Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

  • Elyse’s Speech for Faith StoryTellers

    Date: 2019.12.07 | Category: Uncategorized

    My name is Elyse. Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 14 years old. 14 years ago I was left outside the gates of an orphanage in China.

    I have been in America for 5 years. When I get nervous I talk really fast. I am going to try to slow down because I want everyone to know that life in an orphanage sucks!

    • It sucks to have no family!
    • It sucks to be alone in the hospital.
    • It sucks to go through hard times alone.
    • It sucks to get hit.
    • It sucks to get burned.
    • It sucks to be told you are worthless every day.

    The nannies constantly told me that I was fat and that they didn’t want to lift me so I should die.

    When I was 7 or 8 I thought about committing suicide.

    Then one day when I was almost 9 I heard I was getting adopted and everything changed.

    My family loves me.

    • I have 8 sisters and 7 brothers.
    • I have a wheelchair now.
    • I get to be who I want.
    • I get to go to school.
    • I get to do para taekwondo.
    • I get to have my own clothes.

    I have learned so much.

    The BEST part is my mom and dad taught me about God.

    I was baptized on my mom’s birthday three years ago. When mom and I got out my papers to find where I was left, we realized that the day I was baptized was the same day I was left at the orphanage all those years ago.

    I have been mad at China for two years.

    • I didn’t get to go to school.
    • I didn’t get to play outside.
    • They told me I was worthless.
    • They hit me all the time.
    • I held a baby when it died.
    • My foster brother couldn’t be adopted.

    Then one day at VBS a girl asked me where I was born and I told her that I was born in China and I grew up in an orphanage.

    That girl said she wished she lived in an orphanage where she didn’t have to do anything and everyone did everything for her. I told her they hit me all the time and she said, “So? My mom hits me too.”

    I asked my mom why someone would say that. Mom said it’s because people don’t know how bad orphanages really are.

    But now I decided being mad doesn’t change anything. I want to make changes. I want people to know everyone matters. I want people to know what orphanage life is really like. I want people to know that kids need families.

    I used to think that I wanted to make a difference when I grow up. Then I had a dream where someone died before I could get to them. I felt like God was telling me that I shouldn’t wait to grow up to make a difference.

    I have two sisters who use wheelchairs too. We were all adopted as older kids. We want to help kids like us.

    We decided to start a group called Chairs4Change. We want to have people donate their change to help Love Without Boundaries. Love Without Boundaries is the group that helped Jasmine and I get a family.

    My dream is to raise $1,000,000. When I asked Amy Eldridge what we could with a million dollars I was so excited.

    We can…

    • We can fund 200 cleft surgeries and fix cleft lips like my foster brother had.
    • We can fund 90 heart surgeries and help children just like my four brothers and sisters who have heart defects.
    • We can build a school for 200 kids so they can go to school. Jasmine, J.J., and I were never allowed to go to traditional school.

    I want my dream to be so big people know only God could do that.

    • I believe every life matters.
    • I believe God has been with me through everything.
    • I believe God can use me to change the world.
    • I believe I have a purpose.
    • I believe every child counts.

    and most of all I believe A LITTLE CHANGE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

  • 32 Years – Romans 8:28 (Faith Storytellers Talk)

    Date: 2019.11.20 | Category: Uncategorized

    April 29, 1987 started out like any other day.  I would go to work.  Mom would pick me up after work, we’d eat supper together, and she would drop me off at the hospital where I was to meet my husband for our second prenatal class.  My water would break on the way to that class.  

    All of a sudden, words like emergency c-section and life flight were being said.  We frantically called our family to let them know what was happening.  

    The helicopter arrived and they would strap me in.  My husband would follow by car.  

    They would take me out of the helicopter while the blades were still moving, rushing me inside.  Tests would be performed.  After the ultrasound was done, the doctors would say there would be no waiting the boys needed to be born now.  

    I had never been so afraid or felt so alone.  I prayed Dan would get there before they took me to surgery.  

    At 12:04 a.m. that night our boys were born almost 12 weeks too early.  

    5 days later, I would hold Kyle for the first time as he took his last breath.

    A few days later I would hold his lifeless body in the backseat of the car as my mom drove me the 90 minutes back to our hometown.  I would hand off his little 3 pound body to the funeral home director and leave empty handed.  

