• Thank You!

    Date: 2014.09.15 | Category: Adoption, Elijah | Response: 0

    I took the dogs to get their shots the other day.  The vet looked the dogs over and mentioned that Snickers needed a tooth cleaning.  I said, “I know. We discussed this last time.”  He looked at me as if I was the worst pet owner ever and started to lecture me on why spending the $1,000 for a tooth cleaning was necessary.  Most of the time, I just go about my business but this time I decided I was going to tell him what I have been up to these last two years and see what he said.

    Two trips to China were we’ve adopted six children.

    (I left off that three had worse medical needs then we thought.)

    We’ve had two heart surgeries and four heart catherizations.

    (I left off the two dental surgeries and the fact we had to travel to Boston & Stanford for the heart surgeries.)

    My mom spent months in the ICU.

    My mom died, my stepdad died, my grandfather died.

    My brother-in-law had a massive stroke.

    My son got married.

    And add to that what we have coming up during the next four months and it wasn’t likely that the dogs would be getting in any time soon.

    We have two upcoming surgeries. (Eli on 9/17 and Evie on 10/20.)

    We leave for China in 9-12 weeks for the adoption of Max and Elyse.

    Jasmine has back surgery in January for her scoliosis.

    I didn’t want pity.  I just wanted him to understand that sometimes there are reasons people don’t do something and it has nothing to do with how much they care about their pets.  I told him I promised to get the dog’s teeth cleaned as soon as I could, but for now it was just going to have to wait.

    As he left the room, the tech looked at me and said, “I think just one of those would have been a good enough excuse.”

    The vet was very kind and understanding.  He told me to just schedule it as soon as time allowed.

    But it got me to thinking about the fact that we should all be patient with each other.  None of us knows what the other is going through.  I’ve often shared the story of running into a lady with my cart at Wal-Mart not long after Kyle died.  I just sat there and stared at her and then started crying.  She was so angry and I couldn’t say a word.  She must have thought I had lost my mind.

    We are all going through something aren’t we?

    A family member had a stroke,

    a heart attack,

    was just diagnosed with cancer,

    family members die,

    children run away,

    marriages fall apart,

    drugs and alcohol take their toll,

    the lists go on and on.

    How much better would this world be if we gave everyone the benefit of the doubt?

    What if they are having a bad day, a bad week, or what if they are just rude.  It has nothing to do with you.  It’s like I always tell the kids, people can say what they want, it only becomes an issue if you believe what they are saying.

    I learned long ago that people will judge.  It’s what they do.  It’s human nature. Sometimes people do it to make themselves feel better.  Sometimes people do it because they truly believe they know what is best for everyone.   I have seen and heard it all.

    People have an issue with us homeschooling.

    People have an issue with us adopting four at once.

    People have an issue with us adopting too many children with health issues.

    People have an issue with us being older.

    People worry about what we are doing to our other children.

    Heck, we even have a neighbor who is upset that we can’t keep up with our yardwork as well as we should because we have too many kids.

    Seriously? Sometimes you just have to let people be.  Especially people who don’t even know you or your family.   Let them talk.  Let them criticize.  And then take the time to pray for them.

    Years ago this would have driven me crazy.   I would have lost sleep over it, but not anymore.  Would you like to know why?  Because I gave up caring what others thought and started living my life for God.   I am accountable to only one.  I can’t imagine on my last day standing before God and having Him criticize me for caring about a sick child or stepping out in faith and adopting four at once.  I doubt that God cares about my yard or the shape that it is in.

    God knows we love our children.

    They are thriving.

    Will everyone get to go out for three different sports each month?  Nope!

    Will they get three meals and snacks and special treats?  Yep!

    Will they get to go to a private college?  Nope.

    Will they get an education, one that they were not even guaranteed in their previous years?  Yep!  Assuredly!

    Will they have every toy and electronic gadget they could ever hope to have?  Nope!

    Will they be loved and treasured and cherished until the day they leave this earth.   You bet they will!

    Which brings me to my second thought.  As we prepare to leave this morning for Eli’s surgery, I’m remembering all the people who do care.  The people who have covered us in prayer, our church family, the people who have brought meals and sent cards and encouragement and to my neighbor on the other side, who my children adore, thank you for helping me mow our crazy over run lawn.  Dan and I both say, “Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!”

    Eli needs this surgery.  His oxygen sats have dropped.  He is much bluer.  We knew this day was going to come.  We can not put it off any longer.  I know that He is good hands.  Dr. Hanley is the best at this surgery.   At the end of the day, we will know we did everything possible to give him the best shot at life.  Eli is a wonderful soul.  He is sweet and courageous and so very funny.  If you haven’t already done so, check out our page on Facebook  “Seriously Blessed by Adoption”.  You can see Eli spell his name and his siblings names.  If you don’t have Facebook, I’ll give you a hint, every word is spelled B-E-N.

    Thank you for the prayers that have covered our little boy throughout the past year.   He has been such a blessing.  Yes, this year has been hard but it has been so unbelievably awesome too.  I am so thankful the words of the world didn’t keep us from following where God was leading.  God is good.  He is faithful and trustworthy.  He has blessed us in ways we couldn’t even imagine.  No matter what happens, I have no regrets.   Dan and I feel extremely blessed to be on this journey with Eli.

    Eli

  • MAXimum Blessings

    Date: 2014.09.08 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Kelly, Max | Response: 0

    Plan B

    When we found out about Kelly we were heartbroken.  Someone at church even said to me, “This is much like a death in the family.”  It’s true.  It’s hard.  What do you do with all the stuff you have bought during happier times?   As you know from my previous post, someone graciously offered to take some of Kelly’s clothes with her when she traveled to China.  I cried taking those clothes out of the suitcase, remembering all the fun the girls had picking them out.  Her blue comforter is still on her bed.   The stuffed animals the girls had bought her still sit on the pillow.  Its been 27 years, but I still remember coming home after Kyle died.  It has been much like that after the news that Kelly did not want to leave China.

    We had already planned on someday writing her a letter telling her we wished her well.  Letting her know that we understand and have no hard feelings.  We want her to know that we still want to be part of her life.  We wish she could have been part of our family, but we understand she feels she already has a family.  We feel privileged to have learned more about Agape and to see the wonderful work they are doing.  It says a lot about the home and the people there that she is content and wants to stay.  Agape Family Life House

    After we heard Kelly’s decision, our agency asked us what we wanted to do about being approved for two?  Dan and I still felt like we were supposed to bring home two.  It seemed almost ridiculous to pay the fees, be approved for two, and then not bring another child home.  But you can’t just replace the child that you lost.  How do you even start?

    We started at the best place, the only place….prayer.  Lots and lots of prayer.   I asked God over and over again to show me what I was supposed to do.  I had no clue where to even start.  I know during those first few days I repeated the words, “I can’t do this!” at least 100 times.

    We talked with our trusted adviser at the adoption agency and she laid all the information out.  Because of expediting Kelly, Elyse is still on the expedited timeline. We can slow it down a little, but not a lot.  That means if we wish to bring a second child home we needed to decide now.  We needed to pick a special focus child who was already on their agency list or a child off the shared list in one of the two provinces where they already had guides.  The child needed to fit our criteria on our MCC (medical condition checklist).   We said we wished to adopt a girl between the ages of 7 and under 10.

    She had already been searching and told us the odds of that happening were slim.  There were no girls that fit our criteria.  She would continue to look.  There was no time to ask for an agency to switch a file.  There was no time to ask for updates.  She told us she would keep looking and talk to others at the agency.

    Dan and I both know who is in control and we knew if it was meant to be, it would happen.   We just had to trust in that fact.

    max 3

    When my friends, who have also adopted, heard they understood completely and tried to help match us with a child.

