• Exciting News…

    Date: 2015.10.07 | Category: Adoption, Jessica | Response: 0

    If you are part of our Facebook group, then you have already heard the news.

    But if not here it is….

    IT’S A GIRL!!!!!


    We were so sure we were done.  So absolutely, positively sure we were done.  I honestly never wanted to do that 14 hour plane ride again.  I never wanted to do the two-three weeks away from home.  I was happy.  Our family was complete.

    The are many reasons I don’t like to travel.  I don’t like how jet lag feels. I am a bubbly, smile-at-everyone-kind of person and the busyness of big cities and people running you over, is more than I can take.  Plus, the truth is my heart just can’t take walking into the orphanages and seeing the faces.  The little hands grabbing at your leg saying, “Mama”.  The faces of children just waiting for a forever family.  Sometimes not knowing is easier on my heart.  Sometimes I think about leaving all the advocacy sites.  Sometimes I just want to shout that I’ve done my part.  I can’t take any more.  I have tears running down my face as I write this.

    Adoption is hard.  It’s hard healing little hearts.  If you think anything different than that, then you’ve obviously never been hurt in your life.  Because pain stays with you.  It never truly goes away.  You doubt.  You worry. It’s hard to trust.  You’re angry.  That is why they react.  They have triggers. They are in pain.  They have been alone and suffered in ways that we can never, ever possibly truly understand.

    So I wish I could save them all.  I wish I had a line of people waiting to see the pictures of the kids who wait all over the world.  I wish the waiting list wasn’t for the kids but for the families.  I wish there were so many people lining up to help that you weren’t even sure you would be lucky enough to be matched.

    I wish we could keep families intact.  I wish some choices never had to be made.  I wish no medical condition seemed too hard.  I wish no diagnosis kept a child from being loved.  I wish no label kept a child from finding a family.

    Even knowing everything I know, when my friend sent me the picture of this little girl.  I said, “No!”

    Even when my children started praying for her and pleading with us.  I said, “No!”

    I told them they could advocate.  That our family was already busy.  That we were done!

    But they pleaded.

    They asked, “How I could say no when they were so sure that God was saying that this was their sister.”

    Elyse was the most outspoken.  She was so sure this little girl was her sister.  She had her picture on her I-pad.  She had the littles praying for her all day long.  She was relentless and brutally hard on my heart.

    One day I asked her “Why this little girl?  When we’ve seen so many children’s faces, why this little girl?”

    Her answer?  “Because she’s me!”

    I was shaken and I cried.  Daddy and I still said, “No!  We are done!  I’m sorry.  We can advocate for her.  We will find her family.”

    Elyse batted her eyes.  Grace and Jasmine pleaded.  Daddy said, “You’re killin’ me Smalls!” about a 100 times a day.

    Then things started to happen.

    People messaged me saying that this little girl we were advocating for looked like an Ellsbury.

    There were signs and we questioned why we were done.

    We sat on this for a long time.

    Elyse says, “If she dies, I will never, ever be able to live with myself.”  Those words pierce my heart.  Could we help one more child?

    I really started to think.  What would one more child in a wheelchair feel like during the day.  I added on the time that it took to do Elyse’s cares.  I asked our older children what they thought and they were on board.  They voiced their concerns and they said they loved her little face.  My mother-in-law said she has watched God work wonders in our lives and she knew we would never enter into anything lightly.  If God is leading, she trusts that.  She says she knows we will listen to His call.

    I know what people will think.  Our family is huge.  We have so many special needs.  How in the world do they think they can do it?  I know the concerns.  I’ve voiced them myself.   We are so far out of our comfort zone.  We wonder will this be the tipping point?  Will this be too much?  Will she feel loved?  Do we have enough still to give?  Believe me.  I know the doubts and the worries.  I have said them a thousand times in my head.

    We decide we need to make a decision one way or the other.  Dan and I sit outside and talk.   We really, really talk about what this would mean for our family and can we handle it?  We watch the most unbelievable cloud formations and feel a peace over what we are trying to decide.


    Dan says he needs to go for a drive.  He often does this when he needs quiet time to think.  I short while later I get the following text.

