Archive for March, 2017

  • I Want to Live a More Radical Life

    Date: 2017.03.19 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

    There’s a new commercial out by Colgate that tells us how much we waste if we let the water run while brushing our teeth.  There are pictures of dirty hands washing fruit and a little girl taking a drink in her hands, as if we somehow help people in third world countries by not letting our water run.  While I agree it’s wasteful to let our water run, let’s not delude ourselves into somehow thinking we are helping others get water by not letting our water run.

    It’s much like our grandparents when they said, “Finish your supper.  There are starving children in the world.”    How does my finishing my supper and not wasting it help a child in a third world country?

    I think that is the problem with today.  We believe we are doing something when we turn off the water, eat less, drive a more gas efficient car, throw some money in the offering plate, and take can goods to a food pantry.   I am not saying these things don’t matter.  I’m saying we can’t delude ourselves into thinking we are doing something big.

    We need to think more radically.

    My work with Love Without Boundaries has opened my eyes to what it truly means to live in poverty.  I once believed that I lived in poverty.  We had limited food.  We often ran out of toilet paper.  We were hungry, didn’t know where our next paycheck was coming from, and couldn’t scrap up the money to eat out, BUT we had a roof over our head, even if the walls were concrete and the roaches were plentiful in that rental; we had a bed to sleep in at night, even if it was a mattress on the floor, and extended family that helped out when they could.

    We never lived in a hut with no running water or a toilet.  We never ate one meal of rice a day or walked two hours to get dirty water.  We never worried about whether or not we could go to school.  We never dug through a trash heap hoping to find food to eat or recycling material that would buy food.

    I recently saw this going around on Facebook.  I can’t back up the facts, but it sounds about right.

    If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

    If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

    If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the thousands of people who will not survive this week.

    If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

    If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

    We are rich!  We are a blessed nation and yet we complain about wanting/needing more.  I did it.  I still do it.  I live in a big, beautiful house and still look at realty sites and dream about a bigger home as if it is somehow better.  I have to remind myself constantly that more debt isn’t better.  Bigger isn’t necessarily better. That more bedrooms doesn’t change anything.  I DON’T need more. I’ve just been conditioned to believe that striving for more, that bigger and better is where it’s all at, after all it is the American dream.

    I know there are those that think Dan and I live somewhat radically.  We’ve given up our retirement.  We’ve taken in kids with pretty big needs.  We’ve given up sleep and paid so much money in medical bills that it makes my head spin,  BUT what have we really done?  Not much.  Really!  I’m not just saying this.  I truly believe it.  What have we really done?  We took the chance on loving some kids who have made our lives unbelievably amazing.  It doesn’t seem like such a hardship.

    Yes, we share bedrooms.  Yes, we share toys and hand down clothes.  Yes, we will have to wonder about college and will have to work to figure it out.  Yes, we have given up vacations.  Yes, we drive a bus, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t amount to much.  I still live comfortably.  I can still go to the store and buy whatever food I want.  I can go out to eat.  I can buy a new outfit.  My kids can go to school.  I have a car to drive.  I can pay for the gas that makes it run.

    My heart hurts knowing I could do more.  My heart hurts for all of those who could change their lives with just a few of my dollars.  My heart hurts for parents who will leave their child outside an orphanage in hopes they can get the medical treatment they need.  My heart hurts for the children who will die from starvation and diseases from drinking dirty water.  My heart hurts for children who will die in an orphanage.

    Sometimes the need is so overwhelming that I want to go back to when I didn’t know.   Sometimes I want to go back to when I sat in my house, comfortable and warm, and the most I had to think about was whether or not I could pay my bills on time.   But that would make me indifferent.  Indifferent and comfortable are two words that I don’t want to be associated with my name.  I want to die knowing I did everything I could.  I want to die trusting fully on God and doing as much good as I can.  Not because that will somehow make me a good person worthy of God’s love.  God loves me anyway.  I want to live radically because it is what God commands us to do.

    “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”  – Francis Chan

    I’m feeling much too comfortable.  How about you?

    I am not indifferent now but I once was…

    And that needs to change.

  • Jasmine’s Dream

    Date: 2017.03.18 | Category: Uncategorized

    Jasmine’s Dream – “A family for every child.”

    Jasmine has decided to let her sisters join her in the blogging world.  They are taking her Flower That Blooms blog and turning into her platform for Jasmine’s Dream.  I thought I would share that information here in case you didn’t already know about their blog.

