Archive for March, 2013

  • Good Friday

    Date: 2013.03.29 | Category: Faith

    Today is Good Friday!   The day Christ hung on a cross and died to pay for our sins.  He suffered so we could live.  What a beautiful act of sacrificial love.  I hear many people talk about how to get to heaven.  We complicate a beautiful, simple, grace-filled thing.  We all sin and, therefore, can not enter by our own merits.

    Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

    So what can we do to be saved?  How much good do we have to do to get to spend eternity with God in heaven?  How much is enough?  There is nothing we can do except believe that Jesus died on the cross for us.  God’s grace saves us.  God’s grace and our belief in Christ is all that it takes.

    Ephesians 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

    Acts 16:31  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

    John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    What a beautiful, simple gift for us – not so simple for Christ.   Jesus suffered and died for us.  He paid the price for our sins so that we could one day live with Him.  He was buried and rose again on the third day according to scripture.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-4  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

    Thank you, Lord, for the ultimate gift.  The gift of eternal life through belief in you.  I am humbled and amazed that You would allow me to be called a child of Yours.

    John 1:12  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

    Happy Easter everyone!

  • How to Forgive (when you have every right to hate)

    Date: 2013.03.28 | Category: Thoughts to ponder

    (WARNING:  This blog is not about adoption, or fun with kids, or my love for my family.   If you are looking for a fun-filled blog post, you might just want to skip this one.   If however, you are looking for a blog about God’s infinite grace and forgiveness, this is the blog for you.  The first couple paragraphs talk about what happened to me in my childhood, but the rest talks about how I found peace.)

    If you just want to read this to see what horrible thing happened and see what sins I have committed, please just skip this now.  Judging is a sin and I’d hate to cause you to sin more.  If you truly want to know how I went through the worst time of my life and found a way to forgive, then please read the whole blog.  I know it is long.  I know it could be broken down into a couple of blogs, but the fact that I would rather throw up than drag this out any longer makes that impossible.  It’s sort of like pulling off the band-aid quickly.

    I have debated writing about the worst time of my life for quite some time.  I have had dreams where I wake up with the words “finish it” replaying over and over in my head. It is so ironic that I can be obedient in following God’s lead when He asks me to go get a very ill child in China, but ask me to say this to the world and I drag my feet.  I have been dragging my feet for quite a while now.  A couple of weeks ago, I read this post from Women of Faith and it got me to thinking about how many hurting people there are out there.

    The last couple of nights I have been awakened by the same dream.  The dream that tells me to finish this.  It makes me so angry.  I don’t want to finish it.  I don’t want to think about it.  I don’t want to put these words on paper for the world to see.   I’ve put it all behind me, but for some reason I feel as if to be completely done I need to finish this.  So here it is….

    I’ve talked about this subject with a few people.  I’ve tried to share it when I felt it might help someone else, but it will never be a thing that I can just state and not have it grip my heart and make me sick to my stomach.  I still have moments when I’d like to pretend it never happened.  The truth is I have tried my hardest to forget those moments in my life and for the most part God has graciously granted my request.  But the fact that it still has even a tiny hold on me, ticks me off, to say the least.  So I have chosen in this, my 48th year of life, to just put those words out there – to release the hold that these words have had on me.  Because the reality is people will judge you, people will think what they want, and in the end I can only do what I feel is right because everything in my life is between God and I, only He knows my true intentions.  So I share these words, and if by doing so, I help even one person, it will be worth what it took to write this (Or at least that is what I am telling myself right now as the tears fall down my face.).

    It took me years to admit what happened.  I felt dirty, like it was somehow my fault.  If I hear those words with anyone else, I don’t blame the victim.  So how is that even possible that I would feel like I should be to blame?  I was a child of 11.  It wasn’t until my daughter hit the age of 11, that I truly grasped what it meant to be a child of 11.  I may have looked like a grown-up, but I was a child, an easily manipulated, trusting, looking-for-love child.  A child robbed of my youth and my innocence.   To put it in words, is still, after 37 years, a horrible thing, it still brings me a smidge of shame, even though I know I’m not to blame.   Molestation is an ugly, ugly, UGLY word.  There are times when these things are done by strangers.  There are times when these are random acts of violence.  In my case, it was a trusted friend, a 29-year-old who had the trust of my family.  That plays with a little kid’s mind in ways that are hard to even imagine.  Add to that, threats of violence against your family; and great, grandiose gestures of love from a sick adult; and an 11 year old becomes one very confused, hurting child.

    I’ve not had counseling because it was felt that it would be better if everyone just put it behind us.  If you don’t talk about it, it’s like it never happened – that too plays with a child’s mind.  It wasn’t until 3 years after the horrible summer, when he came back and started dating my mother secretly, that everything came to light.  I hid most things for 3 years.  3 years of shame.   3 years of pain and anguish.  3 years of hoping that someone could see how much I was hurting.  But 3 years had changed a lot, at 14 I was much braver, much smarter, and ready to fight.  But I didn’t fight, instead….I ran away.  I didn’t run far, just to my dad’s house about 15 miles away.  My mom and dad had divorced when I was 10 and my dad lived with my stepmom in another town.  This act of finally admitting what happened started World War 3 between my parents.  Everything I had feared had started.  People were angry and it felt like they were angry at me.

    I write about this not to talk about “him” so much, but to talk about what it took for me to heal.  First and foremost, it took lots of love from Dan, lots of forgiveness from myself, and finally accepting God’s grace.  I made Dan prove his love over and over again in the early years of our marriage.  I had trouble feeling like I deserved love, especially such over-whelming wonderful love, from him.  One day, Dan finally looked at me and said, “You can continually make me prove my love or you can trust me to love you like I said I would.  You can spend each and every day in pain assuming that I will leave you or you can be happy each and every day with me.  Then, if I ever am stupid enough to leave you, the best thing that ever happened to me , you can be angry with me at that time, but don’t waste our lives by assuming it will one day happen.”  He’s a very smart man.  He was right.  I needed to learn how to trust, forgive, and let go.

