Archive for June, 2013

  • Hi! My name is Jasmine!

    Date: 2013.06.29 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Jasmine went to Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week and had a wonderful time.  I worried about her going because she doesn’t know a ton of conversational English yet, but Jasmine loves music and VBS has a tons of singing and dancing.  I wondered if she would feel out of place in the 1st to 3rd grade class with Gracie, but I wanted her to be with someone she knew.   Hope, who is also 14, is a helper this year because she is too old to attend VBS.  I wanted Jasmine to be able to enjoy VBS, even though she was technically too old to go.  I thought it was an important right of passage for her first summer in America.  Our church is very small and very accommodating, so Pastor agreed to let her be in Gracie’s class.

    All week long people would come up to her and say, “Hi, my name is ______ and Shuang Shuang would respond, “Hi! My name is Jasmine.”  She always has that big old smile plastered across her face and everyone falls in love with her and her sweet, gentle spirit. I have been asked over and over again if she always smiles and I have to admit most of the time Jasmine is smiling.  I told her that she could use the name Shuang and she said, “Mama, I like Jasmine.  It is pretty!”  I told her that is why we picked it because it means beautiful flower and she is just so pretty.  (Which got me another one of those 100 watt smiles.)

    vbs box

    She went all week with Grace, Hope and Cassie (who is 21 and is the music director).  They sang, laughed, danced, did crafts and had a wonderful time.  We took the bus a couple of times and that in itself is a grand adventure!

    bus

    The gentlemen who runs the rec part of VBS is an older, retired gentlemen, named Tom, who is just as sweet as can be.  One of my favorite moments of VBS happened during rec time.  They had mowed a giant square with a little “X” in the middle for base.  All of the children were set to play tag.  Cassie took Jasmine to the side so she could watch, but Tom grabbed her wheelchair and said “No way, we get to play too!” and proceeded to wheel her all over the place while she giggled and giggled.  I love that our church has been so wonderful about opening their hearts to our children and including them.

    parachute

    One night after she came home and told me all about her fun, I started thinking about how different her life is now.  Thinking about where she would be if we hadn’t gone and got her.  When we first asked about what happened to children who turned 14, we were told that she would have been put out on the street.  After having met Jasmine, we knew that couldn’t have been possible.  She isn’t able to sit up by herself, roll herself over, or even dress herself.  If she falls over, she is not able to move.   There is no way she could have lived on her own.  We later learned from a reliable source  –  “I believe she (Shuang) definitely would have ended up in an adult institution –and they are just heartbreaking.  I have only been to two on my trips – and the conditions just haunt me.”

    That is heartbreaking.  Heartbreaking because she really is the most beautiful soul. How she has managed to keep this beautiful soul intact after all she’s been through just amazes me.  Imagine what your personality would be like after having been abandoned right before your 8th birthday.  She must have been loved and then as she started to lose her mobility, they decided to abandon her.  I look at little Gracie, who is also 8, and I can’t imagine what that would take and I can’t imagine what that would do to her heart.  I can’t even wrap my head around it.  Not only that but Jasmine has some really, really nasty scars.  She has what looks like burn marks about the size of 50 cent pieces on her legs.  She has one that goes from ear to ear under her chin, possibly from a nasty fall.  Plus, a few others.  I know what her leg ones look like and I pray that they truly weren’t intentional burns, but the reality is they are too perfectly shaped to be a splatter burn and they are too deep to be a small burn.

    But through all of that and six years in an orphanage, this little soul didn’t lose her sweetness.  What a blessing it is to be her mother.  I hate, absolutely detest, that it took us so long to find her.  Love Without Boundaries had advocated for her for years.  There were other sweet families that wanted to adopt her and weren’t able to, through no fault of their own.  She has been loved.  She has been prayed for, by so many, for so many years.  I can’t wait to tell her those things.  I can’t wait until I can be sure that Google Translate is saying it right.  She has always been loved.  Her sweet spirit has shined through for so many years.  Dan and I believe that she was a blessing as a big sister to the others in the orphanage and we find some comfort in the fact that there was a purpose to her being there.  We got some very sweet pictures and videos from her time in the orphanage from Love Without Boundaries.  She was showing the other kids crafts and she is just so patient with them.   She is so wonderful with the “littles” in our house.   She is so kind and gentle.  She takes them on her wheelchair.  She reads them books and sings with them.  She feeds them and is just so patient with them.

