all over the US to their destinations – so cool. And I love Ellis Island – amazing to think of all the human drama from all over the world playing out there. And for me, especially touching now as I consider that I have family members who are immigrants. Noah is an immigrant. Our new children will be immigrants. This is what our country was built on. We need to remember that that is part of our strength and who we are as a nation. They even had a section in the Ellis museum about adopted children immigrating.

We spent the night in PA and then went to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh to show Noah the dinosaurs – he loved it! Then we spent the night with dear friends, the Baylors, who moved to Pittsburgh last year. So great to see them and hang out! Home the next day. Overall, it was such a fun trip with great family time, and great ministry time!

Spring Ministry

May 17th, 2017

First Presbyterian in Bonita Springs Florida

With my mom and Nancy at the Bonita Bay Women’s Bible Study Luncheon

Bay Presbyterian in Florida

With Kate and Ron at Moody Radio Florida

Teaching at Fulton Creek

Teaching at Women ACT in Tiffin, OH

My view at Women’s Break Away in Wisconsin

The amazing team in Wisconsin at Faith Alliance Church

Teaching at the Autism Luncheon in Chambersburg Pennsylvania

Major Judy introducing me at the Salvation Army Retreat in Missouri

It’s been pretty crazy around here with adoption stuff and a lot of ministry! So, I have really not been good about the blog. Here’s just a quick catch-up of the ministry for historical purposes, and probably not the most riveting read! I’ll write more about the adoptions in a separate post. πŸ™‚

I headed down for a week of events in Florida, and on March 15th I had such a great time doing a full-day retreat for First Presbyterian in Bonita Springs! They are a wonderful church I’ve been to several times, but I’ve never done a retreat there. I spoke on the life of Peter and getting “Out of the Boat!” What a fun day, great response, and wonderful people to work with! Just love their new women’s ministries director!

March 17th I did a women’s luncheon for Bonita Bay Women’s Bible Study. This is a group that’s been going on for years, and they had about 200 people at the luncheon – just a great, community ministry! My dear friend, Nancy Lund, who is like an honorary mom to me is part of this group, and it was so great to see her! The morning was focused on what practical things people can do to help orphans and children in poverty. I talked about our adoptions and about Compassion and it was a great morning, again with great response!

March 18th in the morning I did a little “coffee concert” for Bay Presbyterian in the morning. It was focused on “Life Not Typical,” the title of my book, and also the concept of John 10:10. Jesus has come to give us life and life abundant! This is a smaller church, but they are so lovely. Very warm and hospitable. And since we are in Florida, at one point a large alligator swam behind me in the lake that is directly outside the windows of the sanctuary! You don’t get to say that everyday. πŸ™‚

March 18th in the evening I went back to First Presbyterian Church and led the worship for their contemporary service. I also did special music and a short couple of minutes on the adoptions and God’s desire for us all to live out Micah 6:8 and love on purpose.

March 19th I was also back at First Presbyterian and I did the guest spot and special music on all the morning services, again speaking on Micah 6:8 and singing the song I wrote in Thailand, “To Be Love.” Every time I come here for services, I am so impressed with the staff – they just love the Lord, do great ministry, solid teaching, and the music director who coordinates things for me, Jeff, is just lovely to work with!

Then, March 20th I was on the air on Moody Radio Florida. So fun to be back at the station with Kate and Ron! I sat in on the morning drive time and talked about the new song project and our adoptions.

The following weekend I was back in Ohio at Fulton Creek Friends Church doing a one-day retreat again on Peter titled “Out of the Boat.” They were such a fun group! Very down to earth, and so easy to work with. I just loved being with them, and their response for our Compassion kids was amazing!

April 9th I was the keynote speaker for Women ACT. I’ve been here before, and this is an event that’s been happening for years. I presented “For Such a Time as This” on the book of Esther. I love that teaching, and even had the privilege of leading a young woman to the Lord about 10 minutes before I had to go back up on the platform! Still praying for her. πŸ™‚

April 22nd I was back in Wisconsin to do “Women’s Break Away” in Chilton. It’s a one day event with many breakout sessions and options (and an amazing free coffee bar, you girls go!!) and I was their keynote speaker. I presented “U-Turn: Trusting God When Life Changes Direction.” Frankly, this event blew my mind. I get to meet so many wonderful people, but the ladies who were doing this event were amazing, and by the end of the weekend, they felt like family! So organized with a very large event (about 800), wonderful heart for women, professional, easy to work with, and loved the Lord. We got so many kids sponsored and the response was just incredible! Loved this one.

