• The Wake Up Call Part 2 – by Mom

    Date: 2018.12.09 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    A few weeks ago, I was driving my daughter’s car, I hit ice on a bridge, the truck in front of me slammed on his brakes, I hit the brakes, and Cassie’s car spun out on the ice.  I ended up hitting the guardrail and stopped facing oncoming traffic in the middle of the left lane.   The Deputy Sheriff was already there and yelled for me to get my car to the ditch.  I couldn’t see because I had lost my glasses.  Luckily, Cassie’s car was still driveable, so I was able to put the car in reverse and get to the shoulder, before any other cars went by.  The deputy then jumped in the car and moved it for me.  It was a frightening moment but I was unhurt and so very thankful.

    —————————

    It’s hard when your child is so mad at the world.  It’s hard when they spew their anger all over you.  Connected parenting works.  Some days I applied it really well.  On too many days though, my feelings were hurt.  I know you aren’t supposed to take it personally but someone telling you over and over again that they hate you and that they wish you weren’t their mother weighs on you.  Doubt sets in.  I wondered what I was doing wrong.  I would wake up, forgive, and start again but we seemed to be stuck in this awful cycle of non-connectedness.

    Jasmine would push.  I would try to respond in love.  She would push harder.  I would try to keep calm.  She would up the ante and push more.  I would be angry or cry.  I liken it to being attacked by a mosquito.  I was able to handle it for a while but those constant little jabs just wore on me.  After hours of being stung, I wouldn’t stay as calm as I needed to be.  The tears would come.  After about a year I realized that is what Jasmine wanted.  She needed that response.  She needed me to be angry.  Because when she was angry, she didn’t feel the guilt of the words she had said and the things she had done.  Angry was a safe place so she would do whatever it took to get in a fight.  When I wouldn’t respond to whatever she was doing, she would do more and more until she got the fight she was looking for.

    As time wore on, I began to feel like I had failed.  I mean how can someone come from such a horrible place and not want to be here in our home?  I understood the pushing away part.  I understood the not trusting a “mother” figure part. I understood not wanting to be hurt again.  I had read the books. I got it.  It  was the not wanting a family and wanting to go back to China that I had a hard time with.  It wasn’t until years later that I would understand she wanted to go back to make them take back their angry words and say they were wrong.  She wanted them to say she wasn’t worthless.  She didn’t want to leave us and stay in China, she just wanted revenge.

    There’s a quote going around right now that says…

    “Remember – Everyone has a story that will lead to defiance or misbehaving.  9 times out of 10 the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry.  It will break your heart.”  – Annette Breaux

    I believe this fully but it was getting harder and harder to keep that in mind as time went on.  Weeks turned into months and months turned to a year, then two years, then three, and now its been almost four years.  We couldn’t find a way to break the cycle.  The more Jasmine misbehaved, the guiltier she felt, and the angrier everyone else got.  The more guilt she felt, the more she needed to be angry to not feel that guilt. The more no one responded the harder she pushed.  She would misbehave, others would react, forgiveness would be given, and then it would all start again.  It went on and on.  It was an awful cycle.

    The rest of the kids were angry because they couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t stop and why she hated me.  They didn’t understand why she could do and say the things she did to me.  They hated their orphanages too, but they didn’t hate me so they couldn’t understand why Jasmine did and said the things she did.   They hated that it made me sad. I tried really hard to not let them see my tears.  I said over and over again that we need to forgive and I showed them by forgiving.  But no matter how many times I said, “We need to forgive because Jesus forgives us.” it got harder and harder for them to do that as time went on.  I reminded them often that there may be a time in their future when they will need the same grace and mercy and they would want their family to support them through their hard times too.  We all need forgiveness.

    My hardest part through this whole thing was I felt like I was enabling Jasmine.  I couldn’t find a way to make it stop.   Jasmine never, ever said she was sorry. There was never any remorse on her part.  So we would move through this dance.  I would say that I don’t want to play this game any more.  Jasmine would laugh and say the things she usually said.  She would scream and yell mean things for days and once she had finally let go of all her anger she would want to start over.  Since Jasmine is unable to move we couldn’t do any of the physical stuff to help her release her anger.  We gave her many options to help with her anger but she wanted nothing to do with any of them.  She would just finally be done and expect me to be happy and just move forward. I could do that most of the time but as the years wore on, it got harder and harder to do.  Things were getting worse NOT better.

    When I had my accident, it was a wake-up call for me.  I had decided that no matter what happened with Jasmine, I was going to do all things in love.  That was what made me the saddest.  I was having a harder and harder time being patient and calm and filled with love.  I had just decided I was going to be as loving as I could be no matter how mad or sad my heart was.  Sooner or later she would see that I truly loved her or I was going to go to my deathbed trying.

    After the accident and spending the day at the adoption conference with Cassie, I went home to tell Jasmine what I had decided.  I was going to start over once again.   I wanted a new start.   I was hopeful we could once and for all stop this cycle of anger.