    I can’t adequately give words to just how overwhelming it is to think of what her life might have been and what it currently is.  Not because I want to toot my own horn about “saving” her.  It’s not that at all.  Truth be told, we never intended to adopt an older child.  We never even opened our hearts to the idea until her picture appeared before us through LWB and our hearts were forever hers.  It’s just the miraculous ability of God to make families.  God did not leave her in the orphanage – man did. I believe that God did not intend to bring her harm.  But in the end, all the bad that happened, has turned to good.  She has impacted so many people.  She has changed my life for the better and the rest of our family too.   She is such a blessing.  Such a joy.  Yes, there will be many sad days in the future with her diagnosis, but the good news is we will all be by her side.  She will not be alone through any more of her suffering.  She will never, ever be alone again.  She has a family.

    Jasmine is happy.  Jasmine is loved.  Jasmine is funny.  Jasmine is patience.  Jasmine is LOVE!  Jasmine is silly. Jasmine is joy!  Jasmine has brightened all of our lives. What has happened in her life, may not make any sense in our minds, but I for one am happy that I get to be blessed with being her mother, no matter how that came to be and no matter how many years we may be granted.

    If God has placed an older child upon your heart, don’t automatically rule it out.  We had heard horror stories of what it meant to adopt an older child.  For that reason, we had decided long ago that it wouldn’t be a good fit for our family.  Yes, her diagnosis was worse than we had expected, but Jasmine is so much more than we could have ever imagined.  Get all the information that you can, pray and then proceed.  My prayer is more and more older children will find homes.  My heart just breaks for those that don’t.  May God guide you and bless you and may your heart be opened to all that could be.

  • Dr. Joyce Hill

    Date: 2013.06.26 | Category: Elijah, Lainey Rae, Maisey, Thoughts to ponder

    There are people in our lives that change us for the better.  People, who we have never even met, whose words impact us and change the course of our future.  Dr. Joyce Hill is one of those people in my life.  It was by chance that I even learned about her.

    joyce_robin

    One day I just happened to post on a Show Hope Facebook status, thanking the volunteers for all that they do for the orphans in China.  I don’t often comment on Facebook threads where I don’t know anyone, but that day I felt led to say “thank you”.  At the time, we were waiting to go get Maisey and Benjamin.  Cathy at Show Hope responded to my comment and asked me if they had cared for any of our children.  I told her that I didn’t think so and she asked for their names so she could check.  She told me that they hadn’t cared for Benjamin but they had cared for Maisey.  We exchanged e-mail addresses.  She told me about the wall in her office where she has pictures of children waiting for their forever families and pictures when they get home.  I thought that was very sweet and I told her I would send her a family picture when we all got home.

    Many months later, Cathy wrote me back saying that she remembered that Maisey (Chaya) had been in an earlier newsletter and she thought that I might like to see it.  Through that e-mail we learned that Maisey was the 1,000th baby at The House of Hope in China.  We learned that the Hill’s ran this home and their mission statement was “To comfort always, to relieve often, and to save sometimes.”   We were intrigued and purchased the book that Elisabeth Gifford wrote called “The House of Hope”.  When reading this book, on almost the last page of the book (pg. 216) we read “On 22 October, Chaya, an abandoned baby with huge, trusting eyes, was admitted to New Hope.” This book is an amazing testimony to following God’s calling in your life.  I highly recommend reading this book.  This book will open your eyes to the plight of the orphan and move your heart to do more – whatever your calling may be.

    Maisey

    Dr. Hill has now treated many of the sickest babies in China at the House of Hope.  In Maisey’s case, we learned that they found her in an orphanage weighing 6 pounds at 6 months.  They cared for and loved my Maisey back to health.  Because of their care, we have been blessed with this sweet, little girl.  It’s hard to explain what something like that means to a parent.  To know that your child suffered, that someone saw her worth, and gave her a chance.  And because of that chance, you were blessed with the sweetest little girl with the biggest personality.

    Dr. Hill has also cared for my little Lainey and Elijah.  Eli was cared for at Maria’s Big House of Hope.  He was actually their 500th child admitted.  I saw Eli’s picture in the New Hope Foundation newsletter and fell instantly in love with this little guy.  It’s pretty amazing that we ended up with two of their milestone babies.  Lainey was also cared for by New Hope.  She has required a special formula for her metabolic disease and they were able to provide that for her.

    eli

    lainey

    The Hills influenced Dan and I in one more really big way.  In their book they have a quote, when they were talking about what God was asking of them.  Joyce said, “Rob, I think God is asking us to get into a river and I don’t know where we are going to end up, but I think we should just get in and we should go with it.”   Her husband, Robin, had a well-paying job.  They lived a very comfortable life.  They decided to give it all up and stay in China and care for the very least of these.  Up until that moment, they hadn’t even thought about staying in China and caring for orphans.  They just felt that God was telling them to stay.  God was encouraging them to bring compassion to dying children, to let these children know love no matter how many days they had left.  I can think of no greater calling in life than to care for those that others have discarded or considered unworthy of their time.  When Dan and I felt led by God to adopt four, we felt unprepared and wondered if we could do this.  We prayed about it and decided to do what the Hills had done and jump in and see where God would lead us.  To give up control and to trust in His plan.

