• Why I Love LWB

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

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

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

    Love Without Boundaries

    It’s funny what brings you to a place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Three girls

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

  • Jasmine’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

    jazzy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 241

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

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

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

    Jasmine lwb

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

    You can ADOPTFOSTERSPONSOR A CHILDVOLUNTEER – DONATE – EDUCATE!

     

  • I LOVE Adoption (By Gracie)

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

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

    kids 1

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

    Cassie 4-14 158

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

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

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

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

     

  • A Weekend to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

    Backdrop

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

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

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

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

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

    family pic

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

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

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

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

    reception

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

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

    family dance

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

  • Happy Father’s Day

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

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

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

    photo (1)

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

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

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

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    Sixteen years later and she is a thriving healthy teenager.

    Hope's red hair

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

    One of my favorite family pictures!

    One of my favorite family pictures!

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

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

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

    Ben and daddy

    Ben and daddy

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

    Evie Gotcha Day

    Our children have a safe shoulder to lie on…

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    Someone who will be there with them no matter what…

    Evie 3

    Someone to be silly with…

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    Strong arms to keep them safe…

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    A lap that will hold one or two…

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    or more…

    Dan and kids

    Someone to celebrate the big moments…

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    and little moments with…

    Cassie, Dad and fish

    A hand to hold…

    Evie hand

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

    Evie 9

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

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

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

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

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

    china 2012 041

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

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

    The crew

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

  • I Hate Indifference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We can no longer do nothing.

    I have read this verse in the Bible many times.

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

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

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

    BE DOERS!!!!

    That is pretty clear.  So what are you doing?

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

    So what is stopping you from being a doer?

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

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

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

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

  • Jasmine’s Dream (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    poppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This is what we are called to do as Christians.

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

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

    We are called to give away our possessions:

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

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

    We are called to bear each other’s burdens.

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

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

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

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

    Francis Chan – Rope

    How are you going to finish?

    Francis Chan – Balance Beam

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

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

  • Choices

    Date: 2015.05.12 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    A day of pain from missing my mom.

    A day of immeasurable joy.

    A day I hope I will always remember.

    A day I wish I could forget.

    A beautiful, loving, wonderful day – the best Mother’s Day ever.

    A horrible, rotten, “wish I had never gotten out of bed” day.

    That is what my Mother’s Day was.

    I had both ends of the spectrum.

    I was surrounded by my children and beautiful words were written especially by my husband.

    my kiddos

    “This is Dan, adding a post on Mother’s Day. I’m always amazed by the strength of mothers. In my work, I see so many moms that are so committed and devoted to their fragile children. The love warms your heart and gives you hope for the future.

    And then I look at Lisa, and I see that girl that I have loved since I was 15. I remember all the pain we have gone through with our children, the crushing grip of death, broken dreams and the scars of abuse. I see the sacrifices that she so willingly makes – day after day, night after night. Putting her family first – always teaching, healing, loving, and caring. Never too tired, always ready to give – never because she “has to” but always because she “wants to”. She has been pushed to her limit and beyond during the past few years. Discovering the depth of the trauma that some of our kids experienced in China, grieving the loss of her own mom. These things don’t get better. But she just keeps “showing up” and giving all of our sweet children exactly what they need – a mom who loves them unconditionally and completely.

    Our kids are seriously blessed to have Lisa as their mom and I am seriously blessed to be her husband. Thank you to all the moms out there that keep “showing up” and giving your kids that most precious gift – a mother’s love.”

    Isn’t that what life is though?  Tough and beautiful all at the same time?   I wanted to wake up to a clean house.  I wanted to not have to do anything.  I wanted breakfast in bed after 8 straight beautiful hours of sleep.  My expectations were not met.  My house wasn’t magically clean when I woke up.  I didn’t get 8 hours of straight sleep.  (Although, Lainey was gracious enough to give me 5 straight.)  I didn’t get breakfast in bed, but instead was up hours before anyone else getting ready for “my” day.

    Choice – Be happy about 5 hours or be bitter about not getting to sleep in.