    It’s hard when the father figures or male figures in your life are distant.  I didn’t really have a male figure that said “I love you” or showed love.  My brothers liked to tease me about being ugly and fat as brothers do.  My dad was gone at the age of 10 and very distant at the beginning.  My dad is a much different man now and is always there for my kids and me.  My grandfathers were standoffish and seemed somewhat cold and distant.  Men who were born 90 years ago, well, that was a different time.  They weren’t bad men, they just weren’t the overly affectionate type of guys.  I understood a God of discipline and punishment because I had heard that over and over again, but I had a hard time with the concept of God being a loving father.  Dan taught me about God’s grace.   How I grew up in church all those years and never, ever, understood God’s grace is beyond me.  Dan taught me about God’s forgiveness for our sins.  Dan taught me about turning it all over to God.  All those things led to my healing.  When I truly accepted God’s forgiveness, I was able to forgive myself.

    Another thing that Dan taught me was God is good and perfect, but man is evil.  It’s hard when you believe that God is in control of everything and something bad happens to you.  People blame God when bad things happen.  You are left to question why God would allow something to happen to you.  The truth of the matter is God gave man free will.  Man is evil not God.  Could God stop it? Yes.  But if God intervened in everything we would live in a perfect world and we would all be robots.  God gave us free will.  Bad things happen because of man not because of God.

    The second thing that helped me heal was realizing that this man was supposedly a believer.  It was a smack up along side my head when I realized that Christ paid for his sins just like Christ paid for mine.  We like to believe that there are really, really bad sins and then the nice little sins that we do that don’t really amount to anything.   Ha!  Sin is sin.  Yes, some of them are overwhelmingly evil, but sin, in the end, is still sin.   Gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, lust, anger, and greed are called the 7 deadly sins for a reason.  We don’t get to pretend that we are somehow better than others.  In the end, the only thing that saves us is God’s grace.

    At the Women of Faith Conference I was at, an artist drew it as a chasm.  God is on one side and you are on the other.

    We think our goodness takes us part way to God and God brings us the rest of the way.  The truth is there is nothing we can do to reach God.  We are all sinners.  Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…    We can not do good things to make up for our sin.  Ephesians 2:8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…    We can only confess our sin and move on.    1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   If we continually feel guilty about the same sin, it is as if we are saying “I don’t believe what you have said, God.”.    It became an either I believed His word or I didn’t.  If I trust that Christ died on the cross for my sins, how could I not trust Him for His forgiveness?  1 Peter 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…   I don’t understand why it happened to me, but I could believe that God could use it for good.  Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    The third thing that helped me heal, was allowing God to punish him.  I could be bitter and angry, but that wasn’t doing anything to him.  He didn’t know the pain I was in.  To be honest, my only regret is that he may have done it to others.  It was three years before everything came out.  I wish I would have been strong enough to prosecute him.  The truth of the matter is 37 years ago it wasn’t like it is now.  It was your word against his and people just didn’t do that.  Things were swept under the rug and no one was encouraging me to do anything but forget.   Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

    And the final thing that helped me heal was a big one, I started to pray for “him”.  Yes, him.  Matthew 5:44  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.   You can’t hate when you are praying for someone.  At the beginning, my prayers were still hate-filled, but it is amazing what happens to your heart as you pray for someone who has hurt you.  Now when something reminds me of that horrible time, because there are triggers that still pop up from time to time, I pray.  The first thing I do is pray.  I pray that he hasn’t hurt anyone else.  I pray that he has found healing.  I pray that God has opened his eyes to what he has done.  I pray that and many, many more things but my prayers always bring me peace.  My prayers for him led to forgiveness, of both him and I, and it led to the end of my bitterness so that I could live a happier live.

    I recently read a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers.  This is a quote from the end of her book.  “There are many who struggle to survive in life, many who have been used and abused in the name of love, many who have been sacrificed on the altars of pleasure and “freedom”.  But the freedom the world offers is, in reality, false.  Too many have awakened one day to discover they are in bondage, and they have no idea how to escape.  It is for people such as these that I wrote Redeeming Love – people who fight, as I did, to be their own gods, only to find in the end that they are lost, desperate, and terribly alone.  I want to bring the truth to those trapped in lies and darkness, to tell them that God is there, He is real, and He loves them – no matter what.”

    Part of the guilt I felt was for the few years when I acted out.  I did things and said things that I am not proud of.  I have forgiven myself for those things, but the truth is we can never know all the people who we hurt along the way.  I have prayed that God would let those people find peace, as I have.  I write these things not to get sympathy.  I write them to let you know there is a way to climb out of the darkness and the self-induced misery that we are in.  Bad things happen, but God can heal.  Let Him heal you.  Feel His grace and forgiveness and start living your life for Him.  It is a life of purpose and meaning and it is just waiting for you to let go of the trappings of this world and become who He made you to be.

    John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    My prayer for you is that you can forgive.  Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.  I pray that you can find your meaning and your purpose.  Allow God to truly lead you and the blessings and peace that will overcome your heart will be amazing.  Bitterness and anger only hurt you and those around you.  You aren’t punishing the person who hurt you.  In the end, you are punishing yourself.  Accept that your sins are forgiven and forgive yourself first and foremost.  May God grant you peace that goes beyond understanding.  You are worthy of His love because He is love.  We are saved by His grace.  There is nothing we can do to look better in His eyes so let it go and allow God’s love to hold you close.  You are forgiven.  You are loved.  You are precious in His sight.  Right now.  Right at this moment.  You don’t have to fix your life to come to God.  You don’t have to be better.  You just have to trust in His forgiveness and move on, following His lead.  What are you waiting for?  Today is a beautiful day to learn to love yourself and allow God’s love to surround you.  I will continue to pray for you and your peace and for forgiveness to become part of your language.  I will pray for your strength to move on and to forgive.  May God’s love surround you today and every day.

