Sunday, October 18, 2015

We're Not the Type (A Long Overdue Post)

It’s amazing what time, or, to put it better, several long days and a few short months can do. This time, around the adoption experience has been so much harder, more demanding, broken us down, and granted bigger rewards than anything we ever anticipated. If you had told us before all of this how things were going to be, we probably would have looked at you with terror in our eyes and emphatically said,“Oh no...we’re not the type of people that can handle that."

To be honest, we actually did succumb to just that kind of thinking when we first received Kai.  We were handed this really huge 28-month-old boy that, though sweet, didn't even know how to chew food, along with a myriad of other things he couldn't do, but should have been able to at his age. We were shattered and shocked to see him with the developmental skills of a six month old (at best), along with some apparent cognitive issues. We knew something was very wrong, but had no idea what was going on with our new son.  Even our agency guide had tried to warn us that something was wrong before we went to the civil affairs office.  He was supposed to be our “easy” one! How could the paperwork have been so quiet on all of his needs and outright wrong about some issues? How were we going to manage his needs with all of the medical complexity that we already knew was coming with Skye? Besides that, when we had to fill out or list of medical conditions we were willing to accept, we never, ever checked anything to do with cognitive or developmental issues as we were not the people who could deal with that kind of thing.  We never felt we had the resources or patience to parent a child like that, and the thought of having to do it terrified us!

In those first dark hours, we sobbed, reached out to other adoptive parents back home that we knew would understand, and for a very, very fleeting moment actually wondered about disrupting.  The only way you could ever possibly understand is if you’ve been in that moment...alone, overwhelmed with fear, exhausted, and all of your expectations broken. Did God really call us to this? Doesn’t He know that we aren’t the type of parents that can handle this? However, we decided we needed to cover him in prayer and take joy in the small things we saw in Kai:  His sweet personality, the ability to entertain himself with very little (which unfortunately we figured came from being left to his own devices for way too long), and his charming smile.  He was our son and we had made a commitment to him, no matter what. 

Soon, we traveled to the next province to get Skye, which was quite the ordeal trying to juggle all of our bags and this 30-some-pound toddler who was floppy and couldn't hold himself up very well to carry easily. Kathie always says that circus music follows us everywhere, and certainly this was one of those times where you could hear it from miles away!  Once we arrived, we were so happy to be with other adopting families and excited to see the familiar faces of our guides from our last trip.  There is definitely strength in numbers, and it was great to have a group of families that would all encourage one another during these rough first few weeks with our new children.

The day we received Skye was a difficult one. She came last of all the children in our group.  Though she was fine while her nannies were there, as soon as they left she grieved very hard.  She screamed and hit David’s arms and cried out for her “big sisters” to come back. After she settled down and we got back on the bus to return to the hotel, she promptly vomited all over herself, David, and the bus floor.  It was to be the first of many changes of clothing, bedding, and, no joke, hundreds of diapers between the two of them. Skye also had a horrible UTI  and her bladder and bowel function were much worse that we had anticipated. She also had horrible screaming fits when she would not get her way with blood-curdling screams and body-wracking sobs.  Of course, she only did these in public, so it was very, very frustrating and embarrassing.  In hindsight, they were much like her “gotcha day” tears and were a continuation of her grief and adjustment.
The emotional and physical drain in China, along with the battle to bond and attach with our two new children, was pretty overwhelming. We clung to each other and to God, not knowing how we were going to be able to be parents to these kids.

Once home, that struggle continued. At one point, there were 15 out of 20 days filled with appointments as we sought to get the kids seen by specialists, therapy, etc. Skye struggled with repeat UTIs that were resistant to most oral antibiotics and had the chance of landing in the hospital for IV antibiotics.  We have been bombarded with specialist recommendations:  Neurologists, urologists, neurosurgeons, hand surgeons, orthopedics, ophthalmologists, audiologists, endocrinologists, and genetics so far. Skye needed new leg braces, a wheelchair, and a walker. Kai is waiting on special foot braces called SMOs and still needs to see a pediatric general surgeon to evaluate if he needs more bowel surgery.  We have 3 kids in therapy right now since Lily still has speech therapy, so every week is a full schedule of some type of doctor appointments, on top of 3 days with therapy appointments, on top of activities with all the other kids and work for both of us. “We’re not the type of people who can do all of this,”we insist.