    We proceeded in faith and had a year of watching miracle after miracle unfold until we were allowed to adopt four at one time in China.  It hadn’t been done before and they said they wouldn’t make it a precedent, but we were the privileged pair that watched it all miraculously unfold.  What a gift.  What a glorious thing to be a part of.

    Through all of this we learned about Love Without Boundaries, which Dan is now a volunteer for.  Dan and Dr. Hill have corresponded during the past year and have become friends.

    As you can see, the Hills have played a huge part in our lives.  I had always hoped to meet them.  Dr. Hill has been ill for many years.  She has been confined to her bed, flat on her back for way too long now, but she has still continued doing her work from that position.  Unfortunately, we recently learned that Dr. Hill had been in a coma and was not doing well.  She had gone home only to be hospitalized again.   It is posted on their site and you can read about it there.  Hope Foster Home

    Today, however, we learned that Dr. Hill has woken up and surgery is being performed as I write this blog.  There is hope today at the House of Hope.   I ask for prayers for Dr. Hill.  Please pray for her and her family.  Pray for the doctors and nurses who are caring for her.   I pray that her suffering is eased and that there is an end to the endless headaches that she has suffered.  In a world full of celebrity worship and heroes that have very little worth,  I believe Dr. Hill to be a true Hero.   Even though she would be the first to tell you that what they did wasn’t as much brave as it was obedient, Dr. Hill will always have a very special place in my heart.  Because of her care, because of them following God’s lead in their lives, my life has been blessed with three of the most wonderful children you could ever ask for.  That is a priceless gift.  How do you ever thank anyone for something that wonderful? There are not words to convey my feelings for Dr. Hill.  I ask that you continue to lift Dr. Hill up in prayer and I pray that she will be blessed with the same compassion and caring that she has showered on so many others.

    P.S.   If you feel so lead, you can support the Hill’s in their mission on their website.  Hope Foster Home (Babies)  They have a page listing the financial needs they have or you can specifically sponsor a child.  I highly recommend sponsorship because you get updates on how that child is doing. It is a fun way to care for one of the least of these.  We sponsored Lainey who was Ginny Rebecca on the site and we got updates for her along the way.  There are many ways to help both monthly and as a one time gift.

     

  • 30 days to a better me

    Date: 2013.06.13 | Category: Adoption, Elijah, Evangeline Faith, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Lainey Rae, Thoughts to ponder

    Hard times and deep truths often come together. If you want the latter, you must be willing to make it through the former.  – unknown

    30 days ago today, our family went from 10 to 14.  30 days ago today, I thought I had been through hard and could handle anything.   30 days ago, I thought I had it all figured out.  30 days ago, I thought my faith was secure. 30 days ago, I knew what God was asking of me and I was ready to proceed with this grand adventure. 30 days ago I was so sure that I could handle anything.  30 days ago – oh man, was I was clueless!

    We showed up the day after Mother’s Day, ready to receive three more blessings.  My blessings would then total 12.  My childhood dream of having 12 children was about to come true.  I was happy. I was nervous. I was feeling so blessed.  I knew two of these blessings had complex heart defects.  I knew Lainey had PKU and there was bound to be issues with her feedings.   We were prepared as we could be….at least that is what I thought.

    But 24 hours later, I was questioning everything.  How could God bring me to this.  This was not  just hard, but realllllyyyyyyy hard?  I was already doing my best with a life that was hard at home.  Not so much hard, but complicated.   I have children with complex medical conditions.  I have a busy household already.  I do g.t. feedings and oral feedings, medications, and lots of appointments, on top of homeschooling and all my usual mommy chores.  How in the world were we going to do any of this?

    All I could see in that first 24 hours was the hard. The fits, the crying, the whining, the refusing to eat, the not sleeping, the more complex diagnoses and the fear. Fear was a very real emotion during those first few days.  How were we going to handle this?  Before we traveled, I was so sure that we could handle it.  But now I doubted everything.

