Friday, October 24, 2014

When Intentions Don't Match Up with Reality…Part 2



Okay, so I guess I learned that I am LOUSY at doing part 1 and part 2 posts!! (Forgive me.)

But people, it's now time for PART TWO.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you would be ahead of the game to read PART ONE here.

And now…on to part two. (WAIT A SECOND...I know you skipped part 1!! GO READ IT, SILLY!!)

I concluded part 1 with a list of how we can act in the face of something that takes us by surprise…we can look at it from our limited human perspective, or take on God's perspective.

Because sometimes, life throws something at us that we NEVER saw coming.

And so it is with us. Now.

Up till now, we have dealt with a long list of medical diagnoses which include (but Lord knows are not limited to): collapsed lungs, thyroid disease, arthrogryposis, scoliosis, concussions, spina bifida, congenital hip disorders, neurogenic bladder and bowel and a multitude of broken bones.

Never did I foresee this one being added to the list.

GULP.

The "C" word.

But there it is, big and ugly. Seeking to kill, steal and destroy.

But God.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away,  a baby was born.

He was a boy.

Soon after as he was born, it was discovered that he had an odd shaped abdomen. He was pale, listless and clearly something very scary was wrong. 

A frightened set of parents did what was illegal, and unimaginable: they abandoned him. 

Maybe they knew that they could not possibly pay to have the proper treatments. Maybe they knew an orphanage would. Or they could HOPE.

Once found by the police and taken to a local orphanage, an exam was performed. Blood work was taken and the worst news possible was delivered: the newborn child had a massive malignancy in his liver.

Hepatoblastoma.

Incredibly rare. Incredibly scary.

And he was alone.

Over the next months, the baby had 3 surgeries and lots of chemotherapy.

The baby was given special care in the orphanage through a program called Half the Sky. He began to gain weight, hit milestones and a very bubbly personality emerged.

And the boy's papers were prepared so that he could find a permanent home.

He waited. And waited. "Cancer" is a very scary word on a file, you see.

Far away, in another corner of the world lived a mother of seven children. She was busy each day making food, washing clothes and encouraging other people in their own adoptions. She had a VERY FULL life and was not looking for more work.

She was not. She was not.

Her social worker alerted her to the upcoming expiration of her family's home study, to which she and her husband adamantly responded that they were letting it expire as they were DONE ADOPTING CHILDREN. Their family was full.

And expire it did.

But God.

God used the adorable boy on the side bar of this blog "Jesse" to crack open that tightly shut door of their hearts. Perhaps they COULD find room in their home for one more? But after further prayer and consideration of ages and physical needs the answer was clear: he was not theirs.

Once this cracked door let in light…God showed the picture of the baby to this momma of seven children. Her youngest child happened to be sitting on her lap at the time the picture popped up on the computer screen.

"Oh Mommy!!!" he cried. "I LOVE HIM!!"

The busy mother paused as her heart began to pound and tears began to well. In the next 48 hours God did some of the most amazing and supernatural acts to show this mother and her husband that He intended for this boy with cancer to come home to them and to become their son forever.

Gulp.

And they still were not sure. They wanted MORE proof.

So they prayed. 

And prayed.

And asked for other people to pray that God would speak CLEARLY to their hearts.

One person in particular (oh what a blessed woman of God she is!!) responded to the request for prayer in a most unusual way.

She told this family she would personally give them $10,000 to bring him home.

And they were stunned. But still unsure. It wasn't until she gave them a detailed plan of how she would raise these funds for this boy to become theirs that they finally realized that MAYBE this was how God was answering their prayers for clarity!!

And all of a sudden, a flurry of activity began. 

Applications, fingerprints, home inspections and personal interviews were underway. A home study had to be prepared!!
(This is funny to someone, I am sure!)

And then, yesterday, after a very long wait, this family got the news that this boy's home country had approved them to adopt this boy with cancer.

They were OVERJOYED!!!!!

They would boldly welcome this dear child into their family of 9 and grow once again. 

~
(I want to say, "the end" but you guys know that this is NOT the end of the story!!)

