Archive for April, 2013
My life was forever changed the day Codey and Kyle were born. You can’t go back to who you were after something like that happens. Trivial things were soon forgotten. Material things were soon forgotten. When you have to bury a son and your son who lives is forever changed, you don’t have a choice but to grow up.
I don’t have a perfect life. Truth be told, to most my life would seem extremely boring. I wake up every day and go to Farrell’s (for my “me” time) but before that I change my son and I give him a g-tube feeding. Codey is unable to do most things for himself. I feed him by g-tube six times a day. I feed him by mouth three times a day. I change him. I bathe him. I brush his teeth. Add to that trying to do laundry, dishes, cook all the meals, run everyone everywhere, homeschool my other kids and just be their mom and well, that seems like a pretty boring life.
I have always wondered if there was something really wrong with me? I’ve heard others describe me as a PollyAnna or they tell me that I see things through rose colored glasses. But I’m just as confused when I hear others talk about their lives and they seem disappointed. They talk about their lives like they were supposed to have some great adventure and they are upset it never happened. I hear mothers say that they go to work to get away from their children. I hear people talk about not being able to wait for summer vacation to be over so the kids go back to school. I realize lots of times people don’t have a choice or they are just trying to be funny, but it makes me wonder just the same. I love my life. I love being a mother. I love being married to my best friend. That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with six loads of laundry a day. It doesn’t mean that I’m thrilled at having to pick toys up off the floor for the upteenth time. But it does mean I make a conscious choice to be happy about it. I can make it fun or a I can make it a chore. I have chosen to look at my life with a different perspective because of all the things that have happened to me because of Codey and Kyle. I know how quickly your life can change. I know how much I would have given to spend more time with Kyle. I am happy being at home because I know how blessed I am every day to get to love my children for one more day. I have many, very sick children and that privilege won’t always be there. I don’t take a moment that I get to spend with them for granted.
It’s been 26 years since my dreams of two blonde-haired, sweet little boys ceased to be. I thought my life was over. I thought I’d never be happy again. I questioned why it had to happen to me. I questioned why God would allow something so devastating to happen to two parents who wanted nothing more than to love their children. I had no clue what Kyle’s death and Codey’s life would change when we started out.
But 26 years later, I have a small glimpse of the threads that will one day be the tapestry of Kyle and Codey’s life….
Dan became a doctor with the promise to make life better for other children.
Dan understands what it means to be the parent of a very, very sick child. He knows how to talk to parents. He knows how important it is to tell the truth in the nicest way possible. He understands that sometimes no matter how hard you try a child will die. He understands who his gifts come from and who is truly in control. He learned that the things a parents need the most is to be heard, to know their child has worth, and to believe that their doctor has their child’s best interest at heart.
I learned to not live my life in fear because you never know what the next day will bring. You can worry about surgeries and when your child is going to die, but the reality is only God knows the number of anyone’s days. So you might as well go on with your life and make the best of it, enjoying every wonderful moment you are allowed to have.
I learned that sometimes doctors make mistakes and the consequences are devastating but blaming them and being bitter won’t change anything.
I learned that not everyone will appreciate how hard you fought for your child to live.
I have learned that most people will never understand the worth of a child who isn’t what the world considers “normal”.
I have learned that you can do more and handle more than you ever thought possible, as long as you keep your eyes on the Lord.
I have learned that by opening your heart to love, even with the possibility of loss, you gain beautiful blessings that are beyond measure.
I have learned that the only thing you can take to heaven with you are your children.
I have learned that sometimes people fulfill God’s plan and never measure up to man’s ideal.
I have learned that sometimes scary things lead to wonderful things – Kyle lead to Hope which lead to Ben which lead to Evie which lead to Eli.
I have learned that the death of a child really isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you – especially when you have the promise of forever.
I have learned that doctor’s don’t always know what they are talking about. We called our family down numerous times that first year because Codey wasn’t going to make it through the night. We were also told he wouldn’t live past a year. Sometimes, you just need to take it a day at a time.
I have learned that the unconditional love of child truly is an amazing thing.
I have learned that you should always forgive because you never know when your last day will be.
I have learned that every day you have the choice to be happy or not.
I have seen first hand the unshakeable spirit of a child who has been through more than any person should have to go through (close to 100 surgeries and 5 years in the hospital) and yet enjoys each and every day.
I am blessed to be Codey’s mother. It’s not remarkable by most people’s standards, but it has been miraculous. I have had a ring-side seat to some of the most amazing things. You may look at Codey and see all that he isn’t able to do, but I look at Codey and see all that he can do. He has done remarkable for a child that we were told, if he lived he would spend his life in a vegetative state, blind and deaf. He gets around the house. He loves Football, Wheel of Fortune, and the Price is Right. He is truly a happy boy. Someday he will walk, someday he will talk, someday he will do all the things I dreamed he’d do. Codey and Kyle have taught me more in my life than any other person. My life has been harder with all we’ve gone through but I am a much better person for having them in my life. It’s hard to not feel blessed by that.
Happy birthday Codey & Kyle! Mama loves you!
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
My Facebook post from today:
We went ahead and planned our consulate visit for the girls and set our travel based on their schedule. We didn’t want Min to have to wait any longer than necessary since she is so close to aging out of the system. (In China once you hit 14, you are no longer available for adoption.) She will turn 14 on June 1st. We took a chance that they might not be able to get Eli’s Article 5 and travel approval (T.A.) granted in time to have the same consulate appointment as the girls, which would mean extra days in China waiting for his consulate appointment. When we asked the Consulate if they could hold an appointment for him, they told us not without a T.A. So we decided to proceed and left the details up to God. He’s done a pretty good job so far this year. Today we heard that T.A. has been issued and the consulate appointment is the same day as the girls. This has been a year of miraculous happenings all around. Feeling very blessed today. We get to travel and get them all at the same time without delays! If you’ve never adopted you may not understand just how miraculous this is but I can assure you the delays in paperwork are mind boggling sometimes. Believe me this is huge!
