Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Today Evie has her Fontan surgery. Today Evie gets a chance at a longer life. Today is a beautiful day!
For some reason getting ready for Evie’s surgery has been extra difficult. Ben and Eli both had great results, better than normal results even, but this time there has been a small voice whispering “You’ve had too much good luck!”.
I know this isn’t the truth. It’s not luck. I have nothing to do with it. It’s not based on rewarding or punishing me. Evie’s life has been forever known to God. God did not set out to harm Evie. God did not leave Evie on the side of the road. Man did that. I won’t get into debates about whether God made Evie this way or why her parents had to leave her. I can not even begin to fathom the whys of the world.
If you know Evie, you know she oozes joy. She is a beautiful soul. She is full of laughter and light. She makes friends wherever she goes. Evie’s plan is most assuredly John 9:1-3. If you have never heard this verse, here it is…
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
I see that with Evie. I see the works of God displayed in her. How many of us can say that about our lives?
As I was flying to Boston I had lots of time to just look at my girl. I watched as the flight attendants and people around us interacted with her. When we landed, the gentlemen in our row told me that he flies all the time and has never, ever seen a child behave so well. If you had seen us earlier when we arrived at the airport, you’d know what a miracle this was. We arrived at the airport and Evie refused to get out of the car. She cried and yelled, “I don’t want to go.” She knew exactly where we were going.
As we headed to security, I went over the plans. We would fly to Boston. We would have a good night and go to our doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s appointment would have no big owies. We would have two days just to hang out and have fun together. I told her we had three days until surgery. I told her if she was sad and worried leading up to surgery, she wouldn’t have fun the next three days. I asked her if she trusted mommy and she said, “YES!” From that moment on she has done really well. Whenever we went to radiology, labs, echo, she was nervous, would cry a bit, and I would say, “Do you trust me?” and she would yell, “YES!” and smile. I can not even begin to explain what that did to my heart.
It was then that I understood why I was so nervous. Evie was trusting us to do what was best for her. We are trying to make the best decisions we can with the information we have. Dr. delNido is skipping the second stage and going straight to the third stage. This is wonderful because it will save her having another big open heart surgery but it makes it a little more complicated. We are trusting the doctor’s decisions. They know so much more than we do and are the best that there is in cardiology. But the risks are still there…complications, strokes, and death are possible. Every time you head in for open heart surgery you take a chance. You are hoping to extend their lives, to give them a better quality of life and a longer life, but the truth is it doesn’t always work that way.
I was feeling a little nervous and then I read this devotional. I have mentioned many times how I love that God brings the words to me that I need to hear when I need to hear them.
“The truth is that all things belong to God, including our time and our children. Every heartbeat is His gift. This perspective encourages us to make our offerings as true worship because we realize we have no claim on the things of this earth. It is only because of grace that we are able to have fellowship with Him and offer those gifts in the first place.” – Parenting by Design
Every heartbeat is a gift. I truly believe that. It is only by grace that I have been granted the opportunity to be Evie’s mama. I am worshiping a God who has graciously granted us 525 days with Evie. 525 of the most beautiful days that you could ever hope to have. Today I praise a God of possibilities. I praise a God of second chances. I praise a God that knows every hair on Evie’s head. He has always known her and will hold her in His hand. He loves my girl even more than I do.
We arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. They took her to the O.R. at 7:30. They are expecting it to take at least six hours and I will update how it goes in the comment section.
Please continue to pray for Evie. Pray for the doctors and for everyone who will come in contact with her. May they see God’s love and hope in everything that we do. May Evie’s life continue to be a beacon of light showing all of God’s good works.
There’s an amazing thing that happens when we are traveling and in the hospital. We are presented time and time again with the opportunity to share our adoption story, this is especially true when you travel with Evie. We like to joke that Evie may have half a heart but God gave her double the personality. She is social. She is a greeter. She says “Hi!” to everyone she meets. She is just a beautiful soul. She notices everyone from the lady sitting by herself on the bench to the little girl in the hot pink wheelchair in the gift shop who everyone else just walked by. Evie saw her. Evie said hello to her and blew her a kiss. The grandmother even mentioned how most little kids are afraid of this little girl, but not Evie.
Today we had the pre-op appointment getting ready for her Fontan surgery bright and early Monday morning. All day long she has been practicing saying “How are you?”. It just cracks me up. She told the x-ray tech that she was sorry she cried. She even thanked the phlebotomist for her owie.
The adoption talk starts when people say how cute she is, how social she is, and then they ask if she has any brothers or sisters. When I say that she has 13 siblings, there are a variety of ways people respond. You can usually tell within one or two questions which group they will fall into.
“The Skeptic” – these people believe we must have some ulterior motive – want money, glory, to get a book deal or to be on reality TV, etc.
“The Confused” – Why would you put yourself through this? Why China and not the U.S.? Are you crazy?
“The Appreciative” – You are so kind, thank you, your kids are so lucky.
“The Curious” – I’ve always thought about adoption or I’d love a large family…
The skeptics hurt my heart. I wonder how they could think those things. Adoption is hard. How could anyone think you did it for any of those reason? How many people really get a reality show? I most certainly don’t want one. Our house is too loud to be a t.v. show. I often refer to our house as controlled chaos. I love children running and laughing out loud. I love loud, off key singing and dancing. Plus, it is way too much work to try and be famous.
