Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A little glimpse of Jenna

Yesterday morning when I checked my e-mail, my eyes couldn't believe what I was seeing...a long-awaited e-mail from Andrea Sisler, my dear friend from Lifeline, that contained answers to questions about our precious Jenna!  I had submitted these questions when we got LOA back on August 6th and now, almost 7 weeks later, I had the answers...
a little glimpse of Jenna.

Jenna is shy but happy most of the time.  She will be very attached to us and want us to hold her and play with her.  She especially likes the stuffed animal that she sleeps with.  She likes to help other children, but fights for toys sometimes, too.  She is close to all the nannies that care for her and can call her friends by name.  Jenna likes to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, usually before 7:00 AM.  She takes a nap after lunch and she sleeps in her own crib in a room with two other children, not liking to be left alone in the room.  Although Jenna is usually pretty happy, when she does get upset, you need to hold her and give her snack for comfort.  Jenna still wears diapers but can feed herself with a spoon.  She likes to eat rice, bread, fruit and milk but does not like spicy food.

I was thrilled to read every word of this e-mail!!!  And I truly laughed out loud when I read that she doesn't like spicy food...THAT IS MY DAUGHTER (the blander the better, in my opinion!)  I had a strong feeling that she was shy, too, since she's not smiling and seems very timid in every single picture we've ever seen.  I am thrilled to hear she wants to be held when upset, and I cannot wait for that moment when I get to be the one holding and comforting her.  I love that she's mostly happy but also has some assertiveness to fight for what she wants!  I'm so thankful that we got bunk beds for she and Shelby to have since it turns out she doesn't like to be alone in her room.

This little glimpse of my daughter was also evidence of God's faithfulness.  He knew this week would be hard for me since the one year anniversary of my mom's death is in a few days.  So to wake up to this good news was just one little way of Him showing His amazing love for me, love that I'll never fully understand!

I e-mailed Andrea back to say THANK YOU, and I proceeded to ask her if at all possible could we find out if the caregivers have been shaving and/or cutting Jenna's hair.  We've been told that with the genetic skin condition she has, her hair may not grow "normally."  And every picture we've seen of her shows different looking hair.  Andrea said she'd be happy to ask.

Well this morning, I woke to another e-mail from Andrea stating "They have cut Jenna's hair."  These five words were MUSIC TO MY EARS!!!!!  To know that our precious girl's hair is growing enough to be cut (in order to prevent lice in the orphanage) is AWESOME!!!!!  As much as I want to see her hair growing out, it still makes me thrilled to know it is in fact growing and at a rate that it needs to be cut.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!

I also got an e-mail this morning stating that our Article 5 paperwork has been completed, which means we are officially now waiting for our TA (Travel Approval)!!!!!  So hopefully in a couple of weeks, we'll get our TA and be able to apply for a CA (Consulate Appointment).  Once we apply for CA, we can book flights and truly begin packing to head to China!!!  We're still aiming to leave the first week of November, which isn't too far away.  My head is spinning at all that needs to happen before that day comes, but GOD IS GOOD and in HIS perfect timing, it will all work out. 

Lord, thank You for your faithfulness.  My heart is heavy this week as I miss my mom so VERY much, but knowing she is healed and whole with you helps my heartache.  And then you prove yourself faithful again by blessing us with the GOOD news about Jenna.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  AMEN.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Open the Eyes of my Heart

Yesterday I had a VERY long overdue eye exam and thankfully, my eyes looked good and I was told that my vision is "perfect" (the only thing about me that is "perfect" thanks to LASIK surgery in 2001).  Part of the exam involved dilating my pupils.  As I sat in the waiting room before seeing the doctor, the Lord started to speak to me about vision, and this is what I learned.

Once my pupils were dilated and everything close-up started getting blurry, it became clear in my mind that in this life, we often allow the "things" of this world to cloud our vision.  We focus so intently on the temporal things in this life and allow these things--some of which are good things--to keep us from the eternal goal God has planned for our lives. 

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
II Corinthians 4:17-18

After my appointment was over, I went for my daily run.  I quickly learned not only how BRIGHT the sun is (since my pupils were still pretty dilated it seemed brighter than usual) but how important it is to walk by faith and not by sight.  It was difficult to see where I was running due to the situation with my eyes and the bright Georgia sun, but thankfully, I made it home safely.  Living each day requires me to have faith in the Lord, not my faulty human vision.  I may have been told my vision is "perfect," but I know is tainted by sin and only by the grace of God can I see the way He wants me to see and live the way He wants me to live. 

Our adoption journey has been one of walking by faith and not by sight.  We know SO VERY LITTLE about our precious daughter in China that within a matter of weeks will be part of our family forever.  This is SO VERY DIFFERENT from being pregnant and giving birth three times.  In the adoption process, there is SO VERY MUCH that is totally out of our control.  But I know SO VERY DEEPLY that God has called us to welcome Jenna into our home and our hearts, and it is ONLY by faith and not by sight that we can do this.

