Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

  • Benjamin’s Miracle

    Date: 2016.05.29 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin

    We woke early on Sunday morning to leave for the airport.  The first words I heard were from Maisey, who was adopted with Benjamin, “Bring him home mama.  Ok?” We arrived in Boston on Sunday night.  Benjamin had his pre-op appointment bright and early Monday morning.  He was listed as the first case for surgery on Tuesday.   He was extubated Tuesday night.  We spent one day in the PICU.  He could have gone home on Friday, but they wanted to do one more chest x-ray Saturday morning just to be safe.  This surgery was miraculous but not because it went so well or so quickly BUT merely because it happened at all.

    Ben is home

    How completely humbling it is to watch as your child receives a miracle.

    Mir-a-cle (noun) – a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

    We heard that word more than a few times while in Boston this trip.  “Can you believe this happened?”  “We are trying to figure out why Ben responded so well.”  “Isn’t this amazing!”  “We can’t believe it!”

    It’s been an unbelievable journey with him.  We went from having no hope to hope for a complete repair.  Why?  Why Ben?  Why our family?   We are no more special or more deserving than the next family.  We have a strong faith BUT so do most of the people I have met on this same journey.  Things happen, good and bad, and it makes no sense to me.  I can’t wrap my head around it.  I can’t see the big picture.  

    Have you ever stopped and wondered why you get to live in America?  Why you wake up free?  Why you have a warm house to live in?  Why you can go to any store and buy your groceries?   Why do you have clean, running water?  Why don’t you live in a mud hut?  Why don’t you have to walk miles to find your water?  Why do you have health care?  We are no more deserving than the rest of the world.  Our faith isn’t necessarily stronger.  ALL of us are sinners deserving of nothing so why do some have and some do not?

    During the past few years I have watched four families in our China Heart Adoption group have kiddos that received heart transplants.  The road wasn’t easy.  It was paved with detours and long waits.  It had more than it’s share of heartache and close calls, and yet there were blessings beyond measure as each of these kiddos received a new chance at life. Their lives and their stories will stay with me forever.  (Lily)  (Rachel)  Joshua and (Rini)

    I’ve seen some of the sweetest children you could ever hope to meet, battle alongside their families who have great faith, not make it out of the hospital.  (Timothy) (Eisley) (Daniel H.) (Teresa) (Zoe) (Rosie) (Daniel)

    I’ve seen others who have been hospitalized for months and months and months and have major complications.

    And I’ve seen some fly through it just like Ben.

    Their faces have stayed with me.  Their stories of faith and fight have moved me.

    There are 277 people on our heart group for families adopting from China.  We are all walking this journey of adoption and faith and congenital heart defects.  We all have a story.  All of us.  Some of us are more public with our blogs and Facebook pages, but everyone’s story gets told to those around them, their family, their churches, their friends, etc.  Everyone of these heart babies have a story.  Every one of these children have touched others lives.

    Every year during February a dear heart mama, Jaime, puts together the 28 Days of Hearts Blog where these families share those stories.  These are stories that encourage others.  When we traveled this past February another mama said she knew me and figured out it was through this heart blog.

    We will never know how many people are touched.  We can not know what the ripple effect of their lives is.  Their lives, no matter how long, have great worth and are worth every minute that we fight for them!

    I have a hard time with sayings such as “there but for the grace of God go I” but at the same time I’ve name a daughter, Grace, because I truly feel she was saved by God’s grace.

    Or “God must have plans for him” because whether a child survives or not God had plans for this child.  And I know God does not mean to harm us, but doesn’t a child’s death mean we are harmed?  and yet Jeremiah 29:11 is still one of my favorite verses.   For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    Or “God heard all our prayers”  because the reality is God hears all prayers.  Sometimes we don’t get the answer we are hoping for, but God hears the prayers.  We have been on both sides of this.  We’ve prayed fervently and had a son die and we’ve prayed fervently and had children receive miraculous recoveries.  So how do we wrap our head around verses like these  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  John 14:13

    Believe me there’s not a lot worse in the world than picking out a little white casket for your child or wondering how in the world you are going to afford to bury your son.  We prayed hard for Kyle.  Others prayed hard for Kyle.  I don’t know why our prayers weren’t answered like we wanted.  I don’t know why he had to die.  I don’t have to understand the plan to TRUST the plan or to know for a fact that the plan is good.  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  Isaiah 55:8 NLV

    I understand there is so much I can’t possibly comprehend.  God’s ways are not my ways, but I do know these little lives, whether they live a long life or a short life, matter.  People are moved by these stories whether happy or sad.  They are moved by the struggles and the pain.  Many, many people come together and pray for these hurting families.  Lives are changed.  More children are adopted.  More people realize they too can do this.  Families are supported.   People are encouraged.

    None of us want to go through the bad but the truth is that is where we turn our lives over.  It’s in the messy parts of life where we can’t figure out how to go on that we draw closer to God.  We are no longer too busy to take the time to pray.  Our hope lies in him.  We can’t go on without Him.  These little lives bring us closer to God.  They make our walk stronger.  They make our faith more real.  They take us so far out of our comfort zone that we can barely breathe.  We turn it over, our pain and our worry.  We let God hold it.  We truly understand for the first time what “cast our cares on Him” really means.  We find peace where it shouldn’t be.  We find strength from Him.  We learn to fight for what’s important.  We learn how to let go of the small things.

    And when the unthinkable happens, we find peace in the hope that eternity brings.  We hold tight to the promises that this is not the end.  We look forward with new understanding of what the joy of reaching heaven’s gates means.

    These little lives matter.  They are worth the fight.  Although we can look at Ben’s recovery as a miracle.   The reality is that all their lives are miraculous.   They have survived the unthinkable.  They have lived with oxygen saturations that leave them blue with clubbed fingers and toes and still they are happy.

    fingers

    They still find reasons to smile even when they can not run and play like the other children.  They still love BIG even though their little hearts are broken.  We learn so much from these little lives.  Each and every one of their lives is a miracle.

    We are lucky enough to have four miracle heart babies in our family.  Four times we have stepped out in obedience.  Four times we have been scared beyond belief.  Eight times we have shown up for open heart surgery.  People ask, “Is this a big surgery?”  Just let me say for the record that any time they open your child’s chest, put them on bypass, and mess with their heart, it’s a BIG surgery.  It doesn’t matter if it last 6 hours or 14 hours.  You never know what is going to happen.  Granted some surgeries have much greater success rates, but it is still frightening.  It is still going into the unknown.

