A little boy that did better than anyone expected. (Today he has walked down the halls, had his chest tubes and i.v.’s taken out, and even smiled. UNBELIEVABLE!)
A little girl that we were told was deaf but can hear enough to dance to the music.
A little girl who now understands love and has learned how to give kisses.
A little boy that has blossomed and grown.
Exciting proposals and new additions to the family.
Family that becomes best friends.
People coming together to help others.
Shaved little heads that now hold enough hair for big sister to do a silly hairdo.
Siblings that get opportunities to make great memories together. (Hope loves special effects make-up. Cassie took her to be a zombie extra in a local movie.)
Big siblings that love their siblings enough to take care of them when mommy and daddy have to be gone with someone who is sick.
Husbands who support you, dream with you, love you, and make you laugh for more than 29 years.
Friends, family and others who encourage, support and pray for you.
Meeting people who have majorly changed your lives. (Maria’s Big House of Hope, New Hope Foundation and the Chapman’s daughters words that made me rethink being too old to adopt.)
Thankful, blessed, grateful, overwhelmed, and humbled – all these and more.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!
We woke up bright and early to be at the hospital at 7 a.m. for surgery. Ben wore his Superman shoes, cape, t-shirt, coat, and hat that big sister, Cassie, had knit him. He ran to the door and said “Let’s go fly in the airplane mommy!” I was prepared for a fight but he didn’t get upset. We talked about trust and faith. We talked about what it would mean for him to feel better. I asked him if He trusted God’s plan for him and he said, “Yes! Ok, let’s go mommy!” We headed off to the hospital where he was pretty happy right up until they asked him to take off his cape.
You can’t ask SuperBenBen to take off his cape. They quickly gave him a nice dose of versed and Ben was soon happy again. A drug that removes the memory of going off to surgery without your parents and puts a smile on his face, is okay by me.
We had updates throughout the day that things were progressing as planned. At around 2:30 Dr. Del Nido came out and told us the good news. Ben had tolerated it fairly well. The were able to switch the great arteries instead of doing the Senning procedure (atrial switch), they took care of his PDA, did the pulmonary artery banding, and left his VSD alone for fear that he would go into heart failure if they fixed it. He had a fair amount of bleeding but we were expecting that with his platelets being in the low 20′s.
Many people have asked why we went to Boston. It has been a very hard decision. Most children with Ben’s defect that are born in the US get fixed at 7 days of age. There aren’t a lot of 5 year olds with uncorrected TGA out there. We chose to go to a place with the highest volume of kids that are older getting repaired. There are quite a few good hospitals with a high volume of heart surgeries across the US. With Ben’s repair, it came down to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and Boston. Dr. DelNido did the best job of answering our questions and Dr. Marx was very kind towards our family and our situation. So off to Boston we went.
This afternoon we are praising a God that would give Benjamin a hope and a future. We are thankful for every day we have had with this little guy. He truly is the sweetest soul. ’Who knows what the future will hold for our little guy but we have now given him the best possible hope for a longer life.
He will be sedated for at least 48 hours and then they will start waking him up and see what happens.
In just a little bit, I will post a picture on this post of his pink fingers. His oxygen saturations were 100% for a while. I’m still waiting to be let into the PICU, but as soon as I see those fingers I will be doing a happy dance and I will share that joy and the picture with you.
Thanks again for all the encouragement and prayers! We are truly blessed to have so many prayer warriors on our side.
This whole trip is about hope. Hope for Ben to be pinker (his sats are in the 65-70 range). Hope for a longer life, a healthier life. Hope when we had none. Hope is a beautiful thing.
We had a horrible flight from Chicago to Boston. A flight that was bad enough that I started writing a long text to Cassie telling all the kids how much I loved them. I was determined to send it before I died. There were no announcements from the cockpit. We were in the very back row and the stewardesses were saying things like, “Why are we going back up? Why is this taking so long? Why are we still over the water? This is the worst flight I have ever been on.” You know the usual nice comforting words you are wanting to hear when you frightened. And to top everything off in a plane that was eerily quiet, there were the lovely sounds of vomiting all over the place. It was quite the ride.
I have never been so happy to hear the words, “Welcome to Boston.” Ben on the other hand walked out of the plane like he was going to a _______. I could not for the life of me remember what this saying is so I asked Dan to look it up while I continued to type. What is the phrase he gives me to use? ”He came off the plane slower than a one-legged dog on tranquilizers.” I need a book on phrases, that’s all I’m saying. And yes, I have chosen to be married to this man for 29 years. We celebrated our anniversary by flying to Boston. We truly know how to have a good time.
Ben drug his feet and slowly went down the aisle. The stewardesses asked if he was okay. They had seen him enter the plane, skipping down the aisle, telling everyone down all 37 rows, “Hello”, especially the girl in row 21 who was wearing a Superman t-shirt. I told them he didn’t want to be in Boston because he was having heart surgery. They said they’d pray for him and he got a little boost in his step.
He did pretty well the first night. He was doing great at pre-op until anesthesia came in with their scrubs on. Then it was all bets off. He just kept saying, “Hey, let’s go get on that plane. That would be fun. Let’s go home. I miss the kids.” and mommy’s heart broke.
I am thankful for the chance for Ben to get healthier. I feel blessed that there is hope and that God has provided so wonderfully for him. It is still hard though. But to ease my mama heart, we have had numerous “God winks” through the whole trip.
We checked into the hotel and they handed Ben a book called “Where’s Hope?” and a little bear named Hope. He was thrilled and since this whole trip is about Hope, I thought that was very fitting.
Remember the little girl Paige we saw on our last trip? Well, we even rode the elevator with her. What are the odds of that?
We have had people, who I barely know, tell us that they are praying for Ben. I am always humbled and blown away by this fact. The number of people who care about our children just amazes me. Miss Deb, the children’s homeschool advisor and family friend for over 10 years now, celebrates her birthday tomorrow. What does her Facebook post ask for? It asked that if you were going to wish her a happy birthday she would be thankful but she asked everyone to say a prayer for little Ben too. Friends that we just met on our last trip to Boston, friends we have never met except through Facebook, and friends that we have had for a long time, have shared Ben’s story and asked for prayers. These are the kind of friends that we have. The kind of people who care and pray and comfort us when our hearts are fretful.
