• Beauty amidst the Ashes

    Date: 2015.04.29 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I believe there is always good that comes out of tests and trials.   Life is all about perspective and how you choose to see things.  I firmly believe that God can take the worst situation and turn it around for good.

    Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Jasmine has been by all accounts the poster child for teen adoption.  From the moment we met her she has been nothing but sweet and joyful.  We worried while we were in China that she didn’t cry or have any questions for us.  We wondered why she didn’t seem sad to leave her life behind.  She seemed more than ready to join a family and start a new life and although everyone kept telling us this was just the honeymoon period, it never ended.  She was a great addition to the family and instantly bonded with everyone.

    Except for a few bad dreams and the sharing of some absolutely horrible stories of her past life, we have had a pretty uneventful 20 months.

    We entered the hospital on January 13th for what was to be a week long hospital stay after spinal fusion surgery.  Everything went according to plan and we went home six days after surgery.  Six days after coming home Jasmine started running a fever and we took her to the local hospital.  Jasmine ended up being septic with a wound infection and was transferred by ambulance back to the children’s hospital two hours away.  This infection would lead to a 30 day hospital stay, which included pancreatitis, a lumbar drain being placed, and four more surgeries.

    The stay was very hard on Jasmine.  She had to lie flat on her back for weeks and that is the most painful position for her to be in.  During procedures we had a couple bouts of post traumatic stress that lead to hours of crying hysterically and there was no way to calm her.   It was extremely painful on our hearts.  It was hard to watch our happy, joyful Jasmine be so sad.

    Dan and I decided that I should not leave her side in the hospital.  Jasmine had been left in the hospital alone numerous times while in China. She was convinced that we would abandon her in the hospital too.  For that reason, I only left her room for short bouts of time.  I missed the kids at home but everyone understood that this was what Jasmine needed and we all agreed that although it was hard, it was what needed to happen.

    Before I delve into the rest of the story, I want you to know that Jasmine and I have talked about whether or not to share this and she believes it should be shared.   I also believe there is much to be learned from this story but I wanted to wait until my feelings were on a more even keel before typing anything. The past three months and especially the month of March was extremely hard on this mama’s heart.  I was hurt and angry over things that were said.  I don’t want my hurt feelings to color this story and for that reason I waited until now to share.

    When we got home we noticed that Jasmine wasn’t any happier.  She sat in her chair in the corner of the living room or at the table.  She didn’t want to call her friends or play on her I-pad or do any of the number of other things that she loved to do.   I started to worry about depression but Dan said this was to all be expected.  She was dealing with a lot and needed some time to decompress.

    It’s true that she was dealing with a lot.  She was much weaker after lying in bed for so long.  She wasn’t even able to hold her head up by herself.  She knew for a fact that she had SMA and knew that some day she would get worse.  Because she was so weak after surgery, Jasmine started to believe that this was already happening.  When she was in the orphanage she had the belief that she would come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told her on many occasions that she would see doctors here that could treat her and allow her to walk.  I believe this is what got Jasmine through all those years in the orphanage.

    Surgery and a diagnosis had taken away that dream.  She started to wonder what there was to live for.  She felt sick.  She knew she had to have a feeding tube for an extended period of time, i.v. antibiotics with a pic line, and then oral antibiotics for a year.  All of this still might not fix it and she could end up still needing her hardware removed at the end of that year.  It was a lot for a little girl to take in.

    We talked to her about her regaining her strength.  We told her that this wouldn’t last.  We made lists of what she could still do.  We showed her in every way possible that there was very little that she was able to do before that she couldn’t do now and that those things would be fixed once she was stronger.  She didn’t believe us.  She was just so sad and coming from a girl that oozes joy, it was very hard to watch.

    Jasmine started being mean.  It was small digs at first and then it was outright nasty.  I’m sharing this not because I want to paint her in a bad light but because it may help someone else.  Jasmine would say mean things to me and then when it made me cry, she would smile.  It was so hard on my heart and so hard to not take personally.  I knew she was hurting.  I read all the articles on the whys and the whats of a hurting child.  I read about how to stay calm.  I read about how to redirect them and teach them, BUT I can tell you in the midst of a child raging at you it is extremely hard to not take it personally and stay calm.

    I gave myself timeouts.  I walked around our acreage.  I sat in the bathroom and cried.  I prayed and begged God for some insight and patience.  I tried my best to not react and I failed many, many times.

    One day after a particular mean outburst, Hope, Grace and Elyse had had enough.  This was my fourth time crying that morning and they turned on Jasmine.  The wonderful part was they had taken everything Dan and I had said and they implemented it.   They weren’t mean.  They didn’t raise their voices.  They merely questioned her as to why she said what she did and why she was acting that way.  They let her know that they didn’t appreciate her making me cry and they told her that there was nothing she could do to make them not love her.  I have never been more proud of my girls.

    Dan talked with Jasmine after that and she finally opened up.  She was sad about the loss of dreams.  She had started to believe that what she was told in the orphanage was true – that she was just so bad that she deserved this.  She questioned God and what her life meant.  She questioned whether anyone could really love her.  She was questioning her future and what a burden she would be to us.

    Dan was finally able to reach her by saying if she believed she needed to be punished, and we in no way thought that was true, she had already had that happen.  She had been through more in her short life than anyone should ever have to go through.   He told her again about the miracle that had to happen for her to join our family.  How we had to get approval for three and how we had to work so hard to get there before she aged out.  He asked her if God wanted her to be punished why would He allow her to join our family?  Why would those miracles have taken place?

    Dan explained again what God’s forgiveness meant.  He explained that her past was in the past.  She was forgiven.  He explained that God already knew her future and she didn’t need to worry about it because we would always be there.  Her family was not going to leave her.  Dan also explained that she need to figure out her purpose so that she knew why she was living today.  What did she want to accomplish with her life?   What did she want her life to say?

    That was the turning point for Jasmine.  We started to see more of our girl emerge.  Her smile started to return and we once again heard her laughter.  She told me she has a dream and that she believes she knows what her purpose is.  She has started writing a blog about this, which I am not allowed to see until it is finished.   I have been thinking a long time about setting up a fund called Jasmine’s Dream, but was unsure of what path to take with it.  I do believe I may have more insight after she writes this blog.

    Now for the good that came after a very painful couple of months.  Elyse had informed us when she arrived in America that she would not be learning a lot of English.  She would learn enough to respond but she was NOT going to learn any hard words.  This lasted for about two days when Jasmine was in the hospital for her second admission.  Elyse is very outgoing and the fact that she could not communicate with anyone at home about drove her crazy.  I am happy to say that she is conversing very well after only four months home.  She is able to understand most simple instructions and she can let us know what she is feeling and what she wants with ease.

