Archive for the ‘Benjamin’ Category
Facebook has this amazing thing called “On This Day” where it shows you pictures that you posted from this date during the previous years. My day has been filled with pictures of our very first China adoption. I can’t help but get all choked up when I see the pictures and remember how it felt to have them placed in my arms on that day. 5 years has passed so fast and Maisey and Ben have changed so much!
There are about a million different scenarios about how that day could have gone but the truth is it was so overwhelmingly heartwarming/heartbreaking that it changed our lives forever. Had it not gone as beautifully as it did, I’m not sure we would have adopted 10 kids in 4 years. I am forever grateful for the beginning that showed us how beautiful adoption can be.
Here’s what we knew for sure when we set out to adopt (again).
1.) We were older parents. I was 45 when Dan first brought up adopting again, 46 when we filed our papers, and 47 when we finally stepped foot in China.
2.) We had older children who were very supportive of this decision.
3.) We had already adopted once domestically 11 years before and were blessed by that adoption.
4.) We had the resources and medical knowledge to care for a special needs child.
5.) We were never going to be empty nesters. Our plan is to always keep Codey, our older son who has cognitive and physical disabilities, at home.
Here’s what we knew after the first day we met Ben and Maisey.
1.) Institutions are no place for a child to be raised.
2.) Special needs, especially physical ones, make it easy for others to treat you as “less than”.
3.) Even scared, hurt little 3 1/2 year old boys with severe food issues, can have sweet hearts and look out for their new little sister. He cried if we moved his food, but he always shared with her. (Ben ate for 3 hours after we brought him back to the hotel and slept with food or silverware in his hands for the first few months home.)
4.) When a 3 1/2 year old refuses to be called their Chinese name or speak Mandarin from the moment you meet them, and refuses to go to anyone in the orphanage where they’ve been cared for for the past 3 years, there’s something not right.
5.) Every child just wants to be held and loved. They want someone who cares about them. They want to feel safe. This picture was just days after we met Ben. I get choked up every time I look at it.
What I know for sure 5 years later.
1.) Two children adopted at the same time can become the very best of friends.
2.) Your life will be forever changed by adoption. Some days are harder than hard, but most days are beyond beautiful and life changing in ways you can’t even imagine.
3.) No matter how long your life might be, you deserve the love of a family. You deserve someone to hold your hand, sit by your beside, and let you know you will never be alone again.
4.) Miracles really do happen.
5.) Large families are busy, chaotic, noisy, and filled with more love, hugs, and kisses than you could ever imagine.
The first five years have been overwhelming, busy, crazy, but DOABLE!
1.) 5 heart surgeries and 5 heart catherizations for 3 children with 2 being considered completely healed.
2.) 2 BAHA (hearing aid) post placements and the miracle of hearing well.
3.) 5 trips to opposite shores for heart surgery Stanford (California) and Boston Children’s (Massachusetts).
4.) Countless doctors appointments with numerous specialists. Orthopedics, otolaryngology, cardiology, physical medicine, neurology, pulmonary, genetics, urology, nephrology, rheumatology, hematology, and developmental/behavior medicine.
5.) Spinal fusion surgery and 5 weeks of hospitalization due to complications of a spinal fluid infection and subsequent spinal fluid leak.
I’m hopeful the next 5 years will…
1.) Bring more healing both physically and emotionally for our children.
2.) Strengthen the bond of family even further between all my children so they will always be there for each other not matter what the future brings.
3.) See more and more families open their eyes to adoption.
4.) See more and more families step up and be the helping hand that allows more families to stay intact and not have to make the heartbreaking decision to give up a child.
5.) Allow all our children to feel the love of God in their lives, that they will see their true worth, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved and cherished by their father and I.
What an amazing journey this has been. I am so happy that Dan and I decided to be obedient to God’s calling. Our lives are full of the brightest colors. I can’t imagine going back to the comfortable life we were living. That life was so black and white, well ordered, comfortable. Yes, there is pain and hurt and I will never be able to close my eyes to the suffering of the children in this world, but there is also so much beauty to be found in the ripple effects of helping where you can. Reaching out a hand to help, feeding those in need, helping to pay for a surgery, fund a healing home, sponsor a child, the list goes on and on. The need is great but we can make a difference one child at a time because “Every Child Counts“.