Just in the last week or so, we learned some of the reason that Kai is the way he is.  His brain didn't form correctly; from some congenital anomaly or early trauma isn't clear.  Either way, the bridge between his left and right hemispheres called the corpus callosum is malformed and partially missing (dysgenesis).  He also has a structural brain condition called colpocephaly and some optic nerve atrophy which may cause visual deficits.  The dysgenesis of the corpus callosum and optic nerve atrophy together also strongly suggest he may have a condition called septo-optic dysplasia, or de Morsier syndrome, which may indicate pituitary dysfunction as well, so he is going to be going a comprehensive endocrine and genetic workup.  All of it points to a high seizure risk for him and an uncertain mental/developmental picture. It is pretty much a spectrum condition...some people end up with little to no deficits or complications, some have profound intellectual and functional disability, and some finding themselves somewhere in the middle.  The neurologist told us on Friday that we won't know how he is going to function long-term until he's about 6 years of age.  To us, that is a long time of not knowing what to expect for him. “We are SO not the type of parents who are good with this kind of thing,”we fear.

And yet, God has been and continues to be making us into the parents that are indeed the type.  We never dreamed we’d be glad to get a handicap placard for our vehicle, thankful to be applying for a program to help with coverage for chronic medical conditions, and over-the-moon excited when we meet criteria to qualify for some assistance programs that have helped with some very large costs.  To clarify, we are NOT poor...we’ve seen true poverty and we are NOT it.  We have just hit the point that with 8 kids now we are eligible for programs designed to give assistance to families like ours, and we are very, very thankful for those programs at this point.  (Just to let you know, Kathie is totally cringing at me adding this in here, but I feel it's an important piece of what God has brought us to, despite our pride!)

Who knew that we’d be relieved for a home cath and enema program for Skye, thereby bringing a stop to the UTIs, along with the flooding of diapers and clothes? Who knew that seeing Skye walk for the first time using a walker would be sublime; that Kai using some sign language to communicate would make us grin; that Kai moving from unable to chew food to using a utensil on occasion to feed himself, to see him stand himself up and walk across a room, to see him learn to drink from a straw would bring shouts of excitement and overwhelming joy?

Who knew? God did…and He knew in His wisdom that it wasn’t (and isn’t) going to be easy.  He has ripped us so far out of our comfort zone, and believe us when we say it was and is at times still painful. Yet, we can’t imagine our home without these two. And God keeps pouring His grace and mercy onto us, picking us up when we drop the ball and filling us back up when we're feeling pretty empty and tired.  We aren’t fully the type yet, but He’s slowly getting us there.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ready To Go!
Warning-this post may seem all over the place....

This past week has been crazy to say the least. After having a family party at our house Saturday, early Sunday morning we received the call that our Papaw, the patriarch of our family, had suddenly passed away. Our family was stunned at the sudden loss... he'd just been with us eating cake and drinking his ever present cup of coffee. Needless to say, Sunday and Monday were acute days of grief for all of us.
Then, on Tuesday, we received the news that China invited us to come and get Kai and Skye. The final piece of the adoption process was happening! So, in the middle of grief, this exciting news we'd been waiting for came. Talk about emotional roller coasters!  The last couple of days have been spent grieving with family and making flight arrangements. While at the wake, we got our flight confirmations and Kathie had to stop and then make the kids' flight arrangements to come home with us. 

We are beyond excited that we are 9 days away from flying out to get our kids. We are really, really going to miss our Papaw B. We are ready to go, and while we miss Papaw, we take comfort and hope in the fact that he was ready to go, too. We know as Christians that his passing wasn't a "goodbye," but just a "see you later."

He loved his grandkids more than anything, even the ones he hadn't met yet, and would have been so happy that his newest great-grandkids were now coming home.

