Always Room For More

Chelsea and Jonathan




Sarah Kate


Laura Ann








Wrapping up the latest trip to China

Well we haven’t been as prolific bloggers as in past adoptions!  It is hard to relay how fast the last couple of weeks have gone.  Sarah, Annelise and Malachai are soon to come home already.  They spent their last day in China at an Island Park in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton).  Here are some delightful photos. from Guangzhou.

Gotcha Day

Sarah and Annelise went to Malachai’s orphanage and saw his nanny and bed and preschool classroom. Malachi was quick to share some treats with his friends. It was easy to see that he was well liked and loved with all of them clamor in for his attention and yelling “Shi Man” at the top of their lungs!


The Unexpected

So many times I have sat in front of this screen willing the words to come and white blank would stare right back at me. So much life has been lived…lessons learned…therapies…gaps in communication…college visits made…a wedding…Madam Blueberry up and down the mountain and all around. We’ve had some growing pains too.

July found me in the halls of Vanderbilt seeing and orthopedic surgeon for prolonged hip pain. It was a straight forward decision. The hip was too far gone for anything less invasive than a brand spankin’ new one. His earliest available was in mid October which wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.  The scheduler noticed my hesitation and said, ‘I just got a cancellation. How does August 3 sound?’Not quite what I was expecting.

So, ten days later I was the mother of the groom (Luke) walking down the aisle with none other accessory than my handy dandy walker with tennis balls.  What a fashion statement! It was quite the festive time with family and friends. Ahem…may I say that pain killers are a marvelous invention;) used in the appropriate context, of course. Rebekah joined our family officially and we couldn’t be more delighted.


The tree house has sat for several years with no progress because we were stumped by the roof leaking. Fast forward to late spring and plans are being drawn, and…hhhmmm wonder if we could add a loft here, etc.?  You get the idea, right? Well what you see now is certainly not the small, rustic treehouse/apartment we originally envisioned. Oh my gracious! There’s that crazy unexpected again. Wonder how God wants to use it???


In a few hours I will sit my body down in my assigned seat on Alaskan Air/Delta bound for the Orient again. In my luggage are clothes, toys, books for the purpose of easing the transition of a new son into our family. Some of you understand why we choose to welcome yet another one into our home.  Others of you perhaps think we are crazy off our rockers (haha…some days we are:) To be quite frank, we did not seek this and yet God was working while we were completely clueless. I put an inquiry into our agency about an infant boy in November 2012 with a heart ailment.  There was never a response so we went about the good works God has created for us to do never thinking another thought about LSman. In God’s GOOD time while we were in cardiac ICU with Esther recovering from open heart surgery, the phone rang. His file and paperwork had landed in our agency’s lap. I was like Sarah in the Old Testament…I burst out laughing…truly! Talk about unexpected.

Slowly we wrote that with quiet joy and steadfast hearts we would accept LSman into our family. Here is our sweet little 4 year old man

Malacai ShiMan Risley


Only the highlights…

Oh my! There is a daunting tension rolling around in my gut. It’s true; I haven’t written a single word in months.

You see, I am somewhat conflicted…sweet Timmy has been gone a little over a year.  Boston Children’s Hospital and the New England Donor Bank sent cards marking our loss on the first anniversary of his death. It seems so wrong. A year to the day of Timmy’s Fontan surgery found me plopped in our church’s memorial garden running my fingers over Timmy’s nameplate  and the dates of his short little life, sobbing uncontrollably, desperately wanting to have him cradled in my arms again. And not…

Because being with Jesus IS far better than being present in body in this wracked with suffering world!  That is our sure and certain hope, taught faithfully in Scripture. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die. ” I know this. I believe this without a shadow of doubt.  This is why we grieve with hope.

And yet…the reality is, he is gone. He is still gone.  My arms are still empty.  My heart has a Timmy sized hole and always will. I will never be the same.

“Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything.  We must simply hold out and win through.  That sounds hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between us.  It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; he does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So much life has been lived during my silence, and I desire to give witness to that. Much growth, many milestones met and celebrated, the goodness of God tasted and seen in our home. Other precious little people discovering the wonder of God’s world, the uniqueness of God’s design in their bodies and hearts.

