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Chelsea and Jonathan




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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.




We have some lovely friends, the Ellis family, who kindly permitted us to get away to their Lake House a week ago.  As you can see much fun was had by all.  There was a slight interruption due to Esther’s incision getting infected.  She and I headed back to the E.R. to rule out anything bad going on beneath the surface. We were cleared and returned for more adventures and fun, rousing games of spoon, categories, down by the banks, a crackling fire, and ping pong ridiculousness.

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What a balm to our souls!

Big steps

Esther feeling betterNo more johnnies…didn’t know that is what those lovely hospital gowns are called.

No more chest tubes…what a difference!

No more ng tube.

No more oxygen and no more cannula…yippee skippee

Psalm118:14-15 The Lord is my strength and my song;he has become my salvation.

Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous.

The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things.

The chatter is to be discharged on Friday. Please continue to pray for the pneumothorax to resolve itself so flying home is not a problem.


Jon, Sarah, and Esther

Past Posts

Always Room For More

Saying "Yes" to Jesus


Saying "Yes" to Jesus

Ni Hao Y'all

when east meets south

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