Answering the questions of the confused are much harder because I am constantly on defense. Trying to justify why one child deserves to be adopted is impossible. The truth is trying to adopt when you are older is tricky. There were many factors in why we chose to adopt from China. After we traveled the first time, there were even more reasons why we went back. None of this can be explained in just a couple of sentences nor will any of it make sense to someone who doesn’t understand what a child living in institutional care goes through. (Jasmine’s Blog)
Then there are those who go on and on about what we are doing. They are the appreciative. It’s embarrassing. Honestly anyone who spends a moment with these guys would have to be blind and unfeeling to not understand why we do it. They are beautiful souls full of life and love. Their joy is contagious. I am not special or extra kind or wonderful. I am blessed, truly blessed to be their mama.
My favorite moments are with the curious. I love when people truly, honestly want to know why. What would lead us to do this? Why would we open our hearts to pain? Why would we invest this much time in children that have health issues? Why would we adopt nine?
I love how often God puts those in our path that have been thinking about adopting. It happens time and time again. It is inspiring to talk with those that are in the process of adopting, have adopted, or have gone on mission trips and cared for special needs children. It’s fun to share notes, encourage others, and learn about new organizations that are helping those in need.
I enjoy being able to share how God lead us to each of the children. God has amazingly opened up doors time and time again. I love to share about the children’s stories because it is not about me or Dan or our family. It’s all about God. It is an honor to be able to share their stories, to talk about how far they have come, and what it means to step out in fear, but with trust that God’s plan is perfect!
It’s hard to contain your joy when you have been allowed to be part of such amazing stories. I mean really who wouldn’t want to be a part of this girl’s life?
Just a reminder:
If you are on Facebook, you can follow along at Seriously Blessed by Adoption.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. Psalm 28:7 NIV
I just wanted to let everyone know that our daughter, Jasmine, has decided to start a blog too. She wants to share what it was like to be in an orphanage for six years, almost age out, join a family, and come to America. She hopes to help other older children who may be afraid by letting them know family is a wonderful thing.
Her first blog is entitled Adoption Day.
She was such a brave girl. She knew very little English. She couldn’t run away from us if she had wanted to because of her muscular dystrophy. Yet, she put a smile on her face and chose to be brave and happy about all that her life could be. It is truly a blessing to be her mother and I am honored to share her words with you.
This was on the elevator door in the children’s hospital. I think it sums up our little guy pretty well.
For those of you who haven’t been following along, Eli had a 13 hour surgery on Wednesday, the 17th. Spent 4 days in the ICU and 4 days on the general floor recuperating. Everyone who walked into his room from the very first moment he came out of surgery, commented on how kids who have the unifocalization procedure usually have lots of lung issues and his lungs sounded perfectly clear. Time and time again we heard, “You know this isn’t the norm, right?” Yes, we know. We were feeling unbelievably blessed.
Elijah did amazingly well and was discharged from the hospital on Thursday. We weren’t sure what time we would be discharged so we spent one more night at the Ronald McDonald House and headed out to the airport on Friday morning.
We were so happy to finally get home at 6:30 Friday night. The kids jumped up and down with joy when they saw him. Evie was so happy to see her buddy.
We knew that Ben and Maisey understood much more this trip and their relief at having Eli home was very visible. Within five minutes, they were all cuddled up together on the couch with their suckers.
They spent most of the night sitting together on the couch watching videos and laughing. It was a wonderful evening and such a blessing!
We are getting ourselves psyched up for round two on October 20th with Evie in Boston, but for the next couple of weeks we will be lying low and letting Little Guy heal.
I thought I’d share a few memories of our trip to Stanford.
Here are the sculpture outside the front of the hospital. I would love to do these in our yard.
We would Facetime daily so that Eli could see the kids. For the first day or two after surgery he would just look at the kids. He wouldn’t say a word, but the kids loved knowing he was okay.
We were lucky enough to get into the Ronald McDonald House this time. They are expanding because their waiting list is often close to 50 families. There was a shuttle and it was only a beautiful, tree-lined, 10 minute walk from the hospital.
The shuttle made us laugh every time we saw the catch phrase. We never did find “Hope” there.
If you ever get the chance to support your local Ronald McDonald House, please do so.
Across from the Ronald McDonald House there is a mall with a wonderful fresh food market. We walked and got watermelon and apples quite a few times. There is also a McDonalds. Ha! Imagine that. It was where Eli wanted to eat the two times we had time to eat out. There were many cute shops and restaurants. There was a P. F. Changs and a Flemings Steakhouse. I tried my hardest to talk him into noodles but he wanted nothing to do with it so we were off to McDonalds again for a happy meal.
When your daddy makes fun nugget animals all the time, where else would you want to eat?
The two words used to describe Eli on the trip were cute and charming. He really is a pretty mellow guy most of the time. On both of our long flights we had people comment about how he is the best little traveler they had ever seen. The gentlemen in front of me went on and on about how he tries to encourage mothers who are doing a good job. He commented on Eli being so good and I told him I could not take credit for Eli’s mellowness. He is just an easy going guy. The gentlemen who was very nice just keep gushing on. I just couldn’t do it, mainly because to take credit for Eli being a good traveler meant I would have to take the blame for Evie when she travels and gets tired of the whole deal, which usually happens about hour two in the air. Evie is a beautiful soul with a over the top personality. She just gets a little cranky about hour two in the air.
