Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

  • Happy Birthday Gracie!

    Date: 2020.03.23 | Category: Adoption, Grace

    The history of Gracie…

    16 years ago I felt like God was speaking to me. I felt like he was saying that we should have another child. This made no sense. I was almost 40 years old. I had had my tubes tied 12 years earlier after giving birth to Cassie. We had already adopted and knew what a beautiful thing adoption was but somehow my heart and my head kept going back to me being pregnant again.

    I didn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I figured it was just me wanting to be pregnant again or me wanting to hold a baby again. Maybe this time my pregnancy would go okay. Maybe this time I wouldn’t be filled with such fear. Maybe this time everything would be ok. I figured that maybe I was just imagining things. Maybe I was just having those pangs mothers have when they realize they would never care for a little baby again.

    When Dan came to me a couple months later and said that he was thinking maybe we should have one more baby, I was ecstatic! I had been praying that if this was really something that God wanted us to do, then Dan would come to me. And Dan did. Dan said that he just had this feeling that it was the right thing to do.

    We talked to our family doctor and saw a fertility doctor. They checked to see if my eggs were still good. To this day that sentence cracks me up, like we were in the grocery store opening up the cartoon to make sure everything was still fresh. Anyway, the doctor said that we could have the surgery but that insurance wouldn’t cover it. He said the odds of me getting pregnant after this surgery, and after having my tubes tied for so long, and being 40 years old were very, very slim.

    Dan and I opted to proceed. We didn’t want them to do invitro we just wanted my tubes repaired and for nature to take its course. We figured if this was really what God wanted us to do then we would get pregnant on our own.

    The very first month I got pregnant. We thanked God for this miracle and we celebrated this new life. We had routine ultrasounds every month because I was over 40 years old. 35 weeks in, at one of these routine ultrasounds, the ultrasound tech got very quiet. She left the room. I looked at Dan and asked him what he saw. He said that it looked like blood.

    The tech came in with the doctor, who Dan knew because they worked together. The doctor informed us he was going to take a very big needle and draw off some fluid and if there was blood, we would have to do an emergency c-section. He put the needle in and pulled out the fluid.

    There was blood.

    He said he wanted to check one more spot, just to be sure. He grabbed another syringe and used the ultrasound to find another spot to pull off more fluid.

    The syringe was filled with more blood.

    The doctor informed us that we would have to go now. He told us to be thankful that we had the routine ultrasound because I was having no signs of distress with the baby and the baby needed to come out right now. The hospital was right across the street. I was devastated. Everything had been going so well. Why would God have me get pregnant to lose the baby now? How could this be part of the plan? This made no sense.

    Cassie was devastated. She had wanted to be with me during the delivery, but she was with her siblings 90 minutes away at grandma’s house. There was no time for Cassie to get to me before the delivery.

    Grace was born by emergency c-section the afternoon of March 23, 2005. We had wanted to have two pregnancies so there would be two children close together but when the high risk ob asked us what we wanted to do we said, “Tie the tubes. We don’t want to go through anything like this again.” He said good and informed us that he had no clue how we got pregnant in the first place. One tube was completely scarred over and the other tube didn’t even look hooked up. But we knew. We knew who had sent her to us and we named her Grace.

    Gracie was the best baby. She was sweet and everyone loved her. She was an old, old soul. There was just something about her. She understood things that no little child should understand. She had great compassion and empathy. She was kind and loving.

    We had been up at Dan’s grandma and grandpa’s house because Dan’s Grandma Ethel wasn’t doing very well. We all sat around and told stories while grandma rested in her chair. We knew Ethel didn’t have long. Gracie was one and 1/2. She held grandma’s hand. Grace offered Grandma her sippy cup. She was taking care of grandma even though Gracie couldn’t have known what was going on.

    During Grace’s young years she lost a lot of people she loved. She lost her great grandma at 1 and 1/2. She lost two great grandpas (Dan’s grandpa and my grandpa), she lost a grandma (my mom) and a grandpa (my stepdad), she lost a great aunt (Kay), she lost an uncle (Dan’s brother – Rod), and she lost papa (Dan’s dad) between the ages of 6 and 10.

    During the summer of 2012 Grace was sick off and on. We didn’t think much about it until we headed into the fall. Then it seemed like she just couldn’t kick this bug and she was tired all the time. We started to get an uneasy feeling and we decided to have her checked for mono because her strep tests had come back negative.

    We knew there was something wrong when the doctor pulled us in the hall. He told us Grace’s labs were all off and he had made us an appointment for that afternoon with an oncologist. We didn’t know what to think . We didn’t want to worry without knowing for sure, but it seemed impossible not to worry. We showed up at the oncology appointment. There was blood work ordered and a bone marrow biopsy scheduled for the next morning. All of this happened over the week of Thanksgiving in 2012.

    The good news was that Grace didn’t have leukemia. The bad news? No one knew what she had until she woke up with a butterfly rash across her cheeks.

    It was systemic lupus erythematosus.

    LUPUS! 6 year olds don’t get lupus, but I was wrong. They do.

    Because it was a holiday, they said we could wait to see the kidney specialists at the Children’s Hospital, sometime after the first of the year. Dan made them do the urine test right away that weekend. Thank goodness we didn’t just wait for the appointment a few months away because Grace had stage 4/5 lupus nephritis. I could write a whole book about the times Dan has had a feeling and saved the children from something horrible, but that’s a story for another day. Grace had a kidney biopsy done and they started her treatments right away. Today her kidneys are doing well.

    During Grace’s treatments, she never felt sorry her yourself. She took her boatload of meds without complaint. She comforted me by telling me that she was thankful to be alive and thankful that there were meds to take.

