God's Plan For Us

This is our journey - God's incredible plan for our lives. When we followed the moving of the Holy Spirit, He opened the windows of Heaven and poured out upon us blessings we never dreamed of! Indescribable joy!

" For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Tragic Choice

 I sat in the courtroom today as a jury found a man guilty of murder. He was the driver of the vehicle that hit and killed my 17 year old niece, Brianna, last year, and severely injured her best friend. I listened as first one family member and then another got up and spoke about lives lost, and lives changed forever. My sister-in-law spoke about the fact that she didn't carry hatred toward the 36 year old who had made a choice- almost exactly a year ago- to drive after consuming more than 3 times the legal limit. As a matter of fact, she said she pitied him. He already had 6 DUI's prior to last year's wreck.

                                                                    S I X

This now makes seven times that he has been convicted of driving under the influence.
 Each time he drank he made a choice.
Each time he drove drunk, he made a choice.

She pitied him, because he'd been given a chance to make better choices.

 Six times prior he could have chosen to start doing the right thing. To turn over a new leaf.

And yet, he never did.

This time his choice took the life of a girl just days out of high school. A girl who never left your house without giving you a hug and telling you she loved you. A girl full of life and laughter and sunshine. His choice also left a young girl with permanent brain damage, and the effects of having both legs broken.
If you read my post last year, you also know that Brianna's older brother was returning from a memorial service for Brianna, ONE WEEK TO THE DAY, and was struck by a deer, suffered a severe brain injury and died a few days later. He was buried the day before he would have turned 21 and two days before Brianna would have turned 18. They were Tonya and David's only children.

The choices we make have ripple effects. Many times we don't like to think of that part, because we don't want to acknowledge the opportunity we have to make a difference in other's lives- both for the good or the bad. It is easier to think that our actions don't effect others- it 'takes the pressure off'.

But we KNOW firsthand how untrue that is.

As I type this the jury is deliberating what his sentence will be. Whatever the amount of time, it will not erase the pain felt by Tonya and David as they struggle to learn to breathe again. As they try to go on with a life now devoid of the hopes and dreams they had for their children. Please pray for them, and for all those affected by the choices of this man.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fundraising to bring home Erin and Ettamei

We have avoided fundraising in the past, not because we think it is wrong, but we just never expected to adopt seven children.
However, we have been given a grant through Orphan Care Alliance. They will match up to $6000. So if you give $50, then your $50 becomes $100.
We have the potential to raise $12,000 towards our adoption.
The money is a tax deductible gift, donated through an organization called Lifesong.  OCA then matches the amount and Lifesong sends us a check to help cover adoption cost. Any money that goes into our account beyond that $6000 still is tax deductible, and will come to us, it just isn't doubled. We appreciate your support and prayers! 

To Give: Checks should be payable to “Lifesong for Orphans". In the memo, write (Willoughby / #5285)-  to assure it goes to the correct account.
Please mail to: Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. 
To pay online: DONATE
Note PayPal charges an administrative fee (2.9% + $.30 USD per transaction). Your donation will be decreased by the amount of this fee.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Introducing Erin and Ettamei- our two daughters who are waiting

Now that we have that coveted piece of paper- LOA!!!!!!!- I'd like to formally introduce  you to our two new daughters waiting in China.

Erin Qinglian is 12 years old and currently lives in Beijing in a wonderful foster program called Bethel. If you go to their website she is called Katie.  Bethel cares for orphans who are blind or have a vision impairment. Erin has been blind since birth. She attends the Beijing School for the Blind. She has run the Beijing mini marathon, and plays a percussion instrument at her school. She was told last week that she has a family coming for her. She lives in an apartment with three other girls who are also part of Bethel, and we've heard that two of the other girls also have families coming for them.

Our other daughter waiting is Ettamei Zijui.
She will be the baby of our family.
She is 6 years old and is part of
another wonderful foster care
program called Love Without
Boundaries. She lives with a
 foster granny and grandpa who
obviously dote on her. She
likes the color pink and her
foster granny bought her
some flashy pink shoes. The
foster grandpa walks her to
school each day. She has mild
 CP that doesn't seem to slow
her down any. Her file makes it
seem as if she is quite the
social butterfly. As far as we
 know Meimei has not yet
 been told she is being adopted.
Our paperwork was sent this week for our I-800, so our next big thing we are waiting on is our travel approval. Once we have that, we'll be in the final stages of waiting to travel. It will probably be 8-10 more weeks before we head to China. We were given a gift that will allow Elli to travel with us. She is so excited to see places in China she never saw while living there, but she is even more excited to meet her newest sisters. We think it will be comforting, especially for Erin (since they are almost the same age) to have someone a bit younger there with us.
Soon there will be two less orphans in the world!!!! Hallelujah!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nini and Ximi's 2nd Gotcha Day's

May 26, 2013
May 24, 2015

We have just celebrated our last two Gotcha Days of this past month. Nini was adopted May 20 and Ximi was adopted May 26, 2013. As usual, we sat down both days to watch videos of our first few days and weeks together. As usual, emotions flood through me. What precious gifts each of our children are!!

