Gotcha Day

1 year later

A year ago today we walked into a very unfamiliar orphanage and looked into the eyes of two little girls who’s faces we had been staring at for what seemed like ages and who we couldn’t wait to wrap our arms around.  It’s been a full year…a year of hard fought battles and fits of laughter…a year of what we thought were unnecessary tears, but ultimately they were tears of hurts being healed and memories being mourned.  It’s also been a year of sisters learning to be sisters and daughters learning to be daughters.  I think it’s safe to assume that is a day we will never forget.

We’ve recently asked them what they remember about that day.  Sifa willingly offered that my pants had a lot of pockets and Jen had awesome hair.  Yeye simply said she didn’t like me.  I remember looking at their feet and holding their hands, they remember our style and my facial hair…go figure.  But they also said they were’t scared.  WHAT?!?  They weren’t scared to leave what they had known as they held our hands and walked out of the gate into a world they did not know.  Maybe they surrendered to the thought that this is simply another day in what has been all too normal.

We’re still learning how to be a family of six.  Jen has recently accepted a position at one of our awesome high schools, so we are learning how to be a family of six with two working parents and four girls in school.  Needless to say, it’s been a crazy adjustment, but we love watching the Spirit gracefully thread himself through every fabric of our lives drawing us closer to Him and each other.

Here are some things we have learned over the past year:

  • You can read here what we had learned in the first six months.
  • It’s harder than we thought it would be…but so was having twins.
  • First grade is hard for a child from the Congo who was in Kindergarten for five months.  It’s also hard on her parents…But God is good!
  • Yeye LOVES to sing songs that make no sense.
  • Sifa is AWESOME at soccer, and when I say awesome, I mean so awesome that I see her potential and I become one of those dads that no one likes…so much so I’ve heard other coaches complain that she’s too rough!  My response, “There’s only one way to play in the Congo!”  Let’s face it…she’s my only hope for an athlete.
  • All four of our girls are hilarious.
  • Van rides over 5 minutes are not fun.  (Fighting, singing loudly, asking questions, throwing things)
  • Sifa & Yeye still remind us the healing process is not over.

Others have traveled this road, but I do believe we all have similar feelings and thoughts.  Jen Hatmaker has a great blog that expresses our thoughts exactly: The Truth About Adoption: One Year Later.

It has been a GREAT year, but that doesn’t meant it hasn’t been a difficult year; so we are extremely grateful for the people that God has put in our lives for such a time as this.  All of this has been so new but with a touch of familiarity as it defines our relationship with a loving Father who adopts His children into a forever relationship with Him.

Again…thanks for walking with us, hurting with us, crying with us, and serving with us!

Jarred and Jen


It’s been six months…


…since we walked trough the metal gate into the orphanage that housed our daughters. We can still smell the smells…We can still hear the sounds…We can still see building where our daughters lived. But with all these memories, we can still see those smiles that could conquer darkness. Six months ago today, we arrived in Knoxville tired and smelly, but a family of six (seven, if you ask Meredith…the family dog, Cookie, has to be included in everything).

The past six months have been an unbelievable adventure. Many of the paths we were well aware of, but some were sharp turns like you see in Temple Run. We would like to say we were well prepared for all the tears, and all the meltdowns…we would like to say we were anticipating the emotional affect it would have on our two oldest girls. I (Jarred) got my orienteering merit badge in scouts, but this was a little harder to navigate.

With all that said, through the meltdowns and the laughs, we find ourselves alive and excited about all that God has done and will continue to do in our family.

What are some of the things we learned:

  • We have given in to Yeye’s continual demands to be called Yeye and not Marie. Yep, she’s gonna be one of “those people” who go by a name that’s not on their birth certificate.
  • Yeye and Sifa are like any other child (or 35 year old dad)…they hate shots.
  • They fit into our family perfectly…all four of our daughters know how to nitpick
  • Yeye’s favorite word to say to me (Jarred) is “no”…here favorite word to say to Jen is “yes”.
  • Yeye still can’t walk anywhere without dancing.
  • Sifa already has that exasperated 16 year old attitude when you ask her how her day was.
  • Every couple of weeks, someone stops us and asks us if we need help with their hair (still not sure why).
  • They LOVE to sing…loudly.
  • They got groove (clearly they got this from their dad).
  • Meredith and Mikayla have assumed the older sister role that Sifa thought was hers…it took some time, but believe me, M&M have established their authority. And they are really good at being big sisters.
  • Yeye no longer likes chocolate…not sure how that happened, but this makes dessert time a little more difficult.
  • Sifa knows how to roll her eyes…needless to say this is a habit we are trying to break now.
  • Sifa is about to finish Kindergarten…she has come a long way.

