Archive for April, 2015

  • Beauty amidst the Ashes

    Date: 2015.04.29 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I believe there is always good that comes out of tests and trials.   Life is all about perspective and how you choose to see things.  I firmly believe that God can take the worst situation and turn it around for good.

    Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Jasmine has been by all accounts the poster child for teen adoption.  From the moment we met her she has been nothing but sweet and joyful.  We worried while we were in China that she didn’t cry or have any questions for us.  We wondered why she didn’t seem sad to leave her life behind.  She seemed more than ready to join a family and start a new life and although everyone kept telling us this was just the honeymoon period, it never ended.  She was a great addition to the family and instantly bonded with everyone.

    Except for a few bad dreams and the sharing of some absolutely horrible stories of her past life, we have had a pretty uneventful 20 months.

    We entered the hospital on January 13th for what was to be a week long hospital stay after spinal fusion surgery.  Everything went according to plan and we went home six days after surgery.  Six days after coming home Jasmine started running a fever and we took her to the local hospital.  Jasmine ended up being septic with a wound infection and was transferred by ambulance back to the children’s hospital two hours away.  This infection would lead to a 30 day hospital stay, which included pancreatitis, a lumbar drain being placed, and four more surgeries.

    The stay was very hard on Jasmine.  She had to lie flat on her back for weeks and that is the most painful position for her to be in.  During procedures we had a couple bouts of post traumatic stress that lead to hours of crying hysterically and there was no way to calm her.   It was extremely painful on our hearts.  It was hard to watch our happy, joyful Jasmine be so sad.

    Dan and I decided that I should not leave her side in the hospital.  Jasmine had been left in the hospital alone numerous times while in China. She was convinced that we would abandon her in the hospital too.  For that reason, I only left her room for short bouts of time.  I missed the kids at home but everyone understood that this was what Jasmine needed and we all agreed that although it was hard, it was what needed to happen.

    Before I delve into the rest of the story, I want you to know that Jasmine and I have talked about whether or not to share this and she believes it should be shared.   I also believe there is much to be learned from this story but I wanted to wait until my feelings were on a more even keel before typing anything. The past three months and especially the month of March was extremely hard on this mama’s heart.  I was hurt and angry over things that were said.  I don’t want my hurt feelings to color this story and for that reason I waited until now to share.

    When we got home we noticed that Jasmine wasn’t any happier.  She sat in her chair in the corner of the living room or at the table.  She didn’t want to call her friends or play on her I-pad or do any of the number of other things that she loved to do.   I started to worry about depression but Dan said this was to all be expected.  She was dealing with a lot and needed some time to decompress.

    It’s true that she was dealing with a lot.  She was much weaker after lying in bed for so long.  She wasn’t even able to hold her head up by herself.  She knew for a fact that she had SMA and knew that some day she would get worse.  Because she was so weak after surgery, Jasmine started to believe that this was already happening.  When she was in the orphanage she had the belief that she would come to America and be healed.  The nannies had told her on many occasions that she would see doctors here that could treat her and allow her to walk.  I believe this is what got Jasmine through all those years in the orphanage.

    Surgery and a diagnosis had taken away that dream.  She started to wonder what there was to live for.  She felt sick.  She knew she had to have a feeding tube for an extended period of time, i.v. antibiotics with a pic line, and then oral antibiotics for a year.  All of this still might not fix it and she could end up still needing her hardware removed at the end of that year.  It was a lot for a little girl to take in.

    We talked to her about her regaining her strength.  We told her that this wouldn’t last.  We made lists of what she could still do.  We showed her in every way possible that there was very little that she was able to do before that she couldn’t do now and that those things would be fixed once she was stronger.  She didn’t believe us.  She was just so sad and coming from a girl that oozes joy, it was very hard to watch.