    I will admit the foot stomping two year old in me was there for a moment.  My day wasn’t going according to my plans and I was as cranky, but then I took a moment, opened my eyes, and looked around.  I saw my beautiful, hand-drawn pictures from all my kiddos.  I saw flowers in vases, some that were purchased and some that were hand picked.  I was given some beautiful notes written in my Mother’s Day book.  (Last year the Cassie started a journal where ever child writes something on a page for Mother’s Day.  It’s a beautiful keepsake.)  Elyse reminded me again how happy she was to just be able to say the words “Happy Mother’s Day” to her very own mama.

    As the day went on, Cassie made a wonderful birthday lunch for Max with all his favorites. We played outdoors where the kids ran for hours in grass that was way too long because it needed to be cut, but the lawn mower had been broken. Reece had the great idea to cut a winding path in the grass and the kids ran for hours on this path. Something that had been driving me crazy all week, extra long grass, ended up being the most fun ever for the littles.  The ran and ran and ran around the path.  They were so joyful.

    Choice – to fret about unmown grass and all the other things left undone or to fully enjoy the moment in the sunshine with my blessings.

    The night took a turn for the worse when Jasmine started acting out again.  Every once in a while she has a really hard time.  Every once in a while she turns into a child that you would never recognize.  The things she says are hurtful and mean.  She lashes out and none of it makes much sense.  Children who have spent most of their lives in an institution act out for the strangest reasons and sometimes it is hard to figure it out right away.  Why is she lashing out?  Is it because she is remembering her grandma or grieving her lost mother? Why won’t she just tell me why she is hurting?  When they won’t open up it makes life hard.  You want to scream.  You want to return the favor with some harsh words of your own, but you can’t.

    You remind her daily that she has a choice to be happy or sad.  No one is responsible for her happiness.  She has a choice to find her purpose and live life fully or watch it pass her by.  She has the choice to trust God and His plan.  She has the choice to make the world a better place or to make those around her miserable.  She has the choice to discuss what is going on.  She has the choice to love her family and participate or sit on the sidelines.  She has the choice to trust us or live in fear.

    She has a choice and so do I.

    Choice – to let the few hours of discontent ruin my day or to keep the right perspective and remember all the blessings I have had throughout the day.

    Choices!  We all make them every day some intentionally and some by default.  Not choosing is in itself a choice.  I have the choice to respond in anger and discipline or I can teach.  Jasmine has not been taught how to process the pain.  Jasmine has not been taught what to do with her anger.  She is much like a toddler – acting out, throwing words around, stomping her feet.  Would I expect a toddler to reason with me and work through her problems.  NO!!!  I remind myself that daily with Jasmine.

    Choice – to show grace and loving correction and teachings or angry words and discipline.

    Love is a choice.   God tells us that in His word.  He wants us to be content.  He wants us to choose joy.  He wants us to love our neighbor and pray for those who persecute us.  None of these things are easy but we always have that choice.  We can choose to see our lives any way we wish.  We can dwell on every negative thing that ever happens or we can see the beauty in each and every day that we have been gifted.

    Nothing in life is perfect.  Nothing ever goes exactly as we have planned.  Nothing ever lives up to our dreams and preconceptions.  My daughter recently wrote a blog called ” My Own Little Holland“.   If you have ever read the poem called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Kingsley (which is included in my daughter’s blog post), you will understand what I am talking about.  If you spend the rest of your life upset that you didn’t get to Italy, you will never fully appreciate living in Holland.

    Choice – to be angry, bitter, upset about all that I can not control or to remember each and every day that I am truly seriously blessed to be allowed to parent these beautiful children and to hear the word mama a hundred times every day in my own little Holland.

     

     

  • Beauty amidst the Ashes

    Date: 2015.04.29 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I believe there is always good that comes out of tests and trials.   Life is all about perspective and how you choose to see things.  I firmly believe that God can take the worst situation and turn it around for good.

    Romans 8:28  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.

    Jasmine has been by all accounts the poster child for teen adoption.  From the moment we met her she has been nothing but sweet and joyful.  We worried while we were in China that she didn’t cry or have any questions for us.  We wondered why she didn’t seem sad to leave her life behind.  She seemed more than ready to join a family and start a new life and although everyone kept telling us this was just the honeymoon period, it never ended.  She was a great addition to the family and instantly bonded with everyone.

    Except for a few bad dreams and the sharing of some absolutely horrible stories of her past life, we have had a pretty uneventful 20 months.

