Archive for August, 2014

  • It’s That Time of the Year Again!

    Date: 2014.08.20 | Category: Family Life, Homeschooling, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    The time of year when the stores are full of all the wonderful things to get students ready for school, backpacks, pencils, sharpeners, binders, and paper galore. It has been so much fun this year getting Jasmine ready.  She picked out her own tablets and pencils.  She helped pick out some of her curriculum books.  She did everything with such enthusiasm.  It’s all new and exciting to her.  Jasmine has given me a new appreciation for learning.   I have always been appreciative of our education system and the possibilities that lay before our children, but Jasmine has given me new eyes to see just what a blessing the gift of learning is.  I wish I had the words to properly express the joy that learning brings to her.

    Jazz School

    Jasmine doesn’t take learning for granted.  Many of our children tolerate education, they sometimes love it, but I do not believe they truly appreciate it like a child who has been denied it for years.  Jasmine had a year of school before she was abandoned at 8 years of age. She had some schooling during the first year in the orphanage, but was then excluded from school because of her disability. She was in a wheelchair, and the schoolroom had been moved to the second floor of the orphanage. They had no easy way to get her to the second floor, so she was left out.  Why they didn’t they just bring her some books or worksheets? For years, Jasmine longed to go to school.  For years she dreamed of being able to learn more.   For years she sat in a room in her wheelchair, knowing that just one flight of stairs away was everything she longed for.

    It wasn’t until years later that Love Without Boundaries was able to get her a tutor as part of a new educational program started in her school – an LWB “Believe in Me School”.  Right before we traveled to meet Jasmine, she was given the opportunity to learn English.  It was such a gift and she had such joy about the opportunity. Her tutor was very kind to her and the English she learned made her initial transition much easier for her and for us.

    It is such a joy watching this sweet child learn. Her brain is a sponge, and she is eagerly absorbing every bit of information we can throw at her. She is learning a new language, a new culture, and years of basic knowledge at a rapid pace – all while smiling her dazzling smile and asking for more.

    With the vast amounts of trivial information we are bombarded with 24/7 – news, tweets, YouTube, Facebook, etc – we forget what a privilege it is to simply learn. We are rarely denied access to our information sources – but when the WiFi goes down, the power goes out, or you lose your cell phone – panic ensues.

    Perhaps, like Jasmine, you should exercise your freedom and privilege by picking up a book and engaging in the sweet joy and privilege of learning.

    Min & Tutor

    As we were getting our school room ready, Jasmine asked me how long I have been homeschooling.  I had to stop and think about it for a while.   I first started homeschooling when Zach was in 4th grade and Cassie had just started kindergarten, which makes the grand total 17 years.

    We were about half-way through Cassie’s kindergarten year when I realized that maybe my children would be better suited for schooling at their own speed at home.  Zach came home talking about how bored he was and Cassie was constantly frustrated that they wouldn’t let her read chapter books and they kept making her read the little kid books.  I started to question why we were paying for a Christian education only to have my kids come home and want to do more.

    It wasn’t that the school was bad or lacking in what they were teaching.  My children just needed something different than they were getting in school.  The school just wasn’t prepared for a kindergartner that read at the eight grade level.  There were no talented and gifted programs in the elementary school we started Zach in or the Christian school we transferred him to.  The Christian school was a year ahead of the public school in the level they were teaching, but Zach still wanted more.

    My father-in-law had been telling me for years that I could do this, but I believed all the things others were saying.  My kids wouldn’t be social.  Kids want to go to school.  They need to be around other kids their own age.  You can’t provide the same type of education that a school can.  They will fall behind.  They won’t be able to get into college.  They will miss out on opportunities that only a school can provide.  They won’t be able to play sports.  The list went on and on.  This list put fear in my heart and kept me from doing what I should have done for Zach in first grade.

    What they don’t tell you is that schools allow dual enrollment.  You can take the classes you need there.  You can play sports at the school.  You can take art and music.  You can do your yearly testing.  In our school district, you can even ask for a homeschool adviser.   We have had the same homeschool adviser for over 10 years now.  We love Ms. Deb, as the kids call her, she is like family.   If I get stuck trying to figure out how to help my child learn a certain task, she is there to help me out.  It’s much like our o.t. and p.t. and speech person.  I don’t need someone to do my work, but I would be the first to admit that there are others who know more than I do.  Just teach me how to do it and I will apply it.   Sometimes we all need a new eye on the area we need help with.