    The other blessing that happened with Elyse is that she was unsure of how she felt towards me at first, but after being home for only a few months, was the first to defend me when Jasmine lashed out.  Elyse said she knew how much I loved them and how much I was willing to do for them.  She talked about how I cared for them and made sure they were okay.  She talked about how silly I was and how much fun that made her life.  Those were precious, precious words to hear.

    I don’t believe the first hospital stay would have brought healing to Jasmine.  I believe only the second, longer stay brought her to the place where she had to confront her past and decide what she was going to do with her future.  I hate what she went through in the hospital, but I will be forever grateful for the healing it brought to our girl emotionally.

    The biggest place of healing came from her understanding that we would never leave her.  When Jasmine finally admitted that she was being mean, especially to me, because she didn’t want us to love her because it would just hurt too much when we left her, we finally had an answer as to the “why” she was acting out.  She told us that her grandma had told her she was placing Jasmine in the orphanage because she loved her too much.  I can’t imagine what this did to an 8 year old’s mind.  She has been hurt by so many people that she loved.  She has been let down and lied to.  She has endured more than any child should and now that she finally had the love of family she was afraid it would all be taken away from her.   She decided that she would end it on her own terms.  If she made us all angry, then we would not love her and she wouldn’t be hurt again.

    I told her time and time again that this would not work.  I told her she could be as angry as she wanted with me, that my feelings would be hurt, but she could not make me not love her.  I would always love her because she was my daughter.  She would lash out and I would still tuck her in and tell her that I loved her.  I would still care for her and do her cares.  She was so confused.  Day after day, I said “I love you” even when she was not being nice.  All the pain I had gone through as a child let me know what she needed.

    Then one day, I knew we had turned a corner.  When I told Jasmine that we could never, ever just return her to China, she got so upset.  She had never said she wanted to return before.  Not once in almost two years had she said she wanted to go back to China.  Yet, here she was angry that she couldn’t just get on a plane and go back.  She finally admitted that she now wanted to go back to China and find her parents to let them know they were wrong.  She wanted them to see that someone could love her and that she truly had worth.  She wanted them to see what she was able to accomplish even though she couldn’t walk.

    We will continue to show her what family truly means.  We will continue to support her and let her know that we will never leave her side.  We still have a long ways to go, but she is happy again and that is a beautiful thing.  I knew we were finally on the path to healing when I heard her say those beautiful words “I have worth!”.

    I have worth, God loves me, and I am alive to fulfill my purpose!  A mother couldn’t ask for more for her little girl.  Well, that and seeing this beautiful smile again.  God is good!  Life is good, even through the trials, life is so very good!!!!!

    jazzy

     

  • At the feet of Jesus

    Date: 2015.04.13 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    This past weekend was particularly tough and it got me to thinking about some things.  I have been told that I have on rose-colored glasses or that I portray a romanticized version of adoption. I don’t believe that is the case.  What I do believe is that I have a realistic vision of what I think adoption is going to be like.  It is a fight for the soul.  It is coming back from a horrible place.  If someone writes something beautiful that a rape victim or a cancer survivor or a veteran goes through, that doesn’t automatically diminish in someone’s mind what those people previously went through.  I just assume everyone understands that adoption is hard.  I just assume everyone understand where these children are coming from.

    But then I remember where I was a few years ago.  I never knew the pain these children felt.  I never knew and I hate that I didn’t take the time to find out.  I lived in my own little, comfortable world.   So when you think about adoption, a hard life should automatically come to mind.  These children live in an institution where oftentimes the ratio of care is 1 nanny to 20 children.  How much one on one time to do you think these children get?  There’s limited food and limited resources.  Every time I have walked into an orphanage it has been deathly quiet.  The building can be new or old, big or small, clean or dirty, and it is all the same – quiet.   Picture any school across America.  Would you expect complete quiet in the halls?

    The loss of hope is palpable.  My heart hurt just standing in the hallways.  My heart hurt looking at the little faces that wished you were there for them.  My heart hurt every time some little one uttered the words mama while holding my hand and looking up into my eyes.  My heart hurt thinking of how many of those children will never know anything else but those walls.

    Not every orphanage is bad.  Not every orphanage has nannies that don’t care.  But an institution will never be the same as having a family where there is unconditional love.

    When I was younger, I believed my children were a reflection of me.  I worried if they weren’t dressed right or if they acted up in public.  If they memorized their Bible verses and did well in school, that meant I was doing a good job.   The house being clean and my children doing exceedingly well in everything was the measuring stick for how well I was doing as a parent.

    But the truth is if my child scores a 35 on the ACT and never feels in his heart the plight of the orphan, I have failed.  If my child plays on a great sport’s team and walks by the hurting souls on the street, I have failed.    If my child shows up to church every Sunday and never has a true relationship with Christ, then I have failed.   If my child memorizes 400 Bible verses and never takes to heart the verses that tell him to care for the weak and the destitute, I have failed.

    Our measuring stick should not be by worldly standards but by heavenly standards.

    Now I have children that may rage in public.  I have children who lash out at me with their words.  I have children who are potty trained much later than most.  I have a four year old who still takes a bottle.  I have a deaf child who never learned how to sign potty and his sign for going to the bathroom was to drop his pants.  That is not a fun public display.  I have children who are older and can still act like toddlers.  I just assume others know this.

    So yesterday after two days of words that were said that pierced my heart, I handed my children off to my husband and went for a very long drive.  I put in my Casting Crowns cd (song below) and I reminded myself that this is NOT about me.  If they lash out at me, it’s not personal.  It’s hard work this redeeming of souls.  It’s hard work. I pretty much do something for my children from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.   (Please no lectures on taking care of myself.  I work out and I get out of the house.  I understand the need for that.) But the day to day living and taking care of this many children with health needs takes from morning to night.  I wake everyone up and give meds to 7 of my children.  Just the feeding, cleaning up, and doing laundry for this many children takes a lot of time, add in school work and my day is just full.  Most days I don’t care.  Most days I absolutely LOVE my job.  It’s rare that it is just too much.  But sometimes the pain my children have gone through, the sharing of their stories, and their acting out is more than I can take.

    Katie Davis says it so well – “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

    There is great joy and beauty amidst the pain.  Watching these children grow and trust and love – is a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work.  When celebrating with a marathon runner, no one assumes it was easy getting to the finish line.  You automatically assume they worked hard to be able to run the race.   I am working hard to run my race and it is the most important race any of us can do.  It is a race for souls.  This is Christ’s work.  This is what He has called us to do.  To care for the hurting and the broken.  The “us” I am talking about is not just Dan and I.  This “US” is the church.  We are all called to care for these children.

    This work is hard on the heart.  I mean who wants to sign up for harsh words and no appreciation?  So when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself again that it is NOT about me.   It was never about me and I lay it all at the feet of Jesus.

