• I Hope I Always Remember

    Date: 2015.09.01 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin | Response: 0

    I still remember the call from CCAI.  They said now that we had been matched with Maisey, there was something else they wanted to let us know about, China has a program that would allow you to adopt two children at the same time, if the second child had more complex needs.  Dan and I prayed about it.  We decided since we were only going to China this one time, that we should adopt two.  We figured Maisey would have someone her own age to play with and she wouldn’t feel alone coming to this big, new place.

    Hope had come to us asking if we could adopt a little boy with the same heart defect that she had.  As a family, we agreed that was a good idea and Dan nicknamed our second child Tigger.  We started to pray for Tigger.

    We hadn’t had a litttle boy in the house for a very long time.  It was fun trying to guess how old he was going to be and what he would look like.  We continued to look at CCAI’s Waiting Child page and prayed.

    One day Dan asked me to come look at a little boy he had seen on the page.  I gasped when I saw his little face.  I instantly felt a connection and knew that he was the one.  What a sweet little boy.  That first picture might have made me gasp, but it was the second picture that stole my breathe away.  I had no idea what special need he had, but he was definitely our son.  As I was standing there, very emotional, Dan pointed out Ben’s special need – CHD.  He was a little heart warrior.

    tigger

    We wrote to CCAI and waited for an answer.  When we didn’t hear the next day after they had been open a few hours, I called to make sure they got our message.  They had received it but there were other families in line looking at Ben’s medical records.  They would have to get back to us.  I remember being so upset.  This was my son.  How could anyone else have his file?  What was God doing?  Was I really supposed to be his mother?  The questions went on and on.  We waited and waited and waited.  I finally went shopping with the girls just to give myself something else to think about.

    Finally, we got the call that they would be sending the records to us for our review.  In my mind it didn’t matter, Ben was our son already.   I called Dan to let him know.  He said he would send the records off to be reviewed by his cardiology friends.  I just stood there in the parking lot of Burlington Coat Factory.  I remember turning to the girls and crying.  “What if he is too sick and daddy doesn’t think we should do it?”

    I was a nervous wreck.  My stomach was doing flip flops.  I knew he was our son.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for peace.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed that Dan would feel the same way.  I asked God for clarification.  The girls keep teasing me over the fact that I would break out in tears over a child I had never even met.  If this happened now,  I would just trust that feeling but back then I didn’t have a clue how marvelous it is when God works on your heart.

    When I came home, I ran right to Dan’s office to see what he knew.  I opened the door and saw him sitting there with the saddest look on his face.  I thought for sure he was going to tell me that Ben was too sick, that we couldn’t put our family through this, that there was no hope.  Dan said everyone he talked to said, “Don’t do this.  There’s no hope.” but then Dan quietly said, “He is our son.  He may not make it until we can get there, but we need to try.”

    Little did we know what a daddy’s boy Ben would be.  He went to Dan right away at the registration office and he held on tight from that day on.

    Ben and daddy

    Ben and daddy

    I never want to forget how that felt.  How much I wanted Ben to live just so I could hold him even if it was only for a day.  I wanted him to know that I loved him.  I wanted him to feel the love of family.  I wanted him to know his life mattered.

    We got much more than a day with Ben.  He has now been with our family 1,267 days.   He has gone from a sad little boy who slept with his food to the best big brother to the littles.  He loves the job of being big brother.  We recently nicknamed him “Minion Squadron Leader”.   He LOVES this title.

    Ben 19

    He loves cars and puzzles.

    He loves video games especially Mario Cart.

    He has grown so much since we brought him home and especially since his surgery.

    Ben Before & After

    He has a great sense of style and loves bow ties.

    image

    He has the greatest giggle.

    He loves to run now. He used to only be able to run around the couch and then he would have to rest.  Now you can’t stop him.

    Ben & crew

    Ben reminds us to enjoy life and to take nothing for granted.   He reminds us that it isn’t how many days we are allowed to have, it’s what we do with those days.

    That’s a pretty successful life for a 7 year old.

    Happy birthday to the best Minion Squadron Leader around!

     

     

     

  • Assume Action

    Date: 2015.08.09 | Category: Adoption, Faith | Response: 0

    Yesterday was Dan’s birthday but it was me who got the present.

    I had been in the basement cleaning.  As I was in the basement, Jasmine and Elyse apparently had a very indepth conversation of the first time they met me.  I know that Jasmine has been thinking a lot about this because she has told me her next blog is about me and her China mom.  I am anxiously awaiting this blog because she does not talk about her China mom very much.  Jasmine talks about her grandma who cared for her, but she has only mentioned her mom in passing, and the words were said with much pain.

    I have told Jasmine over and over again that she can talk freely about her time in China and the people who cared for her, good or bad.  I am not jealous that others loved her.  In fact, it is just the opposite, I am thankful.  Thankful that she knew love from others for a while.  Thankful that people loving her showed her that taking a chance on family was a good thing.  I am not happy she went through what she went through but I am thankful the road led her to us.