    I am so happy that we started homeschooling.  It has allowed me to be flexible with our hours and the days that they attend.  Every one of the children under Cassie’s age have a health issue.  Homeschooling allows us to go to doctor’s appointments without missing school. It allows for surgeries.  It allows for long hospital stays.  It allows for no school on each child’s birthday.  It allows me to be able to go slower in the areas where they need a little more work and faster in the areas where they excel.  It allows me to have lots of time with each child in our unique, large family.

    There is nothing like being able to call a “mommy needs to snuggle with her littles” day and just hang out and watch a movie.   As long as I get the allotted number of days in and they get their work done, we are allowed to take a free day here and there.

    This year we decided to do something a little different with the way the children learn.   Cassie and Zach were easy to teach because they could read anything and remember it.  They were the type of students that every homeschooling mom should be blessed enough to start with.  Both Cassie and Zach always tested at the top of their groups and did exceedingly well on their ACTs.  They had no trouble getting into college.

    But the middles all learn differently.    They do better with visual aids.  They do better with repetition.   They like to learn by songs and videos and pictures so instead of workbooks and lots and lots of reading, which Jasmine and Gracie have trouble with, we decided to go back to the old days of the one room classroom and work on some subjects together.  I put together a wall in my kitchen with two boards each holding four different subjects.

    chalk

    On the back of each of those cards are three easy questions, for Grace and Jasmine, and three hard questions for Hope.   I have a large white board that I write out the question for all three of them.  They copy the question in a large binder with nine different subject dividers in it. Eight for each of the cards and graph paper for practicing writing Mandarin.  It helps their penmanship.  It helps them with sentence structure and the larger words that Jasmine hasn’t picked up yet.  Since Hope writes quicker then the other two, Hope does an easy and a hard question.  Jasmine and Grace do an easy question each day.  On Thursday, they have to research a fact that we haven’t learned to share with me and then we review everything on Friday.

    Dan and I decided to do things this way after sitting down and deciding what it was we wanted the children to learn.  We wanted them to memorize Bible verses so they could recall God’s promises in times of need.  We wanted them to be able to recall a couple of basic facts about the subjects that we felt they needed to learn.   There is no way everyone remembers everything they read unless they are like Zach and Dan.  (We won’t even go into that subject.)    We wanted them to be proficient in Mandarin (both written and spoken) and American Sign Language.   The children should be trilingual by the time they graduate.   Elijah, who is two, already signs well over 100 words.   The littles sit at the table and listen too.  They have already started learning.

    I found these chalkboards at Hobby Lobby for 90% off.  It cost me only a few dollars to put it together.  I had been printing off questions and figuring out my own, but we found these games called Professor Noggins.  There are unlimited subjects in which to study. On the back it has three easy and three hard questions.  I have added more or different questions when necessary.  We found stick on chalkboards at Target that are little signs like the faith and love ones below the question boards to the larger ones that show the rules of the house.

    Chalk 3

    This House Rules sign is one of my favorites.   About 30 seconds after reading all the rules to the littles, Ben turned to Eli, who was whining about not being able to play with Ben’s truck, and Ben said, “It says no whining and wait your turn.”  I was so happy.  Maybe I won’t have to repeat the rules 100 times a day any more. 🙂

    We even have the school day listed.  Last year I had it on a piece of paper but Jasmine had a hard time reading it.  Jasmine likes routine and order.  She likes to know what is expected of her.   I stuck this stick on chalkboard to the side of my computer desk.  I wrote on it in silver permanent marker.  Jasmine already has it memorized and I no longer have to say, “This is what you should be doing now.”

    Chalk 1

    We even have a sign for daily chores and the prayer order.   Everyone knows their chores, like taking out the garbage and recycling, so this chore list is for the extra things each of them need to do each day.   The prayer order list is because the littles actually fight over who gets to say the prayer.  They all want to be the one to give thanks for the meal and I could never seem to remember whose turn it was.  This list has saved mommy lots of headaches.

    Chalk 2

    Jasmine has added new energy into our homeschooling.  I like the new way of doing school.  Instead of running from child to child doing workbooks all day long, half of our time is spent talking about different subjects and learning together.   Jasmine’s excitement has rubbed off on all of us.  She has given us all new eyes on the gift that learning is.   It truly is a blessing!

    Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  – Chinese Proverb

     

  • Kelly

    Date: 2014.08.09 | Category: Adoption, Kelly

    What do I know for sure?  Life is complicated, difficult, heartbreaking, unpredictable, but it is also beautiful, wonderful, heartwarming, and joy-filled.   Sometimes the journey isn’t what you thought it would be.  Sometimes the curves take you places you didn’t set out to go.   I know it’s not about the destination.  It’s about following where God leads and trusting in His plan even when it doesn’t make sense to you.

    I haven’t updated about Kelly in a while because it’s just been too hard on my heart.  There are so many emotions and thoughts that I just couldn’t get the words down on paper in any coherent way.  Have you ever just not wanted to do something because it made it way too real?  That is where I am at.  This is going to be long.  I’ve tried to cut it down, but there’s so much I want to say.  I thought about doing it in a couple of posts, but I just want to be done thinking about it.   So here goes, time to pull off the band-aid quickly….

    Kelly does not wish to be adopted.

    Well, even that is not the whole truth.  She doesn’t want to leave China.  She doesn’t want to be adopted by foreigners.  She doesn’t want to learn a new language and come to a new country and I can’t blame her.  I’m not sure I could have done it.  I have older daughters.  I know Hope wouldn’t have wanted to leave her home and everything she knew and loved.  Gracie might have been more open to it and considered it an adventure.   Jasmine left China but she had no options and nothing waiting for her there so she was able to embrace all that we offered.  Cassie would have trusted God and His plan and done whatever she felt He was leading her to do.

    For the past two months, we have known that Kelly has had great reservations about being adopted.  We have not said anything because we were hoping it was just the usual “I am afraid” response.  We hoped and prayed she would embrace the thought of family even though she was afraid.

    As you know months ago, I saw Kelly and Amanda’s pictures on some Facebook advocacy page.  Things just never moved forward with Amanda.  There were many roadblocks and it just didn’t seem right, but with Kelly the more I read about her the more I cared.   I knew that my heart was moved but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just an emotional response.  I prayed and prayed some more and decided to ask more questions.  I wanted all the information I could get on her so I posted a comment and people responded.  I was told that I should talk to two specific people, one of whom had met her and the other who had hoped to adopt Kelly herself.  From these two people, I got the names of two other people who had cared for Kelly in the group home.

    I asked every question I could.  The most important questions being “Does she really want a family, would she be okay with a large family, and does she want to come to America?”.   I think we all like to think, “Well, who wouldn’t want to come to America and have a family?”, but the truth is sometimes older children do not wish to leave their birth country and everything they know and hold dear.  By the time these  older children are teenagers, they have come to terms with the fact that a family may not be coming.  They are used to caring for themselves and can be very independent.

    As a family, we discussed adopting Kelly.  We talked with our agency and asked them what the chances were of adopting an aging out teenage girl in 170 days.  Our agency informed us everything would have to go perfectly, but it was possible.  We decided to take a chance, we submitted our LOI, and waited for PA.  After PA you are allowed to send letters, gifts, and pictures.  We received our PA and sent a care package to Kelly.

    After we knew she got our package, we talked to people again.   She had seen our pictures and we wanted to be sure she was okay with a big family.  We continued to ask if she really wanted a family. We tried in many different ways and we never got the response we wanted.   We heard over and over again that she wasn’t sure and that she was afraid.  We never heard the words, “She really wants a family but is afraid.”   You can overcome fear if the want for a family is greater than the fear.  We understood that she would be fearful, everything in her life was about to change.  We understood it would take time for her to adjust to her new life.  No one can be expected to give up everything they hold dear and not have it affect them.

    Instead of hearing that she wanted a family, we heard over and over again, “We are trying to convince her this is the best thing for her.” We did everything we could to ease her mind. We talked to people who were close to her.  We sent her letters in her care package.  We let her know about our blog.  We asked them to share our Facebook page with her so she could see videos and pictures of our family.  We asked to Skype with her.

    We were allowed to Skype and we thought things had gone well.  She didn’t seem afraid while Skyping.  She was laughing and smiling the whole time.   Her body language was relaxed and open.  At the end of the call, we had told Kelly to let them know if she had more questions.  We waited a few days and we heard nothing.  I sent an e-mail to the director of the group home asking him if she had more questions and he said skyping made her fear worse.  She was even more afraid and was very unsure about whether or not she wanted to be adopted.

