Cleft Lip and Palate


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.


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.


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.


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.