Monday, July 27, 2009

hand in hand: friendship

after sending our letter a couple of weeks ago we received many responses of encouragement. one after another...words that told us you were praying for us, crying with us, walking alongside us. rick and i won't ever be able to tell you quite what that meant. tonight was an exceptional example of that support. we spent this evening sitting in our family room with a family that we've known for almost 8 years. they had contacted us after reading the letter about zhang and wanted us to know they were behind us - all the way. they had shared the letter with their four children and as a family decided that they wanted to come and present us with a gift towards our adoption fund. more importantly though, they wanted to come and pray with us. i wish you could have listened in on the prayer of their 10 year old daughter as she prayed for our family...for wisdom...for baby zhang. i wish you could have seen the ziploc baggie full of dollar bills and coins from their youngest child, only a 2nd grader. if only you could have read over our shoulder the letter their 15 year old had written cheering us on in our pursuit. words cannot explain what it meant to have another family of six come, sit in our home, listen to zhang's story, ask questions and pray with us. my wish: that we might all be put into a situation where we have the opportunity for such a rich gift of friendship. rick and i talked tonight about how this will be one of those moments we won't ever forget. this gesture of support was physical. our spirits felt physically lifted when this family stood shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand with our family tonight. these friends wanted us to know they were with us. and they were - all the way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

so much we don't know

it has been clear to us, right from the very beginning, this road to adoption is going to push us well out of our comfort zone.   i was just this week thinking to myself, "are we really attempting to adopt a little girl on the other side of the world?  a little girl who has a serious heart issue?  a little girl whom we've been told, by more than one person, "isn't a good risk?"  it seems almost impossible.  i mean, i have a hard time even ordering anything online.  i like to go to the store for my purchases.  i like to go and feel the fabric, touch the texture and smell the fragrance.  i rarely trust anything i can't see.   and yet.  and yet God is pulling us along, holding a light to our path.  we can't see very far...we are just doing our best to keep our eyes on His light.  we are doing our best to keep up.  He is moving so quickly in all of this, it seems.

we found out this week, that baby zhang is now in the hospital.  just days after we made the decision to adopt her, she was admitted to a hospital in guangzhou.   apparently, she was in great distress.  we have learned her breathing was labored and her skin was bluish-purple.  this little girl had little chance of continuing on in this condition.  by the time we had gotten the news, she had already had open heart surgery.  we don't hardly know any of the details.  we just know she was very sick and very much in need of this surgery.  we are told they (whoever "they" are) did everything they could for her.  there is so much we don't know.  now we just wait.  we can only wait for an update or information.  we wait and we pray for this little girl.

of course, i am also wondering who is with her.  she is 18 months old this month.  she shouldn't be alone in the hospital.  Lord, surround this baby girl with your angels ... let her not feel alone or abandoned for one minute.  Lord, please.


i was hoping that by today we would have had some kind of update. but nothing. we were told that if zhang was doing well she would leave the hospital and return to the orphanage yesterday. i have heard nothing. it is a strange thing as we begin to consider this little girl our daughter...and then to not know if she is well or the hospital or in the orphanage...part of me wants to charge forward in this rescue mission...part of me fears how hard this will be. the less we know, the more our love seems to grow. is this possible? is it normal to be almost fearful to love something...someone? i am sure it must be. this is hard. we chip away at the daunting list of forms and paperwork. we must hold these items now...hoping they will lead to holding this little girl at the end of this seemingly long road.
she is now such a normal part of our prayers. our bedtime prayers with the children...our meal time prayers that run rambling throughout the day over a variety of topics....zhang's name, zhang's face weaves through them. so thankful that Jesus is watching over her. just so thankful for that doesn't always feel like enough. but, we know that it is. it is enough.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

the binder of broken hearts

a friend called today to offer encouragement and to give an assignment. "go to God's word, jody. before you listen to anyone else...before you consider even the doctors and their opinions...go to God's word and look up every verse you can find about the heart." 
i wasn't surprised this friend called to offer me this advice...this suggestion.  that very same thought had been rattling around in my own brain for a couple of days... i just hadn't quite found the time to do it. BUT, now with this specific and deliberate phone call...i knew it was time.   
so i sat down this morning with my coffee and my bible. immediately, the word "brokenhearted" sat down with me.  that was where i would begin.  we don't know much about this little girl over in china, but we know she has a broken heart.  "wow, this will be somewhat simple," i thought, "there were only four scripture references listed in my concordance."