    They sent us beautiful pictures of children who need a family.   That first day, I cried all day long over the loss of Kelly and the shear number of children waiting for a family.  Since we had said little girls, they sent us file after file of sweet, beautiful girls who wait.  Girls who don’t have much hope of a bright future in China, but who would be beautiful additions to any family.  Why are they waiting?

    Unfortunately, my heart was not in it.  I felt moved, especially by three of the girls,

    Poppy

    poppy

    Pearl

    Pearl

    and Dottie

    Chloe

    But it just didn’t feel right.  They are beautiful girls.  Others described them as sweet, special, and wonderful. They would be a beautiful addition to any family, but they didn’t feel like they were meant to be our daughter.  That is the hardest part about adoption.  If you truly trust that God is leading you to a child, then you have to wait, but at the same time how could it be wrong to give any child a family?

    More days passed and our agency called asking us to consider a five year old boy.  We had not been open to a boy mainly because we already had a bed in the girl’s room and the girls were all set to have another sister.  The thought of adding to the littles was a bit overwhelming.  Who willingly chooses six children under the age of 6?   But since we said we would consider any child God placed before us, we said we would consider it.  She told us to look at their waiting child page.  We were told he had bilateral microtia.  That was a very doable special need.  It is the same diagnosis that Maisey has.  We already sign.  We know all about the surgeries and the BAHA hearing aid.  We understood the frustration these children have from lack of communication.   Dan asked for her to send his file.

    I, in the meantime, messaged my friend’s about this little boy and the group home he was in, Swallow’s Nest.   Swallow’s Nest

    One of the four mamas in this group said, “Lisa, you aren’t going to believe this but one of my friend’s just adopted a little boy from that group home.”  She went on to say, “I know the person who runs this home.  I can put you in touch with her.”

    I love the way the Lord provides.

    I immediately searched for her on Facebook.  Her Facebook page was open so I started scrolling through the pictures and then I saw his little face.  She was advocating for him because he was being called back to the orphanage.  She went on to say that he really, really needs a family.  She said that he is such a sweet, smart boy and would be a great addition to any family.

    I sent her a friend request and she immediately messaged me.  She told me all about him.  She sent me his baby picture.  She told me who was caring for him and how sad they were that he had been called back to the orphanage.  She let me know that he was at camp right now.  A camp put on by our agency.  I kept reading through all the comments and noticed that 21 people had shared this information.  How do 21 people share about a child desperately needing a family and no family requests his file?  I clicked on the shares to see if anyone I knew had shared his information.  I noticed that Donna, a friend of mine, had shared it.  I clicked on the share to see what others had said and what do I see?  A comment from me asking if he had bilateral microtia.

    On May 5th, I had commented about this little boy.

    And it all came flooding back….

    I remember reading about this little boy who was being sent back to the orphanage. I remember being so sad and sitting at the table with tears in my eyes. I remember talking with Zach about it because it reminded me of Maisey when she had to go back.  She left the home and all the people who loved her and nourished her and helped her grow only to go back to a place where either no one knew how to communicate with her or didn’t feel she was worthy of communicating with.  She had a bald spot from throwing herself to the floor out of sheer frustration over and over again.  She would do this at any moment and she did it with such force.  She was only with us two days in China before she almost completely stopped throwing herself to the floor.  She stopped because we got down at her level and communicated with her.  She stopped because we taught her a couple simple signs and she wasn’t as frustrated.

    I knew his little heart was going to feel pain.  He was leaving those he loved.  My heart hurt.  I wished we had asked to be approved for three on our homestudy.  He would have been an easy child to add.  We knew how to deal with his hearing issues.  We knew how to deal with the frustration he would have with communicating.  But I knew with our expedite that I didn’t have time to ask for an updated homestudy to add a third child so I just let it go.  I never gave it another thought.  The reality was he became just another child who touched my heart and I had to let it go because it is just so overwhelming.

    In an amazing turn of events, we had been presented with the same child I wished we could adopt.  He was a perfect fit for our family.  Just the right age to be a playmate for Ben who often feels left out of the Evie/Eli bond and Maisey and Lainey, who often play alone.  Yet, he wouldn’t disrupt Ben’s being the oldest little.  Ben takes the job of being big brother and protector of the littles very seriously.

    In his picture he is wearing a pirate shirt.  Many of you will remember Ben’s love of pirates. As we were going to sleep one night Ben turns to me and says, “Mama, remember that picture of the little boy in the pirate shirt?  He looks really nice?  I would like to hug him.  Can we have him over to play?”

    bi 2

    And just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about the swallows in our back yard.  I wrote about something that happened almost 13 years ago.   Here is that post.

    Yesterday, as I mowed our back acre, I was reminded of 13 years ago when we moved to this property. Usually Zach mowed but he was gone so I went out to do it. As I was mowing, swallows dive bombed the mower. They got so close that it made me really nervous. I finally gave up and went into the garage and got a tennis racket. So here I was trying to mow the lawn, swinging a tennis racket at dive bombing birds. It was quite the sight. My perspective was they were out to get me. My neighbor, who was laughing hysterically, asked what I was doing. I told him and he said, “Lisa, they are diving after the insects you are kicking up while mowing.” I felt silly to say the least. It reminded me of how we can think things are out to harm us, but then our perspective changes and we then see the beauty in the situation. I mowed for an hour yesterday watching the swallows dive up and down, coming oh so close to the mower. It was peaceful and beautiful. How things can change with the right perspective.

    “It reminds me of how we can think things are out to harm us, but then our perspective changes and we then see the beauty in the situation.”

    Exactly…..beauty amidst the ashes.  My heart has been broken by what I can not do for one child, but there is beauty in still being able to be a family for another child.

    I don’t know what God’s plans are.  Maybe Kelly needed to know a family would fight for her.   I know that she will always have a special place in my heart and I will do whatever I can to support her.  I will continue to cover her with prayer.  I am at peace knowing she is with people she loves.  She will always have a home.  She will have a job and opportunities to sing and paint.  But in my heart she will always be my girl and it will always be bittersweet.

    Here is what I do know though, before I saw Kelly’s picture and my heart was stolen, we were pretty sure we were finished adopting.   When Jasmine brought up adopting an aging out child, we told her we would seriously consider it after Eli and Evie were done with their surgeries.  We asked her if she could wait another year or so.   But Jasmine kept praying and our hearts were opened to the idea. Had we not been trying to adopt Kelly, we wouldn’t have seen Elyse’s file and if we hadn’t had everything happen with Kelly, we wouldn’t be adopting Max.

    It brought me comfort that Max was a child I had already considered adopting.  We couldn’t replace Kelly.  It was just so hard.  You can not just replace a child, but there was a unexplainable peace with Max.  We wouldn’t have even gone looking for him because he didn’t fit our neatly checked boxes of what we thought our family was looking for.

    The path doesn’t always make sense when we are on it, but then God gives you little glimpses of the beauty in the tapestry that is your life.   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. – Romans 8:28   Not all things will be good, but that they will work together for good.

    It’s so hard to deal with all these feelings.  The sadness mixed with the joy and the anticipation of traveling.   Life is like that though isn’t it?  Learning to dance in the rain.  Learning to let go of what you can’t control and follow where He leads.   I’m still learning.  This past year has been one of the hardest on our hearts in our almost 30 years of marriage, but it has also one of the most beautiful.   God sometimes takes us out of our comfort zone so that we can grow in His love by having to trust and let go.

     “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3 MSG). 

    Max 2

    I would like to introduce you to Max, our unexpected blessing!

     

  • Why Orphans Need Families

    Date: 2014.09.03 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin | Response: 0

    I Blog for Show Hope

    When we first considered writing a blog, Dan and I prayed and discussed it in depth.  We knew that we were putting our family out there for all the world to see or at least my immediate family, some close friends, and maybe a few second or third cousins. :)  We knew we would be putting our family on display.  We knew we would be opening up our lives to the critical review of many others.  We knew there were those who would think we were sharing to brag or show off.  What we hoped to show was the amazing ways God had worked in our lives.  We wanted to put a face to adoption and let others know what giving a child a home meant.   Dan and I ultimately decided if writing a blog lead to one, or two, or more children being adopted, then it would all be worth it.

