Sunday, November 24, 2019

Real Thanksgiving

I never dreamed I would spend Thanksgiving in a hotel in China.

Three years ago, we flew out early on a Wednesday morning and finally landed in China on Thursday.  It was Thanksgiving, and we were beyond thankful.  We were only a few days away from finally holding Sofi in our arms.

That Sunday would be her 3rd birthday, and then on Monday we would finally hold her.
After three years, our precious Sofi would be coming home.
November 28, 2016

This year her birthday is Wednesday, and Thanksgiving will mark 3 years together.  It's a milestone, because from Thursday on, we can say she has spent more of her life home than away.
Family is finally taking the majority.

I am still amazed as I look back on God's providence during the trauma of her first years. God literally put Sofi on our hearts at her conception, so we have prayed for our daughter her entire life.  We know things now that prove God answered specific prayers we prayed during that time.

One of my main prayers over and over during those years was that Sofi would always have special people in her life - that somehow in the middle of whatever loss or abandonment she experienced God would bring special love and care into her circumstance.
And He did.

Sofi was found on a street at 2 weeks old.  She had pneumonia and could hardly be fed because of her severe cleft palate.  The orphanage thought she wasn't going to make it, but a person from a non-profit care facility came looking for children who needed medical help.  The orphanage director asked for help for Sofi.  Because that organization was going out and finding the most needy children, Sofi received care outside her orphanage that literally saved her life.
This rescue care and other stories are outrageous when you understand the realities of living in an orphanage. 

Every step of that adoption journey was full of miraculous timing.  Our travel to China could have been delayed into December or more, but all of those phases happened just in time.  Even the matching of Sofi to our family was purely the hand of God.  I could talk and talk about all the details.

And, I do.  I keep telling, because I will always give testimony about the Lord's faithfulness.

Thanksgiving will never be the same.  My spirit overflows with thankfulness.  This year is perfectly beautiful:  Sofi's birthday is Wednesday, and the anniversary of our union as a family is on Thanksgiving day.

May we all treasure the gift of family and show our love to each other during this season.
That's where my heart for adoption began - the love of family.
I am so thankful for the blessing of my family.  My parents and sister began my life with beautiful love, then I have been blessed so greatly with Kevin and our children.  It breaks my heart deeply that all children do not have a family.  May God teach us true thankfulness - A gratitude so deep that we act - Thankfulness displayed in love - Love so deep that it will give and serve and sacrifice.

Because sometimes real thanksgiving takes you on a trip around the world.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

SONSHINE

So many of you have loved and prayed for Sofi and for all of us.
Your prayers have been so important to us, and we are thankful for all the love and support!!
Sofi will see all of this someday, so thank you truly for the evidence of love that can transcend the trauma that comes with an adoption story.

It seems like an important time for an update, because Sofi is 5 1/2 and starting Kindergarten.

We have prayed for Sofi (unknowing at the time) since her conception, and finally joined as a family when she turned 3.  The LORD's providence and miracles have been beyond anything we could dream up.  He has blessed us with some backstory through her caregivers and paperwork that reveal miracles connected to our prayers.

Every adoption story is unique and special.  Our family chose adoption very intentionally - for the sake of Sofi and the work of love God could bring to her life through family; and also for the work of transformation we desired in choosing to trust the LORD in this journey.
I have seen God's love work miracles in Sofi, and He has truly transformed - and continues to transform us - as we walk with Him in faith.

Completing the adoption process is huge, but adoption finally begins when the family is together.  That's where more miracles are needed in the healing, growing, and bonding.

God has proven so faithful, and Sofi has overcome so many things physically due to delays from her repaired cleft palate and status of "failure to thrive".  It's amazing, and l love when I get the chance to speak of those transformations.  M.I.R.A.C.L.E.S.

So now, we have entered the very important and exciting time of Kindergarten.
Sofi has blossomed in all ways; displaying many talents, strong intelligence, lots of sweet - mixed with a touch of spicy.  She is precious and becoming bolder.

We have always prayed forward to Kindergarten.  It's such a huge milestone for all kids, and we knew there would be extra things to consider for Sofi.
There's no easy way to explain all the considerations and unknowns parents and children face in adoption/foster care situations.  It comes from a place of brokenness and trauma.  There's no way around that.  There are physical and emotional things that can arise at anytime.  For some kids, there is a steady struggle; some face more of a roller coaster; others have things that surface randomly.
It's a journey that has to be wrapped in prayer and love.

Sofi definitely has some extra challenges as she enters Kindergarten.  Speech and language are the most obvious and physical, but there are other bonding and emotional things as well.