    I want you to understand what it is like to live in my house.  I wake up in the morning and stand at the doorway, while my miracles walk towards me.  I know at any moment it could end, as it could for anyone, and I appreciate every breathe they get to take.

    So although I am singing praises from the mountain tops about Benjamin’s miracle, I want you to understand that every life is a miracle.  Everyone of these heart children’s lives were a miracle.  There are many more miracles waiting for their forever families.  If God is talking to you, and you are scared beyond belief, we’ve all been there, please reach out.  Any of us would love to encourage you on your journey too.

    “God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” – unknown

  • Sharing a Facebook Post

    Date: 2016.03.13 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin

    I recently posted this on our family’s Facebook group “Seriously Blessed by Adoption”.   It seems to have resonated with others.  I have never had a a post be liked or shared so many times.  To be honest, I’m not sure why.  I have said these same words many times, in many different ways.  Maybe it’s because it shows a daddy’s love for his son.  Maybe it’s because so many of these sweet boys wait.  I’m not really sure why but I thought I would share it with those who just follow us on my blog too.

    China trip 2012 086

    When we decided to adopt Maisey, our agency told us of a program China had started where you could adopt two at once. We prayed about it and discussed it with our family. Hope really wanted us to adopt a little boy with a heart defect like hers and since Dan and I were older and absolutely positive we would never be going to China again, we decided to proceed.

    Every time I think about how positive we were that this would be the completion of our family, I chuckle. It’s a good thing I had no clue where God was going to lead us because I think I would have ran the other direction.

    It was life changing when they placed Maisey and Ben in our arms. It was as if my eyes had suddenly been opened. Here was a 3 1/2 year old little boy, who wouldn’t talk, refused to let you call him his Chinese name, was starving and ate for hours after we got him. Ben slept with his bowl and food in his hands for months. With Maisey they threw her in my arms, like she was nothing, I can’t even explain it. To this day my heart hurts over the utter worthlessness with which she was treated.

    I can still see Dan pacing in the registration office. Every other child had already arrived. I had been holding Maisey for quite a while at this point. All of a sudden Dan sees him outside the door, as soon as Ben walked through that door, Dan picked him up. That is not how it is supposed to work. You are supposed to wait until they hand them to you. There is paperwork and procedures that need to be followed. I often wish I had that moment on film, but it happened so fast. Four years later I can still see it and it still brings tears to my eyes.

    Ben went to Dan and he was instantly at home. When we visited the orphanage two days later, Ben refused to go to anyone. He held on to Dan for dear life. What makes a child hold on to a 6 foot tall, bearded, white man and refuse to go to anyone who has cared for him during his whole life? Ben buried his head in Dan’s shoulder, wrapped his arms tight around Dan’s neck, and hid.

    During those days, my eyes were opened to how much a child wants a family. My heart would never be the same again. I walked through the halls of that orphanage and knew most of those little faces would never know what family means. Just because you have never known the love of a family doesn’t mean you don’t want it or know, deep down, that there is something missing.

    I often wish I could touch people on the shoulder and have those emotions or memories transferred to them. They would never be the same again. I thought I knew before we traveled. I thought I got it, but what I know for a fact is I was clueless. Completely clueless!!!!

    Everyone needs to feel safe and loved. This is one of my favorite pictures from our trip. Ben loves his daddy. Ben found his safe place.

     BenBen and daddy

     

  • Jessica and Liam’s Update

    Date: 2016.03.12 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jessica

    Life has been interesting since we got home on the 4th.  We arrived home Friday night and Sunday morning Jessica awoke with a temperature.  We  already had an appointment scheduled for Monday morning with the pediatrician so we started antibiotics and planned to see the pediatrician Monday morning for some lab work.

    Her lab work was worse than we had hoped. Dan called the nephrologist and urologist at the children’s hospital and they fit her in for an appointment on Wednesday.  Grace and Elyse, who were trying to belp, had told Jessica that this was just an appointment and that she would not be admitted to the hospital.  Jessica was comforted by that.  She had been hospitalized and gone through surgery alone in China.  She was very fearful.

    We had her appointment where they changed her Foley catheter and drew labs. We left with a plan in place to get extra tests and go from there.  Unfortunately, as we finished eating, our phone rang and they asked us to come back to have her admitted. The lab results had come back and they were worse than Monday’s. She is extremely anemic and her labs were showing her kidneys to be working at about 15%.  We needed to start an IV and try to stabilize her electrolytes

    The good news is that Jessica (JJ) had a few good days at home and had bonded with Gracie and Elyse.  JJ did not want to be part of much that was going around the house.  She doesn’t like American food. She doesn’t necessarily like adults. It’s been interesting to say the least.  We have never had a child that wasn’t at least pretty comfortable by the time we got home from China.  It’s going to take JJ a very long time to trust us and to know that we truly love her and will never leave her. Add on a hospital admission and the time to trust us extends even further.

    image

    On the other side of the coin is Liam.  He looks like he has been here forever.  He is right in the middle of the littles all the time.  He likes the food, especially the treats big sister, Cassie, bought him.

    image

    He likes the kid’s schedule. He likes the toys they play with.  He likes to snuggle up with them to go to sleep.

    image

    He likes pretty much everything.

    image

    I am thankful that he has adjusted so well. It would have been horrible to leave him otherwise.  He loves to FaceTime and show me what he has been doing.  He is the happiest, silliest little boy.  Everyone adores him!

    The prognosis for JJ is complicated.  We don’t know where her baseline will ultimately end up.  Today her labs were better and her kidney function was about 20%.  The formula they use to figure your GFR takes many things in to account.

    Dan was at work today and the nephrologist sat and talked with me for quite awhile about what was to be expected in the future.  Of course there are many variables but we know for certain she will need dialysis and ultimately a transplant. There has been too many years of damage and scar tissue.  We had hoped to get to her in time to reverse some of the damage and avoid a transplant. I know now that isn’t possible.

    Her bones are almost see through from calcium loss and lack of vitamin D.  She is extremely anemic and will need weekly shots to help her produce red blood cells.  The doctors are trying to avoid transfusions because of the need for a transplant.

    She’s very sad and hasn’t been eating or drinking very much.  Elyse reminded her that she has to be able to take all 5 meds by mouth and drink and eat well to get to come home.  This afternoon she did much better.

    The nephrologist said he isn’t sure whether she will need dialysis in a month or a few months.  We will know more in the coming days.  We know anything under 50% kidney function leads to dialysis at some point in your life.  We know she will lose approximately 3% kidney function a year. We know lower than 20% and they start talking transplant.  We know a number of 15% gets you dialysis.