psalm 34:18 was encouraging: "the Lord is close to the brokenhearted..." yes, Lord, be close to baby zhang right now. yes. please.

but it was the final passage in isaiah though which struck the chord i needed to hear for this day. consider that Jesus applied these words to Himself....and, what's more,  i know these words apply to how HE loves little zhang:

"He has sent me to BIND UP THE BROKENHEARTED, to
proclaim FREEDOM for the captives and
RELEASE from darkness for the prisoners....
to COMFORT all who mourn,
and PROVIDE for those who grieve...
instead of ashes,
instead of mourning,
instead of a spirit of despair...."
~ isaiah 61: 1-3
thank you friend, for that assignment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

His eye is on the sparrow (even in the shower)

today i received this email from a friend...i was really in need of a good laugh...and, well, this definitely did it.  i am so thankful for friends who know exactly what we need.
(name withheld, at her request).

 my friend's email:
So, I am in the shower ( do not visualize) , and am praying for Zhang. I subconsciously begin singing a song that I sang to Neilly over and over in the hospital when she had surgery#1. I am singing at the top of my lungs (do not visualize) when I just smile cause I realize what I am singing while I think about Neilly and Zhang, etc... You probably know the old song, but here goes:

Why do I feel discouraged
Why do the shadows come
And why does my heart feel lonely
and long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
HIs eye is on the sparrow
and I know he watches me

I sing because I'm happy I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me

Let not your heart be troubled, his tender word I hear
And resting on his goodness I lose my doubts and fears
Though by the path he leadeth, but one step I may see
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise
when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me does
I draw the closer to him,from care he sets me free
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches over me

Sunday, July 19, 2009


i cannot delete one email response. we sent a letter last friday which poured out the story of zhang and poured out the hearts of the mcnatt family.  the encouragement from you, our friends, has kept us wrapped up inside the warm word, overwhelmed.  the good kind of overwhelmed, that is.  perhaps a better word is  enveloped. yes, we are enveloped by your interest and support and love. thank you. clearly we are walking in a time when we need it. we need the cheerleading. we need the hand holding. we need the reassuring words of those who love us. there is, without doubt, a theme developing here:   we need: God provides.  oh, is this how it has always been? yes, but sometimes we see more clearly. sometimes when we are stripped of all the trimmings and of all the lovely distractions...we are just able to see what has always been.
i suppose i should link friday's letter to this blog. i must investigate how, exactly, to do that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

He knows the names of the stars...

baby zhang. that is what we have called her. that is how we know her. just a couple of days ago i sent out a letter to hundreds of friends asking them to pray for baby zhang.   right this very moment, friends from around the world are praying for our baby zhang.  after all that talk about baby zhang, we found out it is not her name.  exactly.   i just received this email from our adoption liason, amy:

Jody…I realized the other day we are actually calling Zhang by her last name…I asked Lily about it today…here is her answer…pretty funny how “no” is no and that is it---no more info…kind of like trying to get info from the hospital…welcome to china ;-)…

(IM message)
Amy says:
quick question....
what would zhang's first name be?...I realized we have been calling he by her last...
Zhang, Xue Zhu this is how it is listed...
Lily Qiu says:
zhang is her family name
xue means snow
zhu means bamboo
Amy says:
which one is her first name
Lily Qiu says:
Amy says:
how is it prounced...can you write it?
Lily Qiu says:
oh, my
i don't know how
Amy says:
does the x sound like J?
like Joo?
Lily Qiu says:

Ha…that’s it…so, I will continue to call her Zhang until Lord willing, she becomes Lily Grace J…

By the way…your letter is lovely…I actually sent to Andrea who called me in tears after reading—she said it was so beautiful…she so wants to be in your place of adopting and fears her husband will never come around..but she continues to pray…by the way, I didn’t know she shared a birthday with your daughter…really neat…

and so here we are with our little baby zhang, zu zu zhang, baby Z, baby bamboo-snow...we are pretty certain that we are not getting it exactly right (still)...but we know that as we pray, as our friends pray...that God is hearing it exactly right.
our God knows the number of grains of sand on the shore. he knows the number of stars in the sky. he knows them by name.  He knows the child we pray for...He knows her by name.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name." ~ psalm 147:3-4

Friday, July 17, 2009

letter to family & friends...