    One of the main things that stood out to me was that after we skyped, she said all the littles were overwhelming.  They were very sweet during the Skype conversation.  They all took turns and said “Hi!”.   They waved and Evie even blew her a kiss.  It wasn’t anything compared to what our house is like.  They are very busy little people.  I was hoping that she would see how much they loved her, but it had the opposite affect.

    There were signs from the beginning that things may have not been what we were told.   We thought she really wanted a family and was okay with going to America.  As I said before, the truth was she wanted a family, but she never wanted to leave China.  There were signs all along the process.  We heard words like “She didn’t know she could be adopted. She never thought that it would happen.  She was surprised by it.  She was okay if the paper work did or didn’t get done.”

    The issue is she has people she loves at the group home. She has a very close friend who she helps with schooling.  She cares about all the little ones that are there.  She considers these people her family.  She sings with them.  She has art lessons and piano lessons.   She can work in their bakery when she’s of age.  She won’t be out on the street.  In her mind, she has a whole lot to lose and she has no clue what she would gain.

    With all the information we had, we talked to our agency.  After much group discussion within the agency and with our family, we knew we had two options.   First, we could travel and hope that we could convince her to be adopted.  But even as we discussed that, we were told by her group home that they would not force her to sign.  They were going to let it be her decision.  Second, we could give her a deadline by which to make her decision.  She had been wavering for months and it wasn’t getting better.  In fact, it seemed it was getting worse.  We prayed and considered all the options.  We discussed it again with our agency, who was very good at telling us the pros and cons.  They shared with us previous stories, the kids who didn’t sign, the parents who landed in China only to be told no before they even met the child, and the stories where children were convinced to sign, forced to sign, and what happened when they came home.

    We decided it would be better to give Kelly a deadline before we traveled.  We didn’t want to take the chance of traveling to China only to have Kelly refuse to sign the paperwork.  In China, if you are ten or older, you have to agree to the adoption.  You have to sign forms stating you wish to be adopted.  I have heard others share their stories on a Facebook group.  They talked of forcing the child to sign.  I have heard the threats that were said by many different parties and the fights that ensued.    As I said before, we had previously talked with the director of the group home and he said they would leave the decision up to her.  They would not force her to sign.  We knew it had to be Kelly’s decision and we knew she needed a deadline.  She is painfully shy and neither Dan or I thought standing in front of her trying to convince her would really help anything.

    We were at a critical point in the adoption process, we needed to file for her visa.  We needed to know one way or the other.  It was agreed upon that she would have until Friday, July 18th, to decide.  They e-mailed and asked if they could have until Monday, the 21st, to decide and we agreed.  When we didn’t hear anything on Monday, we e-mailed again.  The response we got was that Kelly had a cold and they couldn’t get an answer.  My heart dropped.  I knew what that meant.  That’s not a real excuse for not answering.   I e-mailed again and he said, “Kelly may one day regret this decision, but she does not wish to be adopted.  She does not want to leave China.”

    I cried tears much like I did with Kyle.  The dream of a life was there, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We are heartbroken to say the least.  The children have been in tears.  Jasmine doesn’t understand.  If you remember our journey to another aging out daughter began because Jasmine wanted to help another girl much like herself.  Jasmine has said over and over again, “But she doesn’t understand what family means.”

    I have prayed over and over again.  Kelly’s picture is on my homescreen of my phone and my computer.  Every time her picture came on the screen, I prayed for clarity for her.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and I truly meant it.   But being an imperfect human I hoped or assumed that God’s plan would mean Kelly would be my daughter.  It’s funny how we do that.  Like God is a magic genie and all our wishes will just come true if we pray hard enough.

    The verse does say, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”   Matthew 21:22

    But there is also a verse that says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

    Someone asked me if I was angry at God.  I’m not angry at God.  I can’t be angry at God because things didn’t work out the way I had hoped.   Kelly has free will.  I cannot make Kelly do what I wish.   I can’t possibly know why we were lead down this path, but I still believe it was God who sent us on this journey.  Too many doors were opened, too many signs lead to Kelly for it to not be from God.

    All the signs lead to this having a happy ending, at least on our end.  We’ve never had an adoption go so smoothly.  Everyone was on board with the expediting and were more than gracious to speed our paperwork up.  Our agency has gone above and beyond.  We have been overwhelmed with the support and caring that we have received.  Everything was going as planned.  We were at that very last stage – requesting a visa, which leads to the Article 5 being issued, which leads to the consulate appointment and travel approval.  We had 30 days left and it was more than doable.  We were all set.