    Dan's text

    I gasp and scream.  Because I have been having my own thoughts.   I have been playing through all the maybes about what may happen.  Even though I know the reality of life is that our worst fears often don’t come to fruition and things we never even considered happening are what truly happen.  Plus, our family has been a part of some of the most amazing miracles.  Who am I to give up hope?

    She has special needs.  She has “S” curve scoliosis.  We’ve been through the back surgery with Jasmine.  We know what to expect.

    She has lower limb paralysis.  Just like Elyse.   We know what being in a wheelchair means for a child there as opposed to here in America.  We have three kids in wheelchairs.  We know the reality that the chair isn’t that big a deal.

    She has kidney issues.  RENAL FAILURE!  That is what her chart says.  How severe?  Will she lose her kidneys?  Will it be correctable?  We understand this issue because Gracie was there with her lupus.  Her kidneys were damaged but it turned around.  There is hope.  There are things that can be done.

    But the kicker for me was that my mom was on dialysis right before she died.  Her cardiac arrest damaged her kidneys and her liver.  I know what dialysis looks like.  I’ve talked with the people who set my mom up every day.  I understood the different ways to do it.  I know the time commitment.  I know what can be done.  It was like a gift from my mom.  I would have ran away from this before, but I understand it and like most everything else in life, once you understand it it isn’t nearly as frightening.

    Dan gets home and we celebrate.   I love her name. I instantly picture her as my daughter.  I can see us calling her JJ.  I imagine myself hugging her and bringing a smile to her face.  I imagine the overwhelming love she will feel from the girls who have fought so hard to bring her home.   We discuss our agency and the agency she is listed with (both are great agencies).  We decide that reusing our dossier may get her here more quickly.  We ask the other agency to transfer her file.  We are told there are families looking at her file but they will transfer if those families say no.  They understand a family needs to move quickly so as soon as they hear the other families say no they ask for confirmation that our social worker and our agency will approve us and they transfer the file.

    We make the decision not to tell the middles or the littles until we have PA just in case the answer is no.

    One day as I am scrolling through the advocacy site, I come across “Belinda’s” post.  Someone says that Belinda has a family.  Gracie reads it and instantly starts to cry.  Then, through sobs, she tells Elyse and Jasmine.  We have a big reveal party planned for when we receive PA.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise.  I tell the girls we should be happy that she has a family.  They bawl all night and wake up with broken hearts.  They say over and over again that they were so sure she was their sister.   It was horrible.  Dan and I decide we can’t let them feel this sad until we receive PA.  Cassie wants us to wait to tell them until she gets home from work so we decide to tell them that Dan will ask the agency who the family is.  Maybe we can watch her adoption unfold.

    Later that night when Cassie and Reece get home, we set them down to tell them the news of who the family is.  Dan says, “We have a picture of the family.  Would you like to see it?”  Jasmine and Grace understand almost immediately but Elyse won’t believe us.  Here is the video showing her unbelief.

    The ending of that video says it all.  We celebrate Jessica’s life and we love her.  The truth is we have enough love.  Your heart isn’t able to only love a certain amount of people.  Love multiplies. She will be adored and loved by so many people.  We will support her.  She will never be alone again.  She will have the love of a forever family.  We couldn’t be more excited!!!!

  • Profound Life Lessons

    Date: 2015.09.25 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    I posted this on my Facebook group, Seriously Blessed by Adoption, the other day and I felt I should share it here too.  Jasmine’s words contain great wisdom.  I am constantly amazed at how much she has been able to grasp in such a short time.

    Profound lessons learned this afternoon:

    Jasmine coming to grips with never being able to walk is much like a person who is paralyzed coming to grips with what their life will now be like. We were told about a motivational Christian woman named Joni Eareckson Tada. Jasmine and I bought the movie and spent the afternoon watching it. Joni says that she would rather be in her wheelchair and know Jesus then walk and not know Him.

    Jasmine looked at me and said, “Mama, it’s like my life. If my grandmother hadn’t placed me in the orphanage, I would have spent my life in a corner in her room. I would have never gone to school. I would have never had a power wheelchair. I would never get to do the things I do now.

    If I had never gone to the orphanage, I would have never known how children hurt. I would have never known what it feels like to be an aging out child. I would have never cared about orphans.

