Monday, April 24, 2017

A Dream Come True

I don't know the exact date, but I still remember the night it happened. It was somewhere between late spring to mid summer when I woke up in the dead of night. I was wide awake and the thought came so clearly to me, “You have a daughter.”

This one statement was insane, not because Scott and I already had six children, but because we were already in the process of adopting two boys from China. How could I even begin to think of another child? 

Years ago, I dreamt that the Lord told me that He was going to give me ten children. It hardly seemed a reality, but there we were, adopting two boys and about to be the parents to eight children. Yet, in the middle of the wait to bring our boys home, He woke me up to tell me about child number nine! It was at this point that I began to believe that maybe my dream about this promise of ten children was more than just a dream.

I shared what the Lord told me with my husband and to my surprise, he believed me. Eventually, I shared what I believed the Lord told me with a couple of friends. As we got closer to bringing our boys home, I even decided that we should look into reusing our dossier. In China, you can reuse your dossier one more time within a year of your previous adoption. This sounded like the way to go. I researched a bit and then tucked that plan in the back of my head for when the time was right to execute it.

Then we brought our boys home.

Things got hard. The honeymoon ended fairly quickly and our family had to learn how to adjust to our new life with two boys from a different country. One of the boys grieved, the other acted out in his own ways, and the other kids carried the struggles of this tremendous change into the atmosphere, creating moments full of tears, anger, and frustration. 

Still, in the midst of all the turmoil, that middle-of-the-night message echoed in my mind from time to time, “You have a daughter.” My God was not letting me forget, even when surrounded by the chaos and adversity that was now our life. 

Several months in, that voice echoed the same message in my head and I remember collapsing in my bed, near tears and oh, so weary. I gave Him my answer, “God, I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m so tired. I can’t take another child.” 

Then I fell asleep.

But even when I sleep, He does not. He skillfully weaves our life into a beautiful story and every now and then, He shares a glimpse of His vision to us in our dreams. That night, He knew how to take my heart and ensconce it into the foundation of His promises through another dream. 

In this dream, I was standing with my family. We were surrounded by people, all of us heading for a destination. To the left, we could see a beautiful city in the distance. The buildings were tall and colorful. Almost all of the people, a large crowd, started walking towards this beautiful place. But I grabbed a couple of my children’s hands, looked at my family and said, “We are going to go this way.” I pointed to my right where there was a raft-like boat big enough for all of us sitting in the water. In the far distance, I could see another land. The buildings weren't as tall, the colors weren't as vibrant, but I knew that was where our family needed to go. As our family walked along the path towards the raft, I noticed a few people here and there who had made the same decision we’d made. They were joining us on the path leading to the rafts. There weren’t as many of us going to this other land, but there was a certain feeling of anticipation as we headed that way.  

Several rafts floated in the water, carrying my family and other families towards this new land. The scene suddenly changed. I made it to the land we sailed towards and I was walking alone towards a bridge on a path surrounded by lush green grass and beautiful trees. The sun was shining with a warm ray of hope. I knew I needed to go to the bridge. From the opposite side of the bridge, a woman was walking towards me, holding the hand of a little girl. We met up on the bridge and the woman placed the child’s hand in mind, said goodbye to the little girl, then walked away. The child and I watched her leave, then the little girl, still holding my hand, looked up at me with her big, beautiful, dark eyes and asked, “Can you please tell me why I don’t have a family?”

I looked into those sweet eyes and I saw the loss and suffering. I knew right then that I had to choose whether I was going to either answer her question or be the answer to her question. I had no words that could adequately explain why because I knew what I was supposed to do. I had to take her with me. 

Then I woke up. 

That is when I knew I could not tell God I'm too tired again. I realized that I needed to rely on Him for strength through all of this and that if He was calling me to do this, He would provide the strength I needed. I gave in to His will. I told him if He wanted me to adopt again, I would. 

I got on our agency’s site and completed the Medical Needs Checklist, a list that asks prospective adoptive parents what medical conditions they were willing to consider. Scott and I talked about it and marked the medical conditions we felt we could handle. We stated we wanted a female and I chose a younger age range just knowing that it was never going to happen and that I’d eventually have to go back and expand our range. But this was just the first step. The wait would be long and I just wanted to get our name in line for the wait. At this point, it was too late to reuse our dossier so I was going to have to start from scratch. We knew we were being called to adopt again, but we weren't quite ready for the next step. My plan was to expand the age range once we felt truly ready to start the process again. I should have remembered from our last adoption experience that my plans tend to get thwarted when I try to manipulate the system!

After submitting our checklist, we received an email encouraging us to go ahead and get moving on the rest of the paper process, but we weren’t ready for that yet. We found out that we were moving and knew we needed to focus on the next big change. So we moved from Florida to Arkansas, changing life drastically for every one of our children once again. We spent the next nine months getting our family settled in. We established some relationships with people we could do life with and I even started taking art classes again! God began working in my heart in so many other ways and I started to truly understand what it looks like to face tough situations with Him standing alongside me. I learned to rely on Him when I didn't feel capable to walk through the tough situations that parenting often brings. All of this strengthened me in a new way.