    Well not everything, I still believed with all my heart that God brought me to these children.  These were my children.  But I doubted me.  Maybe that is why this happened.  I mother pretty well.  I mother people who don’t want to be mothered.  I have been known to mother my grown children’s friends.  It’s just in my genetic code.  It is who I am.  When others dreamed of being doctors, nurses, and teachers, I dreamed of being a mom.  I have always believed in my ability to mother.  I don’t do everything right, but I have what I believe to be the most important aspects of mothering and I do those to the best of my abilities.  I believe God brought me, once again, to that place of being so overwhelmed that I knew there was no way in the world I could do this, which placed all that we were doing, even more so, at the base of the throne of my Lord.  Only through Him would we ever be able to do this.  Only with Him would I be able to survive.

    So 30 days later, I praise a God with a plan that is so much bigger and better than mine.  I give all glory to Him and the previous year that brought us to our blessings.  Our wonderful, unbelievable blessings that have made so much progress in just 30 days.

    Evie’s prognosis may not have been what we had hoped, but we have not given up hope.  In 30 days, this little girl has gone from not being able to sit by herself to crawling across the floor at lightning speed.  She is so happy and so loving. She is so very beautiful with her big brown eyes.  She is very blue still with O2 sats in the mid 50’s and low 60’s,but she has already put on four pounds.  This is what a little love and a little food will do for you.

    evie

    30 days later, and this handsome little guy has become Mr. Charming.  He was withdrawn, whiny, and refused to eat for days, but now he is so sweet and loving and there isn’t a food he doesn’t like. He is thoughtful and takes care of his sisters.  He is the perfect little guy to end our family.  (Although, Gracie did tell me last night that she wished she could hypnotize me so I would forget how many children we had so we could adopt again.)   🙂

    eli

    Shuang Shuang’s smile lights up our house throughout the day.  She laughs, and teases, and is the best big sister.  She holds the kids.  They climb all over her wheelchair.  She even reads to them.  She has been so trusting from day one.   We have been so moved by all the people who have had their lives touched by her.  We have received letters and e-mails.  She received an American Girl doll with a wheelchair from her new pen pals.   She received a birthday present from Spain from a family that had sponsored her while she was in the orphanage.   It has been so moving and we have made new friends.  Her diagnosis was not what we had planned on and her future won’t contain the healing surgery we hoped for, but we are blessed to have had her join our family.

    min 9

    min 10

    Which brings us to little Lainey, she was so very sad those first 48 hours.  She broke my heart and I wondered if I would ever be able to reach her.  Would she ever be happy?  Would she always be in her own little world?  Would this angry, crying, temper tantrum throwing be all that there was?   30 days later and we see a girl who smiles most of the day.  She runs up to all her siblings and loves to chase Codey.  She loves to climb up in your lap and sit.  She plays and she laughs and she is truly happy.  There are still a few outbursts, but they are few and far between and most of them involve wanting her bottle.  She is not magically cured and she still spends a lot of time in her own little world, but there are moments of eye contact with meaning. There is purposeful play.  She runs up and hugs people and kisses them.  She loves to cuddle on your shoulder.

    China 2013 037

    30 days have brought so many changes to our family.  I thought there was no way that I would be able to do any of the usual things that I did with the kids, but….

    This is what we look like going shopping.

    shopping

    This is what we look like swimming.

    pool

    This is what we look like hanging at home.

    new normal

    This is what we look like in our car.

    5 in the car

    We can’t all fit in one or even two of our cars, which is why we had to buy a bus….

    mei bus

    Which made Benjamin very, very happy!

    ben bus

    30 days later and although my house is messier and I am definitely more tired, I have had the privilege of watching little ones bloom.  What a miracle to get to be a part of.  30 days later and I trust God even more.  30 days later and I realize that I set my goals too small.  I believe that I can’t when God knows that I can with His help.  We are still getting used to our new normal.  We are still trying to figure out how to run our days as smoothly as we can.  But 30 days later, I have been kissed more, hugged more and loved more than I ever believed possible.  I have heard more laughter and have had more love showered on me than any mama deserves.  30 days later is a very good place to be.

  • Mama & Mema

    Date: 2013.06.11 | Category: Family Life

    My Mama:

    I’m a very blessed girl.  I am lucky enough to be best friends with my mama.  We have been friends forever.  We didn’t have that usual teenage daughter/mother angst period when I was growing up.  We talk a couple of times a day.  I enjoy shopping with her.  I enjoy just being with her.   I have felt this way about her through all of my life.  She is just a good, kind person.  She is a strong, independent woman.  She has always been tough and able to handle anything life sent her way.  She has supported me through some of the hardest times of my life and she has always been there for me.

    These past few weeks with my mom have been very, very difficult.  It’s hard to watch someone you love when they are hurting.   While we were in China, my mom had a perforated gastric ulcer.  On May 22nd, while they were doing emergency surgery, they noticed a fairly large mass in her stomach.  They tried to biopsy it but couldn’t get a good specimen. What they obtained came back non-cancerous, but they need to do an endoscopy, the end of June, to get a better specimen to be sure.

