Friday, October 14, 2016

Help Us Bring Kate Home!

Get excited friends! Today we're announcing a tangible way that you can be a part of bringing our daughter home! After a 4 year and 8 month adoption journey, we have finally created a fundraising page for our adoption. Check it out here!

Our adoption process has been very difficult, and we're so grateful that we haven't had to fundraise until now. We don't make a lot of money in the line of work that we do (they call it a non-profit for a reason! Haha!) - but so far our adoption fees have been paid through an adoption grant we were awarded from Help Us Adopt, and a gift from a very generous family member. Unfortunately, as our adoption journey has continued on much longer than we ever anticipated, costs have increased. 
Not only have we had to pay renewal fees (during our lengthy process), but we recently lost our home study agency (they are having financial issues) and we had to start over with a new agency for the remainder of our adoption. This cost us an additional $850 that was not in our budget. We also found out that our daughter's Certificate of Citizenship cost is set to increase soon from around $600 to more than $1,100.
We are hoping to travel to meet Kate sometime in the next 3-6 weeks, and we plan to stay in Thailand for at least a month (to allow our daughter some time to adjust while remaining in her home country). Our agency agrees that is the best thing for our daughter, and they believe it will give her the best chance for a healthy transition. Unfortunately, we might be traveling near or during the holidays, which could make travel more expensive. We may also have to book flights last minute - which increases the price as well. So we’ve decided to do a little fundraiser to help off-set some of our travel expenses (and to help us handle some of these unexpected increases).

We bought these very special leather bracelets on our last trip to Thailand. They were handmade by a Thai artisan and stamped with the words “Waiting for Kate” and “James 1:27”. If you’d like to buy one (or more than one) it would certainly be a blessing to us! We hope they’ll serve as a reminder to pray for our daughter (while we wait to get her, while we’re in Thailand together, and after we’re home and transitioning together too!) and as a reminder to pray for orphans around the world!

For those of you who simply want to give a donation, you can choose to donate through our page, or you can add a donation to your bracelet order. If you prefer to send a donation via mail, please make out the check to Rusty Jackson and write "adoption" in the memo line. You can mail your check to: PO Box 320044, Birmingham, AL 35212. [These donations are not tax deductible.]

Thank you in advance for helping us bring Kate home! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thailand, we mourn with you.

We awoke this morning to heartbreaking news from Thailand. Today we are mourning with our Thai friends and family over the death of their beloved King.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej accomplished so many wonderful things for his country during his 70 year reign. He was the longest reigning monarch in history, and I have never seen any leader more loved or respected than he was. He helped make Thailand the great nation it is today - through healthcare improvements, educational and economic programs, and great developments in agriculture and water conservation... among many other accomplishments far too lengthy to list here. We have always admired his devotion to his country and his love for his people, and their love for him.

For many days and years to come, his people will grieve the loss of their devoted King and faithful Father. Though our daughter may not fully understand this loss, she too will join her people in a time of mourning. Our hearts are broken for our little girl and for her beautiful country. Please pray for Thailand during this difficult time.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Light in the Darkness

That last blog was tough to read, wasn't it? It was tough to write too. It's still hard to see all those difficult things in black and white... and harder still to know there are even more challenges we've faced over the past 6 weeks that I can't share publicly. I'm not being dramatic when I say that I have been in the pit of despair. I have cried almost every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for more than a month. It's been brutal friends... there is nothing else I can say about it but that. Brutal.

BUT GOD.... 
(aren't those two words powerful?) 

But God wouldn't let us stay in the dark for too long before the light broke through. It turns out, He hadn't completely abandoned us after all. (Big surprise.... right? ;)

Last Wednesday I spent the morning in my counselor's office... crying until I couldn't see and baring my soul to a kind, compassionate stranger who worked to comfort me in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. The last we heard from our adoption agency, our Article 16 had "apparently not been issued", although they'd told us earlier in the month that it had. We knew that most families wait 7-10 months for this approval, and we were once again facing that timeline (which would mean we would miss another Christmas with our daughter and her 4th birthday). But God...

I left our counselor's office and noticed a text from Rusty to call him as soon as I got out. My heart sank. When I heard the stress in his voice, it sank even lower. "Are you coming home?" he asked. "No, I was going to run some errands," I responded. "You need to come home," he urged. After the handful of "bad news" phone calls we've had in the past few weeks, I just knew something else had gone wrong. "What's happened now?" I sighed - exhausted by the possibilities. And then he said some of the most beautiful words I've ever heard...

