Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

  • It’s Cute How I Think I’m in Control

    Date: 2018.01.15 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    I have always had an issue with control.  Bad things happened to me as a kid and I thought I could control it by keeping everything around me “just so”.  Rooms had to be cleaned in a specific order before I went to bed.  Lights could only be turned off in certain order.  It wasn’t really OCD, I could not do it, but I just needed to feel as if I had some semblance of control.

    I let go of most of that when Codey and Kyle were born.  There’s nothing better to make you put things in perspective and to let you know you have no control then having your children born 12 weeks early.  Kyle’s death and Codey’s subsequent 14 months in the hospital were a constant reminder that I was not in control.  I learned very quickly what was important and it was no longer the order in which I cleaned a room or whether or not everything was put back where it belonged.

    On this journey, I have learned how to trust God and turn it all over to Him time and time again.  But that hasn’t really stopped me from thinking that if I work hard enough I can control my little corner of the world.

    December 30 and 31st of 2017 found me making plans and lots and lots of lists.  I cleaned out the kitchen.  I got rid of anything that I hadn’t used in a year.  I put together two storage cubbies with wheels so I could put my rice cooker, pressure cooker and other gadgets on so they weren’t on my counters.  My counters were going to look like a magazine – a minimalist magazine.   My counters were no longer going to look as if 13 small children still lived in my home.  My cupboards were going to be organized.  There was going to be a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I was once and for all going to get it together.

    I typed up my exercise plan.  I worked out my Keto diet which I had lost weight on and had mostly stopped over the holidays. I made my grocery list.  I looked up a few more recipes.  2018 and was going to be fabulous.  I was going to rock this.  I had already proven I could lose weight on this plan so instead of beating myself up over not losing all 60 in one year, I was going to dust myself off, congratulate myself on the first half gone, and move on to the last half.  That weight didn’t stand a chance.

    I made my list of the rooms to clean and what needed to be done in each room.   I picked a room to do during each and every day of the first week of January.  I was NOT going to wait for spring to spring clean.  I was going to do it now so when we started school again, everything was going to run like clockwork.  I was already so proud of myself.  Look at these lists.  I had thought of everything.

    I wrote my resolution list on the kitchen window.   I have found that I spend a lot of time at that window.  During the past two months I had used a wet erase marker and wrote the things I needed to see during the day for encouragement.   It already said 90 days without pop and listed my 27 pound weight loss.   Now it was going to say:   Less cussing, stick to a budget, lose 30 more pounds, and give more.

    I wanted to be a better person.  I want to live more frugally so that we can give more away.  Our work with Love Without Boundaries has shown me over and over again what it is like to live in a third world country and what so many people go through.  My heart breaks and I know for a fact that our family can do more and this was the year to do it.

    Dude I was rocking this.   It wasn’t even the first and I had the first room done.  My counters sparkled.  Everything had a place.  I had gone through all my cupboards.  I was the donation, recycling, garbage master.

    But then January 1st came.  I slept in so I was well rested.  Heck, I might even do two rooms today, that’s how good I was feeling.  I was ready to go.  The kids knew the plan.  We were going to do a room a day and be completely organized.  They were ready.  I was ready.

    And then we got the call.

    Would you accept this kidney for Jessica?

    And again I learned who cares if the house is spotless?  Who cares if I’m completely organized?  Who cares if I don’t have it all together?  Who cares about lists?  Who cares?

    J.J. has a chance at new health.  J.J. has a chance to not only grow but to maybe grow old.

    What a gift.

    It makes me wonder if God was watching me frantically typing out my lists over the weekend, so proud of myself.  Look what I am going to do.  Look what I am going to accomplish.  Saying to himself, “Oh sweet child, you have no idea.  Do you think He turns to the angel next to him and says,  “It’s so cute how she thinks she’s in control isn’t it?”

    So technically none of my list got done.  You could even say I failed cause I cussed when they called, I spent money not in our budget while we were in the hospital and I gained two pounds.  Technically I messed up 3 of the 4 resolutions all ready.  I had better find my checkbook quick.

    But oh how good God is.  I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “I think I’ve already learned this lesson.”, but maybe just maybe I still have a ways to go.   Good thing God is patient and extends lots and lots of grace.

    2018 is going to be an incredible year and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I will accomplish and everything to do with what He has already done!

    I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 104:33

     

     

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

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

    I read this verse this morning in my devotional and it made me think about Dan and my life together.