The next day I was the guest speaker at the worship services for Faith Alliance Church in Chilton – this is the host church for the Women’s Break Away. Since there was overlap with the audiences, I shared different but complementary messages – this one was “When God’s Direction Changes Your Life” basically about being completely open to where God is leading, and that the safest place to be is in God’s will. This church is not large, and for them to put on an event like they did yesterday is absolutely incredible. Then they took a freewill offering for our adoptions which I didn’t realize they were going to do, and totally blessed us beyond anything we expected! I was so amazed – we were teary. Like I said, they felt like family at the end of the week. We were thanking God for this wonderful part of His Church!

April 29-30 was another big weekend of ministry that just blessed me! I was in Pennsylvania that weekend and Saturday I was the keynote speaker for the Mothers of Children with Autism Luncheon. What an incredible ministry, and so needed. There were hundreds of mothers there (which speaks to how needed the ministry is!) and Elyse, the coordinator was incredibly professional and easy to work with, and a mom parenting autism as well. We loved her, and her husband Tim who helped us all weekend. Then Sunday I spoke for all the services on “Life Not Typical,”, John 10:10 and being sold out for the Lord. We also had an incredible response for Compassion here, and that just touches my heart and says so much about a church! What a blessing.

May 5-7 I was in Missouri at the regional Salvation Army women’s retreat. These are pretty fabulous. I did one last year too, and just loved it. I was working with Major Judy who did a fantastic job and made me feel so comfortable! There’s an incredible diversity in the audience at these in so many ways: age, ethnicity, background, income, education, even language (my messages were translated in real time into Spanish as about a quarter of the attenders were Spanish speaking). It’s one of the most diverse audiences I ever speak to, so that is a challenge but also such a beautiful thing to see how God can connect all people from all backgrounds and experiences! I truly loved my time here, and it was at a beautiful camp as well right in the heart of a city, so it was fun to experience God’s beautiful creation too! I spoke on “Living Loved” in three sessions.

Then, on May 13th, I was back at Circleville Baptist in Ohio for their Mother’s Day event. This is also just a lovely church with a real heard for outreach! They open the doors to their community for this one, and had such a wonderful response! I spoke on Eph 2:10 with the title “God’s Masterpiece” and I’ve always loved this verse as it tells us we are loved and valued, AND we have things to do! Let’s go do them! Apparently I forgot my camera here, but that doesn’t reflect my feelings. πŸ™‚

After that I took a couple of weeks off for my daughter’s graduation and all the craziness that comes with four kids in 3 schools in May!!

The miracle of “Quinn!”

March 2nd, 2017

Quinn on the left, Ru on the right – foster sisters, best buddies, and now, with families only a few minutes apart.

The girls riding on the playground together.

The girls singing karaoke together.

The girls passed out on the way home from a special visit to the zoo.

First of all, for background info, you all know we’re in the middle of adopting two more kiddos, who, for the purposes of the blog I’m calling by parts of their Chinese names for now. Ning is an 8 year old boy we’ve been matched with since the fall (read about that here). Ru is a 6 year old girl we just accepted a match with in January (read about that here). We are super excited to get these kiddos home!

Well, shortly after accepting the match with Ru, we learned something very significant about her. We had seen that most of her pictures were taken with another little girl, but we just assumed they were there on the same day to have their files made ready. That was true, but it turned out this wasn’t just another little girl, this was Ru’s foster sister. They’ve lived together for several years, and we were told they were “best friends,” “inseparable,” and “just like peas in a pod!”

Well, when you adopt, one of the first things you realize is that your new child, while gaining a family, is losing everything they’ve ever known. It’s the hardest day of their lives, frankly. They are losing their home, their country, their language, all their relationships, everything. And while we know as adults that it’s for something better, for permanence, for a family who loves them, it’s still devastating. Watching Noah go through grief for his foster family, something so natural, and yet so hard and so undeserved (no child should have to lose everything they know just to have parents – the world is so broken!) was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and from his perspective it was just excruciating. Knowing that Ru has a foster sister that she loves and has grown up with and that she might have to lose her too was just devastating to me.

We were already matched with Ning and Ru, so by law, we couldn’t even consider bringing “Quinn” home – two is the limit for China. So we decided instead to advocate for her and post her on our Facebook page hoping to get her matched. You see, these kids can end up anywhere. She could have gone to Spain or Sweden. She could have ended up in a non-English speaking home, so that even if we could track her, the girls wouldn’t be able to communicate well if they lost their Chinese. Each agency gets a certain amount of time to advocate for a kiddo, and if they don’t find a family in that time, either the file gets pulled and you don’t know what happens to the child, or the file gets sent to another agency who could be placing anywhere in the world, and we would never know. If we could get her placed with our agency, at least we knew she would be in the US somewhere, and we hoped our agency would help us send a message to the new family and hope they would allow the girls to stay in contact.

