Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Blog!

I suppose it's a bit late in the game, but I now have a new last name and a new blog to match... you can find us here!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today I met the boy I'm gonna marry...

Well, one year ago today, to be exact.

It seems like most of life slips by unnoticed-- days, weeks, months all blurring together. And then there are those moments--some planned, some unexpected-- that you circle on the calendar as a day that changed your life forever.

January 23, 2012 was one of those days for me (and most definitely the unexpected kind).

I was fresh off the plane from India (remember that free ticket that just dropped in my lap?!), with a closed door and an anxious, confused heart. So, I set up a meeting with wise Pastor Bob, the twinkly-eyed, retired missionary to Japan. I cried about India, asked why God had me here (in Alabama, of all places) when my heart was still there, and Pastor Bob gently encouraged me to trust and wait.

I thanked Pastor Bob, wiped the snot on my sleeve, and turned for the door, when lo and behold, in bounced my future husband... (a little warning would have been nice!)

He was tall, dark, and handsome, and fresh off the plane from Uganda, with an open door and enthusiastic plans to return long-term.

“Well, what do you know,” said Pastor Bob with a mischievous smile, “here’s a young man who loves God and is passionate about missions, and here’s a young lady who loves God and is passionate about missions.”

Very awkwardly, we shook hands.

But who could have known?! Who could have seen how God was working, moving, stirring behind the scenes that day?
Who could have predicted that, one year later, this young man and this young lady would be planning a wedding and a trip to visit India and Uganda, together?

I am blown away and so, so thankful. Only God could have written this story.

All that time, waiting, hoping, wondering how in the world God was going to fit all these crazy pieces of the puzzle together... and sometimes, if I’m honest, doubting that He would...

All that time, He was just setting the stage for a greater display of His glory.
I’m thrilled to be marrying Danny Seibert, thankful for how he has continually modeled the Gospel to me, and so excited to journey through life together!
So, with a major transition and a new last name in order, consider this my official goodbye to Who knows, maybe we’ll be back someday... ;-)

With love and gratitude,

P.S. One last loose-end to wrap up-- for those of you who were wondering, I did end up running for Bella-- Chicago Marathon, October 2012-- with the greatest fan club ever and some extra motivation for the last 6 miles. :-) A huge THANKS to all who gave!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bella Update

It's been over a month since this grand arrival at the Birmingham airport...
Leslie Hollingsworth Photography 2012

No doubt, the Wilbanks and their new daughter are very loved and supported.
Leslie Hollingsworth Photography 2012
Leslie Hollingsworth Photography 2012
Leslie Hollingsworth Photography 2012
For those of you who've been asking, Bella seems to be adjusting quite well. She eats Chick-fil-A, loves dressing up fancy, and knows a lot more English than she first let on. While of course it's still a major transition for everyone-- and certainly struggles have (and will) come up-- bottom line, they're family now. The Wilbanks have a new daughter/sister, and 8-year-old Bella is orphaned no more. I pray their lives will be equally changed.

And yet... while it's heart-warming that one orphan has found her family, the reality is that 147 million "Bellas" remain-- 147 million "Bellas" with no mommy or daddy to call their own.
On our last day in Delhi, Brittnie, Bella, and I went out for a girly "henna" day. As we were riding back to the hotel, a young street boy came up to the open side of our rickshaw, trying to sell pens. We weren't interested in the pens, but since we were sitting at a traffic light, I struck up a very basic Hindi conversation-- "What's your name?" Shivraj. "How old are you?" Ten. "Do you go to school?" Of course, I already knew the answer to that last question-- No. He answered, then went right back to his sales pitch, and the light turned green and we drove away.

And I wondered, WHY do some kids, like Bella, get another chance, a family, while other kids, like Shivraj, live on the streets, with no hope, no future?
WHY are some children blessed with families and schools, warm beds and full bellies, while others are abandoned, forgotten, and thrown away?
I wanted to ask God, "How could you allow that?!?"

And then I realized, He might ask me the same question.

How could YOU allow that?

He has given us-- His children, the church-- this responsibility of caring for orphans and widows, loving the least of these, and making disciples of all nations. The problem is not with Him--it's with us.

