We were still in the weeds of the hard grieving, temper-tantruming, attaching and adjusting adoption days when it happened.
Superman had been home from China for six months, and although he had bonded incredibly quickly, his frustration at not being able to communicate as well as he wanted in English was resulting in still-frequent melt-downs.
We were overtired and overjoyed and, even through the high-pitched screaming that punctuated our days and pierced our ears, all head over heels in love.
Although it had only been six months, we couldn’t even remember what life was like without the little firecracker who brought so much love and laughter to our days. And we didn’t want to. Our lives had never been as brilliant, bright or full. And from that place, with Superman snuggled in my arms, I just fiercely longed for more.
As I cried out to God in my morning prayer times, He began placing a vision and a longing in my heart for a little girl … a little girl whose name would be Joy Mei.
Joy, for the joy that each of these beautiful superheroes shines and embodies, and Mei for the “mei” in the Chinese word for little sister, “mei mei.”
I heard her name as clearly as I heard God the day He told me that Supersoldier was “the one” — nearly audibly.
Someday, I would have a little girl in my life named Joy Mei.
I told my husband and my best friend, but, in a move SO unlike spill-it-to-the-world, there-are-no-secrets, can’t-keep-my-mouth-shut me, I told no one else. I just prayed.
Lord, please hold and love and protect Joy Mei, wherever she may be, until she can experience the love of family.
That Christmas, Jenny, the only woman who knew this desire of my heart — a woman who pursues and hears God’s voice in the most astounding and amazing ways and has been praying with me and for me for almost 16 years — made me the most beautiful prayer journal for a Christmas gift. She used a notebook, and in it, she created tabs for my praises, requests and family members.
As I flipped through this incredibly thoughtful gift, my heart stopped.
She had created a tab for Joy Mei.
As I held this beautiful gift in my hand, tears began to dampen the pages. And that night, one year after we had brought Superman home, I began to pray for Joy Mei.
We moved, Supersoldier deployed and my desire to adopt our Joy Mei grew stronger and stronger.
Because we had adopted Superman the year before, our agency kept us on their email list to receive newsletters and updates about the kiddos they were still trying to place.
Emails began arriving in my box with pictures of little girls with sparkly extra chromosomes. And although I’d never considered adopting a child with Down syndrome before, my heart immediately connected with these superheroes. They were everything I pictured when I pictured Joy Mei.
I knew then: Joy Mei had Down syndrome.
Because of his frequent deployment status, Supersoldier didn’t feel it was the right season to adopt. But, because He has the biggest heart and is always game for his wife’s big, hairy, crazy ideas, he joined me in prayer to seek God’s guidance for our family.
I, in the meantime, waited not-at-all patiently.
As I prayed for Joy Mei every morning, my heart just burned for this girl whose name God had spoken nearly audibly into my life.
In July of 2015, I even nonchalantly forwarded Supersoldier an email from our agency that featured a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome who just captured and melted my heart.
“There she is. Our Joy Mei,” I wrote in super vague, not-hinting-at-all terms.
God bless that man.
But another impending deployment and an upcoming surgery for Superman put the dream on hold, and God provided a family for the angel I seriously thought was ours.
It had been a year since I’d heard the name Joy Mei, and although I prayed for her faithfully, I began wondering if I’d even heard God correctly that day.
Supersoldier’s work schedule was only getting more intense, and our little family of five was settling into a comfortable rhythm. Although my desire to adopt again only grew stronger and stronger, our military life just grew crazier and crazier, and I wondered if we would ever get the privilege of loving Joy Mei up close.
Another year passed, and God began calling us to new opportunities.
Our first host child.
We were humbled and overjoyed that God would use our hot mess of a family to share the story of His most beautiful children, and we found new life in the faces and stories of these incredible superheroes. My heart was on fire, and as I had the opportunity to meet these angels and write about them, I knew that I knew that I was exactly where God wanted me to be.
But I still thought about and prayed for Joy Mei.
Did I hear you wrong, God? I would pray. Because as we hosted D.J. and advocated for other children, advocacy, not adoption, was the calling on our hearts.
Then in October of last year, after signing up to host two superheroes, one who was adopted and hosted by that family before we even brought him home, the other who was unable to be hosted because of circumstances at her orphanage, God cleared the way. And, although we were never supposed to host her, He gave us “Miss Perfectionist.”
A girl whose Chinese name had three letters and started with a J.
A girl we knew we would advocate for under the name “Joy.”
We fell in love with Joy the second she walked through those airport doors and kissed us on the cheek.
She was incredible, and as we advocated for her for 30 days in our home, all of us wanted to make her ours.
She’s not a Joy Mei, God, but she’s a JOY! This must be the Joy you told me about two and a half years ago! I thought. We’re all deeply, madly in love!
But our homestudy only approved us for children younger than Superman. Joy was older. And Supersoldier, after a solid month of faithful prayer, felt strongly about maintaining our social worker’s recommendation for an in-birth-order adoption. I totally trusted his judgement, and God provided a family for Joy … in our very own town.