    I once was nervous about being the adoptive mom.  When we brought Hope home as a baby, I felt like it was a competition.  Would her biological mom one day come back into her life and I would be forgotten?  All those fears and questions that you have when you first start out.  It didn’t take very long for me to understand those feelings weren’t true.  Hope could love me and her bio mom.  She could care about me and the woman who brought her into this world.  It wasn’t a competition.  It isn’t an either or thing.

    I have explained that to Jasmine and to Elyse.  It is okay to talk.  It’s okay to care.  You don’t have to forget.  I want you to pray for the people you remember, good and bad.  I want you to heal and know your place here is secure.  I want you to know that you are forever a loved daughter and nothing could change this.

    When we adopted Elyse, she had a very hard time with me.  I was old and I was fat.  These were not very appealing characteristics in her eyes.  I cried and talked to Dan about this because, in the beginning, it hurt.  The facts were true, I am overweight and I am old, but they still hurt.   He would remind me over and over again that our children love me.  When Elyse comes home she will see that love and she will want to be a part of that love, but I worried that maybe this would be the adoption that changed everything.  This would be the adoption where the child never learned to love me.  My heart would be hurt.  How would I deal with this?  I was afraid.

    But last night Elyse gave me the sweetest gift.  She asked for my forgiveness.  She cried tears and told me that she was so sorry she hurt me.  I reminded her that it hurt for the first couple of days but I got over it quickly.  I hadn’t even thought about it in a long time.  She said she didn’t know any better and she would have never said those things if she knew me.   She cried and she cried.

    I told her that is the way it often is in life.  We judge people based on what we see.  We are all guilty of it.  I asked her if she learned anything from her mistakes and she said “oh yes!”   These are the things I had always been afraid of.

    I’m sharing this story because of this video that I watched this morning.  Assume Action

    “We’ve been so scared of so many things along the way.  We’ll wrestle.  Do we do it?  Do we do it? And we are always terrified.  We’ve done some scary things but each time as we start recounting the early days and it was so fun we just walked year by year to different things we did, and we just thought, “What if we didn’t do that?” We would have missed out.   Like I’m so glad we just tried.  We pursued.” – Francis Chan

    These could have been words spoken by Dan and I.  It’s always been scary.  It’s always seemed like more than we could do.  Always!  Even in the beginning.

    We can’t live through the death of a child.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t live for over a year in the hospital.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t adopt a child that may die.  Yes, you can.  Again and again and again!

    We can’t handle a child with severe disabilities.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t heal hurting hearts.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t handle a large family.  Yes, you can!

    The list goes on and on and on.

    We would have missed out.  Don’t miss out.  Take action!  Assume God means for you to take action.  No matter where your passion lies.   God’s book lays it all out there.  Care for the orphan.  Care for the widow.  Feed and cloth the poor.  Take care of your brother.  Love your neighbor.  The need is great.  Take action today!  Don’t wait.

  • Pain and Joy

    Date: 2015.08.04 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I’ve seen a lot of heartache recently.  I have watched friends stand by their children hopelessly unable to make it all better.  Agonizing over long hospital stays and difficult decision. I have heard many question “Why would they adopt knowing this could happen?” or incredulously say “I could never do that.” or “Why would God let this happen?”

    I don’t know why this happens.  I don’t know why one story is one of miraculous recovery and another is of heartbreak.  I can’t make head or tail of it.  I try to fathom God’s plan and how it will all work together to bring Him glory and many times it is more than I can wrap my head around.  We never want the bad to happen.  We never want to take the difficult journey.  We choose ease and comfort whenever we can.  Even when we sign up for the bad, we do it with a heart full of hope for a miraculous outcome.

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28   How could anything bad ever be considered good?

    As I was talking to a friend yesterday, we were discussing the what if’s.  This was after a weekend which just about did my heart in.   You can NOT discuss orphans without discussing the magnitude of them.  You can not truly delve into the situation without your heart breaking.  You can’t consider all those who wait, all around the world, and not feel helpless and unable to make a difference.

    All you can do is proceed one child at a time because every child counts.  Every child deserves a chance.

    • Even though people are turning away from adoption.
    • Even though there is not enough time or money to fix it all.
    • Even though there is pain and heartache and turmoil.
    • Even though your heart may be broken.
    • Even though you can’t fix it all.
    • Even though it is overwhelming.

    You continue to proceed one child at a time, much like the starfish story.

    Starfish story

    My friends understand this.  They have a clear picture of how fleeting life is.  They are in the absolute worse situations possible and they give God the glory.  They know that a life saved and loved is worth it.  They rejoice over what they have been allowed to do, no matter the outcome.   I do not wish for any of them to be on this journey but I know, from experience, that they will never be the same.  God is growing them and shaping them.  Their lives are not worse because of the pain.  Their lives are immeasurably blessed by the joy that these children brought.  Yes, their hearts will hurt.  Yes, they will never be the same.  But there is joy in the morning.  There is joy in the good news.  There is joy in the meeting again for all of eternity.  Life on earth is but a small portion of forever.