    She raised money for other kids who were in need.

    During all of this we were in the middle of our adoption and getting ready to leave in a few months for Ben and Maisey. We asked Grace what she wanted us to do. She said, ‘You have to go get them. They are my brother and sister. They can’t stay there. I will be okay. I just want my siblings to be home for my birthday.” We scheduled her chemotherapy treatments around our travel dates. We prayed and prayed that nothing would happen to her while we traveled a half a world away.

    We came back to America with Ben and Maisey on Grace’s 8th birthday.

    New beds are the best!

    When we decided the very next year to adopt again, Grace was so happy. She loved Ben and Maisey and wanted to add even more children. She was thrilled when we added an older child, Jasmine. She even wanted to share her room with Jasmine.

    The very next year she prayed and prayed for a child her own age and we brought Elyse home.

    The year after that she knew, along with Elyse, that J.J. was her sister.

    I say all of this to show what an incredible kid Grace is. She’s been through a lot in her 15 years. She opened up her heart and shared her room and gave up her spot of being the baby in our family to bring home NOT one more child BUT 10 more children.

    Gracie is not your usual kid. The last couple years have been hard on her. It’s hard to be a teenager in a house full of the “talked about kids”. It’s hard to deal with the stress of kids who take their anger out on you. Heck, it’s hard for me and I’m a grown up.

    There’s meds and doctors appointments. There’s the conflict caused when the sister closest to you in age isn’t able to do the same things you do. There’s more responsibility. I wish I could say that adoption hasn’t made Grace’s life harder, but it has made it harder. But when asked about it, Grace always says that she would do it all over again. She says she can do hard things and having family is the most important thing.

    Dan and I try extra hard to not give her any extra work but she does have to babysit sometimes. She is able to earn things with her babysitting money and she loves that. Gracie babysits because she’s amazing. She understands Lainey’s seizures better than most people. She can administer a rescue seizure med and knows how to perform CPR. She knows how to do g-tube feedings. She knows when Max needs a little more supervision.

    Gracie is amazing. It broke my heart this year when she told me that she lives in a house full of people who have amazing stories but she is just this ordinary girl. I tried and tried to get her to understand how amazing it was for her to share her family and her home with all these children. Her response? “Mom, that isn’t special. Anyone would do that.” When I explained that not everyone would do that, she informed me that they should so just because others wouldn’t do it, didn’t make her somehow special because she did.

    I am taking this moment on Gracie’s special day and writing all of this out so she can see her story. It is AMAZING! Gracie, I hope when you read this that you really understand just how incredible your story is and how amazing your heart is.

    Grace, you have opened your heart, shared your things, and gone above and beyond what most kids would have ever done. You are an incredible kid. I know that the teen years have been hard. Heck teen years are hard if nothing is going on in your life and you’ve got a lot going on.

    You love and you love big. You weren’t afraid of adopting kids that might die. You were more afraid of not adopting them. You are beautiful and smart and talented. God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed the thought of “one more” on my mind. You being so open and willing to bring your brothers and sisters home is what made it easy for me to say, “Ok God. I will follow.”

    Right now I know there is a little girl in China who has your heart. We pray and pray for her to have a family. I know if China opened up their doors to large families adopting again, you would be there filling out the paperwork and begging us to bring her home. Well, you already beg. We just can’t do anything about it. That shows who you really are. Your parents are 55 years old and you know that if something happened to us, you’d have to help care for your siblings and this new one that you wish you could adopt and yet you would instantly do it without any hesitation knowing how much more work it would be. As you tell me all the time, she reminds you of Lainey and look how amazing Lainey is doing. I love that about you.

    I hope you understand how incredible you really are. You have an amazing heart and daddy and I are so proud to call you our daughter. Daddy and I love you so much Grace! Happy 15th birthday sweetheart!

    P.S. When you decided that you wanted to do judo along with the TaeKwonDo you were doing with your family, your dad gave you a challenge to see how serious you were about it. One month to do the following: 1,000 hours of exercise, 1,000 pushups, 1,000 situps, 1,000 squats, and 300,000 steps. You did it! I don’t ever want you to forget that you did that!

    I love to see how excited you are about judo and how excited dad is that you are doing a sport that he loves too. Can’t wait to see where you go with this passion of yours.

  • 2020

    Date: 2020.01.25 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    So I have decided that 2020 is the year of seeing clearly. One of the things I was going to do a better job of was blogging every week. I thought Saturday mornings would be the best time. I would wake up early, put my fingers to the keyboard, and be done before anyone else woke up.

    How’s that going for me? Well, it’s the 4th Saturday of 2020 and I am just now starting to type. Better late than never, right? 2020 is also the year of exercise (that’s going great), sleeping more (hot flashes aren’t helping that), and being the best me that I can be. 2020 is about implementing everything that I know to be true and finishing all those projects that have sat on hold for the past 8 years as our family found our new normal.

    It has been almost 9 years since we started on our international adoption journey. 10 years since Dan came to me, after reading Max Lucado’s book Outlive Your Life and said that he thought we should think about adopting one more time. Our one more time turned into four times of traveling to China and ten children joining our family.

    In March, it will be 8 years since Ben and Maisey joined our family. It hardly seems possible that it has been 4 years since our last adoption. What do I know for a fact after all this time? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Ha!

    What works for one kid doesn’t work for the other. What encourages one child, won’t encourage the other. When a child has attachment issues, everyone pays. I’m not sure there is any way around that. When everyone else just wants them to be part of the family and they just can’t let themselves do it, no matter how hard they try, hearts are going to hurt! It can’t be avoided.

