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 and 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.








Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whispers of Hope

11/11
One year ago today, we were JUMPING FOR JOY as we received Travel Approval from China.
(this post)

It was Friday, and we were home from school for Veterans Day.
11/11 was the deadline to make the next travel group to China.
If we received our approval by that day, we could travel the day before Thanksgiving.  Otherwise we would have to wait until the middle of December.
We wanted so badly to travel as soon as possible, and to top it off, the Thanksgiving trip would put us with Sofi the day after her birthday.
It all seemed like the best scenario, but Travel Approval is unpredictable.  Lots of things can happen in receiving that type of paperwork.

That whole week was intense.  We were preparing to leave in 2 weeks, just in case, but praying it would all really happen.
That Friday morning, we were all home, and we could feel time tick, as we waited for this last chance.
The phone rang - our adoption agency! - the excitement was awesome - God had provided!

We had 12 days left to prep our whole family and life for a 2-week trip to China.
But, that's not all.  We still had visas and other crucial details that still hung in the balance.
Our agency said that we had met the deadline for November travel, but she couldn't guarantee our visas would return in time with recent trends.  She said we could plan for December travel, if we wanted.
NO WAY!
We were all in.  God was working out all things, and I was confident.

Let me expound further on my confidence.
God's whispers and guidance through this entire process for our family was amazing.
I mean amazing.
He had led us here, and had spoken, and was still speaking so many confirmations.
With each step in faith, God was so present and so real.  Most of it is very hard to describe, but as I have learned to listen better and more consistently, I have realized, even more, how constantly and clearly God speaks.
We had been in the process of adopting for almost 4 years at that point.
But, for at least 6 years God had been whispering 11/11 to me.
Over and over at random for all those years, He spoke that something would be fulfilled at that time.  I had a very private expectancy every November, thinking what dream or calling might God bring about?
Then, at this November, as the deadline for travel was announced - 11/11 - I felt the whispers -
I felt His presence and faithfulness in a personal way.
I was still anxious and praying so hard during that week - and honestly, would have preferred a call earlier than the deadline :) - but I could feel Him repeat again:
You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail.
Proverbs 19:21
That 11/11 promise did help me in that week, but it was much more than that.

God not only knows our concern and prayer in the moment, He goes before us.
He had prepared this path and had provided all the way down to the whispers I needed.
He had spoken things to me, just for this one day, for years.

Our God of great Love is not a mystery, as we tend to think.
He loves to reveal things to us.
He does amazing work over spans of time.  He reveals and connects scriptures for us over time, He can bring revelation, hope, and comfort over time.
Our faithfulness - as broken as it is - becomes joined with His - and we are transformed by Him.
 I have learned to listen with even more hope and expectation in prayer and study.

Not only did that whisper of 11/11 bring me a special hope in those days of waiting, but it solidified even further God's hand in our family and in Sofi's life.
That truth extends into all our lives.
May we all continue to listen and hear His whispers.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13


(This year our day is beginning with jammies and boots.)



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Flashbacks and Miracles

Flashback to last October 2016 -
We were scrambling to get approved for travel to China, trying to get to Sofi ASAP.
We sent a care package to Sofi that had a "fruit party" to share.  About a month later, we were excited to receive some photos of Sofi with her banana.












We only had bits of information about Sofi at that point.  Sending this package through a service actually helped us learn some important things about where she was living.
We thought she was living at the orphanage, but she was actually staying at a care center in a completely different province.
(more on that later)
Her paperwork had listed some very vague info about her diet and habits, so we assumed some things based on that and her age.

Fast forward - Nov. 28, 2016 - Gotcha Day - We finally had Sofi in our arms.  Her caregiver explained (through a translator) that Sofi could not feed herself; she could not chew; and we later discovered that she drank from a dropper.

All of that puts a different perspective on those sweet banana photos.

Fast forward to today.
Because of the kindness and care of the facility where Sofi lived, we have a collection of routine reports that they kept on Sofi during the three years she lived there.  Each one contains basic medical info and also some comments at the bottom.  Thankfully, a Chinese exchange student is translating these for us.  I just received part of them back, and I have discovered something really special.- - -
Various things are mentioned throughout the notes, but eating habits are often included.  In her last report, at the end of October 2016, her note includes:
"She's improved a lot on eating. She eats a lot of fruits now."
So, God used that banana - from her Mommy and Daddy - in a special way.
It's hard to truly describe the significance of it all, but it's just beautiful
- another miracle.
It's amazing how God has worked, but also how He has allowed us to see these things.

