Category

Adoption

Exchange

By | Adoption, Cleft Lip and Palate

“She’s out of surgery and she’s doing well.  In a few minutes we will wheel her bed past you so you can see her before we get her settled in her room, and then you can come in.”

I was shaking from head to toe.  My little love had been in surgery for 7 hours.  I was ready to hold her, ready to hug her tight.

But I was unsure if I was ready to see her little face.  Completely restored and fixed, but also completely different.

This was the moment I had built up in my mind for months leading up to this surgery.

I heard the elevator open and Brent, Liv and I were standing around the corner, ready to see the little Chinese love of our lives.

They wheeled around the corner and I laid my eyes on the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen.

A small petite nose, small petite lips.

Her face shape was different.  Her eyes were different.

She was changed.

I would love to say that I handled that moment like a champ but I.DID.NOT.

I was a straight up wreck…hot mess express.

I wept and wept as we waited on them to get her settled.

The more sane half of our equation let me have a few moments and then he sweetly, and cautiously asked me, “What’s happening here?  Can you help me define these emotions because there’s a lot of them.  Are you disappointed?  Are you upset?  Are you happy?  What is this?”

Bless his heart at the emotional road map he has to navigate on a regular basis in our household of BIG FEELINGS and ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Liv held me as I wept.  Yeah…the 6 year old held it all down.

Real champ you guys.  I was a real solid champ.

The truth is.  I didn’t know what the emotions were about.  I was feeling all of them, sadness, grief, shock, unspeakable joy, thankfulness, gratitude….all of them, they were all there and all of them were taking the wheel of my heart all at once.

The first thought I had when I saw my sweet E was, “I wonder if she looks like her mama now.”

Which, I mean, you know….bring on the typhoon of emotions that come with that thought.

I was all over the dad-gum map.

The bursting-on-the-scene new felt heavy.  I missed her, the old beauty of her face, wide grin, the wide set eyes.  I grieved them.

In the days since then, I have gazed at every square inch of that new little face.  I have kissed on that crooked grin, with full pouty lips.  I have heard my little one breath through a nose that wasn’t there before.

And I am completely in love all over again.

That new face is a billboard for what God enjoys to do the most…restore.

And as she learns how to use her newly shaped muscles to smile, to frown, to make new goofy faces, I am learning to do the same in my own heart.

I am finding that God has given me new muscles that are needed for this specific fight.  He is teaching me to use the muscles required for this NEW that has landed in our laps, the new beauty that has replaced the old, the previous.  To learn how to use the new equipment I’ve been given to fight for now TWO girls who I have been given to steward.


Exchange.

God is doing a work of exchange in Esther’s life and in the life of our family.

He is slowly exchanging the old for new.

The old no longer has a place in her life.  It doesn’t fit anymore.

The new is coming, and has come, and it is pushing the old out.

That surgery, on the outside, looked like a surgical procedure…straight forward and common.

But it was not that.

Those surgeons were not simply doing their job that day.

It was all a grand, orchestrated event to usher in the new that God had already written in the narrative of Esther’s life.  He was leaning over heaven, so excited to give her the things that she needs, so anxious to see this little bit of restoration be put into place.

“Exchange” is the new name tag placed on this season for our family.

What once was true for our family of three can not be true for the now four of us because God is doing a new work.  It’s time to bend and stretch and make way for that work, not try to fit the old into the new, but to build a wide place for the new to rest and find a home in us.

Old to new is hard.  Old to new feels like loss.  Old to new feels like grief.

New rhythms are hard to hear, hard to learn, hard to get the hang of.

But new rhythms are rhythms of grace…produced by a loving Father who knows exactly what He’s doing.



We so often fear the change of seasons in our life.  We hold on to the same old ways out of sheer terror of not knowing the new rhythms, not knowing what it will be like, feel like, sound like, to head into the new that Jesus is holding out for us.

But friend, trust me when I say, that whatever Jesus hands you is nothing but GOOD.

Old has to hit the road when Jesus hands you something fresh, something brand spanking new, something still in the package, designed just for you.

And stepping into new, it is hard, it is uncomfortable, it feels unknown, it feels like grief, it feels like loss.

But loss always leaves room for life.

Jesus lost it all…so that life was possible for us.

Jump into the newness of what God has for you, for your family, for your future.

Recognize that the God who created with us is in the business of exchange.

Whatever you bring him, your brokenness, your ugly, your anger, your bitterness, your fear, your anxiety…. He will take from you and exchange all of that gross stuff for the goodness that comes from His hand.

Give Him what He’s asking you for, because what He gives in return is so much better.

That is the gospel.

It is the story of an incredible exchange.

His death for our life.

Our death for life in Him.

No better trade in all the universe.


Here’s some Bible to back all this up:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Romans 6:6
Luke 6:36-39

Operation Esther

By | Adoption, Cleft Lip and Palate, Family

 

Esther Cleft 4
Esther Cleft 2
I am sad to see it go, not quite ready to let it go.

That wide-gapped-grin has won my heart.

She is wholly and perfectly beautiful to me in every way.

When I look at her I don’t see her cleft.  I don’t see a girl born with the “wrong face” as she was called as we stood in her orphanage.  I don’t see the thing that changed the trajectory of her life, that set her abandonment into motion.  The thing that caused her mama to lay her down and walk away.

I just don’t see it anymore.

I see her.

I see the one I have battled for, every day since I met her.  I see the one that I’ve held, and rocked, as she kicked and screamed and fought me tooth and nail.  I see the one that doesn’t speak my language yet we seem to totally get each other.

I see the one that has chosen to act against what she’s hard wired to be, chosen to be kind instead of angry, chosen to be generous in place of living in survival mode.  I see a tiny one that is teachable and open to learn.

I see a heart that is desperate to find her place…to find a rhythm where she fits.  Because she does.  She fits with us.

I see a life that is blossoming, and the frequency of that grin is proof.

I see the face that has searched mine, watching for expressions that she can understand, watching my every move and learning each day what it means to be my daughter.

I simply see her.

That wide grin is an ever present reminder that our God is the God of the impossible.  He is the God of lost causes.  The radical restorer of the broken.

Esther Cleft 3
Esther Cleft 1

In 6 days that cleft will be gone.  Closed.  Stitched.  Fixed.

I will send her away as the daughter who’s face I’ve memorized every square inch of and she will come back whole…different…repaired, restored.

In my heart it marks the end of a chapter.  The erasing of evidence of suffering for her.  The closing of her past and the opening of the glorious future that is laid out for her, every day of her life already dictated by her Father.

He has plans, I know it deep down, to use her mouth as a megaphone of His glory to the nations.  He told me so.

That the scars she bears, the story they tell, will simply be a billboard for the scars that He bore on her behalf.

One set of scars declaring to the broken that His scars make all the difference.

What an honor it has been to steward that little cleft.  What a joy it has been to be the family that was chosen as the vehicle to making this girl whole.

6 days from now she will forever be changed.

I will never forget the first day I saw her, how my heart sank deep with grief over what I saw, fear of what that cleft was about to do to our lives, of what it meant.

Now, here I sit, with heart-sinking-grief as we prepare to never see it again.