One of the sweetest memories came after one of the most traumatic for Eli. They were getting ready to take out his three chest tubes. There were six nurses standing around his bed to be able to pull them at the same time. They had to cut the strings first and get everything ready. After you pull the chest tube, you pull the strings really tight and suture shut the openings. He was afraid of everyone around his bed and was crying. The nurses pulled the tubes, Eli looks up at them, and in the sweetest little voice Eli says, “Thank you!”
He really is the sweetest little guy. What a blessing it is to have more time with him. Thank you prayer warriors for your prayers. We appreciate them more than we could ever put into words.
Little guy was extubated on Friday. He is doing remarkably well. Everyone says his lungs are the best they have ever seen after a unifocalization.
Every single one of our heart children from China have required unbelievable amounts of sedation to keep them comfortable and knocked out while on the ventilator. I don’t know why this is, but it’s hard to watch while the doctors try to find the perfect number to keep them under and comfortable. Every time we go in we comment on this fact as the doctors keep going up on the narcotics. At one point, the doctor stopped and said, “I can’t believe this. I’m pretty sure this amount would keep three adults asleep.” I don’t know if that is true or not, but it is still a large amount.
Because it takes so much to keep them sedated and comfortable, it takes them even longer to fully wake up. Eli was still pretty out of it all day Friday but Saturday morning when I walked in the room, he was with it enough to look right at me. It was so good to see my boy and hear him whisper mama, but it broke my heart when he said, “mama up”. There were still too many tubes to be able to hold him.
By the end of the day he was doing much better. He even smiled a couple of times.
Isn’t it amazing what they can do? Here is a 3-D animation of the procedure.
Dr. Hanley took Eli’s collaterals, spliced them open and then built him pulmonary arteries. Absolutely mind blowing and amazing!!!!! He then put a conduit in Eli’s heart and added a valve. And then to top things off he stood for three hours and tried to get rid of all the small little tiny vessels that Eli’s lungs were growing while they were trying to get some oxygen. They had to get rid of those vessels and make sure they weren’t still bleeding. It’s a time consuming job.
How do you thank someone for that? I look at Eli and can’t believe it. In China he was deemed inoperable, terminal and here he has a second chance at life.
He spent his weekend eating popsicles, watching Veggietales, and…
Saturday night the nurse tried to convince me to go get some sleep. Unlike most of the other hospitals we have stayed in, there are no sleeping areas in the ICU rooms here. I was okay sleeping when he was stable and completely out, but not when he could wake up and need me. We worked really hard to earn Elijah’s trust during his first year home. The last thing I wanted to do was have him wake up afraid and not be able to find me.
She told me that she could comfort him all I had to do was tell her what makes him comfortable. A stuffed animal? A blanket? A special song? Nope…..
It would be just too hard to leave my hand there. When Eli is afraid at night, which doesn’t happen very often anymore, all he does is cry out “mama” and reach for my hand. All he needs to know is that I am there. There is no way in the world that I wasn’t going to be there when he needed me the most.
Sunday afternoon we were moved to a private room on the general floor. He is down to one i.v., three chest tubes and a smidge of oxygen. He is doing amazingly well. We have been told this fact over and over again. He is still a little sad and his stomach hurts but all in all he is doing well.
Praising God for the chance that was given to our little guy. Blessings beyond measure for sure! Thank you again for all the prayers.
For those of you who don’t have Facebook to follow our Seriously Blessed by Adoption group, I thought I should give a quick update. Elijah’s surgery took 13 1/2 hours. He did amazingly well. There were some bleeding issues at first, but those were controlled and they were able to close his chest and he is resting comfortably. He is so pink and it’s a beautiful sight. The team says for a unifocalization he looks better than most. Hopefully they will try to get him off the vent tomorrow. Thank you for all your prayers and support.
We recently bought tickets to go see Jeremy Camp and Kutless with the girls. There’s not many things better in this world than watching Jasmine sing praise songs. It’s fun to take her and the other girls to the local churches when they have concerts. As beautiful as it is to hear the littles sing “Rise and Shine” and “Jesus Loves Me”, it is just as amazing to watch the big girl’s sing out praises to their Lord.
I know most of Jeremy Camp’s songs, but I wasn’t sure about Kutless. I knew a couple of their songs, but then I came across the song “Even If”. This song was exactly what my heart needed to hear. It has been playing on repeat in my head for weeks now. Every time I have started to worry I would hear the words…
“Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart and dreams are still undone. You are God. You are good. Forever faithful.”
Most days I can just go on and pretend everything is normal but then one of the kids comes to me and says, “Mama, what if Eli doesn’t make it?” Even little Maisey seems to get it this time. All this weekend she has made Eli sit on her lap, stroking his hair, and reading him a book. She has been melancholy and even snuggled in next to him to sleep.
I do pretty well until I let my mind go to the “what ifs”. I see him and Evie playing and I think what if he doesn’t come home? What would she do? They are so close. Her little heart would be broken. She’s too young to really understand. They truly are like a set of twins. To watch him and Evie together is….. I don’t even have the words to describe it properly. They love each other so much. She says, “I wuv you Ewi” and he responds with “I wuv you baby.” They hold doors for each other and laugh together. They play and fight and hold each other tight. They make sure they each have a popsicle or a drink. They have a beautiful bond that has been so amazing to watch.
