Search results for keyword(s): ‘codey’

  • Happy Birthday Codey & Kyle

    Date: 2013.04.30 | Category: Codey, Kyle, Photos | Response: 0

    My life was forever changed the day Codey and Kyle were born.  You can’t go back to who you were after something like that happens.  Trivial things were soon forgotten.  Material things were soon forgotten.   When you have to bury a son and your son who lives is forever changed, you don’t have a choice but to grow up.

    I don’t have a perfect life.  Truth be told, to most my life would seem extremely boring.  I wake up every day and go to Farrell’s (for my “me” time) but before that I change my son and I give him a g-tube feeding.  Codey is unable to do most things for himself.  I feed him by g-tube six times a day.  I feed him by mouth three times a day.  I change him.  I bathe him.  I brush his teeth.   Add to that trying to do laundry, dishes, cook all the meals, run everyone everywhere,  homeschool my other kids and just be their mom and well, that seems like a pretty boring life.

    I have always wondered if there was something really wrong with me? I’ve heard others describe me as a PollyAnna or they tell me that I see things through rose colored glasses.  But I’m just as confused when I hear others talk about their lives and they seem disappointed.  They talk about their lives like they were supposed to have some great adventure and they are upset it never happened.  I hear mothers say that they go to work to get away from their children.  I hear people talk about not being able to wait for summer vacation to be over so the kids go back to school.  I realize lots of times people don’t have a choice or they are just trying to be funny, but it makes me wonder just the same.  I love my life.  I love being a mother.  I love being married to my best friend.  That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled with six loads of laundry a day.  It doesn’t mean that I’m thrilled at having to pick toys up off the floor for the upteenth time.  But it does mean I make a conscious choice to be happy about it.  I can make it fun or a I can make it a chore.  I have chosen to look at my life with a different perspective because of all the things that have happened to me because of Codey and Kyle.  I know how quickly your life can change.  I know how much I would have given to spend more time with Kyle.  I am happy being at home because I know how blessed I am every day to get to love my children for one more day.  I have many, very sick children and that privilege won’t always be there.  I don’t take a moment that I get to spend with them for granted.

    It’s been 26 years since my dreams of two blonde-haired, sweet little boys ceased to be.  I thought my life was over.  I thought I’d never be happy again.  I questioned why it had to happen to me.  I questioned why God would allow something so devastating to happen to two parents who wanted nothing more than to love their children.  I had no clue what Kyle’s death and Codey’s life would change when we started out.

    But 26 years later, I have a small glimpse of the threads that will one day be the tapestry of Kyle and Codey’s life….

    Dan became a doctor with the promise to make life better for other children.

    Dan understands what it means to be the parent of a very, very sick child.  He knows how to talk to parents.  He knows how important it is to tell the truth in the nicest way possible.  He understands that sometimes no matter how hard you try a child will die.  He understands who his gifts come from and who is truly in control.  He learned that the things a parents need the most is to be heard, to know their child has worth, and to believe that their doctor has their child’s best interest at heart.

    I learned to not live my life in fear because you never know what the next day will bring.  You can worry about surgeries and when your child is going to die, but the reality is only God knows the number of anyone’s days.  So you might as well go on with your life and make the best of it, enjoying every wonderful moment you are allowed to have.

    I learned that sometimes doctors make mistakes and the consequences are devastating but blaming them and being bitter won’t change anything.

    I learned that not everyone will appreciate how hard you fought for your child to live.

    I have learned that most people will never understand the worth of a child who isn’t what the world considers “normal”.

    I have learned that you can do more and handle more than you ever thought possible, as long as you keep your eyes on the Lord.

    I have learned that by opening your heart to love, even with the possibility of loss, you gain beautiful blessings that are beyond measure.

    I have learned that the only thing you can take to heaven with you are your children.

    I have learned that sometimes people fulfill God’s plan and never measure up to man’s ideal.

    I have learned that sometimes scary things lead to wonderful things – Kyle lead to Hope which lead to Ben which lead to Evie which lead to Eli.

    I have learned that the death of a child really isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you – especially when you have the promise of forever.

    I have learned that doctor’s don’t always know what they are talking about.  We called our family down numerous times that first year because Codey wasn’t going to make it through the night.  We were also told he wouldn’t live past a year.  Sometimes, you just need to take it a day at a time.

    I have learned that the unconditional love of child truly is an amazing thing.

    I have learned that you should always forgive because you never know when your last day will be.

    I have learned that every day you have the choice to be happy or not.

    I have seen first hand the unshakeable spirit of a child who has been through more than any person should have to go through (close to 100 surgeries and 5 years in the hospital) and yet enjoys each and every day.

