Archive for December, 2012

  • Baby Update

    Date: 2012.12.31 | Category: Adoption, Evangeline Faith, Lainey Rae, Photos

    Today we received notice that CCAI got our Letters of Acceptance (LOA) for Min and Lainey.  China, unfortunately, forgot to send Faith’s.  We will hopefully receive hers in the next couple days. It will be delayed a little bit because their offices are closed tomorrow too.  Once you have the LOA, it means that you get to travel in the next 11-15 weeks.  It’s the next BIG step and we are very excited.  Looks like, if all goes well, we will travel in late March or early April.  Faith’s 2nd birthday is March 25th.  I’m hoping we get her by then.  I’m not disappointed that it is delayed because God’s timing is always perfect and I believe there must be a reason.

    We are still trying to decide on a name for Min.  She is called by the American name Lauren on LWB’s page but she has not been called that name in her orphanage.  It is much harder choosing a name for a teenager.  We may make her name Jasmine Shuang.  Her Chinese name is Min Shuang.  That way we can call her Min or Shuang or whichever name she chooses.  Jasmine means “gift of God” – which seems very fitting.  I wish she could just tell me whether she wants an American name or to keep her given name.  We are still debating a couple of names.  We have to decide soon because it has to go on her immigration forms.

    On the subject of names, we have been going back and forth on whether to call Faith – Faith Evangeline or Evangeline Faith.  Everyone has started calling her Evie which seems fitting somehow.  It’s funny we started out with Maisey’s name being MeiLyn and then it somehow got changed to Maisey MeiLyn.  I love how names slowly evolve and fit the child.  It’s been a fun process.

    I just wanted to share our good news with everyone.  We are getting closer.  Although, sometimes it seems to be taking forever. I’m trying hard to be patient.  (Not my strongest suit.)

    Here are the newest picture of Min.  In one, she has the teddy bear we sent her and is sharing the candy we gave her to share with the other children.  In the other, it shows her new English tutor helping teach her.  What beautiful pictures.  I can’t wait to meet her and let her know in person how much she is truly loved.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  • The smallest of kindnesses really do matter

    Date: 2012.12.30 | Category: Grace

    As many of you know, my daughter Gracie has a Facebook page that a friend set up for her back when she was first diagnosed with lupus.  Gracie was going to have to be on chemo and there was a good possibility that she would lose her hair.  Dani thought it would be fun to have friend’s donate hats for Gracie – thus, the Facebook page entitled “Hats for Gracie”.  She never did lose all her hair. Although, when it started to fall out she opted to cut it off and donate it rather than just lose it.   From the generosity of others, Gracie has been able to take hats to the University of Iowa Hospitals.  She has sent hats to the Jessie Joy Rees Foundation.  She has sent hats to friends that have been diagnosed with cancer.  For a girl who is as compassionate and emphatic as Gracie is, it has been great fun to spread the joy to others.  Plus, now she has the chance to start making hats for children in orphanages in China.  Dani’s idea to encourage a little girl has led to others being encouraged.  It has allowed Gracie a way to take something bad that happened and turn into something good.  Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Gracie has been through a lot this past year.  She has stage 4/5 systemic lupus erythematosus.    You can read more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systemic_lupus_erythematosus   Most people hear the diagnosis, Lupus, and they don’t think much about it. They hear about flares and remission but it doesn’t really make an impact unless they know someone who has been diagnosed.  For Gracie it means not being able to be in the sun for any extended period of time because this might cause another episode.  It means lots of sunscreen for something as simple as going outside to go to a store.  It means being completely covered by clothing all the time.  Not a big deal unless you are an extremely warm-blooded child like Gracie is.   It means taking cellcept (an oral chemo drug) for 5 years.  It means daily steroid use and other medications.  It means lots of doctors appointments and tests and blood draws.  60 years ago her diagnosis was a death sentence.  Today she stands a good chance of a long life and we know how blessed we are.

    I’m writing this not because of what Gracie is going through but because through it all complete strangers have signed up to “LIKE” her Facebook page.  People she doesn’t know have commented and said prayers.  She loves that people are praying for her.  It really does lift her spirits.  She gets so tickled when Dani posts something and people respond.  Just yesterday Dani asked if we could get to 350 likes and this morning we are at 385.  It amazes me that strangers would take the time to do that. It also shows me how the little things we do really matter.  That smile you give someone in the store – it matters.  When you take someone lunch or donate $5 to their cause – it matters.  When you compliment someone on how they look, what they are wearing, or how they are behaving – it matters.  When you take a moment to wish someone well or send a card saying that you are thinking about them – it matters. Don’t ever forget that.  You may not hear a thank you, but it truly does matter!