My heart hurts to think that their bond might be broken.
I wonder about the pain it would cause my other children.
I wonder if I am strong enough to survive it.
The words of the world start to seep in and I doubt.
But then these words come across loud and clear….
”Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart and dreams are still undone. You are God. You are good. Forever faithful one.”
We have a peace that comes from God. There is no other way to explain it. A peace that comes from the complete faith that God led us to Eli. Many of you know his story but for those who don’t, I will tell his story again.
I knew from the instant that I saw Eli’s picture that he was supposed to be our son. We never talked about it much with the rest of the family because we weren’t sure what was going to happen, but Ben brought up his name throughout the day and continued to pray for him and talk about Eli like he was already his brother. It’s the same with Max this time. Children seem to just know. I wonder if they are more able to hear the Holy Spirit because they don’t let the words of the world crowd Him out.
We went through so much with Eli as we waited for the orphanage to get his paperwork ready. We had seen his picture in a New Hope newsletter. They said he needed a family. When we inquired about him, we found out he was not paper ready. I was so sure he was our son that I was ready to wait no matter how long it took. Dan agreed and we asked them to get Eli paper ready.
As we proceeded with our homestudy, we talked with our social worker about how we felt the Lord was leading us to ask to put four children down in our homestudy. China only allows two at a time so this was a strange request but she agreed, with all the outside support we had, that we could handle four.
We set out to adopt Eli and Lainey, but Eli’s paperwork was taking forever. In the meantime, our agency presented us with Evie. I wouldn’t even look at her chart because I didn’t want to see the face I would have to say no to, but Dan was overcome and knew that she was supposed to be our daughter. He said there was a million reasons to say no but all he could say is “why not?”. God gave Dan such a peace about her.
I trusted Dan and how he was feeling, but couldn’t for the life of me see how it was going to work. We were back to the “Lord, if this is what you want we will proceed, but I don’t see how it’s going to work.” We sent in LOI for Lainey and for Evie and we waited some more for Eli’s paperwork.
In the meantime we saw Jasmine’s picture and knew she was to be our daughter. It was such an overwhelming, bring you to your knees response when we saw her picture. We asked our agency if we could ask to bring home three. I still remember Judy calling and letting me know that we were approved for three. What a moment that was. Tears streamed down my face and my heart was filled with joy. The children jumped up and down. It was a celebration at our house that day!
We had every intention of going for the three girls and then returning later for Eli. We had been waiting for over six months at this point for Eli’s papers.
Every step of Eli’s journey was faith-filled and made with the utmost trust that God was leading. We had stepped out in faith and the most amazing things had occurred. We were set to travel the first part of May and then the unimaginable happened, it was March and Eli’s paperwork became ready. Both Dan and I felt like we were to petition China to be allowed to adopt four at once. We figured if they said, “No.” we would just return later for him. What’s it hurt to ask, right?
Our agency said the odds were very slim, but they would send our letter on. We had told them that we firmly believed if God meant for it to be He would open the doors and He did! So while others questioned why we would adopt four at once, we were saying “how could we not?”. When God was calling us and throwing the doors open to allow it to happen, what else is there to do but proceed in faith?
Even though there was an overwhelming joy that they said yes to four at the same time I had a moment of panic. We had just been told that we needed to take a fourth adult with us. How in the world were we going to save that much money in that amount of time? We had maxed credit cards for the travel. How was this even possible?
It’s amazing as many times as God has provided and been faithful that my first thought is often “how are we ever going to do this”. I know the reality is that we never, ever do. HE does!
I can still remember sitting in the car with Cassie, my mom and Linda. I had gotten the mail and we were just sitting there talking. I opened an envelope containing a check for Dan from the children’s hospital were he sometimes gets paid a stipend to speak. But instead what did I find? A check for an amount large enough to cover Eli’s fees, his orphanage child rearing fee, and Cassie’s travel. Years prior the University was part of a class action lawsuit about too much FICA being held out during Dan’s medical residency for the years 1995-1998.
The amount wasn’t large, but the interest they had to pay was. We had no clue this suit was finished. We were in no way expecting this money. In fact, we figured we’d never see any of it, but God provided. Every single step of the way we trusted and God was faithful. God has provided for us in amazing ways with Eli’s adoption. This whole journey with him has been one of waiting, trusting, being faithful and watching God do amazing things.
I have given up trying to guess where God is leading. When I feel that nudge, I pray and I follow. The blessings God has allowed us to have for being faithful are overwhelming. I wish I could let you feel for a moment what my heart feels.
Eli’s whole story is a walk of faith. Every step on his journey has been faith-filled. God has given us an overwhelming peace about his life. That being said I am under no illusions that that means Eli will live a long life. He may or he may not. The number of his days do not matter as much as the fact that his little life has purpose. If he lives 2 years or 50 years, It was worth it! Eli has been a joy to love. He is an unbelievably sweet soul. He makes friends where ever he goes. His little voice is adorable. Right now he is sitting beside me singing “A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart” from Veggietales. Every single tear, heartache, and worry has been worth it. My heart has been forever changed by one little boy.
So…. “Even if the healing doesn’t come and life falls apart and dreams are still undone. You are God. You are good. Forever faithful one”
God is good. All the time!!!!!