    I am blessed to be Codey’s mother. It’s not remarkable by most people’s standards, but it has been miraculous.  I have had a ring-side seat to some of the most amazing things.  You may look at Codey and see all that he isn’t able to do, but I look at Codey and see all that he can do.  He has done remarkable for a child that we were told, if he lived he would spend his life in a vegetative state, blind and deaf.   He gets around the house.  He loves Football, Wheel of Fortune, and the Price is Right.  He is truly a happy boy. Someday he will walk, someday he will talk, someday he will do all the things I dreamed he’d do.  Codey and Kyle have taught me more in my life than any other person.   My life has been harder with all we’ve gone through but I am a much better person for having them in my life.  It’s hard to not feel blessed by that.

    Happy birthday Codey & Kyle!   Mama loves you!

     

  • Happy birthday Codey & Kyle!

    Date: 2012.04.30 | Category: Codey | Response: 0

    25 years ago at 12:04 a.m. my life changed forever.  My dreams for those 2 blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys would never come to be.  I arrived in Holland.

    http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html

    25 years ago, this week was one of the hardest I would ever go through. I gave birth to twins at 29 weeks, Codey & Kyle (2lbs 7oz & 3lbs 8oz). Codey has had one of the hardest lives I have ever seen. He’s spent close to 5 years in the hospital. He has had close to 100 surgeries. He is a fighter. He is the sweetest, funniest, most loving child around. His life made me grow up quickly but his life changed everything about mine.

    Kyle may have lived only 5 days, but his life changed me too. He made me appreciate every moment I have, to never take things for granted, to not fear death.

    Yes, I know Codey won’t see this, but I am proud of my boy who was told on numerous occasions that he wouldn’t make it. We lost count of the times doctors told us to call family down because he wouldn’t make it through the night. We were told that he would be blind, deaf, and in a vegetative state. Many would see his life as sad, but I see it as a miracle. I am happy every day that he is here with me.

    Plus, I never get to celebrate Kyle. Many times I don’t even get to say I have 8 children because it just takes to long to explain it. I love it when someone at a store asks me because I can proudly say I have 8 children and know that they won’t ask me more. Thank you for letting me celebrate this day! I can’t believe it has been 25 years already. I remember when I could barely stand the thought of how long it would be before I got to see Kyle again and now I’m 25 years closer.

    Happy birthday boys!  Mama loves you!

  • Triaging Your Life

    Date: 2020.04.11 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Just the other day Dan and I were discussing the craziness of life. We were discussing the different posts that we see on social media and how people are responding to this unprecedented time in our lives.

    There’s the the world is ending camp.

    The 700 different conspiracy camps.

    The “If you have faith, nothing will happen to you.” camp. I need to talk about this one for just a minute. I have faith. I will tell you, from personal experience, people take this one too far. Watch what you say to others and how your preach your faith. Almost 33 years later and I can still hear the words spoken to me at Kyle’s funeral…”Do you think if you had just a little more faith, God would have saved him?” or “Maybe God knew you couldn’t handle two sick kids.” or my all time favorite… “Maybe if you had prayed just a little harder God would have saved Kyle.”

    The “There’s nothing you can do about it if it’s your time to go, you will die.” camp. I believe in God’s timing. I believe when my time is up, God will call me home. I get it. But I still don’t play chicken on the interstate. Why? Because God gave me a brain.

    The “God won’t bring you pain” camp. I don’t know about you but God has taught me the most in life through painful moments. Not that God has caused them necessarily, man does a pretty good job of bringing pain into his own life, but God most assuredly allows pain to happen. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.” – C.S. Lewis

    The “It’s his/her fault.” camp. Whoever that his or her may be.

    The “It’s no worse than the flu.”camp.

    The “Yes, it is worse than the flu.” camp.

    You get the picture. There’s a 100 different ways to look at the chaos that is going on in the world. I am not going to tell you my stand on any of it. But I will say my husband researches everything. It’s his job. He works in clinical and quality improvement. He spends hour after hour after hour dissecting everything out there. He isn’t paranoid but he is protective. When he says something could hurt us, we listen.

    See we have done what the world is doing right now for the past 21 years. Hope had a major congenital heart defect and then Grace was diagnosed with lupus. We’ve done it even more in the past 8 years since we’ve brought home 10 more children with complicated medical issues. We hear that there’s a nasty bout of flu going around, then we stay home. One of our children have a big surgery coming up, we stay home. We self-isolate. We use hand gel more. We wash our hands longer than usual, better than usual. We clean off door handles more. We don’t go to big gatherings of people. Only mom and dad do the shopping.

    Sounds like now. Right?

    I don’t know about store closings. I couldn’t tell you what is right or wrong with all the rest of the crap going on. I have no idea. I have tried to research it. It seems you can find information to back your side no matter what your side is. I am not going to even get into the social economic issues that are going on. I am, however, going to share with you an interesting insight that my husband had. He even said I could quote him on it. He’s a pretty quiet guy. I don’t get him saying I can quote him very often, but this one is worth sharing.

    I asked him why he thought we weren’t being affected emotionally like so many other people. He said…

    “Because we have already triaged our life.”

    I thought that was so profound. He is absolutely right.