Their English is pretty good, but there have been a few things lost in translation. Sifa often tells me, “Daddy, you stink good” (with two thumbs up), and Yeye can be heard frequently letting us know that her “mouth is hungry.”

These are just a few of the things we’ve learned about our daughters and our family. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are grateful for the call that God has laid on our hearts and led us to these two wonderful little girls. They know they are loved…they know they have a home…they know they are wanted…they know they are family.

As they’ve learned English, we have seen them find the satisfaction of being heard and being understood. That was difficult for them in the beginning, and probably the root of most of the melt downs, but when they are listened to and loved, they grow more and more comfortable with this family of which they are now a part.

Thank you for loving our daughters enough to follow our story.

Jarred & Jen

Knit Together: Part 4

Yep…lice! I’ve never had to deal with lice before, except in elementary school when those who had it were quarantined and initiated into a club that no one wanted to be associated with…I would’ve hated to be ostracized in such fashion. Well…we’ve been initiated! Please, please, please don’t treat us like lepers! We’ve spent the past two nights working on hair and trying to remedy this situation. To be honest, it’s just a small picture of the conditions they’ve spent their lives in. We will treat one more time before we head home (and probably a couple of times when we get home).

These past two weeks have been a little overwhelming and I will be pumped to wake up in the morning and head out. If I could move up our flight time I would, but I think just being at the airport will bring some relief. We started packing today and I could see Sifa and Marie’s little minds working. We were packing their stuff too…surely this could only mean one thing. From that point on, they only wanted to play…I’m ok with that.

I am completely broken for these who were once orphans. I sometimes find myself stuck in the bewilderment of it all. How will they respond when they meet their sisters? What will they think when they cross the threshold of their new home for he first time? What about church? How will the Connect Group kids receive them? These are the thinsg that fill my mind.

Let’s just get home first and we will find out!


Knit Together: Part 3

Allow me to apologize for the delay in posting. Believe it or not, we can get pretty busy over here and when we have a break, we try to sneak a nap with the girls while we can. I tweeted the other day that this has been emotionally taxing…for me, I believe that is an understatement. I thought I was mentally and spiritually ready for this, but God has been showing me a lot of things and it has been wearing me out.

From day one, the girls have really connected with Jen. Yeye, barely allows Jen out of her sight…and that’s only because we believe bathroom time should be a private matter. Sifa has simply accepted me…that doesn’t mean she likes me all the time, she just accepts the fact that I’m around all the time. I gotta start somewhere, right? Yeye on the other hand, has spent the better half of her time with me rolling her eyes and shaking her head in disapproval of everything I say.

There have been so many times I wanted to sit them down and say, “Don’t you understand? Papa loves you so much. You didn’t know you needed rescuing but Momma and Papa are here to love you, accept you, and rescue you from a future with little to no hope. Stick with me kiddos, because I’m gonna give you a new lease on life.”

Holy Cow!!! There’s the Gospel again! God chose me (through foreknowledge or predestination…argue amongst yourselves), and rescued me when I didn’t really know what rescue was. How many times have I rolled my eyes and shaken my head when He called me or told me “Papa alingi yo!” (Daddy loves you!). I have been reminded everyday of my refusal of God’s affection for me in my utter depravity. I think I understand God choosing me more than I ever have before…for that I will forever be indebted to my girls.

Last night was a little bit of a turnaround. They played with me for at least 45 minutes straight as the “Tickle Monster” roamed the room. All of us were sweating profusely, and Yeye finally stopped because she got grossed out by the sweat dripping off my forehead, but then she thought that was even funny. I think that has rolled over into today, because I’ve only received one eye rolling and head nod…winner winner chicken dinner!

Here’s a heads up on our next post…LICE!!