I just thought I’d share an interesting tidbit of our adoption journey.
Here is an excerpt from the June 2012 newsletter that we read with Eli’s (Warren’s) information. This is the picture that I fell in love with.
“This week we ask for prayer for a family for Warren who has a complex heart condition that the surgeons say he may have a chance of some surgeries if he is adopted to the US. Please pray that a family would be willing to adopt sweet Warren to give him the best that life can offer despite his condition.”
And the very next month here is what the newsletter said:
“Prayer Request for the month: Last month we asked for prayers for a family for Warren and we rejoice greatly for answered prayers. We hear that a family in the US is very interested in adopting him and we hope that everything will go smoothly and quickly for him.”
Why did this news change? Well, because we asked about this sweet, little guy. I mean seriously….just look at that face. Would you not fall in love too? I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. When we got the papers from his orphanage, they described him over and over again as handsome and charming.
And later we read this amazing news in Show Hope’s July newsletter and all the while I was reading it I was thinking “No, you can’t advocate in this newsletter for a family for Warren because his mommy and daddy have been found.” And then I prayed….a lot! Hoping that we would be the family that would be allowed to adopt him. All the while Ben was calling this little boy his didi (little brother), which made absolutely no sense.
“We ask for prayer that a family will be able to adopt sweet Warren so that he might be able to have the chance of surgery and the best that life can offer him,” shares Dr. Joyce Hill, who oversees the Show Hope Special Care Centers.
Maria’s Big House of Hope, located in the Henan province, has provided care, love, and medical attention for 500 children with special needs. Within all three Special Care Centers located throughout the province, Show Hope has provided life-giving care for more than 800 children.
“Warren, as the 500th child to come into care at Maria’s Big House of Hope, signifies the hundreds and thousands of children we hope to care for in the coming years, thanks to the generous support of so many amazing donors and supporters,” shares Scott Hasenbalg, Show Hope’s Executive Director. “We have the amazing opportunity to watch miracles happen as children who had no hope become stronger, healthier and happier children. As more donors join this work, we hope to open even more Special Care Centers as soon as we are able.” (Show Hope)
Eli was our own little celebrity. I find this whole thing ironic. The reason that I chose to adopt in the first place was that Mary Beth Chapman just happened to write a book. Choosing to See I had been wrestling for quite a while with the fact that Dan wanted to adopt again, but I felt like I was too old. In the book, Mary Beth’s daughter asks her if it is better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all. I read those words, cried, changed my opinion and we proceeded with our adoption. This little boy that I fell in love, (Warren/Eli) had been cared for in Maria’s Big House of Hope, which is named after the Chapman’s daughter Maria who had been killed in a tragic accident. And then another amazing thing happened (another sign of God’s humor and His work in all of this). After we had been home with Maisey for a few months, we learned some information about her. She was a little celebrity in her own right. She had been written about in a book. The House of Hope Our little Maisey (Chaya) was New Hope Foundation’s (Hope Foster Home ) 1,000th admission. If you sponsor a child in this home, it goes through Show Hope too. Coincidence? A twist of fate? I choose to believe otherwise. I know whose hand has been all over our adoptions. What are the odds that we would be blessed with being parents to both of these “milestone” children who had been cared for by Show Hope which is helped by the very people (The Chapmans) who sent us on our adoption journey to start with?
In life, if you take the time to look, you will see God’s hand in the smallest of details. Things that we think are unimportant or don’t matter, add up to bigger things down the road. A book read, a detour in the road, your pain, a delay, they all can be part of a bigger plan, a bigger purpose. “It’s incredible to realize that what we do each day has meaning in the big picture of God’s plan” ( Bill Hybels ) Do everything as unto the Lord because you never know which part of your seemingly ordinary day is just waiting for God to make it extraordinary.
I should have waited for my “Wow….Just Wow” title or maybe I just need to brush up on my vocabulary skills….
I went to the STUCK documentary tonight. Before I start I want to get the most important part of this blog out there. If you feel like you want to do something to help the orphan and you feel helpless to do anything, take a moment and go to Petition for Change or text 67463 and sign the petition that they will be presenting to Washington on May 17th. Be part of the squeaky wheel and let’s get something done!
I knew it was going to be heartbreaking. Talking about orphans and seeing their plight always hurts. I wondered if others were having the same reaction I was. I mean there were so many parts in the movie that hit home for me, a child that would age out at 14 and what that really means, a daughter who weighed 6 pounds at 6 months, failure to thrive, rotted teeth, shaved heads, sleeping on boards, crowded rooms, and all those faces you leave behind, just to name a few. Add to that the fact that a couple of my children would have died in those facilities, well, it was more than I could take.
As I looked around the room, I saw many, many tears being shed. Obviously others were touched too. I couldn’t tell whether it was the movie or because many in the room had already adopted and the memories were just too much. Many were there, just like us, wanting to see what they could do to raise awareness for the orphan. I wondered about the others who were there that have been contemplating adoption, would this movie make them think twice? Would they be fearful that they too would get stuck? Would it change their mind for the worse or the better?