    If you think living in an orphanage is a good thing, you’ve never been more wrong. I don’t know how it could actually work out well for anyone. I can’t believe we, as humans, ever thought that this was a good thing. I mean I get that we want children fed and safe and for them to have a place to lie their heads BUT surely we can’t believe that housing children in an institution is the right thing. It’s easy to throw money at a building especially if it allows you to rid yourself of the guilt of not helping families stay together, or getting the children the medical care they need, or opening your doors yourself. I don’t know much, but I do know we can do better.

    But then again, maybe not, agencies are closing their doors to international adoption. All over my Facebook feed, people are sharing the statistics on international adoption, and the numbers aren’t good. Having been in a couple of orphanages, and seeing my Facebook feed filled with stories from all over the world showing the care that other children get in orphanages, I can’t stand it. We aren’t doing enough to protect the children!

    WAIT! I stand corrected. There is something I know and can state with utmost certainty. We aren’t doing enough to protect children!

    I mean if we have children in the U.S. that are actually put in juvenile delinquency institutions because there aren’t enough homes open to our own foster kids, well then we are NOT doing enough. We are failing the children.

    The words people utter matter. The things people do matter. I am parenting children where the emotional issues far outweigh any of the physical issues. I’m not afraid to work hard or to stay busy doing things for my children who need help. BUT the emotional drain of the turmoil caused by verbal and physical abuse from others to your child, takes its toll.

    If you have a child, who never owns the words worthless, they will have issues and have lots to work through, but you can see steady progress. But if you have a child who believes all those horrible words said to them and believes that they deserved everything that happened to them, then the path is a lot less clear and progress happens very, very slowly.

    If you would have told me years ago that you could have a child, that actually sabotages the good because they feel so much more comfortable in the bad, I would have never believed it. But, unfortunately, it is true. We want to believe that love can fix everything, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. As a mother, it’s the hardest thing for me. To realize that no matter how much I love said child(ren), that may never be enough to undo the harm inflicted by other careless adults.

    I do know that the hard is still worth it. That they still deserve me fighting for them and loving them with everything I have. Knowing everything I know now, I would still adopt them. I have never, ever doubted that we did the right thing. I would have changed how I responded. I would have read the books and watched the Karen Purvis videos a whole lot sooner, but I would still adopt. I would have still adopted two at a time, out of age order, and exactly how we did it. I just would have been better prepared. I thought I was prepared, but I was wrong.

    I have learned a whole lot about unconditional love these past 8 years. To love, when someone is trying to hurt you with their words, is hard. It’s hard to not take it personally. I have failed at that too many times. It’s hard. That’s all. It’s just hard.

    Every morning I wake up and try again. Every morning I play my Christian play list reminding me that “I Want to Be Different” (Micah Tyler) and that I don’t want to miss anything, “The Beautiful Things we Miss” (Matthew West), and that I am just a “Nobody” (Casting Crowns) and that there are no “Mistakes” (Unspoken) that God can’t use for His Glory.

    2020 is about fixing what I can and accepting what I can’t. It’s about putting into practice all the things I said I would. Finances, health, family. All great places to start working on just being a little bit more. A little more present. A little more patient. A little more healthy. A little more…

    Maybe it’s because I just turned 55 and I can’t believe that much of my life has flown by. Maybe it’s because life has finally started to calm down a little bit. (Knock on wood!) Maybe it’s because the world seems to be just a little bit crazier and it feels like there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t know but for whatever reason, 2020 seems like a great year to just work on me, and my little part of the world, being better!

    Happy New Year everyone!

  • Life Changing Moments

    Date: 2019.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey

    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

     

  • The Wake Up Call Part 2 – by Mom

    Date: 2018.12.09 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    A few weeks ago, I was driving my daughter’s car, I hit ice on a bridge, the truck in front of me slammed on his brakes, I hit the brakes, and Cassie’s car spun out on the ice.  I ended up hitting the guardrail and stopped facing oncoming traffic in the middle of the left lane.   The Deputy Sheriff was already there and yelled for me to get my car to the ditch.  I couldn’t see because I had lost my glasses.  Luckily, Cassie’s car was still driveable, so I was able to put the car in reverse and get to the shoulder, before any other cars went by.  The deputy then jumped in the car and moved it for me.  It was a frightening moment but I was unhurt and so very thankful.

    —————————

    It’s hard when your child is so mad at the world.  It’s hard when they spew their anger all over you.  Connected parenting works.  Some days I applied it really well.  On too many days though, my feelings were hurt.  I know you aren’t supposed to take it personally but someone telling you over and over again that they hate you and that they wish you weren’t their mother weighs on you.  Doubt sets in.  I wondered what I was doing wrong.  I would wake up, forgive, and start again but we seemed to be stuck in this awful cycle of non-connectedness.

    Jasmine would push.  I would try to respond in love.  She would push harder.  I would try to keep calm.  She would up the ante and push more.  I would be angry or cry.  I liken it to being attacked by a mosquito.  I was able to handle it for a while but those constant little jabs just wore on me.  After hours of being stung, I wouldn’t stay as calm as I needed to be.  The tears would come.  After about a year I realized that is what Jasmine wanted.  She needed that response.  She needed me to be angry.  Because when she was angry, she didn’t feel the guilt of the words she had said and the things she had done.  Angry was a safe place so she would do whatever it took to get in a fight.  When I wouldn’t respond to whatever she was doing, she would do more and more until she got the fight she was looking for.