    Jasmine started being mean.  It was small digs at first and then it was outright nasty.  I’m sharing this not because I want to paint her in a bad light but because it may help someone else.  Jasmine would say mean things to me and then when it made me cry, she would smile.  It was so hard on my heart and so hard to not take personally.  I knew she was hurting.  I read all the articles on the whys and the whats of a hurting child.  I read about how to stay calm.  I read about how to redirect them and teach them, BUT I can tell you in the midst of a child raging at you it is extremely hard to not take it personally and stay calm.

    I gave myself timeouts.  I walked around our acreage.  I sat in the bathroom and cried.  I prayed and begged God for some insight and patience.  I tried my best to not react and I failed many, many times.

    One day after a particular mean outburst, Hope, Grace and Elyse had had enough.  This was my fourth time crying that morning and they turned on Jasmine.  The wonderful part was they had taken everything Dan and I had said and they implemented it.   They weren’t mean.  They didn’t raise their voices.  They merely questioned her as to why she said what she did and why she was acting that way.  They let her know that they didn’t appreciate her making me cry and they told her that there was nothing she could do to make them not love her.  I have never been more proud of my girls.

    Dan talked with Jasmine after that and she finally opened up.  She was sad about the loss of dreams.  She had started to believe that what she was told in the orphanage was true – that she was just so bad that she deserved this.  She questioned God and what her life meant.  She questioned whether anyone could really love her.  She was questioning her future and what a burden she would be to us.

    Dan was finally able to reach her by saying if she believed she needed to be punished, and we in no way thought that was true, she had already had that happen.  She had been through more in her short life than anyone should ever have to go through.   He told her again about the miracle that had to happen for her to join our family.  How we had to get approval for three and how we had to work so hard to get there before she aged out.  He asked her if God wanted her to be punished why would He allow her to join our family?  Why would those miracles have taken place?

    Dan explained again what God’s forgiveness meant.  He explained that her past was in the past.  She was forgiven.  He explained that God already knew her future and she didn’t need to worry about it because we would always be there.  Her family was not going to leave her.  Dan also explained that she need to figure out her purpose so that she knew why she was living today.  What did she want to accomplish with her life?   What did she want her life to say?

    That was the turning point for Jasmine.  We started to see more of our girl emerge.  Her smile started to return and we once again heard her laughter.  She told me she has a dream and that she believes she knows what her purpose is.  She has started writing a blog about this, which I am not allowed to see until it is finished.   I have been thinking a long time about setting up a fund called Jasmine’s Dream, but was unsure of what path to take with it.  I do believe I may have more insight after she writes this blog.

    Now for the good that came after a very painful couple of months.  Elyse had informed us when she arrived in America that she would not be learning a lot of English.  She would learn enough to respond but she was NOT going to learn any hard words.  This lasted for about two days when Jasmine was in the hospital for her second admission.  Elyse is very outgoing and the fact that she could not communicate with anyone at home about drove her crazy.  I am happy to say that she is conversing very well after only four months home.  She is able to understand most simple instructions and she can let us know what she is feeling and what she wants with ease.

    The other blessing that happened with Elyse is that she was unsure of how she felt towards me at first, but after being home for only a few months, was the first to defend me when Jasmine lashed out.  Elyse said she knew how much I loved them and how much I was willing to do for them.  She talked about how I cared for them and made sure they were okay.  She talked about how silly I was and how much fun that made her life.  Those were precious, precious words to hear.

    I don’t believe the first hospital stay would have brought healing to Jasmine.  I believe only the second, longer stay brought her to the place where she had to confront her past and decide what she was going to do with her future.  I hate what she went through in the hospital, but I will be forever grateful for the healing it brought to our girl emotionally.

    The biggest place of healing came from her understanding that we would never leave her.  When Jasmine finally admitted that she was being mean, especially to me, because she didn’t want us to love her because it would just hurt too much when we left her, we finally had an answer as to the “why” she was acting out.  She told us that her grandma had told her she was placing Jasmine in the orphanage because she loved her too much.  I can’t imagine what this did to an 8 year old’s mind.  She has been hurt by so many people that she loved.  She has been let down and lied to.  She has endured more than any child should and now that she finally had the love of family she was afraid it would all be taken away from her.   She decided that she would end it on her own terms.  If she made us all angry, then we would not love her and she wouldn’t be hurt again.

