Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

  • Either You Do or You Don’t

    Date: 2021.10.10 | Category: Uncategorized

    This weekend Elyse and I attended the Good For All conference at Valley Church. We found out about the conference because Grace saw that Tim Tebow would be speaking and she knew that Elyse would love to see him in person. When we realized that Katherine Wolf, author of Hope Heals, would be there too, Elyse was so excited she could barely contain it.

    On Friday we went to a luncheon where Katherine was doing a Q&A. We got there a little early in hopes that Elyse might actually be able to speak with her. Elyse got to meet her up close and personal and even got a hug. Katherine was such a delight. She was so down to earth and humble and beautiful and funny. The kind of person you’d love to have as a life-long friend. Someone you know you could really talk about the hard with and she’d get it because she’s lived it. She wouldn’t judge you or hold anything against anyone else because she knows everyone is struggling. She’d really listen and then cry with you and encourage you.

    On Friday at the main part of the conference, Katherine talked about the GoodHard of life. There’s good in the hard and hard in the good. She talked about how churches miss the opportunity to really minister to people because they won’t sit in the hard with them. People don’t know what to say and it’s awkward so they give you a “God’s got a plan.” or “God can make good out of the bad.” or “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Words that can hurt instead of heal.

    Katherine said over and over again that we are called to these lives that God gives us. We are called to be loving. We are called to care. If we wake up with breathe in our lungs, we still have purpose. We are to live the very best life that we can to help others and to love others.

    She talked about her stroke at 26 years old from an AVM (arteriovenous malformation). She had a 6 month old at home, her husband was almost done with law school, they lived in beautiful Malibu in married student housing, she was modeling, life was going well and then the stroke happened. She bled out 5 times on the operating table, she was in a coma for 2.5 months, she was in rehab for 2 years.

    She realized she had a choice. She could either continue to believe in God being a perfect God who doesn’t make mistakes or she could decide not to believe. This hit home for me.

    I had that moment when Kyle died and Codey was hospitalized for 14 months. I so wanted to be a mother. When I found out I was having twins, we rejoiced! I was so happy! Why did this happen? Why did God allow this to happen? I was so angry for a while. I couldn’t understand, but then I realized I had a choice to believe that God is God and I am not, so I will never understand this side of the grave, or to stop believing that God even existed.

    I came to realize, with a deep understanding, that I did truly believe in a perfect God who makes no mistakes, a perfect God that could make good come out of the bad, a God that wanted good for me and not bad.

    But if I truly believed those words, what should I do with that?

    Well, if I do believe it then I should live my life like I believe His word. I should love with a love that knows no limits. I should share what I have. Too many of us go to church and don’t have love in our hearts. Too many of us judge and criticize and hurt others, intentionally or not, with our words. We don’t uplift and encourage and support and share our blessings. I’m guilty of all these things. It took me years to come to grips with what God really means when He commands “pick up the cross and follow me”.

    When Elyse was talking to Katherine, she invited us to apply to a free camp in Alabama that they started for families with children with disabilities. I told her that we have quite a few kids and I’m not sure that could happen. She asked a few more questions about our life and I answered. There are no short tellings of our journey so I shared a little.

    Then during the Q&A she was talking about pain and loving people while they are going through the hard and I had a question. I asked, “How do I honor my children’s pain but help encourage them to not dwell in that pain.” I never want to minimize what they’ve gone through. Before she answered the question she wanted me to share a little of what I had told her, and then she called me a hero. If you know me, you know I don’t like words like that. I am NOT a hero. I am a mother who fought for her children. That’s what mother’s do. Words like hero and saint and “stronger-than-I-could-be”, frustrate me because they make it sound like I am more than and I am not. I am an ordinary girl, who loves her God, and followed where He led. I fail so many times. I struggle and I make mistakes and I am so not a hero. But then Katherine said something to me that will stay with me forever, “Lisa, you are worthy of this calling God gave to you. Worthy!” She then said something to the effect of live your best life. Be the hero in your own life. Do it with the best ability that you have and that struck such a chord with me. Your life is a test. You are supposed to slay for God. You are supposed to love big and be there in the hard. You are not a bystander in this life. You should be the hero in your own story.

