Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

  • Why Our Large Family is NOT Our Own Little Orphanage

    Date: 2016.01.30 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

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

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

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

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

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

    William 11

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

    JJ

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

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

    Three girls

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

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

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

    Elyse picture

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

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

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

    2. Our children will never spend a day hungry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • LOVE in AcTioN!!!!

    Date: 2015.12.20 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

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

    Christmas pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Please+help+this+holiday+season

    Help an orphan in need.

    Take a meal to a neighbor.

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

    Spend time with someone who feels alone.

    Serve a meal at a local mission.

    Support a family that is adopting or fostering.

    Shop for someone who is shut in.

    Brighten someone else’s day.

    The list of verbs is endless.

    Give of yourself.

    Find the true meaning of Christmas.

    From our family to yours – Merry Christmas!

  • Jasmine’s Blog – My Little Siblings

    Date: 2015.09.30 | Category: Family Life, Jasmine's Blog

    I like having little siblings.  They like running, playing and sometimes they like to watch me play the I-pad.  We like to play Mario Kart together.  They give lots of hugs and kisses.

    Ben Ben

    He really likes to play Mario Kart.   Sometimes I play with him.  He is always so happy.  I remember when I come home to America Ben Ben was very blue, but now Ben Ben is very pink.  He is all better.   He can run now, really, really fast.  I see pictures when he come home he was pretty little.   Now he is so much bigger.

    Jazz & Ben

    Max

    I like watch Max eating.  He gets so happy when he eats.  He really likes the food.  His favorite food is noodles.  He laughs so hard and he can’t stop laughing.  Max likes to pat your head and kiss your head.  He likes to follow Ben Ben around and do stuff.  He likes to run.  We have had to teach Max how to hug.  Sometimes when I hug him he gets so happy he laughs and can’t stop.   Sometimes he likes to sit on my lap and touch my hair.  Max was sad when he come home to America but he right now is not scared anymore and is a very happy boy.

    Max and Jazz

    Maisey

    When I come home Maisey is very little.  Maisey have very little ears.  Maisey can hear a little bit.  She like watch princesses and Barbie.  She likes to read book.  She says she going to be a librarian.  She read books all day long.  She is like Cassie.  I hear mama say Cassie read books all day when she is little.  Maisey likes to dance and run really fast.  Maisey is very quiet.  Maisey is getting to be a big girl.

    Maisey and Jazz

    Lainey

    I remember in China Lainey don’t stop crying and she had lots of seizures.  All day she would cry and cry.  We don’t know how to make her happy.  When we get home she get better.  Right now she is very, very happy.  Her favorite food is french fries.  She can’t eat lots of food but she really like french fries.   I like to feed Lainey her rice cereal.  Every time I feed her food she is really happy and claps her hands and signs please.

    Lainey

    Evie

    I remember in China we got to get Evie and Lainey.  Mema let me hold Evie she was so very little.  She only weigh 13 pounds and she is 2.  She was happy.  She likes to eat rice cereal too.  I sat on the bed and fed her rice cereal.  She was a very happy little girl but she was very sick.  She was so really, really blue.  She is a very happy.

    IMG_5658

    Evie likes to ride with me on my wheelchair.  I buckle her in and go around the path.  She is not blue any more either she is not sick any more she is pink.  She likes to sing and dance.  She likes to be really silly with Eli.

    Jasmine & Evie

    Eli

    When we go Eli in China he said “bu yao” all the time.  He was not happy in China but right now he is really happy.   He likes to play Mario Kart.  When Evie and Eli dance together it is really funny.  They are like twins.  Before Eli was really blue too but now he is all fixed.  He is pink too.  He is not sick anymore.  He likes to dance.  He is a very good dancer.

    Eli

    I like to have little siblings.  They are really funny and cute.  I love them and they love me.

  • Questions and Answers 2015

    Date: 2015.09.06 | Category: Adoption, Family Life

    The blog post “Questions and Answers” popped up on my memories recently on Facebook.  I thought I would do an updated version for this year.  People ask a lot of questions or make statements that deserve a response, most of them out of genuine curiosity.  Some questions are funny, some are heartfelt, and some are just plain interesting.

    Where did you and Dan meet?

    We attended the same elementary school, junior high and high school.  We started dating when Dan was 15 and I was 16.

    How long have you been married? 

    30 years

    Did you always want a big family? 

    Yes, I did.   I think Dan was considering 4 at the most because that is what we both grew up with.  Now, if we could make it happen, he would take in a child every year.

    Did you always know you were going to adopt?

    No.  We had neighbors who were adopted, but I never really thought about the adoptions.  They were just the sisters of the kids we grew up with.  Our church never really talked about adoption or James 1:27 and why it is important.

    Who initially wanted to adopt?  Was it hard to talk Dan into it?

