• 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2018.02.05 | Category: Congenital Heart Defect, Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Sharing Evie’s story this year on the 28 Days of Hearts blog…

    http://www.28daysofhearts.com/2018/02/day-5-evie-eli.html?m=1

    Here are our previous years stories.

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

  • It’s Cute How I Think I’m in Control

    Date: 2018.01.15 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I have always had an issue with control.  Bad things happened to me as a kid and I thought I could control it by keeping everything around me “just so”.  Rooms had to be cleaned in a specific order before I went to bed.  Lights could only be turned off in certain order.  It wasn’t really OCD, I could not do it, but I just needed to feel as if I had some semblance of control.

    I let go of most of that when Codey and Kyle were born.  There’s nothing better to make you put things in perspective and to let you know you have no control then having your children born 12 weeks early.  Kyle’s death and Codey’s subsequent 14 months in the hospital were a constant reminder that I was not in control.  I learned very quickly what was important and it was no longer the order in which I cleaned a room or whether or not everything was put back where it belonged.

    On this journey, I have learned how to trust God and turn it all over to Him time and time again.  But that hasn’t really stopped me from thinking that if I work hard enough I can control my little corner of the world.

    December 30 and 31st of 2017 found me making plans and lots and lots of lists.  I cleaned out the kitchen.  I got rid of anything that I hadn’t used in a year.  I put together two storage cubbies with wheels so I could put my rice cooker, pressure cooker and other gadgets on so they weren’t on my counters.  My counters were going to look like a magazine – a minimalist magazine.   My counters were no longer going to look as if 13 small children still lived in my home.  My cupboards were going to be organized.  There was going to be a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I was once and for all going to get it together.

    I typed up my exercise plan.  I worked out my Keto diet which I had lost weight on and had mostly stopped over the holidays. I made my grocery list.  I looked up a few more recipes.  2018 and was going to be fabulous.  I was going to rock this.  I had already proven I could lose weight on this plan so instead of beating myself up over not losing all 60 in one year, I was going to dust myself off, congratulate myself on the first half gone, and move on to the last half.  That weight didn’t stand a chance.

    I made my list of the rooms to clean and what needed to be done in each room.   I picked a room to do during each and every day of the first week of January.  I was NOT going to wait for spring to spring clean.  I was going to do it now so when we started school again, everything was going to run like clockwork.  I was already so proud of myself.  Look at these lists.  I had thought of everything.

    I wrote my resolution list on the kitchen window.   I have found that I spend a lot of time at that window.  During the past two months I had used a wet erase marker and wrote the things I needed to see during the day for encouragement.   It already said 90 days without pop and listed my 27 pound weight loss.   Now it was going to say:   Less cussing, stick to a budget, lose 30 more pounds, and give more.

    I wanted to be a better person.  I want to live more frugally so that we can give more away.  Our work with Love Without Boundaries has shown me over and over again what it is like to live in a third world country and what so many people go through.  My heart breaks and I know for a fact that our family can do more and this was the year to do it.

    Dude I was rocking this.   It wasn’t even the first and I had the first room done.  My counters sparkled.  Everything had a place.  I had gone through all my cupboards.  I was the donation, recycling, garbage master.

    But then January 1st came.  I slept in so I was well rested.  Heck, I might even do two rooms today, that’s how good I was feeling.  I was ready to go.  The kids knew the plan.  We were going to do a room a day and be completely organized.  They were ready.  I was ready.

    And then we got the call.

    Would you accept this kidney for Jessica?

    And again I learned who cares if the house is spotless?  Who cares if I’m completely organized?  Who cares if I don’t have it all together?  Who cares about lists?  Who cares?

    J.J. has a chance at new health.  J.J. has a chance to not only grow but to maybe grow old.

    What a gift.

    It makes me wonder if God was watching me frantically typing out my lists over the weekend, so proud of myself.  Look what I am going to do.  Look what I am going to accomplish.  Saying to himself, “Oh sweet child, you have no idea.  Do you think He turns to the angel next to him and says,  “It’s so cute how she thinks she’s in control isn’t it?”

    So technically none of my list got done.  You could even say I failed cause I cussed when they called, I spent money not in our budget while we were in the hospital and I gained two pounds.  Technically I messed up 3 of the 4 resolutions all ready.  I had better find my checkbook quick.

    But oh how good God is.  I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “I think I’ve already learned this lesson.”, but maybe just maybe I still have a ways to go.   Good thing God is patient and extends lots and lots of grace.

    2018 is going to be an incredible year and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I will accomplish and everything to do with what He has already done!

    I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 104:33

     

     

  • FAITH – The Journey to J.J.’s New Kidney Part 1

    Date: 2018.01.09 | Category: Jessica, kidney transplant | Response: 0

    Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

    I feel like I should share this story of walking in faith and God’s grand provisions to give Him glory, BUT these stories are hard.  How do you praise God for this answered prayer for J.J. when you know it meant unanswered prayers for someone else?   Somewhere parents weep for their child who they said goodbye to and because of their selfless act our J.J. gets a second chance and we get to celebrate.

