Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Homeschooling Journey

Many of you have asked me to share more about homeschooling.  Our situation is different than most with regards to homeschooling, as God has brought change to what homeschooling looks like for our family.  I used to teach public school, then I chose to stay home with my children once I had my firstborn.  In 2002, God called me to homeschool (which is one of those things I said I'd NEVER do! teehee).  At that time, we had 3 children (all bio) and I used Sonlight curricula to teach all 3 children together.  Our youngest (Sawyer) was 3, our middle child (Mattie) was 5, and our oldest (Parker) was 7.  When I began homeschooling, I wasn't excited about it.  At.  All.  I only obeyed God when He asked us to homeschool because I didn't want to suffer the consequences of disobedience!  Seriously! 

Since I obeyed His calling, I thought God would bless me abundantly for my obedience.  So, on the first day of school, I was so looking forward to seeing His blessing, even though homeschooling was NOT what I really wanted to do.  Unfortunately, our first day of homeschooling was a complete DISASTER!!!  There was one thing after another that didn't go right, nothing went as I had planned, and Sawyer ripped all of his freshly hung wallpaper off of his walls during his nap time because he was so mad that he wasn't included in the schooling during the afternoon (because it was his nap time).  Everything that I had planned so perfectly fell apart, and the day felt like a complete failure.  I even called our local Mother's Day Out program that day to see if it was too late to enroll our youngest!  I also recall that at 5PM on our first day of homeschooling back in 2002, we were still doing school, trying to check off every item on my agenda, and I hadn't even begun to think about dinner!  Sigh.

Fortunately, God brought me through the trials of learning to homeschool by His design, and now when I look back on the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I just have to laugh.  I so thought that I had control, and God was trying so hard to teach me to let go and let Him!  It took a few months for me to get it through my thick skull that God would orchestrate our days, not me, but eventually He led me down His path where He was the leader and I simply followed.  Once I learned how to let Him lead, homeschooling changed from being a burden to being the BIGGEST blessing in our lives.  I remember how my heart felt when I would see our three children playing together as friends, helping one another, and truly caring about one another.  My heart was filled with joy because I felt beyond blessed to see my children truly enjoying one another's company, and that in itself was all I needed to be hooked on homeschooling.

Homeschooling wasn't easy though.  It was a full-time job, just like when I taught public school, only there was no paycheck.  But I didn't need a paycheck because simply being a part of my children's education, watching them learn and discover, seeing their faces when everything finally clicked, was enough to keep me going.  The best thing for me was that I truly treasured not only being their mom, but also the total blessing of being my children's full-time teacher.  Being able to not miss a single milestone in my children's lives gave me such a thrill, and within the first year of homeschooling, I truly couldn't imagine ever NOT homeschooling my children.  Even with the challenges of ADHD and Dyslexia in our youngest son, God faithfully equipped me to do what He had called me to do.

And then, in 2008, He called us to adopt.  What?!?  My little organized life would be all mixed up again.  I had really become accustomed to homeschooling our 3 children, and the thought of adding another child to the mix was a little intimidating.  Our bio kids were older and more independent, and, frankly, life felt quite easy back then.  Adoption meant that all of that would change. Overnight.

Because God had been so faithful on our homeschooling journey, it was a little easier to commit to adoption with trust that He would provide for us as we walked a new path that we really knew nothing about (just like when we started homeschooling).  In November 2007, God showed us His chosen daughter for our family, and in November 2008, we traveled to Colombia to adopt our first child, a beautiful 11-year-old girl.   Homeschooling enabled us to take our entire family to the country of Colombia for a month, which was an amazing experience for us all.  We had so many unforgettable adventures in Colombia (like hiking through the botanical jungle gardens in Ibague), and it was just awesome to have our entire family together as we explored Meribeth's native country while getting to know our newest family member.  (You can read about our adventures HERE.)  Yes, this experience was definitely a huge benefit to homeschooling.

On December 3, 2008 (I think), we arrived back in Texas after spending a month in Colombia.  We decided not to jump into homeschooling since it was just before Christmas, and I enjoyed being fully available to help Meribeth transition to America.  In January 2009, it was time for everyone to hit the books, and time for me to begin a new chapter of homeschooling 4 children, one who didn't speak any English.  Oh.My.Word.  Can you say DIFFICULT?!?  I ended up spending about 8-10 hours/day working directly with Meribeth, trying to teach her English while I learned Spanish, while our other 3 kids basically taught themselves the spring semester of 2009.  When summer hit, I was so relieved to put away the books (for everyone except Meribeth, as we continually worked on English acquisition).  I was sure the fall semester would be easier, once Meribeth knew more English, and I could go back to teaching everyone simultaneously.

But God had other plans.  In June 2009, God called us to adopt Chrissie from Serbia, who had severe congenital heart defects and would require open-heart surgery.  We weren't sure how I'd be able to homeschool everyone with Chrissie needing to have full-time care, but God had already worked all of that out.  You see, in May 2009, just one month before God called us to adopt Chrissie, He called my friend Stephanie Hall to help me teach our children.  (We just didn't know that He planned to bring more children into our little school at the time that He laid this plan out before us.)  God asked us to build Stephanie and her 2 girls (Emily and Samantha) a place to live on our ranch, along with a one-room schoolhouse (Agape Academy), and Stephanie and I were both super excited to co-teach the kiddos.  It was an amazing plan that God had worked out just beautifully, before we ever even realized He was going to bring Chrissie into our family.  Knowing that Stephanie would be living on our ranch and helping with the kids allowed us to easily commit to adopting Chrissie, without having to figure out how in the world I would do it all.  It was one of those amazing God provisions that He already knew to take care of in His sovereignty.

We began our fall semester of 2009 still awaiting an invitation for Matt and I to travel to Serbia.  Because we didn't know when we'd be invited to travel to adopt Chrissie, I decided I should help Stephanie in the classroom as an aide instead of as her co-teacher.  This was a little different than what Stephanie and I THOUGHT regarding how we'd split up duties, but it was exactly what God wanted.  Stephanie handled everything, and I just showed up as an aide and taught PE!  Wow, what a difference that was for this long-time teacher!  Serving as an aide meant that instead of working on lesson plans and grading papers, I was able to complete mounds of adoption paperwork and medical requirements for Chrissie's adoption and organize travel arrangements.  What a blessing Stephanie was (and still is) to our family, and what a provision the Lord had for our family when we had no clue what He already knew we needed.

Matt and I left for Serbia, in October 2009, and little did I realize that I would never again help Stephanie with Agape Academy.  I had fully intended to come home from Serbia, integrate Chrissie into Agape Academy, then serve alongside Stephanie in whatever ways she needed help.  But God never planned for me to do that.  He planned for Stephanie to be the full-time teacher at Agape Academy, and He planned for me to focus 100% on our family.  Wow!  God knew what He had in store for our future, and He had already figured out how He would provide for our family while we focused on getting Chrissie's medical treatments, her hospitalizations, and eventually her 31-day battle until she went to live with Jesus.  Stephanie was here, as a volunteer, to not only handle all of the educational requirements of our children, but also serve in our home and on the ranch, taking care of all of our kids while we were away so much of the time.