    A few days after that I would stand in a cemetery and watch my husband pick up that little white box and carry it over and sit it down at the gravesite. 

    This was NOT my dream. 

    The next 14 months would be spent sitting at Codey’s bedside, praying for a miracle.  We would call our family down numerous times saying Codey wasn’t expected to make it through the night but he somehow would.

    Somewhere in those first few months Dan and I decided to stop waiting for Codey to die and start celebrating every day that he was alive.  But to do that we had to stop being angry and trust God and His plan.   If God is perfect, then there can be no mistakes.  I either had to trust that God could make good come out of the bad or I had to give up my faith. 

    During those trying months Dan would decide that God was indeed calling him to be a physician.  We would have another son and start planning our move to Iowa City for medical school. 

    Dan would go through medical school and his residency.  We would have another child, a little girl this time.  Life seemed pretty ordinary.  

    Dan would decide to continue his training and become a neonatologist.  He would be caring for sick and premature babies.  It seemed fitting with all that we had been through.  

    While Dan was doing his fellowship, there would be a mother brought to his hospital that would deliver a baby girl.  There had been pre-adoptive parents chosen for this baby but a last minute ultrasound showed a serious heart defect and the pre-adoptive parents would back out.   The birth mother was presented with three options for the baby – a 3 stage surgery process, a heart transplant, or to let the baby die.  The birth mother was not prepared to care for this baby and chose to leave her in the hospital to die.  My husband fell for this little girl.  He bought booties for her feet and stuffed animals for her bed.  He wrote an order that the nurses had to rock her every hour.  He came home heartbroken that no one was celebrating this little girl’s life.  

    It didn’t take long for us to realize we were the perfect parents for her.  We had already had a child die.  We knew that we could love her and survive the loss.  When we presented this to our children, our 11 year old son said that no baby should die alone without a name.  Our 6 year old daughter, hit her knees, and begged us for this sister.  She said she understood that the baby could die but that Kyle was still her brother even though she’d never met him.  

    We would choose to proceed with the adoption with the plan to take her home and love her for as long as we were allowed to.  During these discussion, where most everyone thought we were crazy, there was one lone voice of hope.  The cardiac surgeon discussed with us the possibility of doing the 3 stage heart surgeries.  I was afraid that another child of mine would die in the hospital but in the end we would decide to proceed.  We named her Hope, which means faith and trust.

    Hope would survive these 3 heart surgeries and Dan would finish his fellowship.  Dan would take a job in Des Moines and we would move back to be closer to our family.    Sometime in the first few years, their NICU would join a national practice which had 400 NICUs.  A few years later Dan would become the Director of Clinical and Quality Improvement for this national company.  He would be indirectly involved in the care of 100,000 babies every year.  

    And to top it all off, we would have another little girl.

    We felt like we had come full circle.  Dan was now caring for parents who were in situations like we once were.

    At the age of 45, Dan would come to me and mention adopting again.  He would remind me that Codey, who was now 22, would always live with us.  He would say that we have a big house and a great job and lots of love to give.  He wouldn’t be wrong with those words, but I still said “NO!”  I was way too old to be adopting.

    But then one day, I read a book by Mary Beth Chapman that asked, “Was it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?” and my heart was changed.

    We began the process of international adoption.   We set out to adopt a little girl from China.  China started a new program where you could adopt two at one time.  Hope would beg us to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we did.  We figured we were never going back and they would have each other and feel less alone.

    We would show up in China and find two of the most shut down, sad little, hungry children.  Ben would literally eat for an hour when we got back to the hotel room.  This 19 pound, 3 ½ year old little boy would change our whole lives.   The very next day we went to visit his orphanage.   We headed through the gates and noticed the tall brick wall with glass shards all around the top.   We entered the clean, new orphanage and noticed how eerily quiet it was.   No noise in the baby room.  Rooms filled with little kids in cribs, no toys to be seen.  They took us to Ben’s floor.  They showed us where he slept.  Ben wouldn’t let go of my husband.   As the nannies, who had cared for him for 3 years tried hard to coax Ben out of Dan’s arms, Ben just buried his face farther into Dan’s neck.  My heart was broken.  What would cause a little boy to hang on to a total stranger and refuse to go back to the people who had been caring for him for over 3 years?   