    She will have a sedated MRI and CAT scan on Monday to look at her back and hips.  We were lead to believe she had spina bifida but that isn’t true.  Her little legs are very contractured and very, very small.  Her back has many fused and misshapen vertebra.

    Genetics, orthopedics and neurosurgery have been called for consults and they have ordered the tests they need to figure this out.

    From her X-ray, we know she has pretty severe “s” scoliosis.  From the renal ultrasound we know her kidneys are very small.  At one point the lab tech left to get the physician and the physician informed me the kidneys were the size of a newborns and he wanted me to get my husband, who is a physician, so he could talk to him.  They aren’t quite that little, but they are very small.

    She needs urodynamics and other tests to see what else is going on. It’s a lot for a little girl, who is already hurt and fearful, to go through.

    She will let me comfort her after her procedures.  This picture is after they placed her PICC line.  When I rub her head or hold her hand, she pretends to be asleep so it isn’t like she is giving in.   You will see her look out under her closed lids and shut her eyes really fast and she sighs and leans into me.  It’s her way of being comforted without acting like she likes it or needs it or giving up control.

    image

    She is one tough little girl.   She is spunky and stubborn and a fighter.   I know this is what has kept her alive and fighting.  I respect that and will give her the distance and time she needs to feel safe.  Someday she will accept our love and know what family means.

    We knew the possibilities going in.  We were as prepared as we could be.  We were hoping we were wrong but knew in the end it didn’t matter.  She is our daughter and you fight for your children.

    Hopeful for more time for her to adjust before dialysis needs to start but we will do what is necessary to give her the very best chance at a happy, hope-filled life.

    Because she is worth it!!!

     

     

     

     

     

  • The True Cost

    Date: 2016.03.08 | Category: Adoption

    Everyone talks about the cost of adoption.  It’s too expensive.  You won’t hear me disagree with that.  It is too expensive.   When we adopted Hope 16 years ago, it was $10,000 for lawyer fees, court costs, and our homestudy.  $10,000 worth of fees for us to be a family to a child that was left alone in the hospital.  Was the fee too much?  Probably!  Was Hope worth it?  YES!  Every cent.

    But the reality is there are many more costs involved with adoption.  There’s the cost of time.  The cost of heartache.  The cost of little hearts waiting for a family.  Medical costs.  There is a cost to your family.  You name it there’s a cost.

    So what is the life of a child worth?  I know people hate the word “save” when it comes to a child that is waiting for a family.  I personally don’t have a huge issue with it because I have been saved.  I was saved by my Lord Jesus Christ.  I was literally saved by my husband from a life that was less than.  Dan, through the gospel, taught me that others hurting me didn’t mean that I deserved to be hurt.  Dan taught me grace and forgiveness.  I had been through a lot in my early years and I believed I wasn’t worth loving.  That pain, those awful, horrible feelings are what help me relate to my hurting children.  How much is it worth to show another person their worth?

    Was it worth the hours Dan held me while I cried?  Was it worth the pain he felt until I truly trusted that he loved me?  Everything in life has a price.  EVERYTHING!   I’m thankful Dan found me worth his time.  I’m thankful he believed in me enough to stick with me.  I’m thankful he saw my worth when I couldn’t.

    Last night at Wal-Mart, Dan started talking to a family about why we were buying so many groceries.  He explained we just got back from China.  They asked how many children we had and Dan said “16”.   The woman looked at me and said, “My mom had 16 children and she died at 42.  Just be careful.”    It would be comical if that wasn’t the first time I had heard this.  I heard it when we adopted the first two. “You know you are older. You don’t want to take on too much.”  I heard it after we came home with the four.  “Four kids at a time would be hard on someone half your age!”  I hear it because Lainey doesn’t sleep and I am sometimes really tired.  “Take care of yourself.  You don’t want it to kill you.  You need to be around for your kids.”

    These are caring words.  I understand them.  I believe them.   I do need to take care of myself, but here lies the problem for me.  What if adopting all these kids makes me die at 75 instead of 85?  Wouldn’t 10 years of my life be worth it to improve theirs?  What is an ok cost for bringing a child here and getting the surgery they need that will extend their life?  What cost is ok for keeping them out of an adult institution where it is survival of the fittest?  What cost is ok for letting a child feel love?  What cost is ok for giving someone the unconditional love of family?

    If it costs you a vacation, is that ok?

    If it costs you sleep, is that ok?

    If it costs you friends and family, is that ok?

    If it costs you in your free time, is that ok?

    If it makes you dead tired, is that ok?

    If you are emotionally drained and feel you have nothing left, is that ok?

    How much would be okay to spend for an adoption?  $10,000?  $15,000?  $20,000?   I believe it is about so much more than the money involved.  We all waste money.  We all find money to spend on the things we really want.  We want a new car so we are willing to borrow for six years to pay for it but we can’t borrow for six years to pay for an adoption?  I don’t think that money is the true cost that is stopping people.

    I believe it is much like the cost of truly following God.  I never gave it much thought in my 20’s or 30’s.   I believed in God.  I went to church on Sunday.  I tithed.  I was a fairly good person.  I was kind to people.  I helped when I could.  But if you truly have a relationship with the Lord, there is a great cost in following God and His commands.  There are many stories in the Bible about giving up everything and following Him.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. –  Matthew 16:24

    How many of us are willing to give up anything?  How many of us would be willing to deny ourselves instant gratification for what we truly want?  How many of us complain when we stand in line too long?  Or complain when the Sunday morning service goes too long?   Or when there is no internet connection?  Would we give up cable and our weekly pizza night to adopt?   Would we feel it was worth the cost to take our children out of sports or dance and make them share a room?   What is okay to give up?

    People who are passionate about things give up much to reach their goals.  Marathon runners do it.  The climbers of Mount Everest do it.  Olympic trainers do it.   They are willing to sacrifice much to reach their goal.  When something has great value to you, it is worth the cost.  So why should adoption be any different?

    The cost of loving Liam isn’t much.  It’s pretty darn easy.  He’s adjusted fantastically.  He likes American food.  He has had no jet lag.  He’s gone to sleep easily and slept through the night from the very first night.  He follows the kids and does what they do.  He’s jumped into doing chores, even though he wasn’t asked to.  He loves his siblings and the games they play.  He is joyful about every new thing he gets to experience.  It has been pretty darn effortless.