While my pupils were still dilated, I also learned from the Lord about how I need to focus more on what God wants my children to become than focusing on the minor (though they seem major at the time) frustrations each day can bring as a mom.  Spilled milk, fighting, bad attitudes, whining, messy rooms...these are all part of being a mom with young children (and the list could be MUCH longer!)  But if I choose to set my vision on these petty troubles, I'll miss out on the MANY joys that come from each day--watching my almost 5 year old son be mesmerized by the "claw" truck picking up tree branches in front of our house; hearing my daughter sing "Jesus Loves Me" in Chinese; hearing my son practice on his new guitar; snuggling on the sofa while watching a silly movie; or hearing prayers offered for their sister in China.  And while the list of petty troubles of raising children can be quite long, there is a list that is MUCH more important on what God wants my children to become:
God also spoke to me about His vision for us, His children.  The Bible provides the entire vision the Lord has for us, but three specific aspects of His vision became much clearer to me today:
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart."  I Samuel 16:7
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being
polluted by the world."  James 1:27
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow..." Matthew 6:33-34a

Three of my favorite verses that I've read thousands of times, but God let me see them in a whole new light today, especially at  this particular time of my life.  As we prepare to bring Jenna into our family, I will be required more than ever to rely on the Lord's strength to apply these truths every not allow myself to be polluted by the things of this world, to see my daughter the way God sees her, and to not worry but seek HIM. 

There is no doubt we will get many questions about Jenna's outer appearance due to the genetic skin condition that she has.  This is one example of "pollution" from the world--our society's obsession with physical beauty.  Therefore, I must rely on the Lord's wisdom and truth to permeate my heart so I can shower it onto Jenna (and all of my children, for that matter!) Another "pollution" I cannot allow to my mind to dwell on is other people's views about adoption.  Some think we're crazy while others think we're heroes.  Neither are true!  We are simply following God's call for our family.  Period.  While God's Word is very clear about caring for orphans, not everyone is called to adopt...but I am thankful that God has called us to bring an orphan into our family.  And the "pollution" of worry is something I struggle with on a daily basis.  But if I've learned anything through this adoption process, it is the fact that I am NOT in control, God's plans are much better than mine, and He is with us every step of the journey.  He just wants me to SEEK HIM.

And what are the first three letters of the word SEEK?  S-E-E.  Yes, that's what started this whole thing...I couldn't see clearly when my pupils were dilated yesterday.  But God truly has a sense of humor and can use anything--even a routine eye exam--to speak to our hearts.  We just need to have the EYES of our HEARTS open to truly SEE!



Monday, September 16, 2013

The God of New Beginnings

Last night at Passion City Church, Pastor Louie Giglio shared an awesome message in his series, The Comeback.  Speaking from Genesis and the story of Joseph, Louie shared the following words:
“If you’re breathing, God is not finished with your story yet…God has a huge dream for your
life and it cannot be derailed by circumstances."
Louie went on to say that Jesus knows how it feels to be abandoned and left alone, and that is why He is THE God of new beginnings...He brings life from death!  So as I sat here listening to this powerful message of hope and redemption, I couldn't help but think about the millions of orphans around the world, including my sweet daughter thousands of miles away in China.  She was abandoned and left alone, horrible circumstances...but PRAISE GOD she was found and He has a plan for her life!  
Jenna has lived the first 2 1/2 years of her life in an orphanage, and I am so very thankful for her caregivers and look forward to meeting them in a couple of months.  But I am so ready for Jenna's "new beginning" to be in our family, where she will experience for the first time the unconditional love of a mother and father, brothers and a sister.  And prayerfully, one day, she will receive the unconditional love of her Heavenly Father who has always been with her and loves her more than we will ever be able to.
With regards to our process to bring Jenna home, we are waiting right now for our Article 5 to be finalized, which is the paperwork necessary for Jenna's visa to leave China and come to America.  Once that is finalized, hopefully within the next week, we will begin the wait for Travel Approval (TA) and then begin making plans to fly to China, hopefully the first week of November!
Today we got a surprise e-mail with a current picture of Jenna, as well as her physical measurements.  I'm hoping to get some questions answered about her eating and sleeping habits, personality, toys she likes, etc., but there's no telling if those questions will be answered, so getting a new picture today is good with me! 

As her mom, I'm obviously wanting to see a smile on Jenna's sweet face, and hopefully that will come while we're with her in China.  I'm also concerned that her hair doesn't seem to be growing, but hopefully that will improve with time and once we start taking better care of her skin.  But regardless of these things, I'm so thankful that the Lord is giving us the opportunity to be Jenna's forever family...a "new beginning" for us all.  Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness! won't be long now...your mommy is coming soon and I cannot wait to have you in my arms!!!  I love you, sweet girl!