After Chrissie went to heaven, God began to send us more and more children.  In 2010, God sent FIVE new children to our family, two who didn't speak English (Kiefer and Naomi from Haiti) and another special needs little one, along with a severely RAD child who would need many therapies and MUCH time with Mom.  God knew that I would need to be available to serve my family and focus on the home and the everyday needs of my children without having to worry about how to educate everyone properly.  I would need to be gone from the home much of the time, taking children to orthodontic appointments, dental appointments, pediatric visits, international adoption specialist visits (kids from Haiti having multiple health issues), plus therapies (occupational therapy, physical therapy, attachment therapy, and we mustn't forget specialist visits (neurosurgeon, neurologist, craniofacial surgeon), and regularly scheduled MRI's.  Plus there's grocery shopping, cooking, home chores and never-ending laundry.  My teaching the children AND doing all of the other things a large family with many special needs kiddos just really wasn't possible (there are some weeks that I'm gone from our home every single day, ALL DAY, taking kids to appointments and running errands, which just isn't conducive to teaching multiple children the 3 R's!).  But God knew this, and He had a plan to provide for this challenge.  His answer was Stephanie Hall, the fabulous teacher and friend who would devote her life to serving God and our kiddos at Agape Academy!

See, I said our situation is different than most homeschooling families.  I know many families who homeschool.  Some are small families, some are large.  Some are adoptive families, some have special needs kiddos, and some have just as many or more outside appointments for various needs than our family does, and somehow God has a way of making everything work.  Every family situation looks different, and while our situation isn't one that you'll often find, God still has a way of equipping each family to do the tasks He has called them to.  Homeschooling looks different for each family, and our situation is VERY different than most.  I feel like I shouldn't even claim that we homeschool.  Really, our children attend a private school, which happens to be on our ranch, which happens to be free, which happens to be run by the most amazing teacher who loves the Lord passionately and volunteers her time to serve Him and teach the wide variety of children He has placed in our family.

Yes, the Lord provides.  It may not look the way we expect it to, but He does provide.  I feel very unworthy of the situation God has set up at Forgotten Saw Ranch with Stephanie living here and teaching our children.  I wish every family could have a Stephanie, but I trust that God knows each and every family's needs and He will meet their needs in the way He best sees fit.  I praise Him for providing us with Stephanie, and I am forever grateful for His abundant blessings upon our family.

So, there you have it.  WE don't do it all.  HE does it all.  HE provides.  HE equips.  All we have to do is obey.  It's been a long process of learning for us, but He's been so faithful.  Yes, we are forever grateful and so unworthy.  Thank you, Jesus!
Sawyer doing a "sit and spin" activity to help combat ADHD.

The girls on their first day of school in August 2010.

Parker reading (he uses headphones to drown out background noise).

Asher admiring the Bible that Stephanie purchased for him to use at school.

Asher and Ella love to rope during "recess"!
(We have an arena where my husband and some of the kids team rope, so the kids love practicing their roping skills every chance they get!)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chrissie's Legacy Continues

I continue to be amazed by how God used and continues to use Chrissie's life to touch so many lives around the world.  I stand in awe, still in somewhat of a shock, at how God used (and still uses) a once forgotten orphaned girl to bring so many people to Him.  I can't help but praise Him for all He's done and continues to do through Chrissie's story, even though we wish Chrissie were still here with us on earth.  Praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness, even when our desires differ from God's will sometimes.

Rewind to November 16, 2010.  Here is a portion of a sweet gift God delivered to me through an email I received on that day:

"First, this is a Chrissie story. She is so special. I followed your blog faithfully and prayed daily for Chrissie. I was just positive that God would heal her and she really helped me spirtually with my walk with God. I have been a Christian for a long time and I just needed to hear and read all that you posted in your blog. When she was ultimately healed and went to be with Jesus, I was just devestated. I grieved so much and that brought more grief to the surface from my life, and I really questioned God. Why??Why?? Why, her?? It was so unfair and I literally stayed in my bed as much as I possibly could. My family was worried and my children were worried. I just could not understand. I am not sure how long I went through this, I was amazed by how you were so brave.I know it was the most difficult thing you ever faced, I can only imagine. I grieved for her as if she was one of my children and I lost some of my faith for a time. I was just so amazed at your strength and courage and the joy that returned to your heart and that you continued to adopt and open your heart. I pray for only a tenth of some of your faith, courage, joy, ect... During my time of grieving and amazing thing happened that was a miracle. I was lying in bed, I am not sure if I was asleep but I think that I was awake...and I promise this the truth and not a made up story...It was as real as I am sitting here typing on this computer. I suddenly saw Chrissie standing next to my bed holding Jesus' hand. She was smiling and radiant, she had pigtails and pink ribons in her hair. She wore a pretty dress and she was so happy and full of love. They did not speak to me, but I felt that Jesus was taking her around the world to see all who prayed for her and whose life she touched. I also felt a peace and love that I had not felt in a long time and I cried tears of joy.I also sensed or felt that Jesus was telling Chrissie about me, my life, and that He was proud of me. I did not hear any words but I just knew these things.She ministered to me in my distress. I could let her go and know that she was safe and happy and where she was supposed to be. I did not need to grieve for her anymore. This was the most awe inspiring thing that has happened to me. I have had spiritual experiences before but this was beyond that. I hope that I told this well and I hope that this blesses you in some way. I am sorry that I did not share this sooner and I also wonder if anyone else has had a similar expereince?  I am sorry for what you have been through but I am also so inspired by you and your family."

Fast forward to today:
I'm honored to introduce you to the woman, Melanie Kerr, who wrote me the above email on November 16, 2010.  You may "meet" her here on  The Kerr Family blog.  Today this family is fundraising to bring home two older children from China, one of whom will age out of the system (and be unadoptable) this June if they don't get to him before his birthday.  God has not only called this family to unite 3 girls, who were like sisters in their orphanage in China, but also to rescue an older boy from never knowing the love of a family.  This is an amazing story that God is writing, and I'm honored to play a teeny tiny role in coming alongside this family on the path God has asked them to take.  I urge you to pray for this family, as they only have a couple of weeks to raise the ransom needed to commit to their son in China, then only a couple of months to get to him before he ages out of the system.  They could really use all of our support.  I hope you are blessed by their story as much as I've been!

