• It’s That Time of the Year Again!

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

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

    Jazz School

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

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

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

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

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

    Min & Tutor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    chalk

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

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

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

    Chalk 3

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

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

    Chalk 1

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

    Chalk 2

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

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

     

  • Kelly

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

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

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

    Kelly does not wish to be adopted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

  • Happy Birthday Dan!

    Date: 2014.08.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

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

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

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

    Family 2

    Happy birthday to my best friend.

    The man who has healed the wounds of my youth

    taught me to trust God and His plan

    lifted me up

    stood by me when times were hard

    made me laugh….every single day

    encouraged me

    supported me

    loved me….since forever it seems

    held my hand on this incredible journey

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

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

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

    He is blessed by many who call him dad!

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

    family 1

    Praying that the next year holds

    much joy

    many blessings

    peace and calm

    healed hearts in our two little ones

    and more hugs and kisses

    than you can even bear

    from those many children

    who are lucky enough to call you dad!

    Happy birthday Sweetheart!

     

  • Kelly Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Happy Birthday Zachary!

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

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

    zach 2

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

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

    zach

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

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

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

    zach 3

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

    zach

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

    zach 1

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

    IMG_0088

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

    Family 2

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

     

  • Faith Like A Child

    Date: 2014.07.20 | Category: Faith | Response: 0

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

    photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What Changed Your Mind?

    Date: 2014.07.07 | Category: Adoption | Response: 0

    family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On that same post another adoptive mother commented the following:

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

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

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

    family 1

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

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

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

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

    2014 is a powerful year of “Double Portion.”

    The number “7″ means “Perfection.” 

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

    Isaiah 61:7,

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

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

    I am, without a doubt, seriously blessed.

     

     

  • Your Epitaph

    Date: 2014.07.03 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    Thinking about how fast life passes by and about what I want to accomplish, about what I want my life to say, and about how fast everything can change.

    About 20 years ago, I wrote a poem entitled “What Do I Want to Accomplish”.  I have it hanging on my refrigerator as a reminder not to let the busyness of life take me away from what is really important.  I believe you have to give thought to what you truly want your life to say.  We do mission statements for our jobs, for our volunteer work, our schools even have them.  I believe it is just important to have a mission statement for your family and for your own life.  What do you want your life to say?  What do you want your family to stand for?

    In life, others will judge you for what you do, but in the end it is just between you and God.  People have thought we were crazy, our family is too big, too complicated.  But if you spent just a moment with my treasures you would see what I see, that they are worth every bit of the complicated and so much more. My life may be busy but having them as my children is a far cry from crazy.  My life is full of love.  I’ve known for a long time that my gift was working with small children.  There are many ways to use that gift.  I have chosen to use mine caring for children with hurting hearts and I chose to do that through adoption.

    The truth is I didn’t set out to adopt for that reason.  We chose to adopt because we felt God leading us to Maisey and Ben.  We felt it again when we set out to adopt the next four and again this year.  I didn’t set out to use my gift in that way, but I see how God’s ways are so much better than mine.  I love my life.   I love what He has allowed us to do.  I love being a part of the big miracles of bringing them to our family.  I am blessed every day to be allowed to be their mother.  What a gift.  What a blessing.

    This morning when I opened one of my on-line devotionals, I read Os Hillman’s words “What will be written on your epitaph?  How do you want people to remember you?  What type of legacy will your life leave behind?”

    This is exactly what I have been thinking about these past couple of days.   How much thought have you given to what your life says?  Your life is your biggest testimony.  You can quote scripture until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t live your life with love, it is all for naught.

    I challenge you today to take a couple of minutes and truly give some thought to what your life is saying, what you want to accomplish, and if you are truly living a life filled with love.  Here are my words from 20 years ago – they are as pertinent to my life today as they were then. (Please be kind.  I am not a professional poet.)  My eyes are on the promise of forever while living in the moment of today.