I’m not worried because I believe Ben is in the best hands and I believe that God has more in store for my little guy, but I am also at peace knowing no matter what happens Ben will be healed. I will see him again. God is good and I trust His plan. I know this plan is perfect. There is great peace in giving up control (which I only delusionally thought I had) and trusting in God’s plan no matter what it may be. The peace you get when you finally just follow God’s lead is amazing.
But it doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t hurt. It hurts when he begs to go home. It hurt when I was scrubbing his little chest with the pre-surgery scrub knowing that this would be the last time I would see it without a big scar. It hurts knowing what he will be going through. There will be pain. There will be fear. There will be anger. Those all hurt a mama’s heart because we always want to make things better and we know a kiss and a band-aid isn’t going to fix this one.
We have been told that they are taking the more conservative route. They will be doing the arterial switch with pulmonary artery banding. They are going to leave the VSD alone because they are worried about it causing heart failure. We have to be at the hospital at 7. They said it will take 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours to get him ready and 5 hours for the surgery and then they will close him and take him to the PICU. They are planning on keeping him completely sedated for 3-4 days. They have told us to plan on 10 days if everything goes perfectly.
Thank you again for all the prayers and well wishes. Thank you for being part of our families story. It truly is humbling and overwhelming and so comforting during this time.
Those are the words that Jasmine said to me one evening as we were getting ready for bed. I was curious as to how I could love more and asked her about it. Jasmine then informed me that “Yes, you can love more sisters.” This brought a smile to my face and being curious I asked her, “How many more sisters could I love Jasmine?” Oh, two mei mei and two jie jie mama. I have room my room.” I smiled at her, loving her for her big heart and said, “Could we wait until the kids’ surgeries are done Jasmine? Could we take some time and pray about it?”. To which she replied, “Oh yes mama, I pray.”
This story very accurately shows Jasmine’s heart. From the moment we got her, it has been almost all smiles. Her smile lights up the room. We worried about her because she didn’t seem to be sad about leaving the orphanage. Shouldn’t she have been sad about leaving her friends? The language barrier makes it difficult to figure out what she was really feeling so we worried we might be missing something. Jasmine was told by the orphanage workers and even our guides to be a good girl, to not make any problems, to be happy, to not be naughty, etc. Over and over again people said these words to her. We actually made it a point to have the guide tell her that no matter what happened we would love her. No matter how sick she got, no matter how naughty she was, no matter what….we would always love her and she would always have a home.
While in China, we asked our many different guides to ask her if she had any questions for us. Over and over again she would shake her head no. Dan and I were curious as to why she didn’t question anything. We’d ask her if she wanted to know about our house or our family and she would just say “No!”. It wasn’t until the very last day that she said she had a question. We knew it was going to be a tough question because as soon as Jasmine asked it our guide started to cry. Jasmine’s question was “Can anyone take me from my family when we get to America?” That is the only question she had. We wondered why she would ask that? What had happened when she was 7? Did her family abandon her? Did an elder family member decide she was cursed, take her, and leave her somewhere? Did they abandon her for medical reasons?
Imagine being almost 14 years old, completely unable to care for yourself, and trusting this family, whom you’ve just met, to take you to another country. I can’t even imagine. Jasmine had to trust us for everything right from the beginning. Cassie and I carried her to the restroom. We had to help her completely with all her cares. Try to picture that. One day you are with your friends and all that you have known for the past 6 years and the next day you are in a hotel room with total strangers, trusting them for food and for care. You can’t just run away if things are bad. You don’t speak their language. You spend every moment relying on these strangers. They carry you every where. They pick your food. They dress you. They bathe you. You can not even sit up in bed without their help. You are at their mercy.
Yet, Jasmine has always had that smile on her face. Jasmine understands silly which was a good thing. Cassie and I do silly very well. We sang in the bathroom. We danced. We did whatever we could to make it silly and not uncomfortable. We used a hodgepodge of Mandarin, English, signs, and over-exaggerated faces and hand movements to communicate. Yet, she went along with everything. She sang when she could. She danced. She would just look at you and smile that 100 watt smile. All the awkward I had feared never came to be.
Jasmine was extremely quiet. She didn’t make any loud noises. She hung her head when we were in public. Although, I had wanted to take her shopping and out to the park while we were in China, we ended up spending most of our time in the hotel room. It was just so hard to take her anywhere and not just because things weren’t handicapped accessible. Many of the people in China look at disabilities as a curse. They stare. They come right up into your space and will say things to you. We would be eating meals and people would just shout stuff at her and she would hang her head. Whenever we were waiting for the van, we would build a wall of people around her to protect her, people came over and just stared, sometimes for 20 or more minutes and still, she smiled.
I couldn’t wait to bring her to America where she might be stared at, but people would not treat her like an outcast. Cassie took her to Village Inn for her first meal out and the lady wanted to know what Jasmine wanted to drink. The waitress got down at Jasmine’s level and Jasmine lowered her head. The lady asked her if she wanted water, juice or milk. Cassie said Jasmine’s face just lit up. She raised her head and got the biggest smile on her face. That was the beginning of her understanding that things were going to be different.
Jasmine shares a room with Gracie. They have become very good friends. I find them huddled under the covers at midnight watching Chinese soap operas on You-tube. They communicate with Google translate, and a hodgepodge of all the other languages used in this house. Gracie and Jasmine have gotten very good at communicating with each other. Jasmine has opened up and started sharing things with Gracie.
My mama and my baba (bio parents) didn’t love me, but my mama and my daddy (Dan and I) love me very much! On Facebook I posted this story and wrote that her parents didn’t like her. Dan asked me why I wrote like instead of love. I thought about it for a long time and realized it was just too hurtful to put those words on paper. What child should ever believe that their parents don’t love them? How is that even possible?