    They are still wanting to do the same things:

    1.)  Promote adoption awareness.

    2.)  Show what life was like in the orphanage for children with special needs.

    3.)  Start an Etsy store to raise funds for adoptions.

    4.)  Reach their goal of 1,000 children helped.


    Elyse’s first post…

    Elyse’s Words

     

  • The Gift of Adoption

    Date: 2017.03.14 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

    The depth of my gratitude could never adequately be put into words.  I get to parent these sweet souls.  I GET TO!!!  Not because I am somehow better but because I was lucky enough to have the resources to do so.

    The knowledge that 7 of our 10 kids would have had horrible outcomes had they not been adopted does not often leave my mind.  Not because we are somehow saviors but because we know who the true Savior is.  We would have never been brave enough to take this on if we hadn’t felt an overwhelming call from God.  We decided to be obedient even if it looked crazy to the rest of the world.   We decided to pray, trust with all our hearts, and take each step in faith.

    We were called crazy.  We were told it didn’t make sense.  We were told that it would ruin our family.  We didn’t take these words lightly but we decided to allow His words to be louder than the words of the world.

    “If you don’t step up, who will?”

    “Can you live with yourself if this child dies in China, and you know you were called to them?”

    “Would you leave your bio daughter/son there?  Because this child is yours just as much as if they had been born to you.”

    We decided to proceed after listening to people’s words of “it will ruin your family”, not ignoring the “what if it does” but fully embracing the “what if it doesn’t”.

    Every day I wake up to the faces of little souls that get to live another day.  I am humbled by this fact.  I don’t think “Wow!  Aren’t we amazing?  We saved these little souls.”  People have said that to us, but we never think that.  I think things like “Why do I get to be their mother?  Why were we allowed to step up?  Why were we lucky enough to be born in America?”  I know for a fact that I don’t deserve this gift.  I am no better than any other parent.  I don’t have more patience.  I don’t have it all together.  I don’t have any special skills.  I have been blessed by being obedient to God’s call, but I don’t for a minute think we were the first choice.

    I often think about Ben’s parents.  Ben was left at 9 months of age probably because he was turning more and more blue.  The more I learn from the work Dan and I do with Love Without Boundaries, the more my heart hurts for his parents.  I can’t imagine making the decision to leave your child somewhere public, hoping they will be found so that they can get the treatment that they need.

    Put yourself in their shoes.  What would you do to try and save your child’s life?  No insurance.  Surgery that costs more than you probably make in a year or more.  What would you do?  It’s easy to sit here in judgment.  I know I did before I knew the truth.  Now my heart just hurts.

    7 of 10.  Just let that soak in.  I’m not exaggerating to write a more compelling story.  5 of 10 would have died and two more would have had horrible, horrible, horrible outcomes.  People say others would have stepped up.  Really?  2,354 children were adopted from China in 2015 (Stats).  China says that there are 600,000 children in orphanages, others put that figure much higher.  CNN article

    Using China’s conservative total of 600,000 children and our government’s figure of children adopted from China in 2015, that makes a child’s chance of adoption at .392%.   There are so many factors on whether a child gets adopted or not.  Will the orphanage decide to make them paper ready?  How old are they when they are listed?  Will they be lucky enough to be advocated for?  Will they survive long enough to be adopted?

    I often wish I could touch others and have them instantly feel what my heart feels.  I wish I could have them understand the enormity of it because my words will never do it justice.  So many children wait.  So many children, who just want a family, will never get one.   I wish they could understand the pain of families that could stay together if someone would just step up.  Children like Annabelle need support so their child can get the surgery that their family is unable to afford.  LWB – Support Annabelle

    I have had five amazing years with Ben.  I have watched him grow into a wonderful young man.  This is a gift.  It truly is a gift.  He is funny and amazing.  He is a living, breathing, walking miracle.  We were told that he could only receive palliative care and now he is considered completely healed.  How could I not be overwhelmed with the enormity of this?

    He is a blessing, but not just because he was healed.  He would have been a blessing even if he hadn’t been healed.  He is a wonderful boy.  He is so sweet with Lainey.

    He is Maisey’s protector.

    He is Eli and Liam’s best friend.

    I get to parent him and his biological mother does not because she could not afford his surgery.  How can I not be humbled by this fact?  How could I not cry tears for her?  How could I not be overwhelmed?  I will get to see his sweet smile this morning and I will get to tuck him in his bed tonight.  She will not.