    Maybe you are not in the medical field and you have never heard the word triage before.

    triage

    noun – (in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

    verb – assign degrees of urgency to.

    Long ago when Kyle and Codey were so sick, we had to decide what was important. We lived off nothing in an old run down 1970’s trailer. We went without most of the time. I worked a midnight to 6 a.m. job, all so I could stay home with Codey and Zach. We decided what was most important to us.

    When we learned of a baby being left to die alone in the hospital, we chose what was most important. When everyone else was saying we’d ruin our family by taking home a child who would die, we knew what was right for us. When people were questioning the cost, saying things like don’t take on this debt, what about the insurance, all we could see was a little girl who needed a family to love her. When people questioned, what in the world are you doing? We heard God speak clearly.

    We reevaluated everything when we realized we weren’t guaranteed a tomorrow with our children. We knew the risk when we adopted Hope and when Grace got sick, it hit home again. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone.

    When we had the choice to give up our “empty nest” retirement to adopt again, I wish I could say I had learned my lessons over the years and readily said, “Yes!” but I didn’t. I questioned everything. I wasn’t ready to give up this normal, easy life that I had finally found. I was too old. I was too close to retirement, too close to being done working hard. I was ready to sit by the pool and eat my bon bon’s. (That one is for you little brother!)

    See over the years as Hope’s medical issues became less and less, when Dan finished medical school, and when he started working as a physician, I fell for the trappings of the world. Didn’t we deserve a nice house after working so hard and doing without so much during all of Dan’s training? Didn’t Zach and Cassie deserve to have a few nice things? Aren’t we supposed to give our kids sports and dance opportunities? Aren’t we supposed to fill their lives with all the good things that are out there? Shouldn’t we be going to Disney and seeing all the wondrous things of the world?

    But my heart was changed when I read the words “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?” (Triaged)

    And my heart was changed again when I walked into an orphanage. (Triaged again.)

    My heart was changed again when I started following blogs and Facebook pages about the orphanages around the world. When I realized children were dying in orphanges. Children were mistreated and starving in orphanages. (Triaged again…you get the picture.)

    My heart was changed again when I learned about Love Without Boundaries and started following their work.

    My heart was changed again when I saw the pictures and read about the need in other countries.

    My heart was changed again when I read of mothers and fathers abandoning their children because they couldn’t pay for surgery.

    Suddenly I felt guilt when I looked at my nice house. Why did I have so much when others didn’t have anything? I was certainly not a better person. I didn’t deserve more.

    I could go on and on. I will tell you that I live in a fairly nice house. I will tell you that I don’t have to do without if I don’t want to now. I will also let you in on a fact. My nice house is warm and cozy, but it isn’t what brings me joy. I was just as happy in that 1970’s shag carpet, ugly gold appliance holding, thin walled mobile home. Why? Because I knew what was important.

    As for the beautiful house, well, I look at the changes we made. I look at the beautiful woodwork and the mortgage payment and wish I had done so much more with that money. I am reminded daily about what happens when we start to get comfortable. I am reminded what happens when we forget about those who are in need all around us and only think about what we want.

    I hope that you are doing okay during this crisis. I hope that things are back to normal soon. I hope you are surrounded by people who are stepping in and filling any need that you have. I hope you are safe and warm and fed.

    BUT…

    I also hope you have slowed down and really looked at what is important in your life. I think God uses these moments to reach us, to teach us. He opens our eyes to what we can and can not do without.

    Right now kids are dying in orphanages all around the world.

    Right now child trafficking is at an all time high.

    Right now widows could use your help.

    Right now neighbors are struggling.

    Right now…

    What is really important?

    TRIAGE away…

    It’s a pretty eye-opening, heart changing, mind altering thing to do. Can you do more? Do you like home schooling? Do you appreciate your child’s teacher more? Can you do without that second car? Have you been missing too much with your children because you are too busy? Does your work take up too much time of your life? Do you miss gathering together on Sunday? Do you appreciate walking outside now? Do you miss your parents?

    What is important to you right now? What needs to change? Where is your life out of balance? Who needs your help? Who needs your forgiveness? What can you do to make the world a better place?

    There’s no better time than right now to make the world a better, more loving, more kind place.

    “In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

  • 32 Years – Romans 8:28 (Faith Storytellers Talk)

    Date: 2019.11.20 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    April 29, 1987 started out like any other day.  I would go to work.  Mom would pick me up after work, we’d eat supper together, and she would drop me off at the hospital where I was to meet my husband for our second prenatal class.  My water would break on the way to that class.  

    All of a sudden, words like emergency c-section and life flight were being said.  We frantically called our family to let them know what was happening.  

    The helicopter arrived and they would strap me in.  My husband would follow by car.  

    They would take me out of the helicopter while the blades were still moving, rushing me inside.  Tests would be performed.  After the ultrasound was done, the doctors would say there would be no waiting the boys needed to be born now.  