So we posted the picture of the girls together, and a plea on Facebook on Feb. 16th:

Okay, guys, calling on you to share and like and pray again so we can get this to as many people as we can. The girl on the right is our new daughter we are in process for, Ru. The girl on the left is her best friend in the world and her foster sister, “Quinn.” Quinn needs a family, and she’s only got a couple weeks left with our agency to find one. She’s been described as sunny, happy, and “an absolute riot!” The team who met her said she kept them laughing all day and was such a sweetie. Could you be her family? Could you help us find them?

We asked for shares and we got them! Almost 12,000 people saw the post and I started getting messages. I ended up talking by phone with 4 different families. The first call was from a family who lived fairly near us. They turned out to be too young to qualify to adopt from China, but that got me thinking. Perhaps I wasn’t being bold enough in my prayers just to ask that Quinn be in the US and that we would know who the family was. Why not just ask for exactly what we hoped for? We started praying for a Christian family in Ohio who would be open to a relationship with our family, and that they would be homeschoolers – something I thought would be so helpful because Quinn has some learning needs which will be compounded by changing languages at her age.

The second family asked me a lot of questions, but had never really considered adoption before. They were curious about the whole process, and trying to get their minds around what it meant, but I got off the phone thinking they were probably not going to proceed – it was too sudden. I thought maybe God was preparing their hearts by opening them up to the idea of adoption for the future. It was too bad, because otherwise, they seemed perfect. I talked to another family who had considered adoption for a long time, but didn’t know if they were ready to move forward with an older child. And I talked to a family who had adopted several children and weren’t really in a position to go back at that time, but were broken-hearted at the thought of the girls losing each other, and so they were praying over it. Unbelievably, every one of these families lived not only in Ohio, but in our hometown of Columbus. None of them sounded ready to commit, but at least they made me hopeful that someone would be.

Fast forward just two days. The mother from the second family sent me a brief message saying that they had decided to put Quinn on hold while they prayed. I was surprised, but so excited. They seemed like a perfect family, but I knew they had never even thought about adoption before. Then, the very next day, I got this message:

Well, Jennifer, we’ve decided to move forward to adopt Quinn! I’ve spoken with [the agency] and she is going to be sending us the First Steps application packet. Ummm… wow. We are very excited, our kids are so excited… and we’re stunned at ourselves. Lol!

We ended up meeting for coffee shortly after that so I could give her the low-down on the process of adoption through China. We learned all kinds of things! One, they are strong Christians, and they actually go to a church here where Nathan and I have so many friends and connections! It turns out that we have many, many mutual friends. Two, they are homeschoolers! Three, she has been bringing her kids to the VBS I work on for years, so she actually already knew who we were. And four, they live only about 10 minutes from our house! Just unbelievable!

She told me that when she saw the picture and read Quinn’s story, she just couldn’t get it out of her mind. At first, she thought God has just told her to pray for the situation, but as the day went on, she wondered if it was something more. She brought it up to her husband and kids the next day and they told her to call me. She said they had never considered adoption before, but had been praying for a specific ministry from God for the family, and they just knew this was what they were being called to. Later, her husband told me, “We saw Quinn’s picture and immediately felt such a peace that this was what was meant to be. It was not that we felt called to adoption in general, but that we had been called to this particular little girl.”

Well, I was sitting there with her at coffee, not wanting to be too pushy, but I was thinking (but not saying aloud!), “I hope they are open to playdates and sleepovers, and maybe we could come and meet them at the airport with Ru when they bring Quinn home” and etc, etc, and telling myself not to freak her out. And then she said, “I can’t believe the girls can have playdates and sleepovers and be at each other’s birthday parties! We would love to have you come to the airport!”

So, so fun. Isn’t God good?! Only He could have orchestrated something like that. I’m just praising Him all day long! We are several months ahead of them in the process, but I am so excited that when we go to get Ru, we can tell her that even though she is leaving Quinn for now, she will see her again in just a few short months. We will get to bring Quinn the book of her new family, and she will know not only that she’s being adopted, but that she will see Ru as soon as she gets here. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good! I love that He has placed these little girls in families, and also that He has let them keep each other. Praise God!

Wisconsin!

January 23rd, 2017

Praying over the space on Friday night at soundcheck

Rural Christian Women’s Conference in Wisconsin

Signing books and CD’s at Rural Christian Women’s Conference

Speaking at my friend’s church, Zion Lutheran, in Fairwater, WI

So, this past weekend I was in Wisconsin. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Wow, Jennifer, you live in Columbus, OH. What would be the perfect place to visit in Janaury? How about… Wisconsin!!”

