Archive for July, 2015

  • Jasmine’s Journey

    Date: 2015.07.25 | Category: Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Dream

    Dan and I often talked about what it meant for a 14 year old child to leave her country and everything she has ever known without so much as a tear.  We worried about her when she didn’t cry tears over lost friends.  Jasmine met us with a smile on her face and she smiled through the weeks in China and the trip home.   We asked the guides numerous times to find out what she was thinking.  We asked if she had any questions.  We were prepared for the tantrums and the fights, but none came.  In fact, the only question she ever asked was “Would we give her away in America?”  How could this be?  How could that be the only question?

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    It was almost a year later when we first started to find out why she never cried when she left her homeland.  Jasmine had been told that by coming to America she could be healed.  She would walk.  This hope had kept her alive for years.  Add to that the fact that she had been told that the only life for her, would be one in an institution, where she would be beaten and not fed and surely die.  Yes, they did tell her these things, and well, she was more than ready to take a chance on this family that showed up and showed her love.  She was ready for a change and ready for a chance.

    I haven’t shared a lot about the struggles Jasmine has had these past few months, but they have been heartbreaking.  At first I believed that the extended hospitalization triggered some bad memories locked away from previous hospital stays where she was left alone, which is partially the reason, but the full reason was that Jasmine had lost hope.  She had lost the hope, that had been so fully embedded in her mind, the hope that had kept her going for years, that she would one day be healed and would walk.

    Even though we told her time and time again that her spinal fusion would only straighten her back and help her breathe easier, she still held out hope that she would walk after the surgery.  When she ended up being even weaker than she was before, it was too much to take.  She lashed out with words that cut deep.  She screamed.  She cried.  She raged.  Some days it was for a couple hours and some days it would last eight, nine or ten hours.

    Compounding the issue was that Jasmine has no coping skills.  No one had ever taught her what to do with her anger.  Yes, she is sixteen both physically and mentally, but emotionally she was a toddler.  No one has ever taught her how to work through her problems.  Many days she would be ok, but the light had left her eyes. We wondered if we would ever see that beautiful, joyful, straight-from-the-soul smile again.

    jazzy

    We worked hard at reminding her of her worth, but when you have heard you are worthless your whole life it’s hard to believe.  We told her that she could accomplish much.  We reminded her that her strength would come back, anyone would have felt weaker after lying flat on their back for a month.  We reminded her of her dream that she talked about in the hospital and before.  We told her God has big plans for her.  We told her that she could make a difference but even though her head understood what we were saying her heart just couldn’t accept it.

    We shared Rick Warren’s quote (Which Dan and I fully believe from our life experiences.) – “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”

    She wasn’t lashing out every day but it took very little to make her angry.  Everyone in the house walked around on pins and needles afraid that they might say something to her.  Even the littles were affected.  They no longer ran to Jasmine for a book to read or to show her something they did.  Most of the lashing out was saved for me. I had a really hard time with this because Jasmine and I had had a really close loving relationship. It was me she shared her fears with.  It was me that she told her nightmares and her stories of abuse.   Dan reminded me time and time again that the reason she said those things to me was that she felt safe with me.  It was because she knew that I would still love her and would never leave her that she felt safe sharing.   Even though I knew this truth, it was hard not to react sometimes.   Sometimes I was proud of my responses, often times I was not.  Sometimes I made things better and sometimes I made things worse.

    We tried to remind her of her wish to help orphans.  We came up with the name Jasmine’s Dream based on her comments from one of her surgeries.  As she was getting set up for one of her many surgeries after her wound infection, the anesthesiologist started talking to Jasmine.  The doctor told Jasmine that often times the medicine helps you to dream.  She asked Jasmine what she was going to dream about.  Jasmine merely stated, “I am going to dream that one day there will be no more orphans.”  The room went silent.  The doctor later told me that she was so touched by this comment.  There was no dreaming of vacations on the beach or shopping trips.  The anesthesiologist told me she would remember this forever.

    Jasmine’s Dream was created to continue the work we have already done during the past two years sponsoring children and helping others adopt.  Jasmine and Grace have both raised funds for nutrition programs at Jasmine’s orphanage.  We wanted Jasmine to fully grasp that she could make a difference.  We wanted her to know that she had worth no matter what but that her time on this earth was no a mistake.  She was not a mistake.   Dan found her a copy of the Purpose Driven Life in Chinese and English.   The second chapter is called “You are NOT an Accident”.  This chapter has taken on new meaning in our house.

    As it often is with our children, hearing it from another source made what we were saying even more believable.  She started to quote the book.  She started to believe that her life had meaning.  She started to dream about Jasmine’s Dream again.  She asked me one day if she could start by helping 1,000 children?  I told her it was possible and I made her a board to write down the names of the children we have helped.   We were all amazed when we realized that we had helped 86 children so far.  It’s hard to know how many children their $8,000+ helped with the nutrition program (Heroes for Healing) so we say 86+.