Dear Family and Friends ~ July 16, 2009
Unsuspecting. We were unsuspecting. Last Thursday we called friends with the intention to only make plans for dinner. We ended up with a picture of a precious 18 month old girl from China. Her name is Zhang. She is beautiful. She is very sick. She needs heart surgery. She needs a home. In a matter of days we had decided to pursue Zhang. Many of you know that for years this has been the desire of my heart. It was Rick, however, that recently reopened this door. Early this spring, Rick suggested we attend a meeting on adoption at our church. I told him to go. ”I don’t need to go…YOU do,” were my exact words. He went. Of course, I snuck in the back row and sat next to him. Was it possible that we were now on the same page? Yes. God was stirring this desire in both of our hearts. (Though I secretly believed Rick had some major catching up to do). So, we thought: We’ll pray and we’ll start investigating. Now, I am not sure exactly what that was supposed to mean…but before we could even launch our Big Investigation…God brought us a face and a name and a story. We couldn’t be more ill prepared. We didn’t have an agency, a dossier, a home study…we didn’t have one piece of paper which would suggest that we were on the path to adoption. But…we had willing hearts. Within days of discovering Zhang we have applied for her adoption. In a rush of paperwork and phone calls we submitted an online application for this child and were sort of “pre approved” last Monday. Believe it or not, as I am typing this letter, the document of approval just landed in my inbox. This week we are walking two paths. One is the path of the correct and formal adoption process – long, confusing and tedious. The second path is that of learning everything we possibly can about Zhang’s medical issues. I am one of the least medically inclined people I know. I struggle even to give my children band aids and Tylenol, And Yet have been given the assignment to learn everything I can about congenital heart disease. God, however, is a God of the “And Yet...” We know that. We have seen that. We trust that.
We have much to ask of you, friends. Though we believe that we are in so many ways the most ill prepared, we believe also we are the most well surrounded. I cannot imagine a better, stronger, more supportive group of people than the people we call friends. Sitting at the pool yesterday with my children I jotted on the back of my grocery list 26 reasons why I believe we are being lead down this path. YOU were all on that list. We couldn’t be more thankful for the community of friends and family which surround us. We need everything at this point. We are not prepared financially to take this giant step. Again, we were only thinking in terms of “investigation.” We are researching several directions for how to raise the money to adopt - an adoption in China rests somewhere around the $30,000 mark. This is daunting…However, we believe the decision to pursue Zhang cannot be a financial decision. AND, our God is, indeed, God of the daunting. Our Father has provided in the past, we are confident He will provide in our future. If you know of any grants, foundations, etc…that provide for adoption, please send them our way. We will keep you posted on that need. This is a need that is somewhat hard to share. We realize full well that our lifestyle does not reflect needy. We have a nice home, cars and kids in Christian schooling. We can only say we are grateful for these things, but that we do not operate with any excess. Rick and I have struggled with this throughout the week. The thought that ran wild in my brain yesterday was that we don’t do things like this because we have too much. We don’t have $30,000 hidden anywhere…but we do have too much. Our “Too Much” keeps us busy and distracted and even sometimes from taking these kinds of steps. It keeps us focusing on what we Want and forgetting to look to God for what we really Need.
