Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Your beautiful six-year-old hands

SIX YEARS OLD!  How can it be?

In the words of your big brother Andrew this morning at breakfast, “You’re a big kid now!”

With each passing year of my children’s life, I’m reminded how big you're all getting and how quickly time goes…and that it's important for me to cherish the time God has given me with all four of you. 

So last night, instead of focusing on after-dinner dishes, I sat down on the kitchen floor with you to help you create a big star out of Magformers.  We laughed as it fell apart time after time, but then we gave each other high-fives when the star finally stayed together! 

And it was during these moments on the kitchen floor that I took time to really look at your hands…your precious hands.  They are small like other six year olds, but due to ichthyosis, your hands don’t look like the hands of a six year old because they are very dry (even though we put lotion on them) and have lots of wrinkles.  But they are beautiful hands because they are part of you!  



Then I was quickly reminded that Jesus wants us to be His hands in this world, and it doesn't matter what our hands look like in order to do this.  You, my precious daughter, are blessed to even have hands! Many people don't have hands, arms, feet, or legs...and yet they can still be used by God.  But you, my girl, are so healthy, and even though your hands may have dry, cracked, wrinkly skin, they enable you to do so many things.  

With your hands you can write beautifully, you can eat healthy foods (rice and noodles are still your favorites!), you can throw balls, and you can do amazing cartwheels.  But my favorite thing you choose to do with your hands is hold my hands and wrap your hands around my face when you kiss me.  

Your hands are wonderful in so many ways, and I know our Heavenly Father is going to use you to be His hands in this world that so desperately needs His love.  Just keep your hands open and willing to be used by Him...and always, always, always be willing to let God's hands hold you!  

Today is your special day, Jenna Jean…the day God brought you into this world six years ago.  And although I didn’t give birth to you, this day will always be special because of the gift that you are to me, to our family, and to this world.

Use your hands, use your feet, use your smile, use your words, and use your heart to SHINE like a star for Jesus!


I love you, Jenna…Happy 6th Birthday!  

Love,
Mommy 

Friday, January 20, 2017

When the tough questions come...


Another first…but a tough first.

While wearing a cute panda bear bracelet with her name on it, these words came out of Jenna’s mouth:
“Is this from my tummy mommy?”

She has never asked me anything like this before…and some questions are simply HARD to answer.
So as much as my heart ached and my tongue felt stuck, I answered in this way:

“No, sweetie…you did not get this from your tummy mommy.  She did not have anything like this to give you.  But what she gave you was life!  Then God gave you to us, and you are the most amazing gift!”
Jenna smiled…and went on about her day, not skipping a beat.

But I haven’t been able to get my mind off of her question and my answer.
What made her think the bracelet might be from her tummy mommy?

How often does her little heart wonder about this woman that we’ve never met?
Did I answer her in the “right” way?

Will these questions come more often the older Jenna gets? 
Will she understand that some questions have no answer?

It’s moments like these that the pain, grief, sadness, and loss of adoption come to the forefront. 
I knew moments like these would come…and I want to embrace these moments.  I want Jenna to be able to ask me and tell me ANYTHING on her heart.  I want to share with Jenna as much as I can about her story, even though there are so many unknowns.

So even though this simple bracelet didn’t come from Jenna’s tummy mommy, it does serve as a reminder of the gift that this woman gave to us.  Although nothing tangible was left with Jenna when she was found, my hope and prayer is that the intangible gift of courage that I believe was embodied in Jenna’s tummy mommy lives on in our daughter.
And I can already tell it does!


Friday, November 11, 2016

Three Years: The Miracle of Brokenness

It’s been a year since I’ve written and so much has happened in one year…both joy and heartache.



But today I am especially thankful that on this day three years ago we met our precious daughter in China.




THREE YEARS!!!

That surpasses the time Jenna was without us…praise God!

And during these three years…we’ve experienced so much joy, love and abundance.
Jenna is full of life…her smile lights up the room and her laughter is contagious.  She is smart, sassy, and silly.  She loves learning and talks nonstop!  She loves playing with friends, especially her older brothers and sister.  She loves to cuddle and give hugs and kisses.  And although she enjoys pizza and ice cream, Jenna still loves eating rice and noodles…you can take the girl out of China but not the China out of the girl! 

