Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why aren't we sharing the hard stuff?

I am burdened for those that come after me.  I feel families are not at all prepared for adoption these days.   Yep....there, I said it.

Adoption is not rescuing a child and having them feel better
Adoption is not having the child walk into your family with a thankful, grateful heart.
Adoption is not easy for your children who are already in your home.
Adoption is not easy on a marriage
Adoption is not easy and it takes a long time to get to normal...if ever.

Think about these things.

You child is suffering from multiple trauma
Your child is not excited about being adopted
Your child is not likely to love you for awhile
Your child is being taken from everything familiar to them
Your child is being made to eat foods and do things completely foreign to them (hugs-what are they?)
Your child can't understand you and you look really weird to them
Your child may not be capable of things you ask because they area paralyzed with fear
Your child might steal food - it's trauma related survival skills
Your child might try to run away from you
Your child is probably malnourished and may not be capable of eating properly

Am I getting thru?  Your child is a mess and you have accepted the challenge of healing them.
Will they heal?  Maybe.
Will they love you? Probably
Are there any assurances?  No.

Please talk with other adoptive parents before proceeding with an adoption.
If you are in the process....EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE HARD STUFF.

If you are called to adopt you owe it to yourself and your child to prepare and know this is hard.

~~~ the kids that are the hardest to love need you the most~~~

Some good resources :
Read every blog your can get your hands on that truly shows the easy and hard stuff that comes with adoption!

Adoptive families---   A special plea.   Share your stories and tell the hard stuff.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You are called to a worthy purpose

God has been impressing upon me my calling.  He has been showing me with His eyes that moms and dad are doubting their calling.   Parenting is hard.  Parenting a child with past trauma can make for sleepless nights and frustrating days all filled with the thought, "Am I really cut out for this?"  I don't think there is anyone out there in the trenches of parenthood that couldn't use a vacation away from their kids for a few days or a week....
Life as an adult is full of demands and days of makings life choices that impact others.  It's hard being  an adult and caring for your family.  Doing what is best for them takes a lot of sacrifice and sometimes we just don't want to make those sacrifices.  Sometimes we just want EASY.


God has placed you in a position of servanthood.  He has entrusted you with His very best.  Yes, our children are broken, difficult, and, sometimes, unloveable.....but He has faith you can do this and do it well. There is nothing more important to The Lord than this calling of parenthood.  We are shaping the future generation of pastors, educators, scientists, world leaders, and Gospel spreaders.

When you came home with your child completely overwhelmed at the magnitude of a newly adopted little person, God was right there with you.   Think back to your process of adoption.  Can you say He wasn't in it?   Can you testify to His miracles of timing, finances, and just plain getting things done?  You are CALLED.  He has made the way for this child to be YOURS forever and ever.  Has the depth and magnitude of that miracle been lost on you as you fall into bed every night thinking....I have to do this all over again tomorrow?

I am asking you now to CLAIM THIS CALLING and walk with confidence that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it to completion.  You are equipped by the God of the Universe to excel at this calling.  He gives you exactly what you need to parent your kids, help heal your kids, and love your kids above what you yourself think you can do.

Surround yourself with support.  Surround yourself with others in ministry.  Surround yourself with the Spirit.  Call on Him every minute to walk through the day with courage to go above and beyond your own ability. Gird yourself with His holy word and seek to learn thru Bible study and worship.  Tap into His desire for you to heal and lead your children.

You are a parent by divine appointment.  Don't get lost in the everyday "yuk" and forget who has called you to a Worthy Purpose and who is equipping you every day to shine His light.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Born in your heart"

Well, summer is in full swing around here and I am super happy to be able to squeak some time in to write a new post!  I am going to get back to writing more often now that summer schedules have settled a bit....

Today, I am going to do something a bit different than my usual ~~~  I have a friend who has asked me to help get her "kickstarter" off and running!  I am honored to share this God inspired project with you, however, Tammy does it best.  I ask that you prayerfully consider if God might lead you to help.  (very cool incentives for your gift donation as well)

Take a look!!  **OH***  Careful - wee one Gloria is a cutie and you might just fall in love!!

This is a photo of the finished product -- the craftsmanship is excellent and 30% of proceeds go to help orphans!  I love when friends and family do intentional being mindful of the affects of your purchase.

ok....did you watch the video yet???
What are you waiting for??  GO!

I'll be back tomorrow----

Friday, May 2, 2014

I'm spitting mad

 I am spitting mad.  I want to scream and shout and be heard.

 This child of God
precious and perfect in His sight
is being starved, ridiculed, and neglected
to the extent that he lives on scraps
from the table
of raw bamboo.
never touched or held
living in a dark world
the people who are charged with his care

Would you join my this morning to pray for the children who are suffering today.
Children who have no one to call for help.  Children that have given up because their cries are not answered.  Children that are bedridden because no one feels they are worthy.  Children who are suffering from neglect and hunger.
Christians - this is a DAILY occurrence here in the USA and abroad.  Languages may be different and culture but children need love and they need us to act when we see this injustice. 
I am beside myself this morning with grief as I see lavish vacations, cars that cost more than a year salary, houses that have the best of everything. People who have so much and don't know or feel called to help those who don't.

 Jesus has called us to pick up our cross and follow him.  
The cross is heavy and we don't want to sacrifice ---
                                                      I want you to be convicted today. 
                                           Convicted that YOU will do something to help.

Money - time - prayer - mission trip--  PRAY about it and don't turn your back on children who are languishing in foster care or orphanages or homes that are less than suitable.   God is bigger than any of these and He will challenge you to MOVE for Him. 

Let me ask you a question --- Does the God you serve want you to seek material things of no eternal value?  Does He love you enough to fill you to overflowing when you do sacrifice?
 I'm begging you - Move for Christ today... 
Seek Him and pray how you can serve Him.  
These children have NO ONE else to count on but those of us
 who know what a Savior can do when there is no hope in anything else.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our children and the loss they feel.

If you have an adopted child, you are raising a child who has loss in their life.  Our children were abandoned (or some other word that means "given up") by their biological parents for "some" reason.  Speaking strictly from the standpoint that my children are adopted from China, I try to paint a picture of selflessness on behalf of their parents; but, the situation still hurts and the pain goes deep.

Every situation is different when trying to address this loss.
 - maybe you are in touch with birth parents and have all the answers
 - maybe you have a piece of the puzzle and you can speculate
 - maybe you have no answers at all.

Regardless of where you are in the mix, as parents we need to try to answer their questions as honestly as possible.  We may need to say - I don't know.  As a mom knowing the tender heart of my children I DO want to sugar coat the loss and try to make them feel better about it.
 The fact is that God designed a family to be together.  Whatever circumstance made the birth parents decide not to parent their child grieves the Father.  (This, of course, could be a whole blog post itself dealing with the "fall" of the family unit). Yet, we have to deal with the loss because it is real and in our face every day we are with our kids.

My children all deal with this grief on different levels.  Some have never broached the subject with me and one of my kids talks frequently about circumstances with his birth parents.  Of my adopted kids, 7 out of 8 have special needs.  That gives me the quick answer of, "Well, they wanted you but could not provide for your medical needs. The fact that they abandoned you was for you to be taken care of, healed from your special need, and put into a forever family."  They accept this but its kind of a "cover all" answer.

  My daughter with microtia (lack of the outer ear) probably wont accept this answer since her special need is really "NOT" a special need at all.  She could have stayed with her birth family, kept her hair long, and never had any intervention.   For years after we adopted her, she had no intervention for her hearing loss.  The need could be hidden and she would have been fine.  I can only guess that because she was a girl she was given up.  That's the tough one to explain to a child.   The fact that they are the undesired sex is why they were abandoned??