  • Evangeline Faith

    Date: 2015.04.08 | Category: Evangeline Faith | Response: 0

    Evangeline Faith is a very big name for such a little girl.

    So instead we call her Evie, Evie Faith or her favorite name…

    Princess Evie.

    Princess Evie turned 4 years old on March 25th.

    Pigtail cuteness

    For most kids turning 4 is a big deal because you start preschool.

    They might get to join a tumbling class or start to learn to dance.

    They learn their ABC’s and 123′s and a whole new world of learning is opened up to them.

    But for Evie turning 4 is a miracle.

    It’s been almost 2 years since we first met Miss Evie.

    She had a mouth full of pearly white teeth

    evie pink

    and a personality that took over any room she was in.

    Evie Gotcha Day

    We knew she was sick.

    26 months old.

    13 pounds.

    Wearing a size 9 month baby sleeper.

    Unable to sit or crawl.

    We knew her sats were high 40′s low 50′s.

    evie hands

    We knew we needed to get her home if she was to have any chance at the act of growing up.

    What we didn’t know what just how precarious the balance between life and death was.

    Her very first heart catherization showed us that she was getting blood through an almost closed PDA.

    One lone trickle of blood was supplying what little oxygen her lungs were receiving.

    It’s no wonder she wasn’t sitting or crawling.

    She was using all the energy she had for living.

    And that’s what little Evie does….

    SHE LIVES.

    SHE LOVES.

    She radiates warmth and goodness and compassion and fun!

    Evie faith

    She rambles.

    She giggles.

    She dances.

    She sings.

    She shouts.

    She pretends.

    She knows those ABC’s and 123′s!

    Sometimes when I look at her face, my heart catches in my throat and I think “what if”.

    What if daddy hadn’t taken her file to look at?

    We shouldn’t have taken it.

    We were already set to adopt two.

    Our agency presented her to us because many families had chosen not to proceed.

    She was waiting and she needed a family now.

    They wondered if maybe we would consider it.

    We were waiting on Eli’s papers.

    We had been waiting for months.

    Maybe they would never make him paper ready.

    Dan read her file and was scared to death.

    He went to bed praying and although he knew every medical reason there was to say “No!”…

    he woke up with the words “why not” on his heart instead.

    Why not take a chance on love?

    Evie 3

    Why not take a chance on life?

    the littles

    Thank God for the words “why not”!

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t laugh from something she has done or said.

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the chance she was given.

    Many aren’t as lucky.

    Many still wait.

    What are you waiting for?

    Take a chance.

    LIVE!

    LOVE!

    God likes it when we step out in faith and proclaim why not.

    So shout it out!

    Faith is a beautiful thing.

    I am reminded of that every day when I call out the name Evie Faith!

    Evie & Eli 3

    Hebrews 11:1 – Now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

     

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    We knew after Jasmine’s initial post-adoption evaluations that she would one day need a spinal fusion surgery to help correct the curvature of her spine and allow her to breathe easier.  The ortho team said that we would need to proceed after her spine reached the 60 degree curvature mark.

    After 18 months at home, the time had finally come to prepare for surgery.  We picked a time that would allow her to heal before her sister’s wedding.  January 13th was the day that was picked.  We would only be home for two weeks with Max and Elyse but the surgery and subsequent hospital stay was only to last 7-10 days so we thought we would all be fine.

    The children’s hospital is 2 hours away and we had to be there early in the morning for Jasmine’s surgery so we stayed overnight in a hotel in town.  We let her pick how she wanted to spend her evening.  She chose HuHot and a movie.  This girl loves her spicy food.  If you’d like to try Jasmine’s HuHot recipe add six ladles of the spiciest sauce along with 3 ladles of hot chili oil and then watch as your cook’s eyes water.  You don’t even have to eat it to get the full effect.   Your eyes will water just sitting next to her.

    Jasmine wanted to go to a movie and she chose the movie, Annie.  We weren’t sure how she would react to it, but she was adamant that she wanted to see it.  Jasmine’s loved the movie and when I asked her why she said that Annie was happy no matter what, that Annie made the best of her circumstances, and Annie didn’t forget her friends.  Jasmine also said she like how Annie understood family was more important than money.

    Jasmine slept relatively well and said she wasn’t very nervous about the surgery.  She was, however, very concerned that we may leave her alone in the hospital.  This was a valid concern because it had happened to her in China on more than one occasion.  I can not imagine what that must feel like as a child to go through a hospital stay alone and yet it happens to many children each and every day.  The endure open heart surgeries, spinal fusions, shunt surgeries, etc. all alone.  It is truly heartbreaking.

    We told her over and over again that nothing would make us leave.  We loved her and we would be by her side every step of the way.  We would be there when she went to sleep and we would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.  She would never be alone again.

    mom and Jasmine

    Jasmine’s initial surgery went well and the correction on her spine was amazing.

    back 3

    She was released from the hospital six days later.

    Jasmine going home

    Five days later she started running a fever and had chills by the late evening we knew she had to be seen.  We were hoping it was something simple like a urinary tract infection but it was a wound infection.  They admitted her to the hospital and then to the PICU at our local hospital.  In the morning they transferred her by ambulance to the children’s hospital.

    They took her to surgery to irrigate her wound and redo the bone graft.  During this surgery they noticed that she had a tear in her dura.  They patched it and hoped for the best.

    A few days later she started having a horrible headache, her back drain went from very little output to 350 mls and we knew that her cerebral spinal fluid was still leaking.  The took her back to surgery to put in a lumbar drain and she would have to lie flat on her back for a week as she healed.  For Jasmine this was torture because lying flat on her back is the hardest position, the most painful position to be in.  She was not allowed to roll side to side or sit up at all.

    After a week, she was allowed to slowly sit up.  A few hours later we noticed leakage from her back wound.  The dura had not healed over as hoped.  She would need another surgery to patch the wound.

    They took her back for her fourth surgery.  The plan was to just open her wound a little and repair the leak but when they opened the wound they noticed that the fluid looked cloudy.  They decided to reopen the whole wound and irrigate the area again along with doing the repair to the leak and redoing the bone graft.

    Jasmine was again required to lie flat for a week.  She was noticeably weaker and had horrible stomach pain.  We thought initially it was because she really hadn’t eaten much for weeks and had been on considerable pain medication for the back and hip pain and also for the excruciating headaches caused by the spinal fluid leak.  We later learned that she had pancreatitis.  The poor girl just couldn’t catch a break.

    The plan was to slowly introduce food, but she just couldn’t eat.  She constantly said her stomach felt full and hurt so much.  We had been in the hospital, during this second admission, for an additional 30 days so the decision was made to put in an NJ tube to allow her to go home and heal.  We packed up again and headed for home with hopes that all would go well this time.

    jazz

    Jasmine came home on tube feedings and she had a PIC line for iv medication for the wound infection.  She has done amazingly well and just a few short weeks later she was allowed to take out the NJ tube and remove the PIC line.

    pic line removal

    I don’t know why Jasmine went through what she went through.  It would seem to me that our girl had been through enough in her lifetime.  I do know that she touched many lives while she was in the hospital, many people heard her story and what it means to grow up in an orphanage.

