one week

one week from TODAY we will be flying over siberia - making our way to china (no joshin' here, they actually fly 'over' the globe because that's the shortest route!) even with all the suitcases laying around, it hardly seems real.

we are busy packing, running errands, writing instructions for the kiddos and all the other stuff that has to be done (and if i am honest, i want done) the holiday season has been a huge blessing in the fact that the time has flown by and i cannot believe we are staring at less than a week before we walk out the door for the final time as a family of 6.

which brings me to how i am feeling about this whole adventure. well, let's go back to the final sentence of the last paragraph and play ashleigh. as i type that, i think, "well, i think we will come back as a family of 7. but maybe that is foreshadowing that we are going to die in a fiery plane crash and there will only be left a family of 4. and then they will read this blog and think how incredible it is that i wrote that as part of my final blog entry..."

welcome to my insides.

it's not a secret to those who know me that i have a propensity for thinking about an untimely death. and sweet makiah has not done anything except confirm my (somewhat) irrational fears about an early exit from this world. it does happen. so yes, i am scared out of my mind that we are going down in a plane. i would feel a whole lot better if there had been a major air catastrophe in the last year or so. given that, the odds that there would be a second would be low. however, there hasn't been. so i am stuck with battling serious fear that my kids will grow up without parents.

you think i am kidding. i'm not.

so how am i feeling about this adventure? i think scared is a good word. nervous. anxious. out of my mind petrified.

and it's not just flying. there's a whole lot more to be nervous about. there are so many unknowns with this adoption, more so than even with lydia. and before you tell me that there are always unknowns with children, let me try and describe the difference.

sarahjoy is 2. we have NO IDEA what her first two years of life held. biological children...you know. even most adoptions you have an idea. sarahjoy...has she been held and loved and had proper stimulation or been stuck in a crib for two years? we know she is super tiny, has she gone hungry and is she malnourished? has she been in an abusive environment - physically, emotionally, sexually? has she had proper medical care or do we know only the tip of the iceberg? has she been cold for long lengths of time for lack of clothing and blankets? have they loved her and are sad to see her go, or have they punished her because she is being adopted and has had packages sent from the US? we know she has been in an orphanage, how will that affect her, being institutionalized for those critical first two years of life? there are SO MANY unknowns that you simply take for granted with your biological children.

and then there are the relatively minor unknowns...is she potty trained? what does she eat? does she still take a bottle? does she like a pacifier? what is her bedtime routine? does she take a nap? what makes her smile? do vacuums scare her? does she like to be held close? or maybe she likes to run around? what does she like to play with? and on and on and on and on....

here is how it goes. we take a bus to a government office (think DMVish). someone from the orphanage is there. they hand sarahjoy to us. just sarahjoy. no clothes, no toys, no blankets, no bottles, no nothing. we may have 10 minutes of time to ask questions (which have to be translated so make that about 5 minutes). and then she is ours. that's it. we turn around and begin the adventure of figuring out just who sarahjoy is (without the benefit of language comprehension.)

so how do i feel? i'm scared! i'm nervous! i don't know what in the world the next few weeks/months/years hold (including whether i am going down in a fiery plane crash.) undergirding that fear is the belief that God has led us on this journey. and i know that in the deepest places of my heart. but just because God leads you there doesn't mean it is full of rainbows and a pot of gold. some would say that's pessimistic, i say it's realistic.

am i excited? yes! i can't wait to hold sarahjoy, i can't wait to whisper in her ear 1000 times that i love her so that on the 1001st time she can know what it means. i can't wait to give her a bath and dress her in beautiful clean clothes. i can't wait to unpack the toys we brought and watch her play. i can't wait to give her the dolls and hear her talk to them in chinese. i can't wait to feed her and let her eat as much as her little belly can possibly hold. i can't wait to hold her close and love her, day after day after day until she never remembers what it's like to not be loved. i can't wait! but i am scared too. the unknown.

we will be updating this blog as we journey. my understanding is that 'blogger' is banned in china so we will not be able to actually see what we are uploading to the blog (or read comments on the blog). but we should be able to get text and pictures up there in some way, shape or form. and we hope to upload a video to youtube of when we first get to meet sarahjoy.

we will have access to email so please email us! we would LOVE to hear from you - i can promise being on the other side of the world with no 'outside' contact for 17 days is not for the faint of heart. you can email us at eric(at)vbgrace(dot)com or ashleighsanzone(at)verizon(dot)net.

i don't know that i will make it back on here until we are in the land of the dragons so i leave you with a few specific prayer requests:

1. pray for peace for me especially. i am truly filled with fear about flying together with eric.

2. pray for our reunion with sarahjoy that we would have wisdom on how to love her best. that we would communicate security and peace and comfort through our actions and tone of voice (words are a bit pointless here in the first few days)

3. pray for a special time for eric and me. there is great opportunity to face together the unknowns and there is also great opportunity to take our stress out on one another.

thank you for being a part of sarahjoy's life! we absolutely cannot wait to post pictures for you to see God's miracle in our arms.

for a preview...go here.


my christmas wish

i have decided that most people don't like dwelling in the reality of difficult circumstances. we want things to be better, in relatively short order. maybe it's a consequence of our instant society, maybe it's human nature. i am not sure. but we are uncomfortable with discomfort. we want the bad to pass quickly or not at all. we downplay the reality of heartache or just plain don't enter in to the heartache. oftentimes we pretend it's not there, we certainly don't ask questions about it, or even worse, excuse it away with trite phrases of sentiment or just plain stupid comments.

makiah is gone. she will never be home again. she will never snuggle up to mommy or run into daddy's arms again. yes, she is in heaven. and that works great for her. we are thankful for that. very thankful. but that does not change what is the reality here on earth. that doesn't change the silent house and empty hearts of cameron and rachel. their family has been broken. and it is horrible, awful, gut-wrenching anguish. it is. and it will be. and it will be some more.

as christians i wonder if we are worried to embrace the hard stuff. that maybe if we admit to ourselves that people are hurting and life is painful that we in some way are demeaning our God. that we are creating him to be less than he is. we want things to be better because we want God to have done something, to fix the problem, to shew away the pain. we are uncomfortable with a God who allows heartache and not only allows it, but let's us sit in it. we believe that if we are 'right' with God, we will stand tall, look at pain between it's two deviled eyeballs and give it a suckerpunch for a TKO. after all, weakness and misery, emptiness and pain are for the population that refuses God. fullness and joy are for his followers.

so i hear questions like, 'how are cameron and rachel? are they doing okay?' or 'gosh, her blog is awful. i can't stand to read it.' or 'man, it just seems like they are really struggling.'

and because i thankfully have a filter on my mouth a majority of the time (there are advantages to aging...) i do not respond how i would like to. however, i claim no filter on my typing, so let me just say for all to read,


what's that? God heals and restores?

yes, that's true. God does promise to walk us through to the other side. but have you ever seen someone who has been attacked by a shark? they don't exactly look the same when the healing is done. the scars are deep, sometimes obvious and sometimes hidden, but the wound is always there. there is a limp in their step and a change to their body. they may have an incredible story of survival on the other side, but they will never be whole again. there is residual pain. there are days when life is not much different than before, but there are many more days when life is completely different. accommodations must be made. the injury must be accounted for. as time passes, the scars become more and more a part of their body. less interfering as it were. but that's only with time. lots of it. lots and lots of it. there is much healing to be done before 'normal' is even a concept that can be entertained.

so yes, will cameron and rachel be okay? i do believe that someday they will have learned to walk with their scars. but right now, there are gaping wounds. bone-crushing, life-altering wounds. it's hard to watch, difficult to just stand by and observe the pain. but that's reality.

so here's what i want for christmas...i want people to think and enter into other's painful realities. and i am not just speaking to cameron and rachel's circumstances. maybe it is another of life's tragedies that you are watching unfold - infertility, miscarriage, wayward family, terminal illness, divorce, consequences of poor decisions. there are a multitude of circumstances that involve varying degrees of pain. i want people to stop being impatient and realize that life often involves months and years of heartache. i want people to stop saying stupid things to try and gloss over the traumas and tragedies. i want people to try and just sit their humble selves in the circumstances of another and feel. shove away the need to say something 'helpful', or do something to make it better. instead, just think. meditate on life in their shoes and be sad. God guarantees us difficulty, pain, trials, death. it's okay to acknowledge. tragedy doesn't mean God isn't there. it only means that we are in fact living on earth.

makiah, maybe your life will touch 1000's of others. i'm fairly sure it already has. but we will always miss YOUR life. no one, even 1000's, can replace you. we are thankful that you are with jesus. but we are horrifyingly empty without you here. we know that life must be lived. but we long to be with you. for time to hurry up. you will never know your sisters and that is a reality that is too painful to dwell on. but we promise they will know you. they will know your story. they will know your face. they will know your name and your heart. i wish they could know you. but that will have to wait. that whole wishing time would hurry up idea.

