Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No need to make New Year's Resolutions

Sorry to be a party pooper, but I've never been a big fan of New Year's Eve.  I worry about people that are out on the roads on this particular night.  I don't like to stay up way past my bedtime to watch a big ball drop.  And I don't like setting goals for the New Year that are mostly unattainable due to my overachieving, perfectionistic personality.

But what I do LOVE is the fact that God has absolutely no need to make New Year's resolutions!  He never changes (Hebrews 13:8).  God's way is perfect and His Word is flawless (Psalm 18:30).  And God's promise in Lamentations 3:23 brings me much joy and comfort with a New Year about to begin.

Sure, there are many things I'd like to improve and accomplish this year.  I want to be more patient since I am very impatient.  I want to laugh more since I can be way too serious.  I want to do more triathlons since I enjoyed the two I did in 2013 so very much.  And I want to devote more time to reading and studying God's flawless Word. 

So for these four reasons alone (and yes, there are MANY more things I want to improve and accomplish), I'm thankful for the promise of Lamentations 3:23.  'Cause if I'm honest, these four goals won't be met to my standards and yet God's love and mercies will still be there despite my shortcomings.

As I think back to God's faithfulness in 2013, I see the promise of Lamentations 3:23 fulfilled in our adoption journey.  God loves and cares about orphans, so why should I have ever doubted His faithfulness throughout this roller coaster journey?

One year ago tonight, New Year's Eve 2012, I didn't know who our daughter in China was.  Then on March 25th, when I first saw the face of our new daughter on a computer screen, I didn't know if I would be able to love and care for her the way she needed to be loved and cared for. 

On April 13th, when we held the first annual RACE for the Orphans 5K run, I didn't know how it would go or what to expect.

 We are busy planning for the second annual RACE for the Orphans that will be held on May 10, 2014
to help bring more orphans home to their forever families!

On August 6th, after waiting a very long 125 days for our LOA (Letter of Acceptance from China), I didn't know if I could wait another day to board the plane to go get our girl. 

On November 8th, I didn't know if I could handle leaving our two boys for 14 days as I boarded a big jet bound for China. 


On November 22nd, I didn't know how the transition home with Jenna would go. 

And today, New Year's Eve 2013, I don't know what the coming year holds for our family.

Nathan is with Jason and other fathers/sons at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in
Atlanta today and tonight, so we hit the skating rink!

But for ALL of my uncertainties throughout this past year and for the coming year, God is faithful to keep His promise.  He never changes.  He holds us in the palm of His strong, loving hand and wants us to trust Him.  I fail at this EVERY SINGLE DAY, but He knows my heart and struggles and loves me still.  Simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

So with three precious and exhausted children sound asleep well before midnight, I need to get back to folding laundry, doing dishes, and eating my favorite cereal (some things never change!) in my attempt to stay awake for when Nathan and Jason get home from the game AND to see that infamous ball drop in the city that never sleeps!

Happy New Year!

Thank you, Father, for your faithfulness.  Thank you for staying the same year after year.  Thank you for forgiving me day after day.  Thank you for blessing us with Jenna.  Thank you that Jenna will never spend another year without a family that loves and cherishes her.  AMEN.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflections at Christmas: Mourning into Dancing

Yesterday was a milestone for our family as we celebrated our first Christmas as the Preston Party of Six!  Needless to say, my heart was full of emotion from Christmas Eve throughout all of Christmas Day. 

To be perfectly honest, Christmas Eve was especially hard as I missed my mom A LOT!  Last Christmas was three months after her death, so my heart was still in "shock" mode.  But this year, "reality" hit as the second Christmas season came and went without the precious woman who gave me life.  I will never spend another Christmas with my mom and my four amazing children won't get to experience all of her fun (and sometimes quirky!) gifts at Christmas.  And I was especially sad that Jenna won't ever have one Christmas with her beloved Mimi. 

But as I went to sleep thinking about her, I was reminded of the fact that she is in the presence of the One whom we are celebrating, in the presence of Jesus Christ, born a baby and yet a King.  And as much as I long to see her for one more Christmas, there is no doubt in my mind that my mom would not want to leave her mansion in heaven for even one second. 