    This one is the funniest to me because Dan had to talk me into it.  Well, the first adoption (Hope) was a surprise and a beautiful story of faith and God’s hand, but when we were 45 and he started saying we should and could do more, I thought he was crazy because we were way too old to adopt.

    You aren’t actually considering adopting more are you?

    Well, we are pretty sure our family is complete so I am assuming we are done.  Our house is pretty busy, but I believe fully that God has led us to all of our children.  He has blessed our family over and over again by following His lead and it would  be insane for us to say “No” to him now.  Besides whenever we say things that are absolute it usually turns out the other way.  We will leave it in God’s hands and keep our focus on the children we are caring for right now and pray that if there is another child(ren) in this world that are meant to be with us that He makes it abundantly clear as quickly as possible so they are not alone for any longer than is necessary..

    Let’s see how you feel about having so many children the same age when they are teenagers.

    Truth be told, bring it on.  I pray that I get the chance to parent six teenagers at the same time.  Eli, Ben, and Evie all have very complex heart defects and their life span will be shortened.  Noone can tell us for sure how long they have.  I pray to God that I am allowed the wonderful opportunity to parent six teenagers that have three and 1/2 years separating them.

    Are you insane?  Are you crazy?  Have  you lost your mind?  

    No, we are not crazy, insane or any of the other phrases that you might ask.  Dan and I, however, are obedient to God’s calling.  The first time it was hard to turn it all over to Him, but when you see the blessings that have been bestowed on you for following….well, each time it gets just a little bit easier until you know it would be insane not to follow His lead.

    What about your other kids at home?  Do they feel neglected?  Do they resent sharing their time?

    No, if anyone should have had a problem with us adopting more children, it would be Gracie.  She was the baby at the time.  But Gracie loves her siblings and brings me new pictures of children available for adoption all the time.  She wants to help other little girls in wheelchairs.  She knows what it has done for her sisters.  It makes Gracie’s life harder.  She is the person who grabs things they can’t reach.  She is the person they ask to run and grab something.  She has to put away the clothes that they can’t reach.  But she does it with a willing heart because she loves them, not because someone expects it of her.

    Grace has mentioned wishing she could hypnotize Dan and I so we would forget how many children we have and adopt again.  Just the other day I met a mom through Facebook that has 15 children at home.  12 adopted and they are adopting two more which will make 17.  Gracie told me, “See mom.  She’s not afraid of the number 17.  Embrace the number 17.)   Jasmine informs me daily that “I could love more”.   Elyse prays for three more sisters (which is where the number 17 comes into play) but says she would settle for one more.

    They bring me pictures of bunk beds and show me pictures of children waiting.  Jasmine, Elyse, and Grace share the master bedroom because it has the most open bathroom for the wheelchairs.  They show me plans of how they can fit more beds in their room.  We are currently on a picture with three bunkbeds with trundles.  Folks that is six more girls they think they can fit in that room.  They talk about how sad the children look in the pictures and how happy we could make them by giving them the love of a family.

    You must have lots of help.  

    I don’t have paid help, but I do have help with my older children who live at home in an apartment, in our garage, on our acreage. When we moved here 14 years ago, we wondered what we would do with a 7-9 car garage.  We chose to turn the back into an apartment for the kids as they go to college.  Cassie, who is recently married, and her husband, Reece, have chosen to stay in the apartment while Cassie starts teaching and Reece finishes up college.   Dan works from home during the week and Dan’s mom comes down when I ask.

    We recently simplified the whole house and got rid of tons of stuff.   We donated and threw away anything that hadn’t been used in the past year.  We drastically reduced the number of items that I had kept because someone gave them to me and it was a memory.  We took pictures of the items to keep the memories and then donated it.  We took the number of toys way down.  We made a place for everything.  We instituted a new policy of straightening everything before story time at night and made a list of an item to be deep cleaned each day during the month.  The middle girls all have their chores and the littles have small items they are responsible for.   We do a big general clean on Saturday while daddy does his 24 hour shift.  So far it has simplified everything immensely.

    How many children do you have at home?  How many children do you have all together?

    We have fourteen children.  Thirteen still living.  Kyle passed away at five days of age, twenty-eight years ago.  We have twelve children living at home.  Cassie and Reece live in the apartment and the other eleven live in our home.  Our oldest son, Codey, is severely mentally and physically challenged and continues to reside in our home.   Plus, the four middles and the six littles.

    How do you cart everyone around? 

    We have a bus.  Yes, a bus!  The children love it.  I love it too except for the mileage.  It has a wheelchair lift and room for sixteen passengers, two wheelchairs, and the driver.  This is another reason why the girls think we should be able to adopt more.  Apparently, if there is room in the bus, there is room to adopt.

    Is your house huge?

    It is a nice size ranch house.  It has three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs.  We remodeled to a more open concept a couple years after moving in and it has worked out wonderfully for Jasmine and Elyse’s wheelchair.  We have a big sunroom that we have converted into a playroom for the kids.  It is big and sunny and they have lots of room to play.

