Archive for January, 2014

  • The Little Pirate Turns Two

    Date: 2014.01.18 | Category: Elijah

    In June of 2012, I saw a picture of a little boy in New Hope Foundation’s newsletter.  They were pleading for a family for this little guy. China had said they couldn’t do surgery and his only hope was coming to the U.S.

    eli 6

    Then a month later, I saw a Show Hope newsletter asking for the same thing for little Warren.  By then I was praying and pleading with God.  I knew in my heart if it was meant to be that he would be my son but so many things could go wrong.  But I had faith and truly believed he would be my son, I just knew it from the very first moment I saw his face.  I mean really, who wouldn’t fall in love with a face like this?


    Months went by as we waited for the orphanage to make him paper ready. We waited and waited and waited.  We finally had to make the choice to adopt Evie and Lainey and go back to get Eli when his papers became available.  I never gave up hope because I knew this little guy was my son and Ben believed fully that Eli was his didi.   (You can read more about it here. Miraculous Happenings)

    In the meantime we saw Jasmine’s picture and proceeded with her adoption before she aged out.  China had allowed us three.  We would just have to turn around and use our paperwork and head back in another six months or so.   But then in March his papers miraculously became available.  Everything was expedited and China allowed us to adopt all four at once.  In May he became our son.  The magnitude of all that happened for him to become our son is never lost on me.  I am blessed over and over again by this sweet little guy.


    Elijah James is as sweet as sweet can be.  He is fun and games and everything good.  He is goofy and funny and loves to cuddle.

    Cassie's pictures December '13 036

    I have a song that I sing to all the kids before the go to sleep.  I make up their song as I get to know them.

    Here is Eli’s:

    Eli the pirate, he stole his mama’s heart.

    Eli the pirate, right from the very start.

    Eli the pirate is as cute as cute can be.

    Eli the pirate is a treasure to me.

    eli 3 eli 5

    He loves to bake.


    And chase and be chased by his siblings.

    Ben 5

    And be silly in every possible way.

    eli 4

    This year we got to meet Steven Curtis Chapman because Eli was the 500th child to be admitted to Maria’s Big House of Hope in China.  SCC’s Glorious Unfolding tour came to Iowa.  His Glorious Unfolding cd is one of my favorite SCC cd’s ever.  It was so fun to meet Mr. Chapman and thank him for all the care he gave to our little guy.



    Eli is so easy going and sweet. Evie and Eli are best friends.  They have their own little language that is so funny.  When Evie gets her shot, it’s Eli who is holding her hand and high fiving her afterwards.  He is the first to say please and the first to say thank you.  He is the first to go to sleep without even a peep.   He loves everyone and hasn’t found a food that he doesn’t like to eat.  He is the lowest maintenance of all the kids.  He is thrilled with the littlest gift.  He has the cutest dimple and the best smile.

    Eli’s future is uncertain, but isn’t everyone’s?  We have an appointment at Stanford in April.  We will see what they have to say and what they can do.  In the meantime, we will thoroughly enjoy the days we are blessed to spend with this little guy.  We know how lucky we were to be able to adopt him in the first place. It’s hard to worry about the number of his days when you had a front row seat to the amazing miracles God had happen just to allow us that gift.

    Happy birthday little guy!  xoxox



  • The Beauty admist the Pain

    Date: 2014.01.13 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    But pain insists upon being attended to.  God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  —  C.S. Lewis

    God’s megaphone has beat me up along side the head and I haven’t a clue what to do about it.  My heart hurts. The more time I spend with Jasmine the more my heart hurts for all the children living in orphanages that will age out.  Every day someone or some organization posts a picture of a child, a beautiful child, that will age out in months.  They are pleading to all their friends to share the pictures.  They are hoping and praying that somewhere out there is this child’s forever family.   Unfortunately, it seems like most of the time, the world is not listening.

    There are so many children that will spend their lives in institutions because no one steps up to take them. So many children who will be released to the street with no family, minimal education, and little or no life skills. Many of these children right here in our own country will turn 18, get a few dollars, and be on their own.  These children may need a little bit of help or a lot of help, but one thing is the same for all of them.  They are all children with no one to turn to.

    I often wonder why aren’t more people stepping up to help?  I believe part of the problem is because people are afraid of all the horror stories they have seen in the news. The wonderful stories aren’t making the front page or the evening news.  So people believe that the horror stories are the norm.  These people are afraid of the disruptions these children will bring to their family.  They are afraid of the unknowns.  They are afraid of failing or not being enough.  I know these feelings.  I once was overwhelmed by them.  I once closed my eyes to the need because I was fearful.

