• Life Changing Moments

    Date: 2019.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey | Response: 0

    7 years ago my life was changed forever.

    I was so clueless.  So absolutely clueless as to what goes on in the world.  And you know what?  I’m still pretty clueless.  I have no idea what it means to live in a war torn country.  I have no idea what it means to not be able to worship God.  I have no idea what it means to have nothing and dig through the garbage to find enough plastic to make some money to feed my family.  I never had difficulty going to school.  I haven’t been trafficked or sold or tortured or starved.

    I’ve complained of being hungry – but I truly wasn’t.  The next meal would come and it would be varied.

    I’ve complained of not having any money.  And although that fact was true for a week or so, the next paycheck would come.

    I’ve complained of my living conditions and I should have been ashamed.  The windows worked, the walls stood, the roof didn’t leak.  I was warm and safe.

    I’ve whined and moaned and griped and I shouldn’t have.

    Seven years ago my world was turned upside down.   A year prior to that I was talking about why we couldn’t adopt.  I was talking about how I was too old.  We didn’t have the money.  I wasn’t right for the job.  My excuses were a mile long and they were all about me and my selfish self.

    My life was changed by the words spoken by Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”   I cried buckets of tears and we moved forward with adoption.  We read the books and prepared ourselves as best we could, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my heart when we met Ben and Maisey.

    They threw Maisey at me.  Literally threw her at me and walked away.  She had these big, beautiful eyes that were afraid and sorrowful and broke my heart.  I can still feel her in my arms.  This sweet, little girl who just sat on my lap.  She didn’t cry.  She just laid her head on my shoulder and ate her cracker.  Every once in a while she would look up at me so seriously.  She was taking it all in.  She was and still is the most observant and loving child.  And somehow during that first day of her checking me over, I passed.

    Ben came to us not much later.  He had this hoarse little voice.  He weighed 19 pounds at the age of 3 1/2.   He went straight to Dan.  He didn’t cry.  He just sat there and and drank his box of milk.

    We went back to the hotel and expected tantrums and crying.  We were prepared for the worst.  But we found two little souls, who had never met before that moment, that took care of each other.  Dan had put a bunch of snack foods in one of the dresser drawers.  Ben and Maisey stood at the drawer of food and just looked.  They carefully took pieces out and smelled them, and then they ate for the better part of two hours.  Ben would cry if you moved the food, but he constantly shared with Maisey.  Ben just needed to be holding the food or looking at it.   He did this for 6 months after we came home.  6 months of sleeping with food or a bowl or utensils.

    I learned that I never truly knew what it meant to be hungry.

    Ben and Maisey didn’t love us instantly.  I’m not sure that’s even possible.  Although, I do know what it means to lose your heart at the mere sight of a picture.  Love takes time I get that.  But they did feel safe.  So safe in fact that the very next day when we visited Ben’s orphanage, he wouldn’t leave Dan’s arms.  The nannies tried to coax him into coming to them.  The nannies tried to make him smile.   But Ben wouldn’t have it.  He laid his head on Dan’s shoulders, pulled Dan’s arms tighter around him, and refused to budge.

    I learned I never truly knew what it meant to be alone.

    That was the moment everything changed for me.  I went to China believing we could help another child.  We didn’t need to add to our family, we already had 6 children.   We knew, however, that our house would never be empty.  Codey would live with us forever so couldn’t we possibly open up our house to one more child?

    China opened it’s program up to allowing two at a time and we decided if we were going to adopt we should adopt two.  Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect.   Our agency sent us Maisey’s papers and we chose to adopt her and then they showed us their listings with other children with more needs.  Dan saw Ben’s picture.   We had been praying for a little boy that we had nicknamed Tigger and there he was.

    Ben’s orphanage was a nice clean building.  It had a playground and therapy equipment and many other nice things.  But what it didn’t have was the love of a family.   Love of a family can come in many different ways but it brings with it the knowledge that you belong.  You have a warm place to fall.  You have somewhere safe to go.  You are loved.  The fact that you matter to one person changes everything.

    Adoption doesn’t always go this way.  Time in country can be brutal.  You are jetlagged, the noises and food are different, the child may not even like you.  I get that.  I understand the hard.  Believe me our trip the next year was almost more than I could handle BUT…

    We can NOT lose sight of the fact that children should not be raised in institutions.  Children need families.  I will never say that everyone is meant to adopt.  I know that’s not possible.  BUT I do know that people could do more.

    I feel guilt that it took me so long to have my eyes opened.  I could have done so much more.

    Let this be the day that we all open our eyes a little wider and do something.

    Become a foster parent.