    As time wore on, I began to feel like I had failed.  I mean how can someone come from such a horrible place and not want to be here in our home?  I understood the pushing away part.  I understood the not trusting a “mother” figure part. I understood not wanting to be hurt again.  I had read the books. I got it.  It  was the not wanting a family and wanting to go back to China that I had a hard time with.  It wasn’t until years later that I would understand she wanted to go back to make them take back their angry words and say they were wrong.  She wanted them to say she wasn’t worthless.  She didn’t want to leave us and stay in China, she just wanted revenge.

    There’s a quote going around right now that says…

    “Remember – Everyone has a story that will lead to defiance or misbehaving.  9 times out of 10 the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry.  It will break your heart.”  – Annette Breaux

    I believe this fully but it was getting harder and harder to keep that in mind as time went on.  Weeks turned into months and months turned to a year, then two years, then three, and now its been almost four years.  We couldn’t find a way to break the cycle.  The more Jasmine misbehaved, the guiltier she felt, and the angrier everyone else got.  The more guilt she felt, the more she needed to be angry to not feel that guilt. The more no one responded the harder she pushed.  She would misbehave, others would react, forgiveness would be given, and then it would all start again.  It went on and on.  It was an awful cycle.

    The rest of the kids were angry because they couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t stop and why she hated me.  They didn’t understand why she could do and say the things she did to me.  They hated their orphanages too, but they didn’t hate me so they couldn’t understand why Jasmine did and said the things she did.   They hated that it made me sad. I tried really hard to not let them see my tears.  I said over and over again that we need to forgive and I showed them by forgiving.  But no matter how many times I said, “We need to forgive because Jesus forgives us.” it got harder and harder for them to do that as time went on.  I reminded them often that there may be a time in their future when they will need the same grace and mercy and they would want their family to support them through their hard times too.  We all need forgiveness.

    My hardest part through this whole thing was I felt like I was enabling Jasmine.  I couldn’t find a way to make it stop.   Jasmine never, ever said she was sorry. There was never any remorse on her part.  So we would move through this dance.  I would say that I don’t want to play this game any more.  Jasmine would laugh and say the things she usually said.  She would scream and yell mean things for days and once she had finally let go of all her anger she would want to start over.  Since Jasmine is unable to move we couldn’t do any of the physical stuff to help her release her anger.  We gave her many options to help with her anger but she wanted nothing to do with any of them.  She would just finally be done and expect me to be happy and just move forward. I could do that most of the time but as the years wore on, it got harder and harder to do.  Things were getting worse NOT better.

    When I had my accident, it was a wake-up call for me.  I had decided that no matter what happened with Jasmine, I was going to do all things in love.  That was what made me the saddest.  I was having a harder and harder time being patient and calm and filled with love.  I had just decided I was going to be as loving as I could be no matter how mad or sad my heart was.  Sooner or later she would see that I truly loved her or I was going to go to my deathbed trying.

    After the accident and spending the day at the adoption conference with Cassie, I went home to tell Jasmine what I had decided.  I was going to start over once again.   I wanted a new start.   I was hopeful we could once and for all stop this cycle of anger.

    BUT…

    Jasmine stopped me in my tracks.  She had heard about the accident and had been thinking about it.  She cried and cried. She asked for forgiveness and told me over and over again that she loved me.

    This was an answered prayer for sure.

    Both of us needed God’s forgiveness.  Both of us needed His grace and mercy.

    I love Jasmine so much and as a mother having your child say they hate you is one of the worst things ever.  It truly is.  It broke my spirit.  The things she said hurt so much.   I had a very hard time with not taking it personally.  I failed as often as she failed.

    But now there was a way to move forward.  I feel like a new person and so does she.  She was very brave to share her feelings and give me that gift for my birthday.  Now I want to share mine.  I have many things to be sorry for over the past four years.  I added to the drama.  I tried hard but failed too often.  I wasn’t as patient as I could have been.  I raised my voice when I should have stayed calm.

    We have a beautiful family.  Dan keeps reminding me of this fact over and over again.  Yes, there was drama with Jasmine but everyone else is doing pretty darn good.  But isn’t that how life is?  Nothing is ever completely good or completely bad.  There is joy with the sorrow.  There is laughter along with angry words.  There is death and new life.  There are really, really good times along with the bad.

    My hope in sharing this story is that others find forgiveness too.  That it doesn’t take a major accident or illness to finally reach you.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.  If you have things left unsaid or undone, please take this time to do what you need to do for peace in your heart.  All things can’t be fixed and I get that, but knowing you did everything you could possibly do is a way to bring peace to your heart.  I am praying for healing for those who need it.  I am praying for the strength for you to try one more time.    I am praying for love and happiness to surround your table this holiday season.

     

     

     

     

     

  • National Sibling Day

    Date: 2018.04.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    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!

     

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

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

    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

  • What is Love?

    Date: 2017.10.10 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Edited:  Jasmine and I worked on this blog together.  She told me what she was okay with me sharing and her main thought throughout this post was that we, as parents, can not assume we know what our child is feeling.  

    We’ve been having some interesting conversations with the middles lately about love.  Jasmine recently asked, “How do you know if you love someone? What is love?”  I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this one.  It seems like it should be easy enough to describe what love is but it was harder than I thought it would be.   How do you describe love?  How can you put it into words that a child from an orphanage can understand?  How can you adequately put into words that overwhelming feeling that you feel in your heart?

    Jasmine questions everything about how she feels.  We have had a hard couple years with her coming to terms with never being able to walk.  You wouldn’t think that would be an issue with a child who has never walked and has slowly lost more and more bodily control, but it is. The China doctors said if she wasn’t so lazy she would be able to walk so she believed if only she worked harder she could walk.  She was left at the orphanage at the age of 8 by her grandma who could no longer care for her so she believed if only she wasn’t so heavy she would have been worthy of staying with her grandma.  She was told by the orphanage director and the nannies that coming to America would allow her the medical help she needed to walk so she believed if only she held on just a little bit longer and a family came, then all of her dreams would come true.  This HOPE is what has kept her going for years.