    On May 26th, she was sent home and we figured as time went on she would slowly start to get back to old self.  It just wasn’t happening.  We watched as she slowly got worse.  She pretty much quit eating.  She was too fatigued to walk very far at all.  She was pasty white.  We were all very worried.  We had an appointment on June 3rd with her surgeon.  We explained her fatigue and he worried about anemia.  We talked about her getting worse instead of better.  We decided she needed to also see her family physician.

    We called in and they said they could get her in June 12th.  I argued and they still said we couldn’t be seen until June 5th.  No one seemed overly concerned with how slowly she seemed to be recovering.  On Wednesday, we had her seen and they sent her home on antibiotics because she had been diagnosed with a bowel infection (C-Diff) and was on the borderline of needing a transfusion (8.6 hemoglobin).  She looked so horrible. We kept thinking a couple days of antibiotics and she’d be looking better.  By the time Saturday rolled around, she looked worse and not better.   We called the surgeon again and he said bring her in to the emergency room.

    Well, what we found out was shocking.  Mom was in congestive heart failure.  They started running more and more tests.  I suppose it shouldn’t have been to hard to figure out that she had excess fluid – since the poor girl had put on 21 pounds in 2 weeks.  (Although her family doctor thought nothing of it.)  We found out her kidneys and liver were in failure due to the heart problems.   We found out that her ejection fraction was 20% – normal is 50% to 75%.  She was anemic.  The final decision through it all?  Since her EKG before surgery was fine and she felt no pain any time after surgery.  It is believed that she had a heart attack during surgery.

    They told us she needed an angiogram but she was too sick to have them do one at this time.  Shortly after her echo, they decided she needed one right away.  Tonight she had an angiogram and we found out even more bad news.  She has arteries that are blocked 80%, 85% and 90%.  She needs bypass surgery and she is most likely too ill to receive it.  The surgeon will be in and talk to us tomorrow about all of our options.  Wow!  That is a lot to take in.   She went from being fairly healthy to barely able to get around.  I am still in shock that all of this has happened.

    So in honor of my mama – here is my lecture for you.  If you have a family history of cardiac disease or high cholesterol, get a calcium scoring test.  Fairly cheap ($99) and easy to do.  They can tell you if you have any plaque and save you a lot of trouble down the road.  Don’t pretend just because you feel pretty good that everything is okay.  Don’t make your daughter cry too!

    (and now on to happier grandma news)

    MEMA:

    Today is Mema’s birthday.  Mema is my mother-in-love.  I am lucky enough to have her be one of my best friends too.  I talk to her daily on the phone too.   My children love to be around her.  She is funny and kind.  One of my favorite things about Linda is her strength through hard times.  She has a strong faith.   A couple of years ago she lost her husband, and then in the same year, her sister and her father.  Instead of wallowing in her self-pity she started a Bible study in her home for the women in her neighborhood.  She has been very sad but knows that God still has a plan for her life. She uses her time to encourage others.  Courage is what she has.

    One of my favorite stories of my mom (Nana) and Mema is from when Cassie was about 10.   Cassie was at the dance studio and a car pulled up to pick her up.  In that car was my mom and mema, who both happen to be friends.  They weren’t always friends, they became friends after Dan and I married.  Everyone asked her who was there to pick her up and Cassie said her grandmas. Everyone was shocked that her two grandmas hung out together.  They kept going on and on about how cool it was that both of her grandmas came to get her.  It wasn’t until that moment that Cassie realized that most people’s grandmas don’t hang out together and she realized just how lucky she was.

    Up until just a few years ago, our group included Linda’s sister, Kay, too.  We would all go shopping together.  We celebrated birthdays together.  They would come to my children’s birthdays together.  We did craft sales together and our business was called “Three Friends Crafts”.  We go to Women of Faith conferences together.   They drive together from Fort Dodge to visit their grandchildren.  They are always there to support the kids in all they do.  When it was decided mom couldn’t go home and take care of herself, Linda even offered to let her stay with her.  It was Linda who drove my mom down so I could take her to the ER on Saturday.

    I have been a blessed mama to have these to women in my life.   They have both taught me so much through their kindness, strength, courage and faith.  They have been our biggest cheerleaders with the adoptions and they love all their grandchildren the same.  So today I want to take a moment to celebrate both of their lives.  I pray that I have many, many more years to enjoy their friendship, encouragement and love.

    mom & mema

     

  • Hope Amongst The Pain

    Date: 2013.06.07 | Category: Thoughts to ponder

    I thought I’d share two very moving stories that unfolded today.