Here's their story, written by Melanie Kerr, the same woman who Chrissie visited with Jesus:

Hello, we are the Kerr Family and we have a heart for orphans. In 2007, we brought home our first daughter from China and 5th child. We had always dreamed of adopting a daughter from China and felt this was a call on our lives from God. Jordyn was an older waiting child with a special need of Cleft lip and palate with a partial repair and Hepatitis B positive. We believed that she was our daughter form the first moment that we saw a small 2x2 picture of her and never looked back. Later, we found out that there were two other older girls in the same orphanage that she was very close to. She grieved over leaving her friends behind and we grieved with her. We began praying for the two girls to find families of their own. We never dreamed that we would be their family too. Well, I did dream but I believed that it would be impossible for us to adopt again from the same orphanage. We still prayed every night. In 2008, an amazing thing happened. The waiting child list was created by the CCAA to help older children find their families. I believed that was a direct answer from God and we began to search for one of the girls on the list. A year later we reunited Jordyn with one of her favorite orphanage friends, Jailynn, who moved from being a "sister" to Jordyn in China to being her forever sister in our family.

During our trip to China to adopt Jailynn, we met the third little girl (who was also like a sister to our Jordyn and Jailynn).  Our hearts were broken when we had to leave Jaidyn behind and take her two best friends away from her. I cried and prayed that she would find a family of her own, but I told God that we could never do an adoption again. Well, never tell God never!  Now we are currently on our journey to bring home the third little girl and reunite her with her best friends and sisters. We are very excited and look forward to bringing her home.

However, we also feel that God has one more child for us. We read about an older boy that will age out close to the time that we will travel to bring our daughter home. We sincerely feel that he is our son and that God has called us to bring him home, too.

However, this is something that is bigger than us and we cannot do this alone. We are praying that God will provide the finances for us to help "Jaxon" Xiao Lei come home, too. He is 13 years old and will age out in June. We need to work fast to get a PA and bring him home. Our one setback is the first agency fee of $4300 to start the process. We know this is hard times for everyone and we do not ask for help lightly. We need this fee in order to take the first steps to bring him home. 

     We are on another huge adventure! We are adopting Jaidyn along with a big brother, Jaxon, and we have to get to accomplish this before June!

We believe that this is what God has called our family to do: To say yes to an orphan boy, about to age out of the system, to be an orphan No More! We are holding a fundraiser to help Jaidyn and Jaxon Xiao come home to their family. We need a miracle to make this happen and we know how hard it is right now with the economy. However, bringing home two children to a forever family is something that cannot have a price put on it. To give two children hope and love and a future is priceless. We cannot do this alone. We just ask that you will search your heart and and pray over giving to bring Jaxon Xiao home.

 There are currently 79 children currently waiting for families who will age out of the adoption program in 2011. ALL of these children are considered Special Focus and can be adopted under the SF guidelines.
This means they could be adopted at the same time a family is traveling to complete another adoption OR a family who has adopted within the last 12 months can move forward without completing a new dossier. A family who is currently logged-in could also adopt one of these children and maintain the LID for a referral in the regular program. These children must be adopted before their birthdays, so any potential families will need to have a current immigration approval.  These children need families desperately. Once they age out and are no longer adoptable, they remain orphans. They have an extremely difficult time with getting a higher education or job. They have no hope in life. No family to come home to on the holidays or come to their wedding when they get married.  We are just asking for prayer and a miracle for this boy, that he can have a family to come home to. That he can grow up knowing that he is loved and not forgotten. Can you help "Jaxon" Xiao Lei?

Here's a short glimpse of my feelings toward an older orphan boy, who God used to turn our hearts toward "Jaxon" Xiao:  I saw his picture and I was smitten. I was moved. His sad eyes just pierced my heart and I dreamt of a miracle. Maybe we could rescue him from a life of destitution. A life marred by the fact that he had no family. A stigma that would follow him the rest of his life and take away all his chances for college and a career. In China, if you are an orphan, then, you are unlucky. No matter what, people see you as unlucky and then they are afraid that you will bring them bad luck to their family or their company. Life becomes very difficult to find a job or a place to live, a lonely life.

Please help us adopt "Jaxon" Xiao before his birthday in June or he will remain an orphan forever, unadoptable, simply because of his age.  (Chip-In button is at the bottom of this post.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rescued, Through the Eyes of Our 13-Year-Old Colombian Daughter

Wow, yesterday's post generated a lot of great conversation regarding the use of the word "rescue" in relation to adoptions.  This was the sentence I used in my plea to ask others to support The Cardwell Family in the adoption of their older child from China (this is the sentence that caused the big debate over the word "rescue" with regards to adoption):

"help them rescue their daughter before she ages out and cannot be adopted!"

The comments/conversation that followed my post about using the word "rescued" got a little carried away from the original sentence that was being critiqued.  I appreciated that one of the readers talked about how I tend to advocate for orphans in dire circumstances, who have no hope, who have no one expressing interest in them, who are truly in need of someone to step in and rescue them from a life of despair, hence why I would choose to use the term "rescue".  I don't always use the term "rescue" with regards to adoption, but when a family is desperately trying to get to their child before she ages out of the system, where she'll be too old to be adopted and thrown out onto the streets forever, I call that a rescue! 

I never meant to insinuate that any orphan who is adopted would be forever indebted to his/her parents for rescuing him/her!  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I tried hard to convey that I am not worthy of praise for rescuing anyone or anything (nor do I want to be praised, ever, for adopting a child, nor would I ever want any of my children to praise me for "rescuing" them!).  I am merely a broken and sinful person, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, rescued from a lost world, delivered into His family forever, a place I never want to leave.  If He uses me a His vessel in any way, to Him be all the glory, for I am nothing but dust.

Several people commented that they'd love to hear the view of an older orphan with regards to the idea of being rescued.  (Again, I never use that term with my children, telling them I rescued them or that I'm their rescuer,  I simply used the term here on my blog when I was advocating for a family who needs our support to rescue their daughter before she is thrown out on the streets.)  Anyway, I was just curious to see what our Meribeth (who we adopted from Colombia at the age of 11) thought about this debate, so I asked her how she would feel if someone referred to her as being rescued (which, BTW, we, as her family, have not ever conveyed to her that we rescued her!!!).  I thought you might like to hear Meribeth's answer:  "It's true.  I was rescued."  She went on to explain that she prayed for someone to rescue her!  She was perplexed that someone might view that as a negative thing. 

So, I asked Meribeth if she would read the blog post Rescue, along with all of  the comments, and if she felt led to write a response, to do so. 

Here is what Meribeth (age 13 now) wrote after she read everything:

Everyone, my name is Meribeth and to be honest I really don’t agree with the negative comments about being rescued.  When my mom asked me if I would write something that explained what rescued means to me, that just made me smile.   I would love to share my story.

I was actually RESCUED two and a half years ago back when I didn’t  know what love really meant.   I was hoping someday I could be RESCUED by a forever family.  MY perfect family finally came and I know I had some issues when I first came into their family. Deep inside I was happy to be rescued, because I didn’t have to face living in the streets or being a prostitute in the future or being an orphan for the rest of my life, but I was also scared.

Over time, I got more comfortable with my family but I still was concerned about my family and other people treating me different from my siblings. I was really scared because I thought my family would reject me in the future, and never love me the way they loved my other siblings.   Now we have lots of  kids (adopted and bio kids) and my parents love all of us the same.