    When she had her surgery over two years ago, she realized there was nothing that could be done.  She was never going to walk.  She was depressed and it was understandable.  She raged a lot.  She would be angry for days.  Just recently she shared that the driving force behind her wanting to stay with our family was that she was going to get treatment and be able to walk back into the orphanage and her grandmother’s house and prove that she was worthy of their love.  She wanted to prove them wrong.

    So while we thought she was adjusting well to our family, because she was happy and never complained, the truth was even though she acted like she was doing well, she was just waiting for the opportunity to walk so she could go back to China and show them all what a mistake they had made.  She was NOT vested in growing connections with our family because she already had a family in China.  Her HOPE was to one day go back to China where her grandma would welcome her back with open arms, tell Jasmine how much she missed her, and Jasmine would live happily ever after.  Jasmine liked us well enough but she wasn’t going to be staying so why attach?

    After her surgery she was so mad that she was never going to walk that she still wasn’t vested in working on relationships.  Her dreams had died.  Her HOPE was gone.  We were the people who had let her down and she was mad.  Everything that she had been planning was never going to happen.  Everything everyone had told her was a lie.

    It’s amazing how much you can miss when someone is quiet and pretends very, very well.  Jasmine is a sweet, sweet soul who has been through so many horrible things and has spent lots and lots of time alone.  As a very little girl her grandmother often left her sitting on the sidewalk for the whole day or she would leave her alone at home. No one else in the home was very connected to her.  Jasmine remembers one uncle/brother (The terms used in China are loose so I am unsure of his actual relationship to her.) who took care of her once when she had a horrible fever.   Outside of that she can’t remember anyone holding her hand or hugging her or tucking her in at night.  For the most part she was left alone and had a very lonely existence.

    When she went to the orphanage, she was unable to go to school because it was on another floor.  She was unable to eat with all the other children because the dining room was on another floor.  She was unable to go out to play because she couldn’t get down the stairs.  She was left alone in a room with her Chinese soap operas for days on end.

    It’s no wonder she doesn’t understand love because she was never shown love at least not in the way our family shows it.  We often talk about how love is “action”.  We love by how we care for others.  We hug and say “I love you” often.  We help each other.  My love language is doing things for others so I show them by doing.  I have explained that to Jasmine on many occasions.  I love you so I fix your favorite foods.  I love you so I am happy to take care of you.  I love you so I teach you.  I love you so I make sure you have your Chinese shows and music.   I love you so I hug you good night.  I love you so I make sure you take your medicine.  I can explain those things to her but the concept is foreign to her.  She can see how excited I am to see each of the children in the morning, how I care for them through out the day, and how I hug them and put them to bed, but it doesn’t resonate because it wasn’t her life until she was 14.  She sees these things and she knows I do it because I love them, but it still doesn’t make sense.

    She isn’t able to do much for anyone.  The truth is she is barely able to move.  She can brush her teeth and feed herself.  She can play on her Ipad and she can fold her origami birds, BUT she isn’t able to do all those things she sees me do for others, so she assumes she isn’t able to love.  She assumes there must be something wrong with her.  We tell her over and over again that when she hugs the littles or reads to them that is showing love.  When her heart hurts because they hurt, that is love.  But she still questions.  She still believes maybe she isn’t able to love.  She has been on the outside so long that she doesn’t know how to join the dance.

    Jasmine loves and cares for others but she hasn’t been able to put it into words.  She keeps saying she doesn’t understand or she doesn’t get it.  We know she loves in the way she cares about the kids, in the way she cares so deeply for all the orphans left in orphanages around the world, and in the way she cares for others that she sees hurting.

    So imagine my thrill when she said to me, “I think I got it Mom.  Remember when we had to share the bed in China? Remember how you pulled me close and held me? I don’t have the words for it. I never had anybody hold me close before. I never had anyone really hug me before. I can’t tell you how I felt. My heart was warm. Do you know that mom? My heart was warm and happy. How many kids will never never never know how that feels mama? That makes me sad.”

    She said she finally understood what love was.  She could put it in terms that she understood.  That was a HUGE moment for her.  But that moment was followed up by the words “Last night was the first night I no longer wanted to go back to China.”

    I will admit that I just stood there staring back at her.   Why would she want to go back to the place that caused her so much pain?  Why would she want to go back to the place where she was tortured?  Believe me when I say that I don’t use that word lightly.  She has never been treated with the kind of dignity and care that she deserved.  Why would she want to go back to the place where she just sat in a corner all day long?  America has power wheelchairs and opportunities.  America has a family that adores her.  Why would she want to go back to the place where they dropped her down stairs and left her alone?  But that’s just it, even when I think I know what she’s thinking, I don’t.  I am so far off because I don’t think the way she does. This is what she said, “I want to go back because I want them to tell me that they made a mistake.   I am worthy.  I AM NOT WORTHLESS!   I want them to pay for the horrible things that they did to me and I want to make sure nothing bad every happens to another child.”

    I’ve tried hard to explain that as much as we want others to do things, we can’t make them.  They are not going to make any of the past ok.  They are not going to take back what they did. There is no way she can protect every child in China, no matter how noble the wish is.  If there was a way to make this happen, we would travel with her and happily help in making this dream come true.