My parents started to not like me when I was about Mei Mei’s age. When she was a toddler, she understood that her parents had an issue with her for some reason. She probably started getting clumsy and losing motor skills around that time. As I’ve said before, it’s hard enough being a girl in China, but being a disabled girl is a bigger issue yet.
I don’t want to be sick like nana. We know that Jasmine must understand in her heart that what she has isn’t fixable. She cries and doesn’t want to be ill like my mom who has spent the last 45 days in the hospital.
My friends and I used to sneak the little ones into our bed when they were scared at night. Jasmine shared a room with two of her friends. We asked about them but they are not available for adoption. I think this story shows how Jasmine and her two friends were the big sisters of the orphanage caring for the little ones. (On a brighter note, we just received notice that the “little girl in pink” that I wrote about when we traveled to China is now being adopted.) Jasmine talked of hiding the little ones in her bed when it stormed. Jasmine is a very good big sister and I know she was loved by many of the little ones in the orphanage.
My friends and I were often hungry. We would get food two times a day.
I shared before the story of how we brought a summer outfit and a fall outfit along with a light coat for every one of the children in Jasmine’s orphanage. When we showed her, she asked if we could go back to her orphanage and hand out the clothing. We drove the five hours from our hotel to her orphanage just so she could do this and it was wonderful. It was like Christmas morning. Jasmine handed out clothing to all the little kids and she had a great time.
Jasmine is a sweet, sweet girl. I keep waiting for those usual teenage behaviors but so far they haven’t shown up. Jasmine has, however, cried. I remember thinking that was a huge step forward. She didn’t feel like she needed to keep up this facade. She trusted us enough to let her guard down and let her emotions show.
The times she has cried have broken my heart though.
She cried, sobbing tears, when we were at her eye appointment. They were showing her letters on the screen and she was so proud of herself. All of a sudden, she didn’t know a letter. They handed her a card with the letter H and three other letters and asked her to point to the right one. She didn’t know and she cried. When we asked her why she was upset, she said, “I was scared because I didn’t know the letter.” I don’t know what has happened in her life that would bring sobbing tears from not knowing a letter but it can’t be good.
She cried when we took her to get fitted for her wheelchair. They were discussing needing a tilt mechanism on the chair and the doctor said, “for when she gets worse…” Jasmine understood that and cried. I think she knows in her heart that it isn’t going to go away, but I hate taking that dream from her. How do you explain to this child that she will progressively get worse. That she will lose more and more motor control. That someday she will die from this disease. I hate this.
We went to China thinking she had a cyst on her back that made her a paraplegic. We thought we were going to go get a teenager and teach her as much as we could, send her to college and watch her live these big, grand dreams that she couldn’t live in China. Instead we will slowly watch her die. I hate that, but I hate the thought of her spending her last days in an institution even more. I hate the thought of her being alone even more. I’m not angry that we didn’t know her diagnosis because truth be told, I most likely would have said no and Jasmine deserves the love of a family.
She cried when she told Gracie that her friends are often hungry. Which brings me to a big part of why I am writing this post. Love Without Boundaries just started a nutrition program at Jasmine’s orphanage. We were excited to see this and we have started sending a monthly amount of $100 to help out. This brought the biggest smile to her face. Then Gracie asked what if we did the same thing for Jasmine that we did for her during Lent? What if we could show Jasmine how much she has raised to help her friends? If Jasmine’s story or her smile has touched your heart, won’t you consider sending any amount to this fund. We asked LWB set up an account, much like Gracie’s, so she can watch the amount go up. We want her to feel like she is doing something tangible to help her friends.
Please won’t you consider helping Jasmine raise money to feed her friends. Our goal is to match the $100 per month that we have already pledged for a total of $1,200 raised during the next 6 weeks. We have been assured that this would be a huge help to the orphanage. The links are listed below. Thank you in advance for praying about this need.
or you can donate through PayPal
Zachary has been patiently waiting for the right girl for a few years now. He has always had it in his mind that he would find a girl that shared his faith, who would be his best friend, care about his family (and not be afraid of his big family), and they would start a life together. Zach moved to Florida to get his Masters degree. He moved back to Iowa after interning at EA Sports because Gracie was sick and he wanted Maisey and Benjamin to know him. (Little did he know then that there would be even more littles to join our family.)
It’s hard when you are a 24 year old man who doesn’t drink, but you’d like to meet some people who share your interests. Zach had been praying for that for a while. He wanted to meet some friends, who liked video games like he did, who shared his same values, weren’t into partying or hanging out at bars, etc. One day I was talking to a new 10 weeker that had joined our 7 a.m. class at Farrell’s. He seemed like a nice guy. We talked on and off about our faith and a little about our families. One day I mentioned how hard it was for Zach to meet new people. Our church was very small and most of Zach’s friends had moved away or he lost touch with them. Fritz invited Zach over for a game night with his group of friends. They hit it off and a friendship was started. I love the way God works. How He places people in your life at just the right time. After Fritz and Zach were hanging out for a while, Fritz told me that he knew lots of single girls in Zach’s age group from church and they (Fritz and his wife) said that they would figure out who would be the best match for him. I laughed. Blind dates don’t usually work, but they said they had had some luck in this match making area and would get back to us. On New Years Eve they invited both Zach and this new girl over for their annual New Year’s Eve party. Zach knew about the match making. Stephanie did not.
But to the joy of everyone involved, Zach and Stephanie hit it off. They dated. Zach commented over and over again how comfortable he felt with her. He would say how easy it was to talk to her and how he just really liked her. Time went by. He brought her over to meet his siblings and she didn’t bolt out the door upon entering the chaos that can happen with 11 children in the house. Even when he explained all that was going on with the littles, she was supportive. The littles love her. They run to the door, yelling “Stephameme!”. They hug her and all ask to be held. They all fight over her lap and she just goes with the flow.
All of this leads to today. It was a very big day. Zachary proposed and Stephanie said “Yes!”.