    But the cost of loving JJ is much more.  She is hurting.  She strikes out.  She is angry.  She doesn’t trust.  She does not believe she is worth any of this.  You can not tell her she is pretty.  She will shake her head right off her shoulders.  She will not let you comfort her.  My heart hurts because I know she has been hurt. What I have learned through the lessons of God and the patience of my husband is that love can heal.  Trust can be earned.  Fear can be erased.  Forgiveness can be achieved.  Grace is a beautiful thing.

    JJ deserves unconditional love.  JJ deserves a chance to grow up to be all she can be.  Is she worth the medical costs?  Yes.  Is she worth the pain we feel from rejection?  Yes.  She is worth the time and energy that will be expended. She is worth the tears I will shed.  She is worth the sleep I will lose.   I believe the cost in not loving JJ is more than the cost of loving her.  I believe she deserves to be safe.  I believe she deserves to be happy.  I believe that whatever it costs me is worth it.

    My life is not worth more than JJ’s.  My time is not more valuable than hers.  God loves her with the same abandon He loves me.  I may not have understood what is truly important in the first part of my life, but I understand it now, and the cost of pretending it’s not true is just too much!

    “I want to run my life in that manner.  I want the second half to be stronger than the first.”  We we can run faster as the race goes on in our final years, we can sprint, knowing that we can collapse in His arms.”  – Francis Chan

     

  • How Do You Know if You Should You Adopt?

    Date: 2016.03.07 | Category: Adoption

    Edited – This blog post is not directed towards anyone.  It is not meant in a negative way.  I merely wanted to explain that I don’t know.  I don’t know how you decide.  I wish I could tell you.  I wish I could look at someone and say, “Adoption would be a great fit for you or I think God has other plans for your family.”I want to share with you how I have made my decisions.  Every one of the excuses at the end of the blog I have said.  I had to work through whether or not those excuses truly stood up or not and I shared how I make those decisions.

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    I’ve been asked this question over and over again – “How do I know if I should adopt?”

    I was thinking back to our decisions to adopt JJ and Liam.   I drug my feet on adopting JJ.  I said, “I was too busy. I’ve done my part. I’m tired.  I’m worn thin.”   I thought JJ was beautiful and would make a wonderful daughter but her needs weren’t simple.  We are talking possible kidney transplant or dialysis.  Her kidneys are very sick.  You aren’t a 25 pound 8 year old because you are healthy.  Could I add that to my plate and do it well?  Would it hurt my other children?  Would it take away from them?  How could it be possible that we were the right parents for her?

    Then one night Elyse said to Dan and I, “If JJ dies and we don’t try, I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive myself.  I know she is my sister.”  Her words didn’t instantly make me say “yes” but they did make me think long and hard about it.  It means I looked at every possible scenario and wondered if I could handle it.   If I am honest, I knew the moment I looked at her picture, that she was my daughter and I was letting fear stop me from proceeding.  I came to realize that doing nothing was just as bad as standing in my living room looking at one of my children, and deciding I was too busy to care for their medical needs and letting them die.  I pictured myself at the end of my life and God showing me JJ’s picture and Him asking me “Why didn’t you do something?”  At that moment, I knew I had to do something.

    The decision to adopt Liam was instant peace.  I have never felt such overwhelming peace.  Yes, this is my son.  Yes, everything will work out.  It makes no sense but I know it is true.  How can you explain that to someone?  For me, it’s God.   If you don’t believe in God it becomes me being some overemotional, crazy person.  There’s been no magical formula that happens so we know we should adopt.  Every one of our adoption journeys has been different.   Sometimes it brings me to my knees and I can’t imagine not proceeding.  Sometimes it’s just been an overwhelming peace.  Sometimes instant tears.  Sometimes it is someone else in the house who has been moved by a child and after much prayer you realize it is right.

    This is why it is hard.  This is why I can’t answer for you.  The truth is I can’t tell you if you should adopt.  I can’t tell you whether it is right or wrong for your family.  I can’t tell you how to convince your spouse.  I can’t tell you it won’t be too hard.  I can’t tell you it won’t change your life.  I can’t tell you that your bio children will do fine with it.  I can’t tell you that your friends and family will be supportive.

    What I can tell you for sure your journey will have moments of difficulty.  Even when the child adjusts amazingly well there will be things that come up.  Because it’s life.  Life is messy.  Adoption comes from a place of pain and loss.  There is hurt involved.  There are emotions that will overwhelm.  You can’t avoid it.  It may be easy and it may be hard, but I believe it is worth it.  The hardest parts of my life are what have made me rely on God more and have grown my relationship with Him.  The hard times have led to the most joy, maybe because I can appreciate it more.

    What I can tell you as an absolute is if you are a Christian, God did NOT call you to be comfortable. God didn’t call you to sit back and let others do everything.  God asks you… NO! He commands you to be His hands and feet.  Your call may not be adoption but you are being called and if you feel comfortable and never stretched, I would say you truly need to look at your life and see what it is saying.

    People should know what you stand for.  People should know what you care about.  People should be able to look at your life and see what you are passionate about.  Otherwise you are just coasting.  You are just existing.  There’s been a lot of talk in the press about this lately.  People claiming to be Christian but their words and actions don’t line up with what the Bible teaches.  What if the camera was turned on you?  Would your words and actions line up?

    Are you living a life of fear and selfishness?  Are you living a life of self-centeredness?  Are you concerned about anyone else?  Do you give as little as you can or do you do all that you can in every way that you can with your time, your words, and your money?

    I’m going to share one of the most thought provoking statements Elyse has ever uttered.  She is 10 and has been home a year.  She is a very bright girl.  “Mama, I think so many children are not adopted because too many people are afraid to say “yes”.”

    She had me pegged.  I was fearful.  Fearful that this adoption would be the one that tipped the cart.  Fearful that even more people would talk about how crazy we were.  Fearful that I just couldn’t handle it.  Fearful to put my heart on the line again.

    Are you fearful?  Are you afraid?  I say this is a good thing.  Read everything you can.  Prepare yourself in every way you can.   Surround yourself with supportive people, because there are always doubts about what you can handle, whether you can afford it, whether you will have the resources, what it will do to your family.  No one goes into adoption thinking they have it all figured out.    Everyone has moments of doubt or worry or at least they should.  You can know God is calling and step out in faith and still have fear.  We are only human.

    Having a family and belonging is a beautiful thing.  It’s something we all want – to be loved for who we are.  We want to belong, to have roots, to have a safe place to fall, and somewhere to call home.  Sometimes when you adopt it works like it did with Liam.  It makes no sense that a 5 year old would understand what family means, but he seems to.  He ran to us and hasn’t looked back.  His foster mom prepared him well.  She seemed more like a teacher who was training him and getting him ready for his life.  It felt like a graduation when he left as she said, “Go and be happy!”