    We tell her she is worthy.  We remind her that her family has viewed her as worthy from day one.  We remind her that since she accepted Jesus Christ into her heart, she is the daughter of the King.  She is kind and beautiful and smart.  She is beyond brave.  She is resilient.  She is so much more than the person China deemed “worthless”.  We remind her again and again that walking doesn’t make you a worthy person, but in the end she has to believe this fact herself.

    We called this summer “The Summer of Healing” because we were working on healing our family after dealing with some pretty rough patches with Jasmine and her rages.  When someone is so unhappy the whole family ends up feeling it too.  As parents, you can try and protect the others as much as you can, but there’s hurt feelings no matter how hard you try.

    We turned a corner in her healing when she finally shared how she was feeling and how much anger she had toward those who hurt her.  Had I known any of what she was planning, cause we knew she had anger but not what she wanted to do because of that anger, we could have talked through it.  I was relieved that she finally shared so we could move forward.  And the question that started her healing was “Then what?”.  She hadn’t given any thought to what she would do after she went back or what would happen to her then.  She was stuck.

    So we worked on our Summer of Healing and now we are off to work on the Fall of Forgiveness.

    Forgiveness doesn’t make it all okay, but to truly heal you need to be able to forgive and let things go.  Forgiveness of ourselves is a must too.  I’ve been there.  It’s a hard road sometimes to forgive ourselves and to forgive those that have hurt us so deeply, especially when we carry the physical scars inflicted by them.  It makes it almost impossible to forget, but to heal we need to forgive and move forward.

    “Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”   –  Marianne Williamson

    I think Jasmine has taken a huge step forward in deciding that she has to let go of her dream that she can some how make them all pay for what they’ve done.    Jasmine has taken giant healing steps forward this summer and we are praying that the “Fall of Forgiveness” will bring her heart the peace that it needs.

  • What If… (Mama’s turn)

    Date: 2017.09.05 | Category: Adoption

    I have been working on this blog post for a while now.  I am having great difficulty finding the right words to put down on paper that describe how I am feeling.  I have started the beginning over and over again.  I put it on hold when Jasmine came to me with her own blog that she had titled “What if” too.  I let her go first and sat on this some more.  It still doesn’t convey exactly what I want it to convey but it’s sat there waiting to be done long enough so I will give it a go.

    Recently I was honored to get to be a part of the launch group for Katie Davis Majors’ new book “Daring to Hope”.  I loved her first book “Kisses for Katie” and when doubting myself about being able to raise a large family, I would think things like, “Surely I could handle being a mother to 16 if Katie could handle being a young mother to 14.”  I had already parented.  Some of our kids were already grown.  I had a husband, a large home, food and anything else we could possibly need.  We had great medical care and insurance and I wasn’t running a non-profit on top of everything else.  Surely if God called us to this journey, we had everything we needed to be able to finish it.

    In her book Katie talks about redemption and grace and mercy and wrestling with God.  She talks about being prisoners of hope and how there’s beauty in the ashes.  This book is so much like my own life.  The being fully aware of how lacking you are and how much God isn’t.  The embracing of how you don’t have control.   The new seasons that you didn’t ask for and never would have chosen.   The pain of trauma and trying to heal little hearts and realizing it isn’t about you at all.  You were never meant to be the rescuer, God is.  God is faithful.  God loves your children.  God knows.  God sees the beauty in the pain.

    I wouldn’t have signed up for this life.  I was much too happy and content living our comfortable life to sign up for anything perceived as hard.  We did much like the Hill’s talked about in their book “House of Hope”.  We climbed into the river and let God lead us where He would.  To some that would seem reckless like we weren’t giving enough thoughts to all the “what ifs” that are out there but that just wasn’t true.

    My mind was full of “what if’s” as we proceeded…

    What if we spend our lives being obedient to God’s call and the world never, ever agrees with anything we’ve done?

    What if I work from the time I get up until the time I go to bed and I just can’t get it all done?

    What if  a full night’s rest never happens?

    What if we do everything we can possibly do to make it better and the trauma seems to win too many times?

    What if we can never, ever retire?

    What if it hurts our big kids?

    What if we sometimes don’t get everything in our school day done?

    What if the house is never perfectly clean?

    What if we eat on paper plates for the rest of our lives?

    What if it’s near impossible to invite anyone over?

    What if we never, ever get to all go to church together as a family?

    What if we sometimes disagree?

    What if we go through some really hard times as a family with medical issues or the emotionally issues of trauma?

    What if?

    What if?

    What if?

    Truth be told?  I don’t feel guilt or jealousy or any of those other emotions that tend to make us feel “less than”.  That doesn’t mean I don’t mess up or need a do over.  It just means I can see the bigger picture.

    Maybe it’s because I am over 50 and with age comes wisdom to some degree.

    Age has allowed me to see that I can not possibly please everyone and as a recovering people pleaser this is a huge deal.

    Age and my children’s medical issues bring the truth of what is really important into the light. I have read the Bible and no where did I find the words that if I believe in Jesus then my days will be perfect, my home beautiful, and my children perfectly behaved.  Instead the Bible states just the opposite.  In this world, you will have trials and trouble.

    His words have helped me find peace with my life and my large family.  I can now temper all those “what ifs” above with the “what if” of not adopting them.

    It’s easier to extend yourself some grace on a sticky floor when you temper it with “would have died in an orphanage”.

    It’s easier to not worry about raising the perfect student when they are trying so hard to learn a new language and catch up from years of no schooling when you compare that to never receiving any schooling.

    It’s easier to stop and enjoy the moment when you aren’t guaranteed that you will have years together.

    It’s easier to go through the hard knowing that every day there is healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  There may be almost as many steps backwards as there are forward, or at least that’s how it feel somedays, but there is definite healing.

