Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More than a List...

I remember when I first started seeing these flyers for the hosting program.

The needs of the kids overwhelmed me.

Most things I had never heard of, and honestly I could barely pronounce half of the words.

And then I watched this hosting program in action.

First I watched my best friends host 2 children from the Philippines, who soon became their son and daughter. 

My first experience to really participate was 2 years ago. We had barely stepped off the plane with our 2 newest children and so we did not do much.

Besides entertain some chaperones during which time we managed to allow their passports to get stolen out of our van.

I don’t care to remember THAT story to much…

The 2nd hosting experience was of course this past month.

You know I have done a few things with China stuff besides CZ. But that is my heart, my family where I KNOW that I know that I am supposed to be.

So I have probably in some ways “snubbed” any opportunities to work anywhere else.

Much of that because I am OVERWHELMED by the needs that are in CZ. How can I possibly open my heart up to ANYWHERE else?

And sometimes just because I have visited other places there that I have not felt the tug, that our team is REALLY needed there.

But then this hosting experience, it stirred something in me.

These children that came. I can’t get them off my mind.

I know what it is like for ME when I leave China. I struggle so much.

So what is it like for them. They have had a taste of life in a family.

They have had food, and clothes and toys and fun.

They have been loved deeply and hugged and kissed on.

And now they are back to the orphanage.

That breaks me. And I know it is breaking all of the mama’s hearts who had to put them on that plane.

The ones that I am really struggling with are those not chosen.

Right now 9 of those children have families who will begin the process to bring them home. They will move heaven and earth to get it done as fast as possible.

Lord willing by this time next year those 9 will be back here, with the people that they know and who know them.

But 4 of them still wait.

2  MIGHT have families. 

So I am going to concentrate on the 2 who don’t.

First up is Samuel.

This boy is B.O.Y.

100% Boy.

He is full of energy and my house got a GOOD workout in the hours he was here.

Not going to lie, he was busy.

But then he climbed in bed. And I tucked him in, kissing him goodnight.

He woke up so calm and sweet and he clung to me at the airport.

I thought of that saying, we can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

And that is what I think with Samuel. He overwhelmed me upon meeting him.

But then I got to see this little spirit inside of him that snuggled in and could see all the love he has in him and I know that a family would fall in love if they can see that part of him.

We see these photos on a flyer, we read the list and we are SCARED.

I remember reading about Noah. His list was the longest, his picture a bit scary.

And then I met him.

I told Mark, how can anyone say NO to him? What is the big deal, he needs an eye lift and yes his “special needs” list is long but WATCH him and look how sweet his kisses are and listen to his raspy voice!

Mark said, “you are seeing the child and not the needs, 
some people can’t do that.”

That is truth.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the list that we forget to see who these children really are.

We forget that God created them PERFECT in His eyes.

Noah’s family DID find him, praise the Lord.

But Samuel is still waiting.

And so is Aubrey.

Aubrey has major vision issues. And I did not get to spend a ton of time with her.

She was nervous with the change of moving from her host families to our friends for the night.

But once her host mom left we actually saw her start to run around with the kids and giggle and smile.

Here is what my friend who kept her for the night said..

"Aubrey is very bright. She can speak 2 languages, Mandarin and Cantonese. I was shocked at how many English words she had picked up while being here. She was given glasses for the first time ever and they are really helping her so much. She is very smart, so polite and has so much love to give."

I wish we could make these children come alive for you. I wish we could show you more than a photo and a “list”.

They are so so much more than that.

There is so much hope and love and sweetness wrapped up in them.

God has given us voices for so many different reasons.

I pray that I can use my voice well to share these children. That I can tell those chaperones who came that your child WAS chosen. They will be loved and that this trip you came on was worth all of the travel and stress and unknowns and being away from your own families for a month. 

I pray that we can show even them they are more than a list. They are a loved and treasured son and daughter. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thanks to God we Made it....

It seems that blogging only works for me when I am in China these years.

I guess 7 children will do that to a person.

Or facebook or iphones, they seem to steal so much of my “free” time.

But I miss writing and I have challenged myself to start again. To make it a priority. I love looking back over the years at what God has done, and I know I will regret that for all these missing posts.

