Thursday, November 8, 2012

Beauty From Ashes

A little over two years ago my best friend was killed in a car accident.  She loved Jesus and that love poured out to those those around her.  My dear friend Andra started the ministry Leigh's Blankies to honor Leigh Ann.  Andra wanted to share the comfort and security of a blankie with children while sharing God's love.  She wanted to honor Leigh Ann's life and keep her memory alive.  

I miss having her on this journey but it felt like we were taking a piece of her with us as we journeyed to Ellie.  We filled our suitcase with blankies. We prayed that God would provide hands and hearts for these blankies.

When Ellie was handed to us she was wrapped in a white bath towel that hand holes in it.  I knew that when we went to the orphanage I wanted to leave eight blankies for the babies left in Ellie's orphanage.  Eight babies that have all been matched with families and are waiting to be in their arms of their dad and mom.  I asked the orphanage director if she would wrap each of these babies in a Leigh's Blankie when they were placed in their dad and mom's arms. 

As we were driving back to Nanchang with broken hearts after our orphanage visit we had ten blankies  left in the trunk of our car.  We were about 30 miles from Nanchang when our driver drove down a narrow dirt road toward a little village. 

This is the first glance that I got of the village.  Within minutes of getting out of the car we heard a baby crying and my heart skipped a beat.  Our arms were full of blankies ready to be handed out. 

We approached the mom with the crying baby and offered her a blankie. She was very hesitant and didn't want to take it.  Often when they are offered something they know the person expects something in return.  

Our guide Mary assured her we didn't want anything, it was a gift. 

We then walked to a group of women and offered this mom and blankie for her son.  

When they realized that we were giving these as gifts with no strings attached an old women began taking us through the village. 

She began taking us to the homes of moms with babies. 

We began placing blankies in the hands of moms.

This is what a typical home looks like, so hard for us to fathom.  A room with just a table, shoes and a jug of hot water 

There were sweet little ones roaming the village with their moms no where in sight.

Mary kept asking this little girl where her mama was? 

Then she came walking down the street and accepted the blankie with open arms. 

Look at that face, beauty from ashes! 

The amount of trash everywhere in the village was unbelievable. 

The moms continued to accept them with open arms. 

We saw women out washing ...

and vegetables hanging. 

There were children walking to school and I am pretty sure they had never seen an 
American before. 

We had walked through the whole village and handed out blankies to all the moms we could find. 

Their smiles were priceless and a huge gift at the end of our heartbreaking day. 

As we went back to the car we had one blankie left.  There was a mom walking down the dirt road toward us so we walked up to her and offered her the blankie.  She didn't even look at us and kept walking.  Mary said she probably thought we wanted to something in return.  

As we got in the car and began driving away we saw this mom in the field with her two children.  

The car stopped and I walked out and handed her the last blankie. What a gift! 

Beauty from Ashes
Tears like waves come pounding against the shore of my heart-
Strong and fierce, they threaten to sweep me under.  
Yet, as the currents wash over me, stillness calms my soul, 
And I hear Your gentle voice calling through the crashing thunder. 

Day after day, stormy seas batter with their endless fury - 
So sudden, so final, the unrelenting, all-consuming grasp of death.
About to drown, I catch a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds, 
And Your hand reaches me as, once again, I catch my breath.

As days turn to weeks, then to months, and finally years-
Ceaselessly the waves keep coursing steady to the shore. 
Still, wet and salty, though now dancing with shimmering light, 
Reflecting beauty, carrying comfort from memories of before.

I welcome them now, for they are precious, they are sweet-
They bring hope built on love and joy borne and sorrow, 
Reminding me who awaits in a future not so very far away, 
When the stain of tears will forever cease in our eternal tomorrow. 

I'm learning to embrace all You give, even when it's taken away - 
Discovering grace in sovereign love, when You plan deals me pain.
For beauty does come from ashes, and morning dawns form the night, 
And in the end life's fullness yet unknown shall unite us once again.

Mary Fairchild

"And provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Isaiah 61:3

 Speaking of beauty from ashes ... I can't wait to share with you how Ellie is progressing.  We have been overwhelmed with the people covering us and our sweet girl in prayer.  Your prayers are being felt and heard. We know God is giving us and little Ellie strength daily.

Seriously have you seen a cuter little angel! 

It is time for bed in Nanchang, China but don't worry ... next post is all about our little princess and the progress she is making!


The Oswalds said...

Wow, beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

Carole Ann Scott said...

Thank you for showing love, for giving God, for tapping into the human desire to be appreciated and respected. Then on a personal level, thank you for giving the "watchers" a front row seat in more than just your experience with your new baby angel but into the souls of the Chinese culture.

Yvette said...

Oh sure - started the morning bawling again LOL! Not only an amazing story, gift but documentation. Continued prayers!

Andra said...

Wish I could just hug you all, this is beautiful. I'm so thankful you were able to take Leigh's Blankies and that God opened such an incredible opportunity to bless these families! And these pictures and details BLESS those who work so hard at making these blankies! What a gift to all of us to see God's beauty from ashes!
Ellie is a precious angel for sure...thank you God for your healing that is taking place in her body!

Kathy said...

Julie, these posts are so beautiful. I can't imagine all that you are seeing and absorbing right now....I am happy to hear Ellie is progressing and can't wait to learn the details. I love that last photo of her smile...and that picture of Eric holding her and walking away from the orphanage! So moving....take care friend, I will continue to pray.