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

    Whenever we are in the hospital, people say all the time that we are amazing.  It makes us both uncomfortable.  It’s not a pretending to be humble thing.   As Dan said the other day, it’s like being thanked for breathing.   Let me assure you that we are not amazing.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We haven’t done anything amazing.  We just decided to be obedient when God called, stepped out in faith, and trusted God with everything.

    We didn’t set out to have twins early or to deal with all the complications that they had, or to bury a child. In fact, presented with those options, I’m pretty sure our 23 year old selves would have said “NO!”

    We didn’t set out to adopt a little girl with a major heart defect, but when face to face with a little girl who was alone and just needed a family to love her, what else could we do?

    When we did set out to adopt again, we were just going to do one more adoption. It made sense to add the second child when China made the option available. Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we would be able to do that. God lead again and we followed.

    When we went to adopt, our hearts were broken by what we saw in the orphanage and by how Ben and Maisey reacted to us.  They just wanted love and they soaked our love in.  I will never forget watching Ben cling to Dan from the moment he met Dan.  Ben loved Dan from the beginning.  Ben clinged to Dan.  When we visited the orphanage Ben had lived in for almost 4 years, Ben absolutely refused to go to any of his previous caregivers.  Instead Ben buried his head in Dan’s neck and held on for dear life.  My heart would never be the same again.  Our hearts were forever broken for the children who wait.  We said, “God use us.  We will follow!”   We knew we could do more so we said “Use us!”

    It’s easy to pray to God to use you when those are just words that you are uttering.  The hard part begins when He starts to show you what He wishes for you to do.  You doubt yourself.  Satan uses the world to whisper in your ear that you are not enough.  You will never be enough.   Dan and I are only human.  So because of those doubts and fears, we put limitations on our obedience.  We said we wouldn’t adopt an older child. We wouldn’t adopt a child who had severe mental delays.  We felt that this would put an undue burden on our older children.  If something happened to us, they would already be caring for Codey. How Could we ask them to do more?

    The very next year God lead us to 4 children, an almost 14 year old girl and a severely delayed little girl, plus two little heart kiddos.  I won’t go in to details here, because I’ve written about it a lot in past blogs, but that year was an amazing year of God showing up and making miracle after miracle happen.  We didn’t set out to adopt 4, but we heard Him loud and clear saying “put 4 on the homestudy” when we started.  We had no idea what it meant.  Then we set out to follow where He lead.

    We ended up adopting two more the following year.  We knew we were probably done.  14 children, 11 of them with significant needs seemed like a good place to stop.  Then my friend sent me JJ’s picture and said “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?” and my heart was stolen by this sweet face so we agreed to advocate for her.

    When Elyse and Grace started talking about JJ being their sister, it was hard.  Obviously we would love to help every child but know we can’t so we drug our feet.  Elyse and Grace were insistent  that she was their sister.  They had every child in our house praying for JJ at every meal.  They would talk about her as if she already lived with us. And when Elyse, who was lying in her bed after getting ready to go to sleep said, “If she dies in China, I will never be able to forgive myself.”, Dan and I knew we had to seriously look at whether it was right for our family to adopt her.

    Truth-be-told Dan and I knew instantly that she was our daughter but we did everything in our power to justify that we had done enough.  But God didn’t let up on our hearts.  Our hearts grew heavier and heavier for JJ.  We see lots of children being advocated for.  We pray for many children who have touched our hearts.  Our hearts are touched for those children but it is more than that when you know that this is a child you should adopt.   It’s almost impossible to explain.  Your heart is heavy.  You look at their picture constantly.  You pray for them.  You wake up in the middle of the night to pray and look at their picture again.  I never heard God’s voice directly but I knew without a doubt that we were to proceed.

    Which leads me back to the verse above.

    “Glory be to God”, (not Dan or I or our family)

    “who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”   We could have never in a million years dreamed up this beautiful life we get to live.  I would have never dared ask for so many miracles or to be given such blessings.  I believed I was too old.  I believed it couldn’t be done.  I limited myself by what the world told me could be done.

    BUT NOT GOD…

    — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”   We’ve been through countless surgeries, seen miracles in our healed children, and been given so much more than we will ever give them.  I sometimes feel like we’ve used up too much of the good that God gives, as if God has a limit on the good that He bestows to His children.

    We are not amazing or stronger or braver than most, but we did choose to be obedient.  We have seen God show up time and time again.  We trust that He is perfect.  We trust that His plan is good.  We trust that He can make good come out of the bad.   So when God called us to move out of the comfortable, we chose to move forward in faith and get more than a little uncomfortable and because we did this, we get the privilege of living a most extraordinary life.