    Adopt.

    Help support a family that is adopting.

    Support local families that foster.

    Take meals.  Send a gift card.  Encourage them on their path that can be just as hard as it is beautiful.

    Together we can all make a difference one child at a time.

    #EveryChildCounts

     

  • J.J.’s Make A Wish (part 2)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica | Response: 0

    When we started this process, we had heard that wishes can sometimes take a while to be fulfilled.  We were prepared to wait for months but everything seemed to just fall into place.

    In December we agreed that her physicians could nominate J.J. for a wish.  In January we heard that her wish had been granted.  At the end of January, Brooke and Marcy visited and went over all the paperwork and figured out what J.J.’s wish was.  We had the reveal party on the 14th of February and were prepared to wait until the end of March or so for the install.  Imagine our surprise when Anna, from Make-A-Wish, called to ask if they could do the install this week.

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

    When J.J. decided on her wish we agreed that we would use the sunroom for her playplace. The room has lots of windows and is sunny and bright.   It also has a peaked 18 foot ceiling.  It’s a narrow room but it’s where the kids love to play.  We hired a great guy to put french doors in the two big entry ways leading to the living room and dining room, and to put in a door to close off the back end of the room so it could be a contained space for everyone to safely play.

    When we were discussing the plans with Brooke and Marcy, Dan mentioned how much J.J. wishes she could play on the playplaces at restaurants.  J.J. is very small and she scoots around on the floor. It’s hard for her when bigger kids are running over her.  Her immunosuppression makes everything more difficult too.  We try to keep her away from anyone who is sick.

    Honestly, unless you meet her in person, it’s hard to even imagine how small she is when she is sitting and scooting.  As you can see she’s a tiny girl.  I had made this picture when we were trying to show her size to the grant committee.  J.J. is 11, Maisey is 8, and Evie is 7 in this picture.

    Dan mentioned again how it would be wonderful if we could make something like this happen for her.  I couldn’t even let my mind go there.  I know that those playplaces are expensive and thought there was no way something that awesome could come true.  Dan told me to just see what God has planned for J.J. and not limit what we think they can do.

    Imagine my surprise when they sent the original plans.

    We taped the dimensions off in the room and showed the kids where it would go.   We thought we had a clue.

    HOWEVER, we did not…

    These two guys have been at our house for three days, patiently answering questions and having little eyes sneak peeks around the corner at them, while they were installing this beast.

    I don’t know what to say.  We are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

    They made a dream come true for a little girl, who has been through more than any child should ever have to endure, and her very, very, very excited siblings.

    The laughter and fun that this will bring to her life is absolutely…

    PRICELESS!

    No more boring recesses at the Ellsbury home school.

    I wish I could share with you the squeals of delight we heard for hours tonight.

    Don’t let Max’s face fool you.  He had more fun on the playground than anyone else.  He ran and ran and ran through the tunnels and down the slide and across the monkey bars.  He just never, ever smiles in pictures.

    They will all sleep well tonight.

    J.J. is beyond thrilled and so very happy.

    I think her smile says it all..

    Thank you Make A Wish Iowa  and  Go Play Systems for making our little girl’s dream come true!!!

     

     

  • Make A Wish J.J. (part 1)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica | Response: 0

    In January 2018, J.J. received a new kidney through a transplant.  While J.J. was in the hospital recovering, her doctor informed us that she could be granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation.

    We gave it much thought, and for many different reasons had decided not to proceed with the wish.  Every month or so we would have an appointment and they would ask us if we had considered J.J. getting a wish.   We would politely say that we didn’t wish to proceed.  One day J.J.’s doctor asked us why we weren’t proceeding with the wish.  We told her our reasons and she simply said, “It isn’t about the gift as much as it’s about making J.J. feel special.”  Her doctor then asked, “Doesn’t J.J. deserve to feel extra special with all that she’s been through?  If you feel guilty about the cost, just donate it back to Make A Wish at a later date.”

    We went home and thought about it some more.  We weren’t even sure J.J. would understand what being granted a wish meant.  We didn’t try to explain Make A Wish (MAW) to J.J. but we did ask her what she would do if she could have any wish she wanted.  Her answers were so sweet, but we couldn’t make any of them come true.  I wrote about this conversation on Facebook.  Here is that post from October 2018.

