Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reflections from Jenna's Daddy

November 15, 2013 by Jason Preston

After a week in Guangzhou, China I’ve got a flight back to America tonight which leaves out of Hong Kong.  The process of getting to Hong Kong is a taxi ride, followed by a two hour train ride, followed by two different subways and then finally an express train to the airport.  Tonight will truly be Planes, Trains, & Automobiles for me.  Let’s just hope the John Candy character doesn’t show up sitting next to me on the 18 hour flight!  I’m on the two hour train ride leg right now going from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.  To be specific it’s train T803 to Hong Kong.  I get my book out and slip on my new noise canceling head phones and kick on my favorite play-list.  No sense in eves dropping in other peoples conversation (something I like to do) since I don’t understand a word of anything they are saying.  The train attendant (assuming that’s what you call the person who does what flight attendants do but on a train) just came through offering Haggen Daaz ice cream.  After a week of noodles and everything you could imagine in them I was tempted but passed.  OK…let’s get back on track (pun intended).  The real reason for this dissertation is to share my heart in a way that I hope will encourage others traveling a similar journey down the road.

As the lights of Guangzhou fade behind me so does one of the hardest weeks of my life.  As the train jostles on the tracks so do the emotions in my brain.  They include regret, self pity, joy, and sadness.  The week started with so much anticipation and excitement only to end with feelings of emptiness and sadness.  We left our hometown of Newnan, GA (population 25,000) a week ago headed to Guangzhou, China (city of 11 Million).  It was the culmination of an almost two year process to adopt a little girl we named Jenna.  After all the classes, paperwork, physicals, shots, interviews and fund raising we were FINALLY on our way to pick up our little Jenna.  Twenty hours in the air and about 5 hours of sleep (which required heavy drugs on the account I don’t like to fly) we made it to China.  A little over twenty-four hours later we were introduced to our little Jenna.   After 20 minutes of terrified screaming at the consulates office she finally calmed down and even smiled at a game of peek-a-boo.  Wow…that wasn’t bad…this was going to be easy…are there any other kids around here we can adopt!!!  The evening went great with some fun in the hotel room and her giggling the night away.  I was so pleased when she fell asleep in my arms that night.  Exhausted from the excitement of the day everyone slept great that night including Jenna!  Wow...could this be going any better!!!

When the sun rose on Tuesday everything changed.  Jenna continued to bond beautifully with Kelly and Shelby but somehow over night I had morphed into the big bad wolf (appropriate analogy since I’m kind of hairy)!  If I came near her she would cry…if I tried to hold her she would scream!  What was going on here?  Doesn’t she understand I’m her daddy and I love her and I would never hurt her?  Doesn’t she understand how much I have looked forward to this moment when she could be part of our forever family?  Four days go by and no real change.  Time and again I tried.  Baby steps I said to myself.  Some progress was made but overall I was still the big bad wolf! 
No big deal right…I’m a dude I don’t have to feel connected do I?  Then why the heart ache…a sensation I hadn’t felt in years.  Hard to explain but basically where your heart just hurts…not in the heart-attack way but in the heart dropping in your stomach kind of way.  Despite my efforts I couldn’t make the pain go away…even now as I see the lights of the Hong Kong skyscrapers in the distance it still hurts.  I’ll let some of my experiences tell the story…

The experience of going back to the consulate office on Tuesday to finalize the adoption (you have 24 hours to back out).  Upon arrival at the office Kelly & Shelby had to go to the bathroom.  I was in charge of watching Jenna.  Only problem is the moment they left she completely freaked out and tried everything within her power to break free from my grasp…I’m talking about a desperate kicking, screaming…anything to get away from me.   As soon as I let her go back to Kelly she jumped into her arms and hugged her tightly.  That was the 1st moment of real heart ache that would be repeated in the coming days.  Even this morning we went to the new Guangdong museum among the sparkling skyscrapers of the new Guangzhou city center.  It was the first beautiful day of the week…the sun was shining…maybe a breakthrough day?  Once again we found ourselves in a situation where both Kelly and Shelby needed to go to the bathroom.  She was distracted when they left for the restroom but not for long.  She was ok standing next to me until she realized the other two were gone.  Upon this realization she immediately walked off from me looking for them.  I knew she would freak out if I tried to keep her with me and not wanting to be that guy with the crazy maniacal kid  I thought it best to let her walk away  while keeping a close eye on her.  It was in a big open space with only a few people around so I was not worried about losing her.  She wondered around this room for awhile looking for Kelly and Shelby.  She would occasionally look back at me and despite my waving hand she wouldn’t come back to me.  After some time passed and she was standing out in the middle of this huge room by herself and no one else around I walked slowly to her offering my hand.  I thought given the fact she didn’t see anyone else she recognized she would at least go with someone she knew.  Nope.  She really didn’t have anywhere to go because the girls were not back from restroom but she knew she didn’t want to be with me.  The ultimate rejection had just happened.  She would rather be lost and alone than with her father who had spent two years desperately trying to find her.  The guy who had to write a ten page paper about his life as part of the application process (ten page papers were not something I had done since college…and had never expected to do again).  I was the guy who sat through countless hours of online training to learn about adoption and all that could go wrong (ironically including when kids bond with one parent but not the other).  I was the guy who spent countless hours helping to put on a 5K race to raise money to help in her adoption cost.  I was the guy who was carrying bags for her all week, endured paparazzi style picture taking, and was eating stuff that I’m still not sure was made for western human consumption.  She wanted no part of me.  The guy who didn’t like to fly now couldn’t wait to get in the air…an earlier flight even crossed my mind.  So it started on Tuesday at the consulates office and ended today at the museum.  In between were numerous efforts to inch my way into her heart.  Rubbing her back, caressing her hand, throwing the ball, pretending to fall off the bed so she would laugh (she does have an infectious laugh) all to no avail.   

