• Faith Like A Child

    Date: 2014.07.20 | Category: Faith | Response: 0

    Recently I had to make a chart so we could keep track of who was supposed to say the prayer at meal time.  It got me to thinking about the faith of a child.  What does it mean to have the faith of a child?

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    Well, when was the last time you exuberantly fought over the right to say the prayer at mealtime?   When was the last time you threw your arms into the air and shouted “Amen!”?  When was the last time you sang out a song of praise just because you were rejoicing in all the Lord has done in your life?  When was the last time you didn’t worry and instead said, “God’s got this!”?   When was the last time you jumped out of bed at the chance to go to church instead of rolling over and hitting the alarm and wishing you could just sleep in?  When was the last time you clapped your hands over the chance to put a dollar in the offering plate?

    I am amazed at my children’s love for the Lord.   I watch them trust the Lord and His plans and not question the whys.  I have learned so much about faith and trust just by watching them.  I have seen them take the teachings I have shared and plant them firmly in their hearts. I have heard them claim God’s promises with such assurance that it brought tears to my eyes.

    Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  – Deuteronomy 11:19

    I have watched my children walk with confidence because they know God is in control.  My children love God with a radical love.  My children share what they have and care for others.   My children anxiously await adding two more children into our mix.  They aren’t afraid of having to share their food or their toys or their parents.  They are thanking God for the chance to have two more siblings.

    How tightly are you holding on to what you own?  How often do you show compassion and caring to others around you?  How often does your life look radical?

    “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” – David Platt

  • What Changed Your Mind?

    Date: 2014.07.07 | Category: Adoption | Response: 0

    family

    All the posts and pictures on the 4th, of the sweet children we have come to know through adoption, got me to thinking about what makes people adopt and also wonder what makes people hold back when they’ve considered it.  I’ve heard it over and over again.  “I’ve always wanted to adopt, but….”

    When we adopted Hope, it was out of the blue.  It wasn’t something we had planned.  We saw a child in need and stepped in to help.   Maybe that is part of it.  If a hurting child was right there in your front yard, you’d do something.  If you saw a malnourished child, abandoned, needing love and attention, you’d do something.  Even if you weren’t called to adopt that specific child, you’d do something.  You’d find them help.  You’d support them.  You’d help others who could adopt them.  You’d step up because that is what we do, but because these children aren’t right in front of us we pretend it isn’t happening.

    When we started talking about adoption again, it was Dan who wanted to proceed.  Dan had read Max Lucado’s book, Outlive Your Life. and decided we should consider adopting.  There was a need, we could help, and we could no longer pretend it wasn’t happening.

    I, on the other hand, considered everything everyone else would think.  I was 45 years old.  People started being grandparents at my age.  My life was stable, happy, comfortable even.   It was crazy to think about adopting and I wouldn’t budge.  And then I read the words in Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing To See.  Her daughter asked, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”  I cried all night.   Those were the words that changed my heart.

    I knew some where there was a child that God was asking me to parent and I was refusing to proceed because of the fear of what others would think of me.  Some where there was a little one who needed a mama’s love and I was leaving them alone, afraid, frightened, with little hope for a bright future because someone might think I was too old.   I hate that those were my thoughts.   God started working overtime on my heart.  Little did I know where God would take us over the next three years.  What an amazing “stand back and watch God” ride this has been.

    My heart was forever changed for the better that night.  I learned to follow God’s lead.  I learned to trust Him even when it didn’t make sense.  I learned to let go of my fears and I deeply regretted all those moments that I drug my feet and refused to trust God’s plans for my life.  My post on Facebook from the other day says it all.

    Rick Warren describes Dan and my past few months (past couple years actually) perfectly!

    “As a follower of Jesus Christ, he expects you to obey whatever he tells you to do — even if it appears foolish to other people, even if it doesn’t make sense financially, even if you don’t understand it and you’re scared to death.”

    Pretty much describes the past 130 days – following in obedience, not truly understanding how it could possibly work, and standing in awe of the faithfulness of God!

    On that same post another adoptive mother commented the following:

     ”It was one of his daily devotionals 3 years ago that my hubby and I felt was an answered prayer and helped us finally make the decision to drop all our excuses and just jump on board with our first adoption.”

    Which made me wonder about other parents, did they always know they would adopt?  Were there words that changed their hearts too?  You know I believe in the power of the written word.  God reaches us through other’s words.   What words changed your heart?  Was it a devotional?  A book?  Another adoptive parent’s words?  Song lyrics? What words made you proceed when you were once unsure?

    I would love it if you would share your words in the comments. When we are done, I will make a blog with all the books, quotes, music, and words that moved our hearts.  Who knows who may be out there sitting on the fence about adoption and the words you write may be just what their heart needed to hear.

    family 1

    Adoption update – We have received our 1-800 and we are now waiting on the NVC to issue our letter that will go to the American Consulate in Guangzhou so they can start the children’s visas.  After that is done, the Article 5 can be issued, the consulate appointment will be made, and travel approval will come.

    Tomorrow we have 40 days left.  I am hoping they issue the letter on the first day they receive it.  The tracking number says they should receive it on 7/8/14.

    I believe big things are going to happen in this 7th month of 2014.  I have a thing about the number 7.  My father-in-law started it years ago when we discussed the numbers that show up in the Bible over and over again.  Numbers that had special meaning and were considered holy.  The number 7 and the number 40 are two of them.  The number 7 is used in the Bible 735 times.  Seven is considered the number of completeness and perfection, both physical and spiritual.  So tomorrow on the 7th month of 2014 with 40 days left, it would be a perfect day to receive our very next step, don’t you think?

    Here is a devotional I received from our social worker a couple months ago.  As I have said before, I love quotes and inspirational sayings.  I love words that move your heart and encourage you.  This devotional brought a smile to my face and encouraged my heart in trusting where God was leading us.  We didn’t plan on having 14 children, but I love the way God works.

    2014 is a powerful year of “Double Portion.”

    The number “7″ means “Perfection.” 

    The number “14″ means “Double Perfection”…a Double Portion!

    Isaiah 61:7,

    “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

    Everlasting joy will be yours.  I like those words because it means joy in the Lord.  It doesn’t mean that every day will be easy or filled with happiness.  It means that I will be content and filled with joy in the Lord for following His lead, knowing this is the journey we are meant to be on.  That is a special kind of blessing.  One I don’t take lightly.  You’ve heard me say it before….

    I am, without a doubt, seriously blessed.

     

     

  • Your Epitaph

    Date: 2014.07.03 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    Thinking about how fast life passes by and about what I want to accomplish, about what I want my life to say, and about how fast everything can change.

    About 20 years ago, I wrote a poem entitled “What Do I Want to Accomplish”.  I have it hanging on my refrigerator as a reminder not to let the busyness of life take me away from what is really important.  I believe you have to give thought to what you truly want your life to say.  We do mission statements for our jobs, for our volunteer work, our schools even have them.  I believe it is just important to have a mission statement for your family and for your own life.  What do you want your life to say?  What do you want your family to stand for?