Many of you know, that we have actually made another huge decision for our family at this time.  We have prayed extensively about what will be best for Sofi and our whole family.  There are so many factors with 4 kids and careers.  We couldn't even come close to deciding what would be best logistically.  We literally prayed that God would just show us which way, fully trusting that He would help us with the details after we obeyed.
We have stepped out in faith in choosing to home school for Kindergarten.
I resigned from my teaching position, so I can teach Sofi and Luke as they enter Kindergarten.
Drew and Kate want to continue at MCMS and MCES (8th grade and 5th grade).
Kevin will still be teaching at MCHS.

We are super excited about this adventure.  We are trusting God to help us figure it all out.  We will have to make a lot of changes obviously, but He will guide and provide.

One of the many beautiful blessings God has worked in our family is the special bond of Luke and Sofi.  They are only 6 months apart and best friends.  They are starting Kindergarten together, and that just makes it so perfect.

We do ask that you pray for Sofi.
We know this decision is going to allow her more time, and one-on-one.  It will be an extreme blessing for bonding and growing as a family.  We believe it's the kind of stability she needs right now.
Please pray that I can provide what she needs as a mom and teacher - and also for Drew, Kate, and Luke. (The same as all moms feel.)

It's hard to explain all that has gone into this decision, but we do appreciate your continued prayers and support.
God has proven faithful over and over!  His love for children is always easy to find, and I trust in His providence and provision for all 4 of mine.

Introducing - SONSHINE ELEMENTARY


Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Children of God"

Today is Orphan Sunday.

Kevin records his sermons so I can listen to them after the service each week.  I'm in children's church during that part of the service so I'm always thankful that I can go back and listen.

His message today, "Children of God", included some testimony about our adoption journey.
(Sermon Audio)

Adoption has taught us so much about the depth of God's love.

My heart is full and thankful.
I am sooooooo thankful for all the Lord has done and continues to do.
I am thankful for how Kevin continues to listen and follow the Spirit.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. - Ephesians 1:4-6


Friday, November 9, 2018

This Month.

This month.
This month - November.

  - National Adoption Awareness Month
  - Orphan Sunday
  - Travel approval for our trip to China - 11/11/16
  - Flight to China - the day before Thanksgiving 11/23/16
  - Sofi's Birthday - 11/27
  - Sofi's Gotcha Day  - 11/28

It floods my heart.  It floods my mind.
This season will never be the same for our family.

It stirs in me intentionally with all the celebration.
It stirs in me unexpectedly from deep places.

The unexpected moments hit hard and sudden.  Sofi is so deeply woven into who we are that two years seems so rigidly short.  It's hard for me to swallow the fact that she spent her first three years without us.  I can recall the facts and celebrate the anniversaries, but it's the pictures that hit my heart.  The pictures remind me of the empty bed; the little praying hands of her brothers and sister; the gifts that waited; the first photos that gave us a glimpse.  Then my mind swirls back.  My heart recalls the ache. the wait. the uncertainty. the four years.
Suddenly, I'm overcome with thanksgiving because I replay the prayers of faith - and now I look at the answers to each. and. every. one.
Sofi is here, and we will celebrate.

"Sofi"
That's all she will accept.  If you call her cute or silly or anything else - she says,
"No. I Sofi."

Sofi.
Sofi Shu Yarbrough

This month.
This month belongs to Sofi.
And we will pour out our thanksgiving to our great God.

Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.- Psalm 136:4





















Saturday, July 14, 2018

May the Beauty Continue

Yesterday, July 13, we finalized a step in our adoption.  The US requires a "readoption" so you can get a new birth certificate.  We were all pretty nervous about going to court, but we had a great experience.  Judge Hicks and everyone involved were all very kind, and the kids all got to ring an adoption bell.




 It was another great excuse to celebrate Sofi and all God has done.
Donuts and a playground made a great ending.




Today I realized another amazing detail God has woven into this story.  Two years ago on this day, July 13, 2016, was the day we mailed all of our China paperwork.  It was the last step in our wait for a referral.  Also on that day, I saw Sofi's face for the first time.  I didn't know it was her - or for sure that she was my daughter - but I saved that sweet picture in my phone, wondering in my heart what might happen. I recorded that story in this post  last year.