 There are also times when other people hurt our children by saying things that may be untrue about adoption.  I have had to really hold in anger when someone says to me, "Well they kill their baby girls in China!"  Gee, that's nice to say to a parent of a Chinese child.

I remember some years ago Lisa Ling did a special on the one child policy in China.  I remember her talking to school children and hearing the kids say "Having more than one child is irresponsible."
The children are told this from a young age.  They understand the policy and are led to believe it is what is best.  Culture, poverty, and lack of medical care play a HUGE role in the orphan crisis we see today. 

Recently, a baby hatch, was opened in the city of Guangzhou, China.  This is the city where all US citizens must pass before going home with their babies from China.  The US Consulate is located here and we must obtain our child's visa to enter the US.  There have been many articles and videos regarding the baby hatch.  This was a safe place to leave your child if you could not care for them and much safer than abandoning them at a train station or some other public place to be found later.

I watched a video about this and it showed the heart break of these parents leaving their children.  This was not a choice of convenience - this was a choice of necessity.  The video was narrated and spoke to the fact that these parents could not pay for their child's medical care  Their hope was rooted in the fact the government facility would help care for the child and get the treatment needed. These were not all babies...some were toddlers.  It was heartbreaking to view.

Regardless of circumstance, all of our kids have a missing piece.  They are not "the same" as our biological children or the "bio" kids next door.  One thing we can point out if that they are children of God.  This makes them the same -- same as you, me and any other person on Earth.   I pray that our children can feel God's redeeming love in their life.  That some day they can heal and accept the missing piece of their life.  For whatever reason, God's plan was to be adopted into our (your) family.  I believe He made this plan so that His glory would shine. 

Its hard to parent our children from hard places.  They are needy and  many times hard to love. Christ can be the difference in their life.  Pray for your kids and show them His love....even when they are unlovable.  ESPECIALLY when they are unlovable.  Its counter intuitive to our very nature to be pushed away and still love....but we do this every day to our Father in heaven.  Just as He never gives up on us....may we, too, love fiercely and not give up on our children.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Look for the daffodils

I have never pined for warm weather like I have this Spring.  Its been a hard winter in Central Maryland with more snow days than our fair share.  Living on a steep hill doesn't make it any easier to swallow even though it makes for incredible sledding for the children.

I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the Fall of 2010.  A friend of mine said to me,"Just think, when you see the daffodils in Spring, this will be all over."  I cried that Spring at the first daffodil.  Never had such a simple statement has such meaning to me...such LIFE.   

When we go through the valleys in life, many times we are on "autopilot".  Our body just goes through the motions and we are not invested in life from day to day.  I know that's how I dealt with my cancer.  It wasn't until that first daffodil that I realized I had been pushing through each day trying not to dwell on the physical aspects of cancer and the gravity that I was living through a life threatening illness.

I witnessed how my family reacted when I was diagnosed. My family history was strong on my mom's side as her mother and grandmother had breast cancer. Logically, she was next - but it was me.
I cant really speak for her and her feelings but I would say she would have taken my diagnosis any day instead of watching me go through surgery, chemotherapy, and the resulting health challenges.  As a mom, we'd all rather take the pain than see our children suffer.

My adult daughters witnessed their mom being sick.  Reality strikes when you realize a parent could die and that they are not invincible as most children see them.  One of my girls lived the entire Fall without seeing me because she was far away at college.  As I think back, it was probably best for her to be elsewhere and I thank God for His ultimate hand in that.  My oldest daughter has recently moved back to the area and the fact she was around to help our family with day to day activities proved invaluable.  Gods plan was sovereign and each child was placed where they could best handle my situation.

Had I not had a personal relationship with Jesus, I would have had a much harder time dealing with my cancer and its treatment.  I would not have had HOPE.  I would not have known that He was walking the journey with me and that every small detail with under His authority.  I love the phrase that says:
Even if our problems seem OVER our head
They are always UNDER God's feet. 

Our Savior is there for any circumstance, and He is ready to lift us up and carry us to our destination.  Just imagine Christ gently wrapping his arms around you and guiding you to a place of safety and security.  Gentle. Kind. Loving.  This is our heavenly Father doing what He does best.

So, the next time you look around and realize you are on auto-pilot - basically, dredging through a situation - look for the daffodils.  Look around and see that God has taken care of the little things even when you don't recognize His kind, gentle touch.  It makes living through the valley a little easier.  It makes it easier to be thankful for the trial.  It makes it easier to survive the trial.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

He's the "God of every story"

When our world is shaken - He holds us in the palm of His hand.

I'm listening to the song by Laura Story called "God of Every Story".

One thing I have learned through my life, dealing with breast cancer and medically fragile children, is that He is Faithful....  He cares about me. He desires my life to be good.  He desires that I am happy. He desires that I walk with Him. He is with me through every struggle and every victory.

Here are Laura Story's lyrics:
(from her CD: Laura Story - God of Every Story)

Some times we want to raise a fist up high
blame all the hard things 
on the Father in the sky
But He hears when we call
And we can trust him through it all.

He's the God of every story

He sees each tear that falls
We may not understand
But one thing is for certain
 He is faithful
He's a faithful God.

The dictionary defines the word "Faithful" as
adjective 1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty

Can you imagine God as being "strict and thorough"?   I know my father was a dad who was kind and always wanted best for me.  He was not strict though.  He allowed me to carve my way through high school with just a curfew.  He really didn't know what I was getting into and He certainly would not have allowed half of my activities to go on if he had known about them.

Our Father in heaven knows it all.  Yes, we go through hard times because we have "free will".  God allows us to decide which path to take in life's decisions.  The wide gate or the narrow path. My teens years were filled with the wide gate and I went through some times that were very difficult.  Some of these decisions still affect my life daily.

So, Laura Story talks about "raising a fist up high to the Father in the sky"   HOWEVER--- many times the path is OUR chosen path not the Father's.  He allows us free choice and knows we need Him when we take a wrong turn.  He can always be found in the midst of our trials....even when we got ourselves there.

I like to think of God as our compass.   He directs us where to go...but we have to look TO Him for guidance.  He doesn't always direct us without us asking. He certainly isn't the reason we are going through the trial but He can always be found nearby if we seek Him.

IF we seek Him, He will be ahead of us directing the way...
Turn here.  Walk with confidence.  Trust me fully.
God is faithful and He is going to be thorough with His care.  He will not allow us to be somewhere He cannot retrieve us from when He feels the time is right.
Yes, we can get very deep in the pit but it is never our of his reach.  Never.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Mom Crisis

Motherhood has been part of my life for almost 26 years.  When I got married at the tender age of 19 my life became consumed with becoming a mom.  It was what many girls did.

 Grow up... get married...have kids

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, I told everyone where I worked that I would be tanning most of the summer after my baby was born in early June.   I thought I had hit the "high life". My baby would sleep all the time and need only a small snippet of my time during the day.  

Yep.....funny isn't it?  Did you laugh?

I quickly learned that having a child was a full time commitment with very little down time and very little sleep.  Zombie had an entirely different meaning then.  I was barely awake during the daylight hours and nighttime sleep was interrupted hourly. I was also the palest chick in Northern Virginia that year.  PHEW!!  Why didn't anyone warn me is was such a big job?

Fast forward to my life now.  Ten kids.  God sure has a sense of humor.  He gave me my "share" and a few others too.  I live in the trenches.  Nicely placed between the diaper trench and the teen attitude trench.  Yes, I have it going both ways.  My littlest is 6 and will never be continent.  My middle child is 10 but has the chemistry of a 15 year old.  My oldest daughter, still at home, just turned 18 and  is very young at heart. She seems to act like a child full of giddy wonder minute to minute.  The full scope of motherhood.  Toddler to teen and beyond.