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 241

    She started telling her siblings about how to apply the lessons taught in the book.  She talks about forgiveness.  She talks about her life having meaning.  I knew Jasmine was finally getting it when she came to me and said that if she hadn’t been an aging out child in China, she wouldn’t care about aging out teens.  If she hadn’t been abandoned by a grandma that cared, then she wouldn’t understand and want to help children stay together by getting the surgeries that they need in China.  If she hadn’t been allowed to be adopted, she would never have learned about God’s love.

    Is she completely healed?  Of course not.   The past pains and hurts are many.  It will take a while for her to fully accept that the limitations of her body are forever.  BUT she has made huge progress and that smile is back on her face.  Jasmine has a very special soul.  She is a very, very special girl.  I love to watch others interact with her.  It’s one of those things that you can’t even explain.  I fully believe that God has plans for her and she has already affected many lives.  The fact that she now believes it too makes this mama’s heart very, very happy.

    If you would like to follow along, we have started a group page for her on Facebook called Jasmine’s Dream.  We are working with Love Without Boundaries (LWB) to set up a fund on their page for her.  LWB advocated for Jasmine and they are the reason we found her.  Dan and I believe so fully in this foundation that we serve on the board of directors.

    Jasmine lwb

    We are ready to help our girl achieve her dream.  What a blessing it would be if there truly were no more orphans in the world.  What if we could help families stay intact?  What if we could provide support for those who were struggling?  What if instead of adoption numbers plummeting people saw the need and stepped up – one child at a time?  What if there were more foster homes?  What if no child aged out?  What if Jasmine’s dream became reality?   What if….????  Please consider being a part of helping my girl’s dream come true.

    You can ADOPTFOSTERSPONSOR A CHILDVOLUNTEER – DONATE – EDUCATE!

     

  • I LOVE Adoption (By Gracie)

    Date: 2015.07.19 | Category: Adoption, Grace

    Hi my name is Grace and I’m 10 years old.  I’m one out of 14 children.  I never dreamed that I was going to have 13 siblings but I am happy. I have lupus and there’s 10 other siblings with different sicknesses. I know some people think that adopting is crazy but I LOVE it!

    kids 1

    Sometimes it brings sadness and sometimes happiness.  Don’t be sad if they don’t adjust to you right away. I learned that the hard way.  My mom and dad adopted the first two Ben and Maisey.  They were scared. They didn’t adjust to me right away. I was so confused by that because I was only six years old.  I didn’t know how to respond to them because they were in an orphanage where they got hurt and people were just mean and cruel to them. They were afraid for a little bit but they love to play. They left my little sister to die.  I don’t understand because she is so happy and I’m just so happy that she’s my little sister.  Ben Ben was very little and very sick and he wanted to eat all the time.  He was so blue.

    Cassie 4-14 158

    It was one or two years later and we were going to adopt Evie and Eli and Laney and Jasmine.  Jasmine was going to be 14.  When you turn 14 in China and you’re in a orphanage you get sent to an institution. But when I learned what an institution was I did not want her to go to one because there is people who aren’t nice and she’s in a wheelchair that would just make it so much harder for her so I gave up dance and tumbling just so we could get her.   Lainey who’s gotten so far she used to just rage all day but now she’s happy.  She plays. She says I love you mom and she says I love you Dad.  She said hey Lainey.

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    Evie she was really blue but after her heart surgery she called herself a princess. Now she only responds to Princess Evie and she’s happy.  Eli has a heart defect too but he was as blue as Evie. He is silly and likes to dance.

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    Two years later my mom and dad adopted Elyse and Max.  Max has no ears at all.  Elyse is in a wheelchair. Elyse was not in orphanage her whole life. Elyse told me she had a foster mom and dad but her foster dad was mean and drank bad stuff and he hit her.  That made me sad.  I like having a sister my own age. We share a room.  Max is very silly and he loves to dance even though he can’t really hear the music.

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    All of these children that I’m talking about are my Chinese siblings I have one more sibling who was adopted Hope who is 16 and she was adopted in the US. I love Hope so much.  I love my family.  Someday I am going to adopt 20 kids too.

     

  • A Weekend to Remember

    Date: 2015.07.18 | Category: Cassie, Faith, Family Life

    So many things went wrong that weekend and yet Cassie​ & Reece​’s wedding and reception were beautiful.

    Elyse ended up in the ER on Saturday night.  We got home at 4:30 a.m.  I slept from 5 to 8 and started getting ready.  I would have slept longer but Lainey rarely ever sleeps past 5:30 and the fact that she went back to sleep from 5 to 8 had to be a gift from God.

    As the day went on we continued to season the meat and get the other items all ready for the nacho bar at the reception.  Zach picked up the cake at 11:30 and got lunch for the kids.  We had to have all the tables and our supplies to the reception area at 1, which was the earliest we could get in to set up.  I laced up Cassie at 1:30.  I then ran home to start getting the kids ready because we had to be back to the church for pictures at 3:45.  I realized as we were packing up all the food in the coolers that there was no way I was going to be able to drop off the food and still get to the church on time for pictures.  Dan and Zach headed to the reception area to drop off the food and crock pots, etc.