    What has been the hardest part?

    The waiting is hard.  Once you see their picture, you want to go get them.  Every day you wait, knowing where they are, is painful.

    Unknown diagnosis are hard.

    Lainey not sleeping has been very hard.  For the most part, it has gotten better.  She will sleep for 4-5 hours and then wake up one time and get up for good at 5:30.   Have I mentioned I am not a morning person?  🙂

    But truth be told the hardest part, for me, is that I can’t do more.  We are sponsoring children. We have started Jasmine’s Dream (Love Without Boundaries/Jasmine’s Dream) to advocate and raise funds for children in need.  Jasmine has set a goal of helping 1,000 children.  We are helping others who are adopting but it still doesn’t feel like enough.

    Every day in China children age out of the system at the tender age of 14 and are released with no resources.  Many times they don’t have an education or anyone to turn to.  Every day children die in orphanages – alone! Every day children are hungry and hurting and wanting a mother and a father to love them. Every year many children age out of our own foster care system.  Only a small percentage of the children without families in the world will ever be adopted.  A heartbreaking fact when you consider just how many Christians there are.  If we, as Christians, stood up and either adopted or helped others, there would be no orphans.  What a beautiful statement of the love of Christ.

    Why aren’t we doing more?  Why do we choose to close our eyes to what is going on around the world?  Why do we continue to make excuses?

    “The problem seemed so vast, so endemic, that stopping to help a single panhandler (person) could seem pointless.”  – Laura Schroff.

    If we all stopped and helped just one, we could help them all.

    And so we swept past them everyday, great waves of us going on with our lives and accepting there was nothing we could really do.”  – Laura Schroff

    What are you doing with your life?  Are you caught up in the busyness of your life?  So much so that you can’t stop to help one?

    What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” – John Lubbock

    The picture in the news recently of the little boy who washed up on the beach raised such an uproar.  It was horrible.  It was heartbreaking.  I would agree with that completely but children die everyday all around the world and we pretend it isn’t happening because no one was there to snap their picture, because they weren’t deemed newsworthy.

    Here is one example.  (Heavenleigh)  This little girl is 5 years old and weighs 10 pounds.

    Are you looking?  Do you see the hurting people?  Do you see the children in need?  Stop and look for that one that you can help!

    Everyone is able to do something.

     

  • 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

     

     

  • A Weekend to Remember

    Date: 2015.07.18 | Category: Cassie, Faith, Family Life

    So many things went wrong that weekend and yet Cassie​ & Reece​’s wedding and reception were beautiful.

    Elyse ended up in the ER on Saturday night.  We got home at 4:30 a.m.  I slept from 5 to 8 and started getting ready.  I would have slept longer but Lainey rarely ever sleeps past 5:30 and the fact that she went back to sleep from 5 to 8 had to be a gift from God.

    As the day went on we continued to season the meat and get the other items all ready for the nacho bar at the reception.  Zach picked up the cake at 11:30 and got lunch for the kids.  We had to have all the tables and our supplies to the reception area at 1, which was the earliest we could get in to set up.  I laced up Cassie at 1:30.  I then ran home to start getting the kids ready because we had to be back to the church for pictures at 3:45.  I realized as we were packing up all the food in the coolers that there was no way I was going to be able to drop off the food and still get to the church on time for pictures.  Dan and Zach headed to the reception area to drop off the food and crock pots, etc.

    At this point they still had Cassie’s backdrop for the wedding in their van.  She wanted really simple decorations.  I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.  She choose book pages for “the next Chapter” in her and Reece’s life.  Her back drop was two 4×8 pieces of plywood with book pages randomly mod podged all over.  Reece and Cassie wanted a Bible verse across the top.  Dan had the great idea to get someone to do a custom vinyl cut out.  Vinyl Motivations did a great job, reasonably, and quick!

    Backdrop

    Cassie made all her flowers out of book pages.  My mom made wedding flowers for many weddings when Cassie was younger.  Cassie and my mom had talked about what flowers they would use for her wedding ever since Cassie was a little girl.  Cassie was heartbroken over the fact that Nana couldn’t make them and she just couldn’t do what nana and her had dreamed of.

    Cassie even chose a Bible with writing margins to be her guest book.  She wanted her quests to share their favorite verse and for her to be reminded every time they opened their Bible how many people came to celebrate with them.

    At 3:45 we were still at home loading the bus.  I let Cassie know how late we were going to be.  As I was driving to the church at 4, I realized there was no way I could get the food set up and be back for the ceremony.  I had to call in reinforcements.  At Cassie’s pre-wedding dinner,  Teressa​ (mother of the maid of honor) had offered to help me.  I called her and she said she would be there.  I also called Amy, our pastor’s wife and my friend, and told her my dilemma.  These two families not only showed up to take care of things but they stayed throughout the night and helped clean up.  Without them we would have been eating out of coolers.  They were a HUGE blessing of the day.