As we started making connections with the people around us, Scott started talking about adoption again. This time, he became the driving force behind our next steps. He felt like God was telling Him it was time to adopt again. I knew when He was hearing that, it was time to move forward. I still hesitated. I knew it was on me to get things going, but I wasn't quite sure which direction we should go. I literally started seeing signs. The word "Go" popped out at me everywhere. There was no denying it, He was calling us to this. I kept hearing about this amazing organization in our area that specializes in helping families through domestic adoption. What if we were supposed to adopt domestically?

We prayed about where we were supposed to adopt from. We really didn’t hear a specific location, so we agreed that maybe we were supposed to start the process right where we were. I remember thinking about how sad I was that I wasn't going to go back to China again. I always thought I would, but God didn't make it clear and we knew there is a great need right where live. "Maybe when the boys get older," I thought, "We can go back for a heritage trip." 

We attended an information meeting the beginning of March and filled out the initial paperwork to get things going for a domestic adoption. Then we waited to be assigned to a training session. The earliest session didn't start until April and we were told that it was already full. The next available class didn't start until June. "Now I know why we need to go on this," I thought. This process was going to take a while!

Spring finally arrived! We decided to fly the family back to Florida for Spring Break. We got to visit our church family and have lunch with some of them. We talked about adoption and I shared how we started the process again. Everyone cheered and encouraged us on. A friend back home texted me that same week to tell me that she and her husband were there for us along this journey. I felt we were finally established and settled in and it was finally a good time to move forward.

The rest of the week flew by and before I knew it, it was our last full day in Florida. We’d made arrangements to see some friends later that day, so I was making good use of my time, packing and catching up on laundry while Scott handled a phone call that he needed to make. While I was packing in my room, my cell phone rang. I looked at my phone and saw the city and state. I knew immediately who it was. 

And I froze.

I stared at my phone as it continued to ring. I watched in disbelief as this device beckoned me to answer. I just held it, watching until the call went to voice mail. I waited to see if what I believed was happening was true. The phone dinged and I looked at my voicemail. A transcript of the message popped up. It was CCAI, the adoption agency we went through to bring our boys home. They were calling from the waiting child department. 

I texted my friend, the one I was going to see later that day. I told her about the call, then said, “I’m afraid to call back!” 

She encouraged me to just check to see what they wanted. "Maybe they just want to see how you all are doing!" She tried to convince me, but even she wasn't so sure. I still couldn’t do it. What if they want to match us with a child and it’s not what we were prepared for? What if we have to say no to a child? I remember thinking, “I don’t want to say no to a child!” 

I waited for Scott to get off the phone so I could tell him about the call.  

“Let’s call them back together.” He made it sound so easy!

I was so nervous, making that call. I tried to convince myself that they might just want us to complete more paper work or maybe they just wanted to see if we were still interested in adopting through CCAI since we hadn’t started on our dossier. The time period since we came home with our boys was well past a year, so it would require starting over with a new dossier. 

But the call was exactly what I thought and it went something like this...

“We have a match,” the woman on the other line told me. “Are you interested in hearing about this child?” 

I looked at Scott who answered for both of us, “Yeah!” 

I braced myself. I didn’t want to say no to a child. We’d just started the process to adopt in Arkansas. How in the world was this going to work out? I couldn’t imagine it would. 

"God," I pleaded, "I don't want to say no to a child." 

Then my thoughts took over. What if we were their only chance at being adopted? What if their needs are more than we can handle? We started the process in Arkansas, aren't we supposed to be adopting from Arkansas? The only way I could see it working, is if she was a girl, and a younger girl at that. 

The woman interrupted my thoughts, “Well, first, the child is a girl.”

I looked at Scott, a bit shocked. Why? I don’t know. I marked girl on the checklist, but the whole situation seemed so surreal.  

“She just turned a year old this month…”

Jaw dropped.

“She has the cutest cheeks!”

Tears welled up in my eyes. Was I hearing this right?

She continued with more details, then, “If you are interested, I’ll email her file…”

Scott answered for us again. I was pretty much speechless.

While I waited for the email, I texted my friend, “It’s a girl!” Crying (but happy crying!) emoji’s followed.  “One! A BABY girl!” Was this really happening?

I kept checking my email to see her picture and read more about her. Finally, the email landed in my inbox and that is when I was wrecked. 

Those cheeks! 

Her eyes!

We knew immediately the answer was yes. I was going to say yes to this child!

We took a moment to pray about it, but the answer was clear. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

We knew we needed to try to find out as much as we could about her medical situation, so we reached out to an international adoption clinic where her file was evaluated by some doctors. They went over her file with us and gave us their professional opinion. Some of the unknowns are scary, but everything we could be facing is something we feel we should be willing to walk into with this sweet one.