    Praying I never forget the enormity of this gift I have been given.

     

     

     

     

  • Reflections on 5 Years of Amazing!

    Date: 2017.03.12 | Category: Benjamin, Maisey

    Facebook has this amazing thing called “On This Day” where it shows you pictures that you posted from this date during the previous years.  My day has been filled with pictures of our very first China adoption.  I can’t help but get all choked up when I see the pictures and remember how it felt to have them placed in my arms on that day.  5 years has passed so fast and Maisey and Ben have changed so much!

     

    There are about a million different scenarios about how that day could have gone but the truth is it was so overwhelmingly heartwarming/heartbreaking that it changed our lives forever.  Had it not gone as beautifully as it did, I’m not sure we would have adopted 10 kids in 4 years.  I am forever grateful for the beginning that showed us how beautiful adoption can be.

    Here’s what we knew for sure when we set out to adopt (again).

    1.) We were older parents.  I was 45 when Dan first brought up adopting again, 46 when we filed our papers, and 47 when we finally stepped foot in China.

    2.) We had older children who were very supportive of this decision.

    3.) We had already adopted once domestically 11 years before and were blessed by that adoption.

    4.) We had the resources and medical knowledge to care for a special needs child.

    5.) We were never going to be empty nesters.  Our plan is to always keep Codey, our older son who has cognitive and physical disabilities, at home.

    Here’s what we knew after the first day we met Ben and Maisey.

    1.) Institutions are no place for a child to be raised.

    2.) Special needs, especially physical ones, make it easy for others to treat you as “less than”.

    3.) Even scared, hurt little 3 1/2 year old boys with severe food issues, can have sweet hearts and look out for their new little sister.  He cried if we moved his food, but he always shared with her.  (Ben ate for 3 hours after we brought him back to the hotel and slept with food or silverware in his hands for the first few months home.)

    4.) When a 3 1/2 year old refuses to be called their Chinese name or speak Mandarin from the moment you meet them, and refuses to go to anyone in the orphanage where they’ve been cared for for the past 3 years, there’s something not right.

    5.) Every child just wants to be held and loved.  They want someone who cares about them.   They want to feel safe.  This picture was just days after we met Ben.  I get choked up every time I look at it.

    What I know for sure 5 years later.

    1.) Two children adopted at the same time can become the very best of friends.

    2.) Your life will be forever changed by adoption.  Some days are harder than hard, but most days are beyond beautiful and life changing in ways you can’t even imagine.

    3.) No matter how long your life might be, you deserve the love of a family.  You deserve someone to hold your hand, sit by your beside, and let you know you will never be alone again.

    4.) Miracles really do happen.

    5.) Large families are busy, chaotic, noisy, and filled with more love, hugs, and kisses than you could ever imagine.

    The first five years have been overwhelming, busy, crazy, but DOABLE!

    1.) 5 heart surgeries and 5 heart catherizations for 3 children with 2 being considered completely healed.

    2.) 2 BAHA (hearing aid) post placements and the miracle of hearing well.

    3.) 5 trips to opposite shores for heart surgery Stanford (California) and Boston Children’s (Massachusetts).

    4.) Countless doctors appointments with numerous specialists.  Orthopedics, otolaryngology, cardiology, physical medicine, neurology, pulmonary, genetics, urology, nephrology, rheumatology, hematology, and developmental/behavior medicine.

    5.) Spinal fusion surgery and 5 weeks of hospitalization due to complications of a spinal fluid infection and subsequent spinal fluid leak.

    I’m hopeful the next 5 years will…

    1.) Bring more healing both physically and emotionally for our children.

    2.) Strengthen the bond of family even further between all my children so they will always be there for each other not matter what the future brings.

    3.) See more and more families open their eyes to adoption.

    4.) See more and more families step up and be the helping hand that allows more families to stay intact and not have to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a child.

    5.) Allow all our children to feel the love of God in their lives, that they will see their true worth, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved and cherished by their father and I.

    What an amazing journey this has been.  I am so happy that Dan and I decided to be obedient to God’s calling.  Our lives are full of the brightest colors.  I can’t imagine going back to the comfortable life we were living.  That life was so black and white, well ordered, comfortable.   Yes, there is pain and hurt and I will never be able to close my eyes to the suffering of the children in this world, but there is also so much beauty to be found in the ripple effects of helping where you can.  Reaching out a hand to help, feeding those in need, helping to pay for a surgery, fund a healing home, sponsor a child, the list goes on and on.   The need is great but we can make a difference one child at a time because “Every Child Counts“.