    It’s easier to find peace with your life when you have been granted the most amazing front row seat to some pretty darn incredible miracles.

    Yes, we are a large family.  Yes, we do things differently than many smaller families.  Yes, it makes it harder to get out and do things sometimes, but on the flip side we have each other.  We enjoy each other’s company.  We love days spent in our backyard that we’ve made into a park complete with a 600 foot sidewalk path where we they can ride their wheelchairs and bikes and play.  We have girls in wheelchairs and kids who are incontinent so we bought our own backyard blow-up pool with slide that they can easily get around on.   Cassie was a gymnastics instructor for years.  We bought the mats and now she has her own little class right in our sunroom.   We want our children to experience life but what we want most is to give them a life with family.  We want them to have a place to belong and a safe place to fall. We want them to know that they will never, ever be alone again.

    I think we all have to agree that every child deserves the love of a family.  Jasmine’s Dream is “A Family for Every Child”!  We believe that in this house.  We can help. There are so man ways to step up and help.  One child at a time, one family at a time, and if we all work together, we can make a world of difference.

    Let’s work together on family preservation.  Love Without Boundaries Unity Fund is a great way to help pay for the medical procedures that families can’t afford.   Let’s support people who foster and help families heal.  Let’s provide surgeries and rehab and food and water so families can stay together and raise their children.  Let’s build schools were children can get the education that they need.  Let’s volunteer in our local schools.  Be a Big Brother or Sister.  Let’s donate a few dollars to help bring other children home because sometimes adoption is their only hope.  Let’s quit pretending that we can’t do anything and instead CHOOSE ACTION!!!

    Because “what if” this comfortable life you are living really isn’t what it’s all about?

    “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  – Francis Chan

     

     

  • What If… (Jasmine’s Blog)

    Date: 2017.07.15 | Category: Adoption, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jasmine's Blog

    Now that I am 18, I have been thinking a lot about “what ifs”.

    What if I had stayed in China?

    What if my parents hadn’t come to adopt me?

    What if my grandmother hadn’t left me at the orphanage?

    What if I could walk?

    What if I never learned about God?

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?

    What if I didn’t have a family?

    Recently China changed the rules about adoption.  It got me to thinking about “what if” my parents hadn’t adopted when they did.  What if they waited to adopt for a few more years? They wouldn’t have been able to adopt two at a time or adopt more after Maisey and Ben.  Right now with the new rules you can only adopt one more if you have 5 little kids in your house.  I am happy mama and daddy adopted when they did and that China said “Yes!”.   I am really happy that God worked the miracles that He did so that mama and daddy could adopt but I am sad about all the kids that had a family who wants them but they can’t proceed with the adoption.  It makes my heart hurt for the kids who wait.

    If I had stayed in China, I would have gone to an old person home.  The nannies said that I will sit on the floor and the old people might sometimes give me food.  I used to think that maybe they would let me beg for money on the street.  The nannies said no one would want to take care of me so the nannies would help me die if I wanted to.  They would sit my pee out and tell me if I just drink it, I will die.  Sometimes I thought about drinking it to just be done, but I never did.

    So if I stayed in China, the best I could hope for was to beg on the street or to die.   In America, I can get a job.  I have a power wheelchair.  I can fall in love.  I can be a motivational speaker.  Maybe even someday I will write a book.

    What if my grandma hadn’t left me at the orphanage?  Only my grandma and my uncle liked me.  Grandma would leave me outside or on the bed when she went to work.   I would spend all day by myself because I couldn’t move very much.  When I was 8, I got to go to school for just a couple months and I loved it but then one day Grandma showed up and took me to the orphanage.

    If others in the house had liked me, maybe I could have stayed.  I can’t walk so people in China made fun of me.  They would say, “If you can’t walk, you can’t get married.”  Grandma would pray to Buddha for me to walk.  She gave me duck soup every day for a month because it would make me walk.  They tried all sorts of herbs and medicines to help me walk, but nothing worked.  If I stayed at my grandma’s, I would have had to stay in the house all the time.  I would have had to stay in the bed and people would have been even more angry with me.  I was bad because I was a girl and could not do dishes or cook so I was worthless.

    What if I could walk?  If I could walk, it would have changed everything.  I could have stayed in China.  I could have got married.  I could have worked.  If I could walk, I would have never known about orphans and kids needing help all around the world.  I would have just  worried about me.  I wouldn’t have known any better but I would have been a miserable person because loving others and helping them makes you a happier person.

    “My wheelchair was the key to seeing all this happen—especially since God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit … glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

    When I think about it now, I never wished (prayed) that I could walk.  I was always thankful for my good days and wanted to be loved.

    What if I never learned about God?  In China I felt like there was something bigger than me. I felt like God was telling me to never give up, even though I didn’t know it was God.  I could feel in my heart that there was something else out there if I just didn’t give up.  I watched t.v. and learned about “working hard” for Buddha but it didn’t feel right.  People always talk about having more power.  People always lie and steal your money.  All the t.v. shows talked about how if you don’t have anything you should fight for it.  If you don’t have it, they shouldn’t have it either.

    With God I learned to care about others.  I learned this life isn’t all about me.   I learned that if I just care about myself I will never really be happy.   When I help other people it feels like I do the right thing and my heart feels all “warm”.  I learned that my life has a purpose.   God has a plan for me.  Yesterday, I read a post that says God can use our pain to fulfill our purpose.   I like that.  It was about Joni Eareckson Tada.  If you don’t know her story, you should read it.