We all celebrated for Joy … but we grieved for us. I’d never fallen so hard for a child who wasn’t mine. I adored that girl, and I cried once a week for months after she left. Sometimes, I still do.
I never knew it would be harder to live WITHOUT a child with Down syndrome in my home than WITH one.
And I asked God yet again, If not this Joy, then who? Can I even hear your voice, God? Or am I just a nut job with a dream who thinks it’s from you?
Again, my prayers were met by what felt like silence.
With eyes opened by Joy and hearts on fire for these superheroes-in-waiting with Down syndrome and mobility issues who were the hardest to place, Supersoldier and I knew it was finally our season. We’d hosted two sessions back-to-back, and we were beyond ready to finally adopt again.
Finally, God! We’re going to bring home our Joy Mei, I thought.
But as we asked our agency to send us the files of the kiddos who were hardest to place and we prayed over the first two files they sent, one of a boy, one of a girl, we both fell in love with the little boy. The superhero with the C already on his shirt, not the potential Joy Mei of the group, was to be Cuthrell Superhero 4.
So we started the process to bring home the little boy we are all now itching to hurry up and hold in our arms. And after releasing host child Joy to a local family pursuing her adoption and preparing for our sweetheart whose video plays about a million and one times a day across my computer screen, I felt at peace. I still prayed for Joy Mei, but I finally stopped worrying about her.
I pursued the dreams God put right in front of me, and I put her back in the hands of the One who had given me the dream about her in the first place.
God was filling our hands and home, and I knew Joy Mei was better in His capable hands than my own fretful ones, anyway.
Then yesterday, as I was calculating t-shirt sale proceeds from the new Orphan Warrior Outfitting store we opened last month, I received an email.
It was from a woman who had written an article about the adoption of her sweet superhero on No Hands But Ours, a fabulous blog and site I follow regularly to learn more about the superheroes still waiting for forever families in China.
She had followed host Joy’s story over the winter, and she had a few questions about how she slept and what she needed.
When I emailed her back to share about the sheer JOY of Joy, she told me more of her story.
She was asking because her family, too, was adopting a superhero with that sparkly extra chromosome. They’d followed Joy’s story while she was here, and they had even contacted Great Wall to learn more about her.
But by the time they did, Joy had already been matched with the forever family who will soon be bringing her home.
Joy’s story, along with the stories of many other adoptive and biological families, had helped open their eyes to the beauty and blessing of these amazing kiddos, and they were now in the process of bringing one of them home.
A 6-year-old girl.
With Down syndrome.
Whose name was going to be Joy Mei.
And I lost it.
For two and a half years, I thought I was praying for a Joy for US — a Joy I would get the privilege of having and holding and loving and learning from.
A Joy I would get to call “daughter.”
But those years of prayers, they weren’t for US. They were for THIS family. They were for HER.
And as I gasped and cried and processed this entire event that came after I had surrendered my years of Joy Mei dreaming to a God I questioned whether I could even hear from, I feel like God removed the veil from my eyes.
This Joy Mei — these “Joy Meis” — they’re not necessarily physical daughters.
They are spiritual ones.
They’re the superheroes we pray for and fight for. The ones whose stories are affected and changed because of the advocacy God has given us the privilege to do.
These years of prayers weren’t wasted on a little girl who was never to be ours.
They were INVESTED in a little girl who was a 4-year-old orphan in China when we began praying for her … and who will soon be swooped up in the arms of FAMILY.
A family who was encouraged and impacted by another Joy who also wasn’t intended to be ours.
God didn’t waste those prayers.
He didn’t abandon that promise.
He didn’t forget that dream.
He just waited until I was ready to surrender my interpretation of it into His hands before He allowed me to see what HE had planned this entire time.
Through it, He confirmed for me that FIGHTING FOR and PRAYING FOR these Joy Meis is just as important as bringing them home.
And that just because they’re not physical daughters doesn’t mean they’re not spiritual ones … ones I can’t be encouraging or praying for my whole life long.
That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Last month, Jenny, the very same prayer warrior who made me the prayer journal with Joy Mei’s name in it two Christmases ago, designed a t-shirt for our Operation Orphan Warrior campaign. It says “Orphan Warrior/Hero/Defender/Protector” in Chinese.
Supersoldier and I were trying to come up with creative ways we could give to adoptive families while we’re funding our own adoption in this season. God gave us the idea of selling t-shirts for the Orphan Warriors who are bringing home these superheroes who are the very hardest to place. So we started a store on Threadless, and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward scholarships for superheroes with Down syndrome and mobility issues.
When I received Michele’s email about Joy Mei, I was literally calculating the total from April’s shirt sales and trying to figure out which child or family should be our benefactor for May.
God answered that prayer, too.
Clearly, it’s Joy Mei.
So for the month of May, you can help bring JOY MEI home simply by purchasing a t-shirt on our new Orphan Warrior Outfitter store at www.ofcapesandcombatboots.threadless.com.
By praying for this beautiful angel whose video below just SLAYS me.
And by remembering that sometimes the JOY you’re praying for isn’t for you — it’s for someone else.
THAT blessing is just as rich and rewarding and remarkable. And it looks like THIS.