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

  • Family Mission Statement

    Date: 2017.04.01 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    mis-sion state-ment (noun)     A formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.

    A written declaration of a company’s or individual’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time.  Properly crafted mission statements:

    1.  Serve to separate what is important and what is not,
    2. Clearly state what you believe, and
    3. Communicate a sense of intended direction.

    We have been working on our family’s mission statement for a while now.  We wanted something that shows our children what we believe in, what we are striving for, and what our family considers important.  It’s pretty easy, or at least it should be, for children who grow up in your house from birth to know what your family considers important.

    Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 11:19

    It’s a little harder when the children come to you much later in their lives.  The language issues can make it difficult for quite a while.  It takes years for them to have deep conversations about what matters.  It takes a long time for them to understand what is important to your family.

    We wanted our children to be able to say that they were an “Ellsbury” and this is what their family stands for.  Because so many children have special needs and medical issues, we wanted them to be able to say they were strong and brave in times of trouble.   We wanted them to understand that we strive to help other children and families.  We want them to be generous of their time, their gifts, and the money God gives them.  We want them to be trustworthy and kind.  We want them to have a great foundation of faith to build their lives on.  We want them to trust God and His plan.  We want them to know that even though we can not help every child, we can help children one at a time.

    I have a thing for quotes and Bible verses. Anyone who knows me well can attest to this fact.   I especially like them out where I can see them.  Being an imperfect human being, I like daily reminders of how I am supposed to live my life.

    Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:9

    I wanted our statement to be something that we would see every day.

    I thought about having it done in vinyl…

     

    Or printed out on a peel and stick sheet…

    Or done in metal…

    Or put on a canvas like these that I purchased from Glory Haus…

    I thought about having it framed.

    But I just couldn’t make up my mind.

    Then one day on Facebook another mama posted her family’s statement on this really cool board.  I asked her where she purchased it and she said Mary and Martha.  You can order this board that comes with four song verses on chalkboard tiles that you interchange ($120) BUT you can also personalize your own chalkboard tiles for $18 for the set of 7 boards.

    I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out.

    Now it is front and center in our living room.

    If you haven’t already put what your personal or family’s mission statement is on paper, I highly recommend it.  Otherwise we waste years of our lives striving for things that aren’t really important to us or aren’t what we want our lives to stand for.

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

     

     

     

     

     

  • The Kindness of Strangers

    Date: 2016.12.21 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    Today we had to head to the doctor’s office for some routine things.  The kids asked if they got ready early if I would take them to Burger King.  Since today was the first day of our winter break, I decided that would be fun.  They worked together and we left early enough to get food.

    I ordered the food and the cashier asked me questions about our food and our bus.  We talked about a little of everything while we waited for the 7 large fries and many nuggets.  We talked about everything from adoption to sauce packets.  We joked about how I don’t ask for sauce packets for the nuggets because the kids share the nuggets and there are never enough packets to go around.  Today there were extra sauce packets and a few more nuggets at the bottom of our sack.

    Little kindnesses from a stranger that brightened our day.

    The middles needed some vaccines so I checked them all in at the office.  JJ’s titers came back low and she needed a booster to be able to be put on the active transplant list. Everyone has to be up-to-date before we start the transplant.  The middles all told me they could handle it so I stayed in the bus with the littles.   The staff at our physicians office is so kind.  One of the office staff even offered to sit on the bus with the littles so I could be with the middles.  I told her it was fine, and thanked her for the offer.   They told me to let them know any time I needed help.  They even told me I could call them when I pull in the drive and they will get the door for the girls in the wheelchairs.

    More kindnesses that make life just a little bit easier for a mom of many.

    We decided it was so beautiful out that we should grab a few things at Target.  As I started to unload the bus, a car came up beside us.  We were parked quite a ways out in the parking lot so I thought it was a little strange for someone to park next to us.  Then I noticed that the woman got out of the car and was coming over to talk to me.  I hate to admit that my first thought was “Now what?”  I’ve had people yell at me for taking up four spots with our bus.  It’s one of the reasons we park way out in the lot.  We need room to put down the lift and we don’t fit in a handicap spot so there aren’t any options besides taking up four parking spots.

    Anyway, this women started her conversation with “You don’t know me, but I work with your husband.”  Now that is one I have heard before so I started to relax.  This women went on to say that she had recently had a kidney transplant and she thought JJ might want to meet her.  I thanked her for stopping and told her it would take a while to get out of the bus, but that I was sure that JJ would love it.  JJ is pretty quiet but JJ was touched by this women who took the time to stop and talk to her.  JJ went on and on about how good this women looked after her transplant, which was only 5 weeks ago.