    I have been writing for a couple of years now.  I write so that others can see what being an orphan truly means and what adoption does for these children.  Even though it is life changing, harder than I imagined, and more than I ever thought I could handle, it is also a blessing beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.

    So when I got an e-mail from Show Hope looking for bloggers to write about the global orphan crisis, I was on board and signed up immediately.  This was what I originally set out to do, to let others know about the orphan crisis.   There are just so many orphans.  The last estimate was 143 million.  I want to make whatever change I can.  I want to give a voice to these children who don’t have one.  Plus, Show Hope will always have a very special place in our hearts because they helped care for three of our children.

    I got my first assignment at the beginning of August.  The assignment?   Write about why orphans need families.  I have tried to write about why orphans need families for a month now.   I just couldn’t do it.  The words I wrote didn’t have any real feeling behind them.  They were merely facts and quotes about orphans.  I wanted more than that.  I wanted to show how family changes the life of an orphan.

    On September 1st we had Benjamin’s 6th birthday party.  Dan and I started reminiscing about those first few weeks in China with Benjamin.  We started to talk about just how far he had come and I realized that is what I wanted this blog to convey.  I am going to try to adequately explain just how far he has come.  I can quote facts and figures to tell you there is a need, but you already know that.  143 million is a whole lot of orphans.  But what I really want is for you to see what institutional care does to a child.  How it changes their little hearts.  Orphans need families.  Orphanages are buildings, they are not homes.

    Ben orphanage

    When we met Ben in March of 2012, he was a frightened, withdrawn, 3 1/2 year old.

    China trip 2012 086

    Ben never acted afraid of us.  He went straight to Dan and wouldn’t leave his arms.  Ben had the saddest little face.  It wasn’t an “I’m afraid response”, it was something so much more heartbreaking.  It was like a little bit of his light was dimmed.  He was malnourished, weighing 21 pounds at 3 1/2.   The first time we changed his clothing, we cried.  We cried about all the times we knew he went hungry.  We cried because it took us so long to get to him.  We cried because we knew he had gone through more in his little life than anyone should have to go through.

    When we arrived back in the hotel, Ben ate for over 2 hours.  We opened the drawer that was full of snacks and he just sat there staring at all the food.  Right on top of this same dresser were the many toys we had packed for him.  He never even noticed the toys.  He was so intent on eating.  The whole time we were in China, Ben slept with food in his hands.  It was his security blanket.  He didn’t want the blanket we brought him.  He didn’t want the toys.  He just wanted to hold his bowl, his spoon, and a piece of food.

    Ben food

    Heaven forbid you would move his food.  He would have a major breakdown if his bowl of noodles was moved from his sight.  But at the same time, he would share with Maisey.  He made sure she was cared for.  He made sure to open two of everything so she didn’t go without.  We had glimpses of his sweet, little heart from the very beginning.  He accepted and cared for his little sister right from the start even though they had never met before that day in the Registration office.

    Ben had a lanyard that he wore around his neck with our family picture in it.  He wouldn’t take it off.  We were immediately his family and he had never met most of us.  He refused to speak Chinese.   He spoke English from day one even though we were told he was never taught English.  He refused to use his given Chinese name.  He was Benjamin from the very first day we met.  He later asked us to call him Ben Ben because it is a term of endearment to double up your name.   I have often wondered what happened in his three short years to make him not want any reminders of his old life.

    I remember vividly the first time Ben laughed.  It was raspy, almost like his vocal cords were dusty, like he hadn’t laughed in a very long time.

    Ben laughing

    And I remember the first time he hurt himself.  He ran into the corner of the dresser and hit his head pretty hard.  He just kept going.  I thought it was odd, but didn’t really put two and two together until later in the day when he fell down.  I could tell he hurt himself, but he didn’t even shed a tear.  He didn’t come to me with his hurt.  He just sat there.

    It was a couple days later when he realized that we would care that he hurt himself.  He came to show me what had happened and I kissed his booboo.  I wish I could have captured his expression.   It was one of wonder.  He was actually confused by someone caring that he was hurt.  I can still remember to this day the first time he knew it was okay to shed tears over being hurt.  What must a child have gone through to no longer cry tears or believe anyone would care that they are hurt?  This is what institutional care does.

    There were other issues.  Ben was deathly afraid of water.  The first time we tried to bathe him, he grabbed the door frame, kicking and screaming and wouldn’t let go.  We weren’t able to give him a bath for months.

    He shut down the minute we left the hotel room.  He was fine as long as he was in the room alone with us, but the moment we left the room, the worried look was back on his little face.

    Ben

    We visited the orphanage where Ben spent almost 3 years of his life.  It was estimated that Ben was 9 months old when he was left in a park.  While we went on a tour of the orphanage, Ben hung onto Dan for dear life.  He would not look at any of the nannies.  They tried to talk to him and get him to come to them but he would not leave Dan’s arms.  What an eye opening experience that was for me.  Ben was with the women who had cared for him for most of his life and he wouldn’t leave the arms of the man he had only known for a few days.

    Ben had no clue how to be held.  He didn’t understand what a hug was.  He didn’t know how to snuggle.  We would hold him and try to get him to lay his head on our shoulders but he just didn’t understand.  We did it over and over again while we were in China.  We would give short little hugs.  We would hold him whenever he would allow it.   On one of the last days there, Ben curled up next to Dan and fell asleep.  He couldn’t speak our language, but he understood that Dan loved him and would protect him and he felt safe sleeping in his arms.

    Ben & Dan

    Children need families.  They need parents to care for them.  Parents who will teach them right from wrong, educate them, get them medical care, and kiss their booboos.   Children need to feel safe and secure if they are to blossom and grow.   Children need a home and love and security.  They need unconditional love.  You can not get these things in an institution.

    Ben is now 6 years old.  He has grown in so many ways.  Medical care, food, and the love of a family changed his life.

    Ben Sunday best

    The before and after pictures are amazing.  The first picture is from September 2011 and the second picture was from December 2013.

    Ben then and now

    Ben has come so far.  He has family that adores him.

    family 1

    He has had life saving heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.

    Ben 3

    Ben’s future is no longer uncertain.  Family has given Ben roots for stability and wings to fly.  Family has changed his life and given him a future.  Why do orphans need family?  I think Ben’s pictures say more than my words ever could.

     

  • It’s That Time of the Year Again!

    Date: 2014.08.20 | Category: Family Life, Homeschooling, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    The time of year when the stores are full of all the wonderful things to get students ready for school, backpacks, pencils, sharpeners, binders, and paper galore. It has been so much fun this year getting Jasmine ready.  She picked out her own tablets and pencils.  She helped pick out some of her curriculum books.  She did everything with such enthusiasm.  It’s all new and exciting to her.  Jasmine has given me a new appreciation for learning.   I have always been appreciative of our education system and the possibilities that lay before our children, but Jasmine has given me new eyes to see just what a blessing the gift of learning is.  I wish I had the words to properly express the joy that learning brings to her.

    Jazz School

    Jasmine doesn’t take learning for granted.  Many of our children tolerate education, they sometimes love it, but I do not believe they truly appreciate it like a child who has been denied it for years.  Jasmine had a year of school before she was abandoned at 8 years of age. She had some schooling during the first year in the orphanage, but was then excluded from school because of her disability. She was in a wheelchair, and the schoolroom had been moved to the second floor of the orphanage. They had no easy way to get her to the second floor, so she was left out.  Why they didn’t they just bring her some books or worksheets? For years, Jasmine longed to go to school.  For years she dreamed of being able to learn more.   For years she sat in a room in her wheelchair, knowing that just one flight of stairs away was everything she longed for.