I know that these movies and articles like the one from Mother Jones have a place. The sad reality is that there are people that don’t do it for the right reason. I had a person comment on my last post and it really opened my eyes to what is happening in some places. The other really horrible reality is sometimes people get “stuck” like in the movie. These stories need to be told so reform can be made. I get that, but at the same time in a country where the rate of adoption has plummeted in the past few years, it makes me wonder how much worse it is going to get before it gets better. That is why I mentioned the petition, we need to start somewhere with reform. We need to make a difference for these children. We need to make people understand. Those of us who have been there know. We are their only hope and their hope is fading.
Tonight I was disappointed in the town of Des Moines. In a state of 3 million people and a town of over 200,000 people we weren’t able to sell out a 342 person theater. There were two churches sponsoring it, so it makes you wonder why wasn’t it full of people. Or the fact that many who were there have already adopted, well that lead me to what I often say…..people don’t want to know because if they know the truth, they have to do something about it. You can’t watch this documentary and not have your heart touched. Or maybe you can. I don’t know. Why don’t you give it a try and let me know. It is $12.99, not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Plus, your money goes to a good cause. So what do you say? Get a few people together, have a showing, and educate yourself on what it really means to be an orphan. I’m attaching their website here. Let me know what you think. STUCK
I stayed after to ask Mr. Juntunen a question. What was that thought provoking question you had, Lisa? You were wondering right? No, well, humor me. Please. It’s late and I just cried a lot and I want to go get my children and it’s been a long day. At the end of the show he said I bet you are wondering what you can do. People shook their heads yes and he responded with spread the word. Get on Facebook and let others know. If your friends share and their friends share, the squeaky wheel will get heard. I understand that, but I have been doing that. I’m trying to spread the word through my blog. I’m trying to share with my Facebook friends, but often I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. I know you guys care. Really I do, but then I started thinking about who really reads my blog? Do people really take it to heart? I’m not the most eloquent speaker. I wish I had the ability to really tell a story in a beautiful way, but mostly I just write like I was talking to you in person. So my question was….”What can I do now? I’m already spreading the word. I’m already talking about it. I want to be able to do something. Please tell me what more I can do.”
I want to fix it. But the truth is there’s nothing we can do unless some government official, in some foreign land, that values the life of an orphan very little, suddenly thinks that an orphan deserves to be heard. An orphan adds no money to the economy. An orphan has no family name. An orphan can barely get fed or get an education. How in the world are we going to make a high up official give a lick about a nameless orphan? If a file sits on a desk for months, they don’t care because they don’t see the dejected faces. They don’t see the parents pain. They don’t see the child slowly start to fade away. They really don’t care.
And then I started to think about tonight. In a town with 215 churches (counted from the yellow pages), we couldn’t get one family from each church there to fill the theater. If you go to STUCK’s site and look at the petition, you will see they still need 988,000 signatures. Read the petition. It isn’t asking for a lot. It is asking for people to pay attention to the plight of the orphan. It says that every child deserves the love of a family. Seems pretty reasonable. How can that petition not get enough signatures? Who could be against that? Are we all so complacent and uncaring that we can’t be bothered or is it just that we don’t know about it? The sad, sad reality is that we live in a very prosperous country with millions of Christians. If we can’t get Christians who are COMMANDED to take care of the orphan, to care, how can we possible expect a bureaucrat to? Think about that for a while. It starts with us. We can’t fix others until we fix ourselves.
One of the things that has been most interesting to me on our journey is how many people guess we are people of faith because of what we are doing. People in China know we are Christians because we have chosen to adopt the least of these. Many people have asked us that question. They get it. People here in the states do the same thing. When you talk about taking in children that are vulnerable, that have limited life spans, that aren’t the typical cute, cuddly baby, people notice. I didn’t set out to make a point with our adopting. I set out to adopt the children God lead us to. But the truth is you can talk the talk, but your actions speak louder than anything else in your life. What are your actions saying? What is your life saying is most valuable to you? What are you showing others? Take a moment and educate yourself about what it is truly like for an orphan. Take a moment and ask what you are giving your time, your money, your passions to. Then please take a moment and sign this petition. Make a difference. I truly don’t know what if anything it will end up accomplishing, but what a beautiful thing to be able to see in black and white. A million names standing up for the orphan. A million people in America could really, really make a difference for the fatherless. This is true religion. Not hypocritical, not judgmental, not name calling, not angry, not excluding, but TRUE religion. We have all been adopted into God’s family. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Let’s show the world what Christians can do for the least of these.
After talking with a friend, I felt I needed to clarify what I wrote a little bit. I am not talking about the adoption agencies, I don’t know these specific families, I know nothing about adoptions in Liberia, or the Magazine Above Rubies, but what I am talking about is how the church was portrayed. The title says it all “Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement’s Adoption Obsession”. The number of adoptions have fallen drastically in the past few years. The last thing that needs to happen is for people to be turned off even more to adoption. The truth needs to be told. There needs to be lots of information on all sides. There needs to be safe guards in place to protect all who are involved. There needs to be lots of support for the child and the family. But really….how can anyone say that the church is wrong for promoting adoption of the orphan?
I recently read an article by Mother Jones, that many are talking about, called “Orphan Fever”. I read this article and was livid. It makes me angry that people would take something that is good and pick the worst possible scenarios and act as if that is the way everyone who is a Christian feels about adoption.
I have always taught my children that when they become instantly defensive or angry about something they need to look closely at why they became so angry. Is it because there is a grain of truth to it and you need to change something about yourself or is it because something truly needs to be defended? I was obviously upset about this article so I started to look at the reason why I was angry.
