Week 4-12: The Good in the Hard

Quick explanation for being so faraway: I haven’t known how to get ALL the things done, so I simply haven’t. On the “recovery weekends” after such busy weeks, blogging is at the very bottom of that list, underneath things like “get laundry done”, “take a shower”, “sleep” ,”meal prep”, “answer e-mails” “yay, a walk outside” and “don’t be dead”. Somehow we all turn into pseudo-parents when we get here. We’re excited to go to bed at 9pm and love showers and love having clean laundry and get really excited about weekends. So forgive me for being absent….Instagram is the place you’ll learn the most about my daily life! (just click the pictures or link in the sidebar to your right). 

  ———————————————————————————————————————————

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection,
not in books alone but in every leaf of Springtime.” {Martin Luther} 

30725025_10216127770890302_8991008366201405440_o

Spring has come to Northern China at long last. Even though Wintery days still crop up, green is covering the trees, puff balls of flowering trees are floating in the air and blossoms are bursting from all the trees that looked so very dead just a few months ago. Blue sky days have been appearing, along with Spring rains (plus fireworks), gentle breezes to blustery winds, and grass starting to grow. The world coming alive again. 30705194_10216127771970329_631693198506328064_o

I moved to China in the Winter on purpose. I wanted to see Spring come to China. I didn’t realize how hard that Winter would be, and now that Spring is here, I don’t know how to fully explain all it means to me. It continues to feed my soul with beauty and lift my heart with praise to our Creator who deeply loves beauty and gives beautiful gifts. 30728271_10216127772370339_3041541164369969152_o

The days are long, the weekends are short, yet I’m almost halfway through my stay, and I can’t imagine leaving. I long to see orphans become sons and daughters in person, I long to see all that God will do here, and I long to love on these children as they grow up.

Yes, it’s hard work. It’s so MUCH work, it’s hard work, it’s exhausting work. And it’s GOOD WORK. It’s work that is building a child’s future, it’s work that is sustaining a child’s life. My work in photography….it is work that is retaining memories in the hope that a Mother or Father will look on these pictures and see their son or daughter. It is work that is capturing all the things any proud parent would: the moment he learned to rollerblade after weeks of practice, the moment she smiled, the moment he took his first steps, the days after his surgery, the smiles on the playground, and the grumpy haircuts too. The naps, the lunches, the bottles, the ayis’ kisses, the moments that make up childhood life. 

It’s invaluable. It’s connection giving. It’s my job. It exhausts me. It’s worth it.

Something I’ve been thinking about heavily is this:
“Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t where He has called you to be.” 
30713431_10216127773010355_2838897696742309888_o

I know without a doubt that God has called me here, and that only He could have made a way for me to return, only He could write such a story for me. At 4 weeks, I wondered what on earth I’d done to my life and wondered if it would ever get easier. At 6 weeks I was bumping around in the back of a van and thinking I never want to leave!

So I learn to look at the hours and hours and yet more hours of work and see it all as GOOD because it isn’t for my glory at all, it’s my calling by the Father to the Fatherless. It’s for another’s good: it’s work building and shaping an orphan’s future and memories and the best tangible gift I could give them. So I get up in the morning tired and go to bed tired and do the very best I can, all in the name of love, to show the world how lovely they are. What an honor. What a gift. What a privilege. 30728605_10216127772690347_2446272887716315136_o

Along with watching Spring come to China, and feeling at a loss for words to adequately explain…I haven’t known how to fully express how wonderful, sweet, energetic, smart and amazing these kids are here at Shepherd’s Field.

How do you advocate well when the rest of the world can’t possibly know all a moment means? How do you explain the wonder of one happy bite of a puff and how a video of the sweet girl eating that puff will reduce you to the happiest tears while standing in a Chinese restaurant? I tend to move towards the “it can’t be overstated deeply enough”, and it’s overwhelming to know how to tackle it, so we sit together and share stories and laugh and cry and “aww” and rejoice with each other here on campus. But I long for you to know, to really know how much it means and how much they mean to me, to us. 

Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is a dream come true for any orphan. And yet. Everyone here longs so deeply for these kids to be adopted into forever families. 

Like Ella (Song Yuxuan), with her precious face and gentle eyes, loving, cuddly & sweet.
Ella Song Yuxuan 宋宇轩 18.3.19-1

Brody (Hu Minpeng), an intense learner and full of never-ending poses & smiles.
Brody Hu Minpeng 胡闽鹏 ChineseNewYear 18.2.15-1

Charissa (Ling Deting), incredibly smart and caring, full of spunk and laughter.
Charissa Ling Deting 灵德婷 18.3.26-4

Flynn (Zhao Angpen), brave and curious, full of mischievous joy and sweetness!
Flynn Zhao Angpeng 赵安朋 18.2.28-4

Francis (Dang Guanxin), courageous and smart, & the best sound mimic I’ve ever heard.
Francis Dang Guanxin 党关心 HopeRanch 18.3.15-3

Hanna (Song Yicai), who stole my heart the moment I saw her, full of joy and light.
Hanna Song Yicai 宋怡彩 18.2.13-4