    I had hoped to be able to be there at 5 and show them what food needed to go where and I didn’t even make that, as pictures were still going on at 5:15.  These two families were such a God send.  I can’t even tell you what that did for my heart to have two families step up at the very last minute and save the day.

    Lainey had a reaction to the sequins on her dress and was raging and refused to be in any pictures.  We forgot her formula and the snacks for the kids.  All of Cassie’s bridesmaids were in the restroom dressing my children for pictures.  I put a run in not one but two pairs of panty hose.  Lainey refused to put her dress back on, but Cassie wanted her to be on the video, so Lainey went down the aisle in a t-shirt, shorts, and no shoes.

    family pic

    Dan’s mom couldn’t attend because Dan’s brother, Rod, was dying.  Dan had to walk Cassie down the aisle knowing at the same time his brother could pass away at any time.   It was so hard on his heart.

    We had bought Cassie’s dress so long ago.  At the age of 18, with no serious boyfriend, Cassie purchased her wedding dress.  We had seen the dress when she was buying her Miss Iowa pageant dress.  We knew the owner of the store and Cassie told her someday she would buy a dress just like that one.  A few months later, when the owner decided to close the store, she called us to tell us she still had that dress and it was greatly reduced in price.  We laughed about trying on a wedding dress without a wedding in the future but we did it anyway.  Dan’s mom, my mom and Aunt Kay, the three ladies that always took Cassie shopping, went with her to watch her try on the dress.  It was just $300 dollars and we decided it was worth the price to just let it hang in the closet for a few years.  Thank God that we made that purchase because not one of those three lovely ladies, who meant so much to Cassie, were able to be at the wedding.  My mom and Kay had passed away and Dan’s mom was with Rod.  Cassie was filled with wonderful memories of the day she purchased the dress even though she was sad they couldn’t be with her.

    When I walked into the reception, I was blown away.  Cassie had chosen simple decorations for the tables because there were going to be many children at the reception.  She chose black vinyl tablecloths with butcher block paper so kids could draw.  There were little books to read and crayons to color with.   She had crowns for them to color and wear.  Although, I saw many adults wearing the crowns too.  She even made her flower stems colored pencils.

    Cassie and Reece’s friends guided by Reece’s sister, Bailey, had a couple of hours to decorate the reception area.   They did such a wonderful job.  It all looked so pretty when we walked in.

    reception

    The guests showed up, there was food to eat, the dance floor and DJ were in place, and the party went off without a hitch.

    Dan said it wasn’t fair that he was the only one to get to dance with Cassie so he came up with the plan that after they started the father/daughter dance, he would motion to us, and we would circle Cassie with the whole family.

    family dance

    Even though it was Sunday night, Reece’s friends stayed to help tear down.  They packed up the 41 tables to return them.  The Edwards and the Jakes stayed until the very end to help us clean up.

    I asked Reece about all the guys who came to help him set up.  He said that’s what they do at their church.  It’s a young church.  Everyone helps everyone else so when it’s your special day there is nothing to do.  I like that.  That is what a church should look like everyone coming together to help you celebrate and to help you when things aren’t going well.   People that graciously drop whatever they are doing to step in and take up the slack and then go above and beyond and they do it all with a smile on their face.

    It was a day filled with bumps and hurdles and issues that could have ruined the whole day but in the end it turned out beautifully.  Reece kept saying, “We have her dress and I have my suit, today we are getting married.  Everything else will be just fine.”

    Isn’t that the truth though?  We let little things ruin our whole day.  We need to keep our eyes on the big picture.  Even though there were little hurdles throughout the day, there were always friends to help us out.  The day turned out beautifully!

    Happy marriage Reece and Cassie!   May your life be filled with many blessings and may the trials only bring you closer to God.  May your journey be filled with friends, family, laughter and love!

     

     

  • Happy Father’s Day

    Date: 2015.06.21 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    Someday I am going to get my husband to write a blog post about what it feels like to be the father of 14 children, but for now I will just write a post about my husband from my point of view.  I write about the children and our adoption journey a lot.  I don’t often write about Dan, mainly because he is a pretty private guy.  He prayed long and hard about our blog when we decided to write about our adoption journey.  He felt that the benefit of others seeing adoption first hand trumped his need to be private.

    Dan and I started dating when he was 15 and I was 16.  We had the usual high school romance with on again, off again issues.  We got back together shortly after high school and were married when he was 19 and I just turned 20.

    photo (1)

    He decided to become a physician after the twins were born.  He wanted to make a difference in the lives of babies.  He wanted to change their outcomes.  He didn’t want other families to go through the pain that we had gone through with the death of Kyle and the extended hospitalization of Codey.

