I shared this story on Facebook yesterday and because I feel it is so important I’m sharing it here too…
As we drove to Ben’s appointment on Wednesday, Dan and I were reminiscing about when we first saw the kid’s pictures. We were talking about how many times we have fallen in love instantly. Not every time but quite a few times we have instantly known. It’s amazing how many times you can lose your heart.
We then started talking about when I first met Elyse. Dan wasn’t able to travel with me that trip because two of our kiddos had just had open heart surgery and we felt one of us should stay home just in case.
I remember Elyse’s face when she first met me and I could tell she was disappointed. I was older and heavier than the mama of her dreams. I watched her act so much older than her years. She wouldn’t eat and talked of being fat, at the time she weighed 55 pounds. She talked to the guide about me and laughed. He would refuse to tell me what she said. My feelings were hurt and I wasn’t supposed to let them be. I had been through this before. You aren’t supposed to take it personal, but I did for that first day at least.
We got to the hotel that first night and she asked to see her clothes. I pulled out the suitcase full of clothes that we had lovingly picked out for her. She picked up items, which were rolled in pairs of outfits with a hair band around them, she took the band off every outfit, and put them in one of two piles. One to keep and one to discard. I watched her make faces and discard clothes that I had thought were cute. She would wrinkle up her nose and drop the shirt or pants on the ever growing “I’m not wearing that pile”.
I remember calling Dan that night and asking “what have we gotten ourselves into? What child in an orphanage turns down new clothes?” So many judgmental thoughts were going through my head. Will she be mean to our kids who are really delayed. Is she going to make fun of Grace who was a little overweight after her bouts of steroids. What would she say to Jasmine?
My heart was truly having a hard time.
The next day the guide told me that Elyse wanted to take the clothes with us on the orphanage trip. Elyse also asked us to buy treats for the orphanage. Elyse was very specific about what she wanted to buy. Time and time again she turned down treats that I suggested. I watched her tear open the snacks and pour them in the Walmart sacks. I remember thinking “what will the orphanage director think? There goes our nicely arranged care package.”
A couple days later we walked in the orphanage and everything changed. She found two older girls who were very delayed. She took the treats that she picked because they were their favorites and ever so sweetly placed them in their hands and put the treats/their hands in their pockets where the snacks would be safe. She did this over and over again. She found some little ones and handed them a treat with the biggest smile on her face. She handed out clothes and hair bands to so many kids. She hugged them goodbye.
And my heart knew underneath all that tough exterior and outward signs of “only looks mattered” there was a caring heart.
I was so wrong to judge her and she will tell you the same about me. So much is not understood at first. It’s been two years and I am still learning new things as she learns more and more English.
She recently told me that the nannies argued with her and wouldn’t let her say goodbye to the babies that she had cared for and her heart was broken. I had seen the disagreement and wondered what Elyse had said or done.
Our babies lose so much and it takes so much time until they can even tell us what they were thinking.
I think this story is much like life. We are all too quick to judge that person who doesn’t act like us, talks different, or doesn’t wear the same clothes. The person who is grumpy because they are having a bad day. We should all extend just a little extra grace because we never know what someone else is going through and even when we think we know, we are often wrong!
I know I was wrong. Every judgment I made of Elyse in those early days was wrong. Elyse has the sweetest heart. Yes, she is beautiful, I would hate for her to think otherwise, but now she knows her worth is not based on how she looks. Her thoughts before were what she had been taught, not what she believed.
(Edit) I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t put in one of the biggest things I learned about her once we got home. We had an appointment to take her to the doctor for the routine appointment that you do upon arriving home. She was so happy and we couldn’t figure out why. Elyse asked Jasmine, who spoke Mandarin still, if she was going to the doctor to see if she could have babies. What 9 year old is worried about whether or not she can bear children?
We found out that she had been taught that her only hope for happiness in life was her beauty, if she could have a baby, and have surgery to fix her legs to walk. She wasn’t caught up in her beauty and looks because she was vain. She was caught up in it because she had been taught that her happiness in life depended on it.