    I have talked with a few mamas on how pain and joy can coexist.  How you can be going through the worst possible situation and still be thankful and joyful in the moment?  One friend sent me this quote from Ann Voskamp – “Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living…. Yet I know it in the vein and the visceral: life is loss.”

    The goal in life is not to be as comfortable and pain free as you can.  The goal in life is to open your heart and love and make a difference.

    The purpose

     

     

  • Why I Love LWB

    Date: 2015.08.03 | Category: Jasmine's Dream, Love Without Boundaries, Making a difference, Orphan Care | Response: 0

    I spent the last weekend in Atlanta with a group of men and women who have a heart for the orphan, specifically orphans in China.  I heard many stories that brought tears to my eyes, I listened to Amy Eldridge talk about her recent trip to China and what a difference it has made to the children there, and I fell in love with this foundation just a little bit more.

    This picture represents just a few of the people who make Love Without Boundaries what it is.

    Love Without Boundaries

    It’s funny what brings you to a place.

    I had never heard of Love Without Boundaries four years ago.

    • but reading Mary Beth Chapman’s book led me to Show Hope’s Facebook page
    • a random comment I posted on a Show Hope page thanking their volunteers
    • led me to a Show Hope worker responding to my comment and asking if they had cared for our children
    • which led to them telling me that they had cared for Maisey
    • which led to them telling me Maisey was New Hope’s 1,000th baby
    • which led to them telling me about the book “House of Hope” (A MUST READ – you won’t be disappointed and you may even understand “why” a little bit more.) which talked about Maisey (Chaya)
    • which led to us reading about Love Without Boundaries
    • which led to us following their Facebook page and blog
    • which led to us seeing Jasmine’s picture (Jasmine’s post)
    • which led to one of the biggest blessings of my life – being allowed to parent Jasmine.

    I believe so much in what LWB is doing.  Education, nutrition, foster care, life skills training for older orphans, surgeries, healing homes, unity fund and advocating.  The list goes on and on.  I want to make a difference and I know what they do makes a difference.  They believe every child counts and so do I!

    This organization is run mostly by volunteers.  What makes someone give so much of their time volunteering to an organization?  What makes them want to give up hours and hours of their time to keep a foundation afloat?  Why?  Because what they do makes a difference  They know that a child’s life is changed.  They know they are doing something to make the world a better place.  I am in awe of the time and energy these people spend helping a child in need.  What a blessing.  What a difference they make. 

    I loved hearing the stories of what brought people to Love Without Boundaries.  Stories of seeing their child on an LWB page or adopting a child with a cleft lip and wanting to help other children with clefts.  Time and time again I saw the tears of joy for being allowed to parent a child.  Time and time again I saw the passion and love they have for these children.

    There are many organizations asking for your time and your money.  I understand that.  I just want you to know that if you want to give to an organization that does what they say they will with your money, this is the place.

    Soon Jasmine will have her own page on their fundraising page.  Jasmine’s dream will continue to move forward to helping children stay with their families in China by helping children get the surgeries they need and helping older children find a home.  She has a heart for both of these issues and her sisters are set on helping her dream come true.

    Three girls

    My only request is that when you are considering giving that you consider Jasmine’s fund on LWB.  Not only will you be helping an orphan, but you will be helping make my girl’s dream come true.  It’s a win-win situation.

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.07.25 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Dream | Response: 0

    Dan and I often talked about what it meant for a 14 year old child to leave her country and everything she has ever known without so much as a tear.  We worried about her when she didn’t cry tears over lost friends.  Jasmine met us with a smile on her face and she smiled through the weeks in China and the trip home.   We asked the guides numerous times to find out what she was thinking.  We asked if she had any questions.  We were prepared for the tantrums and the fights, but none came.  In fact, the only question she ever asked was “Would we give her away in America?”  How could this be?  How could that be the only question?

    IMG_5655

    It was almost a year later when we first started to find out why she never cried when she left her homeland.  Jasmine had been told that by coming to America she could be healed.  She would walk.  This hope had kept her alive for years.  Add to that the fact that she had been told that the only life for her, would be one in an institution, where she would be beaten and not fed and surely die.  Yes, they did tell her these things, and well, she was more than ready to take a chance on this family that showed up and showed her love.  She was ready for a change and ready for a chance.

    I haven’t shared a lot about the struggles Jasmine has had these past few months, but they have been heartbreaking.  At first I believed that the extended hospitalization triggered some bad memories locked away from previous hospital stays where she was left alone, which is partially the reason, but the full reason was that Jasmine had lost hope.  She had lost the hope, that had been so fully embedded in her mind, the hope that had kept her going for years, that she would one day be healed and would walk.