    My friend, Amy, said it well when she said, ““Organ donation is like adoption, isn’t it? That for a joy to happen…..a deep and profound sadness has to first happen as well.”

    We’ve buried a child.  I know the pain that brings.  Kyle was wanted.  He was planned.  He was celebrated.  He was also born too early. We prayed for healing, our family prayed, churches prayed and yet Kyle died.  Why? Why would a child that a family wants so badly die, but other children live and are left to die?  Why would ANY child die?  How can you make sense of any of the unfairness in this the world? I don’t have the answers and have accepted the fact that I won’t have the answers this side of heaven. All I know for certain is that I trust in a perfect God whose thoughts and ways are way beyond anything I can comprehend.  A perfect God who doesn’t make mistakes.  A God who can make good come out of the bad.   I believe God didn’t mean for that child to die.  Just like God didn’t intend for our children to need a Plan B for their parents.  Profound sadness leading to our great joy.  It’s too much to bear sometimes.

    During our last nephrology appointment, we were asked to talk to the transplant team about listing JJ on the active transplant list.  JJ had been listed as inactive, accruing time, for almost a year, and they felt like it was a good time to list her and be very selective in the kidney that we accepted.  The doctors were pretty insistent about listing her now. They went through all the information about dialysis and what could happen if she got one nasty illness. They agreed with us that she was the stablest she’s ever been BUT they still wanted to put her on the active list and be really, really selective.  They assured us that we didn’t have to accept any kidney we didn’t want to accept and if we weren’t ready to proceed, we could turn it down.  They felt like it could take quite some time to find the perfect kidney so listing her sooner rather than later would be better.

    We’ve had to make these hard decisions before with our cardiac kids. Do you proceed with the heart surgery hoping to extend the length and quality of their life for many, many more years and risk that they may die in the process?  Is the risk worth it?  Do you proceed hoping for healing and extra years with them or do you just enjoy the time you have left?  These questions are hard.  No one can tell you the right time to move forward.  No one can tell you what the right thing to do is.  There are no clear cut answers.   All you can do is gather all the information you can, pray, and proceed.

    This was where we were with J.J.  We were hoping to not wait too long so that she would have to start dialysis.  We didn’t want her to be even more ill when we proceeded with the transplant, but we also selfishly wanted to enjoy the time we had with her because major surgeries are always risky and their are no guarantees.  We knew she had had some psychological difficulties after her surgery in August and wanted to let her heal emotionally as well as physically before the transplant.  In the end, we decided to list her on the active list and be really, really selective.   We were told it could be months maybe even a year before the perfect kidney presented itself.

    On January 1st, after a short wait on the transplant list, our nephrologist called and said I know this is crazy but the transplant surgeon just called me. We have a donor kidney.  I know we said we would be selective and turn down any kidney that’s not perfect, BUT this kidney is a perfect match.  It’s a young donor so it’s the perfect size for her little body.  (Believe me when I say no one wants to hear those words…young donor.)   The kidney doesn’t have to travel far.  There are no antibodies to worry about.  This is the perfect kidney.  Would you please consider accepting this kidney?

    We were blown away?  The very first kidney that we were offered is the perfect kidney?  So soon?  Was this the right time?  Should we proceed?  What if we said “No” and never got another chance?

    We were called around noon, we talked and prayed, accepted the kidney at 1:30 and arrived at the children’s hospital at 4.  Talk about a whirlwind of emotions, but in the end when something this miraculous happens how do you say no?

    We were packing at home when we realized the fact that on the first of January Dan’s insurance changed through his employer. In all our excitement, we had totally forgotten this fact.  We had been approved for the transplant through our old insurance but not this new insurance.  The transplant staff was pretty sure that the new insurance would honor the old insurance’s approval but since it was a holiday, no one could confirm this fact.   Should we proceed not knowing if we are covered?  In the end we decided to trust that God, who had provided so well for J.J,, would continue to do so.  And He has…

    “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”  – Charles R Swindoll

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

    Date: 2018.01.08 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I read this verse this morning in my devotional and it made me think about Dan and my life together.

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

    Whenever we are in the hospital, people say all the time that we are amazing.  It makes us both uncomfortable.  It’s not a pretending to be humble thing.   As Dan said the other day, it’s like being thanked for breathing.   Let me assure you that we are not amazing.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We haven’t done anything amazing.  We just decided to be obedient when God called, stepped out in faith, and trusted God with everything.

    We didn’t set out to have twins early or to deal with all the complications that they had, or to bury a child. In fact, presented with those options, I’m pretty sure our 23 year old selves would have said “NO!”

    We didn’t set out to adopt a little girl with a major heart defect, but when face to face with a little girl who was alone and just needed a family to love her, what else could we do?

    When we did set out to adopt again, we were just going to do one more adoption. It made sense to add the second child when China made the option available. Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we would be able to do that. God lead again and we followed.