    This women didn’t need to take the time to stop, but she did and by doing so her kindness helped ease a little girl’s worried heart.

    When we were shopping at Target, a lady went by and said something we hear quite often, “Boy do you have your hands full.”    Often times comments are made at the kids and it makes them feel bad.  They don’t always understand why people say what they do.   I guess this is a comment we have heard a few too many times because as the woman was walking away, Elyse yelled, “Our hearts are pretty full too.”  The lady stopped in her tracks and came back to apologize.  She said that she wasn’t criticizing me.  She said she was just commenting on our large family.  She was very friendly so we talked a bit, I smiled and thanked her, and off she went.

    We ran into her again in the back of the store.  She commented on how polite the kids were every time they answered me with “Yes mama!”  I told her that they were wonderful kids most of the time.  I told her I was blessed to be their mama.  She asked, Are they all on the good list?” and I said, “Of course!”  We wished her a Merry Christmas and off she went again.

    A little while later she found me back in the other corner of the store.  She handed me a gift card, told me what a great job I was doing, and wished me a Merry Christmas.  I was too stunned to say much of anything besides “thank you”.  She took me completely by surprise.

    She didn’t need to buy a card or come find me again, but she did, and in doing so she showed our children that not everyone is negative towards big families.  They were so touched by her generosity.  This will stay with them a very long time.  I wish I had been quick enough to get her name so the kids could have sent her a thank you.  Some where there is a stranger that brightened my day.  I cried all the way home.  It touched my heart that much.  I hope someone who reads this blog, hears this story and knows who this woman is and will send her our heartfelt thanks.

    Part of me feels guilty because I am sure there are families that need it so much more, but the other part of me is thankful that she took the time to talk to the kids and to make them feel special.  She went out of her way to show them she cared.  We get lots of people who stare and count.  There’s always a whole lot of counting going on when we pass by with our line of kids and carts, but we don’t often get a “hello” or a simple kind word.  I’m sure most people don’t know what to say.  I get that.  I do that too.

    Today was filled with the spirit of Christmas and I can’t thank those people enough.  It was a really wonderful day for the kids.  Our day was filled with little kindnesses and words of encouragement.  We will do our part to pay it forward.  This is my reminder to all of you that your kind words and acts of kindness really do make a difference.

    I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.  – Charles Dickens

     

     

  • A Gift for My Heart

    Date: 2016.12.04 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    A week or so ago I stood in line at Target waiting with a cart full of items.  The girl behind me had one item.  I tried numerous times to get her to go ahead of me.  She refused, said she wasn’t in a hurry, and stayed in line behind me.  Other lanes opened up and still she stood there.

    She listened as the cashier and I talked about why I had so much stuff in my cart.  The elderly cashier was a little chatty, very kind, and not in a huge hurry.  She kept asking questions as she worked.  I told her that we had 16 kids, 13 still at home.  She told me she was one of 12.  She said she loved big families.  She asked if I had given birth to all our kids.  I told her we had adopted 11.  We continued to talk about adoption and how blessed I felt.

    As I was getting ready to leave the girl behind me spoke.  She told me that she too came from a family of 12.  She told me that her mom adopted her out of the foster system.  She asked me if I ever resented having to buy so much stuff for the kids.  I told her that I have never resented having to buy cartloads of stuff and was very blessed to be able to do so.  She continued to say that her mom always seemed so happy and she always wondered if her mom was happy when the kids weren’t around to watch.  She was thrilled to see another adoptive mama be happy to buy for her children.

    Today I told Cassie that I needed some items at Target.  Cassie said, “Let’s take everyone with us.”  I thought, It’s a Saturday.  It’s only a couple weeks before Christmas.  “Sure! Why not? That sounds like a great idea!?!?!”  hahaha  We shopped with our row of kids – 1 double cart holding 4 kiddos, 3 wheelchairs, and Reece and Cassie walking with the others.  We ran into a couple of people we knew.  We joked with others about being a parade.  We picked up what we needed to finish decorating the front of our house and headed to the front of the store to check out.

    Reece noticed an open lane and we headed for it.  We just happened to get the same elderly lady that checked me out a week or so before.  She told me how sweet the kids were and how glad she was that she got to meet them.   Once again there was a lady behind us who commented on what we had in our cart.  She looked at all our kids and said, “Oh my goodness, are they all yours?”  I laughed and said, “Yes!”   I know most people aren’t being rude.  They are just surprised.   The cashier however said, “And I think it’s a good thing!”   I’ve never been defended by a cashier before.  It was kind of cute.   We checked out and all the kids wished her a Merry Christmas.