    Even though we told her time and time again that her spinal fusion would only straighten her back and help her breathe easier, she still held out hope that she would walk after the surgery.  When she ended up being even weaker than she was before, it was too much to take.  She lashed out with words that cut deep.  She screamed.  She cried.  She raged.  Some days it was for a couple hours and some days it would last eight, nine or ten hours.

    Compounding the issue was that Jasmine has no coping skills.  No one had ever taught her what to do with her anger.  Yes, she is sixteen both physically and mentally, but emotionally she was a toddler.  No one has ever taught her how to work through her problems.  Many days she would be ok, but the light had left her eyes. We wondered if we would ever see that beautiful, joyful, straight-from-the-soul smile again.

    jazzy

    We worked hard at reminding her of her worth, but when you have heard you are worthless your whole life it’s hard to believe.  We told her that she could accomplish much.  We reminded her that her strength would come back, anyone would have felt weaker after lying flat on their back for a month.  We reminded her of her dream that she talked about in the hospital and before.  We told her God has big plans for her.  We told her that she could make a difference but even though her head understood what we were saying her heart just couldn’t accept it.

    We shared Rick Warren’s quote (Which Dan and I fully believe from our life experiences.) – “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”

    She wasn’t lashing out every day but it took very little to make her angry.  Everyone in the house walked around on pins and needles afraid that they might say something to her.  Even the littles were affected.  They no longer ran to Jasmine for a book to read or to show her something they did.  Most of the lashing out was saved for me. I had a really hard time with this because Jasmine and I had had a really close loving relationship. It was me she shared her fears with.  It was me that she told her nightmares and her stories of abuse.   Dan reminded me time and time again that the reason she said those things to me was that she felt safe with me.  It was because she knew that I would still love her and would never leave her that she felt safe sharing.   Even though I knew this truth, it was hard not to react sometimes.   Sometimes I was proud of my responses, often times I was not.  Sometimes I made things better and sometimes I made things worse.

    We tried to remind her of her wish to help orphans.  We came up with the name Jasmine’s Dream based on her comments from one of her surgeries.  As she was getting set up for one of her many surgeries after her wound infection, the anesthesiologist started talking to Jasmine.  The doctor told Jasmine that often times the medicine helps you to dream.  She asked Jasmine what she was going to dream about.  Jasmine merely stated, “I am going to dream that one day there will be no more orphans.”  The room went silent.  The doctor later told me that she was so touched by this comment.  There was no dreaming of vacations on the beach or shopping trips.  The anesthesiologist told me she would remember this forever.

    Jasmine’s Dream was created to continue the work we have already done during the past two years sponsoring children and helping others adopt.  Jasmine and Grace have both raised funds for nutrition programs at Jasmine’s orphanage.  We wanted Jasmine to fully grasp that she could make a difference.  We wanted her to know that she had worth no matter what but that her time on this earth was no a mistake.  She was not a mistake.   Dan found her a copy of the Purpose Driven Life in Chinese and English.   The second chapter is called “You are NOT an Accident”.  This chapter has taken on new meaning in our house.

    As it often is with our children, hearing it from another source made what we were saying even more believable.  She started to quote the book.  She started to believe that her life had meaning.  She started to dream about Jasmine’s Dream again.  She asked me one day if she could start by helping 1,000 children?  I told her it was possible and I made her a board to write down the names of the children we have helped.   We were all amazed when we realized that we had helped 86 children so far.  It’s hard to know how many children their $8,000+ helped with the nutrition program (Heroes for Healing) so we say 86+.

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 241

    She started telling her siblings about how to apply the lessons taught in the book.  She talks about forgiveness.  She talks about her life having meaning.  I knew Jasmine was finally getting it when she came to me and said that if she hadn’t been an aging out child in China, she wouldn’t care about aging out teens.  If she hadn’t been abandoned by a grandma that cared, then she wouldn’t understand and want to help children stay together by getting the surgeries that they need in China.  If she hadn’t been allowed to be adopted, she would never have learned about God’s love.

    Is she completely healed?  Of course not.   The past pains and hurts are many.  It will take a while for her to fully accept that the limitations of her body are forever.  BUT she has made huge progress and that smile is back on her face.  Jasmine has a very special soul.  She is a very, very special girl.  I love to watch others interact with her.  It’s one of those things that you can’t even explain.  I fully believe that God has plans for her and she has already affected many lives.  The fact that she now believes it too makes this mama’s heart very, very happy.

    If you would like to follow along, we have started a group page for her on Facebook called Jasmine’s Dream.  We are working with Love Without Boundaries (LWB) to set up a fund on their page for her.  LWB advocated for Jasmine and they are the reason we found her.  Dan and I believe so fully in this foundation that we serve on the board of directors.

    Jasmine lwb

    We are ready to help our girl achieve her dream.  What a blessing it would be if there truly were no more orphans in the world.  What if we could help families stay intact?  What if we could provide support for those who were struggling?  What if instead of adoption numbers plummeting people saw the need and stepped up – one child at a time?  What if there were more foster homes?  What if no child aged out?  What if Jasmine’s dream became reality?   What if….????  Please consider being a part of helping my girl’s dream come true.