    The first story is about a little girl named Zoe, who recently had heart surgery and went into surgery to receive an artificial heart at 2 p.m. this afternoon.  As of 11 this evening, we have not heard whether it was successful or not.  The reason I am sharing this story, is that her mom, Eva, puts what many of us heart mama’s feel, into a very lovely blog.  Please take a moment and read this.  Choose Life

    The second story is one that took the breath of many of us away.  The Hammond family got home last night with their little 22 month old boy who had a congenital heart defect.  He passed away this morning.  I know that he is healed but his family is hurting.  I know that he can see how much they loved him and how hard they fought for him, but that does nothing to ease their pain this evening.  Here is their blog – A MeiMei for You You

    Please join me in covering these families with prayers.  They are both families of great faith.  In Zoe’s case, they are moving forward and choosing life.  In the Hammond’s case they are moving forward with the hope of eternity.  There is joy in that hope.  There is peace in that hope but the pain is fresh right now.

    And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7)

  • Susanna’s Legacy

    Date: 2013.06.04 | Category: Adoption, Thoughts to ponder

    Tonight on the Tiny Green Elephants Facebook page that I read, she talks about a child that had passed away.  You can read the blog about Susanna here.  The Road to Peacefield

    Tonight, when I could be sleeping, I sit here at my computer with tears running down my face.  The house is quiet.  I hear the breathing of many little souls coming from the other room.  I am blessed.  I am comforted that I got these children home, but the truth is there are many, many children who are alone right now through no fault of their own.

    Children die every day, all around the world, for every conceivable reason.  They are abducted, they are casualties of war, they die of starvation, they die at the hands of their parents, they die from unclean water, they die from mosquito bites, and they die alone in orphanages.  How can we just go on living like nothing is happening?  How can we not be moved when a life is ended much too soon?  Is it such an overwhelming problem that we believe there is nothing we can do?  Is it because it isn’t right there in front of us, that we are allowed to pretend it isn’t happening?  I know if a child was standing in front of a runaway car, you’d try to save them. So why are so many young lives being lost and we just go about our days?   A life lost, much too soon, should always be mourned, and we should be left wondering if there was something more that we could have done.

    I cried tears when I saw Susanna’s face.  Her story touched my heart because I have a son with hydrocephalus.  It’s not something I have to google to try to understand.  I get it!  I understand what it takes to treat a child with hydrocephalus.  I understand the infections, the hospital stays, the shunts, the frustration.  I understand the pain and the headaches.  But look at that picture,  look at her face.  She is giggling.  She is happy and all she wanted was a family.  She spent six years lying in a crib.  Six years…..2,190 days and yet she smiles.

    I have spent this past year praising God for all He has done to make our adoptions come together.  I still give God all the praise, but it is hard for me when I watch these parents who want the same thing we wanted.  They wanted to bring this child home, to help them, to love them for as long as they were given the gift.  So why weren’t their prayers answered?  Why didn’t Susanna get to come home?  Why did God choose to call her home to Him first?  What will her story change?  Who will be moved because of Susanna’s life?  Her life was not in vain.  Her life has worth.  I believe this with my whole being.

    After Kyle died, people said all sorts of things to me.  “Maybe God knew you couldn’t handle both of them being sick at the same time.”  “It’s better that he died with all his special needs.” At the same time I was grieving, wonderful things happened for others.  They talked about praying and having their prayers answered.  I wondered “Weren’t my prayers good enough?”  “Did I somehow offend God?”  “Am I really not as faithful or as good a Christian as I thought I was?”  “Why didn’t God answer my prayers?”

    Twenty-six years later, I can see a smattering of the ways Kyle changed our lives.   I can see how Kyle’s life changed Dan and made him a better doctor.  I know for a fact that Kyle’s death lead us to the seven little ones that we adopted.  I know for a fact that Kyle’s death took away my fear of dying and made me want to live a life of purpose.   He lived a mere five days and accomplished that.

    When I look at this situation, with my limited understanding, I just don’t get it.  I don’t understand. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around it all.  I don’t understand why babies die in utero.  I don’t understand why people who could care less if they have a child, have a healthy one and others who want nothing more than to have a child, can’t.  I don’t understand why babies get sick. I don’t understand why any of this is allowed to happen.

    I could go into the whole fallen world issue. I know that man has free will and we chose what we do.  I know on the other side of it, God placed us here to do His work.  I know that there are many reasons why things happen and I can’t possible see the ramifications of them all.  I know that all things work together for good.  I know God’s plan is perfect and He is a just God.  I know that someday I will see all the threads of these children’s tapestries and will be absolutely amazed by the lives that they have touched.