    When we went to adopt, our hearts were broken by what we saw in the orphanage and by how Ben and Maisey reacted to us.  They just wanted love and they soaked our love in.  I will never forget watching Ben cling to Dan from the moment he met Dan.  Ben loved Dan from the beginning.  Ben clinged to Dan.  When we visited the orphanage Ben had lived in for almost 4 years, Ben absolutely refused to go to any of his previous caregivers.  Instead Ben buried his head in Dan’s neck and held on for dear life.  My heart would never be the same again.  Our hearts were forever broken for the children who wait.  We said, “God use us.  We will follow!”   We knew we could do more so we said “Use us!”

    It’s easy to pray to God to use you when those are just words that you are uttering.  The hard part begins when He starts to show you what He wishes for you to do.  You doubt yourself.  Satan uses the world to whisper in your ear that you are not enough.  You will never be enough.   Dan and I are only human.  So because of those doubts and fears, we put limitations on our obedience.  We said we wouldn’t adopt an older child. We wouldn’t adopt a child who had severe mental delays.  We felt that this would put an undue burden on our older children.  If something happened to us, they would already be caring for Codey. How Could we ask them to do more?

    The very next year God lead us to 4 children, an almost 14 year old girl and a severely delayed little girl, plus two little heart kiddos.  I won’t go in to details here, because I’ve written about it a lot in past blogs, but that year was an amazing year of God showing up and making miracle after miracle happen.  We didn’t set out to adopt 4, but we heard Him loud and clear saying “put 4 on the homestudy” when we started.  We had no idea what it meant.  Then we set out to follow where He lead.

    We ended up adopting two more the following year.  We knew we were probably done.  14 children, 11 of them with significant needs seemed like a good place to stop.  Then my friend sent me JJ’s picture and said “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?” and my heart was stolen by this sweet face so we agreed to advocate for her.

    When Elyse and Grace started talking about JJ being their sister, it was hard.  Obviously we would love to help every child but know we can’t so we drug our feet.  Elyse and Grace were insistent  that she was their sister.  They had every child in our house praying for JJ at every meal.  They would talk about her as if she already lived with us. And when Elyse, who was lying in her bed after getting ready to go to sleep said, “If she dies in China, I will never be able to forgive myself.”, Dan and I knew we had to seriously look at whether it was right for our family to adopt her.

    Truth-be-told Dan and I knew instantly that she was our daughter but we did everything in our power to justify that we had done enough.  But God didn’t let up on our hearts.  Our hearts grew heavier and heavier for JJ.  We see lots of children being advocated for.  We pray for many children who have touched our hearts.  Our hearts are touched for those children but it is more than that when you know that this is a child you should adopt.   It’s almost impossible to explain.  Your heart is heavy.  You look at their picture constantly.  You pray for them.  You wake up in the middle of the night to pray and look at their picture again.  I never heard God’s voice directly but I knew without a doubt that we were to proceed.

    Which leads me back to the verse above.

    “Glory be to God”, (not Dan or I or our family)

    “who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”   We could have never in a million years dreamed up this beautiful life we get to live.  I would have never dared ask for so many miracles or to be given such blessings.  I believed I was too old.  I believed it couldn’t be done.  I limited myself by what the world told me could be done.

    BUT NOT GOD…

    — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”   We’ve been through countless surgeries, seen miracles in our healed children, and been given so much more than we will ever give them.  I sometimes feel like we’ve used up too much of the good that God gives, as if God has a limit on the good that He bestows to His children.

    We are not amazing or stronger or braver than most, but we did choose to be obedient.  We have seen God show up time and time again.  We trust that He is perfect.  We trust that His plan is good.  We trust that He can make good come out of the bad.   So when God called us to move out of the comfortable, we chose to move forward in faith and get more than a little uncomfortable and because we did this, we get the privilege of living a most extraordinary life.

    “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” – Francis Chan

  • What is Love?

    Date: 2017.10.10 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Edited:  Jasmine and I worked on this blog together.  She told me what she was okay with me sharing and her main thought throughout this post was that we, as parents, can not assume we know what our child is feeling.  

    We’ve been having some interesting conversations with the middles lately about love.  Jasmine recently asked, “How do you know if you love someone? What is love?”  I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one.  It seems like it should be easy enough to describe what love is but it was harder than I thought it would be.   How do you describe love?  How can you put it into words that a child from an orphanage can understand?  How can you adequately put into words that overwhelming feeling that you feel in your heart?

    Jasmine questions everything about how she feels.  We have had a hard couple years with her coming to terms with never being able to walk.  You wouldn’t think that would be an issue with a child who has never walked and has slowly lost more and more bodily control, but it is. The China doctors said if she wasn’t so lazy she would be able to walk so she believed if only she worked harder she could walk.  She was left at the orphanage at the age of 8 by her grandma who could no longer care for her so she believed if only she wasn’t so heavy she would have been worthy of staying with her grandma.  She was told by the orphanage director and the nannies that coming to America would allow her the medical help she needed to walk so she believed if only she held on just a little bit longer and a family came, then all of her dreams would come true.  This HOPE is what has kept her going for years.