    I had never been so afraid or felt so alone.  I prayed Dan would get there before they took me to surgery.  

    At 12:04 a.m. that night our boys were born almost 12 weeks too early.  

    5 days later, I would hold Kyle for the first time as he took his last breath.

    A few days later I would hold his lifeless body in the backseat of the car as my mom drove me the 90 minutes back to our hometown.  I would hand off his little 3 pound body to the funeral home director and leave empty handed.  

    A few days after that I would stand in a cemetery and watch my husband pick up that little white box and carry it over and sit it down at the gravesite. 

    This was NOT my dream. 

    The next 14 months would be spent sitting at Codey’s bedside, praying for a miracle.  We would call our family down numerous times saying Codey wasn’t expected to make it through the night but he somehow would.

    Somewhere in those first few months Dan and I decided to stop waiting for Codey to die and start celebrating every day that he was alive.  But to do that we had to stop being angry and trust God and His plan.   If God is perfect, then there can be no mistakes.  I either had to trust that God could make good come out of the bad or I had to give up my faith. 

    During those trying months Dan would decide that God was indeed calling him to be a physician.  We would have another son and start planning our move to Iowa City for medical school. 

    Dan would go through medical school and his residency.  We would have another child, a little girl this time.  Life seemed pretty ordinary.  

    Dan would decide to continue his training and become a neonatologist.  He would be caring for sick and premature babies.  It seemed fitting with all that we had been through.  

    While Dan was doing his fellowship, there would be a mother brought to his hospital that would deliver a baby girl.  There had been pre-adoptive parents chosen for this baby but a last minute ultrasound showed a serious heart defect and the pre-adoptive parents would back out.   The birth mother was presented with three options for the baby – a 3 stage surgery process, a heart transplant, or to let the baby die.  The birth mother was not prepared to care for this baby and chose to leave her in the hospital to die.  My husband fell for this little girl.  He bought booties for her feet and stuffed animals for her bed.  He wrote an order that the nurses had to rock her every hour.  He came home heartbroken that no one was celebrating this little girl’s life.  

    It didn’t take long for us to realize we were the perfect parents for her.  We had already had a child die.  We knew that we could love her and survive the loss.  When we presented this to our children, our 11 year old son said that no baby should die alone without a name.  Our 6 year old daughter, hit her knees, and begged us for this sister.  She said she understood that the baby could die but that Kyle was still her brother even though she’d never met him.  

    We would choose to proceed with the adoption with the plan to take her home and love her for as long as we were allowed to.  During these discussion, where most everyone thought we were crazy, there was one lone voice of hope.  The cardiac surgeon discussed with us the possibility of doing the 3 stage heart surgeries.  I was afraid that another child of mine would die in the hospital but in the end we would decide to proceed.  We named her Hope, which means faith and trust.

    Hope would survive these 3 heart surgeries and Dan would finish his fellowship.  Dan would take a job in Des Moines and we would move back to be closer to our family.    Sometime in the first few years, their NICU would join a national practice which had 400 NICUs.  A few years later Dan would become the Director of Clinical and Quality Improvement for this national company.  He would be indirectly involved in the care of 100,000 babies every year.  

    And to top it all off, we would have another little girl.

    We felt like we had come full circle.  Dan was now caring for parents who were in situations like we once were.

    At the age of 45, Dan would come to me and mention adopting again.  He would remind me that Codey, who was now 22, would always live with us.  He would say that we have a big house and a great job and lots of love to give.  He wouldn’t be wrong with those words, but I still said “NO!”  I was way too old to be adopting.

    But then one day, I read a book by Mary Beth Chapman that asked, “Was it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?” and my heart was changed.

    We began the process of international adoption.   We set out to adopt a little girl from China.  China started a new program where you could adopt two at one time.  Hope would beg us to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we did.  We figured we were never going back and they would have each other and feel less alone.

    We would show up in China and find two of the most shut down, sad little, hungry children.  Ben would literally eat for an hour when we got back to the hotel room.  This 19 pound, 3 ½ year old little boy would change our whole lives.   The very next day we went to visit his orphanage.   We headed through the gates and noticed the tall brick wall with glass shards all around the top.   We entered the clean, new orphanage and noticed how eerily quiet it was.   No noise in the baby room.  Rooms filled with little kids in cribs, no toys to be seen.  They took us to Ben’s floor.  They showed us where he slept.  Ben wouldn’t let go of my husband.   As the nannies, who had cared for him for 3 years tried hard to coax Ben out of Dan’s arms, Ben just buried his face farther into Dan’s neck.  My heart was broken.  What would cause a little boy to hang on to a total stranger and refuse to go back to the people who had been caring for him for over 3 years?   

    I would know even before our plane hit the ground in Des Moines, that we would adopt again.   I didn’t know, however, that it would be the very next year.   We started our paperwork again.  We heard God whisper the number 4.  Our agency and our social worker would be on board with this number.  We put 4 on all the paperwork because we knew it was never going to happen.  China only allowed two at a time.  It was easy to say yes to something you knew could never happen.