    You can ADOPTFOSTERSPONSOR A CHILDVOLUNTEER – DONATE – EDUCATE!

     

  • I LOVE Adoption (By Gracie)

    Date: 2015.07.19 | Category: Adoption, Grace | Response: 0

    Hi my name is Grace and I’m 10 years old.  I’m one out of 14 children.  I never dreamed that I was going to have 13 siblings but I am happy. I have lupus and there’s 10 other siblings with different sicknesses. I know some people think that adopting is crazy but I LOVE it!

    kids 1

    Sometimes it brings sadness and sometimes happiness.  Don’t be sad if they don’t adjust to you right away. I learned that the hard way.  My mom and dad adopted the first two Ben and Maisey.  They were scared. They didn’t adjust to me right away. I was so confused by that because I was only six years old.  I didn’t know how to respond to them because they were in an orphanage where they got hurt and people were just mean and cruel to them. They were afraid for a little bit but they love to play. They left my little sister to die.  I don’t understand because she is so happy and I’m just so happy that she’s my little sister.  Ben Ben was very little and very sick and he wanted to eat all the time.  He was so blue.

    Cassie 4-14 158

    It was one or two years later and we were going to adopt Evie and Eli and Laney and Jasmine.  Jasmine was going to be 14.  When you turn 14 in China and you’re in a orphanage you get sent to an institution. But when I learned what an institution was I did not want her to go to one because there is people who aren’t nice and she’s in a wheelchair that would just make it so much harder for her so I gave up dance and tumbling just so we could get her.   Lainey who’s gotten so far she used to just rage all day but now she’s happy.  She plays. She says I love you mom and she says I love you Dad.  She said hey Lainey.

    IMG_7770

    Evie she was really blue but after her heart surgery she called herself a princess. Now she only responds to Princess Evie and she’s happy.  Eli has a heart defect too but he was as blue as Evie. He is silly and likes to dance.

    IMG_7786

    Two years later my mom and dad adopted Elyse and Max.  Max has no ears at all.  Elyse is in a wheelchair. Elyse was not in orphanage her whole life. Elyse told me she had a foster mom and dad but her foster dad was mean and drank bad stuff and he hit her.  That made me sad.  I like having a sister my own age. We share a room.  Max is very silly and he loves to dance even though he can’t really hear the music.

    IMG_7969

    All of these children that I’m talking about are my Chinese siblings I have one more sibling who was adopted Hope who is 16 and she was adopted in the US. I love Hope so much.  I love my family.  Someday I am going to adopt 20 kids too.

     

  • A Weekend to Remember

    Date: 2015.07.18 | Category: Cassie, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    So many things went wrong that weekend and yet Cassie​ & Reece​’s wedding and reception were beautiful.

    Elyse ended up in the ER on Saturday night.  We got home at 4:30 a.m.  I slept from 5 to 8 and started getting ready.  I would have slept longer but Lainey rarely ever sleeps past 5:30 and the fact that she went back to sleep from 5 to 8 had to be a gift from God.

    As the day went on we continued to season the meat and get the other items all ready for the nacho bar at the reception.  Zach picked up the cake at 11:30 and got lunch for the kids.  We had to have all the tables and our supplies to the reception area at 1, which was the earliest we could get in to set up.  I laced up Cassie at 1:30.  I then ran home to start getting the kids ready because we had to be back to the church for pictures at 3:45.  I realized as we were packing up all the food in the coolers that there was no way I was going to be able to drop off the food and still get to the church on time for pictures.  Dan and Zach headed to the reception area to drop off the food and crock pots, etc.

    At this point they still had Cassie’s backdrop for the wedding in their van.  She wanted really simple decorations.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.  She choose book pages for “the next Chapter” in her and Reece’s life.  Her back drop was two 4×8 pieces of plywood with book pages randomly mod podged all over.  Reece and Cassie wanted a Bible verse across the top.  Dan had the great idea to get someone to do a custom vinyl cut out.  Vinyl Motivations did a great job, reasonably, and quick!

    Backdrop

    Cassie made all her flowers out of book pages.  My mom made wedding flowers for many weddings when Cassie was younger.  Cassie and my mom had talked about what flowers they would use for her wedding ever since Cassie was a little girl.  Cassie was heartbroken over the fact that Nana couldn’t make them and she just couldn’t do what nana and her had dreamed of.

    Cassie even chose a Bible with writing margins to be her guest book.  She wanted her quests to share their favorite verse and for her to be reminded every time they opened their Bible how many people came to celebrate with them.

