We drove back from MaoMing today, and we have one more official box to check off tomorrow in this adoption process. As we prepare to head into the home stretch of this trip to China, Heather and I can’t help but to pause and praise God for each of our respective moms.

My mom (known to the kids as Grandma Julie) told me not long ago that she believed the Lord was leading her to go on her first mission trip out of the country. As a result, when Heather and I realized that we would be traveling to China to pick up Mara Ruth, we immediately asked mom if she would be interested in going. Though it’s obviously not the most conventional mission trip, and it’s certainly different in scope and purpose than a normal mission trip, it would most definitely be a unique opportunity to go overseas for the first time. Wanting to bring the boys with us, we knew that two extra hands would be hugely helpful (who am I kidding…having Grandma around is like adding four extra hands!). Graciously, Grandma agreed, got her passport, and boarded her first international flight two weeks ago.

She has been nothing short of incredible. Heather and I find ourselves looking at each other and asking, “What in the world are we going to do when Grandma goes back home?” People have joked with us that going from two to three children is like moving from “man-to-man defense” to “zone coverage,” but this has not been the case so far. Between Heather, Grandma, and me, we’ve taken more of a “box and one” approach with Grandma covering both the boys while Heather and I give full attention to Mara Ruth. This has provided unique time for Caleb and Grandma…

And special time for Joshua and Grandma…

And then, of course, some wonderful time with Mara Ruth…

I praise God for my mom, the most selfless person I have ever known, whose Christlike desire to serve is evident in her family and to everyone around her. Her being here with Mara Ruth and the boys is particularly meaningful because my dad (Grandpa) is not able to do the same. He went to be with the Lord approximately seven years ago, and I/we still miss him deeply. My dad was my best friend and biggest fan, and I have countless questions as a father that I would really love to ask him. Though he didn’t have the opportunity to meet my children, I pray daily that they would know the God who saved him, and that one day they would celebrate with one another face-to-face with Christ in what is truly a forever family.

Along similar lines, I will not forget being on vacation with Heather’s parents in July when we were first matched with Mara Ruth. Heather’s mom had recently trusted in Christ for her salvation, and I had the privilege of baptizing her in late June. The morning after we received the call that we were going to have a little girl in China, we shared our news with Heather’s mom (Grandma Scarlett) and dad (Granddad), and Grandma Scarlett’s eyes lit up with delight when she heard she was going to have a granddaughter from China.

Approximately one month later, Grandma Scarlett went into the hospital with kidney troubles. She spent a couple of weeks there before she was discharged. Heather and the boys went back to Atlanta to be with her that first week she was home, and during the middle of one night, Grandma Scarlett experienced massive bleeding in her brain. In the grip of God’s gracious hands and in a testimony to God’s great power, Heather’s mom was ushered into God’s holy presence the next day. Though she is dwelling with the Lord, her influence is felt in every hug and every kiss my wife gives to our daughter.

We have so much to be thankful for…Grandma Julie (my mom) being with us in China, and Granddad (Heather’s dad) waiting for us when we get off the plane in Birmingham. But amidst the immense joy we’ve experienced this last week, we’ve also experienced a certain void in our hearts as we long to share all of this with Grandpa (my dad) and Grandma Scarlett (Heather’s mom). As a new mom and a new dad of a new daughter, Heather and I pray that the ways our respective mom and dad loved us will be evident in the way we now love our little girl.