One of the reason I became so angry about the stories in that article is because there are supposed to be safe guards in place to protect against this kind of thing. No child should end up in a worse situation after being adopted. The article makes it sound that way for the first family. My children will be loved and we have more than enough love, resources, people, and abilities to care for them so I know that wasn’t it.
Another reason is because the article makes it sound like Christians aren’t adopting because they love the child but because they are trying to evangelize them. I know that doesn’t apply to me. It’s not that I don’t hope that my children will be saved, in all honesty I do, but that isn’t the main reason we are adopting. We set out to adopt our children after having a true sign. We knew these were our children. Each time it was a little different but it was a sure sign. We loved these children.
There were many other points in that article that had no bearing on why we were adopting. So one by one I ruled out the reasons why I would take it personally.
Which lead me to the real reason it made me so angry. It made me angry because it shines such a poor light on why the church is promoting adoption. One of the things I want to do most in the coming years is show the church why it is so important to promote and support adoption. Many people feel unable to adopt because of lack of support or lack of money or lack of guidance and just plain fear. God says 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. The church should be helping people see the need and God’s calling for adoption, but Satan is a crafty little fellow. He decides “Let’s make adoption and Christians look bad. Let’s really scare people away.” It’s hard to believe that this could be done yet this article does it. That is why I was so angry. It takes away from what the church is and should be doing. How can trying to help orphans find a family be a bad thing?
Satan loves to use things like this to make us fearful. Fearful of what others might say. Fearful of what others will think. Believe me I know. I’ve talked about it a lot lately. In my post about keeping my eyes on the Lord. (Blog Post) And I recently posted about people questioning my daughter about our adoptions. (Blog Post)
I am beyond thrilled that God has led us to these children. I realize that our family is unique. I realize that this is out of the norm. It just breaks my heart to hear others question it. Let me rephrase that, I understand if someone is truly asking questions because they want to know. I’d love to give you statistics. I’d love to give you a glimpse of just how bad institutional care is for a child. I’d love to share with you what I’ve seen and how my heart has been forever changed. I’d love to tell you about how God has led us to these children. I’d love to share with you just how blessed our whole family feels. But I know that many of these questions aren’t asked because the person is feeling inquisitive or truly wondering about adoption for themselves. These questions are asked with disdain and dismay and sometimes outright disgust. The sad part is I know I’m not alone in being asked these questions, I’ve read many blogs lately where moms have complained about the questions that they are being asked. There is actually a whole series of videos on you-tube showing the questions people get asked about adoption. (Video) What kind of questions you might ask?
Here’s a list of some of the one’s I’ve been asked recently and yes, I’ve even blogged about that before. (Blog Post)
Aren’t you done yet?
Don’t you think you have enough already?
Don’t you realize what adopting children with special needs will do to our taxes?
Don’t you realize what adding these children on to your insurance will do to our insurance premiums?
Don’t you feel bad about not having enough time to spend with each child?
Aren’t you worried about quality time?
Aren’t you worried about one on one time?
What about dance and soccer and all the other fun things they won’t be able to do?
Aren’t you worried about what this will do to your other kids?
Why in the world would you get four at once?
How did you afford them?
Why didn’t you just adopt from this country?
And my all time favorite….
Have you lost your mind?
Wow! Really? How about it I ask you some really personal questions just for the fun of it. I’ll ask a disparaging question, not because I really want to know the truth but because I feel the need to feel superior to you in some way. It feels like I’m being attacked for wanting to go to China and get MY children. Which too me is like someone questioning why I am choosing to carry this baby to term. I’m not doing this because I’m “addicted” to adoption. I’m not doing this to feel better about myself. I’m not doing this to save another soul, though I do pray that is the outcome. I’m not doing this so I look good in my church. I’m not doing this so someone will write an article about me. I’m not doing this for any other reason than these are my children and I would move heaven and heart to get them. All I want to do is love them. I want what is best for them and if you think what is best for them is staying in their home country and living in an orphanage, then I’d have to use the same response that Dan gave our daughter, Cassie, to use, “What the heck is wrong with you?”
Do you want to know the truth? The truth is that the life of an orphan sucks! It’s not all warm and fuzzy. Here’s the truth for our Min. She will be on the street, in a very poor part of the country, without her wheelchair, with no education, no ADA, no disability payments, and NO WHERE to go. So will she be worried about one on one time or no dance or all the other fun things she might miss out on? Nope! I’m pretty sure I can guarantee you that she won’t be. I don’t gamble but I’d bet money on that one. She IS my child. I’m not going to apologize for loving her and caring about her. Or Let’s talk about my Ben, Eli or Evie? You think it would be better for them to die alone in an orphanage? Do you think they really care about soccer or how much one on one time they will get? They will die ALONE in an orphanage. It’s not a maybe, it’s a for sure. They have non-fixable heart defects. No one will be holding their hand. No one will comfort them. No one will be crying any tears. No one! How could that, in any way, sound better than having the love of a family?
Does it suck that many in China aren’t able to care for their children. You’re darn right it does. Does it suck that families feel they have no other choice but to abandon their child in hopes that they get care? YES! I hate it. I wish I could fix it, but I can’t. We are talking about 100’s of years of superstitions. They believe a child who has a birth defect is a curse to the family. There are many, many things in their culture that make caring for a child who is ill an issue – money, family beliefs, one child policy, needing a male in the family, etc. I can’t change China’s policies, but I can help Min. Maybe someday I will be able to let her family know that she has been taken care of and is loved beyond measure. I mean they cared for her for almost eight years. I believe that they loved her and did what they thought was best. And for that reason, I pray every day for peace for my children’s birth mothers. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. I can’t imagine the pain they must be feeling.