    “What Do I want to Accomplish?” 

    “What do I want to accomplish?”

    plays over and over again in my head.

    What do I want them to whisper about me

    when I’m long gone and dead.

    I want them to mention my faith

    and how every year it grew.

    I want them to mention the words

    loving, honest, caring and true.

    I don’t want sins to rule

    my heart and my mind any longer.

    I know though I am weak

    My God is most certainly stronger.

    I want to take up the cross

    so why do I resist it so?

    I strongly believe in God’s plan

    so why can’t I just let go?

    I know I should apply

    God’s word to every situation.

    To pass the tests He places before me

    and avoid earthly temptations.

    I am here to work on the log in my own eye

    and not the sliver in my brothers.

    I am here to worship my Lord with praise and thanksgiving,

    placing Him above all others.

    I am here to help the downtrodden and the poor

    with gifts blessed to me at birth.

    I want to stand above and not be consumed

    by the things of this earth.

    Father, I ask for your help.

    Please give me wisdom and grace.

    So I can hear “well done, faithful servant”

    when I first see your face.

  • The Hard Part of Adoption

    Date: 2014.06.28 | Category: Adoption, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    There are many wonderful things about adoption.  It is beautiful and a blessing to watch little lives grow and thrive.  I believe in adoption with my whole heart which is why when God called again we proceeded. But the truth is adoption is hard.  These children come from a very hard place.  Adoption will test you and build you and strengthen you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

    There are many things that you encounter on the road to adoption.  The paperwork is crazy.  The first few weeks in China are trying.  The jet lag is a kick in the butt.  It’s not easy.  I knew that going in, but I wasn’t afraid because parenthood itself is hard.  Loving little people can be hard.  They will try your patience.  They will push your buttons.  It’s just hard.  Now take all of that and add to it hurt, abandonment, malnourishment.  The list could go on and on.  There are bound to be some issues.

    Even if you adopt them from birth, they can have issues as to why they were left.  They will question why they were given up.  They will wonder why they have certain characteristics.  Are they like someone else in their family?  From whom do they get their artistic ability?  Why is their hair straight?  Why is their toe crooked?  The unknowns are the hardest part.

    I remember people questioning us at the beginning as to why we told Hope the truth about her birth story.  They wondered why did we let her know that her pre-adoptive parents backed out and her mother left her in the hospital?  Why?  Was it because we wanted to cement her love for us by letting her know that we were the only ones who cared?  Was it because we enjoyed being mean and hurting her?  No!  It was because at any point in Hope’s life she could send for her medical records and it is all there in black and white.  We wanted our relationship based on trust.  We wanted her to know that we would never lie to her.

    Hope learned about her story in increments.  It’s not like you throw all of that information at a two year old, but Hope has always known her story.  She has heard over and over again how daddy fell in love with her right when he saw her.  She knows that we fought for her.  First, to be able to bring her home and let her die with family and then by trying the surgeries that could and would save her life.   We told her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault.  We let her know there was nothing she did or could have done.  We let her know there are many, many facts leading up to her birth that we just don’t know. Her birthmother might have been scared.  She might have had no support.   We didn’t know all the answers but what we did know was Hope has always been loved by us and we considered her a wonderful gift.

    We have never held any animosity towards Hope’s birthmother.  We have always told Hope to pray for her.  We don’t know the pain or the anguish she went through or might still be going through.  We just don’t know so the best course of action is to pray for her and while Hope is praying for her, Hope’s heart is healed a little more with each and every prayer said.

    Hope is very quiet. She doesn’t say a lot.  She has always been that way.  I worry that she is holding too much in.  I worry about what she thinks about her heart defect, whether she will live a long life, whether we love her, how she was abandoned, etc.   She says she doesn’t, but I always wondered.  Then one day she said, “I get it now.  Ben didn’t do anything to deserve to be abandoned and neither did Maisey.   I get it.”.

