Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

  • 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.

  • Adoption Questions Part 3

    Date: 2017.05.22 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang), Jessica

    The girls and I have been talking a lot about what their days were like in China.  We decided to share their answers on the blog so others could understand what their days were like.  They want others to understand that these children need a family.  They need homes and love.  The greater the child’s disability the greater their need for someone to care for them.  All three girls of our girls were in wheelchairs and that plays into how they spent their days and how they were treated by others.  This post does NOT describe every child’s life in an orphanage, this is just our girl’s experiences.

    The following questions were answered by Jasmine (age 17 – adopted age 14), Elyse (age 11 – adopted age 9), and JJ (age 9 – adopted age 8).

    What time did you wake up every day? 

    Jasmine – We woke up at 7.  On Monday every week I would get up at 5 for a shower.

    Elyse – We woke up at 6.

    Jessica – I don’t know.  I never saw a clock.  It was light out.

    What did you eat for breakfast?

    Jasmine – We ate noodles every day for breakfast.

    Elyse – We didn’t have breakfast, only the babies ate bottles.

    Jessica – I didn’t eat breakfast.

    What did you eat for lunch?

    Jasmine – We had rice, tofu, meat, and green beans.

    Elyse – Sometimes we had soup or baby eggs, and rice.  We had veggies like bok choy and seaweed.  Sometimes special we had shrimp.

    Jessica –  I would eat soup with carrots and peas and wet rice (?).

    What did you eat for supper?

    Jasmine – We had pork every night with rice and seaweed soup and sausages.

    Elyse – Seaweed or tofu soup, congee, or rice.  Sometimes we would have meat – chicken or pork.

    Jessica – We would sometimes have chicken feet, pork, and soup.

    Were there ever any special treats?

    Jasmine – Chicken feet on New Year and Children’s Day.  Sometimes visitors brought crackers.

    Elyse – Chicken feet when my foster grandma visited.  Candy from visitors.

    Jessica – Visitors brought candy and crackers and weird milk.

    Did you ever have fruit?

    Jasmine – Bananas and apples for snack.  They would also let us have juice and the Chinese cracker.

    Elyse – Banana and apples and watermelon and sometimes mangoes.

    Jessica – Bananas and apples and oranges.

    What did you do during the day?

    Jasmine – Got up at 7, I wore the same clothes I slept in, breakfast was at 7:30, then I watched tv with everyone, sometimes I read to the kids and played with them, we would eat lunch at 12, watch more tv, take a nap at 1, snack at 3, watch more tv, then we eat dinner at 5, and watch more tv until 9 and then go to bed.   We were always in the same room except for sleeping.

    Elyse – I got up at 6, they put me on the toilet for a long, long time, then I would get up and help feed the babies, then back to the toilet,  I ate lunch on the toilet, and they would let me get up and feed the babies, put me back on the toilet, and I would eat supper on my little tiny table while on the toilet.  I would read books while sitting there.  It was so boring.   I would feed the babies before bed, change their diapers, and I would go to bed really late at night.  About once a week I would get to go to the school room and learn.  I like to learn.

    Jessica – I woke up when it was light outside.  I played with toys by myself.  I ate lunch.  I took a nap.  I watched tv. I ate supper.  I would play on my scooter and go around in circles.  I would go to bed when it was dark.

    Did you ever brush your teeth? 

    Jasmine – Once every 3 months or so.

    Elyse– Never brushed my teeth.

    Jessica – I never brushed my teeth.  I never ever see a toothbrush.

    What about clothes?

    Jasmine – I would wear the same clothes for one or two weeks.   The nannies always picked out my clothes.  If I asked to wear a dress the nannies would tell me that I don’t deserve a dress because I can’t walk.  I could wear nice clothes when someone was visiting.

    Elyse – I would wear the same clothes for close to a month.  I would still have to wear the same clothes if I got urine on them.  (Elyse is incontinent from spina bifida.)  I sometimes smelled so they made me sleep in the baby room but that was okay because I loved the babies.  The nannies said I can’t wear nice clothes because I can’t walk and I pee on my clothes because I have to wear a towel no diapers.  The nannies would pick the worst clothes for me unless someone was visiting and then I could wear nice clothes and as soon as the visitor left I would have to take it off and put on my dirty clothes again.

    Jessica – I changed my clothes when I got wet every day.  I wore yucky towels for diapers.   They hurt and was tied really tight.

    Did you play outside?