Before I was adopted I didn’t have hope.  I thought I would always be an orphan with no hope, not knowing  God, and never feel the love of a real family.  I prayed for a family.  I wanted a family so badly, but what I didn’t know was that I had to leave my country, my Colombian family, my culture, and all of my friends.  That was loss, and right after I was adopted, I was so angry.   I hated being adopted, but I got older, and started to trust and mature and I started to realize what a huge blessing it was being adopted, being rescued from evil.  I was rescued from a place full of lies, where I was not free, where I was not safe, where no one really cared about me, where I did not know what love was.  My parents did not have to tell me that.  I knew that because that is what I lived.  I gained a real family where I am loved and I am safe and I am fed and I am happy.  And now I really know Jesus, and that is so much more than anything I lost.  I hope one day when I am older that I will go back to my country of Colombia to share my story with orphans to give them hope.

Guys, sometimes you just have to face the truth.  Every orphan is rescued from something.  It’s better to go and rescue someone than let that orphan die or suffer more in the future.  I’ve  never thought the word rescue was a bad thing, I always knew I was rescued, it was what I prayed for.   

I am not making this up, I am not writing this because my mom told me to be on her side. I am writing what comes from my heart.  I don’t want to argue with you, or offend you, and I am sorry if   you don’t agree with me or my mom.  I thank God for answering my prayers and for sending my forever family.  I thank God that He rescued me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Please read the following comment a reader left in regards to the post entitled A Plea for Piper, then read my response below the comment.  Leave a comment to let me know your opinion.

Here's the comment:

Hello.  I read your blog daily.  I love this story of the family finding Piper as we hope to adopt an older child as well.  But after two adoptions from China, I find myself very disturbed by some of what you write and I want to tell you because I know your heart is kind and you would not want to inadvertently hurt anyone.

First of all, the term "china doll" can mean different things to different people.   To moms, it can be an endearing term of course.  But to many, especially Asian women, it can be a derogatory term that also serves to sexualize them and objectify them.  It is not something I would want anyone to say about my daughters.

Secondly, with all due respect, it is important for people to understand that adoption is not about being rescued.   We, the fortunate people of the West who have never known hunger, are not swooping in and rescuing forlorn little princesses. 

The truth is, our children are braver and stronger than anyone I know.  They have survived more than I probably could.  And when they are adopted, it is usually done without their consent, and without their knowledge of everything they are losing.

First and foremost, adoption is about loss.   I think it's important that we give that a great deal of respect.  If a beautiful relationship and happiness comes about, if a child goes to bed on soft sheets with a full belly, and if they are afforded medical help and education.......all those things are nice bonuses.  But we should NEVER FORGET all that has been lost.

When a child is adopted internationally, they lose forever, their place in their birth culture, their native tongue, being among people who share their physical features, the ability to fit in naturally, the sights, sounds, and smells of their heritage.

I feel strongly that although children may be living in circumstances we do not think are healthy in their home country, if we perceive ourselves as their rescuers, it creates a relationship that is not healthy in the long run. 

From the  outside, it might look like we are doing a "good thing" for the orphans, but the truth is they are an incredible blessing in our lives.  In fact, I've been known to say that I was the one who needed rescuing, and God sent me this child.   

Maybe it seems like a small thing or that I'm making too much of the words you used, but I think it is terribly important the way in which we pass on information about adoption.  As adoptive parents, we are in a position to help others understand the reality of adoption, and with that position comes the responsibility to use language which presents our children with dignity and humanity.

Here's my response:

Please forgive me for unknowingly using a derogatory term when I was advocating for help in bringing The Cardwell's daughter, Piper, home.  I used the term "China Doll" in my plea, and, in my cultural ignorance, I had NO IDEA that term had a negative connotation.  I changed my wording on the original post, once I received this comment, and I am grateful to know that I should not use that phrase from now on.  (I used it with the positive connotation that I have attached to a china doll, which is a beautiful porcelain doll.  The photo of Piper reminds me of a beautiful porcelain doll, so that's why I used that term, having no idea it would be offensive.  I am ignorant in so many ways, but I never want my ignorance to cause pain to others.)  Anyway, please forgive me if I've offended anyone for using the phrase "china doll".  I never meant it in a derogatory way.

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe all children are a blessing from the Lord.  My children are much more of a blessing to me than I could ever be to them.  I am a mere sinner, unworthy of the blessings God has bestowed upon me, uncapable of redeeming anyone, but my Lord is able, He is worthy, and He is mighty to save.  I do believe He has called us to "rescue" the orphan, not as The Rescuer, but merely as the ones He called and sent as His hands and feet to deliver hope and a future to those without.

I have never been the best model of being politically correct, and perhaps this isn't even a matter of political correctness, but I have a differing opinion with regards to following statements:  " is important for people to understand that adoption is not about being rescued.  First and foremost, adoption is about loss."

While I agree that there is much loss in the life of an orphan, and there are endless challenges to work through when one travels the road of adoption, I believe wholeheartedly that adoption is SO MUCH MORE than what we can even fathom.  Adoption is redemption.  (Read this post on redemption by Derek Loux, who is now in heaven, but was an amazing orphan justice advocate here on earth.)  Adoption is NOT about us, it is about putting aside our selfish desires to meet the needs of a child, putting the child before ourselves. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, who were once orphans, were chosen by our heavenly Father, loved unconditionally, and adopted into His family forever, giving us a whole new heritage, one we never want to leave, one we will treasure forever, no matter how difficult the road was to get there.  We were RESCUED by Jesus.  Yes, RESCUED.  And redeemed.   And we praise Jesus and give all glory to God for our adoptions.  Undeserving, precious redemption.  His adoption of me is the model I want so desperately to live by, particularly as we live out earthly adoptions of those He has called us to.

With regards to adoption terminology, I want to align with His Word, not the world.  I don't want to be politically correct, I want to be biblically correct.  I am living on earth to be the hands and feet of Jesus, as He has commanded me to do.  I fail miserably much of the time, but it is my desire to do as He asks of me.  God asks me to be more like Him.  He asks me to be His hands and feet.  He asks me to live my life in a way that brings honor and glory to Him.  He adopted me.  He rescued me.  Does He ask me to adopt and rescue orphans, just as He did for me?

res·cue  (

verb \ˈres-(ˌ)kyü\
res·cued  res·cu·ing

Definition of RESCUE

transitive verb
: to free from confinement, danger, or evil : save, deliver:

Synonym Discussion of RESCUE

Rescue refers to operations that usually involve the saving of life, or prevention of injury. (Wikipedia)

Here are a few verses that illustrate God's view on the word "rescue" (these verses are not typical adoption scriptures, they are verses that depict being rescued, as I do not need to debate God's view on adoption (see James 1:27):

This verse might apply to millions of AIDS/HIV orphans, particularly those living in oppression and violence in Africa with little hope:  "He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight."  Psalm 72:13-14

This verse might apply orphans living in starvation, poverty, and disease:  "Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."  Psalm 82:3-4

This verse might apply to an orphan who has been enslaved and/or sold into sex trafficking:  "Listen to my cry,  for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me,  for they are too strong for me.  Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name." Psalm 142:6-7

This verse might apply to many special  needs Eastern European orphans who are being transferred to adult mental institutions where they will wither and die:  "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?  Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?"  Proverbs 24:11-12

This verse might apply to orphans who were not in Christian orphanages/foster homes, who were deceived by darkness, but God rescued them through the blessing of adoption:   "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  Colossians 1:13-14

This verse might apply to families who are called to adopt those who might be viewed as the least of these:  “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land..."  Ezekiel 34:11-13

"He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."
2 Samuel 22:20
(and the same exact words are stated again in Psalm 18:19)

We love because He first loved us. 