and you will never know your cousin, who will bear your name. but sarahjoy will know you. she will know your face and your heart, your story. and she will always bear 'makiah' as part of her identity. because if there was ever a little girl who was burdened for the hurting of this world, it was you. she will know that you helped bring her home. she will know your mommy and daddy. and she will know their hearts and their story. she will know your sisters. and when they play, they will know someone is missing. they will not be sad. for childish innocence is the picture of joy. we'll leave the sadness for the grown ups. but they will know.

christ entered into our pain. my hope this christmas is that we can enter into one another's. that we wouldn't be afraid to sit together with broken hearts, whatever the circumstances are that have done the breaking.

i don't know what our future is. i can tell you that i wake up every day and wonder if it's my last with someone i love. or maybe my last. i don't know what sarahjoy will bring to our family. it is nice to think that the answer is smiles and joy, but the realities of a special needs adoption are not always pretty and certainly not easy. so i am guarded. forgive me if i seem unenthusiastic. that is not the case, i am merely feeling the weight of life's difficulties a bit more as we enter into this new season of our family. and realizing that maybe, just maybe, we're not in for a picnic.

two weeks and counting.



our holidays are as busy as ever with one small change...we are preparing to welcome home our little girl in just a few weeks! our plane tickets are bought and we are scheduled to fly out of virginia beach early on january 6. 'january' sounds far away...3 weeks, not so much...

we received our final price quotes today and i am so unbelievably excited to tell you that our adoption will be 100% paid for. i was holding my breath a bit before the final numbers came in, but we are ready to fully embrace the miracle. thank you so much for the part you all have played. we are so, so thankful. when i first began to pray about sarahjoy coming home, God led me to the word 'faithful'. he has certainly shown himself to be just that. our hope and prayer is that you all have been able to witness God's faithfulness too as you have followed our journey.

we fly in just about 3 weeks. let's be honest, i am scared out of my mind. the thought of a 5th child, a toddler (we are most definitely out of the toddler stage in our house!), a child who doesn't know english, a child who has been institutionalized for 2 years, a question mark about her health - it all is definitely causing my stomach some serious knots. i have to keep reminding myself that God has promised to be faithful. it will probably not be easy, dare i say ROUGH for who knows how long, but He is faithful. easy for me to write to you. not so easy for me to fully embrace.

a few specific prayers as we spend the last few weeks as a family of 6:

***we have asked for updated measurements. the only ones we have are from july. please pray that we can get these (her orphanage is being very difficult). it would be good for one, so that we have more of an accurate idea about clothes. but more importantly, it would give me some direction about what we are facing with her health.

***good health for our family. i don't want to leave behind sick kids and i certainly don't want to be sick when traveling. and we need grammy and pops and grandma to be 100% healthy too!!!

***wisdom for packing. the reality is that they just hand sarahjoy to us. the only thing she comes with are the clothes on her back (and in lydia's case, not even a pair of underwear or shoes that fit). so we have to bring not only clothes and shoes, but toys, diapers, formula, snacks (we have no idea what she eats or if she is still on a bottle), and everything else it takes to have a toddler for 2 weeks. yes, we can go shopping in china. but it doesn't happen until a couple of days after we get her so we have to carry most of the stuff with us. and all 3 of us have to pack in 2 suitcases, no heavier than 44 pounds.

***and lastly, pray for sarahjoy. she is about to be unbelievably traumatized. handed to people who look different, smell different, talk different. just imagine taking a 2 year old from the US and dropping them in china. it is a terribly stressful transition for her. pray for her little heart and mind to somehow understand that we love her and are her mommy and daddy, that the orphanage would be preparing her in these final weeks. pray that we would be wise in identifying her grieving and comforting her. and pray for her health. i am expecting a fairly malnourished, underweight child, something we did not experience with lydia.

thank you so much for your prayers and walking together with us. we absolutely could not be doing this without you. i will touch base before we leave, but in the meantime have a beautiful Christmas with your families. and for those of you who are hurting this season - as my sweet cousins are in their loss of Makiah - may God's peace envelop you and his strength help you to get to the other side.


the secret

there was a man, his wife, and their son. he worked the coal mines, she tended a shop. the boy went to school.

life was peaceful. they worked, they studied, they loved.

the secret came unexpectedly. the wife buried it. it needed to go away. to be lost in the coal mines as it were. deep underground. silence prevailed. the secret would be hers. alone.

time passed. she held the secret close. but she could not silence her body. the husband questioned her. it was her secret. he became angry. he demanded to know. her body announced. the secret was theirs. together.

he loved his wife. but this could not be. no one could know. no job could be kept. no schooling could be continued. prolific fines would be levied. they would lose their home. their possessions. he cried. she cried. the Secret kicked.

the wife no longer worked at the market. no one could know. he went to the mines. no one could know. he kept quiet. she hid. both a prisoner of the secret. months passed. life was solemn. no one spoke. the pain was too great. the day arrived. her body worked to bring forth the Secret. she endured the pain. silently. no one must know.

her head was perfectly round, her eyes a deep brown, her hair as black as the night that welcomed her. her skin like porcelain. she was perfect. he cried, she cried, the Secret cried. blankets held back the sound. silence. no one must know. the time would pass too quickly. they must remember everything. her smell, her sounds, her tender toes and graceful fingers. they touched her. they must feel her and never forget. they bathed her. they adored her. they prepared.

it had been two days. she held their Secret. she wept. she bundled her for the winter air. she loved her. she screamed. she pounded the ground. silence. no one must know. she caught her breath and screamed again. this was too much. she could not do this. this was more than could be asked of anyone. she squeezed the Secret close to her chest. she felt her heart beat. she muffled her screams in the warm blankets. silence. no one could know.

they walked quietly. out of the warmth of their home and into the cold, bitter night. she turned around. she turned around again. her mind was confused. grief does that. was this really happening? she was shaking. the cold air. the depth of heartache. her tears ran like ice cubes down her cheeks. where was she going? what was she doing? grief clouded her. she couldn't make out the familiar streets. she wandered. the Secret was quiet. she must be too. her feet kept walking. she would walk forever. she would disappear. her and her Secret. she began to run. to where, she did not know.


the husband, the boy. she loved them too. this was a dream. no, a nightmare. a horrible, horrible nightmare. her body was wet. tears, sweat, the agony of grief. the Secret was getting restless.

here. before the light of day. silence. no one must know. she tightened the blankets, pulled them up around her face. how many kisses must she give to make up for a lifetime? she picked her up. she put her down. she picked her up. she ran. no. she must. she must what? confusion. panic. the sun was coming. she placed her on the sidewalk. she took one last look. she ran. empty arms. she ran. she wept. silently. no one must know.

the secret had been kept. the Secret could not be kept.


a miracle.

november 28, 2009
i honestly have no idea how we are going to pay for this. $30,000. that ain't no chump change! but i do have a confidence in God and i feel like he has spoken as clearly to me about sarahjoy's expenses as he did about lydia's person (remember the vision of a chubby two year old with pony tails on top of her head?) that He will provide. and yet i strongly sense that it is going to be one bit at a time. not a huge chunk that would tempt us to minimize our dependence on Him, but a little piece here and there so that HE is proven faithful. so that sarahjoy's story becomes just as miraculous as lydia's.

well folks....november 6, 2010
sarahjoy's adoption is 100% paid for!!!!! last night a very dear family paid the remaining balance and we are now 100% ready to go debt-free to china. a miracle. even more of a miracle than i can explain in this email. suffice it to say, God has provided, $31,752.49. according to all reasonable estimations of plane tickets and in-country expenses, we are 100% funded. a miracle, a miracle, a miracle. $31,752.49 that people gave to us. that's not normal. that's a miracle. if you have ever doubted that God could do the miraculous, doubt no more. he's done it.

there is not a doubt in my mind that we are going to fly to china with not a dime of debt. there are still some 'ifs' as we will not get the exact amount of our plane tickets or in-country expenses until 2 weeks before departure, but i am quite assured that God will take care of any difference that shows up there. for now, we are rejoicing that we are 100% ready to go!!!!! now for the second miracle, a MASSIVE heat wave to hit inner mongolia in january. start praying........

we thank each and every one of you who has walked this journey with us! it is not over, but we have seen the miraculous. we are so thankful and rejoicing in God's amazing provisions for our family.



A SarahJoy update is far overdue. However, life has sent tidal waves my way and all efforts have gone towards staying alive. The oceans of grief and sadness have been sweeping over me as the past few weeks have held tragedy that I have always feared but never encountered so closely.