     

     

  • Obedience, Sainthood and Eternity

    Date: 2013.03.27 | Category: Adoption, Thoughts to ponder, Videos

    My devotional this week said, “Surrendered people obey God’s Word, even when it doesn’t make sense.”. “Give yourselves to God … surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.” (Romans 6:13b TEV)

    Obedience means obeying even when you are afraid.

    Obedience means following God’s lead even when you can’t see the path in front of you.

    Obedience means not debating, questioning, reasoning with, or making excuses for why you can’t do something.

    It takes a lot of faith to proceed even when it doesn’t make sense.  It took me years to get to this point.   Years to truly listen to the word of God, but when you see God’s miracles in your life over and over again.  When you see how perfect His plan is, you start to let go of what you thought was right for your life and trust in His plan for your life.

    There is nothing amazing about us and being able to do what we are doing.  It has become somewhat of a joke to us because the number one thing that people say to us is “You are saints.”  First off, I will say if you are a Christian, you too are a saint.  In the Bible, believers were referred to as saints on many different occasions.   So in reality, I am a saint, but not for the reasons you would say.  I am a saint because Christ died for my sins and by believing in Him I become a member of God’s adopted family – a person holy for that reason only.  I am a person who fails and sins and is so much less than on most days.

    Our proceeding with these adoptions is because of obedience only.  It is because we have seen the hand of God on so many different occasions that we choose to listen and proceed when He lays something on our hearts.  I have often said, “But I can’t.  Lord, this doesn’t make sense.  How in the world are we going to do that?”   But God’s calling is right there. Your heart is heavy with what you know to be the truth.  You just know it’s the right thing to do even if it doesn’t make sense.  Then things start to line up, things that others said could never happen – happen, and God says once again, “Listen my child.  I will provide a way.  I will bring you through whatever I bring you to. This is my plan. Trust in me.”

    People say things to us like, “What about your retirement?  Don’t you want to travel? Won’t you be tired?  How in the world are you going to do this? You’ll never be able to….”  Believe me I get it.  I have said some of those things to myself.  Five kids under four at my age seems a little daunting at times.  But then I think about their lives.  Am I willing to trade a trip to Hawaii for giving Min or Lainey or Evie or Eli a home?  Am I willing to let Ben or Evie or Eli die, alone, in a cold orphanage?  Am I willing to not listen to the calling of God?  Am I willing to say to Min “Child, a life on the street is okay for you? Prostitution?  Early death?  No love of a family? Well, that’s okay cause I’m going to Hawaii.”  I am NOT willing to make those trades.  I am willing to trade my sleep for bringing them the love of family.  I am willing to trade new clothes, a fancy car, and any imaginable vacation out there to let them know God’s love and what being adopted into God’s family means.

    I have been sitting on this post for a while now.  No one wants to listen to me preach again about adoption or at least that was what I was thinking but then I saw this video posted on Facebook and I understood.  I needed a better illustration of what I was trying to say.  I spent my life, in the 40 plus years before we even saw an orphanage, living for this one small moment in my life….retirement.  The magical illusion of when everything will be great.  Your children are grown.  It’s just you and your husband traveling the world.  Living happily ever after, but if you believe Christ died for you, then your life on earth is but a small portion of eternity.

    We did not proceed with our adoptions because of some great reward.  If we weren’t doing it for love, then it would be worthless.  We would be doing it for all the wrong reasons and then it would be like straw or stubble to God.  God knows what is in your heart.  God knows what you are giving and why.  You can’t earn God’s love.  You can’t buy your way into heaven.

    James 4:17  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

    But there are so many verses telling you to care for the orphan and the widow, the poor and the needy, to take care of those that need your help.  If you can help, and you choose not to then it is not just wrong, it is sin.   It goes against everything the Bible is commanding.  EVERYTHING!  Don’t fool yourself into thinking what the world is saying is the right way.  You will not be happy because you took a trip.  You will not be happy because you saved all this money so you could retire and golf or knit or sew or see the world.  That is not what your life should be about. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to travel or golf, but your life should include following God’s lead and opening your eyes to the hurt in the world.  Too many children are slaves.  Too many children are being sold in the sex trafficking market.  Too many children are dying alone in a cold, lonely orphanage. Too many children spend their lives never knowing the love of a family.  Too many children are going to bed hungry or drinking dirty water.  Don’t kid yourself that it’s ok and someone else will save them.  These kids are waiting for you to show them the love of God.  Ask God and He will show you a need.  Ask God to use you for His plan.  Ask God to make your life count.  Don’t just exist.  Don’t just follow the world’s lead.  Stand out!  Do something!  Be the hands and feet of Christ.  It is possible – one need at a time, one person at a time, one life at a time.

  • Gracie is 8

    Date: 2013.03.23 | Category: Grace

    Sometimes life takes you by surprise.  Sometimes life can be going along very smoothly and then something comes along, unexpected, and it drops you to your knees.  November of 2011 was one of those times.  The week before Thanksgiving, we took Gracie to the doctor.  She had a fever again.  She had had a fever on and off for about six weeks and she just couldn’t shake it.  They nurse practitioner came into the room and said that her results were concerning and asked if I’d speak with the doctor.  Dan and I had been thinking strep or mono and they said, “We need to refer her to an oncologist.”  The doctor asked me to step out into the hall.   He questioned me a couple times about whether I understood what he was saying.  I assured him that I absolutely understood what he was saying.  I promised myself I would not cry in front of Gracie until I had a confirmed diagnosis.  I asked the doctor if he knew our family history?  He said “No”.  I explained a little bit about our children’s health issues and assured him that I absolutely understood without a shadow of a doubt what he was saying.  I then headed home to pick up Dan.