    There are many more things I want to write about her stay, but it will have to wait for another day.  I am having a hard time putting into words what it meant for her mentally and spiritually to be in the hospital.  There were issues with people understanding her special circumstances.  The hospital stay brought up old memories and pain.  I got to see first hand what it truly means to have post traumatic stress disorder.  I’m not sure I will ever adequately be able to explain it but someday I will try.  It’s just too painful right now.

    For now, she is healing well.  She will be on oral antibiotics for at least six months and possibly up to a year.  Hopefully, her hardware will not have to be removed but they will decide that at a later time.  For now, she is regaining her strength and eating better.  She is sitting up straighter and breathing much easier.   Physically she is healing well.  Emotionally the healing will take a lot more time.

    It’s been a hard, bumpy, long road but the journey is a lot smoother right now so we are enjoying the relative peace and quiet and looking forward to Cassie’s wedding in May.

  • Happy Birthday Gracie

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Grace | Response: 0

    Gracie and boo

    Our little butterfly turned 10 years old on the 23rd.

    420142_526799807355656_1316086332_n

    Where has the time gone?

    Gracie has had an eventful year.

    She got what she had been praying for since we started the adoption process….

    A sister who was also 9.

    Gracie & Elyse

    They do their makeup and stay up late talking and laughing.

    They sometimes argue but mostly just have fun hanging out together.

    Gracie dreams of adopting 20 children

    or

    being a neonatologist like daddy

    or

    going to China and caring for babies at New Hope.

    Gracie doctor

    She has always had a faith that was older than her years.

    So I have no doubt God will use her in one of these ways.

    She was diagnosed with lupus over 3 years ago.

    Gracie butterfly rash

    She has been in remission now for over a year.

    We are hoping to have some wonderful news in May that would allow her to stop taking her chemo drugs.

    Gracie came into this world five weeks early by emergency c-section.

    She was given the name Grace because we knew she was only here by God’s grace.

    She is such a blessing.

    She is caring and kind.

    She is the best big sister.

    She has a heart for orphans and for those less fortunate.

    Gracie fund raiser

    Jasmine and Gracie love the idea that even though they are young, they can make a difference.

    LWB Heroes

    They spend their time dreaming of their next big way to help.

    I love that about them.

    They know they can make a difference.

    What an empowering thing!

    I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Gracie.

    She knows at any time she can relapse and that life isn’t always guaranteed so she lives it to the fullest.

    We could all learn something from this little girl.

    I know that I already have!

    Happy birthday sweet butterfly!

     

  • Believe me…you don’t understand!

    Date: 2015.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Jasmine and I have long talks about what to share, what information will make a difference, what information will teach, and in the end we decide some things are just too personal to share about her previous life.  I know that fact is shocking considering how much she has allowed me to share, but let’s just say life for these kids is hard in so many ways and although there is tons of information she has chosen to share, there is just as much that she has chosen not to share.   She had a life before the orphanage and it is that life that she is most hesitant to share about.

    I believe I know at least part of the reason for this, it’s one thing to have someone question what a caregiver, who is a stranger, has told you to be truth.  It’s another thing to question what people, who are supposed to love you, care for you, and protect you, have told you is the truth.  It will take a long time to get through all the hurt from Jasmine’s first eight years.   Her words in regard to this matter are, “If I tell you about my life and how bad I really am, you could never, ever love me and I want you to love me mommy.”

    I have been so happy to have Jasmine as a translator for Elyse.  With the toddlers the language barrier wasn’t much of an issue.  We used signs and simple language, both Mandarin and English, and we did just fine.  They picked up English very quickly.  With Jasmine it was much harder at first, she knew very little English and we knew very little Mandarin.  We played a lot of charades for the first couple of months. We used Google Translate, although it does a poor job translating in very much detail.  Jasmine was pretty easy going and learned English amazingly quick.

    Elyse joined our family and knew no English.  She informed us that she would not be learning English and she refused to even try during the first two weeks home.  Jasmine’s extended stay in the hospital nipped that in the bud though and during the last 30 days she has learned many new phrases and is picking up English rather quickly and has decided that she likes knowing two languages (three if you count the ASL we use too).

    Elyse came to us with some very interesting thoughts.  I am sharing these thoughts to let others, who are adopting older children, understand that even if you think you know what is going on in their heads, you couldn’t possibly comprehend everything that they are thinking.  Unless you speak perfect Mandarin, know for a fact what their nannies have told them, and they trust you enough to have a indepth conversation with you, you are not going to know for a very long time what they believe to be the truth and what their fears are.

    I consider it okay to share these thoughts because these thoughts are not Elyse’s.   Elyse can not be held accountable for these thoughts nor should anyone think differently about her because of these thoughts.  These thoughts are the lies that she has been fed over and over again throughout her life until she finally made them her belief system.   If you will, it’s a form of brainwashing.  If you tell a child they are stupid and worthless over and over again, they will believe it.   If you tell a child that they are ugly, they will believe it.  If you tell them they can not do anything, and no one will every want them, they will believe it.  If it is the only thing they hear day in and day out, it becomes their reality.

    Elyse has been told that her only hope to be happy in life is to come to America and get her legs fixed.  Not only that, but she has been told she is lucky because she is beautiful.  Being beautiful, getting her legs fixed, and IF she can have a baby, may make her appealing enough to a man that he may want to marry her and  then she could finally be happy.

    When we told Elyse that she had a doctor’s appointment her first words were, “Will they tell me if I can have babies?”   She was so disappointed that she was just going in for a routine visit.  And if all those other lies weren’t enough, she was also told that the doctors would be able to fix her legs and she will be able to walk.  Elyse has spina bifida and no feeling in her legs.  You can not fix this kind of nerve damage.  Her legs are atrophied.  One leg will not bend and one leg stays bent.  No only did they feed her lies but they gave her false hope.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to have to crush those dreams.

    Elyse is fixated on her looks.  It’s very important to her.  While we were in China, she would practice posing and take picture after picture of herself.  She took over 3,000 pictures.  She would stare at herself in the mirror and fix her hair for an hour.   She wants to wear make-up.  She wants to be appealing.  She worries about whether or not her hair is styled just right.  She is very sure of what she will wear and what she won’t.   All of these things are not bad in and of themselves, but the reason for being overly concerned about them is bad, and without the knowledge that Jasmine gave us I wouldn’t have known what to make of Elyse’s behavior.