So, can I get an "Amen!" that motherhood is the most rewarding job one can ask for and one of the most daunting?   Full of inexplicable joy, unending rewards and daily trials.  It's a thankless job and many times we feel under appreciated.  Worrying becomes a way of life -- whether we worry about our child being bullied or our child drinking at college.  Worry can really consume you if you don't have a grounding force like Jesus.

Christ has taught me many things in this journey:
  • I am called
  • I am equipped
  • I am qualified by Christ alone
  • He is with me every second
  • He carries me when I cant make it 
  • His Holy Spirit guides me
  • He is in control - not me.
Mothers in general are tired and strung out to the Nth degree.  Our days are filled with being a taxi driver, a referee, a house keeper, a chef, and a teacher.  (you know the list could go on...)
Some moms are dealing with children who are aggressive - they are punched, kicked, spit on, and scratched.  Some moms have children who don't communicate or cant even function without assistance to breathe.  This is the trenches in a very real way. No mom has it easy - EVERY mom has issues to deal with that they do not feel they can handle or that will break their heart in a million pieces.

Many moms plaster the smile on their faces and quietly suffer.  Some moms are complainers and feel all should be aware of their struggles.  No matter where you fit in this scenario.... if you are a mom you are important. loved, and you will make it. God has given your a ladder to climb out of the trench.  It reaches from Heaven to your deepest pit of despair and hurt

God has this.   ALLOW Him to work in your life.  Yes, thing are hard. Yes, we don't like it. Yes, you want to scream.  (By the way - go outside and scream if you need to --- it makes you feel so much better!)

I can attest to suffering for my kids.  Sacrificing my "self" for the betterment of their lives.  I am not the only one who has given their all for the sake of their children.  MANY mothers do this.  Giving of ourselves is done freely because we love.  God is the same way.  He doesn't have to give to us.  He does it because He loves. YOU are His child and He gave the ultimate sacrifice for you.

This crisis is real.  Moms are on the edge.... every day we need edification and we need our sisters to rally around us.  We need our spouses to rally around us.  We need time away from our children who sometimes suck the life out of us.

We need Christ.

 I find it interesting that the word crisis and the word Christ are so similar.   Just remember --- put Christ at the center of your crisis.  Seek Him daily and without fail.  Allow Him to guide you and pour into you. No matter how down we are. And when we fail ourselves or feel we fail Him... run to Him and allow Him to heal your heart.  He loves you no matter what. 

No. Matter. What.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Hands and Feet of Jesus!

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were involved in the 5th annual R.O.C.K. event at a local church. It was a joint effort between members of four churches to plan a day long conference for Orphan Care Education.  It was very successful and God was so evident there during that day.  My heart was full to overflowing just seeing all the children represented who were once orphans and now are precious chosen children that He has placed in families!

I am not gonna lie - this is where I thrive.  The adoption "arena" is like oxygen to me.  It drives my passion and fuels my desire to educate and advocate.  Many of my close friends in the adoption world helped with this project and I was "all in" from the start.

Right before Bill and I began our session on "Special Needs", I was introduced by a friend to a lovely lady named Darlene.  Many of the other faces in the session were familiar to me as they were already parents to special needs children.  Our session was informational and had a "pick my brain" Q&A at the end.  Bill and I told stories of our calling to adopt children with special needs and how God has equipped us for these children.  I know its not everyday you meet a family with 10 children so we always get some funny discussions revolving around family size and our kids abilities (which some call disabilities)

Some of our discussion was based on how to pay for services and other adaptations after we get our children home.  We have been investigating the opportunities out there for our family based on non-profit and government help.  Something as simple as an accessible home may keep a family from adopting a child with mobility issues.   Where do families find the cash to pay for things such as ramps into their home or a vehicle equipped for a wheelchair?  

The answer is complicated.  Many times you have to apply for help and wait for the funding.  Meanwhile, your child has a hard time getting from place to place and the grunt work falls on the parent.  (such as lifting/carrying)  We have faced this with our kids.  Even though we are still able to physically help our children up steps or into our van....they are growing and getting heavier every day.  Driving a 15 passenger van is a necessity in our family due to its size.  The van is awesome but sits very high to be lifting a boy about 43 pounds up into his booster seat who is dead weight and top heavy because of hydrocephalus.

Once into our home, our children who have mobility issues are able to navigate the main floor of our home.  Two of our girls share the main level bathroom and bedroom.  We do have to carry our son up and down the steps once a day but everything he needs can be found on the main level of our home except his bed.  Ideally, one day we will have a stair lift but we are doing fine right now.

The ROCK event was a huge success and I was filled to overflowing with the new faces I met and the knowledge that more people left the event informed about adoption, foster care, and orphan care in general.  The event was God breathed and surely promoted His command to care for orphans and widows. 

James 1:27   King James Version (KJV)

27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

 As soon as I got home I checked the computer for new e-mail and jumped on Facebook for a few minutes.  I noticed I had a new friend request and after checking her profile realized it was the same "Darlene" I had been introduced to at the event.  I "friended" her and closed the computer.   Later that day, I was notified that I had a message on my phone.  I have the Facebook "messenger" app on my phone.  

Darlene had sent me a message.  Not just any message either...
 It said, "Hi Kelly! I met you thru Donna F. just before your session today and then sat in the session with you and your husband. My husband and a friend (very experienced men in construction) and some of our family (sons, grandsons) would like to build 1 if not two of the ramps you need for wheelchair access and can do it next weekend. When you get a chance could you call me please. They'd need to stop by to see the area and what materials they will purchase to do this. Honored to serve! xoxo Darlene

WOW - a complete stranger with a heart to serve!  I am certain she had NO IDEA what a difference this would make in our day to day activities!  Quite frankly, until I loaded all the kids in the van for church the following Sunday  -- even I didn't know how much it would help!

So Pete and Paul came to our home the following Saturday set to serve the Lord by building a ramp into our home.  Not only did they build a ramp.....they allowed our children to help them.  It was amazing to watch my kids screw in nails with an electric drill.  It was amazing to watch them feel a part of this process to become less dependent on us.  We were SO BLESSED!

Eli watching Paul (Darlene's husband)

Cassie helping with the nails

Elijah taking his turn with the electric drill!  

 This, ladies and gentlemen, is God using people for orphan care!!  You are right, they are no longer orphans but, let me tell you, this was serving the orphan!  If you wish to serve the orphan and you have a skill....maybe this is the way!!  Use your skills to help a family.  BE Jesus hands and feet.

Oh, what a blessing you will be to the family.  Praise God for those of you who have a heart for Him.  May He use you mightily today in someones life.  It might be a smile, a much needed meal or a ramp for a family with special needs kids.   Praise God for your willing heart!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The ACTUAL trip to China.

Since my post regarding how scared your child is got a lot of interest ,I thought I would take it a step further and talk about the trip itself.  Going to China is the pinnacle of the adoption process.  It what you have waited for month after month.  You have counted down the days and now its here! Whats it like in China?  What will I experience on my trip??

There are several things to take into account when in China.
Here's my small list of what to think about BEFORE you go:

  • do you have any food allergies or airborn allergies?
  • does pollution bother you?
  • does it bother you when someone invades you personal space?
  • do you mind wearing clothing two or three times before laundering?
  • are you uptight in unfamiliar places and situations or do you go with the flow?
  • do you mind flying?  
  • do you get car sick?
  • do you mind people staring at you or even touching you (without asking)?
  • can you ignore or politely decline offers to sell you something or ask for money?
  • do you mind being followed?
  • will you eat something that looks back at you?
  • will you eat dark meat?