 



However, all of the joy has not been without grief.

All of the love has not been without pain.

And all of the abundance has not been without brokenness.

Talking with Jenna about her tummy mommy, a woman I will always thank God for, is a privilege but also brings deep grief as I ponder what goes through this woman’s mind each day concerning her daughter and that I wish I could tell her that our daughter is absolutely amazing!
Watching Jenna grow and experience new milestones thrills my heart but also causes pain as I will never know what she experienced...both good and bad...during the first few years of her life. 

Listening to Jenna ask questions about God and heaven and why Jesus died for us makes my heart smile but ushers in brokenness as I realize fresh and anew our desperate need for Him.

Adoption is a miracle…but miracles are often birthed out of grief, pain, and brokenness.

In the words of Ann Voskamp, “God does great things through the greatly wounded.  God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers.” (The Broken Way, p. 24).
As I look at pictures from three years ago in China, my heart aches when I once again consider all that Jenna has experienced…all of the grief, pain, and brokenness.




But it is through this lens that I see the miracle of a little girl that will not only change the world but of one who has already changed mine.
 

 



Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Do you still love me?"

“Do you still love me?” Jenna asked me with tears in her eyes.

“Of course I do…I will always love you, no matter what” I answered her, with tears in my own eyes as I swooped her up into my arms to hold her close.

These five words have come out of our precious girl’s mouth a lot lately…and each time she asks me this question, my heart aches as I share words that I hope will reassure her heart and mind.

It’s hard to believe that two years ago we met He Tong in China…a scared little girl that rarely smiled and had never experienced the love of a family.


But love alone is worth the fight...and here we are two years later. 

 
 


Jenna knows she is loved and she adds so much joy to our family.  Our sweet girl talks non-stop and is full of spunk, laughter, and life!  Yet no matter how much love we pour into Jenna’s tender heart and soul, it breaks my heart that she sometimes questions our love. 
I suppose we all do this from time to time…we wonder if others will love of us if we make a mistake or if we don’t perform the way we “should” or if we don’t look the way we think we “should” or if we…

Yet for a child that comes from a hard place and has experienced so much loss and heartache in their first two years of life, no explanation of love I give can fill that void, that pain, that loss, that grief, that wound.

Only the love of Christ can do this.
 
I absolutely love being Jenna’s mom, and I have the blessed opportunity to share the love of Christ with her…to tell her with my words and my actions that she is loved no matter what...forever.
And then I must simply trust God to work deeply in her heart, mind, and soul to believe these truths.

Just like I must continue to believe that God loves me no matter what...forever.

Once again, the miracle of adoption keeps teaching me about the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scales, Stares, and Six Flags

There is one thing I’ve come to realize about Jenna’s skin condition...it is totally unpredictable. 

Ichthyosis has stumped me.

For some reason, beyond my understanding, our little Jenna’s skin has not been looking good lately. 

It has been extra dry and extra scaly.

And these scales are very visible…very.

Hence the stares.

They seem to never stop.

Most of the time, Jenna’s scaly skin doesn’t cause her any pain.

But stares from other people are bound to cause her pain.

As Jenna’s mom, my first reaction has often been to try to protect her from these stares.  Although she doesn’t even know people are staring, there will come a day soon that Jenna will realize people stare at her…and I won’t always be there to protect her.

But today while we were at Six Flags having a blast together as a family, my perspective on this began to change. 

While Jenna and I were in line for her favorite “Canyon Blaster” roller coaster, it was obvious that some people were staring at her.  It was in that moment that I sensed a change in my heart about having to protect her from these stares.

People will stare, and I shouldn’t shield her from this. 

Rather, I will love her through it and teach her to stand strong.    

So in that moment at Six Flags, I picked Jenna up, held her tightly, and whispered in her ear, “I love you so much!”
And then we rode the coaster with our hands held high, laughing the whole way.


I have no explanation for why Jenna’s skin looks better one day and worse the next. 

And I don’t owe any person that stares an explanation for her scales.

And I certainly have no good, reasonable, healthy, or sane explanation as to why our society is so darn obsessed with outward appearances.

