Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Long over due post

It's so typical. With a first born, you celebrate every first, with the second child, some firsts but not as many. If you end up with more children right away, they eventually have a couple pictures stashed away in a book. Well, that is what has happened to poor Sophie!
Sophie will be our fifth (gasp!) child, and our third adoption in four years. While we announced back in July or August to friend and family and on Facebook, somehow I never ended up making an "official" blog post. I did keep up with entering in timelines but that was about it.

So here is a long over due ANNOUNCEMENT!
Introducing Sophie Grace from eastern China! We hope to travel sometime in June to bring her home. She is three years old and living in a foster home with one slightly younger sister and a loving foster mamma who has fostered her since she was ten months old. Like Isaac, Sophie was born with albinism, a genetic condition causing the hair and skin to have no pigment and eye issues.

Picture which moved our hearts to adopt again

Celebrating her 3rd birthday with the cake we sent

With foster mamma and the gifts we sent for her birthday (hat, sunglasses, blankie, candy)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Today I got in the car to drive for the first time in over a week. The first song I heard was this one.

I thought of when Jesus healed the blind man. I had heard the story a million times but when I researched the story further for the first time something new got my attention. The first time Jesus touched the man, the man was not able to see clearly. It was only after a second touch from Jesus his sight was fully restored.

Mark 8:23-25English Standard Version (ESV)

23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus[a] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Last Saturday August 9th, was the five year anniversary of my baptism. The death of the old me and my new life in Christ.  The first "touch" of new vision and the gradual "healing" to restored sight, something I will not achieve fully until I am restored in heaven. Every day the ability to be able to "see" brings me great joy in my daily walk with Christ.

After months and months of wearing my glasses I finally had PRK laser eye surgery a week ago.
The journey was not easy. I started out thinking the hardest question was could we afford it? Once we decided yes we *gulp* could, I made the call.
I had been wearing gas permeable contact lenses for over three decades! Yes, I AM that old!
Because of this I had to wear my glasses to assure my measurements were where they should be otherwise I'd end up like Mr. Magoo.
Towards the end, I started to get cold feet. No one could tell me what the days after would be like because " everyone heals differently." I worried I would be out of commission for weeks, and well I have adoption paperwork to finish, a ministry to run, and overall Mommy duties.
My doctor was so awesome! He seemed to be so thrilled at my final measurements and so confident he could make my vision perfect (my words, not his-legal disclaimer here). So based on my doctor's confidence and my husband's gentle encouragement, I had the surgery a week ago.
I went in knowing dozens of people were praying for me and I had complete and total peace about the outcome.
The night before my surgery I Googled PRK surgery. I can across a blog of a woman in California who had made daily and weekly blogs over the course of her recovery. Seeing those videos helped me so much so I decided no matter how cruddy I felt I was going to do the same.
I cannot say enough about my doctor, Dr. Gregg Berdy at Ophthalmology Associates in St. Louis.
He is sweet, kind and caring. No, I am not getting paid for this endorsement in any way. I had a great experience and want to let people know how great my experience was.

.Day 1-Surgery Day
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Working hard, letting Him work out details

Yard sales are tough. I should know. My mother has been hosting yard sales since I was six. I'm now nearly 44.
So I'm no stranger to how much work it takes, how to price and make it worth the time and effort.
Next weekend I will be hosting my second fund raiser sale. Those are vastly different from hosting one of my own. Most items are donated and when I started I didn't know what I would end up with. There can be really interesting items.
This time I've been blessed with beyond amazing weather! It's tough anyway, but being super hot working all day in a heat oven is not fun!
Yesterday my dear friend Becki brought over her crew of family members to help. I provided pizza and brownies and assigned jobs to where I thought everyone would be most useful. Her grandson started making these amazing poster board signs despite the dizzy high I am sure he was getting from the big black markers!
Today I had amazing help from our church youth and my daughter's boyfriend. The boyfriend needed a bit of supervision to stay on task as he was pretty distracted by some of the toys including an interactive dinosaur.
I write all this to say my garage is packed, there is still work to be done, and yet I know the sale will be beyond my expectations. God provided the means and all I have to do is provide the hard work.
It's going to be amazing and God will get all the glory. Stay tuned!