"We got our Article 16 from Thailand! 
We're APPROVED!!!!!!! 
I'm holding it in my hands right now!"

I cannot even begin to describe the flood of emotions I felt in that moment. After crying all my sad tears in the counselor's office just moments earlier, I burst into fresh tears of joy right there in the parking lot. Once I composed myself, I rushed home to complete our next round of paperwork so our agency could Fed-Ex it to US Immigration that afternoon.

For those of you asking, "What is an Article 16? What on earth does this mean?" - allow me to explain. Our Article 16 is a HUGE approval from the Thai government. It is the paperwork that allows us to take custody of our daughter, and bring her home to the US. It's the next step that we've been waiting on before we could move forward in our process. And it usually takes 7-10 months (or longer) to receive.

But somehow - by the grace of God - ours was approved in 4 months and 2 weeks. (It turns out it was actually approved September 7th! Our agency was mistaken when they told us it hadn't been!) This is an incredible miracle!!!

So - what's next? We have already taken the next step to apply for our I800 (US Immigration Approval). This usually takes 2-3 weeks or longer. Then we have to submit our DS260 (to request that Kate's visa is printed while we're in Thailand). If everything goes according to schedule - we should be traveling to get our daughter sometime in the next 4 - 8 weeks!!!!

I still can't wrap my mind around that possibility. My heart and head are completely overwhelmed! We have gone from utter devastation to exhilarating joy in a matter of days. It's still hard for me to believe it's true.

And while I am SO joyful and grateful and excited... I'd be lying if I said that everything is okay now. I still don't know what that "August" word from God meant. I still have a lot of questions for God about our adoption, and what we've endured. Both Rusty and I still have a lot to work through from the past 6 weeks (and past 4 years and 7 months) of this difficult process. So I will continue to see my counselor, and we will continue to press in to get as healthy as possible before we travel (and after we're home). But friends - it feels so good to have HOPE again.

God has been revealing some things to me about His faithfulness (despite our recent circumstances) that I'll try to share here soon... but for now, will you please pray with us for the rest of our process? It would be a dream come true if we could manage to make it to the November 2nd Adoption Board Meeting (but that would mean we would have to fly to Thailand the last week of October - and it would mean our next 2 approvals would have to happen really quickly!) Please pray with us for these approvals to happen AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Pray for no more delays or errors or issues. Pray for us to be able to book travel quickly (and for our flights not to be too terribly expensive, since they will likely be booked close to our travel time). Pray for our hearts and minds as we do all the final preparation to bring Kate home. And please pray for our sweet baby girl. The day we meet her will be one of the happiest days of our lives.... but one of the hardest for her. Please pray for God to prepare her heart to join our family.

Friday, September 30, 2016

When Your Mountain Doesn't Move

August has come and gone. Our mountain did not move... and our miracle did not come. Not only did we not travel to get our daughter in August... we didn't even get our Article 16 approval from Thailand. Nothing good happened that month in our adoption. As far as we know... nothing happened at all.

After hearing God speak "August" to my heart for weeks and weeks, this lack of movement was truly devastating. You see... I didn't randomly pick August out of a desire to travel then. I had no reason to believe we'd get approval then either. But I heard God speak it so clearly to me... and then watched as He confirmed it with friends too. Some had dreams. Others had their own signs of confirmation. Rusty and I prayed, and praised, and worked to prepare in faith. We just knew August was our month.

I've never been so sure of a word from God before. I've never stepped out in faith so publicly before. It was incredibly vulnerable and scary... but I had so. much. peace. So I did it anyway.

And then nothing happened.

I can't begin to describe how it felt to see August come and go with no movement. It shook my faith to the core. I've asked a lot of hard questions the past few weeks. Questions like, "Did I hear God's voice? Can I even discern it anymore? After years of doing ministry... how could I miss this?! How could I get this wrong? And how do I move forward in my faith and my work if I can't discern God's voice anymore?"

"What if I can hear God's voice... and He did say August. Did He change His mind? If He changed His mind... then how do I trust Him anymore? What if He didn't change His mind... but He wasn't able to do this for us? Is He not omnipotent after all?"

"Our daughter is growing up without us. We've been fighting for her for almost 5 years. Why won't God move on our behalf? Why won't He intervene? We have hundreds of people praying for our adoption all over the world. Is God not listening? Doesn't He care? How does our situation not move Him to action? Do any of our prayers even matter?"