Nini went through a disruption before we became her parents. A woman came to adopt her, and saw signs of CP and decided that that was more of a need than she could handle. Less than a day after meeting Nini she decided not to continue with the adoption. Nini does indeed have CP, along with a variety of other health issues, but they do not define her. They have served only to show how resilient a child she is and how God is in the miracle business. Her MRI shows a child who should not be able to walk or communicate much at all. The hydrocephalus was never treated and did a great deal of damage. When the neurosurgeon looked at the images of her brain, he wanted to know what she was even capable of doing. Yes, Nini is delayed, but she is capable of learning and thriving. To be able to speak English alone is an incredible thing! She has some short term memory issues, but it doesn't slow her down. She does learn slower than other kids her age, and that is ok. She is a 'Barnabas' (in the New Testament Barnabas was known as the Encourager). She is quick to compliment and cheer others on. Never in my life have I been told I am beautiful so many times. She is ever grateful for all that she receives. I am grateful that we didn't know her diagnosis before she came home. It would have scared me. But we fell in love with a little girl, who just happens to also have some medical things to deal with. There are days that we struggle, and that's ok because she is worth it. She is truly a gift!!

I'll never forget our first moments with Ximi. We had been told she was losing her vision, and when she was brought into the room, one look at her eyes made us think she was already blind. However, it took about a second after they put her down on the floor before we realized she could indeed see and that she was fearless! She immediately began scoping out the room and checking out everything she came into contact with. From the beginning we have seen her inquisitive nature. She loves to explore and learn. Her ability to hear a song and start humming it instantly is something to behold. She is a bundle of joyful energy, who is smiling when she gets up in the morning until she goes to sleep at night. She is the best little snuggle bunny you would ever meet. She has asked about her eyes, and I have told her God made her with special 'dancing eyes'. I think she feels sorry for the rest of us because our eyes don't dance :-) . Her nystagmus is pretty severe, as is her corneal scarring, but she compensates in amazing ways. She and Nini share a special bond, which is fitting for two beautiful girls who came into our family just a few days apart.
Happy 2nd Gotcha Day Nini and Ximi!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Elli's 5th Gotcha Day

Yet again, I find myself crying over gotcha videos and precious memories. As we watched Elli's video tonight I found it hard to believe how much she has grown.

A few hours after gotcha
No longer the little girl we tried to hug in the Civil Affairs office (she wasn't having anything to do with that!), she has become a young woman with such a tender heart. Her emotions are still guarded, and she thinks quite a while before she speaks, but when you get her talking about something that interests her, her face lights up like the noonday sun, and the words gush out. She is so fun to watch and listen to when she has something she really wants to share. She becomes so animated when she is telling us about an animal she has learned about or a recipe she wants to try. She is so patient with her little sisters and nieces. She is Enya's voice of reason, and a little mama to Nini and Ximi. We thank God for our sweet Elli Chun!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Xiaoyun- home 4 years

It is hard to believe, even now, the circumstances that brought Xiaoyun into our family.
Only God's guiding hand could have orchestrated the events that led a girl, just a few weeks shy of turning 14  (and forever losing her chance at a family),  to become our daughter.
Only God could have moved in a lady's heart (thank you Annie!), whom I have never met and only know through the internet, to advocate for a girl who had almost no hope of family left.
The first picture we saw of Xiaoyun

Only God could have put me on her mailing list, and only God could have moved Virgil and I to both say yes when we read about her. We had no plans to adopt another child. We were already in the process of adopting Enya.
Only God could have timed the events that led China to change the policy ( only a few months prior) that allowed two unrelated children to be adopted at the same time.
Only God could have moved in our caseworker's heart when she was against allowing two adoptions at the same time (as she said herself, " I was a mountain that had to be moved, and He has moved it".) He continued to move mountain after mountain to get all paperwork completed in time.
Only God could have brought a new daughter home, and 15 minutes after landing at the Louisville airport from China we sang happy birthday to her- 12 short weeks after we first saw her picture and read about her.

Xiaoyun is a joy. She is funny (even when she isn't meaning to be), considerate, and kind. She is also one tough cookie. She has endured 6 difficult surgeries in the four years she has been home. We are so thankful that God has allowed us the privilege of being called her parents.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Celebrating 4 years with Enya

Four years have passed since I laid eyes on our sweet Lili. We watched her Gotcha video today, and she seemed like such a little girl. As usual, I cried when I watched it. It stirs up so many wonderful emotions, and so much gratitude. She has come so far, in such a short time, but her specialness is still the same. She is ever loyal, friendly (never meets a stranger), quick to smile, and busy, busy, busy. I’ll never forget how she kept my mom and me on our toes during our time in China. Virgil couldn’t understand why we weren’t out shopping and sightseeing all the time – that is until we got home and he actually met our busy bee! When you allow a girl who is very inquisitive and has LOTS of energy loose from the confines of orphanage living- LOOK OUT! Pretty sure she touched everything she came in contact with. Keeping her from running into traffic, almost falling out of a 12th floor window, melting down in the Beijing airport (her and me-hah!), and checking out every squatty potty in China (not to mention hourly visits while on all the airplanes), left little energy for anything but surviving. I look back now and laugh- just like you forget the labor pains of giving birth, you also forget the tough spots and focus on the laughter and the joy. And she is a joy! Filled with life and laughter.