Actually, I had to laugh because I went up there for a huge annual event called the Rural Christian Women’s Conference, and when they called to book me, they were thrilled to find out I was from Columbus, OH. “Oh, Jennifer, it seems like most of our speakers tend to come from the south. If you’re from Columbus, you’ve seen snow! You won’t be afraid to come up here in January!” When they heard I went to college in Michigan, they were completely sold. πŸ™‚

I did book my flight out the day before because I’m no dummy, but we actually had beautiful weather for January in Wisconsin! It was so fun to get back up here too – it’s been a couple of years since I was in this part of the country. I got up there easily and we drove out to Wautoma High School where the event was being held. The women who organize this told me that they all live “way out” in Wisconsin, and they got tired of having to drive all the way to Minneapolis or Milwaukee to go to a Christian event, so they decided to start having their own. They never dreamed it would get so big. They sell out every year at 1000 women, and can’t do more because the high school is the biggest venue in the whole region, and 1000 is the max they can get in the gym. I knew from our first conversations that I would love these women, and I did. They were just down to earth, funny, go-getter women who love Jesus and want to serve the women in their part of the world – love it!

We got in and soundchecked on Friday. Then the event was all day on Saturday. I taught on the life of Peter, 3 sessions on “Out of the Boat” or being bold to be like Peter – not afraid to try and risk failure, but to get out and be sold out for the Lord and see the adventure of living life for God. We had an awesome time!

At the end of the day, literally in the final moments when I was leading closing worship, we had a very scary situation. A woman collapsed and the squad had to be called. You know how it is at the end of an event – every one is sort of rushing out to get in their cars and beat the traffic out of there. Well, we asked them all to sit and wait while we got the squad in there, and I led a time of prayer for her – it was so powerful to see all these women who had lives and schedules and places to be gather together, let all that go, and just pray for this woman. It was a very terrifying situation as it was much more significant than just a fainting spell, but I am happy to report that she did recover, and watching that moment as those women came together, while not the ending I had planned, was a powerful witness to the Big “C” Church.

The next day I was scheduled at a very small church in Fairwater, WI, very close by. A friend of mine used to live here, and when she heard where I would be, she asked if I would go to that church. We were hosted by the loveliest people from the congregation and ended up just feeling like family. The people that we meet – this family, the pastor of the church, the committee at Rural Christian Women, so many more – the people are one of my absolute favorite things about this ministry. It’s seeing the body of Christ in all it’s facets and cultures and backgrounds, and still seeing that one thread of a love for Jesus woven through that we all have in common. It’s a little taste of what heaven will be! You know even though you’ve never met before, somehow, you are still family.

Going home was a lot more like traveling to Wisconsin in January, although ironically it was tornadoes in Atlanta that were holding things up. We lost hours and hours, but did eventually get home at around 3 in the morning. πŸ™‚ It was a great weekend, and I’d happily go back up and be with them anytime, even in January!

Adopting *ahem!* a THIRD time

January 17th, 2017

Meet Ru, our new daughter

Another sweet pic

New pic of Ning we hadn’t seen yet! How cute is he?! This pic is probably a year or two old.

The picture I was sent of Ru sleeping in the van – she’s on the right

A picture of our firecracker doing karaoke!

I’m almost hesitant to post this because we realize people think we’ve jumped off the deep end, but we announced about a month ago (read about that here) that we are in process to adopt a wonderful little eight year old boy we’ll call Ning for now (this is part of his Chinese name, his American name is coming soon!). Well, last week our agency offered us a second match, and we decided to accept that as well. She is a beautiful six year old girl we are calling Ru for short (also part of her Chinese name, American name coming someday when we come up with one – we are terrible at naming people!).

China is one of the only countries that will allow you to adopt two unrelated children at once. We didn’t know if we were going to do that, but we wanted to keep the door open. The process to adopt is so long and annoying and expensive, and we really felt like we could give another child a home, but with our oldest starting college next year and all the difficulties of planning our lives around trips to China and holding months open on my ministry calendar for that, etc, we just didn’t know if we could do the process again anytime soon. So we applied to be allowed to do two at once and were approved. Well, literally the day we found out we were approved, Ru’s file was sent to us and they asked what we thought.