I feel weak confessing that these are my questions right now... but I have been honest with you all throughout this process, and I want to keep being honest and vulnerable. Things haven't been very pretty around here lately. Most days I waver between intense anger and deep sadness... all while searching desperately for meaning in this dark, difficult season.

I've listened to this song at least a dozen times since August. These words ring true to my heart...

I'm so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So I followed through...
But somehow I ended up here
I don't want to think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words...

... but I can't manage to sing the rest of the song. "Thy will be done" is a scary thing to pray when you aren't sure if God's will includes getting your daughter home. And "your plans are for me... goodness you have in store" are difficult words to sing when you're questioning the goodness of God.

The last 6 weeks have held some of the darkest days of my life. On top of the devastating realization that we wouldn't be traveling in August, we've dealt with additional delays, errors, and issues with our adoption. In the past month and a half - we've been told that we likely wouldn't have Kate home until the Spring of 2017 (which means we'd miss another Christmas and her 4th birthday). We were then told that we got a big approval from Thailand - so we got hopeful again... only to have hope dashed 12 days later when we were told that there was a mistake and the approval actually didn't happen. And then, that same week, we found out that we lost our home study agency here in Alabama, and we would have to start over with new paperwork, more fees, and a whole new agency to continue moving forward.

To say that we have been through the ringer would be an understatement. Our new agency told us that what we're enduring is considered a "traumatic adoption". They've been wonderful, and they're very compassionate... but they're concerned with how all we've endured will affect us once we're home with our daughter.

I'm concerned too. For a long time I felt that our struggle was strengthening us. I've tried so hard to press in to this process and to grow through the pain and waiting. I've searched for answers and meaning and lessons from God throughout the past 4 years and 6 months. But after fighting for our daughter for so long, I was finally pushed past my breaking point last month. My faith was crushed. God has seemed distant and silent. It has been hard to see any goodness or hope in our situation lately.

If I'm being honest, I have struggled to find any comfort or peace since August passed. Scripture seems hollow. My prayers seem so pointless. It feels like they're bouncing off the ceiling. Most of the songs that would usually touch my heart instead make me bitter and angry. This is the one song I've been able to listen to... and it's been playing on repeat all month. It doesn't give me any answers.... but it's nice to know that someone else who has "lived a life of faith" has struggled with this kind of darkness and doubt.

I'm confessing all of this here because I don't want to hide the hard parts of our journey. I don't have any answers about why we're enduring this... and there have been days lately that it's been hard not to walk away from our adoption.

But I keep reminding myself that my daughter is NOT the cause of my pain. It's true that we have faced so much injustice and brokenness in our process... but NONE of this is her fault. Our sweet little girl is an innocent victim in all of this too! And she deserves a family. She deserves to be fought for. (Every child does.) 

So we are continuing to fight... but we're also calling in reinforcements. I am wounded and weary from this long, hard-fought battle... and the war isn't over yet. So I started seeing a Christian counselor last week (after a friend forced me to make an appointment) - and it was one of the best things I could have possibly done. I wish so much that I'd done it sooner! My counselor was horrified to hear all we've endured, and she is helping me work through it all so that when Kate comes home, I'll be in a healthier place spiritually and emotionally to parent her.


If you're reading this, and you're going through a dark season yourself... then I hope this post helps you not feel so alone.... and I hope you'll consider finding a counselor you can talk to as well. I felt a lot of shame for "not being strong enough" and needing to go to counseling... but the truth is, we were never meant to shoulder all our burdens alone. When our bodies get overwhelmed with bacteria or viruses - we get help. We go to the doctor! So when our hearts, minds, and souls get overwhelmed with injustice and loss and grief - we shouldn't be expected not to seek help for that too! None of us are superhuman. If you feel like you can't do it alone - you're probably right! And there's no shame in that. It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to ask for help. Asking for help isn't giving up the fight - it's just calling in reinforcements! No one can fight alone on the front lines forever. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

We're Still Waiting

Wait, and then wait again. Isn’t this the way of life? Nowhere are we promised an easy time just because we obey or come to what we believe is a capital-A Answer. But our Father waits too—both with us and for us. His Word says that He longs to be gracious toward us and show us compassion and mercy (Isaiah 30:18). “His steadfast love endures forever,” through all things, all the time, just like the psalm says (Psalm 118) []

I read this devotional about "Waiting As Obedience" a few weeks ago, and it really encouraged me. I read it again today because I needed to hear it all once more. As the author says, “Indefinite waiting is the worst kind of waiting”. So far we have waited 1,651 days for our daughter. Kate was alive and waiting for us for 1,316 of those days. And today - after all that waiting - we still have absolutely no idea when we’ll be allowed to go get her.

