• What Makes a Child Worthy of Supporting?

    Date: 2020.02.23 | Category: Congenital Heart Defect, Love Without Boundaries | Response: 0

    Is it beauty?

    Is it an appropriately sad story?

    Is it the belief that others can make a difference?

    What is it?

    I wish I knew. I wish every video would go viral. I wish every child was fully funded. I wish every child’s sponsorship page said, “No more help needed.” I wish every surgery said, “Fully funded.” I wish every family could be supported. Why? Because I believe what Love Without Boundaries says – #EveryChildCounts.

    But unfortunately that is not the case.

    Some children just sit and sit on the sponsorship page. Is it that education isn’t important? Is it where you are from? Is it that your story isn’t sad enough? What is it?

    I have been on the board of Love Without Boundaries for a few years now. I love the work they do. I love how they step in and fill the gap for a family or a child that just needs a little help. If you were in the room with me right now, you would see my face light up and the words just pour out of me. I believe in what LWB does!

    My FaceBook feed is filled with memories of children that have been helped.

    Every year those memories pop up. Do you remember Harley & James. What an amazing story! It was beautiful watching people step up and help.

    Look at them now…

    Or Oliver? Sweet Oliver and his mom who just wanted her baby to be ok.

    People stepped up and helped in amazing ways.

    Doesn’t his mama’s smile just say it all?

    A couple of weeks ago, my FaceBook news feed was filled with Emma’s story and pictures. Jasmine cried and cried over Emma. “Can’t we help her mama?” Jasmine would plead. Emma was written about by LWB in 2013. Emma was a little girl, who sat with a broken leg for way too long. LWB was trying to get her the care that she needed.

    Unfortunately, Emma’s story did not end the way we hoped and she passed away. We cried and cried over Emma. Emma deserved having someone in her corner, praying for her, and helping her. No matter what the outcome was!

    There are pictures that pop up on my FaceBook feed of babies that have passed away. I know that I could hide the post and I wouldn’t see it every year. I could pretend that it didn’t happen. I could save myself the heartache of remembering, but then I think about my little boy, Kyle. I think about how every year I remember his birth. I remember what it felt like to feel his kicks. I remember what it felt like to hold him as he took his last breath. I remember, 33 years later, the rocker I sat in and the white curtain that was pulled around me. I remember trying to call family. I remember holding his dead body as we drove the 90 minutes back home to the funeral home in our home town because we couldn’t afford to pay for someone to come pick up his body. I cry tears and I remember.

    I want to remember these babies. I want to know that someone remembers them. I don’t know anything about their family and why they chose to leave them. I am sure the mother remembers the birth, but she doesn’t know about the death. How could she know? So I remember.

    Every day my inbox is filled with stories. Some stories are happy and some are not. People can be cruel to children, as we well know by the headlines that we read every day. I don’t know how Amy and our volunteers do it. They step in and fill the gap every single day. They are the heroes behind the beautiful stories of hope and healing that you read about on LWB’s blog, Facebook, and website pages.

    Sometimes they are able to find the help needed in amazing ways and sometimes there is nothing that can be done. Just imagine the heartbreak and sorrow they feel when they can’t help and yet, they get up time and time again and keep trying to help. They are truly heroes.

    Many of you know that we have four children who have congenital heart defects. The reason Oliver’s story resonated with me was that I know what it is like to care for a little one who has blue lips and fingertips. I, however, had the luxury of taking my children to specialists around the country. Oliver’s mom didn’t have that luxury.

    Right now LWB is trying to fund 5 heart surgeries in 7 days. They are trying to step in and be the gap for families that don’t have the luxury that Dan and I did.

    I don’t want to be the person that is constantly asking for your to open your checkbook and help, but someone has to tell their stories. Someone has to let you know the need. I guess I am going to be that someone today.

    Please consider giving to LWB’s heart initiative. I mean seriously! Look at these sweet faces.

    What is your Facebook feed filled with? What have your days been measured by? We only get one life. Make it count. Do something. Be the gap! Step up and help! When you look back at your Facebook feed next year, you will be thrilled that you did!

    https://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/heart-initiative/m.children/3198/view/4921

  • 2020

    Date: 2020.01.25 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    So I have decided that 2020 is the year of seeing clearly. One of the things I was going to do a better job of was blogging every week. I thought Saturday mornings would be the best time. I would wake up early, put my fingers to the keyboard, and be done before anyone else woke up.

    How’s that going for me? Well, it’s the 4th Saturday of 2020 and I am just now starting to type. Better late than never, right? 2020 is also the year of exercise (that’s going great), sleeping more (hot flashes aren’t helping that), and being the best me that I can be. 2020 is about implementing everything that I know to be true and finishing all those projects that have sat on hold for the past 8 years as our family found our new normal.

    It has been almost 9 years since we started on our international adoption journey. 10 years since Dan came to me, after reading Max Lucado’s book Outlive Your Life and said that he thought we should think about adopting one more time. Our one more time turned into four times of traveling to China and ten children joining our family.

    In March, it will be 8 years since Ben and Maisey joined our family. It hardly seems possible that it has been 4 years since our last adoption. What do I know for a fact after all this time? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Ha!

    What works for one kid doesn’t work for the other. What encourages one child, won’t encourage the other. When a child has attachment issues, everyone pays. I’m not sure there is any way around that. When everyone else just wants them to be part of the family and they just can’t let themselves do it, no matter how hard they try, hearts are going to hurt! It can’t be avoided.

    If you think living in an orphanage is a good thing, you’ve never been more wrong. I don’t know how it could actually work out well for anyone. I can’t believe we, as humans, ever thought that this was a good thing. I mean I get that we want children fed and safe and for them to have a place to lie their heads BUT surely we can’t believe that housing children in an institution is the right thing. It’s easy to throw money at a building especially if it allows you to rid yourself of the guilt of not helping families stay together, or getting the children the medical care they need, or opening your doors yourself. I don’t know much, but I do know we can do better.