Now this is all very sweet but I really wanted to share the back story of how the proposal came to be. Zachary really wanted this to be a sweet proposal. He had considered some big flashmob idea, but Steph doesn’t like surprises all that well and he was worried he would embarrass her around people she didn’t know. He decided to propose at Brenton Skating Plaza because that was where they had their first dates. He had been talking with the staff there and found out they had a package you could buy to do just that. He picked out his song, Philip Phillips “Home”. They had it set for him to propose right before the zamboni polished the ice during intermission. It was all set and he was so excited. He had been counting down the hours on his phone until 2 p.m. today.
He had worked it out so Stephanie’s parents, two of her sisters and her niece and brother-in-law could be there. Dan and I and all our kids were set to be there along with grandma, Linda. It is no small feat to get all of us somewhere. We couldn’t say we were going skating because that wouldn’t be believable. Ice skating with two children with thin blood would not be a good idea. The littles, Jasmine, Dan, Mema and I were going to hide off in the distance in our “invisible” bus and watch from afar. We were all set.
On Friday afternoon the manager called and said the rink would not be open this weekend because it was too warm. Too warm on November 17th in Iowa. How is that even possible? The manager asked if Zach could just do it next week. Zach said he would love to, but he couldn’t. His parents would be traveling to Boston for Ben’s open heart surgery and all sorts of finagling had to be done to get Steph’s sister off of work. Zach was disappointed and tried to figure out a Plan B.
Meanwhile, the rink manager called back and said he had a plan. What if he could get Zach 30 minutes on the ice at Wells Fargo Arena? Could he get Stephanie there? Zach was thrilled, but how to get Stephanie there without her figuring it out. It was no longer an outing to take Gracie and Steph’s niece to skate together. Now it was private skating time. Cassie came up with a great idea. What if we told Steph that Zach had a special plan to celebrate Gracie being well now after being diagnosed with lupus two years ago? It was right before Thanksgiving two years ago when she went in for her bone marrow biopsy because they thought she had leukemia. Gracie is still taking her chemo drugs along with many others and will be for a while, but she had been doing so well. What if that was the reason for the change? What if Zach said that the people at Brenton were so touched by Gracie’s story that they allowed us to do this? What if it was all about one last hurrah before Ben’s surgery?
Well, the plan was in place. We headed off in our bus to the skating plaza to get our skates. Both families got on the bus and we headed to Wells Fargo. We were taken in through the dock doors and the best news…..the littles, Codey and Jasmine didn’t have to watch from the bus. They got to go in. They got to be part of the whole thing. And the people at Brenton went above and beyond, they even brought Tinkerbell to celebrate Gracie’s health. Gracie and Jasmine were thrilled. Ben loves Tinkerbell because of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Hope was even excited because we often call her “Tink”.
What a gloriously wonderful day! Have I mentioned before how seriously blessed I am? It’s not often that our whole family can be part of gatherings. It’s complicated with Lainey and Codey and Jasmine being in the wheelchairs. But today they opened the big doors to the ice arena, put up a ramp, and invited Codey and Jasmine to take their wheelchairs on the ice. It’s hard when your children feel left out. It’s hard when they are constantly on the sidelines watching others do the things they wished they could do, but not today. Today they were part of the group. Today they had fun!
Zach proposed. The families celebrated.
Even the littles had fun running up and down the aisles between the stadium seating.
I have to give a big shout out to Brenton Skating Plaza. They went above and beyond with all their plans. They could have easily said, “Well, we are sorry. Here is your money back. Wish we could have helped.” But instead they thought outside of the box. They listened to Zach and worked hard to make things work. They met us at Brenton. They took us to Wells Fargo Arena. They patiently stood by while we unloaded the bus and took forever to get our children into the arena. They made the day not only for Zachary and Stephanie but for all my middles and littles. All the way home Jasmine kept saying, “I had really, really, really, really, fun mama! I want to go again. Can I go?”
We were all feeling blessed to be a part of this wonderful day and can’t wait for Zachary and Stephanie to start their lives together. Nobody is happier than Steph’s niece and Gracie though. They have been planning from the very beginning to be cousins and now they have their wish. It wasn’t too long into their dating that Gracie said “She’s the one, Zach” and Steph’s niece announced to Zach at one of their first family lunches that “Hey, if you marry Steph then you get to be my uncle.” Zach had set up a lunch meeting with her dad to ask his permission for Steph’s hand in marriage. Zach was nervous about what to say. He kept saying, “I know this is right. I just want to say the right things so he knows my heart.” Gracie said, “Just tell him that Stephanie is wonderful. We all love her and we want her to be part of our family.” Out of the mouths of babes. God is good. We are blessed!
Congratulations Zachary and Stephanie! May your life together be seriously blessed!
Disclaimer: Before we even start, I want you to know I don’t want your pity. Truth be told, I don’t need it, I truly live a very blessed life and I know that. I am grateful everyday for what I have been allowed to be a part of. That being said, I have been told quite a few times this past month, that I only see the good, that I have a Pollyanna attitude. So I thought I’d share….
I wake up and I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s overcast, gloomy, the house is still quiet, a great day to just pull the blankets back up over my head. But then it starts, Lainey is yelling, and she will not go back to sleep. The day has started too early. I’m tired of long, hard days. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of watching others around me exercise (I miss my 7 a.m. workout buddies), and take vacations and watching others just hang out and have fun with their friends. I’m tired of trying to find a moment to bathe. I’m tired of the noise, the chaos, the dirty house. I’m tired of scratches on my floor, dust on the shelves, and the fingerprints that are EVERYWHERE!!!!
My usual day starts at 5:30, 6:00 if I’m really lucky, and goes non-stop from there until I fall into bed at 11. It starts with oral feedings and tube feedings, dispensing medications and shots to be given, then there’s the diaper changes and clothes to change and breakfast to prepare. Codey needs a bath. At 9 its time to get Jasmine up and transfer her out of bed, to the bathroom, help her get dressed, brush her teeth, etc. At 9:30 school starts and there’s work to be explained and corrected, little ones to teach and sing with, speech therapy and English to learn. All of a sudden lunch needs to be prepared, cleaned up. More school work, nap time for the littles, chores to be done and dinner to prepare. In between all of that there is laundry and dishes and more tidying up than I care to think about. Tube feedings x 5 and oral feedings for two x 5. There’s more diapers than I care to count and dirty faces to wash.