    He fulfilled that dream after 15 long years of training and has now had the perfect job for over 14 years.   He is still able to do his clinical work and he also has the honor of being Clinical/Quality improvement director for a large company.  This job allows him to teach others about how important it is to not only take care of the patient but to truly care about the patient.

    During his fellowship, he fell in love with a little girl in his care.  She had a major heart defect and her pre-adoptive parents had backed out.  Her biological mom had decided not to treat and Dan was left with the task of stopping her treatment.  He couldn’t do it.  That is the kind of man he is.  I love that about him.  I will forever remember his call and how my heart felt when he said he had bought this baby some booties and stuffed animals because her little bed looked so bare.  Little did we know where this journey would lead.

    scan095

    Sixteen years later and she is a thriving healthy teenager.

    Hope's red hair

    A few years later, we added Gracie.  Our family was complete or so we thought.

    One of my favorite family pictures!

    One of my favorite family pictures!

    People often talk about reluctant husbands in the adoption world.  In our family, I was the reluctant one.  I was the one dragging my feet because I was unsure about adopting at the age of 45.  Dan felt like we needed to do something about the orphan crisis.  He never pressured.  He just prayed.  He knew if it was truly what God wanted I would agree to it.

    When we set off on this journey, we thought we would adopt two.  We never intended to adopt eight in three years.  We were just following God’s lead.  We’ve learned in our marriage that God’s plan is always best.   Even when you are fearful.  Even when that first step is so scary.   Even when you can’t possibly see how it could work.  It is always best to follow God’s lead.

    Our children have instantly known that they were safe.  It’s my favorite thing about the day when we first met them.  Every one of our children has gone to him.   Ben grabbed on and never let go.  Ben’s first word was daddy.

    Ben and daddy

    Ben and daddy

    Dan gets down to their level and they know it’s going to be ok.

    Evie Gotcha Day

    Our children have a safe shoulder to lie on…

    scan105

    photo(3)

    Someone who will be there with them no matter what…

    Evie 3

    Someone to be silly with…

    IMG_4436

    Strong arms to keep them safe…

    ben 3

    A lap that will hold one or two…

    20130821-190003.jpg

    or more…

    Dan and kids

    Someone to celebrate the big moments…

    kids9

    and little moments with…

    Cassie, Dad and fish

    A hand to hold…

    Evie hand

    Someone to help you when you can’t quite reach…

    Evie 9

    We’ve been through a lot together.  Dan is not just my husband.  He is my best friend.  Many would consider the life we have lived as hard or unlucky but we both know we are blessed.  Blessed to have met so young.  Blessed to have so many little blessings that we get to wake up to each day.  Blessed to have a child who waits for us on the other side.  Blessed to have the hope of forever.  Blessed to have had 30 years.

    It is Dan who has taught me the life lessons that have helped me most.

    When I was young and hurting and afraid to trust.  It was Dan who reminded me that I have the choice to wake up every morning expecting bad things to happen or to trust in his love.  Those words allowed me to trust God and God’s love for me.  It was Dan who showed me what a true relationship with Christ is.  It was Dan who taught me that life is all about perspective.  I can decide to be grateful or I can be bitter and angry and never appreciate anything.

    We chose to date when we were young.  We chose to stay together when things were tough.  The death of a child is hard on many marriages.

    We sealed the deal in China when we put our names on our lock on the great wall.  (The idea is that you have to break the lock to end your relationship and China is a long ways away.)

    china 2012 041

    Every day I get to see Dan in action.  He loves his children.   He would do anything for his children.  He keeps them safe and provides for them.  He isn’t perfect, none of us are, but his heart is always in the right place.

    I am blessed to have walked this journey with this man.  Our family has changed a lot in the last three years.  Not many men would sign up for this, but I am blessed that Dan knows what is truly important.  He knows that life isn’t about the things you can acquire.  It’s about figuring out the plan God has for you and using your gifts to the best of your abilities.   Time and time again Dan has followed God’s lead where others would never go.   He has said “why not?” even when he had hundreds of reasons to say no and my life has been forever blessed by those words.

    The crew

    Happy Father’s Day Dan!  We all love you so much!

  • Choices

    Date: 2015.05.12 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    A day of pain from missing my mom.

    A day of immeasurable joy.

    A day I hope I will always remember.

    A day I wish I could forget.

    A beautiful, loving, wonderful day – the best Mother’s Day ever.

    A horrible, rotten, “wish I had never gotten out of bed” day.

    That is what my Mother’s Day was.

    I had both ends of the spectrum.

    I was surrounded by my children and beautiful words were written especially by my husband.

    my kiddos

    “This is Dan, adding a post on Mother’s Day. I’m always amazed by the strength of mothers. In my work, I see so many moms that are so committed and devoted to their fragile children. The love warms your heart and gives you hope for the future.