    The oncology clinic got us right in and scheduled her for a bone marrow biopsy.  They wanted us to get the results before Thanksgiving.  I was so thankful for that.  It is so hard to wait and wonder even when you know it is in God’s hands.  The results showed it was not leukemia, but that left us with more tests to figure out what she did have.  Dan was scheduled to speak in California and he left on his trip.  He was so worried about leaving her but I reminded him that there was nothing we could do until the results came back in.  I remember waking up and seeing Gracie’s little face covered in a rash.  I called him, because he had more or less just landed, and he asked for me to send a picture.  I sent a picture and he said, “I’m heading home right now.  I know what she has.  It’s lupus.”   Lupus?  Kids don’t get lupus.  I remember wondering how is that even possible?

    IMG_0512

    I will admit to being a little miffed when we got her diagnosis.  God and I had a talk.  I will admit it was a short talk.  I have been through enough in my life to know that beautiful, wonderful things come out of horrible circumstances.   My issue wasn’t that I had a sick child.  At the time I had two children with health issues and we were set to leave in months to get our two new adopted children with health issues.  My issue was one of my healthy children got sick. I had purposely signed up to adopt and take in children with health issues.  I didn’t understand why it had to happen to Gracie too.

    Gracie’s kidneys were severely affected.  Dan pushed for them to run some extra tests and all of a sudden our scheduled appointment for three months away in February was moved up for a kidney biopsy the very next Monday, considering this was Saturday night, we knew it was serious.  Thank God for Dan and his training.  She was almost in kidney failure.  They told us it was only a matter of days until the damage would have been irreversible.   Gracie was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus with Class 4/5 Glomerulonephritis.  She would need months of chemo and would have to be on many medications and oral chemo for many years.

    It took 16 months but she is finally in remission.  A life with lupus is doable but until you know someone who has suffered from it it is hard to understand the issues that come with the diagnosis.  Gracie has to be completely covered in the sun or it can cause a relapse.  Considering we have a pool and she is the most warm blooded child around, this is an issue.  No more playing outside in the summer sun for hours on end.  She wakes up every morning and takes her plateful of meds.  She takes more meds before heading to bed.  Lupus means your body attacks its own organs and cells.  Out of the 11 markers for lupus, Gracie had 9.  She luckily didn’t have seizures.   Gracie’s mouth was covered in sores.  Grace’s neck was a mass of lymph nodes gone crazy.  Her face was covered by the butterfly rash.   Ironic, since she’s always been her daddy’s butterfly.  On top of everything else, she had joint pain.   It was a lot for a 6 year old to take, but she did it with grace beyond her years.

    That is the thing about Gracie.  She has always been compassionate and empathetic.  She has always had a faith beyond her years.  She has always talked about God like He was her very best friend.  She has always been the child to give away her toys even to complete strangers.  She has always been the girl who would play with the children younger than her and take whoever was at the playground under her wing. When she found out the chemo might make her lose her hair, she chose to donate it before it fell out.  Dan and I always knew God had special plans for her.   We just hadn’t planned on this.

    Now I watch my Gracie as she spreads her compassion on others.  I know there are people who won’t believe that she is the one who thought about helping with the Love Without Boundaries’ Lenten Campaign, but it was all her. (You can read more about it on her site  Hats for Gracie).  She loves to pull up LWB’s site and pray for the babies that she sees.  She is always thinking of others.  I’m pretty sure if she had her way we would adopt about 20 kids.  Gracie truly is the most amazing kid.  Tomorrow she is going to speak at a local church to raise awareness for the Lenten Campaign and for LWB, Show Hope and orphans in general.  Just think back to when you were eight.  Would that have been something you were thinking about?  I know it wasn’t what I was thinking about at the age of eight.  I am so blessed to have had another year with my beautiful butterfly.  Happy, happy birthday Gracie!  Mama loves you more than words can say!

     

     

     

  • God is so good!

    Date: 2013.03.22 | Category: Adoption, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Lainey Rae

    Praise the Lord!  Yesterday we were told that China has agreed to us adopting four.   We will leave in 4-8 weeks, hopefully, to get our precious children, Elijah (1), Evie (2 on Monday), Lainey (2), and Min (13).  We are all overwhelmed, ecstatic, and feeling extremely blessed.

    You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you. Trust Him now for everything, and see if He does not do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you could ever have asked or thought, not according to your power or capacity, but according to His own mighty power, that will work in you all the good pleasure of His most blessed will. You find no difficulty in trusting the Lord with the management of the universe and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex or difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about His management of it?    – Hannah Whitall Smith

    DISCLAIMER:  I am hoping everyone understands that we have very unique home circumstances.  We have two adult children living in an apartment on our property ready to help whenever we need it.  My mother-in-law (Linda) and my mom (Marlys) are both retired and willing to help whenever we need it.  My husband, Dan, is a physician specializing in the care of critically ill infants.  Dan works at home during the week doing clinical and quality Improvement for a national company.  He works a 25 hour shift every weekend while the kids are here to help.  There is absolutely no way that we could proceed with this new adventure without all the help and medical training that we have.  This is not going to be a precedent for China and they have graciously agreed to allow Elijah to be adopted on this trip to expedite his care.

    That being said, when Judy called yesterday, tears were flowing.  Well, everyone except Ben, who sat there with his “I told you” look on his face.  This has been such an amazing, faith-filled, miracle producing year.  Maisey and Ben have adjusted remarkably well.  Delays with Eli lead to us proceeding and trying to adopt Min.  I remember sitting in the bathroom and crying when I saw her face.  I questioned God on why He would lay such a thing on my heart when China most certainly wouldn’t allow three at once.  Friends of ours had just learned of a family that was proceeding with adopting three and we got in touch with them.  Their words of wisdom gave us faith to proceed and ask China to allow us to adopt three.  When China allowed three, we were blown away and so thankful.  At that time, we figured we would proceed with returning as quickly as we could to get Eli.  I have known since I first saw his little face that he was my son.  I have never, ever doubted that God had planned for Eli to be with us.  Ben’s absolute certainty that Eli was his brother brought peace to our hearts.   It was so unexplainable how Ben felt about Eli that we have always felt it had to be a God thing.