I took the dogs to get their shots the other day. The vet looked the dogs over and mentioned that Snickers needed a tooth cleaning. I said, “I know. We discussed this last time.” He looked at me as if I was the worst pet owner ever and started to lecture me on why spending the $1,000 for a tooth cleaning was necessary. Most of the time, I just go about my business but this time I decided I was going to tell him what I have been up to these last two years and see what he said.
Two trips to China were we’ve adopted six children.
(I left off that three had worse medical needs then we thought.)
We’ve had two heart surgeries and four heart catherizations.
(I left off the two dental surgeries and the fact we had to travel to Boston & Stanford for the heart surgeries.)
My mom spent months in the ICU.
My mom died, my stepdad died, my grandfather died.
My brother-in-law had a massive stroke.
My son got married.
And add to that what we have coming up during the next four months and it wasn’t likely that the dogs would be getting in any time soon.
We have two upcoming surgeries. (Eli on 9/17 and Evie on 10/20.)
We leave for China in 9-12 weeks for the adoption of Max and Elyse.
Jasmine has back surgery in January for her scoliosis.
I didn’t want pity. I just wanted him to understand that sometimes there are reasons people don’t do something and it has nothing to do with how much they care about their pets. I told him I promised to get the dog’s teeth cleaned as soon as I could, but for now it was just going to have to wait.
As he left the room, the tech looked at me and said, “I think just one of those would have been a good enough excuse.”
The vet was very kind and understanding. He told me to just schedule it as soon as time allowed.
But it got me to thinking about the fact that we should all be patient with each other. None of us knows what the other is going through. I’ve often shared the story of running into a lady with my cart at Wal-Mart not long after Kyle died. I just sat there and stared at her and then started crying. She was so angry and I couldn’t say a word. She must have thought I had lost my mind.
We are all going through something aren’t we?
A family member had a stroke,
a heart attack,
was just diagnosed with cancer,
family members die,
children run away,
marriages fall apart,
drugs and alcohol take their toll,
the lists go on and on.
How much better would this world be if we gave everyone the benefit of the doubt?
What if they are having a bad day, a bad week, or what if they are just rude. It has nothing to do with you. It’s like I always tell the kids, people can say what they want, it only becomes an issue if you believe what they are saying.
I learned long ago that people will judge. It’s what they do. It’s human nature. Sometimes people do it to make themselves feel better. Sometimes people do it because they truly believe they know what is best for everyone. I have seen and heard it all.
People have an issue with us homeschooling.
People have an issue with us adopting four at once.
People have an issue with us adopting too many children with health issues.
People have an issue with us being older.
People worry about what we are doing to our other children.
Heck, we even have a neighbor who is upset that we can’t keep up with our yardwork as well as we should because we have too many kids.
Seriously? Sometimes you just have to let people be. Especially people who don’t even know you or your family. Let them talk. Let them criticize. And then take the time to pray for them.
Years ago this would have driven me crazy. I would have lost sleep over it, but not anymore. Would you like to know why? Because I gave up caring what others thought and started living my life for God. I am accountable to only one. I can’t imagine on my last day standing before God and having Him criticize me for caring about a sick child or stepping out in faith and adopting four at once. I doubt that God cares about my yard or the shape that it is in.
God knows we love our children.
They are thriving.
Will everyone get to go out for three different sports each month? Nope!
Will they get three meals and snacks and special treats? Yep!
Will they get to go to a private college? Nope.
Will they get an education, one that they were not even guaranteed in their previous years? Yep! Assuredly!
Will they have every toy and electronic gadget they could ever hope to have? Nope!
Will they be loved and treasured and cherished until the day they leave this earth. You bet they will!
Which brings me to my second thought. As we prepare to leave this morning for Eli’s surgery, I’m remembering all the people who do care. The people who have covered us in prayer, our church family, the people who have brought meals and sent cards and encouragement and to my neighbor on the other side, who my children adore, thank you for helping me mow our crazy over run lawn. Dan and I both say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Eli needs this surgery. His oxygen sats have dropped. He is much bluer. We knew this day was going to come. We can not put it off any longer. I know that He is good hands. Dr. Hanley is the best at this surgery. At the end of the day, we will know we did everything possible to give him the best shot at life. Eli is a wonderful soul. He is sweet and courageous and so very funny. If you haven’t already done so, check out our page on Facebook “Seriously Blessed by Adoption”. You can see Eli spell his name and his siblings names. If you don’t have Facebook, I’ll give you a hint, every word is spelled B-E-N.
Thank you for the prayers that have covered our little boy throughout the past year. He has been such a blessing. Yes, this year has been hard but it has been so unbelievably awesome too. I am so thankful the words of the world didn’t keep us from following where God was leading. God is good. He is faithful and trustworthy. He has blessed us in ways we couldn’t even imagine. No matter what happens, I have no regrets. Dan and I feel extremely blessed to be on this journey with Eli.
When we found out about Kelly we were heartbroken. Someone at church even said to me, “This is much like a death in the family.” It’s true. It’s hard. What do you do with all the stuff you have bought during happier times? As you know from my previous post, someone graciously offered to take some of Kelly’s clothes with her when she traveled to China. I cried taking those clothes out of the suitcase, remembering all the fun the girls had picking them out. Her blue comforter is still on her bed. The stuffed animals the girls had bought her still sit on the pillow. Its been 27 years, but I still remember coming home after Kyle died. It has been much like that after the news that Kelly did not want to leave China.