Anonymous said...

We thank you for sharing a glimpse of life in China for these children. It is humbling to see how much the Lord has provided for us here in the US. Your family's love will be the medicine that this little girl needs to begin growing in so many ways! May the Lord continue to provide your family with all it needs.
Blessings, Kristin

Sharon said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. It has blessed my heart. How God could the terrible loss of your best friend, inspire another friend to make these beautiful blankets in her honor, to you bringing them to China to share LOVE. He is indeed a Master weaver and I know He and your friend are smiling at you two! Your daughter is just stunning. So glad that she is where she belongs, with you. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea Chinese Orphanages were that way. I googled it yesterday and found a very good article on it. It gave me a much greater understanding of your grief. Heaven is filled with precious angels. Speaking of Angels your daughter is beyond beautiful. I love her smiles and various facial expressions. With it being such a small village, I would not be surprised if someone recognized your daughter. I am sure they would have a deep sense of gratitude for the life you will provide your beautiful daughter. They have a hard life there. But like you put it so beautifully "there is beauty is ashes."

DiJo said...

Julie and Eric,
I can't get over the beauty in these photos... Julie - you captured such amazing shots through your own pain... The pain of the loss of your best friend, and the pain of understanding more about where Ellie's story began. I continue to be in awe of how God turns the sad into good for all who love him.. Leigh's Blankies are such a special way to wrap God's arms around a hurting child. Beautiful!!! Thank you for sharing China through your lens!

Love from MN,

Susan said...

Julie, thank you for sharing such a beautifully written post and the pictures are just gorgeous! What a wonderful story you will have to share with Ellie one day and how Jesus' love was spread in a small remote village! I remember reading earlier in a post about your guide Mary. I wondered if it might possibly be the same "Mary" we knew while we were in Nanchang getting our daughter, Lily (Jiaxun) and then I saw that you had taken a picture of her while you were in the village. Yep, same Mary! Isn't she wonderful? We loved her! Our daughter is also from Nanchang, but came from Poyang SWI. I'm also thinking you must be with AWAA! Such a wonderful agency! Can't wait to read your next post! Sending more prayers your way!!!!

Paige said...

Oh what a beautiful post!!!I am so touched by your experience. I want you to know that my girls and my son are now asking how Ellie is doing since we have added her to our prayers everyday. I love how God uses each of the these children strengthen our faith. I love that my children are daily affected by the needs of others. Praying for you all as you get to know your sweet angel!

Vera de Klerk said...

Wow tears in my eyes! Our God is the ultimate provider, knowing our every need every hour. He guides our path & directs us where He wants us to go!

Anonymous said...

That was an amazing thing to do with those blankets!! Ellie is blossoming with love from you both and it is so beautiful !! Praise God ! She is a beauty!! Blessings,Cathy in Illinois!!

Jennifer said...

What a blessing! God can do amazing things...and even deigns to use us to be His hands and feet! Thank you for your testimony. And Ellie's headband and tulle flower are too cute!

jennifer said...

I am so loving following your journey! What a touching post and your photos are fabulous. I am praying for your sweet Ellie and can't wait to see how quickly she catches up!

Kristi said...

Gosh little Ellie is so darn cute!!!! LOVE the picture of her smiling and can't wait to hear about her recent blossoming!!

Sammy said...

What beautiful faces and what fun! We've toured local villages twice now and I can't wait to steal your blanket idea when we go next summer!

Paige Code said...

This is such an amazing post. To be the hands and faces of Jesus to those people in the village. Made me tear up.

Paige Code said...

This is such an amazing post. To be the hands and faces of Jesus to those people in the village. Made me tear up.

meg said...

Beautiful!! Thank you Jesus...

much love and prayers,

Jane Ettley said...

Once again I am in tears as I read about your journey! God has definitely chosen this girl for you, just as I was chosen for my mom and dad almost 40 years ago! She is beautiful! My prayers go out for you and your family and especially Ellie! God can move mountains and He wants to move mountains if we just have faith as small as a mustard seed!!!!!!!!

Hoppa's said...

Thanks you for sharing this story. It brought tears to my eyes. Some sad and some happy. You did a wonderful thing and God will be watching over all those children and your family.

carolinagirl said...

Beautiful post. What a wonderful legacy for your friend.

Continuing to pray for safe travels and health for your little angel!

Corey (from Frame This)

Tera said...

This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing and you have inspired us to do something similar on our next journey to China. Thank you for being His hands and feet.

Isabelle et Ella said...

This is by far the most beautiful post I have read about adoption. The tribute to your dear friend made me cry and the gift you left to all those mothers in China in her memory is so special. Indeed. your sweet Ellie found the perfect family!

Thanks you for sharing your journey,

Isabelle from Montreal. Canada

April Z said...

Oh goodness - I shouldn't have read this 2 hours before I get my girl!!! What a sweet gesture to offer those blankets and what a wonderful tribute to your friend!! A beautiful demonstration of God's love.

snekcip said...

I have to agree w/Isabelle et Ella..."this is by far the most beautiful post I have read about adoption". The pictures, the stories BEHIND the pictures are just amazing. I have spent the better part of my morning reading and just taking in all "the beauty and ashes" of the Chinese culture. What a gift of "excellent documentation" you have for precious Ellie. You have capture so much in so little time. Thank you for sharing your journey and continued blessings. I look forward to follow your beautiful family! Yep....I have already added you to my favorites. :)

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