Matthew 22:37-39

Matthew 22:37-39

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Somewhere along the line you develop a picture of what your family should have looked like.  

Reggie Joiner spoke at our church last week and said this phrase along with others that are just stuck in my heart. 

Just because the picture didn't turn out, doesn't mean your story is over. 
There is a bigger story, a story of restoration and redemption. 

These phrases take my breath away.  

These phrases I fight daily to try to get a grasp on. 

Paul tells us in Philippians that he forgets what is behind and strains toward what is ahead. He presses on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus.

And when I read that my heart fills with deep sorrow and complete joy all at the same time.

Forgetting pictures of what should have been, forgetting what is behind and moving forward towards our prize is easier said than done.  

I want my son, I want to go back to those pictures and to those times. 

Lately I am broken, raw, and depressed.

I am an emotional eater so thank goodness I love to run as well. Basically I want a box of cupcakes everyday and I am not ashamed to admit it. I mean look how ridiculous yummy they look.
When I am down I realize more than ever I run to food. 
Friends, let me tell you from experience it doesn't fix anything and can easily become an idol. Sure it helps my heart for a split second but the pain and agony are still there, also along with the pounds.  

But our great God, He meets me even when I run to that stupid cupcake first.  He meets me in my messiness and puts the brokenness of my heart and my pictures back together.  

And He does it daily.

And He will do the same for you. 

We recently bought my sister's van and it already is such a blessing and we are so grateful. 
But it was one more thing I had to tackle. 

To me the car was easy, there wasn't really any more room in there. Honestly that thinking doesn't make sense because Gavin rode in that car. 

But with the van I look back and see what should have been. 

I see empty seats. 

I see the pieces of our broken pictures but I also can see God's redemption and restoration story in the life of our sweet Israel; our second son we never imagined would come into our lives.

Another thing my family tackled was taking family pictures. This sweet new friend wanted to bless us with her talent and captured my family in the most beautiful ways, honoring all three of my children.  We are so appreciative.

But taking them was one thing, hanging them up is another.  

And it is something I can't seem to do.  

I keep looking back at our old pictures and what our life was.  But when I do this, I miss out on what God has in store.  I miss out on His bigger story.  

So I will start praying for those empty seats in our van and whatever God wants to do with them.  

I will keep one foot in front of the other racing towards that prize of heaven and maybe one day will be able to hang some beautiful pictures of my family on the wall.

In the words of Reggie Joiner,

It is not about your pictures.  

Let them go.  

Turn your back on the pictures of your broken pieces.  

Turn your life in the direction of the story God wants to tell through your life that is bigger than you ever imagined.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Gavin Pan Conklin!

I thought all day Saturday what kind of party we would throw.  Would it be centered around a certain animal?  Would it be a bee theme?  You loved pretending to be a bee, finding bees in books, and made buzzy sounds even.  Would it be batman?  Would it be baseball theme and share in the love for the game with your daddy?
I let my mind wonder all day thinking about that, wishing and aching to just have you here and planning your party.
And what would you be doing at age 4?  Still picking on your sister of course?  Jumping and climbing on everything?  What would you be saying?  Some times I will call my good friend to ask what her sweet little boy is saying and doing.  Gavin and her son were buddies in Taiwan and are so much alike.

A lot of guilt entered my heart from satan's schemes.  I never threw you a big party and I am so sorry for that.  I so wished I would have.  But satan can't win in my thoughts so I fought him all day long.  And God kept whispering to my heart all day that no party I would have thrown could surpass all that you are experiencing now.  You have complete joy.  You have fulfilled life.  So take that satan.  You loose once again.

So we spent the day celebrating you Gavin and thinking of what you would like to do.

So we started the morning with balloons from my sister and her family.  Thanks for always thinking of my family sweet sister.

We spent the day being together; laughing, smiling, crying or whatever emotion came our way.