Toy knives are fun!

What? I have a mohawk?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Family Update

I realize I haven't given an update on the kiddos in a while. With four kids and four dogs life is cray, cray CRAZY! 

Summer graduated high school with honors and will be attending Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the fall to study special education.

Wyatt is nearly six feet tall and just finished his freshman year of high school! He hopes to volunteer with our local food pantry this summer, is volunteering with VBS and is chief babysitter since Summer has a full time job as a nanny.

Ellie turned four in April and has grown and thrived in the two years she has been a part of our family. She will start pre-school in the fall. Ellie's imagination is as big as her personality!

Isaac has overcome many challenges since coming home. He exceeded all the goals set for him last year with the Early Intervention program. Isaac is receiving speech, occupational, physical and vision therapies. He is walking!!! Understanding more and more and eats like a champ. His head is noticeably improved although still appears a bit flat.

Chris and I planted an orphan and foster ministry and it is thriving in the foster area. We have begun getting donations to help local foster families in need. The response has been overwhelming. From a tiny seed God planted in our hearts once we returned from China, to now a small team of people working to support local adoptive and foster families.To Him be ALL the glory! We are humbled to be a part of His kingdom!
Written below is an update from Chris about Isaac's first days and a beautiful message about my upcoming mission trip. I have raised approximately a quarter of the funds needed.  This trip will be relational discipleship lived out with those we serve on our trip.

This past week we celebrated one year as a family with my youngest son Isaac. Reflecting back a year ago to that day in Nanjing, as I sat in a civil affairs office with my oldest daughter Summer awaiting a son and a brother to arrive. As Isaac was carried into the office and I caught my first glimpse of my son, I was shocked! I had seen pictures of Isaac when he was just weeks old, he appeared vibrant, his head was well rounded, other than his albinism, he appeared perfectly healthy. But now, Isaac was almost a year old, he appeared listless, the back of his head was flat. Not just flat, his head appeared deformed. The ladies from the orphanage told me he could stand and was eating solid foods. Isaac was unable to sit without being propped by pillows and could only drink formula. I remember wondering that first night what had happened to my son. I called Julie and asked her to warn family and friends about his appearance. After 24 hours, we returned to the civil affairs office to complete the paperwork and declare we were keeping Isaac. This past year, Isaac has learned to walk, clap his hands, feed himself and is starting to verbalize. Other than being visually impaired and having albinism he will eventually catch up to his peers. So the question is why? Why was Isaac so delayed? Why did a baby with a normal looking head arrive to me with a deformed flat head? The answer? There was no one in the orphanage to hold him! No one to hold him while he drank his bottle! No one to comfort him when he cried! No one to rock him to sleep! No one to do any of those things because there was just too many babies and not enough caregivers. Isaac laid on his back for so many hours of the day his head flattened. Isaac didn't develop because there was no stimulation. He laid on his back and scratched his sheets with his fingers to make noise to stimulate himself, a habit he still has. If you're still reading this you must be wondering why I share this with you. I'm asking you to support Julie as she returns to China to spend a week at an orphanage. A week to hold babies, to rock them, to comfort them, to provide human contact with babies who do not have a home or a family. Your support could be as simple as praying for a safe trip or donating to help with travel expenses. I shared my story about Isaac so you could put a face to the crisis, 34 million children without homes, without families, without someone who cares.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Join my team-Get a gift!

Going back to serve!

