Downright strange...

or was it?

Some miracles are more bizarre than others. A miracle can mean more than just a vision or recovery from a serious illness – sometimes events are just flat out weird.   Last June, our family went to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, and something happened once again letting me know God was right there.  

Just  a couple days before we were to leave, I decided to get in touch with a friend named Lisa.  Lisa is not your typical friend.  Lisa is from Tennessee, but lives most of her life in China.  She is also a Jesus freak.  She doesn't just say she is living it-she really is.  

There is another VERY important reason why Lisa and her husband Tom are special to us.  When Arden lived in the orphanage in China, one of her very special best friends was Li Mei.  Li Mei was much older than Arden and used to protect Arden.  They lived in an orphanage with 1,000 kids, and Arden needed protection! 

Arden had been with us for about 2 years.  I knew the timing wasn't right for us to adopt again, but for 3 months I had strongly been praying God would still use me to help orphans.  Well, here goes another "mailbox" story.  One day I came home and in the box was another hand written letter--from the UK this time.  It was from a Chinese woman named Red Chan who was living in the UK, but sometimes volunteered at the Guangzhou orphanage.  Li Mei had enlisted Red Chan into helping her find out where Arden had gone.  The letter was full of tears and sorrow about how Li Mei loved and missed Arden.  Arden was her family in the orphanage.  So Red Chan conneted Li Mei and me, and we became very close.  By this time Li Mei was about 18 y.o.  She had no family and no money.  She was poor and desperate like most aged out orphans are.   

My friend Ginger told me of a wealthy American who lived in China and helped orphans.  She lived about an hour out of Guangzhou.  I contacted this woman, whom I had never met or had any contact with, and boldly asked her if she would help Li Mei.  It turned out Ginger was right, this woman has a huge heart for orphans and happily agreed to help Li Mei.  Long story short, Lisa was good friends with this woman, and Li Mei began spending time at Lisa and her husband's home.  Lisa and her husband Tom eventually took Li Mei in, and she has been living with them for 5 years now.  She has become their family.   And that is how I became friends with Lisa--we have a connecton.  They love Li Mei, and we love Arden.  And we love Li Mei too. 

Back to the present.  I knew Lisa was going to be visiting the states and spending time with her family her for a couple months this summer.  Again, Lisa is from Tennessee, and I really wanted her to meet Arden!  I felt like it would bring our story full circle, since she has never gotten to meet Arden.  We got to spend the day with Lisa and Li Mei when were in China in 2010 adopting Remi and Shepard, and then again last September when we were adopting Pryor and Boone--but she had never met Arden.   

So before we took our trip to the Smokies,  I emailed Lisa and asked if we could meet somewhere on the way down to Gatlingburg.  I wasn't thinking about the fact that Tennessee is a lot wider than it is long. 

After I sent the email I pulled up a map of Tennessee on the computer and quickly I realized the town in Tennessee that Lisa is from is about 4 hours from Gatlinburg where we were going to stay.  It appeared my plans to have Lisa and Arden meet weren't going to work out.  Right after that, though, Lisa emailed back and said, "Let me get back with you in a day or so."  I thought Lisa's email was a little weird, since she surely knew how far apart we were going to be and how much trouble it would be for us to figure out a plan that didn't hijack our family vacation or her rare trip back to the states to spend time with her family.  Honestly, I had all but given up on the idea and didn't give it much thought other than thinking I would have to to email Lisa and tell he it wasn't going to work out.

OK, this is the important part of the story though:  

The big part of this story is that at the same time, Mike and I had been going through a family issue that had us all upset.  The kind of upset that makes you drop 5 pounds.  We had been worrying and praying and praying and worrying... add in a little bit of SCREAMING there too.  I won't tell you who this involved, other than to say Mike and I were not and are not having marital problems so don't go there and start trying to counsel me.  I will also say that with 12 kids you can only imagine we do have times we are worried about one or two.  : - )  Anyway, it had started escalating and had Mike very concerned, because I was not dealing with it well, and he did not like the direction I was thinking of taking. 

Anyway, about a day later Lisa emailed and wrote,  "We will be Gatlinburg the entire weekend!  Chelsea is getting married there this weekend!" 