    It wasn’t until years later that Love Without Boundaries was able to get her a tutor as part of a new educational program started in her school – an LWB “Believe in Me School”.  Right before we traveled to meet Jasmine, she was given the opportunity to learn English.  It was such a gift and she had such joy about the opportunity. Her tutor was very kind to her and the English she learned made her initial transition much easier for her and for us.

    It is such a joy watching this sweet child learn. Her brain is a sponge, and she is eagerly absorbing every bit of information we can throw at her. She is learning a new language, a new culture, and years of basic knowledge at a rapid pace – all while smiling her dazzling smile and asking for more.

    With the vast amounts of trivial information we are bombarded with 24/7 – news, tweets, YouTube, Facebook, etc – we forget what a privilege it is to simply learn. We are rarely denied access to our information sources – but when the WiFi goes down, the power goes out, or you lose your cell phone – panic ensues.

    Perhaps, like Jasmine, you should exercise your freedom and privilege by picking up a book and engaging in the sweet joy and privilege of learning.

    Min & Tutor

    As we were getting our school room ready, Jasmine asked me how long I have been homeschooling.  I had to stop and think about it for a while.   I first started homeschooling when Zach was in 4th grade and Cassie had just started kindergarten, which makes the grand total 17 years.

    We were about half-way through Cassie’s kindergarten year when I realized that maybe my children would be better suited for schooling at their own speed at home.  Zach came home talking about how bored he was and Cassie was constantly frustrated that they wouldn’t let her read chapter books and they kept making her read the little kid books.  I started to question why we were paying for a Christian education only to have my kids come home and want to do more.

    It wasn’t that the school was bad or lacking in what they were teaching.  My children just needed something different than they were getting in school.  The school just wasn’t prepared for a kindergartner that read at the eight grade level.  There were no talented and gifted programs in the elementary school we started Zach in or the Christian school we transferred him to.  The Christian school was a year ahead of the public school in the level they were teaching, but Zach still wanted more.

    My father-in-law had been telling me for years that I could do this, but I believed all the things others were saying.  My kids wouldn’t be social.  Kids want to go to school.  They need to be around other kids their own age.  You can’t provide the same type of education that a school can.  They will fall behind.  They won’t be able to get into college.  They will miss out on opportunities that only a school can provide.  They won’t be able to play sports.  The list went on and on.  This list put fear in my heart and kept me from doing what I should have done for Zach in first grade.

    What they don’t tell you is that schools allow dual enrollment.  You can take the classes you need there.  You can play sports at the school.  You can take art and music.  You can do your yearly testing.  In our school district, you can even ask for a homeschool adviser.   We have had the same homeschool adviser for over 10 years now.  We love Ms. Deb, as the kids call her, she is like family.   If I get stuck trying to figure out how to help my child learn a certain task, she is there to help me out.  It’s much like our o.t. and p.t. and speech person.  I don’t need someone to do my work, but I would be the first to admit that there are others who know more than I do.  Just teach me how to do it and I will apply it.   Sometimes we all need a new eye on the area we need help with.

    I am so happy that we started homeschooling.  It has allowed me to be flexible with our hours and the days that they attend.  Every one of the children under Cassie’s age have a health issue.  Homeschooling allows us to go to doctor’s appointments without missing school. It allows for surgeries.  It allows for long hospital stays.  It allows for no school on each child’s birthday.  It allows me to be able to go slower in the areas where they need a little more work and faster in the areas where they excel.  It allows me to have lots of time with each child in our unique, large family.

    There is nothing like being able to call a “mommy needs to snuggle with her littles” day and just hang out and watch a movie.   As long as I get the allotted number of days in and they get their work done, we are allowed to take a free day here and there.

    This year we decided to do something a little different with the way the children learn.   Cassie and Zach were easy to teach because they could read anything and remember it.  They were the type of students that every homeschooling mom should be blessed enough to start with.  Both Cassie and Zach always tested at the top of their groups and did exceedingly well on their ACTs.  They had no trouble getting into college.

    But the middles all learn differently.    They do better with visual aids.  They do better with repetition.   They like to learn by songs and videos and pictures so instead of workbooks and lots and lots of reading, which Jasmine and Gracie have trouble with, we decided to go back to the old days of the one room classroom and work on some subjects together.  I put together a wall in my kitchen with two boards each holding four different subjects.

    chalk

    On the back of each of those cards are three easy questions, for Grace and Jasmine, and three hard questions for Hope.   I have a large white board that I write out the question for all three of them.  They copy the question in a large binder with nine different subject dividers in it. Eight for each of the cards and graph paper for practicing writing Mandarin.  It helps their penmanship.  It helps them with sentence structure and the larger words that Jasmine hasn’t picked up yet.  Since Hope writes quicker then the other two, Hope does an easy and a hard question.  Jasmine and Grace do an easy question each day.  On Thursday, they have to research a fact that we haven’t learned to share with me and then we review everything on Friday.

    Dan and I decided to do things this way after sitting down and deciding what it was we wanted the children to learn.  We wanted them to memorize Bible verses so they could recall God’s promises in times of need.  We wanted them to be able to recall a couple of basic facts about the subjects that we felt they needed to learn.   There is no way everyone remembers everything they read unless they are like Zach and Dan.  (We won’t even go into that subject.)    We wanted them to be proficient in Mandarin (both written and spoken) and American Sign Language.   The children should be trilingual by the time they graduate.   Elijah, who is two, already signs well over 100 words.   The littles sit at the table and listen too.  They have already started learning.

    I found these chalkboards at Hobby Lobby for 90% off.  It cost me only a few dollars to put it together.  I had been printing off questions and figuring out my own, but we found these games called Professor Noggins.  There are unlimited subjects in which to study. On the back it has three easy and three hard questions.  I have added more or different questions when necessary.  We found stick on chalkboards at Target that are little signs like the faith and love ones below the question boards to the larger ones that show the rules of the house.

    Chalk 3

    This House Rules sign is one of my favorites.   About 30 seconds after reading all the rules to the littles, Ben turned to Eli, who was whining about not being able to play with Ben’s truck, and Ben said, “It says no whining and wait your turn.”  I was so happy.  Maybe I won’t have to repeat the rules 100 times a day any more. :)

    We even have the school day listed.  Last year I had it on a piece of paper but Jasmine had a hard time reading it.  Jasmine likes routine and order.  She likes to know what is expected of her.   I stuck this stick on chalkboard to the side of my computer desk.  I wrote on it in silver permanent marker.  Jasmine already has it memorized and I no longer have to say, “This is what you should be doing now.”

    Chalk 1

    We even have a sign for daily chores and the prayer order.   Everyone knows their chores, like taking out the garbage and recycling, so this chore list is for the extra things each of them need to do each day.   The prayer order list is because the littles actually fight over who gets to say the prayer.  They all want to be the one to give thanks for the meal and I could never seem to remember whose turn it was.  This list has saved mommy lots of headaches.

    Chalk 2

    Jasmine has added new energy into our homeschooling.  I like the new way of doing school.  Instead of running from child to child doing workbooks all day long, half of our time is spent talking about different subjects and learning together.   Jasmine’s excitement has rubbed off on all of us.  She has given us all new eyes on the gift that learning is.   It truly is a blessing!

    Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  – Chinese Proverb

     

  • Kelly

    Date: 2014.08.09 | Category: Adoption, Kelly | Response: 0

    What do I know for sure?  Life is complicated, difficult, heartbreaking, unpredictable, but it is also beautiful, wonderful, heartwarming, and joy-filled.   Sometimes the journey isn’t what you thought it would be.  Sometimes the curves take you places you didn’t set out to go.   I know it’s not about the destination.  It’s about following where God leads and trusting in His plan even when it doesn’t make sense to you.