I have tried so hard to stay faithful during our long wait. Most days, I think I’ve done a pretty good job (of course not by my own strength at all - but only by the grace of God). But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had some less than faithful days. There are times when all the grief, anger, and frustration catches up with me. I had one of those nights this week. I couldn’t hold back the tears, or the hard questions that grip my heart. I thought (and said) some things I’m not proud of. And unfortunately, I don’t know if any of my hard questions will ever be answered on this side of heaven.

But I do know that my daughter is worth every bit of grief, anger, sadness, frustration, and work that it has taken (and will take) to get her home. And I just keep holding on to that truth so that I don’t give up fighting for her. But today… fighting looks a lot like waiting. Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. I’ve found that the longer you sit in “the waiting room”, the easier it is for bitterness to find you. I’m trying hard to fight that today… to not let bitterness take root in my heart. 

I don’t have any big teachable moment to share with you today… or any kind of revolutionary encouragement. All I have is a little bit of honesty for where we are. We are still working to prepare for our daughter - in FAITH that she is coming home. This week we hung the gallery wall in her room, picked up her glider, and soon we will finish her bed. We are continuing to “prepare the field for rain”… even when it feels like we’re in a drought and we just can’t see any clouds. I think sometimes, that's what "waiting with obedience" looks like. Just continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Continuing to prepare for your miracle, even when you doubt it will come. Continuing to be faithful even when you don't feel faithful.

Our hearts were completely convinced that we got approval on August 3rd. We had SO much peace that that was “our day” -  but sadly our agency never delivered that news. There was another Thailand Adoption Board meeting last night. So the next few days we will muster up another round of hopeful expectation - just waiting on a phone call or email with good news of an approval. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t getting harder and harder to muster up that hope. My heart is weary this week. Would you pray for renewed hope and faith for me? Would you also pray for redemption for our story? 

"In your waiting place, cling to the hope that God will not leave our stories unfinished or unredeemed. They may not look how we expected but, as with Ruth and Naomi, our story is His story. We can wait with hope, and we can trust and obey with confidence. Thanks be to God.” []


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lanterns and Miracles

If you've ever seen the movie Tangled, then you're probably familiar with this iconic lantern scene. As the story goes, the kingdom's princess was kidnapped as a baby... but her parents never gave up on finding her. And so, every year on her birthday, the King and Queen (and everyone in the kingdom) send up lanterns with the hope of finding their lost princess. It's a breathtaking sight, and one that I'm sure many have wished existed somewhere beyond a Disney movie.

What most people don't know, is that this actually scene does exist in "real life". It is based on an historic Thai festival. Each year in Thailand, the people participate in Loy Krathong and Yi Peng on the full moon during the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar (usually in November). Loy Krathong is a festival throughout Thailand, where people release lotus shaped vessels (usually made of banana leaves and candles or incense) onto the water as a way to send away their bad luck, while paying homage to the water goddess. The Lanna tradition in Northern Thailand, however, also includes sending floating lanterns into the sky while making a wish or saying a prayer. There are literally thousands of lanterns sent up on this one night in Chiang Mai. As you can imagine, it is an extraordinary sight, and one I've always hoped to be able to experience.

As luck would have it, last Fall the House Mom at our Children's Home in Thailand got married. (This is the Children's Home we established through our nonprofit - not the one where our daughter lives). We were invited to the wedding, and with the use of sky miles, we were able to attend. Somehow, the dates corresponded perfectly with the Lantern Festival - and we were thrilled to be back in Chiang Mai in time to participate.

We met up with our friends Jesse and Jenny who live in Thailand (and who are also adopting from Thailand) so that we could all experience the evening together. We talked, laughed, and looked in awe at the beautiful sight surrounding us. With each hour that passed, more and more lanterns filled the air!

Finally, we decided to send up our own lantern for our little "lost princess" . Rusty and I wrote a note to our daughter on our lantern, then lit it and began praying for Kate as it filled with hot air. When it was almost too hot to hold anymore, we pushed it up into the sky and held hands - hoping to watch it drift out of sight.