    We don’t hear these stories in the news because they are small little instances and don’t really sell papers or magazines.  Can you imagine if the headlines read “Grandma, 82, ecstatic because 200 people wished her a happy birthday. She feels cared for and like life had meaning again!”   It would be nice but it’s not likely to happen.

    Gracie’s headline from yesterday would read something like “Little girl was ecstatic Saturday because 53 random strangers took a moment to hit a button and let her know that she was cared about!”   You have no idea how much that means to her.   She really is a brave little girl who doesn’t complain about taking medicine every day and night or sitting through hours of infusions or getting poked for lab draws or having to sit through way too many different doctor appointments.  She is a compassionate little girl who has a faith that is unbelievable.  Thank you for brightening her day!   THANK YOU!

     

  • Why I talk about orphans

    Date: 2012.12.29 | Category: Adoption, Maisey, Thoughts to ponder

    You might wonder why I talk the way I do about orphans?  I have to admit it wasn’t even on my radar a few years ago.  I had no idea the vastness of it all.  147 million orphans?  How is that even possible? I had no idea the conditions orphans were living in.  I had no idea how many children were hurting and alone.  I figure if I had no idea then others probably haven’t heard the numbers either.  I believe when others hear the stories they will be moved to do something too.  There are so many ways to help even if you haven’t been called to personally adopt.

    Now that Dan and I know about the House of Hope, Show Hope, CCAI, and Love Without Boundaries, we want to share what they are doing.  These are organizations that we have dealt with personally and we want to get the word out there to others who may want to help too.   There are many different organizations that no one even hears about.  Take LWB for instance, they have 11,000 likes on their Facebook page.  That is a respectable number but why does something like Skylanders (A video game that my daughter loves – that is why I chose it.) have 347,000 likes?  Because the word is out there.  Because people are talking.  Which brings me back to what I am saying, I believe more people need to talk about this crisis, Christians especially. We need to open people’s eyes to the plight of orphaned children here in this country and around the world.  James 1:27

    We need to spread the word.  I’m blessed to be able to be part of a story like my Maisey’s.  She weighed 6 pounds at 6 months and the Hills took her in and saved her. Maisey is a fighter and a blessing.  I am amazed and so thankful for the work the Hills are doing.  They are bringing comfort to those children who would otherwise have died, alone and afraid.   They are saving those children that they can. You can read more in the book the House of Hope.  Maisey is their 1,000th baby, Chaya.  You will be moved by the Hill’s story and your eyes will be opened.

    LWB is taking children into their healing homes and helping them get their cleft lips fixed and their little hearts fixed in hopes that they will someday find their forever family.  But just in case they don’t find their forever families, LWB is getting these children into foster homes.  LWB is providing schooling.  We take a lot for granted in this country.  We just assume it is the same every where else.  It isn’t!  In some of these countries unless you have the money you don’t get medical care and education is a privilege not a right.

    CCAI, the adoption agency we used, is amazing. They are the number one agency for Chinese adoptions.  I can’t say enough good things about them.  I just read Lily’s story in the book Bound by Love.  It is heart wrenching and a history lesson in China all at the same time.  You turn to the back of this book and see the names of all the children they have helped find forever families.  They are over 10,000 children placed now.

    Maisey is one of the reasons why I’m trying to spread the word.  Because she was abandoned on a stairwell in a building.  She was left because she was a less-than-perfect girl.  Even in the orphanage she wasn’t worth the time it took to feed her properly.  She was abandoned and alone, but the Hills saw her worth.  They took the time to feed her and help her grow and because they did that I get to be greeted everyday by this little face.

    Maisey is beautiful and animated and such a joy to have as a daughter. She is full of energy and adventure. I am blessed everyday to be greeted by her huge hugs and her joyous laughter all because someone else saw her worth.   Why wouldn’t I want to share a story like that?

    Please won’t you consider opening your heart to an orphan?  Sponsor a child in foster care.  Sponsor a child’s surgery or schooling.  You can go to the links on the right hand side of the home page on my blog to learn more.

    Help a family that you know who is adopting.  It is a serious leap of faith to go into the unknown and it is so expensive.  What if everyone in your church donated $10 towards a family in your church that you knew was adopting?  What a difference we could all make just a few dollars at a time.  Don’t close your eyes.  Don’t pretend that you haven’t heard.  Make a difference.  Open your heart and change the world – one child at a time!  I can guarantee you you will not regret helping a child in need.