    BUT…

    Jasmine stopped me in my tracks.  She had heard about the accident and had been thinking about it.  She cried and cried. She asked for forgiveness and told me over and over again that she loved me.

    This was an answered prayer for sure.

    Both of us needed God’s forgiveness.  Both of us needed His grace and mercy.

    I love Jasmine so much and as a mother having your child say they hate you is one of the worst things ever.  It truly is.  It broke my spirit.  The things she said hurt so much.   I had a very hard time with not taking it personally.  I failed as often as she failed.

    But now there was a way to move forward.  I feel like a new person and so does she.  She was very brave to share her feelings and give me that gift for my birthday.  Now I want to share mine.  I have many things to be sorry for over the past four years.  I added to the drama.  I tried hard but failed too often.  I wasn’t as patient as I could have been.  I raised my voice when I should have stayed calm.

    We have a beautiful family.  Dan keeps reminding me of this fact over and over again.  Yes, there was drama with Jasmine but everyone else is doing pretty darn good.  But isn’t that how life is?  Nothing is ever completely good or completely bad.  There is joy with the sorrow.  There is laughter along with angry words.  There is death and new life.  There are really, really good times along with the bad.

    My hope in sharing this story is that others find forgiveness too.  That it doesn’t take a major accident or illness to finally reach you.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  If you have things left unsaid or undone, please take this time to do what you need to do for peace in your heart.  All things can’t be fixed and I get that, but knowing you did everything you could possibly do is a way to bring peace to your heart.  I am praying for healing for those who need it.  I am praying for the strength for you to try one more time.    I am praying for love and happiness to surround your table this holiday season.

     

     

     

     

     

  • My Wake Up Call by Jasmine

    Date: 2018.11.20 | Category: Jasmine's Blog | Response: 0

    The past four years I have been very angry about the fact that I can’t walk. I have been angry that China told me I could walk if I go to America.  China lied.  I wanted to walk and make them say I am NOT worthless.  It made me so sad and mad.  I have been really mad and I always take my madness out on my family.  I hurt them and I treat them really badly.  I said lots of mean words to them and I made them feel very bad.

    I have been really, really, really mean to my family and especially to my mom.  I hurt my mom’s feelings.  I have been really mean to her and said lots of hurtful words to her.  I told her many times that I didn’t want her to be my mom. She always forgives me because mama says God forgives her so she needs to forgive too.  She always does nice things for me and I took that for granted.

    I would be mean.  I didn’t want to admit I’m wrong or say I’m sorry.  I always chose the wrong choice instead of being nice.  I would feel really guilty because I thought I could never fix it and that my family wouldn’t love me any more even though they said they did.  I always made up my own story in my head that they didn’t love me and would want me to go away.

    These past weeks, I have been praying to God to ask for His forgiveness.  Mama said that I needed to forgive myself first because everyone else already forgave me.   I wanted God to help me take away my guilt because I felt so bad about what I did and I needed His help.   I know God knows what I did and that He’s watching me.  Mama said, “Christ paid for my sins and none of my family wanted to see me sad. They just want me to be part of the family and be happy again.”

    Every night I would think about it and decide to do the right thing in the morning but when morning came I would wake up and still do the same thing.  I kept praying and praying and asked God to give me one more chance.   On Saturday mom went to an adoption conference.  On the way there, she got into an accident.  The car spun very fast on ice and she hit the bridge.  I felt like I could have lost my mom.  But mom is still here and I am really glad that my mom is alive.

    I am really grateful to God that He gave me one more chance to make it right.  Thank you God!  I am so grateful for my mom and I love my mom so much.  What if my mama would have died?  What if I missed my chance.  I would have spent the rest of my life filled with regret and sadness.

    I want to be part of my family again.  This was my wake up call that I might not have tomorrow to make it right.  I’m so glad my mom is still here being my mom.  I’m really thankful mom always gives me one more chance.

    Thank you mom!  I love you!

     

  • Happy Birthday Hope

    Date: 2018.04.15 | Category: Hope | Response: 0

    19 years?  Where has the time gone?

    This sweet girl was brought to our family by nothing less than a miracle.

    Her story is amazing and so is she!

    She takes animation courses online and really loves anything that deals with art.

    Her hair color changes often and always looks amazing!

    She was recently accepted into Aveda Institute’s esthiology program.  She has always had a passion for makeup and skin care.  She is excited to see how these classes help her in her SFX makeup.  I am looking forward to her helping me with my skin care.  (Hint. Hint.)  8 sisters to practice on.  She’s going to be light years ahead on volunteers to practice her craft.

    She has the extra benefit of taking a very small class (15 kids) with one of them being her very good friend, Grace.

    She’s been friends with Peter for years and years now.

    She loves hanging out with her friends at church.

    She loves her puppy, Snickers, that she’s had forever.

    And her new puppy, Ripley.

    We celebrated her big day by eating out at HuHot.

    She doesn’t like cake so instead went for the “taco” birthday cake.