    I have tried to wrap my head around this.  I have cried many tears grieving over my lost dreams.  I saw her in the girl’s room.  We bought her a new bed.  The girls and I bought her clothes that we thought she would love based on the pictures we’ve seen of her.  We know her favorite color was blue so we bought her a beautiful blue comforter.  She has jewelry and hairbows.  I saw myself brushing her pretty hair and letting her know how beautiful she is.  I am her mama in my heart and I would be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt.

    I don’t understand.  I just can’t see the big picture.  I can see little bits of what I have learned.  I have seen what group homes do for children.  These homes are proof that there are better ways to raise children even if they can’t have a forever family.  I have seen the other side of teen adoption.  I belong to groups where I have heard all sorts of outcomes.  My eyes have definitely been opened. I know it doesn’t always go like it has with Jasmine.  I have learned how to expedite and I have seen how well the adoption process works if everyone moves stuff along.  I have always wanted to speak to our congressman and tell them changes needed to be made to speed the process up, to cut out the redundancy of costs and paperwork, get rid of some of the unnecessary paperwork, and now I know ways that it can happen.

    But if I was to tell the truth, I don’t want to be more informed.  I want to be a mama to a little girl half way around the world who has no clue what that means and who doesn’t want the same thing.

    So for now, we will try to help her in any way we can. We will stay in touch if she lets us.  We will sponsor her.  We have let them know we will help with her education or anything else that may come up.  I am comforted by the fact that Kelly has people who love her there.  She has friends and many who she considers family.  She knows God.  She has a love for God that is beautiful.  There is a video of her singing and signing on Agape’s Facebook page.  I believe God must have plans for her there.  Maybe she just needed to know that a family would fight for her.  I know I don’t have the answers, but I am placing my trust in Him who’s ways are not my ways.

    Please keep Kelly in your prayers especially on August 17th, which is her birthday.  No matter how sure she is of her decision turning 14 will make it very real.  Also, please say specific prayers for healing on her feet, she has some really bad blisters and sores on them right now.  Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us on this journey.   Please consider supporting Agape Family Life House and the other group homes in China and around the world trying to make it a better place for children who wait.

    The truth is we wish no child had to leave their families, but the world is not perfect.  There are many ways to help:  Support families that are stuck in poverty so their families may stay intact.  Support the group homes that are doing the very best they can for the children in their care.  Support groups that are providing surgeries for children in need.  Support those that are called to adopt.   And finally, if you are being called to adopt yourself, step out of that comfort zone, and see what God has in store for you.

     

     

  • Happy Birthday Dan!

    Date: 2014.08.08 | Category: Uncategorized

    Today I am reposting this blog post for my husband’s birthday.  Not much has happened this year except for two heart surgeries, a spinal fusion with extended hospital stay for a wound infection, two heart caths, two new additions (Max and Elyse) and a wedding.  We know how to keep it low key around this place.  Here is the new family picture excluding Lainey who refused to be photographed.

    Love you to the moon and back sweetie.  Happy, happy birthday!

    family pic

    Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 

    Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 

    Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.   Psalm 127:3-4

    Family 2

    Happy birthday to my best friend.

    The man who has healed the wounds of my youth

    taught me to trust God and His plan

    lifted me up

    stood by me when times were hard

    made me laugh….every single day

    encouraged me

    supported me

    loved me….since forever it seems

    held my hand on this incredible journey

    and most of all shared the amazing, impossible, unbelievable dreams that God has given us.

    In a world where men hit middle age, buy sports cars, and trade their wives for a younger version,

    Dan drives a 20 year old bus and loves the same women he has loved since he was 15.

    He is blessed by many who call him dad!

    “The Children whom God has graciously given your servant.” – Genesis 33:5

    family 1

    Praying that the next year holds

    much joy

    many blessings

    peace and calm

    healed hearts in our two little ones

    and more hugs and kisses

    than you can even bear

    from those many children

    who are lucky enough to call you dad!

    Happy birthday Sweetheart!

     

  • Kelly Update

    Date: 2014.08.07 | Category: Adoption, Kelly

    For the past two months, we have known that Kelly has had great reservations about being adopted.  We have not said anything because we were hoping it was just the ususal “I am afraid” response.  We hoped and prayed she would embrace the thought of family even though she was afraid.