    JJ & Liam

    Liam’s adoption day was wonderful but it’s not always that simple.  Sometimes you show up and the child is raging.  Sometimes when you show up the child is so shut down you aren’t sure you can ever reach them.  That is where we are with JJ.  She’s been hurt. She’s seen friend after friend be adopted and she wasn’t chosen. She has obviously been told that she has very little worth.  She hides in public.  She won’t look in a mirror.  Her little head hangs low and she won’t talk.  Does that mean that this adoption was wrong?  NO!  Should I be upset and have my feelings hurt because she isn’t instantly throwing herself at me and saying she loves me?  Not at all.  Why?

    BECAUSE IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!!!!!

    I believe with all my heart that if a child was in your front yard you would do everything you could to make sure that child was safe.  You wouldn’t be wondering what is in it for you.  You wouldn’t be mad they didn’t instantly love you because you were helping them.  You would just help.  It’s easy to ignore a hurting child when they are just a faceless number.  It is much harder once you see their face and it is darn near impossible once you hold them in your arms.

    I can’t tell you when is the right time to adopt.  I can’t tell you if you are honestly being called.  I can’t tell you it will be easy.  I can’t tell you that you won’t have to make some changes in your life.

    But what I can tell you is that if God is calling, He will make a way.  I can tell you that money shouldn’t stop you because God provides in miraculous ways.  I’ve seen it happen too many times to say it isn’t true.  I can tell you that once you give up your comfortable life you will be changed and blessed in ways you couldn’t even imagine.   I can tell you that the hard is worth it.  That every child is worth it.  That sleepless nights and rages while they come to believe this is real, the testing limits as they learn, and tears spilled over the unfairness of it all, is worth it.  I can tell you that watching someone blossom with love and caring is a miraculous thing.

    I’ve thought long and hard about what I want you to consider about adoption.  If you truly feel you are being called to adopt, but fear or some other excuse is holding you back.  I want you to consider this.  Truly picture it.  This is what I do when I consider my actions.  Our minds are too often centered on worldly things and ideals but this is not our true or final home.   Picture yourself on the day of your death, as you stand before God, and He asks you why you didn’t proceed when He laid the thought of adoption on your heart.  Look Him in the face and utter your excuse, whatever it may be…

    We don’t have the room in our house.

    We don’t have the money.

    I don’t want to hurt our family.

    I am afraid.

    I am too old.

    I’ve already lost friends and family over adopting.

    Our life is comfortable and I don’t want to mess it up.

    I’ve already done enough.

    I am tired.

    If you have been thinking about adoption for a long time and can stand before God and utter your excuse, whatever it may be, and have peace with it, then fine BUT if your excuse doesn’t ring true, then maybe you already have your answer.

     

     

     

     

  • So Many Thoughts

    Date: 2016.03.01 | Category: Adoption, Jessica, William

    I’m going to give writing a blog post on my phone a try.  At the rate this is going with all my typing errors, you can look for this post sometime mid-June.

    This adoption trip has been interesting and one might say almost fun.  It’s been the most vacation-like of any of our our trips.  The first trip in 2012, was so nerve wracking, mainly because we had no clue what we were doing.  Plus, Dan got food poisoning on that trip so we didn’t do a lot of sightseeing.  We just hunkered down in the hotel room.

    The second trip, when we adopted four at once and three were much sicker than we thought, was a strap yourself in for the ride and hope you get home safe, kind of a trip.  Plus, whenever we went out people were beyond unkind to Jasmine.   They yelled things at her, they spit at her, and everytime we went out we had to form a circle of protection around her to keep people away.  Even going to the buffet was a nightmare.  We had very nice servers who would save her a spot behind a wall so that no one could see or her yell things at her while she ate.  Her province was the worst for this type of behavior.  It got a little better once we got to the China Hotel in Guangzhou where there were lots of adoptive families but it still wasn’t good when we ventured outside the hotel.

    Elyse and Max’s trip was fairly simple except that Max had no idea how to NOT get into everything and Elyse spent most of the first part of her trip trying to figure out how to call her foster grandma.  In a room with many breakables and buttons to push, Max didn’t make it very relaxing. It’s hard to toddler proof a room when your toddler is 6. Plus, Dan wasn’t able to travel with me that trip.

    This trip, Mr. Charming readily accepted us as his parents after his foster mama told him goodbye and to go and be happy.  He ran to us saying mama and baba and has had very few tears during this trip.  He adores his baba and has said the word “baba” (daddy) at least a 1,000 times.  He’s only cried when we went back to offices to do paperwork. We were told by his teacher that he is fearful of being taken back because his friend was disrupted and he also cried when I held a baby at one of LWB’s healing homes.

    Dan and I are on LWB’s board of directors and we were so happy to see the healing homes in action.   I had my heart stolen by quite a few of those sweet babies and especially sweet little Christine!  I was so happy to hear that she has a family in progress. I can’t say enough good things about the nannies in these homes.

    All in all William has done extremely well.   He smiles most of the time.  He says “thank you and hello and good morning” to almost everyone he meets.  He says it in both English and Chinese. He is sweet and sensitive and a great little boy.   The fact that he has waited almost 6 years to be adopted blows my mind. He is so smart and cute and so able to do anything he puts his mind to.  He already knows all his siblings names (no small feat), has learned many English words and corrected my Chinese, and says he wants to be a doctor.  I can’t help but have my heart hurt for his bio parents who let him go, probably to get him the medical care he needed.   It seems so unfair that I get to have this treasure as a son and they can not.

    William Daddy Healing home hug (1)

    Jessica has been a bit of a different story.  Our little girl has obviously been hurt.  She does not like adults and especially men.  She had spent time in the hospital alone.  She’s been through surgery alone.  She’s been isolated away from the other kids in the orphanage. She came to me and let me hold her but it was more like she had no choice than she wanted to.  It’s going to take a lot of time to heal her heart and calm her fears.

    That being said, by the time we went to the orphanage for a visit four days after we had met her she wouldn’t go to anyone there.  She was upset when I had to hand her off to have her foley cath changed.  She came back to me and there was a disagreement between the orphanage staff and Dan.  They had the right size foley but the wrong size connecting tubing.  They wanted us to hand her to the physician who wanted to take her to the hospital to get the right tubing.  He said he would be back in an hour.  Dan, who is a physician, said it made no sense because it didn’t matter that the tubing was a smidge bigger and he wouldn’t allow it.   They disagreed and were completely disgusted with us for refusing.  Dan was not about to allow anyone to take our girl again.  I do not believe we will be welcomed back there any time soon.