So here we go. It seems only obvious that my first blog back in a year would be about nothing less than… China.

But instead of being IN China, this is about China coming here.

In my home.

Let me go back. To May. The month of craziness. Honestly, ALWAYS crazy here but especially May.

Makenna graduated high school. I need to post about these life events that are so so big and changing our everyday. But for now she graduated.

Because our trip TO china was planned for departure May 25th, we had her graduation party early.

2 weeks before the China trip I had 200 people IN MY HOUSE to celebrate our beautiful oldest daughter. It was such a fun fun day. You know I love pinterest and I lived out my pinterest dreams in her party. J

May 22nd she graduated!

May 25th we left in the dark of morning to begin our journey back to China for my 9th trip. Makenna, Sawyer and I.

June 8th we returned home.

June 11th we drove 8 hours to drop her off at college for a 2 week freshman orientation. On the 8 HOUR drive home (why oh why is my child going SO far!!) Michelle called me to ask if I could help with hosting some China chaperones the following week. Chaperones that spoke no English.

At first I thought NO WAY. I have been home from China a few days, I am tired. But it is China and I miss China so terribly I ache and so YES yes, I will do it.

I, doing what I do well, text people I knew and asked if THEY could host them. And thankfully they did. But we would do some of the running and the coordinating and spending time with them.

And then it ended up that we had one more guy arriving from China that we would pick up from the airport. So it was our day to entertain the first set of chaperones. We had set it up they would visit the Chinese Gospel Church for dinner and fellowship before we met the last guy at the airport. (they are not believers but they were hungry for food AND someone to speak in their own language)

We almost dropped them off at the church. I mean honestly, we had every right to skip it. We were exhausted, we would not be able to communicate, we needed a break.

But God… We were SO blessed by our visit. They asked me to share about our story, my trips, my heart for the orphan.

They listened and they asked if they could go with me to help on our trips, to translate, to be love to those they could communicate with. They handed me $ for the orphanage.

God often humbles me. What if I had said no? I almost missed it. This blessing He had waiting for me.

We left there so excited and headed to the airport to meet our next chaperone. We will call him Shawn.

Are you wondering what a chaperone is? I should explain.

In His Hands Orphan Ministry brings over children every summer from China through Madison Adoption Agency partnerships. Kids that are a little harder to place.

Chaperones travel with them and this might be the orphanage director, a nanny or teacher of the children, etc..

So we pick up Shawn and find out he actually does speak some English and he would be sleeping at our house. We stayed up late that night and the next talking and sharing China stories and learning and listening and letting him ride our lawn mower and trying new foods and showing him what life was like in a family and what a town looks like in America and we were so blessed and so sad to see them go.

So sad in fact we asked if we could have them back again for the end of their trip!

It worked out we were able to get them back to attend our church for the 2nd time. The sermon was on the Great commission.

Myself and friends were sharing on our different mission trips during the service. I had the songs & sermon translated so they could follow along.

We were able to share our hearts and who we are. We shared WHY we do what we do.

None of this being nice and hospitable is about us or what WE want.

It is because God is in us and He wants us to love. No matter how that looks.

We played tourists in the city, we sat more, we enjoyed our company with long late talks and fun busy days.

 We saw a side of China we don’t always understand.

And they saw a side of adoption they don’t understand.

They said how hard it is to wonder what happens once they say goodbye to the children at their orphanage. They were able to see this side of adoption. How much the kids are loved, how they just blend right in to our families.

They saw a side of giving and loving that they have not before.

On Wednesday we took them back to Springfield for their early flight out on Thursday morning. They said, it is so difficult to say goodbye.

And it really is.

I gave them bibles and they promised they would read them.

They asked me to come see them on my next trip.

And then their flights were cancelled because of bad storms.

13 children, 2 chaperones from China.

Rescheduled out of St Louis for Friday morning.

So I did what just came natural.

Come here! It will be a party! God gave us another day, we will meet the children that did not find families on this trip.

Thursday night we hosted 5 boys and the 2 men, a girl went to our friends house close by.

It was crazy and loud and we met families who had to say goodbye to the children they will adopt and God was so present in this house.