    Months ago, I saw Kelly’s picture on a Facebook advocacy page.  I read about her.  I knew that my heart was moved but I wanted to be sure it wasn’t just an emotional response.  I prayed and prayed some more and decided to ask more questions.  I wanted all the information I could get on her so I posted a comment and people responded.  I was told that I should talk to two specific people, one of whom had met her and the other who had hoped to adopt Kelly herself.  From these two people, I got their names of two other people who had cared for Kelly in the group home.

    I asked every question I could.  The most important questions being “Does she really want a family, would she be okay with a large family, and does she want to come to America?”.   I think we all like to think, “Well, who wouldn’t want to come to America and have a family?”, but the truth is sometimes older children do not wish to leave their birth country and everything they know and hold dear.  By the time these older children are teenagers, they have come to terms with the fact that a family may not be coming.  They are used to caring for themselves.

    As a family, we discussed adopting Kelly.  We talked with our agency and asked them what the chances were of adopting an aging out teenage girl in 170 days.  Our agency informed us everything would have to go perfectly, but it was possible.  We decided to take a chance, we submitted our LOI, and waited for PA.  After PA you are allowed to send letters, gifts, and pictures.  We received our PA and sent a care package to Kelly.

    After we knew she got our package, we talked to people again.  We wanted to be sure she was okay with a big family and that she truly wanted to be adopted.  We tried in many different ways and we never got the response we wanted.   We heard over and over again that she wasn’t sure and that she was afraid.  We never heard the words, “She really wants a family but is afraid.”   You can overcome fear if the want for a family is greater than the fear.  We understood that she would be fearful, everything in her life was about to change.  We understood it would take time for her to adjust to her new life.  No one can be expected to give up everything they hold dear and not have it affect them.

    Instead of hearing that she wanted a family, we heard over and over again, “We are trying to convince her this is the best thing for her.” We did everything we could to ease her mind. We talked to people who were close to her.  We sent her letters in her care package.  We let her know about our blog.  We asked them to share our Facebook page with her so she could see videos and pictures of our family.  We asked to Skype with her.

    You might ask, “Why would you keep asking if she wanted to be adopted?”  We kept asking because something just didn’t feel right.  Whenever anyone that was close to her talked about it, they always mentioned how everyone was trying to convince her that it was the right thing to do.

    I even talked with a mother who was going be traveling soon to volunteer there.  I did not know her personally but others that I trusted in the Facebook community did.  I asked her to spend some time with Kelly and get an unbiased opinion of whether she really wanted to be adopted.  She sent me pictures of their time together.  I believed things looked pretty good after that.

    We were allowed to Skype and we thought things had gone well.  She didn’t seem afraid while Skyping.  She was laughing and smiling the whole time.   Her body language was relaxed and open.  At the end of the call, we had told Kelly to let them know if she had more questions.  We waited a few days and we heard nothing.  I sent an e-mail to the director of the group home asking him if she had more questions and he said Skyping made her fear worse.  She was even more afraid and was very unsure about whether or not she wanted to be adopted.

    There were signs from the beginning that things may have not been what we were told.   We thought she really wanted a family and was okay with going to America.  The truth was she wanted a family, but she never wanted to leave China.  There were signs all along the process.  We heard words like “She didn’t know she could be adopted. She never thought that it would happen.  She was surprised by it.  She was okay if the paper work did or didn’t get done.”

    The issue is she has people she loves at the group home. She has a very close friend who she helps with schooling.  She considers these people her family.  She sings with them.  She has art lessons and piano lessons.   She can work in their bakery when she’s of age.  She won’t be out on the street.  In her mind, she has a whole lot to lose and she has no clue what she would gain.

    With all the information we had, we talked to our agency.  After much group discussion within the agency and with our family, we knew we had two options.   First, we could travel and hope that we could convince her to be adopted.  We were told by her group home that they would not force her to sign.  They were going to leave it her decision.  Second, we could give her a deadline by which to make her decision.  She had been wavering for months and it wasn’t getting better it was getting worse.  We prayed and considered all the options.  We discussed it again with our agency, who was very good at telling us all the previous stories, the kids who didn’t sign, the parents who landed in China only to be told no before they even met the child, and the stories where children were convinced to sign.