    If I hadn’t gone to the orphanage, I would have never been adopted. I would have never been loved by you and daddy. I would have missed out on the love of all my sisters and brothers and the fun of watching kids join our family. And most of all I would have never heard about Jesus or known that my life was not worthless.

    The next day Jasmine woke up and said to me, “The very last thing that has happened is that I am still alive.  Mama, do you know what it is like to think that you would probably be dead if you hadn’t been adopted?”  She went on to tell me again how the nannies offered to help her end her life.  She told me that the nannies told her over and over again what would happen to her when she turned 14.  It isn’t always the case that you will be turned out on the street or go to an institution at 14.  If you can work, they will sometimes hire you.  If there is someone who has taken you under their wing, then they will allow you to stay until you are 18 or older.

    But they had let Jasmine know they were tired of taking care of her.  They told of her of the place she would go to live the minute she turned 14.  She was told it would be survival of the fittest at the adult institution.  I don’t know anything about these places so I asked around.  It is pretty much like it is here in the states.  It depends on what place you go to and how much they care, some are good, some are bearable, and some are very bad.  Where she would have gone was bad, so yes, it would have been very hard for her to survive there.

    Plus, without surgery, breathing would have gotten more and more difficult.  What kills these children with SMA normally is respiratory illnesses.  Here in the U.S. Jasmine has a cough assist machine to help her breath.  We use it every morning to help open up her lungs.  She had surgery that helped elongate her back and helps her take deeper breaths.   She gets regular checkups and help from the very best doctors.

    It’s a lot to handle as a 16 year old and yet she does it with grace most days.  She has her sad days and her mad days but for 90% of the time Jasmine is joyful and outgoing and compassionate.  Believe me with the stories she has told me, the fact that she isn’t a bitter, angry, awful teenager is in itself a miracle.  I ask myself that all the time.  How did she keep her joy?  How did she stay so hopeful?

    How?  She held on tight to the hope of walking.  She dreamed of having a family of her very own.  She knew that there was someone bigger than her out there that she prayed constantly to.

    I am so moved by her story.  I am so blessed to get to be her mama.  She teaches me something new every single day.  It is an amazing journey and I get to be the one to help her navigate it.  It’s a pretty amazing thing but that’s to be expected because she is a pretty amazing, wise young lady.

  • Elyse’s Mommy

    Date: 2015.09.17 | Category: Adoption, Elyse | Response: 0

    Elyse has been talking about writing a blog just like big sister, Jasmine.  She has been begging me to do a blog about her mama.  I promised her I would write what she says no matter what, but after typing this I had serious second thoughts.  I have sat on this blog post for a while.  I gave her time to think about why she wants to say this.  She has told me over and over again that she wants people to understand that a child might not be nice in China because they don’t know any better.  They might say things and act up because they are afraid or that is what they have been taught.  She feels so bad that she judged me in China.  I never gave it another thought after the first few times she said it and it still haunts her that she was mean to the person who came to give her love and a family.

    In the end I decided to share this because I thought it was very insightful for a nine year old and it is a small insight into the mind of an child when their whole world is turned upside down.  She is truly the sweetest, most caring, helpful little girl.   I was afraid she would never attach to me.  I was fearful that I would never be the mother she wanted. I was afraid she would never be happy with living in America.  I was afraid all those lessons she was taught early in her life were part of who she was forever.  The girl Elyse was when we first met her and who she is just 8 months later is vastly different.  We are very close and I am very blessed to get to be her mama.

    Mom & Elyse

    When mama was in China, people take a picture of me and mama.  I saw mommy and did not know what to think.  I was really mad and really grumpy.  I thought Zach and Stephanie (brother and sister-in-law) were my mama and daddy.  Mama said, “We go somewhere.”  and I said, “NO!”  I was really mad at mom.  Sometimes I didn’t listen to her.

    Sometimes I go to eat with Zach and Stephanie and mama.  Sometimes I not be nice to mama.  I feel bad now.  I sometimes say bad word to mama.  I say that she is fat.  In China it not good to be fat.  We laugh at fat.  I make mama feel bad.  I say it many times to many people.