    In life, others will judge you for what you do, but in the end it is just between you and God.  People have thought we were crazy, our family is too big, too complicated.  But if you spent just a moment with my treasures you would see what I see, that they are worth every bit of the complicated and so much more. My life may be busy but having them as my children is a far cry from crazy.  My life is full of love.  I’ve known for a long time that my gift was working with small children.  There are many ways to use that gift.  I have chosen to use mine caring for children with hurting hearts and I chose to do that through adoption.

    The truth is I didn’t set out to adopt for that reason.  We chose to adopt because we felt God leading us to Maisey and Ben.  We felt it again when we set out to adopt the next four and again this year.  I didn’t set out to use my gift in that way, but I see how God’s ways are so much better than mine.  I love my life.   I love what He has allowed us to do.  I love being a part of the big miracles of bringing them to our family.  I am blessed every day to be allowed to be their mother.  What a gift.  What a blessing.

    This morning when I opened one of my on-line devotionals, I read Os Hillman’s words “What will be written on your epitaph?  How do you want people to remember you?  What type of legacy will your life leave behind?”

    This is exactly what I have been thinking about these past couple of days.   How much thought have you given to what your life says?  Your life is your biggest testimony.  You can quote scripture until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t live your life with love, it is all for naught.

    I challenge you today to take a couple of minutes and truly give some thought to what your life is saying, what you want to accomplish, and if you are truly living a life filled with love.  Here are my words from 20 years ago – they are as pertinent to my life today as they were then. (Please be kind.  I am not a professional poet.)  My eyes are on the promise of forever while living in the moment of today.

    “What Do I want to Accomplish?” 

    “What do I want to accomplish?”

    plays over and over again in my head.

    What do I want them to whisper about me

    when I’m long gone and dead.

    I want them to mention my faith

    and how every year it grew.

    I want them to mention the words

    loving, honest, caring and true.

    I don’t want sins to rule

    my heart and my mind any longer.

    I know though I am weak

    My God is most certainly stronger.

    I want to take up the cross

    so why do I resist it so?

    I strongly believe in God’s plan

    so why can’t I just let go?

    I know I should apply

    God’s word to every situation.

    To pass the tests He places before me

    and avoid earthly temptations.

    I am here to work on the log in my own eye

    and not the sliver in my brothers.

    I am here to worship my Lord with praise and thanksgiving,

    placing Him above all others.

    I am here to help the downtrodden and the poor

    with gifts blessed to me at birth.

    I want to stand above and not be consumed

    by the things of this earth.

    Father, I ask for your help.

    Please give me wisdom and grace.

    So I can hear “well done, faithful servant”

    when I first see your face.

  • The Hard Part of Adoption

    Date: 2014.06.28 | Category: Adoption, Hope, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang) | Response: 0

    There are many wonderful things about adoption.  It is beautiful and a blessing to watch little lives grow and thrive.  I believe in adoption with my whole heart which is why when God called again we proceeded. But the truth is adoption is hard.  These children come from a very hard place.  Adoption will test you and build you and strengthen you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

    There are many things that you encounter on the road to adoption.  The paperwork is crazy.  The first few weeks in China are trying.  The jet lag is a kick in the butt.  It’s not easy.  I knew that going in, but I wasn’t afraid because parenthood itself is hard.  Loving little people can be hard.  They will try your patience.  They will push your buttons.  It’s just hard.  Now take all of that and add to it hurt, abandonment, malnourishment.  The list could go on and on.  There are bound to be some issues.

    Even if you adopt them from birth, they can have issues as to why they were left.  They will question why they were given up.  They will wonder why they have certain characteristics.  Are they like someone else in their family?  From whom do they get their artistic ability?  Why is their hair straight?  Why is their toe crooked?  The unknowns are the hardest part.

    I remember people questioning us at the beginning as to why we told Hope the truth about her birth story.  They wondered why did we let her know that her pre-adoptive parents backed out and her mother left her in the hospital?  Why?  Was it because we wanted to cement her love for us by letting her know that we were the only ones who cared?  Was it because we enjoyed being mean and hurting her?  No!  It was because at any point in Hope’s life she could send for her medical records and it is all there in black and white.  We wanted our relationship based on trust.  We wanted her to know that we would never lie to her.

    Hope learned about her story in increments.  It’s not like you throw all of that information at a two year old, but Hope has always known her story.  She has heard over and over again how daddy fell in love with her right when he saw her.  She knows that we fought for her.  First, to be able to bring her home and let her die with family and then by trying the surgeries that could and would save her life.   We told her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault.  We let her know there was nothing she did or could have done.  We let her know there are many, many facts leading up to her birth that we just don’t know. Her birthmother might have been scared.  She might have had no support.   We didn’t know all the answers but what we did know was Hope has always been loved by us and we considered her a wonderful gift.

    We have never held any animosity towards Hope’s birthmother.  We have always told Hope to pray for her.  We don’t know the pain or the anguish she went through or might still be going through.  We just don’t know so the best course of action is to pray for her and while Hope is praying for her, Hope’s heart is healed a little more with each and every prayer said.

    Hope is very quiet. She doesn’t say a lot.  She has always been that way.  I worry that she is holding too much in.  I worry about what she thinks about her heart defect, whether she will live a long life, whether we love her, how she was abandoned, etc.   She says she doesn’t, but I always wondered.  Then one day she said, “I get it now.  Ben didn’t do anything to deserve to be abandoned and neither did Maisey.   I get it.”.

    These things are hard for a child to process.  Jasmine is trying to heal right now.  As her English gets better and her trust grows, she has been sharing more and more. She has a lot of pain and hurt and many years of abuse to contend  with.  But Jasmine’s light bulb moment was when we she was holding Evie.  Jasmine asked me where Evie was abandoned.  I told her and I showed her the picture.  Jasmine said, “Why?  Evie is such a sweet, pretty girl.”  And then you could see Jasmine slowly get it.  Jasmine then said, “Mama, Evie didn’t do anything.”

    evie abandonment

    Which is exactly right.  I remember when they took us to Evie’s finding place.  I wondered why would they put this down as a child’s finding place?  Why would they even take us there?  What must have been going through her parent’s minds?

    There have been a couple recent articles about the people abandoning children in China in the hatches that have been set up outside of orphanages.  There are many heartbreaking pictures of parents dropping off children.  Heartbreaking Goodbyes.

    It’s easy for us a half a world away to stand in judgment of these parents, but we don’t know what it is like in China.  There is no health insurance.  There is a soaring number of birth defects.  Nothing is handicapped accessible there.  The old ways consider birth defects a curse on the family.  I can not possible know why my children were abandoned but I can’t imagine that it happened without pain.

