Nothing Else Matters

written by Paul

It doesn’t matter who the president is right now. It doesn’t matter who the president was two years ago. It doesn’t matter who the president will be next year. It doesn’t matter to me if the Reds ever have a winning season again, well maybe it does. Haha! Seriously though, there’s a lot of things in life that don’t really matter to me in the grand scheme of things. I can get worked up over certain things, but these don’t matter to me right now. Yes, I will vote in August and November, but there is something else that matters right now, and it mattered two years ago today.

What mattered two years ago today was I became a father for the third time. No, I didn’t take Brandee to the hospital to see her give birth as she did with our first two, but I still became a father. About a year and a half wait had come to a final end as Brandee and I headed out of our hotel in China on a bus with some other families with us to the registration office where we met our daughter for the first time. We were one of the last parents to have our child arrive, and the wait was agonizing, especially for Brandee. She finally did arrive, and looking back the wait was totally worth it. What mattered was that she had a father, and she always will.


That blue Dum Dum sucker was surely a big hit. She was so precious to meet for the first time, and it was like she was always supposed to have been with us. This is what mattered, she had a forever family, and she always will.


I’ve seen Brandee smile a lot, but wow look at this one! She knew what mattered, her daughter was in her arms. Our daughter has come a long way in two years, and she has amazed us so much it seems every day with her growth and progress. There’s been no magical formula to help her. We’ve just poured our love out on her, and let God take care of the rest. What mattered three plus years ago was that she needed to be loved, and God knew that our family had the love He wanted our daughter to have.


God knew all along what He was doing in giving this little girl in the middle of this photo a big brother and a big sister. What mattered to God was for her to have the family that would last a lifetime. She has that, and always will. You might ask how I can be so confident in saying that. Well, what matters to God will matter in the end of all things. I am a firm believer that God has orchestrated all of this with our daughter, because it was part of His grand design. What He has started He will finish, and I believe His people will be with Him in the end to see it. Our daughter will be there, because God has a purpose for her as much as He has for me to preach His word. God knows what He is doing, and He knew that when He matched us with our daughter. Two years ago today what mattered was being her father. I was two years ago today, and I am proud to say I still am and always will be!

Happy Birthday

Four years ago today, or thereabout, a precious little bundle of joy was welcomed into this world by her birth parents. Maybe she came early or maybe she came late.  I’m guessing she came right on time: His time.  Regardless she came forth bringing joy with her.  Little is known to us about her birth stats, yet there is a mother today that remembers every part about her birth.  Today a mother remembers her precious bundle of joy and is no doubt plagued by sadness today.

As we celebrate this wonderful little girl that has only been in our home for 14 months, I am drawn to her birth mother.  A woman that gave our daughter life and loved her before I ever did.

Dear Birth Mother,

I’m sorry that I cannot address you by your actual name, and I probably wouldn’t anyway.  Well, not publicly.  You deserve that.  You’ve earned it.  I will just simply call you MaMa for that is what we are teaching our daughter to call you.  I’m sorry that I can’t write that properly, but I do not have or know the proper way to do so on my keyboard.  I hope you do not mind.

Today we celebrate the birthday of our precious little daughter.  She turns four today.  At least that is what all the records we have say.  You know the exact date and age.  You know all about that day.  It is alright to keep that secret with you.  You deserve that much.

I want you to know she woke up happy this morning.  Our little dog woke her up.  She was barking which caused her to get up out of bed.  She was happy and all smiles.  She usually is when she gets up unless we don’t let her change her clothes first thing or make her wear something she doesn’t want to wear.  Today is her day.  She can wear whatever she wants.

She is doing remarkably well, better than most expected.  I can still remember the concern of our guide when we got her.  Our daughter was quiet, reserved, showing no emotion.  There was concern that more was going on than previously thought.  There was concern that we would leave without her.  We didn’t.  How could we?  She was our daughter too.  She had been long before any paperwork was signed.  She was in our hearts.

I can assure you that she has thrived in her new environment.  She is walking and running everywhere.  She lets very little stop her.  She will be starting soccer within the year, too.  It is for her age, and they call it mini kickers.  I know she will love it because her older sister and brother play.  She plays too in our yard.  She tries to keep up with them.  She doesn’t give up.  This little one is a fighter, but you already know that.  You’ve known it.  I think she gets that from you.

She is full of hugs and laughs today.  This is her normal.  She is what we call a social butterfly.  She loves to be with people.  She loves to give hugs.  She is all smiles most of the time.  She loves to laugh and to make people laugh.  I think she gets this from you too.  Being a part of our family only brings that out so much more.  We love to laugh too.