    I told her time and time again that this would not work.  I told her she could be as angry as she wanted with me, that my feelings would be hurt, but she could not make me not love her.  I would always love her because she was my daughter.  She would lash out and I would still tuck her in and tell her that I loved her.  I would still care for her and do her cares.  She was so confused.  Day after day, I said “I love you” even when she was not being nice.  All the pain I had gone through as a child let me know what she needed.

    Then one day, I knew we had turned a corner.  When I told Jasmine that we could never, ever just return her to China, she got so upset.  She had never said she wanted to return before.  Not once in almost two years had she said she wanted to go back to China.  Yet, here she was angry that she couldn’t just get on a plane and go back.  She finally admitted that she now wanted to go back to China and find her parents to let them know they were wrong.  She wanted them to see that someone could love her and that she truly had worth.  She wanted them to see what she was able to accomplish even though she couldn’t walk.

    We will continue to show her what family truly means.  We will continue to support her and let her know that we will never leave her side.  We still have a long ways to go, but she is happy again and that is a beautiful thing.  I knew we were finally on the path to healing when I heard her say those beautiful words “I have worth!”.

    I have worth, God loves me, and I am alive to fulfill my purpose!  A mother couldn’t ask for more for her little girl.  Well, that and seeing this beautiful smile again.  God is good!  Life is good, even through the trials, life is so very good!!!!!

    jazzy

     

  • At the feet of Jesus

    Date: 2015.04.13 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    This past weekend was particularly tough and it got me to thinking about some things.  I have been told that I have on rose-colored glasses or that I portray a romanticized version of adoption. I don’t believe that is the case.  What I do believe is that I have a realistic vision of what I think adoption is going to be like.  It is a fight for the soul.  It is coming back from a horrible place.  If someone writes something beautiful that a rape victim or a cancer survivor or a veteran goes through, that doesn’t automatically diminish in someone’s mind what those people previously went through.  I just assume everyone understands that adoption is hard.  I just assume everyone understand where these children are coming from.

    But then I remember where I was a few years ago.  I never knew the pain these children felt.  I never knew and I hate that I didn’t take the time to find out.  I lived in my own little, comfortable world.   So when you think about adoption, a hard life should automatically come to mind.  These children live in an institution where oftentimes the ratio of care is 1 nanny to 20 children.  How much one on one time to do you think these children get?  There’s limited food and limited resources.  Every time I have walked into an orphanage it has been deathly quiet.  The building can be new or old, big or small, clean or dirty, and it is all the same – quiet.   Picture any school across America.  Would you expect complete quiet in the halls?

    The loss of hope is palpable.  My heart hurt just standing in the hallways.  My heart hurt looking at the little faces that wished you were there for them.  My heart hurt every time some little one uttered the words mama while holding my hand and looking up into my eyes.  My heart hurt thinking of how many of those children will never know anything else but those walls.

    Not every orphanage is bad.  Not every orphanage has nannies that don’t care.  But an institution will never be the same as having a family where there is unconditional love.

    When I was younger, I believed my children were a reflection of me.  I worried if they weren’t dressed right or if they acted up in public.  If they memorized their Bible verses and did well in school, that meant I was doing a good job.   The house being clean and my children doing exceedingly well in everything was the measuring stick for how well I was doing as a parent.

    But the truth is if my child scores a 35 on the ACT and never feels in his heart the plight of the orphan, I have failed.  If my child plays on a great sport’s team and walks by the hurting souls on the street, I have failed.    If my child shows up to church every Sunday and never has a true relationship with Christ, then I have failed.   If my child memorizes 400 Bible verses and never takes to heart the verses that tell him to care for the weak and the destitute, I have failed.