October 8th marked the final day of Makiah King’s life. She was the daughter of my precious cousin Rachel and her husband Cameron. At 4 years old, she was a light for Jesus beyond her years - she radiated joy and love, her untimely death continuing to shake me to my core. The family was driving home from a week’s vacation when a teenage driver smoking marijuana hit them broadside and instantly killed Makiah. One minute Makiah was chattering about rainbow toenails, the next minute Rachel and Cameron were burying those precious little feet.

As I have cried and grieved the death of Makiah and the horror of what Rachel and Cameron must now face, I have found myself holding SarahJoy at arms length. I am unable to rejoice when someone I love so dearly is in the throws of endless grief. How can I celebrate or look forward to anything in the midst of such hurting? How can I think about bringing a fifth child home when someone so dear to me has lost their only child? I am almost panicked with the need to cherish my children; the thought of adding yet another child that demands my attention is frightening to me. Overwhelming. And my heart is so sad. So, so sad. For now, the excitement of SarahJoy has been put on hold.

To honor Makiah, we will name our new daughter SarahJoy Makiah Sanzone (her Chinese name will be in there somewhere also.) We are praying that she would exude Makiah’s love for Jesus, her passion for life, and her playful, giving heart. Makiah means, “Who is like Yahweh?” and we hope and pray that SarahJoy will grow to be, as Makiah was, a powerful witness to that question.

In the midst of tragedy, God continues to bless us. Why we are sitting on top of a mountain witnessing God’s goodness and precious Rachel and Cameron are weeping in the valley of the shadow of death, I cannot understand. There is a part of me that just can’t bear to celebrate His provision. But…I think I need to. If for no other reason than many of you have had a part in it and I need to honor that. Our adoption expenses sit at about $32,000 (they have increased a bit now that we are getting closer) and yet we have less than $1000 to raise. What an incredible testimony to God’s ability to do the miraculous.

We are scheduled to depart Norfolk on January 6th. I am so thankful that God knew better than me and did not allow us to travel in December. The thought of packing up and getting ready to welcome another child is too much for me right now. I need some more time. December will also include a long weekend with my cousin Rachel. So, so thankful for God’s big picture and his perfect timing. And even as I say that my body tenses and my stomach churns and I think about Makiah – God’s bigger picture and His perfect timing???? I can’t reconcile it and it tears at me. How can God take away a precious little life and at the same time bring hope to another? I wrestle, and I have found no answers, no peace. Just sadness and heartache.

So we march on. SarahJoy will be here soon. In the meantime, please pray for her little body and heart - that she would be healthy and loved. And more than anything please pray for Rachel and Cameron that they would somehow feel God holding them in their emptiness.

Go here to read more about sweet Makiah.


from LA to VB

okay, honesty here. i am REALLY tired of trying to raise money. i wish it was not part of this adoption process. but, it is. so i am doing my best to think of creative ways to fundraise without burdening people! so far, all of our fundraising efforts have been focused on people who live locally. but for monday, october 18th, we have a fundraiser that everyone can be involved in - young and old, california or virginia!

without futher ado...(and husbands, you can stop reading and forward this to your wives)

go to etsy and for each necklace sold MONDAY AND MONDAY ONLY we will receive $5.00.

the necklaces are simple, unique and inexpensive. there are lots of different ones (super cute) maybe something you would like or maybe there is something that would be perfect for a christmas gift for that random person on your list (teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, gas station attendants...). our goal is to sell 200 - equaling $1000 to bring our little girl home!

but...in order to have that many bought i am hoping you all will forward this opportunity on. family, friends, co-workers, lifelong enemies. whomever you can think of. it is only for MONDAY. midnight to midnight.

in addition, we have another fundraiser going on the whole month of october but since we are in fundraising mode today, let's throw that one out there too! go to hip mom jewelry and 30% of the proceeds of their ADOPTION jewelry goes to our family. at first, i only sent this to adoptive moms. but then i realized that within their adoption jewelry line, there are several beautiful pieces that everyone could enjoy. detail...in order for us to get credit you have to enter in the code SANZONE1010.

okay, so...happy shopping!!!!! if you feel comfortable, please pass this on.

as of tonight, our remaining need is $2954. we are almost there!!!!!

(and please don't put me in a category with those obnoxious TV preachers who are always asking for your money!)



there is no one who could look at our adoption journey and not say that God has been abundantly faithful to us. he has provided almost $27,000 thus far to bring sarahjoy home. and i know he is going to finish off the remaining portion. i know that. i don't always feel that..but i know.

we have been given several opportunities along the way to do some creative fundraising. and one of them is here the entire month of october.

the sweet lady who creates hip mom jewelry has generously offered to give us 30% of the sales of her adoption jewelry for the whole month!!! it is jewelry that is specifically geared towards adoptive moms and i find it quite beautiful. it is not particularly inexpensive, but would make a wonderful gift for christmas or something special.

if you are interested, you can click on the button below or simply go here. to be clear, the fundraiser only includes her adoptive jewelry (of course, you can buy whatever you want but the 30% only is for the adoptive pieces). and, you must enter code sanzone1010 for us to get the funds.

thank you for all of your support! God has brought us this far - using many of you along the way - and i can't wait to see how he is going to bring us the rest of the way.


anything to do with anything

there is a lot about God that i don't understand. a lot. especially since i choose dishes over table theology conversations any day of the week. but sometimes, i wish i could understand just a bit more.

here's where we stand...our estimated travel departure date is january 6. that's right. definitely not before christmas! and the general response has been, "that's okay, you can celebrate twice, it's only a few weeks difference, etc., etc." and i get all that. in fact, i could make a decent list on why january would be better for us.

however, i am not ready to write God's miraculous hand out of the picture. i mean, we have been praying for a miracle, right? so wouldn't it make sense that our estimated travel dates would be in january? if the agency had told us we were traveling in december, there would be nothing miraculous. i have been able to sleep on it and i still feel the same - God is burdening me to keep praying for a miracle. it is clear that he is saying, "keep asking, keep asking, keep asking and expecting."

and here's where it all gets confusing for me. the more i pray, the more he hears? can i influence him with my prayers? it seems like he knows what he is going to do, and he knows my prayer, so why keep praying? and yet i know the stories of the Bible where men and women of God keep asking over and over and over. and it seems like God hears those prayers. so i don't know - i clearly cannot explain it all (although i am quite sure that the men in my life could discuss it for hours after thanksgiving dinner though they get absolutely nowhere...whatever...i'll take the dishes)

it's a vulnerable place to me. sticking myself out on a limb (when clearly other people are not even climbing the tree!) asking for something so ridiculous. my mind shifts from "this is going to be so awesome because God is going to do something huge and no one is going to be able to deny it!" to "i can't believe i am still talking about a miracle. how foolish am i going to look in a couple of months." i don't know, i am just not ready to settle for january yet. maybe that is God's plan for us, and if so i will embrace that and look forward to january! but what a mistake for me to simply assume God doesn't want to do something miraculous.

so, i'm still praying for december. more than that, i'm praying for God's best. but if my prayers have anything to do with anything, then i am going to keep praying for a miracle.



we were discussing in our small group last week what brings us to greater faith - relationships, circumstances, private disciplines, or service opportunities. without even having to put much thought into it, my answer was circumstances. pivotal circumstances that God uses to grow my faith.

we are in the middle of one of those.

faith. believing that God is going to do something.

money...we started with NOTHING for this adoption. God has provided and continues to provide. as we get closer and closer to traveling the big chunks of money are coming due and some of the estimations we have been working with look like they are going to be low. do i think God knew that? yes. do i think God is going to provide? yes. i would have to agree with eric, "i can say with almost more faith than i have ever had before, God is going to provide the money."

a little girl...we started into this special needs adoption knowing that we could not
adequately care for a child with huge medical needs. we knew God was leading us to pursue a special needs adoption but were stepping out in faith, believing God would choose the perfect little girl for our family. no, we haven't had sarahjoy all checked out by the doctors in america, but we are trusting that God knows every little thing in her body and he has not sent us more than we can handle. in our imaginings we dreamed of a little girl who was two years old, had a minor heart defect, was potty trained and sleeping through the night! nothing like asking for specifics. well, i think God might have seen fit to give us our heart's desire.

timing...we're still holding on to faith for this one. we desperately want to have our little girl home for christmas. is it a big deal? well, no, not in the scope of terrorist attacks and earthquakes. but she is our little girl. and i can't imagine celebrating without her. just imagine if you had to send one of your kids away for christmas (which i realize some of you know this pain far more personally due to family situations). it hurts and no one would ever wish that on someone else. bottom line, we are holding on to faith that God would bring us our little girl soon.