Adoption has a lot of beginnings and endings. We are coming to the end of one part of it. Kai and Skye are coming to the end of being orphans and beginning lives in a family that lasts forever. In the midst of this, life has its beginnings and endings as well. 

We'll be leaving In less than 2 weeks, traveling first to Wuhan to get Kai on June 25th. Then, we'll travel to Zhengzhou and have Family Day with Skye on June 29th. After some time in her province, we'll travel to Guangzhou for the remaining paperwork and medical appointments before returning home.

Please pray for our family...all of them, including our sweet grandma who is facing such heartbreak now. Please also pray for safe travels, for Kai and Skye to bond and attach well with all of us, for the rest of our kids that we have to leave at home, and for our moms and other family members who will be watching our kids while we're gone. We'll be trying to update our blog or Facebook page when we are in China

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Brief Update and a Fun Giveaway

Fired Up For Travel!
Tag the Bag: Kindle Fire Giveaway
Well, June 2nd our paperwork will be done! After that date, we are just waiting for China to issue our Travel Approval.  We are so excited that we are about a month away from traveling to bring home Skye and Kai! We are having one last fundraiser to help cover the travel costs in bringing these two precious kids home. We are keeping it's how it works
Now through June 12, if you make a donation of any amount, we will “tag” the kids’ suitcase with you or your family's name. This will be a great memento for them of all the people that cared and helped them get to their forever home! Here's the fun part...For every $10 donation/increment ($10 =1 entry; $50=5 entries, etc.), you are entered into a drawing to win a brand new Kindle Fire HD in your choice of color!
To enter, you can make a tax-deductable gift via our Village to Village International page here:
If you don't like paying online, you can still make a tax-deductible donation via check.  Please make your check out to Village to Village Intl. and send it to:
Village to Village Intl.
Attn: Matt Borst
317 East Blvd. 
Elkhart, IN 46514
You can also just contact us directly if you want to make a donation in person. 
The deadline for all entries is 5 p.m. on Friday June 12.
Once the winning name is drawn, we will contact that person for their choice of color and have the Kindle sent directly to their home address.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Isaiah 40:31-"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

This adoption has taken us to scary places. I don't mean physical scares, but the fears that come when God calls you to do something and you aren't able to see how it will work out.

This past weekend we had our 5K fundraiser. Talk about out of our depth! Before this, If you'd have asked us to coordinate an event like this we would have said, "No way!" We were clueless, and going out asking for sponsors and racers was extremely uncomfortable! Yet, here we are. God surrounded us with great helpers, and He brought the sponsors, the runners, and the most beautiful April morning you could have wished or prayed for! The race exceeded our hopes and expectations. Beyond the fundraising side of it, we had great fun, and the support we felt from everyone there meant so much to our family.

Each step of the way, God has provided the funding to meet our needs when we have needed it, and we are so thankful for Him and for all of the people who have supported us along the way. Funding is usually one of the scariest issues for most adoptive parents, including us, and oftentimes it is the dealbreaker for families considering adoption, international and domestic both. We have learned, though, that God is always so faithful and where He guides, He always provides!

We are now waiting for what China parents commonly refer to as LOAs (Letters of Approval), or in actuality, our Letters Seeking Confirmation.  These documents are so important as they mean that China has accepted us to be the parents of our children after reviewing our whole dossier and are asking for confirmation that we want to make these children our own. Of course we do!! Once these come, they basically start a chain reaction of processes with US immigration, visas, etc., that will culminate in our traveling to bring our children home. It's estimated that travel occurs roughly 10 weeks after LOA. It gets difficult sometimes as we wait for these LOAs, especially knowing our paperwork is now out of the review process. Many families seem to have their LOAs issued within a day or so of completing review, but we have been out of review since April 10th with no sign of that coveted acronym in our immediate future! Our hearts ache to get our kids and bring them home, and we are just plain antsy to get this show on he road already! 