I get all excited when it’s time for bed, but then I remember there are 5 littles that I need to bathe and change and brush their teeth. They’d like a story or two or three Then it’s Jasmine’s turn, teeth, bathroom, clothes changed, transfer to the bed. Give Evi her shot. Tuck them all in. Sing them their songs. And then finally….bed. Glorious, wonderful, warm, soft bed.
And then…..Lainey wakes up. She rages. She yells. She doesn’t sleep. Every hour on the hour she is up. Last night it was 12, 1, 2:15, 3, 4:20, 5:30, and up for good at 6. Others take shifts when they can. But I’ve had three days of it in a row and I’m not as young as I used to be. And Evie is scared at night, Ben is having nightmares because he has surgery coming up, and all the littles seem to know something is up so everyone is a little more stressed.
I have read those books that say God doesn’t expect you to be so busy. I’ve read the articles about alone time and me time. But I wonder what could I cut out of my days right now? And heaven forbid I even joke about being busy. Do you know what the first words out of people’s mouths are? “Well, you asked for this. Don’t be complaining about it.”
BUT……sometimes a girl just needs to vent.
The house is a mess. My to do list just keeps growing. There are school papers to check and winter clothes to get out, summer clothes to put away. The yard is a mess. The car is sticky. The garage won’t hold a car. I’ve swallowed my pride more times than I care to admit when people visit because it is rare to find this house clean. Five littles move a lot of toys around. Five littles can make a very big mess. They laugh, they play, and I like it. I like it more than I like the crazy person I would have to be to keep it clean. So…..my house is messy.
But knowing what I know now, being as tired as I am, you might ask, “Would I still sign up for all of this again?” And the answer is “YES!” Yes, in a heart beat. Because when I take my eyes of “me”, I see the beauty in the miracle of all of it. Truly I do. I have listened to others who are angry and bitter because they didn’t know the extent of their child’s illness, but I am thankful. I am thankful because I know I would have said “No” if I had seen what Jasmine’s medical condition really was. I would have believed that I was too busy and left it for someone else to come forward. I would have said I would pray and then tried to let it go. I would have not signed on for Lainey’s autism either. I know I wouldn’t have. It scares me. I have watched friends go through terrible times. I’ve heard their tears as they sobbed about having to place their child to protect their other children. I know what may be in store for my sweet little Lainey, but I also know what her life would have been like in China. And she has made progress…real progress. Just yesterday she said “Dada”.
It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that I would have said “No!”. “No” because I am not strong enough. “No” because I am weak. “No” because my plate was full. And in saying “No” I would have missed the biggest blessing. Jasmine is joy and light and everything right with the world. Think about what you complain about every day and then compare it to her life. And yet she is happy. Truly happy. When I think about what she will go through, I want to scream at the unfairness of it all. But instead I will thank God for bringing me to her so she will never be alone again.
I am overwhelmed by worldly standards that say I should be fit and have a six pack, and my house should be clean, and I should wear the newest clothes, and be fashionable, and drive an awesome car, and live in a immaculate home, and travel the world, and retire when I’m 50. I should be sitting on the beach, drinking an umbrella drink or bettering myself in college or, or, or….. The list goes on and on.
I am overwhelmed when I listen to that voice that says “I’m not enough.” “I’m not as good as….” When I look in the mirror and I see an older me, a heavier me, a “man it would be nice to style my hair” me. Lainey was the tipping point for me. If Lainey was sleeping, I would have handled this all with relative ease. I’m pretty good at organizing. I’m pretty good at mothering and staying on top of things. Lainey and her lack of sleep has made me know that I am not enough. I have to ask for help and if you know me you know that I absolutely detest that. Truly I do, but it’s not about me. The Lord has placed all of this on my plate because for too long I have been in control except for times of crisis, for too long it’s been about me and what I could do.
But now….without Him….I wouldn’t make it through my days. Through Him I can be strong. Because of Him I know what is important. Because of Him I have been “gloriously ruined”!
I look at them and I wouldn’t change it. Not at all. Who would I not take? Where would they be? Life is busy. Life is hectic, but I have family that is so helpful. I have family that love each other and loves to be together. What a blessing that is. So when I am overwhelmed and tired, I remind myself that the only thing I can control is my attitude. I pick myself up and I look for the good in everything. I sit and laugh and play. I remember that I am not guaranteed tomorrow so I will appreciate today. I have fun each and every day. I laugh because I am surrounded by silly.
And then there is a quote from Katie Davis that I read whenever I feel overwhelmed.
“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.”
This is the truth. Not what the rest of the world would have you believe. It isn’t about me. It isn’t about the kids. It is about serving the Lord. It is about living my life as unto Him. He called. I followed out onto the ledge. Dan and I have talked each other out onto that ledge many times because we believed what God was calling us to do. The journey is not perfect. The journey has been hard. This journey though is blessed and beautiful and amazingly wonderful. I am tired but I am blessed. I rarely lose sight of that fact and when I do His word brings me back. So no I don’t have a Pollyanna attitude. I don’t even have my head in the clouds. I know how hard my life is and still I feel blessed because among the hard is so much beautiful my heart can barely hold all the love that I have been given.
So as I said before, please don’t ever pity me. I am living the life that I chose and love with all my heart. I have a husband who I adore who shares my dreams. I hear “I love you” more times each day than I can count. I have been blessed by beautiful children with the sweetest of souls.
So no pity, but you can, however, wipe up any fingerprints that you feel lead to clean, but please don’t ever date the dust because who knows when I will get to that.
Sometimes a blog post gets stuck. You know what you want to say but you can’t find the words to adequately do it justice. There are just so many emotions wrapped up in it that you can’t even begin. I have been feeling that way the past couple of weeks. I have written and rewritten this post so many times. I have given up on trying to find the perfect words and decided instead to just write.