when we started this journey the word 'faithful' kept ringing in my head. in fact, i tried to find the chinese word for faithful as i thought we might name our little girl that. clearly God had a plan, which he knew far before we mailed the first set of documents. he has used this journey to build in us a faith far greater than what we had when we started. and hopefully, he is using it to build a faith in others. maybe even using sarahjoy's story to bring someone to a saving faith.

we're holding on. we have our first phone conference with our agency and our traveling partners (2 other couples) on wednesday. we should find out all sorts of fun stuff including...............our estimated travel dates.

sweet sarahjoy,
we love you more than you can even dream of.
your room is ready.
your clothes are laid out.
your sisters can hardly stand themselves.
your brothers are loading their guns to protect you.
your daddy can't wait to love you.
and i, think about you every minute of the day.

you are our daughter, our sister, our niece, our granddaughter.

we can't wait to celebrate God's faithfulness on christmas eve.
with tears running down our cheeks.
holding the very evidence of God's faithfulness.

i love you.



woo hoo!!!!!

a very quick update...WE HEARD FROM CHINA TODAY!!!!!

what does this mean? we have officially been approved by the chinese government. just a couple more hoops and we will be there holding sarahjoy. the time estimate given to us for travel is 3 - 3 1/2 months from today. which puts us squarely in the MIRACLE category for being home before christmas! and, well, i sort of like being in the need-a-miracle category!

please pray with us for a christmas miracle!!!!! (and a massive, unbelievable heat wave for inner mongolia!)

it's off to bed with happy hearts and more prayers than ever to hold our little girl during the christmas eve service!



a note

eric and i wanted to take a minute to try and communicate to you our incredible gratitude for traveling this adoption journey with us. no, the journey isn't over - and in many ways we are in the hardest part - but we are so thankful for you. the last few weeks have brought a flurry of generous giving to us and we now stand just a mere $2655 from our goal. it is absolutely unbelievable how God has used you to bring home our little girl. and more than the practical side of paying the bills to get her home, you all have spoken God's heart to us and assured us beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are walking His path for our family.

thank you so much. our prayers have been that each of you who have given to us would be blessed 100-fold. that you would be able to experience the joy that God promises when we give sacrificially. you all have been the picture of the gospel to us.

we are still waiting for sarahjoy. we are "supposed to" hear from china before september 23rd. of course, that "supposed to" is merely based on past averages and not on anything guaranteed. so we are praying fervently and all the while trying to hold loosely to expectations. once we hear from china, we file with U.S. immigration (this time to bring a specific orphan home as opposed to the last time we filed to just bring an orphan home!), and then we receive yet another approval from china to travel. all of that is "supposed to" go rather quickly but again...there's that phrase that means almost nothing in international adoption.

my heart is aching these days. my little girl is so close to being home, and yet so far away. there is absolutely nothing i can do to get her here. it is between a bunch of people sitting in a government office in china, another bunch of people sitting in an office in the U.S. and our big and mighty God who i know is in charge of both of those offices - although these past few weeks it has been hard to embrace God's sovereignty over it all. if i am honest, the mama bear has come alive and i. want. my. baby. home.

if God lays it on your heart, please pray fervently for our little girl to come home. we are still praying for a miracle for her to be with our family for Christmas. we need God to move. my little girl is being loved on by someone other than me - for which i am grateful - but i want to hold her so bad my body hurts. she needs to be with her mommy and daddy.

thank you for being our friends. your generosity to us has been astounding. your support is unbelievable. thank you, thank you from the deepest part of our hearts. we absolutely could not do this without you.



well, the time keeps marching on and we have not heard from china yet. we were told we could expect to hear from them before september 23rd...which is one week from today. i, of course, had hoped it would not be the DAY before september 23rd. maybe like a few WEEKS before the 23rd.

and hearing from china is one of the final steps before travel dates get set. so everyday that my inbox is lonely...is one day that makes travel farther away.

BUT...i think maybe God is just going to make this a miracle that no one can argue with. it would be easy to travel in december if we got our LOA (china's paper) a month ago. but now...it's going to be close. so why not take 'close' and make it 'miraculous'. that would go along with our theme. and lord knows my mother-in-law is seriously into themes.

so we are still waiting. nothing has changed. EXCEPT.....................

we are $3600 from our goal!!!!!

seriously. with the exception of about $1000 coming in from our fundraisers at chili's and our garage sale, we have been handed almost $25,000 from friends and family. THAT IS A MIRACLE.

and while i want to be frustrated at the wait, and i would by lying if i didn't admit that i am frustrated at times i can't deny that God is in the midst of this. he has got sarahjoy in the palm of his hand and he will bring us to her at the perfect time. of course, i think that flying home on december 23rd would be awesome (hmmmmmmmmm...maybe i need to get a christmas dress for the little pea! ooohhh....matching christmas dresses for all the girls!!!), who knows what God wants.

the balance between being open to God's plan and praying with faith for what seems like is a promise from God. it's hard to comprehend, much less carry out. where's that wheaton education when i need it?

please keep praying.
pray for a peace in my heart that is not there right now as i type this. i am saying truth to you and truth to myself, but i don't feel it.

pray for sweet sarahjoy (aka barbara quincy...i.e. mongolian bbq...) pray that she is getting miraculous food portions and miraculous love

pray for china's government. that God would move them to get our file up and out of there!!!!

pray for the remaining $3600 we need. God is going to provide.

and i am realizing now that i don't think i have ever posted pictures. could that be right? horrors. i need to do that. cause she is super cute. : )


the completed miracle

Our journey to SarahJoy is coming closer and closer to its culmination and she is becoming more and more a part of our lives. It is hard to believe that we are just a few months away from holding her in our arms and bringing her home!!!

So what’s next? We are waiting for a Letter of Approval from the Chinese government which will give us a better idea of when we will travel. We continue to pray that we could bring her home before Christmas! In the meantime we are gearing up for another child and continuing to pray for our miracle, that God would provide 100% for our journey.

I think it is safe to say that we are a bundle of emotions. Our hearts are full as we can now look at our little girl and imagine her home. The miracle of adoption is at work - I can see that sweet face and love her to pieces and know that she is mine. If I am honest, I am also freaking out. Not sure what five kids are going to look like. I do know that oftentimes four kids looks a little out of control! (How often do children need a bath??? Do they really need three meals a day??? And besides, shoes are completely overrated.)

And well, if I am brutally honest, I am beyond weary. We have been on this journey for the last 9 months. And we have been pleading with God to provide. He has done miraculous things – crazy generous gifts to our family, people I don’t even know giving us money, anonymous piles of cash left on Eric’s desk. It really is truly miraculous. And yet, it is not yet the completed miracle we are praying for. We still need a bit over $6000. I had (unwisely) set my hopes on receiving a couple of grants and those doors have almost completely closed. So I am just tired. I am tired of waiting on God. I am tired of relying on others. I am tired of asking people to give or to participate in a fundraiser. It is so not a comfortable place to be. It is humbling (dare I say, humiliating?), it is exhausting, it is frustrating.

So there’s the ugly. I am still holding the banner high that God is going to provide and he is going to use SarahJoy’s story to encourage and empower other families to take the leap of faith into international adoption. But my shoulders are burning and my hands are shaking and everything in me wants to let that banner fall.

So as you pray for our family, please pray for strength to keep pleading with God for his provisions. We have no doubt there is a spiritual battle going on. SarahJoy’s story has the potential to shout God’s name to a lot of people and we know there are powers working against that. Please pray against discouragement, frustration and exhaustion. We cannot finish well without the prayers of those around us.

And pray for sweet SarahJoy. From her pictures, it would appear she is in a very caring environment. But who knows… And she is super tiny (the average size of a 10 month old and she will be 2 in November). So continue to pray for her nutrition and health.