This boy will not and I repeat will not take this bracelet off that my sister sent.  We talk him out of not sleeping with it but the moment he wakes up, he wants it on.  Brennan is not letting him live this one down and keeps teasing him being girly.  But that smile.  Melt my heart.

Gavin's favorite color was green.  So Lyndlee decided we all needed to wear green.  You that know Brennan will laugh out loud at this as you know how much he hates being a family that matches.  But he took one for the team.  And low and behold we walked into the restaurant to eat and the lady said, "Oh wow, you all have green on."  You should have seen Brennan's face.  Priceless.

We had to be silly.  Gavin was silly.  Ornery and crazy and silly all the time.  He taught us to love and to live your life to the fullest.  He taught us to make the most of every day and every moment.

My artsy girl had to get her craft on, so sewing it was.  Those precious little fingers that make so many beautiful things that speak directly to our heart and soul.  Thank you God.

We were just missing you baby boy so we decided to relax at home with some ice cream.  Four candles and singing happy birthday honestly just broke our hearts, oh how we wish we were celebrating together.  Soon and very soon.

Balloons for our birthday boy.  Batman, Cars, baseball, and one that said big brother.

Thank you friends for the prayers.  Thank you for the cards in the mail for our Gavin.  Thank you for remembering.  The loss of your child is hard and never makes sense.  Everyday is a new day full of challenges but also full of blessings.  Birthdays are a time to celebrate life but absolutely there is mourning in our celebrations.

Thank you for the donations to ministries in Gavin's name.  We are so honored and grateful that you have done those things.  What a way to honor Gavin's life by helping and loving others.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Israel, Disney, Mother's Day, and our Gracious God

Israel has adjusted so well, like he has always been here with us.

He traveled great on the long plane ride, greeting the wonderful friends and family at the airport to greet us home, riding in his car seat, and coming into our house for the first time.

Our friend Joanna captured Lyndlee hugging Israel and it is the sweetest picture.  Lyndlee prayed for so long for Israel, even before she met him she was praying for him.  And the Lord answered her prayers.

I wish I could know what his little brain was thinking as he was completely surrounded by all new things.
But he is brave and strong and took everything like a pro.

He eats all the time, he sleeps through the night in his big boy bed.

I am lucky if he naps for 40 minutes during the day.  Today I snapped this picture of Israel and his daddy taking a nap.  

He hated baths for the first few days but loves to splash everything and everyone in sight now.

He loves to follow his sister Lyndlee whom he likes to call La-La.

He knows I am his mommy and Brennan his daddy and that our dog is Sasha.

He says Jesus, Bible, and puts his arms high in the air to say hallelujah.

He laughs and smiles all the time.

He can throw a fit by being so dramatic and throwing his body on the ground. Of course he is always watching to make sure someone is paying attention to the fit.

He is stubborn and will sit in time out and even giggle. 

He laughs when I tell him no.

He runs from you when you are about to change his clothes or diaper. He runs away and giggles.

I tell him he is like his big brother in so many ways.

He loves to pray. He folds his little hands together and starts talking to Jesus.

He says bye-bye, hi, no, and thank you.

He uses sign language for please and more.

He nods his little head when he says thank you and it is the sweetest thing.

He loves his doggie which is his blanket that a special family gave him when he was just a little baby.
He loves to have it and suck his thumb to fall asleep.

He has made Lyndlee giggle her silly giggles again.

He has brought more laughter and joy into my family.

He loves the beach and the park with his sister La-La.

Israel is our son and such a blessing from the Lord, such a sweet addition to our family.  He is my renewed hope.

We love being a family of five.

Gavin and Israel will be the best of friends, they just have to wait till heaven.

His surname is Hsieh which means thanks.
And His Chinese name is Chen-Gwang which means morning light.

And Brennan chose the name Israel for the example of Jacob in the Bible becoming Israel.
He was one who struggles/wrestles with God. And in the Bible what you see is that through Jacob's struggle with God, he walks away with a limp and a blessing and a new name Israel which means God has striven, and has saved.