Honestly, my first impression wasn’t super positive. On paper she seemed a perfect match – she was exactly the age we were hoping for (we are aiming for the oldest kids we can adopt because they are harder to place, while still maintaining birth order for our other kids), and her medical needs are not terribly severe which we thought was pretty important if we were going to adopt two at once. But the videos they sent us were sort of devoid of personality – I don’t know how else to say that. There was a short one of her going around in a circle on a play toy, and she was just kind of looking around, and there was no real sense of who she was. I didn’t know if she was just nervous (as the kids often are – who are these white people with cameras!!) or if she was delayed, or what was happening. In Ning’s videos, I got such a sense of him, and we saw him playing and talking and writing and it was just a ton of information in a very short video. Hers were not like that. She said one thing in one video, but it was too soft to hear it. She didn’t interact much, but the videos were so short, I didn’t know if that was her or just the couple of seconds they happened to catch. We weren’t sure what to do. Plus the one thing that was clear from the videos was that she couldn’t breathe well, and would certainly need more surgery for her cleft lip and palate and probably speech therapy as well – this isn’t a problem for us, but just more time and more things to figure out that we don’t have experience with while trying to transition Ning and be fair to him too.

We took this to the Lord in prayer. You’ll hear so many different ways God told people that a child they were looking at was theirs. Some fall in love right away. Some just trust that the file the agency sends is for them. Some make specific requests and assume if the child falls in those parameters it will be a good match. For us, we just prayed. I told the Lord that I hate this part. We want to recognize the child you have for us, Lord. We don’t want to take another family’s child, but if they are meant to be ours, we don’t want to leave them behind. We don’t want to say yes to this child if that means saying no to another you might have had for us. We don’t want to look at needs and say, β€œno, we don’t want to deal with that” rather than looking at the child and saying, β€œwhat does this child need to be safe and loved in this world?” There is so much selfishness in human nature, and I did not want the decision to be about me, but about God and what He wanted and about what was best for this little girl and her future and family.

Well, after prayer, we decided that God meant her to be ours. We really didn’t know what we were getting into. But we both felt like this was a match we were to accept. For us, it really was as simple as β€œwe can do it, and so we should.” She needs a family. We can be that family.

Then a few amazing things happened. God is so fun. First, we found out that while Ning and Ru are not at the same orphanage, they are only a little over an hour apart. They both live in the same province, and since you always pick up a child in the capital of their province, that meant they would both be coming to us in the same city. Probably on the same day. This is intimidating, but it’s also awesome – it means we do not have to add another week to our trip as we thought we might. It also means that we can stay in one hotel – this is so much easier than moving with grieving kids – and that we can still take day trips to their orphanages to see where they grew up, something that is so important to me.

Also, the day we found out we were approved by China for Ru, I happened to see a post from someone I don’t know on Facebook. She mentioned that she was going to an orphanage in China and if anyone wanted pics of their kids from there to let her know. It was Ru’s orphanage! What?! In all of China?! So I looked at the date and it was only posted a week earlier. I quickly messaged her and asked if she was still there. She responded that she had just left and was in Shanghai. I was so sad! I asked if she happened to have met Ru? Did she have any pictures, or could she tell me anything about her at all?

Well, talk about a God moment. She responded immediately with, β€œAhhhh!!! Yes!!!! Love love love her!” She immediately sent me a picture she had on her phone of Ru asleep in a van – she had taken her to the zoo the week before and she’d passed out on the way home. Then she sent me a video of her singing karaoke, and she was hilarious! My little girl who had really no personality in those early videos apparently has quite a big personality after all. In fact, this woman sent me pictures later and Ru was smiling in almost every one. And she said, β€œYour little girl is a FIRECRACKER!” Lol, we hope that’s good! But seriously, God is so amazing! What are the chances of me finding a random stranger who had been with her just days before? And how sweet of God to reassure me and show me more of who this little girl is!

So here we go. I am researching cleft lip and palate now, and feel confident that we have a great team here at Nationwide. This is where Noah goes too, so he was actually kind of psyched that that meant he probably would get more hamburgers in their cafeteria – he always focuses on the most important things, that kid. πŸ™‚ And I am eager to see if this little β€œfirecracker” and Ning, who was described to us as β€œsuper chill, super sweet, and super smart” get along well. Hopefully they will just love each other!

P.S. We know that Ning speaks Mandarin which is what Noah speaks, but we just found out a day after I originally posted this that Ru speaks Cantonese. That was a curveball we didn’t see coming! So please pray for that complication too – we’ve heard there’s a chance either or both of the kids may speak both because of where they are located, so let’s hope!

Ministry and Family Wrap Up of 2016

December 21st, 2016

Noah put the angel on top of his first Christmas tree

One of the Christmas events at Church of the Open Door in PA

One of the worship services at Church of the Open Door in PA

Soundchecking at Broadway Covenant in IL

Finalizing Noah’s US adoption!

Another sort of mish-mash post. I realized I forgot to blog an entire weekend of ministry, and we’ve had some fun stuff with the kiddos too.

