• Jasmine’s Dream (Part 1)

    Date: 2015.05.19 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    As you know, Jasmine and I have been talking a lot these past few weeks.  It has been hard for her to give up hope that she would one day walk.  Slowly losing the use of your body is a lot for a 16 year old to accept.  Dan and I have decided that she needs something bigger than herself to dream about.  She needs hope to be able to help.  She needs to know that she can still achieve much and help many children.  Her hope is that one day there will be no more orphans.  She wants to keep families intact and help those children, that are hard to place, get adopted.  We are working on “Jasmine’s Dream” and soon we will tell you all about her goal.

    Jasmine has been praying for four children specifically.  She has actually been praying that there is still room in our home for more, but right now that doesn’t seem to be where God is leading.  Although, I have learned long ago to not say no to God so you will never hear me say, “We are done for sure!”  One never knows where God will lead.

    Our family has been praying for Superman, Baby Hope, Summer and the little girl that Jasmine was in the orphanage with.  There are children that you see on the advocacy sites, that steal your heart for whatever reason.  For example, when we were adding a second child to our adoption, there was one little girl that I just couldn’t get off my mind.  I kept praying for a clear answer and the answer was never yes.

    I kept thinking how can it ever be wrong to adopt a child?  I kept asking God to make things clear.  The “let’s fix this now” part of me wanted to go get her now, but I knew in my heart she wasn’t meant to be my daughter.  She has now been chosen.  I have seen pictures of her new family.  I have read the words leading up to their decision to submit their Letter of Intent. (Ridiculous Faith)  I love how God works and yet I have shed tears over a little girl that was not meant to be ours.

    I mean really who wouldn’t want to call this child daughter?  Who wouldn’t want to stand there and have this little face look up to yours expectantly?  Who wouldn’t want to shower her with unconditional love and help her to be the very best she could be?

    poppy

    Many have looked at her file and walked away.  Her physical beauty and big personality could not put them at ease.  There were just too many unknowns in her file.  That’s the problem with adoption.  There are so many unknowns.  We can’t imagine being able to handle the physical or mental disabilities.  We look for the easiest problems, the fixable things.  We look for things we are comfortable with or already know.  I have talked many times about the fact that I’m not sure what I would have said if I had known Lainey or Jasmine’s true diagnosis before we got to China.  I’m not sure I would have taken the chance.  I mean who would sign up for their child slowly fading away with a degenerative muscle disease or pick a child who cried all day and beat her head on the wall especially when their lives were already so complicated?

    I can guarantee you that Kyle dying or Codey being in the hospital for 14 months was not what I wanted.  If I had been asked beforehand, I would have adamantly denied that I could handle it and walked away.  BUT Codey and Kyle changed my entire life…they changed my walk with God.  My relationship grew.  My life was fuller.  My viewpoint clearer.  My priorities changed forever.  Those two things made me who I am today.  Who would I be if I hadn’t walked that journey?

    The point when God asks us to follow His lead, isn’t that we can handle it.  It’s just the opposite.  It’s to show how much we need Him.  God’s glory is shown in our weaknesses.  It’s only when we say over and over again “Only with God” that people take notice.

    Each time God asked us to step out in faith and we saw how being obedient to His call blessed us and grew our relationship, it made following through the next time we heard the call just a little bit easier, until we got to the point that we didn’t question it when He called.  We were that sure that God’s way (the unknown – the difficult – the faith growing) was so much better than our way (the comfortable), that we said, “Okay God.  I have no idea how this is going to work, but let your glory shine!   We trust you!”.

    Jasmine knows what it means to be overlooked.  Jasmine knows what it means to almost have time run out.  Jasmine knows what it means to sit in an orphanage day after day after day.  Jasmine knows the scars that slowly build up on your heart over time and the overwhelming fear that can cloud your mind and because of these things Jasmine dreams of doing more.

    She has asked over and over again what we can do.  She prays for these children and the others left behind.  Recently Gracie and Jasmine asked me about sending their allowance to two of these children who have funds set up.  Their families have stepped up, even though their child’s future is uncertain.  Two of them have traveled and one will travel soon.  Jasmine and Grace chose to give their allowances to these children.  They talked about how there was nothing that they needed and what better use would there be for their money?  Won’t you consider helping them?  Superman’s family will travel soon and the families are already in country with Baby Hope and Summer right now.

    This is what we are called to do as Christians.

    We are called to care for the widow and the orphan.

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

    We are called to give away our possessions:

    Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  Luke 12:33

    If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  1 John 3:17

    We are called to bear each other’s burdens.

    Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

    We are called to help each other and not just encourage with words.

