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 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
Perfect Love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18

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.