So here I sit now speeding through the lights of Hong Kong weeping as I’m realizing that she is me!  Ironically this week’s topic in the Bible study I’m involved in (CLC) is about “The Exchanged Life”.  It’s all about how God extended grace through His son Jesus and through that I was adopted into his family…I was found not guilty in his site (Romans 3:21 – 31).  Despite the fact that He has done so much for me (read Bible for more details) I run from him.  I would rather be wondering alone and maybe even scared than be in the arms of my heavenly father.  I’m like Jenna in that I don’t realize how much He loves me and wants so much to be in relationship with me.  I know of Him (like she knows of me) but I don’t accept the safety and love that can be found in His arms.  I reject the overtures of my Father!  Wait…didn’t he die for me?  Yet, when he calls me to obey in one way or another I kick, scream, and run trying to get away.  When he calls me to the safety of his arms I would rather wonder and get lost.  Yes, at times when called to give him honor I reject Him!  Surely at some point He throws in the towel and says this guy is not worth all the rejection.  Surely He gets tired of trying and moves on right??? 
This is where the weeping starts again…the answer is a resounding no!  It all came together for me on train T803 to Hong Kong.  Here in car 4 seat 39 I finally realized that what I experienced this week is a small picture of what God feels every day with me.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21…that God sent his own Son who had no sin to BE sin for me so that through Him I might be made right before Him.  The play-list I’m listening to hits the song “One Thing Remains” by Kristian Stanfield which speaks of how His love never fails on us, never gives up on us, and it never runs out on us…it just keeps going on and on forever and ever.  Speaking of running out T803 is about to arrive at the station in Hong Kong so I’m running out of time to write.

Jenna, thank you for helping me learn…no experience something this week.  Through your rejection (yes I know it will get better…you will eventually like the hair) I’ve learned about myself and how I do the same thing to God every day yet he never gives up on me,  He never stops loving me, He never fails me.  So Jenna, I know there will be tough days ahead for you and I but know this as your earthly daddy…you can dodge me, run from me, evade me and even reject me but I’m going to keep loving you.  It’s never going to run out. I’m never going to get tired of loving you.   I long for that moment of breakthrough when you get it…when you realize my lap is a safe place to be but until that day I will keep trying to inch my way into your heart and ultimately show you  that my love for you will never end!  I love you Jenna!


  1. Powerful reflection, insight and love. So thankful God spoke to you on the train ride and that you chose to share it with us. Praying with and for you my brother.

  2. Jason, I have read your entry and reflection 3 times now and each time cry a little more! You have just written an outstanding synopsis of God's love and adoption of us!! I know God is teaching us ALL a powerful lesson through your love for Jenna-thank you for sharing your heart and soul! You need to share your insight and message with David Platt and Tony Merida and Rick Morton! I will be praying specifically for the bond for you and Jenna!
    Blessings, Brenda Clifton

  3. Jason, what an awesome Dad you are my friend. Thrilled to hear of how God has been working to bring Jenna home to you all in such a supernatural way. Wow, humbled to just have the privilege to read the story. Hope we can meet sometime soon. In Him, John Roland

  4. Jason, the amazing story you wrote on the train to Hong Kong has me in deep admiration of you. From the grim week with Jenna to the realization of what God experiences with you and all of us everyday.....was your epiphany on that train ride..... and it has spoke to the core of my heart and soul, too. You wrote each word to your story, just perfectly. God is so GREAT! As you learned through all your preparation for this adoption; not all children will accept their adoptive parent right away. I'm reading the "Connected Child" now and it speaks of this problem and why little ones react this way, as I'm sure you remember. ~~ Jason, you don't know me; but I'm a friend of Kelly's from back in Springfield. Our daughter and son-in-law are in the adoption process of getting their little Chinese boy in the spring. I have educated myself to the Chinnese orphan population problems and the culture of China. I'm trying to absorb all I can as we will travel over to China with the kids and our three grandchildren when we get our "newest grandson". ~~ Jason, realize that God knows exactly what you are feeling and, in fact, God picked Jenna just for your family and that includes you as her daddy. Give it time and Jenna will slowly begin to love you as you love her. ~~ Thank you for sharing your feelings. That is not an easy thing to do for most men. ~~ Kelly is so blessed to have you as her husband and the father to "all four of her/your children". ---- I hope someday we will be able to come down to Newman and visit all of you and see the "the little China doll" named Jenna. ~ God is with you.

  5. Great words my brother!! Our God reveals himself so beautifully in times of rejection. I know it will not be long before she is running into your arms. Sad for your heart, but so thankful for your eternal perspective.