    We decided it would be better to give Kelly a deadline before we traveled.  We didn’t want to take the chance of traveling to China only to have Kelly refuse to sign the paperwork.  In China, if you are ten or older, you have to agree to the adoption.  You have to sign forms stating you wish to be adopted.  I have heard of others forcing the child to sign.  I have heard the threats that were said and the fights that ensued.    As I said before, we had previously talked with the director of the group home and he said they would leave the decision up to her.  They would not force her to sign.  We knew it had to be Kelly’s decision.

    We were at a critical point in the adoption process, we needed to file for her visa.  We needed to know one way or the other.  It was agreed upon that she would have until Friday, July 18th, to decide.  They e-mailed and asked if they could have until Monday to decide and we agreed.  When we didn’t hear anything on Monday, we e-mailed again.  The response we got was that Kelly had a cold and they couldn’t get an answer.  My heart dropped.  I knew what that meant.  That’s not a real excuse for not answering.   I e-mailed again and he said, “For Kelly. I feel she is wrong, But the choice needs to be hers, and not mine. I know in the future she my wish she made a different choice, but that’s the way it will be.”

    I cried tears much like I did with Kyle.  The dream of a life was there, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We are heartbroken to say the least.  The children have been in tears.  Jasmine doesn’t understand.  If you remember our journey to another aging out daughter began because Jasmine wanted to help another child.    Jasmine has said over and over again, “But she doesn’t understand what family means.”

    I have prayed over and over again.  Kelly’s picture is on my homescreen of my phone and my computer.  Every time her picture came on the screen, I prayed for clarity for her.  I prayed that God’s will would be done and I truly meant it.   But being human I just assumed that God’s plan would mean Kelly would be my daughter.  It’s funny how we do that.  Like God is a magic genie and all our wishes will just come true if we pray hard enough.

    The verse does say, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”   Matthew 21:22

    But there is also a verse that says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8

    Someone asked me if I was angry at God.  I’m not angry at God.  I can’t be angry at God because things didn’t work out the way I had hoped.   Kelly has free will.  I can not make Kelly do what I wish.   I can’t possibly know why we were lead down this path, but I still believe it was God who sent us on this journey.  Too many doors were opened, too many signs lead to Kelly for it to not be from God.

    All the signs lead to this having a happy ending, at least on our end.  We’ve never had an adoption go so smoothly.  Everyone was on board with the expediting and were more than gracious to speed our paperwork up.  Our agency has gone above and beyond.  We have been overwhelmed with the support and caring that we have received.  Everything was going as planned.  We were at that very last stage – requesting a visa, which leads to the Article 5 being issued, which leads to the consulate appointment and travel approval.  We had 30 days left and it was more than doable.  We were all set.

    I have tried to wrap my head around this.  I have cried so may tears grieving over my lost dreams.  I saw her in the girl’s room.  We bought her a new bed.  The girls and I bought her clothes that we thought she would love based on the pictures we’ve seen of her.  We know her favorite color was blue so we bought her a beautiful blue comforter.  She has jewelry and hairbows.  I saw myself brushing her beautiful hair and letting her know how beautiful she is.  I am her mama in my heart and I would be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt.

    I don’t understand.  I just can’t see the big picture.  I can see little bits of what I have learned.  I have seen what group homes do for children.  These homes are proof that there are better ways to raise children even if they can’t have a forever family.  I have seen the other side of teen adoption.  I belong to groups where I have heard all sorts of outcomes.  My eyes have definitely been opened. I know it doesn’t always go like it has with Jasmine.  I have learned how to expedite and I have seen how well the adoption process works if everyone moves stuff along.  I have always wanted to speak to our congressman and tell them changes needed to be made to speed the process up, to cut out the redundancy of costs and paperwork, get rid of some of the unnecessary paperwork, and now I know ways that it can happen.

    But if I was to tell the truth, I don’t want to be more informed.  I want to be a mama to a little girl half way around the world who has no clue what that means and who doesn’t want the same thing.

    So for now, we will try to help.  We will sponsor her.  We have let them know we will help with her education or anything else that may come up.  I am comforted by the fact that Kelly has people who love her there.  She has friends and many who she considers family.  She knows God.  She has a love for God that is beautiful.  There is a video of her singing and signing on Agape’s Facebook page.  I love watching her sing.  I believe God must have plans for her there.  Maybe she just needed to know that a family would fight for her.  I know I don’t have the answers, but I am placing my trust in Him who’s ways are not my ways.