    I know that Ben was abandoned at nine months which leads me to believe that his parents wanted him.   I also know that I have children that were left in places that I don’t understand.  I want to believe they were all loved and cherished and abandoned for medical reasons but I know that isn’t true.  I know it isn’t true because I have a fifteen year old who is sharing her truth with me.  Her heartbreaking, mind boggling, truth.

    I want her to know she can talk to me about anything and that anything she shares will not change how I feel about her.  I want her to know that her life had worth and that those years had meaning.  We are dealing with some pretty heavy things.  Things my heart would rather not hear.  I don’t want to know that she was beaten because she could no longer move her legs the way she was supposed to.  I don’t want to know that at the age of four her father told her he hated her.  I don’t want to know that he drank bad stuff and hurt her often.  I don’t want to know that her paternal grandmother tried to care for her but one day when Jasmine was “just too heavy” she decided to just leave Jasmine at the orphanage.  The list of what I don’t want to know goes on and on.  But even if Jasmine didn’t tell me I would still know.  She has burns and scars that tell a story of their own.

    Jasmine has started to journal about her feelings. She recently shared these words with us…

    “Hello everyone my name is Jasmine.    When I was 8 years old when I was my grandmother fell to the orphanage.  I fell into the orphanage.  I am very, very sad I weep and weep……   I know my grandmother did not want me.  But I really really want my grandmother to go home?  I said why why why do not I have a grandmother.  Later, my grandmother came to see me a few times just would not come.  Then I lived in the orphanage makes me feel very scared very scared very scared:  But then when I was about 14 years old when I’m scared scared scared scared.  Because when I was 14 years old when I could not be adopted.   I vow that I want a family.  I beg you.  But one day someone told me that Americans want to adopt me, then I really so happy so happy so happy!  I said I have a mom and dad.

    I know that the biggest lessons I have learned have come out of my pain.  I know that healing comes with sharing and talking and most of all forgiving.  I know that I can help her because I once was that lost, hurting child.  I have written about forgiveness in a past blog. (How to Forgive)  I believe that one day Jasmine will help others heal.  I believe that by sharing her story other older children might be adopted, which is exactly what she has been praying for.

    I consider it an honor to be able to parent these children.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to be able to help their hearts heal.  I don’t take this lightly and although it is hard and heartbreaking and unbelievably sad at moments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I wouldn’t!  It’s the truth.  It is a blessing to bring God into their lives.  It is a blessing to be able share how I healed from my hurt and learned to forgive.  I know what a gift that is.  I know what lies before them….HOPE!

    Hope for healing.  Hope for family.  Hope for an eternity without pain.  What a beautiful blessing it is to be able to share that with them.  Just because something is hard doesn’t me we shouldn’t step up and do it.

    I don’t have more strength than anyone else.

    Truth be told, my strength comes from the Lord.

    I don’t have more faith than anyone else.

    I don’t have more answers than anyone else.

    I don’t have more patience than anyone else.

    But what I do have is perspective.  Perspective for what is important.  Perspective for what truly matters.  Things of this world do not matter.  Cars and houses and vacations and trim bodies and beautiful faces will all fade.  They will all pass away.  The only thing of worth is how we treat others.  How we love.  If we don’t have love, all is in vain.   This song is says it better than I ever could.

     

  • 60 Days

    Date: 2014.06.18 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Kelly | Response: 0

    We have 60 days left.

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    If you have ever adopted internationally, you know how long all of the paperwork takes.  You fill out reams of papers and send them off only to wait for someone to get to them.  You do some more paperwork, get fingerprinted, get police clearances, order birth and marriage certificates, have physical exams done, fill out more forms, get forms authenticated by the Secretary of State and the Chinese Consulate, wait, do some more forms, wait again, even more forms, wait, etc.  It usually takes close to a year from start to finish.

    adoption timeline

    With an adoption, every single time there is the worry that this may be the time that it is too hard or too messy or just too much.  Which is why when God placed Kelly on my heart and everything in me said, “we don’t have the money, it’s too soon, we’re busy, are you kidding me Lord?”, we still proceeded.  Because His ways are not my ways and His ways are so much better than my fearful, “I can’t do that” ways.  So we proceeded, trusting in His plan, because although I say “What if it doesn’t work out?”, He says, “Ah, but what if it does?”

    Kelly

    Every time we have entered into an adoption, we have proceeded on trust and faith.  We have followed where God was leading and He has done some amazing things on our adoption journey.  This journey has been no different.  This journey our eyes could not see a way for this to work.  We knew it could only happen by God’s power.

    1st Corinthians 2:5  ….so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 

    Dan and I did not think we would be adopting again, let alone this soon, but our hearts were taken, first, by Kelly and then by Elyse. Our plan was to pay off the debt that we had incurred with adopting four the previous year.  We wanted to find our new normal and let everyone settle in.  Then maybe we would see if God wanted us to do more.  But then  I saw Kelly’s picture and my heart was taken.  I knew what we had already talked about: no proceeding with adopting until the debt was paid. But God provided just enough from a bonus to make that a non-issue.  We had to ask ourselves “Ok, now what?”.

    We prayed about the adoption because, to enter into this process and to file a Letter of Intent (LOI), meant Kelly was no longer able to be adopted by anyone else.  What if we couldn’t finish in time?  What if someone else already in the process wanted to adopt her?  Would we stop her from having a chance at a family?  But she had been advocated for by others for quite sometime and no one mentioned trying to adopt her.  We prayed some more, felt God’s lead, and decided to proceed.

    I sent an e-mail to our agency and said, “Is this possible?  We have 170 days.”  They said, “It is possible if everything goes perfectly.  We will do our best.” Having been through this process twice before, I knew things rarely go perfectly, but God was leading so we followed and trusted.

    The first issue was getting the file transferred to our agency.  We know this doesn’t always happen, but sometimes in aging out children they will allow it.  We heard that the other agency would allow the transfer and we sang praises.

    With our last adoptions, we were delayed by the rejection of the fingerprints of our handicapped 27 year old son.  Each of those rejections can add six weeks of time to get a new set of prints done.  You have to be rejected twice and then to have them run manually.  We didn’t have the luxury of time with Kelly’s adoption, but then the most amazing thing happened.  I heard from our social worker, Jan, that she knows someone who can get these prints done with a three day turnaround.  What an Amazing God provision!

    Not only were Codey’s fingerprints rejected, but Linda’s (Dan’s mom) were too.  What a mess.  We are at a loss.  We have to start all over at square one.   I called customer service at the FBI.  I asked to talk to supervisors.  I talked to the people who ran Codey’s prints to start with.  Everyone said there is nothing they can do.   But then Jan remembered something from a previous inservice she had attended, she placed a call and amazingly, something we were told could not be rushed and would take another six weeks, gets done the very next day.  God provides again.