We could not walk this adventure without you. Thank you, from the deepest part of our hearts.


trying to believe

if you are here from a place called simplicity, welcome! we are a family of six, almost seven!!!! well, actually we are already seven but one of us happens to be waiting in china.

in honor of sweet linny, our story is simple. : ) we have been called by God to care for the orphan in the most intimate of ways and that is to bring them to our family. we adopted lydia in july 2008 from china as a special needs child (failure to thrive) and she has done nothing but thrive since! she is a joy to our family.

and since then, we have pressed on to God's calling and are in the process of bringing home sarahjoy. she is waiting in china, will celebrate her birthday in november when she will turn 2, and will be in our arms in december (we are praying!!!)

our first journey was miraculous. God brought us a 'special needs' child that had no special need and he did it lightening fast. he knew just who would fit in our family.

this journey has been a different kind of miraculous. we started with $0. that's right. we had just finished paying off the loan we took out for lydia's adoption and immediately felt God calling us to jump back in the game. we had nothing in the way of savings. so this adventure has been one miracle after another, laying it on God's heart for people to give to bring sarahjoy home.

we have $7000 to go. we are praying and believing that God is going to provide that. we have no debt, we live frugally, we are doing everything 'right'. but in this case, God is going to have to show up in a miraculous way because we just can't do it ourselves. at times i feel like i am anticipating a surprise party - sometime, when i am least expecting it, something big is going to happen. i rush to the mailbox, i look at strange people. i wonder how God is going to make this thing work.

other times...i am so tired of believing. we have been in this journey since november 2009 and i am weary of waiting. i have always been the person who could get a project done. this time, it's not anything i can get done. i look around, i try and figure out what i can do to produce some more money. and nothing. God just repeatedly says to me, "let me do it. this is my story."

we do not have any fundraisers going on right now. to be honest, i am not creative, i can't make things, and we have 4 little kids that take up 125% of our time. we are doing this the old fashioned way and believing that God will lay it on hearts to give to his most precious of causes, the orphan.

we have an account set up at lifesong for orphans so that gifts are tax-deductible. talk about crazy love - now that's crazy to just give money away. but maybe this is how God wants to provide. who knows. i am trying to do my part and then watch him do his.

the info is below if God would lead you to give as part of the crazy love challenge. we stand believing that we will take off in that plane to china with 100% of our funds paid for. and what a story that will be. the miraculous work of God in a real, tangible, no-doubt-about-it way.

lifesong for orphans
p.o. box 40 / 202 n. ford street
gridley, il 61744

make checks payable to 'lifesong for orphans' and write 'sanzone #1284' in the memo line.

here she is!

we have received our preapproval and so now we can post our sweet sarahjoy's picture!!!

and without further ado...

isn't she the cutest thing you have ever seen? i mean, she needs some good mcdonalds food to fatten her up but seriously, could she get any sweeter? actually, these are photos from last december so who knows what she looks like now but we'll take anything we can get!

we can't wait to get her in our arms!!!! please pray for us. we are weary and feeling the spiritual battle of trusting in God for his provisions. more on that in another post...

thanks for walking this road with us. i could not do this if i thought i was alone.


true confessions

well, i have a confession to make. i did a really stupid thing and now i am reaping the consequences. let me start from the beginning...

we are adopting sarahjoy and we are counting on God to provide the funds.

we have been incredibly blessed by generous donations to our family through many of you.

and now we are at the end. almost.

and here is where my huge mistake comes in. as i have been reporting to you our need, in the back of my mind i just knew God was going to provide through a grant from Show Hope (steven curtis chapman's organization). after all, we received one for our last adoption and we certainly are in far more strenuous financial circumstances than we were then. and let's just be honest, we were in the magazine and on the website - there's no way they can deny us!

yeah, well, evidently they can. cause we received the letter the other day and we are receiving exactly $0 from them.

so that total i gave you? well, it just went up $2000. i know it was stupid. i know i shouldn't have counted on it. come on, you learn that in 1st grade. but i did.

so i am finding myself thinking about how i could possibly get a job and work a few hours. or enter the essay contest at Real Simple and win $3000. or find some money in a coat at the thrift store. SOMETHING! anxiety is setting in and the temperature is moving towards frantic.

and honestly, i am weary of this journey. i know God is going to provide. BUT...it is no longer a long way away! we are headed to get our little girl in just a few months and we still need $7000! i feel frustrated and discouraged. i feel like we are doing everything we can do and there still seems to be a huge chasm. which, of course is where God reminds me...it is not about doing everything YOU can. it is about watching ME.

got it. but i am really tired and my faith is about as small as a mustard seed ground up in my pampered chef chopper.

so pray with us. pray specifically that i would not grow weary of trusting God. pray that we would continue to hold fast to the truth that God will provide. and pray for a miraculous movement of God that we would travel debt free to China.



i am writing to ask you to join us in praying for two big miracles. we have seen God do HUGE stuff when he brought lydia home and he is no less able to do the same with sarahjoy. he has already started for sure! and now, eric and i are feeling the weight to urgently pray for the miracles to continue until she comes through our front door.

two things.

1. we would be home before christmas with sarahjoy in our arms. that is the absolute earliest we have been told we could travel but we believe God can do it!!!!

2. our adoption would be 100% paid. we are a week away from the unofficial deadline (august 12) for raising money through lifesong for orphans. we have about $5000 to go (this takes into account the airfare reduction due to estimated travel times). many of you have been incredibly generous. thank you Jesus and thank YOU!!!!!

we could not do this without you - our friends and family who have walked for a long time with us down this adoption road. many, many thank yous. i wish that i could adequately express to you how thankful we are for each of you. however, not only do i not see many of you, but i am horrible in expressing my gratefulness when i am looking at your face! i am much better with the written word! you will just have to believe me, that God has used you in mighty ways to encourage us to take this road that at times i would certainly describe as not so easy. you are an unimaginable blessing to this faith-weary soul.

we covet your prayers.


our mongolian miracle

i am incredibly sorry for not updating sooner. so many of you are fully engaged in this journey with us and i have not kept you up to speed these past couple of weeks. so here goes!

we DID receive some new measurements for our sweet girl. her head (the problem area, if you remember) did follow the growth curve, albeit way below the growth curve. that is good news. we'll take tiny but growing.

she is tiny. really small. 20 months old and about the size of an average 10 month old. it is pretty much guaranteed that she isn't getting enough nutrition. that is the biggest thing on my heart right now. i am pleading with God to somehow allow her to get some good food. noodles and milk just don't cut it for a baby.

she is in an orphanage, as opposed to foster care which lydia was blessed to be in. i did find a website for her orphanage although i don't put too much stock in it. china is famous for being great at outward appearances. but no doubt she is getting orphanage care - which can be loving at best and horrendous at worst.

we are now waiting for china to officially approve us to be her parents and then grant us travel approval. the time line we have been given to travel is december - february.

items for prayer...
nutrition. please pray for the orphanage to have an abundant supply of protein and for sarahjoy to eat a whole bunch! she is from the inner mongolian portion of china so i can't imagine a whole lot grows up there during the winter. maybe some yak or something yummy like that!

love. please pray for sarahjoy to receive affection and love from her caregivers. that she would be attached to someone special. her attachment now is what makes for a healthy attachment later so the care she is receiving during these months is incredibly crucial.

speed. we want our little girl. please pray for a super quick approval from china. what if we could even bring her home for christmas? would that be a cherry on top of our sarahjoy miracle or what?

money. our friends and family are clearly being the hands and feet of jesus. we are overwhelmed (as evidenced by my serious lack of up-to-date thank you notes!) please pray that God would provide 100% for sarahjoy's homecoming.

praises to jesus!...

sarahjoy. she is so precious and we can't wait to get our hands on her. lydia is SO EXCITED she can hardly stand it.

money. we are so thankful. wow. God is showing himself through some of the most unlikely of sources. one practical thing that is almost guaranteed - not many people are flying to inner mongolia in the winter. go figure! so it looks like we will have a substantial reduction from the estimated cost of our plane tickets! then again, we may have to pay for hypothermia and frostbite treatment.

thank you guys so much for your support. we could not do this journey without you. well, we could. but we would be a mess. so thanks. we can't wait to introduce you to our sweet mongolian miracle!


**i have had several people ask me about the info to donate. so here it is.
lifesong for orphans
po box 40 / 202 n. ford street
gridley, il 61744

make checks payable to 'lifesong for orphans' and write 'sanzone #1284' in the memo line.


we want her!

so, we have officially accepted sarahjoy as our new daughter!!!!!

the synopsis...the hole in her heart is "not a big deal. we know how to fix that," as stated by the international adoption pediatrician. now obviously it has to do with the heart and so i don't want to minimize that. but her congenital defect is very, very common and there are routine procedures to fix it, if it evens needs to be fixed. many children simply grow out of the condition. the rest of her heart looks very healthy.

so the question becomes is there anything else going on, which is where the smaller head circumference comes into play. we asked about getting additional measurements but we are not able to until we step thorough another hoop which will be in a few months. so that idea is null and void. which left us looking at all of the circumstantial evidence, so to speak. she looks healthy (the pediatrician did not see any facial features that would alert us to a certain syndrome or disorder), according to her records she is developmentally on target, and overall she is small (5th percentile). which is a much better scenario than being an average or larger child with the smaller head circumference.

to be clear, if we were to receive additional medical evidence later on in the wait that would alert us to something else going on besides the hole in her heart, we could change course. obviously, we don't foresee that happening and don't want it to happen. but essentially, we are accepting a child whose special need has been identified as CHD (congenital heart defect), not anything else. so if there is evidence of something else, china would allow us break our commitment.