    But that doesn’t end the pain for the mamas that I know who have lost their babies this past week. It doesn’t take away from the pain that the William’s family is feeling because they never got a chance to bring Susanna home.  Believe me when you proceed with the adoption of a child God has called you to, that IS your child.  You would do anything you could for that child.  And tonight because of bureaucracy and paperwork, they ran out of time and weren’t allowed the most precious gift of being able to bring her home.

    Susanna is in her eternal home now and she knows how much she was loved.  She knows how hard they fought for her.  She knows how many prayers were said by others on her behalf.  She sees what her life has done.  She is blessed and she is well and she is home!

    But the Williams’ will still be grieving the loss of dreams.  Please cover them and other families who have lost a child with your prayers.  I hope Susanna’s life makes you pay attention to what is going on around you.  I hope that it makes you want to step up and do whatever you can do to help others adopt.   Encourage, support, uplift others.  You don’t have to adopt to make a difference.  There are so many ways to help.  You can buy a mosquito net through World Vision, support a group that is fighting sex trafficking, have your church dig a well, fed a family in your neighborhood.  Step up. Do something.   Remember Susanna and do something in her honor.  Share her story and the other children’s stories just like her who are waiting.  They deserve a family.  They have worth and they have weight in this world.  You can make a difference for one.  Be that difference!

     

  • Shuang Shuang turns 14

    Date: 2013.06.02 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    When we found out that expediting Eli was possible, we knew that we would be cutting it close with Shuang Shuang’s aging out of the orphanage.  In China, when you turn 14 you are no longer available to be adopted.  We were told that it didn’t matter if the paperwork was all done and we were traveling, if we weren’t there before she turned 14, then we couldn’t adopt her.  God had shown himself over and over again during this year that lead us to four beautiful souls.  We decided, once again, to trust in His plan and proceeded, believing with all our hearts, that He would get us to her in plenty of time.

    We were told many things about what would happen to her after she turned 14.  Someone said she would be put out on the street.  That could not have even remotely been a possibility.   She isn’t able to sit-up, roll over, or really move herself.  Someone else told me that they thought she would have been moved to an adult mental institution.  I don’t honestly know what would have happened to her, and it breaks my heart to even consider the possibilities.  I hurt for all the years she spent in the orphanage waiting for a family.  I have said many times that I don’t always understand God’s plans, but I trust them.  I do know having seen her with our little ones that she was probably a wonderful big sister to the children in the orphanage.  I bet she encouraged and changed many lives.

    Having read the posts about Lauren (Shuang) on Love Without Boundaries site, you see quickly that her life has touched many people.  Many people were praying for her and we even heard from her sponsors this week.  They both talk about how much they care about Shuang.  It’s been a very moving couple of weeks.

    So on this, her 14th birthday, a whole week as a US citizen, it seemed appropriate to celebrate.

    We had a busy day today.  The girls had a dance recital at 11 and 5:30, so we chose to let Shuang Shuang sleep in.  I woke her up after noon and she still wanted to sleep.  Jet lag is no fun!  Maisey and Eli woke me up at 4:30 a.m. so we decided to start decorating.  During our decorating fun, I had to put Maisey in time out because I turned around to find her having already opened two of Shuang’s gifts.  More wrapping, more decorating, and we were as ready as we could be.

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    Dan may have gone a little overboard on the gifts.  He said she has missed 6 birthdays and he wanted her to have a nice one.  He went shopping and found a random array of gifts.  From a stuffed dog that you make sing with a microphone, to really girly purses.  The sad thing was she didn’t understand gifts.  She didn’t know how to open one, but that was soon rectified.

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    And even some random goofy gag gifts….

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    Mema brought her a special, big, pink, princess, cake.

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    Eli especially enjoyed Shuang’s cake.

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    We went to her siblings dance recital.   Where Maisey proceeded to turn herself slightly with her back to the audience and not dance one little bit.  The audience ooohhed and awwwed and I wondered why I always have the child who loves dance and refuses to perform at the recital.   She looked cute in the outfit though.

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    And on our way into the recital, a lady who had been selling bouquets of flowers to dance families, said that she had one bouquet of flowers left and wondered if she could give them to Shuang.  I told her that it was her birthday and that would be wonderful.   Happy birthday wishes were spread around and Shuang felt special.  It’s not often you are on a sidewalk and a random person hands you a bouquet of flowers.  I love Godcidences.