    Our measuring stick should not be by worldly standards but by heavenly standards.

    Now I have children that may rage in public.  I have children who lash out at me with their words.  I have children who are potty trained much later than most.  I have a four year old who still takes a bottle.  I have a deaf child who never learned how to sign potty and his sign for going to the bathroom was to drop his pants.  That is not a fun public display.  I have children who are older and can still act like toddlers.  I just assume others know this.

    So yesterday after two days of words that were said that pierced my heart, I handed my children off to my husband and went for a very long drive.  I put in my Casting Crowns cd (song below) and I reminded myself that this is NOT about me.  If they lash out at me, it’s not personal.  It’s hard work this redeeming of souls.  It’s hard work. I pretty much do something for my children from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.   (Please no lectures on taking care of myself.  I work out and I get out of the house.  I understand the need for that.) But the day to day living and taking care of this many children with health needs takes from morning to night.  I wake everyone up and give meds to 7 of my children.  Just the feeding, cleaning up, and doing laundry for this many children takes a lot of time, add in school work and my day is just full.  Most days I don’t care.  Most days I absolutely LOVE my job.  It’s rare that it is just too much.  But sometimes the pain my children have gone through, the sharing of their stories, and their acting out is more than I can take.

    Katie Davis says it so well – “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

    There is great joy and beauty amidst the pain.  Watching these children grow and trust and love – is a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work.  When celebrating with a marathon runner, no one assumes it was easy getting to the finish line.  You automatically assume they worked hard to be able to run the race.   I am working hard to run my race and it is the most important race any of us can do.  It is a race for souls.  This is Christ’s work.  This is what He has called us to do.  To care for the hurting and the broken.  The “us” I am talking about is not just Dan and I.  This “US” is the church.  We are all called to care for these children.

    This work is hard on the heart.  I mean who wants to sign up for harsh words and no appreciation?  So when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself again that it is NOT about me.   It was never about me and I lay it all at the feet of Jesus.

  • Evangeline Faith

    Date: 2015.04.08 | Category: Evangeline Faith

    Evangeline Faith is a very big name for such a little girl.

    So instead we call her Evie, Evie Faith or her favorite name…

    Princess Evie.

    Princess Evie turned 4 years old on March 25th.

    Pigtail cuteness

    For most kids turning 4 is a big deal because you start preschool.

    They might get to join a tumbling class or start to learn to dance.

    They learn their ABC’s and 123’s and a whole new world of learning is opened up to them.

    But for Evie turning 4 is a miracle.

    It’s been almost 2 years since we first met Miss Evie.

    She had a mouth full of pearly white teeth

    evie pink

    and a personality that took over any room she was in.

    Evie Gotcha Day

    We knew she was sick.

    26 months old.

    13 pounds.

    Wearing a size 9 month baby sleeper.

    Unable to sit or crawl.

    We knew her sats were high 40’s low 50’s.

    evie hands

    We knew we needed to get her home if she was to have any chance at the act of growing up.

    What we didn’t know what just how precarious the balance between life and death was.

    Her very first heart catherization showed us that she was getting blood through an almost closed PDA.

    One lone trickle of blood was supplying what little oxygen her lungs were receiving.

    It’s no wonder she wasn’t sitting or crawling.

    She was using all the energy she had for living.

    And that’s what little Evie does….

    SHE LIVES.

    SHE LOVES.

    She radiates warmth and goodness and compassion and fun!

    Evie faith

    She rambles.

    She giggles.

    She dances.

    She sings.

    She shouts.

    She pretends.

    She knows those ABC’s and 123’s!

    Sometimes when I look at her face, my heart catches in my throat and I think “what if”.

    What if daddy hadn’t taken her file to look at?

    We shouldn’t have taken it.

    We were already set to adopt two.

    Our agency presented her to us because many families had chosen not to proceed.

    She was waiting and she needed a family now.

    They wondered if maybe we would consider it.