    When I put the kids to bed at night I like to ask a random question just to hear everyone’s thoughts. Tonight I asked Maisey, Evie, JJ, Elyse and Grace the question “What would you wish for?”
    Elyse – No more orphanages.
    J.J. – A family for every kid.
    Maisey – No more mean people.
    Evie – I would wish to be a genie so I could make everyone happy.
    Me – No, I mean a wish you could actually make happen.
    Elyse – To Travel the world and save a million souls.
    JJ – No more stealing little girls.
    Elyse – Yes, no more slavery of any kind.
    JJ – To adopt a baby.
    Evie – To have a pet zebra that I could hug every day.
    Maisey – To be tiny so I could ride a butterfly.
    Me – Does anyone have any wish that could actually come true?
    Elyse – An underground playplace where Grace and I can secretly hang with our friends.
    Me – That’s a little closer to something that could actually happen.
    Maisey – I am gonna be a ninja.
    Evie – I am just gonna make people happy myself I guess.
    Grace – A car would be nice. I can drive in 3 years.
    JJ – But mama I don’t need anything.

    Over the next month we would randomly talk about wishes.  I explained to Grace what was going on and she would just say to J.J., “No, a wish that could come true. You know like when I wished for a car.”

    In December her team at the hospital informed us that if we were going to do a wish, then we would have to proceed soon.  J.J. needed to be nominated within the first year of her transplant and we were fast approaching the one year mark on January 1st. We decided to let them nominate J.J. and see if she would even be granted a wish.

    After we received the letter granting J.J.’s wish, we decided to be honest with J.J. and ask her about specific wishes.  Make A Wish sends out a book and paperwork that you can ask the child questions about.  We asked her about celebrities she wanted to meet – there weren’t any.  We asked her about traveling – she said, “I’ve already been to Disney.  I didn’t like it very much.”   We asked her to consider if there was anything that she could think of that she really wanted.  It could be a big wish.  She just had to let us know and she could draw a picture if she wanted to.

    She came to us first asking about helping orphans.  We told her that we loved her heart but this needed to be a wish that could be granted and that we, as a family, would always do what we could to help orphans.

    She came back to us with the idea for an indoor playground.   She drew out her pictures and told us what she wanted and why she wanted it.

    REASONS WHY SHE WANTS AN INDOOR PLAYPLACE:

    • Big play places have big kids that run her over and scare her.
    • She is supposed to try to not get sick.
    • Her brothers and sisters would love it.
    • She wants to surprise her brothers & sisters.
    • It’s cold like half the time here.
    • She likes to play with her brothers & sisters.

    WHAT SHE WOULD LIKE IT TO HAVE:

    • Low monkey bars that her and Elyse can do.
    • Rock climbing wall with one of those soft things you can fall on for Maisey.
    • A swing.
    • A lookout tower to see the tall windows.
    • A slide.
    • Tiny play house

    Her request was just so sweet and well thought out.  It was hard to say no after that.  Dan and I thought long and hard and decided to let her have her dream.   Well, honestly it didn’t take long to make the decision after seeing her sweet face excitedly tell us all about her plans.

    The best part of all of this is that she wanted it to be a surprise.  She has been so cute keeping her secret. I have to admit that it has been almost as much fun watching her plan her secret as when she was granted the wish.  Brooke and Marcy, volunteers with MAW, came out to our house to ask J.J. questions.  J.J. told them what she wanted and why she wanted it and they were so excited for her. My favorite part of them asking her questions was her answer to how do you see your wish playing out?   J.J.’s answer was so sweet.  She said she could see her brothers and sisters saying, “Wow J.J.!  You are really good at keeping secrets.  This is amazing!  You are the best!”  She could hardly contain her excitement.

    Brooke and Marcy told her that they were unsure if they could make that wish come true but that they would really try hard.  It wasn’t a wish that they had ever had before.  They asked her for a second option in case they couldn’t make the first wish come true.  J.J.’s request for her second wish was to adopt a baby.  Brooke and Marcy told her that they couldn’t make the second wish come true.  They asked her if there was anything else and J.J. told them no.

    Marcy and Brooke talked to J.J. about what they would do when they told her siblings.  They came up with a plan to have a reveal party so that J.J. could surprise her brothers and sisters with the plans.  Marcy and Brooke asked her if she wanted a pizza party, or cake, or cookies?  J.J. asked if she could have a Slim Jim and Pepsi party.  That was a first for them I think.  lol

    What can I say the girl really likes Slim Jims…

    We had been told that wishes can take a long time to be planned.  That they would let us know when they heard anything.  We were so surprised when just a few weeks later MAW called and said that they found a company willing to work with them and they had a plan they were sending our way.   It was amazing!  We couldn’t wait to show J.J.

