Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Project 52 {Week 22} -

{Week 22} Friday, May 27, 2016 ~ View from the 4th floor Terrace at the Orlando Science Center, FL
I had such a lovely time Friday afternoon, 2nd shooting another wedding with Shannon!! It was dreamy & perfect. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Project 52 {Week 21} -

{Week 21} Thursday, May 19, 2016 ~ Self Portrait & the Sunset Clouds

This week was a hard one, probably the hardest missing my China babies since the week after I got back. 
Turns out, I wasn't the only one missing them soooo much! Some others on my team were hit hard too. 
It was 2 months this week that we left, and that really aches some days. It's hard being separated!  

The evening of this sunset, I particularly needed to read this, and to see that glory. 

"Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low;
the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth;
the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall SEE it together;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken....

Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, 
and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young." 
{Isaiah 40:4-5 & 10-11}

- JM -

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The China Sessions: 8 -


The words ache. 

They bleed onto the paper with the stain of tears. 
They look like sorrow. 
They sound like grief. 

2 Months ago was the day we said goodbyes at the orphanage. 

 Of nearly all the things to write, this one aches the most. 

 I didn't want to write it, and I didn't want to share it, and I didn't want to remember it so clearly. 
So I spent 6 hours unpacking my friend's kitchen and lining her cupboards with contact paper,
and telling myself I didn't have to.....but here I am. Writing it down again. 

Because they mean so much: These words. This sorrow of separation. Those children. 

*Journal Entry. Friday, March 18, 2016.* 

"Nän hái."

 Wö de háizi. My Boy. 

My sweet sweet boy. 

I feel like I'm leaving my heart here in the last room on the second story of this orphanage.

So many tears. 

"Wö aì ní" I love you. I'll miss you. I love you forever.

Making you giggle once more; your eyes squinting shut. 
You recognize me instantly; you reach for me. 
You are calmed in my arms. 

"Nän hái." I say, and you smile glowingly back, your eyes never leaving mine. 
You know my love and I am shattered at leaving you. 

"You'll be in my heart, no matter what they say - 
You'll be in my heart - ALWAYS." 


"All at once, everything is different - 
now that I SEE .... YOU." 

My CJ. May you be strong and courageous. 

"Courage, dearheart...." Oh my heart. My sweet sweet boy. My nän hái. 

Goodbyes. They are so, so hard. 
My eyes ache. My heart breaks. Oh, my loves

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

That morning, we'd had such a beautiful time at the park across the street with some of the children, 
and we knew we'd only have under an hour with our kids when we returned. It was a quiet walk in. 

We headed for our rooms right away, with the words "Someone will come get you when it's time...." 
tenderly spoken to us by our Mama Leader who knew what was coming. 

I made sure to hold each of my little loves that I could: Joely Boy, Susie B, Ben, Noah,
a tender stroke on the cheek for Sarah, Joseph, AnnaBeth; if anyone wanted snuggles, they got them. 

Words whispered fiercely over them in a love defined as Gospel love. 
Quiet prayers of protection & futures. A million kisses. 

I waited to hold CJ until the last 20 minutes, because I wouldn't be letting him go. 

The hour before I said my goodbyes to my boy,
I handed a nanny my iPod and asked her to take some photos of CJ & I. 
They are among my most treasured photos now. You can't tell from here, but CJ was making me
laugh at the way he was leaning back so I'd laugh and press my head against his. 

Forehead to forehead. You also can't see the tears on my cheeks. 

Tears streaming down my face. My heart was shattering into a million pieces. 
The nannies had tears in their eyes watching me. 

I whispered words to CJ I'll never tell anyone else. Jesus, how can I leave him? 

The Sweet Head Nanny Director comes and stands in the doorway for me, 
and I pretend not to see her in my peripheral vision. 
I hold his head against my shoulder and rock in agony. 
She steps into the room and I look up to see her smiling gently. 

I smile back, and I do not budge. 