    In the middle of Evie and Eli’s surgery we were trying to complete our 1-800A to be able to get it authenticated at the Secretary of State’s office and then the Chinese Consulate so we could complete our dossier and send it to our agency for review.  The goal was to have the dossier done, translated, and set to China by the end of May.  We had to get them to agree to expedite the 1-800A, which is usually at least a 30 day turnaround.  They agreed to expedite and went above and beyond in helping my daughter get things together since we were out of state.

    We have had this happen over and over again.  Just recently we were told that it would take 2-3 weeks to get LID after they mailed our dossier.  The timeline was to have our dossier reviewed by our agency, sometimes this can take 1-2 weeks.  Mail said dossier to China which takes 3-5 days to arrive and then wait for China to log in dossier, which can take 2-3 weeks.  Our dossier was mailed on the 6th of June, arrived in China on the 9th and was logged in on the 10th.   More provisions.

    We are now waiting on our Letter of Acceptance (LOA).  These have been taking 60-90 days.   The quickest turnaround our agency has seen was two weeks.  Refer back to our time frame….60 days left.  This is not doable by man’s hands; good thing it is in someone else’s hands.

    Praise the Lord, we received our soft LOA yesterday, the 17th, one week after being LID!  How could we not stand in awe of a God that can move mountains for one sweet little girl half-way around the world?

    Our LOA is needed to file the final immigration papers (1-800), which allow us to bring two children into the U.S.  After that we still need to get our Article 5 (which informs the foreign central authority that U.S. competent authorities have determined the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt), which will then allow for travel approval (TA) and our consulate appointment (CA).  We will then be set to travel.  The only catch?  Evie’s surgery has been rescheduled for July 17th and we need to be in China before August 17th to adopt Kelly.

    But as with everything else in this crazy adoption, things change.  Evie’s teeth look pretty bad.  We decide we need to get her teeth done before heart surgery and her dentist graciously works Evie into the schedule.  Yesterday, we got to claim the blessing of protections unknown.  Evie had an abscessed tooth.  We didn’t even know it.  She had no fever and no pain.   Had Evie not gotten the cold and had we proceeded with her surgery, then we could have been looking at endocarditis right now.   There’s a proven correlation between oral health and heart health. If you have dental problems, it can cause bursts of bacteria into the blood stream and if you have any artificial material, like Evie’s BT shunt, bacteria can stick to it and it can be very difficult to treat. It’s not just the shunt but kids with heart defects in general are at risk for endocarditis.

    An abscessed tooth means removal of that tooth and a possible delay of surgery.  I am unsure of what will happen now, but I know that God knows and I am trusting with all my heart.

    Since the beginning of this crazy adoption journey, we knew it was going to be all His doing.  I do know that sometimes He brings you to things to learn and to grow and it doesn’t always necessarily go the way we had prayed or hoped.  I have learned a lot about older child adoptions, about expediting adoptions. I have learned that children don’t always want to leave their country and we can’t assume we know what is best all the time.  I have decided that there are changes that need to be made.  There is so much redundancy and extra unnecessary cost, which in turn makes children wait for longer than necessary.  There has to be a better way.

    Elijah’s surgery has been scheduled for September, well after the time we get home with the girls.  All that remains is Evie’s surgery and this process.  We specifically want to travel before the surgeries.  Please pray for things to move as quickly as they can.  God has heard your prayers and we are forever thankful.

    In the meantime, I have received pictures of Kelly that make my heart smile.  We are still waiting on an update for Elyse.

    Kelly 2

    This mama’s heart is hopeful and joyful – expectantly waiting on the Lord.

  • Happy Father’s Day

    Date: 2014.06.14 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    It’s Father’s Day today….just in case you didn’t know.

    It’s the day when you are supposed to thank your husband for all he does for your children.

    image

    The challenge for me is how do you thank the man who has held you up during the hardest times in your life…

    and has readily embraced all your crazy dreams.

    ben 3

    How do you find the words that would adequately thank him for talking you into having another child because you have always dreamed of having a little girl?

    Dan & Boo

    How do you thank him for praying over and over again for your heart to be open to the idea of adoption.

    IMG_4383

    Or thank him for caring about a little one when everyone else told him he was crazy?

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    Early in our marriage, Dan taught me about God’s grace.

    He taught me to trust God’s plan for my life.

    He taught me how to not worry and to be content.

    He taught me how to love.

    How do you thank someone for those things?

    IMG_4389

    Dan adores his children.

    He loves them with all his heart.

    He is happiest when his children are content.

    Dad & Kids

    He likes to find unique ways to spend one on one time with each one of them.

    IMG_4436

    He readily took on seven (soon to be nine) daughters…

    just let that one sink in for a while….nine daughters.

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    He cares for the helpless, he opens his heart wide to their hurts.

    photo(3)

    He allowed his midlife crisis car to be a bus.

    Evie - Day 1

    Thank you sweetheart for always standing by my side and holding my hand during the hard times and the good times.

    zach & dad

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

    Thank you for understanding what really matters.

     

  • A Public Proclamation!

    Date: 2014.06.11 | Category: Family Life | Response: 0

    hear ye hear ye

    Today being the day of birth of our very dear Mema!  We wish to proclaim our love for her, for all to see, on this page.

    I am one of the lucky ones, the blessed ones, the ones who get to call their mother-in-law their friend.  Linda, her sister Kay, and my mom were friends.  They became friends after Dan and I married.  We did craft sales together and enjoyed our weekends together being silly.  They would all get in the car and come down to shop with us.  Red Lobster was a favorite birthday hangout.  Cassie was almost ten before she realized not everyone’s mom and mother-in-law were friends.

    EPSON MFP image

    Every year we attended the Women of Faith conferences together.  It was a wonderful weekend full of laughter and love.  We grew in our faith and our friendship.

    EPSON MFP image

    EPSON MFP image

    women of faith

    Linda is sweet and compassionate and everything you want a grandmother, mother, and friend to be.  She is there for my children and is always ready to take a phone call from them.  These days that mainly consists of lots of hellos and love yous and a whole lot of words you just can’t understand from the littles.

    In the past few years, Linda has cared for and buried her mother, her husband, her sister and her father.  She even took my mom in after mom had her heart attack and couldn’t climb the stairs in her own home.  Linda does this, not to get attention from anyone else, but because it is the right thing to do.  She quietly goes about her business of caring for others.

    Instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for herself after all those loses, she joined a church, became a part of that church’s group for outreach.  She started a Bible study in her own home and invited the neighbor ladies.   She now has a group of ladies that meet every Thursday to learn more about God and to support each other with friendship.  She is proof that just because you are getting older doesn’t mean your life is over.  If you are still alive, then God has a plan for you.

    She has been a big supporter of our adoptions.  She has readily embraced every child we have adopted.  Once she admitted to me that she had wanted to care for orphans and now, through Dan and I, she gets too.  She traveled with us to China on our last trip.  We needed one adult for each child and she became Evie’s traveling buddy.