    Marcy and Brooke emailed and said that we could have a reveal party.  I told them our son and family would be home from Wisconsin next weekend and asked them if that was too soon to have the party.  They were beyond kind and agreed to having a party on very short notice.  We decided not to tell J.J. about the party so that she could be surprised too.  We would have her play down in the basement with her siblings and then Grace, who was in on the secret, would bring her up and we would surprise J.J. and then we would bring up everyone else and she could surprise them.  Marcy came up with a great idea where everyone got an envelope and inside the envelope was a picture of the playground.   J.J. had them hand out the envelopes and then she counted to three and had them open the envelopes.

    In hindsight I realize that we probably shouldn’t have surprised her.  She needs time to adjust to things. I remember when we gave her her first wheelchair.  She sat in the chair and cried for an hour because she was so overwhelmed with the gift.

    She was very quiet during her party.  She was happy but I could tell something wasn’t quite right.  After it was all said and done I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that she was just so happy that she was having a hard time not crying and she didn’t want Marcy and Brooke to see her tears and think she didn’t like her party.

    So now we wait for the very special date when they will install her playground. We have heard that it could be as soon as next month.  I still can’t believe this is happening but this is one gift that will be used over and over again.  In the plans, J.J. got her low-to-the-ground monkey bars, a covered slide, and a tunnel to hide out in.

    J.J. picked the perfect gift.  She has such a sweet heart.  Dan and I LOVE the way she included everyone in her idea.  I can’t wait to watch them play and hear their laughter while they enjoy J.J.’s gift.   We are going to call it “J’s Play Place” so everyone remembers to be thankful to their sister who included them in her dream.

    Thank you  Make-A-Wish Iowa for making one very special little girl’s dream come true.

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2019.02.25 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Here’s this year’s blog from 28 Days of Hearts.

    28 Days of Hearts

     

  • My Plea This Christmas!

    Date: 2018.12.20 | Category: Love Without Boundaries, Making a difference | Response: 0

    LIVE INTENTIONALLY!

    I know Christmas time is crazy.   Rushing around, trying to find the perfect gift, fighting the crowds and wrapping all those gifts.  I know that people feel overwhelmed by the meals and the visits and the activities.   Well, I’m here to say it doesn’t have to be that way.  I realized after we adopted the kids that too many gifts overwhelmed them and they couldn’t even remember what they got a couple of months later.  So we decided to do less.  I searched the web and found many different ideas about gift buying for Christmas.

    We settled on something to read, something to wear, and something to share as a family.

    It’s great because it allows me to find gifts throughout the year and just put them away.  It stops my kids from making huge lists of things they don’t really want but think they do because someone made a commercial about it or put it in an ad with bright, shiny colors.   It brought Christmas back to what I feel is important, celebrating Jesus’ birth and being together as family.

    My very favorite part about this is that when we are out shopping, the kids don’t point to everything saying they want it.  They look and if they see something they really like they ask me to put it on their list for their birthday so they don’t forget.   They always say, “My birthday is to celebrate me and Christmas is to celebrate Jesus.” I like that Christmas isn’t a “me, me, me” time for them.

    I say all of this because I want you to think about what is really important.  All around me there are people I know who are fighting cancer, whose children have recently passed away, people who are widowed and feel alone, people who are struggling.  People are what matter.  People NOT things.

    My time with Love Without Boundaries and adopting our children has completely changed my life.  Before these things I had no clue that so many children went without an education.  I had no clue that your hair, that should be dark, could actually be a reddish/gold color because of malnutrition.  I had no clue what it meant to live without a family.  What it meant to go without medical care.  I had no clue that some children live their lives in a dump and dig hours upon hours a day trying to find recycling material to get enough money to have a meal that day.  I had no clue that so many children were trafficked.  I had no clue that children as young as 6 were babysitting their siblings while their parents worked.

    I lived in a bubble of comfort.  I still do.  I have so much and so many others have so little.  It breaks my heart.  I am no more deserving of these gifts than anyone else.  I truly believe if you have been blessed then you should share.

    So here is my plea this Christmas…

    1.)  Look for that lonely person in church and reach out a hand.

    2.)  Look for that family that could use just a little more help and be that help.

    3.)  Don’t forget the people who are hurting who have lost a loved one this year.  That first Christmas without the one you love is brutal.  Let them know you remember.

    4.)  Look all around you for little ways to help others.

    5.)  Consider fostering or adopting.   So many children are waiting for a family of their own.

    6.)  Give to local food banks, Toys for Tots, and other local charities.

    There is so much need all around us.

