Wednesday, September 4

The Color of Hope

While on our mission trip in June we got to meet our daughters birth mom. The experience was surreal.
Eye opening.
Life changing.
And again surreal.
To be able to stare into the eyes of the one who gave me daughter life. To hold her hands. To embrace her in my arms. To welcome her into our family as another mother.
It was lovely.
Everything I could have imagined it would be.

This story has taken awhile.
Awhile to process.
Awhile to capture.
Awhile to feel ok to share it.
While I recognize that this story is something many have waited on and many have asked about, it is a story that I wanted to (and still want to) handle with great sensitivity and respect.
This story is my daughters story.
This story is the story of my daughters mother. I want to respect and protect both persons. Both whom I love dearly and deeply.
I share this to not exploit poverty or a mother who was faced with the most difficult decision any mother can ever face. I share this story to show you God's glory. His glorious redemptive plan.
Our God, our creator, He is in the business of redemption. I have seen it first hand. To Him be all the glory. For it is only He that could write a story so beautiful out of something that was tragic and so hard.

When we adopted Emerson we knew she was half orphan. Meaning she had a living birth parent. We knew she came from poverty. We knew her father had passed away. We knew she had older brothers. We knew these things but not much more.

We had received a couple of pictures of her and her mother on the day of her mothers court date. And some more on the day of her mothers embassy date. We don't plan on showing these pictures to Emerson until she is grown. These pictures are full of emotion. Emotion that I cannot relate too. In these pictures a mother's heart is breaking. These pictures captured a moment in my daughters life that would change her forever and a moment that would change this mother forever.  These pictures captured the rawness of what it was like on the day this mother said "Goodbye" to her baby girl forever. My heart burns thinking about this moment.

We always knew in the back of our heart that we would return to Ethiopia to find Emerson's mom. We just didn't know when. Last fall God burdened Phillips heart to go and find her. We longed to know her and to know her story and to tell her that she is loved and cherished in our home. So we began to pray.

Phillip and I were going to be in Ethiopia this past June so we thought now was the perfect time to meet her. We contact a social worked in Ethiopia and had him find her. We waited a couple weeks to hear back from him. Finally a couple weeks before our trip we got an email saying that she wanted to meet us.  I cannot describe how I felt reading that. Knowing that we would be meeting my daughters mother for the first time. Not knowing how she was going to respond to us. Not knowing exactly what to expect. It was all so exciting and nerve racking.

We scheduled to meet her the first day we were in Ethiopia with our team. Our team went off to serve that day and we stayed behind waiting on the arrival of Emerson's mom. Our hearts racing and our anxiety levels at all new highs.

And then her car pulled through the gates of our guest house. She stepped out of the car and was greeted first by Phillip. She embraced him and showered him with 5,000 kisses and then she came to me. She took my hands and stared into my eyes. Tears began to well up in hers as she leaned in to showered me with those same 5,000 kisses. It was the warmest most tender moment of my life.

We led her inside, with along with our 2 translators.
(She is from a rural area and doesn't speak Amharic so we had to have an extra translator.)

Once inside we began to tell her about Emerson. About how beautiful she is.
How smart.
We told her how LOVED she is by her brothers and by us.
We told her that we reunited Emerson and her bio brother who lives in Illinois. Story about that here
Tears of joy filled her eyes. She clasped her hands and brought them to her face several times and lifted them to the sky in praise. It was special. And emotional.
We gave her a photo-book full of pictures of Emerson's life after adoption in chronological order. That way she could see the progress and see her daughters joy grow and to see hope be colored back into her life.
We also gave her art work and photos made by Emerson and art made by her brother. 

She pulled these gifts close to her heart and kissed them and praised God. 
God is so good to orchestrate such a thing. He is so good. So faithful. He sets the lonely in families. From orphans to widows. In our story he has done both. Though Emerson's mom does not live in America in our home, she is apart of our family and always will be. 

Phillip was able to share his love for her through our translator. We told her she is a mother in our home. We are not separate. We are the same. She is valued and treasured. She will never go hungry again and neither will our daughters 4 brothers who live in Ethiopia with her. 