We had already planned on someday writing her a letter telling her we wished her well. Letting her know that we understand and have no hard feelings. We want her to know that we still want to be part of her life. We wish she could have been part of our family, but we understand she feels she already has a family. We feel privileged to have learned more about Agape and to see the wonderful work they are doing. It says a lot about the home and the people there that she is content and wants to stay. Agape Family Life House
After we heard Kelly’s decision, our agency asked us what we wanted to do about being approved for two? Dan and I still felt like we were supposed to bring home two. It seemed almost ridiculous to pay the fees, be approved for two, and then not bring another child home. But you can’t just replace the child that you lost. How do you even start?
We started at the best place, the only place….prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. I asked God over and over again to show me what I was supposed to do. I had no clue where to even start. I know during those first few days I repeated the words, “I can’t do this!” at least 100 times.
We talked with our trusted adviser at the adoption agency and she laid all the information out. Because of expediting Kelly, Elyse is still on the expedited timeline. We can slow it down a little, but not a lot. That means if we wish to bring a second child home we needed to decide now. We needed to pick a special focus child who was already on their agency list or a child off the shared list in one of the two provinces where they already had guides. The child needed to fit our criteria on our MCC (medical condition checklist). We said we wished to adopt a girl between the ages of 7 and under 10.
She had already been searching and told us the odds of that happening were slim. There were no girls that fit our criteria. She would continue to look. There was no time to ask for an agency to switch a file. There was no time to ask for updates. She told us she would keep looking and talk to others at the agency.
Dan and I both know who is in control and we knew if it was meant to be, it would happen. We just had to trust in that fact.
When my friends, who have also adopted, heard they understood completely and tried to help match us with a child.
They sent us beautiful pictures of children who need a family. That first day, I cried all day long over the loss of Kelly and the shear number of children waiting for a family. Since we had said little girls, they sent us file after file of sweet, beautiful girls who wait. Girls who don’t have much hope of a bright future in China, but who would be beautiful additions to any family. Why are they waiting?
Unfortunately, my heart was not in it. I felt moved, especially by three of the girls,
But it just didn’t feel right. They are beautiful girls. Others described them as sweet, special, and wonderful. They would be a beautiful addition to any family, but they didn’t feel like they were meant to be our daughter. That is the hardest part about adoption. If you truly trust that God is leading you to a child, then you have to wait, but at the same time how could it be wrong to give any child a family?
More days passed and our agency called asking us to consider a five year old boy. We had not been open to a boy mainly because we already had a bed in the girl’s room and the girls were all set to have another sister. The thought of adding to the littles was a bit overwhelming. Who willingly chooses six children under the age of 6? But since we said we would consider any child God placed before us, we said we would consider it. She told us to look at their waiting child page. We were told he had bilateral microtia. That was a very doable special need. It is the same diagnosis that Maisey has. We already sign. We know all about the surgeries and the BAHA hearing aid. We understood the frustration these children have from lack of communication. Dan asked for her to send his file.
I, in the meantime, messaged my friend’s about this little boy and the group home he was in, Swallow’s Nest. Swallow’s Nest
One of the four mamas in this group said, “Lisa, you aren’t going to believe this but one of my friend’s just adopted a little boy from that group home.” She went on to say, “I know the person who runs this home. I can put you in touch with her.”
I love the way the Lord provides.
I immediately searched for her on Facebook. Her Facebook page was open so I started scrolling through the pictures and then I saw his little face. She was advocating for him because he was being called back to the orphanage. She went on to say that he really, really needs a family. She said that he is such a sweet, smart boy and would be a great addition to any family.
I sent her a friend request and she immediately messaged me. She told me all about him. She sent me his baby picture. She told me who was caring for him and how sad they were that he had been called back to the orphanage. She let me know that he was at camp right now. A camp put on by our agency. I kept reading through all the comments and noticed that 21 people had shared this information. How do 21 people share about a child desperately needing a family and no family requests his file? I clicked on the shares to see if anyone I knew had shared his information. I noticed that Donna, a friend of mine, had shared it. I clicked on the share to see what others had said and what do I see? A comment from me asking if he had bilateral microtia.
On May 5th, I had commented about this little boy.
And it all came flooding back….
I remember reading about this little boy who was being sent back to the orphanage. I remember being so sad and sitting at the table with tears in my eyes. I remember talking with Zach about it because it reminded me of Maisey when she had to go back. She left the home and all the people who loved her and nourished her and helped her grow only to go back to a place where either no one knew how to communicate with her or didn’t feel she was worthy of communicating with. She had a bald spot from throwing herself to the floor out of sheer frustration over and over again. She would do this at any moment and she did it with such force. She was only with us two days in China before she almost completely stopped throwing herself to the floor. She stopped because we got down at her level and communicated with her. She stopped because we taught her a couple simple signs and she wasn’t as frustrated.
I knew his little heart was going to feel pain. He was leaving those he loved. My heart hurt. I wished we had asked to be approved for three on our homestudy. He would have been an easy child to add. We knew how to deal with his hearing issues. We knew how to deal with the frustration he would have with communicating. But I knew with our expedite that I didn’t have time to ask for an updated homestudy to add a third child so I just let it go. I never gave it another thought. The reality was he became just another child who touched my heart and I had to let it go because it is just so overwhelming.