what brought us to this point more than anything was our reciting of all of the miraculous ways God has been with us on this journey. the finances are the foremost that everyone sees. but in our 'secret' prayers (that i wish we hadn't kept so secret so everyone could see God's hand), we asked God for a 2 year old (she will be 2 on november 15), with a minor heart defect (hello!), who would come quickly (we just logged in last monday!) voila! both of us feel like God has answered our prayers and plopped her down in our lap and she is ours to love. i fully believe that the head circumference issue is not going to be given a second thought as soon as we get additional measurements.

what's next? lots of paper trails...and then we should be in china in 5-7 months which means decemberish-februaryish. good thing she is from the north, which has an average high of 22 degrees and low of 2 degrees in january and good thing i LOVE cold weather!!! : ) (for those who don't know, i am SERIOUSLY grumpy with anything under 55 degrees!!!)

we can't wait to get there!!!!! by the time she comes, i know God will have provided 100% of the expenses, have given us additional peace about her health, and provided northern china with a massive heat wave.


holy batman!

wow!!!! we received the file of a little girl this morning! we had no idea that it was coming so needless to say, we have been in shock all day! we have 72 hours to decide so i am writing to request your prayers!

she is a 20 month old little girl who has a congenital heart defect, the commonly heard of 'hole in your heart'. it very often closes itself as the child grows and if not, then there is a 'minor' heart procedure to be done. bottom line, not a big deal for american doctors.

the more concerning thing is her small head circumference. this could be nothing, or it could be indicative of something major. ironically, this is the same issue we had with lydia. and here's where international adoption gets fun. we have one measurement. it is from december 2009. so there is no point of reference. has her head always been small, but is growing steadily? or is it getting smaller? or has it leveled out and not growing at all? huge questions and not so many answers right now. there is nothing else to indicate that she has any sort of abnormality or syndrome but it's one of those things where you just don't know 100%.

we have spoken with an international adoption pediatrician in michigan (which is where i got the above info), we have an appt at the children's hospital tomorrow, and i have sent the file to my uncle who is a cardiologist. and i have also requested updated measurements from our agency. whether we get them or not, we will have to wait and see. we were able to get that with lydia and it made our decision much easier, but it is up to the orphanage and so we just don't know. we have to make the decision in the next 72 hours.

please pray with us for wisdom. specifically pray that we could receive one or more additional measurements so we could have a better idea about this head thing. and of course, if there is more to the heart issue, pray that the multiple sets of eyes looking at her files would be able to see that.

thanks so much for walking this journey with us! i will let you know more as soon as we know!


the arms that hold the universe

i know it seems like this could be
the darkest day you've known
but believe you me
the God of strength will never let you go
he will overcome, i know

and the arms that hold the universe
are holding you tonight
you can rest inside, it's gonna be alright
and the voice that calmed the raging sea
is calling you his child
so be still and know he's in control
he will never let you go

through many dangers, toils and snares
you have already come
his grace has brought you safe this far
his grace will lead you home
you can hope, you can rise, you can stand
he has still got the whole world in his hands


i heard this song for the zillioneth time the other day. and yet, in that moment my heart was instantly transported - to a faraway place, across the ocean. a mom, a dad. having given their baby girl away. to whom, they do not know. they have simply left her on a busy street corner and walked away, forced by their government to secretly abandon their own blood, the child of their womb. they can only hope that her life will be of some worth. they grieve for a little girl that remains only in their dreams. they wake up to heartache day after day, imagining the worst, praying for the best. pressing on under a government regime that has caused them the greatest heartache one could ever imagine. a wound that will never heal, that will be ripped open every time they see pigtails and wedding dresses. one of the greatest unrecognized tragedies of the modern world.

on this side of the ocean i pray. i listen to that song and pray. that somehow they will know God. that they will know his strength. that his arms hold the universe and he will never let them go. at the same time that we anticipate meeting our little girl (at least on paper) in just a few short weeks, i am keenly aware of the heartache that follows her. sometimes it almost overshadows my joy. the thought of walking in those shoes is gut-wrenching to me. almost nauseating.

and the arms that hold the universe
are holding you tonight
you can rest inside, it's gonna be alright
and the voice that calmed the raging sea
is calling you his child
so be still and know he's in control
he will never let you go

sweet sarahjoy. God is moving to bring her home. we have $8220.99 to go to reach our goal of $30,000. incredible. the generosity of those around us is astounding - even more so if you could know the stories of those who are sacrificing to bring sarahjoy home.

a new list is expected to be released towards the end of this month. we are ready and waiting and certainly anticipating being matched with our little girl. it is by no means guaranteed, but i would be lying if i said we weren't expecting to be. and after matching, there is a 4-6 month wait before travel. so we're looking at wintertime...if we get matched...

to those of you who have given so generously, thank you. your financial gifts mean more to us than you can know. they speak volumes.

to those who are praying, please pray for favor with this next list. we would obviously love to be matched. but if we are really honest, we would love to be matched with a little girl with very minor special needs and who 'fits' in our family. you know, how lydia just fits. we hear it all the time, "i know this sounds weird, but she just looks like she goes with your family. she's just a chinese version of the sanzones!" it does sound weird, until you see it for yourself. and then it's sort of, well, a bit uncanny.

and pray for God's provision. we have $8220.99 more to go. maybe God will provide with additional donations. maybe a grant from Show Hope (which we are waiting to hear from in august). maybe in lower airfare than we are expecting. maybe in some crazy way we can't even imagine. who knows, but we are praying for 100% provision.

sweet sarahjoy - your mommy and daddy are coming. eat your veggies, smile for your pictures, and get lots of lovin's from your orphanage nannies. we can't wait to hold you. and there are 4 little people here who are already plotting the menagerie of stuffed animals that you need to fill up your bed. so don't grow too big. someday soon, we will be in each other's arms.


we're ripe...for a miracle

oh boy. i never thought we'd do this. that's what i've said after a whole bunch of things in life. you would think i could learn something through the years.

Dear friends and family,

The honest to goodness truth is that we do not want to write this letter. It goes against every grain of human nature in our bodies, and yet in this adoption journey we have learned that God often has far different plans than we do. With that said, the simple point of this letter is to ask you to consider participating with us in our adoption journey in a very tangible way.

The price to bring SarahJoy home is $30,000. That’s a lot for any family, a whole lot for this one. We do not know why God has led us to have $60,000 worth of children in our family. But we can tell you that Lydia’s life is priceless as is SarahJoy’s. Adoption expenses were once described to us as simply the ransom money to bring our daughter home. We’ve never forgotten that – we wouldn’t think a second about paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring our biological children back from harm, and so it is with our adopted children. They need to be rescued and brought home, and there is a big price tag.

We currently have paid $13,500 towards the adoption, all of which has been miraculously provided by God. And as much as we rejoice over that provision, we still have $16,500 left to pay. We want so badly to be able to write a check and not ask for help. It has been humbling to have to say aloud that we simply do not have the money; a test of how much we believe this to be God’s plan for our lives and how much we trust that he will provide.

We fully realize that some may disagree with asking for help in bringing our child home, or may question the wisdom of our decision to add to our family. We embrace those feelings and invite anyone to ask us more about our journey. Our story is one of blind obedience to what our hearts feel is the leading of God. Scary, exhilarating, not without pain or without joy. It is a story that we never tire of sharing.

We also realize that there may be those out there whose heart is generous towards the needs of the orphan and would like to help in a very practical way to give SarahJoy a family. To that end, we have been offered the opportunity to establish a fundraising account, through Lifesong for Orphans, which will allow all gifts to be tax-deductible. Donations may be made in our name, and 100% of the funds will be forwarded to our adoption agency to pay for our remaining expenses. The goal date to receive funds is August 12, 2010.