  • could you survive on noodles for two weeks?
  • are you willing to fight for a spot on an elevator?
  • are you willing to have your heart broken over and over again?
  • are you willing to look the other way when you see injustice and not punch someone?
  • are you capable of leaving behind children in a place no child should have to live?
  • Can you make it through a day and not think about the ones left behind?
  • are you able to answer the question, "Is this child satisfactory?" without screaming
As you can see, I started with the questions that you should think about because you may have to deal with the situation.  As the list progresses, these questions are more likely to be a concern.  By the bottom of my list, this will happen and you should prepare yourself.

Let's start with the logistics of the trip.
You will be flying for what seems like endless hours in cramped conditions with no privacy. (do you snore or slobber when you sleep?)  Be prepared with a pillow, blanket, and ear phones/plugs.  Trying to sleep in a plane is like trying to sleep in a cardboard box next to a room full of kids at recess.
Comfort is nonexistent and sleep will evade you.  My suggestion is melatonin or Benadryl.  It will at least put you in a haze so you don't care about the slobber.

You may have a lay over where you will be in an airport with very few English speaking people and no Diet Coke.  You heard Diet coke and NO ICE. can DO this....
There will be no ice for the remainder of your trip that is safe for you to eat.  Usually it is not offered.
Drinking refrigerated soda with no ice will be the norm.  Don't expect any diet drinks to be found either. Holy Aspartame Batman!

Pollution is a very big concern in China.  You may need a mask for the entire trip if you are sensitive to it.  It is enough to make your throat sore in a matter of days.  Be ready.  PLEASE bring your inhaler if you use one regularly.  You might was to bring some sinus spray as well. I remember flying in to Beijing and as we were landing we went through the black area I thought was a thunderstorm. I quickly realized it was the thick layer of smog that resides over Beijing.

In the USA, personal space is part of our culture.  We all know to sit with at least one seat between people at the movies. We usually don't choose to eat at a table right next to someone else.  We don't stand in line too closely waiting to pay for our items and we usually allow someone waiting ahead of us to go before we do. We certainly do not touch someone else for any reason. China is very different.

Our first adoption trip I had taken Cassie out to shop and get fresh air.  I was pushing a stroller and carrying bags on the way back to the hotel.  As I entered the hotel and came to the elevator, I was too late to get on the car going up.  I waited and was joined by several other businessmen for the next trip up to the higher floors.  I was the first person waiting for the next car and THEN was joined by the men.  In the USA, the men would have allowed me to enter first because 1) I was a woman with a child, I was loaded down with bags, and I was pushing a stroller. Not to mention because I were there FIRST.


As the doors to the elevator opened the men rushed in for their spot.  I was squeezed out by a petite guy with a gotee and a large briefcase.   NOT A CHANCE.  I must have looked shell shocked as the doors closed and I was left there holding my bags with a look of disbelief on my face.  In China it is every "man"  for himself when waiting to go somewhere...the elevators, the taxis, in line for a table, etc...  Be ready to throw down for your spot. I mean it.

Do you have blonde hair?  Do you have curly hair?   These are things that the people of China never see.  They will stare at you and may even sneak over to touch your hair.   My daughter Chelsea was blessed with light blonde hair that hung in ringlets when she was younger.  The first time she went to China she was stared at and someone even tried to feel her hair from behind her.  She was totally freaked out at the age of 12!  My son-in-law went to China with my husband in 2012.  He was wearing dreadlocks in his blonde hair then.  They were pretty long and, as he found out, hard to hide.
As a world traveler,  Matt seemed to roll with the punches and was ready for anything.  Anything BUT the attention he drew with his "weird" blonde hair.  He quickly found a way to cover them with a bandana for most of the trip.

Our first trip to China, we took our whole family plus my mom....ya know, because we were never gonna go back again (insert eye roll here).  Our daughter, Karli, was about 16 and she had very long bleach blonde hair.  We went to WalMart one day to get some things to donate to the orphanage and took the whole family.  As we were checking out, a crowd began to surround Karli and we were all looking at each other wondering what was going on.  We soon found out that the young teens thought she was Britney Spears!

Another cultural difference in China is that most stores have people that will follow you around while you shop.  The intent is to carry your items back to the appropriate register for purchase but it feels like you are being stalked and it quickly became a game for our family to try to lose them in the aisles.  Some hotel floors even have attendants to track if you are in your room or not. You first think - wow! this is cool to be greeted every time you come back to your room.  Then it hits you that they are tracking if you are in your room or not. Talk about "Big Brother"...

Obviously, food in China is very different from the United States and, be ready, because food in China is VERY different from Chinese food in the USA.  The chicken breast is considered dry and no good by the Chinese culture.  They want dark tender meat to eat.  Breast are the least expensive to buy and wings and thighs are the premium meat. Fish is cooked everywhere in China - the whole fish.  So don't be surprised if its looking back at you when it it served.

Our family totally enjoyed the "noodle shops" found on every street corner in the cites.  One adoption that was a daily meal for me. Whats funny is that as the appetizer they give you noodle broth.  Yep, the juice --- plain old broth with all that cloudy gluten swirling around.  Don't feel obligated to drink it - unless you are traveling in the winter and need a drink to warm your bones.

Pointing??  -- In the US it is rude to point or stare.  Not. In. China.
It is a regular occurrence to have someone walk up close to you and stare....even before you get your adopted child(ren).  It will be worse after you have a Chinese child in your care.  Many people will give you the thumbs up or a quick smile.  Makes you wonder if they ever had to give up one of their own children because of a special need or the "one child policy".

To me, the hardest part of the Chinese culture is that you never see a person who has a special need.  No one needs a ramp in China.  No one needs an automatic door to open for them. There are no handicap spaces in front of the noodle joint.   (Actually a very small percentage of people even have a car in China....they walk or ride a bike everywhere)  The only Chinese I ever saw with a special need were the beggars on the streets.  One man was laying on his belly with his shirt pulled up to reveal a huge scar on his back...he was painting on the side of the street with a tin cup nearby.

You quickly realize that any child that had a special need was abandoned.  (I wont get into the reasons why in this blog post )  So, most of the adults and children with special needs are living in an institutional setting with gates surrounded the property.  They are hidden away from society.  Never seen unless they are begging.

heart. broken.

When you finally get to the point of adoption day there are no words to describe how you feel.
You emotions run the gammut from the "what have I done?" to  "this is amazing"
There is nothing as sobering as the civil affairs officer asking you, "Is this child satisfactory?"
what?  WHAT??    This is a real question you WILL be asked the second day you have your child.  They want to know if your child is "satisfactory"!  For most this is a ridiculous question and almost insulting that the officials will use the word "satisfactory"  

Satisfactory as in adequate??   Satisfactory as in meeting the need?  Satisfactory as in just enough to meet the requirement?

I fell off my seat the first time I was asked eyes must have been HUGE.
satisfactory? Well, I dont want to get up on my soapbox but I will give a different viewpoint of my child being "just satisfactory"

Let me see....  
  Is this child everything I dreamed? 
 Is this child what I have waited for for over a year?  
Is this child an ANSWER TO PRAYER??
 This child will change me.  This child will be what I live for my entire life. 
 This child will be a child that makes me feel complete.  
This child, in what you would call an imperfect body, is PERFECT.

The trip to China is full of cultural difference.  None more real than the fact our children were not good enough for their culture in some way.  Maybe, just their gender and, maybe, their physical or mental condition.  God uses them and their brokenness to heal us and help us grow.  They teach us on a daily basis and they allow us to see Jesus' heart.  
not just satisfactory...but special and chosen.