    God had other plans though.   In the most miracle filled, crazy year of our life, we would head back to China, this time to adopt 4.  

    If you are trying hard to keep track of the numbers, here’s the recap – 5 biological children, 1 adopted domestically, and 6 from China for a grand total of 12 children.  

    All my life I had wanted to have 12 children.  I gave up that dream, at the age of 23, when we had the twins because I was never going to get pregnant again.  God is good though and 25 years later at the age of 48, He allowed my childhood dream to come true.  While everyone else was calling us crazy, I was discussing how seriously blessed I was.  

    But God wasn’t done yet.  Our daughter, adopted at the age of almost 14, told us what it was like for a child in a wheelchair in China.  She would beg us to go back for an older girl in a wheelchair and we did.

    We would say we were done once again.  But as luck would have it a friend would send us a picture of a little girl and ask, “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?”   We would laugh and say, “No. But we will advocate for her.”   Elyse and Grace had other plans though.  They believed this little girl was their sister.  It wouldn’t take long for the rest of the family to agree she was indeed their sister.  

    We would head back for two more.

    My life is nothing like I planned it on the day Dan and I wed almost 35 years ago.  I’m not sure I would have said, “I do” had I known what was about to happen.  But standing here, 32 years out from the worst year of my life, I can see a bit of the threads of the tapestry that God has been weaving in my life.  

    Without Kyle’s death, we would have never been brave enough to bring home 6 more children who had serious, life shortening conditions.  Without Codey’s special needs and living with us forever, we would have never taken in the children that we did who will need live long care.  

    We all talk about Romans 8:28 like God will only bring good into our lives.  But the reality is that verse truly means that God can make the most amazing type of good come out of the most devastating type of bad.

    My life is living proof of this fact. 

  • Life Changing Moments

    Date: 2019.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey | Response: 0

    7 years ago my life was changed forever.

    I was so clueless.  So absolutely clueless as to what goes on in the world.  And you know what?  I’m still pretty clueless.  I have no idea what it means to live in a war torn country.  I have no idea what it means to not be able to worship God.  I have no idea what it means to have nothing and dig through the garbage to find enough plastic to make some money to feed my family.  I never had difficulty going to school.  I haven’t been trafficked or sold or tortured or starved.

    I’ve complained of being hungry – but I truly wasn’t.  The next meal would come and it would be varied.

    I’ve complained of not having any money.  And although that fact was true for a week or so, the next paycheck would come.

    I’ve complained of my living conditions and I should have been ashamed.  The windows worked, the walls stood, the roof didn’t leak.  I was warm and safe.

    I’ve whined and moaned and griped and I shouldn’t have.

    Seven years ago my world was turned upside down.   A year prior to that I was talking about why we couldn’t adopt.  I was talking about how I was too old.  We didn’t have the money.  I wasn’t right for the job.  My excuses were a mile long and they were all about me and my selfish self.

    My life was changed by the words spoken by Mary Beth Chapman’s daughter, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”   I cried buckets of tears and we moved forward with adoption.  We read the books and prepared ourselves as best we could, but nothing could prepare me for what would happen to my heart when we met Ben and Maisey.

    They threw Maisey at me.  Literally threw her at me and walked away.  She had these big, beautiful eyes that were afraid and sorrowful and broke my heart.  I can still feel her in my arms.  This sweet, little girl who just sat on my lap.  She didn’t cry.  She just laid her head on my shoulder and ate her cracker.  Every once in a while she would look up at me so seriously.  She was taking it all in.  She was and still is the most observant and loving child.  And somehow during that first day of her checking me over, I passed.

    Ben came to us not much later.  He had this hoarse little voice.  He weighed 19 pounds at the age of 3 1/2.   He went straight to Dan.  He didn’t cry.  He just sat there and and drank his box of milk.

    We went back to the hotel and expected tantrums and crying.  We were prepared for the worst.  But we found two little souls, who had never met before that moment, that took care of each other.  Dan had put a bunch of snack foods in one of the dresser drawers.  Ben and Maisey stood at the drawer of food and just looked.  They carefully took pieces out and smelled them, and then they ate for the better part of two hours.  Ben would cry if you moved the food, but he constantly shared with Maisey.  Ben just needed to be holding the food or looking at it.   He did this for 6 months after we came home.  6 months of sleeping with food or a bowl or utensils.

    I learned that I never truly knew what it meant to be hungry.

    Ben and Maisey didn’t love us instantly.  I’m not sure that’s even possible.  Although, I do know what it means to lose your heart at the mere sight of a picture.  Love takes time I get that.  But they did feel safe.  So safe in fact that the very next day when we visited Ben’s orphanage, he wouldn’t leave Dan’s arms.  The nannies tried to coax him into coming to them.  The nannies tried to make him smile.   But Ben wouldn’t have it.  He laid his head on Dan’s shoulders, pulled Dan’s arms tighter around him, and refused to budge.