We are glad.  We are pumped beyond belief.  We are thankful that we have access and the ability to change our spicy one’s life.  We can’t wait to see the beauty that lies on the other side of that operating table.

We are bracing ourselves for that moment, the unveiling of a restored face, a new smile, a new glory.

This surgery will not change my daughter.  It will not buy her more beauty in my eyes.  I will not sigh a sigh of relief because she is “fixed”…as I previously thought I would.

She’ll never been more beautiful to me than she is right now.


Friends.

Let’s take a moment and celebrate our scars.

The places that are evidence of our suffering.  The marks of our pain.  The ever present reminder that we’ve been broken.

The very things we try to cover, try to make less obvious.

Let’s put them out there for the world to see.

Let’s expose them to the light of Jesus and see what He has to say about them.

How can He use our scars?  How can He heal the gaping wounds we now bear and turn those wounds into megaphones for His glory?

If your brokenness has been healed by your Creator, those scars are your very own badges of honor.

They are altars for you to bring people to, telling them of the goodness of God.

Markers of His faithfulness.

Our scars can point to His.

To the scars that changed the trajectory of our lives.  The scars that closed the pain of our past and opened the glorious future He has laid out for us.

He loves us, scars and all.

You will never be more lovely to Jesus than you are today.


SURGERY INFORMATION

Esther will be having her first surgery next Tuesday, October 17th at 6:00 am.

This surgery will be correcting her lip and noes.  Closing the cleft and reshaping her nose.

The surgery is supposed to last around 4 hours.

We will spend one night in the hospital and as long as she eats, poops and pees we will go home the next day.  Pray for poop friends.
To follow along with our surgery head on over to my Instagram @casshamm and follow me.  I will be posting updates as we go through the process.

Rock Paper Scissors

By | Adoption, Family, Quotes, Uncategorized

“It’s night-night time Esther.”  I say to her as I lay her down OVER and OVER and OVER again.

She doesn’t seem to quite grasp that “it’s night-night time” actually means LAY DOWN, CLOSE YOUR EYES AND GO TO SLEEP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

We’re convinced that our little E has selective language knowledge, that when we are telling her something she absolutely does not want to do, she looks at us like “sorry guys…no speak English.”  (Which she doesn’t…but still.  Seems like a cheap excuse to me when I know if I offered her ice cream she’d be full on American to get it, with full knowledge of the webster’s dictionary)

One particular night I laid her down and said, “Night-night Esther, lay down.”

She laid down and popped right up.

She raised her eyebrows in a question and slowly did the sign for “eat”….her face one big question mark. (sign language is our mode of communication right now)

“No mam, lay down.”

She laid down.

Popped up.  Eyebrows up, question mark face, she emphatically did the sign for “drink”.

“No mam, lay down, it’s night-night time.”

Laid down.

Popped up.

Eye brows up, asking a big ole question, she subtly pointed to the door and leaned towards it…as if to say “let’s get out of here, what’cha think”.

Jesus take the wheel and give me grace.

“No ma’am Esther.  Mama is in charge. Lay down.”

She huffed and laid that sweet head down.

Popped up.

Signed “purse”.

You guys…she asked for her dang purse.

I laid my head down on the bed and found the depths of my mercy.

“No purse.  It’s time for night-night.  Lay down right now.”

She was not happy about this.  She slammed herself down.

Popped up.  She’s angry signing now.

“Back-pack?”

“Baby?”

All the signs for all the words she knows.

And over and over again I said NO MA’AM and laid her down.

She laid still for a minute and I felt the rise of victory.  I had won this battle.

Nope.

She popped up.

“Itsy-Bitsy spider”….yes she has a sign for this.

I felt the laughter rising as I watched the amount of desperation in this stall tactic.  I also knew we were coming up on the bottom of her vocabulary if we were grasping for the itsy-bitsy spider straw.

“LAY DOWN.”  I said in my mama voice.

This was it.  I couldn’t think of one more sign that she knew.  I patted her back and a minute passed.

But then…my little chinese-one popped her whole body up and with VERY RAISED EYEBROWS SIGNED THIS NEXT QUESTION:

“Rock-paper-scissors?”

Let me explain.  She literally sat up, held her hand out and hit it with her fist three times, displaying that her choice for this round was paper.

I was astounded.  How on God’s green did she even know what this meant?

Laughter took control of me and I found myself playing a round.  She won.

Rock beat scissors.

Esther beat night-night time.


The bush was burning, a bright, hot red as Moses stood, bare feet on the dirt, undone by what He was seeing.

God’s glory, burning in that bush.  He had shown up and had something major to say to Moses.

He had his full attention.

God lays it all out for him.  He tells Moses He has seen the suffering and affliction of His people, the Israelites, at the hands of Pharaoh.  He has watched them dying under the weight of slavery and He is ready to step in…ready for it to end.

He has planned their rescue.  And He has chosen Moses to lead them to freedom.

“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

And here we see Moses, trembling in his bare-feet, standing before the ACTUAL GLORY OF GOD that is burning but somehow not consuming the bush, try all of his stall tactics.

With raised eyebrows…begging the next questions, he begins his attempts to get out of this assignment that’s just been handed to him.

WHY ME??  I’m not qualified.
Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

I don’t know enough.  I’m not equipped.
Then Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”  (Exodus 3:13)

No one will believe that God could use me.
“Moses objected, “They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’”  (Exodus 4:1)

This is not my calling.  I lack the ability to do what you’re asking me.
“Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.” (Exodus 4:10)

And with one last grand gesturing attempt:

Find someone else.  Surely there’s someone better.
“He said, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!”  (Exodus 4:13)

Man.  We serve a kind God don’t we?

He shows up in our lives OBVIOUSLY, like in a burning bush, showing His undeniable power and gives us the gift of the very task that He has wired us for.

And what do we do?

We come up with a thousand excuses for why we can’t or won’t do it.

Stalling.  Redirecting attention.  Pitching better ideas to God than the one He has just landed on our hearts.

His kindness is shown in His answers to our back-and-forth questioning of HIS design.

He has an answer for our every. single. excuse, fear or justification for not doing what He has clearly called us to.

WHY ME??  I’m not qualified.

“I’ll be with you,” God said.

He is qualified and He is with us.

I don’t know enough.  I’m not equipped.

“God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’”
God continued with Moses: “This is what you’re to say to the Israelites: ‘God, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob sent me to you.’ This has always been my name, and this is how I always will be known.” 

His name is the answer.  It’s all we need to know.  He defines it all.

No one will believe that God could use me.

So God said, “What’s that in your hand?”
“A staff.”
“Throw it on the ground.” He threw it. It became a snake; Moses jumped back—fast!
God said to Moses, “Reach out and grab it by the tail.” He reached out and grabbed it—and he was holding his staff again. “That’s so they will trust that Godappeared to you, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

God
then said, “Put your hand inside your shirt.” He slipped his hand under his shirt, then took it out. His hand had turned leprous, like snow.
He said, “Put your hand back under your shirt.” He did it, then took it back out—as healthy as before.

“So if they don’t trust you and aren’t convinced by the first sign, the second sign should do it.