** Had a couple of comments on my facebook page too about men constantly spitting and making nose noises.  Oh, and the kids wearing split pants that pee on the streets and curbs. ***

ALL comments are moderated for this blog and  will be visible after I have published it.
Please do not waste my time if your comment is unkind.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are they all yours?

I saw that!  You rolled your eyes after you read the subject of this post!

Yes,I know.  That's a loaded question from a stranger isn't it?
Lets see - what else do I get asked.....

Are they sisters?  Are they brothers?  Where are they from?  Are you done yet? 

I also hear the statement, "Boy, you sure have your hands full!"
That one kind of "irks" me in a way I can't explain.
 I wanna say to them -- Yes I do - and what have you done for God lately?
Sometimes I have to check my attitude at the door. 

So, the basis for this post is that we are called to adopt and we are slowly introduced to the "adoption lingo"   You know - saying BIO instead of real....knowing when someone says "YOURS" that indeed yours is not indicative of biology but of the heart.

I remember when I was first processing for our daughter, Cassie.  Excited was not even close to how I felt on my new adventure.  I chose to travel with my two bio girls to Atlanta to meet up with my agency representative and other families who had used my agency.  A weekend to celebrate and get to know other adoptive families.  

The trip there was uneventful and we were welcomed with open arms and kindness. The weekend was everything I had imagined except for the sheer panic the first moments I sat down with the families. Panic that I would say something "wrong".  I had never spent time with families whose lives revolved around adoption and I was scared to talk. (Those that know me can attest to the fact this is a rare occurrence)

There was a lot of talk in "letters" - PA, TA, LOI, SN.   All of these acronyms had their place in adoption lingo but I hadn't memorized any of them and had never been forced to use them.  I can see why a lot of prospective adoptive parents look for a friend to help translate what they are being told.
Its true...there is a lingo.

As far as when strangers make comments to our obviously "different" families - I have to remind myself that they have not been to "Adoption Lingo and Theory 101".  They have no clue how to phrase their questions properly in order to NOT offend the adoptive parent.  I try to kindly rephrase their question to the proper context and then take the opportunity to educate.

Don't get me wrong - I KNOW there are people out there and they are just prying and getting into my business.  I can sense that a mile away.  First, the stares and then the "smile" - soon enough they are sauntering over to engage me.   They are the busy bodies who just have no common sense.  They ask absolutely ridiculous questions in front of my children.  Excuse me???  Yes, I get hot but I have to remind myself of their need for grace. I have to demonstrate Jesus to them.  This is part of my calling.

If a person starts a conversation and is genuinely interested in my family, I can tolerate stupid questions.  Intent is easy to read in people - especially being an adoptive parent for 8 years.  If a person is just nosey - they better take two steps back cuz momma bear may rear her ugly head.
Just sayin.

What I am trying to convey is that God calls us to testify to His glory in our lives.  He has given us  children and they are OURS...yet, we need to educate others on why we adopted and how God orchestrated it down the last penny. How God equips us to handle our quiver and allow us to shine because of His help every day.

The next time someone comes up to you and asks a question or makes a statement - step back and say to yourself.... "I'm gonna blow them away testifying to Gods goodness and love through my kids stories". Challenge yourself to completely overwhelm them with your testimony.  Dare them to walk away unchanged.
 "Carry the light giving message into the night"

Philippians 2:14-16

The Message (MSG) - emphasis mine.
14-16 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fundraising - Is it a dirty word?

Adoption is expensive.

Most adoptions that are not through foster care can be at least $20,000. Many run as much as
$40,000.  There are not many people I know that have that much money laying around in a savings account.  Many don't even have a quarter of that. 

I have adopted eight children and two of my adoptions were "two children simultaneously" from China.  I never had much money in the bank but I knew God would help me raise the money or bring it to my family somehow.  After all, He created the Universe so what's a "little" money to Him? Frankly, the last two adoptions were the only adoptions I distinctly knew where the money was coming from. (Tax refund from the other adoptions)

So, I want to share how the Lord funded a few of our adoptions so you can see HOW HE WORKS!

Our adoption of two girls in 2010 was completed in 4 months.  We found our 11 year old daughter first and then added our daughter who had four months to be adopted before reaching the age of 14.
Fourteen is the cut-off age for China - after the 14th birthday they "age out" and are "unadoptable."
Even if a family is found and they are processing or even on their way...ALL paperwork must be complete by that day.

We had our work cut out for us as we had just brought a daughter home in June of 2009.   This was the Fall of 2009 and the adoption needed to be complete by March 1, 2010.  This gave us four months to raise close to $35,000.  We were tapped out.   No savings and NO idea where the money was coming from.

Our adoption agency did not charge us extra agency fees for the second child and even their coordinator in China waived her "finders" fee for us.   (ask for fee waivers - all they can say is no)
I can remember we must have  had a little money laying around to pay the first fees for the adoption.  After that I began the "Dollar for Hope and Joy" campaign.  Basically I asked people to donate $1.00 to our pay pal chip-in account and then spread the word.  We made a decent amount of money and, of course, many people gave more than a dollar. (Hope and Joy are the girl's middle names)

The second fundraiser we did was a Vera Bradley drawing using face book and email as the PR as well as my blog.  We raised $3,000. for the girls.   Soon, it was crunch time and I was starting to panic. I had been asking for prayer on face book and some of my yahoo groups.  A friend from a past adoption trip shared my status and someone posted -- "Give them my name maybe I can help them".
I recognized the name of the poster as someone who had given us a $3,000. grant for our second adoption.  Her parents have allotted money for her to grant as she sees fit.  She has the joy of finding the families and giving.

I quickly wrote to her on her face book page and explained she actually "knew" me.  We chatted and she said she would really like to help us.  We filled out the application and sent it to her along with our home study (a home study is basically a report on your life by a social worker....very very detailed)  We were past the new year and starting to panic a bit about the remaining funds for travel and fees for two adoptions in China.  I estimated we needed roughly $23,000 before we could leave to get the girls.  Meanwhile, we had a deadline of March 1 for Samantha to be adopted.


A few weeks later, we got the call of a lifetime. 

My new friend was granting us $6,000.00 for our adoptions!  Praise God for His provision.  Along with this grant, she was loaning us the other $17,000.00 to be fully funded!  Her father was writing us a personal check for the $17,000.00.  She said we could pay it back with whatever funds became available in the next few years.  (Tax returns etc.)  We were floored and just praised God for His anointing on our adoptions of these young ladies! (Yes, complete confirmation we were in His will)

Out of the blue--adoption friend from years before-- random face book status seen - fully funded!

Another time God showed up was when we were adopting our daughter, Brighton, in 2009.  We were three weeks from traveling and we needed 13,000.00.  Our daughter was from a poor province and she had a haircut where her head was shaved except for a wisp of bangs.

Laying in bed one night, I was thinking about how to get the funds we needed in such a short amount of time.  We had sent our application to Shaohannah's Hope and had not heard back from them yet.
I also knew we could apply to the ABBA Fund and ask for a loan.  I really didn't expect a grant from Shaohannahs Hope because we had been denied twice before.  I was wracking my brain trying to come up with some gimmick that would bring a huge amount of attention to our need and separate us from the other 100 families asking for funds.
 Suddenly I knew --- BALD FOR BRIGHTON!  

I poured my heart out on face book and the yahoo groups I was on and told the members I would shave my head if I could raise $5,000.00 before we traveled in two weeks.  I promised once I returned to China with Brighton I would shave my hair off.

4 days.