In an amazing turn of events, we had been presented with the same child I wished we could adopt. He was a perfect fit for our family. Just the right age to be a playmate for Ben who often feels left out of the Evie/Eli bond and Maisey and Lainey, who often play alone. Yet, he wouldn’t disrupt Ben’s being the oldest little. Ben takes the job of being big brother and protector of the littles very seriously.
In his picture he is wearing a pirate shirt. Many of you will remember Ben’s love of pirates. As we were going to sleep one night Ben turns to me and says, “Mama, remember that picture of the little boy in the pirate shirt? He looks really nice? I would like to hug him. Can we have him over to play?”
And just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about the swallows in our back yard. I wrote about something that happened almost 13 years ago. Here is that post.
Yesterday, as I mowed our back acre, I was reminded of 13 years ago when we moved to this property. Usually Zach mowed but he was gone so I went out to do it. As I was mowing, swallows dive bombed the mower. They got so close that it made me really nervous. I finally gave up and went into the garage and got a tennis racket. So here I was trying to mow the lawn, swinging a tennis racket at dive bombing birds. It was quite the sight. My perspective was they were out to get me. My neighbor, who was laughing hysterically, asked what I was doing. I told him and he said, “Lisa, they are diving after the insects you are kicking up while mowing.” I felt silly to say the least. It reminded me of how we can think things are out to harm us, but then our perspective changes and we then see the beauty in the situation. I mowed for an hour yesterday watching the swallows dive up and down, coming oh so close to the mower. It was peaceful and beautiful. How things can change with the right perspective.
“It reminds me of how we can think things are out to harm us, but then our perspective changes and we then see the beauty in the situation.”
Exactly…..beauty amidst the ashes. My heart has been broken by what I can not do for one child, but there is beauty in still being able to be a family for another child.
I don’t know what God’s plans are. Maybe Kelly needed to know a family would fight for her. I know that she will always have a special place in my heart and I will do whatever I can to support her. I will continue to cover her with prayer. I am at peace knowing she is with people she loves. She will always have a home. She will have a job and opportunities to sing and paint. But in my heart she will always be my girl and it will always be bittersweet.
Here is what I do know though, before I saw Kelly’s picture and my heart was stolen, we were pretty sure we were finished adopting. When Jasmine brought up adopting an aging out child, we told her we would seriously consider it after Eli and Evie were done with their surgeries. We asked her if she could wait another year or so. But Jasmine kept praying and our hearts were opened to the idea. Had we not been trying to adopt Kelly, we wouldn’t have seen Elyse’s file and if we hadn’t had everything happen with Kelly, we wouldn’t be adopting Max.
It brought me comfort that Max was a child I had already considered adopting. We couldn’t replace Kelly. It was just so hard. You can not just replace a child, but there was a unexplainable peace with Max. We wouldn’t have even gone looking for him because he didn’t fit our neatly checked boxes of what we thought our family was looking for.
The path doesn’t always make sense when we are on it, but then God gives you little glimpses of the beauty in the tapestry that is your life. 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 Not all things will be good, but that they will work together for good.
It’s so hard to deal with all these feelings. The sadness mixed with the joy and the anticipation of traveling. Life is like that though isn’t it? Learning to dance in the rain. Learning to let go of what you can’t control and follow where He leads. I’m still learning. This past year has been one of the hardest on our hearts in our almost 30 years of marriage, but it has also one of the most beautiful. God sometimes takes us out of our comfort zone so that we can grow in His love by having to trust and let go.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3 MSG).
I would like to introduce you to Max, our unexpected blessing!
When we first considered writing a blog, Dan and I prayed and discussed it in depth. We knew that we were putting our family out there for all the world to see or at least my immediate family, some close friends, and maybe a few second or third cousins. :) We knew we would be putting our family on display. We knew we would be opening up our lives to the critical review of many others. We knew there were those who would think we were sharing to brag or show off. What we hoped to show was the amazing ways God had worked in our lives. We wanted to put a face to adoption and let others know what giving a child a home meant. Dan and I ultimately decided if writing a blog lead to one, or two, or more children being adopted, then it would all be worth it.
I have been writing for a couple of years now. I write so that others can see what being an orphan truly means and what adoption does for these children. Even though it is life changing, harder than I imagined, and more than I ever thought I could handle, it is also a blessing beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.
So when I got an e-mail from Show Hope looking for bloggers to write about the global orphan crisis, I was on board and signed up immediately. This was what I originally set out to do, to let others know about the orphan crisis. There are just so many orphans. The last estimate was 143 million. I want to make whatever change I can. I want to give a voice to these children who don’t have one. Plus, Show Hope will always have a very special place in our hearts because they helped care for three of our children.
I got my first assignment at the beginning of August. The assignment? Write about why orphans need families. I have tried to write about why orphans need families for a month now. I just couldn’t do it. The words I wrote didn’t have any real feeling behind them. They were merely facts and quotes about orphans. I wanted more than that. I wanted to show how family changes the life of an orphan.