We were able to get the details on her life. On Emerson's brothers. How her dad died. What kind of work he did, what her mom does etc. We were able to ask her about religion and I am proud to say that she is a believer. A born again Christian who LOVES the Lord. For the sake of respecting her, my daughter and Emme's brothers I wont be sharing the details of her past life on here. For if I did it would be exploiting the poverty, the sadness, the devastation. But I want to share just enough to show you how BIG our God is and how detailed he is in EACH of our lives. 

Emerson was born in 2008. Her dad passed away when she was 7 months old. Her mother was then a widow. A widow with 6 children. Emerson being the youngest. In the words of her mother "It was the hardest time." Darkness and despair fell on this family. Emerson's mother had to become a day laborer. Meaning she did any work she could find. Maybe it was chipping away at boulders for 13 hours a day to make gravel. Maybe it was hauling water for MILES and MILES. It was hard labor. All while having a baby strapped on her back with a scarf. In the fall of 2010 she came to a place where she felt she had no other option then to give up her only daughter. Her baby. For the sake of her family, her other children, and for the well being of Emerson. She described how Emme would get hurt while she was at work. She was too big to strap on and her milk had dried up and she was running out of hope. Consumed with despair. At this same time, Phillip and I were here in the states. Fervently praying for our referral from our adoption agency. Our dossier arrived in Ethiopia for approval in December 2010. The same time Emerson was being relinquished. The days, weeks and months following Emerson's relinquishment took a devastating toll on this mothers heart. She described to us how when she went back to work she would find herself looking for her daughter and then she would remember... This mother cried out to God for hope. She described a hopelessness that I will never know. But 3 years later. Hope has been colored back into the life of this mother. These children. And this family. Our big ole American Ethiopian family. 

God's story is great. His redemptive plan is powerful. He is working in the details of our lives. Even when we don't know it. He sees the big picture when we just see the present. I feel incredibly humbled that we live this redemptive story. I feel in awe that God sees one broken family in Ethiopia and one family desiring to aide and care for the orphan and the widow and he pieces our puzzle pieces together. Only the One true God can write such a story. 

It's incredible how our Yes's in life can alter those around us and even those across an ocean. Our Yes's change lives and so do our no's. If God is stirring your heart to say yes to adoption or missions or something else kingdom building I want to urge you to say yes. To push the fear, the reluctancy, the doubt... push it aside. Our Yes's define our lives, our children's lives and the lives of those we may never come in contact with. But you can rest assured and know that our God is great and he works in the fine print and tiny details. He takes care of his people. He paints the color of Hope back into his peoples lives. 

How is God moving in your life? Is there a life altering Yes waiting for your response? How has God colored hope back into your life? 


  1. I just cried like a baby.
    Absolutely beautiful!!!!

  2. I just cried like a baby.
    Absolutely Beautiful!!!

  3. Bawling my eyes out! What a beautiful story, only God could write! Continued blessings!

  4. Bawling my eyes out! What's beautiful story, only God could write! Continued blessings!

  5. Oh. My. Word. There should be a warning to grab the tissues before reading this post.
    The beauty of God's redemption, His sovereignty, His is magnificent.

  6. Wow! I didn't know I would begin my day with such an emotional twist! Reading this reminds me of all the birth mothers I've sat with over the years as they've made the very difficult decision to place their children for adoption. For every child who goes into a loving family, there is a story of difficulty on the other side that has brought this about. So many times, children who are adopted deal with the issue of not being wanted or feeling unloved. I always counsel them that they are loved TWICE -- once by someone who loves them enough to make a very difficult decision for their child to hopefully have a better life, and a second time by the family wanting to give the child a better life. In both situations, the child is deeply loved. Thank you for sharing this with us. Praying God's blessings on Emerson's birth mother today!

  7. totally cried my face off. this is beautiful, jenna.. and i think you told her story so respectfully and humbly. love you, friend.

  8. WOW! Incredible. I appreciate you sharing with us. What a priceless time for your family! As we wait for a referral, I often find myself praying for our birth mom. The pain of relinquishment I cannot imagine! I just pray!! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Ok I'm crying. Wow. Jenna I just popped over to take a look around (I'm back in Texas!) and your story is truly so beautiful. I love that you pursued a relationship with your daughters other mother.

    1. Thanks Kerrie! It was certainly a God moment. One I will treasure forever.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, love and encouragement.
It is always so appreciated.