My prayer is that one day Jasmine’s dream will come true – “A family for every child.” What a beautiful day that will be. Until that time …
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.” – Malcom Bane
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.
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.
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
Here I am again sitting in a waiting room, praying for my child to make it through their open heart surgery. This makes number 8 for our family. Every surgery is different, they have varying degrees of complexity, some repairs easier than others, but every single time it is scary. You can’t have your child’s chest cracked opened, have them placed on cardiac bypass, and think it is just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of day.
We are extremely grateful to be sitting in this waiting room today. We never thought this day would happen. When we first had physicians look at Ben’s file they were all negative. They said there was nothing that could be done. Ben had gone too long without a repair and his pulmonary hypertension had done it’s damage to his lungs. Then when we were home, we got hope in the form of palliative surgery. Then we were again given renewed hope by some mama’s on Facebook that encouraged us to get a second opinion. That second opinion brought us here to Boston where we were told they could do a partial repair.
Ben was been born with TGA, VSD, and an ASD. His pulmonary hypertension kept them from doing the full repair because closing his VSD would likely lead to a pulmonary hypertensive event that would lead to his death. If Ben had been born in the US, he would have had surgery within the first couple weeks of his life. His repair would have been complete and he would have gone on to live a relatively normal life. Because he didn’t get the care he needed right away, Ben developed pulmonary hypertension. His lungs were damaged. His fingers very, very blue. At the age of 5 when we were able to have Ben’s first surgery, he was unable to run around the couch and chase his siblings. Today Ben is unstoppable.
I have to admit it is hard for me because on one hand I want to stand on the mountain top and shout praise about God’s healing because I know that is what happened; but on the other hand, I am mindful of the parents who are praying just as hard and for some reason, they haven’t got the answers they were hoping for. I was once the mother praying for healing for her sons and the end result was not what I had hoped for. I even heard the words “Maybe you just didn’t pray hard enough.” Those words cut me to the core 28+ years ago. I know you can have great faith and still not get the answer you want. I know that although God’s plan is perfect, it is hard to accept at times. I know that joy and pain go hand in hand and that many lessons are learned through the hard road, but none of us really want to be on that journey.
So today I am praising God and at the same time praying for those that I know who are waiting for healing. I have seen too many babies die in the past year and I hurt for those families. So please, if you are praying for Ben and his healing, please include the families that are hurting from loss today. God knows their names and is holding them close.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15
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.
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.
I still remember the call from CCAI. They said now that we had been matched with Maisey, there was something else they wanted to let us know about, China has a program that would allow you to adopt two children at the same time, if the second child had more complex needs. Dan and I prayed about it. We decided since we were only going to China this one time, that we should adopt two. We figured Maisey would have someone her own age to play with and she wouldn’t feel alone coming to this big, new place.
Hope had come to us asking if we could adopt a little boy with the same heart defect that she had. As a family, we agreed that was a good idea and Dan nicknamed our second child Tigger. We started to pray for Tigger.
We hadn’t had a litttle boy in the house for a very long time. It was fun trying to guess how old he was going to be and what he would look like. We continued to look at CCAI’s Waiting Child page and prayed.
One day Dan asked me to come look at a little boy he had seen on the page. I gasped when I saw his little face. I instantly felt a connection and knew that he was the one. What a sweet little boy. That first picture might have made me gasp, but it was the second picture that stole my breathe away. I had no idea what special need he had, but he was definitely our son. As I was standing there, very emotional, Dan pointed out Ben’s special need – CHD. He was a little heart warrior.
We wrote to CCAI and waited for an answer. When we didn’t hear the next day after they had been open a few hours, I called to make sure they got our message. They had received it but there were other families in line looking at Ben’s medical records. They would have to get back to us. I remember being so upset. This was my son. How could anyone else have his file? What was God doing? Was I really supposed to be his mother? The questions went on and on. We waited and waited and waited. I finally went shopping with the girls just to give myself something else to think about.
Finally, we got the call that they would be sending the records to us for our review. In my mind it didn’t matter, Ben was our son already. I called Dan to let him know. He said he would send the records off to be reviewed by his cardiology friends. I just stood there in the parking lot of Burlington Coat Factory. I remember turning to the girls and crying. “What if he is too sick and daddy doesn’t think we should do it?”