    When she had her surgery over two years ago, she realized there was nothing that could be done.  She was never going to walk.  She was depressed and it was understandable.  She raged a lot.  She would be angry for days.  Just recently she shared that the driving force behind her wanting to stay with our family was that she was going to get treatment and be able to walk back into the orphanage and her grandmother’s house and prove that she was worthy of their love.  She wanted to prove them wrong.

    So while we thought she was adjusting well to our family, because she was happy and never complained, the truth was even though she acted like she was doing well, she was just waiting for the opportunity to walk so she could go back to China and show them all what a mistake they had made.  She was NOT vested in growing connections with our family because she already had a family in China.  Her HOPE was to one day go back to China where her grandma would welcome her back with open arms, tell Jasmine how much she missed her, and Jasmine would live happily ever after.  Jasmine liked us well enough but she wasn’t going to be staying so why attach?

    After her surgery she was so mad that she was never going to walk that she still wasn’t vested in working on relationships.  Her dreams had died.  Her HOPE was gone.  We were the people who had let her down and she was mad.  Everything that she had been planning was never going to happen.  Everything everyone had told her was a lie.

    It’s amazing how much you can miss when someone is quiet and pretends very, very well.  Jasmine is a sweet, sweet soul who has been through so many horrible things and has spent lots and lots of time alone.  As a very little girl her grandmother often left her sitting on the sidewalk for the whole day or she would leave her alone at home. No one else in the home was very connected to her.  Jasmine remembers one uncle/brother (The terms used in China are loose so I am unsure of his actual relationship to her.) who took care of her once when she had a horrible fever.   Outside of that she can’t remember anyone holding her hand or hugging her or tucking her in at night.  For the most part she was left alone and had a very lonely existence.

    When she went to the orphanage, she was unable to go to school because it was on another floor.  She was unable to eat with all the other children because the dining room was on another floor.  She was unable to go out to play because she couldn’t get down the stairs.  She was left alone in a room with her Chinese soap operas for days on end.

    It’s no wonder she doesn’t understand love because she was never shown love at least not in the way our family shows it.  We often talk about how love is “action”.  We love by how we care for others.  We hug and say “I love you” often.  We help each other.  My love language is doing things for others so I show them by doing.  I have explained that to Jasmine on many occasions.  I love you so I fix your favorite foods.  I love you so I am happy to take care of you.  I love you so I teach you.  I love you so I make sure you have your Chinese shows and music.   I love you so I hug you good night.  I love you so I make sure you take your medicine.  I can explain those things to her but the concept is foreign to her.  She can see how excited I am to see each of the children in the morning, how I care for them through out the day, and how I hug them and put them to bed, but it doesn’t resonate because it wasn’t her life until she was 14.  She sees these things and she knows I do it because I love them, but it still doesn’t make sense.

    She isn’t able to do much for anyone.  The truth is she is barely able to move.  She can brush her teeth and feed herself.  She can play on her Ipad and she can fold her origami birds, BUT she isn’t able to do all those things she sees me do for others, so she assumes she isn’t able to love.  She assumes there must be something wrong with her.  We tell her over and over again that when she hugs the littles or reads to them that is showing love.  When her heart hurts because they hurt, that is love.  But she still questions.  She still believes maybe she isn’t able to love.  She has been on the outside so long that she doesn’t know how to join the dance.

    Jasmine loves and cares for others but she hasn’t been able to put it into words.  She keeps saying she doesn’t understand or she doesn’t get it.  We know she loves in the way she cares about the kids, in the way she cares so deeply for all the orphans left in orphanages around the world, and in the way she cares for others that she sees hurting.

    So imagine my thrill when she said to me, “I think I got it Mom.  Remember when we had to share the bed in China? Remember how you pulled me close and held me? I don’t have the words for it. I never had anybody hold me close before. I never had anyone really hug me before. I can’t tell you how I felt. My heart was warm. Do you know that mom? My heart was warm and happy. How many kids will never never never know how that feels mama? That makes me sad.”

    She said she finally understood what love was.  She could put it in terms that she understood.  That was a HUGE moment for her.  But that moment was followed up by the words “Last night was the first night I no longer wanted to go back to China.”

    I will admit that I just stood there staring back at her.   Why would she want to go back to the place that caused her so much pain?  Why would she want to go back to the place where she was tortured?  Believe me when I say that I don’t use that word lightly.  She has never been treated with the kind of dignity and care that she deserved.  Why would she want to go back to the place where she just sat in a corner all day long?  America has power wheelchairs and opportunities.  America has a family that adores her.  Why would she want to go back to the place where they dropped her down stairs and left her alone?  But that’s just it, even when I think I know what she’s thinking, I don’t.  I am so far off because I don’t think the way she does. This is what she said, “I want to go back because I want them to tell me that they made a mistake.   I am worthy.  I AM NOT WORTHLESS!   I want them to pay for the horrible things that they did to me and I want to make sure nothing bad every happens to another child.”

    I’ve tried hard to explain that as much as we want others to do things, we can’t make them.  They are not going to make any of the past ok.  They are not going to take back what they did. There is no way she can protect every child in China, no matter how noble the wish is.  If there was a way to make this happen, we would travel with her and happily help in making this dream come true.