    We’ve been trying hard to get the house decorated for JJ and Liam.  It’s always fun to light up the house big for the kiddos who have never had a Christmas before.  The lighted garland I bought didn’t fit right so I headed back to Target by myself.  I just happened to end up in the same cashier’s lane.  I laughed and commented on her being on lane 12 before and now she was on lane 4.  She told me they move them around after breaks and she laughed about how I truly am always at Target.

    This little elderly lady reminds me of my mama.  She was kind and talkative and sweet.  She told me again how happy she was to see the kids.  She asked about the talkative one and I told her the short version of Evie’s story.  I told her how blessed we were to have these children in our lives and how sad it is that mothers have to give their children away to try to get them help.  She told me she could tell that we felt blessed to have these kids in our lives and then she said she was proud of me.

    It should have been a completely uncomfortable comment but it wasn’t.  It actually brought tears to my eyes.  I can’t explain it but it was like hearing it from my mom.  All of a sudden I could see my mama telling me that she was proud of me.   It was a very strange.

    You see a little over 3 years ago my mom was so excited to see us heading to China again.  She was at our house caring for our children, while we were in China, when she perforated an ulcer and had a major heart attack.  She spent months in the hospital.  She would recover a little bit and visit our house once to see those kids.

    Mom with kids

    She ended up passing away three years ago on Christmas Eve.  Mom never got to really meet her last 8 grandchildren.  She never again told me she was proud of me.  I liked to hear those words from my mom.  So tonight standing in a line at Target, I got a small gift from a little elderly lady who probably has no idea why she touched me so.

    ——————————————————————————————

    P.S.  My mom gave me many gifts over the years, but the biggest gift she gave me was a listening ear.  She was always there to talk and encourage.  She loved her grandkids and she was one of my biggest adoption supporters.  I miss her, but the very last gift my mama gave me was understanding about dialysis and kidney issues.  Because of this gift, we were brave enough to proceed with this little gift.

    jj-now

    Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hoped but there are blessings and joy to be found amongst the tears.

     

     

  • How We Ruined Our Older Children’s Lives

    Date: 2016.11.22 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    Dan and I started out like most other people.  We met.  We fell in love.  We got married.   We dreamed of our first little house with a garden and a white picket fence.  Someday we would drive cars that didn’t break down weekly.  We would have a couple of kids, visit our family on holidays, go to church on Sunday, and lead a happy, comfortable life.

    After a couple years of marriage, we had the twins.  Codey and Kyle threw us for a loop but pretty soon we were back to our old comfortable dreams.  The death of a son and 14 months in the hospital surely meant that from here on out our lives would be easy.  Zach and Cassie were born.  They grew up.  They were bright, sweet, caring kids.  They excelled at school.  We dreamed of the day we would buy a bigger house and take nice vacations.  They would go to college.  Dan and I would retire and travel.  We were living the American dream.

    Then one day a little girl was born in the NICU where Dan was doing his fellowship. The pre-adoptive parents chose not to adopt her because of her heart defect and the bio parents chose to not to pursue treatment options, which meant she would die in the NICU without a family.  We had a choice.  We could step up and do something or pretend there was nothing that could be done and just stand by and watch her die.

    When we decided to do something, most people believed we had lost our minds.

    We were questioned about it over and over again.

    Why would you do this?

    Why would you bring a child who may die into your family?

    You are going to ruin your life.

    How will your other children survive the pain?

    They will resent you.

    Your are going to ruin your children’s lives.

    Over and over again we heard those words.  You WILL ruin their lives!

    Well, it’s taken me years to get to this point, but today I’ll admit it.  It’s true.  We ruined their lives.

    I’ll own it.  Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say it was the best darn thing that ever happened to them.

    Although I once feared ruining our children’s lives, I no longer do.  In fact, I love that their lives have been ruined.  In fact, I praise God that it happened so early in their lives.  My eyes were closed to the pain and suffering of the world for way too long. I lived in a very small comfortable bubble.   They, however, understand how beautiful life is and how fleeting life can be.

    They know more medical terms than any child should know. We ruined their normal, comfortable lives and filled their days with G-tube feedings, seizures, heart caths and surgeries, kidney failure, lower limb paralysis, SMA, PKU, brain damage, incontinence, and chemotherapy.  They know what it means to spend many, many days, weeks, and even months in the hospital.