So we submitted our letter of intent and received pre-approval the next week! The journey has begun and I can’t wait to get our little girl home. I'm so thankful that even when we aren't quite sure which direction to go, our God is gracious enough to lead us. He told me I had a daughter, then He prepared the way. 

He gave me strength, He planted this desire in my heart, and He brought the news of this child to us. There is so much significance to the timing of it all. Even her finding date is on a significant day to us.

My Daughter. My Dream. My Promise.

And that time frame when I first heard Him whisper this sweet news to my heart? After discovering her birthday, I calculated that it was probably right around the time she was conceived that I heard. Maybe it was the very moment, but at the very least, it was just weeks after. 

How amazing is that?

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." Jeremiah 1:5a

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Are They Worth It?

“Mom?  Are they worth it?” 

I looked into my daughter’s pleading eyes, trying to figure out how to answer her question without choking on my own tears.  Both her sisters looked at me, waiting for the answer to the question they were too afraid to ask.  

I stood there for a second or two, trying to decide if I should smooth things over with a safe answer or if I should be real and honest.  The honest answer might not bring my girls the comfort they craved, and at bed time, I wasn’t sure I was ready for an emotional meltdown (times three).

But when I opened my mouth, I could only confess the truth.  She wanted to know if these boys were worth the risk.  Were they worth possibly dying for and as a result, leaving even more orphans in the world?  

The thought had been weighing heavily on me as we grew closer to receiving travel approval.  We decided to apply to adopt a child in January and less than a month later we said yes to two boys.  There were nights when I couldn’t sleep.  Anxiety caught my breath and squeezed my heart as I wondered what we were thinking.  

We said yes to an older boy with disabilities we originally thought we couldn’t handle.  God told us we could.  Then we pursued a second older boy with the same special need, only less severe.  We said yes to both.  We would welcome these two boys into our family and love them unconditionally.  They could be terrible human beings for all we knew.  We could travel half-way around the world, bring them home and forever regret our decision.  

Or we could not make it back at all.

As the time for travel grew closer, all of the unknowns left my three daughters and I in a state of angst and tears.  

This adoption forced me to walk in blind faith and I was determined to pull my daughters along with me.  I knew that no matter the outcome, I had to trust that God had a plan and that it would be fulfilled.  If the plan was for Scott, Pacey (our 14 year old son who was traveling with us) and I to die in a plane crash on our way to China, then I had to accept that.  If His plan was for us to bring home two little hellians and love them through the chaos and damage they inflict on us, then I had to accept that as well.  

I wanted my girls to understand that blind faith involves taking risks.  I knew the odds were in our favor to come back in one piece, but I also knew that there were so many other things that could go wrong.  I knew without a doubt what we were called to do and I was not going to let fear stop us now.  So I looked at my girls and braced myself for the meltdown.

“I’ve never met these boys.”  I answered.  

Tears started streaming down my face and my voice quivered.  With all honesty, I could not say they were worth it to me.  If I knew that I was going to die going into this, would I just walk into this death sentence?  

“I can’t say that for me, they are worth it.”  I continued.  “But for God, these boys are worth it.  He told us to go.  He chose these boys for us.”  I was pretty much sobbing as I finished my answer with conviction.  “So we are going to do this.  We are going to trust in God and we are going to China to get your brothers.”

I looked at my precious girls’ faces as they all sobbed simultaneously.  We gathered together on the floor, held each other, and cried together.  I felt so silly.  But I felt their fear and it was very real.  I knew what they were going through because I was going through it too.  

Just the thought of leaving my babies for two whole weeks felt like an eternity.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  All I knew was God told us to go.  Faith was the only force stopping Scott and I from backing out and running hard in the opposite direction.  As I realized this, I saw the parallel between what was ahead for our family and what God and His son went through for us.

I can only imagine how much harder it was for Jesus to willingly walk into His own death.  His father said that you and I are worth it, so He agreed to separate himself from His father so that we could be adopted into His family.  My sacrifice was going to be nothing (even if I died in a plane crash) compared to what He did.  He knew that pain and death was ahead.  

I imagine His anxiety was so much worse than mine.  After all, I wasn’t in such agony that my sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)  But He didn’t let fear (of the known!) stop Him from fulfilling is mission.  

He said Yes.

This realization strengthened me.  What I was about to do was small compared to the sacrifice He made for me and my family. 

And so, our adoption journey drew me even closer to my Savior.  He walked a harder path than the one right before me.  He did so, knowing he would be rejected, persecuted, and hurt by many.  He was convicted enough to follow through, because He agreed with His father - we are worth it.  

In the middle of the sobs and tears, I gathered my girls in my arms and we prayed.  We told God that we would trust Him on this journey. 

How could these boys not be worth it?  While I still feared the unknown (I won’t lie - I was terrified), I knew our family had one choice:  We were going to do this.  If these boys were worth it to God, then they were worth it to us.  