    And now for my final plea…

    Please consider a year end gift to Love Without Boundaries.  Yes, there is need all around us.  Yes, we should be doing all we can to ease that need but the need in some of these other countries is so unbelievably overwhelming.  Please consider helping a child get an education, feed hungry children, provide medical care.  We have many in our program that the only meal they get is their school lunch.  We have helped children who once spent all day digging in the dump who finally get to go to school. I am telling you that if you give money to LWB it goes where you want it to go and does what we say it will do.   Check out our website LOVE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES

    Go and be the light you want to see in the world.   Go and be that change!   Go and just do something!  The gift of giving lasts a lifetime!!!

     

     

  • The Wake Up Call Part 2 – by Mom

    Date: 2018.12.09 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    A few weeks ago, I was driving my daughter’s car, I hit ice on a bridge, the truck in front of me slammed on his brakes, I hit the brakes, and Cassie’s car spun out on the ice.  I ended up hitting the guardrail and stopped facing oncoming traffic in the middle of the left lane.   The Deputy Sheriff was already there and yelled for me to get my car to the ditch.  I couldn’t see because I had lost my glasses.  Luckily, Cassie’s car was still driveable, so I was able to put the car in reverse and get to the shoulder, before any other cars went by.  The deputy then jumped in the car and moved it for me.  It was a frightening moment but I was unhurt and so very thankful.

    —————————

    It’s hard when your child is so mad at the world.  It’s hard when they spew their anger all over you.  Connected parenting works.  Some days I applied it really well.  On too many days though, my feelings were hurt.  I know you aren’t supposed to take it personally but someone telling you over and over again that they hate you and that they wish you weren’t their mother weighs on you.  Doubt sets in.  I wondered what I was doing wrong.  I would wake up, forgive, and start again but we seemed to be stuck in this awful cycle of non-connectedness.

    Jasmine would push.  I would try to respond in love.  She would push harder.  I would try to keep calm.  She would up the ante and push more.  I would be angry or cry.  I liken it to being attacked by a mosquito.  I was able to handle it for a while but those constant little jabs just wore on me.  After hours of being stung, I wouldn’t stay as calm as I needed to be.  The tears would come.  After about a year I realized that is what Jasmine wanted.  She needed that response.  She needed me to be angry.  Because when she was angry, she didn’t feel the guilt of the words she had said and the things she had done.  Angry was a safe place so she would do whatever it took to get in a fight.  When I wouldn’t respond to whatever she was doing, she would do more and more until she got the fight she was looking for.

    As time wore on, I began to feel like I had failed.  I mean how can someone come from such a horrible place and not want to be here in our home?  I understood the pushing away part.  I understood the not trusting a “mother” figure part. I understood not wanting to be hurt again.  I had read the books. I got it.  It  was the not wanting a family and wanting to go back to China that I had a hard time with.  It wasn’t until years later that I would understand she wanted to go back to make them take back their angry words and say they were wrong.  She wanted them to say she wasn’t worthless.  She didn’t want to leave us and stay in China, she just wanted revenge.

    There’s a quote going around right now that says…

    “Remember – Everyone has a story that will lead to defiance or misbehaving.  9 times out of 10 the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry.  It will break your heart.”  – Annette Breaux

    I believe this fully but it was getting harder and harder to keep that in mind as time went on.  Weeks turned into months and months turned to a year, then two years, then three, and now its been almost four years.  We couldn’t find a way to break the cycle.  The more Jasmine misbehaved, the guiltier she felt, and the angrier everyone else got.  The more guilt she felt, the more she needed to be angry to not feel that guilt. The more no one responded the harder she pushed.  She would misbehave, others would react, forgiveness would be given, and then it would all start again.  It went on and on.  It was an awful cycle.

    The rest of the kids were angry because they couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t stop and why she hated me.  They didn’t understand why she could do and say the things she did to me.  They hated their orphanages too, but they didn’t hate me so they couldn’t understand why Jasmine did and said the things she did.   They hated that it made me sad. I tried really hard to not let them see my tears.  I said over and over again that we need to forgive and I showed them by forgiving.  But no matter how many times I said, “We need to forgive because Jesus forgives us.” it got harder and harder for them to do that as time went on.  I reminded them often that there may be a time in their future when they will need the same grace and mercy and they would want their family to support them through their hard times too.  We all need forgiveness.

    My hardest part through this whole thing was I felt like I was enabling Jasmine.  I couldn’t find a way to make it stop.   Jasmine never, ever said she was sorry. There was never any remorse on her part.  So we would move through this dance.  I would say that I don’t want to play this game any more.  Jasmine would laugh and say the things she usually said.  She would scream and yell mean things for days and once she had finally let go of all her anger she would want to start over.  Since Jasmine is unable to move we couldn’t do any of the physical stuff to help her release her anger.  We gave her many options to help with her anger but she wanted nothing to do with any of them.  She would just finally be done and expect me to be happy and just move forward. I could do that most of the time but as the years wore on, it got harder and harder to do.  Things were getting worse NOT better.