Call me rebellious. Call the calvary. Call the team. "One more minute...", I say. 

I'd move mountains to adopt him if it was possible. 
I'd become a senator to change laws if it would help. 
I'd storm the gates of all China with the fierce devotion I felt for CJ, 
and the whole Mama Bear emotion finally came out in full force. I never understood it until then. 

The nannies would not reach to take him from me. I knew we both had to be brave. 
I make sure he looks right at me. I tell him I love him. He smiles because he knows. 

I look at the nannies. "My CJ", I say, with a sob breaking in my throat. "My boy."

They smile and nod, because they've seen me love with a Mother love, with a Gospel love. 

And then I do the hardest thing, and hand him to the nanny. 
Instantly, I am bereft, and he feels it too: he instantly bursts into tears.
I grab my shoes and backpack, and hug all the nannies and thank them a million times. "Xiè xie ní"

I don't look back. I walk out the door on shaky legs as his wail pierces my heart. 

If I could stay, I would. If I could take you with me, I would. If I could be with you, I would. 

"Even in laughter the heart may ache..." {Proverbs 14:13} So many tears. 
Oh my sweet CJ. Wö ài ní. I love you and miss you more than you'll ever know. 

I have to stop in the hallway as I catch my breath. 
Am I crying too hard? Has my heart stopped? 
Will I ever breath again?

I start again, and walk beside the sweet nanny director. 
She pats my shoulder in empathy,  because I'm sobbing deeply. 

I struggle to say it in Mandarin, and move my hands to explain:  "Nän hái.", "CJ", my....he's.....my boy. 
He's....*I put my hand over my heart, point to me* Nän hái." Wö de háizi." 

"AAWWW", she says, and nods her head. Nothing more need be said. My tears speak volumes. 

We all sat sobbing in the main room until our group gathered, and when the main director walked in, 
she looked around the room and said "Maybe you all should stay!". Oh, how we wanted to! 

As we left, someone came rushing after us, because they had just heard a baby was put on the list, 
and needed an assessment and a file gathered. So Martha, Anna, and Gary went back up,
and the rest of us sat on the steps, waiting....but I had to write.
I went into the lobby, and pulled out my journal, and slid against a huge pillar and wrote. 

A painter carrying a huge ladder was surprised to pass me by one time; he looked interested in my journaling, 
but probably thought better of asking me, since I had tears streaming down my face. 

"Spring is coming. The magnolia trees in white and pink are blooming fragrantly.
The fragrance is almost enough to knock us off our feet.
The sweetness of Spring for our broken hearts.

The breeze rustles the bamboo and knocks it together in the comforting sound of a peaceful China. 
Birds sing. Yellow blossoms shine upon stick-like bushes. Weeping Willows trail tendrils of bright green. 

And we leave. We walk away. 

We leave having loved with all our hearts, and with no regrets. 

We have made so many wonderful memories together,
but tomorrow will come, and we won't be here. 
They will look for us, but we won't come. 
May they remember the love, the fun, the laughter, the joy, the hugs. 
May they remember Jesus. 

We leave knowing that the Father of the Fatherless watches over these children 
and loves them more than we ever could in our whole lifetimes. 

He will provide. If not families, then: GOOD. Always good. 

He is their Baba, and mine. Forever His."

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." {John 14:18}

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Not all of the children that I've met and loved at this orphanage can be adopted. 
But most can. Please consider adopting!!! 

Never have I ever known a clearer picture of God's love for us as His OWN CHILDREN,
than when I saw these orphans and loved them like my own. 

Feel free to write me an email, or 
click this link: AWAA.org to learn more on waiting children in China.

And if you're considering going on a Storyteller Missions Trip, I will be first in line to tell you to GO.
It will change your life and your heart and it is 10000% worth it. We can't wait to go again!!!