    I learned I never truly knew what it meant to be alone.

    That was the moment everything changed for me.  I went to China believing we could help another child.  We didn’t need to add to our family, we already had 6 children.   We knew, however, that our house would never be empty.  Codey would live with us forever so couldn’t we possibly open up our house to one more child?

    China opened it’s program up to allowing two at a time and we decided if we were going to adopt we should adopt two.  Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect.   Our agency sent us Maisey’s papers and we chose to adopt her and then they showed us their listings with other children with more needs.  Dan saw Ben’s picture.   We had been praying for a little boy that we had nicknamed Tigger and there he was.

    Ben’s orphanage was a nice clean building.  It had a playground and therapy equipment and many other nice things.  But what it didn’t have was the love of a family.   Love of a family can come in many different ways but it brings with it the knowledge that you belong.  You have a warm place to fall.  You have somewhere safe to go.  You are loved.  The fact that you matter to one person changes everything.

    Adoption doesn’t always go this way.  Time in country can be brutal.  You are jetlagged, the noises and food are different, the child may not even like you.  I get that.  I understand the hard.  Believe me our trip the next year was almost more than I could handle BUT…

    We can NOT lose sight of the fact that children should not be raised in institutions.  Children need families.  I will never say that everyone is meant to adopt.  I know that’s not possible.  BUT I do know that people could do more.

    I feel guilt that it took me so long to have my eyes opened.  I could have done so much more.

    Let this be the day that we all open our eyes a little wider and do something.

    Become a foster parent.

    Adopt.

    Help support a family that is adopting.

    Support local families that foster.

    Take meals.  Send a gift card.  Encourage them on their path that can be just as hard as it is beautiful.

    Together we can all make a difference one child at a time.

    #EveryChildCounts

     

  • National Sibling Day

    Date: 2018.04.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life | Response: 0

    Once upon a time I wanted a very large family.  I thought 12 kids would be so much fun.   I’m not sure I ever told Dan this when we were dating.  I probably figured I would scare him away.

    Our first two babies were such an exciting time.  Dan and I found out we were having twins.  All was right with the world.  We were over the moon excited

    And then life happened…

     

    Codey – 2 pounds 7 ounces

    3 pounds 8 ounces – Kyle

    And then the world just seemed to stop as we buried Kyle and spent 14 months in the hospital with Codey.

    I absolutely guarantee you I was NEVER going to get pregnant again.

    But God had different and much better plans.

    We found out we were expecting when we were still in the hospital with Codey.

    What a gracious and good God we have.  Zach was such a wonderful sibling for Codey.

    Playing with Zach!

    And I was done!

    But then Dan said, “You’ve always wanted a little girl, Lisa.”  And I started to dream…

    And we had sweet Cassie and our family was complete.

    But then Dan heard about a little girl who needed a family and we decided to proceed with Hope’s adoption.

    And our family seemed complete again.

    I’m seeing a pattern here…

    And

    And then came baby Gracie.

    And once again our family was complete.

    Until Dan thought we should adopt again and after my reluctant foot dragging, I agreed.

    And then we adopted Ben and Maisey…

    And we knew that we were done growing our family.

    But after seeing all the little hearts waiting for families, we knew our family was not complete.

    So we added Jasmine, Lainey, Evie and Eli.

    This brought our children to that magic number 12.  We were so happy

    and said we were SO done.

    Until we set out to adopt another older girl because Jasmine dreamed we could do more.

    And Max and Elyse joined our family.

    The magic number 14.  2 sets of 7 and 7 means completion, perfection.

    We were done!

    But God and Elyse and Gracie had different plans.

    Liam and JJ brought us to number 16.

    15 children here on earth who get to care for each other, pray for each other, play with each other.

    We try hard to cultivate a feeling of belonging and connection.  We want them to have a safe place to grow and learn and find out who they are and what their purpose is.

    Praying that they are always there for each other no matter what.

    I know I won’t always be around but I love the fact that they will always have each other.

    Happy National Sibling Day!

     

  • It’s Cute How I Think I’m in Control

    Date: 2018.01.15 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I have always had an issue with control.  Bad things happened to me as a kid and I thought I could control it by keeping everything around me “just so”.  Rooms had to be cleaned in a specific order before I went to bed.  Lights could only be turned off in certain order.  It wasn’t really OCD, I could not do it, but I just needed to feel as if I had some semblance of control.

    I let go of most of that when Codey and Kyle were born.  There’s nothing better to make you put things in perspective and to let you know you have no control then having your children born 12 weeks early.  Kyle’s death and Codey’s subsequent 14 months in the hospital were a constant reminder that I was not in control.  I learned very quickly what was important and it was no longer the order in which I cleaned a room or whether or not everything was put back where it belonged.

    On this journey, I have learned how to trust God and turn it all over to Him time and time again.  But that hasn’t really stopped me from thinking that if I work hard enough I can control my little corner of the world.