Hector (Dang Guobu), one of the best, uncomplaining, kindest & fun boys I’ve ever met.
Hector Dang Guobu 党国部 EasterEggHunt 18.4.3-7

Leonard (Ling Daiwei), my pal & treasured friend, joyful, special, great encourager.
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.2.28-3

Isaac (Dang Mengyang), tenderhearted, full of hugs & energy, adventurous & sweet.
Isaac Dang Mengyang 党孟洋18.3.11-4

Jean Marie (Kong Huangbei), full of sweetness, loves the outdoors, snuggles & kisses.
Jean Marie Kong Huangbei 孔黄贝 18.2.14-12

Lael (Zhang Youqing), those cheeks! precious one full of curiosity and inquisitive looks.
Lael Zhang Youqing 张又晴 18.3.19-14

Levi (Han Qiannan), sensitive & tenderhearted, full of the best laughter and hugs!
Levi Han Qiannan 韩乾南 18.3.5-5

Matthew (Zhu Wenlian), dearest little guy who loves to “just be” with you, gentle, joyful!
Matthew Zhu Wenliang 朱文梁 18.3.26-1

Maya (Dang Guan), teaches me what the Gospel is. Brave, strong, beautiful, courageous.
Maya Dang Guan Ai 党关爱 therapy 18.4.9-2

Olive (Zhang Rongxuan), tiny warrior, full of the best soft coo’s, mighty, beloved.
Olive Zhang Rongxuan 张荣轩 Therapy 18.3.6-3

Oscar (Shi Yitie), one of my best little pals, with the best smile ever, full of laughter.
Oscar Shi Yitie 石毅铁 18.3.4-2

Russell James (Song Xiping), the real life Russell from UP, shy, darling, loves cuddles!
Russell James Song Xiping 宋熙平 18.3.20-6

Rocco (Zhu Jingfen), contemplative, runs to give you hugs, sweet, adventurous, smart. Rocco Zhu Jingfen 朱景奋 18.4.8-1

Samuel (Dang Liming), excited to play with his friends!, oh those dimples!, a helper.
Samuel Dang Liming 党利明 therapy 18.4.10-8

Simeon (Shi Wenjia), loves to tease, playful, curious, smiles with his whole face!
Simeon Shi Wenjia 石文佳18.2.13-1

Wes (Ling Wudao), a great teacher of the long-haul friendship, smart, loves Pooh Bear!
Wes Ling Wudao 灵婺道 18.3.5-13

Zack (Shi Wenli), sweetest boy, steady, gentle, giver of love, full of light and joy!
Zack Shi Wenli 施文黎 18.3.5-10….. and this is only half of our incredible and precious kids!!
Feeling moved to tears and smiles? Me too!! Every day, every week. They’re incredible.

The best tangible gift you could give to these orphans? Sponsorship. Prayers. And advocating for their adoptions! On the other side of the world, it might seem like so little. To Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village’s kids? It’s HUGE. Please contact me if you’d love to know more! 

– JM

Real, Raw & Undone

Everything makes me cry. 

My pictures of China make me cry. I hold that chunk of our tree with the C grown in it, and tears gather. Every single picture of my China babies growing up in America make me drop everything to stare in wonder at their smiles and how big they are, and I mostly hold the tears in. I bawl openly over “gotcha day” videos of “my China kids”. I look at this picture above and my heart just free falls into awe over his dearly loved life now, and how stunned I was the day I knew he was adopted and so! much! chubbier! my tiniest little baby he was: so much bigger and stronger!

I go out and put on my gold CJ necklace, and it warms against my chest, and the tears stand out in my eyes. I pull up his picture in church sometimes, just to see his face and the tears fall unchecked, because when I think of God loving me as a parent, I think of me loving CJ. 21762612_10214369145365763_9140063069527356946_o

I watched an adoption video several nights ago by the Archibald Project and cried and cried and cried, the kind of ugly sniffling cry where you try not to wake your parents up.

All the songs, all the worship music, all the Christmas music I’m defiantly listening to too early. I get weepy over every happy announcement of babies coming soon and the “fullness” feeling of being around my nephew. The simple way my assistant pastor’s kids say “Good morning” in Mandarin: “Zao shàng hao” on Sunday mornings makes me “feel all the feels” in the best way. The encouraging texts and e-mails from my China team leave me bawling in the lobby at the doctor’s office. My friends hand me checks and buy prints and just a few days ago, some friends told me they were sending money for a photography session as support for China, making me stop walking in the middle of a park to look at my friend and burst into tears. Hit 10% of support? Cry instantly.

The tears slip down my face unseen in the night.

Everything makes me cry. 

Going back to China is a Gift.

My pastor’s wife asked me recently if I was excited, and I hesitated (I mean, YES?!, but) I waved my hands in the air in a helpless gesture, because I didn’t have the words. Finally I struggled out through a throat thick with tears: “It’s a gift.”. She looked at me with the knowing eyes of woman who has been to countless countries on missions and served with her husband so many long hard hours for Jesus, and she said “Yes, it is. It really is.”