    When I had my accident, it was a wake-up call for me.  I had decided that no matter what happened with Jasmine, I was going to do all things in love.  That was what made me the saddest.  I was having a harder and harder time being patient and calm and filled with love.  I had just decided I was going to be as loving as I could be no matter how mad or sad my heart was.  Sooner or later she would see that I truly loved her or I was going to go to my deathbed trying.

    After the accident and spending the day at the adoption conference with Cassie, I went home to tell Jasmine what I had decided.  I was going to start over once again.   I wanted a new start.   I was hopeful we could once and for all stop this cycle of anger.

    BUT…

    Jasmine stopped me in my tracks.  She had heard about the accident and had been thinking about it.  She cried and cried. She asked for forgiveness and told me over and over again that she loved me.

    This was an answered prayer for sure.

    Both of us needed God’s forgiveness.  Both of us needed His grace and mercy.

    I love Jasmine so much and as a mother having your child say they hate you is one of the worst things ever.  It truly is.  It broke my spirit.  The things she said hurt so much.   I had a very hard time with not taking it personally.  I failed as often as she failed.

    But now there was a way to move forward.  I feel like a new person and so does she.  She was very brave to share her feelings and give me that gift for my birthday.  Now I want to share mine.  I have many things to be sorry for over the past four years.  I added to the drama.  I tried hard but failed too often.  I wasn’t as patient as I could have been.  I raised my voice when I should have stayed calm.

    We have a beautiful family.  Dan keeps reminding me of this fact over and over again.  Yes, there was drama with Jasmine but everyone else is doing pretty darn good.  But isn’t that how life is?  Nothing is ever completely good or completely bad.  There is joy with the sorrow.  There is laughter along with angry words.  There is death and new life.  There are really, really good times along with the bad.

    My hope in sharing this story is that others find forgiveness too.  That it doesn’t take a major accident or illness to finally reach you.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  If you have things left unsaid or undone, please take this time to do what you need to do for peace in your heart.  All things can’t be fixed and I get that, but knowing you did everything you could possibly do is a way to bring peace to your heart.  I am praying for healing for those who need it.  I am praying for the strength for you to try one more time.    I am praying for love and happiness to surround your table this holiday season.

     

     

     

     

     

  • My Wake Up Call by Jasmine

    Date: 2018.11.20 | Category: Jasmine's Blog | Response: 0

    The past four years I have been very angry about the fact that I can’t walk. I have been angry that China told me I could walk if I go to America.  China lied.  I wanted to walk and make them say I am NOT worthless.  It made me so sad and mad.  I have been really mad and I always take my madness out on my family.  I hurt them and I treat them really badly.  I said lots of mean words to them and I made them feel very bad.

    I have been really, really, really mean to my family and especially to my mom.  I hurt my mom’s feelings.  I have been really mean to her and said lots of hurtful words to her.  I told her many times that I didn’t want her to be my mom. She always forgives me because mama says God forgives her so she needs to forgive too.  She always does nice things for me and I took that for granted.

    I would be mean.  I didn’t want to admit I’m wrong or say I’m sorry.  I always chose the wrong choice instead of being nice.  I would feel really guilty because I thought I could never fix it and that my family wouldn’t love me any more even though they said they did.  I always made up my own story in my head that they didn’t love me and would want me to go away.

    These past weeks, I have been praying to God to ask for His forgiveness.  Mama said that I needed to forgive myself first because everyone else already forgave me.   I wanted God to help me take away my guilt because I felt so bad about what I did and I needed His help.   I know God knows what I did and that He’s watching me.  Mama said, “Christ paid for my sins and none of my family wanted to see me sad. They just want me to be part of the family and be happy again.”

    Every night I would think about it and decide to do the right thing in the morning but when morning came I would wake up and still do the same thing.  I kept praying and praying and asked God to give me one more chance.   On Saturday mom went to an adoption conference.  On the way there, she got into an accident.  The car spun very fast on ice and she hit the bridge.  I felt like I could have lost my mom.  But mom is still here and I am really glad that my mom is alive.

    I am really grateful to God that He gave me one more chance to make it right.  Thank you God!  I am so grateful for my mom and I love my mom so much.  What if my mama would have died?  What if I missed my chance.  I would have spent the rest of my life filled with regret and sadness.