Joseph who could not walk, now WALKS!!!


Gabriel has been unable to dress and undress himself, he now knows the satisfaction of putting on a shirt and taking it off.  Ta Dah!!!  It took him about an hour. Mind you…we still have a long way to go. Please celebrate with us! Many thanks to the fabulous people at Shriners in Greenville, SC who worked so patiently with us to figure out a way.


Nehemiah is steadily building more comprehensible speech and vocabulary. He can tell us a story now and we can understand him. Yay!!!

Nehemiah the ring bearer

Seth can put his head and whole body underwater and not freak out. We have friends who recently installed a pool and they do not hesitate to share.  This pool has a heater which she kindly turned on because she knows Seth is usually shivering in 2 seconds flat normally. (Ahem…she did this even though the outside temp was well into the 90’s) What a blessing they are! We’ve also been losing a few teeth around here.🙂

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Esther continues to pick up speed with heart pumping joy and excitement. She can run around our circle driveway and not be out of breath.  Way to go, girlie!


Matthew, Abbey Rice, and I jaunted off to France and Italy on a school sponsored trip. What a whirlwind! We walked our legs and feet off and took in so much art, culture, and history, not to mention the scrumptious food.😉

Elyse and Laura Ann got to spend a week and a half with Ma-ma and Pa-pa in  Florida. What a treat!


Nehemiah and Esther were ring bearer and flower girl in Gianna & Daniel’s wedding this past weekend. Wow! What a celebration and answer to many years of prayer.


Sarah Kate has been an excellent older sister helping out with all the kiddos and sharing a room with her new roomie, Elyse!



God has done all this and we praise his holy name!


Edisto Easter

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February Birthdays!





Echoes of mercy, whispers of love

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“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.”

A year filled with some of the sweetest moments we have known as well as some of the most grievous has come to a close.


January 1, 2015 found us waiting in line at U.S. Customs and Immigration with three children declared as brand spanking new citizens of the U. S. of A. We were weary out of our minds and yet our hearts were brimming with joy, hope and the fullness of God’s goodness.

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January 1, 2016 finds us at home surrounded with the loving chaos all our baby chicks (and big ones) create when together. The vibe pulses differently now. We are marked by the loss and sorrow of Timmy Wen Hui’s death, and yet our hearts testify again that the Lord’s goodness and hope reign in our lives.


Part of me wants to just leave this post with the above paragraphs. Being concise and not blathering on and on appeals to me.  However, perhaps it would be appropriate to articulate glimpses, between the lines so to speak, of God at work.

So, with your permission…here are ‘echoes of mercy, whispers of love.’ 

Sisters in Christ, Stephanie Wharton, Pat Lindley and Gianna Graham who are quick to check on me, ferry children some where, help me research a freezer, hold me as tears pour down my face, make me laugh, pray with me, get me out of the hold dark sorrow has on me…love me messy as I am.

Lisa Ellsbury, Andrea Olson, and Jennifer Peterson fellow China heart kiddo moms, who are faithful to reach out to me across the miles. Gayly who most assuredly has the gift of encouragement and takes the time to exercise it for my good.

Our precious ‘inoperable’ Seth Ezra has lived 3 full of love, fun years with us and celebrated his 6th birthday.  What a privilege it is to be his parents.  He embraces life with zest and a big ole grin!

Jon and I greeted our 25th wedding anniversary quietly together at a cabin on the Tennessee River.

What an adventure it has been so far! There have been some crazy adrenalin surges as well as being weary as weary can be, muddy confusion and crystal clear certainty… frustrations to pull our hair out, hopes and dreams shattered into fragments…unexpected and delirious joy, joining the fellowship of unspeakable sorrow at a wee life who is no more. Faithful, faithful is our God who has held us and carried us and always will.

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Past Posts

Always Room For More

Saying "Yes" to Jesus


Saying "Yes" to Jesus

Ni Hao Y'all

Saying "Yes" to Jesus

A Heart to Love

Saying "Yes" to Jesus

His Hands, His feet

Saying "Yes" to Jesus

There's no place like home!

Saying "Yes" to Jesus