    At 3:45 we were still at home loading the bus.  I let Cassie know how late we were going to be.  As I was driving to the church at 4, I realized there was no way I could get the food set up and be back for the ceremony.  I had to call in reinforcements.  At Cassie’s pre-wedding dinner,  Teressa​ (mother of the maid of honor) had offered to help me.  I called her and she said she would be there.  I also called Amy, our pastor’s wife and my friend, and told her my dilemma.  These two families not only showed up to take care of things but they stayed throughout the night and helped clean up.  Without them we would have been eating out of coolers.  They were a HUGE blessing of the day.

    I had hoped to be able to be there at 5 and show them what food needed to go where and I didn’t even make that, as pictures were still going on at 5:15.  These two families were such a God send.  I can’t even tell you what that did for my heart to have two families step up at the very last minute and save the day.

    Lainey had a reaction to the sequins on her dress and was raging and refused to be in any pictures.  We forgot her formula and the snacks for the kids.  All of Cassie’s bridesmaids were in the restroom dressing my children for pictures.  I put a run in not one but two pairs of panty hose.  Lainey refused to put her dress back on, but Cassie wanted her to be on the video, so Lainey went down the aisle in a t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.

    family pic

    Dan’s mom couldn’t attend because Dan’s brother, Rod, was dying.  Dan had to walk Cassie down the aisle knowing at the same time his brother could pass away at any time.   It was so hard on his heart.

    We had bought Cassie’s dress so long ago.  At the age of 18, with no serious boyfriend, Cassie purchased her wedding dress.  We had seen the dress when she was buying her Miss Iowa pageant dress.  We knew the owner of the store and Cassie told her someday she would buy a dress just like that one.  A few months later, when the owner decided to close the store, she called us to tell us she still had that dress and it was greatly reduced in price.  We laughed about trying on a wedding dress without a wedding in the future but we did it anyway.  Dan’s mom, my mom and Aunt Kay, the three ladies that always took Cassie shopping, went with her to watch her try on the dress.  It was just $300 dollars and we decided it was worth the price to just let it hang in the closet for a few years.  Thank God that we made that purchase because not one of those three lovely ladies, who meant so much to Cassie, were able to be at the wedding.  My mom and Kay had passed away and Dan’s mom was with Rod.  Cassie was filled with wonderful memories of the day she purchased the dress even though she was sad they couldn’t be with her.

    When I walked into the reception, I was blown away.  Cassie had chosen simple decorations for the tables because there were going to be many children at the reception.  She chose black vinyl tablecloths with butcher block paper so kids could draw.  There were little books to read and crayons to color with.   She had crowns for them to color and wear.  Although, I saw many adults wearing the crowns too.  She even made her flower stems colored pencils.

    Cassie and Reece’s friends guided by Reece’s sister, Bailey, had a couple of hours to decorate the reception area.   They did such a wonderful job.  It all looked so pretty when we walked in.

    reception

    The guests showed up, there was food to eat, the dance floor and DJ were in place, and the party went off without a hitch.

    Dan said it wasn’t fair that he was the only one to get to dance with Cassie so he came up with the plan that after they started the father/daughter dance, he would motion to us, and we would circle Cassie with the whole family.

    family dance

    Even though it was Sunday night, Reece’s friends stayed to help tear down.  They packed up the 41 tables to return them.  The Edwards and the Jakes stayed until the very end to help us clean up.

    I asked Reece about all the guys who came to help him set up.  He said that’s what they do at their church.  It’s a young church.  Everyone helps everyone else so when it’s your special day there is nothing to do.  I like that.  That is what a church should look like everyone coming together to help you celebrate and to help you when things aren’t going well.   People that graciously drop whatever they are doing to step in and take up the slack and then go above and beyond and they do it all with a smile on their face.

    It was a day filled with bumps and hurdles and issues that could have ruined the whole day but in the end it turned out beautifully.  Reece kept saying, “We have her dress and I have my suit, today we are getting married.  Everything else will be just fine.”

    Isn’t that the truth though?  We let little things ruin our whole day.  We need to keep our eyes on the big picture.  Even though there were little hurdles throughout the day, there were always friends to help us out.  The day turned out beautifully!

    Happy marriage Reece and Cassie!   May your life be filled with many blessings and may the trials only bring you closer to God.  May your journey be filled with friends, family, laughter and love!

     

     

  • Happy Father’s Day

    Date: 2015.06.21 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    Someday I am going to get my husband to write a blog post about what it feels like to be the father of 14 children, but for now I will just write a post about my husband from my point of view.  I write about the children and our adoption journey a lot.  I don’t often write about Dan, mainly because he is a pretty private guy.  He prayed long and hard about our blog when we decided to write about our adoption journey.  He felt that the benefit of others seeing adoption first hand trumped his need to be private.

    Dan and I started dating when he was 15 and I was 16.  We had the usual high school romance with on again, off again issues.  We got back together shortly after high school and were married when he was 19 and I just turned 20.

    photo (1)

    He decided to become a physician after the twins were born.  He wanted to make a difference in the lives of babies.  He wanted to change their outcomes.  He didn’t want other families to go through the pain that we had gone through with the death of Kyle and the extended hospitalization of Codey.