    I talk to mama about it after we be home for long time.  I tell mama that I am sorry for saying bad word.  Mama said, “I forgive you. I was not mad.”  Mama said, “It only made me sad for a minute.  I am heavy.  It’s the truth.  It’s ok.”   Daddy said, “Mama already forgive you.  You don’t have to feel bad about it.”   But my heart is a little bit sad but mama said, “You don’t know me in China.  It’s ok.”    Right now I don’t do it because I know mama and I love my mama.  I learn that fat don’t make you a bad person.

    In China, I say, “I no learn English.”   Mama said, “You will learn.”   I said, “Mama I don’t.  It too hard.”    I tell her I no learn English cause I marry Chinese boy.

    We went on a boat.  I say, “I don’t like pizza.  I won’t eat pizza.”  Mama said “Just try it.”  and I say, “No!”  Stephanie say, “Just try it.”  I said, “Mmmmm.  Pizza is good!”  The water was very pretty.   It was very much fun.  I sorry I was so mad.

    I took a big bath in the hotel. It was so much fun.   Mama said, “It’s time for bed and she signed  ‘night night'”  We had two beds but I asked mama to sleep by me.  I was afraid. I patted the bed and she know what I say.  Mama sleep by me.   At night I didn’t sleep.  I take pictures and watch t.v.   I didn’t listen to mama when she said to go to bed.

    Mama said, “We have to adopt Max too.”  But I said, “No! I want to go to America.”  Mama said, “We can’t leave Max in China.”

    Then we went on a big plane for a very big time and we went to America.

    We be in America for a long time.  Jasmine go to the hospital and I learn English very good.  Gracie and Cassie help me.

    One day I cry because China say I can’t do anything, but mama and daddy say you can do anything.   They say I can cook, drive a car, go to school.  They say I can do anything.  I cry and cry because I can’t do anything because I in a wheelchair and I am worthless.  I know cause China said.  I can not do anything.  Mama and daddy said, “You can do everything! Dream big!”

    In my house Jasmine and Codey are in wheelchairs.  Jasmine can say Chinese and Jasmine explain it to me in Chinese that I can do anything and I believe it.  Mommy and daddy show me videos with lots of people get married and do lots of things.  I can go to school.  I believe it!

    I have lots of little brothers and sisters.  Gracie every day she help me.  She help me learn English.  She shares her stuff with me and her room.  She tell me it our room.  She helps me get in bed.

    In China they say, “I can go to America.  Have a special surgery and fix your legs.  Then I can get married and walk and do everything and be happy.”  But that’s not true.  It make me very sad.  Mommy and daddy say they would fix it if they could.

    I really happy mommy and daddy adopted me. I get to be called daughter.  Mama said, “I so happy you are my daughter and I can be your mom.”  Every day I wake up and mommy helps me get up and in my wheelchair.  Everyday she say she love me.

    I so happy mama and daddy love me and every day hug me.   Every day they say they love me.


  • Why You Should Adopt (per the terrific trio)

    Date: 2015.09.12 | Category: Adoption | Response: 0

    The three girls have asked me to write a blog about adoption.  I agreed to write their words just like they say them.  I may be in trouble for this one.  :)

    These three are going to be world changers.  The heart they have for orphans is so sweet.  They want to help.  They talk about it all the time.  They want to open eyes and hearts to the needs of children.  I couldn’t be prouder of them even if they just won’t let the topic of us adopting drop. 


    Jasmine (16, adopted at age 14) - You should adopt because kids need a family.  When you adopt a child, you will know they are so happy for a family.  When you are in an orphanage you don’t have anybody to love you.  You feel sad and lonely in an orphanage.  When you get adopted you can have a mommy and daddy love you.  When you have family you are able to do more things not like in the orphanage.  You can eat what you want and not the same things over and over and people always feed you.  You no go hungry.

    Maybe sometimes people think orphanages are good but they are not good it is awful.  Kids come to the orphanage and they become really, really sad.  When you get a family, you are not alone anymore.