Right now we are most in need of your prayers. We believe that we are to continue walking this path. After speaking with the pediatric cardiologist and other medical people, we know this situation is not ideal. Her heart issues are quite complex. She had open heart surgery just last week in China….and will at the very least need another major surgery in 6 months. She has not only one problem with her heart, but multiple problems. The news was discouraging….but within hours God brought us more information which has given us hope for Zhang. We don’t know what her future holds…but we do know Who holds her future and for now, that might just have to be enough.
It was just a year ago yesterday that Zhang was left in a corridor with nothing more than a note pinned to her. She was abandoned at just 6 months of age. All we have from her file is that she was wearing a yellow jump suit and wrapped in a black and white blanket. The note listed only her birthday: February 5th…the same as our oldest daughter, Emily. I write this description with tears flowing…Can you imagine being left in a corridor? Can you imagine possibly having to leave your child in a hallway? We assume her parents had no insurance and found out about the seriousness of her heart issues. This is a somewhat common occurrence in China where there is no Medicaid and no obvious solution for medical care for the poor. Zhang has spent the last year in an orphanage in Guangzhou City. Today she is alone in a hospital recovering from open heart surgery. We believe that even in the seemingly hopeless situation of this child’s life, she deserves a chance to be healed, to be healthy and to come home.
Pray that our family would listen to only God’s voice in this. We can think of 100 reasons why adopting Zhang might not be a good idea for our family of six…BUT not one of those reasons is truly significant. Pray for our discernment, obedience and courage. Please pray for Zhang. You know a little of her story now. You know that she needs an army of pray-ers around her. We are trying our best to get more detailed information from China regarding her health and her prognosis. It is a slow and frustrating process.
If all goes well, we can accomplish our paper work and finish the application process within 5 months – that is the soonest. At that point we will be able to travel to China to bring her home. She needs another surgery in six months, our prayer is that she would be in Atlanta for that one.
Where are our children in this? Overwhelmingly positive. We are so thankful. Emily’s words: “Mommy, all I know is that she doesn’t have a mom and dad and she needs one. “ Sarah Elizabeth was willing this week to pack up her stuff and move out of her room to make space for Baby Zhang. Last night Connor drew a picture to put in her care package. He drew and named all five of our pets thinking that might make her smile. (I, personally, am hoping the Chinese government doesn’t catch wind of the fact that we even have five pets). Tyler, in his quiet way, just said, “Yes, this is good.”
Friends, we don’t for one minute believe this road will be easy. Easy is sometimes so appealing…so attractive. We are content. We have plenty already on our plate. “And Yet,”….. God has chosen to add something more. We don’t know the end of this story. We only know that we are being gently instructed to keep turning the pages….and so we will. We just wanted to make sure you all had a copy.
With Joy. With Sadness. With Hope. With Fear. With Promise. With Love,
Rick and Jody
Emily, Tyler, Sarah Elizabeth and Connor