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.   John 14:18

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sending Smiles To Myles - And His Forever Family

Dear Friends,

This is a miracle in the works.  As Myles’ (also spelled Miles) story has been weighing on my heart, it has also touched the hearts of many others.  I just received word last night that Myles has a family who has started the process of adopting him!  

I want to share with you a little bit more about how this boy’s story is coming together:

1.  Myles will have 13 other siblings!  10 of them still live at home!

2.  The couple adopting him just returned from China last fall.  They adopted TWINS.  As I’ve shared with you from my personal experience, adoption is expensive, and adopting two is even MORE expensive!

3.  This couple has experience with Myles’ condition and they are ready to get him on the road to recovery as soon as possible.  

4.  This couple is still trying to financially recover from their last adoption(s).  The mom shared with me that they felt called to adopt Myles and that they are stepping out in faith.  They don’t have the funds, and she intends to fundraise to pay for the remaining fees of Miles’ adoption that isn’t covered by adoption waivers and grants.

5.  Because of the seriousness of Miles’ condition, the adoption agency intends on getting the family to Miles within 3-4 months, leaving them very little time to raise the money they need to adopt him.  On top of the added stress of coming up with financial support within a very short timeframe, this mom and dad will have paperwork to complete and plans to make as they continue to care for their other children.  Just the thought stresses ME out!

Friends, this is our opportunity to help this family.  The hard part is truly on them.  They are dedicating the rest of their lives to helping this boy and their other 13 children.  What they are doing is amazing!  

Here is the great news:  I found out that between some grants and waivers, this family only needs to raise $12,000 to fund Myles’ adoption!  This is so attainable!  

So now I’m asking you, what if we can relieve the stress a little by covering the remainder of their adoption fees so that these parents don’t have to fundraise?  What if they can just focus on getting to Miles?  

I need your participation more than ever, and it will only require a few minutes of your time and if you can, $10 from your wallet.

If you haven’t posted a picture with the hash tag, #SmilesToMyles, will you do so today?  How amazing would it be for this family to be able to share with Myles all the smiles that were sent his way.  What a story of hope and how it will speak in volumes to him about how, while he was waiting and lonely, God was moving people all over the world to save his life.  

In addition to blessing Myles, know that every smile posted is also a smile to encourage this brave family to keep moving forward.  I cannot even begin to express how scary the unknowns of adoption can be.  One of the best gifts you can give a family who is in the process of adopting is support.

Your smile is a symbol of hope, love, and support to this brave family who are living a life of sacrifice.  

Next, can you tag or message some of your friends and ask them to participate?  

You can even write something along the lines of, 

I just sent #SmilesToMyles and I challenge (list friends' names) to send him a smile too!

If you’d like me to add your picture to the website, tag me on Facebook and write that you give me permission to post it on the Love An Orphan site or email it to me at

And last but not least, please go to and donate $10 
(or more!)  

We need to raise this money as quickly as possible!  If each of us can get ten of our friends to help out by donating and then asking ten of their friends, this family will be funded in no time!  It will take 1,200 people to make this happen.  This number is not so big when you consider how many people there are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

So that is it!  

Your mission is to be one of the 1,200 people, and then invite your friends to be a part of this opportunity to bless a little boy!

Thank you so much to all of you who have raised awareness, posted pictures, and donated to help Myles get to his forever family.  You are a hero ~ and you are helping save this boy’s life.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Smiles To Myles

I came across his picture on a waiting child advocacy page on Facebook.  I hadn’t intended to stumble upon his story in such a way that I would be drawn in, but for some reason, it was in my feed and I clicked on the post.  I’d seen his face before and knew of his special need, but this night, when I clicked on the post, I discovered that the family who intended to adopt him changed their minds.  As if this news wasn’t tragic enough, he only has until June before he ages out and can no longer be adopted.

I see these stories over and over again, but for Myles, this news is especially tragic.  Myles has Thalassemia and without proper treatment, Myles will die.

Not being adopted is a death sentence.

The realization of his dire predicament hit me hard as I read further about his life from people who had visited him in his orphanage.

Myles is a kind boy, but because of his condition, he has not grown much for his age. He looks very small and it’s hard to believe that next summer he will be fourteen years old. Because he is so small, some other boys in the orphanage have taken advantage of his small stature and have bullied him.

I know that this is a typical scenario for children who live life in an orphanage, but when you see the face of someone who just needs hope...a chance at life ~ a family ~ the obvious truth of just how wrong this is really hits hard. All I could think when I read about Myles’ situation, is “something has to be done! “

Here we are, in the process of adopting two boys with Cerebral Palsy. I am going to be pouring every ounce of energy, time, and emotion into helping these boys transition into their new lives.

...BUT, I have an extra bed. It’s in the boys’ room. We have plenty of food and health insurance. We could be his family.

Did I mention that Myles likes to play guitar? I looked at the photograph of Myles. I took note of his pale lips and again, his small stature. He and Pacey would have something in common. They are close in age, although nobody would guess it. Pacey would protect Myles if he was his brother.

