Sunday, November 13, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: Beauty For Ashes



Testimony by Jessica Whiteaker
www.the-white-acres.blogspot.com

My husband and I are in the midst of our first adoption right now! We are adopting Daniel from Eastern Europe through Reece's Rainbow. Daniel has Down syndrome. How did we get here?

On our first anniversary we decided it was time to begin our family, and we were pregnant within two months. Sadly, a week after finding out I was pregnant, I was in the emergency room having a miscarriage. We were devastated.

When the doctor said it had been long enough and we could start trying again, we did. Within a few more months we were pregnant again. As you can imagine, we were quite nervous this time and kept our news pretty quiet until we got to 13 weeks. Then we announced it to the world! We were overjoyed to have made it past the "danger zone" and began shopping and planning and discussing names.

At 16 weeks we found out we were having a girl. My husband, who thought for sure it was a boy, was a bit disappointed. But he rallied quite well and within a few hours he was excited! Of course our daughter was going to be perfect. A few days later I felt off. Couldn't explain it, but something wasn't right, so I called the doctor and asked if I could come in for a quick check.

When I got there the nurse couldn't get the fetal heartbeat on the monitor, so we went to do a quick ultrasound. As soon as she put the wand to my belly and I saw the screen, I knew.  Our daughter was gone. This was five days before Christmas, 2010.

Fast forward through the holidays, which at this point are a blur. In March of this year we were introduced to Reece's Rainbow by a friend of ours whose daughter has DS. She told us to just go look at it, and consider donating to one of the kids if we could. That Sunday afternoon I sat down and started reading and looking at the site. I was bawling within minutes. My husband thought I was crazy, but I had to ask them some questions. My email was responded to in less than an hour. On a Sunday! From that point on all I could do when I wasn't working was pore over the site. Every day we talked about having a baby and adopting. Could we do both? Maybe. What if we can't have a baby at all? Would a "disabled" child fit into our lives?

We prayed! Oh how we prayed! And we argued....a lot. My dear husband was not ready to "give up" on having a biological child. I was so ready to commit to a specific little boy. We were at a crossroads. About this time we went on vacation. This was supposed to be our "babymoon" trip. While on this trip we talked more and more about adoption and I was fully ready, but my husband still was not.

Two days in I started praying that God would change his mind. Fervently I prayed for five days but to no avail.

At the end of the week we had made it half-way home and were boarding the last flight. It was late and we were a bit slappy at this point, laughing and poking each other. Then I noticed a boy walking down the aisle of the plane. He was SO excited and just couldn't contain it! He had Down syndrome. I watched my husband watch the boy. After he had passed us my husband turned to me and said, “Tomorrow I want you to call whoever you have to...tell them we are coming for our son!”

God has been so amazing to provide for us during the past six months. We still do not know if God's plan includes biological children, but we do know that his plans include one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen in my life. We are finalizing our dossier this week, and hope to have it to his country by next week. The next step of our process includes meeting him and then coming back home for about three to four months for everything to be finalized. Daniel will be four on December 26, 2011. I have never in my life felt more right about anything. Our son is already loved more than he can imagine!

If you would like to read more of our story please go to our adoption blog. We update as often as we can.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: Our Plan vs. His Plan








A Testimony by Rena

Adoption.  A priceless gift that warms my heart, sparkles my eye, and betters my world.
 
We are blessed to have experienced adopting four children. We are honored that God chose US to parent these amazing children.  Looking back on our adoption journey, I love to see God's fingerprints along the way. So many fingerprints, so many lessons.
 
Our journey began with us looking into international adoption. My heart had always been in Africa and Haiti, so that seemed a logical place to start. When doors kept closing, we found ourselves discouraged and heartbroken. We longed to hold the baby that God had for us.... somewhere in our big world! Little did we know He had been working for a while. We just couldn't see it.
 
On a Monday morning we got a call about a little boy, born over the weekend, ready to go to a home. God had pruned my heart to be open to His plan--a domestic adoption, rather than my lifelong dream of international adoption. My heart was so full as we welcomed home our first son!
 
 
 
A year and half later, when we began the process again, it only took six weeks to bring home our baby girl. Then, when the agency called us back a year later looking for adoptive families to match with their many birthmoms, we followed God's lead. This time, it was only five days before our second son was born.
 
 
 
We had a crazy, busy life, so thankful for the blessings God had given. Much to our surprise, God was preparing our hearts to adopt one more time, just another year later. Our first son's birthmom was expecting again. We knew God was telling us to begin the process one more time. We had to trust His plan. It didn't seem possible for us to handle. We then had a three, two, and one year old!! What was He doing?? But thankfully we again trusted His plan. We brought our fourth child home just over four years after bringing our first child home!
 