    When we did our home study we asked our social worker to change it from three to four children, knowing full well that China only allowed two at a time.  Both Dan and I felt that God was saying four.  The home study said four and our provisional I-800 said “allowed to bring four children into the United States”.  We proceeded through our year knowing we were going to get Evie the whole time.  We were waiting on Eli’s papers and it was taking a while so we proceeded with Lainey and Min.  Trusting that God’s plan was perfect.  When Eli’s papers became available, we asked if we could petition China for four.  Everyone said that the chances of it happening were very small.  It had never been done.  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal to us here in the United States but China’s one child policy has led to people believing that you give all your attention to one child and that is the best possible thing for children.  We have had miracle after miracle happen this year so we asked if it would hurt to ask and our agency said no.  The agency had us prepare our Letter of Intent as detailed as possible, they sent it off, and we prayed.  We prayed and so many of our wonderful friends and family prayed.

    We have been overwhelmed with all that the Lord has provided for us during this adoption journey.  We have proceeded with faith that God’s plan and His timing were perfect and we were just along for the ride.  He has shown us some very clear signs and had burdened our hearts with adopting these four children.  We have no clue what the future will hold and I’m sure our lives will change in ways that I can’t even imagine.  When I watch Grace, Hope, Ben and Maisey laughing and consider that I will soon have even more laughter in my house, I am overwhelmed with emotion.  Yes, I know there will be many trying times and sleepless nights ahead.  We have many doctor’s appointments and surgeries in our future.  But the fact that I have been blessed with being able to provide a home and love for these four children absolutely brings me to knees.  I am so blessed and so thankful that God would bless us in such a way.  To God all the glory is given!  Praises upon praises!

     

  • More Good News

    Date: 2013.03.16 | Category: Elijah

    All this year, we have been watching  things progress and seeing God’s hand in every single thing along the way.  If Elijah’s papers would have gone through right away, we would have been unable to try to adopt Min or at least assumed we couldn’t get her.  Instead things have led us to where we are – trying and praying for a miracle, to get four children at the same time.  All along the way, God has provided for us.  When I would get another statement and wonder how we were going to pay for it, the money would come – another speaking engagement for Dan, a refund that we weren’t expecting, etc.  I have been completely and utterly amazed this whole year.  I feel so undeserving and yet God has provided over and over again.

    Well, today was another one of those miracle times.  Just for a recap, we will hear, hopefully next week, on whether we get to get Eli on this trip too.   If it is approved, it will add another orphanage fee which is over $5,000, not a small bit of change. I have to admit to worrying and then confessing my worry over and over again.  I know God provides and in ways I can’t even imagine, but the very human part of me wants to be in control.  I want it all nicely detailed on an Excel spreadsheet so I know exactly what I’m going to have to pay, when it will be due and where the money is magically going to appear from.  Adding Eli to this trip, will add more travel costs because we will take Dan’s mom with us and we will need a second hotel room throughout our stay.  I’m pretty sure Dan and I will need help traveling with three toddlers and a teenager in a wheelchair.  We’re pretty good at juggling, but that might be just a little out of our comfort zone halfway around the world, with children who are adjusting to their new lives, and us being sleep deprived.

    Anyway, back to the extra special good news.  We went shopping for our spring break staycation with my mom and Dan’s mom.  We had a great day shopping for clothes for the girl’s new sisters.  We came home and got the mail.  In the mail was a check from the University of Iowa.  Not really a big deal, we sometimes get checks from the U of I because Dan does talks for them every once in a while.  I figured they had just forgot to pay him for one that he did a while ago…..BUT NO!!!!!    This check was big enough to cover Eli’s orphanage fees.  Yes, yes, you did hear that right.  Where did this check come from you might ask?  Well, it was for overpaid FICA when Dan was doing his residency, chief’s year, and fellowship way back in 1995-2001.  Supposedly the University and the government have been fighting over this issue all these years and today is the day I get the check.  HOW ABSOLUTELY AMAZING IS THAT?!?!?

    Yes, I am excited.  Yes, I am standing in awe of a God that knows every hair on my head and cares what would happen in my life.  The money would have been useful back then but now it is blessing that goes beyond measure.   I can hardly wrap my head around what it would take for God to have this plan in place.  Yes, I know I’m putting human limitations on Him.  I know there are those that will say this is just a nice coincidence, but I believe with all my heart that God’s plan is perfect and He always provides for us, sometimes in ways we can’t even imagine.  It just blows my mind, brings tears to my eyes and a humbleness to my heart.  Bless the Lord, O my soul!  Or as Gracie says, “Today has been a hallelujah kind of day for sure, mama!”   Yep, that about says it all!

  • Short Update on Eli

    Date: 2013.03.15 | Category: Adoption, Elijah

    Not sure where to start so I will just say God is so good!  As if we all didn’t know that already. I wanted to take a moment to share our good news for those of you following our adoption story.  Today we got the news that our adoption agency received a letter from the orphanage director in regard to Eli.  This letter stated that the director felt that Eli needed to get to the U.S. for treatment as soon as possible and that surgical intervention was not possible in China.  All along we have been praying that China would allow us to adopt four based on the fact that Eli needs treatment quickly and this letter confirms everything we have said.  We know that we have an unusual home situation because Dan works from home during the week;  Zach and Cassie are here helping every day; and my mom and Linda (Dan’s mom) both can be here at a moment’s notice (well, 90 minutes if you get technical).

    How amazing is God that this letter would show up right before they present our petition to the CCCWA?  The person who is going to present the petition was on vacation until the 15th, which means she wouldn’t be back to work until the 18th.  I remember last week when they called to tell us this and all I could think was “Really?  She’s going to be on vacation for a week?  It will delay us for another week.”  BUT if she hadn’t been on vacation, we wouldn’t have had this very important piece of information.  Another reminder that God knows and I just have to have faith.  I’m feeling very blessed right now and  I’m feeling at peace!  God’s will will be done and I will trust in the outcome. God’s plan and His timing are perfect.  For this to work out, God’s hand must be in every part of the situation.  As Linda said this morning, “I have been praying that God’s glory will shine through this situation with Eli!”  Amen to that!  Hoping to hear soon.