    Jasmine – No I could only sit at the window and watch the other kids play.  I wished I could play so much but I was upstairs and they couldn’t get me downstairs.   The boys would make fun of me for not going outside.

    Elyse – I wasn’t allowed to play outside with the other kids.  But it was okay because I got to take care of the babies.  Every time I looked at the babies I got upset because the nannies said they hate babies, but I love babies.  Who wouldn’t want a baby?  One time I took care of a baby a lot.  She was always happy with me but then she died because her head got too big.   I feel it was my job.  I liked my job.  The other girls thought the babies were yucky because they spit up and peed on them but that don’t bother me at all.

    Jessica – Sometimes for a little bit.

    What time did you go to bed?

    Jasmine – I went to bed at 9:30 because the nannies want to watch the tv.

    Elyse – I would go to bed sometimes late like 12:30.

    Jessica – I would go to bed when it was dark.

    Who did you share a room with?

    Jasmine – I shared the room with three other girls.

    Elyse – I shared the room with 20 babies.

    Jessica – The little kids.  There was lots of them.  They were little kids who couldn’t walk.

    Did you ever get to leave the orphanage?

    Jasmine – On Children’s Day every year we got to do fun stuff like go to the zoo, eat KFC, and go to a movie.

    Elyse – I never left the orphanage.

    Jessica – They tell me they would take me but they never did.

    Do you have any happy memories from the orphanage?

    Jasmine – I liked to play with the kids and read to them.

    Elyse – Taking care of the babies.  I loved the babies.

    Jessica – Feeding the babies bottle.

    What was the saddest thing for you?

    Jasmine – The nannies would hit me.  They would use a stick from the big apple in the box that China has.  They would sometimes tell me I was bad so I could not eat.  They would throw me on the bed and in the shower.  It was so scary because they would just throw me.  I didn’t want to take a shower.  Sometimes they make me sleep on the floor because they tell me I can get up myself but I can’t because I can’t move by myself.  When they would try to stretch my legs out to make me walk, but I couldn’t.  It really hurt.  When the kids and the nannies were really, really mean to me.

    Elyse –  When the baby died when I was holding it.  They baby just stopped breathing and the nanny took the baby away and brought in a different baby.  It was so very sad.  It made me so upset.  The baby’s head was just so big.   One time the nanny got mad at me and cut off the skin on my fingers.  She said I was going to tell the boss on her and she wanted to scare me.  When they would throw me on the toilet and on the bed and the bathtub.  I hated them throwing me down.  There is other really sad stuff I don’t want to talk about.

    Jessica – I hate the doctor!   I don’t like the nannies yelling at me.

    Did you have any friends?

    Jasmine – Liuli and JoLiy

    Elyse – Just the babies.

    Jessica – Yes, I can’t remember their names.

    Anything else you’d like to say?

    Jasmine – The nannies really didn’t like me at all.  They didn’t like taking care of me.  They always say I can walk and that I am just pretending so I can be lazy.   The nannies said people will never like me if I can’t walk.  They say I will never get married.  I am happy to have a family now.  I wish all the kids could have families.

    Elyse – The nannies tried to stretch out my legs.  They try and try to stretch them out.  (Elyse has contractures on both legs but she has no feeling in her legs.)   Orphanage life is not good for kids.  I wish I could change the world and I would pick that no babies would die or that there would be no evil people to hurt other people.

    Jessica – Orphanages are bad.  The worst place with ugly pink bathtubs and bad doctors.

     

    “Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12

     

     

     

     

     

  • I Was So Wrong…

    Date: 2017.04.15 | Category: Adoption, Elyse

    I shared this story on Facebook yesterday and because I feel it is so important I’m sharing it here too…

    As we drove to Ben’s appointment on Wednesday, Dan and I were reminiscing about when we first saw the kid’s pictures. We were talking about how many times we have fallen in love instantly. Not every time but quite a few times we have instantly known. It’s amazing how many times you can lose your heart.

    We then started talking about when I first met Elyse. Dan wasn’t able to travel with me that trip because two of our kiddos had just had open heart surgery and we felt one of us should stay home just in case.

    I remember Elyse’s face when she first met me and I could tell she was disappointed. I was older and heavier than the mama of her dreams. I watched her act so much older than her years. She wouldn’t eat and talked of being fat, at the time she weighed 55 pounds. She talked to the guide about me and laughed. He would refuse to tell me what she said. My feelings were hurt and I wasn’t supposed to let them be. I had been through this before. You aren’t supposed to take it personal, but I did for that first day at least.