I was a nervous wreck. My stomach was doing flip flops. I knew he was our son. I prayed and prayed and prayed for peace. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed that Dan would feel the same way. I asked God for clarification. The girls keep teasing me over the fact that I would break out in tears over a child I had never even met. If this happened now, I would just trust that feeling but back then I didn’t have a clue how marvelous it is when God works on your heart.
When I came home, I ran right to Dan’s office to see what he knew. I opened the door and saw him sitting there with the saddest look on his face. I thought for sure he was going to tell me that Ben was too sick, that we couldn’t put our family through this, that there was no hope. Dan said everyone he talked to said, “Don’t do this. There’s no hope.” but then Dan quietly said, “He is our son. He may not make it until we can get there, but we need to try.”
Little did we know what a daddy’s boy Ben would be. He went to Dan right away at the registration office and he held on tight from that day on.
I never want to forget how that felt. How much I wanted Ben to live just so I could hold him even if it was only for a day. I wanted him to know that I loved him. I wanted him to feel the love of family. I wanted him to know his life mattered.
We got much more than a day with Ben. He has now been with our family 1,267 days. He has gone from a sad little boy who slept with his food to the best big brother to the littles. He loves the job of being big brother. We recently nicknamed him “Minion Squad Leader”. He LOVES this title.
He loves cars and puzzles.
He loves video games especially Mario Cart.
He has grown so much since we brought him home and especially since his surgery.
He has a great sense of style and loves bow ties.
He has the greatest giggle.
He loves to run now. He used to only be able to run around the couch and then he would have to rest. Now you can’t stop him.
Ben reminds us to enjoy life and to take nothing for granted. He reminds us that it isn’t how many days we are allowed to have, it’s what we do with those days.
That’s a pretty successful life for a 7 year old.
Happy birthday to the best Minion Squad Leader around!
When we first considered writing a blog, Dan and I prayed and discussed it in depth. We knew that we were putting our family out there for all the world to see or at least my immediate family, some close friends, and maybe a few second or third cousins. 🙂 We knew we would be putting our family on display. We knew we would be opening up our lives to the critical review of many others. We knew there were those who would think we were sharing to brag or show off. What we hoped to show was the amazing ways God had worked in our lives. We wanted to put a face to adoption and let others know what giving a child a home meant. Dan and I ultimately decided if writing a blog lead to one, or two, or more children being adopted, then it would all be worth it.
I have been writing for a couple of years now. I write so that others can see what being an orphan truly means and what adoption does for these children. Even though it is life changing, harder than I imagined, and more than I ever thought I could handle, it is also a blessing beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.
So when I got an e-mail from Show Hope looking for bloggers to write about the global orphan crisis, I was on board and signed up immediately. This was what I originally set out to do, to let others know about the orphan crisis. There are just so many orphans. The last estimate was 143 million. I want to make whatever change I can. I want to give a voice to these children who don’t have one. Plus, Show Hope will always have a very special place in our hearts because they helped care for three of our children.
I got my first assignment at the beginning of August. The assignment? Write about why orphans need families. I have tried to write about why orphans need families for a month now. I just couldn’t do it. The words I wrote didn’t have any real feeling behind them. They were merely facts and quotes about orphans. I wanted more than that. I wanted to show how family changes the life of an orphan.
On September 1st we had Benjamin’s 6th birthday party. Dan and I started reminiscing about those first few weeks in China with Benjamin. We started to talk about just how far he had come and I realized that is what I wanted this blog to convey. I am going to try to adequately explain just how far he has come. I can quote facts and figures to tell you there is a need, but you already know that. 143 million is a whole lot of orphans. But what I really want is for you to see what institutional care does to a child. How it changes their little hearts. Orphans need families. Orphanages are buildings, they are not homes.
When we met Ben in March of 2012, he was a frightened, withdrawn, 3 1/2 year old.
Ben never acted afraid of us. He went straight to Dan and wouldn’t leave his arms. Ben had the saddest little face. It wasn’t an “I’m afraid response”, it was something so much more heartbreaking. It was like a little bit of his light was dimmed. He was malnourished, weighing 21 pounds at 3 1/2. The first time we changed his clothing, we cried. We cried about all the times we knew he went hungry. We cried because it took us so long to get to him. We cried because we knew he had gone through more in his little life than anyone should have to go through.