 
 
What an incredible gift each of these kids are to us!  We are so grateful for God bringing them into our lives. The miracle of adoption is simply that...a miracle. Tears drop as I think of the blessings we would have missed if we would have taken the path I had planned!
 
Adoption is a way to experience God's amazing love for us. He loves us so much, knows us so well, only He can plan our family perfectly. Praises to Him!!
 
Extremely Grateful,
 
Extremely Blessed,
 
Rena

Monday, November 7, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: A Different Difference

A Testimony by Tracy

About a year ago, I really started looking into adoption. I found Reece's Rainbow and fell in love with one of the little girls. I talked to my husband about her, but he really just didn't want more kids. So I kept praying for her family.

I figured that God knew who they were and maybe they were us, but God had other ideas. She was adopted outside of Reece's Rainbow so her family was already in the process by the time I had found her.  She was home just a couple of months later.

I signed up to pray for a couple of more girls. One of them touched my heart and again I wondered if she was mine. I kept praying but didn't even mention her to my husband. God said no again, and within days of each other, both girls I was praying for had families committed to them. I was so happy for the girls but also a bit sad that I couldn't be their mother.

I continued to pray for both girls, but I signed up to pray for two more children.  This time a boy and a girl. The girl really grabbed my heart.

I began to think of her as my daughter. I thought of her constantly. I prayed for her constantly. I prayed for her family, again hoping that she was mine. She had some special needs, and everywhere we went I wondered which adaptations could be made for her so that she could participate in whatever we were doing.

I began to see that even with her limitations, she could probably do everything our family did. I talked to my husband about her. I wanted to beg him to bring her home, but he really wasn't interested in having another kid.

I did find an organization that worked in her orphanage. I was able to hire someone to take care of her (one on one). I was able to send her gifts. But what I really wanted was to bring her home. It is hard to explain, but I had taken this child as MY responsibility. I worried and fretted and even neglected my children at home as I searched the internet for pictures of this child. I was totally obsessed with her.

Then one day while I was praying for her, I realized that I needed to give this child to God.  All of my other children have been dedicated to God, both formally and personally, in my heart. So I prayed and told God that I gave this child to Him, and He spoke this to my heart, "Even if she is not yours?"

I told him, "Yes, she is yours. Even if I can't have her, I trust You to do what is right for her."

But then came the question, "Even if she dies?"

Well, that was hard, but she would be with Him, so I prayed, "Yes, Lord, even if you take her home, she is yours."

But then came the hardest question of all, "Even if I want her to grow up in an orphanage?"

WHY? Why would God want some kids to grow up in an orphanage? Tears streamed down my cheeks as I said, "Yes, Lord, she is your child. Do your will for her."

That was the hardest prayer I ever prayed, but then there was relief. This child was no longer my responsibility. She belonged to God. I still hoped that she could be mine, but I KNEW that God had a plan for her and that His plan was best. I still prayed for her, but I stopped worrying about her. I still cared, but I no longer fretted about her.

That week (did you get that, it was just a few days later) I found out that a family wanted her, that they had started their homestudy with the hopes of getting my girl!  It was not made official for several weeks because she was in a bad orphanage, but God was gracious enough to let me know that my girl had a family!

So you see, my testimony is very different than most. I don't have an adopted child in my home and I am not even working toward bringing one home, but I have made a difference. I have given money and gifts, but mostly I have prayed and God has honored those prayers. Of the five children that I have prayed for, three are home, one has a family working to get her, and one is still waiting.

I will keep praying for Galen (the one still waiting), and sometimes I even wonder if he is mine, but I no longer become obsessed. Because like my girl, he is God's child and God has a plan for him.

I trust God.

I trust God's plan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: Forget the Red Thread; We Got a Big Red BOW!

Testimony by THE MARKMILLER FAMILY
www.markmiller6.com



And a big red bow all wrapped around THIS gift...



We were done. DONE. Three kids were perfect (in our view), and I had an easy life. Truly. My kids all in school during the day, a husband with a job he loves and that provides for us and allows me to stay home. Walking toward teenage years. Done.