I watched boys amazed at the ice maker, amazed at the trashcan, laughing as I tucked them into bed and handed them each a stuffed animal to snuggle with.

We spent more time late into the night talking with our friends.

All to early it was time to get them all back to the airport for the final goodbyes.

These children were here a month. Families hosted with no intentions to adopt, but fell in love.

So they were not putting orphans on that plane, they were putting their children.

I peeled a boy off of his mama and carried him through security as he wailed and screamed at the top of his lungs, mama, mama! They said he asked the whole flight back when will she pick me up?

My heart was shattered as it always is when it comes to loving orphans.

But the tears are good! 13 children came to the US as orphans. 9 leave with the promise of a forever family! 2 more are possibly matched!

13 children that would not have known love.

Tears are always good when we are broken for what God is broken for.

We drove home and I checked the status of their flight.


I anxiously watched and it continued to be delayed. There was no way they were making their connection in Dallas.

I called the airlines and they said they had already re-ticketed the group. To stay the night in Dallas and leave in groups over the next few days.

I “calmly” explained that would not work. 13 children who are special needs can NOT be in dallas overnight and not fly together!

I was told there was nothing that could be done. I gathered up prayer warriors.

And I asked for a manager. Who said there is nothing they could do.

We prayed some more and I called again and asked for a higher up manager. I asked if they could fly them back here OR send us there, on the airlines bill.

OR how about just HOLD THE PLANE. At this point the delay was very close. They would be running, but they would be in the airport before the China flight took off.

“We don’t hold planes”.

Probably true, who are we to ask for them to hold a plane?

BUT God….

After being on the phone for over an hour they said they would alert the gate agents and they would see if they could wait a little bit.

We prayed, oh we prayed.

I watched the updates and the flight to Hong Kong was DELAYED. Just a few minutes but it was listed as delayed.

The St Louis flight landed in Dallas.

We told them to RUN.

By Gods grace they made it to the flight.

I got a message from Shawn and this is what he said.

“ Thanks to God we are on the flight”.

I cried.

This friend who did not know what God could do just a few weeks ago, watched God work. And he knew it was Him!

This stuff is crazy and tiring and sometimes we don’t want to say yes. But oh when we do, when we give God a chance to be present and listen and we love, we are so blessed.

My heart is overflowing tonight as I reflect on this adventure. I am sad and I miss them all and I wish I was in China right now. But I am so very thankful for friends across the Ocean.

I give thanks to God for all He has done and all I know He will continue to do. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Mavery's Heart Surgery

This morning I read back over my blog from 2009, Mavery’s first heart surgery with us.

We have come so far.

Right before we left for the hospital

Yesterday at 3AM (July 31st) my alarm went off to prepare for heart surgery #2 with us. (first was done in China, 2nd was done January 2009.)

I walked in my door from China at 11:30PM Wednesday evening, the 29th.

This was not the ideal timing situation, obviously, but it was the only time that worked with the surgeon.

So far so good, smiling before! 

Mavery was very excited for surgery.  She can remember her heart catheritzations and that memory includes presents, room service and mom sleeping with her at the hospital.

I will take excited over tears.

They took her back right about 7AM giggling and said she was giggling all the way into the OR. Love that calming medicine and just can’t understand why they don’t throw us parents an extra dose!

Surgery went well, she was in recovery quicker than we imagined (in reality it was hours but went fast with a roomful of family and friends waiting with us)

They told me they were trying to take out her breathing tube (really, already?) and would bring me her blanket, then giving me an idea when I could see her. Probably another hour.

Over an hour later they came out to say there was a problem.  She was bleeding and so they had to OPEN HER BACK UP.

Here is the good thing about surgery a day after you get back from China. You are in a huge jet lag fog and so when they tell you they have just cut your child’s chest open for the 2nd time, have put her on the by pass machine AGAIN your only coherent thought is “God, she is in your hands and I trust you”.

She came through this 2nd surgery and we finally laid eyes on her about 10 hours after we kissed her goodbye that morning.

Our first glimpse after. 

By midnight the breathing tube was out and she was asking for food.  She was not happy that they only gave her ice chips. Right before the tube came out she was so frustrated trying to communicate with me. No idea what she was saying but I tried as hard as I could to guess!