We don’t know how God is going to provide for SarahJoy’s journey home. We do know it will be a miracle and that He will be faithful. Maybe, he will use some of our friends and family to be a part of that miracle, he certainly has done so already. We would treasure an opportunity for you to join our hearts in falling in love with our little girl across the ocean, and our efforts in paying the ‘ransom’ to bring her home.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. May God’s presence be as real and tangible to you as it has been to us these past few months. If you are interested in following our adoption journey more closely, you can find our story at www.lettersforlydia.blogspot.com

Eric and Ashleigh

Donations can be mailed to:
Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40 / 202 N. Ford Street
Gridley, IL 61744

Checks made payable to: Lifesong for Orphans (Sanzone #1284 on the memo)

Donations online (via paypal):

In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.



i am in a funk tonight. which i hate because i know in my head that i shouldn't be. that i have no reason to be discouraged, no reason to be doubting goodness and truth. and yet my heart is struggling to hold on to that faith that has been our lifeline in this journey. i hate that my belief is so tenuous, that it can so easily be rocked. which makes me dislike where i'm at even more, that i'm not good enough, not steady enough for God. that somehow he is going to abandon me here because i didn't make the cut.

our papers have been mailed to china. and we should be ready in the next couple of weeks to officially begin the search for sarahjoy. that part is exciting. the not so exciting part is that we received a call this week from an adoption foundation informing us that we were not chosen to be given a matching grant. not the first place which had turned us down, but this foundation happened to be one i was really counting on. i thought for sure we would qualify and it had the potential to bring in a lot of money. they supply matching funds so that if we were able to raise $4000 from our friends and family, they would have matched that and we would be recipients of quite a bit of financial assistance.

but that is not the case.

and it has sort of rocked my world. i think the hard, cold truth is that i had put a lot of faith into that specific foundation, and had taken it away from God himself. moved my confidence from the Giver to the giver. and so when it fell through......it gave me a good punch to the gut.

so i am fighting hard to hold on to what we believe to be God's promise to us - that he will provide 100% for this adoption. it seems so far away. so impossible. and yet - here we sit with almost $19,000 that has been given to us. so why do i doubt he could come up with another $15,000? .........because i feel like he's done his part. that it's my job now. that somehow i have to come up with the rest. God's finished with his end of the deal. he drove me as far as he could - now it's my turn to hitchhike the rest of the way home.

so how does God want to provide? does he want to use those around us? i feel guilty asking people for money. there are so many people who need money. so many worthy causes. why do i think i should be the recipient? it seems so selfish. and i feel foolish. that there are those who look at us and think, "well, why the heck are they adopting another one when they can't even afford to get her here?" i'm self-conscious. i am worried about what other people think of me, of our family (big surprise there, i've been worried about what people think of me since the day i entered this world) i worry that if i walk into church with my kids dressed in babygap that someone is going to raise their eyebrows at our apparent need for financial help and call me a fraud. and no, i didn't pay full price, and yes, i do shop clearance, and someone gave me those shoes, and the rest i used a giftcard, and those are actually the only nice shorts the boys have and....

as a friend described, we are on a plateau and we need God to pull us up to the mountain top. he's gotten us halfway up the trail, a lot of hard work is under our belt. but now we find ourselves waiting for some more help. and that waiting is hard. that's the only way to put it. it just is hard.

so for those of you who pray, i would covet your prayers in the next few days. we are going to be making some fundraising decisions and i truly want them to be what God wants. i don't want to be trying to manipulate the situation through my human endeavors, on the other hand, if God is asking us to do something, i don't want to sit around and ignore that leading. so we need wisdom. and we need faith.

from the beginning, the word God gave me for this adoption was 'faithfulness'. my heart knew that God would prove himself faithful through sarahjoy's story. my head still knows that, but my heart is waffling.

God, draw near to this discouraged heart.

and when the time is right, bring us our little girl. provide the ransom for her life. she belongs to you first, and you have paid for her soul with your son. now help us to pay for her to be ours. to love and cherish. to bring to the knowledge of your saving grace. you know her. you have created her. keep her safe and warm. comfort her heart and bring us to her soon.


so close

well, well, well, summer is almost here and we are ready to meet our sarahjoy!!! i just received word from our social worker that our papers should be in china in the next couple of weeks and then soon after we will be officially LOGGED IN. which means, in normal people language, that we are then eligible to be matched with a child. theoretically, there is a list coming out in july that will have available children so hopefully we will be ready to go by the time that list comes out and maybe, just maybe, we will meet our sweet SJ. or at least get to see her picture and her medical files! only God knows how long the matching process is going to take but we are praying really hard that it is quick. i want my baby home (speaking of, lydia insists that SJ is going to be a baby and i keep having dreams. people, if this child is truly a baby, you are going to have to pick me up off the floor)

God continues to provide financially for us. we have received $1000 more in the last few days and we have had several positive interactions with granting agencies. we should know something from a few of them in the next couple of months. please continue to pray with us that God would do a miracle and we would fly to china debt free.

and for some humor...i recently was explaining to lydia some details of the adoption journey (which she is VERY curious about) and told her that china would tell us when they were ready for us to come pick up SJ. mom, she says, but china doesn't talk. oh right, smarty pants, a PERSON in china will tell us.

sweet sarahjoy, your family is so close. hang on and we are coming for you. stay strong, eat your veggies, and dream of love. we can't wait to hold you in our arms.



wow. i am humbled. amazed at the outpouring of support for our adoption. amazed at the love people have shown us and sarahjoy. i can't quite get my arms wrapped around it. one minute i am silently shocked. the next i don't even stop to notice because it has become so normal. someone handing me a check. slipping an envelope into my hand. it happens almost weekly and from the unlikeliest of people.

i never want to get used to it. never. people are giving their hard-earned money to our baby girl! i had one young boy give me money that he had earned from his report card and some chores. we have a son the same age and i know what it means to hand over your cash! what a precious gift and a reminder to me that God is providing! through the most unlikely of means. but every dollar that is handed to us reminds me that God is listening. that he is watching. and he is fulfilling his promise to both us and sarahjoy - that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

it is amazing to me. i can only hope and pray that they would be blessed. that somehow i can convey in an earthly way their blessing to our family and that God would bring them a heavenly joy because of their generosity. and that maybe, God can use our story to further his heart for the orphan. not everyone is called to adopt. but everyone is called to care for the fatherless.

for the record, God has provided - through the generosity of his people - financial gifts over and above what we could have ever imagined.
$1000 (K)
$2000 (Z)
$10,000 (P)
$2000 (C)
$500 (G)
$50 (L)
$50 (H)
$25 (H)
$300 (J)
$500 (A)
$250 (D)
$250 (C)
$11.40 (K)

a total of $16,936.40. that's over 50% of our adoption expenses! of course, the temptation even now is to see the 50% that isn't there. or the strain we are feeling in our daily financial life apart from adoption. but please, please God don't let me go there! don't let me cover your radiance with the black cloud of doubt and fear. every time we encounter a medical bill, a school bill, something 'out of the ordinary' and beyond our budget, it is a reminder to me of God's voice saying loud and clear,

"I am going to make this adoption happen. YOU are going to sit and watch. it is not going to be from your efforts. it is going to be ME, bringing myself glory. announcing to the world that I am the lover of orphans. that I long to create families. and that I will provide."

we continue to pray that God would send us to china debt free. that our adoption would be 100% paid for. what a testimony to the miraculous. what a story to encourage others - that you CAN adopt and you CAN be a part of the miracle of adoption. that it IS what God wants us all to be a part of, whatever that looks like for our own families.

sarah means 'princess'.
joy means, well, 'joy'.

i dream of our princess. bringing joy to our family, to those around us, and specifically to those who have become a part of her history by sacrificing to bring her home.

to those who have been a part of this journey thus far, thank you. may you experience the joy of God's blessing.



the story begins nine and a half years ago in a land far, far away. a land of horses and basketball and a young couple ready to enter into the world of parenthood.

october 20, 2000

eric and i were at the doctor's office for a routine check-up, awaiting the arrival of our first born. he was due october 24th - i was measuring small (those were the days - would never be accused of that here lately!) so the doctor wanted to do an ultrasound just to make sure everything was looking good.

and then..................our world was quickly put into a frenzy! baby josiah was not where he needed to be! suddenly what was a quiet and peaceful day turned into the final 18 hours before we were going to have a baby! c-section scheduled for the next morning, 6:00a.m. i went home and finished painting our guest room (yes, i was perched on a ladder painting when i was 9 months pregnant), my mom booked a ticket to fly out that night, eric wrapped up things at work. WE WERE HAVING A BABY IN THE MORNING!

it was a restless night. i didn't sleep much - i was excited, nervous, oh my gosh are you kidding me we are having a baby! we were at the hospital at 6:00a.m., eric and my mom were there and i remember sitting in the prep room while all the nurses told me how wonderful c-sections were. it didn't really occur to me to not want one - my mom had all her babies via c-section so it was sort of all i knew. but they went on about how wonderful it would be and i couldn't wait to hold our little boy in my arms. i was prepped for surgery, our dear friend jamie was my head nurse, the surgeon was there, we were counting down the minutes until sweet josiah would enter this world. all we were waiting for was the anesthesiologist to come and do his thing (which i later learned during a c-section with micah is a VERY important part of the procedure. turns out c-sections without proper anesthesia are not a pleasant experience).

in comes the anesthesiologist who requests one more ultrasound before we head into the operating room. we couldn't wait. this would be the last time we would need one of those things - in just a few minutes josiah would be outside of that warm cozy womb.

and then...

it happened.

josiah had turned around sometime between the appointment the morning before (which evidently is unheard of) and suddenly all bets were off. pull the tubes. get dressed. no c-section. no baby. we would have to go home.