    But then again, maybe not, agencies are closing their doors to international adoption. All over my Facebook feed, people are sharing the statistics on international adoption, and the numbers aren’t good. Having been in a couple of orphanages, and seeing my Facebook feed filled with stories from all over the world showing the care that other children get in orphanages, I can’t stand it. We aren’t doing enough to protect the children!

    WAIT! I stand corrected. There is something I know and can state with utmost certainty. We aren’t doing enough to protect children!

    I mean if we have children in the U.S. that are actually put in juvenile delinquency institutions because there aren’t enough homes open to our own foster kids, well then we are NOT doing enough. We are failing the children.

    The words people utter matter. The things people do matter. I am parenting children where the emotional issues far outweigh any of the physical issues. I’m not afraid to work hard or to stay busy doing things for my children who need help. BUT the emotional drain of the turmoil caused by verbal and physical abuse from others to your child, takes its toll.

    If you have a child, who never owns the words worthless, they will have issues and have lots to work through, but you can see steady progress. But if you have a child who believes all those horrible words said to them and believes that they deserved everything that happened to them, then the path is a lot less clear and progress happens very, very slowly.

    If you would have told me years ago that you could have a child, that actually sabotages the good because they feel so much more comfortable in the bad, I would have never believed it. But, unfortunately, it is true. We want to believe that love can fix everything, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. As a mother, it’s the hardest thing for me. To realize that no matter how much I love said child(ren), that may never be enough to undo the harm inflicted by other careless adults.

    I do know that the hard is still worth it. That they still deserve me fighting for them and loving them with everything I have. Knowing everything I know now, I would still adopt them. I have never, ever doubted that we did the right thing. I would have changed how I responded. I would have read the books and watched the Karen Purvis videos a whole lot sooner, but I would still adopt. I would have still adopted two at a time, out of age order, and exactly how we did it. I just would have been better prepared. I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong.

    I have learned a whole lot about unconditional love these past 8 years. To love, when someone is trying to hurt you with their words, is hard. It’s hard to not take it personally. I have failed at that too many times. It’s hard. That’s all. It’s just hard.

    Every morning I wake up and try again. Every morning I play my Christian play list reminding me that “I Want to Be Different” (Micah Tyler) and that I don’t want to miss anything, “The Beautiful Things we Miss” (Matthew West), and that I am just a “Nobody” (Casting Crowns) and that there are no “Mistakes” (Unspoken) that God can’t use for His Glory.

    2020 is about fixing what I can and accepting what I can’t. It’s about putting into practice all the things I said I would. Finances, health, family. All great places to start working on just being a little bit more. A little more present. A little more patient. A little more healthy. A little more…

    Maybe it’s because I just turned 55 and I can’t believe that much of my life has flown by. Maybe it’s because life has finally started to calm down a little bit. (Knock on wood!) Maybe it’s because the world seems to be just a little bit crazier and it feels like there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t know but for whatever reason, 2020 seems like a great year to just work on me, and my little part of the world, being better!

    Happy New Year everyone!

  • Elyse’s Speech for Faith StoryTellers

    Date: 2019.12.07 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    My name is Elyse. Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 14 years old. 14 years ago I was left outside the gates of an orphanage in China.

    I have been in America for 5 years. When I get nervous I talk really fast. I am going to try to slow down because I want everyone to know that life in an orphanage sucks!

    • It sucks to have no family!
    • It sucks to be alone in the hospital.
    • It sucks to go through hard times alone.
    • It sucks to get hit.
    • It sucks to get burned.
    • It sucks to be told you are worthless every day.

    The nannies constantly told me that I was fat and that they didn’t want to lift me so I should die.

    When I was 7 or 8 I thought about committing suicide.

    Then one day when I was almost 9 I heard I was getting adopted and everything changed.

    My family loves me.

    • I have 8 sisters and 7 brothers.
    • I have a wheelchair now.
    • I get to be who I want.
    • I get to go to school.
    • I get to do para taekwondo.
    • I get to have my own clothes.

    I have learned so much.

    The BEST part is my mom and dad taught me about God.

    I was baptized on my mom’s birthday three years ago. When mom and I got out my papers to find where I was left, we realized that the day I was baptized was the same day I was left at the orphanage all those years ago.

    I have been mad at China for two years.

    • I didn’t get to go to school.
    • I didn’t get to play outside.
    • They told me I was worthless.
    • They hit me all the time.
    • I held a baby when it died.
    • My foster brother couldn’t be adopted.

    Then one day at VBS a girl asked me where I was born and I told her that I was born in China and I grew up in an orphanage.

    That girl said she wished she lived in an orphanage where she didn’t have to do anything and everyone did everything for her. I told her they hit me all the time and she said, “So? My mom hits me too.”

    I asked my mom why someone would say that. Mom said it’s because people don’t know how bad orphanages really are.

    But now I decided being mad doesn’t change anything. I want to make changes. I want people to know everyone matters. I want people to know what orphanage life is really like. I want people to know that kids need families.

    I used to think that I wanted to make a difference when I grow up. Then I had a dream where someone died before I could get to them. I felt like God was telling me that I shouldn’t wait to grow up to make a difference.

    I have two sisters who use wheelchairs too. We were all adopted as older kids. We want to help kids like us.

    We decided to start a group called Chairs4Change. We want to have people donate their change to help Love Without Boundaries. Love Without Boundaries is the group that helped Jasmine and I get a family.

    My dream is to raise $1,000,000. When I asked Amy Eldridge what we could with a million dollars I was so excited.

    We can…

    • We can fund 200 cleft surgeries and fix cleft lips like my foster brother had.
    • We can fund 90 heart surgeries and help children just like my four brothers and sisters who have heart defects.
    • We can build a school for 200 kids so they can go to school. Jasmine, J.J., and I were never allowed to go to traditional school.