She is an adored, loved daughter. I am blessed to know her. Oh what we would have missed and oh how wrong I was!
mis-sion state-ment (noun) A formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.
A written declaration of a company’s or individual’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mission statements:
- Serve to separate what is important and what is not,
- Clearly state what you believe, and
- Communicate a sense of intended direction.
We have been working on our family’s mission statement for a while now. We wanted something that shows our children what we believe in, what we are striving for, and what our family considers important. It’s pretty easy, or at least it should be, for children who grow up in your house from birth to know what your family considers important.
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
It’s a little harder when the children come to you much later in their lives. The language issues can make it difficult for quite a while. It takes years for them to have deep conversations about what matters. It takes a long time for them to understand what is important to your family.
We wanted our children to be able to say that they were an “Ellsbury” and this is what their family stands for. Because so many children have special needs and medical issues, we wanted them to be able to say they were strong and brave in times of trouble. We wanted them to understand that we strive to help other children and families. We want them to be generous of their time, their gifts, and the money God gives them. We want them to be trustworthy and kind. We want them to have a great foundation of faith to build their lives on. We want them to trust God and His plan. We want them to know that even though we can not help every child, we can help children one at a time.
I have a thing for quotes and Bible verses. Anyone who knows me well can attest to this fact. I especially like them out where I can see them. Being an imperfect human being, I like daily reminders of how I am supposed to live my life.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:9
I wanted our statement to be something that we would see every day.
I thought about having it done in vinyl…
Or printed out on a peel and stick sheet…
Or done in metal…
Or put on a canvas like these that I purchased from Glory Haus…
I thought about having it framed.
But I just couldn’t make up my mind.
Then one day on Facebook another mama posted her family’s statement on this really cool board. I asked her where she purchased it and she said Mary and Martha. You can order this board that comes with four song verses on chalkboard tiles that you interchange ($120) BUT you can also personalize your own chalkboard tiles for $18 for the set of 7 boards.
I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out.
Now it is front and center in our living room.
If you haven’t already put what your personal or family’s mission statement is on paper, I highly recommend it. Otherwise we waste years of our lives striving for things that aren’t really important to us or aren’t what we want our lives to stand for.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” –
Take 2 – I aplogize to everyone who subscribes to our blog. I didn’t mean to publish it yesterday, especially since it was only half way done. Here is the finished blog…
Someone is turning 6 today.
Someone that is spunky!
And full of sass – the very best kind of sass.
Someone that brings joy and laughter to our house.
She is best friends with Eli…
The middle girls and the little girls all get along so well.
She loves to play Power Rangers with the littles.
She loves dolls…
and playing outside.
This year she dressed up like a cow for Chickfila Cow Day and a superhero and a pirate at Krispy Kreme.
AND took a quick trip to Disney to meet her favorite princess..
Evie is thoughtful…
and just plain amazing!
Whenever I think about the fact that we almost didn’t get there in time, my heart just hurts.
Even as sick as she was she had the spunkiest personality.
She is full of joy and determination and grace.
She has lost 3 teeth this year
and more are loose.
She is ready for kindergarten now. She knows her colors, shapes, letters, numbers, and letter sounds which I think is amazing considering she was much like a 9 month old when she came home at 26 months. She weighed almost 13 pounds and couldn’t even sit by herself. Almost 4 years later and you can’t even tell. How amazing is that? She is a walking, talking, breathing miracle.
Every day with Evie is a gift.
Happy birthday sunshine! Mama and daddy were blessed beyond measure to call you our daughter.
I can’t wait to see what this year brings for our Evie Faith!
(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
12 years ago the sweetest little girl was born. Grace’s birth was emergent and everyone who congratulated us, after they heard the story of her birth, said, “By the grace of God”. Dan had already been calling her Grace so her name seemed very appropriate. Grace, after the grace of God, and Elizabeth Lynne as a middle name because both Cassie and Hope wanted Grace to share their middle names.