    I haven’t updated about Kelly in a while because it’s just been too hard on my heart.  There are so many emotions and thoughts that I just couldn’t get the words down on paper in any coherent way.  Have you ever just not wanted to do something because it made it way too real?  That is where I am at.  This is going to be long.  I’ve tried to cut it down, but there’s so much I want to say.  I thought about doing it in a couple of posts, but I just want to be done thinking about it.   So here goes, time to pull off the band-aid quickly….

    Kelly does not wish to be adopted.

    Well, even that is not the whole truth.  She doesn’t want to leave China.  She doesn’t want to be adopted by foreigners.  She doesn’t want to learn a new language and come to a new country and I can’t blame her.  I’m not sure I could have done it.  I have older daughters.  I know Hope wouldn’t have wanted to leave her home and everything she knew and loved.  Gracie might have been more open to it and considered it an adventure.   Jasmine left China but she had no options and nothing waiting for her there so she was able to embrace all that we offered.  Cassie would have trusted God and His plan and done whatever she felt He was leading her to do.

    For the past two months, we have known that Kelly has had great reservations about being adopted.  We have not said anything because we were hoping it was just the usual “I am afraid” response.  We hoped and prayed she would embrace the thought of family even though she was afraid.

    As you know months ago, I saw Kelly and Amanda’s pictures on some Facebook advocacy page.  Things just never moved forward with Amanda.  There were many roadblocks and it just didn’t seem right, but with Kelly the more I read about her the more I cared.   I knew that my heart was moved but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just an emotional response.  I prayed and prayed some more and decided to ask more questions.  I wanted all the information I could get on her so I posted a comment and people responded.  I was told that I should talk to two specific people, one of whom had met her and the other who had hoped to adopt Kelly herself.  From these two people, I got the names of two other people who had cared for Kelly in the group home.

    I asked every question I could.  The most important questions being “Does she really want a family, would she be okay with a large family, and does she want to come to America?”.   I think we all like to think, “Well, who wouldn’t want to come to America and have a family?”, but the truth is sometimes older children do not wish to leave their birth country and everything they know and hold dear.  By the time these  older children are teenagers, they have come to terms with the fact that a family may not be coming.  They are used to caring for themselves and can be very independent.

    As a family, we discussed adopting Kelly.  We talked with our agency and asked them what the chances were of adopting an aging out teenage girl in 170 days.  Our agency informed us everything would have to go perfectly, but it was possible.  We decided to take a chance, we submitted our LOI, and waited for PA.  After PA you are allowed to send letters, gifts, and pictures.  We received our PA and sent a care package to Kelly.

    After we knew she got our package, we talked to people again.   She had seen our pictures and we wanted to be sure she was okay with a big family.  We continued to ask if she really wanted a family. We tried in many different ways and we never got the response we wanted.   We heard over and over again that she wasn’t sure and that she was afraid.  We never heard the words, “She really wants a family but is afraid.”   You can overcome fear if the want for a family is greater than the fear.  We understood that she would be fearful, everything in her life was about to change.  We understood it would take time for her to adjust to her new life.  No one can be expected to give up everything they hold dear and not have it affect them.

    Instead of hearing that she wanted a family, we heard over and over again, “We are trying to convince her this is the best thing for her.” We did everything we could to ease her mind. We talked to people who were close to her.  We sent her letters in her care package.  We let her know about our blog.  We asked them to share our Facebook page with her so she could see videos and pictures of our family.  We asked to Skype with her.

    We were allowed to Skype and we thought things had gone well.  She didn’t seem afraid while Skyping.  She was laughing and smiling the whole time.   Her body language was relaxed and open.  At the end of the call, we had told Kelly to let them know if she had more questions.  We waited a few days and we heard nothing.  I sent an e-mail to the director of the group home asking him if she had more questions and he said skyping made her fear worse.  She was even more afraid and was very unsure about whether or not she wanted to be adopted.

    One of the main things that stood out to me was that after we skyped, she said all the littles were overwhelming.  They were very sweet during the Skype conversation.  They all took turns and said “Hi!”.   They waved and Evie even blew her a kiss.  It wasn’t anything compared to what our house is like.  They are very busy little people.  I was hoping that she would see how much they loved her, but it had the opposite affect.

    There were signs from the beginning that things may have not been what we were told.   We thought she really wanted a family and was okay with going to America.  As I said before, the truth was she wanted a family, but she never wanted to leave China.  There were signs all along the process.  We heard words like “She didn’t know she could be adopted. She never thought that it would happen.  She was surprised by it.  She was okay if the paper work did or didn’t get done.”

    The issue is she has people she loves at the group home. She has a very close friend who she helps with schooling.  She cares about all the little ones that are there.  She considers these people her family.  She sings with them.  She has art lessons and piano lessons.   She can work in their bakery when she’s of age.  She won’t be out on the street.  In her mind, she has a whole lot to lose and she has no clue what she would gain.

    With all the information we had, we talked to our agency.  After much group discussion within the agency and with our family, we knew we had two options.   First, we could travel and hope that we could convince her to be adopted.  But even as we discussed that, we were told by her group home that they would not force her to sign.  They were going to let it be her decision.  Second, we could give her a deadline by which to make her decision.  She had been wavering for months and it wasn’t getting better.  In fact, it seemed it was getting worse.  We prayed and considered all the options.  We discussed it again with our agency, who was very good at telling us the pros and cons.  They shared with us previous stories, the kids who didn’t sign, the parents who landed in China only to be told no before they even met the child, and the stories where children were convinced to sign, forced to sign, and what happened when they came home.

    We decided it would be better to give Kelly a deadline before we traveled.  We didn’t want to take the chance of traveling to China only to have Kelly refuse to sign the paperwork.  In China, if you are ten or older, you have to agree to the adoption.  You have to sign forms stating you wish to be adopted.  I have heard others share their stories on a Facebook group.  They talked of forcing the child to sign.  I have heard the threats that were said by many different parties and the fights that ensued.    As I said before, we had previously talked with the director of the group home and he said they would leave the decision up to her.  They would not force her to sign.  We knew it had to be Kelly’s decision and we knew she needed a deadline.  She is painfully shy and neither Dan or I thought standing in front of her trying to convince her would really help anything.

    We were at a critical point in the adoption process, we needed to file for her visa.  We needed to know one way or the other.  It was agreed upon that she would have until Friday, July 18th, to decide.  They e-mailed and asked if they could have until Monday, the 21st, to decide and we agreed.  When we didn’t hear anything on Monday, we e-mailed again.  The response we got was that Kelly had a cold and they couldn’t get an answer.  My heart dropped.  I knew what that meant.  That’s not a real excuse for not answering.   I e-mailed again and he said, “Kelly may one day regret this decision, but she does not wish to be adopted.  She does not want to leave China.”

    I cried tears much like I did with Kyle.  The dream of a life was there, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We are heartbroken to say the least.  The children have been in tears.  Jasmine doesn’t understand.  If you remember our journey to another aging out daughter began because Jasmine wanted to help another girl much like herself.  Jasmine has said over and over again, “But she doesn’t understand what family means.”

    I have prayed over and over again.  Kelly’s picture is on my homescreen of my phone and my computer.  Every time her picture came on the screen, I prayed for clarity for her.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and I truly meant it.   But being an imperfect human I hoped or assumed that God’s plan would mean Kelly would be my daughter.  It’s funny how we do that.  Like God is a magic genie and all our wishes will just come true if we pray hard enough.

    The verse does say, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”   Matthew 21:22

    But there is also a verse that says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

    Someone asked me if I was angry at God.  I’m not angry at God.  I can’t be angry at God because things didn’t work out the way I had hoped.   Kelly has free will.  I cannot make Kelly do what I wish.   I can’t possibly know why we were lead down this path, but I still believe it was God who sent us on this journey.  Too many doors were opened, too many signs lead to Kelly for it to not be from God.