We adopt because He first adopted us.

We "rescue" because He first rescued us. 

I happen to delight in a life being saved, delivered, ransomed, redeemed, reclaimed (all synonyms of the word "RESCUED").  Rescued from sex trafficking, rescued from slavery, rescued from oppression, rescued from starvation, rescued from disease, rescued from poverty, rescued from abuse, rescued from neglect, rescued from mistreatment, rescued from darkness, rescued from death.  Rescued from not knowing the love of a forever family.

Rescued from spending the rest of one's life on the street (or locked up in an adult mental institution), sometimes freezing to death after aging out of the orphanage, sometimes being sold into slavery the very day one is turned out on the street, sometimes never believing anyone cares, sometimes believing there is no hope, sometimes believing there cannot possibly be a real God, because no one ever came to show you the hope of Jesus Christ.  Rescued from hopelessness.

We do not rescue for our glory.  We do not rescue to receive praise.  We do not rescue to be the hero.

We rescue because we delight in the one being rescued, we delight in The One who rescued us, we delight in God's heart for the orphan, we delight in every orphan knowing who the true Hero is.

May every orphan be rescued by a forever family who delights in him or her.

May all glory and honor go to Jesus Christ, our One and Only Rescuer.

And may the world not pollute us from living in Truth.  Adoption is redemption.  Redemption comes from being rescued.  May the world know The Rescuer, the One sent to redeem us, the One who modeled adoption and unconditional love, the One who sends us to RESCUE the weak and the needy, so that all may know the love of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Jesus, for rescuing me.  Thank you for delighting in me.  I am so unworthy, but I pray that through Your grace, mercy and strength, that I may be a living sacrifice for you always. (Romans 12)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Plea for Piper

I'm happy to introduce you to The Cardwell Family:  A family walking in faith as they adopt an older child from China.  Teri Cardwell contacted me shortly after Chrissie went to heaven to let me know that they felt God calling them to adopt an older girl, and they had been encouraged by our Meribeth, who we adopted from Colombia at the age of 11.  I just love to see how God uses former orphans to encourage others to seek His heart for the least of these.  Please help bring The Cardwell's daughter, Piper, home!  "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me."  (Matthew 25:40, words of Jesus)

I asked Teri to write up her story of bringing Piper home, so please read their story below and help them rescue their daughter before she ages out and cannot be adopted!  This family desperately needs your support; please read the essay below from Teri Cardwell:

Where to start???   I don’t really know so here we go……

We are Josh & Teri Cardwell from a small town in Alabama.  We have been married for almost 18 years (high school sweethearts) and adopted our first, and only child, from China in 2007.  Maddie was 8-1/2 months old at the time.  She is now a spunky little 4-year old who brightens our lives on a daily basis.

Our little family

Our spunky monkey…Maddie Mei

We were pretty content with our little family of three and thought Maddie would be our only child – biological children aren’t possible and the cost of another adoption seemed too out of reach.  While visiting some friends last May, one of them asked if we had plans to adopt again.  I said “no” that we were quite content.  Then a week after that conversation, everything changed.  God certainly has a sense of humor that way!  One of my friends in the adoption community emailed me asking for prayer because she had found another girl from China who she really wanted to pursuit her adoption.  It peaked my curiosity because she said “found”.  The only experience we had with adoption was a healthy referral so Maddie was matched with us…we didn’t “find her”.  So I asked my friend how she found this girl.  After emailing back and forth several times, my curiosity got the best of me and I did a brief “search” one day at lunch.  That was the beginning of our journey to Piper…..

During lunch that day, my life changed.  I “happened” to run across her profile and picture.  What astounded me was that she was older…and when I say older, I mean 12 years old!!  If someone would have told me just the week before that we would 1) adopt again, and 2) it would be an older child…better yet…almost a teenager…I would have laughed in their face!!  But, here I was…sitting at my desk…looking at the face of a young girl who I KNEW was my daughter!  At the bottom of her picture, the caption read: “If you have room in your heart and home for this child, please email us for further information”.  At that moment I knew I did!!!  So, I printed off her limited information and picture and thought I would take it home and possibly show it to hubby at dinner, if I had the nerve. 

So, at dinner, all of a sudden I had this spirit of boldness come over me.  Now, I have no reason to be afraid of what he would say but he is usually the voice of reason in our family so I pretty much knew what his response would be to my “whim”.  I asked him to look with an open mind at something I had found and not “shoot me down” before I could say something about this.  He took the paper and looked at it…then looked at me and said, “I know where you are going with this but what about it?”  I told him I really fell in love with her and knew she was supposed to be in our family.  Without hesitation, he said, “Let’s request her information!” 

(Here is the face we fell in love with…love literally at first site!)

Fast forward a little bit…once we received her info and prayed over it, we knew we were to pursuit her adoption.  We also found out that in China, waiting children are “aged out” of the system at 14 years old….so if she was not adopted by the time she turned 14, she would go on the streets.  WE KNEW WE COULD NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!!!  We had NO idea how we would pay for this adoption as we didn’t even have the extra money for the application fee, much less $30,000!  But, we KNEW God had called us to this!  We found out that the day the agency posted her picture was the day we found her!  And after they placed her on “hold” for us, multiple families asked to pursuit her.  Amazing!  And throughout this entire process, God has been very AWESOME…He has brought three people across our paths who speak fluent Chinese and have offered to help with her transition and one person who is native Chinese and gave us her travel agent who specializes in trips to China at very low costs!

The instant we made the decision to step out on faith and do this, God began meeting our needs in a miraculous way!  So many people have graciously donated, we have held multiple fundraisers and have depleted our own personal finances to get this far in the adoption.  Unfortunately, we have been denied assistance with the grant organizations and no-interest loan organization that we qualified and applied for.   All of these organizations have given us the reason of “too many applications and not enough money to go around”.  And while our friends and families have been SO generous, we are lacking quite a bit of money!  After many prayers asking God for direction, we felt led to ask Lorraine if she would be willing to help us get the word out!