And so, with great JOY JOY JOY in our hearts we announce that yes,

WE ARE ADOPTING AGAIN…even though OUR plan was to be all done.

Even though our idea was SEVEN…God's idea was eight!!!

And as you may already know, GOD WINS!!!! 
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birth Parent Loss--My Ache for Them




Sometimes it doesn't take much to light a fire in my heart to make me want to write. Sometimes writing is the only vehicle for my intense emotions.

This morning, it was this picture that undid my heart:
Used with permission from Casey Chappell

This glorious image of a boy, head thrown back in laughter, in the arms of his birth mother also in the same pose.

Don't they look so happy? So ALIKE.

Yet she is not raising him. She has spent the past 5 years getting herself together. And she bravely placed her baby into the arms of a family she only knew by letter…trusting they would raise him well.

And they have.

And as in open adoptions, they know one another.

This was a brave post by this adoptive mom…she was celebrating the amazing choice that this birth mother made to give her baby life and not take it from him because it was not convenient for her to become a parent at that time in her life. 

Let me have you read her sentiment in her own words: 
5 years ago today this brave young lady gave birth to this super smart and adventurous boy. Words can't explain how much I admire her courage to place her baby with a family she only knew through a letter. 
She's had a long 5 years and is getting ready for the rest of her life and knowing Jack is one of those precious things that both she and Dan and I value greatly. Birth moms are incredible and I'm so glad that I have the privilege to know 3 American women and wish I knew the 2 African women who have given life to the children who call me mom.          ~Casey Chappell

I love this. And it had me in a puddle of tears.

This tender young birth mother! She bravely made an adoption plan for her baby and followed through.

How difficult.

How ripping.

Do we, adoptive parents, pause long enough to fathom what these birth parents go through as they place their precious children for adoption?

Or are we all about OUR timelines, our fundraising, our dossiers, and obtaining our police clearances??

We turned to International adoption for many reasons, and one of which was that the adoption would not be open. We would NOT be faced with the unknowns of visitations from birth family. 

I must say, after seeing this post and hearing stories from my domestic adoptive mom friends…I wish we had the opportunity to know our children's birth families.

I am struck how selfish our desire for closed adoptions has been.

Ugh.

Yet, our 3 "grafted in" children's stories would be the same no matter who adopted them. They all have deep, dark gaping holes of their past. Abandonments. Only one with a note, and it was not personal. 

Their aches are so real. So painful.

I ache to hear our son lament that he wishes he could give food to his Africa mommy…because she might be hungry.

I cry at night when I hear him tell me how much he longs to have been born in my tummy. Really, I think he aches to know the woman who gave him life and to KNOW the answers to his past.

I think of these biological parents who gave away their children in China when they were born "different" than they expected.

And honestly, I had PLENTY of time to choose them as my children, to investigate their special needs and to evaluate if I could "handle them." They did not get this luxury.

As Toby giggles or Esty walks using canes and braces I WISH DESPERATELY I could have their birth mothers standing there with me. I'd place my arms around them and say, "LOOK! That's OUR baby!!! Doing sooooo well! Thank you for making this most difficult choice for them!"

And then I'd plant a big fat kiss on their cheeks.

Adoption is riddled with pain, ache, longing. It's impossible to be torn away from your roots and not have scars.

And it is just as impossible to scoop these treasured children into your family and not feel heavy hearted over the loss your children feel, but also the loss for these nebulous birth parents who are just "somewhere" out there. 

Oh how I wish I knew their names, knew their phone numbers. How I'd love to text the video of Esty WALKING into school on her own this morning. 

I'd love to text the funnies said by Toby. I'd love to show them how he can feed himself because of his surgery. I would love to ask them who is the eternal optimist that put such sunshine into my son's heart!

I'd love to let Zeb's mommy know that he is safe. He is well fed, he is attending school and making amazing progress. That their choices have worked out well for their precious child.

I planted rose bushes for each of these mothers. They are still blooming now, well into the fall, just as their babies are blooming here with us.