God keeps whispering His faithfulness in the coolest ways.  I can't even fathom the fact that my AWESOME, ALL-POWERFUL GOD would care about dates, emotions, whispers of hope.  Sofi's story is full of these dates and whispers and connections that can only be so intricately woven into one story by GOD.
July 13 - another date that speaks of God's great love.  His great love for Sofi.  Great love for each of us.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of GOD, and in His good time He will honor you.  Give all your worries and cares to GOD, for He cares about what happens to you."
1 Peter 5:6-7

I am so thankful for this special reminder today.  Our adoption journey had a pretty long start, but the real depth and action of it all was only beginning when we brought Sofi homeWe are so thankful for the miracles we have seen in Sofi's health and stability.  She is amazing, and God has brought her so far in such a short time.  But, there are still struggles and worries in daily life.  And she still has many things to face as she grows.
We still have a lot of hurdles in communication.  Some of it is physical from her repaired cleft palate; some of it is still due to language; other layers still involve her emotional stability/security.  We are about to enter a big step as she begins preschool this fall.  That's a big step for all kids (including my Luke), but it holds some extra considerations and hesitations for her.  I do ask for your prayers.
I ask for your prayers for Sofi's continued healing with her mouth and ability to speak more clearly.  She does have a long way to go, but her gains are remarkable - truly.
Please, as I know so many of you have, continue to pray over our sweet daughter.
In spite of all the beauty God has brought from the ashes, there were ashes that began this story.
May the beauty continue.

He gives beauty for ashes,
strength for fear,
gladness for mourning,
peace for despair.
from Isaiah 6

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Breath of Life

The weather is just awesome this weekend, and we LOVE playing outside.  One of my favorite things is watching the kids run - full speed - across the yard.  There's a special freedom in an open space on a sunny day. 

It all goes up a whole new level when I watch Sofi's strength and freedom.  She is a runner, and she beams with the best giggle and glow when she runs across the yard.
I have to give some testimony here, because God has literally breathed Life into this sweet girl before our eyes.

It's hard to verbalize all Sofi has overcome in a very short time.  Her body composition when we first held her was beyond words.  She had ZERO muscle tone. She was 3 years old, but could hardly keep on 18-month clothes.  Her left foot sort of dragged as she walked.  Poor nutrition and immobility had delayed her growth and development.

Almost immediately, we saw things change.  By the end of the two weeks in China, she was choosing to walk and explore.  In our first months home, we literally saw the muscle appear on her precious arms and legs.

You can see in this video from just a little over a year ago that she developed a special little gallop as her legs strengthened.  This video was a highlight in the first months home.  We were so thankful as she began to move better and better.
Her limp did not last long.
Her body changed, and Sofi has run miles and miles now.

This weekend I stood with the most thankful heart, watching all four of my blessings run free with kites.  I can't even describe how beautiful it is.

Sofi has also finally grown tall enough in the last couple of months to reach her big wheels pedals.

I promised God from the very beginning that I would testify of His Love and miracles, because I knew there would be miracles.  It brings me so much joy to share these videos with you.

There's so much more, though, that won't show through a video.
There is amazing physical evidence to God's Love and transformation in Sofi, but there is much more beneath the surface.  Sofi has come to life and grown, even on the inside.  Her personality radiates now, and she gives and receives love like never before.
The Spirit of God has and is breathing Life in Sofi - and in all of us.


The Spirit of God gives life in the physical, but the real changes go far beyond what we can see.  And the more He changes us, the more real the "invisible" becomes. 
When God breathes, it billows into your core and surges Life into everything.
If you've experienced the breath of God, you know what I mean.  If you haven't - seek Him - ask Him.  He has made us to need Him, and He wants us to seek Him.

Ezekiel gives this awesome picture of the life-giving power of God's breath in chapter 37.
Verse 6 says, I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
And we see even the beginning of life being formed with His own breath.

Once you experience Him as your source, you feel suffocated any time you step away.  You cling to Him harder than scuba gear in the deep.

You know the reality of your Life-source, when you see the transformation: the change in priorities; the intensifying of love; purpose that supersedes the mundane. 
When His Word becomes the source and guide for even the smallest obedience - you are drawing your breath from Him.
When your confidence has NOTHING to do with yourself - but a constant dependence on God.
The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand.  -Psalm 37:23-24
God has a way of securing our footing and stabilizing our steps, just like he has done for Sofi in the physical.

Paul proclaims in Acts 17:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

God is awesome!
I am so thankful for His Breath of Life - AWAKE MY SOUL


Friday, December 8, 2017

Home.

Home.
December 8, 2016.
Sofi finally made it home.

Wow.  This day.
We traveled for over 24 hours to get home from Guangzhou, China.

We left our hotel that morning to take a flight to Beijing.
We flew from Beijing to Detroit - 14 hours!







We arrived in Detroit LATE and had less than an hour to get through Customs and Immigration to make the Nashville flight.
It felt like a movie as we ran and waited; ran and waited; and RAN!
Kevin ended up having to run down an up escalator at one point.
But - God provided again!
We made it!
And finally landed in Nashville at 9:30pm.


First snuggles on the couch -






The next morning -FINALLY all my babies!

One year later -
Home means more than ever.