Now it’s time to send a “Plea for Piper” to anyone who will listen!  We are two months away from traveling to bring her home!  The bare minimum needed by April is $15,000!  And we also have the task of purchasing an entire wardrobe for her as she will come only with the clothes on her back – that in and of itself is quite expensive!  We are humbly asking for help!  Any amount is appreciated and nothing is too big or too small to make a difference!!  It is extremely hard to humble ourselves to ask for help.  Believe me we would not be asking if we had not already exhausted all other avenues.  But, we will ask for help if it gets her home!!  She turned 13 years old last month so time is of the essence!  We must get her home this year! 

If you are able to contribute anything to getting our girl home, we are FOREVER grateful and truly humbled!   If you are unable to contribute, we ask only for your prayers and ask that you forward our story to those in your contact list – maybe someone you know is able to help and/or pray…we need all the prayers we can get!  If you would like to contribute financially, here are several different ways you can do so……

1.  If you’d like to send a contribution directly to us:
Please email us at and we will send our information.

2.  Tax deductible contributions can be made to our agency on our behalf:
AAC Adoption & Family Network, Inc.
ATTN: Marcie Maybee
PO Box **Please mark in the memo line "For Joshua & Teri Cardwell"**
735 East Highway
Berthoud, CO 80513

3.  Donations can be made through our blog “Chip In” link via PayPal:

4.  We also have a blog with items for sale / auction:

We also want to mention that our goal and wish is that if we are blessed above what is needed for this last phase, we want to “Pay it Forward” to another family who is facing the same situation that we are currently facing.  

Finally, we wanted to encourage others who are thinking about adoption or have never considered adopting an older child.  We were in your shoes just a little less than a year ago!  I encourage you to read older posts on Lorraine’s site.  It was through reading her posts about adopting Meribeth, and then Naomi, that we were inspired to pursuit this adoption and we were educated about the challenges we face but also how to overcome the obstacles of adopting an older child.  It encouraged us that it can be done (and done successfully)…even in the midst of everyone we know telling us we were “crazy”.  Thank you, Lorraine, for your honesty, faithfulness, inspiration, encouragement (even when you may not know you are doing so), for advocating adoption, for helping other families in need, and most importantly for allowing yourself to be used by God in such a mighty way!  We are humbled that you were willing to get our story out to the masses in hopes that someone is moved to help in our “Plea for Piper”.  You are truly a blessing and we pray for you daily!  God bless in everything you do!! 

*Edit 2/23 at 1:30PM by Lorraine:  A reader educated me (Lorraine) that "China Doll" does not have a positive connotation to Asian women, which I was completely unaware of in my cultural ignorance, so I removed that term from my introductory paragraph.  I apologize if I inadvertantly offended anyone by using that term, it was not my intention in any way to be offensive. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crock Pot Meals

Yesterday's post (Crockpots in a Microwave World) was the perfect inspiration for me to discuss cooking for a large family.  Many of you have asked me about our meal times, specifically wanting to know how we feed our large family.

I shop at Sam's Club! :-)  Sam's offers a free "Click 'n Pull" shopping service online, so every Saturday, I put all of the items that I'll need for that week into my online shopping cart and checkout.  Then, I go to Sam's every Monday to pick up the items from my Click 'n Pull order.  It's a wonderful service because all I have to do is walk in and ask for my order.  They bring it to me on a cart, scan my order bar code, take my payment, load it up for me, and in a matter of minutes, I have a full week's worth of groceries loaded into my vehicle!  It's fabulous!

A typical weekly order at Sam's includes 7 gallons of milk, 2 large bags of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 packages of ground turkey, one beef roast, frozen fish fillets (Tilapia or Flounder normally), frozen shrimp, fresh produce (grapes, bananas, strawberries, apples, spinach, carrots, etc.), bread, cereal, lunch meat, peanut butter, Chex mix, and a myriad of other items.

Sawyer (our 10yo bio son) has severe food allergies (allergic colitis), and Matt is allergic to beef and pork and also has Diabetes (along with ulcerative colitis), so those two are served different meals than everyone else.  I prepare Sawyer's meals for the entire week, and keep those stored in the refrigerator.  (Mattie helps me prepare Sawyer's meals.)  I cook for Matt each night for dinner, but he prepares his own breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast around our house is usually "on your own".  (I'm NOT a morning person, at all, so the kids know that Mom's brain doesn't function well in the mornings!)  Breakfast choices include cereal, oatmeal, frozen waffles/pancakes, bacon, sausage, and fruit.  Lunches usually consist of leftovers and/or sandwiches.  Dinners are usually a meal prepared in the crock pot, most often a casserole type meal.

I have a confession to make:  I LOVE MY CROCK POT!!!  Seriously, it's a very rare moment to walk into our home and not see a crock pot cooking on our counter top!  I just don't have time to stay in the kitchen to prepare meals for hours each day, so the crock pot does that job for me.  Many times I don't know what meal I'm going to make for dinner, but I always have meat cooked in the crock pot to convert into some type of meal.  Our kids devour whatever is served, so it's nice that they're not picky.  We always have salad (spinach) and bread with our meals (to fill tummies!), and most of the time we have a fruit as well.

My favorite thing about using the crock pot is that meat (even frozen meat), if cooked long enough, will shred with a fork, making it perfect for casseroles.  No matter what type of meat it is, I just toss it in the crock pot, add some seasonings (and a little broth or water), and let it cook on low all day.  (Or sometimes I'll put the meat on the night before and let it slow cook all night, then I'll shred the meat the following morning and add fresh veggies (carrots, potatoes, etc.) and let it all cook together for the day.)  When I'm ready to prepare dinner, the meat is already prepared.  All I have to do is take the lid off the crock pot, shred the meat using a large fork, and then decide what type of casserole/dinner I'm going to make.  Casseroles stretch the meat, so more mouths can be fed for less money.  Oh, and did you know that you can also cook ground meat in the crock pot?  To make the meat sauce for spaghetti, I plop a mound of frozen ground turkey into the crock pot, smother it in a jar of our favorite marinara sauce (Newmann's Own), put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.  I use a large spoon to break up the meat about 2 hours into the cycle, and it turns out delicious because the meat absorbs the flavor of the sauce.  Yummy!

I rarely follow a recipe for main dishes.  I just concoct casseroles in my head using ingredients we like and hope it turns out yummy!  Here's a list of some of my kiddos' favorite meals:  chicken pot pie, shredded chicken quesadillas, French dip sandwiches, King Ranch casserole, chicken fettuccine Alfredo, shrimp linguine, lasagna, spaghetti, spinach and chicken Florentine, chicken and rice casserole, breakfast casserole (served for dinner), chicken and dumplin's, chicken noodle soup, Mexican stew (similar to chicken tortilla soup), venison stew, taco soup, chili and cornbread, green chili chicken chowder, shredded BBQ sandwiches, pulled pork, tacos, and Chinese chicken/veggie mix served over rice.