    I want my dream to be so big people know only God could do that.

    • I believe every life matters.
    • I believe God has been with me through everything.
    • I believe God can use me to change the world.
    • I believe I have a purpose.
    • I believe every child counts.

    and most of all I believe A LITTLE CHANGE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

  • 32 Years – Romans 8:28 (Faith Storytellers Talk)

    Date: 2019.11.20 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    April 29, 1987 started out like any other day.  I would go to work.  Mom would pick me up after work, we’d eat supper together, and she would drop me off at the hospital where I was to meet my husband for our second prenatal class.  My water would break on the way to that class.  

    All of a sudden, words like emergency c-section and life flight were being said.  We frantically called our family to let them know what was happening.  

    The helicopter arrived and they would strap me in.  My husband would follow by car.  

    They would take me out of the helicopter while the blades were still moving, rushing me inside.  Tests would be performed.  After the ultrasound was done, the doctors would say there would be no waiting the boys needed to be born now.  

    I had never been so afraid or felt so alone.  I prayed Dan would get there before they took me to surgery.  

    At 12:04 a.m. that night our boys were born almost 12 weeks too early.  

    5 days later, I would hold Kyle for the first time as he took his last breath.

    A few days later I would hold his lifeless body in the backseat of the car as my mom drove me the 90 minutes back to our hometown.  I would hand off his little 3 pound body to the funeral home director and leave empty handed.  

    A few days after that I would stand in a cemetery and watch my husband pick up that little white box and carry it over and sit it down at the gravesite. 

    This was NOT my dream. 

    The next 14 months would be spent sitting at Codey’s bedside, praying for a miracle.  We would call our family down numerous times saying Codey wasn’t expected to make it through the night but he somehow would.

    Somewhere in those first few months Dan and I decided to stop waiting for Codey to die and start celebrating every day that he was alive.  But to do that we had to stop being angry and trust God and His plan.   If God is perfect, then there can be no mistakes.  I either had to trust that God could make good come out of the bad or I had to give up my faith. 

    During those trying months Dan would decide that God was indeed calling him to be a physician.  We would have another son and start planning our move to Iowa City for medical school. 

    Dan would go through medical school and his residency.  We would have another child, a little girl this time.  Life seemed pretty ordinary.  

    Dan would decide to continue his training and become a neonatologist.  He would be caring for sick and premature babies.  It seemed fitting with all that we had been through.  

    While Dan was doing his fellowship, there would be a mother brought to his hospital that would deliver a baby girl.  There had been pre-adoptive parents chosen for this baby but a last minute ultrasound showed a serious heart defect and the pre-adoptive parents would back out.   The birth mother was presented with three options for the baby – a 3 stage surgery process, a heart transplant, or to let the baby die.  The birth mother was not prepared to care for this baby and chose to leave her in the hospital to die.  My husband fell for this little girl.  He bought booties for her feet and stuffed animals for her bed.  He wrote an order that the nurses had to rock her every hour.  He came home heartbroken that no one was celebrating this little girl’s life.  

    It didn’t take long for us to realize we were the perfect parents for her.  We had already had a child die.  We knew that we could love her and survive the loss.  When we presented this to our children, our 11 year old son said that no baby should die alone without a name.  Our 6 year old daughter, hit her knees, and begged us for this sister.  She said she understood that the baby could die but that Kyle was still her brother even though she’d never met him.  

    We would choose to proceed with the adoption with the plan to take her home and love her for as long as we were allowed to.  During these discussion, where most everyone thought we were crazy, there was one lone voice of hope.  The cardiac surgeon discussed with us the possibility of doing the 3 stage heart surgeries.  I was afraid that another child of mine would die in the hospital but in the end we would decide to proceed.  We named her Hope, which means faith and trust.

    Hope would survive these 3 heart surgeries and Dan would finish his fellowship.  Dan would take a job in Des Moines and we would move back to be closer to our family.    Sometime in the first few years, their NICU would join a national practice which had 400 NICUs.  A few years later Dan would become the Director of Clinical and Quality Improvement for this national company.  He would be indirectly involved in the care of 100,000 babies every year.  

    And to top it all off, we would have another little girl.

    We felt like we had come full circle.  Dan was now caring for parents who were in situations like we once were.

    At the age of 45, Dan would come to me and mention adopting again.  He would remind me that Codey, who was now 22, would always live with us.  He would say that we have a big house and a great job and lots of love to give.  He wouldn’t be wrong with those words, but I still said “NO!”  I was way too old to be adopting.

    But then one day, I read a book by Mary Beth Chapman that asked, “Was it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?” and my heart was changed.

    We began the process of international adoption.   We set out to adopt a little girl from China.  China started a new program where you could adopt two at one time.  Hope would beg us to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we did.  We figured we were never going back and they would have each other and feel less alone.

    We would show up in China and find two of the most shut down, sad little, hungry children.  Ben would literally eat for an hour when we got back to the hotel room.  This 19 pound, 3 ½ year old little boy would change our whole lives.   The very next day we went to visit his orphanage.   We headed through the gates and noticed the tall brick wall with glass shards all around the top.   We entered the clean, new orphanage and noticed how eerily quiet it was.   No noise in the baby room.  Rooms filled with little kids in cribs, no toys to be seen.  They took us to Ben’s floor.  They showed us where he slept.  Ben wouldn’t let go of my husband.   As the nannies, who had cared for him for 3 years tried hard to coax Ben out of Dan’s arms, Ben just buried his face farther into Dan’s neck.  My heart was broken.  What would cause a little boy to hang on to a total stranger and refuse to go back to the people who had been caring for him for over 3 years?   