Friends, that we now have the privilege of knowing through the magic of Facebook, fought the hard battle to get their little girl Rini home from China. They and their agency went to battle to prove they could care for her, love her and give her the best possible chance at life. We talk about this being hard for the orphanage director and others in China to understand, but the reality is it is hard for most people to understand. Why would you adopt a child with such severe medical needs? Why would you go to battle for a child that may die before you can even get them home? Why would you open your heart to such pain? Why would you put the rest of your family through this?
WHY? Because God called! Because she is your daughter. Because you would do anything to rescue your child. Eric Ludy has a video called Depraved Indifference that tells it beautifully. If this was your child, would you not go to the ends of the earth to make sure she was safe?
The truth of the matter is, that we live in a country, during a time, that most people will find it too difficult to watch Mr. Ludy’s 7 minute video because they just don’t have the time. How can those same people be expected to wrap their minds around what Eric and Andrea have done?
I would like you to stop a moment and really look at Rini’s face. Don’t just glance over it. Does she not deserve love? Could you look at this face and say, “She does not deserve the love of a family?” There’s a quote that says it best. “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – David Platt
From the beginning they have been doing the “hard”, the “difficult”. She didn’t come home pretty healthy and slowly decline. She was in the PICU in China. She is now awaiting a heart transplant. Her little heart stopped the other day. They are on borrowed time. Yet, they are honored to be her parents. Why do you think that is? Do you think it is just because they have some supernatural ability that the rest of us don’t have? Do you think it’s because they are somehow stronger? Do you think they’ve lost their minds?
Well, you’d be wrong on all accounts. What they have is faith. What they have is trust. What they believe with their whole hearts is that this is a child worth fighting for. This is their daughter!!!! What would you do for your daughter?
If you’ve been called, then your child is waiting some where. I want you to really, truly let that soak in your mind. If you have been called by God to adopt and you are not proceeding for whatever excuse you allow yourself to think, then your child is hurting and alone and you are doing NOTHING!
All around the world, children are born in countries where the “least of these” are hidden away. Parents are told right at birth that their child must be put in an institution. Children who look like this (before) while they are being cared for in an infant institution are then transferred at a very young age to an adult institution (after) where it is estimated 70-80% of children die in the first year.
Can you look at Kyle’s sweet face and say that he didn’t deserve the love of a family?
Well, the truth is, he didn’t get a family and he recently just passed away.
You want to blame God for these problems?
Nope, can’t do. We have free will. Man chose to put Kyle in the orphanage. Man chose to leave him in the orphanage. Man chose to treat him like he didn’t matter. Man chose to not step up. Man chose not to be the hands and feet of God. Man chose not to adopt him and he died.
That makes the blame ours…..not Gods.
If we say we are Christians, and we do nothing to help the least of these, then we are not practicing true religion as God says in James 1:27.
We have to stop treating these children like they don’t matter.
That is in essence what we do when we turn our backs.
When we don’t read the stories, because it is just too sad.
When we don’t stand up for the least of these because we don’t have the time.
When we say that it’s another country and they should take care of their own.
When we pretend it isn’t happening and just go about our business.
When we make excuses for why we can’t adopt or sponsor or foster.
We are in fact saying that these children do not deserve to be loved.
Because in an institution they may have food and clothing but they do NOT have love.
We know this fact first hand. We have watched our children blossom with love.
We have seen them on day one, dejected, sad, and withdrawn because every moment they spend in an institution chips away at their humanity.
Babies are meant to be held and loved not spend their day lying in a crib.
Children are meant to be hugged and praised and loved.
And with each hug and “I love you” they became a little more alive.
Every child wants a mother and a father. They may not know what that truly means but they know very early on that the word family is a wonderful thing.
We are failing.
We have been called to do more.
We are asked to do the difficult.
I’ve read so many blogs from parents who are doing the difficult. Rini’s parents. Lizzie’s parents. Ruthie’s parents. Katie’s parents. Ruby’s parents. Jenny’s parents. The list goes on and on. I am moved every time I read one of their stories because they didn’t choose the easy road. They didn’t turn their back because they thought it might be hard. They stepped up and took that first step in faith not knowing where their journey would take them.
Rini’s mom talked about what constitutes winning in Rini’s life. She says she feels like many people believe life equals winning and death equals losing. But then she read a quote by Art Spiegelman from the book Maus. “So it’s as though life equals winning, and death equals losing, and the victims are then to blame. But the best didn’t live and the worst didn’t die. It was random.”
It is the same way with a child in an orphanage. They are not somehow “less than” because they ended up there. It was random. They were born in the wrong country or to parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. Your children do not deserve all that they have because they are somehow better. You do not deserve this blessed life because you are somehow better. By random luck you were born at this time, in this country, with all the blessings that you have.
Winning in life isn’t about acquiring the most toys. Winning isn’t about being famous, or rich. Winning isn’t being the fittest, retiring the earliest, living the most selfish, self-centered life that you can. That is NOT winning!
Stop closing your eyes. Stop pretending this isn’t happening. 147+ million orphans. Thousands upon thousands available for adoption as I write this.
God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
If all we think about is ourselves, then we are not doing what we were called to do. We raise children who believe they can only be children once. Everything in their lives revolves around them and they spend their lives wanting more, expecting more. Life is can be difficult. Life has responsibilities. Life requires giving and loving even when it hurts. If you are going through life and nothing stretches you, nothing makes you hurt, then you best be looking a little harder at your life. I’m not talking about trying to wake up at 5 and exercise or diet a little more, or running that 1/2 marathon, that’s all fine and dandy. What I’m talking about is the fact that life should stretch you outside of yourself. What are you doing for others? How are you giving of yourself?
C.S. Lewis says it best “I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, they are too small.
Stop thinking small!
Stop waiting for others to fix it!
Stand up for what you believe is right!
Do the difficult!
Does your church look like the hands and feet of Christ?
Please take a moment to read this and consider how you proceed the next time you hear someone is adopting.