    What if I never learned to not be selfish?  I can be pretty selfish.  I only worry about myself.  I think I have it worse than anyone else.  I can spend a lot of my time wishing for other stuff.  All of a sudden I am an adult and I don’t want to have everything just be about me any more.  When I asked others to raise money for shoes and to pray and help Grace, it changed my heart.   I read all the stories on Love Without Boundaries and I can’t believe what kids have to live like.  They need eye surgery and heart surgery and food and school.  Kids have to dig through the dump.  My life is good and I have a lucky life.  Now I want to help others.

    What if I didn’t have my family?  I know I wouldn’t have known what I was missing but I would be sad.  In China, I learned to be mean to other people.  No one really looks out for anyone else.  My family fought with each other and they fought with the neighbors.  They always were fighting.  People drank a lot and hit each other.   In the orphanage, one of the nannies had a boyfriend and she wanted a new boyfriend so he hit the nanny as hard as he could.  He beat her up.  I know it’s not like that for everyone but I saw a lot of fighting.

    In our family, mama and daddy says sometimes you can fight but we stick together and we say we are sorry and we love each other.  Family is about being kind and generous and helping others.  Mama and daddy say family is forever.  This is what mama and daddy say…

    In China, I didn’t have hope but in America there is much hope.  I hope that I can help others.  I hope that I can encourage others.  I hope that I can have a job.  I hope that since I have figured out how to heal my heart that I can help others heal their hearts too.

    Please consider being the “Hope” for a child who needs you.

     

     

  • RE-Adoption Day

    Date: 2017.07.01 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    Five years ago we started our adoptions in China.  Gotcha Day or Family Day, as people refer to them, happen the day you meet your child.  Most of the time you travel to the Registration Office or some other official building.  Once we met a child in our hotel room.  Sometimes we were alone and sometimes we waited with many other families.  It’s a nerve wracking time as you wait for them to show up with your children.  You anxiously wait for your child to walk in the door.  You see the face you’ve been staring at in pictures for months and you wait for them to bring your child to you.   I can not watch a video of those moments without tearing up.  It instantly makes my heart race and I feel just like I was there.  It’s an amazing feeling for the parents who meet their children.  This is the end of their adoption journey to their child.

    But for the child it is exactly the opposite.  Sometimes the child has only just heard about you because the orphanage director wanted to protect their hearts because sometimes parents stop the adoption process right before the travel.   Sometimes they were too young to understand.  Sometimes they have been prepared as well as can be expected.  Sometimes the children were thrown at you like they didn’t even matter.  Sometimes they were handed over carefully.

    Those moments are a blur for us and the most scary time of their lives for the children.  They walk into a building with people that have cared for them for years and they leave with perfect strangers.   Sometimes there was crying, sometimes there was total shutdown, sometimes with the older kids there was nervous laughter or no words at all.  After you sign all your paperwork, you head to the hotel room and get to know your new child. You have 24 hours to decide if you want to complete the adoption.  Can you imagine what this is like for them?

    24 hours later you go back to the same room to sign your official papers.  If the child hasn’t been prepared or isn’t old enough to understand, they may think you are taking them back.

    Landing at home after the couple weeks in China was another eye-opening moment.  I have to admit that I have taken for granted what it means to be an American.  What it means to be free.  Those moments when you get off the plane and your children are granted citizenship are a beautiful thing.  It made citizenship more dear for me.  The way our older girls acted when receiving their Certificate of Citizenship is something I will never forget.   I will never take being a citizen for granted again.

    In honor of their citizenship and how proud they are of it, we put in a flag pole and let them raise it on Adoption Day.

    As the years went by we realized that looking back on the pictures of their scared little faces on those first days was a good/bad memory.  We wanted them to have a happy day to celebrate. Now they know what family means.  Now they can yell their “yeses” to the world that they do want a mama and daddy.   So we set out to readopt as a family.  We talked about it and prayed about it.  We picked Hope’s Adoption Day so they would all share the same day.

    The morning of Adoption Day I sat them all in front of me and read them their story.  With our older kids, I would write them a poem each year on their birthday.  They also had a journal, a calendar of their first year, and more pictures than you can even imagine.  I realized how sad it is for our kids to not have these things.  They don’t have the happy stories of their birth or any of the information of our bio kids.

    For our older kiddos, they don’t have the stories of when they first walked, or when they lost their first tooth.  There is so much information missing.  So I decided to make them a book about how we fell in love with them and what it was like before we traveled and included any pictures that we had of them before.  They love their stories and ask to hear them over and over again.  Now they will have them in print to read whenever they want.

    We had pictures taken at the courthouse by our friend Rachel.  She can always get them to smile.

    We entered the courtroom with a few extended family members and waited for the judge.

    All the kiddos were on the front row looking dapper in their red/white/blue American colors that they chose to wear.

    Our lawyer and friend, Marcy, brought them the sweetest gifts.  Hats for the boys and flowers for the girl’s hair.  There were red/white/blue mustaches and light up toys and bracelets.

    My brother Tim and his family were all decked out too.  Tim had the best outfit.

    It was really very simple.  The judge walked in.  We all stood.  Marcy told them about all the paperwork that had been filed.  He said no testimony was necessary and pronounced them all adopted.  We took a picture with the judge and that was that. I’m sure Rachel will have a better picture but this was the only one I had.  🙂

    As they left the courtroom the court room assistant let them each pick out a beanie baby.  They were tickled with their new gifts.

    We went home to prepare for our party.  We invited a few friends and family over to help celebrate with the kids.  It was a beautiful evening.

    This day was everything we had hoped it would be.  The day was full of happy memories.  They had so much fun with their friends and family.

    Thank you to everyone who was there in thought and those who were able to show up.  Thank you to all our friends who prayed for and with us during these trips.  Thank you so much.  We truly appreciate it.