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    Happy birthday Mema!  May God continue to bless you as you follow His lead.  We love you and are so blessed you are in our lives. – Dan & Lisa

    And now I’ll let the kids tell you how they feel about their Mema…..

    mema & papa

    Codey isn’t able to tell you so I will just let you know that Codey ADORES his mema.  She can always make him smile.  She sings his favorite songs and feeds him his favorite treats.

    mema & kids 1

    Happy birthday Mema!  I’m so thankful to have you in my life.  We’ve had so many different adventures while I was growing up, and I will always treasure them.  I’m looking forward to seeing you continue some of those adventures with my own kids someday.  I love you!  Zachary

    mema & Boo

    I have so many great memories with Mema!  From the time I as little she would buy me a rose bush for my birthday.  That took a lot of patience because I always managed to kill it, until my 14th birthday.  :)   When I was younger, we would have sleepovers that always involved crocheting and movies and eating Dots. (she doesn’t like the green ones, but I do!  We’re a good team.) She has always been there for me; from recitals to birthdays to pageants to Tae Kwon Do testing.  She is always there to cheer me on!  I love you Mema!  Love, Cassie

    And this is what the middles have to say….

    Jasmines

    mema 3

    mema 4

    And you know the littles adore you.  They send kisses and hugs on your happy, happy day!

    Mema & kids

    We are all very blessed to have you in our lives.  Praying your day and your year are blessed.

    Happy birthday Mema!

     

     

  • The Day That Changed my Life

    Date: 2014.06.07 | Category: Codey | Response: 0

    For those of you who don’t already know this, I use my blog as my journal.  It has worked pretty well so far.  I used to keep a journal for each child, which was easy with three, but not so easy with twelve, soon to be fourteen.  Plus, with our adopted children, much of their life story is missing, which breaks my heart.  This blog and my Facebook posts, which I copy and paste at the end of each month, have become my new way of keeping memories alive for my children.  That being said, this post is for that reason, to retell a story that is quite long and complicated.  This post details the day that changed my life forever.

    I looked back to see if I had ever covered this topic before and as far as I can tell, I haven’t.  It’s a hard topic for me.  People often comment about life being hard now and I can honestly say it is nothing compared to what we went through with our first two children.  Now we have money, family that lives close by, older children who want to help, people to lend a hand, and a church that supports us.

    Last year I wrote about all the lessons Codey and Kyle’s lives have taught me.  You can read about that here.  (Blog post)  But I have yet to put the words down in writing as to what those first days, months and years were like.  They were hard and life altering and it all started on April 29th, 1987.

    It was a beautiful day.  I remember it well.  After work, I had gone shopping with my mom.  I loved those moments with my mom.  She had always been my best friend and I looked forward to our time together shopping.  She took me out to eat before running me to the hospital to meet Dan, who was working, for our second Lamaze class.  I was most definitely pregnant.  You couldn’t miss my big belly.  At this point, I had gone from a 24 inch waist to over 50 inches.  I remember I was wearing this goofy Garfield t-shirt and capris so it must have been a nice night.  I was a little over 28 weeks along, due July 22nd, and just so BIG!  Everyone commented on how big I was and I was constantly asked how close I was to delivering.  My mama would smile and say, “She’s having twins!”  It was a wonderful time, full of anticipation, everyone was overjoyed at the thought of twins. It was the first grandchildren on both sides.  My mom couldn’t wait and  I was feeling very blessed.

    Dan and I dated through high school. We broke up for a bit at the end of our senior year and when we got back together we knew that we wanted to be together forever. Neither of us wanted to wait.  When we married, he was 19 and I had just turned 20.  We waited a couple of years before having children, but we knew we wanted a family.  I had always dreamed of having a large family and he would say, “Let’s see what God has planned for us.”  Dan has always had faith and an understanding of God that was way beyond me.  My relationship with God consisted of going to church on Sunday and trying to be good.  Dan taught me what grace, faith and trust were.

    We were as broke as you could be.  We drove a truck that seated two and we couldn’t even afford the back bumper for it. (Yes, all those years ago back bumpers were optional.)   We lived in a small apartment.  I was paid not much over $5 an hour working as a legal secretary.  Dan worked in the laundry at the hospital and was attending the local junior college.  When we found out we were having twins, we moved in with Dan’s parents to try and save money for a car and the things we would need.  To most people it would have looked like we were barely surviving, but we were happy.  We had family that loved and supported us.  Dan and I were best friends, we had each other, and we were about to start on this grand adventure called parenthood.

    My water broke on the way to the class.  I sat there afraid and unsure of what to do.  I had just met Dan at the hospital.  We were supposed to be attending our second class.  We called our doctor and she had us go to the E.R.  When things like this happen, it doesn’t seem real.  You can’t think.  I couldn’t have imagined what was going to happen even if I knew what could happen.  I was still picturing the happy ending because I didn’t know any better.  And then it began.

    They hooked me up to an i.v., they pumped fluid into me, they called in the O.B.   The contractions wouldn’t stop.  Our doctor called the doctors at the bigger metropolitan hospital and asked them what to do.  There was a big debate between the local O.B., our family doctor, and the big town O.B.  No one could agree.  Local O.B. says let her deliver in the small hospital and move the babies when they come.  Big town O.B. says the babies stand a much better chance of surviving if they are delivered at a hospital with a level 3 NICU.   The big town O.B. starts to talk about how I could lose my life and we could lose both the boys and decisions have to be made.

    We choose to go to the bigger hospital. Life flight, an air ambulance, is called.  They loaded me on board and our local doctor, Dr. S, rides with me.   Dr. S is afraid I will deliver the boys in air.  She takes the place of one of the transport nurses, who now needs to find a ride back to Methodist.  Dr. S tells me over and over again that it will be okay, but I can see in her eyes that it is not.  We are a long way from o.k.

    Not knowing anything about having a baby early, I tell myself they will be small, but it will be okay.   I am in the air, sure that we are going to crash, so afraid that I don’t even know what to pray. “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” plays over and over again in my head. I remember lying there in that helicopter with tears streaming down my face wondering why this had to happen to me.

    I arrive at the hospital in record time.  Dan is left driving our “new to us” car – a very old Gremlin.  This car almost fell apart at anything over 55 miles per hour.  My poor husband had to ride 90 minutes with someone he had never met before on the worst day of his life. I was waiting for my mom, Dan, and the rest of the family. My stepfather actually got them lost and it took them forever to get to me.  I had never felt so alone and so afraid in my whole life.

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    I listened to the whispered discussions while they did lab work and ultrasounds.  There was talk of the boys being conjoined.  Everything they said scared me just a little bit more.  Time seemed to stand still. I couldn’t do this without Dan.  I needed him by my side to help make decisions. He finally arrived at the hospital and the decision was made to do a c-section.  Kyle was breach and since they couldn’t stop my labor, they needed to get the boys out.  They ran down the hallway taking me to the operating room. At 12:04 Codey entered the world at a whopping 2 pounds 7 ounces.