    He fulfilled that dream after 15 long years of training and has now had the perfect job for over 14 years.   He is still able to do his clinical work and he also has the honor of being Clinical/Quality improvement director for a large company.  This job allows him to teach others about how important it is to not only take care of the patient but to truly care about the patient.

    During his fellowship, he fell in love with a little girl in his care.  She had a major heart defect and her pre-adoptive parents had backed out.  Her biological mom had decided not to treat and Dan was left with the task of stopping her treatment.  He couldn’t do it.  That is the kind of man he is.  I love that about him.  I will forever remember his call and how my heart felt when he said he had bought this baby some booties and stuffed animals because her little bed looked so bare.  Little did we know where this journey would lead.

    scan095

    Sixteen years later and she is a thriving healthy teenager.

    Hope's red hair

    A few years later, we added Gracie.  Our family was complete or so we thought.

    One of my favorite family pictures!

    One of my favorite family pictures!

    People often talk about reluctant husbands in the adoption world.  In our family, I was the reluctant one.  I was the one dragging my feet because I was unsure about adopting at the age of 45.  Dan felt like we needed to do something about the orphan crisis.  He never pressured.  He just prayed.  He knew if it was truly what God wanted I would agree to it.

    When we set off on this journey, we thought we would adopt two.  We never intended to adopt eight in three years.  We were just following God’s lead.  We’ve learned in our marriage that God’s plan is always best.   Even when you are fearful.  Even when that first step is so scary.   Even when you can’t possibly see how it could work.  It is always best to follow God’s lead.

    Our children have instantly known that they were safe.  It’s my favorite thing about the day when we first met them.  Every one of our children has gone to him.   Ben grabbed on and never let go.  Ben’s first word was daddy.

    Ben and daddy

    Ben and daddy

    Dan gets down to their level and they know it’s going to be ok.

    Evie Gotcha Day

    Our children have a safe shoulder to lie on…

    scan105

    photo(3)

    Someone who will be there with them no matter what…

    Evie 3

    Someone to be silly with…

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    Strong arms to keep them safe…

    ben 3

    A lap that will hold one or two…

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    or more…

    Dan and kids

    Someone to celebrate the big moments…

    kids9

    and little moments with…

    Cassie, Dad and fish

    A hand to hold…

    Evie hand

    Someone to help you when you can’t quite reach…

    Evie 9

    We’ve been through a lot together.  Dan is not just my husband.  He is my best friend.  Many would consider the life we have lived as hard or unlucky but we both know we are blessed.  Blessed to have met so young.  Blessed to have so many little blessings that we get to wake up to each day.  Blessed to have a child who waits for us on the other side.  Blessed to have the hope of forever.  Blessed to have had 30 years.

    It is Dan who has taught me the life lessons that have helped me most.

    When I was young and hurting and afraid to trust.  It was Dan who reminded me that I have the choice to wake up every morning expecting bad things to happen or to trust in his love.  Those words allowed me to trust God and God’s love for me.  It was Dan who showed me what a true relationship with Christ is.  It was Dan who taught me that life is all about perspective.  I can decide to be grateful or I can be bitter and angry and never appreciate anything.

    We chose to date when we were young.  We chose to stay together when things were tough.  The death of a child is hard on many marriages.

    We sealed the deal in China when we put our names on our lock on the great wall.  (The idea is that you have to break the lock to end your relationship and China is a long ways away.)

    china 2012 041

    Every day I get to see Dan in action.  He loves his children.   He would do anything for his children.  He keeps them safe and provides for them.  He isn’t perfect, none of us are, but his heart is always in the right place.

    I am blessed to have walked this journey with this man.  Our family has changed a lot in the last three years.  Not many men would sign up for this, but I am blessed that Dan knows what is truly important.  He knows that life isn’t about the things you can acquire.  It’s about figuring out the plan God has for you and using your gifts to the best of your abilities.   Time and time again Dan has followed God’s lead where others would never go.   He has said “why not?” even when he had hundreds of reasons to say no and my life has been forever blessed by those words.

    The crew

    Happy Father’s Day Dan!  We all love you so much!

  • I Hate Indifference

    Date: 2015.06.13 | Category: Adoption, Faith | Response: 0

    I know hate is a pretty harsh word, but I am having a hard time being quiet about it.   Maybe I should have titled it I Hate Indifference or How our Family Decided to Try and Make a Difference!  We no longer wish to suffer from depraved indifference.

    ———————————————————-

    Recently I was in the ER with Elyse.   Our visit was in the middle of the night and she shared many, many things with me.  I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is to listen to your child tell you of their abuse in such a matter of fact way.   No tears or shaking or trembling of the voice, just words said normally like they happened to someone else or as if they deserved it.