Fighting tears, I showed his picture to Scott. I told him about Myles’ situation, then gave up on holding back the tears. Someone should be crying for this boy. Somebody should notice him and the hopeless situation he is facing. The solution is so simple. He needs a family.

As I continued to talk to Scott about him, I wondered, “What if his parents gave him up hoping that someone would adopt him and be able to afford the healthcare they couldn’t provide? What if nobody comes for him?”

I cannot even imagine the amount of love and faith it must take to completely let go of a child and hope that someone good and kind will step up and rescue the one I gave birth to.

“Can you imagine,” I asked my husband, “having to make that decision for one of our babies? Can you imagine trying for the first few years to provide for him and after realizing we couldn’t give him what he needs to survive, taking that leap of faith?

How many regrets would you have if you later found out your child was never adopted and they died an early death, being bullied and feeling abandoned and hopeless?”

That’s not how this story is supposed to end.

More tears followed. This world can be such a cold, dark place.

Scott, the amazing man he is, told me to ask about him. Our home study only has us approved for two children. I knew that adopting three at once would be a long shot, so I tried to play out the scenario in my mind. How much would it delay the other two adoptions if we tried to do this right now? Could we handle going back a few months later? How can we make this work?

Myles is in a different province than the other two boys we are adopting and I found out he even speaks a different language.

“How hard would it be to have three different spoken languages to try to decipher between all of us?” I wondered.

I played the scenario through my head. I was stressed just thinking about it. How would the other two boys bond with him? Would they treat him differently because he looked and spoke differently?

I finally got the nerve to reach out to a woman who was advocating for him. I told her we were very seriously considering this boy and wanted to ask about him, but we weren’t sure if it would work. Since it was Fridaynight, I had to wait the weekend before I could act. Until then, I decided to do more research.

I reached out to a mother who has experience with Thalassemia. As she shared that he would need to go to a Thalassemia specialist as soon as possible and shared her biggest guess on what could possibly be his initial treatment plan, I tried to figure out in my head how we could make it work. It would require an out of state visit to the nearest specialist, then an aggressive treatment plan to get him on a healthier path.

As I logically planned out how we would pull this off, I realized that adopting Myles and trying to get the other two boys the treatment they need, along with bonding and settling, would be a tremendous burden on our family, especially if we were able to get to him during the school year. Yet, I wrestled with reason. I thought of ways to convince our social worker and the CCCWA in China that we could do this.

Through all of this, I prayed and prayed. I felt restless, the weight of the world pressed down on my heart and shoulders. My body literally ached with the burden I carried for this boy. That Saturday evening, I was awake more than I slept.

I replayed our situation in my head over and over again, trying to find a way to make it all work. There were so many things to consider, but at about 5:00 in the morning, I knew in my heart what I’d been resisting the last 36 hours or so.

I am not enough.

I can’t do it.

I can’t adopt Myles right now.

I grieved the disappointment and failure that I felt. There is so much that we have that we could offer this boy, but it still isn’t enough. I heard God’s gentle voice loud and clear, “You need to focus on the adoptions you are already working on. Stay on your path and let me be God.”

So I relented, “Okay, God. I hear you.”

The next few days, I had to remind myself to focus on our two boys every time Myles came to mind. Each time I breathed out a prayer, telling God that I know I’m not enough, but He is...

and then I said,

“But I’m still going to help that boy.”

I may not be the one who can adopt this very special boy, but Friends, I can share his story. A small group of people have moved to help Myles find his family. He has a Reece’s Rainbow account where a small group of Myles' supporters and advocates have been trying to raise money to fund his adoption. A small portion of his adoption fees have already been waived. But we need to do more.

What if we share Myles’ story and create a greater hope and reason for him to be adopted? What if we were able to raise enough money (Approximately $30,000) for his adoption to be fully funded so that his forever family doesn’t have to worry about the financial burden required just to get to him?

You can be a light in Myles’ life.

You can shelter this orphan from those who might intend harm.

You can help him to see what it is like to be loved.

You can be a messenger of hope.

You can help rescue him from death itself.

YOU can be a hero in Myles’ life.

Can you imagine the look on Myles’ parents’ faces if they were to hear how people all over the United States gave to save their son’s life? Can you imagine the overwhelming sense of love that would cover them?

What if each of us gave just $10 and passed on the message to our friends? 

Little by little, it would add up. If you have more, give more. But know that just $10 and a personal request to your friends brings Myles many steps closer to hope. This small act of kindness is like sending a smile his way, letting him know he is not alone in this world.

Let’s do this.  Let’s send #SmilesToMyles

Let’s rewrite this boy’s story...the one that claims a death sentence over him. Let’s give him life, hope, and love. We might not be the ones to bring him home...we might not be enough by ourselves, but together, we can change this boy’s life.

You can love this orphan along with me. You can send him a smile. I’m challenging you now to ask your friends to join you in this campaign to give Myles hope.