But I still cry for them. I still feel the pain of their losses. If YOU were one of my children's birth mothers then I say to you: be at peace. Your child is my treasure. Your baby is happy. Your son/daughter is valued, getting an education, knowing love. Your sweet one is being nurtured to discover their strengths and go after their future with gusto. Medical needs are being attended to. Opportunities abound. I carry your child in our family with utmost care and love. Your child will soar is soaring!!!

And then, I'd hug them...and then cry too.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Our Intentions Don't Match up with our Reality. (Part 1)


Sometimes, our plans don't work out as we intended. 

Like today, I'm sitting here icing my ankle instead playing tennis. We DID play, but then my ankle rolled and down I went. 
(And um, no, I'm not Serena Williams, but this offered up a great image for when life doesn't go according to OUR intentions!)

What do we do when faced with a situation when what happens doesn't line up with our intentions???

We have a choice.

We could complain. We could whine. We could think of how much better it would have been.

But that doesn't change the current reality. And, it only makes our hearts more downtrodden.

OR, we could choose to praise Him…for the fact that we DID get a good 20 minutes of playing time before I fell. 

That I got the grocery run in before we played. (It'd be much harder to do that limping around the store!)

That I can now sit and finally blog…

So a change in plans, can be a GOOD thing, if we open our minds to accept it.

And that's a little bit like what I've been wanting to blog about.

Back when I was 15 years old, I was an emotional puddle at the foot of the cross. I realized for the first time what it meant that "Jesus died on the cross for MY sins," and I was aching to respond.

But I had a choice.

Why didn't I go running into the arms of Jesus as I longed to?

Fear.

What was I afraid of?

Are you ready?

Being BORED.

I knew a bunch of church-going kind of people that lived boring, flat lives. I saw them my whole life. And I didn't want to join them!

I knew the word COMPLACENT well. And I finally stepped forward in faith with the prayer that I never ever become complacent in my faith. Ever.

I think God must have thought, "Oh silly girl, I will not allow you to slow down long enough to grow complacent. Come on this journey with me!"

Thankfully, and only by His Spirit, did I say yes to Jesus and began my walk of faith.

That's been a LOT of years ago now.

And He has been faithful. I have not grown complacent. I am too busy walking with Him in these amazing adventures to be complacent.

In my husband's terminology, we gave God a blank check for our lives. We have offered ourselves up to Him time and time again. Always wanting to say YES to Jesus when He asks something of us.

And that's scary. Why? Because often Jesus asks us to do things that are waaaay out beyond ourselves. And then, He allows things that we thought we had all sewn up nice and tidy to fall apart.

I think the "WHY??" here (in case you are asking) is so that we will depend on HIM and not on ourselves.)

There are many things God has chosen to do in our lives were NOT our intentions…at least not many of them! 

We did NOT intend to lose babies to miscarriage.

We certainly did NOT intend to have Oskar die at 39 weeks…so close to birth. Ugh. This still sends me reeling.

We did not choose our current location, nor did we even choose to adopt a large portion of our family. 

God did these things. Or depending on how we look at evil in the world, God ALLOWED these things to happen.

But our attitude in response to them makes all the difference. After our first child died, at 5 months gestation, I spoke on the phone with a fellow mom of twins who had the same exact situation. 

She was the MOST bitter person I'd ever encountered.

And she scared me silly. 

As angry as I was that I lost one of my twin babies, a dream I'd had for my whole life, I did not want to become bitter like her.

And so, my response to this "change of plans" was to allow Him to grow me.

It was ugly. It was hard work. And it didn't come to full completion until I lost another baby. 

(really? yes. gah!)

Sometimes, the ways of God look so messed up to us! But He has a gentle, loving plan and if we allow Him, He works it out in our hearts beautifully.

I never foresaw becoming a mother to many nations. I never foresaw living in a small American town. I never foresaw having special needs children. 

But now, I cannot imagine who I would be if these things were not true of me.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end if leads to death."

I am so glad that God gets to decide what happens in my life, and not me. (She says with a throbbing ankle and drippy, melting ice soaking her sock.)

It comes down to a choice of acting in faith. 

Will I look at this from MY HUMAN perspective or will I permit myself the joy to allow God's HOLY perspective to win?