Recently, I have been added to a couple different adoption groups who have been discussing the issue of fundraising for adoptions. I see all these posts from people who say God is leading them…
which makes me believe they are Christians…
which automatically makes me wonder about their church.
I truly believe that God will provide. I honestly do. I have seen amazing things happen with our own adoptions. I have been completely blown away by God’s provisions. If you are called, then God will provide, BUT what if the church is supposed to be part of that provision? Yes, I know we have to spend money on outreach, missions, saving souls, etc. but what better way to bring a soul to Christ then to show them the love of Christ? Because of this, I believe churches should be passing the plate to collect fees for adoptions over and over again. We should all be happy to help a child find a family because God commands us. He COMMANDS us! He doesn’t mention it in passing. Churches should be the backbone of the fostering and adoption movement.
James 1:27 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.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless. What does your religion look like?
We should be the hands and feet of God. If everyone gave a little, instead of holding on so tightly to the blessings, that God has given in the first place, then much could be accomplished. That is not to say that families shouldn’t be spending their own money, but if they need help the church should be a safe place that they can go to for help.
Your church is small you say? Hold a garage sale. Everyone has stuff they don’t need anymore. Have a chili supper. Help them with free babysitting so they can work a part-time job. Hold a can drive. Collect change. Make and sell t-shirts. Do something. Anything! Be creative! We did not need financial assistance from our church but our church was great with encouragement, prayers, and meals. Knowing others are there to help goes a long way in not feeling alone.
Too many people are adopting you say. You can’t help them all. Oh, to have such a problem! For God to be calling so many in your church that you feel overwhelmed, what a problem to have. What a blessing. Maybe instead of saying “Oh, there is another family wanting money to bring home an orphan.” Change it to “I have helped another child find a family.” What if at the end of your life you could proudly say “I helped bring 50 children home.” What a testament to what your life stood for – to help the poor, the orphan, the widow. What better way to be a good and faithful servant?
One of my favorite passages from the Bible is Acts 4:32-35 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
How does your church look compared to this?
To be the hands and feet of Christ is not a burden it is a blessing. Open your heart and your eyes to the need. Help a family in need with both spiritual and monetary support.
1 John 3:17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
While we were in Boston, we met a little girl named Paige. We met Paige while we were waiting in line to get a blood draw. Her dad had gone to sign her in. I was ahead of him in this same line. When I came back to where Dan and Ben were sitting, I found my husband chatting with this sweet little girl in a wheelchair. (What many people don’t know about my husband is that he is a sucker for little kids, especially sweet little kids who are ill.) This little girl was full of personality and smiles. She told us she gets twice a week blood draws. She knows what fun picture is on every CT scanner. Just a little over two weeks ago she had a liver/kidney transplant. Yet, here she was smiling her huge smile and showing us her Spider-Man shirt complete with webs under her arms. She loved Ben Ben’s Superman cape. She discussed many things. She had one of the sweetest souls around and a tiny voice full of life and joy. She asked Ben if he had any brothers and sisters and when Dan answered 11, she took a minute and answered “Your house must be really noisy.” She is wise beyond her years, which was all of 8. Dan stopped to talk to her after Ben’s blood draw and wished her well.
We walked off and Dan got very quiet. I asked him what was wrong and he said she is very, very sick. He hadn’t asked the dad what she had but it was easy to see the sadness in her daddy’s eyes and to connect the dots with all she had going on. I wished I had gotten her full name and address so my children could write to her. But with the wonder of all that is google I found this picture and some articles on her. Her family talks over and over again about their faith. I could see all of their faith and love shining through in this little girl’s face. She knows she is loved. She knows there is a bigger picture.
I have seen this over and over again. Sometimes children who aren’t dealt the fairest cards in life, really truly are wise beyond their years and have sweet, sweet souls. They have faith that is unwavering. They see joy in every day life, where we get caught up in the smallest of troubles, that won’t matter a year from now, they stay in the moment and enjoy life. I know this is true because I have been blessed with many children with just such souls.
After having gone to China and come home with not one, but many of these souls I would say that blessings abound when you put away your fear and step out and take that first step in faith. I know that there will be those who call me a Pollyanna. They think I only see the good and walk around with my head in the clouds, but people that say those things are the same people who have never met my children in person.
Everyone who came in contact with Ben while we were in Boston commented on what a sweet boy he was. You have to remember this was during a very stressful time for him. He doesn’t want to be sick. He doesn’t want to have surgery. He is afraid and yet he went in to that hospital, dressed in a Superman cape and Spider-Man gloves and treated everyone kindly and with a big heart.
This same little boy others say wasn’t worth the money spent on his adoption because of his shortened life span, finds joy in everthing. This boy is a treasure. He believes in God. He prays every time he hears a siren. He prays for the families of the victims, he prays for the driver and the workers, and he prays for whoever is hurt. This boy is a treasure. This boy is a gift worth more than any small adoption fee. This boy was fading fast in an institution and I wonder how many more souls, that are just like Ben, are there……waiting and waiting and waiting because they have a diagnosis that is out of the perspective families comfort zone. How many are waiting, just like Jasmine? How many?
We were told that there was no fix for Benjamin and while that is true, we learned this week at Boston Children’s Hospital that there is a surgery that we can do to make him pinker and slow down the progression of his pulmonary hypertension. That is wonderful news. Ben will have surgery Thanksgiving week and we will be thankful for a chance at a longer, healthier life.
I talked to many families in the waiting room at Boston Children’s Hospital. We heard story after story of families being told there was no hope only to have other families reach out to them and encourage them to get a second opinion. All of them heard what we heard, there is hope and HOPE is a beautiful thing.
Boston was very thorough. They were very kind. Everyone treated Ben very well, so well in fact, that he is okay with going back and having surgery. Steve our nurse for the three days we were admitted, found Ben a Spiderman car to give to him when he came back from his cath. Ben hasn’t wanted surgery, but Ben needs surgery. He is sleeping more, unable to walk very far without sitting down to catch his breathe, just not gaining weight, and dropping his sats in the low 60′s. He needs this procedure and for him to feel comfortable with going back is a such a blessing to us.