    We entered the hospital on January 13th for what was to be a week long hospital stay after spinal fusion surgery.  Everything went according to plan and we went home six days after surgery.  Six days after coming home Jasmine started running a fever and we took her to the local hospital.  Jasmine ended up being septic with a wound infection and was transferred by ambulance back to the children’s hospital two hours away.  This infection would lead to a 30 day hospital stay, which included pancreatitis, a lumbar drain being placed, and four more surgeries.

    The stay was very hard on Jasmine.  She had to lie flat on her back for weeks and that is the most painful position for her to be in.  During procedures we had a couple bouts of post traumatic stress that lead to hours of crying hysterically and there was no way to calm her.   It was extremely painful on our hearts.  It was hard to watch our happy, joyful Jasmine be so sad.

    Dan and I decided that I should not leave her side in the hospital.  Jasmine had been left in the hospital alone numerous times while in China. She was convinced that we would abandon her in the hospital too.  For that reason, I only left her room for short bouts of time.  I missed the kids at home but everyone understood that this was what Jasmine needed and we all agreed that although it was hard, it was what needed to happen.

    Before I delve into the rest of the story, I want you to know that Jasmine and I have talked about whether or not to share this and she believes it should be shared.   I also believe there is much to be learned from this story but I wanted to wait until my feelings were on a more even keel before typing anything. The past three months and especially the month of March was extremely hard on this mama’s heart.  I was hurt and angry over things that were said.  I don’t want my hurt feelings to color this story and for that reason I waited until now to share.

    When we got home we noticed that Jasmine wasn’t any happier.  She sat in her chair in the corner of the living room or at the table.  She didn’t want to call her friends or play on her I-pad or do any of the number of other things that she loved to do.   I started to worry about depression but Dan said this was to all be expected.  She was dealing with a lot and needed some time to decompress.

    It’s true that she was dealing with a lot.  She was much weaker after lying in bed for so long.  She wasn’t even able to hold her head up by herself.  She knew for a fact that she had SMA and knew that some day she would get worse.  Because she was so weak after surgery, Jasmine started to believe that this was already happening.  When she was in the orphanage she had the belief that she would come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told her on many occasions that she would see doctors here that could treat her and allow her to walk.  I believe this is what got Jasmine through all those years in the orphanage.

    Surgery and a diagnosis had taken away that dream.  She started to wonder what there was to live for.  She felt sick.  She knew she had to have a feeding tube for an extended period of time, i.v. antibiotics with a pic line, and then oral antibiotics for a year.  All of this still might not fix it and she could end up still needing her hardware removed at the end of that year.  It was a lot for a little girl to take in.

    We talked to her about her regaining her strength.  We told her that this wouldn’t last.  We made lists of what she could still do.  We showed her in every way possible that there was very little that she was able to do before that she couldn’t do now and that those things would be fixed once she was stronger.  She didn’t believe us.  She was just so sad and coming from a girl that oozes joy, it was very hard to watch.

    Jasmine started being mean.  It was small digs at first and then it was outright nasty.  I’m sharing this not because I want to paint her in a bad light but because it may help someone else.  Jasmine would say mean things to me and then when it made me cry, she would smile.  It was so hard on my heart and so hard to not take personally.  I knew she was hurting.  I read all the articles on the whys and the whats of a hurting child.  I read about how to stay calm.  I read about how to redirect them and teach them, BUT I can tell you in the midst of a child raging at you it is extremely hard to not take it personally and stay calm.

    I gave myself timeouts.  I walked around our acreage.  I sat in the bathroom and cried.  I prayed and begged God for some insight and patience.  I tried my best to not react and I failed many, many times.

    One day after a particular mean outburst, Hope, Grace and Elyse had had enough.  This was my fourth time crying that morning and they turned on Jasmine.  The wonderful part was they had taken everything Dan and I had said and they implemented it.   They weren’t mean.  They didn’t raise their voices.  They merely questioned her as to why she said what she did and why she was acting that way.  They let her know that they didn’t appreciate her making me cry and they told her that there was nothing she could do to make them not love her.  I have never been more proud of my girls.

    Dan talked with Jasmine after that and she finally opened up.  She was sad about the loss of dreams.  She had started to believe that what she was told in the orphanage was true – that she was just so bad that she deserved this.  She questioned God and what her life meant.  She questioned whether anyone could really love her.  She was questioning her future and what a burden she would be to us.