First, we started the month really well with an awesome cardiology visit for Noah! As many of you know, he had some pretty serious complications after his open heart surgery, but he’s been steadily improving, and this time they gave him the all-clear for six months! The difference in him is simply amazing since the surgery! When we first met him (you can read about there here), he was very sick. He would turn blue with any kind of exertion, and when we brought him home, he would have to rest holding onto the handrail halfway up our stairs before he could finish climbing the flight to get up to bed. To see him now is to see a miracle! He even did a walk/run event at school and he went 5.5 MILES! It’s truly amazing, and it’s so fun to watch him realize that he doesn’t have those same limits that he’s lived his whole life with anymore. We are so grateful!

We also decorated for Christmas which was a first for Noah. It’s been fun for all of us to explain what Christmas is (and what it isn’t! Shout out, Santa!) and to be reminded ourselves of all those truths. Noah got to put the angel on the top of the tree. My favorite quote from him as we were putting all the decorations up was, β€œHmm, so Americans just put these big socks on the fireplace for Christmas? Okaaayy.” Pretty funny!

I had a great weekend of ministry in Pennsylvania at the Church of the Open Door the first weekend of December. It was great to be with this church – I had done their women’s retreat a couple of years ago, but that was at a camp, so I’d never actually been to their church building. It was so fun to reconnect with some of the ladies from the retreat, and we loved working with Sally the women’s director, and also getting to stay with Lorraine, the women’s retreat director – she and her husband were so lovely to us! The church has done a Christmas outreach event for years for their women, and it’s become so popular that they kept selling out, so this year they had identical events on Friday night and Saturday morning instead. I think it was a great success for them – they were able to get many more people in that way, and while I know they were so tired afterwards, we heard from many women who met the Lord at the events! On Sunday I stayed and did special music on their services as well. I love the heart for people at this church. They really value reaching out and loving on people!

I got home from that event, and then flew out the next day to Chicago and then onto Freeport. I did another Christmas event for the women at Broadway Covenant. This was a little bitter sweet for me. I love the people at Broadway – I was there last spring, and they were just so lovely and warm. But this is where Donna is from (my former assistant who passed away this fall) and we were there together last time. Her best friend, Kim, came to the event, and Donna’s husband, Larry, happened to be in town visiting family and surprised me by coming too! It was so good to see them, but we were all remembering Donna, and it was an emotional evening for me. God is good, and I think the message was really used by Him for the women at the event, and also for Larry and Kim and for me. He is such a comforter.

And also in family news, we have finally completed Noah’s readoption under US law! In our state, they make you wait until the child has been home for 6 months, so we started the process in the late fall. It’s not strictly necessary since the US recognizes our Chinese adoption, but it’s one more layer of protection for Noah, and it also allows him to get a US issued birth certificate. This is just so much easier for his future life, because his birth certificate from China is a four page book in Chinese, and doesn’t look anything like an American birth certificate. If he lost it, he’d have to physically go back to China to try to get a replacement, and I just couldn’t see that birth certificate being the easiest way to get a driver’s license or to register to vote, etc. So now, all we have left is to wait for it to be registered and get that boy a passport, and we are officially done!! And then, as Noah says, β€œYou can do it all again for Long Ning, mom!” He’s so fun. πŸ™‚

Adopting again!

December 9th, 2016
Our new son's agency pictures - his advocacy name is Carter but we still haven't chosen a name

Our new son’s agency pictures – his advocacy name is Carter but we still haven’t chosen a name

A more recent photo

A more recent photo

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus

Part of learning the culture - dumpling making party! Everyone helped!

Part of learning the culture – dumpling making party! Everyone helped!

It’s hard for me to believe that it was just about two years ago now that Nathan and I started talking seriously about adoption. At the beginning of our search, we were really open to going anywhere in the world. We were just praying. The one thing we both felt, though, was that we wanted to adopt older kids who would have difficulty being placed.

At first we were looking for a sibling pair. We felt it would be easier not to be the only child in your family who was adopted or a different ethnicity. We were actually looking for a healthy, older sibling pair in Uganda when I first saw Noah’s posting. That’s a beautiful story that you can read here, but the end of it was that we switched from looking for a healthy, older sibling pair in Africa, and instead adopted a very sick, single boy from Asia.

From the moment we decided to pursue Noah, we both felt he was not going to be the only one. Again, we feel like it would be very hard to be the only adopted kid in your family and we also had already prepared our hearts for more than one child. With Noah’s heart situation and all the unknowns about his health and future, it wasn’t practical to think about adopting two at once. But I knew that if his heart was still operable, we’d be moving forward fairly soon.