    I want to be part of my family again.  This was my wake up call that I might not have tomorrow to make it right.  I’m so glad my mom is still here being my mom.  I’m really thankful mom always gives me one more chance.

    Thank you mom!  I love you!

     

  • Happy Birthday Hope

    Date: 2018.04.15 | Category: Hope | Response: 0

    19 years?  Where has the time gone?

    This sweet girl was brought to our family by nothing less than a miracle.

    Her story is amazing and so is she!

    She takes animation courses online and really loves anything that deals with art.

    Her hair color changes often and always looks amazing!

    She was recently accepted into Aveda Institute’s esthiology program.  She has always had a passion for makeup and skin care.  She is excited to see how these classes help her in her SFX makeup.  I am looking forward to her helping me with my skin care.  (Hint. Hint.)  8 sisters to practice on.  She’s going to be light years ahead on volunteers to practice her craft.

    She has the extra benefit of taking a very small class (15 kids) with one of them being her very good friend, Grace.

    She’s been friends with Peter for years and years now.

    She loves hanging out with her friends at church.

    She loves her puppy, Snickers, that she’s had forever.

    And her new puppy, Ripley.

    We celebrated her big day by eating out at HuHot.

    She doesn’t like cake so instead went for the “taco” birthday cake.

    Maisey and Hope both LOVE to draw and will draw any where, including at the doctor’s appointment for their yearly physical.  Birthday buddies share birthday physicals.  We know how to have fun in this house.  hahaha

    She went out to eat with her homeschool advisor to celebrate her birthday, getting into Aveda, and her upcoming graduation.  Ms. Deb has been with her since the beginning of her schooling.   It’s funny how people come into our lives and become like family.

    We are excited to watch her head into adulthood.  We feel unbelievably blessed that we have been given the joy of parenting her for 19 years.

    Happy birthday Hopey!

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • National Sibling Day

    Date: 2018.04.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    Once upon a time I wanted a very large family.  I thought 12 kids would be so much fun.   I’m not sure I ever told Dan this when we were dating.  I probably figured I would scare him away.

    Our first two babies were such an exciting time.  Dan and I found out we were having twins.  All was right with the world.  We were over the moon excited

    And then life happened…

     

    Codey – 2 pounds 7 ounces

    3 pounds 8 ounces – Kyle

    And then the world just seemed to stop as we buried Kyle and spent 14 months in the hospital with Codey.

    I absolutely guarantee you I was NEVER going to get pregnant again.

    But God had different and much better plans.

    We found out we were expecting when we were still in the hospital with Codey.

    What a gracious and good God we have.  Zach was such a wonderful sibling for Codey.

    Playing with Zach!

    And I was done!

    But then Dan said, “You’ve always wanted a little girl, Lisa.”  And I started to dream…

    And we had sweet Cassie and our family was complete.

    But then Dan heard about a little girl who needed a family and we decided to proceed with Hope’s adoption.

    And our family seemed complete again.

    I’m seeing a pattern here…

    And

    And then came baby Gracie.

    And once again our family was complete.

    Until Dan thought we should adopt again and after my reluctant foot dragging, I agreed.

    And then we adopted Ben and Maisey…

    And we knew that we were done growing our family.

    But after seeing all the little hearts waiting for families, we knew our family was not complete.

    So we added Jasmine, Lainey, Evie and Eli.

    This brought our children to that magic number 12.  We were so happy

    and said we were SO done.

    Until we set out to adopt another older girl because Jasmine dreamed we could do more.

    And Max and Elyse joined our family.

    The magic number 14.  2 sets of 7 and 7 means completion, perfection.

    We were done!

    But God and Elyse and Gracie had different plans.

    Liam and JJ brought us to number 16.

    15 children here on earth who get to care for each other, pray for each other, play with each other.

    We try hard to cultivate a feeling of belonging and connection.  We want them to have a safe place to grow and learn and find out who they are and what their purpose is.

    Praying that they are always there for each other no matter what.

    I know I won’t always be around but I love the fact that they will always have each other.

    Happy National Sibling Day!

     

  • The Year of the Dog

    Date: 2018.02.18 | Category: Family Life | Response: 0

    Our children love to celebrate Lunar New Year, which is the Chinese New Year!  We make all their favorites – chicken feet, steamed buns, potstickers, rice, noodles, and many other spicy dishes.  They look forward to this holiday and it is fun decorating our house and learning more about their birth country.

    This year is the “Year of the Dog” and our family set out to do it right.  Ok, not really, none of this was really planned.   Here is how the story played out.