OK, this is the flat out weird part--I had not been to the Smokies in almost 20 years!  Lisa lives in China most of the year- and her home town in Tennessee (which is where I thought she would be) is 4 hours away from Gatlinburg.  We had planned this family vacation and paid a deposit to reserve the cabin we would be staying in long before I knew Lisa was visiting the states.  Yet, our family, including Arden, and Lisa and her husband were all going to be staying in cabins within 20 minutes of each other in Gatlinburg, Tennessee the very same weekend.  And, the wedding was not just a fly by the night wedding either.  They had several hundred guests.  We knew absolutely nothing of Lisa's daughter getting married there that weekend.  If Lisa and I had only known we would have all been at the wedding.  : - )))  But, for us this was not about the wedding.
What are the odds?!

At the moment I read Lisa's email telling me she was going to be in Gatlinburg the very same weekend we would, I knew it was not a coincidence.   God was bringing us together for a reason, but I didn't know what the reason was.

Lisa told me to call when we got into Gatlingburg.  By the time we had stopped a few times on the way down we had been driving over 8 hours.  I called Lisa and she told us to come right over to their cabin.   I told her we were all grubby from the long trip, but she assured me they were too!  We did drop off our bags, but then went to their lovely cabin (our's wasn't)

Well, we all got to talking, and talking, and talking.  It wasn't long before I poured out the family problems we had been having to this lady of great faith.  The problem that had messed up the last couple months of our little lives.  Do you know she turned my thinking around in a matter of a couple of hours.    It was like she cleared it all up in my mind and calmed the situation down completely.  

On the way back to the our cabin I knew exactly why God had brought us together with Lisa.   Through her, God had calmed me down and at the same time gave me total peace.  

Later that night when we got back to our cabin I told Mike I had changed the way I was thinking-the plan I was planning was not going to happen-not that I had an actual plan, but my mind was going in the wrong direction.  Mike, who I noted above didn't like the direction my mind was going, was so relieved he broke out in hives.  OK, you have to understand the hives thing.  When Mike was in law school (and only in law school did this happen) he would break out in hives after his exams.  Keep in mind in law school you only have exams at the end of every semester, so your entire grade for a class is riding on how well you do on ONE final exam (not like other degrees where you have them periodically through out the semester).  Each final exam would last several hours, and he would have to take them all within a span of a few days.  Anyway, every semester, like clockwork, all the stress would release from Mike's body after the last final exam and his entire body would all of a sudden be covered with hives.  

Back to the real story here.

I don't think I had seen Mike break out in hives since his law school days, until this night in the Smokies when I told him Lisa had changed my thinking.  Was I overreacting with our problem?  I know I was. I was totally sincere though, and probably justified, but I was also angry, upset, hurt, you name it, but once again, it was not about me.  It was what God wanted for one of his children, and mine too.  

Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.


Gatlingburg with Lisa and her husband Tom!  I'm holding her darling grandbaby. 



Lisa meeting Arden for the first time.  I feel like the story has come full circle now.  At the same time, I look forward to the day when Arden and Li Mei can have a reunion.


Lisa and Bret.  I'm thinking there is going to be more to this story. Bret has a birth sister living near Lisa in China... Another story for another day.

Li Mei

Arden and Li Mei saying good bye in 2006.  This was taken in November 2006  after we had only had Arden about 3 days.  They have not gotten to see one another since.  But thanks to God working through Red Chan, Ginger and the wonderful woman in China who put Li Mei in touch with Lisa, Le Mei and Arden have found each other and are able to keep in touch.

As you can see from the picture, Li  Mei was taking Arden's leaving China really hard.  Arden was probably just confused by the huge journey and direction she was about to take.  On this day, the orphanage allowed us to rent a van and take a large group of orphans and Arden's non-orphan best friend from school to McDonald's and have Arden a going away party.  It turned out really good for Arden--it gave her closure, and I think was a turning point for her.  She was ready to leave with us after that night.


Last September with Lisa, her son, and me at their home in China.


Last September--Mike and Li Mei at Lisa's home in China.


Lisa's last September.  She and her husband take in lots of orphans. They live with her months... and some even years.

Picture 111

2010 This little girl was a doll! I so, so wish I could have had her. She was dropped off at the orphanage.   Lisa had her for months, but eventually her family wanted her back.  The little girl did not want to go back, and it was a sad sight as she cried for Lisa.  She is living in a poor little village now.

Picture 085

In 2010 in Lisa's kitchen. These were her cooks, and let me tell you, it was the best Chinese food I had ever eaten!!!

Picture 146

One of China's abortion clinics. They are bad enough here, but there women are forced into them.  No license-no baby.