Knit Together: Part 2

Things we’ve learned about our daughters in the 3 days we’ve known them…

1. Marie still wants to be called Yeye – that’s ok. It’s a cute name and she can pull it off. We will add the Marie part soon.
2. They can both go from happy to mad in one second flat! This usually involves the silent treatment and the rolling of eyes.
3. The love to eat lepah(bread) and loso(rice). And they love avocado.
4. Marie Yeye can not walk-she only dances down the hallway!
5. Both girls have a very loud and contagious laugh.
6. Marie Yeye is bossy and when she gives orders it always involves snapping her fingers.
7. They LOVE shock o lot(that’s how they say chocolate)
8. They seem to be very close sisters. They know how to help each other understand what we are saying. Sifa definitely watches out for Yeye
9. Sifa loves music. She gets Jarred’s phone and only wants to listen to music.
10. We have been practicing our numbers 1-10. For some reason they think its very funny
11. Sifa is a lefty. She colors,eats, and kicks the ball all left handed/footed. She has a great soccer kick.

This is only the beginning. We can’t wait to learn so much more.

Again we thank you for following out journey – you may be thinking its over but really it’s only just beginning!!

Thoughts from Jen

I am not really the blogging type,Jarred takes care of that for us. But there are some things along this journey that I do not want to forget. Yesterday was one of them.

October 23,2012 – Gotcha Day. We woke up to a rainy day. Rainy season in DRC has begun. Lots of water and puddles everywhere. Cars could not get through some areas so they just sat in the middle of the road. We left the guest house around 9am and traveled through town and followed the road along the Congo river. Across the river was Brazzaville Congo. We passed thru such poverty along the way. I really have no words to describe it. After what seemed like forever we arrived at the orphanage. I felt like I was going to throw up-part due to being car sick and part cause I was about to meet my daughters. Would they like me? Would they be scared? Would they be sad to leave their friends? How would I communicate with them? Then I saw them. More beautiful than the pictures could show…They were waiting for us. The caretaker had told them their mama and papa were coming. All I could do was stare at them and take in their beauty.

We went inside and she told the girls that we were their ndeko(family) and that they were going home with us. We gave them some new clothes and they ran to put them on!!! Marie was pretty much attached to me from that point on. She either had my hand or had herself wrapped around my leg. I kept telling her, “I am not going to leave you”. She didn’t understand. So I reached down and gave her the tightest hug I could. I wanted her to understand my love for her. As I thought about this it reminded me of John 14:18,”I will not leave you as orphans;I am coming to you.” How many times does God give us the tightest hug possible as a reminder that He will never leave us. Once back at the guest house we did our best to show the girls the things we had for them and to let them know we had food too. At one point I looked over at Sifa and she was sitting on the bed with tears rolling down her cheeks. Of course I had no way to ask her what was wrong. So I did all I knew to do-I wiped her eyes and put my arms around her and held her. This was the only way I knew to show her my love. She trusted me enough to fall asleep in my arms. Again I am reminded of how many times God does this same thing for us. When we are broken He puts his arms around us and hopefully we trust Him enough to find rest in Him.

I am learning more and more that this whole process is less about my love for my daughters and more about His love for me and you. Yes one day I will tell my girls about how I loved them so much I traveled across the ocean to bring them to their forever home. But one day I will also get to tell them about my Savior who did more than travel across the ocean, He died so we could have an eternal home.

If you are still reading this-thanks for following our journey. We could not do this alone. The prayers are so very important. We know your are praying. We can feel it. I leave you With a few pics from the day.




Knit Together: Part 1

I remember my families trips to my grandmother’s house when I was growing up. She lived in Mississippi and we lived in middle Tenneesee; therefor, in my mind it was the longest trip ever. It was only 3 hours, but to a young gentlemen like myself, I didn’t have that much time to spare. My mind ran to the ridiculousness of that thought as I was flying to Ethiopia en route to Kinshasa DRC. That was truly the longest flight of my entire life. I’m sure many of you scoff at the notion, but it was who was waiting on the other end that that made an hour stretch into three hours.

But like my trips to Mississippi, we would eventually reach our destination.

I had an overwhelming feeling that I had been here before. The people, the roads, the smell…it was all very familiar. As I looked around, I could have sworn (if I hadn’t been there for myself) I was in Haiti. Praise God I was not, instead I was in the home place of my daughters, and we were giddy with anticipation as we looked forward to the day that followed.

Which leads me to today…Gotcha Day. As I type these words, Sifa is laying next to Jen, asleep, assuredly worn out physically and emotionally by today’s events and Marie is curled up in a little ball after finally throwing up the white flag of surrender to her childish enemy…sleep!