    All the signs lead to this having a happy ending, at least on our end.  We’ve never had an adoption go so smoothly.  Everyone was on board with the expediting and were more than gracious to speed our paperwork up.  Our agency has gone above and beyond.  We have been overwhelmed with the support and caring that we have received.  Everything was going as planned.  We were at that very last stage – requesting a visa, which leads to the Article 5 being issued, which leads to the consulate appointment and travel approval.  We had 30 days left and it was more than doable.  We were all set.

    I have tried to wrap my head around this.  I have cried many tears grieving over my lost dreams.  I saw her in the girl’s room.  We bought her a new bed.  The girls and I bought her clothes that we thought she would love based on the pictures we’ve seen of her.  We know her favorite color was blue so we bought her a beautiful blue comforter.  She has jewelry and hairbows.  I saw myself brushing her pretty hair and letting her know how beautiful she is.  I am her mama in my heart and I would be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt.

    I don’t understand.  I just can’t see the big picture.  I can see little bits of what I have learned.  I have seen what group homes do for children.  These homes are proof that there are better ways to raise children even if they can’t have a forever family.  I have seen the other side of teen adoption.  I belong to groups where I have heard all sorts of outcomes.  My eyes have definitely been opened. I know it doesn’t always go like it has with Jasmine.  I have learned how to expedite and I have seen how well the adoption process works if everyone moves stuff along.  I have always wanted to speak to our congressman and tell them changes needed to be made to speed the process up, to cut out the redundancy of costs and paperwork, get rid of some of the unnecessary paperwork, and now I know ways that it can happen.

    But if I was to tell the truth, I don’t want to be more informed.  I want to be a mama to a little girl half way around the world who has no clue what that means and who doesn’t want the same thing.

    So for now, we will try to help her in any way we can. We will stay in touch if she lets us.  We will sponsor her.  We have let them know we will help with her education or anything else that may come up.  I am comforted by the fact that Kelly has people who love her there.  She has friends and many who she considers family.  She knows God.  She has a love for God that is beautiful.  There is a video of her singing and signing on Agape’s Facebook page.  I believe God must have plans for her there.  Maybe she just needed to know that a family would fight for her.  I know I don’t have the answers, but I am placing my trust in Him who’s ways are not my ways.

    Please keep Kelly in your prayers especially on August 17th, which is her birthday.  No matter how sure she is of her decision turning 14 will make it very real.  Also, please say specific prayers for healing on her feet, she has some really bad blisters and sores on them right now.  Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us on this journey.   Please consider supporting Agape Family Life House and the other group homes in China and around the world trying to make it a better place for children who wait.

    The truth is we wish no child had to leave their families, but the world is not perfect.  There are many ways to help:  Support families that are stuck in poverty so their families may stay intact.  Support the group homes that are doing the very best they can for the children in their care.  Support groups that are providing surgeries for children in need.  Support those that are called to adopt.   And finally, if you are being called to adopt yourself, step out of that comfort zone, and see what God has in store for you.

     

     

  • Happy Birthday Dan!

    Date: 2014.08.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 

    Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 

    Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.   Psalm 127:3-4

    Family 2

    Happy birthday to my best friend.

    The man who has healed the wounds of my youth

    taught me to trust God and His plan

    lifted me up

    stood by me when times were hard

    made me laugh….every single day

    encouraged me

    supported me

    loved me….since forever it seems

    held my hand on this incredible journey

    and most of all shared the amazing, impossible, unbelievable dreams that God has given us.

    In a world where men hit middle age, buy sports cars, and trade their wives for a younger version,

    Dan drives a 20 year old bus and loves the same women he has loved since he was 15.

    He is blessed by many who call him dad!

    “The Children whom God has graciously given your servant.” – Genesis 33:5

    family 1

    Praying that the next year holds

    much joy

    many blessings

    peace and calm

    healed hearts in our two little ones

    and more hugs and kisses

    than you can even bear

    from those many children

    who are lucky enough to call you dad!

    Happy birthday Sweetheart!

     

  • Kelly Update

    Date: 2014.08.07 | Category: Adoption, Kelly | Response: 0

    For the past two months, we have known that Kelly has had great reservations about being adopted.  We have not said anything because we were hoping it was just the ususal “I am afraid” response.  We hoped and prayed she would embrace the thought of family even though she was afraid.

    Months ago, I saw Kelly’s picture on a Facebook advocacy page.  I read about her.  I knew that my heart was moved but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just an emotional response.  I prayed and prayed some more and decided to ask more questions.  I wanted all the information I could get on her so I posted a comment and people responded.  I was told that I should talk to two specific people, one of whom had met her and the other who had hoped to adopt Kelly herself.  From these two people, I got their names of two other people who had cared for Kelly in the group home.

    I asked every question I could.  The most important questions being “Does she really want a family, would she be okay with a large family, and does she want to come to America?”.   I think we all like to think, “Well, who wouldn’t want to come to America and have a family?”, but the truth is sometimes older children do not wish to leave their birth country and everything they know and hold dear.  By the time these older children are teenagers, they have come to terms with the fact that a family may not be coming.  They are used to caring for themselves.

    As a family, we discussed adopting Kelly.  We talked with our agency and asked them what the chances were of adopting an aging out teenage girl in 170 days.  Our agency informed us everything would have to go perfectly, but it was possible.  We decided to take a chance, we submitted our LOI, and waited for PA.  After PA you are allowed to send letters, gifts, and pictures.  We received our PA and sent a care package to Kelly.

    After we knew she got our package, we talked to people again.  We wanted to be sure she was okay with a big family and that she truly wanted to be adopted.  We tried in many different ways and we never got the response we wanted.   We heard over and over again that she wasn’t sure and that she was afraid.  We never heard the words, “She really wants a family but is afraid.”   You can overcome fear if the want for a family is greater than the fear.  We understood that she would be fearful, everything in her life was about to change.  We understood it would take time for her to adjust to her new life.  No one can be expected to give up everything they hold dear and not have it affect them.

    Instead of hearing that she wanted a family, we heard over and over again, “We are trying to convince her this is the best thing for her.” We did everything we could to ease her mind. We talked to people who were close to her.  We sent her letters in her care package.  We let her know about our blog.  We asked them to share our Facebook page with her so she could see videos and pictures of our family.  We asked to Skype with her.

    You might ask, “Why would you keep asking if she wanted to be adopted?”  We kept asking because something just didn’t feel right.  Whenever anyone that was close to her talked about it, they always mentioned how everyone was trying to convince her that it was the right thing to do.

    I even talked with a mother who was going be traveling soon to volunteer there.  I did not know her personally but others that I trusted in the Facebook community did.  I asked her to spend some time with Kelly and get an unbiased opinion of whether she really wanted to be adopted.  She sent me pictures of their time together.  I believed things looked pretty good after that.

    We were allowed to Skype and we thought things had gone well.  She didn’t seem afraid while Skyping.  She was laughing and smiling the whole time.   Her body language was relaxed and open.  At the end of the call, we had told Kelly to let them know if she had more questions.  We waited a few days and we heard nothing.  I sent an e-mail to the director of the group home asking him if she had more questions and he said Skyping made her fear worse.  She was even more afraid and was very unsure about whether or not she wanted to be adopted.

    There were signs from the beginning that things may have not been what we were told.   We thought she really wanted a family and was okay with going to America.  The truth was she wanted a family, but she never wanted to leave China.  There were signs all along the process.  We heard words like “She didn’t know she could be adopted. She never thought that it would happen.  She was surprised by it.  She was okay if the paper work did or didn’t get done.”

    The issue is she has people she loves at the group home. She has a very close friend who she helps with schooling.  She considers these people her family.  She sings with them.  She has art lessons and piano lessons.   She can work in their bakery when she’s of age.  She won’t be out on the street.  In her mind, she has a whole lot to lose and she has no clue what she would gain.