    We tell her she is worthy.  We remind her that her family has viewed her as worthy from day one.  We remind her that since she accepted Jesus Christ into her heart, she is the daughter of the King.  She is kind and beautiful and smart.  She is beyond brave.  She is resilient.  She is so much more than the person China deemed “worthless”.  We remind her again and again that walking doesn’t make you a worthy person, but in the end she has to believe this fact herself.

    We called this summer “The Summer of Healing” because we were working on healing our family after dealing with some pretty rough patches with Jasmine and her rages.  When someone is so unhappy the whole family ends up feeling it too.  As parents, you can try and protect the others as much as you can, but there’s hurt feelings no matter how hard you try.

    We turned a corner in her healing when she finally shared how she was feeling and how much anger she had toward those who hurt her.  Had I known any of what she was planning, cause we knew she had anger but not what she wanted to do because of that anger, we could have talked through it.  I was relieved that she finally shared so we could move forward.  And the question that started her healing was “Then what?”.  She hadn’t given any thought to what she would do after she went back or what would happen to her then.  She was stuck.

    So we worked on our Summer of Healing and now we are off to work on the Fall of Forgiveness.

    Forgiveness doesn’t make it all okay, but to truly heal you need to be able to forgive and let things go.  Forgiveness of ourselves is a must too.  I’ve been there.  It’s a hard road sometimes to forgive ourselves and to forgive those that have hurt us so deeply, especially when we carry the physical scars inflicted by them.  It makes it almost impossible to forget, but to heal we need to forgive and move forward.

    “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”   –  Marianne Williamson

    I think Jasmine has taken a huge step forward in deciding that she has to let go of her dream that she can some how make them all pay for what they’ve done.    Jasmine has taken giant healing steps forward this summer and we are praying that the “Fall of Forgiveness” will bring her heart the peace that it needs.

  • What If… (Mama’s turn)

    Date: 2017.09.05 | Category: Adoption | Response: 0

    I have been working on this blog post for a while now.  I am having great difficulty finding the right words to put down on paper that describe how I am feeling.  I have started the beginning over and over again.  I put it on hold when Jasmine came to me with her own blog that she had titled “What if” too.  I let her go first and sat on this some more.  It still doesn’t convey exactly what I want it to convey but it’s sat there waiting to be done long enough so I will give it a go.

    Recently I was honored to get to be a part of the launch group for Katie Davis Majors’ new book “Daring to Hope”.  I loved her first book “Kisses for Katie” and when doubting myself about being able to raise a large family, I would think things like, “Surely I could handle being a mother to 16 if Katie could handle being a young mother to 14.”  I had already parented.  Some of our kids were already grown.  I had a husband, a large home, food and anything else we could possibly need.  We had great medical care and insurance and I wasn’t running a non-profit on top of everything else.  Surely if God called us to this journey, we had everything we needed to be able to finish it.

    In her book Katie talks about redemption and grace and mercy and wrestling with God.  She talks about being prisoners of hope and how there’s beauty in the ashes.  This book is so much like my own life.  The being fully aware of how lacking you are and how much God isn’t.  The embracing of how you don’t have control.   The new seasons that you didn’t ask for and never would have chosen.   The pain of trauma and trying to heal little hearts and realizing it isn’t about you at all.  You were never meant to be the rescuer, God is.  God is faithful.  God loves your children.  God knows.  God sees the beauty in the pain.

    I wouldn’t have signed up for this life.  I was much too happy and content living our comfortable life to sign up for anything perceived as hard.  We did much like the Hill’s talked about in their book “House of Hope”.  We climbed into the river and let God lead us where He would.  To some that would seem reckless like we weren’t giving enough thoughts to all the “what ifs” that are out there but that just wasn’t true.

    My mind was full of “what if’s” as we proceeded…

    What if we spend our lives being obedient to God’s call and the world never, ever agrees with anything we’ve done?

    What if I work from the time I get up until the time I go to bed and I just can’t get it all done?

    What if  a full night’s rest never happens?

    What if we do everything we can possibly do to make it better and the trauma seems to win too many times?

    What if we can never, ever retire?

    What if it hurts our big kids?

    What if we sometimes don’t get everything in our school day done?

    What if the house is never perfectly clean?

    What if we eat on paper plates for the rest of our lives?

    What if it’s near impossible to invite anyone over?

    What if we never, ever get to all go to church together as a family?

    What if we sometimes disagree?

    What if we go through some really hard times as a family with medical issues or the emotionally issues of trauma?

    What if?

    What if?

    What if?

    Truth be told?  I don’t feel guilt or jealousy or any of those other emotions that tend to make us feel “less than”.  That doesn’t mean I don’t mess up or need a do over.  It just means I can see the bigger picture.

    Maybe it’s because I am over 50 and with age comes wisdom to some degree.

    Age has allowed me to see that I can not possibly please everyone and as a recovering people pleaser this is a huge deal.