With much love always,
~ Jean Marie ~ 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Project 52 {Week 19 & 20} -

{Week 19} Friday, May 6, 2016
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Winter Park, Florida

{Week 20} Wednesday, May 11, 2016 ~ Kimberly & Ben brought back treasures from Scotland! 
Mostly Kimberly, actually, haha. Daddy raised two botanists.
 Real, true, Scottish peat moss amidst thistles, pinecones, rocks and stones! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The China Sessions: 7 "Ben" -


I named him "Ben". 

There were two darling lookalike boys and I could not for the life of me tell them apart. 
 It was the first day and it was all so new, but names helped. Names helped a ton.

I studied his serious face with the tendency to burst into a wide smile in an instant.
His brown eyes were steady and would lock with mine with a gaze a mile deep. 

I looked at the other little boy, and said "Joel", and then back at him, and said "Ben"
It fit instantly. He was Ben. My brother-in-law's new little namesake. 

He was small. He loved to be held and snuggled. 

Ben, and his serious face, but contagious laughter. 
Ben, who is ready for a family, but doesn't have one yet. 
Ben, with his gentle soul and sweet hugs. 
Ben, who tilted his head when I'd call his name, 
even though I'd only been calling him that for 5 days.

Of the way the look in his eyes stole my breath away, every single time. 

In his eyes - PROMISE

 Ben was such an adventurer and mover. One time he put this musical ring on his head like a crown, 
and crawled around to the laughter of the nannies and I! Such an adorable little guy. 

He would be so serious....and then see you watching him... 

....and a smile would cross it, so tenderly and sweetly. 
It was irresistible and I always had a smile back!!

It brought me so much joy to see him give and accept love so freely. 

I had so much love to give....and he quietly, sweetly, took it. He knew my love.

Late on the first day....Monday, he was crying his eyes out because his favorite nanny left the room,
so I picked him up and walked over to the window for some peace.

I started to sing to him, different little happy songs of life and love, and he didn't like any of them,
I kept trying, thinking he'd like the next, and he was stiff and inconsolable,
until I sang one of my favorite lullabies from my childhood...

"All day. All night. Angels watchin' over me, my Lord. 
All day. All night. Angels are watchin' over me. 

Sun is setting in the west, angels watchin' over me, my Lord. 
Come now, child, and take your rest, while Angels are watchin' over you...." 

I cradled him against my chest, and he laid his head right down against my heart.
He gave a great big sigh, and as I sang it and patted his back,
he, in turn, patted the back of my shoulder softly.

Tenderly he played with my heart necklace with his free hand, it jingling as I sang.

My sweet little Ben.....so many times we wonder if we will be enough....
only to be reminded that God's peace is a direct gift of the Holy Spirit and is so very tangible.

I stroked his head, and I whispered through tears catching in my throat
that he was important, that someone would love him, I already did....
he with his whole mouthful of teeth and wide grin and steady eyes.


He fell asleep in my arms. No longer the fretting, bawling baby of 15 minutes ago.
He could hear my heart, he knew peace. 
He knew I was singing over him in love. He was certain of me.

 "Now I lay me down to sleep, ohh, Angels watchin' over me, my Lord. 
Pray the Lord my soul to keep, while Angels are watchin' over me.

Ohh, all day. All night. Angels watchin' over me, my Lord. 
All day. All night. Angels are watchin'.....over me." 

So many times I've thought of this special moment, and instantly started crying.

I asked for so much prayer that God's love would be tangible to the ones we touched....
I don't think it is possible that it could have been MORE.

It was an outpouring of God's love, and it was God's very heart for orphans.

Every time I think of the moment Ben calmed in my arms, I think of Zephaniah 3:17 -

"The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness, 
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing." 

Be certain of this, that the Father of the Fatherless longs to bring these children
into safe and loving arms, where families will hold them, will sing to them, will rejoice over them,
will love them with a taste of the undeniable love that He has loved us with.

Do not fear. Be strong.

The Mighty One, will save.

If you are Ben's family.....I'm praying for you.

Write AWAA.org to learn more on waiting children in China.

With love always,
~ Jean Marie ~