    My prayer is that one day Jasmine’s dream will come true – “A family for every child.”   What a beautiful day that will be.  Until that time …

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  – Theodore Roosevelt.

    BECAUSE…

    “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.”  – Malcom Bane

     

  • “I Get To” Changes Everything

    Date: 2017.03.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I get asked all the time about how I do it.  It’s pretty simple.  I get up every day and I just keep moving forward.  My days are VERY busy.  Unbelievably busy.  Things don’t get done around the house sometimes.  My house will never be in perfect order.  I wish, but it isn’t going to happen.  This is hard for me to admit because I like organized and having everything in its place.  But we also have a Lainey whose favorite activity is to throw anything she finds on the floor and I do mean everything.  She likes to grab cups and run through the house spilling everything every where.  We have 8 littles between 5 and 8 who like to leave things around and since we home school there are lots of hours of the day to move things to and fro.

    I have done a lot in the past year to simplify.  I have removed so much stuff in our house.  I have gotten rid of almost all my knickknacks.  I don’t have time to dust.  I don’t want to worry about who is going to break what next.  What have I learned from this simplification?  We have too much stuff.  Way too much stuff!  I have removed bags and bags and bags from this house and there is still more to take out.

    It makes me sad to think of the money I have spent on things that just don’t matter.  We don’t bring toys into the house unless it’s someone’s birthday.  We regularly go through items to see what they are and aren’t playing with.  If it’s not being worn it’s gone.  We still have way too much stuff.  It’s hard not to when you have this many people in the house but we are working harder at only bringing things into the house that will make our lives better.

    There are things that are non-negotiable during my days.  Morning hugs and kisses.  Codey and Lainey’s feedings.  We have five kiddos that are in diapers and four will be for life.  Catherizations.  Medications are a must and are given twice a day to 11 of the 13 kids that are at home.  Meals and prayers around the table. Quiet time with Dan. More hugs and kisses before bed.

    House cleaning, school work, and appointments make up the rest of my day.  Every day looks a little different.  Kids who come from trauma have days where they need you to drop everything and we do that.  This past year has been extremely difficult for Jasmine.  It would be hard to put into words how hard it is when someone is on meltdown mode all day.  It’s emotionally draining for everyone in the family and you have to take the time to repair the damage that is done.

    When I say I am going to bed, this is what needs to be done before placing my head on my pillow.   Take the littles downstairs to get ready for bed (Grace often helps with this.), change Codey, take Jasmine to the bathroom (this takes two people) and put her to bed, feed Lainey and give her her last meds, cath JJ and give her her meds, story time and give everyone hugs and kisses.

    Sometimes it is overwhelming.  Sometimes I just want to go to bed without all the other stuff.  Sometimes I just want to take care of me and not do everything else.  Sometimes I am just plain tired.  But when I have those pity-party moments where I start to think “I have to do this, this, and this”, I stop myself and change it to “I get to”.  Perspective changes everything.

    I GET TO…

    …wake up in the morning to the sweetest, sleepy smiles.

    …hear mom, mommy, mama hundreds of time throughout the day from little kids who went years without this privilege that we all take for granted.

    …get hugs, hugs, hugs, hugs, and more hugs.  (The best part of every day.)

    …hear “I love you” over and over again.

    …help little hearts heal.

    …wipe away tears.

    …have a ring side seat to God’s big and little miracles.

    …sit by hospital bedsides while children heal.

    …serve with a willing heart.

    …watch little souls blossom before my eyes.

    …watch little minds learn and grow.

    …hit my knees repeatedly.

    …give up control.

    …turn it all over to the one who knows best.

    …prepare meals that little ones love.

    …wash, fold, and put away clean clothes to wear.

    …have access to the best medical care around.

    I GET to do it all of these things every single day with my very best friend.

    I am blessed!  Beyond blessed!  SERIOUSLY blessed!

  • Thoughts from Elyse

    Date: 2017.03.07 | Category: Elyse

    Today I had a MRI for my back.  It felt very scary.  In the orphanage when I had to go to the hospital or for tests, they always left me alone.  In the MRI I was alone.  I didn’t know my mom could come in.   I was scared.   I did not like feeling like I did in China.