    Age and my children’s medical issues bring the truth of what is really important into the light. I have read the Bible and no where did I find the words that if I believe in Jesus then my days will be perfect, my home beautiful, and my children perfectly behaved.  Instead the Bible states just the opposite.  In this world, you will have trials and trouble.

    His words have helped me find peace with my life and my large family.  I can now temper all those “what ifs” above with the “what if” of not adopting them.

    It’s easier to extend yourself some grace on a sticky floor when you temper it with “would have died in an orphanage”.

    It’s easier to not worry about raising the perfect student when they are trying so hard to learn a new language and catch up from years of no schooling when you compare that to never receiving any schooling.

    It’s easier to stop and enjoy the moment when you aren’t guaranteed that you will have years together.

    It’s easier to go through the hard knowing that every day there is healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  There may be almost as many steps backwards as there are forward, or at least that’s how it feel somedays, but there is definite healing.

    It’s easier to find peace with your life when you have been granted the most amazing front row seat to some pretty darn incredible miracles.

    Yes, we are a large family.  Yes, we do things differently than many smaller families.  Yes, it makes it harder to get out and do things sometimes, but on the flip side we have each other.  We enjoy each other’s company.  We love days spent in our backyard that we’ve made into a park complete with a 600 foot sidewalk path where we they can ride their wheelchairs and bikes and play.  We have girls in wheelchairs and kids who are incontinent so we bought our own backyard blow-up pool with slide that they can easily get around on.   Cassie was a gymnastics instructor for years.  We bought the mats and now she has her own little class right in our sunroom.   We want our children to experience life but what we want most is to give them a life with family.  We want them to have a place to belong and a safe place to fall. We want them to know that they will never, ever be alone again.

    I think we all have to agree that every child deserves the love of a family.  Jasmine’s Dream is “A Family for Every Child”!  We believe that in this house.  We can help. There are so man ways to step up and help.  One child at a time, one family at a time, and if we all work together, we can make a world of difference.

    Let’s work together on family preservation.  Love Without Boundaries Unity Fund is a great way to help pay for the medical procedures that families can’t afford.   Let’s support people who foster and help families heal.  Let’s provide surgeries and rehab and food and water so families can stay together and raise their children.  Let’s build schools were children can get the education that they need.  Let’s volunteer in our local schools.  Be a Big Brother or Sister.  Let’s donate a few dollars to help bring other children home because sometimes adoption is their only hope.  Let’s quit pretending that we can’t do anything and instead CHOOSE ACTION!!!

    Because “what if” this comfortable life you are living really isn’t what it’s all about?

    “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  – Francis Chan

     

     

  • What If… (Jasmine’s Blog)

    Date: 2017.07.15 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Blog | Response: 0

    Now that I am 18, I have been thinking a lot about “what ifs”.

    What if I had stayed in China?

    What if my parents hadn’t come to adopt me?

    What if my grandmother hadn’t left me at the orphanage?

    What if I could walk?

    What if I never learned about God?

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?

    What if I didn’t have a family?

    Recently China changed the rules about adoption.  It got me to thinking about “what if” my parents hadn’t adopted when they did.  What if they waited to adopt for a few more years? They wouldn’t have been able to adopt two at a time or adopt more after Maisey and Ben.  Right now with the new rules you can only adopt one more if you have 5 little kids in your house.  I am happy mama and daddy adopted when they did and that China said “Yes!”.   I am really happy that God worked the miracles that He did so that mama and daddy could adopt but I am sad about all the kids that had a family who wants them but they can’t proceed with the adoption.  It makes my heart hurt for the kids who wait.

    If I had stayed in China, I would have gone to an old person home.  The nannies said that I will sit on the floor and the old people might sometimes give me food.  I used to think that maybe they would let me beg for money on the street.  The nannies said no one would want to take care of me so the nannies would help me die if I wanted to.  They would sit my pee out and tell me if I just drink it, I will die.  Sometimes I thought about drinking it to just be done, but I never did.

    So if I stayed in China, the best I could hope for was to beg on the street or to die.   In America, I can get a job.  I have a power wheelchair.  I can fall in love.  I can be a motivational speaker.  Maybe even someday I will write a book.

    What if my grandma hadn’t left me at the orphanage?  Only my grandma and my uncle liked me.  Grandma would leave me outside or on the bed when she went to work.   I would spend all day by myself because I couldn’t move very much.  When I was 8, I got to go to school for just a couple months and I loved it but then one day Grandma showed up and took me to the orphanage.

    If others in the house had liked me, maybe I could have stayed.  I can’t walk so people in China made fun of me.  They would say, “If you can’t walk, you can’t get married.”  Grandma would pray to Buddha for me to walk.  She gave me duck soup every day for a month because it would make me walk.  They tried all sorts of herbs and medicines to help me walk, but nothing worked.  If I stayed at my grandma’s, I would have had to stay in the house all the time.  I would have had to stay in the bed and people would have been even more angry with me.  I was bad because I was a girl and could not do dishes or cook so I was worthless.