FOUR DAYS is all it took to have donations of $5,000.00.  One donation came in early and the donor said, 'I will make up any money you are short at the end of the two weeks".  I didn't know this person....a friend of a friend.  His check was for $1700.00!  WOW.  God showed up big time--again. He also provided us with the Shaohannah,s Hope grant for $5,000. and a $3,000. loan from the ABBA Fund. (fully funded!)
before the shave
during the shave

Again and again, the Lord provided for 8 adoptions on a teachers salary with me as a stay at home mom.  He asked us to be obedient to the Call and promised us He would take care of the rest.
Thousands of dollars came from donations and checks from complete strangers.  They were called as GIVE.

If you are adopting and are concerned the money wont be there...STOP IT.  Believe His promises because He is faithful to you.  He shows up in the least expected ways at the time when you have begun to lose hope.  Sometimes we have lost hope and its all we have to cry out to Him for help.
He wants us to rely on His power and provision.  He relishes your praise and love and the fact you will give Him GLORY in the end.  Hes an ON TIME God.

Yes, the money is an issue and it is hard to raise in your own power.  However, He does not ask us to go on this adventure by ourselves.  He delights on the fact we need Him.  We are made stronger in our weakness.....God provides and sets the lonely in families.

Don't doubt your calling if money is the thing keeping you from obedience.
Allow Him to work in other's lives to provide for you.  Allow them to BLESS you.
God desires you to cry out to Him and ask for His help.  Ask Him to provide in ways that only He can get the Glory.   Then, sit back and watch Him work.

Fundraising ideas:
  • garage sale where the community donates and prices things to sell. ( have a bake sale or doughnuts there too)
  • drawings for popular items such as Longerberger baskets or Vera Bradley purses
  • facebook auctions of donated items from friends and businesses.
  • have a 5K
  • spaghetti dinner with silent auction
  • sell gold
  • sell items and have the sales person donate their profit - Tupperware, "31" bags, jewelry, etc
  • sell puzzle pieces - 10.00 each to sponsor a piece of the puzzle....make it a photo puzzle for the child's room -- frame and hang with all the names written on the back of each piece.
  • sells baked goods (Grandma's favorite pie recipe, Uncle Tony's pizza pie)
  •  collect your change for the entire time your adoption is in process....ask others to collect theirs too.
  • Have a kids carnival -- use 25 cent tickets as the charge per game and/or ride.  Sell food too.
  • "give away" a debit care worth a good bit of money -- say $100. or $500. - ask for donations of 1.00 or 5.00 or 10.00 for each entry.  Give "free" entries for sharing on social media.
  • grow cut flowers and sell them.  or vegetables.
  • auction off your time share week
  • sell tee-shirts

There are many ways to fund raise... I pray God leads you to the idea that best suits your family!

Most of all, allow the Lord to guide you in your money spending decision as you do the budget for the month.  You can cut corners in so many different ways. (drop cable, drop extra cable channels, don't get your nails done, stop eating out, skip your vacation this year, get rid of an extra vehicles or trade in the one with a high monthly payment for a cheaper older model, clip coupons and shop sales etc...)  I could go on and on.

Lastly - because this blog post is getting out of hand--

Fund raising is NOT a dirty word.  
Fund raising is a way to allow others to bless you and 
allow God to shower you with His love, faithfulness, and provision.
BE in the CENTER of His will
.....its the best place to be ever!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Your child is scared.

I have been thinking of all the ways people think of adoption.
One idea of adoption is that the child is being rescued. 
You and I know this is true that adoption into a forever family is
redemption. A child who is adopted is brought out of a life of pain and suffering
in a tangible way.  There is no denying it is the best option for the child.
The fleshly part of us is proud of the fact we are making a difference in the child's life.

BUT...  your child is scared.

When adopting a child, please, be mindful that even though you KNOW it is best for the child to
be brought into a forever family they are being torn from everything they know.  Most likely they will not be happy about their situation -- possibly for days.  Maybe longer.

You child only knows life as they have lived it.  They don't know it will be vastly better.  They are used to having noise around them, beds close together, eating certain foods, and most certainly a routine.  They are losing everything they know when they are adopted.  This will be a traumatic event for them.

This trauma may cause them to stop eating and drinking.  They may not make eye contact with you.  They will want to keep their dirty clothes on and their shoes. They will not want to bathe.  Anything they can do to get some kind of control for even a minute.  They are shocked and have no idea who these people are with the round eyes and big noses.  Its unfamiliar to them in every way.

Be prepared for the crying - it may last for days
Be prepared for the entire shut down of their emotions
Be prepared that your child may be mean or aggressive
Be prepared they will not comply - at all - for days.

If  you can make it through the heartache you child is suffering and show them love through
their messy behaviors, you have made it through some of the hard part of adoption.  

Be ready for them to blossom
Be ready for them to open slowing like the tulip in Springtime
Be ready for their heart to heal and accept your touches
Be ready for their eyes to slowly be opened to a whole new BETTER world.
Be ready to be a witness to the redemption power of LOVE.

Take your cues from your new son or daughter-- especially on your adoption trip.
Be WITH them fully.  Don't use the trip as a sightseeing trip.  Keep their new world small and allow them to slowly grasp what is happening to them.  Over stimulation brings out the ugly, the doubt, and the fear.  Just the hotel room with running water, a TV, and light switches for them to play with may be enough for the first few days. The books, play dough, and bubbles will satisfy their curiosity and allow them to "play".

 Play can bring a distraction to their ongoing insecurity and allow them to see your kindness and love.

Your child has no idea what is happening to them or that it WILL be better for them.
They don't trust you.  EARN their trust slowly.  Don't be surprised if it takes weeks to earn their trust and feel secure.  It may take months or years.  It is a slow process but they are healing as they begin to trust. 

Your child is scared.
They need time and love.
Its not easy but you will make it through.

Draw near to Him when you are scared.  Allow Him to be a guide to parenting this hurt child.
He has placed you in an important role and He has faith in you.  You were chosen by God to parent your new son or daughter just as your child was chosen.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lipstick on the mirror --

My husband and I presented at an orphan conference this weekend on the subject of special needs.
It was a "no brainer" for us to tell others how God grew our family and how He called us to each child.  Every one of our children has a story of how God led them to our family and gave us confirmation that the path we chose was His path for us.  He equips us daily and has led us to children with severe needs.  Not everyone is called to children with special needs and not everyone is called to a child who can't walk or hear. Not everyone is called to adopt.

However, when you think you are called to adopt and grow your family.....

  how do you really know?

We all want "lipstick on the mirror" from God telling us the answers to life.  If he cant do that, than I am willing to look for skywriting in the sky ---  right?   Well, sometimes you have to leap first and then you receive confirmation.  He is asking for our trust.  He is seeking that we give it over to Him.  Its not easy is it?

Prayer is the first and foremost way to seek His will.  Go to Him and present your petition - asking in confidence that He hears and will answer.  Be still and look for those answers.  Sometimes they are full out obvious and sometimes they are not.

 Here's my list of DO's and DON'Ts:

  • Seek counsel with other Christians - especially if you have a spouse. Pray TOGETHER. 
  •  Make a list of "pros and cons" regarding adopting a specific child  (or any child)
  • Take into account how the addition of a child will affect your current family unit.
  • Think about your finances - to finance the adoption as well as any therapies or surgeries that may come your way parenting the child.
  •  consider your ability to parent another child. (think about your health, stress level, time commitments outside the home, and stability of your marriage)
  • seek out any doctors you may need for your child's special need.  Are there specialists in your area or will you have to travel to them?
  • disregard your spouses hesitation.
  • move forward if your spouse is "not on the same page" as you are.
  • stop praying
 Gather all your information and take time to make up your mind.  God may have another family waiting for the exact child you have hesitation about.  Educate yourself in every possible way about the process of adoption and the special need you are considering.  Find out about the area the child is from and if anyone knows other children who have come home from that area.  This is a huge window into their care and could foreshadow possible emotional issues that the child may have.