    With all the information we had, we talked to our agency.  After much group discussion within the agency and with our family, we knew we had two options.   First, we could travel and hope that we could convince her to be adopted.  We were told by her group home that they would not force her to sign.  They were going to leave it her decision.  Second, we could give her a deadline by which to make her decision.  She had been wavering for months and it wasn’t getting better it was getting worse.  We prayed and considered all the options.  We discussed it again with our agency, who was very good at telling us all the previous stories, the kids who didn’t sign, the parents who landed in China only to be told no before they even met the child, and the stories where children were convinced to sign.

    We decided it would be better to give Kelly a deadline before we traveled.  We didn’t want to take the chance of traveling to China only to have Kelly refuse to sign the paperwork.  In China, if you are ten or older, you have to agree to the adoption.  You have to sign forms stating you wish to be adopted.  I have heard of others forcing the child to sign.  I have heard the threats that were said and the fights that ensued.    As I said before, we had previously talked with the director of the group home and he said they would leave the decision up to her.  They would not force her to sign.  We knew it had to be Kelly’s decision.

    We were at a critical point in the adoption process, we needed to file for her visa.  We needed to know one way or the other.  It was agreed upon that she would have until Friday, July 18th, to decide.  They e-mailed and asked if they could have until Monday to decide and we agreed.  When we didn’t hear anything on Monday, we e-mailed again.  The response we got was that Kelly had a cold and they couldn’t get an answer.  My heart dropped.  I knew what that meant.  That’s not a real excuse for not answering.   I e-mailed again and he said, “For Kelly. I feel she is wrong, But the choice needs to be hers, and not mine. I know in the future she my wish she made a different choice, but that’s the way it will be.”

    I cried tears much like I did with Kyle.  The dream of a life was there, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We are heartbroken to say the least.  The children have been in tears.  Jasmine doesn’t understand.  If you remember our journey to another aging out daughter began because Jasmine wanted to help another child.    Jasmine has said over and over again, “But she doesn’t understand what family means.”

    I have prayed over and over again.  Kelly’s picture is on my homescreen of my phone and my computer.  Every time her picture came on the screen, I prayed for clarity for her.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and I truly meant it.   But being human I just assumed that God’s plan would mean Kelly would be my daughter.  It’s funny how we do that.  Like God is a magic genie and all our wishes will just come true if we pray hard enough.

    The verse does say, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”   Matthew 21:22

    But there is also a verse that says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

    Someone asked me if I was angry at God.  I’m not angry at God.  I can’t be angry at God because things didn’t work out the way I had hoped.   Kelly has free will.  I can not make Kelly do what I wish.   I can’t possibly know why we were lead down this path, but I still believe it was God who sent us on this journey.  Too many doors were opened, too many signs lead to Kelly for it to not be from God.

    All the signs lead to this having a happy ending, at least on our end.  We’ve never had an adoption go so smoothly.  Everyone was on board with the expediting and were more than gracious to speed our paperwork up.  Our agency has gone above and beyond.  We have been overwhelmed with the support and caring that we have received.  Everything was going as planned.  We were at that very last stage – requesting a visa, which leads to the Article 5 being issued, which leads to the consulate appointment and travel approval.  We had 30 days left and it was more than doable.  We were all set.

    I have tried to wrap my head around this.  I have cried so may tears grieving over my lost dreams.  I saw her in the girl’s room.  We bought her a new bed.  The girls and I bought her clothes that we thought she would love based on the pictures we’ve seen of her.  We know her favorite color was blue so we bought her a beautiful blue comforter.  She has jewelry and hairbows.  I saw myself brushing her beautiful hair and letting her know how beautiful she is.  I am her mama in my heart and I would be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt.

    I don’t understand.  I just can’t see the big picture.  I can see little bits of what I have learned.  I have seen what group homes do for children.  These homes are proof that there are better ways to raise children even if they can’t have a forever family.  I have seen the other side of teen adoption.  I belong to groups where I have heard all sorts of outcomes.  My eyes have definitely been opened. I know it doesn’t always go like it has with Jasmine.  I have learned how to expedite and I have seen how well the adoption process works if everyone moves stuff along.  I have always wanted to speak to our congressman and tell them changes needed to be made to speed the process up, to cut out the redundancy of costs and paperwork, get rid of some of the unnecessary paperwork, and now I know ways that it can happen.

    But if I was to tell the truth, I don’t want to be more informed.  I want to be a mama to a little girl half way around the world who has no clue what that means and who doesn’t want the same thing.

    So for now, we will try to help.  We will sponsor her.  We have let them know we will help with her education or anything else that may come up.  I am comforted by the fact that Kelly has people who love her there.  She has friends and many who she considers family.  She knows God.  She has a love for God that is beautiful.  There is a video of her singing and signing on Agape’s Facebook page.  I love watching her sing.  I believe God must have plans for her there.  Maybe she just needed to know that a family would fight for her.  I know I don’t have the answers, but I am placing my trust in Him who’s ways are not my ways.

    Please keep Kelly in your prayers.   Right now she could use some specific prayers for healing on her feet.  Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us on this journey.   Please consider supporting Agape Family Life House and the other group homes in China and around the world trying to make it a better place for children who wait.

     

  • Happy Birthday Zachary!

    Date: 2014.08.05 | Category: Photos, Zachary | Response: 0

    This is going to be a strange way to start a Happy Birthday blog, but it will explain the kind of boy my little Zach was and is so please bear with me.

    zach 2

    Many people have questioned how we have been able to adopt six children in two years.  They wondered how in the world we brought home four at one time.  Zachary is part of the reason why.  I wouldn’t recommend bringing that many children home at one time unless you have very special circumstances such as ours.   Two adult children living at home and a husband who works from home most of the week means extra hands to help.   It also means that we have had many adults around to lavish love upon the kiddos.

    Zach and Cassie both lived at home in an apartment on our acreage.   They both chose to live close to home so they could love their siblings and get to know them better.  At a time when most children are ready to leave the nest, both of our adult children have chosen to stay close. They have driven 45 minutes both ways to and from college so that their siblings could see them every day.   Zach chose to do this because at the time we were expecting Gracie, he said he couldn’t stand the thought that his little sister wouldn’t really know him.   To this day, Zach and Gracie have a very close bond.

    zach

    Zach and Cassie have been questioned and made fun of by their peers at school because they chose to live at home, even teachers have questioned why they would want to do something like that.   It amazes me that wanting to be close to your family would be considered such an oddity and even frowned upon.

    After Zach completed his computer science degree at Iowa State, he moved to Florida to complete a master’s degree in a very innovative new program designed to train software engineers, artists and producers to produce state-of-the-art, big budget video games. After completing his masters degree, Zach was interning at EA, one of the biggest companies in the interactive entertainment business, and had been offered a job in game development.  At that time, we were in the process to adopt Ben and Maisey and soon after that Gracie was diagnosed with lupus.  Gracie was very, very ill and was going to start chemo.   These circumstances lead Zach to decide to forgo the job at EA and move home.   Zach said that he couldn’t stand the thought of not knowing his two new siblings and if something happened to Gracie, and he wasn’t here, he would never forgive himself.   His peers were incredulous.  Why would he give up his dream job to go home to be closer to family? Even when Zach explained the circumstances, no one really understood and many questioned him over and over again.   Zach, however, knew what was important.