  • Perspective

    Date: 2012.12.28 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Thoughts to ponder

    I’ve been listening to people talk about perspective lately.  The world seems to be just a little crazier with the shootings in Connecticut and Oregon.  I hear them say that some of the things that they thought were important don’t really seem as important now.   We have the choice to want perfection and everything in it’s place or allow grace to those people and things in our lives that may be a little less than perfect.   I am blessed to have gone through what we’ve gone through with Codey and Kyle.  Their live’s have taught me to be grateful for every day you are allowed to live; to not get caught up in the tiny things that go wrong; to forgive when necessary, to say I’m sorry when you need to; to help and encourage those that you can; and to truly be grateful for everything that you have .

    Every day I wake up and have the choice to be filled with fear that today may be Ben’s last day.  I can dwell on his little blue fingers.  I can dwell on his raspy voice when he plays too hard.  I can dwell on how little he is and how low his platelets are.  I can think about how he could fall and cause a hemorrhage.  If I dwell on any of those things though, I miss out on all the wonderful moments throughout the day.  He is so funny and so sweet.  He is compassionate and caring beyond his years. Every day with him is a blessing.  I don’t want to lose even one minute worrying about things that I have no control over.  Only God knows the number of his days.  I will leave that in His hands and enjoy every moment that I am blessed to spend with sweet Ben. The truth is it is that way with most of my children.  I could go on and on about them and the trials their health issues bring to our lives.  The truth of the matter is that it has given me a whole new perspective on living.

    On the other hand, I have a son and daughter who are both so bright.  I watched them when they were little and dreamed all the worldly dreams for them.  Good grades, good schools, good jobs, etc.   It’s not that those things aren’t important, but a good foundation in Godly values is so much more important.  Compassion, love for others, finding their purpose and purposely living their lives is what it is all about.  The lessons our adoptions have taught them are priceless.  It has given them true perspective on what is and isn’t important.

    The truth is we spend our days worrying about trivial things.  Truly they are trivial.  I bet you in two years you won’t remember what car broke down or which appliance wasn’t as new as you’d wished.  You won’t remember what you purchased for Christmas.  You won’t remember what your child said when they talked back.  You can be upset about some wrong that has happened and then you turn on the news and see that 20 children have lost their lives for no reason at all.  You grab your child and hug them a little tighter.  You wonder why you screamed about their bed not being made or the fact that they were moving so slow this morning.  I’m not saying that it isn’t important for our children to have rules and be disciplined.   I’m just saying that it is a good reminder that some things aren’t as big as we make them out to be.

    For example, if you knew that your husband was going to have a heart attack next week, how would that change how you treated him?  The truth is do you know that he won’t?  Do you have a guarantee that you’ll have another week to make up with him, to treat him right, to let him know just how much he means to you?    How about your daughter or son?  Do you know for a fact that they will live to be 50, 60, or 70?  What if they encounter a drunk driver?  What if they are diagnosed with cancer? What if your healthy 6 year old suddenly becomes ill and is diagnosed with lupus?  Believe me….there are no guarantees.

    Why does it take some major life event for us to pay attention?  God tells us over and over again in His book to love our neighbor, to forgive, to treat others as we want to be treated, to care for the orphan and the widow.  Why do we ignore these commands like they are just suggestions if we have the time and energy to do it? These should be our life goals.

    The truth of the matter is there are approximately 147 million orphans in the world.  There are approximately 250,000 children waiting to be adopted in the U.S.  Why are we not standing up as Christians and doing something about this?  My sister-in-law wrote a status on her Facebook about the ASPCA and their ads.  Her 5 year old daughter asked her if they could be part of their team.  She was so moved by the conditions of the animals.  Why aren’t there commercials about children?  What if they showed you a horrible orphanage and you saw your child’s face? What would you do to go get them?  What if God has a child picked out for you and you are just leaving them there?  What if we Christians put our values in what is really important?  What could we change?  We should all live generously.  We should all be giving not if we have a little left over, but we should be sharing our wealth. We are so blessed as a country.  We have so much.  How much more is enough for you? What will be enough for you to decide you can share? When will you decide you can afford to help?  What will it take to change your perspective?

     

     

     

     

  • What if….