    I would know even before our plane hit the ground in Des Moines, that we would adopt again.   I didn’t know, however, that it would be the very next year.   We started our paperwork again.  We heard God whisper the number 4.  Our agency and our social worker would be on board with this number.  We put 4 on all the paperwork because we knew it was never going to happen.  China only allowed two at a time.  It was easy to say yes to something you knew could never happen.

    God had other plans though.   In the most miracle filled, crazy year of our life, we would head back to China, this time to adopt 4.  

    If you are trying hard to keep track of the numbers, here’s the recap – 5 biological children, 1 adopted domestically, and 6 from China for a grand total of 12 children.  

    All my life I had wanted to have 12 children.  I gave up that dream, at the age of 23, when we had the twins because I was never going to get pregnant again.  God is good though and 25 years later at the age of 48, He allowed my childhood dream to come true.  While everyone else was calling us crazy, I was discussing how seriously blessed I was.  

    But God wasn’t done yet.  Our daughter, adopted at the age of almost 14, told us what it was like for a child in a wheelchair in China.  She would beg us to go back for an older girl in a wheelchair and we did.

    We would say we were done once again.  But as luck would have it a friend would send us a picture of a little girl and ask, “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?”   We would laugh and say, “No. But we will advocate for her.”   Elyse and Grace had other plans though.  They believed this little girl was their sister.  It wouldn’t take long for the rest of the family to agree she was indeed their sister.  

    We would head back for two more.

    My life is nothing like I planned it on the day Dan and I wed almost 35 years ago.  I’m not sure I would have said, “I do” had I known what was about to happen.  But standing here, 32 years out from the worst year of my life, I can see a bit of the threads of the tapestry that God has been weaving in my life.  

    Without Kyle’s death, we would have never been brave enough to bring home 6 more children who had serious, life shortening conditions.  Without Codey’s special needs and living with us forever, we would have never taken in the children that we did who will need live long care.  

    We all talk about Romans 8:28 like God will only bring good into our lives.  But the reality is that verse truly means that God can make the most amazing type of good come out of the most devastating type of bad.

    My life is living proof of this fact. 

  • Change the World with Change / Chairs4Change

    Date: 2019.10.22 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    “What can I do to better those children’s lives?” That is the question that Alice, an older child who had also been adopted from China, asked me. She was asking me about what she could do to help other children in the orphanage. She wanted to help, but how? Her words have stayed with me for over 6 months now. I had no clue what to say to her.

    How do you help children feel like they are making a difference? How do we, as adults, empower them when the need is so great that we often feel powerless and overwhelmed?

    Then I was asked that same question by our littles and the middles. How can we make a difference? What can kids do? How can we help? Do you have to be a grown-up to make a difference?

    After the Love Without Boundaries board meeting, I came home motivated to do more, but how? I had been praying for God to use me. I had been asking Him how. How can we do more? I asked God to show me the way. There were so many children in need all over the world. Children who are hungry. Children who want to go to school. Families that needed help getting their children surgery.

    One morning, a week after the meeting, Elyse came to me crying. She had had a horrible dream where she felt like if she had just moved faster, she could have saved someone’s life. That got her to thinking and praying. She believed that God was telling her to do something now and not wait until she grew up to make a difference.

    Elyse asked me how we could make it happen. I started to think of ways that people could donate a little and not ask them to take away from the good they were already doing. Later that day, I picked up my bowl of change (same bowl you see in the girls’ video). It wasn’t a big bowl. I was curious. How much was in there? When I counted the coins there was over forty dollars in it. Then we googled “How much change does the average person have in their house?” Google informed me that it was close to $28. Then a lightbulb went off, maybe we could change the world with change.

    At this time, I had no clue how much Elyse was hoping to raise. She had just said she wanted to make a difference.

    Elyse must have been having similar thoughts about not asking people for a lot of money, because she came to me and said, “Mom, I only need 200,000 people to donate $5 and this can happen.”

    My head quickly did the math. ONE MILLION dollars? What?!?! This is crazy!!! As they say, out of the mouths of babes. No adult would be so optimistic about raising one million dollars.

    I just stared at her. I had no idea she was considering trying to raise one million dollars in a year. But leave it to her to say “I only need”. I tried to get her to consider a lesser amount. She kept telling me that she wanted it to be so big that it was an “only God” moment. She didn’t want anyone to praise her for her work. She wanted everyone to know it was all God.

    And then I started to think about our faith. Elyse was just so sure God was telling her to do something big. She said she would be more disappointed in not trying than she would be if it didn’t work. But me? I was afraid. Afraid of what people would think and say. Afraid to step out there and look silly. The faith of a child is a wonderful thing. She didn’t care what others said about her she just wanted to do what God was asking.

    The girls got together and they planned as only children can. They were going to make a video and 200,000 people would see this video and all those people would be moved too donate $5 of their change.

    I was definitely the wet blanket in their party. $10,000 was a good, doable amount. They wanted bigger. I said $100,000. They told me to have faith. They only need 200,000 people. When I said I only have 1,300 followers. They changed it to 100,000 people donating $10.

    We prayed about it. Elyse told more people about her plan. People encouraged Elyse and the girls. Then they asked Amy Eldridge, CEO of Love Without Boundaries, what could be done with one million dollars. Amy gave them a plan that would help over 700 kids. The girls were ecstatic. When they saw how many kids they could help. They were even more motivated.

    They drew up a sign.


    Elyse drew up a logo and they came up with a name – Chairs 4 Change.


    They made a video. Hope, Grace and Cassie helped them plan it, shoot it, and edit it.

    Now for the ask…

    1.). Please consider donating your loose change to the girls’ cause. Turn in your money and donate it at this link. https://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/teamlwb4/Chairs4Change or click the button below. You can do this over and over again for the next year.

    2.). If your kids have been wanting to help, let them take the coins to the coin machine, take a picture and post it to the Facebook page. We will then send them a Certificate by e-mail for their involvement in the cause. They can watch as other kids come together to make BIG things happen.