God had different plans for our family. He used one little girl to open our hearts to adoption again. For years (since we had brought Katie Mei home in 2005), I had prayed for waiting children. Looking through the lists and praying for each child.  Then while doing that one quiet evening this little girl popped out at me. She was three years old and gentle and sweet. And she made my heart jump a bit. I think I gasped because Michael heard me and came in to see what I had gasped about. He looked at her photo and smiled and said "Oh!" and went back to brushing his teeth.
A moment later I hear him say, "So, would you want to go back?" My mind tried to understand.
"To California?" I asked.
He said, "No, China."
I was confused for a moment. Was he really asking me if I wanted to adopt again? Or just visit?  We looked at each other and I knew that he meant to adopt again. I wasn't sure how to feel. My stomach did a flip-flop and my heart was beating quickly. And I looked at him.
"Maybe so." 
He nodded and smiled. "Let's pray."  And so we did.
We decided to get more information about this sweet little girl. This was on Friday so we had the weekend to pray and that by Monday, we should be able to learn from our agency if it would even be a possibility to move forward. We had her file. We had seen her photos and had our doctor briefly look at the file. Monday came and we were in a waiting game. The kids were all for it from the get-go. But on Monday, Jack was very quiet. I spoke with him at lunch and he admitted that he was scared about adopting again. He told me, "Mom, I don't think this is the right one. We need to wait." I hugged him and told him we would know soon.
Jack was right. This sweet little girl had a forever family that had locked her file early on Monday. Our hearts were so joyful for her. There was no sadness. Only joy. And a knowledge that God had used this little one to open our hearts to bringing our daughter home.
This began the paperwork process. Dude. I think I have killed more trees then anyone else in this world.
Fast forward to April. We were done with our end of the paperwork, and we could begin to review files. We reviewed three amazingly wonderful children.  Three who were not meant for our family.  Three heartbreaking decisions. And then our family coordinator called with a little girl's file. "She is four and has hand and feet deformities" and "would you be interested in reviewing her file?" You bet! So over the phone Michael and I opened her file together. We saw her sweet concerned face and immediately both of us knew we wanted to take her info to our doctor.
 Our concerned little girl. Well, who could blame her with that creepy doll in her lap?
So while I waited for all the forms to print, I googled her province and her orphanage. One of the first hits on Google was a Love Without Boundaries blog. I clicked on the link and there was a photo of this sweet girl with a LWB volunteer. My heart skipped a beat. That red thread started to grow. When we first moved to Oklahoma, Katie was in a gymnastics class where I met another China adoptive mom and she invited me to a mom's group that met each week. I went to the group and met a group of moms who had all adopted from China, most on multiple occasions.
Two of the women I met were also involved with Love Without Boundaries. I e-mailed one of my friends right away to see if she knew anything about the orphanage or of this little girl. I got an e-mail back right away asking me to send her the child's Chinese name and she would let me know.  A moment later she e-mailed "and if this is Lauren, say yes RIGHT NOW…She is amazing!"
My heart skipped a beat. So I quickly emailed her name. And I got an immediate response… "This is Lauren!!! She is amazing, full of sunshine."  I sat there dumbfounded. Really? Could God speak this loudly and clearly? See, when we told the kids that we were praying about adopting again and had made the decision to move forward, Katie Mei said, "I am so excited to get a little sister! Momma, we need to name our little sister, Lauren."  This was a couple months before our referral.
I sat there dumbfounded. I called Michael who also sat in disbelief. We were in awe. Over the course of the next day or so, doctors told us that her file looked "perfect."  So we moved forward.
My friend was able to pass some updated information through our agency to us. We got amazing photos of this little girl whom we had already wound our hearts around. Each time we got a new photo, all our hearts melted into hers a bit more.
There are other big red bows upon our story with Lauren. Katie Mei's Chinese name is Jing Ying. Lauren's Chinese name is Jing Yan. In one of her reports, a LWB volunteer went to visit her with her daughter. In one of the photos was an older girl with Lauren and she was wearing a Mammoth Mountain, California sweatshirt. Sammy ran in pointing to it one night. I know it may seem far fetched, but we spent time skiing at Mammoth (Michael went yearly since he was a child)--and the kids were amazed that there was a Mammoth sweatshirt in China. Lauren also shares her Aunt Gigi's birthday.
We are in awe of the gift of this little girl. God's voice has been powerful throughout this entire process. One we had not intended to enter into again. He had other plans. And he wrapped those plans in a beautiful package. Tied with a big red bow. One end tied to us. One tied to Lauren and the knot tied to His heart. We are blessed beyond measure.
"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you" John 14:18

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ORPHAN AWARENESS MONTH: A Change In My Life's Direction

Testimony by Suzanne Damstedt

In January 2006, my daughter who was 17 was unexpectedly invited to go to China with a friend of mine and her family who were going to adopt a three-year-old girl.  My daughter started bringing books home from the library about China and adoption, which I started reading.  It wasn't long before I started thinking about doing the same thing.  I approached my husband with this idea.  First he laughed, because he was so surprised to hear me saying this.  I said, "I'm serious."

He said, "I've suggested adopting before." 

I said, "You did? When?" 

He said, "I didn't get a very good response."  I don't doubt that!  It wasn't time.   When we got married, I said I wanted eight children.  After our sixth child, I was at my limit.  Before my daughter left for China, we had already decided to adopt two girls.  This was not something we had planned on doing.  It was a change in my life's direction.