i was speechless. a minute ago i was preparing to see my first baby and now i was getting dressed to go home and plant flowers. i felt like my sweet boy had been ripped away from me. he was stolen. of course, i knew that he would be here in a matter of days but at that moment i was crying the tears of a mother whose child had been taken. (add in the small detail that i was in the SAME room as someone preparing for infertility surgery so i am trying to quell my emotions from the woman who really and truly may never see her child. seriously bad planning on the operating room schedule!)

i got over it. i went to lowe's. and i planted flowers. i made cookies. i made 100 cinnamon christmas ornaments. i did a whole lot of things cause it was a very long 11 days before i would finally be induced and we would hold baby josiah.

march 30, 2010

my baby was ripped away from me again. i received a phone call that we would have to complete 14 credit hours of parent education before our home study would be released. what was supposed to be a document to be picked up today and the adoption process was to take a huge step forward, turned into our social worker telling me to go home, work on our online courses and then we could have our home study released. seriously? this hellish document that we have been waiting on for months now has a new requirement? you have got to be kidding me. never mind we could have been working on this for the two freaking months we have been waiting - no, don't worry, just give me another hoop to jump through that will take more time, because there is no way i want this process to move forward. that would just be too much to ask. that we would actually stop and think about the fact that there is MY BABY INVOLVED HERE! AND SHE NEEDS TO COME HOME!!!

and every stinkin' day is one day longer that our family is without her and she is without us.

i was so angry. really angry. to those who have not walked the adoption journey, i get that it makes no sense at all. but that is the miracle of adoption! that somehow God gives me the ability, without a second thought, to love sarahjoy as much as i loved baby josiah in my belly. i want to hold her just as bad as i wanted to hold every one of my belly babies and every delay is excruciating.

josiah came at just the right time (i got my guest bedroom painted, my flower beds looking good, spent a week and a half hanging out with my mom...) and i know sarahjoy will too.

but boy, sometimes it just doesn't feel that way.

the adoption journey is not for the faint of heart or the weak in spirit. it will test every fiber of your being, have you questioning every truth of God. today, i will make a conscious choice not to question. i will grab hold of truth, despite the emotions.

God's timing is perfect. God knows all. God is even in charge of home studies and parent education credits.

i think. and actually, i am still really angry. and brownies are not helping.

UPDATE: after discussions with eric, i decided to be a bit of a squeeky wheel. to make a long story short, we were able to come to an agreement and we should be able to pick up the home study tomorrow. should. i'll not believe it until i have it in my hand. we still have to fulfill the requirements but can do it in the next little while like we originally had planned.



spring has sprung here in our parts and whether it is the season or something intuitive, i can't stop thinking about our baby girl. i had not been feeling attached to her like i was with lydia - maybe it just seemed so far off or it was the 2nd time around. i don't know, but nevertheless, that distance is all but gone and not a day goes by that i am not thinking about sweet sarahjoy. that ache is there in my gut and its presence will no doubt be felt until the day i hold her. it's the miracle of adoption; that somehow God weaves in you a bold and vulnerable love for a child that is yet a stranger. how that is i don't know, but i am experiencing it for the second time and it is no less real than my three pregnancies.

i dream about the princess. what she looks like, when we will get to hold her. how old will she be and what her special needs will be. should her room be pink or yellow, what will lydia think, how will the boys react to being WAY outnumbered! : )

and so it goes. this part is the hardest. i feel like i am in my last month of pregnancy when you can't wait to get your little hands on that baby and every day you wake up and think, "what if this is the day!" but alas, there is no 'day' anytime soon. we wait and we wait and we wait. and sometime, hopefully before the end of 2010 we will see our baby (and God help us all if she is actually a baby)

so what's going on? our first set of paperwork (the 'homestudy') should have been done a month ago. in typical adoption form, there has been one setback after another and so we are hoping to have it in our hands by april 1st. if we don't, i may be found on the front page of the paper (or the local jail). then we go to our second set of paperwork, 'USCIS' (aka immigration). then the 3rd set of paperwork, the 'dossier'. the dossier's documents have all been notarized before we turn them in. then they must be certified by the state. then they must be certified by the federal government. just in case i am a terrorist and the FBI fingerprints, the police checks, and the child protective service checks missed it.

once obama has met behind closed doors and debated the pile of papers with a completely democratic committee, they will be flown to china and we will be 'logged in'. AT THIS POINT...we will be eligible to lay claim to the file of our sweet sarahjoy. at which time we see medical files and pictures and are able to officially accept a child as our own. currently, there is no waiting list at our agency so theoretically once those papers are all sent to china we could know who our sarahjoy is pretty quickly. theoretically...if there are no filibusters or castaway reruns.

so...based on the fact that everything important in our journeys to lydia and sarahjoy has happened while we were vacationing in the outer banks, i am banking on us knowing our little girl the last week of august. : )

so we continue to pray for sarahjoy and for God's provision to get us there debt free. we know this is His will and we are so excited to be in the midst of his blessing. we have currently received $16,000 towards our adoption - people handing us money in the most generous of ways. we have about $14,000 more and we are actively sending out grant applications and praying that we have favor.

to you who walk besides us and faithfully pray for us...thank you. you hold my heart in your hands as it aches for a little girl across the ocean. and you provide encouragement when the circumstances seem endlessly bleak.

to those who have given so generously...your tangible encouragement quiets me. the hearts from which your gifts come are amazing and inspiring. my hope and prayer is that you will be blessed tenfold for your sacrifice.

and to those who are watching...keep doing so. God is moving and our miracle is not over. may you be encouraged and brought hope by sarahjoy, even as she plays across the ocean, oblivious to her influence in the world.

and to sweet sarahjoy...we love you already. we are your mommy and your daddy. we can't wait to hold you, to kiss you, to give you a bath, to dress you in clean clothes and shoes that fit. to bring you to a home where you will be smothered with love and affection. hold on, sweetie. soon, we will cry together.



i am trying to type. but i can't quite get the words to come out on paper that i feel need to be written. which is rare - usually i am pretty good at getting my feelings on paper. but once again we find ourselves in the grip of the miraculous and as moses stood speechless at the sight of God, so i stand as i see him in his glory and splendor. i knew this was going to be a miraculous ride but the lack of predictability is stunning. or at least i feel like it is. i suppose someday i will grow to expect God's miraculous. not there quite yet. still shocked that he would smile on this family, this sweet sarahjoy, these needs - which are so minimum in the scope of the world. why?

his glory. proclaiming his glory. everyone needs to see his glory. every single person who hears our adoption story is going to be able to say nothing else except..."God.....is......amazing."

we drive two cars. a 2000 sienna minivan and a 1993 tercel. not exactly the newest cars although they have been gloriously reliable. until thursday. when for the third time in recent memory we had the tercel in the shop. i mean, it is 17 years old and there comes a point where you have to decide whether to replace the thing or keep fixing it. i was pretty convinced we had come to the time of replacement. not exactly great timing if you ask me. yay, we are staring at adoption expenses and now we get to replace a car! i even stopped by the toyota dealer and took a look at the used selection. in my heart, i knew that if this was how God was making it all come down he was going after some huge glory. so bring it on!

i woke up on saturday and checked email. one from a friend who asked if she and her husband could come over for a few minutes today. that was a bit odd - i mean i like them a lot but it's not exactly a typical thing to ask. beings the pastor family that we are, eric immediately went into "the husband is having an affair" mode and i went into "she is going to stop volunteering" mode. not that we said that. but that's where our minds were. they came. they waited for eric to get out of the shower. they sat down. they said they had been really blessed and wanted to share. they said they had a check for us.
a one. and four zeros.
five figures
10, times a thousand


God is bringing himself glory. God is SHOUTING to the world, through sarahjoy's story that he is glorious. he is the provider of all. he is in charge of this world and when he wants something done, just step aside and watch as he makes it happen.

after they left, eric and i just stared at each other. what in the world? who does that? who gives away that kind of money? who receives that kind of money? and what God works in such obviously miraculous ways that we should call him Father?

the story wouldn't be complete if i didn't include the voicemail that eric had on his phone after all was said and done. the car, the one i thought for sure was dying - well, turns out it was a faulty oil filter that the mechanic put in a couple of weeks ago when he changed the oil. he replaced it, no charge, and we get to keep driving Old Faithful.

and about that prayer we have had - that we would have our adoption 100% paid for when we stepped on the plane to China - well, it sure seems like we have heard the voice of God and are going to watch the miraculous happen right before our eyes. let me never forget that we started this adoption with $0. that's right. a big fat goose egg. (we won't take the time right now to say how CRAZY it is to walk into something that is going to cost you $30,000 when you have NOTHING!)

and now, God has given us $15,500. with more to come. i know.

God is doing a miracle. sweet sarahjoy is coming home.