When we arrived back in the hotel, Ben ate for over 2 hours. We opened the drawer that was full of snacks and he just sat there staring at all the food. Right on top of this same dresser were the many toys we had packed for him. He never even noticed the toys. He was so intent on eating. The whole time we were in China, Ben slept with food in his hands. It was his security blanket. He didn’t want the blanket we brought him. He didn’t want the toys. He just wanted to hold his bowl, his spoon, and a piece of food.
Heaven forbid you would move his food. He would have a major breakdown if his bowl of noodles was moved from his sight. But at the same time, he would share with Maisey. He made sure she was cared for. He made sure to open two of everything so she didn’t go without. We had glimpses of his sweet, little heart from the very beginning. He accepted and cared for his little sister right from the start even though they had never met before that day in the Registration office.
Ben had a lanyard that he wore around his neck with our family picture in it. He wouldn’t take it off. We were immediately his family and he had never met most of us. He refused to speak Chinese. He spoke English from day one even though we were told he was never taught English. He refused to use his given Chinese name. He was Benjamin from the very first day we met. He later asked us to call him Ben Ben because it is a term of endearment to double up your name. I have often wondered what happened in his three short years to make him not want any reminders of his old life.
I remember vividly the first time Ben laughed. It was raspy, almost like his vocal cords were dusty, like he hadn’t laughed in a very long time.
And I remember the first time he hurt himself. He ran into the corner of the dresser and hit his head pretty hard. He just kept going. I thought it was odd, but didn’t really put two and two together until later in the day when he fell down. I could tell he hurt himself, but he didn’t even shed a tear. He didn’t come to me with his hurt. He just sat there.
It was a couple days later when he realized that we would care that he hurt himself. He came to show me what had happened and I kissed his booboo. I wish I could have captured his expression. It was one of wonder. He was actually confused by someone caring that he was hurt. I can still remember to this day the first time he knew it was okay to shed tears over being hurt. What must a child have gone through to no longer cry tears or believe anyone would care that they are hurt? This is what institutional care does.
There were other issues. Ben was deathly afraid of water. The first time we tried to bathe him, he grabbed the door frame, kicking and screaming and wouldn’t let go. We weren’t able to give him a bath for months.
He shut down the minute we left the hotel room. He was fine as long as he was in the room alone with us, but the moment we left the room, the worried look was back on his little face.
We visited the orphanage where Ben spent almost 3 years of his life. It was estimated that Ben was 9 months old when he was left in a park. While we went on a tour of the orphanage, Ben hung onto Dan for dear life. He would not look at any of the nannies. They tried to talk to him and get him to come to them but he would not leave Dan’s arms. What an eye opening experience that was for me. Ben was with the women who had cared for him for most of his life and he wouldn’t leave the arms of the man he had only known for a few days.
Ben had no clue how to be held. He didn’t understand what a hug was. He didn’t know how to snuggle. We would hold him and try to get him to lay his head on our shoulders but he just didn’t understand. We did it over and over again while we were in China. We would give short little hugs. We would hold him whenever he would allow it. On one of the last days there, Ben curled up next to Dan and fell asleep. He couldn’t speak our language, but he understood that Dan loved him and would protect him and he felt safe sleeping in his arms.
Children need families. They need parents to care for them. Parents who will teach them right from wrong, educate them, get them medical care, and kiss their booboos. Children need to feel safe and secure if they are to blossom and grow. Children need a home and love and security. They need unconditional love. You can not get these things in an institution.
Ben is now 6 years old. He has grown in so many ways. Medical care, food, and the love of a family changed his life.
The before and after pictures are amazing. The first picture is from September 2011 and the second picture was from December 2013.
Ben has come so far. He has family that adores him.
He has had life saving heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Ben’s future is no longer uncertain. Family has given Ben roots for stability and wings to fly. Family has changed his life and given him a future. Why do orphans need family? I think Ben’s pictures say more than my words ever could.
I stood outside in the corner of our walking path and cried tears today.
Maybe it’s because the talk I gave this weekend brought so many memories to mind. Maybe it’s because I wish my mama could have been there and I miss her so much. Maybe it’s because we are waiting to hear from sweet Kelly. Maybe it’s because I keep seeing picture after picture on Facebook of children just wanting a family. Maybe it’s because the world is so unfair to so many children and I can do so little.