In Psalm 30:11, God promises to turn our mourning into dancing.   The mourning of my Christmas Eve turned into dancing on Christmas Day.  This year was extremely special, having a fourth child to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas.  I vividly remember reading in Russell Moore's book Adopted for Life three years ago about the hope of having another stocking hanging from the mantel at Christmas.  And now, three years later, that hope has been fulfilled in our sweet Jenna Jean!


To think that Jenna could still be sitting in the cold metal bed at the orphanage in China brings me to tears.  And to think that she may have never had the opportunity to hear about the TRUE meaning of Christmas makes me so very sad.  But once again, the Lord turns my mourning into dancing, for none of that is the case anymore.  Jenna is now in a home surrounded by a family that adores her.  And she will always be told about Jesus, the One who was born so that we could have life.  Jenna is such a precious gift to our family this year and I thank the giver of life and all good things for bringing her to us! 

I can't help but think that Mary and Joseph also experienced some mourning as they traveled to Bethlehem on that Christmas Eve night so long ago.  Joseph had been ostracized for being engaged to a pregnant woman, a woman who was carrying a baby that was not his "own" child.  And Mary was deemed special in the eyes of God but my hunch is she was scared and possibly mourned the life she had prior to her encounter with the angel of the Lord.

Yet both Joseph and Mary walked in faith, trusting God would turn their mourning into dancing.  And God definitely answered His promise!  That first Christmas morning, Joseph and Mary got to cradle in their arms the very giver of that promise and dance for joy that their Messiah, the Savior of the world, had come. Emmanuel, God with us.  WOW!!!   

Thank you, Father, for keeping your promises.  Thank you for turning my sad tears into happy tears.  Thank you for coming as a baby and also as King.  Thank you for being born so that we could live.  Thank you for brining Jenna into our hearts and into our family.  Thank you that she will hear the truth of Christmas for the rest of her life.  AMEN.





Sunday, December 22, 2013

Learning to Trust (One Month Home)

One month

Thirty days

720 hours

43,200 minutes

That's how long we have been home with Jenna since landing in Atlanta one month ago on November 22nd, a moment I will never forget.  And it's definitely been a month that I have truly cherished!

As I reflect back on these thirty days, my heart swells with thanksgiving and joy.  Jenna has transitioned so well that I honestly feel like I've witnessed a miracle.  She makes us all laugh with her silly faces and Tai Chi moves (at least that's what we think they are!?) She wants to be involved in whatever is going on and gets mad when she can't do something that her older siblings can do (like not walking down the steep back porch steps by herself...she's little Miss Independent!)  She is very perceptive, taking in all that is happening around her.  And her level of trust is growing leaps and bounds.  Although she prefers being in my arms and in my presence, Jenna loves playing with her daddy and brothers and sister.  She often cries when I leave but welcomes me with a big hug and kiss when I return...and I want her to know in the depth of her heart that mommy always returns!

Speaking of growing in trust and mommy always returning, two days ago was a HUGE milestone.  I wanted to see how Jenna would do in the childcare at the gym since her big brothers and sister were home from school and could go with her...and they were super excited to have Jenna go with them.  So we went to Atlanta Fitness at 4:00 PM when childcare re-opened and there were no other children there yet, which was good for Jenna.  She absolutely SHOCKED me and ran right in with her siblings!  I was literally shaking as I walked away...shaking with worry, wondering how she would do once she realized I wasn't in there with her, and shaking with thanksgiving that my precious girl is growing in her level of trust, knowing she is safe and that I will return.  And sure enough, after a nice run on the treadmill (I listened very carefully for my childcare badge number to be called but they never had to call me), I returned to the nursery and Jenna was ALL SMILES!  I was so thankful and proud and relieved!  I know it'll take a lot more time until she's confident enough to go there without her siblings, but this was a big step of trust for my sweet little girl!

And she continues to take these steps of trust every day...