This weekend we are taking the kids to Disney. Some friends so graciously blessed us with tickets to go. Thank you!

And I think back when we first came to Disney was August 2011 after burying Gavin's ashes in Taiwan. We were broken, we were mourning, and we were trying to make happy family memories. But we didn't do such a good job. We did a lot of crying at supposedly the happiest place on earth.

This time will be different. We will be celebrating. 
Celebrating Lyndlee turning 6.

Celebrating Israel being with us and celebrating Gavin being home with Jesus.

Many things to celebrate indeed but we will miss making these memories with Gavin.  But he is making memories of his own and one day soon we will be home.

And my mother's heart is aching still this Mother's Day, yet overflowing with love and joy.
My children are who they are today because such loving people cared for and loved them in Taiwan.  We are so grateful.

God is indeed a loving and gracious God.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blessed beyond words.

This past weekend I traveled with wonderful women to the beautiful mountains created by the Lord God.

To be honest I am not the best at making friends and hanging out with women.  Put me with children, high school students, or college students; I am good.  So God was stretching me asking me to go. Not only going but stretching me and asking me to share the story He has written for my life.

I am completely fine with sharing our story with my fuse group girls, close friends, my blog, or one on one conversations.  But to completely be open and vulnerable and share with women I didn't know, yes completely out of my comfort zone.

The day before we were to leave for this retreat, I woke up early in the morning to check my email like I have since last October.  That is what you do when you are adopting, you check your email obsessively and pray for any sort of news.
You see I had prayed that God would send news of Israel before I left on this retreat.  Going to this retreat with no news felt too overwhelming and daunting to my heart and mind.
So I opened my email and no news and I was broken but like every other morning I had a choice.  I could have sulked in the "no news" or instead give God the day for His glory and purpose and earnestly pray He would work in my heart and mind.
But I thought I would email the home in Taiwan to see just maybe if they had any news.  A few minutes later I got an email saying they had news and I could come to Taiwan to get Israel.  I couldn't believe it and had to read the email a thousand times before I could tell Brennan and Lyndlee.

At the retreat, I remember being on my knees after practicing my words and just begging God to change things once again.  Even though its been almost two years, I still beg Him to change things.  I still ache some days as though the cross is not enough for me, as though the cross and His love hasn't changed everything completely!
I was asking for God to speak through me but I was demanding I didn't want to give this testimony, that I wanted my son Gavin here with me.

That morning for session God heard my begging and denied my request but met me in the most beautiful way.
The worship leader started playing the piano and it was beautiful worship songs.
And then she started playing "Untitled Hymn" by Chris Rice which was a song that was played at Gavin's funeral.

And God spoke to me in that moment and through that song.  He reassured me that He had Gavin and that I was to speak and give Him all the glory.

Afterwards I went to thank the worship leader and she told me that at times like that she plays what the Spirit lays on her heart.  Only God.

Another moment was weeks before this retreat I was looking on Facebook and admiring these beautiful pictures that families were getting taken.  The photographer was capturing their families in beautiful and unique ways.  And my mind immediately said, "God we will never take pictures like that because it will hurt too much with Gavin being gone."

And at the retreat and after I spoke this beautiful girl came up to me and said the most encouraging words and gave the best hugs.  She then said she was a photographer and wanted to capture our family once Israel was home.  And she told me her name and her website name and I almost fell to my knees. It was the very photographer and her work that I was admiring the weeks before.
God was saying to me, "You will take pictures, you will rejoice, and have hope because Gavin is with Me and Israel is coming into your life.  And this is not the end."

God speaks.  And don't you love when He speaks directly to your heart and to your soul?

There is nothing better.

What a generous and loving God we have.  And yet I still demand things and beg Him to change things.  I am so grateful He is forgiving and understanding of my weaknesses.

So in 10 days I am getting on a plane with diapers, wipes, little boy clothes and shoes, and my heart full of love to go see my Israel once again.