I had been thinking that I would love to be pregnant again. My heart was filled with thoughts about another child. Maybe this time I would have an easy pregnancy. Maybe this time everything would go okay. I heard God saying “trust me” over and over again. I kept thinking I might just be crazy but I prayed and prayed that if God wanted me to proceed with this then He would talk to Dan’s heart. I refused to say anything about it. One day, out of the blue, Dan came to me and said, “If we ever want to have another baby, we best be doing it. We aren’t getting any younger.”
God answered my prayers.
It didn’t make any sense for me to have a tubal reversal. We had already adopted. We loved adoption but we heard God saying “trust me” so we did. It had been 11 years since I had been pregnant. 11 years since my tubes had been tied. I was 40 years old.
We were told that the odds were slim to none and yet I got pregnant the very first month.
Because of my age we were required to go to weekly ultrasounds after a certain point in my pregnancy. While our wood floors were finished being stained, Dan and I had just spent the weekend in a hotel. Grandma had the other kids. We were relaxed and enjoying life.
I walked into that routine appointment as happy as can be. I was feeling no pain, no twinges, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I left that appointment being rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Had we not had that appointment, I would have never known that there was something going on, and Grace wouldn’t have survived.
God’s AMAZING grace!
Tons of blood was found. It seemed a vessel had ruptured. As they prepared me for the c-section, I tried my hardest to trust His plan, but it made no sense. We had heard God loud and clear. Why would He take her now?
After the c-section, our doctor, who knew we wanted to try to have more children, asked me if I wanted to try again. I said, “No. I’ve had enough. We’ve had complications with too many pregnancies.” He replied, “Good thing. I have no idea how you got pregnant in the first place. One side is completely scarred and the other doesn’t even look like it’s hooked up.”
Dan took Grace to the nursery. Grace needed oxygen, but she was stable. The high risk o.b. came to check on Grace. He informed Dan that “That was the most blood I have ever seen in a delivery and have the baby survive.”
Grace did remarkably well and avoided the NICU. Grace’s very own neonatologist (daddy) stood by her side and watched her very, very closely.
Grace came home and was doing very well. Grace hit every milestone on time. Grace was sweet and adorable and such a joy. We felt so very blessed. Grace’s older siblings adored her.
Then when Grace was six, she was sick on and off for months. There was nothing that seemed too serious – a cold, a sore throat, a temperature. Grace would get better and then it would be back. Grace was tired and couldn’t seem to kick it. We were thinking strep throat or mono that day when we took Grace to our pediatricians.
I knew by the look on the doctor’s face that it wasn’t good. They said, “We think Grace has leukemia. Appointments have been scheduled this afternoon with oncology.“ I sat there unemotional. We’ve been through bad medical problems before. I refused to fall apart in front of Grace before we knew for sure. We would take this one step at a time. I drove home to pick up Dan. We were prepared to confront one of our worst nightmares.
We showed up at the oncologists and they scheduled a bone marrow biopsy for Grace right away. There were trying to get everything done before Thanksgiving so we didn’t have to wait too long for the results.
They ruled out leukemia, but no one knew for sure what Grace had. There was more blood drawn. We were sent home with our little girl, relieved that it wasn’t leukemia, but worried because we still had no answers.
Then the rash appeared.
Dan had just left for a trip. His plane landed and I called him and sent him the picture text. He said, “It’s lupus.” I’ll be right home.
Dan came home. He pressed for more testing. He argued about waiting until after the first of the year for an appointment at our children’s hospital. He asked for them to do a urine test. He fought all weekend to get this testing done. They finally allowed it and we received the call. “Be at the Children’s Hospital bright and early tomorrow morning. There are issues with Grace’s kidneys.”
We arrived at the hospital and a kidney biopsy was scheduled right away. Grade 4/5 glomerulonephritis was found. Had we waited until after January for Grace’s appointment – Grace would have lost her kidneys. Thank God for daddy’s who have the knowledge to keep pushing.
Grace handled it all with such grace. Grace was strong. Grace trusted God’s plan. When hair loss was mentioned, Grace donated her hair. When she was feeling sad, Grace raised money for Love Without Boundaries. Grace raised awareness for NEGU. Grace prayed. Grace told me to trust God.