    Date: 2012.12.26 | Category: Adoption, Thoughts to ponder

    In honor of Lainey Rae who turns 2 today, I’m going to be talking to those of you who may have God tugging at your heart right now. Happy birthday Lainey.  I’m heartbroken that I can not spend today with you, but you will no longer be alone on your birthdays.  Daddy and I are coming sweet girl!  🙂

    I watched the Rascal Flatts holiday special the other evening and cried through every story that was told.  I watched as children said all they want is a family.  I watched a 17 year old who said he cried because he thought his chance at a family was gone, that he had never had a birthday party.  How does that happen?  He had been in other foster homes, 8 of them, I think he said.  Birthdays are special; it’s the day of rejoicing over your birth.  Birthdays should be times of remembrance. Other families should have known that. That just broke my heart because it’s such a simple thing to fix.  I wish everything in life was that easy to fix.

    As Dan and I have talked to more people and read more about orphanages and adoptions, we have heard more and more stories.  Stories that will break your heart.  Stories that will change your life forever.  Some stories I wish I’d never heard. Pictures I wish I’d never seen.  My heart can barely stand the thought of what too many children must endure.  Children in pain.  Children starving for much more than just food.  Children alone and hurting wanting nothing more than to be loved by a family.

    I hear people talk about adoption, but many have their “buts and what ifs”.

    I would so love to, but

    It cost so much money – what if I can’t raise enough?

    What if it disrupts our family?

    What if it is just too much?

    What if I can’t love them like my biological children?

    Well, I will counter with these “what if’s”…

    What if you could save one child from starving to death?

    What if you could change the world for one child?

    What if you could be the whole world for one child?

    What if you are the only thing between a child and a life of prostitution or living on the street?

    What if you could be the face of God for one child?

    What if when you stand before your king He shows you what you could have done?

    Heaven is perfect and beautiful but that doesn’t mean we won’t know what we could have done better.  Whose lives we hurt and whose lives we made better.   I can’t imagine standing in front of God and having Him show me a life that I could have saved, if only I wasn’t afraid.  I know there is so much I have done wrong but when I finally trusted Him so much became crystal clear.  A life about me isn’t a life at all.  A life about HIM is what it is about.  I still fail. I still sin. I am still so imperfect; but I am not afraid to follow His lead.  Okay, maybe I am fearful sometimes, but I am above all else obedient to His call.

    I recently read Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place.  Children in orphanages aren’t much different than those in concentration camps.  “How?” you might ask?  Well, children who are considered “less than” are brought there.  These children are starving, abandoned, and alone through no fault of their own.  That’s not to say there aren’t caring people in some orphanages, but there are also places where children are just left to die.  Places where children weigh 14 pounds at the age of 12.  The holocaust was horrible because of Hitler’s evil, but it was much more horrible because of all the people who stood by and watched it happen; people who turned a blind eye because they didn’t want to become involved.   Christians turning a blind eye is worse even than the evil that man can do because they know better. It is in black and white in God’s book.    James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  Widows are hurting.  Orphans are starving.  People are thirsty for both water and God’s word. Children are alone and waiting for a family.

    Again I ask…

    What if you were no longer fearful?

    What if your dreams were bigger than you thought?

    What if you could change the world….one child at a time?

    What if God is just waiting to bless your life?

    What if somewhere out there is your child?  The child God choose for you. What if she is cold and alone and fearful?  What if your son cries alone at night because he is alone, afraid, hungry?  This child is yours as surely as if he/she grew in your womb (or your wives).  This isn’t an unknown face across the miles.  This is YOUR child and you have chosen to turn a blind eye.

    What if…..

  • Waiting is the hardest part…

    Date: 2012.12.01 | Category: Adoption

    Once your heart has been taken.  Once that picture is placed in front of you. Once God has grabbed hold of your heart and wrapped it up so completely that you can barely wait another moment to hold them, you start to dream and the wait begins.  Waiting is truly the hardest part because the process is so painstakingly slow.  It’s hard to fathom why you have to jump through so many hoops; why you have to fill out reams and reams of paperwork for a child that has been abandoned; why when they are just sitting in an orphanage; you can’t just go get them.  There has to be an easier way to get these sick and hurting children into loving homes much faster.  But for now my only option is to follow the rules, wait and pray and pray and pray.  Pray that they will stay healthy enough until we can get them. Pray that I’m given the chance to let them know how much they are loved. Pray that they are being cared for.  Pray that somehow they can feel in their hearts that they have a family.