    I would know even before our plane hit the ground in Des Moines, that we would adopt again.   I didn’t know, however, that it would be the very next year.   We started our paperwork again.  We heard God whisper the number 4.  Our agency and our social worker would be on board with this number.  We put 4 on all the paperwork because we knew it was never going to happen.  China only allowed two at a time.  It was easy to say yes to something you knew could never happen.

    God had other plans though.   In the most miracle filled, crazy year of our life, we would head back to China, this time to adopt 4.  

    If you are trying hard to keep track of the numbers, here’s the recap – 5 biological children, 1 adopted domestically, and 6 from China for a grand total of 12 children.  

    All my life I had wanted to have 12 children.  I gave up that dream, at the age of 23, when we had the twins because I was never going to get pregnant again.  God is good though and 25 years later at the age of 48, He allowed my childhood dream to come true.  While everyone else was calling us crazy, I was discussing how seriously blessed I was.  

    But God wasn’t done yet.  Our daughter, adopted at the age of almost 14, told us what it was like for a child in a wheelchair in China.  She would beg us to go back for an older girl in a wheelchair and we did.

    We would say we were done once again.  But as luck would have it a friend would send us a picture of a little girl and ask, “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?”   We would laugh and say, “No. But we will advocate for her.”   Elyse and Grace had other plans though.  They believed this little girl was their sister.  It wouldn’t take long for the rest of the family to agree she was indeed their sister.  

    We would head back for two more.

    My life is nothing like I planned it on the day Dan and I wed almost 35 years ago.  I’m not sure I would have said, “I do” had I known what was about to happen.  But standing here, 32 years out from the worst year of my life, I can see a bit of the threads of the tapestry that God has been weaving in my life.  

    Without Kyle’s death, we would have never been brave enough to bring home 6 more children who had serious, life shortening conditions.  Without Codey’s special needs and living with us forever, we would have never taken in the children that we did who will need live long care.  

    We all talk about Romans 8:28 like God will only bring good into our lives.  But the reality is that verse truly means that God can make the most amazing type of good come out of the most devastating type of bad.

    My life is living proof of this fact. 

  • Change the World with Change / Chairs4Change

    Date: 2019.10.22 | Category: Uncategorized

    “What can I do to better those children’s lives?” That is the question that Alice, an older child who had also been adopted from China, asked me. She was asking me about what she could do to help other children in the orphanage. She wanted to help, but how? Her words have stayed with me for over 6 months now. I had no clue what to say to her.

    How do you help children feel like they are making a difference? How do we, as adults, empower them when the need is so great that we often feel powerless and overwhelmed?

    Then I was asked that same question by our littles and the middles. How can we make a difference? What can kids do? How can we help? Do you have to be a grown-up to make a difference?

    After the Love Without Boundaries board meeting, I came home motivated to do more, but how? I had been praying for God to use me. I had been asking Him how. How can we do more? I asked God to show me the way. There were so many children in need all over the world. Children who are hungry. Children who want to go to school. Families that needed help getting their children surgery.

    One morning, a week after the meeting, Elyse came to me crying. She had had a horrible dream where she felt like if she had just moved faster, she could have saved someone’s life. That got her to thinking and praying. She believed that God was telling her to do something now and not wait until she grew up to make a difference.

    Elyse asked me how we could make it happen. I started to think of ways that people could donate a little and not ask them to take away from the good they were already doing. Later that day, I picked up my bowl of change (same bowl you see in the girls’ video). It wasn’t a big bowl. I was curious. How much was in there? When I counted the coins there was over forty dollars in it. Then we googled “How much change does the average person have in their house?” Google informed me that it was close to $28. Then a lightbulb went off, maybe we could change the world with change.

    At this time, I had no clue how much Elyse was hoping to raise. She had just said she wanted to make a difference.

    Elyse must have been having similar thoughts about not asking people for a lot of money, because she came to me and said, “Mom, I only need 200,000 people to donate $5 and this can happen.”

    My head quickly did the math. ONE MILLION dollars? What?!?! This is crazy!!! As they say, out of the mouths of babes. No adult would be so optimistic about raising one million dollars.