    P.S.  I know Eli is my son. I have no doubts about that.  All we are figuring out is whether we get him this trip or on an expedited trip back to China in a few months.

    Thought I’d share the new pics of Min, Lainey, and Evie that we got this week too.

  • Celebrating Gotcha Day

    Date: 2013.03.12 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey

    It doesn’t seem possible that it has been a year since we waited anxiously in the Registration Office for them to show up with our son and daughter.  We had traveled with 12 other families and most of us were in one large room waiting for our little ones to arrive.  Would I recognize Ben and Maisey when they walked in the door?  I had looked at their pictures over and over for a year, but would I know them once they came through that door?  One by one, children were brought in by the directors of the orphanage or the nanny who cared for them.  Most parents cried.  Some children cried, but most of the children were unusually quiet.  It was such a moving experience.  To this day, watching a video of anyone’s gotcha day brings me to tears.  It is such an unbelievable moment.

    Suddenly Maisey was there.  She was bundled in 3 snowsuits and looked so quiet and sad.  The director was gruff.  Hardly said a word to us, threw her in our arms, and was gone.  They didn’t return any of the things we had sent to her.  They didn’t take the pictures with the disposable camera that we had sent.  There was a photo album from the time she had spent in New Hope and we were thankful for her time there, but it was obvious she was not loved while she was in the orphanage at least not by the people who came to drop her off.

    We waited and waited for Ben.  His orphanage was 90 minutes away and it seemed like everyone else already had their child.  Dan impatiently paced back and forth searching every car that pulled up for his little boy.  All of a sudden Ben was there.  Dan stood there, looked back at me with tears in his eyes and went to get his boy.  What a moment.  I still get teary eyed thinking about how sad Ben looked and how in love my husband looked.  Not a whimper from Ben.  No words.  No fear.  He just grabbed on to Dan and would not let go.  Dan had been praying all year that God would allow them to dream about us and let them know that we were coming.  It seemed as if Dan got his wish.  Neither of the children were afraid. They wouldn’t get down and play.  They just held on to us for dear life.

    We took them back to the hotel and let them eat what they wanted.  It took some time for them to stop eating.  They were amazed at our drawer full of food.  They ate for a couple hours straight. I was afraid they would get ill from eating so much. I have no clue where they were putting all of it.  Ben held on to food and wanted to sleep with his bowl, spoon, and whatever he had been eating.  If you moved his food, he would have such a panic attack.  Yet, he showed signs of that sweet little soul by sharing his food with Maisey (who he’d never met until that day in the Registration Office).

    I remember undressing them for the first time.  The last pictures we had of Maisey had her looking like any other chubby baby.  We were unaware at the time, but it is customary for children to go back to the orphanage while they are waiting for their family to come.  Our last report said she weighed 23 pounds while at New Hope, we took off those three snow suits to find a 16 pound two year old.  Ben was even worse, at 3 1/2 he weighed in at 23 pounds.  Dan and I both cried tears, heartbreaking tears.  It’s hard to look at your children knowing just how much they were doing without – both food and love.  It’s hard to not be angry knowing that it was the endless paperwork that kept them from you for so long.  We later learned Maisey weighed 6 pounds at 6 months.  How could your heart not ache for all that they had been through?

    As time went on, Ben’s attachment for Dan grew and grew.  They were inseparable.  We still hadn’t heard Ben speak Chinese or even utter a sound.  The end of day 2 had him telling Dan that he loved him and speaking English words like crazy.  It wasn’t what we expected.  The child we were told was deaf, babbled like crazy from the very beginning and the 3 1/2 year old wouldn’t say a word for the better part of the first 2 days.  But soon he was laughing and coming out of his shell – as long as we were in the room.  As soon as we left the room to get on the bus or take a taxi, Ben’s fretful little face would come back.  I wished I had the words to comfort him and say he was ours forever.  To let him know that he was truly our son and just what that meant, but how do you explain family to a child who was abandoned at 9 months and spent almost 3 years in an orphanage?

    There were adjustments while we were in China.  You travel and you are 12 hours behind and naturally tired.  Your children come to you with whatever issues they bring with them from the orphanage as Maisey showed from her bald spot on the back of her head.  No matter how well they are cared for, it is still an institution, and institutions are dehumanizing.  One of the saddest moments in China was Maisey waking up on the bed, and sitting up with her back to Dan.  She sat there and just cried silent, shoulder shaking, tears.  Dan still can’t talk about this without getting upset.  What he saw was an orphan looking utterly and totally alone, crying out to God.  As soon as she saw Dan, she laid her head on him and snuggled.  He held her close and rubbed her back and kissed her little head.  It was the moment I think she understood she wouldn’t be alone, that Daddy would be there to comfort and protect her.  Every little girl needs a daddy and she finally had hers.  She never cried those dejected, heart wrenching tears again.

    This past year has had many doctor’s appointments.  We’ve had wonderful news in the fact that Maisey is not completely deaf.  Her speech and her signing has taken off.  She is full of information that she loves to share.  She even said the prayer last night.  I only caught “Dear Heavenly Father….more words, more words, more words….in Jesus name Amen!”  But she understood.  She counts to 6.  She tries to read everything.  She is blossoming in so many ways.  Her life has been forever changed.

    Benjamin’s diagnosis was more complicated than we thought.  We are still hoping to do surgery to improve his quality of life.  His heart is not fixable at this point but we are hoping to bring his oxygen saturations up.  We found out that Ben has ITP and have been watching his platelets for a year.  His platelets run anywhere from 18,000 to 40,000.  He bruises at the drop of a hat and ends up with marks for something as simple as scratching himself.  It has made things more complicated with surgery and it means we have to watch him extra close, but he is doing well.  He spells his name.  He counts to 11.  He loves Mickey, Spiderman, Jake the pirate, and Thomas the Train.  We have had the privilege of loving this little boy for a year now.  I remember being afraid that he wouldn’t life long enough for me to get to hold him at all and I’ve had 365 wonderful, blessed days.