------
As I mentioned, Sofi was living in a place other than the orphanage who had custody of her.  This is a huge part of her story, and I can say with confidence - it is one of the most important reasons God intended for us to pray for Sofi during those years.
Because of the timing of our adoption process, we have prayed for Sofi since her conception.  We have specifically prayed for her and for the people who would care for her. God has been answering prayers and protecting Sofi her entire life.  He keeps revealing the evidence.

We have more info and details now because of an amazing woman named Elana.  She was the director of Sofi's care facility.  She had a very special connection with Sofi and requested we email her after the adoption.  I have been able to learn a little bit more about Sofi's life from this precious lady:

Sofi was found at 2 weeks old, stayed at a hospital, and then went to an orphanage.
We now know that the orphanage director arranged for her to go to a foster family because of how sick she was.  This in itself is a blessing.  There are hundreds of children just at that one orphanage, and an extra effort like this is not always possible or even considered.
Elana is the director of a Christian non-profit in China, and she travels to find orphans who need more medical care.  When Elana visited Sofi's orphanage, the director of the orphanage told her about Sofi.  He said the foster family was scared she would die. 
Elana went to her and arranged for Sofi to go to one of her care centers.
GOD WAS ANSWERING PRAYERS.
Elana also explained to me how she will never forget seeing Sofi for the first time and how beautiful her eyes were.  She was very sick, but she saw something special.
Sofi remained special to her.
The fact that Sofi was able to live at this care center is outrageous Providence. With fewer children and some better resources, the care center was a better scenario than the orphanage.  She was able to get strong enough for surgery.  Even greater than that, this center is run by a Christian non-profit that seeks to care for orphans and help them find families.
I can't even explain how very specific these answers are to my prayers.  I had no idea what kind of circumstances Sofi would face before her adoption, but I knew that God could work through the people around her.  I prayed so specifically for Sofi and those who would care for her.
God answered and answered and answered.

Prayer is such a huge gift and huge responsibility.  I don't think we will truly understand until we see it from a spiritual vantage point, but I know that prayer plays a role in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. 
 
God continues to work in Sofi's life.  She still has many things to overcome, but God is so faithful.

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.  Psalm 115:1




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Peace in Every Moment

(written for adopting families)

God's Peace through the adoption Journey:

It begins differently for each person, for each family, but it is all rooted in Love.
It’s the Love of our Father that goes so deep, and is so abundant, that it cannot be contained.

He sets the lonely in families. - Psalm 68:6
And we see the lonely.

We are the action of God, and He calls us. He instructs us.
Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us. - James 1:27

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you. - 1 Samuel 12:24

We respond. 
We respond with faith to add to the love.  We know the power of our God, and we follow knowing He will bring it “to completion”. (Philippians 1:6)

This love and this faith ignite and fuel our obedience, but the peace –
the peace of God is promised with our faith.  The peace comes as we give our control and our fear to Almighty God.
The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace.  Psalm 29:11

When this love we feel turns into an act of faith, the gift of peace covers every moment.
The very presence of God becomes more tangible, and every day becomes a new revelation of His promises.

----------
The journey begins. 

You work and scheme every loophole you can to gain even one day in completing your dossier.
You hope, stress, and travel for documents and approvals.
But in it all, here is the peace:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  -Hebrews 10:23


As you reel a series of what-if’s
and plan your family and life for the unknown,
Peace says:
You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21

Then, in that moment
when all the hope collides with your child – real facts, real pictures…
A Letter of Intent – the intent that has built in your heart for years
The peace leads you to:
Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever. – Psalm 136:4

As you lie awake, a world away from holding her –
too far to dry a tear
too far to tuck her in.
The peace is knowing:
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole world to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.  - 2 Chronicles 16:9

When you finally hold her - but first as a stranger
And pray that God speeds a miracle of bonding.
Find peace in the truth:
For nothing will be impossible with God.  Luke 1:37

When the change is slow
And loves only goes one way.
You feel alone.
But you have peace because:
You are the God who sees me.  – Genesis 16:13

Then the barriers start to fade
The smiles take over
And the snuggles sink deeper
Oh, the peace:
Not to us, O Lord, but to You goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness. - Psalm 115:1
----------------

Our stories are different. Our timelines are different,
But the same Love brought us here, and the same Peace sustains us.