    By the time we went to meet the director before leaving the building, she was so quiet.  They asked her to lunch about 10 times.  They tried hard to talk her into it but she kept refusing.   We left the decision up to her and by the time she got to the van she was worn out emotionally.   She laid her little head on my chest and fell asleep.  It was a turning point and a step in the right direction because she knew she has a voice with us and we would protect her.

    We’ve slowly made progress with her.  She will say “xie xie mama” (thank you mama) to me when I hand her items and when I say “wo ai ni” (I love you) she shakes her head yes now. When I pick her up first thing in the morning she forgets to be afraid and lays her little head on my shoulder and hugs me. Then it’s almost like she remembers she is suppose to be afraid and lifts up her little head. But it’s those moments when I know there is hope.

    Jessica Pink

    She’s amazing with Liam (William) though. She is the big sister even though he outweighs her by a good 15 pounds.  She talks to him non-stop.  They laugh and giggle and play all day long.  They are already true siblings and we’ve caught them doing the “don’t copy me” game which seems to be universal.  It was pretty funny.  He kisses her and she pats his hands.  She encourages him and tells him to finish his dinner and to throw away his papers. Liam has been good for her.  God knew what He was doing. This trip would have been much harder for Little Miss had she been adopted alone.

    Seeing her with Liam (William) lets me know that she will be fine with the kiddos.  She likes kids.   She loves to mother Liam.   She will be loved and will fit in just fine.  I have no concerns about that.

    We head home Friday and I can’t wait.  I miss my babies so much.  I am so thankful for technology.  Skype, Whatsap, and FaceTime have saved the day!

    I will warn anyone and everyone to be prepared to have your socks charmed off by the little guy.  He’s so easy to love, everyone comments on it.  They also can’t believe we’ve only had him with us for 2 weeks.

    My other warning is for adults with regard to Jessica.  Please give JJ her space.  Don’t try to pick her up, even though she’s little and cute.   Don’t get upset when she won’t talk to you or look you in the eye.  It’s not personal.  Right now she needs time to know that adults are ok.  She needs to feel safe and protected and we are going to insure that she has that.

    I’m happy we were called to adopt again.  These two precious souls are amazing and I am feeling overwhelmed by this gift that I don’t deserve.  Blessings beyond measure for being obedient to the call.  The sheer thought of this brings me to my knees.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • ONE MORE DAY!!!!!

    Date: 2016.02.13 | Category: Adoption

    As we get ready to leave, I am thinking and feeling many things.   I am nervous to meet our new children.  William has known for a little bit that we are coming so hopefully he will be a little prepared.  I am not so sure with Jessica.  I have heard that her orphanage often doesn’t tell them until the day they leave for the Registration Office.  Hopefully, with all the mamas that have been taking her picture for her new parents, she understands what is happening.  Friends of ours e-mailed our family picture to the orphanage so hopefully she knows what we look like too.

    I love the new pictures we got of Jessica.

    Jessica

    These children are so brave.  They will leave everything they have ever known and trust us to take care of them.   Can you imagine leaving with people who look different than you, who speak a different language, and trying to make sense of it all?  Every time it has been different.  Mostly it has gone well and for that we are thankful.   We have been amazed at how quickly they have come to us and settled in.  There are a whole lot of reasons for this and some of those reasons break my heart but I am happy they feel safe with Dan and I.

    It is really hard to show up at that Registration Office and meet your new child, who you have loved for months and months, but they don’t know you and they might not necessarily like you.  That is to be expected.  They don’t know you.   It’s hard to put yourself on the line and put your feelings aside.  It’s hard not to take things personally.  You are tired and nervous and anxious and so many other emotions.  You’ve traveled 15 hours in a cramped plane.  You’ve waited so long and it’s almost here.  You haven’t slept well.  The day when you meet is emotionally draining.  It’s a hard day on everyone’s hearts.  It starts early in the morning as you wait to go.  By the time you get to the office you are a bundle of nerves.  You don’t want to scare them but you want to hold them and let them know how much you love them.  To this day I can not watch videos of those meetings without crying.  It takes me right back to that moment.

    I was thinking about all the emotions I have been feeling and thought it would be fun to find out how the kids are feeling.  I asked them one simple question. As mommy and daddy get ready to leave to get Jessica and William, how are you feeling.

    CASSIE – I’m just hoping everyone stays in one piece while you are gone.  I can’t wait to see the little guys!

    HOPE – Help me!  Hurry home!

    JASMINE – I feel so happy that you are going to get my sister and brother but I feel sad because I will miss mommy and daddy.  I’m so excited to finally see them.

    GRACIE – Ahhhhhhh…..  I’m so happy that you are going to get my sister and my brother.  I want Jessica and William to be happy and know that their family loves them.

    ELYSE – I feel so good that you are getting Jessica and William.  I’m a little bit stressed because I just want mama and daddy to come home.  I hope that William and Jessica like us.  Thank you so much for getting my sister and brother.

    BENJAMIN – So excited to get William and Jessica.  I’m really happy because you are going to be home as quick as soon.  Everybody loves William and Jessica.

    Max – (thumbs up)

    MAISEY –  I’m so excited.  I will miss you.

    EVIE – Sad because I will miss mommy and daddy.  I so excited to get them. They are going to play with me!

    ELI – I want you to get my buddy William.  I want to play with Jessica even though she not a boy.  I miss you.

    I think the consensus is we are supposed to hurry home!   I couldn’t agree more.  I just want to have us all together under one roof.

    Remember if you are on Facebook you can follow along on our family page, Seriously Bless by Adoption!

    Please pray for their little hearts as they adjust to their new lives.

    We will be updating soon.

     

  • Why Our Large Family is NOT Our Own Little Orphanage

    Date: 2016.01.30 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I have heard the comment “Wow! You are starting your own little orphanage/group home” more times than I care to count.  I’m still surprised people can think this, let alone even say it out loud.  Maybe they are just trying to be funny. Maybe they are just saying the first words that pop into their heads.  I’m not sure, but what I do know is that we aren’t the only family hearing these words.  Many other mamas have stated the same thing.  I have to chalk it up to someone not having a clue what life in an institution is truly like because if they had ever stepped a foot into an orphanage then they couldn’t say those words and be serious.