    What if I could walk?  If I could walk, it would have changed everything.  I could have stayed in China.  I could have got married.  I could have worked.  If I could walk, I would have never known about orphans and kids needing help all around the world.  I would have just  worried about me.  I wouldn’t have known any better but I would have been a miserable person because loving others and helping them makes you a happier person.

    “My wheelchair was the key to seeing all this happen—especially since God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit … glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

    When I think about it now, I never wished (prayed) that I could walk.  I was always thankful for my good days and wanted to be loved.

    What if I never learned about God?  In China I felt like there was something bigger than me. I felt like God was telling me to never give up, even though I didn’t know it was God.  I could feel in my heart that there was something else out there if I just didn’t give up.  I watched t.v. and learned about “working hard” for Buddha but it didn’t feel right.  People always talk about having more power.  People always lie and steal your money.  All the t.v. shows talked about how if you don’t have anything you should fight for it.  If you don’t have it, they shouldn’t have it either.

    With God I learned to care about others.  I learned this life isn’t all about me.   I learned that if I just care about myself I will never really be happy.   When I help other people it feels like I do the right thing and my heart feels all “warm”.  I learned that my life has a purpose.   God has a plan for me.  Yesterday, I read a post that says God can use our pain to fulfill our purpose.   I like that.  It was about Joni Eareckson Tada.  If you don’t know her story, you should read it.

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?  I can be pretty selfish.  I only worry about myself.  I think I have it worse than anyone else.  I can spend a lot of my time wishing for other stuff.  All of a sudden I am an adult and I don’t want to have everything just be about me any more.  When I asked others to raise money for shoes and to pray and help Grace, it changed my heart.   I read all the stories on Love Without Boundaries and I can’t believe what kids have to live like.  They need eye surgery and heart surgery and food and school.  Kids have to dig through the dump.  My life is good and I have a lucky life.  Now I want to help others.

    What if I didn’t have my family?  I know I wouldn’t have known what I was missing but I would be sad.  In China, I learned to be mean to other people.  No one really looks out for anyone else.  My family fought with each other and they fought with the neighbors.  They always were fighting.  People drank a lot and hit each other.   In the orphanage, one of the nannies had a boyfriend and she wanted a new boyfriend so he hit the nanny as hard as he could.  He beat her up.  I know it’s not like that for everyone but I saw a lot of fighting.

    In our family, mama and daddy says sometimes you can fight but we stick together and we say we are sorry and we love each other.  Family is about being kind and generous and helping others.  Mama and daddy say family is forever.  This is what mama and daddy say…

    In China, I didn’t have hope but in America there is much hope.  I hope that I can help others.  I hope that I can encourage others.  I hope that I can have a job.  I hope that since I have figured out how to heal my heart that I can help others heal their hearts too.

    Please consider being the “Hope” for a child who needs you.

     

     

  • RE-Adoption Day

    Date: 2017.07.01 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    Five years ago we started our adoptions in China.  Gotcha Day or Family Day, as people refer to them, happen the day you meet your child.  Most of the time you travel to the Registration Office or some other official building.  Once we met a child in our hotel room.  Sometimes we were alone and sometimes we waited with many other families.  It’s a nerve wracking time as you wait for them to show up with your children.  You anxiously wait for your child to walk in the door.  You see the face you’ve been staring at in pictures for months and you wait for them to bring your child to you.   I can not watch a video of those moments without tearing up.  It instantly makes my heart race and I feel just like I was there.  It’s an amazing feeling for the parents who meet their children.  This is the end of their adoption journey to their child.

    But for the child it is exactly the opposite.  Sometimes the child has only just heard about you because the orphanage director wanted to protect their hearts because sometimes parents stop the adoption process right before the travel.   Sometimes they were too young to understand.  Sometimes they have been prepared as well as can be expected.  Sometimes the children were thrown at you like they didn’t even matter.  Sometimes they were handed over carefully.

    Those moments are a blur for us and the most scary time of their lives for the children.  They walk into a building with people that have cared for them for years and they leave with perfect strangers.   Sometimes there was crying, sometimes there was total shutdown, sometimes with the older kids there was nervous laughter or no words at all.  After you sign all your paperwork, you head to the hotel room and get to know your new child. You have 24 hours to decide if you want to complete the adoption.  Can you imagine what this is like for them?

    24 hours later you go back to the same room to sign your official papers.  If the child hasn’t been prepared or isn’t old enough to understand, they may think you are taking them back.

    Landing at home after the couple weeks in China was another eye-opening moment.  I have to admit that I have taken for granted what it means to be an American.  What it means to be free.  Those moments when you get off the plane and your children are granted citizenship are a beautiful thing.  It made citizenship more dear for me.  The way our older girls acted when receiving their Certificate of Citizenship is something I will never forget.   I will never take being a citizen for granted again.

    In honor of their citizenship and how proud they are of it, we put in a flag pole and let them raise it on Adoption Day.