Once you have done your homework and you can make an educated decision - you need to go with your instinct.  Instinct is my equivalent to the Holy Spirit--- it is the Holy Spirit.  God gave you this to guide you and help you make this giant - no turning back - decision.  Follow the Holy Spirit.
I am still on the fence if there is another child for our family. 
Hubby says NO ...     like really....NNNOOO
So I pray and I ask the Lord to show me how to deal with these feelings.  I can't save them all - as I have been told SO many times by "kind, well meaning" people who meet me.  (you know everyone says that to you when you are thinking about another child or telling them you ARE adopting another child)
As an adoptive parent, we are walking the narrow path.  There are many people who just don't GET IT.   Don't allow those people to dictate how your family is made.  God is the one to consult. 
He may give you lipstick on the mirror....or skywriting in the heavens.  Whatever the mode of confirmation, I pray He moves in your life and the answers are apparent!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Am I allowed to be angry?? (just keeping it real)

I have a chip on my shoulder.  I have been carrying it since 2010.

I don't like that I feel this way but I do.  Its how God has grown me to be His servant.

My nature is to be a nurturer.  Most moms are and they gladly do what is necessary for their family.
(OK...maybe not always... but most know what they are signing up for when they get married and have children)

I just feel like I was duped.  Told one thing but didn't get what I thought I was getting.  I don't mean to sound callous.  I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I am just dealing with issues I didn't request. It happens all the time in the adoption world....   all.    the.    time.

In the Fall of 2009, our family was comprised of 6 children ages 21, 18, 6,5,4, and 4.  We had adopted four toddlers in as many years.  I completely had my hands full with the "littles" but the Lord had not calmed my heart for the orphan.  (Now, I know he'll never do that!)  My husband and I found a beautiful, smiling, "full of life" little girl on a waiting child list we decided to adopt.  She was 11 when we found her.  Right smack in the middle of the kids we were parenting at the time.  Self sufficient and ready to come into our family with hardly a blink of our eyes.


 My first realization that her file was not accurate was after I met her.  We were on the second floor of a government building which had no elevators.  Our gotcha moment was precious and she was everything I saw in her photos.  Sweet, tiny, and smiley.  At 11 years old, she was barely up to my chest and weighed a bit over 50 pounds.  She was scared and I praised God for allowing us to adopt two older girls at the same time. They had each other for comfort. ( our other daughter was adopted the week before - a few days from her 14th birthday)

After the papers were signed, we were on our way.  We followed the orphanage staff out the door and into the hallway to the top of the steps.  I reached for my daughter's hand to assist her on the steps when the orphanage director said, "She cannot use the steps".  I was floored. Why was I so surprised?
My daughter's file clearly had the box checked that said - CAN do steps.  Seriously?  We lived in a split foyer home....enter and you choose-- steps up or steps down.  I was reeling, meanwhile, I bent over and she leaned on my back to carry her down two flights of steps and out to the ground level of the building.


To make a long story short - she wanted me to do everything for her -- even help her toilet and wipe.
I was shocked but still in love with the idea of this sweet smiley girl.  She had my heart and I had loved her for a long time already.

By the time I had spent 24 hours with her, I found that she needed almost complete care for getting dressed, shoes, socks, hair care, toileting, showering, steps(long distance walking was certainly out of the question), carrying anything that was heavier than a pound or two, and getting in and out of a car.
 The amount of lifting I did the first day was unreal since China is NOT handicap friendly AT ALL.

Today, she is more self sufficient because we make her do anything remotely possible for her to do independently.  She does toilet herself and she can walk longer distances.  She can carry her dinner plate to the sink for washing as well as dress the upper half of her body.  I still do her hair, dress the bottom half of her body, shower her, carry her backpack, and lift her up and down steps as best I can.  She has come a long way and we are very proud of her. 

But - I am still angry.

As I got to know her, I found she was a favorite at her orphanage and THE LEADER.  She was "entitled" and brought that attitude with her to our home.  She would ask for assistance with everything that would involve even a little energy expenditure on her part.  Now, when dad and I aren't around, she gets her siblings to do her bidding.  This makes it even harder to "serve" her as she believes it is expected and is far from grateful.  She doesn't even seem to care that her demands inconvenience us.

I know she has been dealt a terrible hand in life.  I would never wish this special need on anyone; however, she needs to TRY her best to do what she can.  I am not an enabler and I never will be.  My children learn at a young age to do what they can for themselves because I want them to learn independence and self sufficiency.  Its a parent's job to teach the child. 

So, here I am, four years later, still angry.  I pray about this anger every day and hope that God gives me grace.  I pray I give my daughter grace.

 I have to be like Jesus.
 I have to suck it up and deal with it.  HE is teaching me...Its what parents do...

**Disclaimer:  I love my daughter and this is MY issue--not hers.  I love her dearly and I know I have been called to be her mom. Jesus helps me show His light to her.  I am thankful. ***

Just keepin' it real.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How I react to the word : CANCER.....because I am a survivor.

I am a breast cancer survivor.  My cancer was caught early and I "over treated" it to be sure it would not come back. I hate cancer and I hate what it does to people physically, financially, and mentally.
Entire families are shaken to their core when someone they love is diagnosed with cancer.  It is a surreal feeling especially if you are feeling well as I was.  How can this be?  NOT ME! My first reaction was, "My kids will lose their mother again" (I have adopted kids so they suffer that loss from their biological mom)

Words I used to describe the feeling of being told you have cancer:
  • helpless
  • angry
  • scared
  • broken
  • sad
  • despair    
A week or so later, after learning the treatment plan I felt determined and ready to fight.
I had major surgery with a long recovery as well as chemotherapy.  Not nearly as bad as some who need radiation and multiple surgeries.  I had it easy -- but it was HARD.

Everyone in the family was suffering in one way or another.  My husband felt completely unable to help me.  My children were fearful for my life and even scared by my lack of hair. It was as if we were living in a slow motion horror film and the spotlights were on us.  When you have NO hair - the spotlight is on you.  Everyone looks at you with pity and seems to think you are on death's door.  I got tired of always reassuring everyone I was OK.  It was a big job but I was in charge of everyone else's opinion of me by how I acted and looked.

Like I said, I had it easy.  One surgery with double mastectomy and complete reconstruction of both breasts.  I never had the pain of going through months without "them".  It still is hard though as I see my self in the mirror daily with large 5" scars and no aureolas.  (They must take the full aureola when doing a mastectomy)  I'm sad I look different but on the outside I look "normal".

I was never scared I was going to die.  I knew I had a constant companion in the Lord and I knew He would get me through every second of the pain, fatigue, nausea, and heartache.  I lost a little piece of me hearing that I had cancer.  It was the innocent piece of me that always says, "not me" or "not my family".   It WAS me and it was MY FAMILY.  

I gained something, too, though--- a closer relationship with my Father in Heaven.  I had to lean on Him.  I had to rely on His strength even on the good days of treatment. I'm so thankful He was present for me and I knew He loved me and cared how I was doing.  Daily conversations took place and I knew He listened.  My faith was solid and no 6 letter word could have shaken it.

My reaction to someone who says they have cancer (or their loved one has cancer) is different now that I am a survivor.  If I know they have a relationship with Jesus Christ then I know they have Him and they have hope.  If they don't know Him, then they need to and I take it upon myself to witness of His mercy and tender care during my cancer.  I am sad for them - I hurt for them - I know what they are facing and I am sorry they have to go through it.  Its HARD. 