    Maisey and Hope both LOVE to draw and will draw any where, including at the doctor’s appointment for their yearly physical.  Birthday buddies share birthday physicals.  We know how to have fun in this house.  hahaha

    She went out to eat with her homeschool advisor to celebrate her birthday, getting into Aveda, and her upcoming graduation.  Ms. Deb has been with her since the beginning of her schooling.   It’s funny how people come into our lives and become like family.

    We are excited to watch her head into adulthood.  We feel unbelievably blessed that we have been given the joy of parenting her for 19 years.

    Happy birthday Hopey!

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • National Sibling Day

    Date: 2018.04.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    Once upon a time I wanted a very large family.  I thought 12 kids would be so much fun.   I’m not sure I ever told Dan this when we were dating.  I probably figured I would scare him away.

    Our first two babies were such an exciting time.  Dan and I found out we were having twins.  All was right with the world.  We were over the moon excited

    And then life happened…

     

    Codey – 2 pounds 7 ounces

    3 pounds 8 ounces – Kyle

    And then the world just seemed to stop as we buried Kyle and spent 14 months in the hospital with Codey.

    I absolutely guarantee you I was NEVER going to get pregnant again.

    But God had different and much better plans.

    We found out we were expecting when we were still in the hospital with Codey.

    What a gracious and good God we have.  Zach was such a wonderful sibling for Codey.

    Playing with Zach!

    And I was done!

    But then Dan said, “You’ve always wanted a little girl, Lisa.”  And I started to dream…

    And we had sweet Cassie and our family was complete.

    But then Dan heard about a little girl who needed a family and we decided to proceed with Hope’s adoption.

    And our family seemed complete again.

    I’m seeing a pattern here…

    And

    And then came baby Gracie.

    And once again our family was complete.

    Until Dan thought we should adopt again and after my reluctant foot dragging, I agreed.

    And then we adopted Ben and Maisey…

    And we knew that we were done growing our family.

    But after seeing all the little hearts waiting for families, we knew our family was not complete.

    So we added Jasmine, Lainey, Evie and Eli.

    This brought our children to that magic number 12.  We were so happy

    and said we were SO done.

    Until we set out to adopt another older girl because Jasmine dreamed we could do more.

    And Max and Elyse joined our family.

    The magic number 14.  2 sets of 7 and 7 means completion, perfection.

    We were done!

    But God and Elyse and Gracie had different plans.

    Liam and JJ brought us to number 16.

    15 children here on earth who get to care for each other, pray for each other, play with each other.

    We try hard to cultivate a feeling of belonging and connection.  We want them to have a safe place to grow and learn and find out who they are and what their purpose is.

    Praying that they are always there for each other no matter what.

    I know I won’t always be around but I love the fact that they will always have each other.

    Happy National Sibling Day!

     

  • The Year of the Dog

    Date: 2018.02.18 | Category: Family Life | Response: 0

    Our children love to celebrate Lunar New Year, which is the Chinese New Year!  We make all their favorites – chicken feet, steamed buns, potstickers, rice, noodles, and many other spicy dishes.  They look forward to this holiday and it is fun decorating our house and learning more about their birth country.

    This year is the “Year of the Dog” and our family set out to do it right.  Ok, not really, none of this was really planned.   Here is how the story played out.

    This past fall we set out to get a puppy.  One of our older dogs had a stroke and we had to let him go.  Everyone was sad that Sammi was gone.  Snickers, our other eight year old dog, seemed very sad and alone.   Snickers is a cockapoo and one of the best dogs around.   Dan and I had never been big fans of indoor or small dogs, but Snickers won us over.  We initially got him for Hope when she was about 12.  We had hoped that as she entered her teenage years she would come to understand what it meant to care for something else and be responsible for the care of this animal.

    Snickers and Hope have a sweet bond.  Snickers is seriously the best dog.  He knows who needs hugs.  He knows who is getting sick.  You can always find him sleeping next to the person who needs him most.  So when we set out to get another puppy we looked for a cockapoo and hoped for find one with the same personality as Snickers.  We found this sweet puppy and fell in love.

    She is a blue merle cockapoo puppy that is bouncy and ready to please everyone.  Gracie is who she has bonded with and Max and Lainey help to care for this sweet, smart puppy.

    As we were deciding to purchase Doodle, Dan asked if J.J. could hold the little white teddy bear puppy.  The teddy bear puppy climbed on J.J.’s lap, licked J.J.’s face a couple of times and fell asleep in J.J.’s arms.  Suddenly it looked as though we were purchasing two puppies.  I mean how do you say no to this?

    Lily is her name and she is a sweet, little puppy.

    Evie Faith and J.J. take care of Lily and make sure she gets lots and lots of love.

    After being home for a few days, we noticed that Doodle was going to Gracie and Lily was definitely J.J.’s puppy which left Elyse, who also shared a room with the girls, without a puppy.   Dan and I watched Elyse and could tell she was feeling left out even though she never said anything.  Dan started searching for another puppy.  I mean at this point one more puppy wasn’t going to make a lot of difference.  Right? Hahaha

    Dan brought up the idea of another puppy.  Elyse was talking about how she loves golden doodles and she loves their curly, apricot hair.  Elyse is very active and loves to go fast in her wheelchair.  We knew Elyse needed a puppy that was playful and could keep up with her.   Dan found this pretty little girl and we made plans to go get her.