It is so hard when you just can’t fix it for your kids isn’t it?

As she was pleading with me through her eyes and I am trying to calm her down all while trying not to sob I just kept thinking over and over, Thank you God she is alive!

Tube is out! 

I remember her first surgery; 3 months home and the paralyzing fear that God had brought her home for just a little while. I was so scared He was going to make me say goodbye after I had barely said hello.

When you send your child back in for another surgery you still get those crazy thoughts. WHAT IF? (Kind of like every time I fly and I imagine the plane going down!)

But this time I was filled with more peace than that first surgery. Mavery has taught me SO much in the 7 years she has been home.  She gets EXCITED over surgery. She doesn’t complain, she just fights hard to move on.

When I first saw Mavery on a waiting child list in 2007 I fell in love. God spoke to my heart so clearly and I had no doubts she was going to be my daughter. Mark was scared that her heart condition would mean she would not live. We had her file reviewed and they said typically that condition is minor so in faith we moved forward believing her heart would be no big deal.

And of course it was a very big deal. It is not a fixable heart condition that goes away. It is an ongoing broken heart that will forever need checked and monitored. She is ok, it could be SO much worse. But it is not something that we can ever ignore or pretend is not there.

Surgery 2009

I think back on that day I first saw her face and Mark’s fears.  I see SO clearly God’s plan.

IF we had known it was so serious, we would have been to scared to move forward.

IF China had known she had a huge aneurysm on her heart (they never did a recheck after her first surgery) I am not so sure she would have been adoptable. My guess is they would have just left her for a while and that aneurysm (per her doctor could have exploded any moment) would have killed her.

I pray that Mavery ALWAYS sees God’s hand on her life. I pray that I can continue to grow and be more like Mavery, excited over the challenges and facing the future with my arms thrown open wide with a smile on my face.

The night before surgery Mark wrote a post on Facebook. I pray it touches your heart as you hear from a Daddy’s heart how much he loves his baby girl, and I pray that you know you have a Heavenly Father that loves us even more than this.  

As I was praying for Mavery's heart surgery this morning I felt compelled to write something about how she has taught our family so much and stretched us more than anyone. . This will be a little long but this is therapy for me as much as anything. Mavery came to us as a sad and broken three year old. If you have spent anytime in a Chinese orphanage you would know why. In the beginning, our emotions were strong and we were going to be perfect parents. She would come home and everything would be great. She immediately had to have open heart surgery which I think broke her just a little more. After 6 months to a year, reality set in. She was driving us crazy by doing things just to make us angry, being mean to the other kids, screaming all the time, and the other kids were resenting her (except Sage who always loved her no matter what). Shannon was in tears most days, On the darkest days I remember wondering if we made a mistake. Would our family fall apart? However, we made the decision just like God did for us that we would love her unconditionally. Our emotions would not control us, she is our child, and we would do whatever it takes. We did get counseling help which helped explain that her actions were her trying to control her world. If she could make us angry then she was in control. We just kept loving her and she has slowly blossomed. She is now 9 and is the most giving of our children. If there is one piece of cake left, toy, candy, etc..., and you did not get any she will gladly give you hers (actually she will insist). When we adopted Syler and we had to send him to school with very little English, we chose Mavery because we knew she had that nurturing instinct and would take care of him. She gladly did. She has a huge smile and everyone she meets loves her. She is hilarious. Everything is not perfect. She still has a lot of sensory issues and she is completely unpredictable. You don't want to make her mad because she can still give out the most viscious tongue lashing in the house (although if I ever had to go to war she would be my first choice). We as humans always wonder why God does not just make things easy. Our journey with Mavery is a perfect example of why. He wanted to change our hearts and to teach us to love just a little more like he loves us. Without Mavery, I would never have adopted two more kids at once with one being an older child because I saw first hand with Mavery what God cn do, I am thankful for Mavery and trusting that God will take care of my baby girl tomorrow. Also, please be in prayer for our friendKarl Nowak and family. They are adopting two in Latvia and probably experiencing the fear those first few days can bring when you wonder if you can handle this.