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young --- a place near Your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”
~ Psalm 84:3

Thursday, July 16, 2009

26 reasons on my grocery list

grocery lists.  lists of all we need.  all we want. all we are missing.  out of.  emptied.  and yet today's grocery list reminds me:  it is not that we have too little…it is that we have too much.

this afternoon i took the children and a few friends to the pool.  as they splashed and played, i sat and thought.  lately i am having trouble thinking of anything but our decision to adopt.  there is much to consider.  so much we don't know and can't know.  i am realizing more than ever how much i depend on myself.  i always measure what it is i can bring to the table.  ever so slowly i am finding this isn't going to be true in our adoption. rick and i cannot be in control.  we cannot call the shots.  it is absolutely not about us or what we can bring.
while i sat poolside, i was overcome with a list of reasons why we should adopt.  the reasons started running through my head.  one after another.  i couldn't keep up with the words.  i grabbed an old grocery list from my bag and on the back began to record thoughts swimming around in my head:

Reasons Why We Are CALLED To Adopt Zhang Xue Zhu
1. the problem is big….but God is much bigger.
2. we have 4 healthy, well adjusted children with open minds, open hearts and open arms.
3. we have the best, most supportive group of friends we could even imagine
4. our church is designed for exactly this;  large, involved and adoption minded. psalm 68:6…care for orphans…not in question.
5. we have been prepared for this.  prepared for support raising – our trip to thailand last summer was a precursor of God's provision in times like these.  we have already witnessed how God can provide abundantly.
6. our minds and hearts fell in love with the asian culture last summer while in thailand. no question. that is what we left thailand with…a love for its people.
7.  slowly God has been stripping us of prejudice and superiority which we didn't even know we had.  astounding!
8. our community/city of atlanta….alpharetta…tremendous source of chinese culture.  
9. we have a great wealth of resources – deep and wide.  this little girl is in an orphanage of 3000.  
10. top doctors and heart surgeons/hospitals in atlanta. 
11. family members and dear friends with heart issues….survival cases.
12. our adoption in Christ is always about heart issues - we  are all in need of new one.  one only HE can provide through our own adoption.
13. we are ill prepared, but well surrounded.
14. we have food, shelter, a roof, room and plenty of love.
15. we have more than enough.
16. we are missing our 5th.
17. we want her.
18. we aren’t enough, but God is enough and he has given us more than enough.
19. we are fighters..determined…tenacious...passionate...pursuers.
20. we were told by God that he would bring us something…something big.
21. mercy/justice/children – rick’s passion…here it is.
22. we are resourceful and energetic...but lacking.
23. we are dependent on Him.
24. God has prepared in advance.
25. our name is upon her.
26. we believe. we believe in our  Very Big God. and when we don't have enough belief He is big enough even for our unbelief.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

trust & faith

the words, “trust’ and “faith” were stumbling around the sleepy hallway of my mind this morning as i climbed out of bed.  they were my first thoughts and they remained true throughout the day. i came down to my office, turned on the computer and read an IM transcript between the two women we feel as if we already call sisters: amy and rebecca. amy is the woman from lifeline who originally sent zhang's file to my friend here in atlanta. i can already tell she has an amazing heart for adoption. rebecca is the young woman over in china trying her best to collect information for us.  rebecca's words jumped out from the IM transcript: 
" you must tell the mcnatts to trust us….to trust the doctors…it will be okay…it will be alright…they must have faith...they must trust.” 

okay. so Lord, these are the words you are sending me today. Trust and Faith. do i have enough? can we possibly have enough for a situation this serious? we don’t know. but we will say those words over and over again today...tomorrow...for many tomorrows. maybe it is possible to repeat words even when unsure about how much you believe them…maybe it is then when they actually mean something. maybe.

as i write this tonight, it occurs to me that from the dates in zhang's file we know it was this date, exactly one year ago, when she was found in that corridor. perhaps her chinese mama and papa also had to chant the words Faith and Trust over and over again. maybe they left her with the Faith, the Trust, and even the Hope she might have a chance at medical treatment and life... if they let her go.  i cannot imagine. i write tonight with tears flowing…i am a mother of four and i can’t imagine letting go of any of them with nothing more than a blanket, a note and a birthdate.  did they choose yellow because it possibly suggested a ray of hope or did they choose it because maybe that is all they owned. we will never know.

we do not need to know.  Trust and Faith.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

another answer

this morning's first waking thought: we need to find a pediatric cardiologist.  we have had friends in the medical field review zhang xue zhu's file already and we did have a report from another cardiologist….but now we feel strongly it is important to speak directly and personally with someone ourselves.

within 5 minutes of sending an email to about 15 close friends i had a name, a cell number, and permission to call immediately.  my friend, kelly, was sitting at the beach with her good friend this weekend when she received my email request for help.  the girl sitting with her knew just the person needed.  one of her closest friends was a pediatric cardiologist at vanderbilt - her name, dr. kristian. "bet you feel like you are reading a paragraph out of "Pilgrim's Progess," jody, don't you?" wrote kelly.  yes, nothing surprises me much anymore.  and i dialed the doctor's cell number.

a couple of hours later, this vanderbilt cardiologist and i had a phone conversation. it wasn’t good news. there was too much unknown. her issues were much more complex than we first thought. it wasn’t just an issue of getting her good medical treatment….it could be an issue of life span. life span? could we bring a child from china to the US, weave her into the fabric of our family only to possibly lose her within years? could we? we still do not know. but, we know to walk forward.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

psalm 84: sparrows & pilgrimages

sunday morning. it is no surprise to wake this morning with another banner of words running across my thoughts. i am a little curious if this happens all night long...even when i am finally asleep? do these headlines never stop?
this morning's message.  today's heading:   "even the sparrow finds a home...the swallow a nest...near God's altar."
where did that come from and why did these words wake me? i recognized the verse, but couldn't quite place it.  so downstairs i came, to my office and bible. intent on figuring out God's message.  psalm 84:3:
 "even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for her young,
 near your altar O Lord Almighty, my Kind, my God."

