China Journey 2018 Video

The long awaited moment is here!! My 2018 China Journey video. It was so hard to put 6 months into just 13 mins and 33 seconds but when it was done, I just knew. Thank you to so many for having an interest in it! I successfully made half a room of people cry on Sunday, so have tissues handy.
Wow I love love love these kids. 

– JMF

3 Weeks Home in the USA

Today I ran into a dear friend that I grew up with and after hugging her 10x’s, I turned to her with tear filled eyes and said “Do you want to adopt Baby Zach?” Just saying it felt like death *breathe* to life, to agony, to life again and simultaneously felt like the BEST gift I could imagine for Shi Wenli. She’s one of the best champion Mamas I know.

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve been home and goodness, I thought I’d be better at this than I am. Every day for half a year, children would scream in joy and throw themselves into my arms and suddenly I’m so extremely far away from them in a very American world and I can’t hold any of them. It feels agonizing and steals my breath away.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

My family is dear and full of love and my friends are so kind and full of hugs, but every time someone asks me “How are you?” or “How was China?” or “Are you glad to be home?” …. Wowwwwww, I don’t know and wowww I need a debrief (and probably counseling (DON’T WE ALL HAHA) and wowww, wait did I answer the question yet?

Should I share the shocking hard? Should I share a simple good story? Should I joke for the hundredth time about eating donkey? Do I explain for the 50th time about the new policy? Did I mention everything feels like panic?

Who am I. Why is the sky blue. The rain isn’t acid. You don’t need your passport, you aren’t going into Beijing. Do I take pictures today? Why is it so quiet in the night? Where are my people? Why isn’t anything in Chinese? You’re in America now. <— a short list of things I repeat to myself hundreds of times per day to orient myself.

Maybe I didn’t prepare enough to leave, but how could I? You’re supposed to know how to be home. It isn’t supposed to feel foreign and confusing. If home is where your people are, then I’m split into 60 pieces across the world, and don’t have a clue where to land or whether to be China JMF or American Jean Marie.

I forgot…how much leaving China…feels so much like grief. 

Jesus, be our Home, and be our safety no matter where we go, and bring our sweet little kids their own families and forever homes.

-JMF

Week 13-20: This one brief holy moment.

It was May 19th. Moody Bible Men’s Choir was visiting China and stopped by for a few days to visit SFCV and gave a short concert on a Saturday morning for the kids.

Isaac ran over and clambered up into my lap, and I hugged him tightly, unwilling to let him go. Tomorrow he would meet his new family and I longed to get every bit of love into him that I could. I pulled Leonard {Ling Daiwei} up next to me in his chair, so excited for him to hear some real live music since the kid loves good music. I amped them up “Time for the concert! This is so exciting! Yay!”.

I watched Daiwei’s face closely to see how he’d react to an all men’s acapella choir singing….his face looked like a thundercloud for the first song. I think it was too much? Then the second song started, and his face burst into sunbeams. Tears filled my eyes.

He understood.

The three of us sat there, our own little joyful club. Isaac entwined in my arms, Daiwei with his ever changing expressions on his face, and me watching and listening to it all.

It was in the middle of a rousing rendition of “He’s Never Failed Me Yet”….
“I know God is able, to deliver in time of storm.
I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm.

Trust and never doubt, Jesus will surely bring you out, 
He’s never failed me yet, He’s never failed me yet.” 

… that I looked down. Daiwei had been waving his arms triumphantly with the music, and was now resting one arm over the side of his wheelchair, and Isaac was holding his hand. Isaac saw his hand was empty and slid his own in to be a friend. 

I gasped.

Brothers. 

I put my head down between the two of them and sobbed.
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

They held hands for 10 minutes while I absolutely lost it. 

all I could think is……this one brief holy moment.

The video I took in those seconds, you can see it all over my face, the “whole world in my eyes”, the moment it all made sense and meant so much that it did. Suddenly all the months of hard work fostering 55 kids and hugs and goodbyes and hurts and prayers worries and heart wrenching stories and a million other things melted down into this one brief holy moment when I saw “strangers” be brothers and friends.

“He’s never failed me yet….”, nor does He ever have any intention or promise to.
He will always be Himself. He will always be unchanging Love, always be kind King, always be merciful and good, always be steadfast in every season, always be our Savior.
The God Who became little and small to be our Brother, the Brother who bought us one dark day with nail scarred hands, the second Adam who walked out of the grave, and the Father to the Fatherless to the millions of orphans worldwide.

To bring together orphans into families and boys into brothers and us to Himself.

Brothers: Leonard {Ling Daiwei} and Isaac {Dang Mengyang}. All my heart. 
Leonard Ling Daiwei 灵带伟 18.6.13-5

No, He hasn’t failed me and He never will. 

These words have been coming back to me over the months since May 19th. They were with me the day after when I sobbed behind my camera bittersweet tears of Isaac meeting his family and leaving. They have been with me every time since that I have seen Daiwei and seen his face light up with a million smiles.

I was reminded of how quickly it all can change and how months together can become your “brief holy moment” when a child is transferred back to their home orphanage. I was in Australia when I got a text that made my knees buckle and tears stream down my face. Maya was recalled back to her home orphanage. I was heartbroken and crushed. I would not be back in time to say goodbye to sweet Maya. Others cried over her at her going away party for me.

Maya, who taught me more about the Gospel than anyone I’ve ever met. 
Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Suddenly all the pictures and videos and long back-aching moments bent over her seemed even MORE worth it….they became holy moments spent serving one of the sweetest, bravest and most tender among us.

She is receiving such good care back at her orphanage and several of our eating therapists have been able to visit her caretakers to teach them how to specially care for Maya. I was surprised and incredibly thankful, and then I thought of how just like our God and Father that is. How tenderly He cares for the littlest and least of these.

I know that He’ll keep you, safe from all earthly harm….”

oh, how He loves us.

The weeks have rushed by so swiftly and now I have just 5 weeks left. It has been awfully rough being in China due to being so sick, and yet it shatters my heart to leave these precious and vivacious kids who I so long to see grow up and have families.

This whole season in China has been so incredibly worth it, filled with victories and joy, hugs and tears, friendships and laughter, jokes and memories. I’ve been blessed to serve.

It has meant something in these orphans lives as I’ve captured their lives in photos and built their files, memories of a past and hope for a future. It has meant something for Jesus and His Kingdom. It has meant something: a million somethings to my heart.

It has seemed like so little and it has been beyond what I could handle. It has been agonizing and good. It has been brief. It has been long. It has been quiet and faithful.
It has been full of doing many “small things with great love” {Mother Teresa}. Many unseen moments of ministry. Many moments too deep for words or pictures.

It has been one brief holy moment in China.

and I’m so thankful to have been here through it all.

-JM

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!}