    I just stared at her. I had no idea she was considering trying to raise one million dollars in a year. But leave it to her to say “I only need”. I tried to get her to consider a lesser amount. She kept telling me that she wanted it to be so big that it was an “only God” moment. She didn’t want anyone to praise her for her work. She wanted everyone to know it was all God.

    And then I started to think about our faith. Elyse was just so sure God was telling her to do something big. She said she would be more disappointed in not trying than she would be if it didn’t work. But me? I was afraid. Afraid of what people would think and say. Afraid to step out there and look silly. The faith of a child is a wonderful thing. She didn’t care what others said about her she just wanted to do what God was asking.

    The girls got together and they planned as only children can. They were going to make a video and 200,000 people would see this video and all those people would be moved too donate $5 of their change.

    I was definitely the wet blanket in their party. $10,000 was a good, doable amount. They wanted bigger. I said $100,000. They told me to have faith. They only need 200,000 people. When I said I only have 1,300 followers. They changed it to 100,000 people donating $10.

    We prayed about it. Elyse told more people about her plan. People encouraged Elyse and the girls. Then they asked Amy Eldridge, CEO of Love Without Boundaries, what could be done with one million dollars. Amy gave them a plan that would help over 700 kids. The girls were ecstatic. When they saw how many kids they could help. They were even more motivated.

    They drew up a sign.

    Elyse drew up a logo and they came up with a name – Chairs 4 Change.

    They made a video. Hope, Grace and Cassie helped them plan it, shoot it, and edit it.

    Now for the ask…

    1.). Please consider donating your loose change to the girls’ cause. Turn in your money and donate it at this link. or click the button below. You can do this over and over again for the next year.

    2.). If your kids have been wanting to help, let them take the coins to the coin machine, take a picture and post it to the Facebook page. We will then send them a Certificate by e-mail for their involvement in the cause. They can watch as other kids come together to make BIG things happen.

    3.). Please share this post so others can help.

    4.). And last but not least, pray that BIG things can happen.

    Thank you!

  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2019.02.25 | Category: Uncategorized

    Here’s this year’s blog from 28 Days of Hearts.

    28 Days of Hearts


  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2018.02.05 | Category: Congenital Heart Defect, Uncategorized

    Sharing Evie’s story this year on the 28 Days of Hearts blog…

    Here are our previous years stories.

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

    28 Days of Hearts

  • My Sincerest Apology

    Date: 2017.06.24 | Category: Uncategorized

    I want to apologize to everyone whose inbox was inudated with posts from my blog today.  We have a couple of children who say they want to blog and we decided to keep them all in one place for ease in printing journals of our blogs.

    Unfortunately that meant taking all of Jasmine’s previous blogs and transferring them to my blog.  I thought I was being tricky and publishing them from the date Jasmine published them.  I had no clue they would all get sent to all of you wonderful folks who subscribe.

    My husband asked me why I was forwarding all of the blogs to him and I realized what was going on.  I truly am sorry.


  • For Life: He Makes Things Beautiful

    Date: 2017.05.14 | Category: Uncategorized

    I am honored to have been able to share a little of our story on No Hands But Ours today…

    For Life: He Makes Things Beautiful

  • Jasmine’s Dream

    Date: 2017.03.18 | Category: Uncategorized

    Jasmine’s Dream – “A family for every child.”

    Jasmine has decided to let her sisters join her in the blogging world.  They are taking her Flower That Blooms blog and turning into her platform for Jasmine’s Dream.  I thought I would share that information here in case you didn’t already know about their blog.

    They are still wanting to do the same things:

    1.)  Promote adoption awareness.

    2.)  Show what life was like in the orphanage for children with special needs.

    3.)  Start an Etsy store to raise funds for adoptions.

    4.)  Reach their goal of 1,000 children helped.

    Elyse’s first post…

    Elyse’s Words


  • 28 Days of Hearts

    Date: 2017.02.25 | Category: Uncategorized

    I was asked to share out story on the 28 Days of Heart blog.  It has been a pleasure to share our story during the past years.  Our story has changed a lot from 2013 to now.

    This blog shares the hearts of parents who have adopted children from China with heart defects.  They share the ups, the downs, the blessings, and trials.  Your heart will be moved by reading these beautiful stories.