As many of you know I will be heading back to China to serve in an orphanage this fall. I need you to join my team!  Please prayerfully consider what type of team member you will be.
  • Team Prayer Warrior-to pray for me, the team, the children, the nannies, and all those we will encounter before, during and after our trip. 
  • Team Stuff member- Local friends donate your gently used, sale-able items to my fundraiser garage sale tentatively scheduled for July Help with sorting items and getting the word out about the sale.
  • Team Advocate member-Share my blog and story with family, friends and those on social media
  • Team Contributor-Financially support me in this journey.  Every contribution over fifteen dollars will receive a Thank you gift personally designed by me. You will receive (16) 4X6 files, suitable for printing at any photo lab (Walgreens, Walmart, Shutterfly, etc). These prints  when bundled and paired with a simple 4X6 frame make a perfect gift for any occasion. Samples of the prints are pictured below. For those not techno-saavy I can provide a link to the prints directly from Walgreens.  (You will receive the files with out the "sample" word) Comment below with your email address or email me to let me know of your contribution and you will be emailed the link or files immediately.
I am looking forward to this trip and updating my team members of my journey. I plan to blog while in China sharing my trip as it happens. God has planned some exciting things! I am so grateful for your support.

1 John 4:19 tells us “We love because He first loved us”
Please join me in a journey of love across the world.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Passion, Conviction & Doubt Whispers

A few weeks ago I announced I would be joining a team in China to serve in an orphanage. The decision was a surprise to me and everyone else. In a matter of a few minutes, in the time it took my husband to pick up a pizza, God worked in me to say YES to Him. He equipped me to blind myself to my usual "comfort zone issues." You see, I have never went camping. The idea of the hardship of camping and the yuckiness of roughing it outweighs the potential beauty of nature I might encounter. I also abhor stickiness, smelly stuff and general ick. Yet when called to go to serve I didn't hesitate. I didn't think about those things. What went through my mind? I needed to God to grow me more. He has asks me to do hard things and has blessed me. I have seen tangible proof of God's work in my life. It hasn't always been rainbows and unicorns. There have been significant costs. I gave up a lot of freedom in this lifetime. What is the cost of freedom? The cost of my freedom from the eternal flames of hell was Jesus giving His life in the most horrific way. I can NEVER repay the debt. I am not trying to earn my way to heaven. It has already been paid for at a great cost. Jesus has asked us to be His hands and feet. To love and help those who cannot help themselves.

This little boy lives in China. For reasons which cannot be made public, he will never be eligible for adoption. He will never know the love of a family. The only opportunity for children like this little boy and even the nannies to ever know of God's love is for the Gospel in real life action lived out to come to them. I first read about his story here and it was just one more confirmation God was calling me to go.

Lately doubt has been clouding my thoughts. I have let the craziness of life distract me from putting on the full armor of God and I have been vulnerable. The area I have been attacked is whether or not I should self-fund this mission trip. Every penny it seems, when a person fund-raises, whether it be for an adoption, mission trip or charity event is scrutinized. Some discernment when donating to such causes is responsible. A person should  make sure money is being used for what it is supposed to be. Charities need to be transparent. There is a fine line, however between discernment and judgement. Judgement should be left to God. Some how though, when it comes to donations, it's acceptable to judge the recipient.  I've seen adoptive families judged for eating out or driving a reliable vehicle. I've heard whispers about church leaders who drive cars which are too luxurious. Judgment which typically comes with out having all the facts. It's beyond painful for those who are attacked.
This week I wanted to give up. To withdraw my spot on the team and hold my application fee over until I could fund the trip, perhaps in a few years, on my own. I thought about a personal loan or a credit card. I realized then I would be robbing God and those chosen to be blessed in my journey. I would be robbing God of his glory. I would be taking the easy way out by giving up.