James 1:27, "Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us."

Adoption is beautiful, but I am convinced that the orphan crisis will never be solved by bringing all 147 million "Bellas" to America. This is not possible, nor (in many cases) is it best. Caring for orphans must be bigger than adoption. I believe that the orphan crisis will only be solved when the global church of all the world starts caring for the destitute children in all the world, when we all stand up and start doing what God has commanded us to do. What does this look like for me? For you? I don't know... but God does. Let's ask Him.

Oh God, would you stir us into action, to be doers of your Word, not just hearers (James 1:22), to look intently and obey swiftly, to love others as you have loved us (1 John 4:11). Help us, we pray.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Homeward Bound

Our time is nearly over--one last day of shopping & pool play in Delhi, and we'll be on our way HOME!
The whole trip has been unbelievably smooth--from appointments, to weather, to the many helpful people we have met along the way--all evidences of a gracious God and hundreds of praying friends. Thank you.

Had a slight scare on Wednesday with a medical exam--could have been a major complication. Should have been a major complication. But once again, God answered prayers and the doctor let us slip on by without any questions. We were speechless. Again, thank you.

So...with a new visa in hand and big smiles all around, Bella is now officially a WILBANKS!
Wow. I look at that picture and think, What an unlikely match.

An 8-year old girl who's story would absolutely floor you, as it did the Wilbanks when they found out just last week (hopefully soon I'll be able to share it).

An All-American family--a mom, a dad, two sons and dog--who would fight four years to get this girl, and then travel half-way across the world to a remote mountain village to bring their daughter home.

How is this even possible?!?! 

And yet, dear Christian, isn't our story even more unlikely? Even more impossible?

That the God of the universe should look upon us, completely sinful and undeserving of His love--oh, let that sink in for just a moment--and before the creation of the world, much less before we'd done anything to "impress" him or "earn" his affection, that he should choose us to be his children.


What?!?!?! Does that shock you as much as it does me? That God Himself would be our Father, and we his children-- forever! How can it be?!

"Even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ
to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family 
by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure..."
(Ephesians 1:4-5)

An unlikely match.
Me, you--brought into the family of God.
Dirty and helpless, but not forgotten.
Loved so much that Almighty God would fight for us, leaving heaven itself to make us His own.

The risk was great.

The cost was His Son.
But the Love was unstoppable.

"...So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out
on us who belong to his dear Son.
He is so rich in kindness and grace
that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son 
and forgave our sins."
(Ephesians 1:6-7)

Thank you, Jesus!!
I have so enjoyed these past two weeks. Thank you, dear friends, for coming along. Your comments and emails and many, many prayers have been such an encouragement!

And thank you, Wilbanks family, for allowing me to be a part of this journey. What a beautiful story God is writing with your lives, and I speak for the hundreds who've been pulled in--we've all been touched.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Aizawl, Bella's hometown, now seems like a long time ago (it's been only five days, but travel is strange that way!). Thought I'd at least post some pictures to bring us up to speed...
Our tiny prop plane landed in a scene straight from National Geographic. All mountains and jungle and rivers below-- until at last, a tiny little airstrip carved right into the middle. Amazing!
Drove two hours through total jungle... waterfalls, bamboo huts, and winding one-lane roads with hairpin curves, we'd have to honk at each turn to warn oncoming traffic. 
At last... the city! House upon house stacked all the way up the mountainside.
After that much-anticipated meeting of the Wilbanks & their new daughter (if you missed it, see here), the rest of the week was spent getting to know Bella's culture, meeting the wonderful people who have cared for her these past eight years, and saying lots and lots of goodbyes.

Goodbye, school...

Goodbye, friends...
We were so touched visiting Bella's first foster home, run by an amazing woman named Lucy. The children here, due to medical conditions, have little chance of being adopted. Ever. In a state that's 90% Christian (yes, in INDIA!), it's a beautiful thing to see believers like Lucy giving their lives to care for orphans--such evidence of Christ in them. Lucy & the children sent Bella out with beautiful prayers and Psalm 23, quoted from memory. Precious.