Thank you for giving our daughter life and for loving her so much.  We will always be connected because of her.  We talk to her about you.  We tell her that you loved her and still love her.  We know she will have questions one day which we will be unable to answer.  God will bring us through that trial when it comes.  He has brought us through so much.  He won’t leave us.

Today as we celebrate her birthday, we will remember you and the love you have for our daughter.  We will remember the sacrifice you made.  Four years ago, you chose life for your daughter.  We thank you for that.  Today we celebrate that life full of joy.  She is happy and loved by so many people there and here, so please do not be troubled.  Celebrate her life with us.

With respect,

Our daughter’s mommy

Happy birthday to our precious little Esther who has exceeded the expectations of so many.  God has big plans for you.

Zhou Ai Ji 1

US citizen

halloween 2014

santa hats


A Letter to my Youngest Daughter


Dear Esther,

This past week has been a most trying one for me because of so many things, but one interaction sticks out most of all.  You see someone whom I do not know and who does not know us made a comment to your mommy that really bothered me.  What the person said doesn’t matter, but the aftermath does matter.  That one comment burst open a dam of questions and doubts for your mommy.

All of these questions and doubts revolve around whether or not your daddy and I have cheated you by uprooting you from your homeland.  This question doesn’t have a good answer and can be and probably will be debated by people.  Some will and have told us that we have indeed done so and should have never adopted you.  I shudder even now as I type those words.  Really?  Yes, people have said and will continue to say that we have cheated you by adopting you and will in the end only hurt you by doing so.  And these very same people will have research to back it up.  Others will tell  us the very opposite that we have saved you and have made your life full and worthwhile.  We have had people tell us this as well.  They too will have their research to back it up.

In the end Mommy really thinks it only matters what God says on this issue.  His Word is clear that we are to care for the fatherless.  James 1:27 is one verse that states this.  Pure and undefiled religion before our God  and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  John 14:18 tells us that Christ Himself said that He would not leave you as an orphan because He is coming for you.  Indeed He did not.  He did not leave your family as orphans either as He adopted us into His family through salvation.

I know to you this isn’t the same, and right now those verses are just big words that don’t mean a lot to you now.  They will one day.  I know they will.  You see my dearest daughter, your daddy and I prayed for you.  We prayed hard for you.  We prayed that while we were apart that Jesus would care for you.  We asked Him to sing to you, tuck you in at night, play with you, and care for you when you were sick.  We asked Him to provide for you and to watch over you.  And you know what, Esther?  He did those things for you and so much more.

How you ask?  Well, He provided a loving mother and father that cared for you while you were in your mother’s tummy and for at least three months after your birth.  And after that, He provided people in your village to provide for you until you were placed into an orphanage.  And even there, He cared for you.  You had sweet nannies that took care of you for eight long months before He gingerly placed you with your foster parents who would provide for you until the very day we came for you.  So my sweet Esther, Jesus has never left you.  He has always cared for you and provided for you.  He gave you so much and so many people to care for you.

And guess what?  He still has.  He has given us to you and you to us.  He is the One that brought you into our family.  He is the One that chose for you to be our child along with your older siblings.  You are our child.  Our daughter.  You might not be bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, but you are mine.  You are no less my daughter than your older sister.  You are no less my child than your older brother.  You might not look like us on the outside, but you are part of our family.  You always will be part of our family.

Esther, I will not be able to change those that question our family and the choice to follow God to a foreign land and bring you into our family.  I will not be able to replicate here the culture of your homeland.  I will not be able to cook the foods like you enjoyed there.  It is highly unlikely that I will ever speak more than one or two words of your native tongue.  I cannot change those things.  I can’t focus my energy on the things I cannot change.  It would be a waste for you, for me, for our family.  That would be detrimental for us all.

So, Esther, your mommy chooses to focus on the things that I can change.  I am going to focus on the things that I can do for you.  I will love you with all my heart.  And yes, there is enough room in my heart to love you, your brother, your sister, your daddy, and even the dog.  And Mommy still has room in her heart to love so many others.   I will love you.

I will do my best to provide for you in every way that I can.  I will lean upon the Lord in order to be the best mommy that I can be for you and your siblings.

I will try my best to teach you about your homeland.  I will leave the cooking and language to the experts though.

I will share with you about those that touched your life before you came to be with us.  I will show you pictures and tell you all that I know.  It might not be much, but I will not leave anything out.  I will hold nothing back.