And Lyndlee is anxiously waiting as she sits in his bed and plays with all his toys.

On April 30th, Lord willing, I will be bringing Israel home to reunite him with his daddy and his sister.

And we will be a family of five.  And I am blessed beyond words.

Brennan is our strong tower, the one who always points our hearts to Jesus.

Lyndlee is my joy and teaches me more about Jesus and His great love each day.

Gavin is my hero and teaches me to love others and to live each day to the fullest.

And Israel is my renewed hope, a taste of God's goodness through our famine.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Real Life

My daughter gets it.  We memorize Scripture together weekly.  It is just good for our souls and hearts.  It's a great tool to fight satan with and his attacks, to recite Scripture out loud.  God gives us the tools to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  He gives us the shield of faith, He gives us His words and His love.  After all, as David Platt always says, "We are fighting a defeated foe"!

Memorizing Scripture has helped my daughter's heart and her fears at school and being away from us.  She recalls His words when she is scared and I am so thankful for God putting His words on her heart.

Sunday we were sitting with some of my college age girls in the baptism class.  And Brennan happened to be teaching.  And I didn't think she was listening but she was because she would laugh when he would make a silly joke.  And then she drew this.  And she once again blew me out of the water with her faith.  And she once again gave me strength at a time I needed it the most.
And once again God said, "I am here, I am for you, I am with her."

She made this picture all by herself and put the Scripture reference and everything because she knows what true life is.  She knows even if we die, like her little brother and so many more before us, that we have life in Jesus.  We may die here on earth but we are alive!  And her Jesus is waiting, holding tons of balloons!!
John 11:25  I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.

So I am praying you all have real life as well and understand God's wonderful gift for each of us.  And I am praying you too are hiding His words in your heart!  Anyone can memorize Scripture, even my five year old daughter.

Another week has gone by.  And this waiting I don't understand.  I don't like to count to know how many days or years it has been since we have seen Gavin.  So likewise I don't like to count or know how long it has been since we last saw Israel.  That doesn't do anything for my heart.  It puts my heart into planning mode and trying to make sense of waiting.

Our adoption case and others are in the judge's hands.  And this happens all over the world, judges holding the paperwork, causing orphans to remain in orphanages.  They have families ready and willing to love an orphan and bring them into a home, but they hold the paperwork.  And I don't understand this and never will.

Israel is in a wonderful loving home, a place we don't ever refer to as an orphanage because it is a home of love.  And we know he is okay.  And we are grateful and thankful.  So we keep waiting.

Please pray.  Pray for orphans all over the world waiting for their family.  Pray for judges as my daughter reminds me to just pray for our judge.  Pray they make decisions and quickly.  Pray they grant favor for families waiting.  Pray for caretakers of so many orphans.  They love and love well.  Pray for the families waiting.  Pray that one day there will be no more orphans because they will all have a family to call their own.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Take Captive Every Thought


I struggle with this word far too often.

My human mind playing games + satan's schemes=fear.

Sickness/fever strike fear in my heart always when it comes to my children. 

My mind can't separate this from the night my son died. He had a fever, and shortly after that he died. But deep down in my heart, I know it is different, that the situation is not the same as that August night.

But when my daughter gets sick, I think she too will die and we will have no warning. My heart goes into shock and panic starts. And I think once Israel is home I will have that fear with him getting a fever too. 

Fear makes some nights hard as I check my daughter's pulse or chest to make sure she is breathing. 

And satan starts the blame game on my heart and he begins to try to destroy.

Our adoption papers are now with the higher judge. And from day one I have feared that the judge will not rule in our favor, and that we will loose another son.

My worst fear came true once, my human mind reminds me.

And I realize this is a fault and sin of mine.

I can't live in this fear. I can't let it consume me and my thoughts. It isn't healthy and I don't like my family seeing me like this. I don't want my children to learn this behavior. 