    As the years went by we realized that looking back on the pictures of their scared little faces on those first days was a good/bad memory.  We wanted them to have a happy day to celebrate. Now they know what family means.  Now they can yell their “yeses” to the world that they do want a mama and daddy.   So we set out to readopt as a family.  We talked about it and prayed about it.  We picked Hope’s Adoption Day so they would all share the same day.

    The morning of Adoption Day I sat them all in front of me and read them their story.  With our older kids, I would write them a poem each year on their birthday.  They also had a journal, a calendar of their first year, and more pictures than you can even imagine.  I realized how sad it is for our kids to not have these things.  They don’t have the happy stories of their birth or any of the information of our bio kids.

    For our older kiddos, they don’t have the stories of when they first walked, or when they lost their first tooth.  There is so much information missing.  So I decided to make them a book about how we fell in love with them and what it was like before we traveled and included any pictures that we had of them before.  They love their stories and ask to hear them over and over again.  Now they will have them in print to read whenever they want.

    We had pictures taken at the courthouse by our friend Rachel.  She can always get them to smile.

    We entered the courtroom with a few extended family members and waited for the judge.

    All the kiddos were on the front row looking dapper in their red/white/blue American colors that they chose to wear.

    Our lawyer and friend, Marcy, brought them the sweetest gifts.  Hats for the boys and flowers for the girl’s hair.  There were red/white/blue mustaches and light up toys and bracelets.

    My brother Tim and his family were all decked out too.  Tim had the best outfit.

    It was really very simple.  The judge walked in.  We all stood.  Marcy told them about all the paperwork that had been filed.  He said no testimony was necessary and pronounced them all adopted.  We took a picture with the judge and that was that. I’m sure Rachel will have a better picture but this was the only one I had.  🙂

    As they left the courtroom the court room assistant let them each pick out a beanie baby.  They were tickled with their new gifts.

    We went home to prepare for our party.  We invited a few friends and family over to help celebrate with the kids.  It was a beautiful evening.

    This day was everything we had hoped it would be.  The day was full of happy memories.  They had so much fun with their friends and family.

    Thank you to everyone who was there in thought and those who were able to show up.  Thank you to all our friends who prayed for and with us during these trips.  Thank you so much.  We truly appreciate it.

  • My Sincerest Apology

    Date: 2017.06.24 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    I want to apologize to everyone whose inbox was inudated with posts from my blog today.  We have a couple of children who say they want to blog and we decided to keep them all in one place for ease in printing journals of our blogs.

    Unfortunately that meant taking all of Jasmine’s previous blogs and transferring them to my blog.  I thought I was being tricky and publishing them from the date Jasmine published them.  I had no clue they would all get sent to all of you wonderful folks who subscribe.

    My husband asked me why I was forwarding all of the blogs to him and I realized what was going on.  I truly am sorry.

    Lisa

  • Jasmine’s Dream – Forgive Yourself

    Date: 2017.06.23 | Category: Jasmine's Blog | Response: 0

    Everybody in life makes mistakes sometimes really big ones, but God always forgives us.

    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…  1 John 1:9

    But sometimes I think I say many bad things that I can’t be forgiven and I can’t forgive myself.  One time I talk to mama about it and mama says I should forgive myself because if you don’t forgive yourself it is like you are saying God is lying and He won’t forgive us.  But God is perfect and doesn’t make any mistakes and His word is true.  If God can forgive me, then I should trust Him and be able to forgive myself.

    Some people do really, really bad stuff.  Some people kill others and do some really bad stuff and they think they can’t be forgiven.  They think God will never forgive them.  They think what they did was too bad and they mess up their lives.

    But some people do some really, really bad stuff and then they believe God will forgive them and they change their lives and do some really big things for God.  People like Paul in the Bible.  Paul killed Christians and then he saved Christians.  He changed his whole life when he trusted God and forgave himself.

    God tells us to always forgive others.  Mama says I should forgive the nannys and my mama and my grandma.   Mama says it doesn’t do any good to be mad at them because they don’t know I am mad.  It only makes me sad and hurts my family here.  It doesn’t mean that it is okay.  It means that I leave it to God to judge them.

    My family always forgives me when I make a mistake or I get mad.  I sometimes hurt my mama’s feelings because I feel bad about myself.  Mama says that people who are hurting inside hurt other people.  I didn’t want mama to love me because sometimes I am afraid she will leave me too.  I love mama.  I don’t want to have mama leave me too.

    Sometimes I think my only choice is to make everyone hate me so that I can leave and live alone.  I think everybody’s lives will be easier if they don’t have to take care of me.  But my choice was wrong mama says that my family would be sad if I wasn’t here and they want to take care of me because they love me.

    Right now I work hard to forgive myself.  I want to let my family know that I love them.  I want to live here.  I want to do BIG things for God.  I want to make good choices.  Mama always says, “Was that a good choice?”  Now I ask myself that too, cause rule #1 in our house is to be kind.

    If you forgive yourself and other people, you will make your life easier because you won’t be an angry person.  If you don’t forgive, you become an angry person because you always think everything is about you and what people did to you, but if you forgive people, you can be happy and figure out what God wants you to do with your life.

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