    December 30 and 31st of 2017 found me making plans and lots and lots of lists.  I cleaned out the kitchen.  I got rid of anything that I hadn’t used in a year.  I put together two storage cubbies with wheels so I could put my rice cooker, pressure cooker and other gadgets on so they weren’t on my counters.  My counters were going to look like a magazine – a minimalist magazine.   My counters were no longer going to look as if 13 small children still lived in my home.  My cupboards were going to be organized.  There was going to be a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I was once and for all going to get it together.

    I typed up my exercise plan.  I worked out my Keto diet which I had lost weight on and had mostly stopped over the holidays. I made my grocery list.  I looked up a few more recipes.  2018 and was going to be fabulous.  I was going to rock this.  I had already proven I could lose weight on this plan so instead of beating myself up over not losing all 60 in one year, I was going to dust myself off, congratulate myself on the first half gone, and move on to the last half.  That weight didn’t stand a chance.

    I made my list of the rooms to clean and what needed to be done in each room.   I picked a room to do during each and every day of the first week of January.  I was NOT going to wait for spring to spring clean.  I was going to do it now so when we started school again, everything was going to run like clockwork.  I was already so proud of myself.  Look at these lists.  I had thought of everything.

    I wrote my resolution list on the kitchen window.   I have found that I spend a lot of time at that window.  During the past two months I had used a wet erase marker and wrote the things I needed to see during the day for encouragement.   It already said 90 days without pop and listed my 27 pound weight loss.   Now it was going to say:   Less cussing, stick to a budget, lose 30 more pounds, and give more.

    I wanted to be a better person.  I want to live more frugally so that we can give more away.  Our work with Love Without Boundaries has shown me over and over again what it is like to live in a third world country and what so many people go through.  My heart breaks and I know for a fact that our family can do more and this was the year to do it.

    Dude I was rocking this.   It wasn’t even the first and I had the first room done.  My counters sparkled.  Everything had a place.  I had gone through all my cupboards.  I was the donation, recycling, garbage master.

    But then January 1st came.  I slept in so I was well rested.  Heck, I might even do two rooms today, that’s how good I was feeling.  I was ready to go.  The kids knew the plan.  We were going to do a room a day and be completely organized.  They were ready.  I was ready.

    And then we got the call.

    Would you accept this kidney for Jessica?

    And again I learned who cares if the house is spotless?  Who cares if I’m completely organized?  Who cares if I don’t have it all together?  Who cares about lists?  Who cares?

    J.J. has a chance at new health.  J.J. has a chance to not only grow but to maybe grow old.

    What a gift.

    It makes me wonder if God was watching me frantically typing out my lists over the weekend, so proud of myself.  Look what I am going to do.  Look what I am going to accomplish.  Saying to himself, “Oh sweet child, you have no idea.  Do you think He turns to the angel next to him and says,  “It’s so cute how she thinks she’s in control isn’t it?”

    So technically none of my list got done.  You could even say I failed cause I cussed when they called, I spent money not in our budget while we were in the hospital and I gained two pounds.  Technically I messed up 3 of the 4 resolutions all ready.  I had better find my checkbook quick.

    But oh how good God is.  I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “I think I’ve already learned this lesson.”, but maybe just maybe I still have a ways to go.   Good thing God is patient and extends lots and lots of grace.

    2018 is going to be an incredible year and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I will accomplish and everything to do with what He has already done!

    I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 104:33

     

     

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

    Date: 2018.01.08 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life | Response: 0

    I read this verse this morning in my devotional and it made me think about Dan and my life together.

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

    Whenever we are in the hospital, people say all the time that we are amazing.  It makes us both uncomfortable.  It’s not a pretending to be humble thing.   As Dan said the other day, it’s like being thanked for breathing.   Let me assure you that we are not amazing.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We haven’t done anything amazing.  We just decided to be obedient when God called, stepped out in faith, and trusted God with everything.

    We didn’t set out to have twins early or to deal with all the complications that they had, or to bury a child. In fact, presented with those options, I’m pretty sure our 23 year old selves would have said “NO!”

    We didn’t set out to adopt a little girl with a major heart defect, but when face to face with a little girl who was alone and just needed a family to love her, what else could we do?

    When we did set out to adopt again, we were just going to do one more adoption. It made sense to add the second child when China made the option available. Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we would be able to do that. God lead again and we followed.

    When we went to adopt, our hearts were broken by what we saw in the orphanage and by how Ben and Maisey reacted to us.  They just wanted love and they soaked our love in.  I will never forget watching Ben cling to Dan from the moment he met Dan.  Ben loved Dan from the beginning.  Ben clinged to Dan.  When we visited the orphanage Ben had lived in for almost 4 years, Ben absolutely refused to go to any of his previous caregivers.  Instead Ben buried his head in Dan’s neck and held on for dear life.  My heart would never be the same again.  Our hearts were forever broken for the children who wait.  We said, “God use us.  We will follow!”   We knew we could do more so we said “Use us!”