    Elyse 15

    Elyse doesn’t like that her skin is darker.   She doesn’t like that her stomach sticks out a little bit.  She doesn’t like the lump on her back.  She really doesn’t like people who are overweight.   In China, I had difficulty with this.  I am overweight.   Having your child make faces and be disgusted over anyone that she sees that is overweight hurt my feelings.  I tried not to take it personally but it was difficult.   I knew that culturally that heavier people were made fun of in China.  I knew this but it still hurt.

    Here is what I’d like you to picture.  You are in China meeting the child you have waited for and prayed for for almost a year and she doesn’t necessarily like you.  She likes all the other mamas in your group because they are skinny.  She likes to point to them and then point to your stomach and say “no”.  When you eat, she makes faces.   She refuses to eat.  She bosses people around about what she would eat.  She constantly talks about being fat or getting fat.  Considering she is 9 years old and weighs 44 pounds, the likelihood of that happening in the next year is pretty slim.

    Elyse 14

    She has an over-the-top personality and she turns it on extra bright when she is with other people.   She does it in hopes that they won’t notice her disability.  This has become her life mantra…..beauty means everything and without it she has no worth.

    Underneath it all she is a sweet girl.  With Max she was adorable.   When we were in the room, she was so very sweet.  She wants to be loved.  She wants the love of family.  She is only doing what everyone during her whole life has told her is right.  You can not hold that against a child.  Without Jasmine my judgment of what Elyse was doing would have been the wrong judgment.  I would have been angry at her attitude because I wouldn’t have had the proper framework of why she thinks what she thinks.   You have to take all of these things into account when you are dealing with these older adopted kids.

    Max 5

    We used Google Translate a lot with Jasmine.  It works for short phrases.  It wasn’t until Jasmine started writing her blog and I used Google Translate to translate it that I realized how off it was.  Someone who knows Mandarin and English wrote to me and said that what Jasmine wrote was even more beautiful when it was translated correctly and they were right.  That was eye opening.  Who knows what I had been saying to Jasmine during those first few months.

    A friend was explaining how different words mean different things in Mandarin as opposed to English.  Silly in Mandarin means you are a fool.  If you want to tell them they are silly, you should say they are playful or jesting.  They often say open when they mean on.   Naughty means impish or mischievous not badly behaved.  The character for chicken and muscle are the same. The list is long on words that have different meanings for them so even if they do understand what the words means it may not mean the same thing to you as it does to them.

    These children refer to the nannies as mama.  Jasmine was told she had to call them mama or she would be punished.  They refer to older girls as jiejie (older sister) and younger girls as meimei (little sister).  Much older girls are called aunt and men are called uncles.  The elderly are referred to as nainai (grandma) and yeye (grandpa).  These are the terms they use all the time.  If they have grown up in an orphanage, they use these terms all the time but they don’t understand these terms as family.

    Children are told they have to be good or you will send them back.  They are told they have no worth and the only reason someone would want them is for their organs.  They are told you are bringing them here as hired help.  They are told that Americans are rich and they can have anything and everything they want.  Jasmine was told that she was going to another orphanage because we had 6 kids.  Elyse believed she was in another foster home because in China only foster homes have more than one child.  You just can’t even imagine the things that they have been told or what they may be thinking.

    We, as parents, have to look at things differently.  One of my friends said it best when she said that you have to parent differently.  It’s not up to them to change.  It’s up to you to change.   It is just not the same with these children.  You can not expect them to respond like your bio children do.  They come from difficult backgrounds.  They have deep scars and trust issues.  You have to lovingly help them to see what their worth truly is.  You have to give them reasons to trust and you can’t expect it to just happen over night.  I have heard others say that it takes a year out of the orphanage for every year spent in the orphanage for them to trust.  For Elyse that would be another 9 years.  I hope this isn’t true.  I hope she sees that family is permanent.  I hope that she can trust.

    Some day I hope Elyse will see her worth isn’t tied up in whether she has legs that work or not.  I hope she realizes that she can do anything she chooses.  Someday she will see that she doesn’t need anyone else to make her happy.  I hope she can one day see that she is beautiful but that is not what makes her truly lovely.   But mostly I hope that one day she will truly understand the love of family and how much we love her not for what she looks like or what she can do but just because she’s our Elyse WanQiu.

    Elyse & Daddy

     

  • A Call to Action

    Date: 2015.02.13 | Category: Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Today Jasmine looked at me with big tears in her eyes and asked me if her hands will one day stop working too.   I asked her why she was asking me and she said because she felt like her hands couldn’t do as much.  I explained to her that she’s been flat on her back for weeks.  She hasn’t eaten much by mouth in as many days.  She’s on many medications for pain and all of these things can cause weakness and hand shaking.  There are many reasons for her hands to feel weaker.

    But because I have always promised to tell her the truth, I also had to say I don’t know if she will one day lose the ability to move her hands.  Yes, it’s a possibility and a pretty big possibility.  I just don’t know how long it will take to get to that point.  She is stage 2 SMA, but there is a wide range of how fast the disease will take her muscle.  Her surgery let us know that she has already lost a great deal of muscle but we are hoping we have hit a static point.  Maybe, hopefully, she will keep the amount of movement she has for years.

    She told me that every year  her weakness has gotten worse.  She’s never been able to walk and she’s slowly lost the ability to move her legs and raise her arms over her head.  Her hands moving in her lap and wiggling her toes is all that she has left.  She wonders what that will mean for her future.  She has heard the word worthless her whole life.  She said it to me again today.  What good will I be?

    I remind her that nothing will change.  We will always be there for her.  We will never leave her alone.  We will never abandon her.  She will always be in our home.  She can still make a difference.  She still has a purpose.  Her life will still have meaning.

    When Jasmine is upset, I like to do a visualization exercise with her.  I ask her to picture when she gets to heaven.  I have her picture God showing her two giant walls.  On those walls are hundreds of pictures.  On one wall is the pictures of all the children who are adopted because she chose to share her story.  The other wall is covered with the pictures of people who were encouraged by her smile and life story.

    She asks me if this can really happen and I tell her that God is able to do anything.  I don’t know for sure what God will do when we stand before Him.  The verses talk about one day standing in front of our judge.  You can research and decide for yourself what you believe that means.  But in my heart, I believe what I tell her to be true that one day God will let Jasmine see the purpose her life had.

    I believe we often treat our salvation as a free pass.  We accept God’s grace and we get into heaven.  Not much more thought is put into it.  We show up to church and try to be kind to others, but being kind and not judging others isn’t all there is to being Christ-like.   We are called to action.  God doesn’t want us to be comfortable.  He wants us to be His hands and feet.  He wants us to give generously.