    This past fall we set out to get a puppy.  One of our older dogs had a stroke and we had to let him go.  Everyone was sad that Sammi was gone.  Snickers, our other eight year old dog, seemed very sad and alone.   Snickers is a cockapoo and one of the best dogs around.   Dan and I had never been big fans of indoor or small dogs, but Snickers won us over.  We initially got him for Hope when she was about 12.  We had hoped that as she entered her teenage years she would come to understand what it meant to care for something else and be responsible for the care of this animal.

    Snickers and Hope have a sweet bond.  Snickers is seriously the best dog.  He knows who needs hugs.  He knows who is getting sick.  You can always find him sleeping next to the person who needs him most.  So when we set out to get another puppy we looked for a cockapoo and hoped for find one with the same personality as Snickers.  We found this sweet puppy and fell in love.

    She is a blue merle cockapoo puppy that is bouncy and ready to please everyone.  Gracie is who she has bonded with and Max and Lainey help to care for this sweet, smart puppy.

    As we were deciding to purchase Doodle, Dan asked if J.J. could hold the little white teddy bear puppy.  The teddy bear puppy climbed on J.J.’s lap, licked J.J.’s face a couple of times and fell asleep in J.J.’s arms.  Suddenly it looked as though we were purchasing two puppies.  I mean how do you say no to this?

    Lily is her name and she is a sweet, little puppy.

    Evie Faith and J.J. take care of Lily and make sure she gets lots and lots of love.

    After being home for a few days, we noticed that Doodle was going to Gracie and Lily was definitely J.J.’s puppy which left Elyse, who also shared a room with the girls, without a puppy.   Dan and I watched Elyse and could tell she was feeling left out even though she never said anything.  Dan started searching for another puppy.  I mean at this point one more puppy wasn’t going to make a lot of difference.  Right? Hahaha

    Dan brought up the idea of another puppy.  Elyse was talking about how she loves golden doodles and she loves their curly, apricot hair.  Elyse is very active and loves to go fast in her wheelchair.  We knew Elyse needed a puppy that was playful and could keep up with her.   Dan found this pretty little girl and we made plans to go get her.

    Elyse named her puppy Noodle.  Maisey and Elyse love Noodle, who is very laid back and eager to please.

    While I was looking at the site, I noticed there was one more puppy available.  The little brother to Noodle.  I asked the owner about him and she said there were a couple of people trying to decide if he was the right puppy for them.  I loved his sweet face.  The owner told me about his sweet disposition.  She even mentioned that he would make a great therapy puppy.   I tried to talk Elyse into getting this little guy but she was set on her puppy.  I guess I looked like I needed a puppy too because Dan told me to tell the owner that we would take both puppies.

    So now I have a puppy too.  His name is Paladin and everyone loves him.  He is mellower than mellow.  He truly is such a sweet puppy.  He is just the right puppy for Jasmine to hold on her lap.  She isn’t able to hang on to much, but he is so chill he just calmly sits on her lap.

    Ben and Liam help in caring for Paladin.  The truth is everyone LOVES Pali.   He’s just a sweet puppy.

    While we were picking up Paladin and Noodle we noticed a little beagle puppy that the owner was holding.  She said this beagle pup was the runt of the litter and they had to keep him separated.  I told Dan to hold the puppy but he refused.  He was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to say “No” to this face if he actually held the puppy.  We already had four puppies and we certainly didn’t need anymore.

    But as you can see that didn’t last long…

    Dan has wanted a beagle puppy since he was little.  Hope started talking about having a puppy too and how she would take care of it.  We were worried about the puppy getting along with the other dogs and whether he would be a howler or not.  We talked to the owner and she said that this puppy was sweet and was known to whine for attention but wasn’t a big howler.  Hope convinced Dan that if the puppy didn’t get along with the others that she would take him to her apartment when she moved out in May.

    And Ripley came home with us the next week.   Hope and Eli LOVE their beagle pup.

    All the puppies get along great.  Someone asked how we get children and puppies to get along.  I wish I had some great advice, but I don’t.   It just seems to happen.

    Here is how they sleep.

    The puppies have brought a little more chaos into the home but a whole lot more love too.  Watching the kids and puppies play together is so dang cute.  They chase each other in circles around the house.   The puppies even snuggle up next to Lainey and give her some love.

    The puppies hang out with the kids during school time.

    And they even like to go for rides in the bus.

    Our puppies certainly give new meaning to the “Year of the Dog” but all in all it’s been a wonderful adventure and I wouldn’t change a thing.   Five puppies isn’t really as crazy as it seems when there is this much love to go around.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    May peace and love fill your heart, beauty fill your world, and contentment and joy fill your days!