    Elyse named her puppy Noodle.  Maisey and Elyse love Noodle, who is very laid back and eager to please.

    While I was looking at the site, I noticed there was one more puppy available.  The little brother to Noodle.  I asked the owner about him and she said there were a couple of people trying to decide if he was the right puppy for them.  I loved his sweet face.  The owner told me about his sweet disposition.  She even mentioned that he would make a great therapy puppy.   I tried to talk Elyse into getting this little guy but she was set on her puppy.  I guess I looked like I needed a puppy too because Dan told me to tell the owner that we would take both puppies.

    So now I have a puppy too.  His name is Paladin and everyone loves him.  He is mellower than mellow.  He truly is such a sweet puppy.  He is just the right puppy for Jasmine to hold on her lap.  She isn’t able to hang on to much, but he is so chill he just calmly sits on her lap.

    Ben and Liam help in caring for Paladin.  The truth is everyone LOVES Pali.   He’s just a sweet puppy.

    While we were picking up Paladin and Noodle we noticed a little beagle puppy that the owner was holding.  She said this beagle pup was the runt of the litter and they had to keep him separated.  I told Dan to hold the puppy but he refused.  He was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to say “No” to this face if he actually held the puppy.  We already had four puppies and we certainly didn’t need anymore.

    But as you can see that didn’t last long…

    Dan has wanted a beagle puppy since he was little.  Hope started talking about having a puppy too and how she would take care of it.  We were worried about the puppy getting along with the other dogs and whether he would be a howler or not.  We talked to the owner and she said that this puppy was sweet and was known to whine for attention but wasn’t a big howler.  Hope convinced Dan that if the puppy didn’t get along with the others that she would take him to her apartment when she moved out in May.

    And Ripley came home with us the next week.   Hope and Eli LOVE their beagle pup.

    All the puppies get along great.  Someone asked how we get children and puppies to get along.  I wish I had some great advice, but I don’t.   It just seems to happen.

    Here is how they sleep.

    The puppies have brought a little more chaos into the home but a whole lot more love too.  Watching the kids and puppies play together is so dang cute.  They chase each other in circles around the house.   The puppies even snuggle up next to Lainey and give her some love.

    The puppies hang out with the kids during school time.

    And they even like to go for rides in the bus.

    Our puppies certainly give new meaning to the “Year of the Dog” but all in all it’s been a wonderful adventure and I wouldn’t change a thing.   Five puppies isn’t really as crazy as it seems when there is this much love to go around.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    May peace and love fill your heart, beauty fill your world, and contentment and joy fill your days!

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2018.02.05 | Category: Congenital Heart Defect, Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Sharing Evie’s story this year on the 28 Days of Hearts blog…

    http://www.28daysofhearts.com/2018/02/day-5-evie-eli.html?m=1

    Here are our previous years stories.

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

  • It’s Cute How I Think I’m in Control

    Date: 2018.01.15 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I have always had an issue with control.  Bad things happened to me as a kid and I thought I could control it by keeping everything around me “just so”.  Rooms had to be cleaned in a specific order before I went to bed.  Lights could only be turned off in certain order.  It wasn’t really OCD, I could not do it, but I just needed to feel as if I had some semblance of control.

    I let go of most of that when Codey and Kyle were born.  There’s nothing better to make you put things in perspective and to let you know you have no control then having your children born 12 weeks early.  Kyle’s death and Codey’s subsequent 14 months in the hospital were a constant reminder that I was not in control.  I learned very quickly what was important and it was no longer the order in which I cleaned a room or whether or not everything was put back where it belonged.

    On this journey, I have learned how to trust God and turn it all over to Him time and time again.  But that hasn’t really stopped me from thinking that if I work hard enough I can control my little corner of the world.

    December 30 and 31st of 2017 found me making plans and lots and lots of lists.  I cleaned out the kitchen.  I got rid of anything that I hadn’t used in a year.  I put together two storage cubbies with wheels so I could put my rice cooker, pressure cooker and other gadgets on so they weren’t on my counters.  My counters were going to look like a magazine – a minimalist magazine.   My counters were no longer going to look as if 13 small children still lived in my home.  My cupboards were going to be organized.  There was going to be a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I was once and for all going to get it together.

    I typed up my exercise plan.  I worked out my Keto diet which I had lost weight on and had mostly stopped over the holidays. I made my grocery list.  I looked up a few more recipes.  2018 and was going to be fabulous.  I was going to rock this.  I had already proven I could lose weight on this plan so instead of beating myself up over not losing all 60 in one year, I was going to dust myself off, congratulate myself on the first half gone, and move on to the last half.  That weight didn’t stand a chance.