    When you start the process all you have is a picture and very little information.  It’s sort of like seeing that ultrasound and wanting so much to just see that little face in person.  Yet, at the same time it is very, very different.  The difference is your child isn’t safe and warm in utero.  Your child is in a cold orphanage.  They may be being cared for.  They may be getting the proper amount of food, but they may not be.  They may have friends that they play with or they may be being bullied in ways that you can’t even imagine.  They may have a nanny who truly cares, but you just don’t know and that is the hardest part.  No matter what is happening, it still isn’t family.  There is something to be said for being comforted and knowing that your parents will keep you safe.  When we got Ben and Maisey, they wouldn’t even cry when they got hurt.  Maisey had no way to express herself so she would throw herself to the floor with very little provocation.  It didn’t take long for that to stop – all we had to do was explain things and listen to her.  My heart just melted the other day when Maisey ran to her daddy for him to kiss her booboo on her toe.  She knows she’s loved and that people care if she’s hurt.  Ben and Maisey know they have many, many people who love them.  They know they will be listened to.  They know there is always food.  They know they will be held whenever they come running.  We take a lot for granted as parents.  Trust, affection, love, adoration are all wonderful gifts given freely from our children and we rarely give it a second thought.

    There are many different types of orphanages.  There are state of the art orphanages and there are orphanages that don’t even have doors or windows.  There are orphanages where they try their best to make sure that the child is cared for to the best of their abilities and there are orphanages where the children are slowly starving to death for both food and love.  There are orphanages with interaction and love and there are orphanages where they prop the bottle and check on them in 4 hours.  I have a hard time comprehending the difference in cultures.  I can’t even wrap my mind around someone not holding and rocking a baby.  I’ve heard about orphanages where they won’t even hold a child that has downs syndrome or another disability because they believe these children will never be loved so you shouldn’t show them any affection.  It is shocking to me the lack of value of life.  How is it even imaginable that someone could watch a child slowly starve to death when they had the ability to change it?  How can life mean so little?  It is just so different. Here in America we have the occasional story where someone disposes of a child like they were trash.  But just recently there was a news story in China where one woman saved 30 babies from the trash. That is one town and one woman.  I know you can not possibly give individual attention to each baby if you are caring for 20 or more by yourself.   I know they believe if they are fed and changed, they have done their job.  But that is not nearly enough.

    What if your child is older?  This has put a whole new spin on it for us.  We know she wants to go to school but isn’t able to because of wheelchair accessibility.  Think about your 13 year old wanting to learn.  Wanting so much to be able to learn but the classroom is just out of reach so she sits there alone knowing that her disability keeps her from learning.  You want to help, but you are a half a world away.  It’s one thing to lose days when your child is 1, but losing days when your child is 13 1/2 is so much more disheartening.  I want her to have all that she is able to dream about. I want her to read and write and do arithmetic.  I want her to learn about God.  I want her to trust that even though it doesn’t make sense that she spent 6 years in an orphanage, that God can use it for good.  That her life has worth.  That her life will touch more people than she can even imagine.  I want her to understand that God has always been there.  I hope she can feel His peace.  I hope He has brought her the comfort we have prayed for.  I hope that she is ready to be treasured by a whole family that is so ready to love her.  Her life is going to change and she will change ours.  I can’t wait until I can touch her sweet face.  I can’t wait to hold her hand and tell her that we will always be there.  I want to brush her hair and hold her close.  It hurts that I have to wait.  It breaks my heart that she has to spend one more day there.  I hate that she has to wait but I pray that we will be there soon.  I pray that she is ready for a very loud house. I pray that she is ready to be cherished.  I pray that she is ready for 6 younger siblings that will adore her and 3 older ones who will dote on her and one virtual twin that is excited beyond excited to have a sister.

    I love this saying.  It describes our house best.   In this house we do second chances.  We do loud really well.  We do love. We do grace.  We do real. We do hugs. We do I’m sorrys.  We do family.  We do faith.

    Her second chance is coming and I feel so blessed that I get to be a part of it.  I hope I can convey just how wonderful she is, just how loved she truly is, and that she can dream BIG and make it reality.  I know it is hard for some people to understand how you can love a child when you have only just seen a picture.  I can’t explain how God works but I can tell you that she IS my daughter and I would go to the ends of the earth to keep her safe.   I will follow the rules and the regulations, but I will not let her go.  I will fight for everything she deserves.  I will be there soon sweetheart.  I wish I could change your past but I can not, but I can and will change your future.  I can’t wait to see the path that God has laid out for you.  I will walk beside you.  I will hold you up when life tries to knock you down.  I will cheer for you and encourage you in any way that I can.  I will let you know you are cherished and loved.  I will do all that I can because I AM your mom!

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