If I choose my perspective I will:
*shrink back in fear
*grumble and complain
*give excuses
*live a sad version of my life

If I choose God's perspective I will:
*KNOW that He has a plan that it incomprehensible to my limited mind
*TRUST that He is good, in spite of what circumstances might "prove"
*ACT based on His promises
       ~that He is GOOD
       ~that He is LOVING
       ~that He is with me
       ~that He has gone before me and is already working
*live a life fully dependent upon God's strength, because there's no other way to survive once we obey the radical things He calls us to do (THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF LIVING A COMPLACENT LIFE!!)

This is a "Part 1" blog post. There is something NEW on the horizon for me, for us, and God has blown us away with it all. 

It was not our intention. 

It was not our design.

But it IS His, and soon, I'll tell you!

Stay tuned!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

A New Chapter--Serving in Adoptions



It is with GREAT JOY and EXCITEMENT that I have accepted the position as Adoption Coordinator for the non-profit, Children's Lantern in Defiance, Ohio. I am thrilled to be able to serve adoptive families in their adoption process, as well as once they come home.

I did a little trip down memory lane, just wondering HOW did I get here? I love when God does surprise turns in our lives. He had these things planned out long before we ever had an inkling!

I have been "doing" adoption things since the fall of 2010, when God put it on our hearts to expand our  little family of 6 by adding in another child.

We didn't know where to start. We had never had any interest in adoption. We were the blonde, all-American looking family. We had NO IDEA how God was about to rock our worlds!!


We began the process of adoption and were drawn to the masses of children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. This led us to Uganda. Which eventually, after a lot of false starts, led us to Zeb.



So then we had five children. We adopted, independently, from Uganda. And it was a whirlwind. We were home with him in a flashing ten months after we decided yes, we felt God was calling us into adoption.

So shockingly fast. So bizarre. We know. 

Then, the ache began. You can read about it HERE. And then, I found him! I didn't know I was looking, but God did. And He directed my path straight to the blog where I laid eyes on my 6th child: Toby.


And honestly, it was only another 10 months until we had to take this picture:
This shot was by the Chinese government the day after "Gotcha" had happened. He still looked pretty scared. The smiles distinctly began the next morning. And he's never stopped smiling since!! :)


And it was BEFORE we traveled to adopt Toby that we knew knew knew that Esty was our daughter too.

But that's crazy, right?

Yes.

Ten months after we were home with Toby, we were back in China to bring Esty home.

And now our "all-American" family has been largely improved upon by the delightful presence of some of the world's neediest orphans. We are ALL better for their arrival and part in our family!


So this crazy path that has exploded into our lives only began not even 4 years ago. It's astounding to me HOW MUCH my life has changed.

Changed for the better. I am less selfish, less concerned about what other people think and my "serving" muscle is way more toned. My heart is broken for the remaining orphans around the world.

A friend of mine once prayed for me that I would find a way to help orphans find their families. I thought her prayer was mighty big, but I echoed it into my own heart. I've been so amazed to watch God use this blog to unite orphans with their families (stories that need to be shared!!) and now with an official capacity serving with Children's Lantern. I am honored to become part of such a phenomenal group of people with similar passions!


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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flashback to 2011



I can't believe it's been THREE YEARS since we brought home our Zareb from Uganda!!

I savor these precious images from when we travelled home.

 He seems so little at just under 3 years old!


We had this ridiculous 6 hour layover in Amsterdam…but it gave me time to grab these sweet photos. Looking back, those 6 hours were indeed hard (especially when he took off with another family and I had to chase him down!) but I delight in these images where he looks SO LITTLE!!

And I have to also share this precious one…where my now Kindergartners (!) were taking one another in. Love their fingers touching!

It's been an amazing three years where we've added to our family TWO more times…and Zareb has just rolled with all of it! 

Here's my favorite shot from this summer of our Zebby:

He was so delighting in playing in the ocean! :)



Oh how I am sooooo grateful for this precious boy whom we were given!!



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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Esty and the TLSO


I witnessed bravery this week.

Cool, unadulterated bravery.