I haven’t known how else to explain…..this. Haven’t known how to write, to share.

But hear THIS: I completely and wholly feel that it is a gift I don’t deserve.

I haven’t waited for China with worship and praise to Jesus every day. I’ve been angry at the new NGO laws and I’ve definitely cried many long agonizing nights that weren’t filled with joyful patience. I’m not the poster child of missions, by far. I haven’t waited well, and I haven’t looked to Jesus in Hope every day. I haven’t done the good girl “mission in waiting things”. Some days I just sat in bed with one verse and cried because the ache was so strong I didn’t know how to put it into words and only Jesus knew. DSC_0486

I’ve been broken. and I’ve been weeping. and I’ve been aching. and I’ve been confused.

I’m more shocked than anyone else that I’ve been given the gift of returning, and I’ve never understood the gospel as A GIFT more than the night I knew I was going back. I hung up the Skype call, walked into my bedroom, fell on my knees with my head against the floor and gave in to keening sobs of pure relief.

I texted my friend “I don’t deserve this.”
But since when did any of us deserve any of Jesus’ marvelous gifts?  

Jesus, with His beautiful Savior heart, and God with His never failing Father love, and the Holy Spirit: all 3 in One Who wouldn’t let me let China go. Who spoke to me like He promised He would and used His word, His people and praise songs to move me to Him day after day after day through all the seasons……

 He’s sending me back. 

and I’m continuously on my knees, weeping in gratitude.

I recognize this undone feeling.

We joked amongst our China Team in 2016 that we “overprayed for God to break our hearts for what breaks His”. There wasn’t a day at least one of us didn’t completely lose it and sob in another’s arms. One time I’m pretty sure all the restaurant waiters were genuinely concerned about our entire table crying at one time, and served us extra gently some tea, hahaha. We showed up knowing it would be so hard and it was.

We showed up open and ready, and raw, and God used our “overprayed broken hearts” in the most beautiful ways I won’t ever forget. I believe we were a hundred times better prepared to understand and compassionately love those kids with our breaking hearts.

And so I recognize the real, raw, undone feeling that is stealing into my heart and leaving me an emotional mess who cries over everything and holds an ache that can’t be explained. It is the Holy Spirit, readying my heart for how He will use it to love His orphans in China. It’s a joyful heartbreaking, because it means I’m going back to China.

In 77 days, I’ll be boarding a plane and returning to walk again in China’s lands. DSC_0491

Trying to think about it all, the huge, amazing, unbelievable story….I’m undone. And so should I be, and so should I speak of the gift of the Gospel in the very same breath.

It’s a gift, a gift I don’t deserve, a gift to be able to serve, a gift to carry the name of Jesus.

A gift of a calling only He could give. A gift only He knew about. A gift so close to His heart.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus to orphans in another land not my own, bearing His name in His call to care for orphans in their distress and the least of these among me. Fulfilling a great need in an orphanage of what I already love to do? It’s beyond words or dreams.

It’ll be hard. But I recognize the One whose nail-scarred hands lead me, and I see the cross where He died for the nations to come to Him, and I cry some more raw tears as I wait 77 more days in hope of all the ways He will use me and all the things He will do.

*Want to join the team sending me? Click this link, or send me a message to chat more!*

World Adoption Day 2017

I remember walking away from my dear team leader as she was mid-sentence, thinking I was going to be sick from the story she was telling me softly and stumbling onto the bus, sinking down in the seat to weep harshly. It was as though the evil of the world opened up and I saw the orphan crisis for all the darkness it holds, and it broke me in ways I didn’t know could break.

“Jesus,” I whispered against the cold glass, “Don’t let it be true.” But was.

The truth is that there are 15 million children today who are orphans or have been abandoned. Weeping is the right response, because God the Father weeps over them too. When our China team came home, I had all these pictures and stories and nowhere to go.

“Just wait”, our team leader said to comfort us, knowing what was coming. Then a few months later, their files were released. I had e-mails stacked on e-mails and would drop everything in the middle of drives or plans to stand in a friend’s bedroom for 30 mins to talk to adoptive parents on the phone and pray over them.

Then I saw “our China babies” finally in their parents arms after the long wait. I watched videos of them meeting each other, crying and laughing in the arms of the ones who loved them so deeply. And I finally fully understood how great of a gift we’d carried with us.

How great of a gift advocating was, how great of a gift meeting orphans was, how great of a gift going was, and how great of a gift being a little part of the telling of these children’s lives was.

And I wept. 

Because God had known all along. God had seen, God had heard all our prayers, and God had planned each son or daughter for each family JUST SO. Truly His ways are perfect and He does what He does best, putting the lonely in families and bringing them together, and using us in the middle to rejoice at His love.

He is Abba; Father to the Fatherless, He is the One Who calls us to go, and He is the One Who will One Day bring every orphan safely Home. What an honor to be a part of advocating for the orphans in our world and truly the best privilege of my lifetime and my future.

-JM

{all FIVE China babies pictured are ADOPTED and so loved every day!}