    Zach has always had a strong sense of family and God.  One of my favorite moments was also one of the most devastating in my life.   A couple years after having Zach, I had miscarried and was feeling very sad.  Zach was a little over three years old.  He sat on the step holding my hand and comforting me.  His sense of God and his understanding of life were apparent even then.  Zachary held my hand and said, “Don’t be sad mom.  God has a plan.”

    zach 3

    Recently my mother-in-law gave me this note that she had found while going through some old papers.  Zach would have been four at the time it was written.

    zach

    Who knows what “I sure miss God and Jesus!  I haven’t seen them in a long, long time” means, but Zach has always seemed to have an understanding of God.  His faith has always been strong.  He has always talked about God like He was a friend, from the time he was very little.

    zach 1

    Life was hard after Kyle died and with Codey being hospitalized for so long.  I had no intention of getting pregnant, EVER again, which was saying a lot from a girl who always dreamed of having a big family.  Codey was still in the hospital when I found out I was pregnant.  God’s ways are not our ways, truer words have never been spoken.  I would have never in a million years chosen to be pregnant then, but I thank God every day that I did get pregnant.  Zach was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever been given.  He is a bright, sweet, generous, caring, God-fearing, wonderful young man.  He was such a wonderful child to parent.  He is not perfect, none of us are, but he has always been a blessing.  He has always been a pleasure to be around.  He has always asked questions that made me truly think.   He makes my life a hundred times better than it would have been without him in it.  His life showed me that love is greater than fear.  He taught me to talk to God like a friend.  He helped my heart heal.

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    He was married earlier this year to a wonderful girl.  It will be a blessing to one day watch him love his own little ones.  He couldn’t have been a better big brother to all his siblings and I know one day he will make a wonderful father.

    Family 2

    Happy birthday Zachary!  May God grant you as many blessings as you have brought into our lives.

     

  • Faith Like A Child

    Date: 2014.07.20 | Category: Faith | Response: 0

    Recently I had to make a chart so we could keep track of who was supposed to say the prayer at meal time.  It got me to thinking about the faith of a child.  What does it mean to have the faith of a child?

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    Well, when was the last time you exuberantly fought over the right to say the prayer at mealtime?   When was the last time you threw your arms into the air and shouted “Amen!”?  When was the last time you sang out a song of praise just because you were rejoicing in all the Lord has done in your life?  When was the last time you didn’t worry and instead said, “God’s got this!”?   When was the last time you jumped out of bed at the chance to go to church instead of rolling over and hitting the alarm and wishing you could just sleep in?  When was the last time you clapped your hands over the chance to put a dollar in the offering plate?

    I am amazed at my children’s love for the Lord.   I watch them trust the Lord and His plans and not question the whys.  I have learned so much about faith and trust just by watching them.  I have seen them take the teachings I have shared and plant them firmly in their hearts. I have heard them claim God’s promises with such assurance that it brought tears to my eyes.

    Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  – Deuteronomy 11:19

    I have watched my children walk with confidence because they know God is in control.  My children love God with a radical love.  My children share what they have and care for others.   My children anxiously await adding two more children into our mix.  They aren’t afraid of having to share their food or their toys or their parents.  They are thanking God for the chance to have two more siblings.

    How tightly are you holding on to what you own?  How often do you show compassion and caring to others around you?  How often does your life look radical?

    “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” – David Platt

  • What Changed Your Mind?

    Date: 2014.07.07 | Category: Adoption | Response: 0

    family

    All the posts and pictures on the 4th, of the sweet children we have come to know through adoption, got me to thinking about what makes people adopt and also wonder what makes people hold back when they’ve considered it.  I’ve heard it over and over again.  “I’ve always wanted to adopt, but….”

    When we adopted Hope, it was out of the blue.  It wasn’t something we had planned.  We saw a child in need and stepped in to help.   Maybe that is part of it.  If a hurting child was right there in your front yard, you’d do something.  If you saw a malnourished child, abandoned, needing love and attention, you’d do something.  Even if you weren’t called to adopt that specific child, you’d do something.  You’d find them help.  You’d support them.  You’d help others who could adopt them.  You’d step up because that is what we do, but because these children aren’t right in front of us we pretend it isn’t happening.

    When we started talking about adoption again, it was Dan who wanted to proceed.  Dan had read Max Lucado’s book, Outlive Your Life. and decided we should consider adopting.  There was a need, we could help, and we could no longer pretend it wasn’t happening.

    I, on the other hand, considered everything everyone else would think.  I was 45 years old.  People started being grandparents at my age.  My life was stable, happy, comfortable even.   It was crazy to think about adopting and I wouldn’t budge.  And then I read the words in Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing To See.  Her daughter asked, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”  I cried all night.   Those were the words that changed my heart.

    I knew some where there was a child that God was asking me to parent and I was refusing to proceed because of the fear of what others would think of me.  Some where there was a little one who needed a mama’s love and I was leaving them alone, afraid, frightened, with little hope for a bright future because someone might think I was too old.   I hate that those were my thoughts.   God started working overtime on my heart.  Little did I know where God would take us over the next three years.  What an amazing “stand back and watch God” ride this has been.

    My heart was forever changed for the better that night.  I learned to follow God’s lead.  I learned to trust Him even when it didn’t make sense.  I learned to let go of my fears and I deeply regretted all those moments that I drug my feet and refused to trust God’s plans for my life.  My post on Facebook from the other day says it all.

    Rick Warren describes Dan and my past few months (past couple years actually) perfectly!

    “As a follower of Jesus Christ, he expects you to obey whatever he tells you to do — even if it appears foolish to other people, even if it doesn’t make sense financially, even if you don’t understand it and you’re scared to death.”

    Pretty much describes the past 130 days – following in obedience, not truly understanding how it could possibly work, and standing in awe of the faithfulness of God!

    On that same post another adoptive mother commented the following:

     “It was one of his daily devotionals 3 years ago that my hubby and I felt was an answered prayer and helped us finally make the decision to drop all our excuses and just jump on board with our first adoption.”

    Which made me wonder about other parents, did they always know they would adopt?  Were there words that changed their hearts too?  You know I believe in the power of the written word.  God reaches us through other’s words.   What words changed your heart?  Was it a devotional?  A book?  Another adoptive parent’s words?  Song lyrics? What words made you proceed when you were once unsure?

    I would love it if you would share your words in the comments. When we are done, I will make a blog with all the books, quotes, music, and words that moved our hearts.  Who knows who may be out there sitting on the fence about adoption and the words you write may be just what their heart needed to hear.

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    Adoption update – We have received our 1-800 and we are now waiting on the NVC to issue our letter that will go to the American Consulate in Guangzhou so they can start the children’s visas.  After that is done, the Article 5 can be issued, the consulate appointment will be made, and travel approval will come.

    Tomorrow we have 40 days left.  I am hoping they issue the letter on the first day they receive it.  The tracking number says they should receive it on 7/8/14.

    I believe big things are going to happen in this 7th month of 2014.  I have a thing about the number 7.  My father-in-law started it years ago when we discussed the numbers that show up in the Bible over and over again.  Numbers that had special meaning and were considered holy.  The number 7 and the number 40 are two of them.  The number 7 is used in the Bible 735 times.  Seven is considered the number of completeness and perfection, both physical and spiritual.  So tomorrow on the 7th month of 2014 with 40 days left, it would be a perfect day to receive our very next step, don’t you think?

    Here is a devotional I received from our social worker a couple months ago.  As I have said before, I love quotes and inspirational sayings.  I love words that move your heart and encourage you.  This devotional brought a smile to my face and encouraged my heart in trusting where God was leading us.  We didn’t plan on having 14 children, but I love the way God works.

    2014 is a powerful year of “Double Portion.”

    The number “7″ means “Perfection.” 

    The number “14″ means “Double Perfection”…a Double Portion!

    Isaiah 61:7,

    “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

    Everlasting joy will be yours.  I like those words because it means joy in the Lord.  It doesn’t mean that every day will be easy or filled with happiness.  It means that I will be content and filled with joy in the Lord for following His lead, knowing this is the journey we are meant to be on.  That is a special kind of blessing.  One I don’t take lightly.  You’ve heard me say it before….

    I am, without a doubt, seriously blessed.