    We were waiting on Eli’s papers.

    We had been waiting for months.

    Maybe they would never make him paper ready.

    Dan read her file and was scared to death.

    He went to bed praying and although he knew every medical reason there was to say “No!”…

    he woke up with the words “why not” on his heart instead.

    Why not take a chance on love?

    Evie 3

    Why not take a chance on life?

    the littles

    Thank God for the words “why not”!

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t laugh from something she has done or said.

    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the chance she was given.

    Many aren’t as lucky.

    Many still wait.

    What are you waiting for?

    Take a chance.

    LIVE!

    LOVE!

    God likes it when we step out in faith and proclaim why not.

    So shout it out!

    Faith is a beautiful thing.

    I am reminded of that every day when I call out the name Evie Faith!

    Evie & Eli 3

    Hebrews 11:1 – Now FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

     

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    We knew after Jasmine’s initial post-adoption evaluations that she would one day need a spinal fusion surgery to help correct the curvature of her spine and allow her to breathe easier.  The ortho team said that we would need to proceed after her spine reached the 60 degree curvature mark.

    After 18 months at home, the time had finally come to prepare for surgery.  We picked a time that would allow her to heal before her sister’s wedding.  January 13th was the day that was picked.  We would only be home for two weeks with Max and Elyse but the surgery and subsequent hospital stay was only to last 7-10 days so we thought we would all be fine.

    The children’s hospital is 2 hours away and we had to be there early in the morning for Jasmine’s surgery so we stayed overnight in a hotel in town.  We let her pick how she wanted to spend her evening.  She chose HuHot and a movie.  This girl loves her spicy food.  If you’d like to try Jasmine’s HuHot recipe add six ladles of the spiciest sauce along with 3 ladles of hot chili oil and then watch as your cook’s eyes water.  You don’t even have to eat it to get the full effect.   Your eyes will water just sitting next to her.

    Jasmine wanted to go to a movie and she chose the movie, Annie.  We weren’t sure how she would react to it, but she was adamant that she wanted to see it.  Jasmine’s loved the movie and when I asked her why she said that Annie was happy no matter what, that Annie made the best of her circumstances, and Annie didn’t forget her friends.  Jasmine also said she like how Annie understood family was more important than money.

    Jasmine slept relatively well and said she wasn’t very nervous about the surgery.  She was, however, very concerned that we may leave her alone in the hospital.  This was a valid concern because it had happened to her in China on more than one occasion.  I can not imagine what that must feel like as a child to go through a hospital stay alone and yet it happens to many children each and every day.  The endure open heart surgeries, spinal fusions, shunt surgeries, etc. all alone.  It is truly heartbreaking.

    We told her over and over again that nothing would make us leave.  We loved her and we would be by her side every step of the way.  We would be there when she went to sleep and we would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.  She would never be alone again.

    mom and Jasmine

    Jasmine’s initial surgery went well and the correction on her spine was amazing.

    back 3

    She was released from the hospital six days later.

    Jasmine going home

    Five days later she started running a fever and had chills by the late evening we knew she had to be seen.  We were hoping it was something simple like a urinary tract infection but it was a wound infection.  They admitted her to the hospital and then to the PICU at our local hospital.  In the morning they transferred her by ambulance to the children’s hospital.

    They took her to surgery to irrigate her wound and redo the bone graft.  During this surgery they noticed that she had a tear in her dura.  They patched it and hoped for the best.

    A few days later she started having a horrible headache, her back drain went from very little output to 350 mls and we knew that her cerebral spinal fluid was still leaking.  The took her back to surgery to put in a lumbar drain and she would have to lie flat on her back for a week as she healed.  For Jasmine this was torture because lying flat on her back is the hardest position, the most painful position to be in.  She was not allowed to roll side to side or sit up at all.

    After a week, she was allowed to slowly sit up.  A few hours later we noticed leakage from her back wound.  The dura had not healed over as hoped.  She would need another surgery to patch the wound.