    It’s easy to pray to God to use you when those are just words that you are uttering.  The hard part begins when He starts to show you what He wishes for you to do.  You doubt yourself.  Satan uses the world to whisper in your ear that you are not enough.  You will never be enough.   Dan and I are only human.  So because of those doubts and fears, we put limitations on our obedience.  We said we wouldn’t adopt an older child. We wouldn’t adopt a child who had severe mental delays.  We felt that this would put an undue burden on our older children.  If something happened to us, they would already be caring for Codey. How Could we ask them to do more?

    The very next year God lead us to 4 children, an almost 14 year old girl and a severely delayed little girl, plus two little heart kiddos.  I won’t go in to details here, because I’ve written about it a lot in past blogs, but that year was an amazing year of God showing up and making miracle after miracle happen.  We didn’t set out to adopt 4, but we heard Him loud and clear saying “put 4 on the homestudy” when we started.  We had no idea what it meant.  Then we set out to follow where He lead.

    We ended up adopting two more the following year.  We knew we were probably done.  14 children, 11 of them with significant needs seemed like a good place to stop.  Then my friend sent me JJ’s picture and said “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?” and my heart was stolen by this sweet face so we agreed to advocate for her.

    When Elyse and Grace started talking about JJ being their sister, it was hard.  Obviously we would love to help every child but know we can’t so we drug our feet.  Elyse and Grace were insistent  that she was their sister.  They had every child in our house praying for JJ at every meal.  They would talk about her as if she already lived with us. And when Elyse, who was lying in her bed after getting ready to go to sleep said, “If she dies in China, I will never be able to forgive myself.”, Dan and I knew we had to seriously look at whether it was right for our family to adopt her.

    Truth-be-told Dan and I knew instantly that she was our daughter but we did everything in our power to justify that we had done enough.  But God didn’t let up on our hearts.  Our hearts grew heavier and heavier for JJ.  We see lots of children being advocated for.  We pray for many children who have touched our hearts.  Our hearts are touched for those children but it is more than that when you know that this is a child you should adopt.   It’s almost impossible to explain.  Your heart is heavy.  You look at their picture constantly.  You pray for them.  You wake up in the middle of the night to pray and look at their picture again.  I never heard God’s voice directly but I knew without a doubt that we were to proceed.

    Which leads me back to the verse above.

    “Glory be to God”, (not Dan or I or our family)

    “who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”   We could have never in a million years dreamed up this beautiful life we get to live.  I would have never dared ask for so many miracles or to be given such blessings.  I believed I was too old.  I believed it couldn’t be done.  I limited myself by what the world told me could be done.

    BUT NOT GOD…

    — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”   We’ve been through countless surgeries, seen miracles in our healed children, and been given so much more than we will ever give them.  I sometimes feel like we’ve used up too much of the good that God gives, as if God has a limit on the good that He bestows to His children.

    We are not amazing or stronger or braver than most, but we did choose to be obedient.  We have seen God show up time and time again.  We trust that He is perfect.  We trust that His plan is good.  We trust that He can make good come out of the bad.   So when God called us to move out of the comfortable, we chose to move forward in faith and get more than a little uncomfortable and because we did this, we get the privilege of living a most extraordinary life.

    “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

  • 30 Years

    Date: 2017.04.30 | Category: Kyle | Response: 0

    30 years have come and gone and I still miss your face.

    I miss what could have been.

    I miss all those days when I could have held you near.

    I miss the dream that is still so vivid of you and Codey playing on a hill somewhere.  The grass is green.  The sun is shining.  I can feel the warmth on my face.  I see you both in little bib overalls and bright colored shirts.  I see you toddling and falling.  I see you running to your daddy.  I hear our laughter and I feel the love.

    It was the most beautiful dream.

    But the reality is that your daddy carried your 3 pound 8 ounce body, in a little white box, to the place your body would lie.

    FOREVER!

    Thank God that isn’t forever for you.  Thank God for the blessed hope of forever!  Thank God for the beautiful dream of seeing you again.

    Because you aren’t in that little white box.

    I know that.

    I know you are happy!

    I know for you it will be but a blip in the time of eternity.

    I know your death allowed me to not fear death and to realize the shortest of lives can have the most amazing amount of worth.

    I know all of this but I still miss you.

    I still wish I could celebrate your birthday!

    I still wish I could kiss your face!

    And even though I know that your death took us on the most amazing journey…

    The truth is…

    Five days wasn’t near enough.

    I still miss you.

    I wish you were here.

    I know that is selfish, but it is the truth!

    One day closer to seeing your sweet face and holding you again.

    Happy birthday Kyle!

    Your brother misses you and so do daddy and I.

  • Reflections on 5 Years of Amazing!

    Date: 2017.03.12 | Category: Benjamin, Maisey | Response: 0

    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