In the meantime, I know that there are many who will disagree with what we are doing. That is a hard thing to take. Because how can loving a child be viewed as wrong? How can trying to make a child’s life better be viewed as wrong? That is the hard part about being a Christian and living in this world. You follow God’s lead and do what you believe is the right thing to do and people will still criticize you. Which is why you always need to keep your eyes on the Lord. You’d think at this point I’d be okay with this. People are going to question things. I should know by now that you can’t please everyone, not everyone is going to agree with you, and not everyone is going to support you. It just hurts, not because I want them to think more of me, but because I want them to understand how many hurting children there are all around the world. That is why I started this blog, to show how beautiful adoption is. I wanted to show how by setting out to bless a child, you end up being the one who is blessed beyond measure. Children deserve a family and love. I just want to make others understand that. I guess that is it. Think what you want about me but open your eyes to the plight of the orphan in the world. Do what you can to help another child. Spread the word. Satan would love nothing more than for all of us to forget the orphan. But James 1:27 tells us differently…..this is true religion.
We have been given the tentative travel date of May 4th. We have travel approval for all three girls. The last bit of paperwork for Eli is his Article 5 and then we will have Travel Approval for him too. Everyone has been exceedingly kind and expedited his paperwork. He really needs to get here and get checked out and it looks as if God is going to allow that to happen. We have been so blessed that everyone has been so open to looking out for his papers and proceeding as quickly as they can. There are so many hoops to jump through with adoption and so many bureaucratic stops along the way. It boggles my mind sometimes. I was so surprised that we had to start from square one again considering it had only been a year since we started our last adoptions, but after hearing story after story on the STUCK tour, I am counting my blessings that it has gone as smoothly as it has.
I love God’s sense of humor with the travel date of May 4th. I have always had a hard time from April 30th (Codey & Kyle’s birthday) until May 4th when Kyle died and a few days later for his funeral. It isn’t like I’m severely depressed during that time, it just breaks my heart that things didn’t turn out the way I had dreamed. Some years are better than others, but there are always many, many memories that come with those dates. My water broke on the way to our second Lamaze class and I was life flighted down to Des Moines. My whole life changed in that instant. We never went home, moved to the Ronald McDonald House, and spent the next 14 months in the hospital with Codey. When you are dreaming about your life and the joy of carrying twins, that is not the fairy tale ending you had hoped for. We had to bury our son and we didn’t have the money to do that. I’ve talked about all of this before so I won’t go into details. I’m pretty sure you can clearly see my dislike for that first week in May, but now I am looking forward to it. I actually want those days to arrive. I want to go get my girls and my little boy. I am so ready to be their mama. God’s timing is perfect and I love that delays ended up to us being blessed with all four of them and leaving during that week. As one of my Facebook friends said, “It will always be bitter/sweet from here on out.”
OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD
For those of you who don’t know what O.C.C. is, here is their site. Operation Christmas Child Since 1993, 100 million shoe boxes have been delivered in 130 countries. Isn’t that amazing? Initially I got involved through our home school tumbling group, but I was really moved hearing a young girl give her testimony at a Women of Faith Conference. She was talking about how she had never had a gift until she received her shoebox. I was thinking about my kids and how they probably couldn’t even remember what they got on their last birthday. It just really touched my heart. Ever since that time, the kids and I spend our year looking for bargains. We buy the toys in Targets $1.00 bin when they are 50% off. I’m that person you will see with a cart full of stuff. We buy shirts that are $1 at Wal-mart. We buy tablets, crayons, pencils, pens, pencil sharpeners and stickers after the back to school rush is over. I love that my children always keep their eyes peeled for bargains to put in the boxes.
These past two weekends have found me packing shoe boxes. (I have a feeling my life is going to get a little busy when we get home from China.) Being the dears they are, Mom and Linda (my mother-in-law) came down to help me with this monumental task. (Yes, I’m one of those lucky people whose mother-in-law is wonderful and her and my mom are actually friends. I am blessed!)
Why would packing shoe boxes be a monumental task you ask? Well, when I was sorting through old boxes in my storage room I found 100 plastic pencil boxes that mom had bought me a couple of years ago that I forgot about. We always buy them on clearance after school starts, I put them aside and we pack them for delivery around the middle of November. Like I said I forgot about these, add those to the 77 pencil boxes mom already bought to do the shoe boxes that I usually do, and that’s a lot of boxes. We have always done our shoe boxes in honor of Dan’s dad who passed away a few years ago. Terry liked the number 7 for Biblical reasons. First we started out doing 7 boxes in the 3 ages groups for boys and girls or 42 boxes. Over the past couple years the kids thought it would be fun to do 77 boxes. Oh boy! During the last couple of months, we’ve bought crayons, pencils, pens, etc. and had the pencil boxes all ready. Mom is a great bargain shopper and she bought a ton of stuff. We set to packing and we have 150 done. Isn’t that amazing? I thought it was a task to big to be completed and here we are almost done. Only 27 more to go. I gave my friends permission to buy those shoes they want so I can have the boxes. I hope their husbands don’t mind. 🙂
If you have the opportunity to participate in this amazing endeavor, please do so. I love how it takes my children’s eyes off themselves and puts them on others. Ben was super sweet today. He kept asking why we were doing it, I’d explain, and he would tell me how great it was to make other kids happy. I love watching them give of themselves.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but most of our babies have birthday buddies. 🙂 It’s funny how that has worked out. Codey & Kyle (4/30) were the original birthday buddies, then we have Dan (8/8) and Zach (8/5), Gracie (3/23) and Evie (3/25), Maisey (4/9) and Hopey (4/11), Cassie (5/29) and Min (6/1), Eli (1/17) and Gramp, gramps (1/20), and little Lainey (12/27) – We were talking about her not having a birthday buddy and Pastor said, “She has the best one yet, Jesus!” 🙂 Anyway…..