One area of concern that has started to burden my heart is how Andrew is handling not being the "baby" anymore.  He's always been strong willed, but over the past couple of weeks, this personality trait has been turned on high gear!  He gets very upset when told that he can't do something...he's not wanting to sleep alone in his room...and many mornings he didn't want to go to preschool.  I'm trying to balance my response, knowing some of this is just being a strong willed 5-year-old boy and yet also realizing that it's hard for him to voice his feelings about being "dethroned" as the youngest Preston child.  I am trying to be very intentional with him, spending one-on-one time with my little guy as much as I can.  And I'm especially praying that Andrew's tender heart will swell with joy and trust, knowing that he is loved so much deeper than he could ever imagine.

There's that word again...TRUST.  What does it mean to trust? 

Two definitions include:

1) confident expectation of something; hope
2) a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.

Jenna has shown amazing trust.  She placed her trust in us when we "got" her on November 11th in China.  She placed her trust in us when we put her on a plane bound for her new home on November 22nd, one month ago today.   And she's continued to place her trust in us over the past 30 days, knowing that we will meet her needs and love her...and always return when we go away.

As I've watching Jenna's level of trust grow, I've questioned my own level of trust.  Do I trust other people?  Do I trust myself?  Do I trust God?

For most people, including myself, trust is earned.  I feel that I can trust someone after getting to know that person and spending time with that person.  And unfortunately, trust can be broken and is very hard to earn again. 

Jenna's growing level of trust has been so inspirational, so encouraging to me.  She may be little but her trust is BIG!  And that is what God wants for each of us.  He calls us to childlike faith, childlike trust.  Trust in the One who created us and knows our needs, knows our hearts, and wants our lives to overflow with His gifts of hope, joy and peace. 

And with Christmas just around the corner, those are gifts I hope everyone receives!

Thank you, Lord, for showing me once again what it really means to trust through the life of my precious little girl.  I am thankful to be her mommy and I am so thankful You are my Father!  AMEN.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"You're never fully dressed without a SMILE"

One of my favorite movies is "Annie."  I enjoyed watching it as a little girl with my family.  My mom, little sister and I especially loved it, more than my dad and brothers.  Once I became a mom, I wanted my children to watch this great movie, too.  My precious mom got the movie for us one year as a gift, and Shelby has enjoyed watching it more than Nathan and Andrew, which hasn't surprised me.  Shelby has memorized many of the songs and can name most of the characters, especially the sweet little orphans.  So when I saw that our local theater company was doing a production of "Annie" this December, I wanted to take Shelby to see it.  And last night was that night!


When I found out many months ago that "Annie" was coming to our local theater company, I didn't know when we would be traveling to China to bring Jenna home.  So last night was especially meaningful, having Jenna in her new home with her family and no longer in an orphanage. 

But leaving to go to the play was a bit challenging to pull off.  I'm thankful that Jenna is doing much better with her daddy, but she was in tears when I left with Shelby to get to the play that started at 8:00 PM.   It was Jenna's bedtime, so I think some of the tears were because she was so tired (she'd had a VERY active day, having gone to Monkey Joe's for the first time and LOVED it!)  It was hard for me to walk out the door, even though I knew in my heart she was in good hands and would be okay.  I texted Jason as soon as we got to the play to check on Jenna and thankfully she was sound asleep.

One less orphan asleep in a warm, cozy bed in a house filled with parents and siblings that love her.  That thought stuck with me throughout the production of "Annie."  During every act of the play and through each song that was sung, my mind raced to the scenes I have of Jenna's orphanage and how her life is already so different one month later. 

The song "Maybe" really got to me.  Little Annie is dreaming of her parents, what they may be like and wondering when they will come for her.  It's hard for me to think about my precious Jenna asleep in the hard, metal bed at the orphanage, calling out for someone, anyone to come to her in the middle of the night.  Can a two-year-old child know something, someone, is missing from their life? 

I do believe Jenna knew something, someone was missing from her life.  Real love was the "thing" missing and the "someone" missing was a family, parents and siblings who truly love her.  As much as I believe the orphanage nannies cared for her and loved her to the best of their ability, it was a totally different type of care and love than what a family provides.  Or in the words of Audio Adrenaline in "Kings and Queens," one of my favorite songs, "Every child has a dream to belong and be loved."*  To belong and be loved...yes, that is what Jenna knew was missing in her life and now, one month later, I am seeing evidence with each new day of what belonging and being loved can do to a little girl's life!