There is no doubt in my mind the road ahead for Jenna will not be easy.
But I also have no doubt in my mind that Jenna knows she is loved by her family.
And as her understanding of being loved by her family grows, I pray she will come to a deep understanding of her Heavenly Father’s love.
It is by this foundation of love that Jenna will have the ability to laugh and raise her hands in victory when people stare, believing this truth: 

So bring on the stares. 

No longer do I feel the need to shield Jenna from these stares because her skin…her beautiful skin, scales and all…is simply part of who she is.  And only a small part.

If there is one thing Jenna can help teach others it is that we are all so much more than our outward appearance.

So stand strong, sweet girl…you are beautiful—inside and out—in so many ways!
 
 
 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

If You Could See Her Now

Dear “Tummy Mommy,”

I don’t know you but not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. 
And more so recently.

A few weeks ago, our daughter…the precious baby you gave birth to and the adorable little girl I have the opportunity to love and raise…took a walk with me after dinner and we had a short conversation about China.  It went something like this…
I asked Jenna if she remembers anything about China. She said, “No…tell me.” So I told her that it is a very large place with lots and lots of people…and out of all those people, God chose her to be in our family. I also said there is a woman over there whose tummy she grew in and although we don’t know her, we love her and can pray for her. And I told Jenna how I wish I could tell her just how amazing, healthy, and joyful her daughter is.
Our conversation didn’t last long, but then a couple of hours later at bedtime, Jenna said, “I miss the mommy in China. I want her back. You know why? ‘Cause I grew in her tummy.”

Ever since that evening walk, Jenna has asked to pray for you, her “tummy mommy,” nearly EVERY SINGLE NIGHT at bedtime.
And so we pray…
“Lord, thank you for Jenna’s ‘tummy mommy’ and even though we don’t know who she is, You do.  Please give her heart peace and help her to know that Jenna is healthy, safe, and loved by her family.  AMEN.”
I will never know all that is going through Jenna’s little heart and mind at 4 ½ years of age.

And I’m trying to process all the emotions and thoughts going through my heart and mind.
In a few months, we will celebrate two years since Jenna became part of our family.  I knew a time would come when she would ask about you…and that time has arrived.  Although she can’t fully understand the true meaning and miracle of adoption yet, I am trying to be as open and honest with her about you, her background (what little we were told), and how we are so thankful God brought her into our family.

I’m also guessing these questions about you, China, and the many unknowns that surround the first 2 ½ years of her life will probably become more frequent and more difficult to answer as the years go by.
But I want to assure you that even when there are tears of sadness…mine and/or Jenna’s…you will be esteemed.  I thank God for you, a woman I’ll more than likely never meet but the one who gave birth to our daughter and the one who had the courage to give her life.
And I also want to assure you that our daughter is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  She is healthy, happy, independent, smart, full of life…and she is LOVED!!!
Jenna has always enjoyed dressing up and lately she’s been wearing her white princess dress almost every day.  As I’ve watched her dance and run in this dress with not a care in the world, I wish more than ever that you could see her now.    

 

 
 
 
Our daughter is a strong little girl…a princess warrior! 


There will be challenges ahead, no doubt…no human being is immune to trials and tribulations.  Jenna has already overcome many, even in her young age.  And due to her skin condition, there are bound to be additional physical and emotional challenges…but she will never face those challenges alone. 
You may not understand this, but I am praying for Jenna to be so grounded in who she is in Christ—a wonderful creation of the Most High God—that despite the challenges she faces in this life, she will know God has a wonderful plan for her life (Jeremiah 29:11) and she is loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
I pray that you, too, will come to a saving knowledge of how much Jesus Christ loves YOU and has a plan for YOUR life!  Part of His plan was for your daughter to be in our family and I thank Him daily for her…and for you.
If you could see our daughter now, I know you would smile!
Love,
Jenna’s mom

P.S.  Jenna also likes to eat!