    I’ve spent today, with tears in my eyes, remembering where we were on day one and just how far we’ve come.  As Dan said the other day, listening to those two just enjoy every moment of their lives has been so worth it.  There have been tears and frustrations, but 80% of the time is filled with joy.  People ask why we are adopting again.  It’s so hard to explain, it is different than it was with our biological kids. When you take a child out of an orphanage, you understand that it isn’t about being able to do everything.  It isn’t about being able to give them everything.  It’s about taking a life and showing them what the love of family means.  It is about showing them about God and His love for them.  It’s about taking a life that had an uncertain, frightening future and giving them hope.  It’s knowing you can do more and love more than you even believed possible.  It’s been an utterly unbelievable year and I feel blessed to be able to set off on that journey again in another month.  I have been blessed in ways I can’t even explain.  I wish I could give you a picture of what it means to rescue a child.  To really give you a picture of what that joy means.  To take a life with very little if any education, no God, no future, no hope, and instead guaranteeing them a life of love from a family that adores them and presenting them with glimpse of an eternity of love with God.  Gifts that have no measure, truly priceless, and I got to be a part of it.  I am one seriously blessed mama.

  • Open Your Eyes

    Date: 2013.03.09 | Category: Adoption

    “While not everyone is called to adopt, everyone can get involved through volunteering and sponsoring.”  Amy Eldridge, Love Without Boundaries.  10 years ago Amy wanted to help a little boy, with a heart defect that she saw while visiting her daughter’s orphanage, get his much needed surgery. Today LWB helps children in 21 provinces in China with surgery, foster care, education, and nutrition.    Love Without Boundaries

    “Not all of us are called to the same ministry, but all of us must do something.”  Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie.   At the age of 24, Katie is the mother of 14, lives in Uganda and has a program that sponsors 600 children with education and nutrition.   Amazima

    “I just kept thinking, ‘if I don’t do something, who will?'” Andrea Pauline, executive director, Musana Community Development Organization.  As a college student, Andrea saw the living conditions of the orphans and couldn’t just walk away.  She talked the Ugandan government into closing the orphanage down and she took responsibility for those 40 orphans.  Today she runs the home for 80 children.  Musana Community Development Organization

    “It was like God was sitting there saying, ‘There, that’s what I’m asking you. Do you want to do it?”  Rob Hill    In 2000, the Hills decided to give up everything and stay in China to care for the very least of these.  Their mission statement is “To comfort always, to relieve often, and to save sometimes.”   New Hope Foundation China

    Do these people have some special knowledge that we don’t know?  Do they have special gifts and insight that the rest of us just don’t have?  Have they been called in ways that we can’t even imagine?  Maybe.  Or is the bigger truth that they saw a need and decided to fill it.  Did they decide to not only listen to God but to follow His lead?   The Bible contains over 300 verses about the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc.  Do you believe the Bible contains commands or merely suggests?  These verses are commanding us to take care of the weak, the fatherless, the widow, the poor, the needy.  The Bible states these commands over and over again.  What does it mean to “pick up your cross and follow Christ”?  Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

    Are you paying attention or do you show up on Sunday and maybe even Wednesday night and say hello to God only to forget what He is asking of you throughout the rest of the week?  Do you believe that you give your 10% and the rest is taken care of?  Do you think that maybe someday you will do something when everything is paid off or you retire or the kids leave home or when life isn’t so hectic?  Do you believe by just being a good person that you are doing enough?  Well, what is good enough?  What is doing enough?  What does God expect of you?  Believe me when we started to adopt I wasn’t thinking about following God’s mandates in the Bible.  I was just following His lead.  He said, “Here’s your daughter and son.  Go get them.”  So I went.

    I now feel the need to continue to talk about adoption because my heart was moved.  I realized that I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the world around me which means others might not know too.  I’m telling you that you would be doing something too if you had seen what I’ve seen.  If you traveled half-way around the world to get your child, only to undress them and sob uncontrollably.   Crying tears over the fact that he is just so skinny (21 pounds at 3 1/2).  Crying tears over the way he won’t talk and is so afraid, but even then he holds your hand and cringes every time you leave the hotel room for fear you are taking him back.  Crying tears over the way he ate for hours straight.  Tears because his teeth are rotting.  Tears because had you not stepped in he would have died alone, in a cold orphanage, with no one to comfort him or care.  Tears because when he falls asleep he holds tight to his spoon and a bowl and his food.  Tears because he cries if you move his food out of sight.  Tears because he climbs in your arms and doesn’t want to be put down because he just wants to be loved.  An orphanage is not a home….it’s an institution.  There are no loving caregivers tucking him in at night.  There are no kisses on the cheek and blankets being pulled up.  It is NOT a home!  Don’t kid yourself.  There are too many children sleeping a couple kids to a bed.  There is NOT enough food. There are too many kids that are constantly hungry.  There is not enough help to give extra attention.  This is our problem.   Why? Because God says to care for the fatherless.  (If you’d like to know more, grab the book Orphan Justice.)

    I have heard……It’s better to be left in an orphanage, in their own country, then to be adopted and taken away to live in a strange place, especially if the child is older.   Fact: “out of the 167 million orphans, 120 million will never receive any education whatsoever. About 60% of these orphaned girls will become prostitutes, and 70% of these boys will become criminals by the age of 18. 10-15% of these children will commit suicide before the age of eighteen. Every year, 1.8 million are forced into human trafficking, prostitution, or the pornography industry, and 11 million will die of a preventable or treatable disease. These children have no chance at improvement. While orphans here are struggling, orphans oversees are dying.”