God streaks His promises across the sky, and He always keeps them.

May we always be ready to Love.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7


Thankful for His peace,
Jonna Yarbrough







     



Sunday, October 8, 2017

and God Bless Sofi.

All tucked in at home for 10 months. . .











It's been almost a year now since our trip around the world.
Our sweet Sofi Shu has grown and bloomed so beautifully in such a short time. 
Most of the time it's hard to remember she spent days years without us.
God has redeemed and healed - and will continue to do so.
I can't praise Him enough for the grace and love He has poured out.  There are still struggles and still scars, but Love has proven to be more powerful.

This week we celebrated the Chinese Moon Festival (Tennessee-style) with some glow-stick lanterns, Chinese dinner, and MoonPies.🙂
Last year, we celebrated for the first time and were exploding with anticipation for our trip to Sofi.
The moon festival seemed particularly special last fall, because the moon was one of the few things we shared.  We looked at the beautiful moon God had given, knowing Sofi saw that same moon. 

The world feels smaller when you love across oceans.

God holds us all in His grasp, and He is so much bigger and so able.
We can give all things to Him, and I continue to give my fears and worries to Him.

The Moon Festival is a Chinese tradition, but for us it's a special blend.
A blend of cultures 
A blend of family
A blend of blessings from a Great God.

Last year we began this familiar rhyme, and we continued it this year, remembering God's faithfulness:

I see the moon
and the moon sees me. 
God bless the moon
and God bless Sofi.












Sunday, September 10, 2017

"... every promise coming true."

One year ago today.
We received the phone call about Sofi 9/9/16.

I was wearing our family's adoption shirt and spilling over with the most outrageous level of expectation.  There was no logical reason to expect a phone call for several months, but I could feel God preparing me.

I love remembering all of those moments.

"I walked and felt every promise coming true."
Here's the replay of what happened that day.

God's love is beyond comprehension.  He withholds nothing to show us His love and redeem our lives.  His miracles are right before us if we choose to walk with Him.

Love inside of family is a very deep, foundational part of God's plan and work in our lives.  We must commit fervently to our families and work to restore children into families. The very heart of God is focused on these things. I pray He continues to work in and through our family.

(So I wrote this on 9/9, but forgot to hit "publish" until 9/10. Ha! #reallife) 
 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I love to tell the story!

I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY!!!

I LOVE telling this story of God's Love.
God's love has redeemed and restored and flooded our lives in the most miraculous ways as Sofi came home to us.

I know most of you have heard these stories and memories, but today marks the beginning of a beautiful, and intense, time in our lives.
God's provision was so thorough that He literally gave me breath in some moments.

I will forever tell this story of God's love in the gift of Sofi.

Just like the hymn:
"I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and His glory,
of Jesus and His love"

------
A year ago today, we were officially "logged-in" with China.
That was the last step we could complete in preparing for our adoption.
Then, we waited for a referral.
The reality was that we would likely wait another 6-12 months for a referral.

My spirit knew differently.

This expectant mother could feel the gap closing.
I knew my daughter was close.
I have never felt my faith revealed so physically before these weeks.

Every piece of me was overcome by an intensity that was so real.
I was waiting for that call to come at any moment.

A couple of weeks later  - this post - that includes a video.
I'm so thankful for the words I have saved and images I can go back to.
That video takes me right back to so many times and emotions.
Most of you are also familiar with some of these - fundraisers and family nights, rainbows and keepsakes.
Sofi has been real in our hearts and home since the very beginning.

Exactly one month after our "log-in" on 8/9/16 -
We received the call with the referral for our amazing daughter on
9/9/16.
(Here is the story of that day.)

We had "logged-in" JUST IN TIME for Sofi's referral,
and there are other details within the agency's process that confirm God's control in the matching of our family.

It's just so beautiful.

A year ago - it could have been another year -
but yesterday marked 8 months home.

I am overwhelmed as I think about how I felt a year ago.
Even after finding Sofi, the intensity built in a whole new way with the stress of the paperwork and wanting so desperately to get her home.

Even now, my emotions run really deep as we continue in these beginning phases,
but she is in my arms.

The depth of God's love has gripped me in a new way.

I love my God, and I will forever tell every story He writes.

"I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love"