    I talked more than I should. I get nervous and I don’t even know exactly what I said. But what I do know and what I want to share is this…

    Either you do believe that God’s word is true and you should follow His commandments and share your blessings and care for the orphan and the widow and those who are hurting or you don’t! There is no middle ground. If you aren’t doing God’s work, then you are an ineffective Christian. When I talk about God’s work, I mean being kind to the cashier, helping a neighbor in need, fostering, adopting, praying for others, etc. Most of the stories shared at this conference were stories of people just being kind. Kind words, kind deeds, these are the things that people remember.

    God commands us first to LOVE Him with all our mind, soul and heart and then to LOVE our neighbors as ourselves.

    I’ve started doing something with our older adopted girls. When they feel something or believe something, I ask them to write down the facts. Just the facts. Not how they feel or what they assume. Just the facts. Whatever they can actually prove. We lie to ourselves often about what we are actually doing.

    So if you are a believer I challenge you to do this too. Write down the facts, the actual times you helped someone. I’m not talking about showing up on Sunday and tithing. I’m talking about times when you went out of your way to show God’s love to someone else. Hopefully, you can say, “Whenever I’ve seen a need, I’ve helped.” I smile often. I encourage when I can. I love others, even those who are hard to love. Now the truth is if you are doing it right, you aren’t keeping an accounting but I’m sure there are a few moments that you can remember. How did you do? Are you kind? Are you loving? Are you patient? Do you listen well? Are you there for friends and family? Do you know your neighbors by name?

    The truth is your life should be all about LOVE. Loving God and loving your neighbor.

    This is what love should look like…

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

    I challenge you today to give up the notion of a perfect life and instead embrace Katherine’s truth of a GoodHard life. There is joy amongst the pain and pain amongst the joy. There is good in the hard and hard in the good. There is no perfect life but you can be the hero in your own story. I am now embracing the word “hero”. Not a hero that is out for fame and glory but a hero that is living their most loving life an ending their journey giving everything, every last ounce of love they have to those who need it.

    Run your race, do it well, and as Evie always says, LOVE BIG!!! I believe we can all love more. I for one am going to try even harder to LOVE BIG!

    This song says it all…

  • Triaging Your Life

    Date: 2020.04.11 | Category: Uncategorized

    Just the other day Dan and I were discussing the craziness of life. We were discussing the different posts that we see on social media and how people are responding to this unprecedented time in our lives.

    There’s the the world is ending camp.

    The 700 different conspiracy camps.

    The “If you have faith, nothing will happen to you.” camp. I need to talk about this one for just a minute. I have faith. I will tell you, from personal experience, people take this one too far. Watch what you say to others and how your preach your faith. Almost 33 years later and I can still hear the words spoken to me at Kyle’s funeral…”Do you think if you had just a little more faith, God would have saved him?” or “Maybe God knew you couldn’t handle two sick kids.” or my all time favorite… “Maybe if you had prayed just a little harder God would have saved Kyle.”

    The “There’s nothing you can do about it if it’s your time to go, you will die.” camp. I believe in God’s timing. I believe when my time is up, God will call me home. I get it. But I still don’t play chicken on the interstate. Why? Because God gave me a brain.

    The “God won’t bring you pain” camp. I don’t know about you but God has taught me the most in life through painful moments. Not that God has caused them necessarily, man does a pretty good job of bringing pain into his own life, but God most assuredly allows pain to happen. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.” – C.S. Lewis

    The “It’s his/her fault.” camp. Whoever that his or her may be.

    The “It’s no worse than the flu.”camp.

    The “Yes, it is worse than the flu.” camp.

    You get the picture. There’s a 100 different ways to look at the chaos that is going on in the world. I am not going to tell you my stand on any of it. But I will say my husband researches everything. It’s his job. He works in clinical and quality improvement. He spends hour after hour after hour dissecting everything out there. He isn’t paranoid but he is protective. When he says something could hurt us, we listen.

    See we have done what the world is doing right now for the past 21 years. Hope had a major congenital heart defect and then Grace was diagnosed with lupus. We’ve done it even more in the past 8 years since we’ve brought home 10 more children with complicated medical issues. We hear that there’s a nasty bout of flu going around, then we stay home. One of our children have a big surgery coming up, we stay home. We self-isolate. We use hand gel more. We wash our hands longer than usual, better than usual. We clean off door handles more. We don’t go to big gatherings of people. Only mom and dad do the shopping.