    Here is ours…

    28 Days of Hearts

  • Big Family – Big Dreams – Big Story

    Date: 2017.02.16 | Category: Uncategorized

    Group story time at the Ellsbury’s can result in some enthusiastic and sweet stories from our wonderful children. One of these stories is below, and highlights the sweetness of our babies and how loving they are to others.

    Super powers of the Super Middles and Super Littles:

    Elyse – power of invisibility, and can fly on a good day

    Gracie – can make things invisible and can make any baby stop crying

    Jasmine – can wrap up people in yarn super fast and can make baby blankets super fast

    Hopey – can do super scary makeup that makes people faint

    JJ – can fly and sing people to sleep

    Max – touches people’s heads and they can’t hear for 24 hours

    Ben – super fast and has super long arms

    Eli – super strong and has super long arms

    Liam – makes people forget to remember

    Maisey – can turn into cute animals

    Evie – can instantly paint the walls in a room and talk really, really fast

    Lainey – can turn anything into a baby bottle

    Mom – has extra arms to feed lots of babies and always has lots of extra love, never sleeps

    Dad – super doctor who loves babies and does anything a baby tells him to do

    One day the Super Littles and Super Middles realized they couldn’t adopt any more, but they still wanted to.  They started devising a plan to be spies and figure out how many kids they could get home and fit in their new house.

    Eli had already started building a big beautiful castle with 777 bedrooms to house all their new brothers and sisters.  Eli was super strong and really fast so the castle was almost done.   Evie had started to paint all the rooms.  She painted them orange, yellow, green, blue, red, purple, and pink just like the kids’ special colors.

    The house was amazing. There were huge rooms for everyone to sit and watch a movie.  There were tables that were super long and super big where everyone could eat.  The table was a special machine invented by Zach and Reece that could make food in large quantities.  Codey had a giant table full of Kindles for all the kids to play with.  Cassie and Stephanie helped decorate the house and ran a special store where we could get all our supplies.  The store was in our front yard and everything was free.

    The middles had been devising a plan to make an invisible jet to secretly fly across the ocean to their orphanages to adopt more brothers and sisters.  They had been practicing taking care of babies and they were sure they could do it.  They each remembered kids that they wanted to bring home to be their brothers and sisters.  Some kids were little and some kids were older just like them.

    Maisey reminded them that they all needed “to work together”.   She gave them a very special pep talk. She wasn’t kidding.

    Elyse and Gracie became invisible and snuck JJ and Liam into the building so JJ could fly around and sing everyone to sleep and Liam could make them forget so they wouldn’t come after the super heroes.  Ben and Eli were super fast and picked up the kiddos in their super long arms and started putting them into the airplane that was invisible because Gracie touched it.   Max made it so people couldn’t hear them so they wouldn’t be caught.

    In the jet, Maisey became a really, really cute bunny that could talk to make all the little kids feel safe and happy.   Lainey made bottles for all the babies.  JJ sang to the babies so they would go to sleep.  Daddy looked over everyone and made sure they were doing ok.

    We flew home to our rainbow house that lights up and plays the song “We are Family” really loud as we drive in the driveway.   Mema was there to meet everyone and she fainted when she realized she had 777 more grandchildren.

    If anyone bad tried to bother us in our new house, Hopey would put on zombie makeup to scare them, Jasmine would wrap them up in yarn, and Eli would make the bad guys do tricks like backflips and make them wear big mustaches.  Maisey was always a cute little bunny but if someone was mean she would turn into a crocodile and scare them.   Evie would talk, and talk, and talk, and talk until the bad guys ran away.  (Not sure why we have bad guys visiting but it seems we do.)

    Every day we all sit in a giant room with a ton of computers where everyone plays Minecraft together and goes to school together.  We are happy all the time all day long.   Mama is so happy that she gets to love everyone and teach them.  The house is a magic house like in Beauty and the Beast and it cleans itself.  And we have lots of chickens so we can all have spicy chicken feet! Yum!

    We have a giant superbus that is really long and two levels.  Steph and Cassie have super powers and can do the girl’s hair fast (542 girls – so they have to braid FAST).  Everyone is very happy to have a family and we celebrate together because….

    “All our dreams came true.  We have a big, happy family!”