    I’ve heard…..Others are stepping up to take care of this problem. Isn’t the church doing something about the orphan problem as is commanded in 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.     Fact:  Most churches may talk about the “orphan” on Orphan Sunday but many do not openly encourage adoption or fostering.  Most do not have programs set up to help families adopt and to encourage and support families.  Most just give it lip service once a year.  My proof?  There are  around 125,000 kids waiting to be adopted in the United States and according to The Washington Post, there were over 600,000 women in America waiting to adopt in August 2008.   In 2007, there were estimated to be 236 million Christians in the U.S. and still we have an orphan problem.  That tells me that, we as Christians, aren’t doing enough.   That tells me we aren’t wanting to do the “hard” .  We want the perfect little baby.  That’s not an orphan problem.  That is a fertility problem.  We need to care for the orphan.  Those hurting and left alone.  Those that require a little more attention and a lot more patience.  We need to be the hands of Christ.

    I have heard…..There is nothing that I can do.  I don’t have the money.  I don’t have the time.  I don’t want to disrupt my perfect life.   If only I was older.  If only I was younger. Someone else will do something.   Fact:    There are some that are doing something, but adoptions dropped to the lowest point in 20 years this year.   Not enough “someone” else’s are doing something.  You don’t have to adopt.  I know not everyone is called to adopt, but there are thousands of ways to help.  You can sponsor children.  You can sponsor surgeries, education, nutrition.  I’m telling you that you need to do something and you don’t have to go overseas to help.  There is poverty right here in our own country.  There are children who go to bed hungry.  There are children living on the street.  Don’t turn your back.  Open your eyes and do something!  Pray that God would open your eyes and then pay attention.

    Take a moment and really ask yourself the question, “Am I doing something?”   I know for years I believed there was nothing I could do, but I am showing you the options.  You can do something.  Volunteer at a food bank, homeless shelter, mow your widowed neighbors lawn, sponsor a child.  I have read stories of people doing great big things and I have been moved, but at the same time I think “I haven’t been called to move to China or Uganda or sell everything and be a missionary.”  What can I do sitting in my own home?  What could I possibly do that would make a difference?  Well, I recently watched a bunch of people come forward for a little boy who needed surgery.  Over $100,000 was raised in just a week.  Lots of little somethings adding up to one really big something.  So I’m telling you, “Do something!”    Don’t let another week go by.  Don’t say I will do it when….   Do it now.  God is commanding you.  I am nudging you.  You can make a difference.  Proverbs 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

  • Gracie and Eli update

    Date: 2013.03.07 | Category: Elijah, Grace

    As of yesterday, Gracie was officially in R.E.M.I.S.S.I.O.N!!!!!     A beautiful day to be celebrated for sure. We are praising the Lord that she was born in this day and age where there is a treatment.  Gracie asked if I would make her a countdown chain for the 5 years she will have to be on oral chemo drugs.  I laughed.  Could you imagine that link?  1,825 links might take me a while to make.   The truth is no one has a magic date that she will be done.  We have to play it by ear.  The doctors said five years at the beginning.  Now they say at least 3 but probably more.  No one knows for sure what to do to ensure that she won’t have another relapse.  We will do all that we can to keep her as healthy as we can.

    Gracie has reached $1,144 with her Lenten campaign for Love Without Boundaries.  I think she might actually hit her goal.  I know there are many people holding onto their change until the end of the month.  It will be fun to see the final total.  Gracie talked at our church this past Sunday and she did wonderfully.  It amazes me that she was brave enough to get up there with a microphone and her slideshow and talk about orphans and Love Without Boundaries.  She did pretty good for the first time.  She has asked to speak at other churches but so far all their answers have been no.  That has been pretty discouraging for her.  We thought since we knew people at these churches we might have a chance to spread the word about other ways to help orphans and how Love Without Boundaries works.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  We explained that we didn’t want the church to sponsor her and that we just wanted people to donate change if they felt led to do so.  Unfortunately, we got letters back talking about how they have missionaries and they couldn’t help her.  These letters stated that as a church, they choose to do a couple big things really well and not do little things.  It makes me wonder if tons of people are asking the church for money or if they don’t want to set a precedent that you can.  Who knows?

    We are all excited that Eli’s paperwork can finally be brought to China’s attention for review sometime after the 15th of March.   It will take a miracle to have them let us adopt four at once.  It has never been done, but we are all for precedents being set and miracles happening which show the glory of the Lord.  Last night as I was going to sleep I heard Ben saying, “I am going to be Jake (the pirate) and Eli will be Cubby.  We are gonna have fun.  We play and play.”   For those of you who don’t have little ones, there is a new show called Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  It is Ben’s favorite.  Ben says he is absolutely positively sure that Eli will be coming home with us this time.  I just hold my breath.  I understand that miracles can happen and God will deserve all the credit for this one, but I also understand not everything works out the way we think it will or hope it will.  I just don’t want my little boy’s heart to be broken.  We have purposely tried not to speak about Eli very often so as to not get Ben’s hopes up, but Ben will not let us forget.  He prays for his didi and he dreams about his didi.  He is certain Eli is his didi.

    I love how things have lined up for Eli.  It has been an amazing journey from the very first time I saw his sweet face.  From the very first moment I saw him, I have thought I was his mama.   It is so hard to explain that to people.  How can you put into words the fact that a mere picture can take your breathe away?  That from just seeing that picture you would go to the ends of the earth to protect him and bring him home.  That you cry at night because you know he is still in an orphanage, with a heart defect, and you can’t even hold him and make him feel safe?  How do you explain that you know, just as surely as if he had grown in your womb, that this child is yours?  I hold on to the fact that my heart has been taken over by the sweetest little boy, who I long to hold, and I trust that God has led us to him.  Someday soon I hope to be able to share his picture with all of you.

    As always, thank you for keeping our children in your prayers.  I know that every prayer reaches God’s ear and every prayer helps.  We are humbled that you would consider keeping us in your prayers.

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