    Because of this fear, Dan and I had chosen not to adopt an older child.  We had a long list of reasons why.  An older child would be harder to integrate into our family.  They posed a bigger risk to the littler kids.  An older child would have a harder time with language.  They would be harder to bond with.  An older child comes with more emotional baggage.  An older child could run away.  The reasons went on and on and on and on.

    BUT we were so wrong.  Jasmine is a beautiful soul.  I keep waiting for things to change but it hasn’t.  Even in times of stress, she is still the same loveable girl.  Most of the time Jasmine has a smile on her face.  She loves life even though her life hasn’t always been easy.  Jasmine has gone through so much.  She has started to share things about her childhood that are unbelievably heartbreaking.  We know these stories are true because Jasmine has many, many scars to show for it.  Jasmine was abandoned when she was eight, when she needed family the most.  She spent six years in an orphanage where they weren’t able to move her.  She couldn’t go to school because they couldn’t carry her down the flight of stairs to the schoolroom.  She spent years sitting in a wheelchair watching others have fun.  You would think she would be an angry teenager but she isn’t.

    Jasmine may be physically unable to do many things but mentally she is very, very bright.  She has picked up on English so quickly.  The other day I jokingly told Stephanie that Maisey could do everyone’s make-up for the wedding. Here is a picture of Maisey after she did her own make-up.


    The next morning Jasmine asked me, “Mama, you no really mean Maisey can do my make-up for Zachy’s wedding? I no really like that.  You being silly right, mama?”   That is a pretty good grasp of the English language after only 7 months.  Jasmine is bright and funny and all girl.  She loves pink and pretty dresses and watching wedding shows.  She loves to do her makeup and go shopping.

    Jasmine needs surgery to correct the curve in her spine, but Jasmine has chosen not to have surgery until after the wedding.  She wants to dress up like a princess and see Zachary get married.  After speaking with her doctors, we got the okay to hold off a couple of months so she could wear her dress and participate fully in the wedding.

    After we got the okay from the doctors, we took her shopping for the perfect princess dress.  It was one of the best days I have ever spent shopping.  The joy on her face as she picked out frilly, sparkly, sequined, rhinestoned dresses was priceless.  We had tried on a few at the first store and none were to her liking.  We headed to Deb’s and picked out six more to try.  The first one she didn’t like.  The second one was a strapless gown with a rhinestone belt.  It was made for Jasmine.  Elastic in the back that I can easily take in.  No shoulder straps to get in the way. It had a frilly skirt with lots of layers, that lovely rhinestone belt, and glitter that got everywhere.  She put in on and smiled so big.  She said she felt like a princess.  She refused to try on another dress.  Watching shy Jasmine become self-assured Jasmine was a wonderful thing.  She knew it was the right dress.  She not only felt pretty she knew she was pretty.  (I promised her I would not share a picture until the wedding day.)

    She started talking hairdos with Cassie and what shoes she would wear.  Could she take her new hot pink wheelchair?   What necklace and bracelet should she wear?  She so wants to be just like every other little girl. But she’s not like every other girl and Jasmine knows this.   Lately, Jasmine has been asking a lot of hard questions.

    Questions like:

    “Will someone ever want to marry me mama?”

    “Will I ever be able to have babies?”

    “Will they let someone like me adopt?”

    “Can I go to college with Gracie?”

    “Am I pretty?”

    “Am I going to get sick?”

    “Will I be like nana?”

    I tell her what I tell all  my children.  Only God knows your future.  Only God knows the number of your days.  Only God knows if you’ll get married.  Only God knows how many children you will be blessed with.  Only God knows.

    Your job is to:

    Learn as much as you possibly can.

    Be content with what you have.

    Trust in God.

    Memorize those verses that show God’s promises for the hard times.

    Be as kind as you possibly can.

    Do the best that you can at what God has called you to do.

    Love others.

    And leave the rest to God.

    Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:27

    Jasmine understands God.  I am amazed by that.  We’ve had long conversations about Him.

    One of the most interesting stories was when we were discussing her being in the orphanage and wanting a family so much.  She said she would say over and over again in her head “Please send me a mama and a baba.”  She said she would say it quietly in her head many times a day .  One day I asked her, “Jasmine who were you talking to when you were pleading for a mama and a baba?”  She sat there for a minute and then got all excited and said, “Mama, I was praying to God.  I just didn’t know His name yet.”

    She is a bright girl.  I don’t know what the future holds for her except that she will be loved by many, many people and she will never be alone.  Yes, life with Jasmine is hard physically. There are many things that I have to do for her each and every day.  Jasmine’s future is uncertain.  Things at some point are going to get very, very hard and my heart is going to hurt, BUT the good so outweighs the bad.