Here’s a quote from Grace (7) in a previous blog post.
Last night as I was tucking Grace in she told me that she didn’t like having to wait until the sun went down to swim, that she was really kind of tired of medicine and she wasn’t happy that she would need another pulse of steroids on Wednesday with her chemo. Grace told me that she didn’t think lupus was very nice. Grace said she understood that God is perfect and His plan is perfect so He must have some reason for all this so she would try her best to be happy. Grace then said, “Sometimes happy takes work but it’s worth it.”
Grace is an old, old soul in a six year old’s body.
We had to decide what to do. We were set to travel with our adoptions sometime in the spring, most likely March. Grace needed chemotherapy. Grace needed blood tests and was taking a ton of meds. Could we proceed? Should we proceed? Would Grace be okay if we left?
“Of course we should!” Grace said. “Why would we question God’s plan now mama? We can’t leave my brother and sister in China.”
So we scheduled our travel around her treatments. We traveled and we returned to a very happy girl. Our adoption worked out perfectly and we arrived home the night before Grace’s 7th birthday.
God’s perfect timing!
Throughout these adoptions Grace has been one of our biggest cheerleaders. Grace readily gave up her place as baby of the home. Not one, not two, but nine children are younger than her.
Grace shares her room. Grace is my extra set of hands. Grace is so much like me. Grace LOVES adoption!!! Grace has a heart that is SO big! Grace is the legs for her three sisters in wheelchairs.
When we worried about adopting JJ, it was Grace who reminded us over and over again that kidney issues are scary but doable. When we were adopting Elyse, it was Grace who couldn’t wait to share her room and her clothes.
God knew what He was doing when He placed Grace on my heart all those years ago. God was so very wise. It made NO sense and now I can’t imagine doing this without her.
And yet, when I wrote my recent article for No Hands But Ours, I forgot to mention my sweet girl by name. We mentioned how many children we had, but I didn’t mention Grace by name. I try so hard not to do that. I’ve made that mistake before with Zach and Cassie. It hurts their feelings, even though they understand so I try hard not to. Our bio kids are amazing. They have made this adoption journey possible. They aren’t a footnote in our adoption journey. They are the title page and I hate when because I’m writing about adoption or special needs that they don’t get the credit they deserve.
Grace is an important part of all of our adoptions. Grace has had such faith throughout it all. Grace has trusted God with an amazing faith that most adults don’t have.
I asked Grace what I could do to make it up to her and Grace laughed and said, “You can say my name 77 times in my birthday post.”
And so I have. I LOVE Grace! Grace is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
My life has been forever changed by a little girl named Grace. Every day I look into her face and I think about every miracle that brought her to my life. Grace Elizabeth Lynne you are an amazing girl and mama is so proud to call you my little girl. Praying God’s blessings continue to surround your life and lead you on the rest of your amazing journey.
Happy birthday Grace!
There’s a new commercial out by Colgate that tells us how much we waste if we let the water run while brushing our teeth. There are pictures of dirty hands washing fruit and a little girl taking a drink in her hands, as if we somehow help people in third world countries by not letting our water run. While I agree it’s wasteful to let our water run, let’s not delude ourselves into somehow thinking we are helping others get water by not letting our water run.
It’s much like our grandparents when they said, “Finish your supper. There are starving children in the world.” How does my finishing my supper and not wasting it help a child in a third world country?
I think that is the problem with today. We believe we are doing something when we turn off the water, eat less, drive a more gas efficient car, throw some money in the offering plate, and take can goods to a food pantry. I am not saying these things don’t matter. I’m saying we can’t delude ourselves into thinking we are doing something big.
We need to think more radically.
My work with Love Without Boundaries has opened my eyes to what it truly means to live in poverty. I once believed that I lived in poverty. We had limited food. We often ran out of toilet paper. We were hungry, didn’t know where our next paycheck was coming from, and couldn’t scrap up the money to eat out, BUT we had a roof over our head, even if the walls were concrete and the roaches were plentiful in that rental; we had a bed to sleep in at night, even if it was a mattress on the floor, and extended family that helped out when they could.