My sweet little Hopey turns 14 today. How is that even possible? It seems only yesterday that Dan was calling me to tell me how he fell in love with a baby in the NICU! Hopey’s story was and is amazing. I love how God brought her to us. I have said over and over again that there were so many things that had to line up for Hope to come into our lives. It was truly a miracle. I have written about her story many times so I won’t go into things I’ve covered before (you can read more here Hope’s story ), but I will say I love how Dan’s heart was so moved by a baby that was left alone in the NICU.
He fell head over heels for this sweet little girl! I mean who wouldn’t, just look at that face. We took a chance, trusted God’s plan and were blessed beyond measure!
She’s been through a lot. Three open heart surgeries, numerous caths, a broken stent in her left pulmonary artery, but overall she has done wonderfully.
Hopey has a unique sense of style. You never know what she will do to get a laugh. She is full of fun and goofiness.
She loves dragons, video games, How to Train Your Dragon, Skylanders, Pokemon, and her “wall of epicness”.
She is very talented with her artwork and can make a computer do amazing things.
She loves her puppy and her new siblings.
I’m not sure what God has in store for her, but I know He has blessed us by allowing us to have her in our lives for these past 14 years.
And because my blog has become their journal (because who has time to type all of this twice), I would be remiss to not mention how teenage boys respond to my Hopey. (Heaven help daddy. You can stop reading now honey.) Hope is not allowed to date until she is 16, but it doesn’t stop boys from talking to her because we are officially past the cootey stage. Every single time they start talking to her, someone asks her what she likes. The look on these boys’ faces when this little, blonde girl mentions that she loves dragons and video games, is pretty funny. Well, it’s funny because those same boys start out with “Oh you like Barbie and Littlest Pet Shop?” and she gets that disgusted look on her face and states the games that she loves to play. I mean, seriously now, Zach is her brother. She plays “real” games. She is a wonderful combination of girly girlness and uniqueness. I love that about her.
Happy birthday Hopey Girl (as Ben would say). Wishing you all the best as you continue to grow in God’s word. May He lead you and direct you. I’m looking forward to all the years ahead as Daddy and I continue to be blessed with having you in our lives. Love you sweetheart!
I remember being matched with my little girl. I remember Dan and I praying about it and him giving her the nickname “cupcake”. I remember him saying that he was ready to be matched as soon as possible. We had just sent in our papers and they said we would probably be matched in 6 months or so. They called us to present Maisey the very next day. We had checked on the “Medical Conditions Checklist” that we would consider a deaf child. Cassie had just taken a year of ASL and thought we could do it. We agreed to accept this little girl as ours. I remember a few days later, I was standing in Linda’s kitchen, and realized that it was my little girl’s birthday. I cried. She was turning one and we were looking at a whole year before we could go get her. It was so heartbreaking and unimaginable. So much happens with a child between the ages of one and two, and we were going to miss it all. My heart just hurt thinking about it.
Then the day was finally here, we were going to travel. Oh, that moment when they first placed her in my arms. It was March 12th, 2012. We got her in time to get to celebrate her 2nd birthday with her. I was so overwhelmed with emotion when I first saw her face. She was just so quiet and timid. She walked around with her head hanging down. She was hesitant…..
But then we started to get glimpses of who Maisey really was.
She was sweet and compassionate and loving. When Maisey decided we were her family, she was all in. There was no hesitation on her part. She just decided “Hey, I like this being loved thing” and just went with it. She knows she’s adored. She knows she’s loved. She runs and jumps and climbs absolutely everything. She has no fear. She lives life with such gusto. Everything she does is with great excitement. She wakes up ready to go every day. She jumps up with a huge smile on her face. She runs to you and hugs you like you are the best thing she has ever seen in her whole life. She loves with great enthusiasm. She loves with reckless abandon. She comforts you when you are sad. She is so empathetic. She is truly so caring. Plus, she likes to pretend that she is in charge. 🙂
Dan thinks this song says it all. (Listen from the 28 second point until the 2 minute mark.) She is bouncy and full of life and she believes without a doubt that “I’m yours!”.
We have been so blessed to be loved by Maisey this year. We set out to save a little girl without much hope for a future in China. The future for a deaf child and an orphan in China is very bleak. We learned after we got home that Maisey weighed 6 pounds at 6 months. We found out that she was a mini-celebrity. She was the House of Hope’s 1,000 patient. She was even listed in the book The House of Hope by Elisabeth Gifford . Maisey’s name was Chaya in the book. The Hills saved our little girl. She is a fighter. When we got her she had no way to communicate and had a huge bald spot on the back of her head from throwing herself on the floor. Now she is signing and has her BAHA (bone conducting hearing aid) and her speech has just taken off. She sings and dances. She loves tumbling and her tumbling teacher (Cassie). She loves to slide and run and swing. She loves books. She loves babies. She just loves life. What a beautiful addition to our family she has been. One of the best things about Maisey is her love and compassion for Codey, a totally unexpected, beautiful gift. We all feel blessed to have Maisey run to us, yelling our name, jumping up, and hugging us as tight as she can. Maisey makes everyone feel loved.