For whatever reason, the tears came but they didn’t diminish the wonderfulness of what my eyes saw. Happy children playing outside in our big backyard. I remember a couple of years ago when Dan and I were regretting buying the acreage, with all the upkeep and mowing. Regretting the remodeling we did on the house and having spent money that we would have never spent knowing what we know today. My brother, my son, and I (but mostly my brother) put in a 600 foot walking path in our middle acre. It wasn’t getting much use. We hadn’t done the tree and flower planting that we should have. We wondered if God was asking us to sell the house. But selling just didn’t seem right so we stayed and now we know why.
Now the yard is a giant play place where I get to see the little girl who ten short months ago sat on a floor in China raging, pulling out her hair, so unhappy, with us wondering if she could ever be happy and feel loved, run across the open ground with a look of pure joy on her face as the wind whips her hair.
I get to see the little girl who weighed six pounds at six months, thrive! The little girl presented to us as deaf and unworthy, blossom and grow and blow out of the sky any of the limitations I thought she might have. She is so much more than any of the descriptions on paper. She is a fighter and loves with all her heart. She is a beautiful spirit in a tiny, strong, little body. She is smart and pretty and helpful and such a little mama.
And how can I look at Jasmine and not think of where she would be? I watch her speed around the path, hair flowing in the wind, a huge smile on her face, enjoying every moment of freedom that her hot pink powered chair brings her. I want to say slow down and then I remember all the limitations others have placed on her, all the pain, the wounds and scars, and I cheer her on instead.
I look at little Miss Evie. The girl they told us only had a few months left. I’ve had ten months with this beautiful soul. Ten months of love and laughter. There have been tears, fear, and restless nights, but to watch her run and play, to be allowed to be a part of all that is the miracle of her…..I am completely and utterly blown away and so undeserving.
Which is why the tears flowed. Why am I so blessed? Why should I be allowed to call these children mine?
I get to spend time flying kites, getting hugs, and listening to their sweet laughter roll across the wind.
Jasmine is free and happy. Secure in the love of her family.
My older children are happy. We’ve had much to celebrate.
Benjamin! Where do I even start with Benjamin? Before his surgery he couldn’t run around our sectional without being winded and now he is doing 5, 6, 7, or more laps around the path. You can hear his laughter and his little bell ringing around every corner. Every time he goes past me he yells, “This is so fun mama!” His little legs pedal faster and faster as he zips around the path trying to catch Jasmine and Gracie.
The joy on their faces is unmistakable. Maisey and Ben’s bond grows deeper and stronger with every day that passes.
Then there is the little guy. He is this tiny bundle of rambunctiousness that is just so much FUN! I don’t know what we will find out in May but he is so worth it all. I can’t even explain what it is to watch him run and play. He is the perfect little bundle of boy and my heart overflows with love for him.
Little Lainey secure enough to fall asleep in the sun.
Little Evie running to my arms.
Blessed to have spent over 30 years with the love of my life who shares my dreams.
Standing in awe of the little bundle that started this whole adoption journey. A baby. A gift straight out of no where. Who gets gifts such as these?
Others ask us how can you do this? Aren’t you tired? What were you thinking? What am I thinking?
That is what I am thinking as I stand there with the tears flowing down my cheeks. Blessed at this family that God has made. Completely and utterly humbled by the God who would allow me such a blessing just because I was obedient to His call. What a gift to be given. How do I do this? How could I not?
Yesterday, was Ben and Maisey’s Gotcha Day. It’s been two years since we first saw their little faces that day in the Registration Office.
Two years. So much has happened since that day. They have both grown and lost the sadness that surrounded them those first few weeks.
Every time I see these pictures it takes me back to how truly sad they were. They were sad, not because we were new to them, although that may have been a part of it, just sad in general. It was like part of their spirit was just beaten down.
In the hotel room they started to come to life, but every time we left they shut down again – afraid that we might be taking them back. It’s part of the reason I share our story of adoption. I want people to understand how beautiful it is but also just how hard institutional life is on children. Children were meant to be raised in families not institutions.
Ben took to Dan that very first day. He climbed into his daddy’s arms and he never looked back. I wonder about what has happened in a child’s life that they would willingly go to a person that looks so unlike anyone they have ever seen before and just hold on for dear life. He never cried for anyone else. He trusted us from day one and has continued to thrive and grow.