We never lived in a hut with no running water or a toilet. We never ate one meal of rice a day or walked two hours to get dirty water. We never worried about whether or not we could go to school. We never dug through a trash heap hoping to find food to eat or recycling material that would buy food.
I recently saw this going around on Facebook. I can’t back up the facts, but it sounds about right.
If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the thousands of people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.
We are rich! We are a blessed nation and yet we complain about wanting/needing more. I did it. I still do it. I live in a big, beautiful house and still look at realty sites and dream about a bigger home as if it is somehow better. I have to remind myself constantly that more debt isn’t better. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. That more bedrooms doesn’t change anything. I DON’T need more. I’ve just been conditioned to believe that striving for more, that bigger and better is where it’s all at, after all it is the American dream.
I know there are those that think Dan and I live somewhat radically. We’ve given up our retirement. We’ve taken in kids with pretty big needs. We’ve given up sleep and paid so much money in medical bills that it makes my head spin, BUT what have we really done? Not much. Really! I’m not just saying this. I truly believe it. What have we really done? We took the chance on loving some kids who have made our lives unbelievably amazing. It doesn’t seem like such a hardship.
Yes, we share bedrooms. Yes, we share toys and hand down clothes. Yes, we will have to wonder about college and will have to work to figure it out. Yes, we have given up vacations. Yes, we drive a bus, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t amount to much. I still live comfortably. I can still go to the store and buy whatever food I want. I can go out to eat. I can buy a new outfit. My kids can go to school. I have a car to drive. I can pay for the gas that makes it run.
My heart hurts knowing I could do more. My heart hurts for all of those who could change their lives with just a few of my dollars. My heart hurts for parents who will leave their child outside an orphanage in hopes they can get the medical treatment they need. My heart hurts for the children who will die from starvation and diseases from drinking dirty water. My heart hurts for children who will die in an orphanage.
Sometimes the need is so overwhelming that I want to go back to when I didn’t know. Sometimes I want to go back to when I sat in my house, comfortable and warm, and the most I had to think about was whether or not I could pay my bills on time. But that would make me indifferent. Indifferent and comfortable are two words that I don’t want to be associated with my name. I want to die knowing I did everything I could. I want to die trusting fully on God and doing as much good as I can. Not because that will somehow make me a good person worthy of God’s love. God loves me anyway. I want to live radically because it is what God commands us to do.
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” – Francis Chan
I’m feeling much too comfortable. How about you?
I am not indifferent now but I once was…
And that needs to change.
Jasmine’s Dream – “A family for every child.”
Jasmine has decided to let her sisters join her in the blogging world. They are taking her Flower That Blooms blog and turning into her platform for Jasmine’s Dream. I thought I would share that information here in case you didn’t already know about their blog.
They are still wanting to do the same things:
1.) Promote adoption awareness.
2.) Show what life was like in the orphanage for children with special needs.
3.) Start an Etsy store to raise funds for adoptions.
4.) Reach their goal of 1,000 children helped.
Elyse’s first post…
The depth of my gratitude could never adequately be put into words. I get to parent these sweet souls. I GET TO!!! Not because I am somehow better but because I was lucky enough to have the resources to do so.
The knowledge that 7 of our 10 kids would have had horrible outcomes had they not been adopted does not often leave my mind. Not because we are somehow saviors but because we know who the true Savior is. We would have never been brave enough to take this on if we hadn’t felt an overwhelming call from God. We decided to be obedient even if it looked crazy to the rest of the world. We decided to pray, trust with all our hearts, and take each step in faith.
We were called crazy. We were told it didn’t make sense. We were told that it would ruin our family. We didn’t take these words lightly but we decided to allow His words to be louder than the words of the world.
“If you don’t step up, who will?”
“Can you live with yourself if this child dies in China, and you know you were called to them?”
“Would you leave your bio daughter/son there? Because this child is yours just as much as if they had been born to you.”
We decided to proceed after listening to people’s words of “it will ruin your family”, not ignoring the “what if it does” but fully embracing the “what if it doesn’t”.