    Sounds like now. Right?

    I don’t know about store closings. I couldn’t tell you what is right or wrong with all the rest of the crap going on. I have no idea. I have tried to research it. It seems you can find information to back your side no matter what your side is. I am not going to even get into the social economic issues that are going on. I am, however, going to share with you an interesting insight that my husband had. He even said I could quote him on it. He’s a pretty quiet guy. I don’t get him saying I can quote him very often, but this one is worth sharing.

    I asked him why he thought we weren’t being affected emotionally like so many other people. He said…

    “Because we have already triaged our life.”

    I thought that was so profound. He is absolutely right.

    Maybe you are not in the medical field and you have never heard the word triage before.


    noun – (in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

    verb – assign degrees of urgency to.

    Long ago when Kyle and Codey were so sick, we had to decide what was important. We lived off nothing in an old run down 1970’s trailer. We went without most of the time. I worked a midnight to 6 a.m. job, all so I could stay home with Codey and Zach. We decided what was most important to us.

    When we learned of a baby being left to die alone in the hospital, we chose what was most important. When everyone else was saying we’d ruin our family by taking home a child who would die, we knew what was right for us. When people were questioning the cost, saying things like don’t take on this debt, what about the insurance, all we could see was a little girl who needed a family to love her. When people questioned, what in the world are you doing? We heard God speak clearly.

    We reevaluated everything when we realized we weren’t guaranteed a tomorrow with our children. We knew the risk when we adopted Hope and when Grace got sick, it hit home again. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone.

    When we had the choice to give up our “empty nest” retirement to adopt again, I wish I could say I had learned my lessons over the years and readily said, “Yes!” but I didn’t. I questioned everything. I wasn’t ready to give up this normal, easy life that I had finally found. I was too old. I was too close to retirement, too close to being done working hard. I was ready to sit by the pool and eat my bon bon’s. (That one is for you little brother!)

    See over the years as Hope’s medical issues became less and less, when Dan finished medical school, and when he started working as a physician, I fell for the trappings of the world. Didn’t we deserve a nice house after working so hard and doing without so much during all of Dan’s training? Didn’t Zach and Cassie deserve to have a few nice things? Aren’t we supposed to give our kids sports and dance opportunities? Aren’t we supposed to fill their lives with all the good things that are out there? Shouldn’t we be going to Disney and seeing all the wondrous things of the world?

    But my heart was changed when I read the words “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?” (Triaged)

    And my heart was changed again when I walked into an orphanage. (Triaged again.)

    My heart was changed again when I started following blogs and Facebook pages about the orphanages around the world. When I realized children were dying in orphanges. Children were mistreated and starving in orphanages. (Triaged again…you get the picture.)

    My heart was changed again when I learned about Love Without Boundaries and started following their work.

    My heart was changed again when I saw the pictures and read about the need in other countries.

    My heart was changed again when I read of mothers and fathers abandoning their children because they couldn’t pay for surgery.

    Suddenly I felt guilt when I looked at my nice house. Why did I have so much when others didn’t have anything? I was certainly not a better person. I didn’t deserve more.

    I could go on and on. I will tell you that I live in a fairly nice house. I will tell you that I don’t have to do without if I don’t want to now. I will also let you in on a fact. My nice house is warm and cozy, but it isn’t what brings me joy. I was just as happy in that 1970’s shag carpet, ugly gold appliance holding, thin walled mobile home. Why? Because I knew what was important.

    As for the beautiful house, well, I look at the changes we made. I look at the beautiful woodwork and the mortgage payment and wish I had done so much more with that money. I am reminded daily about what happens when we start to get comfortable. I am reminded what happens when we forget about those who are in need all around us and only think about what we want.

    I hope that you are doing okay during this crisis. I hope that things are back to normal soon. I hope you are surrounded by people who are stepping in and filling any need that you have. I hope you are safe and warm and fed.


    I also hope you have slowed down and really looked at what is important in your life. I think God uses these moments to reach us, to teach us. He opens our eyes to what we can and can not do without.

    Right now kids are dying in orphanages all around the world.

    Right now child trafficking is at an all time high.

    Right now widows could use your help.

    Right now neighbors are struggling.

    Right now…

    What is really important?