    At this point they still had Cassie’s backdrop for the wedding in their van.  She wanted really simple decorations.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.  She choose book pages for “the next Chapter” in her and Reece’s life.  Her back drop was two 4×8 pieces of plywood with book pages randomly mod podged all over.  Reece and Cassie wanted a Bible verse across the top.  Dan had the great idea to get someone to do a custom vinyl cut out.  Vinyl Motivations did a great job, reasonably, and quick!

    Backdrop

    Cassie made all her flowers out of book pages.  My mom made wedding flowers for many weddings when Cassie was younger.  Cassie and my mom had talked about what flowers they would use for her wedding ever since Cassie was a little girl.  Cassie was heartbroken over the fact that Nana couldn’t make them and she just couldn’t do what nana and her had dreamed of.

    Cassie even chose a Bible with writing margins to be her guest book.  She wanted her quests to share their favorite verse and for her to be reminded every time they opened their Bible how many people came to celebrate with them.

    At 3:45 we were still at home loading the bus.  I let Cassie know how late we were going to be.  As I was driving to the church at 4, I realized there was no way I could get the food set up and be back for the ceremony.  I had to call in reinforcements.  At Cassie’s pre-wedding dinner,  Teressa​ (mother of the maid of honor) had offered to help me.  I called her and she said she would be there.  I also called Amy, our pastor’s wife and my friend, and told her my dilemma.  These two families not only showed up to take care of things but they stayed throughout the night and helped clean up.  Without them we would have been eating out of coolers.  They were a HUGE blessing of the day.

    I had hoped to be able to be there at 5 and show them what food needed to go where and I didn’t even make that, as pictures were still going on at 5:15.  These two families were such a God send.  I can’t even tell you what that did for my heart to have two families step up at the very last minute and save the day.

    Lainey had a reaction to the sequins on her dress and was raging and refused to be in any pictures.  We forgot her formula and the snacks for the kids.  All of Cassie’s bridesmaids were in the restroom dressing my children for pictures.  I put a run in not one but two pairs of panty hose.  Lainey refused to put her dress back on, but Cassie wanted her to be on the video, so Lainey went down the aisle in a t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.

    family pic

    Dan’s mom couldn’t attend because Dan’s brother, Rod, was dying.  Dan had to walk Cassie down the aisle knowing at the same time his brother could pass away at any time.   It was so hard on his heart.

    We had bought Cassie’s dress so long ago.  At the age of 18, with no serious boyfriend, Cassie purchased her wedding dress.  We had seen the dress when she was buying her Miss Iowa pageant dress.  We knew the owner of the store and Cassie told her someday she would buy a dress just like that one.  A few months later, when the owner decided to close the store, she called us to tell us she still had that dress and it was greatly reduced in price.  We laughed about trying on a wedding dress without a wedding in the future but we did it anyway.  Dan’s mom, my mom and Aunt Kay, the three ladies that always took Cassie shopping, went with her to watch her try on the dress.  It was just $300 dollars and we decided it was worth the price to just let it hang in the closet for a few years.  Thank God that we made that purchase because not one of those three lovely ladies, who meant so much to Cassie, were able to be at the wedding.  My mom and Kay had passed away and Dan’s mom was with Rod.  Cassie was filled with wonderful memories of the day she purchased the dress even though she was sad they couldn’t be with her.

    When I walked into the reception, I was blown away.  Cassie had chosen simple decorations for the tables because there were going to be many children at the reception.  She chose black vinyl tablecloths with butcher block paper so kids could draw.  There were little books to read and crayons to color with.   She had crowns for them to color and wear.  Although, I saw many adults wearing the crowns too.  She even made her flower stems colored pencils.

    Cassie and Reece’s friends guided by Reece’s sister, Bailey, had a couple of hours to decorate the reception area.   They did such a wonderful job.  It all looked so pretty when we walked in.

    reception

    The guests showed up, there was food to eat, the dance floor and DJ were in place, and the party went off without a hitch.

    Dan said it wasn’t fair that he was the only one to get to dance with Cassie so he came up with the plan that after they started the father/daughter dance, he would motion to us, and we would circle Cassie with the whole family.

    family dance

    Even though it was Sunday night, Reece’s friends stayed to help tear down.  They packed up the 41 tables to return them.  The Edwards and the Jakes stayed until the very end to help us clean up.

    I asked Reece about all the guys who came to help him set up.  He said that’s what they do at their church.  It’s a young church.  Everyone helps everyone else so when it’s your special day there is nothing to do.  I like that.  That is what a church should look like everyone coming together to help you celebrate and to help you when things aren’t going well.   People that graciously drop whatever they are doing to step in and take up the slack and then go above and beyond and they do it all with a smile on their face.

    It was a day filled with bumps and hurdles and issues that could have ruined the whole day but in the end it turned out beautifully.  Reece kept saying, “We have her dress and I have my suit, today we are getting married.  Everything else will be just fine.”

    Isn’t that the truth though?  We let little things ruin our whole day.  We need to keep our eyes on the big picture.  Even though there were little hurdles throughout the day, there were always friends to help us out.  The day turned out beautifully!

    Happy marriage Reece and Cassie!   May your life be filled with many blessings and may the trials only bring you closer to God.  May your journey be filled with friends, family, laughter and love!

     

     

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