But if it doesn’t, if even after these two signs they don’t trust you and listen to your message, take some water out of the Nile and pour it out on the dry land; the Nile water that you pour out will turn to blood when it hits the ground.”

It is God who will do things through us that only He could do.  His abilities in place of our inabilities will be what displays His power.

This is not my calling.  I lack the ability to do what you’re asking me.

“God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”

He made the very things He will use in us.  They are His.  He’s with us in every way.

Find someone else.  Surely there’s someone better.

“God got angry with Moses: “Don’t you have a brother, Aaron the Levite? He’s good with words, I know he is. He speaks very well. In fact, at this very moment he’s on his way to meet you. When he sees you he’s going to be glad. You’ll speak to him and tell him what to say. I’ll be right there with you as you speak and with him as he speaks, teaching you step by step. He will speak to the people for you. He’ll act as your mouth, but you’ll decide what comes out of it. Now take this staff in your hand; you’ll use it to do the signs.”

He will provide ever single thing we need to achieve His call on our lives.  He will teach us step by step.  We don’t have to be experts to start.  


Friend.  Are you playing rock paper scissors with God over something He’s clearly asking you to do?

Do you have a ton of other suggestions, trying to redirect the attention away from that very BIG, maybe hard thing that God has landed square in front of your heart?

Do you believe deep down the things that Moses did?
That you are inadequate, ill-equipped, a bumbling idiot, not the right person?

Take a deep breath of relief, because if these things were true, He would not have called you to it.

Is God asking you to close a door?  Walk away from a relationship? End a season?

Has he handed you a risky, larger-than-you task?

Has he called you to love your neighbor?  Start a movement?  Fight for justice?  Lead a family member to Jesus?

You are the one He has hand picked to do this very thing.  He has designed every part of you to be able to carry it, to do it, to have victory in it, to see it to the finish.

When you look at the life of Moses you see one thing:

His obedience DIRECTLY affected the freedom of someone else, a bunch of someone- elses actually.  An entire nation experienced freedom because He took those first
barefoot steps.

Your obedience to the thing that you’re staring at will DIRECTLY affect the lives of others.  That’s how Jesus works.

He calls us to do hard things and then uses those hard things to set others free.

Let’s throw in our towel and our long lists of excuses and just take a step towards the call on our lives.

He made you.  He’s with you.  He’s able.  He’s equipped.  He has the answers.

He has chosen you.

On purpose.

Let Jesus win this one.

 

 

 

 

 

Shut Eye

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

face filter Esther
So…here’s the real, raw scoop:  WE. ARE. TIRED.

Our little E has not slept through the night (with the exception of 4 glorious manna from heaven nights) since returning from China.

Yeah…you did the math right…that’s 4 nights of solid sleep in 3 weeks.

Our little dumpling falls asleep fine…she tricks you into believing she’s a sleeping angel that’s about to snooze straight through until morning.

But then….2 hours later (literally on the dot) she wakes up and begins the nightly ritual of 1 hour of light sleeping at a time.

1 hour and then she’s up….again…over and over and over.

And when she’s up, she’s not happy about it.  She’s angry and defiant and fights going back to sleep at all costs.

Let. Me. Tell. You. Something.  Sleep deprivation is a real struggle.

I don’t know if you have ever walked the road of no sleep…but you think and say things in the middle of the night that you would NEVER admit to saying once the sun comes up.

There is a darkness about the middle of the night that is not just physical…there’s a desperation that exists when you’re beyond yourself from exhaustion, doing everything in your power to get your little love back to sleep.

And let me tell you…we have tried EVERYTHING:

Essential oils:  I have basically baptized her in them every night.
Sound machine:  It is TURNT UP loud.
Rocking
Bouncing
Pacing
Singing
Worshipping
Praying
Pleading

It’s all happening every night of the week at the Hammett household.

As I’ve watched my tiny dumpling struggle, truly struggle, every night something has occurred to me.

There is a level of comfort that is absolutely necessary for true rest.  For that deep, mouth hanging open kind of sleep, you have to feel safe. It is an incredibly vulnerable act to lay down, close your eyes and shut it all down for the night.

And my wee one… she’s just not there yet.

So where does that deep comfort come from?  What causes us to feel safe?

I’m convinced now, more than ever, that true safety and comfort come from knowing who’s in charge.  Who is the boss of me?  At the end of the day, who’s shoulders does all of this rest on?

And that’s a big lesson for QueenE, who for her whole life, has been in charge of it all.  She has taken care of herself…there has been no one to mind her business.  She has lived in a void of care.

She simply was not designed to be in charge of her little life.

Authority and Rest.  They are tethered together.  One affecting the other.

Authority.

We need it.  Desperately.  We don’t think we do, until we don’t have it and we watch our hearts drift and wander, desperate for the steady hand of love communicated through boundaries.

True rest of the soul comes from knowing who your authority is, knowing who’s you are.

I have searched the scriptures and seen that over and over again God shows His people that He is the one in charge; that He created a people that need Him to be.

And how does he choose to do that?

Through provision.

He chooses to prove He is the boss of it all by providing for the very things His people need.

How kind is our God?

He shows His ability to rule by giving us what we need, exactly when we need it.

The Israelites doubted, a ton, who was truly in charge, until God opened the heavens and food came down to fill their desperately hungry bellies. (Exodus 16)

The woman at the well did not know a thing about authority, that is until Jesus walked up, told her EVERYTHING ABOUT HERSELF (clearly He’s in charge) and then offered her living water…the only thing she truly needed to quench that deep thirst she had not found the bottom of.  (John 4)

And nothing shows true authority more than feeding 5,000 when you only have some scraps to start with.  (Matthew 14)

Jesus healed and raised folks from the dead.  Miracles provisional in nature: providing freedom from sickness, breathing life where death reigned.  Every time establishing His authority as King.

So, here’s the equation:

True rest of the soul comes when we know that it all rests on His shoulders, and that He will always and forever give us everything that we need.

That is what brings felt safety for our hearts, what produces the lay down and snooze kind of rest.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone,
O Lord,
make me dwell in safety.”  (Psalm 4:8)

“It is Well” of the soul comes when we finally decide to give it all up, be vulnerable and hand it all to Jesus, admitting that He truly is in charge.

As for The Hammett family….we are in it to win it with QueenE.  She is our daughter and we will show her we’re in charge through the ways we provide for her every need.  And the more she learns that we can be trusted, that good gifts come from our hands into her life, she will learn to rest.

How about you?  Are you missing some good ole’ fashion rest for your heart?  Are you weary from carrying the load and believing that it all depends on you.

Well here’s some good news: it doesn’t depend on you.  It never has.

You have a Heavenly Authority who delights in being in charge.  He can handle your load, and mine, and QueenE’s and every child of His that has breath in their lungs.

Lay down and rest my friend.

He can be trusted.

E sleeping.JPG


For those of you who are curious…here is our new and improved plan for sleep:

We call it Baby Boot Camp.

We have started “sleep training” QueenE to be able to lay down and sleep in complete comfort.