There are some real advantages to moving on to another adoption within a year as you can reuse some of your paperwork and update your homestudy rather than doing an entirely new one. So after Noah’s heart surgery, I started looking again on the boards that list waiting children. These are the special needs kids and the older kids – the ones who have a hard time getting placed. One major difference for us this time was that we knew we were going back to China. I thought culture would be a huge issue for us since Noah was older, and I was right! Noah misses his food, his TV shows, his holidays, and we have learned a ton about Chinese culture. I feel very strongly that he should get to keep that – he has had an incredible amount of loss in his life. So I’ve learned to make a lot of Chinese food, we’ve celebrated Chinese holidays, and I’ve learned to navigate a lot of Chinese websites. We can do this with two cultures, but I just didn’t think I could manage to do justice to three. So unless God told us otherwise, we planned to go back to China.

There’s a Facebook page where people advocate for waiting children in China. I am on it and it moves really fast, meaning that if you see a posting, it may be pushed so far down the page an hour later that you can’t really find it again. Some of the kids show up over and over again as their advocates work hard to find them a family, and some appear once and then are gone.

One day I was on Facebook and I saw a posting for a little boy whose agency name was Carter. I really couldn’t believe what a perfect fit he looked like for us. He was two years younger than Noah so he fit in birth order, he likes the same things the boys like, and he was just adorable! I clicked on his video link, praying even as I did so. There’s always that thought: we want the child God wants us to have, but Lord, you will have to help me recognize him! There are so many kids waiting. How will we know which one God means for our family?!

Well, as I was praying that very thing and his video came up, I noticed something immediately. He was wearing a name tag that said “Carter” but it also said his Chinese name. Chinese names have three parts usually, and this boy shared two names with Noah. I could hardly believe it! What are the chances?! It was like God was giving me a confirmation right there. Noah’s Chinese name means “precious dragon” and this boy’s name means “serene dragon” or “peaceful dragon.” His last name was the same as Noah’s first – “precious.” His personality in the video was just amazing – such a perfect fit for our family.

He was waiting because he was older and had had physical delays as a baby. I have no idea why, but his orphanage never did his paperwork, so he didn’t even have a chance to be matched until he was 7, making him an older boy which is one of the hardest matches there is. Well, we fell in love, but he was with another agency. I decided to send an email just in case, but we never thought we’d hear anything. He disappeared from that board in about 10 minutes and I never saw him again.

Fast forward two months. We had not seen any children we felt fit with our family well considering ages and needs, and we had just decided to tell our agency what we were looking for and leave it in God’s hands. If it happened, it happened, and if not, we would wait until we got Rinnah settled in college (she leaves fall of 2017) and then try again. I even said to Nathan, “We should just stay with our agency because of the paperwork. Unless by some miracle we heard about that boy Carter, but I’m sure he’s matched by now.” The next day I got an email. Another family had been matched with Carter, but they had had a family emergency and couldn’t proceed. Carter’s agency had several interested families, but they thought ours was the perfect fit. Were we still interested? We had 24 hours to decide.

My goodness, that was crazy! We made an emergency call to our pediatrician to try to have someone look over his medical report. We asked for one more day, and they gave it to us. We prayed hard and decided that even though the paperwork was going to be overwhelming yet again, this was our boy. We submitted our letter of intent to China for him, and after 4 long weeks, we got the official pre-approval!

So, now we are in process again. We’ve almost completed our home study update, but it was complicated by the fact that Rinnah turned 18 this fall, so she now has to be treated as an adult in our home and get all the background clearances, etc, too (lucky girl!). Our next step will be to apply to the US government for permission to adopt from overseas again. There are many other steps after that, but we hope to keep things moving and be traveling to get him in the summer. Even though his hometown and Noah’s home town are 1200 miles apart, they speak the same dialect which is amazing, and it will be so different to have a built in translator this time in Noah!

We don’t know what American name we will give him. We like Carter, but all our other kids have Biblical names with big meanings so we may need to go another route. With Noah, we gave him his American name and kept his Chinese name as his middle name so he could choose. These kids have lost so much, we didn’t want him to have to lose his name too! Noah chose to go by his American name because he likes it and because he realized no one except our Chinese friends can say his name correctly here. We will give “Carter” an American name too and keep his Chinese name and let him choose.

Everyone is asking if we’ll all go again, and the answer is, we have no idea. πŸ™‚ It depends on what time of year we get permission to travel and how expensive the tickets are, etc. With Noah, it was the most amazing blessing to have us all there to bond, but his province required us to be in country for 3 weeks. We didn’t want to leave our other kids that long, and we wanted them to know their new brother’s culture. “Carter’s” province only requires a 9 day stay (praise God!) which will save us so much money, and makes it possible to think about both bringing the kids and leaving them here. So we don’t know, but we’d love your prayers for wisdom! Noah will almost certainly come, though, because he is longing to see China again (and eat the food!!!!) and because he can translate for us which will help “Carter’s” fear tremendously I would think.