    TRIAGE away…

    It’s a pretty eye-opening, heart changing, mind altering thing to do. Can you do more? Do you like home schooling? Do you appreciate your child’s teacher more? Can you do without that second car? Have you been missing too much with your children because you are too busy? Does your work take up too much time of your life? Do you miss gathering together on Sunday? Do you appreciate walking outside now? Do you miss your parents?

    What is important to you right now? What needs to change? Where is your life out of balance? Who needs your help? Who needs your forgiveness? What can you do to make the world a better place?

    There’s no better time than right now to make the world a better, more loving, more kind place.

    “In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

  • Jessica Jean

    Date: 2020.03.09 | Category: Jessica, Uncategorized

    She is quiet. She is observant and notices absolutely everything. She is amazing! She is caring and sweet and thoughtful. She is sometimes stubborn and feisty. She likes to follow the rules and know what is expected of her.

    She loves Slim Jims so her daddy made her a carrier for her favorite treats. She is all about the spicy sauce on all her food. She loves noodles and rice and spicy pizza….well, spicy anything! She should own stock in a chili oil company.

    She is the oldest of the littles. When she first came home, we had her in the room with Grace and Elyse but after a few months at home we realized she would do better in the littles’ group. She spent most of her time in the orphanage in a baby room where there was nothing to do but sit around. She said her days were long and boring. She needed time to just be a little girl. She needed time to play games and hang out with her crew.

    She came home at 8 years old. She had never been to school. She says she can’t remember anyone ever reading her a book. She had no clue what the alphabet was or any of the other basic skills that a kindergartner would have. She has done AMAZING in school. She was behind everyone in reading and worked really hard until she became the best reader. Although, it may be a tie with Maisey right now. 🙂 She loves everything about learning and absorbs it all like a sponge.

    She is the best little artist and can always be found with a book or an artist’s sketch pad in her hand. She draws all the time. We are working on a book together. Elyse, Maisey and Jessica are going to do all the art work. I am so excited for their project to come to fruition.

    She is determined. She watched her brothers and sister run a ninja course in our backyard. She was determined to do it too. She is a little thing. Reaching all the bars was no small feat, but she did it and was so proud of herself.

    She recently started para-taekwondo and LOVES it! She is working on her yellow/green belt and should have it pretty soon. I am so happy that Dan found Spirit TKD. It is so wonderful to be able to do something as a family and not have these three feel left out. We have 9 children doing TKD right now. Spirit TKD has a great family rate that makes all of this possible.

    The girls started a group called Chairs4Change and were recently interviewed on We are Iowa Live. Jessica was so excited to be a part of it. They call her the silent partner because she doesn’t like to do any of the talking but is the very best cheerleader of the group when no one else is watching. The girls want to help other children get the care that they need. J knows better than anyone what it means to not have the health care that you need to live your best life.

    It’s been two years since J received her new kidney. She has done amazingly well. She has monthly lab work and sees her doctor every 3 months. She takes her twice daily, handful of pills without complaint and is thankful everyday to have been given this chance at a healthier life.

    When we adopted J, 4 years ago this past February, she was a shut down, sad, frightened little girl. She took the longest, of all the children we adopted, to trust us. She didn’t trust adults. She wouldn’t even talk to Dan or I for the longest time. She felt safe with Elyse and Gracie and we just let her be. We hoped and prayed that sooner or later she would come around to wanting a family and parents and she did. She just needed time to watch and know she could trust us.

    J is an incredible child. She is funny and has grasped the English language so quickly. Dan and I feel so blessed to get to be her parents. We wish she would have never gone through the things that she had to endure but we are so happy we get to be here for her now and help her handle whatever life throws her way.

    Dan and I will be forever thankful that Elyse and Grace were so adamant that J was their sister. It seems they knew it before us. Children are smarter than us in things of the heart sometimes.

    I had meant to post this on her birthday, which was January 6th, but as happens in much of my blogging life these days, I am a few days (months) late. So this blog is brought to you on this gloomy Monday morning, which was supposed to be my Saturday blogging time, in March which should have been January. Just keeping it real!

    Happy birthday J! Mommy and daddy love you with all our hearts. You are such a blessing to our lives. I hope you never, ever forget it! You are truly a fabulous human being! You are an incredible fighter. You are bright and so observant. You notice things and make things happen. We love that about you! Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are less than. We all know that you are definitely more! Love you J to the moon and back!

  • 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