Preston Party of Six

Preston Party of Six

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.

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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.    

 

 
 
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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
 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Amazing RACE


It's been a while since I've had time to sit down to write, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to share what's been on my heart since the 3rd Annual RACE for the Orphans took place almost a month ago. 

Leading up to RACE day on May 9th, I have to confess that I was nervous about several things...would the weather be good?  would we have enough volunteers?  will we have enough sponsorship money to cover our costs?  will we have a lot of runners and walkers so more money can go to the RACE grant fund?  And on and on and on my concerns went...

Thankfully I have an amazing husband who doesn't worry as much about things.  He kept reminding me that God is in this RACE and He will provide.

And you know what? 

That is EXACTLY what happened! 

In fact, God did more than just provide...He did what only He can do and provided more than I could've ever asked or imagined, just like He promises in Ephesians 3:20...


In my eyes, this truly was the amazing RACE...much better than the hit show on CBS!

God showed up BIG TIME!
  • The weather was great.
  • We had plenty of amazing volunteers.
  • Corporate sponsorship more than doubled from last year's RACE, so all expenses were covered.
  • This was by far the biggest RACE with more than 450 adults and children running and walking to show their support for children in need of forever families.





Due to this great turnout as well as overwhelming support from corporate sponsors and individuals, RACE for the Orphans was able to give $19,500 in grant money to the Williams and Jordan families. 


I was brought to tears several times on RACE day...

Watching our little Jenna run her heart out in the "Tot Trot" race was absolutely awesome. 



Seeing countless hands raised in the air when Jason asked at the start of the race, "If you've been adopted or have adopted a child, please raise your hand" was pure joy.


 
Seeing Wade and Brooke Williams hold their precious baby girl, Olive, who was once in need of a forever family, was priceless.


Watching Mark and Tiffany Jordan run and walk with their "Mia's Minions" Team in honor of their sweet daughter waiting for them in China was amazing.


Hearing John Waller share his family's inspirational adoption story through songs like "Crazy Faith" and "Orphan" was powerful. 


Watching hundreds of runners and walkers make their way around the Fairgrounds on a beautiful May morning when they could've been doing countless other things was absolutely B-E-A-UTIFUL!!!




God taught me several things from this year's RACE, though I admit I still need to work on not worrying about all the details so much.  But one thing I realized more than ever is this truth: when our passions and desires are aligned with God's passions and desires, He will be glorified! 


I absolutely love organizing and directing the RACE (alongside my amazing partner, Jason).  I love watching adoptive families get blessed by the outpouring of support from the community.  I love watching people run and walk to help bring children home to their forever families.  I love seeing people accomplish their goal of finishing their first 5K for such a worthy cause.  I love hearing people share how their hearts have become open to adopt a child and/or more aware of the needs of orphans around the world.  I love seeing God glorified in all of these ways.   

All of this love is from an overflow of my passion for the Lord, adoption, and running.

Our Heavenly Father is crazy in love with His children.  He chooses to adopt us into His family and runs with open arms to lavish His grace on us. 

Simply amazing!




   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I. AM. ADOPTED.


For the past 36 hours, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend my second Created for Care retreat for foster and adoptive moms. 

Two years ago I went for the first time, prior to even knowing who Jenna was, and I left there feeling inspired by 400+ other moms with the same heart for orphans. 

Last year I wasn't able to attend because we'd gotten home from China with Jenna just a few months earlier and she was still very afraid of her daddy, so leave her would've been traumatic for all of us. 

But this year, because of the Lord's miraculous work, I was able to go back with a new perspective on "this side of adoption" and left with another inspiring message in my heart.  Here's the message.

I. AM. ADOPTED.

This retreat was for ME.  Yes, we adopted a precious little girl that needed a forever family and she is so amazing.  But after all the worship, teaching, and fellowship this weekend, I left there knowing more than ever that I am also adopted by a loving, Heavenly Father that is continually, passionately pursuing my heart.


