Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

  • 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

  • Chinese New Year 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

  • Christmas Letter (Part 2 – Middles & Bigs)

    Date: 2017.01.14 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    Jessica Jean (8) – I don’t even know where to start with this girl.  She came to us angry, shut down, afraid to love, and scared.   She has done so well.  In February she will have been home a year.  She is happy, sweet, loving, caring, brave, and ready to take on the world.  She is still very quiet.  She practices her English until she can say it perfectly because she doesn’t like to be wrong.  She talks with very little accent.  She is doing so well with her school work.

    I admit that while we were in China, I was so worried.  Worried that we were too late.  Worried that she would never bond or care to have parents.  Worried that her little heart would never heal.  Worried that she would never trust another adult again.  But I was SO wrong.  She has done unbelievably well.  I love this little girl so much!  I can’t believe we almost missed the blessing that is her.

    Elyse (11) – Elyse continues to do well.  She is so smart – very, very smart.  As of 1/1/17, she has been in America two years.  She takes being an American very seriously.  She loves her freedom and the right to worship God.  Elyse loves BIG.  She is friendly and funny.  She enthusiastically lives life to the fullest.  She dreams big and I believe she will accomplish whatever she sets her mind too.  She wants to design dresses when she grows up and send clothes to orphanages so little girls can wear pretty clothes.   If Elyse had her way, she would have 20 brothers and 20 sisters.   Her heart breaks for all those kids who still wait.  Her biggest wish if for every child to have a family that loves them and keeps them safe.

    Gracie (11) – Gracie’s lupus continues to stay in remission.  We are so thankful that she has had a couple good years with very little issues.  She is a huge help around the house.  She is growing up so fast and I can hardly believe that she will soon be 12.  Where does the time go?  Gracie loves having a big family.  She readily helps her sisters who are in wheelchairs and is my right hand.  School doesn’t always come easy to Grace but she works so hard.  She wants to grow up and adopt as many kids as she can.  That’s a pretty good plan.  We will see where God leads.

    Jasmine (17) – Jasmine continues to learn English and progress well with school.  It’s hard on a child who really didn’t get any formal education until she was 14.  It makes her feel constantly behind even though she has come so far in just 3 1/2 years.  The last two years have been harder then the first two for Jasmine.  She had a huge set back when she realized that she would never walk.  China had told her that America would fix her and no matter what we said, she believed them.  She lost hope when she realized that her life would be forever in a chair.  We continue to tell her that her life has purpose and she is finally believing that.  She has made such a huge difference in other kid’s lives.  She continues to write her own blog www.Flowerthatblooms.com where she shares her feelings about living in an orphanage and what it means to have a family of your own.  I am very proud of how far she has come.

    Jasmine’s Dream Update:   To date these four girls – the fab four – as I call them, have helped 300 children.   They work hard to save their money to donate to other adoptions and fundraisers.  They have a dream to open up an Etsy shop where they sell their artwork, hats, t-shirts, etc. that they have designed to help even more children.

    Hope (17) – Hope is as artistic as ever.  She loves special effects makeup.  She is constantly in her room coming up with some new design.   She shows her work on instagram on DragonKnightMakeup.  I’m not sure where this passion and talent will take her but it is fun watching her imagination at work.

    We laughed because when Cassie took the pictures, Peter ended up being in all of them.  Peter and Hope have been best friends forever.  They started dating last year and as you can see from the picture, he is still here.  hahaha  He is a good kid and our family loves him.  They are still obviously very young but we all love Peter and his family.

    Cassie and Reece – in May they will have been married 2 years.  Cassie is still teaching 2nd grade and has decided to pursue a masters degree to be a speech pathologist.  Reece is attending Iowa State and has decided to become an audiologist.  They continue to live in an apartment on our property so that they can be close to the kiddos and help out when needed.  They both sign and are helping us all learn how to sign for Max.

    Zachary, Stephanie and introducing….Nicholas

    OH MY GOODNESS and the biggest news of the year!!!  We have a grandson!  A sweet-tempered, adorable little guy who we all adore.   Zach and Steph continue to live in Wisconsin and Zach works for Raven Software on the game, Call of Duty.  Stephanie is the best mama and there is nothing better than watching little Nicholas listen to his mama sing.  It is the sweetest thing around.

    Nicholas has the biggest fan club in the world.  No matter what he does he has a cheering section of uncles and aunts that stand in awe of all that he does.  This little guy is definitely loved!

    Our new favorite thing is being able to Skype with them on our big t.v.   We all miss them and love to be able to see them even if it is just on the t.v.  Technology is amazing and makes living apart so much easier.

    Codey (29) – And last but not least our oldest boy.   Codey continues to live at home and is doing very well.  He loves football and basketball games on his t.v.  He is very close to Lainey and she loves to follow him around the house.  Dan recently ran into a doctor who took care of Codey when he was an infant.  It’s amazing to hear how they all believed he wouldn’t live to be a year old and here we are.

    Life continues to be busy and loud and full of love and learning.  Our floors continue to be sticky and never, ever perfectly clean.  Things aren’t always easy and adopting comes with its share of pain.  I won’t pretend everything is pretty and perfect, but it is perfectly ours.  Life can be messy.  Tears will be shed.  Life lessons are learned.  The most amazing thing happens when a child learns to trust you though.  Hearts open and start to heal.  Little souls start to bloom.  It is an amazing thing to be a part of.

    I could never adequately put into words what it means to be a mother to this crew.  How can I put into words what it feels like to see their sleepy little faces in the morning, to have all those arms hug me, and tell me good morning.  I look in the faces of children who have come so far.  I am constantly amazed at the miracles that happened to bring them home and to help them get the treatment they needed.  We are seriously blessed each and every day!

    Wishing you all the best in 2017.  Merry Christmas everyone!

     

     

Archives

Blogroll

Links

Categories

Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.