    I am taking the time to share Jasmine’s story in hope that one person lets go of their fear.  One less is a beautiful thing.  One more child in a loving home.  One more child with a future and a hope.  That is what I want you to take away from this.  If God’s megaphone is calling you, if He is nudging you along, if you know He is saying, “Look at this older child.”  Don’t completely rule it out.  Pray and get as much information as you can.  Try hosting a child through Project 143  or Rainbow Kids.

    Look at children you can get information about domestically and internationally.  Love Without Boundaries  is a perfect example of an international organization that advocates for older children.  That is how we found out about Jasmine, because they were advocating for her on their Facebook page.  There are many, many organizations that can give you information from people who have personally met these children.  People who have spent time with the children.  People who are advocating for these children because they know what special souls they are.

    Many of you may have heard the story of Davion, a 16 year old boy who went in front of a church and pleaded for a family. (NY Daily News) His story went nationwide and many people came forward to inquire about adopting him.  Many more people started to look into fostering children or adopting older children.  If you were moved by his story, don’t let it end there.  Look into it.  See what you can do.  There are many older couples who are choosing to be foster parents instead of settling into a life of quiet retirement.  I love reading their stories.  (NY Times)

    God’s been talking to me through my pain.  I know He is asking something of me, I just don’t have it all figured out yet.   Step one was to share this information.  There is so much beauty admist the pain.  Don’t let the pain frighten you away.  Let that pain move you to do more, be more, love more.  God has big plans for some of you out there I just know it.  Praying that He leads you and that your heart is open to listen and that you will respond to His call.



  • Happy Birthday Mama!

    Date: 2014.01.11 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    We said goodbye and celebrated my mom’s birthday on January 5th, 2014.  She would have been 68 years old.  We met at the church early to make her a wreath.  My sister-in-law, Gayle, brought artificial flowers and the styrofoam so the grandkids could make my mom a forever wreath.  My mom always made wreaths for friends and family and sometimes people she barely knew after they had died.  She made these wreaths with a marker for their name.  She always said she hated that it took forever for headstones to be carved and there was no indication of who was recently buried.  So she made forever wreaths that could be placed at the gravesite.  It was fitting that the grandkids made the final one for her.

    We had champagne cake to celebrate her birthday because that is what she always brought to the kids for their birthdays.  It was their favorite.  We decorated the sanctuary with balloons and giant pinwheels (thank you Marcy).  We hung streamers and brightly colored balloons downstairs.  We had her meal catered by a Howard Ball (Feedshed Catering) who for years has smoked porkchops that mom has brought down to us.  Friends and family brought more bars and candy.   Grandma made her famous prune bars (delicious even though the name doesn’t sound like it).

    The church is very small.  One of those small community churches that are slowly fading away.  I was baptized in this church, confirmed, and married there.  I had my high school graduation and wedding reception there.  This church holds many good memories for me.  It was hard to go back after all these years to say goodbye to mom.  I’m not sure how many people the church normally holds, maybe 120 – 10 pews each side, 6 people to a pew).

    The basement hadn’t been used in years so friends of my mom, members of the church, cleaned and set it up for us.  They set up overflow seating in the addition, maybe another 100 seats.  All the seats were filled.  The family had gathered in the basement to pray before the service.  As we were waiting for it to start, members of the church kept coming down to get more chairs.  They just kept coming and coming.  It made me smile to think about my mom, who sincerely thought no one would show up at her service.  She didn’t want a funeral because she believed she really didn’t know that many people who would come.   There were people standing at the back of the church because there was no more room for chairs.  It did my heart good to see that.  On top of that, I heard from over 20 more people who couldn’t make it because of the weather.  Who knows what would have happened if that horrible polar vortex hadn’t hit.

    I don’t believe that my mom thought the Christ-filled life she lived really impacted people.  She went about her life without fame or fanfare.  Magazines and newspapers weren’t writing articles about the gifts of generosity and giving that she did.  No one was writing about wiped noses, or games attended to, no one wrote about sleepless nights, or hands held and all of that is okay because she wasn’t doing it for notoriety.  She simply cared about others.  She lived to make people smile.  One of her friends that served on the city council with her told me that ever since her mom passed away the year before, my mom would see her and give her a hug.  Mom always said, “Here’s a hug from your mom.”  She just cared when other people hurt.  She loved to give stuff away.  She loved to brighten your day.

    The most money my mom ever made per year was $24,000.  She was married but my stepfather didn’t make that much either.  She spent the past 10 years babysitting for her grandkids.  She certainly wasn’t going to get rich babysitting but she loved being with the kids.  If you were at the service, you could tell how much they loved her.  Her grandkids knew her.  Her grandkids knew how much she cared. Her grandkids knew, if it was possible, she would be their cheering them on.