    And then I look at Lisa, and I see that girl that I have loved since I was 15. I remember all the pain we have gone through with our children, the crushing grip of death, broken dreams and the scars of abuse. I see the sacrifices that she so willingly makes – day after day, night after night. Putting her family first – always teaching, healing, loving, and caring. Never too tired, always ready to give – never because she “has to” but always because she “wants to”. She has been pushed to her limit and beyond during the past few years. Discovering the depth of the trauma that some of our kids experienced in China, grieving the loss of her own mom. These things don’t get better. But she just keeps “showing up” and giving all of our sweet children exactly what they need – a mom who loves them unconditionally and completely.

    Our kids are seriously blessed to have Lisa as their mom and I am seriously blessed to be her husband. Thank you to all the moms out there that keep “showing up” and giving your kids that most precious gift – a mother’s love.”

    Isn’t that what life is though?  Tough and beautiful all at the same time?   I wanted to wake up to a clean house.  I wanted to not have to do anything.  I wanted breakfast in bed after 8 straight beautiful hours of sleep.  My expectations were not met.  My house wasn’t magically clean when I woke up.  I didn’t get 8 hours of straight sleep.  (Although, Lainey was gracious enough to give me 5 straight.)  I didn’t get breakfast in bed, but instead was up hours before anyone else getting ready for “my” day.

    Choice – Be happy about 5 hours or be bitter about not getting to sleep in.

    I will admit the foot stomping two year old in me was there for a moment.  My day wasn’t going according to my plans and I was as cranky, but then I took a moment, opened my eyes, and looked around.  I saw my beautiful, hand-drawn pictures from all my kiddos.  I saw flowers in vases, some that were purchased and some that were hand picked.  I was given some beautiful notes written in my Mother’s Day book.  (Last year the Cassie started a journal where ever child writes something on a page for Mother’s Day.  It’s a beautiful keepsake.)  Elyse reminded me again how happy she was to just be able to say the words “Happy Mother’s Day” to her very own mama.

    As the day went on, Cassie made a wonderful birthday lunch for Max with all his favorites. We played outdoors where the kids ran for hours in grass that was way too long because it needed to be cut, but the lawn mower had been broken. Reece had the great idea to cut a winding path in the grass and the kids ran for hours on this path. Something that had been driving me crazy all week, extra long grass, ended up being the most fun ever for the littles.  The ran and ran and ran around the path.  They were so joyful.

    Choice – to fret about unmown grass and all the other things left undone or to fully enjoy the moment in the sunshine with my blessings.

    The night took a turn for the worse when Jasmine started acting out again.  Every once in a while she has a really hard time.  Every once in a while she turns into a child that you would never recognize.  The things she says are hurtful and mean.  She lashes out and none of it makes much sense.  Children who have spent most of their lives in an institution act out for the strangest reasons and sometimes it is hard to figure it out right away.  Why is she lashing out?  Is it because she is remembering her grandma or grieving her lost mother? Why won’t she just tell me why she is hurting?  When they won’t open up it makes life hard.  You want to scream.  You want to return the favor with some harsh words of your own, but you can’t.

    You remind her daily that she has a choice to be happy or sad.  No one is responsible for her happiness.  She has a choice to find her purpose and live life fully or watch it pass her by.  She has the choice to trust God and His plan.  She has the choice to make the world a better place or to make those around her miserable.  She has the choice to discuss what is going on.  She has the choice to love her family and participate or sit on the sidelines.  She has the choice to trust us or live in fear.

    She has a choice and so do I.

    Choice – to let the few hours of discontent ruin my day or to keep the right perspective and remember all the blessings I have had throughout the day.

    Choices!  We all make them every day some intentionally and some by default.  Not choosing is in itself a choice.  I have the choice to respond in anger and discipline or I can teach.  Jasmine has not been taught how to process the pain.  Jasmine has not been taught what to do with her anger.  She is much like a toddler – acting out, throwing words around, stomping her feet.  Would I expect a toddler to reason with me and work through her problems.  NO!!!  I remind myself that daily with Jasmine.

    Choice – to show grace and loving correction and teachings or angry words and discipline.

    Love is a choice.   God tells us that in His word.  He wants us to be content.  He wants us to choose joy.  He wants us to love our neighbor and pray for those who persecute us.  None of these things are easy but we always have that choice.  We can choose to see our lives any way we wish.  We can dwell on every negative thing that ever happens or we can see the beauty in each and every day that we have been gifted.

    Nothing in life is perfect.  Nothing ever goes exactly as we have planned.  Nothing ever lives up to our dreams and preconceptions.  My daughter recently wrote a blog called ” My Own Little Holland“.   If you have ever read the poem called “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Kingsley (which is included in my daughter’s blog post), you will understand what I am talking about.  If you spend the rest of your life upset that you didn’t get to Italy, you will never fully appreciate living in Holland.

    Choice – to be angry, bitter, upset about all that I can not control or to remember each and every day that I am truly seriously blessed to be allowed to parent these beautiful children and to hear the word mama a hundred times every day in my own little Holland.