The song "You're never fully dressed without a smile" in the play last night put me over the edge with sad tears and happy tears.  From the moment I first saw Jenna's face on March 25, 2013 until our "Gotcha Day" on November 11, 2013, I dreamed of seeing a smile on her face.  I'd always thought she was precious despite not seeing a smile, but oh how I longed, as her mother, to see a hint of happiness on her face.  Thankfully that day came on our "Gotcha Day" and her smile has only grown wider. 

There have been MANY times in my life that I haven't felt like smiling.  People that know me best know I am pretty "real" in the sense of being honest with my feelings, whatever they may be...happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, you name it.  But in my honesty, I hope to share the JOY that I have regardless of my circumstances and often that JOY comes out through a smile.

So when I see little Jenna smile every day now, I'm reminded of where she's come from and all that God has in store for her life.  And I pray that just as her smile grows, her heart and mind will grow to know how great her Heavenly Father's love is for her, for that alone should put a smile on anyone's face!

*Check out the "Kings and Queens" video by Audio Adrenaline on the link below!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Learning Love (One month since "Gotcha Day")

A friend of mine recently made the comment to me that Jenna is learning love.

And since Jenna is learning love, she is learning about God because He IS love (I John 4:8). the heart of a little girl.

That is exactly what I've witnessed since our "Gotcha Day" in Guangzhou, China one month ago.

I'll never forget the fear in Jenna's eyes when we first "got" her.  I'll never forget trying to calm her down with a lollipop that she held in her little mouth so tightly I thought she'd choke on it.  I'll never forget trying to calm her fears with a bottle of cool water (it was SO hot in the Chinese civil affairs office).  I'll never forget seeing the first hint of a smile while playing with a  light-up-toy and peek-a-boo.  And I'll never forget seeing her first big smile while playing with bubbles.

And the smiles have not stopped.  They have grown with each new day.  There have been giggles and belly-busting laughter.  And not only smiles and laughter but lots of hugs, kisses, and cuddling.  Jenna is bonding and attaching so well with us, even now with her daddy! 

As I think back over this past month, I feel like I've witnessed a miracle unfold before my very own eyes.  It's really hard to describe all that has taken place because it's been supernatural.  But that's exactly what God's love is, so why should I expect anything less?!

Jenna has truly become part of our family.  I cannot imagine life without her and I don't want to think about her life without us.   But the truth of the matter is that there was over 2 1/2 years of life without a family to show Jenna family to show her God.  I have sometimes wondered if Jenna had been adopted by another family if she would be adapting this well, and in my heart of hearts, I hear a resounding "NO."  She is with our family because it is her family, the family God ordained for her to be with.

Today, one month after "Gotcha Day," was much like any other day at, doctor appointment (more bloodwork for Jenna...she is so tough!), homework, and playtime.  But throughout the day, I took pictures that would capture the essence of this special day.  

Jenna still likes eggs more than anything else for breakfast.

Enjoying a new American toy...the remote control!

Jenna loves to color, much like her older sister!

Jenna and I made this craft today, just like her older brothers and sisters have made in years past at preschool with "Miss" Angie (she was nice enough to send materials home for Jenna to make one).

 Now the set is complete!
Pals playing with the Polar Express train.

 Homework time!
 Jenna's activity of choice during homework time.
A girl after my heart...she loves chomping on baby carrots!
Fun playing on the trampoline!

 I LOVE this picture...four amazing blessings!
 Sisters hand-in-hand enjoying the beautiful day.
 Jenna is on the move with a HUGE smile!
 PRECIOUS children!
 Shelby took this picture of Jenna and I with the house in the background...she did a great job!

My greatest prayer throughout our adoption journey was that our hearts would be prepared for Jenna and that her heart would be prepared for us and I can honestly say that prayer has been answered!

Helen Keller once said, "The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart."  Love is definitely the best and most beautiful thing, and I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to watch Jenna learning love.