I will teach you about the One that cared for you before you were conceived.  I will teach you about the One that has cradled you in His hands and who will continue to do so.  I will teach you about Jesus who loves you more than your mommy and daddy ever could.  More than all of your mommies and daddies ever could.

I’m not a perfect mommy, Esther.  I make mistakes.  That won’t change.  My love for you will not.  I will not stop loving you and doing my best to make a difference in your life.

As I look back upon the past 14 months, I can see a dramatic change in your life.  I can see how God has changed you in so many ways.  I see His fingerprints all over you.  To those that question us and criticize us for adopting you, I will say this:

My God is enough to handle your doubts and concerns.  My God is enough to handle my questions and doubts.  My God is enough.  And it was He that orchestrated our lives and wove a scarlet thread together with Him right in the middle.  My God is enough, and I will praise Him because of that.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.  He made us for each other, and I will praise Him.  He is enough.

And you know what else, Esther?  God doesn’t need our permission to do anything that He does.  He doesn’t need our approval to knit our family the way He has.  And as your papaw has said so many times, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”  Amen!  A resounding Amen!  He didn’t make a mistake when He created you or any of us.  He didn’t make a mistake when He placed us in your life and you in ours.  No, He knew and still knows what He is doing.

Yes, our God is big enough to handle it all.  Praise His holy name!

With love,


Song of the Day

I finally got her. Well, kind of, sort of got her. She was singing, and I grabbed my phone real quick. I waited until she had finished and started back up again. I began to video…. then…. she stopped. Of course she did, she wanted to see herself on video. There is nothing wrong with this girl’s ego. 😉

Anyway here it is.

She loves to sing her ABC’s. In the car. Outside. In the tub. At the kitchen table. In the den. On the potty. Yep, pretty much anywhere and anytime you just might hear her singing her ABC’s. Just don’t grab the phone to video it. She will stop to see it.

My cute, little, silly girl.

I’ll get her singing a full song one of these days.

Look What Nine Months Can Do

Has it really been nine months already?  Yes, it has.  To the day in fact.  It seems like only yesterday that we were in that room waiting for her to arrive.  I still remember how anxious I was since she was one of the last two to arrive.  DSC_1061

She has changed much in the time we have had her.  She could barely walk then, and now she is walking and running around everywhere.  She was very timid and unsure about running outside on the grass, but after watching her older brother and sister she soon got over it.  Now she is going as fast as she can to keep up with them.  Today outside, she came running towards me shouting, “Incoming!”  Yep, her brother taught her that.    🙂

She is speaking more and more English every day.  We still have moments of pure gibberish, so if you are fluent in that language please let me know.  I tried so hard yesterday to get her singing on video, but she would not be caught.  She knew what Mommy was up to and quickly stopped when the phone came out.  Silly little girl.  I will yet get her on video.

Her interactions with her peers and friends are growing as well.  She has adopted our next door neighbor as another older sister.  At the soccer field, she will find someone to run with while waiting on her siblings to finish their games.  She loves to play with kids her age, younger kids, or older kids.  It really doesn’t matter to her as long as she is playing with them.  We haven’t met a child yet that seems to mind.

She is also getting stronger and stronger.  We have noticed this so much especially lately.  It really should not be a surprise given her desire to play with others and keep up with her older siblings.  The more she does “normal” kid stuff, the stronger she gets physically.

During her first week at home, she could not push herself in her Cozy Coupe.  DSC_1705No matter how hard she tried, she could not do it.  She relied totally on her siblings and our neighbor to push her.  They did not mind one bit.  The girls were very careful with her while her brother went full force as fast as he could.  DSC_1723  Bet you can tell which one she preferred to be pushing her.   😉

They still do it, but today she is able to do it all on her own.  She has been practicing of course.  Here she is in action.

Her determination really shines in the next one.

Look at those legs move, move, move.

We are continually amazed at this precious little girl and the progress she has made in such a short time.  Every day is an adventure.

Six Months and Counting

Wow how time has flown by these past six months!  It was just then that we meet our daughter for the very first time.  You can view the post about our Gotcha Day here.

As I reread that post and look at the pictures from our time there, I am amazed at this little girl.  She has changed so much from the little girl that was scared to death when we got her.



In fact, at this very moment she is playing lasertag with her brother.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Lasertag.  Her daddy taught her how to play, and I have the pictures to prove it.           😉

It is one of many skills she has been taught since being home.              daddy and Esther lazer tag

double trouble  Double trouble is the only way to describe these two when they are together.  They will rearrange the living room on a whim and begin hours of creative play.