    I made my list of the rooms to clean and what needed to be done in each room.   I picked a room to do during each and every day of the first week of January.  I was NOT going to wait for spring to spring clean.  I was going to do it now so when we started school again, everything was going to run like clockwork.  I was already so proud of myself.  Look at these lists.  I had thought of everything.

    I wrote my resolution list on the kitchen window.   I have found that I spend a lot of time at that window.  During the past two months I had used a wet erase marker and wrote the things I needed to see during the day for encouragement.   It already said 90 days without pop and listed my 27 pound weight loss.   Now it was going to say:   Less cussing, stick to a budget, lose 30 more pounds, and give more.

    I wanted to be a better person.  I want to live more frugally so that we can give more away.  Our work with Love Without Boundaries has shown me over and over again what it is like to live in a third world country and what so many people go through.  My heart breaks and I know for a fact that our family can do more and this was the year to do it.

    Dude I was rocking this.   It wasn’t even the first and I had the first room done.  My counters sparkled.  Everything had a place.  I had gone through all my cupboards.  I was the donation, recycling, garbage master.

    But then January 1st came.  I slept in so I was well rested.  Heck, I might even do two rooms today, that’s how good I was feeling.  I was ready to go.  The kids knew the plan.  We were going to do a room a day and be completely organized.  They were ready.  I was ready.

    And then we got the call.

    Would you accept this kidney for Jessica?

    And again I learned who cares if the house is spotless?  Who cares if I’m completely organized?  Who cares if I don’t have it all together?  Who cares about lists?  Who cares?

    J.J. has a chance at new health.  J.J. has a chance to not only grow but to maybe grow old.

    What a gift.

    It makes me wonder if God was watching me frantically typing out my lists over the weekend, so proud of myself.  Look what I am going to do.  Look what I am going to accomplish.  Saying to himself, “Oh sweet child, you have no idea.  Do you think He turns to the angel next to him and says,  “It’s so cute how she thinks she’s in control isn’t it?”

    So technically none of my list got done.  You could even say I failed cause I cussed when they called, I spent money not in our budget while we were in the hospital and I gained two pounds.  Technically I messed up 3 of the 4 resolutions all ready.  I had better find my checkbook quick.

    But oh how good God is.  I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “I think I’ve already learned this lesson.”, but maybe just maybe I still have a ways to go.   Good thing God is patient and extends lots and lots of grace.

    2018 is going to be an incredible year and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I will accomplish and everything to do with what He has already done!

    I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 104:33

     

     

  • FAITH – The Journey to J.J.’s New Kidney Part 1

    Date: 2018.01.09 | Category: Jessica, kidney transplant | Response: 0

    Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

    I feel like I should share this story of walking in faith and God’s grand provisions to give Him glory, BUT these stories are hard.  How do you praise God for this answered prayer for J.J. when you know it meant unanswered prayers for someone else?   Somewhere parents weep for their child who they said goodbye to and because of their selfless act our J.J. gets a second chance and we get to celebrate.

    My friend, Amy, said it well when she said, ““Organ donation is like adoption, isn’t it? That for a joy to happen…..a deep and profound sadness has to first happen as well.”

    We’ve buried a child.  I know the pain that brings.  Kyle was wanted.  He was planned.  He was celebrated.  He was also born too early. We prayed for healing, our family prayed, churches prayed and yet Kyle died.  Why? Why would a child that a family wants so badly die, but other children live and are left to die?  Why would ANY child die?  How can you make sense of any of the unfairness in this the world? I don’t have the answers and have accepted the fact that I won’t have the answers this side of heaven. All I know for certain is that I trust in a perfect God whose thoughts and ways are way beyond anything I can comprehend.  A perfect God who doesn’t make mistakes.  A God who can make good come out of the bad.   I believe God didn’t mean for that child to die.  Just like God didn’t intend for our children to need a Plan B for their parents.  Profound sadness leading to our great joy.  It’s too much to bear sometimes.

    During our last nephrology appointment, we were asked to talk to the transplant team about listing JJ on the active transplant list.  JJ had been listed as inactive, accruing time, for almost a year, and they felt like it was a good time to list her and be very selective in the kidney that we accepted.  The doctors were pretty insistent about listing her now. They went through all the information about dialysis and what could happen if she got one nasty illness. They agreed with us that she was the stablest she’s ever been BUT they still wanted to put her on the active list and be really, really selective.  They assured us that we didn’t have to accept any kidney we didn’t want to accept and if we weren’t ready to proceed, we could turn it down.  They felt like it could take quite some time to find the perfect kidney so listing her sooner rather than later would be better.

    We’ve had to make these hard decisions before with our cardiac kids. Do you proceed with the heart surgery hoping to extend the length and quality of their life for many, many more years and risk that they may die in the process?  Is the risk worth it?  Do you proceed hoping for healing and extra years with them or do you just enjoy the time you have left?  These questions are hard.  No one can tell you the right time to move forward.  No one can tell you what the right thing to do is.  There are no clear cut answers.   All you can do is gather all the information you can, pray, and proceed.