    Dan was finally able to reach her by saying if she believed she needed to be punished, and we in no way thought that was true, she had already had that happen.  She had been through more in her short life than anyone should ever have to go through.   He told her again about the miracle that had to happen for her to join our family.  How we had to get approval for three and how we had to work so hard to get there before she aged out.  He asked her if God wanted her to be punished why would He allow her to join our family?  Why would those miracles have taken place?

    Dan explained again what God’s forgiveness meant.  He explained that her past was in the past.  She was forgiven.  He explained that God already knew her future and she didn’t need to worry about it because we would always be there.  Her family was not going to leave her.  Dan also explained that she need to figure out her purpose so that she knew why she was living today.  What did she want to accomplish with her life?   What did she want her life to say?

    That was the turning point for Jasmine.  We started to see more of our girl emerge.  Her smile started to return and we once again heard her laughter.  She told me she has a dream and that she believes she knows what her purpose is.  She has started writing a blog about this, which I am not allowed to see until it is finished.   I have been thinking a long time about setting up a fund called Jasmine’s Dream, but was unsure of what path to take with it.  I do believe I may have more insight after she writes this blog.

    Now for the good that came after a very painful couple of months.  Elyse had informed us when she arrived in America that she would not be learning a lot of English.  She would learn enough to respond but she was NOT going to learn any hard words.  This lasted for about two days when Jasmine was in the hospital for her second admission.  Elyse is very outgoing and the fact that she could not communicate with anyone at home about drove her crazy.  I am happy to say that she is conversing very well after only four months home.  She is able to understand most simple instructions and she can let us know what she is feeling and what she wants with ease.

    The other blessing that happened with Elyse is that she was unsure of how she felt towards me at first, but after being home for only a few months, was the first to defend me when Jasmine lashed out.  Elyse said she knew how much I loved them and how much I was willing to do for them.  She talked about how I cared for them and made sure they were okay.  She talked about how silly I was and how much fun that made her life.  Those were precious, precious words to hear.

    I don’t believe the first hospital stay would have brought healing to Jasmine.  I believe only the second, longer stay brought her to the place where she had to confront her past and decide what she was going to do with her future.  I hate what she went through in the hospital, but I will be forever grateful for the healing it brought to our girl emotionally.

    The biggest place of healing came from her understanding that we would never leave her.  When Jasmine finally admitted that she was being mean, especially to me, because she didn’t want us to love her because it would just hurt too much when we left her, we finally had an answer as to the “why” she was acting out.  She told us that her grandma had told her she was placing Jasmine in the orphanage because she loved her too much.  I can’t imagine what this did to an 8 year old’s mind.  She has been hurt by so many people that she loved.  She has been let down and lied to.  She has endured more than any child should and now that she finally had the love of family she was afraid it would all be taken away from her.   She decided that she would end it on her own terms.  If she made us all angry, then we would not love her and she wouldn’t be hurt again.

    I told her time and time again that this would not work.  I told her she could be as angry as she wanted with me, that my feelings would be hurt, but she could not make me not love her.  I would always love her because she was my daughter.  She would lash out and I would still tuck her in and tell her that I loved her.  I would still care for her and do her cares.  She was so confused.  Day after day, I said “I love you” even when she was not being nice.  All the pain I had gone through as a child let me know what she needed.

    Then one day, I knew we had turned a corner.  When I told Jasmine that we could never, ever just return her to China, she got so upset.  She had never said she wanted to return before.  Not once in almost two years had she said she wanted to go back to China.  Yet, here she was angry that she couldn’t just get on a plane and go back.  She finally admitted that she now wanted to go back to China and find her parents to let them know they were wrong.  She wanted them to see that someone could love her and that she truly had worth.  She wanted them to see what she was able to accomplish even though she couldn’t walk.

    We will continue to show her what family truly means.  We will continue to support her and let her know that we will never leave her side.  We still have a long ways to go, but she is happy again and that is a beautiful thing.  I knew we were finally on the path to healing when I heard her say those beautiful words “I have worth!”.

