It’s been 17 months since we’ve seen the girl with the sparkly extra chromosome who turned our worlds upside down.
After hosting Joy for a month at our home in the United States, we kissed that then 7-year-old firecracker goodbye and spent the next 14 months praying over her, crying over her and begging Jesus to move some major mountains on behalf of her.
We couldn’t even imagine a life where the girl who danced like no one was watching didn’t have the opportunity to dance on the stage of life inside the protection and security and joy and LOVE of a forever family.
Jesus, we prayed over and over again, PLEASE JUST CHANGE JOY’S STORY!
We waited days.
We waited months.
We waited through agonizing situation after agonizing situation just begging the God who loved Joy more than we ever could to work some miracles and bring this deserving girl a forever family.
And oh sweet friends, how He did.
Joy boarded a plane back to China in January 2017.
In May 2017, an incredible family committed to her.
In March, the woman who God confirmed time and time again (through everything from circumstances beyond what could possibly be coincidence to random jerky run-ins with Joy’s face on Sage Harvest websites) was to be Joy’s forever mama boarded a plane for China.
And on March 13, 2017, Lan Jun Qing became Joy Jun Qing Kreh.
A cherished daughter.
A treasured sister.
A member of the most amazing family who committed to love her and encourage her and support her and adore her forever.
Although Joy’s new family lives only a day’s drive away, and although we have been chomping at the bit to visit that girl every second of every day she’s had feet down again in this country, our team has tried to give her precious forever family the time and space they deserved to bond and connect and attach without the confusion or distraction or total chaos of people from the past.
As Joy has adjusted to life as a member of a party of seven, her sweet mama has sent me updates and photos and texts and emails (that I may or may not view 17.3 times each day) and given me the total privilege of watching her just blossom under her tender love and care.
And this month, she sent me something else.
An invitation to Joy’s Frozen-themed birthday bash — a party celebrating her ninth birthday with just her forever family and ours.
After crying my way through the 100 millionth view of this video, I couldn’t Amazon Prime a singing Olaf (you’re welcome, Angela ;)) quickly enough.
On Wednesday, our team drove four excited boys, four individually-wrapped Frozen and baseball-themed gifts (plus one from surrogate Grandma, who, after viewing Joy’s video, ran out and purchased Frozen pajamas STAT), one excited Shu Shu and one heart-beating-out-of-her-chest Ayi to Joy’s new Southern home.
And y’all, I couldn’t even handle the too-grown girl who greeted me at the door.
Joy sported the cutest bathing suit and new big girl glasses and the same smile that melted our hearts a year and a half ago. Although I don’t think she recognized us, this girl whose skin and teeth and hair looked worlds healthier and stronger than the way they arrived at our home last December was beaming at the idea of guests arriving just to celebrate her.
She waved and smiled and, in her trademark Joy way, stopped to offer hugs (or, more accurately, I stole them).
I couldn’t even believe we were really in the presence of this girl we had dreamed about viewing inside the context of FAMILY.
In HER home. With HER family. A part of HER NEW LIFE. A part of God’s new story.
My cheeks hurt from the insane joy I couldn’t keep from spilling all over this girl I had to use self control not to suffocate with hugs and kisses and months of back-logged love. I didn’t care that I wasn’t sure she remembered me. Seeing her HERE wrapped in the fabric of the most beautiful family was the most precious gift of all.
I couldn’t stop staring at this girl who had matured so much in her year away. She was SPEAKING and THRIVING and looked like she’d been part of her forever family since the very beginning of time. I was amazed by how organic it all looked and felt and by the incredible love her doting siblings showered on her, even as a new brood of boys pushed their way through their front door.
They were amazing. SHE was amazing. God was amazing for orchestrating it all.
I was literally in the middle of thanking Jesus in my head when, after this girl we adore distributed most of her hugs, I watched as she spotted Superhero 2.
I’m not 100 percent certain she remembered him exactly, but whether she remembered him or not, whatever beautiful bond they shared when we hosted her so long ago returned immediately.
Within minutes, she had grabbed Superhero 2’s hand and ushered all the kids to the back yard, where her amazing mama had rented a water slide the size of the Eiffel Tower for all the kids to enjoy.
Angela, who I couldn’t even believe had orchestrated this beautiful event and acclimatized Joy so perfectly to family life in less than three short months at home, and I chatted while nine kids cried for joy and Super-Spouse did what that man does best – grabbed Superhero 4 and enjoyed the slide with the superheroes as the biggest kid of all.
Joy and her sister, who from Day 1 in China have shared the most special of bonds, raced slide after slide, and the echo of nine “cousins” splashing and laughing seriously filled my soul.
Until the sounds of thunder and lightning did, and we had to move the party inside.
Even without the water slide, the nine superheroes played for hours. With Legos. With play food. With books. With games. Their ages matched up beautifully, and these “cousins” became fast and furious friends.
Joy took Superhero 2 by the hand and showed him her room and her toys and everything about her new life, and the two laughed hysterically as they shot selfies and videos of their chummy new times.
As I watched Joy and Superhero 2 play, I was shocked by the English this girl had learned in three short months home. She counted easily to five (and even practiced with Superhero 4, who doesn’t like the number 3), could sing most of the words to “Let It Go” and understood perfectly every English phrase Superhero 2 offered. Her receptive language was incredible, and even though she signed with her family throughout the day (including “friends” while pointing to the boys), she spoke as much as she signed, and all the boys were able to communicate easily with the girl they just call “cousin.”
She knew her family’s names, she knew her family’s routines and she used beautiful manners to ask for more food and excuse herself from the table.
And she did it all of it after only THREE MONTHS home.
The same girl whose orphanage never prepared her file because they thought she was “unadoptable.”
After an entire afternoon of laughter (and the least amount of in-team fighting our crew has experienced for MONTHS!), Angela prepared the most amazing chicken stirfry for dinner, and we finished the night playing the sweetest games that Big Sister had prepared for Joy in advance.
And when it came time to sing to the girl who was spending her first birthday in the United States, I almost lost it.
Not just because she was sitting at a table among parents and siblings who clearly loved her so much.
Not just because she had the cake not of a professional carrier, like last year in her orphanage, but of a mama and a sister who handmade even the frozen fractals for their Elsa-loving girl.
Not just because there were nine candles on this cake, a number far below 14 when she would have lost her opportunity to be adopted forever.
But because Joy Jun Qing Kreh, a girl who just last year was eating cake in an orphanage in China, cut by people paid to take care of her, eaten by children all waiting for forever families, was today celebrating her birthday as a DAUGHTER.
As a SISTER.
As a beloved child.
As a treasured “cousin.”
Wrapped in the arms of family.
Wrapped in a home full of LOVE.
Jesus didn’t just change Joy’s story. In a move only He could orchestrate, He COMPLETELY REWROTE IT.
And this ending — in this family — with this girl — saturated in this kind of love — it’s something not even the Disney princess Joy loves most could beat.