    This was where we were with J.J.  We were hoping to not wait too long so that she would have to start dialysis.  We didn’t want her to be even more ill when we proceeded with the transplant, but we also selfishly wanted to enjoy the time we had with her because major surgeries are always risky and their are no guarantees.  We knew she had had some psychological difficulties after her surgery in August and wanted to let her heal emotionally as well as physically before the transplant.  In the end, we decided to list her on the active list and be really, really selective.   We were told it could be months maybe even a year before the perfect kidney presented itself.

    On January 1st, after a short wait on the transplant list, our nephrologist called and said I know this is crazy but the transplant surgeon just called me. We have a donor kidney.  I know we said we would be selective and turn down any kidney that’s not perfect, BUT this kidney is a perfect match.  It’s a young donor so it’s the perfect size for her little body.  (Believe me when I say no one wants to hear those words…young donor.)   The kidney doesn’t have to travel far.  There are no antibodies to worry about.  This is the perfect kidney.  Would you please consider accepting this kidney?

    We were blown away?  The very first kidney that we were offered is the perfect kidney?  So soon?  Was this the right time?  Should we proceed?  What if we said “No” and never got another chance?

    We were called around noon, we talked and prayed, accepted the kidney at 1:30 and arrived at the children’s hospital at 4.  Talk about a whirlwind of emotions, but in the end when something this miraculous happens how do you say no?

    We were packing at home when we realized the fact that on the first of January Dan’s insurance changed through his employer. In all our excitement, we had totally forgotten this fact.  We had been approved for the transplant through our old insurance but not this new insurance.  The transplant staff was pretty sure that the new insurance would honor the old insurance’s approval but since it was a holiday, no one could confirm this fact.   Should we proceed not knowing if we are covered?  In the end we decided to trust that God, who had provided so well for J.J,, would continue to do so.  And He has…

    “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”  – Charles R Swindoll

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

    Date: 2018.01.08 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I read this verse this morning in my devotional and it made me think about Dan and my life together.

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

    Whenever we are in the hospital, people say all the time that we are amazing.  It makes us both uncomfortable.  It’s not a pretending to be humble thing.   As Dan said the other day, it’s like being thanked for breathing.   Let me assure you that we are not amazing.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We haven’t done anything amazing.  We just decided to be obedient when God called, stepped out in faith, and trusted God with everything.

    We didn’t set out to have twins early or to deal with all the complications that they had, or to bury a child. In fact, presented with those options, I’m pretty sure our 23 year old selves would have said “NO!”

    We didn’t set out to adopt a little girl with a major heart defect, but when face to face with a little girl who was alone and just needed a family to love her, what else could we do?

    When we did set out to adopt again, we were just going to do one more adoption. It made sense to add the second child when China made the option available. Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we would be able to do that. God lead again and we followed.

    When we went to adopt, our hearts were broken by what we saw in the orphanage and by how Ben and Maisey reacted to us.  They just wanted love and they soaked our love in.  I will never forget watching Ben cling to Dan from the moment he met Dan.  Ben loved Dan from the beginning.  Ben clinged to Dan.  When we visited the orphanage Ben had lived in for almost 4 years, Ben absolutely refused to go to any of his previous caregivers.  Instead Ben buried his head in Dan’s neck and held on for dear life.  My heart would never be the same again.  Our hearts were forever broken for the children who wait.  We said, “God use us.  We will follow!”   We knew we could do more so we said “Use us!”

    It’s easy to pray to God to use you when those are just words that you are uttering.  The hard part begins when He starts to show you what He wishes for you to do.  You doubt yourself.  Satan uses the world to whisper in your ear that you are not enough.  You will never be enough.   Dan and I are only human.  So because of those doubts and fears, we put limitations on our obedience.  We said we wouldn’t adopt an older child. We wouldn’t adopt a child who had severe mental delays.  We felt that this would put an undue burden on our older children.  If something happened to us, they would already be caring for Codey. How Could we ask them to do more?

    The very next year God lead us to 4 children, an almost 14 year old girl and a severely delayed little girl, plus two little heart kiddos.  I won’t go in to details here, because I’ve written about it a lot in past blogs, but that year was an amazing year of God showing up and making miracle after miracle happen.  We didn’t set out to adopt 4, but we heard Him loud and clear saying “put 4 on the homestudy” when we started.  We had no idea what it meant.  Then we set out to follow where He lead.

    We ended up adopting two more the following year.  We knew we were probably done.  14 children, 11 of them with significant needs seemed like a good place to stop.  Then my friend sent me JJ’s picture and said “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?” and my heart was stolen by this sweet face so we agreed to advocate for her.

    When Elyse and Grace started talking about JJ being their sister, it was hard.  Obviously we would love to help every child but know we can’t so we drug our feet.  Elyse and Grace were insistent  that she was their sister.  They had every child in our house praying for JJ at every meal.  They would talk about her as if she already lived with us. And when Elyse, who was lying in her bed after getting ready to go to sleep said, “If she dies in China, I will never be able to forgive myself.”, Dan and I knew we had to seriously look at whether it was right for our family to adopt her.