    My mama show me pictures of lots of kids that need adopted.  I want to help them get a family that is what Jasmine’s Dream is.  My daddy say my dream is “a family for every child”.  I see a picture of a little girl she is so little and cute.  She can use her knees but she has to crawl.  Me and mama had a conversation.  I said, “Mama, can we adopt her?”  Mama said, “No, we can’t anymore.  We have lots of kids.”  I said, “She is a very pretty little girl.  You would like her mama.”  Mama said, “It hurts my heart.  I can’t look at her anymore.”  I said, “Don’t be afraid.  Maybe she is our sister.  We can help her find a family but I think she is our child.”  Mama tell me she will not talk to me about it right now.

    If people want to adopt, I say, “Don’t be afraid just go for it!”

    Elyse (9, adopted 9 months ago) - Adoption is good because there is daughters and sons who needs a mommy and a daddy.  Children are happy when family is together.  Some people don’t have to adopt but there are very sad girls and boys that need a mom and dad so if you want to please adopt.

    I think Jesus said we can adopt a little girl.  She is 7.  She is sick like me and Gracie and Jasmine.  I think she is my little sister.  I don’t care if we adopt 1, 2, or 3.  I wish she had a family.  She is very sad and looks like me.  I wish that many children could be adopted.  I will make birds for little girls so they can have a wish to have a family.

    I saw another little girl who was very tiny, very, very tiny.  She was some where not China.  I can’t believe she was 5.  She was so tiny.  I wish she could have a family.  I wish she could have a very good family like us.  I don’t want her to die.  I hope she has family that love her so much.


    Last time mama show me that picture.  I was so very sad.  I hope some people find her and let her have family.  She should not be so little and so sad.

    Gracie (10 years old) – People should adopt because no mother and no father is too old and no child should be without a father and mother.  Children need families and people who love them to grow up and be happy.  It is really fun to have a lot of siblings to play with.

    You get to take care of a child who doesn’t have a family and you get to let them know what love is.  It would be nice if families could always care for their children but it doesn’t sometimes happen.  When it doesn’t happen, is when adoption is good.  We should help families stay together but if someone doesn’t have a family we should be there for them.  I think this is what Jesus would want.

    I hope you think about adoption and how happy you can make some boys and girls.

    I think they make some good points so I will post it because I want others to understand that they want to do more.  They want us to do more.  They make me a better person.  The stretch me and how much we can do.  They have a big goal to help 1,000 orphans and I believe they will accomplish this goal.  it is such an honor and privilege to be their mama.

    mama and girls



  • A Red Bracelet

    Date: 2015.09.11 | Category: Jasmine's Dream | Response: 0






    To you it’s a piece of silicone that you will spend $5 on and may never ever wear.

    To her it’s the visible proof that you can make a difference.

    It brings sisters together to fight for a cause bigger than themselves.


    To you it’s a cup of fancy coffee or an inexpensive lunch.

    To her it’s the first step toward her dream of “a family for every child”.

    Even if we only sell a few, it will be worth every penny spent to empower our girl.

    Just look at this smile.

    Jazz and bracelet

    She once only heard the words “you are worthless”.

    But today she is


    a force to be reckoned with,

    a world changer!

    She KNOWS can make a difference.

    Every dollar goes towards her dream of keeping families together

    and helping older children find a family.


    Buys a RED bracelet

    and changes the world for one little girl

    who then changes the world

    for children just like her.

    Three girls

    These three girls took a year.

    They saved their allowances.

    They did extra chores.

    They saved their birthday money.

    The sold their personal items at a garage sale.

    They sold snacks and lemonade.

    Others kindly donated to their cause…

    and they raised


    and then they decided they wanted to purchase red silicone bracelets

    to try and double that amount.

    You can make this dream come true.

    Just go to their fundraiser page on LWB’s site

    Jasmine’s Dream


    go to their Facebook page and message me.


    or send your donation to

    Jasmine’s Dream, P.O. Box 57675, Des Moines, IA 50317



    And you too can change the world.

  • Questions and Answers 2015

    Date: 2015.09.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    The blog post “Questions and Answers” popped up on my memories recently on Facebook.  I thought I would do an updated version for this year.  People ask a lot of questions or make statements that deserve a response, most of them out of genuine curiosity.  Some questions are funny, some are heartfelt, and some are just plain interesting.

    Where did you and Dan meet?

    We attended the same elementary school, junior high and high school.  We started dating when Dan was 15 and I was 16.