Back when we were in the hospital with Noah, he said to me, “Our van has eight seats, mom, and we only have six people in our family.” And I said, “That’s true, hon.” And he said, “There are so many more kids in China who need families.” Oh, my heart! When we asked Noah what he would tell his new brother when they met, he said, “I will tell him this family is crazy and funny and very good and he shouldn’t be afraid because we are good. And I will tell him the food is good too.” That about sums it up for a boy, I guess!

Number 1 on itunes!

November 13th, 2016
Number One Album on Itunes!!

Number One Album on Itunes!!

The video for my Christmas song, Christmas is Forever, won a bunch of awards

The video for my Christmas song, Christmas is Forever, won a bunch of awards

Leading worship with the team at St. Luke's

Leading worship with the team at St. Luke’s

The funky mid-century modern sanctuary at First Christian

The funky mid-century modern sanctuary at First Christian

Victorian charm at Zaharakos

Victorian charm at Zaharakos

Okay, this is a little hard to see in the picture, but it’s hilarious! Or awesome. Or whatever! Look who beat Drake, Adele, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and R. Kelly to become the #1 album on itunes!! In Gambia, that is. Woot! Who knew my Scripture songs would give Adele a run for her money? And yes, this is for real. My Scripture Memory Songs for Kids and Families album was the number one album on itunes last week in Gambia. πŸ™‚ Pretty much made my day, even though I have no idea what happened there. But on a serious note, how fun is it that my Scripture Memory Songs album would be the number one album in a country that is officially named The Islamic Republic of Gambia? It’s always fun to think about what God might be up to…

Speaking of fun, here’s another fun thing! Tyler Adams who also happens to be my publicist’s son made my Christmas song “Christmas Is Forever” into a new music video and it won a ton of awards! I’m so happy for him! Thanks for doing my song proud, Tyler, it was great fun working with you!

I also have had a few really cool events lately. I went and guest led worship at a church here in Columbus that holds a special place in my heart, St. Luke’s. I’ve done several events for them and just love their heart for the Lord. Their music director, Aaron, was traveling and asked me to take the weekend for him. Had a great time working with their team, and it’s always special to be back with them!

Then this past weekend I went to the mid-century modern Columbus – Columbus, Indiana, that is. It’s a small town, but they are very famous for their architecture, and it was fascinating driving around. The church I was with, First Christian, is reported to be the first architecturally modern church in America. It’s gorgeous! We had a wonderful time with them as well, and I did a concert on Friday night, a women’s retreat called “U-Turn: Trusting God When Life Changes Direction” on Saturday, and then did the worship and special music for their services on Sunday. Their women’s director was fantastic to work with, and I so enjoyed my time with them! And while we were there, we went back to the place I found the last time I was here – a truly classic ice cream shop from the 1890’s called Zaharakos. What a fun town! MY Columbus (OH) still has my loyalty, but I’m happy to visit this one anytime!

Grace Adventures Weekend

October 17th, 2016
Cherri's worship team and me

Cherri’s worship team and me

Teaching the life of Peter

Teaching the life of Peter

Chris on the dunes with Lake Michigan behind her

Chris on the dunes with Lake Michigan behind her

The desert-looking side - those little dots are people walking across it!

The desert-looking side – those little dots are people walking across it!

Last weekend I had the special joy of heading back up to Grace Adventures Camp in Michigan. This is my third time there, and their team is just a joy to work with! To make it even more interesting, I brought Chris Hogan up from Charlotte to help me that weekend. Chris started working as my new ministry assistant earlier in the summer, and we’ve had lots of phone calls and emails, but this was actually the first time I met her in person! So it was super fun to get to know her better.

I spoke on the life of Peter and on getting “Out of the Boat” with our faith. One thing I’ve always loved about being at this particular camp is the atmosphere the camp staff create. They are a wonderful combination of servant leadership, genuine faith, and fun! Cherri Bornman was leading worship with her group, and I worked with them last time. They are wonderful and also super humble and fun and approachable, so I was thrilled to be on the weekend with them again! And, as always, we had wonderful talks with so many women during meals and breaks during the weekend!

Chris and I also headed up to see the dunes, and they were just spectacular. I had seen them from below and I got that they are amazing and huge (think multiple stories high kind of dunes) but I guess I’ve never climbed to the top of them. We did this time and it was like entering another world! To the one side was Lake Michigan, and to the other it was so vast it really looked like the Sahara. You can’t really get a picture that does it justice! People are driving huge dune buggies all over it. It’s just a one-of-a-kind experience.

So happy to be back, and so happy to have the time with Chris!