    We brought hurting children into our home not once but 11 times. We ruined their picture perfect life.  We made our kids share their home, their rooms, their parents.  We’ve made them sit through doctor’s appointments and surgeries.  They’ve cried tears over shots, blood draws, and i.v. starts.  They’ve held trembling hands, wiped away tears, and been filled with fear as their sibling was taken away for surgery wondering if their sibling would ever come home again.

    These things that we feared would ruin their lives for the worse have in fact made them better humans.  These things have opened their heart to others.  They don’t see the world the same way that others do.  How could they?  Adopting has opened their eyes to those who live without a mother and a father.  It opened their eyes to what orphanage life is. It made them appreciate what they have.

    They have been ruined for the ordinary because they have seen miracles in our home.  Children who shouldn’t be healed are in fact, healed.  They know how fleeting life is because there are children, who are NOT guaranteed tomorrow, running and laughing through our halls.  They understand that it is better to love with your whole heart and maybe hurt later, than to never have known the love of these sweet souls.

    They know that intelligence doesn’t make you a better person.  They know that taking care of the least of these may not always be easy but it is worthwhile.  They know that little souls who never utter a word can speak volumes.

    They know there is no greater blessing than allowing God to work in your life.  They know that being obedient, even when it scares you, brings blessings beyond measure.

    Our children are not perfect.  They still make mistakes.  We all do.  But what I know for sure is that God has ruined them for what the world stands for and instead has showed them what He values above all else.  I praise God daily that they are no longer unaware.

    I once feared those words that others uttered…

    “You will ruin your other children’s lives!

    But now I embrace those words and I celebrate them.

    We have been ruined for the ordinary and instead have embraced the extraordinary!

    It doesn’t get any better than that!

    our-family-now

     

     

     

  • Her Kidneys Can’t Heal But Her Heart Can

    Date: 2016.03.16 | Category: Faith, Jessica, William

    Cassie had a long conversation with Jasmine the other day about Jessica’s hospitalization.  Jasmine told Cassie that she believes God knew that Jessica needed more time with just Dan and I.  Jessica needed to know she could trust us and that we would be by her side through it all.  Jessica needed to be held and to be comforted.  She needed to know that she would never be alone in the hospital again.

    image

    We can all see God’s hand in this.

    • The way Dan and Ben knew that Liam was to be our son.
    • How things worked out so files could be transferred and we could add Liam without slowing down our adoption process.
    • How our travel plans worked out so that we had to meet Liam first.  Liam was so good for her.  Jessica was completely shut down and refuses to talk to adults, but she loves Liam.  The laughter they shared together was so beautiful. They would play and play.  It brought such joy to our hearts to watch her just be a little girl.
    • When she didn’t get sick while we were in China.
    • When she had a couple of days at home, before her hospitalization, with Gracie and Elyse to feel safe.
    • When they allowed us to add her on to Grace’s appointment with nephrology so she could be seen right away.
    • When the timing allowed her to be hospitalized over Spring Break so Cassie and Reece were home for Liam to feel safe.
    • When we were admitted with nurses who had already taken care of Jasmine and understood how to care for a child of trauma and were so kind with Jessica.

    There are so many little things that we can see God’s hand in.  If we pay attention and if we give credit where it is due, then we can see miracles in delays and hospitalizations.  We can see how the bad can ultimately lead to good.  Many of us have taken the verse “All things work together for good” to mean that all things are good, but that isn’t the truth.  This verse means God can take the worst situation and use it for good.  It does not mean that if we believe, everything in our lives will be good.

    We saw it with Jasmine’s wound infection and  her subsequent 30 day hospital stay.  We saw something horrible lead to great healing for her.  It was hard at the time to understand why a child who had been through so much had to endure so much more pain, but a year later we see the healing it brought to Jasmine. (Blog) We understand that although this hospitalization isn’t ideal, it can lead to healing and trust for Jessica too.

    We now know that her kidney disease can not be reversed.  We know that she will at some point need a transplant and dialysis.  The good news is her kidney function has improved from 15% -which means dialysis now, to 22%, which means we can wait and watch her closely for now. It could be months or even years before she needs dialysis. This is a gift.  I can’t imagine starting dialysis right away.  We would have done it, but it’s nice to have a buffer of time to bond and for her to feel more secure.