Here is how:

1. To donate towards Myles’ adoption, please go to

Your donations are tax deductible!

2. Then, Tweet “Let’s send #SmilesToMyles” and include links to this blog post and his RR account.

3. Share his story on Facebook. Include the hashtag #SmilesToMyles along with the challenge to donate at least $10 towards his adoption. Be sure to include the link to his Reece's Rainbow account!

4. Send messages to your friends (one at a time is most effective) and ask them to send a smile to Myles. When they donate, tell them to post a picture of themselves holding a sign that says, "I'm Sending #Smiles To Myles" and tag you in it so you know they did it! Then encourage them to personally invite ten of their friends (or more!) to do the same!

Post your picture and share this opportunity with your friends!

5. Share a picture of your pretty smile on Instagram and Facebook and include a link to his account.

As you can see, there are so many ways to raise awareness and help this boy!

Let’s watch his account grow to fully fund his adoption and pray that God brings his family to him soon!

Thank you for helping change Myles’ story to a story of redemption and hope!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The One Thing You Can't Get Back When Adopting An Older Child

It's after 1:00 in the morning and I can't sleep.  My son just called and read off a script.  "I'm here in Fort ------------.  I'm safe.  I'll call you when I can."  Scott got to hear his voice.  I grabbed his phone from him as quick as I could, hoping to say hi, but it was too late.  He had to hang up.

It's funny.  Insomnia has crept in as I think about my 18 year old son trying to sleep in a hard bed away from his family tonight and he's not even sleeping.  I imagine the hardship he is about to endure as he begins basic training.  I don't think my imagination can do it justice.

Words cannot express how much I miss him right now.  Just a few nights ago I was holding him in my arms, crying into his shoulder.  He has grown so fast.  In fact, he has grown so fast, his departure has left me feeling like I just got punched in the gut.  I feel breathless, waiting for the moment to pass when I can finally gasp for air.

He is gone.  I'm so thankful this is not me enduring the death of a child - I will get to see my son again...but I still feel that I am somewhat mourning.

This is the part of adopting an older child that didn't hit me until now.  Nathanuel was 7 years old when he was first placed with us.  Just over 11 years later and he is gone.  That's it.  I've had 11 years to raise my boy.

There was not enough time.  I wasn't prepared for this.

I want 7 more years!

If money could buy more time, I'd spend it in a heartbeat.  I'd invest in my son a little longer and love him a whole lot more.

You see, adopting an older child comes with a whole new set of challenges.  When they are older, they have more than likely gone through more hardship and they more than likely come to you more damaged.

An adopted child of any age goes through more loss and suffering that most of us don't even comprehend on a surface level.  When we see baby orphans, we think they are so stinking cute and can't wait to hold them and hand them a cute plastic toy for them to chew on.  What we don't realize is that these babies more than likely have spent much of their lives never being held, never being responded to, never learning the basics of nurture and love that a child born to two healthy and loving parents can give.

See, when a baby cries, usually the mom or dad will check on them.  If their diaper is dirty, they change it.  If they are hungry, they receive warm milk.  If they are lonely, they are rocked back to sleep, complete with lullaby of choice!  Their every need is met and they learn that all they have to do is cry out, and their mom or dad will come.  They learn the smell of their mommy's neck, the gentle caress of a finger on their cheek, and the comfort of a swaddling blanket encompassing their body right before a peaceful snuggle.  Bonding forms, they become attached, and they grow up secure, learning how to nurture and love other people as they mature.

But an orphan's story is different.  They often spend many lonely hours with no response to their desperate cries.  They learn that their voice don't matter.  Nobody cares.  They are rejected.  They barely exist.  There is no bonding.  There is no love.  There is only the lonely echo of their cry.  Soon, they learn to give up.  Many will just stop crying.  They lie there, waiting for fate to end the misery.

If the child continues to survive somehow, they might be exposed to other hardships.  In an orphanage or foster home, they might suffer years of neglect, or be bullied, or worse.  In places like the U.S., there is a system in place where a child in a harmful situation will many times be removed from the home and placed in a foster home.  If they are lucky, the foster parents will provide them with a warm bed and a sense of security during their stay in their home.  Sometimes, even the foster parents are screwed up enough to cause even further damage to the child.

My son was placed in foster care and suffered more damage.  He watched his brother die to abuse in his foster home.  When we got him, we had very little training on raising an adopted child despite the ten hours of required classes we had to take.  We knew very little about what we were dealing with on a day to day basis.

Through the years, we didn't understand why Nathanuel responded to us differently than our biological children.  Nathanuel was always fearful.  I remember when Scott playfully picked Nathanuel up and held him up to the ceiling in a playful gesture.  Our youngest son would have hollered in glee at having his daddy pick him up and hold him so high, but Nathanuel responded in terror.  I'll never forget the panicked look on his face and the way he gripped Scott's hands so tightly as he insisted that Scott put him down.  He was clearly in fear, and we were shocked because it wasn't our intention to make him feel fear.