We are feeling very blessed this week. Everything went well with Ben. Mom got moved to a skilled nursing home in Fort Dodge where she can get rehab to regain her strength and all her friends and more of her family are closer. Plus, to top it off we got put in touch with the Muscular Dystrophy Association who are loaning us a power wheelchair for Jasmine to use until things can be worked out with the insurance company. Jasmine needs her independence and this is one way for her to have it.
On another note, in an only God could moment, while I was sitting in the pre-op waiting room, I received a message on Facebook from another mom in one of my heart groups on line. She asked if we were in Boston, from a post I had made asking for Prayers for Ben. It turns out this family recently adopted a little girl from China who was in Boston having surgery that very day. Plus, they live about 20 minutes from us at home AND the adopted another son from China who is hard of hearing AND they homeschool. You can call it a coincidence if you want but I know it was a Godcidence. Please keep their daughter, Ruthie, and her family in your prayers. She still has many more days in the hospital and we know what a roller coaster ride that can be.
Where we were staying, there was a food court attached to the hotel. Ben loved the noodles at the Asian restaurant. He opened two fortune cookies while we were there and each one said something about “heart”. One of my Facebook friends called them God winks. I like that!
Hoping others will step out in faith and adopt more of these special children both domestically and internationally. People are called to many different places. Who are we to question what God places on our hearts? Pay attention to the God winks that are all around you. He speaks to our hearts in many, many ways.
Thank you again for the prayers. Please keep Ruthie and Paige in your prayers also.
Keep your heart open to wherever God may be leading.
Every day I wake up and look at this little face and I feel so blessed. God worked miracles to get him home to me and I never, ever take a moment of that for granted.
He is seriously the cutest little thing. He is the lowest maintenance of any of the kids. He is happy almost all the time and says thank you for everything. He’ll eat whatever you put in front of him. He’s helpful and kind and loving and just so sweet! He is Evie’s best friend. I think about what he was like in China sometimes. He cried A LOT! I slept standing up because you couldn’t even sit down holding him when he was sleeping. He refused to eat or drink for the first three days. We had to force him to swallow fluids off of a spoon. He whined about everything. He wouldn’t come to me. He only wanted Dan for the first day. It was hard.
Had I not been so in love with him for so long, I’m not sure what I would have done. He was a handful. But I knew he was meant to be my son from the very first moment I saw his face and I knew there was no turning back. Over the past year, I watched as God worked out miracle after miracle for him to join our family and I knew there was a plan…no matter how afraid I was.
We waited months for his paperwork to become available. We were sure his paperwork was just not going to become available so we proceeded with Lainey and Evie. Then China allowed us to add Jasmine because she was going to age out soon. Eli’s papers became available after we had already agreed to the three girls. We decided to proceed knowing we may have to turn around and go back to get him after we got home with the girls. But we had prayed and prayed and every one of those prayers were answered. First, that they would allow us to get preapproval, then we watched as papers were expedited at every step. Everything was falling into place. We could have everything done before we traveled. Would China allow us to add him so that we didn’t have to turn around and travel again six months later? They told us the odds were against us. The chance of them allowing a fourth child during one trip was unheard of. But the doors opened and we once again got the okay. There were just so many things that had to happen for him to become our son and every one of them happened.
God is good. SO.VERY.GOOD!
It would have been almost impossible to go back and get Eli with my mom being sick and all the surgeries with Ben and Evie. I’m not sure with as hard as it has been with Lainey that I would have thought I could handle another child. But God worked all things out in perfect time and I am forever blessed by being allowed the blessing of being Eli’s mama.
Right now it is midnight. In just a few hours we will travel to Boston for Ben’s heart catherization. It’s been a rough decision and he is not happy about surgery in any way, shape, or form. He has cried almost every time we have talked about it. It is hard with a five year old. You don’t want to just spring it on them, but you are limited by what they can understand. So you talk to them about the procedures and hope that you haven’t said too much.
Today a dear friend stopped by with a Superman shirt that is extra awesome and a Hot Wheel dinosaur car. Ben was thrilled. It took his mind off of things for a while. He felt special because she stopped by just for him. He had to put the shirt on right away and hasn’t taken it off yet. I told him I should wash it if he is going to wear it tomorrow, but he said “No!”
There is a home that does daycare on the corner on one of the streets on the way to Mercy Hospital. We actually stopped there a week ago when they were having a garage sale. They had a little tykes pirate ship in the yard that Ben has wanted. Every time we drive by it, he comments about how cool it is. We have looked on line and couldn’t find the same ship. I’ve even been checking Ebay and Craigslist. Nothing! But this afternoon as I was driving by on my way to visit mom, I noticed it was for sale in their yard. This yard has a ton of Little Tykes play houses and cars and slides, but the only big thing for sale was the pirate ship. I was in Cassie’s small car so I rolled down my window and asked her if it was indeed for sale and how much it was. She said $20 and I happily paid it and asked for her to hold it for me. Later I drove the bus over to pick it up. I asked her why she sold the ship and she said that for some reason she just thought it should be sold. I then told her about how Ben has driven by her yard for over a year now and has always commented on that ship. I told her that he was really upset about leaving for surgery tomorrow but the ship had made his night. All the way home, Ben commented over and over again how this was THE.BEST.DAY.EVER!!!!! As we drove off, she said she would be praying for him.
Again I say, “God is good.”
Ben hasn’t been upset tonight. He went to bed holding his dinosaur car and talking about what a wonderful, awesome day it was. I am feeling very blessed tonight and am as ready as I can be for the next step with Benjamin! How could I not be when God shows himself in even the smallest details of my little boy’s life?
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- Chinese Children Adoption International
- Hats for Gracie
- Hope Ministries
- Jessie Joy Rees Foundation (NEGU)
- Love Without Boundaries
- New Hope Foundation China
- Samaritan's Purse
- Show Hope & Maria's Big House of Hope
- Smile Train
- World Vision
- China 2013
- Evangeline Faith
- Family Life
- Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)
- Lainey Rae
- Thoughts to ponder