Always Room For More

Chelsea and Jonathan




Sarah Kate


Laura Ann








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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Empty and Held

Sarah, Matthew, Sarah Kate, Esther and Timothy

Sarah, Matthew, Sarah Kate, Timothy and Esther

Sarah, Matthew, Sarah Kate, Timothy and Esther

In China the adoption process has specific steps. Each province might do things in a different order or change the location to meet your child. In Henan, all the families are in one room eagerly waiting for their child(ren) to arrive. Timothy and Esther were some of the last few to arrive. Their faces were bright with smiles peeking out of their hoodies all bundled up by their caring nannies. Timothy walked right into Matthew’s arms and Esther into mine. Sarah Kate held all the goody bags and toys. They were genuinely interested in the few toys we brought but the goldfish were the big winner. We waited until one of our translators could come to our grouping and relayed all pertinent information related to their care from the nannies.  And then hurried, flustered good-byes, painfully quick last hugs and one final glance back as the only one they have ever known as ‘mama’ walks away. Anguish bursts from their mouths. Excruciating pain radiates through my soul as I hold a child who is fiercely inconsolable and rightly so. I refuse to lie to them and croon that ‘it is okay.’ It is NOT okay! December 22, 2014 was a day marked by loss for Timothy and Esther and precious gain for us.

December 22, 2015 was yet another day marked by loss for us.  Timothy’s bright little face no longer pops up from his crib, arms outstretched. His sweet voice “I yuv  yu” only echoes in my mind now. There is an empty aching place in my soul that will never go away. We actually put his high chair up in the attic…his spot at the table is gone, and I weep. I boxed up his clothes, some of which he never got to wear. Sorrow leaks from me…I am not a fun person to be around and haven’t been for 6 months. Let me be clear. Sitting in this place of lament, my heart doesn’t hesitate to declare TIMOTHY WEN HUI was soooooooo worth it!

The certain hope of the resurrection does not take away the pain. I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around the despair of those who mourn without the hope of the gospel. Oh Jesus, have mercy!

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you only. Psalm 39:7

The Lord is holy and kind; our God is full of tender love. Psalm 116:5




This year we celebrated Thanksgiving at our home on the mountain. The Godbolds joined us from Sarasota, Columbus, and Chattanooga. We shared delicious food and lots of laughter. There was fierce competition in cards as well as the now traditional Risley vs. Godbold soccer game. As you can see sometimes it can be quite the production to take family photos. These are some of the more well-behaved shots so you can just imagine the outtakes.


The Godbolds


The Risleys


The whole family


Sarah and Steve


Anne and Cash Godbold



4 Generations


Grandparent huddle


Risley and Godbold Grandparents

Fall, Firsts, and Moving Forward

Lately we have so enjoyed the cooler weather, the leaves falling, and the onset of winter. For some of our little ones, this is a first time for leaf piles and (the possibly soon to come) snowy chills. In light of Thanksgiving, we are so thankful for these little moments. Bekah has moved on to a new little place on the mountain and a new job, but we still get to see her most afternoons. We are seeing a lot more of Sammy now that he’s living at home and taking classes, and this is one gift in particular that we treasure dearly.


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