Every day I wake up to the faces of little souls that get to live another day. I am humbled by this fact. I don’t think “Wow! Aren’t we amazing? We saved these little souls.” People have said that to us, but we never think that. I think things like “Why do I get to be their mother? Why were we allowed to step up? Why were we lucky enough to be born in America?” I know for a fact that I don’t deserve this gift. I am no better than any other parent. I don’t have more patience. I don’t have it all together. I don’t have any special skills. I have been blessed by being obedient to God’s call, but I don’t for a minute think we were the first choice.
I often think about Ben’s parents. Ben was left at 9 months of age probably because he was turning more and more blue. The more I learn from the work Dan and I do with Love Without Boundaries, the more my heart hurts for his parents. I can’t imagine making the decision to leave your child somewhere public, hoping they will be found so that they can get the treatment that they need.
Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do to try and save your child’s life? No insurance. Surgery that costs more than you probably make in a year or more. What would you do? It’s easy to sit here in judgment. I know I did before I knew the truth. Now my heart just hurts.
7 of 10. Just let that soak in. I’m not exaggerating to write a more compelling story. 5 of 10 would have died and two more would have had horrible, horrible, horrible outcomes. People say others would have stepped up. Really? 2,354 children were adopted from China in 2015 (Stats). China says that there are 600,000 children in orphanages, others put that figure much higher. CNN article
Using China’s conservative total of 600,000 children and our government’s figure of children adopted from China in 2015, that makes a child’s chance of adoption at .392%. There are so many factors on whether a child gets adopted or not. Will the orphanage decide to make them paper ready? How old are they when they are listed? Will they be lucky enough to be advocated for? Will they survive long enough to be adopted?
I often wish I could touch others and have them instantly feel what my heart feels. I wish I could have them understand the enormity of it because my words will never do it justice. So many children wait. So many children, who just want a family, will never get one. I wish they could understand the pain of families that could stay together if someone would just step up. Children like Annabelle need support so their child can get the surgery that their family is unable to afford. LWB – Support Annabelle
I have had five amazing years with Ben. I have watched him grow into a wonderful young man. This is a gift. It truly is a gift. He is funny and amazing. He is a living, breathing, walking miracle. We were told that he could only receive palliative care and now he is considered completely healed. How could I not be overwhelmed with the enormity of this?
He is a blessing, but not just because he was healed. He would have been a blessing even if he hadn’t been healed. He is a wonderful boy. He is so sweet with Lainey.
He is Maisey’s protector.
He is Eli and Liam’s best friend.
I get to parent him and his biological mother does not because she could not afford his surgery. How can I not be humbled by this fact? How could I not cry tears for her? How could I not be overwhelmed? I will get to see his sweet smile this morning and I will get to tuck him in his bed tonight. She will not.
Praying I never forget the enormity of this gift I have been given.
Facebook has this amazing thing called “On This Day” where it shows you pictures that you posted from this date during the previous years. My day has been filled with pictures of our very first China adoption. I can’t help but get all choked up when I see the pictures and remember how it felt to have them placed in my arms on that day. 5 years has passed so fast and Maisey and Ben have changed so much!
There are about a million different scenarios about how that day could have gone but the truth is it was so overwhelmingly heartwarming/heartbreaking that it changed our lives forever. Had it not gone as beautifully as it did, I’m not sure we would have adopted 10 kids in 4 years. I am forever grateful for the beginning that showed us how beautiful adoption can be.
Here’s what we knew for sure when we set out to adopt (again).
1.) We were older parents. I was 45 when Dan first brought up adopting again, 46 when we filed our papers, and 47 when we finally stepped foot in China.
2.) We had older children who were very supportive of this decision.
3.) We had already adopted once domestically 11 years before and were blessed by that adoption.
4.) We had the resources and medical knowledge to care for a special needs child.
5.) We were never going to be empty nesters. Our plan is to always keep Codey, our older son who has cognitive and physical disabilities, at home.
Here’s what we knew after the first day we met Ben and Maisey.
1.) Institutions are no place for a child to be raised.
2.) Special needs, especially physical ones, make it easy for others to treat you as “less than”.