    Codey - 2 pounds 7 ounces

    Codey – 2 pounds 7 ounces

    One minute later Kyle followed.  He weighed 3 pound 8 ounces.  In my mind that made him stronger and healthier, but that was not to be the case.  Kyle was born with an omphalocele and had many issues.  We would later learn he had Beckwith Weidemann Syndrome.

    3 pounds 8 ounces - Kyle

    3 pounds 8 ounces – Kyle

    I was frustrated because I was infected and had a temperature so they wouldn’t let me in the NICU.  It was so hard wanting to be with my babies and not being able to see them.   I can’t remember how much time went by before they let me in, but it seemed like forever.   They called us in a couple times and then it was the final time.  They sat me in a rocker and they put my boy in my arms and they pulled this awful white curtain around us. To this day I can not stand white curtains.  It was an open bed unit, which means there was no privacy except for that curtain.  I have no idea what I sounded like sitting in that chair and I could have cared less.  My dreams of two, little blonde haired beautiful boys was coming to an end.  My heart was broken and I let the tears just fall.

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    Kyle’s death was one of the hardest times of our lives.  It was a pretty horrible place to find ourselves – without jobs, or a place to live, and to not be able to afford to bury our son.  We had life insurance but Kyle needed to live seven days to be able to claim it and he only lived five.  We couldn’t even afford to have the funeral home come down to get Kyle’s body so I held him, wrapped in a blanket, and rode home with mom and Linda, as we drove him the 90 minutes back home.

    I remember when the chaplain came up with the idea for us to take Kyle’s body in our car.  I kept saying that I couldn’t do this.  I could not carry his little body in the car with me.  I just couldn’t.  But the chaplain was so kind and so sweet and she told me that with God I could do this.  She said she knew I was strong enough to be there for my son.  She told me it would give me closure and she was right.  It was so hard to hand him off at the funeral home.  I knew he wasn’t there, but still….

    Our family supported us in amazing ways, my mom and stepfather bought him a little white casket.  My grandparents gave us two burial plots, one for him and one for Codey.  We had a service where my husband stood up and talked.  Dan’s main point was to tell others to not let Kyle’s life make them bitter or angry.  Dan told them for them to become bitter would dishonor Kyle’s name.  Kyle’s life had purpose.  Kyle’s life had meaning and he wanted everyone to remember that and move forward.

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    My favorite/saddest memory of that day was my husband lifting the little white casket off the back of the hearse.  Dan didn’t think about pall bearers, all he thought about was taking his little boy to his final resting place. I had brought Kyle into this world and Dan laid him to rest. I will never forget that moment or how much I loved my husband and his sweet, caring heart.

    We were lucky that we didn’t have to go home to move our belongings.  What little we had was still at his parents.  We didn’t even have a nursery to go home to.  We had one lone cradle that sat in our room.  We had never gotten around to building the other cradle and now it seemed as if it was an omen, like some how we knew or had caused what happened.  It’s crazy what your pained mind will believe.

    Did I not pray hard enough?  Was my faith not strong enough? Did it look like I didn’t care?  Where the others right?  Did God think we couldn’t handle two sick children? (Someone actually said this to me at Kyle’s service.)  Were we being punished for some sin?  Why did this happen to us when all we wanted was to have a child to love.  Why? Why? Why?

    We moved into the Ronald McDonald House and lived there long enough to kicked out.  You can stay three months and then they remind you that you might need to make some other plans.  We had to decide what to do with our lives. Codey was not quickly getting better.  Dan decided that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of babies like our boys.  He decided to become a doctor, which is a far cry from the man I married who was thinking of being an art teacher.  Dan applied to Drake University to get his B.A. in biology.  We got into married student housing right away.   I started working temp jobs for attorneys in town so I could pick and choose when I worked.

    Codey was on maximum ventilator settings for many months. Time and time again they would say there is no more support we can give him.  He was on 100% oxygen. He would get sick, we would call down our family, and wait.  We waited for him to die.  We waited and waited and waited.  I lost track of how many times we waited for Codey to die.  Over and over again this happened and each time Codey pulled through.  You can only wait for your child to die so many times before you decide that maybe it’s time to live.

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    We had even been asked a few times if we wanted to discontinue support, but how do you discontinue support on a child who is not brain dead?   How do you do that when your child is playing and kicking in his bed?  Both Dan and I believed that if it was Codey’s time, God would call him home.  Kyle was on the same maximum settings and he never survived.  Dan and I just couldn’t make that decision.  We had to leave it in God’s hands.

    He was such a sweet, sweet baby!

    He was such a sweet, sweet baby!

    We spent all our first holidays in that hospital.  We had gone through Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and now we were celebrating Christmas.  It was a very sad time, although the nurses in the unit tried to make it festive.  We came in one morning to find Codey in a big boy crib.  The nurses had got together and bought him a regular bed.  Dan bought battery powered Christmas lights for above his bed.  I remember other families complaining and the nurses telling them if they wanted to stay 8 months, they could have one too.

    photo 5

    One of the funniest memories of this crib, was when Codey extubated himself.  He was very good at extubating himself.  Jan had even made him his own fabric arm restraints to try and keep his hands away from his face.  Anyway, Codey extubated himself and no one could figure out how to get the side of the crib down.  One doctor had to hold him and the other had to intubate him.  It became a running joke in the unit as to how many years of schooling it takes to be able to put the side of a crib down.

    In January, he would be transferred to the university hospital, 90 miles away, to have a tracheostomy placed.  The doctors at our local hospital told us they thought they would kill him if they tried to do the surgery and they wanted us to go somewhere where the surgeons had performed more of these surgeries.  I still have the utmost respect for these doctors who decided to do what was in the best interest of Codey.

    On the way out the door, the NICU informed us that Codey had hydrocephalus that they thought was being somewhat controlled by large doses of lasix.  A not so nice surprise but at the time we had no clue what that would mean for our little guy.  Codey was transferred and the primary nurse, Jan, who had cared for our son for the past 8 months, rode along in the ambulance with him.

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    It was very hard being in the hospital that long.  Not many people visited or seem to care about Codey.  It felt like no one really knew what to do, but Jan loved Codey.  She protected Codey and she still remembers Codey.  During a horrible, horrible time it was nice to know that someone truly cared about our boy.  As a nurse or doctor, don’t ever forget the impact your lives have on those you care for.   Jan still remembers Codey’s birthdays.  She has even come to our older children’s graduation parties.  She is loved and will always have a special place in our hearts.

    Somewhere in the midst of all this waiting, I found out I was pregnant.  Talk about the perfect timing.  We hadn’t even made it out of the hospital with our first child and I was pregnant again.  At the time, this would seem like the worst possible thing that could happen to us, but time would show us what a blessing Zachary was and how perfect God’s plan is.

    Playing with Zach!

    Playing with Zach!