We recently found out our sweet new daughter struggles with a low self-image due to her physical issues, but also that she carries around a lot of anxiety and fears resulting from her life circumstances up to this point. It made us so very sad to know she feels that way and all that much more eager to travel soon! We don't have much information about our little guy at all and wonder how he is doing.  When LOAs are finally issued, our agency will request an update on both of them -another reason to pray they come soon!

We ask that you please pray with us that God moves and the LOAs come soon, and also that we will have patience through the waiting. Also, please pray that our little ones' hearts will be prepared for the trauma of adoption. The reality is that we will be taking them away from everything they've ever known and bringing them to a totally foreign world. That would be scary for anyone! We pray that their hearts will blossom and open to the love of a family.

The verse at the beginning of this post is so true. God has constantly provided us with strength way beyond ourselves. When we are weary and anxious, He reminds us of His love and faithfulness. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Post That May Step on Toes

Can I share my opinion with you?  I mean, my honest opinion? 

Church, I think we've dropped the ball.

It seems like we're so used to thinking that if we agree with scripture, we're actually obeying it, but that's just not the truth.  James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not only hearers of it, blinding yourselves with false ideas" (Basic English Translation).  You can agree with something wholeheartedly and say "amen" to all the sermons you want, but if you're not actually doing it, you're living in disobedience.  Did you ever think of it that way?

We in the church are so busy pointing fingers at people for the things they do that we don't agree with, but we rarely help them or give them better options.  We just make them feel bad, or oftentimes just make them want to do exactly what we say they shouldn't just because it will get up our nose.  I can't tell you how many blog posts I saw about the evils of "Fifty Shades," yet all of the hoopla made those who wanted to see it anyway more vehement about seeing it and gave them even more fuel against the hypocrites in the church. 

So, what do I think we've dropped the ball about specifically for the purposes of this post?  Life.

We went and saw the movie "The Dropbox" last night.  It was amazing.  The movie does a really good job of showing all sides of the issue of child abandonment.  Never are the birth mothers villanized in this documentary, and rightly so.  Pastor Lee, the Korean pastor that made the dropbox in his home/church, has as much compassion for these girls as he does their babies.  And the movie does a good job to point out that child abandonment isn't just a Korean's a huge problem worldwide.

Many in the church would categorize themselves as pro-life.  Many participate in pro-life walks, protests, marches, campaigns, etc., and do their best to try and prevent abortion.  That's all well and good, but what happens to the girl who you convince NOT to have an abortion, and the baby she carries that she may not be able to take care of?  This is where I think we've dropped the ball. 

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (NIV).  Do we just agree with that, or are we actually obeying?

Too many in the church are willing to speak up for life, but not willing to take up the yoke to take care of that life.  I know there are some programs to help with those things, but not near enough.  How many churches rally around the unwed mothers in their midst?  Or, are there any actually there because the church has made them feel like an outcast because of a decision they made in the heat of the moment and they don't feel welcome in church?  And the babies?  While I know a few families who foster or adopt, the key word there is "few." The need for homes for these children is overwhelming and too few people are willing to help.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that everybody should be fostering or adopting.  It is totally not for everyone.  It is hard.  These kids come from very hard places and will carry some of this hurt and trauma in their hearts for most of their lives.  Because of that, even in the best of circumstances, these kids have issues that will come out in one way or another...maybe reactive-attachment issues, low self-worth, acting-out behavior, etc.  That beautiful family you see in church with foster or adopted children, they're dealing with stuff whether you can see it or not.  These families are constantly throwing themselves on God's grace because they can't do this on their own.  Their kids need healing.  They need healing.  It is not easy.

What I'm saying is that the church as a whole needs to step up our game.  We need to work more at being Jesus's hands and feet to help people rather than point fingers and tell people what they ought not to be doing.  We need to love people and stand in the gap for them.  We need to be willing to do the hard things, the uncomfortable things, the things that we really honestly might not want to do.  Why?  Because Jesus certainly didn't take the easy way out and we're His Bride, His representatives here in the world.