    We got to the hotel that first night and she asked to see her clothes. I pulled out the suitcase full of clothes that we had lovingly picked out for her. She picked up items, which were rolled in pairs of outfits with a hair band around them, she took the band off every outfit, and put them in one of two piles. One to keep and one to discard. I watched her make faces and discard clothes that I had thought were cute. She would wrinkle up her nose and drop the shirt or pants on the ever growing “I’m not wearing that pile”.

    I remember calling Dan that night and asking “what have we gotten ourselves into? What child in an orphanage turns down new clothes?” So many judgmental thoughts were going through my head. Will she be mean to our kids who are really delayed. Is she going to make fun of Grace who was a little overweight after her bouts of steroids. What would she say to Jasmine?

    My heart was truly having a hard time.

    The next day the guide told me that Elyse wanted to take the clothes with us on the orphanage trip. Elyse also asked us to buy treats for the orphanage. Elyse was very specific about what she wanted to buy. Time and time again she turned down treats that I suggested. I watched her tear open the snacks and pour them in the Walmart sacks. I remember thinking “what will the orphanage director think? There goes our nicely arranged care package.”

    A couple days later we walked in the orphanage and everything changed. She found two older girls who were very delayed. She took the treats that she picked because they were their favorites and ever so sweetly placed them in their hands and put the treats/their hands in their pockets where the snacks would be safe. She did this over and over again. She found some little ones and handed them a treat with the biggest smile on her face. She handed out clothes and hair bands to so many kids. She hugged them goodbye.

    And my heart knew underneath all that tough exterior and outward signs of “only looks mattered” there was a caring heart.

    I was so wrong to judge her and she will tell you the same about me. So much is not understood at first. It’s been two years and I am still learning new things as she learns more and more English.

    She recently told me that the nannies argued with her and wouldn’t let her say goodbye to the babies that she had cared for and her heart was broken. I had seen the disagreement and wondered what Elyse had said or done.

    Our babies lose so much and it takes so much time until they can even tell us what they were thinking.

    I think this story is much like life. We are all too quick to judge that person who doesn’t act like us, talks different, or doesn’t wear the same clothes. The person who is grumpy because they are having a bad day. We should all extend just a little extra grace because we never know what someone else is going through and even when we think we know, we are often wrong!

    I know I was wrong. Every judgment I made of Elyse in those early days was wrong. Elyse has the sweetest heart. Yes, she is beautiful, I would hate for her to think otherwise, but now she knows her worth is not based on how she looks. Her thoughts before were what she had been taught, not what she believed.

    (Edit) I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t put in one of the biggest things I learned about her once we got home. We had an appointment to take her to the doctor for the routine appointment that you do upon arriving home. She was so happy and we couldn’t figure out why. Elyse asked Jasmine, who spoke Mandarin still, if she was going to the doctor to see if she could have babies. What 9 year old is worried about whether or not she can bear children?

    We found out that she had been taught that her only hope for happiness in life was her beauty, if she could have a baby, and have surgery to fix her legs to walk. She wasn’t caught up in her beauty and looks because she was vain. She was caught up in it because she had been taught that her happiness in life depended on it.

    She is an adored, loved daughter. I am blessed to know her. Oh what we would have missed and oh how wrong I was!

  • I Want to Live a More Radical Life

    Date: 2017.03.19 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

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

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

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

    We need to think more radically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I am not indifferent now but I once was…

    And that needs to change.

  • The Gift of Adoption

    Date: 2017.03.14 | Category: Adoption, Love Without Boundaries

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

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

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

    “If you don’t step up, who will?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He is Maisey’s protector.

    He is Eli and Liam’s best friend.

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

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

     

     

     

     

  • “I Get To” Changes Everything

    Date: 2017.03.11 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I GET TO…

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

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

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

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

    …help little hearts heal.

    …wipe away tears.

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

    …sit by hospital bedsides while children heal.

    …serve with a willing heart.

    …watch little souls blossom before my eyes.

    …watch little minds learn and grow.

    …hit my knees repeatedly.

    …give up control.

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

    …prepare meals that little ones love.

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

    …have access to the best medical care around.

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

    I am blessed!  Beyond blessed!  SERIOUSLY blessed!

  • No Hands But Ours Article

    Date: 2017.03.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

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

    Seriously Blessed

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