The little girl that screamed so loudly that our friends across the Great Pond could hear her when she met our dog Gracie for the first time now has to be told to leave Gracie alone.  She even helps feed her and gives her treats.  esther gracieDogs really are not that bad.  They can be quite fun and cute and furry and in Gracie’s case, soft as cotton.


boxes   She has learned that boxes are WAY more fun to play with than any toy, electronic or otherwise.

Hot chocolate is always better with marshmallows.  Is there really any other way to drink it?  hot chocolate

She has turned three since we brought her home.  We had a lovely family dinner complete with a cookie cake.  third birthday cookie  It was nothing fancy, but it was quite relaxing and most enjoyable.  She was amazed and overwhelmed by all of the attention she received.


Halloween has to be her favorite holiday.  After all, you get candy and other food goodies for smiling.  She does that oh so well.  halloween 2014  And of course it is so much fun to dress up especially if your costume goes with the costumes of your older sister and brother.     red card  And who cares if your brother gets a red card, I mean they had the coolest costumes in town!  Plus a lot of candy.  trick or treating

Of course Christmas was fun.  She was able to meet  family members she hadn’t before and even some of our close friends.  And who can resist these cuties.  santa hats  Santa had the best helpers.


Esther laundry  Laundry can be fun especially if you tear up mom and dad’s bed to work on it.  Now we need to teach her how to use that big, yellow, mean machine in the background.  Gracie better look out!


There is nothing better than the one and only original glazed doughnut from Krispy Kreme.  krispy kreme  Well except maybe a powdered one.  esther powdered doughnut  All of that powdery sugary goodness does come off well, right?  powdered face It does with a bit of soap, water, and some elbow grease.     😉


washing dishes Washing dishes is only fun if she can do it with her older sister.  After all,  she still thinks she can get away with anything with her.  Anything includes splashing and pouring water on the floor, counter, wall, and anything else that looks dirty and needs to be cleaned.

School isn’t so bad.  She can use the computer or tablet to do some of her activities.  She loves to earn tickets.    school time  Do you see one of her many purses in the background?  It is true what they say, a girl cannot have too many purses.  You should see all of hers.

servingShe loved serving others at the annual tea party at church.


Esther baby stroller Playing with her baby dolls are much more fun if the stroller is involved.  And of course the dog is around.  She likes to race through the house pushing her baby dolls, Olaf, or nothing in her stroller.  This is the little girl that could barely take two steps six months ago.  Yes, she is racing through the house.  It might not be quite as fast as other kids her age, but hey, she is making TONS of progress.  And keeping Mom and Dad on their toes all day long.




Yes, this little girl has grown up quite a bit these past six months.  She has taken major steps in her development.  Literally.  She is like a little sponge soaking up everything around her.  Esther


These past six months haven’t always been easy.  Just because we have a smile on our face doesn’t mean that we haven’t shed tears along the way.  Just because we haven’t blog about the tough times doesn’t mean that they do not exist.  It has been a trying six months, but we knew it could and would most likely be this way.  We knew there was risk involved in opening ourselves up like this.  Most importantly we knew God had paved the way and was walking with us and still is.


Indeed we are most thankful to be her parents.  She has made such a huge difference in our lives.  We cannot imagine our family without her.  We are looking forward to the next six months and the next and the next and to see what God has in store for our family.  Our family of five.


Both Hands Project: Phase Two Completion

I know I am terribly late getting this blog post up as we finished the Both Hands project on October 18th. I wanted to wait until the video was finished. My dear hubby did a phenomenal job getting that together, and it wasn’t as easy as one might expect it to be. There were many late nights working on it. We are both very pleased with the video, and we hope that you will also enjoy it.

Our team met once again at Nancy’s house to finish the final thing we had to do: painting the outside. We were fewer in number due to various reasons, but we had a blast as we worked together transforming the outside of her house. Even the kids got involved with the painting. I wish we had thought to take pictures of two of our boys as they had as much paint on them as on the shutters they were working on.

Miss Esther decided that she too needed to help paint Nancy’s house. She used “magical” paint though.       😉

Esther painting

You will be able to see the work that our team completed in the video.  It speaks volumes.  It isn’t too late to make a contribution either.  The information is at the end of the video, or you can simply click Owens project #4511.

We hope you enjoyed watching.  God indeed did a marvelous work through our Both Hands project.  We were so blessed to have the opportunity to work with our amazing team and the Both Hands Foundation.  Our project was so much more than helping Nancy and Esther.  It was living out James 1:27 in a real life practical way.