    I have worth, God loves me, and I am alive to fulfill my purpose!  A mother couldn’t ask for more for her little girl.  Well, that and seeing this beautiful smile again.  God is good!  Life is good, even through the trials, life is so very good!!!!!

    jazzy

     

  • At the feet of Jesus

    Date: 2015.04.13 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    This past weekend was particularly tough and it got me to thinking about some things.  I have been told that I have on rose-colored glasses or that I portray a romanticized version of adoption. I don’t believe that is the case.  What I do believe is that I have a realistic vision of what I think adoption is going to be like.  It is a fight for the soul.  It is coming back from a horrible place.  If someone writes something beautiful that a rape victim or a cancer survivor or a veteran goes through, that doesn’t automatically diminish in someone’s mind what those people previously went through.  I just assume everyone understands that adoption is hard.  I just assume everyone understand where these children are coming from.

    But then I remember where I was a few years ago.  I never knew the pain these children felt.  I never knew and I hate that I didn’t take the time to find out.  I lived in my own little, comfortable world.   So when you think about adoption, a hard life should automatically come to mind.  These children live in an institution where oftentimes the ratio of care is 1 nanny to 20 children.  How much one on one time to do you think these children get?  There’s limited food and limited resources.  Every time I have walked into an orphanage it has been deathly quiet.  The building can be new or old, big or small, clean or dirty, and it is all the same – quiet.   Picture any school across America.  Would you expect complete quiet in the halls?

    The loss of hope is palpable.  My heart hurt just standing in the hallways.  My heart hurt looking at the little faces that wished you were there for them.  My heart hurt every time some little one uttered the words mama while holding my hand and looking up into my eyes.  My heart hurt thinking of how many of those children will never know anything else but those walls.

    Not every orphanage is bad.  Not every orphanage has nannies that don’t care.  But an institution will never be the same as having a family where there is unconditional love.

    When I was younger, I believed my children were a reflection of me.  I worried if they weren’t dressed right or if they acted up in public.  If they memorized their Bible verses and did well in school, that meant I was doing a good job.   The house being clean and my children doing exceedingly well in everything was the measuring stick for how well I was doing as a parent.

    But the truth is if my child scores a 35 on the ACT and never feels in his heart the plight of the orphan, I have failed.  If my child plays on a great sport’s team and walks by the hurting souls on the street, I have failed.    If my child shows up to church every Sunday and never has a true relationship with Christ, then I have failed.   If my child memorizes 400 Bible verses and never takes to heart the verses that tell him to care for the weak and the destitute, I have failed.

    Our measuring stick should not be by worldly standards but by heavenly standards.

    Now I have children that may rage in public.  I have children who lash out at me with their words.  I have children who are potty trained much later than most.  I have a four year old who still takes a bottle.  I have a deaf child who never learned how to sign potty and his sign for going to the bathroom was to drop his pants.  That is not a fun public display.  I have children who are older and can still act like toddlers.  I just assume others know this.

    So yesterday after two days of words that were said that pierced my heart, I handed my children off to my husband and went for a very long drive.  I put in my Casting Crowns cd (song below) and I reminded myself that this is NOT about me.  If they lash out at me, it’s not personal.  It’s hard work this redeeming of souls.  It’s hard work. I pretty much do something for my children from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.   (Please no lectures on taking care of myself.  I work out and I get out of the house.  I understand the need for that.) But the day to day living and taking care of this many children with health needs takes from morning to night.  I wake everyone up and give meds to 7 of my children.  Just the feeding, cleaning up, and doing laundry for this many children takes a lot of time, add in school work and my day is just full.  Most days I don’t care.  Most days I absolutely LOVE my job.  It’s rare that it is just too much.  But sometimes the pain my children have gone through, the sharing of their stories, and their acting out is more than I can take.

    Katie Davis says it so well – “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

    There is great joy and beauty amidst the pain.  Watching these children grow and trust and love – is a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work.  When celebrating with a marathon runner, no one assumes it was easy getting to the finish line.  You automatically assume they worked hard to be able to run the race.   I am working hard to run my race and it is the most important race any of us can do.  It is a race for souls.  This is Christ’s work.  This is what He has called us to do.  To care for the hurting and the broken.  The “us” I am talking about is not just Dan and I.  This “US” is the church.  We are all called to care for these children.

    This work is hard on the heart.  I mean who wants to sign up for harsh words and no appreciation?  So when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself again that it is NOT about me.   It was never about me and I lay it all at the feet of Jesus.