     

     

  • At the feet of Jesus

    Date: 2015.04.13 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    This past weekend was particularly tough and it got me to thinking about some things.  I have been told that I have on rose-colored glasses or that I portray a romanticized version of adoption. I don’t believe that is the case.  What I do believe is that I have a realistic vision of what I think adoption is going to be like.  It is a fight for the soul.  It is coming back from a horrible place.  If someone writes something beautiful that a rape victim or a cancer survivor or a veteran goes through, that doesn’t automatically diminish in someone’s mind what those people previously went through.  I just assume everyone understands that adoption is hard.  I just assume everyone understand where these children are coming from.

    But then I remember where I was a few years ago.  I never knew the pain these children felt.  I never knew and I hate that I didn’t take the time to find out.  I lived in my own little, comfortable world.   So when you think about adoption, a hard life should automatically come to mind.  These children live in an institution where oftentimes the ratio of care is 1 nanny to 20 children.  How much one on one time to do you think these children get?  There’s limited food and limited resources.  Every time I have walked into an orphanage it has been deathly quiet.  The building can be new or old, big or small, clean or dirty, and it is all the same – quiet.   Picture any school across America.  Would you expect complete quiet in the halls?

    The loss of hope is palpable.  My heart hurt just standing in the hallways.  My heart hurt looking at the little faces that wished you were there for them.  My heart hurt every time some little one uttered the words mama while holding my hand and looking up into my eyes.  My heart hurt thinking of how many of those children will never know anything else but those walls.

    Not every orphanage is bad.  Not every orphanage has nannies that don’t care.  But an institution will never be the same as having a family where there is unconditional love.

    When I was younger, I believed my children were a reflection of me.  I worried if they weren’t dressed right or if they acted up in public.  If they memorized their Bible verses and did well in school, that meant I was doing a good job.   The house being clean and my children doing exceedingly well in everything was the measuring stick for how well I was doing as a parent.

    But the truth is if my child scores a 35 on the ACT and never feels in his heart the plight of the orphan, I have failed.  If my child plays on a great sport’s team and walks by the hurting souls on the street, I have failed.    If my child shows up to church every Sunday and never has a true relationship with Christ, then I have failed.   If my child memorizes 400 Bible verses and never takes to heart the verses that tell him to care for the weak and the destitute, I have failed.

    Our measuring stick should not be by worldly standards but by heavenly standards.

    Now I have children that may rage in public.  I have children who lash out at me with their words.  I have children who are potty trained much later than most.  I have a four year old who still takes a bottle.  I have a deaf child who never learned how to sign potty and his sign for going to the bathroom was to drop his pants.  That is not a fun public display.  I have children who are older and can still act like toddlers.  I just assume others know this.

    So yesterday after two days of words that were said that pierced my heart, I handed my children off to my husband and went for a very long drive.  I put in my Casting Crowns cd (song below) and I reminded myself that this is NOT about me.  If they lash out at me, it’s not personal.  It’s hard work this redeeming of souls.  It’s hard work. I pretty much do something for my children from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.   (Please no lectures on taking care of myself.  I work out and I get out of the house.  I understand the need for that.) But the day to day living and taking care of this many children with health needs takes from morning to night.  I wake everyone up and give meds to 7 of my children.  Just the feeding, cleaning up, and doing laundry for this many children takes a lot of time, add in school work and my day is just full.  Most days I don’t care.  Most days I absolutely LOVE my job.  It’s rare that it is just too much.  But sometimes the pain my children have gone through, the sharing of their stories, and their acting out is more than I can take.

    Katie Davis says it so well – “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower. Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Could I? Die to self and just break open for love. This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himself on behalf of messy us. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of Joy.”

    There is great joy and beauty amidst the pain.  Watching these children grow and trust and love – is a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work.  When celebrating with a marathon runner, no one assumes it was easy getting to the finish line.  You automatically assume they worked hard to be able to run the race.   I am working hard to run my race and it is the most important race any of us can do.  It is a race for souls.  This is Christ’s work.  This is what He has called us to do.  To care for the hurting and the broken.  The “us” I am talking about is not just Dan and I.  This “US” is the church.  We are all called to care for these children.

    This work is hard on the heart.  I mean who wants to sign up for harsh words and no appreciation?  So when I feel overwhelmed I remind myself again that it is NOT about me.   It was never about me and I lay it all at the feet of Jesus.

  • Why We Share Our Story

    Date: 2015.01.15 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life, Hope

    After talking with Cassie today, I decided to take a moment and tell you all why we decided to tell our family’s story through our Facebook page and our blog. Years ago after we had adopted Hope, I refused to talk about her adoption story because I felt like people would think that I was bragging about saving this child.