3.) Even scared, hurt little 3 1/2 year old boys with severe food issues, can have sweet hearts and look out for their new little sister. He cried if we moved his food, but he always shared with her. (Ben ate for 3 hours after we brought him back to the hotel and slept with food or silverware in his hands for the first few months home.)
4.) When a 3 1/2 year old refuses to be called their Chinese name or speak Mandarin from the moment you meet them, and refuses to go to anyone in the orphanage where they’ve been cared for for the past 3 years, there’s something not right.
5.) Every child just wants to be held and loved. They want someone who cares about them. They want to feel safe. This picture was just days after we met Ben. I get choked up every time I look at it.
What I know for sure 5 years later.
1.) Two children adopted at the same time can become the very best of friends.
2.) Your life will be forever changed by adoption. Some days are harder than hard, but most days are beyond beautiful and life changing in ways you can’t even imagine.
3.) No matter how long your life might be, you deserve the love of a family. You deserve someone to hold your hand, sit by your beside, and let you know you will never be alone again.
4.) Miracles really do happen.
5.) Large families are busy, chaotic, noisy, and filled with more love, hugs, and kisses than you could ever imagine.
The first five years have been overwhelming, busy, crazy, but DOABLE!
1.) 5 heart surgeries and 5 heart catherizations for 3 children with 2 being considered completely healed.
2.) 2 BAHA (hearing aid) post placements and the miracle of hearing well.
3.) 5 trips to opposite shores for heart surgery Stanford (California) and Boston Children’s (Massachusetts).
4.) Countless doctors appointments with numerous specialists. Orthopedics, otolaryngology, cardiology, physical medicine, neurology, pulmonary, genetics, urology, nephrology, rheumatology, hematology, and developmental/behavior medicine.
5.) Spinal fusion surgery and 5 weeks of hospitalization due to complications of a spinal fluid infection and subsequent spinal fluid leak.
I’m hopeful the next 5 years will…
1.) Bring more healing both physically and emotionally for our children.
2.) Strengthen the bond of family even further between all my children so they will always be there for each other not matter what the future brings.
3.) See more and more families open their eyes to adoption.
4.) See more and more families step up and be the helping hand that allows more families to stay intact and not have to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a child.
5.) Allow all our children to feel the love of God in their lives, that they will see their true worth, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved and cherished by their father and I.
What an amazing journey this has been. I am so happy that Dan and I decided to be obedient to God’s calling. Our lives are full of the brightest colors. I can’t imagine going back to the comfortable life we were living. That life was so black and white, well ordered, comfortable. Yes, there is pain and hurt and I will never be able to close my eyes to the suffering of the children in this world, but there is also so much beauty to be found in the ripple effects of helping where you can. Reaching out a hand to help, feeding those in need, helping to pay for a surgery, fund a healing home, sponsor a child, the list goes on and on. The need is great but we can make a difference one child at a time because “Every Child Counts“.
My prayer is that one day Jasmine’s dream will come true – “A family for every child.” What a beautiful day that will be. Until that time …
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.” – Malcom Bane
I get asked all the time about how I do it. It’s pretty simple. I get up every day and I just keep moving forward. My days are VERY busy. Unbelievably busy. Things don’t get done around the house sometimes. My house will never be in perfect order. I wish, but it isn’t going to happen. This is hard for me to admit because I like organized and having everything in its place. But we also have a Lainey whose favorite activity is to throw anything she finds on the floor and I do mean everything. She likes to grab cups and run through the house spilling everything every where. We have 8 littles between 5 and 8 who like to leave things around and since we home school there are lots of hours of the day to move things to and fro.
I have done a lot in the past year to simplify. I have removed so much stuff in our house. I have gotten rid of almost all my knickknacks. I don’t have time to dust. I don’t want to worry about who is going to break what next. What have I learned from this simplification? We have too much stuff. Way too much stuff! I have removed bags and bags and bags from this house and there is still more to take out.