    I have had people tell me that they can’t even handle their two children so how can we possibly do this?  I have heard that there is no way I can have enough time for all of my children. I have heard there is no way I can give them the care they each need.  It’s not like I close my ears to the negative or that I haven’t asked myself the same questions.  I’m not delusional nor do I believe that I am superwoman.   I do, however, know where my strength comes from and I truly believe most people could do more.  I choose to try to be selfless not because I’m a martyr but because I truly LOVE my life.  I am blessed!!! Those aren’t just words I utter because I want to somehow sound good to others.

    Can life be hard? Absolutely!  Can it seem overwhelming? Yep!  Is it hard on your heart somedays?  Yes!  Trauma is not a pretty thing.  What it does to little hearts is hard to take somedays.  Adoption isn’t a walk in the park.  If you think it’s gonna be a breeze and you will have no issues because your little one was adopted early, then you will have a rude awakening.

    Institutional life is hard on a child.  They are limited in food.  The fact that they live in a facility means that their lives started by loss.  They aren’t taught the basic life lessons we teach our child.  They are left to raise themselves.  They get very little one on one time and they have no sense of family or belonging and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    As we prepare to leave to adopt Jessica and William in 15 days, the middles won’t let the topic of adopting again drop.  I laugh and tell them that we haven’t even adopted these two yet.

    William 11

    We don’t have a clue what it is going to be like when we get home.  We don’t know just how sick Jessica is.  It’s scary waiting, knowing that something as simple as a UTI could lead to sepsis and death for her.

    JJ

    But the girls talk about all the children who wait.  The girls pray for the children ready to age out and cry tears knowing what this means for this child. It’s one thing to be an able bodied child left to fend for yourself, if you have a disability, your future is so uncertain. I could not let them see the advocacy sites and not let them know of the children who need prayer BUT I won’t.  Too many people pretend it isn’t happening.  Too many people go about their days without giving the orphan crisis a thought. Too many people say it’s just too hard on their hearts. I won’t be the one to tell my girls that this burden they feel isn’t worth their time.

    These girls dream of a day when Jasmine’s Dream comes true – “A family for every child.”

    Three girls

    I will continue to pray with the girls and have big, ugly cryfests with them.  I will continue to post and share posts of others.  We will donate when we can.  We will encourage those who are adopting.  We will be the hands and feet of Christ in as many ways as we can because we know just how important it is.  We will help families stay together when possible and we will advocate for those who long for a forever family.

    Elyse dreams of building a castle where we have a 100 bedrooms.  She talks of all the children feeling loved and cared for. When I say, “Adopting 100 children would mean less time for each child.”  She reminds me that having a family is a beautiful thing and knowing you belong and have some where to call home is priceless.  She then says, “How about 20 then?”  Although she tells me that I could love 100 children or more and this fact is true, there is no limit on how many children your heart can love.

    She drew me this picture at her last doctor’s appointment.

    Elyse picture

    I would think that if our children felt that our family was too big, they wouldn’t talk so much of adopting again.  They love their siblings and they know how important family is.  They eagerly wait for the day William and Jessica will be home.  They talk about all the things they will do with them, where they will sleep, how they can figure out what their favorite foods are.

    After talking with Elyse and Jasmine on numerous occasions, we decided to make a list of how family is not like an orphanage.   Here are a few of the reasons we came up with that our large family is NOT like our own little orphanage.

    1.  Our children will never go to bed without being tucked in and told how much they are loved.

    2. Our children will never spend a day hungry.

    3. Our children will spend their days getting hugged, kissed, and told over and over again how much we love them.

    4. Our children’s last name will not mean orphan or tell which orphanage they are from.

    5.  Our children will always have a place to call home and family to come home to.

    6.  Our children will get the medical and dental care that they so desperately need.

    7.  Our children will not be defined by their disabilities, feel less than, nor will they be made fun of for having a disability.

    8.  Our children will be helped to be the best them they can be.  We will support them and encourage them in every way possible.

    9.  Our children will be allowed the privilege of going to school.

    10.  Our children will never hear the words worthless or unadoptable again.

    11.  Our children will have someone to run to for comfort when they are feeling physical or emotional pain.

    12. Our children will know that they are loved, cherished, wanted, and part of our family FOREVER!

    Family is a beautiful thing.  May we never take that for granted.  May we continue to remember and pray for those who want nothing more than a family to call their own.

     

  • Elyse asks, “Do You Know the Love of Jesus Christ?”

    Date: 2016.01.03 | Category: Adoption, Faith

    Up again with Lainey at 4 a.m.  My clock has been reset from daylight savings time, but Lainey’s has definitely not.  I have been looking through my drafts on my blog – 15 half written posts, including our homecoming post from our last adoption, which just happens to have been one year ago.  15! So why am I taking the time to start another one?  Because I believe Elyse’s question deserves a blog all it’s own.

    Yesterday my brother brought my grandma down to visit.  Elyse has seen my grandma one other time in the year she has been home.  While Elyse was talking to my grandma and Tracy, she asked them, “Do you know the love of Jesus Christ?”.  They stared at her and I clarified that she did indeed ask them what they thought she said.   They answered in the affirmative and Elyse was so very happy.

    Elyse 2015

    It wasn’t that long ago that Elyse asked another adoptive mom if she knew the love of Jesus Christ and if she loved children. On our way home, Elyse informed me that I could indeed be friends with this mama since she loved children and Jesus.

    I’m never quite sure what to say to Elyse when she does this.  She does this fairly often with strangers. I always get uncomfortable and flustered.  I was raised in a quiet church.  No one prayed out loud.  No one asked others about their beliefs.  We sent missionaries out into the world but nothing was said close to home.   We didn’t ask our family about it.  You were quiet and private about your life with God and your prayers.  It’s just the way it was.

    Many may have already heard this story but I will do a shortened version again for those of you who may not have heard.  One day I was sitting on a bench at the Iowa State Fair and a stranger started talking to me.  I can’t remember what we were waiting on but I had been there a while and we discussed many things.  She asked me about my family.  I said I have 5 children and mentioned their names, including Hope’s.  She proceeded to tell me that she loved the name Hope and told me about a little girl that her church had been praying for and the miraculous story about her life.  This random stranger told me all about MY Hope.

    It was then that I realized God’s story was being told whether I was saying anything or not.  I never talked about Hope’s life because I didn’t want people to think that I was tooting my own horn.  We were blessed by having her in our life.  We weren’t saviors.  We were just two people who had decided to be obedient to God’s call and were blessed to be a part of her story.