Friday, September 6, 2013


"Momma, we're getting these approvals left and right!"  These were Nathan's words yesterday afternoon after we got more good news.  Two days ago, we got an e-mail with our new case number for the Embassy in Guangzhou, China, where our adoption will be finalized.  Then yesterday, we got another e-mail stating that our case had been cabled to the Embassy.  Believe me, all of this is VERY confusing!  But these "approvals" are all important and necessary for us to bring Jenna home from China.
Speaking of bringing Jenna home, it has been a LONG and DIFFICULT process to determine who would go with me to China for this monumental event in the life of our family.  After A LOT of prayer and discussion with professionals at Lifeline, our amazing adoption agency, as well as other families who have gone before us in this journey, we have decided that I will go for the entire two week trip, Jason will go for the first week, and Shelby will be with me for the full two weeks.  I am SO VERY EXCITED that Shelby will get to experience this amazing journey with me and her little sister! 
I was hoping for all five of us to go, but hopefully all six of us will go to China one day so Jenna can see her homeland.  Yet for this adoption trip, God has led us to make this decision...though it was not an easy one to make.  It is breaking my heart to leave Nathan and Andrew behind.  Nathan was in tears when I told him that Shelby was going to go, so I pray the Lord will comfort him and help him understand our decision.  I know he and Andrew will have a lot of fun here together, but, MY-OH-MY, I am going to miss them!!!
So last night after soccer practice, I got to tell Shelby this most exciting news.  My heart was pounding as I held my camera to capture her on video...a moment I know we'll both never forget!
 Here is a picture of the letter I gave to Shelby to tell her this great news...
And here we are, proudly holding our U.S. Passports with Chinese Visas in them!!! won't be long until you're in my arms.  And your big sister is THRILLED to have the opportunity to get to travel to China, too.  Your big brothers will be anxiously waiting for the moment they get to see you at the Atlanta airport when you are finally HOME!!!

Lord...thank You for your faithfulness.  AMEN!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Our Red Thread Map and Chinese Visas!!!

This is what I wrote in my very first blog on October 28, 2012:

A Chinese legend says that when a child is born there is an invisible red thread that connects him or her to the people who are destined to be part of his or her life.  While we cannot see the thread, over time its effects are seen as people become connected and their lives are interwoven. We don't believe in legends, but we most certainly believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is calling us to the ministry of adoption, whereby our lives will be interwoven forever with a little girl from China.  This is the story of our family's journey to our new daughter, known only by God at this point in time, but known in our hearts as one we will call our own, for we believe that "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).
Since March 25, 2013, we have known who our daughter would be, He Tong (soon to be Jenna Jean Preston) from Guangdong Province, China. 

Then TODAY, I picked up this beautifully framed Red Thread Map that my dear friend, Andrea Sisler, made.  Andrea is with Lifeline, our adoption agency, and she is who walked with us step-by-step leading up to March 25, 2013 when we first saw Jenna's face...and she is still walking this amazing journey with us.  I am so thankful to have this map in our home...the Red Thread flows from Jenna's province in China to good ol' Newnan, Georgia with the word LOVE at the top.  "For God so LOVED the world..." John 3:16

Today was also very significant in our journey to Jenna because we received our passports with Chinese visas in them! 

Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

America Approved!!!

A few weeks ago, we got our LOA (Letter of Approval) from China, which is a HUGE step in the adoption process.  But then today, we got another "stamp of approval" in this journey to our daughter.  America, specifically the USCIS (United States Center for Immigration Services) approved us to bring Jenna here from China!  Once again, a single piece of paper brings us one step closer to having Jenna HOME...

In the midst of all this waiting, I've been doing some shopping for gifts to give to people in China that we'll have the opportunity to meet, such as guides/translators, the nannies and director at Jenna's orphanage, and Lifeline staff.  And of course I've been shopping for Jenna!  I cannot wait to fill this bag with goodies for her!

Nathan, Shelby, and Andrew are all getting more and more excited to have Jenna home with us, too.  This THRILLS my heart!!!  I try to be realistic with them by discussing how she's going to be afraid for a while, but I'm just so VERY thankful that they have are excited to welcome their little sister into our home and into their hearts.  In fact, I was especially blessed today when I read Nathan's sentences he recently wrote at school.  I have to admit I don't normally read every word of all the worksheets and such that he brings home, but I'm SO VERY thankful I saw this that he wrote...

"My mom knew that when she saw our sister in China that was the one that we were going to adopt."

Lord, I feel so blessed.  Thank you for adopting us into Your family and thank You for allowing us the opportunity to adopt a little girl into our family.  Please continue to open Jenna's heart to You, to us, and to love.  AMEN.