    Please keep Kelly in your prayers.   Right now she could use some specific prayers for healing on her feet.  Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us on this journey.   Please consider supporting Agape Family Life House and the other group homes in China and around the world trying to make it a better place for children who wait.

     

  • Happy Birthday Zachary!

    Date: 2014.08.05 | Category: Photos, Zachary

    This is going to be a strange way to start a Happy Birthday blog, but it will explain the kind of boy my little Zach was and is so please bear with me.

    zach 2

    Many people have questioned how we have been able to adopt six children in two years.  They wondered how in the world we brought home four at one time.  Zachary is part of the reason why.  I wouldn’t recommend bringing that many children home at one time unless you have very special circumstances such as ours.   Two adult children living at home and a husband who works from home most of the week means extra hands to help.   It also means that we have had many adults around to lavish love upon the kiddos.

    Zach and Cassie both lived at home in an apartment on our acreage.   They both chose to live close to home so they could love their siblings and get to know them better.  At a time when most children are ready to leave the nest, both of our adult children have chosen to stay close. They have driven 45 minutes both ways to and from college so that their siblings could see them every day.   Zach chose to do this because at the time we were expecting Gracie, he said he couldn’t stand the thought that his little sister wouldn’t really know him.   To this day, Zach and Gracie have a very close bond.

    zach

    Zach and Cassie have been questioned and made fun of by their peers at school because they chose to live at home, even teachers have questioned why they would want to do something like that.   It amazes me that wanting to be close to your family would be considered such an oddity and even frowned upon.

    After Zach completed his computer science degree at Iowa State, he moved to Florida to complete a master’s degree in a very innovative new program designed to train software engineers, artists and producers to produce state-of-the-art, big budget video games. After completing his masters degree, Zach was interning at EA, one of the biggest companies in the interactive entertainment business, and had been offered a job in game development.  At that time, we were in the process to adopt Ben and Maisey and soon after that Gracie was diagnosed with lupus.  Gracie was very, very ill and was going to start chemo.   These circumstances lead Zach to decide to forgo the job at EA and move home.   Zach said that he couldn’t stand the thought of not knowing his two new siblings and if something happened to Gracie, and he wasn’t here, he would never forgive himself.   His peers were incredulous.  Why would he give up his dream job to go home to be closer to family? Even when Zach explained the circumstances, no one really understood and many questioned him over and over again.   Zach, however, knew what was important.

    Zach has always had a strong sense of family and God.  One of my favorite moments was also one of the most devastating in my life.   A couple years after having Zach, I had miscarried and was feeling very sad.  Zach was a little over three years old.  He sat on the step holding my hand and comforting me.  His sense of God and his understanding of life were apparent even then.  Zachary held my hand and said, “Don’t be sad mom.  God has a plan.”

    zach 3

    Recently my mother-in-law gave me this note that she had found while going through some old papers.  Zach would have been four at the time it was written.

    zach

    Who knows what “I sure miss God and Jesus!  I haven’t seen them in a long, long time” means, but Zach has always seemed to have an understanding of God.  His faith has always been strong.  He has always talked about God like He was a friend, from the time he was very little.

    zach 1

    Life was hard after Kyle died and with Codey being hospitalized for so long.  I had no intention of getting pregnant, EVER again, which was saying a lot from a girl who always dreamed of having a big family.  Codey was still in the hospital when I found out I was pregnant.  God’s ways are not our ways, truer words have never been spoken.  I would have never in a million years chosen to be pregnant then, but I thank God every day that I did get pregnant.  Zach was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever been given.  He is a bright, sweet, generous, caring, God-fearing, wonderful young man.  He was such a wonderful child to parent.  He is not perfect, none of us are, but he has always been a blessing.  He has always been a pleasure to be around.  He has always asked questions that made me truly think.   He makes my life a hundred times better than it would have been without him in it.  His life showed me that love is greater than fear.  He taught me to talk to God like a friend.  He helped my heart heal.

    IMG_0088

    He was married earlier this year to a wonderful girl.  It will be a blessing to one day watch him love his own little ones.  He couldn’t have been a better big brother to all his siblings and I know one day he will make a wonderful father.

    Family 2

    Happy birthday Zachary!  May God grant you as many blessings as you have brought into our lives.

     

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