    What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:14-17

    What are you living for?  Life on earth is but a small portion of eternity.

    Francis Chan – Rope

    How are you going to finish?

    Francis Chan – Balance Beam

    Make your life matter.  Leave a legacy.  Don’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow may never come.  Dream big and let God provide!

     In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”   Acts 20:35

  • Choices

    Date: 2015.05.12 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    A day of pain from missing my mom.

    A day of immeasurable joy.

    A day I hope I will always remember.

    A day I wish I could forget.

    A beautiful, loving, wonderful day – the best Mother’s Day ever.

    A horrible, rotten, “wish I had never gotten out of bed” day.

    That is what my Mother’s Day was.

    I had both ends of the spectrum.

    I was surrounded by my children and beautiful words were written especially by my husband.

    my kiddos

    “This is Dan, adding a post on Mother’s Day. I’m always amazed by the strength of mothers. In my work, I see so many moms that are so committed and devoted to their fragile children. The love warms your heart and gives you hope for the future.

    And then I look at Lisa, and I see that girl that I have loved since I was 15. I remember all the pain we have gone through with our children, the crushing grip of death, broken dreams and the scars of abuse. I see the sacrifices that she so willingly makes – day after day, night after night. Putting her family first – always teaching, healing, loving, and caring. Never too tired, always ready to give – never because she “has to” but always because she “wants to”. She has been pushed to her limit and beyond during the past few years. Discovering the depth of the trauma that some of our kids experienced in China, grieving the loss of her own mom. These things don’t get better. But she just keeps “showing up” and giving all of our sweet children exactly what they need – a mom who loves them unconditionally and completely.

    Our kids are seriously blessed to have Lisa as their mom and I am seriously blessed to be her husband. Thank you to all the moms out there that keep “showing up” and giving your kids that most precious gift – a mother’s love.”

    Isn’t that what life is though?  Tough and beautiful all at the same time?   I wanted to wake up to a clean house.  I wanted to not have to do anything.  I wanted breakfast in bed after 8 straight beautiful hours of sleep.  My expectations were not met.  My house wasn’t magically clean when I woke up.  I didn’t get 8 hours of straight sleep.  (Although, Lainey was gracious enough to give me 5 straight.)  I didn’t get breakfast in bed, but instead was up hours before anyone else getting ready for “my” day.

    Choice – Be happy about 5 hours or be bitter about not getting to sleep in.

    I will admit the foot stomping two year old in me was there for a moment.  My day wasn’t going according to my plans and I was as cranky, but then I took a moment, opened my eyes, and looked around.  I saw my beautiful, hand-drawn pictures from all my kiddos.  I saw flowers in vases, some that were purchased and some that were hand picked.  I was given some beautiful notes written in my Mother’s Day book.  (Last year the Cassie started a journal where ever child writes something on a page for Mother’s Day.  It’s a beautiful keepsake.)  Elyse reminded me again how happy she was to just be able to say the words “Happy Mother’s Day” to her very own mama.

    As the day went on, Cassie made a wonderful birthday lunch for Max with all his favorites. We played outdoors where the kids ran for hours in grass that was way too long because it needed to be cut, but the lawn mower had been broken. Reece had the great idea to cut a winding path in the grass and the kids ran for hours on this path. Something that had been driving me crazy all week, extra long grass, ended up being the most fun ever for the littles.  The ran and ran and ran around the path.  They were so joyful.

    Choice – to fret about unmown grass and all the other things left undone or to fully enjoy the moment in the sunshine with my blessings.

    The night took a turn for the worse when Jasmine started acting out again.  Every once in a while she has a really hard time.  Every once in a while she turns into a child that you would never recognize.  The things she says are hurtful and mean.  She lashes out and none of it makes much sense.  Children who have spent most of their lives in an institution act out for the strangest reasons and sometimes it is hard to figure it out right away.  Why is she lashing out?  Is it because she is remembering her grandma or grieving her lost mother? Why won’t she just tell me why she is hurting?  When they won’t open up it makes life hard.  You want to scream.  You want to return the favor with some harsh words of your own, but you can’t.

    You remind her daily that she has a choice to be happy or sad.  No one is responsible for her happiness.  She has a choice to find her purpose and live life fully or watch it pass her by.  She has the choice to trust God and His plan.  She has the choice to make the world a better place or to make those around her miserable.  She has the choice to discuss what is going on.  She has the choice to love her family and participate or sit on the sidelines.  She has the choice to trust us or live in fear.

    She has a choice and so do I.

    Choice – to let the few hours of discontent ruin my day or to keep the right perspective and remember all the blessings I have had throughout the day.