    You see Hope’s story is amazing. It all started when my husband, who was a fellow in neonatalogy, had a patient born with a heart defect. The preadoptive parents backed out when the doctors found the heart defect and the birth mother decided not to treat, which was one of the three options available for a child born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Dan called me and told me he just couldn’t write the orders to discontinue support for this baby. We, as a family, decided to take her home and let her feel the love of family for as long as she lived. We had been through the death of a child and knew, with God’s help, we could do this. Not long after we had made that decision, the cardiac surgeon asked for a chance to save her life. We had been given a wonderful gift. We weren’t looking to adopt. We stepped out in fear because we felt that was what God was asking us to do. Hope is now 15 and doing very well.

    But back to feeling uncomfortable telling Hope’s story. I would rarely tell anyone her story. I felt blessed that this adoption happened out of no where. I was so happy to have been given this opportunity. The way God worked out the details was unbelievable, but I still felt like people would think I was bragging. There were two conversations that we always heard if Hope’s story was mentioned. Either we heard that we were going to ruin our family and this was a stupid thing to do or we heard that we were saints.

    One day, years after Hope was born, I was sitting on a bench at the Iowa State Fair. The stranger next to me started some small talk. She asked if I had any children and I said, “Yes, three boys and two girls.” She asked me their names. As soon as I said Hope’s name she smiled. She told me that she loved the name Hope. She had heard the sweetest story of a little girl with a heart defect and her church had been praying for this little girl because she had recently had surgery.

    A perfect stranger had just told me Hope’s story. I took that as a sign from God that Hope’s story was being told whether I was telling it or not. I decided then and there that I had the choice to turn all the praise back to God or to keep quiet and let others do the praising.

    A Facebook friend recently posted this quote. “When God answers a prayer, no matter how big or how small, we need to share it. It’s a stewardship issue. If we don’t turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride. Giving testimony is the way we give God all the glory.” ~Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle

    I want others to see the miracles that God has done in our lives. I have felt Him call and stepped out in fear and watched Him provide over and over again. This is why I tell our story. So others see the glory of God and understand that He calls us to care for the least of these. Adoption is just one of the ways this is possible. What is your story? What is God asking you to do? Don’t be afraid. It just might be the best thing that every happened to you.

    After talking with Cassie today, I decided to take a moment and tell you all why I decided to tell our family's story through our Facebook page and our blog.  Years ago after we had adopted Hope, I refused to talk about her amazing adoption story because I felt like people would think that I was bragging about saving this child.  </p><br /><br />
<p>You see Hope's story is amazing. It all started when my husband, who was a fellow in neonatalogy, had a patient born with a heart defect.  The preadoptive parents backed out when the doctors found the heart defect and the birth mother decided not to treat, which was one of the three options available for a child born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Dan called me and told me he just couldn't write the orders to discontinue support for this baby.  We, as a family, decided to take her home and let her feel the love of family for as long as she lived.  We had been through the death of a child and knew, with God's help, we could do this.  Not long after we had made that decision, that the cardiac surgeon asked for a chance to save her life.  We had been given a wonderful gift.  We weren't looking to adopt.  We stepped out in fear because we felt that was what God was asking us to do.  Hope is now 15 and doing very well.  </p><br /><br />
<p>But back to feeling uncomfortable telling Hope's story.  I would rarely tell anyone her story.  I felt blessed that this adoption happened out of no where.  I was so happy to have been given this opportunity.  The way God worked out the details was unbelievable, but I still felt like people would think I was bragging.  There were two conversations that we always heard if Hope's story was mentioned.  Either we heard that we were going to ruin our family and this was a stupid thing to do or we heard that we were saints.</p><br /><br />
<p>One day, years after Hope was born, I was sitting on a bench at the Iowa State Fair.  The stranger next to me started some small talk.  She asked if I had any children and I said, "Yes, three boys and two girls."  She asked me their names.  As soon as I said Hope's name she smiled.  She told me that she loved the name Hope.  She had heard the sweetest story of a little girl with a heart defect and her church had been praying for this little girl because she had recently had surgery.  </p><br /><br />
<p>A perfect stranger had just told me Hope's story.  I took that as a sign from God that Hope's story was being told whether I was telling it or not.  I decided then and there that I had the choice to turn all the praise back to God or to keep quiet and let others do the praising.  </p><br /><br />
<p>A Facebook friend recently posted this quote.  "When God answers a prayer, no matter how big or how small, we need to share it. It's a stewardship issue. If we don't turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride. Giving testimony is the way we give God all the glory." ~Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle</p><br /><br />
<p>I want others to see the miracles that God has done in our lives.  I have felt Him call and stepped out in fear and watched Him provide over and over again.  This is why I tell our story.  So others see the glory of God and understand that He calls us to care for the least of these.  Adoption is just one of the ways this is possible.  What is your story?  What is God asking you to do?  Don't be afraid.  It just might be the best thing that every happened to you.  I know we have been blessed time and time again.

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