Courage, in another word.

It was not in myself, no…I am so far from that, my friends. But I would venture a guess that you can guess on whose face I saw the brave look of infinitesimal courage.

Esty. You are so right.

This week, she had to have her TSLO fitted. For those of you who are clueless as I was, that's slang for a Thorasic/Lumbar/Sacral Orthotic. In short, it's a suffocatingly tight piece of plastic that clamshells our girl in an effort to hold her present spinal curve so it doesn't increase.

We had the mold made a good 7 weeks ago. Don't get me started on why we're waiting so long. Sometimes, you pick your battles not only with your teenager, but your medical community!

When we went back this past week, I had attempted to prepare her for what was coming. HOW do you prepare a child who barely understands our culture that we are now subjecting her to painful, hot, plastic torture and she has to stay in this device for TWENTY HOURS a day for the next 3-5 years!?!!?

Well, you simply cannot.

So we mentioned it in some happier terms…like the butterfly pattern she chose for it. "Won't that be fun to see how it looks?" I cringe as I try to make SOMETHING fun in all of this.

Thank God for iPads. At least she can play on that while we wait.

The orthotist brings this MASSIVE thing in and has her put on a stocking that covers her from neck to knees. Then he has her lie back and does measurements on her and then makes markings on the brace. He disappears. We hear sawing.

This is not her brace, but an example to illustrate.
The next time he appears, it's considerably shorter. (So thankful!) He pries it open and it swallows her whole.

She winces.

I cringe.

He does some looking and removes it and calls in his colleague. He shows him her curve. They exchange "mmmhmmms" and I hear, "yes, that is quite unusual."

I don't ask.

He turns to me and explains, "I need to cut this appointment short. I want to send you over for an immediate Xray in the brace to see if it's holding her in the appropriate places. We cannot afford to make any mistakes."

Baby girl needed to cath, but instead, we ran across the city to her hospital where we raced against the clock to be able to return in the orthotist's time window to have him complete the fitting.

This brace getting clamped onto her torso and running out the door and into the car and over to the hospital…it would all feel so…scary! It was supposed to be a 2 hour appointment and then we would go to the horse barn to get Jensi. (Esty takes comfort in knowing how the day will run.) Instead, after only 30-45 minutes, we were leaving and it was under a sense of duress.

She never complained. She never cried. No tears even welled up, well, except in MY eyes.
When I asked her in the van how she was doing, she replied, "I'm fine, but this thing…it's not too comfortable."

Wow.

That's courage, my friends.

We get all the paperwork done and learn she has to stand with her chest pressing hard against the glass of the X ray. She cannot stand there alone, this brace throws her completely off and walking with her walker was a tremendous difficulty. (I saw her eyes flicker a bit when she realized how this may be changing things, and the lump in my throat was the size of the Goodyear blimp.) 

We ended up leaving the brace and after the orthotist had a look at the X-rays, he informed me he must trash this one and make a new one. I appreciate his attention to detail, but am so heavy hearted that our girl will now get her TLSO the day before we go on vacation. 

Sigh.

I praise God that she can have FOUR hours out of it daily. You can bet that those hours we will use wisely! We will swim, play at the ocean and snuggle in fresh pajamas after a bath.

I don't know why this particular medical thing bothered me so much other than it's going to have SUCH an impact on her daily comfort level. And she cannot even understand why. (I have shown her a straight spine and the X-ray above, but how much that makes sense to her, I do not know.)

When I picked her up to get her in the van (regular things she has been doing suddenly became stiff and impossible) I couldn't get over the sense that we had gotten her out of the orphanage only to encase her in plastic body cage (feet and ankles in similar braces) in a foreign land…and force feed her cheese. (okay not really, but the girl hates her cheese and she's TRYING to live in America!!!) I got her into her seat and ran around to the driver's side trying to pull my emotions back into my lap.

I didn't feel this way about her AFO's. (Ankle/foot orthotics) They helped stabilize her feet so she can walk! This...this feels like nasty punishment.