God writes great stories and His plans are beautiful, desiring us all to blossom into who He created us to be so that we can shout for joy and glorify Him.  Amidst all the heartache, pain, confusion and chaos that life can bring, God isn't finished yet and His promise to complete the work He started is true.  Our role is to grab onto His hand in total, utter dependence each and every step of the journey.  He is a good Father and He longs for us to follow hard after His heart and rest in His amazing grace.

Just as I want our children to know they are loved beyond measure, God wants me to know this, too.  The God of the universe has adopted me into His family and it's not based on what I do or don't do, but rather what Jesus did on the cross for me.  WOW!  This truth that is often hard for my heart to believe was impressed upon my heart fresh and anew this weekend. 

I. AM. ADOPTED.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

E-X-C-I-T-E-D to be FOUR!


Every time I've given birth, I've been amazed by how much our children change during the first year of life.  From being completely helpless, needy infants to toddling, babbling one-year-olds, it is amazing to watch these changes take place in a matter of 365 days. 

I didn't give birth to Jenna and sadly missed out on the first 2 1/2 years of her life, but as I sit here reflecting on this year with Jenna, I'm simply amazed by all God is doing in her life. 

 



Last year when Jenna turned three, she didn't seem to know what was going on as we celebrated her life.  But this year, HOLY COW...the girl knows it's her birthday and is E-X-C-I-T-E-D about turning four!  It warms my heart to see her get so excited about having a party with preschool friends.  And what a special blessing it was when she watched me decorate her cake and quietly said, "Wow...thank you Momma!"  No joke...brought me to tears...happy tears.  It's as if she's finally realizing that she is truly loved, cherished, and celebrated.



Jenna is blossoming into a beautiful little girl, inside and out.  She loves to give people hugs and smiles all the time.  She is super silly and has a great laugh.  She's learning SO MUCH, she loves preschool, and her language has sky-rocketed...she talks non-stop!!!  Jenna is full of energy and loves playing with her big brothers and sister--jumping on the trampoline, playing UNO, coloring, and dressing up in princess costumes are a few of her favorite activities.  She prefers to have things in order and exerts her strong will when things are "out of sorts."  Jenna makes me laugh, she makes me cry, and she makes me all the more amazed by the beauty of adoption. 

I often look into Jenna's deep, dark eyes and wonder how I have been blessed to be her mom.

I often watch her sleep and cry tears of sorrow knowing that for 2 1/2 years of her life, she didn't have anyone to read book to her or say prayers with her at night.

I often hear her say, "I love you, Momma" and my heart rejoices in the fact that she knows she is loved, too.


I often watch her run into her daddy's arms and thank God for how she's grown to love and trust him.


I often listen to her laughing with her older brothers and sister and tears of joy fill my eyes.


I often touch her dry, scaly skin and thank God for the beautiful miracle that she truly is.

And I often think about Jenna's birthmother who is far away in China and will never have the joy of these experiences with her daughter.  To this woman I am forever thankful and pray she never gives up believing that her child is LOVED!

 
Jenna, it's been an absolutely amazing year watching you change and grow in so many ways.  You have brought so much joy to our family, and I hope you always know how much you are loved.  When I consider all that you've been through in four short years, I'm amazed by how brave, courageous, and strong you are.  It breaks my heart that there are millions of children around the world that are living in orphanages like you did for the first 2 1/2 years of your life.  I know one day I'll get to share your adoption story with you, and I pray that when that time comes, you will understand on an even deeper level how much you are loved by your family but most of all by your Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of our daughter Jenna.  Thank you for rescuing her four years ago when she was left by her courageous birthparents who wanted the best for their baby girl.  Thank you for the loving caregivers at the orphanage who cared for Jenna during the first 2 1/2 years of her life.  Thank you for allowing Jason and I to become her mommy and daddy.  Thank you for giving Jenna a sister and brothers that love her.  Thank you for the joy and laughter she brings to our family.  Thank you, Father, for how you are working in all of our lives to show us more of who you are and how you have adopted us into your family.  I pray Jenna will become a follower of you at an early age and glorify you with her life.  AMEN.