    One day I will stand before God and He will show me what my life meant and who my life touched.  So what will my walls contain?  What will my life show?  What will be my impact?  Will those walls show kindness or will there be post-it note after post-it note of things I should have done but didn’t.  That picture scares me the most, a wall full of post-its with missed opportunities.

    post it note wall 1

    I remind her that we can’t possibly know all the people who we affect both good and bad.  I’ve thought about this a lot today.  How we get caught up in our day to day lives and lose track of all those people around us who could use a little help.  So today I present you with a call to action.  Today I want you to really think about what your wall will one day contain.

    Will it show pictures of people you encouraged?

    Will it show girls that you saved from the sex trade?

    Will it show men, women and children who were fed?

    Will it show widows who were helped?

    Will it show communities who have clean water?

    Will it show children who were adopted?

    Will it show families that are intact because you lent a helping hand?

    Will it show surgeries that were completed?

    Will it show souls that were saved?

    What will it show?  I want my wall to be covered in pictures.  I want to do as much as I can.

    Today a little boy lost his life and his mother asked others to support another child who touched her heart and needs a family.   She realizes the same thing I realize with our children.  They may not live a long life but they will live a life full of the love of family and they will not die alone.   She didn’t get to have Xavier with her as long as she hoped.  Her post today said, “He’s gone.”  My heart was broken for a little boy that I had only met on Facebook.   Today in Xavier’s honor she asked others to donate to this other little boy, Brayden, so that he too may have the love of a family.

    Brayden

    or maybe you’d like to help a family get their son home so they can ease his pain.

    Nathaniel

    or help a little girl who had a stroke because of hydrocephalus but there is a family trying to get her home.

    Hope

    There are so many children who wait.  My news feed is filled every day with people advocating for children waiting for families.  You might not be able to adopt but you can help other families afford to.  Think about that on a wall.  Picture after picture after picture of children, who had the love of a forever family, because you gave up a few dollars every month.

    Show Hope has many ways to help and so does Love Without Boundaries.

    Reece’s Rainbow actually has a 5/5/5 Fund where you can help five families adopt by spending $5 a month.

    Or if you would rather help a family stay together by helping a child get the surgery they need.   LWB Unity Fund

    The list of ways to help is unending and it can seem overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you.   Help one person at a time.  We can’t fix everything but we can fix something.

    Open your eyes.  Take a stand.  Pick a cause.  Open your heart.  Share your money.  Share your time.  Use your words wisely.  Encourage someone.

    Don’t wait – answer that call to action today.

    “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2015.02.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Today we share our story on 28 Days of Hearts.  Please take a look at the stories of beautiful children adopted from China with congenital heart disease.  Your heart will be moved.

    Hope, Benjamin, Evie and Elijah

     

  • I Never Knew…

    Date: 2015.02.03 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    THAT JASMINE WOULD HAVE COMPLICATIONS FROM SURGERY

    Many of you may know that Jasmine ended up back in the hospital.  I hadn’t really considered that she would have complications.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a big surgery.  They always inform you of the complications, but still I was so sure she would fly through this and be just fine. I was so sure of it that I really didn’t let my head go there.  Instead she ended up with a wound infection and a blood infection.   She was a pretty sick little girl.  They had to take her back to surgery and reopen her wound.  They took out the previous bone grafts, irrigated her wound with 12 liters, reapplied the bone graft, and closed her back up.

    Jasmine had a second set back and needed a lumbar drain put in.  She had a tear in her dura and lost a lot of cerebral spinal fluid.  They took her to surgery and put in the drain.  She now has to lie flat on her back for the next five days.  If it heals over, we are done and can go home.   If it is not healed over, she will need another surgery to reopen her wound, find the leak, and repair it and then five more days flat in bed.

    She will go home with a PICC line and IV antibiotics for a total of six weeks at least.  Worst case scenario is that they will not be able to clear the infection and they will have to remove all the hardware (screws and rods).   We are all praying that this is not the case.

    THAT JASMINE WAS CONSTANTLY HUNGRY IN THE ORPHANAGE

    When we adopted Jasmine she was 14 and weighed 85 pounds.  She wasn’t a very big girl but she wasn’t skin and bones either.  I hadn’t really considered her being hungry all the time.  When she shares these facts with me, she says them so matter of fact.  It’s like it’s nothing, just another random fact she is sharing.   These facts always break my heart.

    Here is my post about this talk from Facebook:

    Today I was talking to Cassie about Elyse not wanting to eat what Cassie was preparing and Jasmine overheard our conversation.
    Jasmine – Mama, take away her food for the day and then tomorrow she will be really hungry and eat.
    Me – Jasmine, did they do that in the orphanage?
    Jasmine – Oh yes mama. If they take your food for a day or two, you are really hungry and you will eat whatever they make.
    Big pause…..
    Wait, no don’t do that mama. It’s really not nice to do mama.
    Me – Jazz, did they really take your food from you?
    Jasmine – Yes mama and I could only have half the food everyone else got because I would get too heavy for them to carry. It’s hard to be hungry all the time. Don’t take Elyse’s food mama. Ok?

    THAT MY LITTLE GIRL WOULD CARE SO MUCH ABOUT OTHER ORPHANS

    Here is another excerpt that I posted on Facebook:

    They took Jasmine to surgery at 5……They allowed me to go back with her until she was asleep. The anesthesiologist told her that sometimes the medicines let you have wonderful dreams. I told her she could dream about Cassie‘s wedding or summer vacation. The doctor asked her what she was going to dream about and Jasmine responded, “I’m gonna dream about no more orphans in China mama.” That, in a nutshell, is the heart of my girl.

    THAT WOULD TAKE SO LONG TO GET PAST THE ORPHANAGE ISSUES

    With Jasmine there haven’t been many orphanage behaviors.  She doesn’t yell.  She doesn’t hit.  She doesn’t hoard food.  She doesn’t cuss.  She is respectful. She is loving.  She is caring.  She is sweet.  But what she isn’t able to get past are the abuse issues.  She can be in horrible pain and she won’t say a word.   Here in the hospital, people comment time and time again about how good she is.   I tell them over and over again (outside the door of course) that she isn’t being good.  She is absolutely terrified to complain because she was punished for complaining.  She was punished for speaking up.  She was punished for asking to go the bathroom.  She was punished for asking for more food.  The list goes on and on and even though it’s been almost two years she doesn’t believe she can say anything to anyone else.  She will tell Dan and I as soon as people leave the room, but she will not make a sound when other adults are in the room.  I can not even begin to adequately explain to you how heartbreaking this is.

    THAT MY HEART WOULD HURT BECAUSE I COULDN’T PROTECT HER

    While we were in the ER, Jasmine had an accident, the first one she has had at home.  The fear in her eyes as she was anxiously scream-whispering, “Don’t let them hit me mama.   Don’t.  Please don’t.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to.”  Spoke volumes and I had to leave the room and bawl in the bathroom.