Maisey was the same way. She hung her head and wouldn’t look up. She had a huge bald spot on the back of her head from throwing herself to the floor. It only took a day or so to realize she wasn’t completely deaf. A day of getting at her level and talking to her and she was no longer so frustrated that she needed to throw herself to the floor. Do you know what that does to a mama’s heart? To know that her child wasn’t worth the time for someone to get on their knees and truly to talk to her? Maybe they were just too busy to take the time or maybe they just didn’t care or maybe she wasn’t worth their time. I’ll never know, but what I do know is it wasn’t right and it broke my little girl’s spirit – just a bit.
I have been blessed from day one with these two. They have added so much to our lives.
And play pretend…
And rock out….
Especially Maisey – she loves being the big sister. She’s quite the little mama.
And were the perfect addition to our family.
Look how much they’ve grown.
Do not fear, for I am with you… – Isaiah 41:10
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1
For I know the plans I have for you… – Jeremiah 29:11
I know all these things and still I was afraid when we walked into Boston Children’s the day of surgery. Afraid to take a chance. Afraid that this day would be the last day. Afraid that I would never again wake up and see his sweet smile. Afraid that it wouldn’t go right. Afraid. Afraid. Afraid. I should not have been afraid. I know better than to be afraid. I know that He gives me a verse, about not fearing, for every day of the year. “Fear not for I am with you.” was playing over and over again in my head as we walked through those doors. I can claim God’s promises and still worry. It doesn’t not mean I don’t believe or have faith.
I have seen God show up so many times over the years that I should know better than to fear. Truly I should and in reality I do. I spent my day confessing my sin of worry over and over again. I turned it over to Him again and again. I believed these words when I said them, “Let your will be done.”
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:27
My worry didn’t mean I wasn’t trusting his plan. My worry just meant that I know sometimes God’s plan and my plan aren’t the same. I want the happy endings, without pain and hardship. I want the beautiful stories where I can stand up and say, “Look what my God has done!”, but I have been there, smack dab in the middle of the hard. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. I have laid it all out there. I have begged and pleaded for just one more day. I’ve had faith that God would heal. I’ve believed it with my whole heart and yet my child died. The reality of picking out a little white casket is not something you soon forget.
It took me years to realize, that Kyle’s dying didn’t mean I didn’t have enough faith or that I hadn’t prayed hard enough or believed enough. It just meant my plans and God’s plans didn’t align. His will was different that my want. This is the reason it is sometimes hard for me to rejoice when others around me are hurting. Because sometimes the gates of heaven can be stormed and still the child won’t survive. Sometimes there is no happy ending. People like to say “God has big plans for this child.”, but what does that mean for the child that has died? Are you telling me God didn’t have big plans for this child too?
Dan said it best after Kyle died. He said in effect, that if you spend the rest of your life being bitter about what happened then Kyle’s life will have been in vain. Let his life change yours. Let his life make yours better. Let his life make a difference in this world and remember him with love.
When we had Hopey, I didn’t shout my praises. I thanked God. I celebrated in my heart but I didn’t share the wonders of His glory because I worried what others around me would say. Their child’s surgeries didn’t work. Some needed heart transplants. Some never went home. Some spent weeks and months waiting for their child to heal and it felt wrong for me to celebrate. Why should I have it so easy (relatively speaking) when others were hurting?
The truth of the matter is there will always be someone else who is jealous of what you have. The mother who can’t conceive is jealous of the mother who has a still birth. The mother who has a still born child is jealous of the mother whose child lives five days. The mother whose child lives five days is jealous of the mother whose child lives a year. The mother whose child has no options for surgery is jealous of the mother who has spent months in the hospital. The list goes on and on.
Years later, I realized I was wrong for not sharing Hopey’s story and decided from then on I would praise God in the good and the bad. I would not let the fears of what the world thought stop me from praising Him with all the glorious wonders He has done. I have watched miracle after miracle unfold and this time with Ben was no different. But I will tell you that even if it hadn’t gone so wonderfully, I would have praised God. I would have praised Him for letting me be Ben’s mom. I would have praised Him for every single day that I got to wake up and see Ben’s sweet smile. I would have praised him because I was that mom who wanted more than five days and this time I got so much more. Each and every day is a blessing. I have been blessed immeasurably by Ben’s life.