The basic idea is to provide for her needs WHILE showing her boundaries and authority.
So when she wakes up, we sooth and pat her on the back, lay her down OVER AND OVER again, until she falls back to sleep.

No getting her up.  No getting in the bed.  No doing “whatever it takes to make the crying stop”….this is full on tough love.

Authority will produce rest.  `

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permission To Speak Freely?

By | Adoption, Family

Updates from the front lines:

  1.  JET. LAG. AND. A. TODDLER. IS. THE. WORST. THING. THAT. HAS. EVER. HAPPENED. TO. ME.  After traveling 30 hours from China to Louisiana, with zero sleep and tight flight connections, our newest dumpling did not go to sleep until 5 AM THE NEXT morning, thus beginning the longest week of our lives.  Sleep deprivation is a beast you guys.  Shout out to all you mamas of newborns.  I get it now.  All the world was ending, I was dying, I couldn’t do it, my child was broken, I would never survive.
  2. I forgot what it’s like to pee with someone in my grill, looking in the potty, messing with the toilet paper….etc.  I tried locking her out but that felt weird…so we’re just having a blast co-pottying.  It’s truly a blast.  Privacy?  What is that?
  3. My two girls have a new obsession with my rear end.  I get slapped in the butt at least a thousand times a day.  It’s like the only language they can both understand, and so they have bonded over it.  I will declare that this is not dignifying nor does it make me feel sexy.  The other day I raised my voice and said, “OK!!  NO MORE TOUCHING MAMA’S BOOTY.  NO MORE…. ALL DONE.” as I used sign language to tell my Chinese speaking daughter.
  4. When we first met QueenE we fed her, dressed her, changed her diapers…babied the mess out of her, only to find out that she can fully feed herself, and FAST, can dress herself and apparently knows how to use the potty by herself (she has watched me do it about a thousand times…learning on the job).  Bless her heart.  She was probably thinking, “well these weird white people seem to like to do these things for me so I guess I’ll let em.”  She is FAR MORE CAPABLE than we were giving her credit for.  (I’m pretty sure she tied a knot in a rope the other day…but we’re calling that a fluke because if not I’m terrified)
  5. Esther is WILD….like loves-to-be-naked-and-run-and-scream kind of wild.  My kind of girl.
  6. Toddlers are a whole-notha-breed my friends.  That’s all I have to say…it’s an unspoken prayer request if you know what I mean.
  7. Esther has a cleft lip and palate (duh)….this was never more evident to me than when she sneezed and rice came out of her nose (?) maybe mouth (?)….and people…she was not eating rice.  So there’s that.  Where had that rice been?  And for how long?  We don’t know.

Just some highlights to brighten your day.


 

Esther Sad
Adjustment, transition, this is where we are.  We are in the weeds of it.

Our brave little one has been alive for almost 1000 days and has had a family for only 25 of those days.  She is in a new world, with a new language and people who do not look like her, and all of those people are constantly doting on her, talking to her, loving on her, giving her gifts and food….all things that are an absolute shock to her sweet little system.

She is a rockstar and has truly championed this new life of hers.  We could not be prouder.

But, permission to speak freely, this stuff is HARD my friends.

It’s easy to post all of the good moments…all of the funny videos and amazingly sweet things that are happening in our little family.  Don’t get me wrong, those things ARE happening.  We laugh a lot, we marvel at how amazing our E is and what her presence is doing in our family, reshaping us in the best way possible.

But the transition from once orphaned to now adored, securely placed, named, known…. it’s not an easy path for little QueenE and it’s not easy on us as a family.

We are blazing a brand new trail in her little life, and we have the scars and weary hearts to prove it.

Watching my little E reminds me so much of the Israelites in the Bible, God’s chosen people.  I can see so much of their story in her little life.

They had been in slavery for over 400 years.  Generation after generation was born into slavery, lived it out and died still a slave.  Controlled, owned, outcasts, not valued for who they were, only what they could produce.

400 years…that’s a long time huh?

YES.  It’s all they knew.

Slavery was their NORMAL.

Whole generations had passed in this one way of living.  They had adapted, shifted their expectations…a survival of the fittest response.  This was life and they were going to endure it, they had to.

So, you can imagine the confusion and probably hesitation when someone (Moses) shows up and announces that they are FREE…and that they are LEAVING Egypt headed for the Promised Land, headed for freedom.

Freedom.  What was that?

It’s not that they didn’t want it, they didn’t know what it was, so how could they want it.

But they followed him, I’m sure looking at each other and shrugging shoulders the whole time.

Excited?  Sure!  Freedom was feeling better and better with each step.

UNTIL…. they got hungry…and then freedom didn’t feel so free anymore.

It felt foreign and unpredictable.  Could they trust it?

“The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”  Exodus 16:1-3 (MSG)

The promise of the coming Promised Land wasn’t enough to keep them from looking back over their shoulder at what they were leaving.  Yes, they were slaves and lived oppressed lives, BUT they knew that life.  They were comfortable there.  They could predict that at least food would come.

They may have been living in hell, but they knew all the street names.  It was familiar.

Hunger.  Panic.  Knee-jerk to the old ways because the new ways were just that…new.

Living in freedom was uncharted territory.

And this my friends, THIS is where we are.

Our little one has found the Promised Land of a family…she’s been basking in it for almost a month.  It is full and glorious and has everything she could ever need.

BUT….it’s new, uncharted, foreign.

So, when hunger strikes, or thirst, or grief or panic….

Knee-jerk to the old.  Panicked glances over her shoulder at the former ways, the ways she used to coped, what she had to do to get what she wanted.

Survival of the fittest was the story of her life.

Can this new thing be trusted?

She’s not sure of that.

Only time will heal the memories of her past.  Only the love of Jesus, constantly, without ceasing, will erase the knee-jerk reaction to run back.

And do you know what’s so beautiful?  So challenging?

What was God’s reaction to His children, as they grumbled and complained and longed for the good old days?

Provision.

Miraculous provision.

This is how He won their hearts.  He didn’t quit.  He didn’t roll His eyes and leave them to figure out this new thing for themselves.

He pressed in and gave them the very thing they believed He wouldn’t give them.

Manna.  Water.  Shade.  Light.

A little jaunt through dry ground in the middle of the dad-gum sea.

And that is what we, as a family, are asking Jesus for the ability to do.

When she pushes against us…to give her the very thing she needs.

When she kicks and screams, to wrap her up and provide the stuff that only a family can provide.

When she goes limp in grief, to sit with her, showing her that she, indeed, is in her Promised Land.

She is safe and she is free.

And there will be a day that her new found freedom will feel…well…TRULY FREE.

Party for One

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

“So he told them this parable:  ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”    Luke 15:1-7

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Mo airport

There’s a thing that happens when you truly follow Jesus…I mean when you actually choose Him, choose His ways and His heart and His word, you look up one day and find yourself smack dab in the middle of something that looks SO MUCH LIKE HIM.

It’s not you.  You’re not the super hero.

All you’ve done is choose Him…and sometimes you have failed at even that.  But the daily choosing of Him begins to change your desires, your decisions, your actions, your dreams and your hopes.