You will never be the same in many ways if you have had cancer -- I have never felt fully myself since my treatment.  I took the drug Tamoxifen for 1 year and 9 months after my last chemotherapy.  It is an important drug for breast cancer survivors.  I was supposed to take it for five years.  It debilitated me.  I was in such pain I could not make it thru a day without joint pain and my legs and arms throbbing from pain.  How was I supposed to live my life with such awful pain day in and day out?  I finally gave it to the Lord.  I asked Him for protection from recurrence of the cancer.  It was one of the most freeing days of my life.  I gave it to God.

I am now three years, one month and 25 days since my last chemotherapy treatment.  (technically the end of treatment and the beginning of being cancer free).  Yes, I know the days and months and years.
Cancer does that to you.  I am victorious and, yet, still a prisoner to cancer.  It may come back.  Maybe.  If it does --  Ill be ready with my Savior by my side.  Ready to fight the battle again.

So, to you that are walking this path or may walk this path - I say to you:

 Fear nothing.  Allow Christ to be the center of your battle.
You will never be the same physically but spiritually you will never be closer to the Lord.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cave dwellings - Brighton's first home.

Brighton's tiny face, all puckered up and worried, is what I remember most about her file.  It was a face of doubt.  Why are you doing this?  Obviously, she had never had her photo taken.  My eyes were drawn to what looked like a professional football field far below her in the background. It was completely out of place for this area of China. There it was in the middle of such obvious poverty -- a stadium with astro-turf!

As God would have it, I was permitted by the civil affairs officer to visit Brighton before we adopted her.  I could not have predicted it but it was more than a year before our adoption trip.  To visit your child before adoption is unheard of so I knew God had special plans for my trip.  I was going primarily to take her a walker so she could become more ambulatory - in hopes she would walk unassisted someday.

I was allowed to travel to see Brighton in her hometown of Yan'An, ShaanXi province.  It is a mountainous region in the Northwest part of China.  The city was separated by an old river bed dredged in between two mountain ridges.   It is the most incredible city I have seen in China.  Visiting Yan'An was an incredible learning opportunity and gave me a window into my daughter's first 4.5 years of her life.  Meeting her foster grandmother was amazing and something I consider a huge privilege.

Yan'An is a typical Chinese city with the exception of the soccer stadium and the housing of the people.  Many of the people still reside in the mountain dwellings tunneled back into the side of the surrounding mountains.  Imagine living IN the side of a mountain with nothing but dirt floors and walls.  A garage door is the only thing protecting you from the elements.  Many of the entry ways in this photo do not even have the door.  Primitive at best, right?

This is the type of home my daughter lived in for the first years of her life.  I can only imagine the winters of northwest China and the cold the mountain people living in these dwellings had to endure.
I can only guess where they went to the bathroom.  I know they only had a stove type heater in each dwelling.  They slept on brick beds.  BRICK.

This was the only way to stay warm.  Build the bed of bricks with a small hole under to pipe the heat from the stove.  Sleeping on a slab is mighty uncomfortable but, for a child with spina bifida, it must have been terrible.  Brighton must have been cold.  She slept with the covers over her face for over a year after she came to live with us.  My heart hurts for her to have lived in these circumstances.

I leave you with this.  Many children live in these dire circumstances.  If not for the Lord, who protects them and gives them a hope and a future, they would perish.  May the God of hope be ever present in their lives each day.  May they someday have the opportunity to know Him.  Ask the Lord how He can provide you with the opportunity to help. Be willing to sacrifice if He calls you to help.  Be ready. Be willing. YOU ARE ABLE.

Ways you can help:
  • pray for the orphans of this world
  • sponsor a child to help with food clothing education and possibly medical issues. (click here)
  • help an adopting family financially
  • go on a mission trip
  • adopt
  • foster a child
  • pray

Monday, March 24, 2014

spina bifida, deafness, club foot, hydrocephalus..... that's a list of issues. 
Wanna "meet" her??
Yep, my daughter has all these issues.

This photo is shortly after Miss "B" came home to us in June 2009 from China.   She had NO language and could not walk.  You can see her right foot was at a constant point due to club foot. The scar that ran across her lower back was complicated looking and very ugly.  Her hydrocephalus was untreated. We had our work cut out for us to visit doctors and to have her hearing assessed. 

I was going through my old file of emails for her adoption and came across a few emails written when as I was being called to advocate for her (and subsequently become her mommy).  I am still in awe of how God raised up a village to bring her home.  Within two days of an email post to the group for my agency THEY had raised enough money to begin the process for her - over $3,000.00!  It was God bringing angels to help our family commit to this little sprite.  The testimony of her adoption is one for another blog post - so, I digress...

Brighton's file was empty.  It had three photos of her and a few medical reports.  Nothing to state if she was hard of hearing or profoundly deaf.  We knew she had been given the surgery to correct her meningocele and her back was closed.  That's about all.   Her head didn't look overly large like some kids with hydrocephalus but we new there had been no treatment.  We didn't even know if she could bear weight on her legs....all the photos were of her sitting down.

Wheels were turning.  It was before our adoption of Joseph that I started looking for her family for her.  I was advocating the best I could but she needed help.  I knew that an update for her file was needed to help prospective parents see her for who she really had the potential to be.  We got one through my service for families that are waiting parents.  (

She was pictured standing next to a bed in a garage type room with dirt floors.  She was filthy but her smile was there "beaming" for all to see.... She had personality plus and we could all see that from her photos.  The report said she was incontinent and could not walk without assistance.  Her foot was badly clubbed.   She could not hear.

Hmphh - all that.  Yep, it was a whole bunch of stuff that a family would have to consider.  They'd have to have good insurance and time.  Time to go to doctors appointments and therapies.  It was going to be harder to find a family than I thought....even with the update that she could stand.

About a month later Joey came home - He was very very ill with a severe heart defect.  I never once considered adopting Brighton --  especially so, with a critically ill child to care for.   Joseph was extremely blessed to have a team of doctors fight for his life when we came home.  He was miraculously discharged 9 days after his open heart surgery.  His life was spared and he was on the road to recovery.

About a month later, I started to feel the call to go get Brighton. We prayed and finally decided to move forward.  We were only home with Joey for four months so we could not start our homestudy for two more months. (That was our agencies rule, I think)  We waited over a year to go get her and in that time, I actually traveled to her home town and delivered a walker to her.  (another miracle)

Brighton came home to our family in June of 2009.  She could not talk but she could make noises and made her needs known.  She had a foot that was completely upside down with a callous on the top of her foot from "walking" on it.  We had doctors lined up and clinic appointments for her spina bifida.

Her final assessment was that she was incontinent, profoundly deaf, had a club foot, dislocated hip, repaired meningocele, and unshunted hydrocephalus but in the first few weeks we spent with her we knew no matter what the list included she was our daughter and she was such a happy girl.  God knew what He was doing and we are so blessed to call her our own.

This photo was taken after her club foot casting.
She is wearing ankle foot orthotics to give her stability.

Today, Brighton is almost nine years old.  She is in a special needs 2nd grade class at our local deaf school.  She is thriving and she is still the happiest kid on Earth every day.  We use American Sign Language to communicate and she is learning more and more every day.  Since she has joined our family she had had many surgeries including being shunted and having her spinal cord de-tethered. She is incontinent and is catheterized four times a day to keep her kidneys healthy.
She had club foot casting done as well.   Brighton now walks with forearm crutches and uses a wheelchair for long distances.  She is a smart young lady with a stong will to do things other people don't expect her to do.  I can learn so much from her determination.
Brighton has taught me many things.  Most of all, she has taught me to know that God knows what we can handle.  He planned everything perfectly and always does.  So glad I listened and chose His path!  I would have missed such a blessing!!

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (The Message)
I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 

**tomorrow's blog will be about the living conditions Brighton had while in China with her foster family.  It was a mountain dwelling with no heat.