    THAT I WOULD BE HORRIBLY SAD THAT IT TOOK SO LONG TO FIND HER

    Whenever anyone asks us how long Jasmine has been with us and I say it will be two years in May, I want to just scream about the fact that we didn’t see her picture sooner.

    THAT I WOULD BE EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED THAT I CAN’T DO MORE

    After our last adoption (for a total of 9 adopted), I thought I would feel like we did our part.  I thought that I could just move on, but there are so many children who wait.  I don’t understand the evil of this world.  I don’t understand not caring.  I don’t understand causing others pain.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t want to ever understand it.  There are children all over the world who are in pain right now.  Children who are hungry.  Children who need families.  Families who need help keeping their families intact.  Children who need surgery.  People who need food and clean water and medical supplies and we have so much.

    THAT ORPHANAGES WOULD BE QUIET PLACES

    The thing that always amazes me about orphanages is how quiet they are.  I’ve been in four different orphanages.  Each orphanage was quiet, even in the baby rooms.   In one place that we visited there was a new baby, in an isolation room that had recently arrived, screaming his head off, but there were 20+ babies in the regular room and not one of them was making any noise.  It’s an eerie, eerie thing.   What happens that make children not make noise, especially babies?

    THAT OTHERS WOULD THINK IT WAS WRONG FOR US TO ADOPT SO MANY CHILDREN

    See in my little world, I thought it was a good thing to adopt children.  I honestly didn’t think anyone would have anything negative to say.  I didn’t want or expect people to compliment us or commend us BUT I certainly never considered that people would think it was wrong.

    I keep trying to find just the right comment that would make people see it from my viewpoint.  Here’s what I have come up with….

    They say…..What were you doing adopting four at one time?  You can’t bond with four children at a time.  You can’t care for four children at a time.  It’s just too much and you shouldn’t have done it.

    What they are really saying…..It would have been much better to let Jasmine die in an institution.  It would have been better for Evie to die in the orphanage.

    You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say it was wrong for us to adopt those four children without admitting it was okay for the rest to play out.  See no one else was showing up.  Jasmine had two weeks before she aged out.  She wasn’t going to be lovingly cared for in a home.  Evie had a couple more months.  No one was there.  She would have been just another child who died without a family, in an orphanage.

    THAT ANYONE BESIDE A FEW CLOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY WOULD READ THIS BLOG

    Sometimes I forget that others read it.  I look at the numbers and am honestly just blown away.  I don’t know why people continue to read my ramblings, but I am always, always, always, beyond thankful that our children have this wonderful group of people who care about them and pray for them.

    THANK YOU!

    THAT I WOULD BE FOREVER BLESSED BY FOLLOWING GOD’S LEAD AND THAT ADOPTION WOULD CHANGE MY LIFE IN WAYS I COULDN’T EVEN IMAGINE!

    We are so blessed!  Not by material things, although we have them.  No, what I am considering my blessings are those sweet faces that greet me every morning.  I am blessed to watch our children thrive.  I am blessed to hear them laugh and sing and watch them learn new things.  I am blessed to be able to be their mother.   I wish I could take away their pain.  I wish I could take away the reasons that they ended up in an orphanage to begin with, but since I can not I will help them find their way in this world and consider myself blessed that I am allowed to be a part of their lives.

    Adoption has changed everything.  My life is no longer about me.  My perspective on almost everything has changed.  These children have opened and continue to open my eyes to so many things.

  • A Day in the Life of Jasmine

    Date: 2015.01.18 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Muscular Dystrophy | Response: 0

    Jasmine and I have often talked about her sharing her story and she has decided that she wants to share her story.  She has been working diligently on her blog and has now written quite a few posts.  Flower That Blooms  I love that she is sharing what her life was like.  She is helping others see what being an orphan truly means.  She hopes she will be able to help other orphans who may be afraid to come to America.  She prays that more children will be adopted.

    While she writes hoping she is helping others, she is healing.  I see a glimpse of belief in her eyes that her life has meaning.  She understands that all things may not be good but all things can work together for good.  She may not understand the whys.  The truth is none of us will on this side but she sees a purpose and wants to live her life for that purpose.

    Last Tuesday Jasmine had a spinal fusion done on her back.  This procedure will make it so she can sit up straight because the truth is as Jasmine’s muscles deteriorate, her spine can no longer be held up, which in turn affects her breathing and eating.

    Here are here before and after x-rays.

    Before xray After xray

    During the surgery they took a couple muscle biopsies so we can get an accurate diagnosis for her.  We know she has a neuromuscular disorder, presumably muscular dystrophy, but this will give us a correct diagnosis or at least that is the plan.

    Jasmine’s life has not been easy.   She says she can remember being clumsy at about the age of two, she was unable to walk very well by the time she was four, which made her father very angry, this was when she went to live with her grandmother.  When she was almost eight years old, her grandmother, after deciding Jasmine was too heavy to move, took Jasmine to the orphanage and dropped her off, vowing to one day return.  Her grandmother visited a couple times and then stopped showing up.   Jasmine has been through more than any of us should ever have to go through and all of this with a body that slowly fails her.

    This is what I want to talk about today, what a day in the life of Jasmine is like. I realized after messaging a few people during our stay here in the hospital, that not many really understand what Jasmine has or what a day in her life looks like.

    For Jasmine every single thing is an effort.  She is unable to sit up on her own.  When she wakes up in the morning, she must lie there until someone comes to sit her up.   Her body has been in one position for a long time and she is often in pain.

    It takes two of us to move her.  We have to help her to the toilet.  She needs us to move her to the shower.  I have to wash her hair because she can not lift her arms high enough to reach her hair.  Put your elbows into your side, hold them tight there, add ten pound weights to your forearms, and then try to move your hands around.  That is as much movement as she has.   Something as simple as itching your ear requires her holding her arm up by the elbow with her other hand.

    To move her legs, she tries hard to lift them by pulling on her pant leg.  She is unable to move them very far.  It can take her ten minutes to move her foot a mere inch.  It frustrates her so.

    She is unable to dress herself.  She can not do something as simple as putting on a sock.  I sometimes forget as I’m placing her arms in her sleeves and let go.  Her arms falls heavily to her side.

    We place her in her wheelchair where she insists on buckling her buckle herself.  She can not reach down to pick up the buckles.  You have to place them in her lap and then she takes minutes to try and put them together.  Just lining up the two sides takes great effort and pushing them together takes great force that she just doesn’t have.

    Then its time to brush her teeth.  She leans forward and picks up her toothbrush.  She has to lean forward, place one elbow on the armrest of her wheelchair, and hold up her other arm to get it high enough to brush her teeth.