    3.). Please share this post so others can help.

    4.). And last but not least, pray that BIG things can happen.

    Thank you!


  • Knowing You Can Do More

    Date: 2019.06.07 | Category: Faith, Family Life, Food for Thought Friday | Response: 0

    In March 2018, I wrote a blog post called Thriving Not Just Surviving.  I poured my heart out about why we were moving and what I wanted to happen.  It’s one of the best blogs I have ever written and no one will ever read it.  Well, my mother-in-law and my grown kids have read it, but that will be it.  I can’t post it.

    Why?

    Because it didn’t come true.  I mean we moved but what I planned didn’t happen.  The reasons we moved were sound.  I did tons and tons of research.  I planned who would move to what room.  I planned what we would take with us.  I reused everything we had and I donated everything we wouldn’t need.   We worked hard fixing up our old house to sell and fixing up the new smaller house to move into.  My brother and his family were a huge help!   We moved one room at a time and went through everything in each and every room.

    I was horrified…

    At how much stuff we could give away.

    How much stuff we really truly didn’t need.

    How much stuff we had accumulated over the years.

    How much money we had spent collecting this stuff. 

    I kept thinking about those articles that show people around the world standing with all that they own in their front yards.  What would my yard look like?  Just google Americans and what they own.  There are 1,000’s of articles talking about how we are drowning in stuff.  That’s how I felt.  I felt like I was drowning in things that didn’t matter.  It felt good to purge it.  To simplify.  So we moved. 

    BUT then, for many reasons that I won’t go into, we moved back to our old home and none of what I wrote could ever be said.

    It’s really strange to say that I feel sad living in a big house.  I mean most people would be ecstatic to have 7 bedrooms and 3 baths and an extra 800 feet of living space (an apartment) in the garage.  Most people don’t understand how a big, beautiful house could make you sad.  I mean isn’t that what we all want? 

    More. 

    More house. 

    More room. 

    More things.

    I used to feel that way, but not any more.

    I wanted to spend less money every month so we could give more away.  Since I was a little girl I have wanted to be a philanthropist.  I have always wanted to anonymously give and do big things.  I didn’t want to be famous for it.  I just loved the thought of stepping in when people needed something and being God’s hands and feet.  

    I wanted to stop stressing about a house that I can never seem to make look like the big, beautiful house that it is.  It looked beautiful when we didn’t live in it, but it’s stressful trying to make it look put together.  I fail daily at that.

    13 kids are messy.  4 kids in wheelchairs and 2 kids with severe delays and extreme messy tendencies make for more than I can keep up with.  Well, I can’t keep up with making it look like a magazine ad.  I will admit that I have always had a bit of OCD when it comes to my house.  It’s hard to tell amidst the mess but I like organized.  I like a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I really, really like that.  I mean really like that!  My kids, however, do not share this same passion. 

    We moved back to the bigger house for many reasons.  Reasons that everyone else had.  I can agree with most of the reasons but I still dealt with sadness.  Sadness that I couldn’t make the smaller house work.  Sadness because I felt like my dream died.   I feel guilt along with that sadness.

    I don’t know what to do with this guilt that I feel.  And before anyone starts to comment about guilt, I want you to know that I think we should all have some of this guilt.   Even years ago when we were struggling with money, we still had so much.  I see that now.   Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with age or maybe it’s because Love Without Boundaries has opened my eyes to the need all over the world, but there is such need everywhere.  I have so much so how could I not I feel some guilt?

    Guilt that I get to live in America where I can order anything I want at any time. Guilt that I can order food at any drive through I want or grab a cart full of whatever pleases me at the local grocery store.  Guilt that I own so much that I really don’t need.   Guilt that happens when I open up my inbox and read e-mails about trafficked children and children digging through the dump to find plastic to sell to get one meal a day and children who die because they need the simplest of medical care that we take for granted.  When I read about mothers walking hours to try to find someone to help their baby or families that sell everything they own trying to get the medical care their child needs.  Children who never get to go to school or have to drop out to work  when they hit the 3rd grade.  Children as young as 6 caring for their younger siblings while their families work.  My list could go on and on.   I feel guilt because I know the truth.

    I don’t deserve any of this.   It’s luck of the draw that I was born here, in this time, in this country.  Granted Dan worked hard to get through school and it took 15 years of our life to get through schooling and training, I am not downplaying hard work and working for success.   I believe in working hard for what you have.   I don’t want to take that for granted, but when God gives us much we should do more.  That’s what I want to do. MORE!

    Here’s what our move has taught me.  We can always do more.  We made a way for two house payments during all of this.  Granted I pushed our budget to the MAX and we had to borrow BUT it showed me there was wiggle room for doing more.  We all think we don’t have enough.  We all think we will do it later or someone else will do it.   But is that true?  Why do we hold on so tight to what we have?   Why are we so ready to spend our money on things that really don’t matter? 

    I mean I’m constantly looking at crowdfunding stuff that gets blown out of this world while people are trying to buy the next BIG thing that hasn’t been made yet.

    And yet at Love Without Boundaries we share these stories of hurting kids and families in need, and although we have the best supporters,

    and this bears repeating…THE VERY BEST SUPPORTERS,

    and have had them for a long time, we can’t quite get to the next level.  Some children never get funded.  Some stories just don’t tug on people’s heartstrings.  Some kids just wait.  We always seem to find a way to help but still there’s so much need that we have to say no to.  Why do kids wait for surgery?  Shouldn’t we all be lining up to do the right thing? 

    To help children who are trafficked. 

    To help fund a surgery so parents can stay with their child. 

    To help the mother who needs just a little help to feed her children. 

    To help a child get schooling so they can get out of this cycle of poverty. 

    To give someone a hot meal and an encouraging word.

    There’s so much to do and yet…

    Why does a new fangled watch that needs 100’s of 1,000’s of dollars get funded in 24 hours and a child who needs help sits waiting for someone to step up?