    I did realize in that moment though that even though I was refusing to tell of God’s miracle, His story about Hope was still being told.   It just wasn’t me doing the telling and I was the one who had seen it first hand.   How could I not share this miracle that we were allowed to be a part of?   So many things had to line up for her to be in the NICU at the same time that Dan was, I still stand in awe of what occurred and it’s been 16 years.

    The above story was what lead Dan and I to decide to share our adoption story.  We prayed about it for quite a while. We knew it would be hard for us to talk publicly about it, but that adoption stories needed to be told.  People need to see that yes it is hard but it is such a blessing too.  Dan is a pretty private guy so this decision truly was a hard one.  I’m a talker but I talk about fluff.  I am not able to stand in a group and gush about God’s glorious provisions. We knew what being public meant, that it was opening ourselves up to criticism and scrutiny, but we felt it was worth it if we could make adoption not seem so scary and help another child get adopted.

    Dan and I knew we were being blessed by being obedient.  We had no clue all of the wonderful miracles that would happen along the way.   The past 4 years have blown me away.  God has shown up time and time again.  I am so totally undeserving and yet have been blessed just by uttering a “yes”.

    So this begs the question, “Why wouldn’t I want to ask everyone I know if they too know the love of Jesus Christ?”   When God has done so much in my life, why would I not want to share?  God is such an important part of my everyday life why do I still get so flustered?  I don’t know.  I guess I will blame it on all those years of being trained to be quiet as a child.

    I love that Elyse is not afraid to ask.  I love that she wants you to feel the same joy she has.  Elyse is so sure of God’s love.  She is a very smart little girl and has embraced God having a plan for her life.  She understands that God didn’t intend for her to lose her first family or for the bad things that happened.  She understands man has free will and can choose what he does.  She does see the good in Dan and I being obedient and saying “yes” when we saw her picture.    She prays for all the other children who wait.  Elyse firmly believes those children wait just because someone else hasn’t uttered their “yes”.    I am so very happy that we said “Yes” when we saw this picture.

    Elyse 1

    So if you one day meet Elyse don’t be surprised if you hear these words, “Do you know the love of Jesus Christ?”  I will be standing there with a smile on my face wishing I could have the same child-like love for a God that deserves me standing on the corner shouting for all the world to hear….

    “Do you know the love of Jesus Christ?”

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

     

     

  • LOVE in AcTioN!!!!

    Date: 2015.12.20 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    I have noticed over the years that my feelings toward Christmas have changed.  Obviously when you are a child it is all about the presents.  You can’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning to see what is under the tree.  As you get older it changes, some of the excitement of the season seems to be lost.  You head into your twenties and it’s much the same.  You get married, have children, and some of the joy comes back.   You look forward to their anticipation of those early mornings when they are so excited to see what is under the tree.

    Christmas pic

    As we started our adoptions, my feelings changed even more.  Our journey with Christ had become so much more meaningful and Christmas became about so much more than gifts given to others on the day of Christ’s birth.

    We went a little crazy that first Christmas after adopting Ben and Maisey and then again when we adopted Lainey, Jasmine, Evie and Eli.  We were trying to make up for Christmas’ missed.  It was eye opening when our newly adopted kids were clearly overwhelmed by the toys.  They were more interested in the food, the pretty lights, decorating the tree, and being with family.  I started to think about why we shop and spend so much.  Does anyone even remember it a few months down the road?

    This year, I have cut way back on the decorations.  I have hung pretty lights because the kids love them.  I got rid of my tree with all the perfectly matched ornaments and just put up the kids tree with its ornaments strewn every where.  I let them play with the ornaments.  I let them mess with the branches.  I didn’t put out my nativity set that is breakable.  I donated many of the items I once held so dear.

    We asked our middle girls what they want for Christmas.  Their answer?  Their brother and sister home.  That’s it.  They don’t want us to spend money on them.  They just want Jessica and William home.  When we got our LOA (letter of acceptance) they were ecstatic and said it was the best Christmas present ever.

    We have cut way back on gifts for the littles too.  When you buy so many toys, your house can get easily overrun.   I realized this even more, a couple months ago, when I hit my limit and bagged up all their toys.  I put the toys up and told them they had to show they were responsible to get them back.  I told them I was tired of constantly asking them to pick them up .

    They got to pick one toy back each day.  As long as they put it away where it went, they would get another one the next day.  After the third day, they didn’t care anymore.  They each picked a hotwheel car to play with on their track, their Paw Patrol pet and one other random toy that had meaning for them.  That is all they wanted.  It’s all they truly needed.  I noticed their free play time went way up.  They were able to run more because the floor wasn’t covered in little toys. It had only been a week and they couldn’t remember what was in the bag anymore.  What an eye-opening moment.

    For Christmas they are going to get one big toy for the boys to share and one for the girls to share.  We have implemented the one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.  They’ll get p.j.’s (what they need), they will get a personalized t-shirt this year (something to wear), a book (something to read), and the one big “want” item to be shared by all.

    They look forward to the traditions we have started.  Breakfast for supper on Christmas Eve, in our new p.j.’s, watching a Christmas movie.  We have a personalized shoe box that they open on Christmas Eve that holds their p.j.s, and some treats to enjoy during the movie.  These are the things they are going to remember.  They may or may not remember what toys we bought, but they will remember these times spent together as a family.

    I’ve been thinking  a lot about this this year because so many people have asked me “Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?  I bet it takes forever.  Wow!  I can’t imagine how many presents you have bought.”  When I tell them I am done with presents because we keep it very simple, they think it isn’t possible.  The reality is that these past two years have been the easiest shopping years ever.  We truly have simplified. We don’t worry about the biggest, newest gadgets and out doing anyone else.  We are keeping it simple and that in turn keeps our minds where they should be – on Christ!

    Give more of yourself this Christmas.  People would rather have your time than a gift.  Just ask your mama.  She doesn’t need a new coffee pot or the newest gadget, she wants time with you.  This is why I love the phrase that Love Without Boundaries has implemented this holiday season “Love in Action”.

    I tell my children this all the time.  Love is a verb.  Love requires doing.  Words are cheap.  Your actions speak louder than words.  What are your actions saying about what you love and value at Christmas?

    Please+help+this+holiday+season

    Help an orphan in need.

    Take a meal to a neighbor.

    Purchase a gift from an Angel tree or for Toys for Tots.

    Spend time with someone who feels alone.

    Serve a meal at a local mission.

    Support a family that is adopting or fostering.

    Shop for someone who is shut in.

    Brighten someone else’s day.

    The list of verbs is endless.

    Give of yourself.

    Find the true meaning of Christmas.

    From our family to yours – Merry Christmas!

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