But fear was something that Nathanuel has carried with him ever since we've ever known him - even longer.  We've had so many discussions about it, and no doubt, he's had many valid reasons to justify why he's struggled with fear.

But here I am now, wide awake, thinking about how this same boy is so determined to do something with his life, that he has signed up to join the Army to pursue his dreams of being a police man.  This means that he is going to have to face so many fears.  He will have to give up his sense of control (after all, who really is fully in control?).  He will have to give up the comforts of his life with us.  (So long, Security!)  He will have to give up his own safety.  (This makes my heart want to freeze in my chest).  It also makes my heart swell with pride.

As I contemplate how quickly the years went by, there are three things I want to say to the other adoptive parents out there who have adopted an older child:

1.  Don't give up.  The years of damage these children have gone through cannot be undone instantly.  Be a strong foundation and source of security for them.  Without this, they will never have a chance to heal.

2.  Pick and choose your battles.  There will be many to choose from!  Which ones will matter ten years from now?  Take it from a mama who picked the wrong ones sometimes, you can't win every one, and if you did, it still wouldn't be worth what you lose out of being "the winner."

3. Love, Love, LOVE on your kid! Your time is short.  My biggest regrets:  I didn't say I love you enough.  I didn't hold him enough.  I didn't hug him enough.  I simply feel that I didn't establish a sense of peace and unconditional love and acceptance with him.  I got caught up in Mom mode - busy "teaching" him what I thought was essential to being a successful human being, that he left for basic and I'm here wondering if he really realizes how valued and treasured he is.  I hope he does.

Adopting an older child is different.  You have less time.  Don't take it for granted.  Make good use out of every single minute.  

As Scott and I move towards the adoption of two older boys, I am more determined than ever to be a better mom.  Mom mode may kick in from time to time, but I will remind myself daily that it's okay to stop and just walk along side them through life.  They don't need a kick in the pants 24/7.  They've had enough of that before I became their mom.  They need someone to respond to the silent cries in their hearts...whether it's a cry for someone to walk them through the loneliness they've endured before I came along, or if they just need someone to show them that someone is willing to meet their basic human needs, do it.

Love them, because the time is short.  It's the one thing you can't get back or make up for. Don't let it slip away.  You need every minute to show your child they matter.

Be vigilant.  Be strong.  Don't give up.  Fight for your kid.  They are worth it.

Nathanuel, I'm so proud of you.  Despite my failures as a parent, you have grown into an outstanding young man.  Please don't ever give up and know that you are valued and loved.  I'm covering you in prayer and especially asking that where I've failed you as a parent, God has covered with His grace.  I love you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Dragonfly Princess

I'm not a big fan of roller coasters, but from time to time I'll seek the thrill and ride one.  There's something about waiting in line, just thinking about all the things that could go wrong...  That is the part I dread the most - the waiting, the thinking, the risk.  But I force my feet to shuffle forward, following the excited crowd towards the point of no return.   Once I'm seated, the belt latches together, then the safety bar comes down...





There's no going back now!  This is the part where I always want to panic.  If it weren't for that bar, I'd probably give into temptation and exit the ride.  Instead, I'm left with no choice but to grip that bar fiercely, double check to make sure it is truly going to keep me in my seat, and brace myself for all the loops and curves that await.

That is how I felt the day of Cathy's arrival.  It's not that I feared her coming as much as I knew that her arrival solidified that we are actually, truly, intentionally moving forward with this adoption of ours.  The reality terrifies me.

I watched her flight throughout the day, knowing with each and every passing hour, we were going all in.  Now that she was on the plane, there was no turning back.  The safety bar was officially locked in place.

The closer she got to us, the more nervous I felt.  This was a defining moment in our decision to adopt two boys with special needs from a country half way around the world.   The ride is truly about to begin!

With the reality of this life change going on through our heads, Scott and I simply willed ourselves to function like we normally do.  The actions on the outside did not mirror what was going on with us on the inside (because if we threw our hands in the air and screamed, people would probably think we were crazy)!

So on May 27th, we loaded the kids up in the hot car, ran back inside to grab the signs we almost forgot, and headed to the airport to pick up a stranger from a land so-very-different from our own, with the intention of bringing her into our home, our family, and our lives.  This woman will serve as a bridge to connect the gap between our Chinese sons and us.  She will also be a witness to all of our mistakes, flaws, and moments of frustration as we continue to raise our children.  It is my hope and prayer that she also sees the victory, the determination, and a love that covers all of our sins and failures as human beings and parents.

We watched as loads of people passed again, and again, and again.  Some stopped to admire the signs and our adorable children anxiously searching for their new Chinese big sister.  One woman took a bow and thanked us for her generous welcome.  I'm glad the signs reached out to more than just one Cathy!
Finally, Cathy appeared, searching anxiously for the American family with so many children.  She spotted us, then waved with the biggest, warmest smile on her face.  

On this very day, our roller coaster ride (also currently known as our adoption journey) suddenly jolted ahead, moving us into action.