    Why? 

    Why don’t we step up?

    Why don’t we want to do more?

    My heart is so heavy.

    I don’t know what God has planned but my dream that I had last April is gone.  I wasn’t going to share my feelings.  It’s hard to be uncomfortable.  It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable.  It’s hard to share your thoughts and your feelings.  It’s hard to put yourself out there.  It’s easier to stay in our bubble of comfort and pretend that there aren’t hurting people in the world.  I saw this post and it helped…

    I can’t mess up God’s plan, I’m not that important.

    I was bogged down in feeling sad that I couldn’t do what I thought was the right way to do more, but I know God always provides a way.  I’ve seen it happen time and time again.  God knows the need.  He’s the answer, not me.  I’m but a small drop in a big ocean.  Now I’m just waiting for Him to show me what is next because there’s so much to do and I don’t know where to start.

    So much of my life went by while I was striving for the American dream and I realize that it was all a lie.  I don’t know why it took so long for my eyes to be opened, but now that they are…

    I want to open everyone’s eyes because we are striving for the wrong things.  We don’t need 10 blankets if we already have 8 and only use 5.  We need to share.  We need to comfort others.  We need to do more.  We need to step up and get out of our comfort zone.   Francis Chan said it best…

    “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.”

    I don’t want to strive for things that really don’t matter any more.  I don’t want to be afraid to speak up worrying about what people will say.  I don’t want to be quiet any more. 

    I guess that’s what has made me the saddest about our move not working.  I wanted to be able to say, “See we did with less and you can too.”  It’s hard to preach about giving more to people when you live in a big, beautiful house.   They look at you and say, “Well, it’s easy for you to give.  You have so much.”  But I am saying we can all give more. 

    More of our time.

    More of our love.

    More of everything.

    We can all do that.   It’s not necessarily about money.  It’s about being there.  It’s about being invested.  It’s about caring.  It’s about sharing something as simple as a smile or an encouraging word.  It’s about making life not about you but about others. 

    Step out of your comfort zone and be the something that someone else needs today.  Don’t wait! 

  • Life Changing Moments

    Date: 2019.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey | Response: 0

    7 years ago my life was changed forever.

    I was so clueless.  So absolutely clueless as to what goes on in the world.  And you know what?  I’m still pretty clueless.  I have no idea what it means to live in a war torn country.  I have no idea what it means to not be able to worship God.  I have no idea what it means to have nothing and dig through the garbage to find enough plastic to make some money to feed my family.  I never had difficulty going to school.  I haven’t been trafficked or sold or tortured or starved.

    I’ve complained of being hungry – but I truly wasn’t.  The next meal would come and it would be varied.

    I’ve complained of not having any money.  And although that fact was true for a week or so, the next paycheck would come.

    I’ve complained of my living conditions and I should have been ashamed.  The windows worked, the walls stood, the roof didn’t leak.  I was warm and safe.

    I’ve whined and moaned and griped and I shouldn’t have.

    Seven years ago my world was turned upside down.   A year prior to that I was talking about why we couldn’t adopt.  I was talking about how I was too old.  We didn’t have the money.  I wasn’t right for the job.  My excuses were a mile long and they were all about me and my selfish self.

    My life was changed by the words spoken by Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”   I cried buckets of tears and we moved forward with adoption.  We read the books and prepared ourselves as best we could, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my heart when we met Ben and Maisey.

    They threw Maisey at me.  Literally threw her at me and walked away.  She had these big, beautiful eyes that were afraid and sorrowful and broke my heart.  I can still feel her in my arms.  This sweet, little girl who just sat on my lap.  She didn’t cry.  She just laid her head on my shoulder and ate her cracker.  Every once in a while she would look up at me so seriously.  She was taking it all in.  She was and still is the most observant and loving child.  And somehow during that first day of her checking me over, I passed.

    Ben came to us not much later.  He had this hoarse little voice.  He weighed 19 pounds at the age of 3 1/2.   He went straight to Dan.  He didn’t cry.  He just sat there and and drank his box of milk.

    We went back to the hotel and expected tantrums and crying.  We were prepared for the worst.  But we found two little souls, who had never met before that moment, that took care of each other.  Dan had put a bunch of snack foods in one of the dresser drawers.  Ben and Maisey stood at the drawer of food and just looked.  They carefully took pieces out and smelled them, and then they ate for the better part of two hours.  Ben would cry if you moved the food, but he constantly shared with Maisey.  Ben just needed to be holding the food or looking at it.   He did this for 6 months after we came home.  6 months of sleeping with food or a bowl or utensils.

    I learned that I never truly knew what it meant to be hungry.

    Ben and Maisey didn’t love us instantly.  I’m not sure that’s even possible.  Although, I do know what it means to lose your heart at the mere sight of a picture.  Love takes time I get that.  But they did feel safe.  So safe in fact that the very next day when we visited Ben’s orphanage, he wouldn’t leave Dan’s arms.  The nannies tried to coax him into coming to them.  The nannies tried to make him smile.   But Ben wouldn’t have it.  He laid his head on Dan’s shoulders, pulled Dan’s arms tighter around him, and refused to budge.

    I learned I never truly knew what it meant to be alone.

    That was the moment everything changed for me.  I went to China believing we could help another child.  We didn’t need to add to our family, we already had 6 children.   We knew, however, that our house would never be empty.  Codey would live with us forever so couldn’t we possibly open up our house to one more child?

    China opened it’s program up to allowing two at a time and we decided if we were going to adopt we should adopt two.  Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect.   Our agency sent us Maisey’s papers and we chose to adopt her and then they showed us their listings with other children with more needs.  Dan saw Ben’s picture.   We had been praying for a little boy that we had nicknamed Tigger and there he was.