    After a short stay at the University Hospital, we went back to the local hospital but to the PICU this time. The PICU would be the place where everything would change for Codey.  He had his first birthday party there and the local news covered this amazing story of the little boy who had yet to spend a day at home.  At that time, Codey was on oxygen and had a tracheostomy but he was doing well.  He was sitting and talking.  He had a horrible case of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and his lungs just needed time to heal.

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    At 14 months of age we would go home for a day.  It was a wonderful time to finally get him home.  We surprised Dan’s mom by not telling her that Codey was coming home.  It was a day of happiness, but it didn’t last long.  We were right back in the PICU.

    photo

    Eventually Codey required a shunt for hydrocephalus.  He had many shunt malufunctions and infections.  During an infection Codey would have the bleed that would change our lives.   When your shunt becomes infected, you need to pull that shunt and treat the patient with i.v. antibiotics before you can place a new shunt.  After the shunt removal surgery, Codey just wouldn’t wake up.  We kept telling the nurses, residents, anyone who would listen that he wasn’t acting right.  They would tell us he was just sleepy from surgery. We tried all day long to get someone to listen to us.  They finally had to pay attention when Codey started seizing. By the time they took him to the O.R. there was a small amount of brain squished up against the inside of his head.  The whole middle was blood.  Somehow a vessel had been torn when they pulled the shunt out.  They gave us the choice to treat him or let him go.  I know what they wanted us to do, but I couldn’t watch it.  Dan and I decided if he was going to die, we wanted it to be in surgery where he would be unaware of the pain.  We just couldn’t watch it anymore.  He was seizing so bad that only his head and his feet were on the bed.  It was horrible to watch your child writhe in so much pain.

    The neurologist helped us call our family.  Everyone said it would only be a matter of time, but it wasn’t Codey’s time.  He came out of surgery and slowly got better.  We were given the prognosis that they thought he would be blind, deaf, and in a vegetative state.  Those are pretty grim things for a parent to hear.  What had we done?  Should we have just let him go?  It is hard when you are in the middle of it.  How can anyone make those decisions?  When someone confronts you with this after you have fought so hard, how can you possibly give up now?

    On August 5, 1988, Codey was readmitted to the hospital.  I remember all the nurses asking us when the last time Dan and I had gone on a date together.  Dan and I laughed.  They told us Codey was stable and tried to convince us to go.  One of the nurses who helped at home was even on that night.  They talked us in to going out.  I was 35 weeks pregnant and very tired, having a date with my husband sounded like a wonderful plan.  They even joked that this would be a good time to have the baby since we now had a sitter for Codey.  We left the unit, chuckling to ourselves.  We ate and went to see a movie and my water broke.  Zachary was born later that night.  As always, God’s timing is perfect.

    Life was hard with Codey at home.  Dan had decided to go to medical school.  We were 3 hours away from family.  Codey was g-tube fed, on oxygen, had a tracheostomy, and was on a ventilator.  Zach was a few months old when we moved.  We had issues with nursing and finally just gave up and did it ourselves.  Life was difficult then.  We didn’t have any extra cash.  We had just moved and knew no one in the town. There were many times we felt very, very alone.

    Codey has spent an unbelievable amount of time in the hospital.  He has had a 14 month stay; two six month stays; two, three and four months stays over and over again.  He has had close to 100 surgeries and procedures.  We have been through so much with him.  He has had about every complication you can have from the medications he was on – gall stones, kidney stones, ruined teeth, etc. and if there could be a complication from a surgery, it would happen to Codey.  I have watched him endure more procedures than any child should have to go through.  I have seen him beg to be put on a gurney so they could take him to surgery and relieve the pain in his head.  His poor little head has been shaved over and over again for surgery.  At one time he had three shunts in to try and release the pressures.  Eventually he had so much scar tissue in his ventricles that it became impossible to put in enough shunts to drain it.  At that point they did a complicated procedure with a scope to take down the numerous bands of scar tissue that had built up in his ventricles over the years.  He has so much scar tissue in his abdomen from all the infections and shunts that they eventually had to put the shunt tubing into a blood vessel in his neck.  He has had tubes put in his ears, a g-tube placed, cholecystectomy, heel cord release, and a tracheotomy.

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    Codey is not blind.  Codey is not deaf.  It’s true he isn’t able to walk.  He prefers to scoot around on the floor.  He watches t.v.   He plays with his toys.   He is loved by his family.  He has changed my life. Many people think Codey doesn’t live a life that has worth, but I would disagree.  I believe that Codey is fulfilling his plan.  I believe he is probably doing it better than most of us.  Codey doesn’t say hurtful words to other people.  Codey doesn’t lie, steal or cheat.  Codey isn’t arrogant or mean.  Codey is fulfilling the plan God set out for him to do. Codey is humble and content.  He is not striving for worldly things and for that reason, one day my son will have great rewards in heaven. Life on earth is but a speck of time. Heaven is forever.  I hold fast to that truth.

    Matthew 18:3-4  And said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    I do not believe God set out for Codey to be hurt.  I believe through free will and random chance things happen to people.  I believe God can stop things from happening and God often does that, but that God sometimes allow things to happen for the good of all involved. His ways are not our ways. We can not possibly comprehend the why.  It may not be what we would want or choose, but it can still be for good.  There is no way 27 years ago that I could have seen all that would come to be because of Codey and Kyle’s lives.

    Elsberry _70 Crop

    I no longer question why it had to happen to me.  Why not me?  Who am I to think I am better than anyone else?  I am a sinner just like everyone else.  If Codey had to go through all of this, then I am glad I got to be his mother.  I am happy that I got to be the one to comfort Codey.  I am a better person for having had Codey.  I wish Codey hadn’t had to suffer, but I can’t change what happened without it changing how it changed us so if you asked me “Do I wish this hadn’t happened?” – of course I wish this hadn’t happened but I have been blessed to see the blessings that have come out of the suffering.   I truly believe God has used the bad for good according to His will.  The changes in Dan’s and my heart because of the boys are huge and I am not arrogant enough to believe I would have understood anything without those lessons.  It would change my love for hurting children.  It would change our knowing that we could handle anything that happened on our journey.  It would change us knowing what is truly important.  It would change my walk and my journey with God which was strengthened through these lessons.

    I have often wondered why these things happened to my son.  Why did Codey have to suffer?  Was it some sin that I had done that Codey was now paying for?  The verse that brought me the most comfort with regard to that question is the story of the child who was born blind told in John 9.  John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

    So the works of God might be displayed in him, that is a pretty good way to live your life and my son has done it well.

  • HaPpY BirThdAy Jasmine

    Date: 2014.06.01 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Photos | Response: 0

    Jazz 1

    It’s hard to believe it’s been a year.

    A year of so many firsts….

    She had her first big birthday party and had no clue what to do with her presents,

    June 1 2013 024

    but she was beyond thrilled about having her very own cake.

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    She attended VBS at our church and sang her little heart out, even though she knew very little English.

    vbs box

    She got her very first flowers.