    These things are hard for a child to process.  Jasmine is trying to heal right now.  As her English gets better and her trust grows, she has been sharing more and more. She has a lot of pain and hurt and many years of abuse to contend  with.  But Jasmine’s light bulb moment was when we she was holding Evie.  Jasmine asked me where Evie was abandoned.  I told her and I showed her the picture.  Jasmine said, “Why?  Evie is such a sweet, pretty girl.”  And then you could see Jasmine slowly get it.  Jasmine then said, “Mama, Evie didn’t do anything.”

    evie abandonment

    Which is exactly right.  I remember when they took us to Evie’s finding place.  I wondered why would they put this down as a child’s finding place?  Why would they even take us there?  What must have been going through her parent’s minds?

    There have been a couple recent articles about the people abandoning children in China in the hatches that have been set up outside of orphanages.  There are many heartbreaking pictures of parents dropping off children.  Heartbreaking Goodbyes.

    It’s easy for us a half a world away to stand in judgment of these parents, but we don’t know what it is like in China.  There is no health insurance.  There is a soaring number of birth defects.  Nothing is handicapped accessible there.  The old ways consider birth defects a curse on the family.  I can not possible know why my children were abandoned but I can’t imagine that it happened without pain.

    I know that Ben was abandoned at nine months which leads me to believe that his parents wanted him.   I also know that I have children that were left in places that I don’t understand.  I want to believe they were all loved and cherished and abandoned for medical reasons but I know that isn’t true.  I know it isn’t true because I have a fifteen year old who is sharing her truth with me.  Her heartbreaking, mind boggling, truth.

    I want her to know she can talk to me about anything and that anything she shares will not change how I feel about her.  I want her to know that her life had worth and that those years had meaning.  We are dealing with some pretty heavy things.  Things my heart would rather not hear.  I don’t want to know that she was beaten because she could no longer move her legs the way she was supposed to.  I don’t want to know that at the age of four her father told her he hated her.  I don’t want to know that he drank bad stuff and hurt her often.  I don’t want to know that her paternal grandmother tried to care for her but one day when Jasmine was “just too heavy” she decided to just leave Jasmine at the orphanage.  The list of what I don’t want to know goes on and on.  But even if Jasmine didn’t tell me I would still know.  She has burns and scars that tell a story of their own.

    Jasmine has started to journal about her feelings. She recently shared these words with us…

    “Hello everyone my name is Jasmine.    When I was 8 years old when I was my grandmother fell to the orphanage.  I fell into the orphanage.  I am very, very sad I weep and weep……   I know my grandmother did not want me.  But I really really want my grandmother to go home?  I said why why why do not I have a grandmother.  Later, my grandmother came to see me a few times just would not come.  Then I lived in the orphanage makes me feel very scared very scared very scared:  But then when I was about 14 years old when I’m scared scared scared scared.  Because when I was 14 years old when I could not be adopted.   I vow that I want a family.  I beg you.  But one day someone told me that Americans want to adopt me, then I really so happy so happy so happy!  I said I have a mom and dad.

    I know that the biggest lessons I have learned have come out of my pain.  I know that healing comes with sharing and talking and most of all forgiving.  I know that I can help her because I once was that lost, hurting child.  I have written about forgiveness in a past blog. (How to Forgive)  I believe that one day Jasmine will help others heal.  I believe that by sharing her story other older children might be adopted, which is exactly what she has been praying for.

    I consider it an honor to be able to parent these children.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to be able to help their hearts heal.  I don’t take this lightly and although it is hard and heartbreaking and unbelievably sad at moments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I wouldn’t!  It’s the truth.  It is a blessing to bring God into their lives.  It is a blessing to be able share how I healed from my hurt and learned to forgive.  I know what a gift that is.  I know what lies before them….HOPE!

    Hope for healing.  Hope for family.  Hope for an eternity without pain.  What a beautiful blessing it is to be able to share that with them.  Just because something is hard doesn’t me we shouldn’t step up and do it.