    Ben’s orphanage was a nice clean building.  It had a playground and therapy equipment and many other nice things.  But what it didn’t have was the love of a family.   Love of a family can come in many different ways but it brings with it the knowledge that you belong.  You have a warm place to fall.  You have somewhere safe to go.  You are loved.  The fact that you matter to one person changes everything.

    Adoption doesn’t always go this way.  Time in country can be brutal.  You are jetlagged, the noises and food are different, the child may not even like you.  I get that.  I understand the hard.  Believe me our trip the next year was almost more than I could handle BUT…

    We can NOT lose sight of the fact that children should not be raised in institutions.  Children need families.  I will never say that everyone is meant to adopt.  I know that’s not possible.  BUT I do know that people could do more.

    I feel guilt that it took me so long to have my eyes opened.  I could have done so much more.

    Let this be the day that we all open our eyes a little wider and do something.

    Become a foster parent.

    Adopt.

    Help support a family that is adopting.

    Support local families that foster.

    Take meals.  Send a gift card.  Encourage them on their path that can be just as hard as it is beautiful.

    Together we can all make a difference one child at a time.

    #EveryChildCounts

     

  • J.J.’s Make A Wish (part 2)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica | Response: 0

    When we started this process, we had heard that wishes can sometimes take a while to be fulfilled.  We were prepared to wait for months but everything seemed to just fall into place.

    In December we agreed that her physicians could nominate J.J. for a wish.  In January we heard that her wish had been granted.  At the end of January, Brooke and Marcy visited and went over all the paperwork and figured out what J.J.’s wish was.  We had the reveal party on the 14th of February and were prepared to wait until the end of March or so for the install.  Imagine our surprise when Anna, from Make-A-Wish, called to ask if they could do the install this week.

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

    When J.J. decided on her wish we agreed that we would use the sunroom for her playplace. The room has lots of windows and is sunny and bright.   It also has a peaked 18 foot ceiling.  It’s a narrow room but it’s where the kids love to play.  We hired a great guy to put french doors in the two big entry ways leading to the living room and dining room, and to put in a door to close off the back end of the room so it could be a contained space for everyone to safely play.

    When we were discussing the plans with Brooke and Marcy, Dan mentioned how much J.J. wishes she could play on the playplaces at restaurants.  J.J. is very small and she scoots around on the floor. It’s hard for her when bigger kids are running over her.  Her immunosuppression makes everything more difficult too.  We try to keep her away from anyone who is sick.

    Honestly, unless you meet her in person, it’s hard to even imagine how small she is when she is sitting and scooting.  As you can see she’s a tiny girl.  I had made this picture when we were trying to show her size to the grant committee.  J.J. is 11, Maisey is 8, and Evie is 7 in this picture.

    Dan mentioned again how it would be wonderful if we could make something like this happen for her.  I couldn’t even let my mind go there.  I know that those playplaces are expensive and thought there was no way something that awesome could come true.  Dan told me to just see what God has planned for J.J. and not limit what we think they can do.

    Imagine my surprise when they sent the original plans.

    We taped the dimensions off in the room and showed the kids where it would go.   We thought we had a clue.

    HOWEVER, we did not…

    These two guys have been at our house for three days, patiently answering questions and having little eyes sneak peeks around the corner at them, while they were installing this beast.

    I don’t know what to say.  We are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

    They made a dream come true for a little girl, who has been through more than any child should ever have to endure, and her very, very, very excited siblings.

    The laughter and fun that this will bring to her life is absolutely…

    PRICELESS!

    No more boring recesses at the Ellsbury home school.

    I wish I could share with you the squeals of delight we heard for hours tonight.

    Don’t let Max’s face fool you.  He had more fun on the playground than anyone else.  He ran and ran and ran through the tunnels and down the slide and across the monkey bars.  He just never, ever smiles in pictures.

    They will all sleep well tonight.

    J.J. is beyond thrilled and so very happy.

    I think her smile says it all..

    Thank you Make A Wish Iowa  and  Go Play Systems for making our little girl’s dream come true!!!

     

     

  • Make A Wish J.J. (part 1)

    Date: 2019.03.08 | Category: Family Life, Jessica | Response: 0

    In January 2018, J.J. received a new kidney through a transplant.  While J.J. was in the hospital recovering, her doctor informed us that she could be granted a wish from the Make A Wish Foundation.

    We gave it much thought, and for many different reasons had decided not to proceed with the wish.  Every month or so we would have an appointment and they would ask us if we had considered J.J. getting a wish.   We would politely say that we didn’t wish to proceed.  One day J.J.’s doctor asked us why we weren’t proceeding with the wish.  We told her our reasons and she simply said, “It isn’t about the gift as much as it’s about making J.J. feel special.”  Her doctor then asked, “Doesn’t J.J. deserve to feel extra special with all that she’s been through?  If you feel guilty about the cost, just donate it back to Make A Wish at a later date.”

    We went home and thought about it some more.  We weren’t even sure J.J. would understand what being granted a wish meant.  We didn’t try to explain Make A Wish (MAW) to J.J. but we did ask her what she would do if she could have any wish she wanted.  Her answers were so sweet, but we couldn’t make any of them come true.  I wrote about this conversation on Facebook.  Here is that post from October 2018.

    When I put the kids to bed at night I like to ask a random question just to hear everyone’s thoughts. Tonight I asked Maisey, Evie, JJ, Elyse and Grace the question “What would you wish for?”
    Elyse – No more orphanages.
    J.J. – A family for every kid.
    Maisey – No more mean people.
    Evie – I would wish to be a genie so I could make everyone happy.
    Me – No, I mean a wish you could actually make happen.
    Elyse – To Travel the world and save a million souls.
    JJ – No more stealing little girls.
    Elyse – Yes, no more slavery of any kind.
    JJ – To adopt a baby.
    Evie – To have a pet zebra that I could hug every day.
    Maisey – To be tiny so I could ride a butterfly.
    Me – Does anyone have any wish that could actually come true?
    Elyse – An underground playplace where Grace and I can secretly hang with our friends.
    Me – That’s a little closer to something that could actually happen.
    Maisey – I am gonna be a ninja.
    Evie – I am just gonna make people happy myself I guess.
    Grace – A car would be nice. I can drive in 3 years.
    JJ – But mama I don’t need anything.