So what does that look like?  Maybe some of you are meant to rally around the girls who find themselves in a situation they never meant to be in.  These girls are scared and most likely don't have the resources to be able to take care of a baby.  Maybe you could help them by providing child care for their baby while they work, help teach them how to be a parent, help with buying baby items, etc.  Become a surrogate family to her and her baby and invest in them.

Maybe some of you are called to foster or adopt children that have been given up and have been giving God excuses as to why you can't.  Seriously, excuses don't fly.  I can't tell you how many times people have said to us, "Oh, we would love to adopt, but we can't afford it."  Wrong answer!  If you are called to adopt, God will provide.  Almost every adoptive family we know, ourselves included, could never honestly have afforded to adopt if it hadn't been for God bringing funding at just the right times.  It has been terrifying to me each time because we never know where the money is going to come from when we start the process, but we just step out in faith and obedience.  And let me tell you, God is so faithful.  If He calls you to something, He provides for every step of the way.  That doesn't mean it's not a white-knuckle ride, but He's not going to lead you to do His will and then dump you.  That isn't how He operates.

Maybe some of you are called to advocate for these children.  There are so many programs that help children in foster care or orphanages.  Our church sends mission teams not only to affiliate orphanages in Cambodia and Haiti, but also has a large number of people in the church who volunteer for things like the Royal Family Kids Camp, helping kids that are stuck in the system to feel loved and valued.  You could become a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, to help fight for the rights of children in the system.  You can get involved in any number of helpful programs, spread the word to others of the need to be involved, and pray for God to touch these sweet lives with His love.

Maybe you are a more behind-the-scenes type of person and your gift is giving.  Find a ministry to support financially.  There are so many of them out there that help the fatherless.  Maybe you've been involved in the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Box or SOAR's Stuff-A-Stocking programs around Christmas.  Make it more than just a holiday thing...find something to give to all year round.  Find an orphanage or orphan surgical fund to donate to, especially since there are so many children worldwide with life-threatening medical conditions that need surgery.  Find an adoptive family that needs help with funding to adopt these children.  Chances are, you probably know of at least one that could use the help.  There is really no end to the need, and there is no better thing to invest your money into than the life of a child.

Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my 2 cents.  We as believers are definitely made to love, so it's about time we show the world what that means practically.  Seriously, what would the world look like if Christians stopped being indignant and started being involved. Hearts and lives aren't changed because of protests or arguments;  they're changed because of love.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Just a really quick update.  We received notice tonight that our dossier has been logged in as of 2/28.  That is BIG news to us!  That means that God worked it out for us to not only make our 3/19 paperwork deadline, but to beat it by over 3 weeks.  So glad!  If you are wondering what in the world all that means, please see our previous post here:

We were also notified last week that we were blessed with a matching grant through Lifesong for Orphans of $4000.  That is fantastic news and a great opportunity.  What it means is that for every dollar donated to our account through Lifesong, they will match it 100%.  That is the opportunity for $8000 towards our fees, which is great timing because we will soon have a large governmental fee come due that is over $11,000 within the next few months.  The thing about a matching grant, though, is that the grant organization will only mirror the donations we receive from others towards it.  For example, if we receive $100 from others towards the grant, Lifesong will kick in $100.  We won't receive a grant more than the total amount donated.  Plus, we aren't allowed to put money into it ourselves, nor are we allowed to fundraise towards the grant, which pretty much puts us in a place where we need to rely totally on God to work it out.  I have a really hard time with that part as I tend to try to figure out how to fix things myself, plus I HATE to have to ask others for anything.  So, please pray that funding will come in to match the grant in totality as we could sure use it and it would be a shame to let that kind of opportunity go to waste. I am so thankful to those of you who have already blessed us with a gift.  You know who you are and hold a special place in our hearts for sure!! If anyone else feels led to give a donation or know somebody who might want to, here is the link for that:

Anyway, that is pretty much where we are at this point in time.  Hopefully the next update we have will be to announce our LOA, the real biggie that ushers in the last stage of the adoption process!!