When Jesus moves into the neighborhood and takes residence in His heart…He does much more than transform YOUR heart and YOUR circumstances.  He begins to shape and mold, push and prod you into the direction of the broken.

A hunger for Him translates into a hunger for people.  It’s just natural.  It is the equation.

Our freedom directly translates into someone else’s….that’s the way God’s love, through His Son, works.

I am humbled beyond belief that Jesus chose our family to model Himself.

As we carried our lost little one on our shoulders right into the fold of our tribe, celebrating and cheering, I realized that Jesus is actually real, that He had in fact called us to leave the many to find the one.  And as we heard the cheers of our people, His word came to life before us.  We saw that His Spirit will work out His character in our lives if we let Him.

The Hammett’s are not special.  We are not more called than the next person.  We are weak, tired, broken individuals.  We mess up, we fail each other and we struggle.

But we have become addicted to saying YES to Jesus.  We have seen that saying YES to Him overrides our weakness and gives us the ability to be a part of things we have not earned the right to be present for.  We have learned the rhythm of risk that comes with being like Him.  We are pleased to be His vessels…cracked and imperfect.

We have learned that the best way to truly understand the character and nature of God is to do something He would do, the way to actually wrap our hearts around the truths of scripture…is TO DO THE THINGS WE READ.

Don’t be fooled that the 99 righteous ones are where you need to set up shop, where you need to spend your days.

Leave the 99 and chase after the one.

Bring that one back on your shoulders, carrying them the whole way…fighting for their right to be in the fold of the greatest Shephard.  You will be tired, bruised and battered because of the fight you had to fight to get them back….but this is the tired you were created for.

Gather all your people, your tribe, and celebrate as you return back.

Teach others to celebrate that one.  Teach them to risk it all for the one that’s gone astray.

This is Jesus.

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Shout out to our tribe:

There is one thing that has changed me forever, and that is the people that God so graciously has surrounded us with.  We have people who champion our family in ways that give so much life and hope.  We have mamas (Jeannie and Vallie) that are warriors for our daughters, who cook and clean and sit up all night with us as we cry and our new one screams.  We have sisters who bring gifts and start meal trains and learn how to make our daughter’s favorite orphanage dish for comfort.  We have friends who bring gifts, come and sit and give us conversation and laughter and who have made a point to give BOTH of our littles the love and affection they need!

Our friends look like the face of Jesus to us.  We have felt the shade of His mercy standing shoulder to shoulder with them.

Want to know what the body of Jesus looks like?  Come spend some time with our people.

Already Good

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

We pulled up and I could feel my heart begin to race.  My stomach tightened as I saw the large gates of her orphanage open.

I was mostly worried about our little one.  How was she going to react to the environment she had left just a few days before returning?  Would she want to stay?  Would she be scared to leave?

We knew it could be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but we, as Esther’s parents, needed to see it.  We needed to feel the gravity of loss that she had experienced in her short life.  We needed more information in order to fight for her from the proper stance…armed with knowledge…no matter how painful.  So we went.  We made the two hour trip to the city she was found in, and now here we were, standing in front of the place that housed my wide eyed beauty for her entire life.

We introduced ourself to the orphanage assistant director, who’s voice we recognized as the “man on the other side of the camera” in the videos of our little.  I had only watched those videos one bajillion times…so when he spoke I knew it was him.

He led us into the orphanage and we began our tour.  I could have never known what my eyes would see and my heart would behold.  I was not prepared.

It was hot inside, like the kind of hot that feels like there’s a wet rag over your mouth and you’re breathing through it…sort of like living in Louisiana with just a ton more humidity.  We were drenched before we even headed up the steps to the first floor.

I could physically feel my wee one tensing up in my arms and could feel the change in her breathing…as her breaths got shorter and shorter her face shifted to sheer worry.  She began to fret under her breath.

We were shown to the first room, her “classroom”, where a teacher, nannies and her “class” waited to see her.

Y’all…. our girl was the OBVIOUS FAVORITE of this place.  Every child ran out yelling her name and laughing…the nannies called her name and giggled as they did it.  These were her people…..and she had lived here 3 days before this day.  It is all she knew.

I sat her down inside the classroom…she looked at the kids and the nannies and then back at me and she lost it.  She started crying and screaming with her hands held up to me.  My heart lept and let out a huge hallelujah at the sight of my little one wanting no one but me.

I know that sounds selfish…but the truth is I needed it and so did she.  There needed to be a moment where I clicked in her heart as her safe place.  And at that moment it happened.  I swept her back up and walked her into the hall to calm her down.

From that point on, no one could come near my zesty one.  She would scream and swing her arms at the site of anyone walking in her direction.

It was unbelievably beautiful and made me so proud.

Next, we were led into the the room where Esther slept, the “crib room”.  As I walked in, I was side swiped by grief.  They led us to her sleeping spot…and when I saw it I broke.  It was a wooden bed with wooden slats…that’s it.  No mattress, no pillow, no cushion.  Wooden, hard and cold.

She took one look at that bed and began crying.

I held her beside it and we both wept.  It was such an honor to grieve with her.

I whispered “I’m sorry” into her ear over and over again.  Because the truth is, I was sorry.  I was sorry that she had been here for 2 1/2 years.  I was sorry for what my heart was seeing as her reality.

Room after room after room, filled with kids, doors barricaded, laying on the concrete floor staring at the ceiling.

460 kids.

460.

My one was one of 460.

The scope of the brokenness threatened to overwhelm my already fragile soul.

As we wandered through the massive building, we were instructed to simply step over the kids that laid in the hall, disabled and unable to move on their own.  Step over them.  How?  How could this be real?

We passed a room and I could hear a swell of baby cries coming from behind the door.  So I opened the door and went in.  It was clear that this was not part of the tour, they had not offered to show us what was behind door number one…but I didn’t care.  I was drawn like a magnet towards that room…my heart searching for knowledge of my now-clinging-to-me darling.  She was there as a baby, brought to the orphanage at 2 months old.  I needed to see her beginnings, where she spent her days as an infant.

I pushed open the door.  I could feel my heart in my throat, threatening to jump right out of my chest.  Multiple babies per bed, laid short ways so that they could fit.  As we walked through the rows of beds, tears streaming down both our faces, I noticed that the babies heads were all shaped like my Esther’s, and then I saw the cause of it: the bars.  Their sweet heads were shoved through the bars.  I broke.

It was all too much.  I felt an overwhelming urgency to get her out of that place.

We headed out of the orphanage and I was quietly begging for it to stop, for it to be over…this is my stop…can I get off here? I was thankful that we were headed toward the exit.

“When Yue Yue came the journalists all came out to see her.  She is famous,” the assistant director said flippantly, shaking me out of my panic.  This was why everyone knew her.

Our guide translated to us what he said.  We wanted to know more.  What did he mean?  Why did journalists come out to see her?

Our guide asked questions and they talked back and forth for a few minutes.

“When she was dropped off, journalists and news stations came out to tell her story.  They came and took her picture and told her story as a way of telling the whole city not to do this…not to abandon their babies.  She was used to teach a lesson.”

I felt my heart swell with pride and the reality of HOW MUCH LIKE JESUS that was…that in the midst of absolute, overwhelming oppression our little one’s brokenness had already begun being redeemed.