 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Her Eyes Tell the Story

Six months after train T803 arrived in Hong Kong “delivering” me from my week in Guangzhou to the airport where I departed for the journey back to America, I carried considerable heartache and pain caused by the rejection of our new daughter, Jenna.  However, through that pain God ushered in a new discovery in my heart…and with that discovery came hope.  Hope in a love that never gives up on me and hope that one day Jenna would understand my love which would never give up on her.  Little did I realize how this hope would be tested back on American soil.

In the months that followed our return from China, instead of hope I felt hopeless.  While I took pleasure in watching how well Jenna bonded with my wife Kelly and our three biological children, it’s something I had to do from a distance.  Jenna would never allow me to get close…physically or emotionally.  Whenever I would get close, she would run.  I tried everything, but nothing worked. My overtures were met with rejection.  Her eyes told the story…they always have.  Even in the first pictures we received from the orphanage they told a story of sadness and abandonment…even at an age too young to know…she knew…something wasn’t right…it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.  Those eyes continued to tell the story back in America.  They were always moving, always perceiving.  She picked up on any nuance or change in routine…especially that of Kelly.  She could pick up on the slightest indication that Kelly might be leaving to run errands or whatever the moment needed.  I’ve never been around a child with such a deep level of perception.  I often wonder if this is seeded in her fear of being abandoned again.  Either way it was clear that the thought of being left with me was equated to abandonment.  On one occasion, Kelly left and Jenna would not stop freaking out!  I basically followed her around for what seemed like hours (probably more like 30 minutes) as she went inside and out screaming “mama, mama, mama”.  At one point she was literally yelling into the field behind our house like Kelly had just decided to take a walk in the meadow.
Not only did those eyes have a keen “eye” on Kelly…they had a keen eye on me!  Every time I walked into the room she would immediately look to see who could save her.  She would sometimes sit on the counter while Kelly was fixing supper.  If I came in the kitchen she would scoot as close to Kelly possible in the event I tried to get close.  Every move she made was like a dagger in my heart…a heart that had so much love for her.  All I wanted was to wrap my arms around her and tell her how much her daddy loved her.
And then one day it happened...instead of eyes of fear she had the eyes of realization.  It’s a moment I will cherish the rest of my life.  It’s the moment I’ll cry about on her wedding day.  I was walking home from the gym (just a few blocks from our house).  As I approached our house I see that Kelly and Jenna are playing in the front yard.  As Jenna turns to see who mommy is greeting I brace my heart for yet another rejection.  Instead…her eyes tell a different story.  They were eyes that realized I wasn’t going anywhere…that I was always there…that my overtures for her love would never end.  And with that realization she ran…and for the first time it wasn’t away from me…it was too me.  With total abandonment she lifted both arms up in the air and jumped into my arms.  I was too shocked to cry but I cherished the full wrap-around kind of hug that I was receiving.  It only lasted a few moments but they were moments I’ll never forget.  So just as train T803 arrived in Hong Kong carrying a new heart in me, Jenna arrived in my arms carrying a new heart of her own.  A heart that knew she had a forever daddy.
 
As I embraced the significance of that hug in the days that followed I once again start to see the picture…the picture of God’s love.  It’s an enduring love that never ends or gives up on me.  Despite my eyes turning away from Him, despite me running from Him, despite me rejecting His overtures of love for me, He never stops pursuing me.  He doesn’t care that I’ve rejected him over and over again in my sin…He is constantly pursuing my heart.  As I press into what God’s teaching me I realize the real lesson is this…just like I would no more reject Jenna when she finally ran to me would Jesus reject me when I finally run to Him!  In fact, it’s like the prodigal son’s father in Luke 15…He runs to me with open arms!  And with total abandonment I raise my arms to be held and accepted by my Father…and He cherishes the embrace. 
While Jenna still prefers “mommy,” our relationship has grown and flourished.  Has it been perfect?  No, but neither is my relationship with my heavenly Father.  Despite those imperfections she has grown to know that my love for her will never end.  She recently said in her broken English, “Daddy, you my daddy fo-ever”…And so I am Jenna, and so is He.
 
This whole experience has reminded of the verse in I Corinthians 13 which talks about faith, hope, and love.  My faith called me to the journey of adoption, hope helped me endure its hardships, but ultimately it was love that won the day. 
I love you, Jenna Jean Preston!
Daddy