    Mom wasn’t perfect by any means, but her heart was always in the right place.   Life hadn’t always been kind to her.  She had suffered with sarcoidosis since Cassie was born.  She often felt ill.  Perfumes would make it difficult to breathe.  Yet, she would attend every recital, game and church event that she could.  She would have to hide in a back corner sometimes if the scents were too much, but she was there.

    Mom proved over and over again that you don’t have to be rich to be generous.  She believed it wasn’t how much you had but what you did with what you had.  She gave of her time, her heart, and her money.  She would honestly give you her last dollar rather than keep it for herself.  Every year when we had our craft sale, I would give her the lecture on raising her prices.  I would say, “It’s okay to make a profit.” and she would just laugh at me.  She would say, “I am making a profit.  Plus, I get to make people happy.”  How do you argue with that?  She loved finding bargains and passing them on to her customers.   We were at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the past 10 years.  Every year people would show up and say they headed to our booth first.  It was always a wonderful weekend.  Mom would spend the weekend here at the house and camp out with the kids.

    I will miss the craft sale weekend and the Women of Faith weekend the most.  I always looked forward to them.  This year was the first one in over 11 years that I had to miss.   Mom went even though she had to spend her weekend in a wheelchair.  I was in the hospital with Evie and didn’t feel like I could leave.  We had said we would go to the one in Minneapolis in October but she never got well enough to go.

    Thank goodness I always took the time to talk to her and to visit her.  I can honestly say I regret not being there with her at Women of Faith this year, but it was impossible to do so.  Other than that I have very few regrets.  I talked with mom a couple of times a day.  She was one of my best friends.  She held my hand on the worst day of my life, when my little boy died.  She held me up.  She encouraged me.  She loved me.  She was a great mom and a true friend.

    She believed with her whole heart that she was going to a better place.  “Home” is what she called it.  She always said, “If God has a plan for me, I’ll still be here.  If not, I will be hugging my grandson until we meet again.”  She always had great faith.  She believed in God’s plan.  She trusted it no matter what.  She fought as hard as she could until her body could take no more.

    She lived a quiet life.  She made mistakes.  She believed in God with her whole heart.  She loved.  She gave.  She changed lives and had no clue that she was doing that.  She is a beautiful soul that lives on in all her children and grandchildren.  She leaves a wonderful legacy of caring and giving and she didn’t have a clue that she was doing it.   She just fully believed it was better to give than receive.

    I will miss her and if I didn’t have every hope in a future with her, I would be unable to face my day.  BUT I do have hope.   For it is by grace you have been saved through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God.  Ephesians 2:8  Thank God for His grace.  Thank goodness I can rely on His grace for an eternity to spend with her.

    Today brings me one day closer to seeing my mama again.  Today I may have moments of sadness but I will not be overcome.  I will hold firmly to the promises that He has made.  Promises to give me a future and a hope.  I hang on tight to that hope.

    Here are a few of the pictures from mom’s slideshow.

    20140103_150152 20140103_150212 20140103_150332

    20140103_150309 20140103_152219

    20140103_150459 nana15

    We played her slideshow with the song by Steven Curtis Chapman, See You In A Little While.  It was very fitting, especially the second line.

    See you in a little while Mom!  Give my little boy a hug for me until we are all together again.  LOVE YOU!!!!!






  • Thank you!

    Date: 2014.01.02 | Category: Family Life



    Today I started to write a blog about Jasmine and I noticed what number post my next post would be.  It would be number 200. That is just crazy!  I told my husband I couldn’t believe I had that much to say and he laughed. I’m not sure why….it’s not like I’m a talker or anything. Ha!  Ok, family and friends who know me well, you can stop laughing now.

    To top everything else off I got my year end results for visits to the blog.  39,969 visits.  I called my mother-in-law and she has guaranteed me that she didn’t just sit at home and sign on and off 100’s of times a day so that means the blog has a few followers.  I mention this number not to brag but to say “thank you”.  I am amazed because I know that I personally do not know the 1,000’s of unique visitors that it says I have had to my site.

    Thank you to all of you who follow our story. Thank you to those who pray for our family. Thank you for your support and encouragement over the past 18 months.  Thank you for your kind words when my heart was hurting and for celebrating with us when we had great news.   It constantly amazes me and humbles me that we have such a great group of prayer warriors covering our children as they grow.  Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!

    Praises to God who continues to bless us in ways we could never even imagine. You’ve heard me say it  before and I’m sure I will say it again….I am seriously blessed.  My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude.  May your new year be blessed too!

    irish blessing