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    What a wonderful addition Shuang has been to our family.  Everyone loves her.  While Ben was dancing on stage, he stopped and yelled, “Hey, I can see mama and Shuang.  Shuang, Shuang came to watch me.  Awesome!”  Cassie and Gracie especially have fun with Shuang.   Gracie has always had a special place in her heart for Shuang and had hoped that they would be friends.  It has turned out better than Gracie had hoped.  They sleep in beds right next to each other.  They giggle and play their I-pads.  It’s a wonderful thing to see.

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    It was a big day.  Cassie took the littles into the playroom so that I could take a nap. This is what happened a mere 20 minutes later.

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    But Shuang and Gracie were still going strong at midnight.

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    All in all, it was a wonderful day filled with happy memories.  I fell in love with her picture on LWB’s site, when LWB was advocating for a family for her.  I cried tears because we had already decided that adopting an older child was not a good fit for our family.  At the very same moment, in another room, on another computer, Dan read the same story and cried tears too.  He came to me and said we needed to talk and the rest is history as they say.  Thank goodness God doesn’t listen to what we think we can handle.  I can’t imagine my life without that sweet smile in it.

    Happy birthday Shuang Shuang – my beautiful Jasmine flower.  Mama loves you!

  • The good, the bad, the adorable…

    Date: 2013.06.01 | Category: Evangeline Faith

    THE GOOD:

    Tomorrow is the big day.  Shuang Shuang will turn 14.  Dan hit Toys’R’Us one last time for good measure.  I think the girl has enough gifts now. We have been counting down the days.  We have been joking all week about what she does and doesn’t want for her birthday.  She wants a big, pink, princess cake so I keep acting confused and saying “Blue, trucks and cars cake?”  and she laughs.  Mema got her a pink, princess cake, so all is well.  We’ve bought enough pink decorations to decorate the whole house or at least it seems that way.   Hopefully, she will have a nice day.  I think she deserves a nice birthday.  She has spent her 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th birthday in that orphanage.  It’s about time for some celebrating.

    SOME GOOD AND SOME BAD:

    We took Evie, Lainey and Eli to Iowa City for appointments today.  I told people I would update my blog when we knew anything.  There’s not a lot to tell, but I’ll let you know what I do know.  Lainey had all her bloodwork done for her PKU.  We will hopefully get her diet back on track and she will feel even better.  We’ve seen big changes in her since we’ve come home so I think we are on the right track.

    Evie and Eli had EKG’s and echos.  Our cardiologist was in the room during the echo, to try and catch what he could, without them having to be examined for a long time.  Eli’s was pretty much what we thought.  He will need to be seen by Dr. Hanley at Stanford in the next few months.  No heart catherization in his future until we get to Stanford.  If we did one here, they would just repeat it when we got to California.  So we have a few more months before Eli has to have a procedure done.  Eli has pulmonary atresia and that is Dr. Hanley’s speciality.   Eli’s sats were 78%.  He is much pinker than Ben and Evie.  Although they said it might be because he’s anemic.

    Dr. D has recommended that we take care of Evie’s issues, the Ben’s, and finally Eli’s within the next couple of months.

    Evie’s was much more complicated than we thought.  We had high hopes that her single ventricle would allow her to have surgery.  It doesn’t look like that is the case. It looks like her pulmonary arteries are almost non-existent and she is getting blood flow to her lungs via collaterals and a small PDA.   Of course, we won’t know for 100% sure until after the heart catherization.   They want to do her heart cath next Thursday.  They made time in their schedule for her, but after thinking it through, we are going to wait a while.  She is just so malnourished.  She doesn’t have much reserve.  They warned us that her cath comes with a much higher incidence of death and I don’t think I could take that this soon into it.  I know there will never be a time that I say, “Oh now would be a good time to let her go.”  But right now seems too soon.  I don’t want to risk it.  If they said her only chance was to have her cath next week, well then I’d have her go through with it.  But they said she’s been sick for a long time, so a few more days or weeks shouldn’t hurt anything.  She’s had sats in the low 60’s, high 50’s for a while now.  A little time will be a good thing, time to grow and just be with her family.  At least after much prayer and consideration, that is what our hearts are telling us.  Man these decisions truly suck!  There’s a few other choice words I could use, but I’ll be nice and stick with sucks!  She is just such a sweet soul.  I know no child deserves to die.  No child deserves to suffer.  But this little girl is beyond special.  She charms the socks off everyone she meets.  Her whole face just lights up and she is so animated.  It breaks my heart.  Yes, I knew the odds going in but it still hurts when you are hit with reality this soon.

    We will continue to pray for our little girl and love her like crazy.  You never know what will happen and only God knows the number of her days.  So for now I’ll just spend my time enjoying her cuteness!  It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

    ADORABLE:

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