    How long have you been married? 

    30 years

    Did you always want a big family? 

    Yes, I did.   I think Dan was considering 4 at the most because that is what we both grew up with.  Now, if we could make it happen, he would take in a child every year.

    Did you always know you were going to adopt?

    No.  We had neighbors who were adopted, but I never really thought about the adoptions.  They were just the sisters of the kids we grew up with.  Our church never really talked about adoption or James 1:27 and why it is important.

    Who initially wanted to adopt?  Was it hard to talk Dan into it?

    This one is the funniest to me because Dan had to talk me into it.  Well, the first adoption (Hope) was a surprise and a beautiful story of faith and God’s hand, but when we were 45 and he started saying we should and could do more, I thought he was crazy because we were way too old to adopt.

    You aren’t actually considering adopting more are you?

    Well, we are pretty sure our family is complete so I am assuming we are done.  Our house is pretty busy, but I believe fully that God has led us to all of our children.  He has blessed our family over and over again by following His lead and it would  be insane for us to say “No” to him now.  Besides whenever we say things that are absolute it usually turns out the other way.  We will leave it in God’s hands and keep our focus on the children we are caring for right now and pray that if there is another child(ren) in this world that are meant to be with us that He makes it abundantly clear as quickly as possible so they are not alone for any longer than is necessary..

    Let’s see how you feel about having so many children the same age when they are teenagers.

    Truth be told, bring it on.  I pray that I get the chance to parent six teenagers at the same time.  Eli, Ben, and Evie all have very complex heart defects and their life span will be shortened.  Noone can tell us for sure how long they have.  I pray to God that I am allowed the wonderful opportunity to parent six teenagers that have three and 1/2 years separating them.

    Are you insane?  Are you crazy?  Have  you lost your mind?  

    No, we are not crazy, insane or any of the other phrases that you might ask.  Dan and I, however, are obedient to God’s calling.  The first time it was hard to turn it all over to Him, but when you see the blessings that have been bestowed on you for following….well, each time it gets just a little bit easier until you know it would be insane not to follow His lead.

    What about your other kids at home?  Do they feel neglected?  Do they resent sharing their time?

    No, if anyone should have had a problem with us adopting more children, it would be Gracie.  She was the baby at the time.  But Gracie loves her siblings and brings me new pictures of children available for adoption all the time.  She wants to help other little girls in wheelchairs.  She knows what it has done for her sisters.  It makes Gracie’s life harder.  She is the person who grabs things they can’t reach.  She is the person they ask to run and grab something.  She has to put away the clothes that they can’t reach.  But she does it with a willing heart because she loves them, not because someone expects it of her.

    Grace has mentioned wishing she could hypnotize Dan and I so we would forget how many children we have and adopt again.  Just the other day I met a mom through Facebook that has 15 children at home.  12 adopted and they are adopting two more which will make 17.  Gracie told me, “See mom.  She’s not afraid of the number 17.  Embrace the number 17.)   Jasmine informs me daily that “I could love more”.   Elyse prays for three more sisters (which is where the number 17 comes into play) but says she would settle for one more.

    They bring me pictures of bunk beds and show me pictures of children waiting.  Jasmine, Elyse, and Grace share the master bedroom because it has the most open bathroom for the wheelchairs.  They show me plans of how they can fit more beds in their room.  We are currently on a picture with three bunkbeds with trundles.  Folks that is six more girls they think they can fit in that room.  They talk about how sad the children look in the pictures and how happy we could make them by giving them the love of a family.

    You must have lots of help.  

    I don’t have paid help, but I do have help with my older children who live at home in an apartment, in our garage, on our acreage. When we moved here 14 years ago, we wondered what we would do with a 7-9 car garage.  We chose to turn the back into an apartment for the kids as they go to college.  Cassie, who is recently married, and her husband, Reece, have chosen to stay in the apartment while Cassie starts teaching and Reece finishes up college.   Dan works from home during the week and Dan’s mom comes down when I ask.