    Her MRI and CAT scan showed many different spinal defects.  It’s complicated and no one can really give us any concrete answers.  Dan believes it falls in the spectrum of caudal regression syndrome.  Genetics is involved and I’m sure we will learn more as time goes on.  Her spinal cord ends at T8, she has severe “s” type scoliosis, there are numerous butterfly and hemi-vertebrae, she is missing ribs, and some ribs are fused, she has grade 4 vesicoureteral reflux of her right kidney.  It’s complicated and we aren’t sure what, if anything, can be done to help her spine.

    The good news?  Her heart is healthy and she is smart as a whip.  She has full use of her arms and hands.  She has a family that adores her and she will never go through anything alone again.

    The unbelievable news?  That the adoption process moved quickly enough that we got to her before she had this last infection.  When her charts were looked over by our urologist, he said, “She’s one bad kidney infection (urosepsis) away from passing away.”  That’s pretty scary.  But she got sick in the US where we could treat her aggressively and get her all of the specialized care she needed.

    The praise God news?  Had she stayed in China and had this infection she may not have survived. If she had survived, the infection could have accelerated her kidney failure to the point that she would have died without dialysis (she would not have been offered dialysis in the orphanage). If we had not been granted an “expedite” on her adoption – we may never had made to her in time. God provided.

    The great news?  We can help her heart heal.  Her sweet personality shines through.  We have seen her slowly start to trust.  She reaches out for us.  She shyly smiles and doesn’t shake her head no when we say “I love you”.  She still doesn’t really talk to any adults, but she’s figured out how to ask for what she needs with signs and pointing.  She’s asked to be held.  She lets us tuck her in.  She allows us to hold her hand and stroke her hair.  She reaches out for me when she is sleeping.  She will ask me for help.

    This is huge from where we were in China where she hung her head and wouldn’t look anyone in the eye.  Knowing what I know from Jasmine and Elyse, I know she was told she was worthless.  I can see it on her face.  I see it with the way she hangs her head.  How she refuses to look in a mirror.  How she shakes her head no over and over again if you say she is pretty.

    JJ & Liam

    She has come along way since her admission last week.  The look on her face just melts my heart.  Sometimes she forgets that she doesn’t trust.  Sometimes just for a few minutes you see her truly feel the joy of being loved.  She soaks it in.  She wants it so much.  Someday she won’t instantly throw those guards back up.  Someday she will know she is safe and loved.  Someday she will know we can be trusted with the great gift of her love.

    As Dan jokes – “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated. We are the Ellsburys”… yes a bit of Star Trek humor. We are a bit tired.

    Someday our sweet girl will know her worth.  Someday she will know she is cherished.  She will understand the peace that comes when bathed in unconditional love. Someday she will play and laugh and dance in her wheelchair and just be a little girl.

    Someday…

  • 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

     

     

  • Assume Action

    Date: 2015.08.09 | Category: Adoption, Faith

    Yesterday was Dan’s birthday but it was me who got the present.

    I had been in the basement cleaning.  As I was in the basement, Jasmine and Elyse apparently had a very indepth conversation of the first time they met me.  I know that Jasmine has been thinking a lot about this because she has told me her next blog is about me and her China mom.  I am anxiously awaiting this blog because she does not talk about her China mom very much.  Jasmine talks about her grandma who cared for her, but she has only mentioned her mom in passing, and the words were said with much pain.

    I have told Jasmine over and over again that she can talk freely about her time in China and the people who cared for her, good or bad.  I am not jealous that others loved her.  In fact, it is just the opposite, I am thankful.  Thankful that she knew love from others for a while.  Thankful that people loving her showed her that taking a chance on family was a good thing.  I am not happy she went through what she went through but I am thankful the road led her to us.

    I once was nervous about being the adoptive mom.  When we brought Hope home as a baby, I felt like it was a competition.  Would her biological mom one day come back into her life and I would be forgotten?  All those fears and questions that you have when you first start out.  It didn’t take very long for me to understand those feelings weren’t true.  Hope could love me and her bio mom.  She could care about me and the woman who brought her into this world.  It wasn’t a competition.  It isn’t an either or thing.

    I have explained that to Jasmine and to Elyse.  It is okay to talk.  It’s okay to care.  You don’t have to forget.  I want you to pray for the people you remember, good and bad.  I want you to heal and know your place here is secure.  I want you to know that you are forever a loved daughter and nothing could change this.

    When we adopted Elyse, she had a very hard time with me.  I was old and I was fat.  These were not very appealing characteristics in her eyes.  I cried and talked to Dan about this because, in the beginning, it hurt.  The facts were true, I am overweight and I am old, but they still hurt.   He would remind me over and over again that our children love me.  When Elyse comes home she will see that love and she will want to be a part of that love, but I worried that maybe this would be the adoption that changed everything.  This would be the adoption where the child never learned to love me.  My heart would be hurt.  How would I deal with this?  I was afraid.