Unfortunately... it came crashing down into a group of strangers! Luckily they caught it, and pushed it up into the air again. It struggled... and we thought we were going to see it crash into the trees and burn. Suddenly the crowd (of a couple of friends - but mostly complete strangers from ALL over the world) began to chant. "Go, go, go!" You could see them all holding hands, waving at our lantern, clapping, cheering, and praying it would make it! Together we all willed it to make it over the trees, and at the last moment - IT DID!  Once it was out of sight, I turned around and burst out laughing.

"Isn't this just like our adoption?!" I asked Rusty. "We wanted it to be this beautiful thing... we hoped it would go as planned... but instead, our hopes almost crashed into the ground! Our adoption has been so much harder than we expected. It took the help of a few friends - and even some strangers all over the world - cheering us on and praying for us to keep us going the past 4+ years. And ultimately, it was by the grace of God that we "made it over the trees" without crashing and burning." (It takes a village, right friends?)

I am grateful though, that in the end the lantern for our little "lost princess" did make it high into the night sky. And after we sent it up, my friend Jenny and I sent up another special lantern. On this one, we wrote the names of all our friends waiting for children - through adoption or infertility. Then we sent up the lantern with another prayer... for a miracle for our families, and each family represented on the lantern. (That one went up without a hitch! haha!)

Well let me tell you friends.... I am convinced that 2016 is a year of miracles. Jenny and I wrote 9 names on that lantern. 2 of them are friends of hers I do not know... but I do know that out of the remaining 7, one has been matched with a child, one has brought a child home via adoption, one has seen renewed movement in her adoption after years without it, and THREE friends - three of those precious women we listed - are pregnant with MIRACLE BABIES without the use of fertility drugs (one after waiting for 10 years!)

And now, here we are, waiting and believing for our miracle. If you've been following along, since we were matched in April we have been praying for August travel dates. We were told from the beginning that the normal travel timeline would be November at the earliest - but that it could also very likely be a year or more before we would travel to get our daughter. We were told about all the approvals that had to happen before travel, and that many families have been waiting 10 months for just the first approval (Article 16). And yet, we felt God was speaking "August" to our hearts.

I know it doesn't make sense, but I also couldn't shake this word. And though everyone may think I'm crazy, I decided I'd rather be wrong (or even crazy) than be faithless! So, for the past 14 weeks we have been standing in FAITH, believing God for this miracle. We have hoped, and prayed, and prepared... and asked our friends (and perfect strangers too!) to pray and believe with us. And unfortunately, we have seen 6 Thai Adoption Board meetings pass without our approval.

We are down to the wire friends. Tonight is the 7th Thai Adoption Board Meeting since we were matched with our daughter. If there is any hope of us getting August travel dates (even August 31st!) then our approval has to happen tonight. Not only do we need a miracle for approval tonight - but we will then need a few more miracles to get our other approvals (US Immigration & US Embassy) to go through faster than usual as well!

The odds are stacked against us... but we are praying for a miracle anyway. I've seen this quote show up at least 5 times during the past few weeks, and I think it's very appropriate for where we are tonight...

"Difficulty is the very atmosphere of miracle - it is miracle in its first state. If it is to be a great miracle, the condition is not difficulty but impossibility." 
- LB Cowman

Friends, our situation is absolutely impossible in man's eyes... so that means we are in the perfect place for God to show up and show out! Tonight, around 8pm CST the Thai Adoption Board will begin to meet. They will meet through the night... most likely until around 5am our time (Thailand is 12 hours ahead of us). This is our last chance for August travel dates. We need our Article 16 approval TONIGHT!

Will you join us in praying for a miracle? Matthew 17:20 says, "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."  Well tonight, we need some mountains to move. We need every mountain that stands between us and our daughter to move out of the way! We need for our file to be presented, and we need for it to be in the right person's hands at the right time. We need favor, and APPROVAL, and a speedy release of our paperwork to the US.

Tonight, I will be dreaming of a dark sky filled with faith, hope and prayers (instead of just lanterns). Please join us as we wait expectantly for our miracle. We are looking forward to the day our little "lost princess" is HOME!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Crown

For the past 5 years, I've had the honor of speaking to all of the Miss Alabama contestants at the annual Miss Alabama Pageant Luncheon... just hours before a new Miss Alabama is crowned. Each year, I share a little bit of my story about how the Miss America Organization and the Miss Alabama Pageant impacted my life. On June 11th, I had the opportunity to share with them again. This year, I decided to share the full story of why I stopped competing in the Miss Alabama Pageant (and it turns out, that difficult decision ultimately led to our adoption!) So I wanted to share with all of you here, what I shared with those contestants a few weeks ago. Here's an excerpt from my speech that day...