    We recently simplified the whole house and got rid of tons of stuff.   We donated and threw away anything that hadn’t been used in the past year.  We drastically reduced the number of items that I had kept because someone gave them to me and it was a memory.  We took pictures of the items to keep the memories and then donated it.  We took the number of toys way down.  We made a place for everything.  We instituted a new policy of straightening everything before story time at night and made a list of an item to be deep cleaned each day during the month.  The middle girls all have their chores and the littles have small items they are responsible for.   We do a big general clean on Saturday while daddy does his 24 hour shift.  So far it has simplified everything immensely.

    How many children do you have at home?  How many children do you have all together?

    We have fourteen children.  Thirteen still living.  Kyle passed away at five days of age, twenty-eight years ago.  We have twelve children living at home.  Cassie and Reece live in the apartment and the other eleven live in our home.  Our oldest son, Codey, is severely mentally and physically challenged and continues to reside in our home.   Plus, the four middles and the six littles.

    How do you cart everyone around? 

    We have a bus.  Yes, a bus!  The children love it.  I love it too except for the mileage.  It has a wheelchair lift and room for sixteen passengers, two wheelchairs, and the driver.  This is another reason why the girls think we should be able to adopt more.  Apparently, if there is room in the bus, there is room to adopt.

    Is your house huge?

    It is a nice size ranch house.  It has three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs.  We remodeled to a more open concept a couple years after moving in and it has worked out wonderfully for Jasmine and Elyse’s wheelchair.  We have a big sunroom that we have converted into a playroom for the kids.  It is big and sunny and they have lots of room to play.

    What has been the hardest part?

    The waiting is hard.  Once you see their picture, you want to go get them.  Every day you wait, knowing where they are, is painful.

    Unknown diagnosis are hard.

    Lainey not sleeping has been very hard.  For the most part, it has gotten better.  She will sleep for 4-5 hours and then wake up one time and get up for good at 5:30.   Have I mentioned I am not a morning person?  :)

    But truth be told the hardest part, for me, is that I can’t do more.  We are sponsoring children. We have started Jasmine’s Dream (Love Without Boundaries/Jasmine’s Dream) to advocate and raise funds for children in need.  Jasmine has set a goal of helping 1,000 children.  We are helping others who are adopting but it still doesn’t feel like enough.

    Every day in China children age out of the system at the tender age of 14 and are released with no resources.  Many times they don’t have an education or anyone to turn to.  Every day children die in orphanages – alone! Every day children are hungry and hurting and wanting a mother and a father to love them. Every year many children age out of our own foster care system.  Only a small percentage of the children without families in the world will ever be adopted.  A heartbreaking fact when you consider just how many Christians there are.  If we, as Christians, stood up and either adopted or helped others, there would be no orphans.  What a beautiful statement of the love of Christ.

    Why aren’t we doing more?  Why do we choose to close our eyes to what is going on around the world?  Why do we continue to make excuses?

    “The problem seemed so vast, so endemic, that stopping to help a single panhandler (person) could seem pointless.”  – Laura Schroff.

    If we all stopped and helped just one, we could help them all.

    And so we swept past them everyday, great waves of us going on with our lives and accepting there was nothing we could really do.”  – Laura Schroff

    What are you doing with your life?  Are you caught up in the busyness of your life?  So much so that you can’t stop to help one?

    What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” – John Lubbock

    The picture in the news recently of the little boy who washed up on the beach raised such an uproar.  It was horrible.  It was heartbreaking.  I would agree with that completely but children die everyday all around the world and we pretend it isn’t happening because no one was there to snap their picture, because they weren’t deemed newsworthy.

    Here is one example.  (Heavenleigh)  This little girl is 5 years old and weighs 10 pounds.

    Are you looking?  Do you see the hurting people?  Do you see the children in need?  Stop and look for that one that you can help!

    Everyone is able to do something.


  • I Hope I Always Remember

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    Ben and daddy

    Ben and daddy

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

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

    Ben 19

    He loves cars and puzzles.

    He loves video games especially Mario Cart.

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

    Ben Before & After

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


    He has the greatest giggle.

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

    Ben & crew

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

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

    Happy birthday to the best Minion Squad Leader around!




  • Assume Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The list goes on and on and on.

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

  • Pain and Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Starfish story

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

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

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

    The purpose



  • Why I Love LWB

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

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

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

    Love Without Boundaries

    It’s funny what brings you to a place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Three girls

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