And the kicker? Because she is tethered (meaning her spinal cord is caught in scar tissue) the brace may not even help hold the curve at the present degree. All this, and it very well could get WORSE and still require the surgery we are trying so hard to avoid or at least postpone. We won't know. 

Here is my brave girl sitting in the Xray waiting room after failed attempts at cathing due to the monstrous TLSO and giggling because she had decorated this fairy and taken a picture of her walker and now "the fairy, she is walking!!" Giggle giggle giggle.

What?!?! I'm about to melt into piles of tears for my girl and she is enamored with the camera feature on the iPad. 
Some may call it immaturity, but I call her brave.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Esty's Friend Branch Needs a Family



Something happened on the way to the hospital yesterday.

Esty opened up.

She had me in tears in minutes.

As soon as we dropped her sister off, she began to chatter. She had purpose. Something had been on her mind.

Up to this point, she has only answered questions I have asked in effort to learn more about her past. 

Yesterday was different. She had something to say.

"Mommy, I have a friend at my orphanage," she began in Mandarin. (We still speak in Chinese about matters of the heart as it's still easier for her.)

My ears perked up. I turned off the music.

"Tell me about your friend," I answered.

"I'm so worried about my friend, Mommy. I don't know if he is okay or not." And she began to pour out her heart. "He is in a wheelchair like me. He was my friend. So nice. But his legs cannot bend. They are stuck in a bent position. He sleeps in a ball, with his feet tucked under him. I don't know if he is sick or not, Mommy. I don't know if he has a fever. I'm worried if he doesn't get adopted like me, he will die in China. The doctors we have here are so good. The orphanage had two doctors, but they didn't do much. They didn't help me when I was so sick."

I was speechless.

She continued.

"I want him to get a family. I want him to be able to go to good doctors. I am so worried, if he stays in China he will die."

I had tears at this point.

She proceeded to tell me how he was in 2 different foster families, but both families only had a mother. 

Sweet boy. He has never had a father figure.

Oh my heart.

I asked her his name but she said, "Oh but Mommy, if I tell you his name, you won't know him."

I told her that I could ask my friend to see if she could find him. Find out if he has been adopted. Find out if he is okay.

She couldn't believe it.

She asked me how this was possible. I recounted the story about seeing HER picture posted…people were looking for her family to find her. 

And we did.

She was on the edge of her seat.

And in between doctor appointments, I emailed my dear Annie. I used Pinyin to write out the boy's name. In order to find a particular orphan, you need their Chinese name and date of birth. Esty knew he was 9, but had no idea when his birthday was. I hoped for the best.

I knew which orphanage to search in, his Chinese name, approximate age and special need...I felt hopeful!

Within 24 hours, I had an email back from dear Annie.

 SHE HAD FOUND HIM!!!

I showed Esty his picture. "That's HIM!!!! Oh Mommy, that's is really him!!! Is he okay? Does he have a fever?" 

(Interesting to hear her worry about him having a fever. This was the key symptom she presented when she had that severe kidney infection that went septic and would have died if we didn't get her proper medical treatment. She is aware. She wants the best for her friend!)

Of course I had to answer that this information did not tell us whether or not he had a fever. But it did give us his birthday and he is now 10 years old.

He is on the Shared List. 

If you haven't adopted from China that means that any agency at all can request his file and do his adoption paperwork. He is not locked in with any particular agency.

I have his file. What a precious soul.

It amazes me: his file was prepared precisely one year ago.

I have goosebumps. Do you?

As I read his file I love what I read.

"All nurturers and kids like him very much."

and

"He hopes to have his family with dad and mom."

How much more awesome to know that my Esty vouches for his delightful personality!

So friends, let's share this precious boy we are calling "Branch." Let's find his family!!!

If you want to more about Branch, please contact me. He has the same special need as Esty: spina bifida with lower limb paralysis. He also appears to have club feet. What a treasure!!!

Someone PLEASE go get Branch and we will meet up with you!! Esty wants to know that her friend can live a better life, have a daddy and not die in China unloved!!

How's that for a cause?? :)

Love my dear daughter! Who better to advocate for the orphan than the former orphan who knows both sides of the coin?

Let's get Branch a family.


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