Thank you, Lucy, for your example of selfless service and Christ-like love. Your labor is not in vain.

Goodbye, Aizawl...

And with that, we were off! Down the mountain, through the jungle, and on two more planes back to Delhi. To our relief, the black storm clouds broke for sunshine just as our plane was about to leave. Truly, the shadows in these pictures are nothing short of a miracle.
Oh, if pictures speak a thousand words, certainly this last one communicates SO much!

For the Wilbanks--the end of a trying, 4-year adoption process and the beginning of a long trip back to the familiar. Different this time, with a new addition to the family. But ultimately, back to English-speaking, Chick-Fil-A-eating, star-spangled-banner-waving America. Surrounded by friends and family. Home at last, with their long-awaited and much-loved daughter.

For Bella, however, it's a much different picture--the end of life as she's known it and the beginning of everything unknown. Airplanes and elevators and bubble baths and pizza. White skin and yellow hair and a funny language you barely understand. Surrounded by new friends and new family. FAMILY. "Home" at last... although it doesn't quite feel that way yet.

And here they walk hand-in-hand, stepping, each of them, into something new.
The journey ahead is uncertain, but it's gonna be okay. They're family now.

Monday, April 30, 2012

best birthday gift EVER!

17 hours in the sweetest place on earth...
A day of laughter and stories and splashing in the pool,
Sunday night dinner and Frieda's chocolate cake,
"Goodnight boys,"
12 bedtime kisses,
and 12 "Thank you, mam!"s called out the window
as I walked away with wet eyes and a heart bursting with gladness...
What a gift.
I still can't believe how perfectly it all worked out. With this being such a short trip--and with the purpose of helping the Wilbanks--I'd put thoughts of visiting Shishya out of my mind. Not this time... But when Brittnie mentioned a "free day" on April 29th--my birthday--it just seemed meant to be. How could I not go see my boys?!?!

The little guys had my camera for most of the day-- don't know who took this one, but I think this blurry face pretty much sums it up...
A happy birthday indeed!

(Now back in Delhi with the Wilbanks... medical appointments, paperwork, etc. Bella's adjusting well, with ups and downs, as expected. Had her very first bath tonight. All smiles! Will update more soon.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bella, meet the Wilbanks.

4 years of build-up, 5 flights, and 42 hours of travel for this one moment...
It's one of those moments you dream of--the hugging & kissing & sweet reuniting. And for the Wilbanks and Bella, that's exactly what it was...

But in dreams, at least, the scene usually ends there. The music crescendos, the cameras fade out.
And that's when reality sets in.

Reality is that you don't speak the same language.
Reality is that you've just committed the rest of your life to this person, and there's no turning back.
Reality is that your excitement is matched with equal terror, and if you're really honest you can't help but think, "What did I just get myself into?"

And once again, it's this reality that makes adoption all the more beautiful.
This courageous love that is willing to take the risk.

On Wednesday we went back to the orphanage to pick up Bella and actually bring her home with us. Her sweet caretakers gave her a farewell gift and gathered the rest of her belongings into a tiny plastic bag. And then they all came outside--the women who have raised her for the past two years and the friends who have been left behind, still waiting for families of their own--and they waved goodbye as Bella rode away on her daddy's lap.

She was silent for most of the afternoon, hugging her pink stuffed monkey or holding her mama's hand as we walked through crowded markets to find some clothes (pray that the Wilbanks' two missing suitcases--one with all Bella's things--will arrive). She is one brave little girl, but I could see the fear in her eyes.

And then, that evening back at the hotel, it happened--they bonded. Bella picked up a ball and threw it at her unsuspecting brother, Jonah, with a big mischievous smile. Then Brittnie joined in, and they were all playing ball together and laughing. Funny how balls and laughter are universal languages. And seeing her laugh, seeing the Wilbanks laugh, I could tell the fear was gone. And this--of all moments--was the moment that moved me to tears. I slipped outside to go for a walk, and as I looked out over the houses upon houses stacked up the mountainside, I just kept thinking, "perfect love drives out fear."

Bella is with her family now, and while the adjustment will take time, and challenges will arise, it'll be okay... because there is no fear in love.