    Truth-be-told Dan and I knew instantly that she was our daughter but we did everything in our power to justify that we had done enough.  But God didn’t let up on our hearts.  Our hearts grew heavier and heavier for JJ.  We see lots of children being advocated for.  We pray for many children who have touched our hearts.  Our hearts are touched for those children but it is more than that when you know that this is a child you should adopt.   It’s almost impossible to explain.  Your heart is heavy.  You look at their picture constantly.  You pray for them.  You wake up in the middle of the night to pray and look at their picture again.  I never heard God’s voice directly but I knew without a doubt that we were to proceed.

    Which leads me back to the verse above.

    “Glory be to God”, (not Dan or I or our family)

    “who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”   We could have never in a million years dreamed up this beautiful life we get to live.  I would have never dared ask for so many miracles or to be given such blessings.  I believed I was too old.  I believed it couldn’t be done.  I limited myself by what the world told me could be done.

    BUT NOT GOD…

    — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”   We’ve been through countless surgeries, seen miracles in our healed children, and been given so much more than we will ever give them.  I sometimes feel like we’ve used up too much of the good that God gives, as if God has a limit on the good that He bestows to His children.

    We are not amazing or stronger or braver than most, but we did choose to be obedient.  We have seen God show up time and time again.  We trust that He is perfect.  We trust that His plan is good.  We trust that He can make good come out of the bad.   So when God called us to move out of the comfortable, we chose to move forward in faith and get more than a little uncomfortable and because we did this, we get the privilege of living a most extraordinary life.

    “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

  • What is Love?

    Date: 2017.10.10 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    Edited:  Jasmine and I worked on this blog together.  She told me what she was okay with me sharing and her main thought throughout this post was that we, as parents, can not assume we know what our child is feeling.  

    We’ve been having some interesting conversations with the middles lately about love.  Jasmine recently asked, “How do you know if you love someone? What is love?”  I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one.  It seems like it should be easy enough to describe what love is but it was harder than I thought it would be.   How do you describe love?  How can you put it into words that a child from an orphanage can understand?  How can you adequately put into words that overwhelming feeling that you feel in your heart?

    Jasmine questions everything about how she feels.  We have had a hard couple years with her coming to terms with never being able to walk.  You wouldn’t think that would be an issue with a child who has never walked and has slowly lost more and more bodily control, but it is. The China doctors said if she wasn’t so lazy she would be able to walk so she believed if only she worked harder she could walk.  She was left at the orphanage at the age of 8 by her grandma who could no longer care for her so she believed if only she wasn’t so heavy she would have been worthy of staying with her grandma.  She was told by the orphanage director and the nannies that coming to America would allow her the medical help she needed to walk so she believed if only she held on just a little bit longer and a family came, then all of her dreams would come true.  This HOPE is what has kept her going for years.

    When she had her surgery over two years ago, she realized there was nothing that could be done.  She was never going to walk.  She was depressed and it was understandable.  She raged a lot.  She would be angry for days.  Just recently she shared that the driving force behind her wanting to stay with our family was that she was going to get treatment and be able to walk back into the orphanage and her grandmother’s house and prove that she was worthy of their love.  She wanted to prove them wrong.

    So while we thought she was adjusting well to our family, because she was happy and never complained, the truth was even though she acted like she was doing well, she was just waiting for the opportunity to walk so she could go back to China and show them all what a mistake they had made.  She was NOT vested in growing connections with our family because she already had a family in China.  Her HOPE was to one day go back to China where her grandma would welcome her back with open arms, tell Jasmine how much she missed her, and Jasmine would live happily ever after.  Jasmine liked us well enough but she wasn’t going to be staying so why attach?

    After her surgery she was so mad that she was never going to walk that she still wasn’t vested in working on relationships.  Her dreams had died.  Her HOPE was gone.  We were the people who had let her down and she was mad.  Everything that she had been planning was never going to happen.  Everything everyone had told her was a lie.

    It’s amazing how much you can miss when someone is quiet and pretends very, very well.  Jasmine is a sweet, sweet soul who has been through so many horrible things and has spent lots and lots of time alone.  As a very little girl her grandmother often left her sitting on the sidewalk for the whole day or she would leave her alone at home. No one else in the home was very connected to her.  Jasmine remembers one uncle/brother (The terms used in China are loose so I am unsure of his actual relationship to her.) who took care of her once when she had a horrible fever.   Outside of that she can’t remember anyone holding her hand or hugging her or tucking her in at night.  For the most part she was left alone and had a very lonely existence.

    When she went to the orphanage, she was unable to go to school because it was on another floor.  She was unable to eat with all the other children because the dining room was on another floor.  She was unable to go out to play because she couldn’t get down the stairs.  She was left alone in a room with her Chinese soap operas for days on end.