Thank you so much for following along with us!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Alphabet Soup with a Large Side of Crazy

Over the next few months now, you’ll be seeing or hearing us talk about some adoption acronyms, so here is the skinny on the DTC, LID, LOA, TA…..LOL.  Oh, and there will be a quiz at the end! J

Yesterday we were DTC, or “dossier to China.” For those of you who aren't familiar with what a dossier is, it is basically our whole lives in paper form. Everything about us, from finances, to criminal history (or lack thereof!), to family of origin, to health status, birth certificates, etc., is summed up in this packet of paperwork. It includes our home study, physical exams, background checks, reference letters, employment letters, photos of us and our family, and many other things. Once you gather all of the documents required for the dossier, which in and of itself is a LOT of work, then all of it needs to be notarized, then certified by the Secretary of State presiding over the state where the notary lives, then authenticated at the Chinese Embassy that serves that particular state.  Anyway, after 6 months of working away on this paper snapshot of our lives, it is finally done, critically reviewed by our agency, and now on its way to China!! Whew!!

The next step is LID, or “log in date,” which is the date that our dossier is logged into the China system (CCCWA).  The next milestone after LID is one of the biggest of the biggies, the LOA, or “letter of acceptance (or approval).”  In all actuality, it is titled the "Letter Seeking Confirmation from Adopter," or LSC, but most people just call it LOA.  This document is bascially China officially asking you if you accept the child (or in our case, children) that you are matched with in the first place, but to adoptive families it is China saying, "Yes, they are officially yours!" We already have pre-approval for both of our children, which supposedly expedites our dossier review process to between 1-2 months, but we have known of several families with pre-approval that have waited 3-4 months or longer for their LOA to be issued, which often makes parents worry that somehow there is something wrong and they aren't going to be able to bring home the sweet child or children they've been waiting for.  That can make it extremely difficult to wait for your LOA!

Once you receive the long-awaited and prayed for LOA, then it's time to jump back on the immigration paperwork bandwagon.  For your dossier to be complete, you have to have generic immigration approval, but now is the time to get each child's specifics filed with USCIS so they can be brought into the US legally as our children and accepted as US citizens. By this time, you need to have your child's name all sorted out because there really isn't any changing after you file this round of paperwork (which is great except when you're having a hard time deciding on a middle name you really like for your daughter!!).  Once this part is done, then the wait begins for the next exciting acronym....

TA, or “travel approval,” is our invitation from China to come and pick up our children. Your travel timing depends on your appointment with the US Consulate there to finalize the adoption process. TA is one of the most exciting acronyms in the Chinese adoption lingo as it means your next step is actually being united with the kids you've been so eager to meet over these long, long months of waiting!!

So, what does all this mean as far as timeline goes?  Unless something goes very wrong and we have a really long LOA wait, or if something goes very right and we have a short LOA wait, we estimate traveling to get our kiddos in July.  So close, and yet so far... =)

We've had several people ask if there is anything they can do to help us in the process.  The biggest thing is pray!  You can read about some specific prayer requests in our last blog post here:

A second way to help is to participate in our Spring Fling 5K Run/Walk and 2K Fitness Fun Run coming up on April 18th at the Kankakee Valley Middle School.  You can participate either by running/walking, volunteering to help the day of the race, or by being a business sponsor and getting your business name put on our cool race shirts!  For more information or to register, here is the link:

The third way is actually the hardest for me personally.  I hate accepting help from others or asking anyone for anything.  Just ask our moms!  However, we have been accepted by a wonderful organization called Village to Village International to be one of their adoptive families.  This means that if anyone wants to help by giving a gift or donation towards adoption fees, they are able to do it through this organization and it is tax deductible.  When families receive donations through them, Village To Village then pays the adoption agency directly when fees come due.  We are very honored to be one of their families as Village to Village is such a great organization invested in global orphan care projects.  There is nothing better than to invest in the lives of these sweet children, and they are making a big difference all across the globe in that regard.  If you are interested in option #3, here is the link:

As always, thank you so much for following along with us and seeing all the amazing things that God is doing!  We are continuing to pray that He is glorified through our lives now and always! =)