I need to trust in His plans. I need to rest in His peace. I need to continue to place my children in His palms, trusting that He is good.

I need to take captive Every thought and make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5

Friday, February 22, 2013


This is the word I use to describe my five year old daughter.  
Her life has been full of many things already. 
Anyone who knows her well, knows her heart.  And it is amazing. It has been through so much and yet screams love and hope to a broken world. 
She has become our joy when times all we had was tears and loss. 
She is a tiny Asian princess and yet has the faith and love of a giant. 
Fear and anxiety fills her heart at times still.  And we all pray and can see God filling her heart with faith, hope, and love once again. 
Movies, change, and noise overwhelm her still.  And yet when she is ready we will watch a movie in complete silence.  And this is huge.  And it may take weeks to move the volume even to a whisper. But she does it and we celebrate because she is tackling another mountain. 
School was extremely hard for her at first.  But she has braved everyday and has had Scriptures in her heart and mind, resting safely in His palms.  
And today she won an award for outstanding effort, always trying and succeeding in her work.  And this is huge. 

She prays at times I don't even think too. She knows the One to go too and that He is for us. 

Her Chinese name means "good news" and oh my how she lives up to that meaning. 

And she is indeed courageous.

Loving and Serving in the Meantime


It is apart of us. It is apart of our life here on earth. Everyone is facing their funeral a wise friend told me and that is the truth.

It wasn't God's plans. We sinned and wanted more knowledge than God and brought death and sin upon ourselves. We wanted more when we had all we needed. Our hearts were full but still weren't satisfied.

But God is the gracious one. He still loved us. He still rescued us. He sent His own Son to die for us when we were still sinners. 

Death is no more because Jesus defeated death and the grave.
And we have this promise of eternal life too if we believe in Him.

We buried my sweet grandma last week. She lived a life full of serving and loving others. She was a woman of great faith and prayer. She was the caregiver for my grandpa when his altheimzers came. She loved when she wasn't loved back at times. And when he passed, she kept loving. She kept serving even when she was broken.

When my son Gavin died I wanted to crawl in a hole and just stop life. Many times I would call my grandma to talk. She knew death, she knew heartache, and yet she still loved and she still served.
She encouraged me greatly to keep going. She was kind and gentle and loving. 

She raised an amazing daughter who portrays all these qualities as well.

And I am incredibly blessed to have her daughter as my sweet mother.
I watched my mother serve and love others even while she was broken and aching for her own mother.

A picture of love, grace, and a true servant's heart. 

Thankful for these women in my life.

Thankful for Jesus making a way and that He will welcome us all home one day.

We just have to wait, and keep loving and serving in the meantime.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letting Go, Seeing Him

I dislike planners. I dislike calendars. I get annoyed with timelines. 

You see I struggle with control and all these things help me control. 

I realize I only have total peace when I let it all go. I see Jesus more and His work when I open my eyes to His goodness and plans. 

Why do we set up our life and timeline the way we want it and then beg God to do it our way  Why do we think we know best?  And then we are completely devastated when things don't go as we planned. We are left doubting God and His purpose. 

I do this and desire to be free. 

The past year I have felt such freedom. 

Freedom from control, from planning and simply just letting Jesus.

And he has shown His goodness in mighty ways, ways I didn't foresee or plan. 

Moving to California.

Healing our hearts a little more each day.

Giving us hope, grace, strength, and love. 

Adopting our second son. 

We just got back from spending a week with our son Israel. He is amazing and loud, funny and sweet. 

And we didn't plan these things but God did from the very beginning.  
I got to watch my daughter's prayers unfold in two parts, as she got to know her little brother and also as she got to meet her birth sister.

God answered her prayers in ways we didn't plan but in ways He put forth into motion. 

He gave me a renewed hope in her child like faith. 

He is for us. He sees us and hears us. And He has plans for us.

And when I let go, I see Him more clearly and have such freedom.

Thank you Jesus. 

Keep opening my eyes.