    She loves her power wheelchair and the freedom it gives her to move where she wants.  She heads out of her bathroom and comes to the bedroom door.  If this door is shut, she can not open it.  Even if she could turn the knob, she does not have enough strength to pull the door towards her as she slowly moves her chair backwards.  We have tried the pull down handles and even those take too much effort.  She can easily be trapped inside her own room.  If she does get stuck and tries to call for help, finding enough air in her lungs to make the sound necessary to be heard across the house is impossible.

    She wants to get her school books herself.  It will take her a good 15-30 minutes to pull the books out of the cubby, drop them one and a time onto the foot pedals on her wheelchair, all while she is leaning as far forward as she can, and then comes the hard part – getting the books on the table.  She does it all in reverse.  She slowly takes one book at a time from her foot pedals and struggles to get it on the table.  It would be so easy for me to walk over and get her books.  It would take mere seconds to throw them on the table.  Every day I watch her struggle.  I watch her refuse to give up her independence.  She wants to do it for herself and I have to let her do what she can while she can.

    Oh the things we take for granted.  Bending over and picking up a pencil off the floor is so easy for us.  For Jasmine it means taking her chair to go get her claw that she uses to pick up stuff off the floor, she leans forward and slowly lines it up.   It takes both hands to squeeze the handle and pick up her pencil.  She then sits the pencil on her foot pedal of her wheelchair.  She leans as far forward as she can and picks it up, and then has to slowly pull herself back up.  She can still get herself up if she has something to push against with her arms.  If she falls backwards in her chair, she can not get back up.  She just doesn’t have the strength to pull herself up.

    She wants so badly to have chores and do what the other children are doing.  It is hard to assign chores to someone that does not even have the strength to pull a plate out of a dishwasher.   We have had to get creative with our chore list.  Her main chore consists of picking the things up off the floor in the living room.  She takes her claw and picks up the items she can reach on the floor.  This is a never ending job with toddlers but she never complains.

    The other chore Jasmine helps with is feeding Lainey.  Lainey is unable to feed herself.  She eats every three hours starting at 6 a.m.   Jasmine gets as close as she can to the high chair, leans forward, and puts her elbows on the tray.  Lainey has learned to lean forward and eat off the spoon.  Jasmine loves little kids and is so good with Lainey.  It’s very sweet to watch her care for Lainey.  It must have been so hard for her to sit at the orphanage and not be able to care for the other children. Although, we do know she liked to read to the other children. She really is a great big sister and has such a compassionate heart.

    Her fun for the day is going out into the backyard and going around the 900 foot cement path we put in.  She drives around and around at the highest speed she can safely go.  I asked her why she likes to just go in circles and she told me that for years she had to sit in the corner at the orphanage.  She couldn’t move herself.  She just sat there.  She wasn’t allowed to go to school.   She was told she was worthless and lazy.  The freedom of going anywhere, even if it is just a circle of cement in our backyard, is a blessing.  One of her favorite things to do is have us buckle in Evie with her on the chair.  She loves to give Evie rides on her chair.

    Jasmine & eve

    Jasmine spends all day in her wheelchair.  She is no longer able to be moved to the couch because she falls over.  There isn’t enough support in the cushions.  At the end of the day, we do it in reverse.  She brushes her teeth, we place her on the toilet, and we carry her to bed.  She slowly lowers herself to the bed.  I can not even watch this.  It scares me so.  She more or less lets herself drop to the side and slowly and painfully tries to squirm her way into a position where she can breath on her side.  I ask her over and over again to just let me help her but she wants to continue to do what she can.

    Can you imagine what that feels like as a person?  You don’t have a choice without help you can’t go to the bathroom, you can’t get into bed, you can not get out of your wheelchair.  If she tried to move out of her chair, she would fall on her face.  She can sit unassisted if you get her positioned just perfectly.  It’s like a baby who is just learning to sit.  If you adjust them just right, they can hold themselves up, but one little bump knocks them over.  But unlike a baby, Jasmine can not roll over and move herself.

    I think about her alone in China.  She was at their mercy and she has shared some horrible stories.  Stories of being taken to the doctor who told them that she should be able to walk so they left her food just out of reach.  They informed her that when she was hungry enough she would quit being lazy and get up and walk to her food.  She went all day without food and finally tried to move forward.  She fell out of her chair and they told her to get up.  She says she slept on the floor.  This went on for quite a while.

    She has told us that when she would have an accident, because there was no one to take her to the bathroom, they would allow the little and big children to hit and kick her as punishment.

    Whenever you think that it’s okay for these children to be in an orphanage, please think about what Jasmine has shared.  Whenever you think that you just can’t adopt a special needs child because it would complicate your life too much, think about what your not adopting them means for their little lives.  We have been told that Jasmine would have gone to an institution where it was survival of the fittest.  I asked specifically about this because I didn’t want to not be telling the truth.  Jasmine was two weeks away from this truth.  The nannies told her what her future held.  They let her know that she would be hit, there would be no one to feed her and that she would probably be left in a corner.  And yet Jasmine is joyful.

    I spend my days caring for others.  I spend pretty much every waking moment doing something for someone else.  I can do this without feeling sorry for myself.  I can do this and still feel joyful every day because I have learned to take my eyes off myself.  If I start thinking I could be getting a pedicure right now….I think about where Jasmine would be.  If I start thinking a vacation would be nice, I picture how sad Lainey was and where she is now.  If I dream about having a house that stays clean, I remember where Ben, Eli and Evie, who were considered inoperable and terminal in China, would be now.   Jasmine’s life has brought me greater perspective.

    Jasmine’s biggest fear heading into this surgery wasn’t the surgery itself. Jasmine’s biggest fear was that she would wake up and we wouldn’t be there.  Jasmine’s biggest fear was that we would decide we no longer want her.  Why does she have these fears?  Because it has happened to her before.  She has been through hospital stays by herself.  She has been abandoned and left alone.  She has been told that she is unworthy of love and a family.

    I often wonder how such a sweet soul survived in an orphanage for so long.  How did she go through years of hearing how worthless she was and keep her joy?  How did she endure more than any child should have to and still keep her beautiful smile?

    I am sharing these truths about Jasmine because I want you to understand just what she goes through every day and what it truly means for her to choose joy.  Every day she chooses to be joyful.  Every day she refuses to give up.  Every day she does all that she can to the best of her abilities.  Every single day without fail.

    So if Jasmine has touched your life in any way, please remember the lessons her life has taught us:

    1.) Don’t be afraid to do the hard things, sometimes they are the biggest blessings.

    2.) You can choose to be joyful.

    3.) Adoption isn’t about you.

    4.) God has a plan for you no matter how much or how little you can do.

    5.) If you are still alive, God’s plan is in place and He still has a use for you.’

    Jasmine endured her hospital stay with great grace.  She was polite and kind to others.   Her life is a beautiful testimony!  Please continue to keep her in your prayers as she has six weeks of lying back at a 60 degree angle in her wheelchair and six months of not being able to be moved with any ease.