Good had already come from her devastating loss.  

Jesus had already done a work through her, in the state that He had found her.  Broken, abandoned, orphaned and an outcast of society, but in His Kingdom she was already important, she had already served a purpose.

I looked at her and knew that this little life, just like her sister’s, was a massive gift that I had been given to steward.  

And as we left I felt that all that I had seen that day…it had a place.  I could place it at the feet of Jesus and worship Him in the grief, knowing that even before I wrapped her in my arms, she was the apple of His eye.  His goodness had already been present in her life.

Man am I thankful for a God that begins the redemptive work in our lives before we have our act together, who sees the earth shattering potential of even our hardest places.  I am thankful that He found me smack dab in the middle of my hard place and chose, in that state, to use me.

If you don’t know Jesus, friend, I encourage you to seek Him.  If your heart hasn’t tasted and seen that He is too good for words…find Him as quickly as you can.  He’s not far…he’s leaning into your life, fingerprints all over it already.

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

I can imagine her mama, leaning over her tiniest little one as she said her goodbyes.

Her mama was wise to leave her where she did, I knew that when we rounded the corner and our guide pointed to the gazebo covered bench where my little one’s life shifted forever from a daughter to an orphan.

Next to a school, in the middle of a busy apartment complex.

She was left at 3:00 pm, right when school let out.

Her mama knew what she was doing.  There was a plan, one that put her precious one in line with someone who would make sure she was safe.

I could feel the sacredness of this spot as I walked up to it, my heart racing and breaking simultaneously.  Her “finding place” they called it.  This is where it happened, where my daughter was laid at 2 days old.  Where she was passed from her mama, to an orphanage to me.  The domino effect began right where I was standing.

This spot is where Esther experienced the greatest loss of her life, creating the greatest gap for a miracle.

I turned around to see my little one, toddling behind me, and the widest grin spread across her face.  I scooped her up into my arms and we stood in the very spot, her and I, mama and daughter.

Redemption washed over that bench as I declared the promises of God into her ear and whispered the name of Jesus over her.  I could feel a release in my heart, a peace that told me she was indeed mine, and that her past would have no hold on her.  I felt permission to joyfully hold her in this spot…amidst the tension of the suffering.

Jesus was there and He was greater than the pain that took place on that bench.

 

 

There is something extraordinary about being a “found one”.

Being found requires an action.  It is a choice by someone to scoop up and deliver to safety.

To deliver out of darkness and into light, take you from who you were to who you were made to be.

Jesus has found you, friend.  You are a found one.

Your “finding place” has no hold on you anymore.  That spot where it all fell apart, the place that is marked with pain and shame; the brokenness that happened there has been washed in the mercy and grace of God, your Father.

You can return to that spot and you can dance over it.  He has redeemed it.

You can spread out a wide goofy grin as it registers that that spot no longer defines you; that sin, that addiction, that heartache, that abandonment, that brokenness, it is not the end of your story.

It is simply where you were found.

Follow our families adventure in China on insatagram : @casshamm and @brenthammett

GOTCHA

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

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5 years ago today.

We walked into the orphanage, in the middle of the Congo, and just like that, in what felt like the blink of an eye, they were handing her to me.  All the days and months of waiting felt short, like a flash.

Her eyes were wide as she gazed at mine for the first time.

She clinched my arm and laid her head down on my chest.  Not in a “I fully trust you” kind of way, not even in a “I know who you are” kind of way…how could she have known…she had never seen a white person, much less a crazy one with a mohawk that was smooching her face over and over again.  It was all a little much.

I took her, weeping and kissing and laughing…I’m telling you…all the emotions.  I laid her down in my lap, counted her fingers and toes, you know, just a check.  I was in awe of her and I’m not sure she knew what to think of me.

I replay the scene over and over in my head on a regular basis.  It is so sacred to me.  That moment, frozen in time, protected by my heart, always there when I want to relive it.

It is sacred.  It is weird.  It is beautiful and it is painful.  That moment is the sum of all feelings and emotions shoved into the span of about 5 minutes.

I rounded the corner, locked eyes with her, she came into my arms and the rest is history.

But I am so often struck by what REALLY happened at that moment.

What we could see if we had eyes to see.

What really happened in that one sweeping hand off, from one life to a brand new one:

Darkness lost!

The enemy lost his grip on my little one.  The plans He had for her demise…well he had to lay those plans at the feet of Jesus.

Old to new.  Death to life.  Darkness to light.

Hungry to filled.  Lonely to surrounded.  Abandoned to found.

Gotcha.


It makes more sense when you look at it in this light, that this moment isn’t just a baby getting a family or a family getting a baby.

Death gives way to life in this moment.  Eternity shifting for one heart, the tug of war ending for the right to this child’s life.

The weeks leading up to that moment were, and are, as we approach QueenE’s hand-off, some of the hardest, most hell-fighting weeks of my life.

The Lord has kindly put these words to these past few weeks:

THIS IS THE FINAL PUSH OF LABOR.

Babies do not come into this world without pain, without effort, without pushing and fighting.  Mamas are warriors as they grip tight the hands of their loved ones and make that final push…the one that brings their wee one into the light of day.

The one that brings life right out into the open.

PUSHING.

That’s what this feels like.  As I sit, 6 days from watching another rebirth moment happen for my QueenE, I feel the tug of war intensifying.  I feel the enemy coming in from all sides with distraction, discouragement, financial “surprises”, health concerns…you name it, we are walking through it.

6 more days until that leap in my heart, when they round the corner and there she is, all that I’ve dreamed she would be.

6 more days until I feel the warmth of her skin on mine for the first time.

6 more days until the enemy has to tuck his tail and run…because it is not His day…not anymore for this little one.  He has lost.

And I will breath in deep, and exhale out as my heart exclaims, “Gotcha.”

You are mine.  We are yours.

And what I know now, because of watching my Nima be raised from the dead, is that what happens on the other side of that miracle hand-off, is something I will never get over.


I’ve been thinking.  Is this how our heavenly Father feels?

The days, weeks and years that lead up to our surrender, to that moment where we look to Him and say “I can’t do this anymore”, and that eternity shaking pass off happens; when we go from dead to alive, from old to new, are those days heart wrenching days?

I have to believe that God’s Papa-heart aches strongly for His kids that haven’t found His arms yet.

He knows what happens on the other side of that pass off.  The moment we look over our shoulder as we walk away from all we’ve ever known into the glorious unknown of what He has for us… His heart must leap with knowing just how good it’s about to get.

And this doesn’t just happen once.  Because our hearts are prone to wander…and sin is so sneaky and attractive…we experience His GOTCHA moment when we allow every part of us to be redeemed with each passing 24 hours.

Ours is a constant saving, a constant redeeming, a never ending deep calling until deep.  Securely in His grips, saved by His mercy, but so prone to run away.

Gotcha.  Again.

Gotcha…even more this time.

He has got us.  Always has and always will.


Friend reading this,  I don’t know where I find you today.

But I pray that if you don’t know Jesus….like REALLY KNOW HIM…that you would find Him today.