On September 1st we had Benjamin’s 6th birthday party. Dan and I started reminiscing about those first few weeks in China with Benjamin. We started to talk about just how far he had come and I realized that is what I wanted this blog to convey. I am going to try to adequately explain just how far he has come. I can quote facts and figures to tell you there is a need, but you already know that. 143 million is a whole lot of orphans. But what I really want is for you to see what institutional care does to a child. How it changes their little hearts. Orphans need families. Orphanages are buildings, they are not homes.
When we met Ben in March of 2012, he was a frightened, withdrawn, 3 1/2 year old.
Ben never acted afraid of us. He went straight to Dan and wouldn’t leave his arms. Ben had the saddest little face. It wasn’t an “I’m afraid response”, it was something so much more heartbreaking. It was like a little bit of his light was dimmed. He was malnourished, weighing 21 pounds at 3 1/2. The first time we changed his clothing, we cried. We cried about all the times we knew he went hungry. We cried because it took us so long to get to him. We cried because we knew he had gone through more in his little life than anyone should have to go through.
When we arrived back in the hotel, Ben ate for over 2 hours. We opened the drawer that was full of snacks and he just sat there staring at all the food. Right on top of this same dresser were the many toys we had packed for him. He never even noticed the toys. He was so intent on eating. The whole time we were in China, Ben slept with food in his hands. It was his security blanket. He didn’t want the blanket we brought him. He didn’t want the toys. He just wanted to hold his bowl, his spoon, and a piece of food.
Heaven forbid you would move his food. He would have a major breakdown if his bowl of noodles was moved from his sight. But at the same time, he would share with Maisey. He made sure she was cared for. He made sure to open two of everything so she didn’t go without. We had glimpses of his sweet, little heart from the very beginning. He accepted and cared for his little sister right from the start even though they had never met before that day in the Registration office.
Ben had a lanyard that he wore around his neck with our family picture in it. He wouldn’t take it off. We were immediately his family and he had never met most of us. He refused to speak Chinese. He spoke English from day one even though we were told he was never taught English. He refused to use his given Chinese name. He was Benjamin from the very first day we met. He later asked us to call him Ben Ben because it is a term of endearment to double up your name. I have often wondered what happened in his three short years to make him not want any reminders of his old life.
I remember vividly the first time Ben laughed. It was raspy, almost like his vocal cords were dusty, like he hadn’t laughed in a very long time.
And I remember the first time he hurt himself. He ran into the corner of the dresser and hit his head pretty hard. He just kept going. I thought it was odd, but didn’t really put two and two together until later in the day when he fell down. I could tell he hurt himself, but he didn’t even shed a tear. He didn’t come to me with his hurt. He just sat there.
It was a couple days later when he realized that we would care that he hurt himself. He came to show me what had happened and I kissed his booboo. I wish I could have captured his expression. It was one of wonder. He was actually confused by someone caring that he was hurt. I can still remember to this day the first time he knew it was okay to shed tears over being hurt. What must a child have gone through to no longer cry tears or believe anyone would care that they are hurt? This is what institutional care does.
There were other issues. Ben was deathly afraid of water. The first time we tried to bathe him, he grabbed the door frame, kicking and screaming and wouldn’t let go. We weren’t able to give him a bath for months.
He shut down the minute we left the hotel room. He was fine as long as he was in the room alone with us, but the moment we left the room, the worried look was back on his little face.
We visited the orphanage where Ben spent almost 3 years of his life. It was estimated that Ben was 9 months old when he was left in a park. While we went on a tour of the orphanage, Ben hung onto Dan for dear life. He would not look at any of the nannies. They tried to talk to him and get him to come to them but he would not leave Dan’s arms. What an eye opening experience that was for me. Ben was with the women who had cared for him for most of his life and he wouldn’t leave the arms of the man he had only known for a few days.
Ben had no clue how to be held. He didn’t understand what a hug was. He didn’t know how to snuggle. We would hold him and try to get him to lay his head on our shoulders but he just didn’t understand. We did it over and over again while we were in China. We would give short little hugs. We would hold him whenever he would allow it. On one of the last days there, Ben curled up next to Dan and fell asleep. He couldn’t speak our language, but he understood that Dan loved him and would protect him and he felt safe sleeping in his arms.
Children need families. They need parents to care for them. Parents who will teach them right from wrong, educate them, get them medical care, and kiss their booboos. Children need to feel safe and secure if they are to blossom and grow. Children need a home and love and security. They need unconditional love. You can not get these things in an institution.
Ben is now 6 years old. He has grown in so many ways. Medical care, food, and the love of a family changed his life.
The before and after pictures are amazing. The first picture is from September 2011 and the second picture was from December 2013.
Ben has come so far. He has family that adores him.
He has had life saving heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Ben’s future is no longer uncertain. Family has given Ben roots for stability and wings to fly. Family has changed his life and given him a future. Why do orphans need family? I think Ben’s pictures say more than my words ever could.
- Chinese Children Adoption International
- Half the Sky Foundation
- Hats for Gracie
- Holt International
- Hope Ministries
- Jessie Joy Rees Foundation (NEGU)
- Lifeline Children Services
- Love Without Boundaries
- New Hope Foundation China
- Samaritan's Purse
- Show Hope
- Smile Train
- World Vision
- China 2013
- Congenital Heart Defect
- Evangeline Faith
- Family Life
- Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)
- Lainey Rae
- Thoughts to ponder