When I spoke with Small World Adoption Agency on January 30, 2006, I told her we wanted to adopt two little girls.  They said it really wasn’t done—it was very rare to adopt two children at a time.  But they were willing to ask. 
Two weeks later, I saw eight-year-old Sheng Li Wan on the waiting child list for the agency.  We went through the necessary process to adopt her.  I assumed we would just go back a second time to China for a second daughter like everyone else does. 

The next waiting child list came out.  A lot of children were already on hold the first time I saw the list.  Another eight-year-old girl, Jiang Li Jing, was listed simply as “Faith” on this list, but she was on hold.  Around the middle of June, I noticed that Faith was no longer on hold and was “waiting” again.  I phoned the agency to learn more about her.  As I heard about her special needs, which were similar to Li Wan’s, I also realized that hers might be harder (needing speech therapy since she had cleft palate as well as a cleft lip, and Li Wan only had a cleft lip). 

Five months later when Darrell and I were driving home after a family activity, I told him a little about Li Jing.  He talked about how he still wanted to bring home two if possible, and thought maybe we could just ask while we were there.  I told him that that would probably not be the best way because the children have to have ready paperwork.  I thought it would be better if the process started before leaving.  However, from the conversation, I believed that he would be open to adopting Li Jing if we could get permission from China to adopt her.  So I contacted the agency again.Days later, we were told we could adopt both girls!  I got info and photos of Li Jing from the agency, and after I knew Darrell had seen them when I wasn’t home, I phoned him and asked what he thought.

“Fine,” he said.

“Fine?” I asked.

He asked me if I wanted her and I said yes, and he was fine with it.  Later he said that he knew it was right before he even saw her picture.
After a week and a half of a lot of exciting preparation, we got a call from the agency.  It was not a good call.  The Chinese adoption bureau  had decided that we could not have Li Jing after all.  We asked our agency if we could come later for her, but China declined us.  In fact, they wanted the agency to find another family for Li Jing.  I was so disappointed.  I even wrote a story I titled, “Jiang Li Jing: I Was Almost Her Mother.”
 
In August, we flew to China with our children to adopt Li Wan.  It was an unforgettable trip.  I never imagined we would be doing this just a few months prior.  While we were in China, I contacted our agency to see if Li Jing had been placed yet, and they said she had. We looked into adopting another child and even committed, but in December, we still asked if Li Jing had been adopted yet. They told us it had not worked out with the other family!

We hunted down her file, BUT…we couldn’t do a thing because we had already committed to the other child.  Li Jing was not placed by the second agency and her file was returned again.  In the meantime, as fate would have it, the other child’s file was not approved.
I looked for Li Jing’s file and found it with a third agency.  I asked that her file be given to Small World and we were able to proceed with adopting Li Jing!  We went to China in January of 2008 and adopted her.

We had decided to go to China to adopt two girls and had accomplished that.  About a year after we adopted Gracie Li Jing, I wanted to do something for her orphanage, so with the help of other parents with children from this orphanage, we made donations that provided clothing, diapers, and toys for the children.  The Vice Director who worked with us knew I was the mother of one of their girls, and she asked me if I would try to help find families for two children who would be turning 14 and would then not be eligible for adoption.
Jiang Li Wang  and Jiang Li Jing
at the Lishui, Zhejiang, orphanage before Li Jing was adopted.
It was a girl, Jiang Li Wang and a boy, Jiang Li Qu.  The girl would turn 14 and “age out” on January 12, 2010.  I tried to get the word out to help her find a family.  After a few months, on August 12, 2009, I got up one day and that morning I started thinking about adopting her.  I told my husband and we talked about it.  
It was a race against time.  We had exactly five months to get a dossier to China and all other required documents completed in time to adopt her before her fourteenth birthday.  Through hard work and a lot of prayer, we made it to China and received our daughter on January 11, 2010, the day before her birthday! 
Adopting from China, or even adopting at all, may not have been on my list of things I would do in my life, but it has changed me.  I have learned much from this chapter in my life.  I am changed as a mother and as a person. 
Even though I cannot adopt any more children, I continue almost daily in volunteer work with Love Without Boundaries.  I try to help as many of these beautiful children as I can—children who still wait for their families and many who will not know that privilege but can benefit from the work I do to provide items for their orphanages. 
Yes, it really was a change in direction for my life, but one that will hold many great memories, new challenges, and fulfilling experiences.
  Christy LiWan Damstedt, age 14
  Adopted August 7, 2006
Shangtou, Guangdong
  Gracie LiJing Damstedt, age 13
  Adopted January 28, 2008
Lishui, Zhejiang

  Bonnie LiWang Damstedt, age 15
  Adopted January 11, 2010
Lishui, Zhejiang


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