    I don’t like to be left alone.  It made me really upset and I cried.  I do not want to ever be alone again.  I love my mom and dad.  I always think they are my real parents.   If I don’t have my mom and dad, life would be so scary.  Mom and dad told me all about MRI so I wouldn’t be scared.

    I didn’t know mom could come in.  My brother, Liam, had a MRI too.  He has spina bifida too.   He cried and they let mom come in.  They let mama hold Liam’s hand so he would not be scared and don’t feel alone.  This is the first time mama didn’t go in.   Mama and daddy both waited for me.  They always love me.  They always care about us.  I was not scared in the MRI after awhile because I knew mama and daddy would never leave me alone or let someone hurt me.

    When we get hurt mama and daddy always hug us, talk to us, and help us get better so we won’t be upset.  Mama and daddy changed my life.  Mama and daddy tell me I can do everything.   Don’t listen to what China says because it’s not true.  Now I know who I should trust or who not to trust.

    I have fun with mama and daddy.  We ate breakfast at McDonalds and mama and daddy buy us food we like.  My love language is to hug me and to say “I love you” so they do it all the time so that I know they love me very much.

     

  • No Hands But Ours Article

    Date: 2017.03.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I was honored to get to guest write about our family for No Hands But Ours.  The NHBO articles are wonderful and uplifting.  If you are starting the adoption process, are curious about special needs, or wonder what other families have gone through, this is a great place to start.

    Seriously Blessed

  • Chinese New Year 2017

    Date: 2017.03.04 | Category: Adoption, China 2016, Family Life

    Our children look forward to celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) each year.  The first year home is always the hardest because it brings up memories, some good and some bad, that we have to wade through.  As our family as grown there have been more and more children who love to celebrate so the most recently adopted get into the swing of things pretty quickly.

    We leave up the 14 foot Christmas tree and decorate it for CNY.  Everything is red and gold.  We have special ornaments that the kids have made and some extra special ones that we bought through an adoption fundraiser.

    We wait for a day when everyone can celebrate together so it isn’t often that our family celebration is on the actual day of CNY.   During the week of CNY we take them to Panda Express so they can each get a kid’s meal.  It’s not cost effective to do this very often so it’s a special treat.

    We go at an off time because there is only one table in the whole restaurant that can seat us all.

    On the day of our celebration the children wake up and put on their silks right away.  I think it’s their favorite part of the day.  We have a box full of colorful silks.

    I think Eli is going to need a new one soon.  🙂

    Maisey is always ready to do her “China” pose, as she calls it and Evie always needs a fountain to finish off her outfit.

    They all look so cute in their silks.  We even found one that fit Hope’s sense of style.  I wish I would have bought more sizes the last time we traveled.  I guess I always assumed their would be one more time.

    Even Nicholas got into the action.  We got out his dad’s outfit from when he was a baby.  Why I purchased a Chinese outfit for my son 28 years ago I will never know.  I just can’t remember.  God knew long before I did I guess.

    They love having family together.  They are always excited when Zach and Steph come to visit.

    They love to eat the special foods we prepare twice a year on CNY and Children’s Day.  We make home made steamed buns, spicy chicken feet, wontons, and crab rangoons.   I don’t often prepare these foods from scratch because they are time consuming.  The house smells so good though when it is all cooking.   Then their are the usuals that we eat often – egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, fried rice, spicy steak, teriyaki chicken, and potstickers.  I don’t make potstickers from scratch because Sam’s Club carries some that the kids love.  They are so easy to prepare.  The come frozen in a tray with water around them.  You just put them in a pan and wait as the water boils off, the bottoms get browned, and they are perfect.

    This year we had our pastor and his lovely family over.  They were a wonderful addition.  The extra hands in the kitchen were a welcome treat.   Amy rolled out all the dough for the steamed buns so the kids even got fresh ones for breakfast too.  Jasmine was sick, she woke up with a 102 temp., and missed out on the day of fun.  We brought her out for a picture and let her eat her spicy food in her room.  Not quite the same but better than nothing.

    It was still a wonderful day full of laughter, friends, and family.

    We ended our day watching the Troll movie.  The littles were so excited to show Nicholas this movie.  They figured he would love the music and bright colors.  I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that he is still a bit too little to understand a movie.  Nick laughed and cooed and smiled and made them all believe that he loved it.

    Our new couch is the perfect place for the whole family to cuddle up and watch a movie.

    All in all a pretty good day!  Happy year of the rooster everyone!  Wishing you all the best in the upcoming year!

     

     

     

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