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    And took her very first shopping trip.

    shopping

    She went to the Iowa State Fair.

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    and her first concert – a Casting Crown’s concert!!!

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    She couldn’t see the stage from her wheelchair so big sister helped her out.

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    She discovered she really loves holding babies.

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    She found her freedom with a hot pink, powered wheelchair on the path in our backyard.

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    She learned you don’t have to be able to swim to enjoy the pool.

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    She went to her first Renaissance Fair.

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    And ate her first turkey leg.

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    She dressed up as Jasmine for Halloween.

    Jasmine 5

    And learned what “trick or treating” was all about.

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    She went to Disneyland Paris with friends from Spain.  (Well, her picture did anyway.)

    This family sponsored Jasmine for years and wanted to adopt her.

    Disney

    She received a really wonderful gift in the mail that touched her heart, from the sweetest little girls.

    min 9

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    And learned that people all around the world love her, care about her and pray for her.

    This was from a blog post on Love Without Boundaries.

    (If you don’t know what this organization does, please check them out.  They are the reason we found Jasmine.  They were advocating for her on their Facebook page and in their blog.)

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    She got to lead the way on the ice at the engagement party for Zach and Stephanie.

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    And then be a junior bridesmaid in their wedding.

    She was especially excited about the pretty, sparkly dress and having her hair done.

    Jasmine 17 Jazz 7

    She had her first cake fight.

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    And learned that she loved baking.

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    She learned that she was a superhero.

    (These capes are made by and adoptive mama, who is funding her adoption.  You can get the capes at Justice Gifts on Facebook.)

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    She learned English like a pro

    and finished kindergarten, first and second grade.

    She found out just how beautiful she really is.

    (She has told us numerous times that she was often told she was ugly and she believed those words until her daddy sent her a letter and told her that he loved her and that she was beautiful and she chose to believe him.)

    Jasmine 6

    She learned how much fun having a big sister is.

    Big sisters do your hair and make-up.

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    And how much fun it is to be a big sister.

    The littles adore Jasmine, especially Evie.

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    She met Steven Curtis Chapman at his Glorious Unfolding Tour at Harmony Bible Church.

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    And Mikeschair at a concert at Rising Sun Church.

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    And Jonny Diaz was there too!

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    She even got to meet her favorite you-tube channel make-up artist, Lex, from MadeULook by Lex.

    Jazz 1

    She has learned about God and His love for her.  She knows God has a plan for her life.  She knows her life has purpose and worth.  She knows that she is saved by His grace.  She understands that we love and remember Kyle even though he died.  She understands through hearing about Kyle’s life that there is a forever future and that brings her great peace.  She understands that no matter what happens in her life we will never leave her side.  She knows that she has a family forever and she will never be forgotten.

    family

    Jasmine attended a Women of Faith conference with my mom before she passed away.

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    And learned about giving to others who have less.

    She helped pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

    Jasmine 4

    And she had the idea to raise money for a little girl named Emma who sat in an orphanage for months with a broken leg.

    Emma

    And learned that life isn’t always fair when Emma passed away.  Jasmine cried many, many tears over little Emma.

    She found her very best friend in her little sister Gracie.

    image

    And together these two will change the world.

    Jasmine talks to Gracie in the middle of the night and shares many secrets with her.  One of those secrets was how hungry her and her friends were.  Gracie and Jasmine put their little heads together and decided to do something about it.  They raised $3,000 towards the nutrition fund at Jasmine’s orphanage.  Jasmine learned that you can make a difference.

    They dream of the bus they will drive and the children they will adopt.  20 was the last number being thrown around.

    She has learned about family and what that really means.

    Family

    She was in her first Christmas card picture.

    Jasmine 18

    And had a picture with the Easter bunny although she had no clue why the person was in an bunny costume.

    Jasmine 22

    She went to the local amusement park and got to play dress-up.

    Jasmine 20

    She has changed our lives, brightened our days, moved our hearts, and challenged us to do more.

    These two little girl’s will get a chance at family because Jasmine wanted to do more.

    Jasmine prayed and our hearts were moved.

    Jasmine knew instantly that Kelly and Elyse were her sisters.

    photo(8) photo(7)

    She says she learned how to be silly when she joined our family.

    June 1 2013 068

    She says she loves having a big family and lots of people to love.

    Jasmine 21

    When I asked her about her favorite moment of the year, she said, “Dancing with Daddy!”   I don’t have a video of the time he picked her up and danced around the living room floor with her, but the look on her face brought tears to my eyes.  Every little girl wants a daddy who loves her.

    Jasmine has learned so much this past year about trust, love, and family; but we have learned just as much about what those words really mean.  We have learned to trust God and His plan even when we don’t have all the answers.  We see even more clearly how His plan is perfect and how He can use lives to change others.  Jasmine is such a blessing and a beautiful addition to our family.

    Happy birthday sweet girl!

  • Happy Birthday Boo!

    Date: 2014.05.29 | Category: Cassie | Response: 0

    There once was a little girl,

    that we all like to call Boo.

    (Well, we really named her Cassandra Lynne but Boo just sort of stuck.)

     Boo

    She was the sweetest little girl and

    a mama’s dream come true.

    Boo1

    She has the biggest, most beautiful, blue eyes that you will ever see.

    boo

    They say that your eyes are the window to your soul.

    Well, if that is the case….

    boo 1

    this girl’s soul is beautiful…

    Boo 5

    the truth is she is as beautiful inside as she is outside….

    and her outside is pretty darn cute.

    Cassie 4-14 405

    She is the person we leave in charge when one of the other children have to be hospitalized.  We leave her with the littles and the middles because they love her so much.  She brings stability and comfort to her siblings.  She is love and routine and everything good.

    When we are traveling, people often ask us who is watching the other kids.  We tell them that our daughter, who is on summer vacation from college, is taking care of them.

    People would comment, “All of them?  She is able to care for all those kids at once?”

    Yes, she is able to. Amazing as that may sound.

    Grandma, Zachary, and Stephanie came to help support her and give her a break, but Cassie is able to handle it.  She is pretty amazing.  She steps up to the challenge because she loves her siblings and wants what is best for them.

    During the school year, she drives 45 minutes to school every morning and night so she can still be part of their lives.

    She even knows how to drive the bus.

    She’s not the usual 21 year old. (22 today!)  She is mature but still child-like at heart, which is why she will make a great elementary teacher.

    Children love her….especially our children.

    She makes life and learning fun.

    Boo 6

    She does crafts to take their minds off the hard things that are going on.

    Boo 7

    She has written about how much her siblings mean to her on her very own blog – Thankful for the Crazy!  (Blog)

    boo 10

    I know how very blessed I am to have her in my life.

    She was my first little girl and holds a very special place in my heart.

    boo & mom

    She is a wonderful daughter and a very special friend.

    And I am one blessed mama to get to say she’s mine.

    Love you Boo!  Happy Birthday!