I have always loved pageants. I actually competed in 45 pageants over 19 years before I "retired". I started competing in this program (the Miss America Organization) because it was my dream to be Miss Alabama – and then Miss America someday. I got the chance to pursue that dream twice – once in 2004 as Miss Gadsden Area, and again in 2005 as Miss Auburn Opelika Area. I loved it. I loved serving my community as a local titleholder. I loved everything I learned during my years of service, the scholarship money I earned, and the sparkly crown I got to wear. I loved the friendships I made, and I loved this week each year at Miss AL. But after my 2nd trip to Miss Alabama, I began to hear a still small voice inside my heart – calling me away. (Now I knew this had to be the voice of God, because I do NOT walk away from rhinestones and sequins willingly ya’ll! I would still wear a crown everyday if it was socially acceptable!)

There’s a worship song that I really identified with at that time. The lyrics are “we fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus”. I felt like God was literally asking me if I would lay down my crown. 

It took a lot of prayers and tears, and months of God prompting my heart, before I chose to be obedient. I didn’t want to give up on this dream, but God was making it clearer and clearer to me that He had a different plan for my life. I was brokenhearted. But I knew that I had a choice to make, and I chose to be obedient (even though I had no idea where this path would take me). 

In 2007, God’s plan became a little bit clearer.  The fact that I wasn’t competing anymore, meant that I could say yes to a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa – the EXACT week of the Miss Alabama Pageant. So I did. And while my friends were putting on their 5 inch heels and glamorous evening gowns, I was sitting in the dirt with some precious orphans halfway around the world. 

It was on that trip that I met my husband, Rusty - whom I absolutely would have missed, if I’d still been competing at The Miss Alabama Pageant. That was also the trip where God burdened my heart for children in need… which led my husband and I to create a charity that would help orphans and vulnerable children around the world. It’s called The Sound of Hope, and for the past 6 years we’ve helped provide consistent holistic care for more than 200 children in 4 countries. But my story doesn’t end there... because this new path God put me on also led me to Thailand.

My husband and I lived in Thailand for almost 4 months back in 2011, setting up a new Children’s Home for The Sound of Hope. We absolutely fell in love with the country, the culture, and the children. We fell so much in love, that we began the process to adopt a child from Thailand. And for the past 4 years I’ve mentioned it up here, in this little speech – how we were still hoping, and waiting, and praying for our little girl.

Well friends, THIS year – I get to make a very special announcement. After more than 4 years of working and waiting and praying – we are finally matched with our beautiful little girl – Kate Suwichada Jackson.

Now – here’s where the story gets really good. We chose to name our daughter Kate, but we wanted to keep her Thai name as her middle name too. Suwichada is her given Thai name. Of course, before we officially decided to keep it – we called a Thai friend to ask what it meant. Now imagine my surprise, when our friend informed us that Chada means CROWN.

My daughter’s name literally means crown. So when God asked me to lay down my rhinestone crown all those years ago… He knew that He had a much more precious crown in store for me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I went on to tell that room full of exceptional young women that God has an extraordinary plan for each of their lives - no matter whether or not they left with a crown on their head that night. And that is absolutely true. I truly believe that God has "exceedingly, abundantly" more in store for us than we could ever imagine... and my story is living proof of that.

There are so many things that have confirmed that this little girl we were finally matched with is absolutely our daughter... and the meaning behind her name was the one to top them all. For those wondering, a "chada" is actually a specific type of ancient Thai crown. It's worn by Thai royalty (the King, Queen, Prince or Princess, specifically) or by a Thai performer playing the part of royalty in a classical dance. So not only does our daughter's name mean "crown" - it is specifically a type of crown worn by royalty. So all those nights we prayed for our "little princess" - we were praying for a daughter with a name that means "royal crown". How fitting!

I haven't even held our daughter yet... but when I look at her photo, into her beautiful face, I cannot imagine missing her. To think that all those years ago, in my stubbornness, I could have held onto a cheap, rhinestone crown and missed out on her?! I can't even fathom it. I am so grateful that I was willing to hold my (small) dreams in an open hand - because it gave God the opportunity to take them and turn them into something much bigger and more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sweet Kate, you are my most favorite, most beautiful, most precious crown! I cannot wait for the day I get to hold you in my arms, and tell you just how valuable you are to me! I would have been thrilled if I'd been crowned Miss America all those years ago... but that happiness doesn't even come close to the JOY I feel in knowing that I get to be your mommy. I love you baby girl!