oh, psalm 84.  i should have known. we have been around this passage before.  two years ago our family felt God's tugging.  we felt like He had something in store for us. some kind of journey up ahead.  at that time it was verse 5 which captured my attention.  "blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." until this morning,  i had completely forgotten the psalm started with sparrow imagery. what a gift to wake early with these words from this psalm.  why am i ever surprised by the clever and amazing connections God provides?  over and over again, He crosses our paths and touches our thoughts with His fingerprints.  allowing us to know He is here.  He is in this.  He is all over this.   
sparrows and pilgrimages.  they are His.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

a corridor and a note

and so we began to know zhang xue zhu. 

our knowing started with only a picture. we dug deeper into her medical file.  we began to wrap ourselves around words, terms, conditions….they made no sense to my most, non-medically inclined mind. i had little comprehension of what i was reading, but i knew enough to know it was not good. 

still, i could get no further than her dark eyes and the story that rested there. stories: that is what i know. that is how i connect. it was all gibberish to me (a lot of it literally chinese-- obviously, jody) except for one small paragraph: xue zhu zhang had been left in a corridor with only a note pinned to her. she wore a yellow outfit and was wrapped in a black and white blanket.  from what we could tell, the note gave no other instruction or information other than her birthday.  her birthday: february 5th -- the same as our oldest daughter, emily.

so much of what i read seemed not good, except somehow it was.   it was.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

when you least expect it

when you least expect it.

a phrase with a whole new meaning for the mcnatt family. 

i called my friend to make dinner plans for the evening, but as i was prone to do on occasion, i asked her,  “so, beverly, do you have a baby for us today?”

i jokingly asked her. honestly, i was thinking more about which restaurant we were going to meet at.

but bev, in all seriousness, replied, “as a matter of fact, i do.

moments later, i found myself hanging up the phone and opening up an email attachment. 

xue zhu zhang. 

there she was. rosebud mouth, round face, dark eyes.  dark eyes which clearly had a story to tell. as i stared at her picture, i found myself wanting to listen. i wanted to hear her story. all of it. i wanted to hold her in my arms.  all of her.

but as much as i found her tiny features compelling, the thought of us actually doing something about this emotional tug seemed like a stretch. 

how could the mcnatt family become a part of her story? 

i mean, we had only just decided that we might consider the process of adoption. we weren't in any position to act on this file or pursue this child. 

or were we?


and because i can never miss the chance to mess with my husband, i forwarded the email and adoption file to him at his office, writing only, “beverly said we can change her name.”

hours later rick and i had a  brief phone call. he was in the middle of a meeting and i was in the middle of a group of darling hispanic children on  a city mission's project. 

but we found a few minutes to talk.  

“yes, i am serious,” i said. only realizing at that moment, how serious i really was.

“honey, i thought you were kidding." rick replied. "oh wait…is this an ambush? we're having dinner with beverly and dave tonight...did you and bev set this up?”  

he was convinced.

i thought to myself, "no, but i'm pretty sure God did."  

rick knew that our friends, the fickens, had adopted two of their three children and they were passionate advocates for adoption. rick has also always known it would be my heart’s desire to adopt.

we had only this spring, re-visited this old and worn-thin conversation. we had only just begun to consider the reality. but even with the recent meeting of our minds and even with the very hopeful maybe-someday in our pocket, this file felt gigantic. inconceivable.

but, forgetting the file,  this little girl somehow felt just right. possibility. 

i assure you, we had planned to first "get prepared" ...

we had planned. 

oh yes, we had planned...

but there she was -- all rosebud mouth and dark eyes round.  

a baby girl with a story.

and we wanted to hear her story.

we wanted to hear more.