    But last night Elyse gave me the sweetest gift.  She asked for my forgiveness.  She cried tears and told me that she was so sorry she hurt me.  I reminded her that it hurt for the first couple of days but I got over it quickly.  I hadn’t even thought about it in a long time.  She said she didn’t know any better and she would have never said those things if she knew me.   She cried and she cried.

    I told her that is the way it often is in life.  We judge people based on what we see.  We are all guilty of it.  I asked her if she learned anything from her mistakes and she said “oh yes!”   These are the things I had always been afraid of.

    I’m sharing this story because of this video that I watched this morning.  Assume Action

    “We’ve been so scared of so many things along the way.  We’ll wrestle.  Do we do it?  Do we do it? And we are always terrified.  We’ve done some scary things but each time as we start recounting the early days and it was so fun we just walked year by year to different things we did, and we just thought, “What if we didn’t do that?” We would have missed out.   Like I’m so glad we just tried.  We pursued.” – Francis Chan

    These could have been words spoken by Dan and I.  It’s always been scary.  It’s always seemed like more than we could do.  Always!  Even in the beginning.

    We can’t live through the death of a child.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t live for over a year in the hospital.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t adopt a child that may die.  Yes, you can.  Again and again and again!

    We can’t handle a child with severe disabilities.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t heal hurting hearts.  Yes, you can!

    We can’t handle a large family.  Yes, you can!

    The list goes on and on and on.

    We would have missed out.  Don’t miss out.  Take action!  Assume God means for you to take action.  No matter where your passion lies.   God’s book lays it all out there.  Care for the orphan.  Care for the widow.  Feed and cloth the poor.  Take care of your brother.  Love your neighbor.  The need is great.  Take action today!  Don’t wait.

  • Pain and Joy

    Date: 2015.08.04 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    I’ve seen a lot of heartache recently.  I have watched friends stand by their children hopelessly unable to make it all better.  Agonizing over long hospital stays and difficult decision. I have heard many question “Why would they adopt knowing this could happen?” or incredulously say “I could never do that.” or “Why would God let this happen?”

    I don’t know why this happens.  I don’t know why one story is one of miraculous recovery and another is of heartbreak.  I can’t make head or tail of it.  I try to fathom God’s plan and how it will all work together to bring Him glory and many times it is more than I can wrap my head around.  We never want the bad to happen.  We never want to take the difficult journey.  We choose ease and comfort whenever we can.  Even when we sign up for the bad, we do it with a heart full of hope for a miraculous outcome.

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28   How could anything bad ever be considered good?

    As I was talking to a friend yesterday, we were discussing the what if’s.  This was after a weekend which just about did my heart in.   You can NOT discuss orphans without discussing the magnitude of them.  You can not truly delve into the situation without your heart breaking.  You can’t consider all those who wait, all around the world, and not feel helpless and unable to make a difference.

    All you can do is proceed one child at a time because every child counts.  Every child deserves a chance.

    • Even though people are turning away from adoption.
    • Even though there is not enough time or money to fix it all.
    • Even though there is pain and heartache and turmoil.
    • Even though your heart may be broken.
    • Even though you can’t fix it all.
    • Even though it is overwhelming.

    You continue to proceed one child at a time, much like the starfish story.

    Starfish story

    My friends understand this.  They have a clear picture of how fleeting life is.  They are in the absolute worse situations possible and they give God the glory.  They know that a life saved and loved is worth it.  They rejoice over what they have been allowed to do, no matter the outcome.   I do not wish for any of them to be on this journey but I know, from experience, that they will never be the same.  God is growing them and shaping them.  Their lives are not worse because of the pain.  Their lives are immeasurably blessed by the joy that these children brought.  Yes, their hearts will hurt.  Yes, they will never be the same.  But there is joy in the morning.  There is joy in the good news.  There is joy in the meeting again for all of eternity.  Life on earth is but a small portion of forever.

    I have talked with a few mamas on how pain and joy can coexist.  How you can be going through the worst possible situation and still be thankful and joyful in the moment?  One friend sent me this quote from Ann Voskamp – “Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living…. Yet I know it in the vein and the visceral: life is loss.”

    The goal in life is not to be as comfortable and pain free as you can.  The goal in life is to open your heart and love and make a difference.

    The purpose

     

     

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