Happy birthday sweet Maisey! Looking forward to what the next year has in store for you as you learn and grow. I can’t wait for you to meet your new siblings and for you to spread your love and sunshine all over them too. 🙂 Mommy loves you so much sweet girl! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you, my sweet, little cupcake!
Disclaimer: Everything I am writing about in regard to orphanages and what children go through – I have read about in another mother’s blog or in a book or had personal experience from. Granted people could exaggerate or make things up altogether but these blogs have many, many followers. You would think someone would call their bluff if they were out and out lying. The truth of the matter is, there are just so many people saying exactly the same thing over and over and over again. I tend to believe most of it. Plus, I’ve seen the effects of an orphanage on a child firsthand. It’s not pretty! It will tear your heart out and change every perspective you’ve ever had about what is and isn’t important.
Have you ever wondered why so many people are moved to adopt over and over again? Why they come home, talk about it, and pray that others will hear their message? Did you ever think “Why in the world would someone do what they are doing, spend the time and money that they do, just to bring a child home?” The truth is it is estimated that the average adoption will cost $28,000 and take close to three years* (Ours took a year.). (*Please watch the video below!) Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone sign up to do that and especially why would they do that more than once?
(If you want to know more, STUCK will be playing in Des Moines on April 22nd at 7 p.m.)
I’ve watched Cassie come home upset because people question why in the world would her parents adopt four children at a time. I’ve listened to her explain what her answers were and why she said what she said. Last night I told her, the truth is, she has three options.
One, she can not answer at all. Just let it drop, because she will never be able to truly make someone understand why we are doing this if they don’t understand what an orphanage is like. If they’ve never read the stories about “dying rooms” or children that are 14 that weigh 24 pounds. If they haven’t heard that children freeze to death, or are chained to the walls, or are sent to mental institutions when they hit the age of 6. It’s beyond their comprehension if they don’t know that a disability will label you as cursed for life. In many places your last name means orphan and you will not be allowed an education, you barely have enough food to survive, you don’t have even the barest of necessities. They will never understand if their only idea of an orphanage is from watching the movie Annie.
When we got Ben (3 1/2) and Maisey (2), they wouldn’t play with any of the toys we brought them. Why? Because their first thought was for food. They didn’t care about a book, or a blanket, or a toy that made noise. Their cherished possession was a spoon. Who cares about toys when you are starving? Ben walked funny because he was confined to a play pen or a high chair through most of the day. They were afraid of a bath. We later learned it’s because some orphanages give one bath a week or they hose them down with cold water. There are no bubble baths and cute terry cloth robes. Ben needs major dental work because six of his teeth are in such terrible decay. There can be 40 kids sharing two toothbrushes. Ben and Maisey couldn’t even hold a spoon and feed themselves. Why? Because when they are fed they are all fed out of the same bowl with the same spoon because the nanny doesn’t have time to give each child their own bowl and clean up after them. It’s an assembly line. There is no good night kiss and being tucked in to a nice cozy bed. Many times the mattress is a piece of plywood with a blanket because it cuts down on the lice problem.
Two, she can try to explain all about our family and all the people we have just waiting to love these four new children. She can explain that our family has chosen this to be their mission and children are where our passion lies. She can explain her dad’s job, his expertise in caring for sick babies, his love for children, and how he’s home during the week. She can explain how much I love children and how my dream as a little girl was to have 12. But if they don’t understand that children need rescued and it’s not about having “quality time” or “more one on one time”, they still won’t understand.
Oh, but if they could see what we, as a family, have seen this past year. If they could see how a child blossoms and grows with the love of a family. If they could see what we’ve seen, the physical, emotional and spiritual growth. It’s about giving them love, food, an education, some more love, and hope for a future that doesn’t include sex trafficking or living on the street. It’s about saving a life. If they could see what we have seen, they’d more than understand.
Three, she can tell them to jump in a lake. (Probably not the nicest or the best option!) The reality is it’s none of their business. They have no right to judge. They have no right to question whether it is or is not the right thing. They don’t know anything about our family or where our hearts lie. We’ve been through home studies. You read that right – studie”S“. When you adopt from China, you have initial home studies, and a follow-up home study when you come home, one at 6 months, one at a year, one at two years, and the last one at five years. There are safe guards in place. Plus, I’ve pretty much made our lives public by putting it all out there in picture and blog. I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m trying to prove you can do more than you think you can. You can love more than you think possible. You can show the love of God through taking a child in. You can change their lives and their eternity. All of this is a pretty amazing, mind-blowing, heart changing, life altering, thing.
Maybe that is all she needs to say “God brought us to these four children and our family feels overwhelming blessed to be able to bring them home!” Because that is the truth! We are blessed. We may be tired. The house may never be perfectly clean. Our mid-life crisis car may now be a 15 passenger van. But the overall running theme in our home is love and that God has blessed us in immeasurable ways. What a gift to us. What a gift to them.
Look at those sweet, sweet faces. (Top left) Evie (then clockwise) Lainey, Min and Eli. I can’t wait to hold them and take them home. We are all just so excited. Gracie sits and tells stories about what she is going to do with everyone all day long. She debates who she is going to hug first and who will sit beside her in the car. Who will like to swim and who will like to read. Ben lies in bed at night and talks about how much fun this is going to be. He tells me who will lie where and how he will hold their hands. I have a special song that I make up for each of my children when they are born. It is only their song and I sing it every night before they go to bed. It made perfect sense when there was a couple – now it goes on and on forever. Ben has been making me practice songs for each new child, so far he has not approved of any of my song choices. I’m running out of time. I’d better get working on it. I love that they are excited about adding to our family. It’s a wonderful thing for this mama’s heart.