    They took her back for her fourth surgery.  The plan was to just open her wound a little and repair the leak but when they opened the wound they noticed that the fluid looked cloudy.  They decided to reopen the whole wound and irrigate the area again along with doing the repair to the leak and redoing the bone graft.

    Jasmine was again required to lie flat for a week.  She was noticeably weaker and had horrible stomach pain.  We thought initially it was because she really hadn’t eaten much for weeks and had been on considerable pain medication for the back and hip pain and also for the excruciating headaches caused by the spinal fluid leak.  We later learned that she had pancreatitis.  The poor girl just couldn’t catch a break.

    The plan was to slowly introduce food, but she just couldn’t eat.  She constantly said her stomach felt full and hurt so much.  We had been in the hospital, during this second admission, for an additional 30 days so the decision was made to put in an NJ tube to allow her to go home and heal.  We packed up again and headed for home with hopes that all would go well this time.

    jazz

    Jasmine came home on tube feedings and she had a PIC line for iv medication for the wound infection.  She has done amazingly well and just a few short weeks later she was allowed to take out the NJ tube and remove the PIC line.

    pic line removal

    I don’t know why Jasmine went through what she went through.  It would seem to me that our girl had been through enough in her lifetime.  I do know that she touched many lives while she was in the hospital, many people heard her story and what it means to grow up in an orphanage.

    There are many more things I want to write about her stay, but it will have to wait for another day.  I am having a hard time putting into words what it meant for her mentally and spiritually to be in the hospital.  There were issues with people understanding her special circumstances.  The hospital stay brought up old memories and pain.  I got to see first hand what it truly means to have post traumatic stress disorder.  I’m not sure I will ever adequately be able to explain it but someday I will try.  It’s just too painful right now.

    For now, she is healing well.  She will be on oral antibiotics for at least six months and possibly up to a year.  Hopefully, her hardware will not have to be removed but they will decide that at a later time.  For now, she is regaining her strength and eating better.  She is sitting up straighter and breathing much easier.   Physically she is healing well.  Emotionally the healing will take a lot more time.

    It’s been a hard, bumpy, long road but the journey is a lot smoother right now so we are enjoying the relative peace and quiet and looking forward to Cassie’s wedding in May.

  • Happy Birthday Gracie

    Date: 2015.04.02 | Category: Grace

    Gracie and boo

    Our little butterfly turned 10 years old on the 23rd.

    420142_526799807355656_1316086332_n

    Where has the time gone?

    Gracie has had an eventful year.

    She got what she had been praying for since we started the adoption process….

    A sister who was also 9.

    Gracie & Elyse

    They do their makeup and stay up late talking and laughing.

    They sometimes argue but mostly just have fun hanging out together.

    Gracie dreams of adopting 20 children

    or

    being a neonatologist like daddy

    or

    going to China and caring for babies at New Hope.

    Gracie doctor

    She has always had a faith that was older than her years.

    So I have no doubt God will use her in one of these ways.

    She was diagnosed with lupus over 3 years ago.

    Gracie butterfly rash

    She has been in remission now for over a year.

    We are hoping to have some wonderful news in May that would allow her to stop taking her chemo drugs.

    Gracie came into this world five weeks early by emergency c-section.

    She was given the name Grace because we knew she was only here by God’s grace.

    She is such a blessing.

    She is caring and kind.

    She is the best big sister.

    She has a heart for orphans and for those less fortunate.

    Gracie fund raiser

    Jasmine and Gracie love the idea that even though they are young, they can make a difference.

    LWB Heroes

    They spend their time dreaming of their next big way to help.

    I love that about them.

    They know they can make a difference.

    What an empowering thing!

    I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Gracie.

    She knows at any time she can relapse and that life isn’t always guaranteed so she lives it to the fullest.

    We could all learn something from this little girl.

    I know that I already have!

    Happy birthday sweet butterfly!

     

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