I would LOVE to get more crock pot main dish recipes.  Please share your favorite main dishes by leaving a comment!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday's Meditation: A Boss Your Heart Message

Thank you, D'Lane Moore, for today's devo:

Crock Pots in a Microwave World
D'Lane Moore

We live in a “I want now” world.  Some of us even live in an “I deserve now world”.  I admit I can fall prey to this thinking.  Monday and Thursday afternoons I tutor, so I try to leave something in the crock pot for my family to have for dinner.  The problem with crock pots is you have to think ahead of time what you want the end result to be.  And when I say ahead of time, I mean hours ahead of time.  I normally am only thinking minutes ahead of time at the most.  Doing more crock pot cooking has made me realize that there is a lot of value in getting to the end result slowly.  When I dump frozen chicken and cream of mushroom soup in a cold pot, it is hard to imagine that in 4-6 hours it will be a dinner I actually want to eat. 

My spiritual journey is much the same way.  I can think of lots of things I want God to do in my life.  I want to be more patient, I want to love my neighbor as myself, I want to make a difference in the world, and I want to finish reading through the Bible this year.  But I can’t imagine putting in my selfish, busy, desiring instant results self and getting out anything that is worth anything.  The beauty of the crock pot is that ingredients that are so “ugly” come out so yummy, not because of what they are but because of the process they go through.  The beauty of my spiritual journey, and yours too, is that it is not what I bring to the equation, it is the process God puts me through.  God does the changing as I submit to His leadership in my life.  I have to recognize my selfishness, my busyness, my impatience are a hindrance to the gradual, yet ever-present process God is putting me through. 

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 says,

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Aren’t those beautiful verses?  God is living, personal, and present in our lives as we allow Him to enter into our lives!  He makes us more like him!  I have to remind myself sometimes, this does not happen instantly- it is not a microwave process.  It happens gradually- it is a crock pot process. 

Help us to turn our face toward you.  Reveal yourself to us.  Help us to not just know or read about you, but help us to experience you.  Help us to be transformed into your image.  God, we confess that being transformed in your image is only a work you can do.  So many of us have been touched and inspired by great people around us, but someone else could never change us from the inside out like you can.  You created us and know us.  You love us and desire that we know you.  I am amazed!!!  You want me (selfish, busy, distracted me) to know you.  I am here, submitting myself to you.  Change me.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Realistic Expectations

Click HERE to download an AWESOME free resource for adoptive families!  I STRONGLY encourage all adoptive families (whether you're just entering the process or if your child is already home) to download this amazing resource and save it for easy reference time and time again.  Read below to see what is included in this free download!

Realistic Expectations
The first year homefor adoptive families as they put away their travel suitcases, preconceived notions, and get down to the job of parenting...
This 50 page guide offers information on a variety of subjects:

A Different Perspective
by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp

Strategies for Building Attachment
by Karleen Gribble, BRurSc, PhD,

Top Ten Tips for Successful First Year Parenting
by Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA

Why Grandma Can’t Pick Up the Baby
by Sheena Macrae and Karleen Gribble

What is This Thing You Call Sleep?
by Dr Julian Davies, MD

Alone No More...Recognizing Post Adoption Depression by Heatherly Bucher
Adding The Oldest by Terra Trevor

Creating a Fit by Carrie Kitze

“When Do You Tell a Child he was Adopted?”
And Other Secrets We Shouldn’t Keep

by Adam Pertman

Unexpected Special Needs by Nancy Hemenway

Positive Outcome:
How Can You Combat the Effects of an Orphanage

By Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS

The Impact of Trauma on the Adopted Child and Ten Keys to Healing Trauma in the Adopted Child
by B. Bryan Post

How to Find a Therapist Experienced in Attachment and/or Trauma by the Attachment Disorder Network

Sensory Integration And the Internationally Adopted Child
By Barbara Elleman, MHS, OTR/L, BCP

Facts About Parenting a Child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder By Teressa Kellerman

How to Avoid the Syndrome of Parent Burn-Out
by Harriet McCarthy

Being an Ally to Families Raising Children with Challenges by Ellin Frank
Help Your Child Ward Off a Mad Attack
by Lynne Namke, EdD

Being with Your Child in Public Places
by Patty Wipfler

Strategies to Deal with Anger and Power Struggles
by Christopher J. Alexander, PhD

When Adoptions Fail by Kim Phagan-Hansel

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Too Much Risk

Early in our married life, I recall declaring that I would NEVER adopt because there was too much risk with adoption!  Little did I know what God had already planned for my future, huh?!?  It seems that just about every time I have told God I would NEVER do something, He always has plans for me to do it anyway!  But He never has plans for me to do it alone; He is always the One who not only orchestrates my days, but He also equips me to handle what He has called me to do.  It's not always easy (in fact, it's rarely easy!), but His Word doesn't promise the path will be easy.  His Word promises that He will never leave me or forsake me.  And He is always faithful.

Someone recently told me that ugly kids need families, too!  I was a little bit confused at first, but this person went on to explain that all of our kids are so cute/beautiful, and what about all of the ugly kids out there?  Don't we know that they need love, too?!?  This reminded me of a reader who inquired a while back about our family only choosing cute/perfect kids to adopt. 

I must respond that we didn't CHOOSE any one of our kiddos!  That might sound strange, but it's important for you to know that GOD chose each of our children for us.  We had nothing to do with His selections!  And we've never denied a child who God has asked us to adopt, not even Chrissie, who had severe congenital heart defects that caused at least 2 other families to back out of adopting her prior to our family committing to her.  With one of our kiddos, we didn't even see a photo before we committed to the adoption.  We knew that God wanted us to adopt that kiddo, without even having ANY information about the child, including not having seen even a photo.  So, it's not like we've gone out "kid shopping" and chosen the best looking/most beautiful kiddos out there.  In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth.  With every single one of our adoptions, we were NOT LOOKING to adopt ANYONE when God placed a specific child in our path and clearly told us to adopt that child, regardless of the circumstances.  The only thing He asks of us is for obedience.  He just wants us to obey, regardless of how impossible the situation may seem.  He wants us to fully trust Him that if He calls us to a task, He will equip us.  God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. 

The other thing I want you all to know is that all of these cute kiddos come with a myriad of labels attached to them.  They are ALL precious in His sight, regardless of the labels.  And He has faithfully equipped us to handle things we NEVER thought we could handle.  Some of the labels/diagnoses God has called us to include:  Dyslexia, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, ADHD/ADD (Attention Deficit Disorders), Tourette's Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Severe food allergies (anaphylaxis), Allergic Colitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Hydrocephalus, Seizure Disorders, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Anxiety Disorders, Diabetes, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Encopresis (fecal soiling oneself), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), congenital heart defects, non-English speakers, learning disabilities, and the list goes on.   Each child God has brought into our family has come with labels attached, but God has asked us to set aside the label(s) and simply focus on the child.  He has asked us to rely more upon Him and less upon ourselves.  When we are weak, He is strong.

I happen to agree that all of our children are adorable, but I have nothing to do with that.  God has formed each of our children to be precious in His sight.  He has chosen to bless our family abundantly with many arrows in our quiver, but each arrow is far from perfect, and that's OK.  God asks us to love each child regardless of the way they appear on the outside and/or the inside.  Each child is created in His image and is worthy of His love and the love of a forever family, regardless of labels, regardless of appearance, regardless of the condition of the heart (spiritually and medically speaking!).  Love.  Regardless.