We are no longer looking back.  We are slowly but surely moving forward, climbing the tracks upward, unsure of what lies ahead.  As we wait to reach the top, we stop to take in the view from right where we are.  

Here we are, showing Cathy the view of the
city from the roof of the parking garage at the airport.

This is a conscious decision.  We will live each day intentionally.  We will take in all that life brings us and soak each memory in as we wait for the next steps to accelerate us into our future.  So for the rest of this post, I will share the memories of our first days of getting to know Cathy.

Each day has been full of activity.  We brought Cathy home from the airport, fed her, gave her the grand tour of our home, and then she went straight to the girls' bedroom and played a game with them.  I was impressed that she immersed herself into building relationships with the girls right away.

Carey, did you ever imagine the game you bought the girls would be crowning a beautiful Chinese head?
The next night, Cathy presented us with gifts.  She put so much thought into all that she presented.

Cathy presents the girls with shadow puppets.

In a previous email, we jokingly
decided that we could be called The Qi Pao girls.
(It sounds cool in English!)
Each of us ladies were given a Qi Pao.
Mine was hand-painted.  Beautiful!
Cathy was such a trooper her first few days in America, willing herself to stay up as much as possible during our day time.  Where she lives in China, they are 12 hours ahead of us.  I joked that she got to travel back in time.  I know adjusting to the time difference had to have been hard, but she is strong.

Friday, she made sure she was up and joined us for a walk to the park.  

It was while we were there that I got the phone call sharing the news that we'd received approval from USCIS for our I800a application.  This approval was the last document we needed to send our dossier to China!  I loaded Cathy up in the car and drove her to our adoption agency's office to get the form notarized.  How she kept going after only two days in America is beyond me!

Nathanuel graduated the following Sunday, just four days after Cathy's arrival.  Cathy wanted to come along and got a small view of one of the local college campuses.  She was so sweet to sit by the girls and entertain and hold them during the two hour ceremony.

The very next day, I convinced her to join me for a four hour drive to Tallahassee to get the last of our dossier certified.  She was a trooper.  The sweet woman endured a very long day in the car.  We got it done!  The forms were certified and then we shipped it out to get authenticated.

Each and every day was busy.  We took a trip to the beach where she actually stood up on a paddle board!  Do you see the old man with his hands in the air?  He challenged her from the beginning and celebrated her success when she finally stood up.  Cathy has a way of drawing people in like that.  She is surely special.

One night while we were out in the back yard, Cathy shared with me that the Chinese pronunciation of her name sounds a lot like the pronunciation for dragonfly.  She said that her friends call her dragonfly because of this.  The moment she shared this with me, dragonflies suddenly appeared and began to dance around her.  It was a magical moment.  Seeing this, I decided our Cathy truly is a dragonfly princess!  Since then, I have noticed so many dragonflies swooping through the air, especially when I am walking with her.  I've seen dragonflies in Florida, but never have I noticed so many until the day she told me about her name!  

I witness all of this and see:

It's like God is trying to say, "I see her!  I see this beautiful princess and I love her dearly."

She truly has an adventurous spirit and a beautiful heart.  The first Sunday I took her to church with us???  I ended up putting her to work!  She handed out food to the crowd for our Splash Sunday event and did so with a smile.  She didn't think twice about it!

On top of that, I threw Cathy into an experience that could have very well been overwhelming for other people.   My friend Amy and I asked her to join us and the other group of ladies from my church and attend our first annual ladies retreat!  We attended the Beth Moore conference here and I did not warn her about what I was getting her into!

To prepare her for all the studying ahead, sweet Amy presented Cathy with the most thoughtful gift.  Cathy was so surprised!  

She got a Bible written in English and Mandarin!

The retreat kept us busy and the conference was jam packed with women.  Poor Cathy had a hard time keeping up with all that Beth was saying, but she does such an amazing job translating all we say, so I'm sure she picked up some things.

The same night we got back from our conference, we whisked Cathy away to a Publix Cooking school experience.  The ladies sitting behind us also attended the Beth Moore conference, by the way!

This last picture was just another indication of just how special Cathy truly is.  I've taken this trail many times and this very bird is always in the same spot below the bridge.  When I try to take his picture, he often moves behind the trees trying to hide from me.  But when I walked with Cathy, he flew up to the ledge as if to say hello.

Once she got closer, the bird flew away, but in his defense, the presence of a princess can be intimidating to anyone.

So the arrival of this dragonfly princess has been full of adventure already.  I know the ride is only beginning and I'm still in the stages of thinking through all the what ifs as we continue to roll forward.  I'm thankful though.  I'm thankful we were bold enough to take this step and bring Cathy into our home.  I'm thankful she was adventurous enough to join us on this journey.  Beth Moore talked about how important it is to have someone to walk alongside us in life, and that is exactly what Cathy has agreed to do in this important stage of our life.  I'm so thrilled to have another princess in my house, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of this ride takes us!