    I don’t have more strength than anyone else.

    Truth be told, my strength comes from the Lord.

    I don’t have more faith than anyone else.

    I don’t have more answers than anyone else.

    I don’t have more patience than anyone else.

    But what I do have is perspective.  Perspective for what is important.  Perspective for what truly matters.  Things of this world do not matter.  Cars and houses and vacations and trim bodies and beautiful faces will all fade.  They will all pass away.  The only thing of worth is how we treat others.  How we love.  If we don’t have love, all is in vain.   This song is says it better than I ever could.

     

  • 60 Days

    Date: 2014.06.18 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Kelly | Response: 0

    We have 60 days left.

    chart

    If you have ever adopted internationally, you know how long all of the paperwork takes.  You fill out reams of papers and send them off only to wait for someone to get to them.  You do some more paperwork, get fingerprinted, get police clearances, order birth and marriage certificates, have physical exams done, fill out more forms, get forms authenticated by the Secretary of State and the Chinese Consulate, wait, do some more forms, wait again, even more forms, wait, etc.  It usually takes close to a year from start to finish.

    adoption timeline

    With an adoption, every single time there is the worry that this may be the time that it is too hard or too messy or just too much.  Which is why when God placed Kelly on my heart and everything in me said, “we don’t have the money, it’s too soon, we’re busy, are you kidding me Lord?”, we still proceeded.  Because His ways are not my ways and His ways are so much better than my fearful, “I can’t do that” ways.  So we proceeded, trusting in His plan, because although I say “What if it doesn’t work out?”, He says, “Ah, but what if it does?”

    Kelly

    Every time we have entered into an adoption, we have proceeded on trust and faith.  We have followed where God was leading and He has done some amazing things on our adoption journey.  This journey has been no different.  This journey our eyes could not see a way for this to work.  We knew it could only happen by God’s power.

    1st Corinthians 2:5  ….so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 

    Dan and I did not think we would be adopting again, let alone this soon, but our hearts were taken, first, by Kelly and then by Elyse. Our plan was to pay off the debt that we had incurred with adopting four the previous year.  We wanted to find our new normal and let everyone settle in.  Then maybe we would see if God wanted us to do more.  But then  I saw Kelly’s picture and my heart was taken.  I knew what we had already talked about: no proceeding with adopting until the debt was paid. But God provided just enough from a bonus to make that a non-issue.  We had to ask ourselves “Ok, now what?”.

    We prayed about the adoption because, to enter into this process and to file a Letter of Intent (LOI), meant Kelly was no longer able to be adopted by anyone else.  What if we couldn’t finish in time?  What if someone else already in the process wanted to adopt her?  Would we stop her from having a chance at a family?  But she had been advocated for by others for quite sometime and no one mentioned trying to adopt her.  We prayed some more, felt God’s lead, and decided to proceed.

    I sent an e-mail to our agency and said, “Is this possible?  We have 170 days.”  They said, “It is possible if everything goes perfectly.  We will do our best.” Having been through this process twice before, I knew things rarely go perfectly, but God was leading so we followed and trusted.

    The first issue was getting the file transferred to our agency.  We know this doesn’t always happen, but sometimes in aging out children they will allow it.  We heard that the other agency would allow the transfer and we sang praises.

    With our last adoptions, we were delayed by the rejection of the fingerprints of our handicapped 27 year old son.  Each of those rejections can add six weeks of time to get a new set of prints done.  You have to be rejected twice and then to have them run manually.  We didn’t have the luxury of time with Kelly’s adoption, but then the most amazing thing happened.  I heard from our social worker, Jan, that she knows someone who can get these prints done with a three day turnaround.  What an Amazing God provision!