    In January, when we adopted Elyse, she was an over-the-top, bubbly, joyful child, but she told us over and over again that she would NOT be learning English.  She said she would stay with us awhile but she was not going to be a part of all this family stuff.  Her heart was definitely still in China.  I was so worried that she would not bond.  I knew that it was going to take forever to reach her and that hurt my heart.

    When Jasmine ended up in the hospital for so long, just weeks after we got home, I thought it would take even longer to bond, but just the opposite happened.  Because Elyse, who is very talkative could no longer communicate, she had to learn English.  She spent more time with other family members besides Jasmine.  She found out that she missed Dan and I.  She decided she really liked having parents and lots of brothers and sisters.

    In this past month we have seen a huge turnaround.  She loves to tell people she is an American.  She tells me that she loves me and that she is sorry for the way she treated me in China.  She is the first to ask if I’m okay or if I need anything.  She has asked that we only use her English name. At first, I didn’t understand why the change came about but I was thankful that my early worries about her not attaching to the family were wrong.

    In the ER, as she was telling me about what happened to her in China, she also told me that she now knew that she didn’t deserve to be hit.  She said that she knew if people truly loved you then they would protect you.  She told me Dan and I taught her that.  She said I love my family and I want to stay here forever.   This was a huge break through for her and the first steps in helping her to heal.

    I have a hard time with the abuse stories and the neglect stories.  I know they aren’t everyone stories but they belong to too many orphans.  Too many orphans are abandoned because their parents can not provide the care they need.  Too many orphans end up abused and forgotten.  Too many children are neglected world wide and I know it isn’t just an orphanage issue.   It happens here and all around the world.  Children are being trafficked.  Children are growing up alone and sent into the world alone.

    But if you ask most people they have no clue this is going on or to what degree it happens.  I know I didn’t know.  I lived in my own little world and didn’t believe that I could do anything about the world’s problems.  Truth-be-told, I didn’t think the world problems were any of my concern, but I was wrong.  Indifference is in epidemic forms right now.  We care so much about me, me, me and we have forgotten what God has called us to do.

    Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

    Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

    But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  1 John 3:17-18

    He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.  Proverbs 28:27

    Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.   James 1:27

    These are just a few.  We know we are commanded, but we are too busy or too poor or too (insert excuse here) to do anything about it.  We all do it.  It seems overwhelming. What can one person do?  I’d be the first to admit that.  I am not here to lecture but merely to remind you that you can make a difference.

    Everyone can make a difference.  The first choice is to stop being indifferent and open your eyes.

    Our family chose to make a difference when we couldn’t let Hope die alone in the hospital.  The kids were little (Zach was 11 and Cassie was 6) but they understood no child should die alone in the hospital without a name or people to love them.  I didn’t think about it in the term “we were making a difference”.  We just did what we felt was the right thing to do.

    When we chose to adopt again, everyone in the family was on board.  I will admit that we didn’t fully understand the plight of the orphan until we stepped foot in an orphanage, but we quickly began to understand.

    We decided that this would be our family mission.  We wanted to raise awareness for the orphan.  We wanted to spread the news about adoption.  Many people complain that adoption is too hard or too expensive but I am telling you the cost is much greater when we do nothing.  The cost of souls that believe they are worth nothing and deserve to be abused is too great.   You want to save lost souls?  What better way than to show them the love of the Father?

    We can no longer do nothing.

    I have read this verse in the Bible many times.

    Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says. James 1:22

    And then I read it in the King James version.  For some reason, it had more impact on me.

    But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only…

    BE DOERS!!!!

    That is pretty clear.  So what are you doing?

    We realized that our family was probably done adopting but there were so many more children who wait.  How could we just stop?  How could we do nothing?  We decided to join with Love Without Boundaries because they helped us find two of our daughters through their advocating on their blog.  The more we learned of their programs the more in love with this organization we were.  They do what they say they are going to do with the money received.  They have a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator.  They have a cleft exchange, education programs, the Unity Fund (which helps families stay in tact by getting their child the surgery they need), foster care programs and more.  When you sponsor a child or give towards a surgery, you get updates.  Ever wondered where your money goes when you send off a check to an organization?  Well, wonder no more.

    So what is stopping you from being a doer?

    Right now LWB is trying to help a mother who has been using social media to reach out to others to try and get her children medical help.  It’s amazing how hard this mother has fought and now there is hope.  Can you imagine not being able to get the care you need for  your children?  Won’t you please consider joining with LWB and help them get the care they need?  (A mother’s plea)

    Start here.  Every dollar counts.  Then open your eyes to what God lays before you.  Is there a neighbor who needs helps?  A widow?  A single mother?   Be a doer!!!!

    Anne Frank says it best – “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

    (This video is almost 8 minutes long but it is worth every minute.)

  • Jasmine’s Dream (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    poppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This is what we are called to do as Christians.

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

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

    We are called to give away our possessions:

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

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

    We are called to bear each other’s burdens.

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

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

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

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

    Francis Chan – Rope

    How are you going to finish?

    Francis Chan – Balance Beam

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

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