    Over the next month we would randomly talk about wishes.  I explained to Grace what was going on and she would just say to J.J., “No, a wish that could come true. You know like when I wished for a car.”

    In December her team at the hospital informed us that if we were going to do a wish, then we would have to proceed soon.  J.J. needed to be nominated within the first year of her transplant and we were fast approaching the one year mark on January 1st. We decided to let them nominate J.J. and see if she would even be granted a wish.

    After we received the letter granting J.J.’s wish, we decided to be honest with J.J. and ask her about specific wishes.  Make A Wish sends out a book and paperwork that you can ask the child questions about.  We asked her about celebrities she wanted to meet – there weren’t any.  We asked her about traveling – she said, “I’ve already been to Disney.  I didn’t like it very much.”   We asked her to consider if there was anything that she could think of that she really wanted.  It could be a big wish.  She just had to let us know and she could draw a picture if she wanted to.

    She came to us first asking about helping orphans.  We told her that we loved her heart but this needed to be a wish that could be granted and that we, as a family, would always do what we could to help orphans.

    She came back to us with the idea for an indoor playground.   She drew out her pictures and told us what she wanted and why she wanted it.

    REASONS WHY SHE WANTS AN INDOOR PLAYPLACE:

    • Big play places have big kids that run her over and scare her.
    • She is supposed to try to not get sick.
    • Her brothers and sisters would love it.
    • She wants to surprise her brothers & sisters.
    • It’s cold like half the time here.
    • She likes to play with her brothers & sisters.

    WHAT SHE WOULD LIKE IT TO HAVE:

    • Low monkey bars that her and Elyse can do.
    • Rock climbing wall with one of those soft things you can fall on for Maisey.
    • A swing.
    • A lookout tower to see the tall windows.
    • A slide.
    • Tiny play house

    Her request was just so sweet and well thought out.  It was hard to say no after that.  Dan and I thought long and hard and decided to let her have her dream.   Well, honestly it didn’t take long to make the decision after seeing her sweet face excitedly tell us all about her plans.

    The best part of all of this is that she wanted it to be a surprise.  She has been so cute keeping her secret. I have to admit that it has been almost as much fun watching her plan her secret as when she was granted the wish.  Brooke and Marcy, volunteers with MAW, came out to our house to ask J.J. questions.  J.J. told them what she wanted and why she wanted it and they were so excited for her. My favorite part of them asking her questions was her answer to how do you see your wish playing out?   J.J.’s answer was so sweet.  She said she could see her brothers and sisters saying, “Wow J.J.!  You are really good at keeping secrets.  This is amazing!  You are the best!”  She could hardly contain her excitement.

    Brooke and Marcy told her that they were unsure if they could make that wish come true but that they would really try hard.  It wasn’t a wish that they had ever had before.  They asked her for a second option in case they couldn’t make the first wish come true.  J.J.’s request for her second wish was to adopt a baby.  Brooke and Marcy told her that they couldn’t make the second wish come true.  They asked her if there was anything else and J.J. told them no.

    Marcy and Brooke talked to J.J. about what they would do when they told her siblings.  They came up with a plan to have a reveal party so that J.J. could surprise her brothers and sisters with the plans.  Marcy and Brooke asked her if she wanted a pizza party, or cake, or cookies?  J.J. asked if she could have a Slim Jim and Pepsi party.  That was a first for them I think.  lol

    What can I say the girl really likes Slim Jims…

    We had been told that wishes can take a long time to be planned.  That they would let us know when they heard anything.  We were so surprised when just a few weeks later MAW called and said that they found a company willing to work with them and they had a plan they were sending our way.   It was amazing!  We couldn’t wait to show J.J.

    Marcy and Brooke emailed and said that we could have a reveal party.  I told them our son and family would be home from Wisconsin next weekend and asked them if that was too soon to have the party.  They were beyond kind and agreed to having a party on very short notice.  We decided not to tell J.J. about the party so that she could be surprised too.  We would have her play down in the basement with her siblings and then Grace, who was in on the secret, would bring her up and we would surprise J.J. and then we would bring up everyone else and she could surprise them.  Marcy came up with a great idea where everyone got an envelope and inside the envelope was a picture of the playground.   J.J. had them hand out the envelopes and then she counted to three and had them open the envelopes.

    In hindsight I realize that we probably shouldn’t have surprised her.  She needs time to adjust to things. I remember when we gave her her first wheelchair.  She sat in the chair and cried for an hour because she was so overwhelmed with the gift.

    She was very quiet during her party.  She was happy but I could tell something wasn’t quite right.  After it was all said and done I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that she was just so happy that she was having a hard time not crying and she didn’t want Marcy and Brooke to see her tears and think she didn’t like her party.

    So now we wait for the very special date when they will install her playground. We have heard that it could be as soon as next month.  I still can’t believe this is happening but this is one gift that will be used over and over again.  In the plans, J.J. got her low-to-the-ground monkey bars, a covered slide, and a tunnel to hide out in.

    J.J. picked the perfect gift.  She has such a sweet heart.  Dan and I LOVE the way she included everyone in her idea.  I can’t wait to watch them play and hear their laughter while they enjoy J.J.’s gift.   We are going to call it “J’s Play Place” so everyone remembers to be thankful to their sister who included them in her dream.

    Thank you  Make-A-Wish Iowa for making one very special little girl’s dream come true.

     

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2019.02.25 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Here’s this year’s blog from 28 Days of Hearts.

    28 Days of Hearts