It makes me sad to think of the money I have spent on things that just don’t matter. We don’t bring toys into the house unless it’s someone’s birthday. We regularly go through items to see what they are and aren’t playing with. If it’s not being worn it’s gone. We still have way too much stuff. It’s hard not to when you have this many people in the house but we are working harder at only bringing things into the house that will make our lives better.
There are things that are non-negotiable during my days. Morning hugs and kisses. Codey and Lainey’s feedings. We have five kiddos that are in diapers and four will be for life. Catherizations. Medications are a must and are given twice a day to 11 of the 13 kids that are at home. Meals and prayers around the table. Quiet time with Dan. More hugs and kisses before bed.
House cleaning, school work, and appointments make up the rest of my day. Every day looks a little different. Kids who come from trauma have days where they need you to drop everything and we do that. This past year has been extremely difficult for Jasmine. It would be hard to put into words how hard it is when someone is on meltdown mode all day. It’s emotionally draining for everyone in the family and you have to take the time to repair the damage that is done.
When I say I am going to bed, this is what needs to be done before placing my head on my pillow. Take the littles downstairs to get ready for bed (Grace often helps with this.), change Codey, take Jasmine to the bathroom (this takes two people) and put her to bed, feed Lainey and give her her last meds, cath JJ and give her her meds, story time and give everyone hugs and kisses.
Sometimes it is overwhelming. Sometimes I just want to go to bed without all the other stuff. Sometimes I just want to take care of me and not do everything else. Sometimes I am just plain tired. But when I have those pity-party moments where I start to think “I have to do this, this, and this”, I stop myself and change it to “I get to”. Perspective changes everything.
I GET TO…
…wake up in the morning to the sweetest, sleepy smiles.
…hear mom, mommy, mama hundreds of time throughout the day from little kids who went years without this privilege that we all take for granted.
…get hugs, hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs. (The best part of every day.)
…hear “I love you” over and over again.
…help little hearts heal.
…wipe away tears.
…have a ring side seat to God’s big and little miracles.
…sit by hospital bedsides while children heal.
…serve with a willing heart.
…watch little souls blossom before my eyes.
…watch little minds learn and grow.
…hit my knees repeatedly.
…give up control.
…turn it all over to the one who knows best.
…prepare meals that little ones love.
…wash, fold, and put away clean clothes to wear.
…have access to the best medical care around.
I GET to do it all of these things every single day with my very best friend.
I am blessed! Beyond blessed! SERIOUSLY blessed!
Today I had a MRI for my back. It felt very scary. In the orphanage when I had to go to the hospital or for tests, they always left me alone. In the MRI I was alone. I didn’t know my mom could come in. I was scared. I did not like feeling like I did in China.
I don’t like to be left alone. It made me really upset and I cried. I do not want to ever be alone again. I love my mom and dad. I always think they are my real parents. If I don’t have my mom and dad, life would be so scary. Mom and dad told me all about MRI so I wouldn’t be scared.
I didn’t know mom could come in. My brother, Liam, had a MRI too. He has spina bifida too. He cried and they let mom come in. They let mama hold Liam’s hand so he would not be scared and don’t feel alone. This is the first time mama didn’t go in. Mama and daddy both waited for me. They always love me. They always care about us. I was not scared in the MRI after awhile because I knew mama and daddy would never leave me alone or let someone hurt me.
When we get hurt mama and daddy always hug us, talk to us, and help us get better so we won’t be upset. Mama and daddy changed my life. Mama and daddy tell me I can do everything. Don’t listen to what China says because it’s not true. Now I know who I should trust or who not to trust.
I have fun with mama and daddy. We ate breakfast at McDonalds and mama and daddy buy us food we like. My love language is to hug me and to say “I love you” so they do it all the time so that I know they love me very much.
- Chinese Children Adoption International
- Hats for Gracie
- Love Without Boundaries
- New Hope Foundation China
- Show Hope
- China 2013
- China 2014
- China 2016
- Congenital Heart Defect
- Evangeline Faith
- Family Life
- Food for Thought Friday
- Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)
- Jasmine's Dream
- Lainey Rae
- Love Without Boundaries
- Making a difference
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Orphan Care
- Thoughts to ponder