    It’s no wonder she doesn’t understand love because she was never shown love at least not in the way our family shows it.  We often talk about how love is “action”.  We love by how we care for others.  We hug and say “I love you” often.  We help each other.  My love language is doing things for others so I show them by doing.  I have explained that to Jasmine on many occasions.  I love you so I fix your favorite foods.  I love you so I am happy to take care of you.  I love you so I teach you.  I love you so I make sure you have your Chinese shows and music.   I love you so I hug you good night.  I love you so I make sure you take your medicine.  I can explain those things to her but the concept is foreign to her.  She can see how excited I am to see each of the children in the morning, how I care for them through out the day, and how I hug them and put them to bed, but it doesn’t resonate because it wasn’t her life until she was 14.  She sees these things and she knows I do it because I love them, but it still doesn’t make sense.

    She isn’t able to do much for anyone.  The truth is she is barely able to move.  She can brush her teeth and feed herself.  She can play on her Ipad and she can fold her origami birds, BUT she isn’t able to do all those things she sees me do for others, so she assumes she isn’t able to love.  She assumes there must be something wrong with her.  We tell her over and over again that when she hugs the littles or reads to them that is showing love.  When her heart hurts because they hurt, that is love.  But she still questions.  She still believes maybe she isn’t able to love.  She has been on the outside so long that she doesn’t know how to join the dance.

    Jasmine loves and cares for others but she hasn’t been able to put it into words.  She keeps saying she doesn’t understand or she doesn’t get it.  We know she loves in the way she cares about the kids, in the way she cares so deeply for all the orphans left in orphanages around the world, and in the way she cares for others that she sees hurting.

    So imagine my thrill when she said to me, “I think I got it Mom.  Remember when we had to share the bed in China? Remember how you pulled me close and held me? I don’t have the words for it. I never had anybody hold me close before. I never had anyone really hug me before. I can’t tell you how I felt. My heart was warm. Do you know that mom? My heart was warm and happy. How many kids will never never never know how that feels mama? That makes me sad.”

    She said she finally understood what love was.  She could put it in terms that she understood.  That was a HUGE moment for her.  But that moment was followed up by the words “Last night was the first night I no longer wanted to go back to China.”

    I will admit that I just stood there staring back at her.   Why would she want to go back to the place that caused her so much pain?  Why would she want to go back to the place where she was tortured?  Believe me when I say that I don’t use that word lightly.  She has never been treated with the kind of dignity and care that she deserved.  Why would she want to go back to the place where she just sat in a corner all day long?  America has power wheelchairs and opportunities.  America has a family that adores her.  Why would she want to go back to the place where they dropped her down stairs and left her alone?  But that’s just it, even when I think I know what she’s thinking, I don’t.  I am so far off because I don’t think the way she does. This is what she said, “I want to go back because I want them to tell me that they made a mistake.   I am worthy.  I AM NOT WORTHLESS!   I want them to pay for the horrible things that they did to me and I want to make sure nothing bad every happens to another child.”

    I’ve tried hard to explain that as much as we want others to do things, we can’t make them.  They are not going to make any of the past ok.  They are not going to take back what they did. There is no way she can protect every child in China, no matter how noble the wish is.  If there was a way to make this happen, we would travel with her and happily help in making this dream come true.

    We tell her she is worthy.  We remind her that her family has viewed her as worthy from day one.  We remind her that since she accepted Jesus Christ into her heart, she is the daughter of the King.  She is kind and beautiful and smart.  She is beyond brave.  She is resilient.  She is so much more than the person China deemed “worthless”.  We remind her again and again that walking doesn’t make you a worthy person, but in the end she has to believe this fact herself.

    We called this summer “The Summer of Healing” because we were working on healing our family after dealing with some pretty rough patches with Jasmine and her rages.  When someone is so unhappy the whole family ends up feeling it too.  As parents, you can try and protect the others as much as you can, but there’s hurt feelings no matter how hard you try.

    We turned a corner in her healing when she finally shared how she was feeling and how much anger she had toward those who hurt her.  Had I known any of what she was planning, cause we knew she had anger but not what she wanted to do because of that anger, we could have talked through it.  I was relieved that she finally shared so we could move forward.  And the question that started her healing was “Then what?”.  She hadn’t given any thought to what she would do after she went back or what would happen to her then.  She was stuck.

    So we worked on our Summer of Healing and now we are off to work on the Fall of Forgiveness.

    Forgiveness doesn’t make it all okay, but to truly heal you need to be able to forgive and let things go.  Forgiveness of ourselves is a must too.  I’ve been there.  It’s a hard road sometimes to forgive ourselves and to forgive those that have hurt us so deeply, especially when we carry the physical scars inflicted by them.  It makes it almost impossible to forget, but to heal we need to forgive and move forward.

    “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”   –  Marianne Williamson

    I think Jasmine has taken a huge step forward in deciding that she has to let go of her dream that she can some how make them all pay for what they’ve done.    Jasmine has taken giant healing steps forward this summer and we are praying that the “Fall of Forgiveness” will bring her heart the peace that it needs.

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