    Not only were Codey’s fingerprints rejected, but Linda’s (Dan’s mom) were too.  What a mess.  We are at a loss.  We have to start all over at square one.   I called customer service at the FBI.  I asked to talk to supervisors.  I talked to the people who ran Codey’s prints to start with.  Everyone said there is nothing they can do.   But then Jan remembered something from a previous inservice she had attended, she placed a call and amazingly, something we were told could not be rushed and would take another six weeks, gets done the very next day.  God provides again.

    In the middle of Evie and Eli’s surgery we were trying to complete our 1-800A to be able to get it authenticated at the Secretary of State’s office and then the Chinese Consulate so we could complete our dossier and send it to our agency for review.  The goal was to have the dossier done, translated, and set to China by the end of May.  We had to get them to agree to expedite the 1-800A, which is usually at least a 30 day turnaround.  They agreed to expedite and went above and beyond in helping my daughter get things together since we were out of state.

    We have had this happen over and over again.  Just recently we were told that it would take 2-3 weeks to get LID after they mailed our dossier.  The timeline was to have our dossier reviewed by our agency, sometimes this can take 1-2 weeks.  Mail said dossier to China which takes 3-5 days to arrive and then wait for China to log in dossier, which can take 2-3 weeks.  Our dossier was mailed on the 6th of June, arrived in China on the 9th and was logged in on the 10th.   More provisions.

    We are now waiting on our Letter of Acceptance (LOA).  These have been taking 60-90 days.   The quickest turnaround our agency has seen was two weeks.  Refer back to our time frame….60 days left.  This is not doable by man’s hands; good thing it is in someone else’s hands.

    Praise the Lord, we received our soft LOA yesterday, the 17th, one week after being LID!  How could we not stand in awe of a God that can move mountains for one sweet little girl half-way around the world?

    Our LOA is needed to file the final immigration papers (1-800), which allow us to bring two children into the U.S.  After that we still need to get our Article 5 (which informs the foreign central authority that U.S. competent authorities have determined the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt), which will then allow for travel approval (TA) and our consulate appointment (CA).  We will then be set to travel.  The only catch?  Evie’s surgery has been rescheduled for July 17th and we need to be in China before August 17th to adopt Kelly.

    But as with everything else in this crazy adoption, things change.  Evie’s teeth look pretty bad.  We decide we need to get her teeth done before heart surgery and her dentist graciously works Evie into the schedule.  Yesterday, we got to claim the blessing of protections unknown.  Evie had an abscessed tooth.  We didn’t even know it.  She had no fever and no pain.   Had Evie not gotten the cold and had we proceeded with her surgery, then we could have been looking at endocarditis right now.   There’s a proven correlation between oral health and heart health. If you have dental problems, it can cause bursts of bacteria into the blood stream and if you have any artificial material, like Evie’s BT shunt, bacteria can stick to it and it can be very difficult to treat. It’s not just the shunt but kids with heart defects in general are at risk for endocarditis.

    An abscessed tooth means removal of that tooth and a possible delay of surgery.  I am unsure of what will happen now, but I know that God knows and I am trusting with all my heart.

    Since the beginning of this crazy adoption journey, we knew it was going to be all His doing.  I do know that sometimes He brings you to things to learn and to grow and it doesn’t always necessarily go the way we had prayed or hoped.  I have learned a lot about older child adoptions, about expediting adoptions. I have learned that children don’t always want to leave their country and we can’t assume we know what is best all the time.  I have decided that there are changes that need to be made.  There is so much redundancy and extra unnecessary cost, which in turn makes children wait for longer than necessary.  There has to be a better way.

    Elijah’s surgery has been scheduled for September, well after the time we get home with the girls.  All that remains is Evie’s surgery and this process.  We specifically want to travel before the surgeries.  Please pray for things to move as quickly as they can.  God has heard your prayers and we are forever thankful.

    In the meantime, I have received pictures of Kelly that make my heart smile.  We are still waiting on an update for Elyse.

    Kelly 2

    This mama’s heart is hopeful and joyful – expectantly waiting on the Lord.