We are getting so close to the time to travel. The closer it gets the harder it is to wait. Yesterday we received Eli’s LOA (Letter of Acceptance) that we need to sign saying we officially want to adopt him. The next step is our immigration letter and then we will get our travel approval. We are one step closer in this adoption journey. We have been informed that we should travel the last week of April or the first week of May – if all goes as planned. Yay!
It’s crazy all the steps and acronyms involved with adopting. You have your LID (Log in date for your dossier, all the paperwork saying you are fit to adopt. Financial statements, police records, doctors letters about your health, etc.). Then you send in a LOI (Letter of Intent) stating who the child is, why you want to adopt them and how you can provide for them. Then you get your PA (Preapproval letter), which just means that they approve of you adopting this child and the child’s file is locked in for you. Then you get your LOA (Letter of Acceptance) which states that you agree to accept this child. Then you get your I-800 which allows you to bring them into the country. And finally…you get your TA (Travel Approval). There’s more paperwork in the middle of all of this and afterward when you get to China, but you get the picture. Paperwork, waiting, fees paid, paperwork, waiting, a few more fees, more paperwork, more waiting but then that day gets here and you can barely stand it. Which is why the day you receive them at the Registration Office (or other meeting place) is such a highly emotional time. All that waiting is finally over.
Everyone pretty much thinks we are crazy. Not that people don’t celebrate what we are doing or think it’s a good thing…..for us, but it’s not for them. I hear that over and over again. “Congratulations! I’m glad it’s you and not me, but congratulations!”
You only have to look closely at Ben and listen to his out of breath little body after he runs for only a moment, to understand that life is not guaranteed. Hope, who is almost 14, looked all grown up in her pretty yellow Easter dress, but the truth is evident in that long jagged scar that runs down her chest that she’s been through a lot. When you look at them it’s easy to just see the special needs – Maisey’s difficulty with hearing, Codey’s limitations both physical and mental, Ben’s blueness is hard to miss, Hope’s scar lies there for all to see and Gracie’s illness has left it’s mark. But maybe that isn’t what we should be looking at. Instead when you look at them, maybe the first thing you should see is the miracle of their lives. The miracle of love. The miracle of God’s hands working in all their lives. The beauty of all that they are, not what they aren’t.
I was born into a country that believes we should strive for the nice car, the perfect body, the nice house, the great job, the vacations, the pension, the retirement. Well, I can tell you I have most of those material things. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that after all the struggles, the not having money, the doing without, that someday Dan would have a well-paying job, and then that is when life would really begin. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy along the way. I have always been grateful and felt blessed, but when there was more money, well, then the really good times would begin. I’d have a nice house. I’d drive a nice car. I’d be able to buy clothes that I wanted. I’d be able to do what I wanted. Well, guess what? I have those things and so what? Who cares? I wish I’d never bought the big house. I wish I’d never wasted money on stupid gadgets. I wish I could have a do over. I wonder why did it take so long for my eyes to open? Why? Why? Why? I’m like a two year old throwing a tantrum now but it’s at myself. I could have funded a surgery. I could have funded adoptions. I could have helped a child find a family. I could have fed more people. I could have dug more wells. I could have…. I could have… I could have!
So why you spend time thinking I’ve lost my mind. Admit it! You’ve thought it. You think four at once? What are they thinking? Well, here is what I am thinking. My time for adopting is running out. God has brought me to these four children and even though I am afraid, I will do what He asks of me. I know that these are my children. I may not be a lot of things, but I am really good at loving children. I can bring these children here and they will know love. I know that without a doubt. They may never go to college. They may die well before it should be anyone’s time but they will know love. They will know laughter and love and happiness. They will understand God’s love for them because they will have a father who shows them unconditional love. They will know that they were not a mistake. They will know love in abundance. They will have their hand held. They will have a lap to sit on. They will have a daddy to read them bed time stories and a mommy that sings them their special songs when she tucks them in. They will know if they wake up afraid that we will be there to comfort them. These are the things that we take for granted. These are the things that millions of children will never, ever know. Simple, simple things that every child should know. How dare we as Christ’s hands and feet deny that to anyone?
I talk about these things over and over again because I want you to wake up to the need. I want you to get it way before I finally did. Don’t let time pass you by. Don’t wait for later to help. Do something today. Spread the wealth. Become God’s hands and feet. Do something that really, truly matters. Feed a child, help a family out, open your mind to the possibility of adopting. Who knows where God will lead you.
Do you know how Dan and I know that this is right? We know it to our very core because we have such peace about it. We aren’t freaking out wondering how it will work. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God brought us to these children and He will provide for all of our needs. God has this covered. What a wonderful thing to get to be a part of. It doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead or that we’re not afraid, but I’m telling you that there is peace about this whole adoption that is truly amazing. Even though we know that we have every right to be stressed, we have watched God provide over and over again this past year so it is easy to trust in His plan. I’ve gotten to be part of some amazing, miraculous things this year. What a beautiful gift that I am so undeserving of. Blessed, simply blessed is the way that I feel.
- Chinese Children Adoption International
- Hats for Gracie
- Love Without Boundaries
- New Hope Foundation China
- Show Hope
- China 2013
- China 2014
- China 2016
- Congenital Heart Defect
- Evangeline Faith
- Family Life
- Food for Thought Friday
- Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)
- Jasmine's Dream
- Lainey Rae
- Love Without Boundaries
- Making a difference
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Orphan Care
- Thoughts to ponder