They are more beautiful then we could have ever imagined. Smiles that could illuminate the darkest of corridors welcomed us to their temporary home. We filled their arms with hugs of joy as we told them that we are “momma” and “papa”. From that point on, Marie did not let Jen out of her sight. I’m convinced that Marie is only asleep right now because Jen has succumb to the sleep monster as well. I guess she assumes that if momma’s asleep then it’s safe for her to sleep too.

We have been waiting for this day for a long time…well, it is here and we are going to enjoy every bit of it.


The Beautiful Mess…

There is no denying adoption is one of the more frustrating experiences one could go through.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  I recently heard about a celebrity who went through the process, but backed out before the adoption because it was “too difficult.”  When you’re doing it for the PR, then yes, it’s gonna be too difficult for you.

Last week, Jen and I had the opportunity to share our story and thank an organization (One Less Ministries) for the work they are doing in rescuing children from a hopeless situation.  The only words I could come up with to describe our experience so far were, “adoption is simply a beautiful mess.”

I doubt I’m the first one to inform you of this, but adoption is messy.  The gambit of emotions one goes through may be a little overwhelming.  There have been so many scenarios that have been out of my control – from crazy bugs to an unspecified illness.  These are the things make you wanna crawl under the bed and cry for a month or two.  It’s also messy mentally.  The moment you think you have it all settled in your mind, your agency director will send you a 3 word email that will send you down a maze of what ifs and unopened doors.  Let’s not forget it’s messy financially.  The OJay’s song “For the Love of Money” will become your families adoption theme song!

But it’s also beautiful…It’s the Gospel.  Adoption is messy, but it has been one of the most beautiful experience we’ve had and I can think of no greater picture of the gospel.  God rescued us from what can only be described as a horrible situation and brought us into His family giving us an eternal inheritance through Jesus.  What is more beautiful than this?

The past few weeks have landed in that “messy” category for us.  Both of our girls had surgery on their feet and one of them has been in and out of the hospital for treatments of a disease that she may or may not have.  Clearly this has been an extremely stressful time for us, because there is absolutely nothing we can do but live life here while thinking about them over there, but God is still good!  He has to be, it’s part of who He is.

My daughters have been through more than I could ever imagine, and I get stressed out  when I have a long day in my leather chair in my “dang it’s cold” office.  We get stressed out over the things we can control, they can’t control much of anything, but by the looks on their faces, they roll with it.

They are both in a new orphanage for now and they will be there until we come get them.  That could very well be within the next 10 days…but we don’t want to get our hopes up – it’s messy enough as it is.



!!!our girls!!!

This has been a long time coming. We have been given permission to finally share pictures with you. Why now? Mainly because we are now their parents and no matter what, we are responsible for them. So if our government doesn’t allow them into our country, then we will probably be moving to theirs :).

Many of you have been on this journey with us and you’ve been unable to see the faces of these whom you have been praying for. Well these pictures are for you. We’ve been able to look at them for 8 months…you’ve been able to read and hear about them, but now you can see the faces of two little girls who have melted our hearts.

Allow me to first introduce you to our youngest…Marie Helene:

And now I would like for you to meet our birthday girl…Sifa Mae:

I think they have the eyes of their mom and the wit of their father!

Here are our “urgent” prayer requests: Pray the US will process the papers in a timely manner, and pray our travel dates will be granted soon!

Thanks for caring for orphans!!


knit together…

…even though we are an ocean apart.  When we started this journey, we knew the road would be long and bumpy.  Every adoption story is different, but all have a common thread…patience is a must.  Sooner or later, your patience is going to pay off.  TODAY we received word that we have passed all of our stages except for the final two.  Tomorrow we will send in our final paperwork to the American government and await their approval to go and bring our daughters home (second to last stage), which will be followed by what we hope will be a short wait and then given a date to travel to their homeland and bring them to their new home.

We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.  Legally, there are two orphans with new names.  They probably don’t realize their names have changed.  They may not even realize that legally they have new parents who are longing to come and see them for the first time…to shower them with love (and gifts the likes of which they have never seen before).

We are one step closer to bringing them home, and one step away from bringing a long and winding journey to an end.  Continue to pray for us as we climb these last couple of steps.

Since I have your attention, let me also say this…if you would like to support us financially by buying one of our adoption shirts (guys girls), just let us know a size and we will send you one for your donation.  Through grants and support from family and friends, we have paid for our adoption costs for our agency and now we simply need to finalize our transportation costs.  We are that much closer, and youCANhelp!

Thanks for following us in this journey!