He is leaning over heaven, aching to have your whole heart…and if you look at your life you can probably see his thumbprint all over it…as He’s been moving heaven and earth to get your attention.

Maybe you know Him, or you’ve known Him forever…and you’ve forgotten Him, forgotten what it feels like to be swept up by His Father hands and carried out of the mess you’re in into all the best that He has for you.

Maybe you’re hungry, starving really; lonely, isolated, cut off, abandoned.

Wherever you find yourself today, know that He is aching to have YOUR WHOLE HEART.

He has already conquered the death that is in you.

Simply lift your head, raise your hands and surrender.  Stop fighting, stop fretting, stop trying to forge on ahead, an orphan heart with no place to call home, because that is not who you are.

He’s GOTCHA.


“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”  1 John 3:1

Naughty & Brave

By | Adoption, Family, Uncategorized

So friends, I have the honor AGAIN of having a guest on my blog today!

These guests this month have been so encouraging and challenging but they have also drawn attention to the fact that I am a social media stalker….it is a problem…

My Insta-friend Katelyn will be answering some questions today on the blog about parenting, adoption and loving a kiddo from a hard place!

I stumbled on Katelyn’s instagram in the middle of the night one night as I was wide awake scrolling through the #chinaadoption hashtag.  Before choosing to adopt from China, this became a habit of mine….my heart was being pulled to China but I had so many fears about the special needs adoption route.  I would scroll through picture after picture, almost looking for something that would settle my heart down and show me that I could do it!  That I could parent a special need child!  That China wasn’t too big and scary for me!

And Katelyn’s feed DID JUST THAT.

A.  SHE’S GORGEOUS….like mama-model kind of pretty!  Awesome style and an amazing sense of humor.  I, of course, decided immediately that we would, in fact, be besties.

B.  HER DAUGHTER, WILLA, IS STOP-YOU-IN-YOUR-TRACKS GORGEOUS.  The hubby was instantly obsessed with little Willa, and you will be too!

C.  Katelyn was honest in her posts.  Honest about adoption and Willa’s special need, honest about the agony of the wait, the nerves about travel…the whole of it.

There wasn’t this puppies-and-rainbows feel to her instagram… I felt like she was giving me the real picture….or at least what can be shown on Insta….which I am well aware is a sliver of reality.

And there’s a truth we are going to pull from her interview today that I believe is so rich and so essential for our hearts, no matter if we’re mamas or not.

So, friends, meet my friend Katelyn Fuson.  (@katelynfuson over on the ole’ Instagram)

Katelyn, tell us a little about you and your hubby’s journey into adoption.

My husband (Chad) and I decided to adopt in December 2013 after seeing a video for a non- profit orphan advocacy group during the intermission of a Christmas concert at the Ryman in Nashville. The non-profit was Show Hope started by Christian musician, Stephen Curtis Chapman and his family.We’d been married for about 3.5 years at his point and were not having success with starting a family biologically. Earlier that year, we had started down the medical route, but decided in late Fall to take a pause before considering IVF in 2014.

It was during that pause that God began to speak.

He spoke directly to each of our hearts as we watched the short video that December night, though neither of us mentioned anything about it until two days later.

On the Sunday following concert, we found ourselves listening to a sermon that “just so happened” to be on James 1:27. God wasn’t just going to “call us,” I think He decided to dazzle us a bit with His Goodness.

Still not really knowing if the other was thinking any of the same thoughts, we went to lunch just like every other Sunday. Over that meal, we spoke our thoughts to each other. We were suprisingly on the same page. And just before I had to leave to head to work, I asked Chad where he thought our child might be. He mentioned the video and said he assumed she was in China.

That statement must have been Kingdom’s cue, because, like clock work, a family we’d never met was seated directly beside our table. I looked over and noticed two black- haired beauties with their light-haired family. I looked more intensely. They were Asian. Of course they were, right? And then one-last glance unveiled an “only-God” moment like I’d never experienced before. They weren’t “a” family with adopted girls from China, they were “the” family… the Chapman family… the exact family from the video two nights before. I could barely breathe.

I had to leave.


Oh man, how amazing.  One of the coolest things to experience is God speaking to you, by any means necessary, on behalf of the broken in our world.  The fact that he “dazzles” us with His goodness and speaks to us in so many unique ways…paying special attention to detail…is amazing in itself.  But it’s a whole other ball game when He is calling hearts to fight for justice,  He will stop at nothing to get our attention, because He knows our obedience will equal a rescued life for the one He’s calling us to. SO GOOD…that will preach my friend.

So, fast forward to the day that you met Willa.  Tell us a little bit about her and about that day.

“Naughty and Brave.” Those were the words given to described Yang Ling Xia on her orphanage file the morning she became our daughter. We laughed and worried a bit, so unbelievably-nervous about becoming parents.  We definitely needed a little humor. “Naughty and brave,” I read those words over and over. Honestly, I was a bit relieved. She sounded more like a Fuson than I was ever expecting.

She sounded fun… and fierce… but also what was I getting myself into?!?

Now, knowing our Willa James Fuson, those descriptive words are humorously accurate, though I prefer  “wild” to “naughty.” Sure, her antics get her into trouble every few minutes or so, but our Willa’s spirit brings undeniable light into every room, to every face. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if it’s checking out at the grocery store, Willa is making friends, including everyone, and exerting all of her opinions along the way.

She is incredible. I can’t believe I get to be her mother/I hope I survive being her mama.

Naughty (Wild) and Brave can be a world-shaking combination in the hands of Jesus!  It takes a little wild and a whole lotta brave to chase after Jesus.  

Willa’s special need was a cleft lip.  Can you tell us what it was like to process that special need?

Finding out about and processing Willa’s special need was like cutting an onion in half.

There was no slowly peeling back the layers… there I was… open… exposed,  and putrid. In the days after first viewing her file and seeing her photos, I felt like a truly crazy person. In moments, I was confident, excited, full of love and thankful for the amazing gift of this child.

Other moments, I was terrified, nauseous and completely unsure I was the right fit to walk with her down this road.

“She needs a mom who already has other kids and knows what they’re doing,” I would tell myself. “Most people wanting to adopt wouldn’t have any hesitation to adopt a baby that beautiful. I am scared. What’s wrong with me?”

For 8.5 days, I wrestled with God.

Chad and I were road tripping through Southern Utah for the majority of those long days. I remember looking up at the breathtaking mountains in awe of God’s design. “How Great Thou Art” continually played through my head, eventually resonating into my very soul.

I prayed… begged… for God to “just tell me” what to do. I was surrendered in a way I’d never experienced. Several days into the “decision” I had no agenda of my own remaining. All I wanted was an answer, I wanted peace.   A yes or a no.

A week went by and I realized my YES from God, the peace, wasn’t going to come… neither was a NO.  God spoke to my weary heart and told me we were going to have to make this decision “inside of the fear”, not on the other side of it.  We would simply have to trust. Once I realized my “answer” from God wasn’t coming, it’s like I knew.

After all, we’d spent years watching God open doors in our adoption process. It didn’t make sense He was leading us into failure now.

So we made our decision.

This was our daughter.