Journeys like adoptions and mission trips and ministry all have one huge component. They cost money. Raising money is sometimes part of the faith journey. To rely completely on God and to do some hard work.  I propose to do the hard work. I am planning two fund raising yard sales this summer. I taking individual and family portraits with all proceeds directly going towards my trip.
I am not asking you to fund ME. I am asking you to share in the blessing of what God plans to do with this trip. I am asking you to come along, in the comfort of your own home to share in God's amazing plan of bringing LOVE to those who don't yet know it. I am allowing you to share in the blessings. I am NOT giving up! 
That little boy is worth it. The people I will meet and serve are worth it. Pray for me and my "armor" to with stand those fiery darts. Pray for me and those who will support my efforts. Pray for my ears to be deafened to those judgmental whispers and self doubt. To quote a dear friend Jane, pray for those waiting to see "God with skin,"

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hear, Follow, Trust, Obey

Oh how I never get to that level of comfort which I always believe is coming. When we brought Ellie home I thought I would coast back in life with this sweet, adorable baby girl. Wrong! With in three months we were called again to adopt. To begin a complicated and stressful paperwork process. We faced adversity and judgement by folks who did not understand our call to obey God. There were actual attempts to stop our second adoption and yet we believed God was in control. He provided everything we needed and deafened our ears to those who did not understand our motives. He provided big. I never doubted for a second we wouldn't be successful in the journey. He blessed us with a son who's Chinese name was translated literally into "Gift from God."
So when Chris returned from China and we began the challenging task of raising four kids, two special needs toddlers and two teenagers again I believed life would be simpler. We completed some much needed small home projects and began focusing on our Orphan ministry we felt we were called to pursue. I was looking forward to a stress free summer finally enjoying friends and our home again, free from paperwork or fundraising. Life was gonna be EASY!

Since Isaac has been home I still advocate for waiting children. I still see our agency's  list of kiddos needing homes and on several occasions begged God not to "send me back to China to adopt again." Apparently I was too specific in my prayer! This week I have been given a unique opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, joining a mission team to an orphanage in China for eleven days in October. The orphanage is located in Ellie's province which would connect me once again to her homeland and the province/culture she was from. When I read about the opportunity I immediately went "all in" for God. I wasn't scared of long flights, being in China again (I was a tad bit overwhelmed on our adoption trip) and the idea of seeing an orphanage first hand and serving was intense. I had a life changing experience all in the time it took my husband to go get a pizza! Let's just say I overwhelmed him a little when he returned and I dropped this bombshell. After several days of praying I don't feel any less called to do this. I KNOW God is calling me.

Photo credit: Ben Leaman

Photo credit: Ben Leaman

Photo credit: Ben Leaman

Photo credit: Ben Leaman

After two years I am ready to brave that long plane ride again. I am ready to see China for it's beauty and culture. I am ready to connect and come along side with people I have never met who have also been called to serve. I am so blessed my husband is retired and we would not have to work out logistics of childcare. I am ready to see first hand nannies and staff who care for the children with the resources they have. I am told the director of the particular orphanage I would be serving at is an actual orphan himself. I am excited to see God's light where there is a lot of darkness. I am ready to be refined and stretched beyond who I believed myself to be.

First and foremost I need your prayers. I need your encouragement. I also will need to fund this trip.
When we adopted Isaac we had zero. We had exhausted all resources when we adopted Ellie. I never doubted we wouldn't get Isaac home and God provided all. We were fully funded and came home without debt after Isaac's adoption. Friday night when this was placed on my heart I had zero fear to take the plunge. I knew God had provided before when He called and I knew He was calling me, alone with out Chris to go and serve. I need to raise approximately four thousand dollars.

Help in funding.I would love any assistance in fundraising you can offer. I know in these current times many are stretched helping other ministries. I also do not want to detract from our Orphan ministry which has just begun. I am planning on a fundraiser yard sale sometime in July. Any gently used, sale-able items would be appreciated. Please begin thinking about Spring cleaning now!
I am also booking photography sessions for outdoor individual/family sessions. I took many classes over the winter and am pleased with some news skills I have acquired. Sessions will be approximately one hour and you may choose to donate what you are able to give. All images will be on CD with a release for you to print at lab of your choice.

For those of you who know me personally, you know this is a big leap for me. I solidly believe God is calling me to this. I would love for my Christian brothers and sisters to join me in my journey.

Acts 20:35
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'