    Choices!  We all make them every day some intentionally and some by default.  Not choosing is in itself a choice.  I have the choice to respond in anger and discipline or I can teach.  Jasmine has not been taught how to process the pain.  Jasmine has not been taught what to do with her anger.  She is much like a toddler – acting out, throwing words around, stomping her feet.  Would I expect a toddler to reason with me and work through her problems.  NO!!!  I remind myself that daily with Jasmine.

    Choice – to show grace and loving correction and teachings or angry words and discipline.

    Love is a choice.   God tells us that in His word.  He wants us to be content.  He wants us to choose joy.  He wants us to love our neighbor and pray for those who persecute us.  None of these things are easy but we always have that choice.  We can choose to see our lives any way we wish.  We can dwell on every negative thing that ever happens or we can see the beauty in each and every day that we have been gifted.

    Nothing in life is perfect.  Nothing ever goes exactly as we have planned.  Nothing ever lives up to our dreams and preconceptions.  My daughter recently wrote a blog called ” My Own Little Holland“.   If you have ever read the poem called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Kingsley (which is included in my daughter’s blog post), you will understand what I am talking about.  If you spend the rest of your life upset that you didn’t get to Italy, you will never fully appreciate living in Holland.

    Choice – to be angry, bitter, upset about all that I can not control or to remember each and every day that I am truly seriously blessed to be allowed to parent these beautiful children and to hear the word mama a hundred times every day in my own little Holland.

     

     

  • Beauty amidst the Ashes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    jazzy

     

  • At the feet of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Evangeline Faith

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

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

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

    Princess Evie.

    Princess Evie turned 4 years old on March 25th.

    Pigtail cuteness

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

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

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

    But for Evie turning 4 is a miracle.

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

    She had a mouth full of pearly white teeth

    evie pink

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

    Evie Gotcha Day

    We knew she was sick.

    26 months old.

    13 pounds.

    Wearing a size 9 month baby sleeper.

    Unable to sit or crawl.

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

    evie hands

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

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

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

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

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

    She was using all the energy she had for living.

    And that’s what little Evie does….

    SHE LIVES.

    SHE LOVES.

    She radiates warmth and goodness and compassion and fun!

    Evie faith

    She rambles.

    She giggles.

    She dances.

    She sings.

    She shouts.

    She pretends.

    She knows those ABC’s and 123′s!

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

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

    We shouldn’t have taken it.

    We were already set to adopt two.

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

    She was waiting and she needed a family now.

    They wondered if maybe we would consider it.

    We were waiting on Eli’s papers.

    We had been waiting for months.

    Maybe they would never make him paper ready.

    Dan read her file and was scared to death.

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

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

    Why not take a chance on love?

    Evie 3

    Why not take a chance on life?

    the littles

    Thank God for the words “why not”!

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

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

    Many aren’t as lucky.

    Many still wait.

    What are you waiting for?

    Take a chance.

    LIVE!

    LOVE!

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

    So shout it out!

    Faith is a beautiful thing.

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

    Evie & Eli 3

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

     

  • Jasmine’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    mom and Jasmine

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

    back 3

    She was released from the hospital six days later.

    Jasmine going home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    jazz

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

    pic line removal

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

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

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

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

  • Happy Birthday Gracie

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Grace | Response: 0

    Gracie and boo

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

    420142_526799807355656_1316086332_n

    Where has the time gone?

    Gracie has had an eventful year.

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

    A sister who was also 9.

    Gracie & Elyse

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

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

    Gracie dreams of adopting 20 children

    or

    being a neonatologist like daddy

    or

    going to China and caring for babies at New Hope.

    Gracie doctor

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

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

    She was diagnosed with lupus over 3 years ago.

    Gracie butterfly rash

    She has been in remission now for over a year.

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

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

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

    She is such a blessing.

    She is caring and kind.

    She is the best big sister.

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

    Gracie fund raiser

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

    LWB Heroes

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

    I love that about them.

    They know they can make a difference.

    What an empowering thing!

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

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

    We could all learn something from this little girl.

    I know that I already have!

    Happy birthday sweet butterfly!

     

  • Believe me…you don’t understand!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Elyse 15

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

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

    Elyse 14

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

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

    Max 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Elyse & Daddy

     

  • A Call to Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    post it note wall 1

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

    Will it show pictures of people you encouraged?

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

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

    Will it show widows who were helped?

    Will it show communities who have clean water?

    Will it show children who were adopted?

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

    Will it show surgeries that were completed?

    Will it show souls that were saved?

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

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

    Brayden

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

    Nathaniel

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

    Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2015.02.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

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

    Hope, Benjamin, Evie and Elijah