Ben is a sweet soul. Many people commented about him while we were in the hospital. Ben is strong and doesn’t cry very often. People comment about how brave he is. It is a good thing but at the same time it breaks your heart. He’s been through so much that he no longer cries with needle sticks. He smiles at people and he thanks them. While Ben was recovering in the CICU, he was asked to walk. Every lap around the big unit, Ben was allowed to pick out a small toy from the toy box at the end of the hall. He picked out a car each and every time he went. Finally, on the fifth time I asked him why he didn’t choose a puzzle or a book. He told me that the first car, the Batman car, was for him, but all the other cars were for his siblings. He missed the littles. The only time he cried was when he talked about his siblings. We were watching Despicable Me and Gru was reading to the three little girls and Ben sobbed. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and he told me that it reminded him of story time with his three little sisters. That is the heart that my little Ben has. He may be five but he has an old, old soul and I have learned so much about truly living life from him.
God does have plans for my boy and only God knows the number of Ben’s days.
A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. – Job 14:5
This time Ben’s hospitalization went so much better than I could have even hoped. Dan and I were completely blown away. Blown away by the gifts that God has bestowed. We adopted Ben after hearing “uncorrectable” by many cardiologists. We wondered if he would live long enough for us to adopt him. We brought him home and had his cath done and there was some difference of opinions on what could be done or what should be done. Someone added me to a heart group on Facebook and other heart mamas gave me HOPE. We contacted Boston Children’s and the rest is history as they say.
Ben had surgery. Ben did wonderfully. Except for a little problem with his rhythm, things went without a hitch. Ben was discharged one week after surgery. As we were leaving he was running down the hallway yelling “Momma! This feels SO GOOD!” Before surgery he couldn’t really run at all, and now he is running and laughing (even with a fresh sternotomy). Amazing.
The cardiologists and surgeon were tempted to try to close his VSD, but assumed since he is five years old, he is far past the stage where his pulmonary hypertension would be reversible. However, after seeing his great results from the arterial switch, the large gradient at his PA band, his SpO2 and his encouraging lung biopsy findings, they are now thinking that his pulmonary hypertension is a clinically reversible state. We will see how he does over the next 6-12 months and then consider taking down the PA band and closing his VSD with a fenestrated patch. We had given up hope that this was even possible, and now it looks like he might have a chance at a long life.
We went from no hope, to some hope, to great hope. We celebrate but this is no different than my time with Hopey. I still have friends that are hurting. I still have friends, that I have met through Facebook, who are wondering why the things that are happening to their child are happening. These friends have great faith and I watch the ways their lives touch others. They are a testament to God’s love for the orphan. They show what redemption and unconditional love really means. So in the midst of my rejoicing, I ask that you please continue to keep each of them in your prayers. Pray for God’s peace to surround their families. Pray for great healing. Pray that God will continue to be glorified in each of their lives. Please lift up Rini, Lizzie, Joshua, Kai, Evie, and Lily and marvel in the way God is using each of their lives.
Facebook page – Praying for Kai
A little boy that did better than anyone expected. (Today he has walked down the halls, had his chest tubes and i.v.’s taken out, and even smiled. UNBELIEVABLE!)
A little girl that we were told was deaf but can hear enough to dance to the music.
A little girl who now understands love and has learned how to give kisses.
A little boy that has blossomed and grown.
Exciting proposals and new additions to the family.
Family that becomes best friends.
People coming together to help others.
Shaved little heads that now hold enough hair for big sister to do a silly hairdo.
Siblings that get opportunities to make great memories together. (Hope loves special effects make-up. Cassie took her to be a zombie extra in a local movie.)
Big siblings that love their siblings enough to take care of them when mommy and daddy have to be gone with someone who is sick.
Husbands who support you, dream with you, love you, and make you laugh for more than 29 years.
Friends, family and others who encourage, support and pray for you.
Meeting people who have majorly changed your lives. (Maria’s Big House of Hope, New Hope Foundation and the Chapman’s daughters words that made me rethink being too old to adopt.)
Thankful, blessed, grateful, overwhelmed, and humbled – all these and more.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!
- Chinese Children Adoption International
- Hats for Gracie
- Love Without Boundaries
- New Hope Foundation China
- Show Hope
- China 2013
- China 2014
- China 2016
- Congenital Heart Defect
- Evangeline Faith
- Family Life
- Food for Thought Friday
- Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)
- Jasmine's Dream
- Lainey Rae
- Love Without Boundaries
- Making a difference
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Orphan Care
- Thoughts to ponder