Laura J McDonald photography | Praise the Lord and Pass the Chocolate

Praise the Lord and Pass the Chocolate

January 18, 2015  •  2 Comments

A little girl I'd never met until yesterday has been on my heart for seven long years (and some change). God placed her there - inexplicably, supernaturally - and for some strange reason knit my heart to hers with a yarn that spanned continents, bureaucratic setbacks (ad nauseam) and even my greatest obsession. Here's the nutshell version of her great adventure, which is truly just beginning this morning as she wakes up for the first time in her forever home with her forever family. . . .

I met my sweet neighbor Amy Rider one sweltering Atlanta afternoon under the shade of a pool umbrella. As we began our small talk of family and common interests I learned that she and her husband and two boys had just begun the process of adding a daughter/sister to their clan via adoption in Kyrgyzstan. Instant connection. With two adopted kids of my own, we shared agency stories and eager anticipation of when they might be able to bring their darling baby Aidana home. I promised to pray for her and for their family. As weeks stretched into months, and months into years, the twists and turns of the Rider's roller coaster, while sometimes almost comical, were more often nearly unbearable. Nothing about a seven+ year adoption makes sense to anyone. 

During the summer of 2012, Tim and Amy were 90% of the way "home" with their daughter. They'd been granted official permission to adopt and visit Aidana in the orphanage and had even spent an 11-day period bonding with her there in anticipation of bringing her to Atlanta the following month or so. But government scandal brought this wild coaster to another screeching halt, and the waiting game resumed. Amy was kind enough to share a few precious photos with me from their time together, which I placed in strategic places throughout my home as a visual reminder to remain ever vigilant in prayer. The Rider's faith community (strong and mighty!) drew together to fast and pray for the swift homecoming of this growing "Kyrg princess" (as Amy so sweetly calls her). I sensed the Lord calling me to give up chocolate for the duration - "until Aidana's home" kept ringing in my head. Really, it will only be a few more months, I "reasoned." Nothing about intentional sacrifice makes sense to anyone either.

Yeah, it's been a long three years (and three or so months) without you, my "love." But wow has it been an effective prayer reminder. Each and every time I reached for that favorite dessert (really it's NOT dessert unless it's chocolate) or that favorite protein bar (hello Clif Mojo Chocolate Almond Coconut) and had to forego, I lifted a plea for Aidana's homecoming and for her transition to this new life of forever family. And while I NEVER thought it would be anywhere close to three months, let alone three years, I can say without a doubt that Aidana's smile (and those of her brothers and parents) yesterday were worth every single sacrificial prayer. Her homecoming was the sweetest - literally, figuratively, emotionally, spiritually. I can say with equal confidence that I will forever associate chocolate with Aidana's sweet spirit and will pray for her going forward every time I enjoy a morsel of Lindt (or even Hersheys).

THIS is how excited I was as they appeared through those security doors. Genius "Kodak moment."

Does she look triumphant or what? 

God is SO good. He can redeem anything - even seven "lost" years. He makes the broken whole again. He answers fervent prayer. He meets our every need in His perfect timing, and in ways that we often don't understand. I just recently finished the book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty, the subtitle of which is "Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things." Because Amy Rider has a heart of gold, she stepped off that plane with a bag laden with Russian chocolate for me. I tasted the goodness of God in more ways than one yesterday. And I can surely attest that the following from Sara's book is completely true:

"When I choose hope, when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say no while asking expectantly that He say yes, He gets the most beautiful part of me. . . . I can discover that our greatest testimony isn't found in those moments of victory over weakness or even in the moments of hope fulfilled. It is found in waiting, wanting, adoring. It is found in hunger."

What a beautiful testimony the Riders have to share of waiting, wanting, and adoring. And of hunger satisfied.

Welcome home, Princess Aidana!


Nicole Hartman(non-registered)
Laura, I can't tell you how much of an inspiration you are. I remember when you first began your fast and I though how sweet that was that you would fast from something you loved for a friend. Then as I watched your journey and it became a year, and more I really started to take notice. Your sweet jester was so much more and meant so much that you really can't put words to. Your love is all that God wants from us, your love is what He desires that we give to each other. I am so blessed to know you, to see your witness first hand, and to call you my friend! I love you so! Thank you for your yes to God! (PS I took out all my double spaces for you!)
Lynne Connor(non-registered)
I love this so much. What an amazing reminder of the power of prayer! Of course I know firsthand the power of your prayers! We will be praying for this family as they begin this new chapter in their lives. Enjoy your chocolate my sweet friend. Love you.
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