We were not cleft and cranio-facial experts of any kind. But we were the ones God had chosen for this precious girl. With her huge brown eyes, thick hair, open gum line, protruding teeth, all of it,  we were part of His plan for her life. Our decision was made, and instantaneously, there it was, the peace I’d been praying for. That was the beginning of me realizing how God would use the adoption process not only to unite parents and a child, but to work in my soul like never before, to build a trust in Him I would so-desperately need.

My heart resonates so much with you on this.  Esther’s special need rocked me to my core, like you said, BAM there I was open and exposed…and what was showing were some gross beliefs and fears…it was not pretty.  I love the way that God causes all of the things that don’t reflect His heart to come to the surface for us to deal with.

 So often we are praying for “peace”…for God to split the heavens and write on stone YES or NO.  We are so not into the tension of a decision.  We want to know the answer, but not only that, we want to see the full picture…to the end…with a guarantee that it will all work out.  I know, in my own life, there are times that the Lord so gently (sometimes not so gently) reminds me that I need to stop seeking the answer and REMEMBER TO SEEK HIM.  

And Jesus’s answers are never what ours would be.  He’s just not like us….duh.

Ok, so let’s talk China.  What was the transition to becoming Willa’s mama like?

People told me our time in country would later seem like a blur. They said just to get through it, show her as much love as possible, survive, and get home. All of that advice went in one ear and out the other for me. I’d waited so long to be a mom, I was ready to DO THIS. I was ready to love her like crazy and surely have her love me in return. 

REALITY CHECK.

Willa screamed the moment she was handed to me. I kept my cool because so many people were watching around us. I somehow felt calm even amidst her screams. I realized she was scared, and I felt compassion for her in that moment.

The hardest parts of our time in China would come later. 

About 24 hours into our time together, Willa went from a wide-eyed, mostly-smiley little girl to possessive and scared. I realize now she was simply trying to find a bit of control in a world that was completely unfamiliar, but at the time, her choice to withdraw from me completely was heart breaking.

Especially since the one thing she clung to for life was her daddy. 

How could she choose him?? I was the one who was trying to hard. I was her mother!
But the harder I tried, the more she withdrew.

I wrote an email to our home study social worker back home. She would know how to make Willa love me. She wrote back immediately. She said she wasn’t surprised. I remember reading her email: “it might get worse before it got better…” and  “she only has room in her heart to love one right now” and “we needed to just give her time.”

I wanted a fix.

The rest of our time in China did see some improvements in Willa’s ability to tolerate me, but that was about it.

She never trusted me. She never wanted me. It was hard. It was unexpected.

But when we got home, everything changed. 

This right here, I want to spend some time here. 

I will never forget the moment I realized that most of my “mama issues” after coming home with Liv were totally tied to parenting from a selfish perspective.  Not that I was intending to be selfish, but that I was viewing Liv and our relationship, and all the ins and outs of parenting a little one from hard places, through my needs, my emotions and my inadequacies.  I viewed our hard days as “my fault”, felt that I wasn’t enough, that she must know I’m not her “real” mama. (what am I fake??  I know now how silly this lie is)   I had really hard days, even years after being home, where I felt like I was parenting from the second-seat…unable to fill the space of her true mama.

UNTIL I realized that I had a few things out of whack in my heart.  My needs needed to be met by Jesus alone.  All the voids that existed could not be filled by my child…that was unfair to her.  My identity and sense of self and value could not ebb and flow with the ever-changing emotions of a toddler.

And also, that my little loves issues: her processing her new reality, her dealing with the loss of all she had known…HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.  

Being 10 days away from having my QueenE placed in my arms I am more aware of this reality than ever:  SHE MAY GRIEVE.  She may kick and scream and cry… she may be terrified.  Or she may clam up, shut down and withdraw.  Or, who knows, she may run into my arms like on the movies and proclaim MAMA…. highly doubtful.

No matter what goes down in that moment…IT WILL BE BEAUTIFUL.  I want to give her the space she needs to do whatever it takes to grieve and mourn…to deal with the obvious loss that is happening in that very moment.  

I will not allow the enemy to define my abilities in that moment.  I will bravely hold my hands out, ready to receive her, NO MATTER WHAT.  

I am thankful that Jesus has taught, and is teaching me, how to do this.  So thankful beyond belief.

AND KATELYN…WHAT A HERO YOU ARE….to take that baby and love her from a distance those 2 weeks in country.  To decide, amidst all the heart ache…that you would love her in any way you could.  You earned the OBVIOUS ride-or-die status you have with Willa now.

And doesn’t that look so much like Jesus?

Ok Katelyn, one more question.   What has Willa taught you about parenting?

Willa, and the process of becoming her mom, has made me feel humbled to parent in a way I’m not sure I would have experienced biologically. No part of her inexplicable greatness can really be attributed to me. I didn’t “do” or “make” any of her. I simply get to be her mom. It’s incredibly humbling.

The way she cuts her eyes, her scratchy voice, it’s all so amazing and none of it is by my design. Still, her assertive personality, her head-to-toe silliness, theirs no doubt in my mind God chose her for us. So I guess you could say we are just in awe, of her… of the Creator… and of how He knit our stories and our souls for one another.

 

Friends…WHAT DID I TELL YOU?  Isn’t she amazing.

I want to leave you with a few truths to take for the road:

  1. Let’s be challenged to open our eyes and ears up to God in a new and fresh way!  How may he be speaking to you?  What is he calling you to?  You can be guaranteed that if He is calling you to something…it will be about others, about people…and He will give you EVERYTHING you need to do it!
  2. Are we seeking an answer instead of Jesus?  Are you desperate for a YES or NO?  Are you clawing for a “GO THIS WAY …NOW GO THAT WAY” and not getting it?  Don’t panic.  Don’t fight with all of your might to decide what the answer is.  REST IN THE TENSION of this.  Those who WAIT on the Lord will be renewed.  Seek HIM in this season.  He wants our hearts more than He wants us to feel comfortable.
  3. We all need to be a little WILD and a lotta BRAVE to be followers of Jesus.  Don’t set your life up to be safe and comfortable and to make sense…thats a sure fire way to work Jesus right out of the equation.  His call on our lives is never in the name of our safety and comfort…He is always in the space that requires us to be BRAVE.
  4. We all, like Willa, and Esther, and my little Liv, have tasted the sting of grief as God calls us out of all that we’ve known into a new place.  Just like the Israelites, who only knew slavery, as they were walking into freedom, continually glanced back over their shoulder and wondered if “Egypt” would be a better option than all this wandering, than all of this unknown.  It’s a knee-jerk response to hold with a tight grip what’s comfortable and predictable, what’s known…even if it’s not best for us or God’s design for our lives.  Even if it’s slavery…we know it..it feels safe.  Lean into the grieving of “what was” and look with expectancy to “what is coming”.  God is faithful to bring you from one place to another,  don’t look over your shoulder anymore.

I hope that you, like me, felt a breath of fresh air as you read Katelyn’s interview.  It was refreshing and so honest, filled with the thumbprints of Jesus.

Make sure you check out her Instagram @katelynfuson…. tell her her bestie sent you.