I believe that each of us is a special needs orphan who needs to be adopted by our loving and mighty Father, regardless of our labels/diagnoses/needs.  God is in the business of redeeming special needs and His heart is adoption.  Aren't we grateful that God didn't turn His back on us, allowing the fear of our special needs to overtake His love for us?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reposting Selah's Story, Part 3

It's come to my attention that many of you didn't see the final part of Selah's story (part 3).  I posted it HERE, but it was "hidden" between posts where it was overlooked by many who receive email updates.  So, here's Selah's Story, Part 3, for those who missed it:

Part 2 of Selah's story ended with how I finally made a wholehearted committed to both Texas girls, regardless of the outcome.  (The reason why this story focuses on Selah, and not so much her bio sister, Ella, is that Selah has life-threatening special needs, while Ella is healthy and thriving.  It's so much easier to open our hearts and home to a healthy child than to the risks associated with severe special needs.  This story is more about my personal journey with where God is taking us through gifting us with Baby Selah, our hydrocephalus baby.)  Anyway...
Selah has the most beautiful eyes!  She has her birth mother's hair (African American) and the fair complexion of her bio father (white).  And she has the most pinchable cheeks, just like her sissy in heaven!

After I made my wholehearted commitment to Selah and Ella , and God knew I was really serious, He allowed me the privilege of viewing Selah's medical records.  He even trusted me enough to let me set up doctor's appointments with Selah's specialists.  I felt so grateful to finally get my hands on information that I had been longing to learn more about, and God had given me peace that He would enable us to walk through whatever He has in store for us with another special needs little one.
Even Kiefer helps take care of his baby sister.  (BTW, Kiefer adores Baby Selah, and her bio sister, Ella!)  So precious!

Upon reviewing medical records, the thing that stood out the most is that Selah is another little miracle girl!  She was diagnosed at gestational age 5 months with hydrocephalus, with the cause being unknown, but she was not expected to be born alive.  Selah was born October 1, 2010, weighing 10 pounds, but almost 1/3 of her birth weight was fluid on her brain.  Yes, Selah was born with THREE POUNDS of fluid on her brain!!!   Selah (whose name means to pause and reflect upon God's goodness, or a more literal Greek translation of "so every eye can see and every ear can hear"; pronounced "say-luh") surprised everyone when she survived gestation and was born full term, but they still didn't think she would live!  In fact, Selah aspirated meconium into her lungs and ended up with pneumonia and respiratory failure.  Her Apgar scores were only 2 out of 10!  The first month of Selah's life was spent in the NICU.  Things didn't look so good for this newborn baby who had the largest head that her neurosurgeon had ever seen, but God has been showing His glory off through the life of this little miracle baby girl!  (Her story reminds me a little bit of someone else's miracle story!)
Now, I realize this isn't the most flattering photo, but I just had to post it to show how much Selah is thriving!  Look at that big ole belly and the rolls on her thighs!  I'm sure Selah will not appreciate this photo when she's older, but for now, I just had to share!

Over the past two weeks, Selah had various appointments with specialists.  She had an MRI of her brain, a visit with the neurosurgeon, a consultation with the neurologist, an evaluation with ECI (Early Childhood Intervention), a 4-month-old well check with our pediatrician, another evaluation with ECI (with a physical therapist), and a consultation with a craniofacial surgery team of specialists, including another neurosurgeon.  The results from all of these check-ups are unanimously in agreement of how well Selah is doing.  Most of these doctors saw Selah at birth and didn't expect her to live.  They're just stunned at how much she's thriving today!  Selah is developing and progressing at what appears to be a very normal rate.  Although there are areas where Selah's developmental is at a 2-month-old level (and she's now 4 months old), she also has areas of her development that are at a 4-month-old level and even a few at a 6-month-old level.  Selah will have physical therapy and occupational therapy once a week to help her in the areas where her developmental is delayed, and with much prayer and dedication, we expect to see much progress over the next few months.
Selah, at her 4-month-old well check, sacked out on her sister Mattie on the exam table.

It's been a delight to bond with Selah and watch her develop.  Babies are just such a joy.  With hours of cuddle time, feeding time, rocking, bouncing, walking, and loving, it's just impossible not to fall head over heels in love with this little sugar-pie!  It makes our hearts sing with joy when we see Selah rapidly developing and absolutely thriving in our care.  Selah is in the 97th percentile in weight and 99th in height!  She's cooing and "talking", imitating our sounds, squealing with delight, kicking her legs with excitement, sitting with support, standing with support, grabbing at toys, putting things into her mouth, and, the biggest joy of all:  LAUGHING!!!  Oh how blessed we've been to have a baby in our home who brings such delight to our souls.  Yes, indeed, children are a gift, a blessing of the Lord!

But with all of the fun of a baby, we have to face the reality of a special needs hydrocephalus baby.  Selah will need to have skull/brain surgery, most likely when she is around 8 months old.  Because her skull was stretched so large when she had 3 pounds of fluid on her brain, she has skull issues that many hydrocephalus children do not have.  Selah's skull bones crossed over one another after the fluid was drained via shunt, causing severe malformation of her skull.  Because these bones have already fused in the wrong position, Selah will require skull surgery.  Selah also has fluid between her brain and her skull, with a possibility of having brain bleeds.  Because Selah's skull was stretched so large, there is a gap between her brain and skull, where fluid is collecting.  Selah is also "missing" part of her brain that connects the right and left brain, and several areas of her brain are malformed.  Selah may require additional brain surgery, depending upon the results of an MRI and CT scan obtained under sedation. 
Look at Selah stand!  It's really hard for her to hold her head steady because of the size, but she's doing great!

We feel very blessed to be working with this team of doctors, including the neurosurgeon and craniofacial surgeon, who consulted with us in depth yesterday (Thursday).  Through tears, Matt explained that we want to do everything in our power to preserve Selah's life while taking care of her needs, but ultimately it's all up to The Great Physician.  And He is mighty to save, even when the outcome doesn't align with what our hearts desire.  This we knew.  This we have lived.  And God has held us and carried us faithfully through the heartache, uncertainty, confusion, anger, frustration, sadness, an disappointment with Chrissie's outcome.  Yes, it's been hard, so very hard, but, once again, God has enabled our hearts to love unconditionally, regardless of the risk.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." 
~CS Lewis, The Four Loves

Would you please join us in praying for our Jehovah Rapha to bring complete healing to our Baby Selah?  She will have her in depth MRI and CT scan, under sedation, on March 7.  This will require out-patient hospitalization, as the sedation will require intubation (breathing through a tube with a ventilator).  God has asked us to walk this path, and we have experienced first-hand the miraculous power of prayer and the peace that surpasses all understanding when given by our Redeemer.  We are most grateful for your prayers, encouragement, and support.
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