Our first day together. Only hours after meeting. She still has that million dollar smile.

She no longer wants to be Lili- as she’ll quickly tell you. She is Enya now, and that name is fitting for her. Enya isn’t a common name, and our Enya isn’t an ordinary girl. She is one of a kind, and we are so blessed that she is our daughter!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Family together for Easter

Front Row: Emily, Melody, Nini, Ximi
Middle: Xiaoyun, Elli, Virgil, Enya, Zeza
Back: Zak, Mandy, Zayden , Cindy, Zeb, Sierra, Dana 

This has been a special weekend. Of course, Easter is always special and a day of celebrating Christ rising from the grave and for that we rejoice!
Our rejoicing was even sweeter this Sunday for I had all my children worshiping with us. One of our sons and his family don't live near us, and we don't get to see them very often. Zak is in school in Florida and our daughter-in-law and grandbabies are in Minnesota living with her parents until he completes school. Friday Zak surprised us with a visit, and then the next morning as we were eating breakfast, Mandy and the kids walked into the house. They'd driven 12 hours to surprise us all (including Zak!). This morning we had filled and entire row at church. With the grandkids, and my mom and step dad, we had 18. It was such a joy to look to my right and left and see all the kids together!!!Afterwards, extended family gathered at our house for a large, boisterous dinner.
Thanking God for this day!!!

BTW- Many of us are wearing the same t-shirt.
On the front is James 1:27 "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Underneath is the mission statement of our church - Love God, Love Others, and Serve the World.
There is a movement called Forget the Frock that encourages people to purchase a t-shirt to help orphans instead of spending money on Easter outfits. Since our church supports an orphanage in Mexico, the church printed up shirts and the proceeds will be sent there. It was so encouraging to see so many shirts at the service today!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Our Daughter Who Waits

Today our little girl celebrated her birthday. We did not decorate the house, or make a cake. There were no gifts. We did however, think of her and pray for her, and wish she was here. She won't know this however, for many months to come. She still waits for us in China. She turned 12 today, and celebrated her last birthday without a family name. Next year she will be surrounded by brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephew, and grandparents. She will have a baba and mama who thank God for her life, her precious life, and rejoice in the fact she is our daughter.
We know she is well cared for, and have no doubt that special people recognized her birthday . For that we are so grateful. We will never be able to thank them enough for the love they have shown her.
We know God's timing is perfect, but it is so hard to wait. How we'd love to have both our daughters home. Thankfully, before another birthday has come and gone for either of them, they should be in our arms. Already they are in our hearts.
Happy birthday sweetheart!! You are loved!!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In regards to 'Hope'

I failed to mention in my previous post, but Hope is on the shared list which means any agency can submit paperwork to adopt her. I do have other information if anyone is interested in making Hope their daughter. If you'll leave a message and email address (it will not be posted and will remain private) I'd be glad to share what I know.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Could you be Hope's family?

There is a little 8 year old girl who has captured my heart. She needs a family who will take a chance on the unknown. She is blind (congenital glaucoma), though she may be able to discern light. I first saw this girl a couple of years or so ago. I remember her pose and her outfit. She looked adorable. Recently, I was looking at an advocacy site and saw the same picture again. Beside it was the photo below. I was shocked to realize that it was the same girl. Her hair had been cut off, and her update seemed as though she's not been given an opportunity to thrive. The video broke my heart. They were asking her to walk around without a cane or anything to guide her. When I showed the video to Xiaoyun she said that it seemed as if the girl had lost hope. Since then I have called her 'Hope' and pray that she will find a family who will give her every chance to succeed. Could you be the family she is waiting for?


Updated picture and info from November 2014. 1. Does she have any vision? Can she see anything? She can’t see anything, but she has light sense. She has no vision. 2. Has she had any surgeries? If so, when and for what? Never. 3. What is her personality like? What does she enjoy doing? She is fairly introverted. She likes to talk to herself, play with her hands. She doesn’t communicate with others. 4. What are some things she is good at doing? What things does she struggle with? Unknown. 5. Who is she closest to? Her foster mom. 6. What calms her when she is upset? Hug her and give her a toy. 7. Does she receive any schooling at the orphanage? If so, how is she doing? She’s not attending school. 8. Is she living in the orphanage or in foster care? She’s in foster family. 9. What does she like to eat and to drink? She likes to eat noodle, rice. She likes to drink soup with spoon. 10. Updated measurements Height: 112cm; Weight: 19kg; Head: 47cm; Chest: 52cm; Foot: 19cm

The photo I saw of her before:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Acorns

Who would have thought acorns could be used to create a masterpiece?
Our incredibly imaginative girls did.

 For weeks now, Virgil and I have fought a losing battle with our oak tree. It hangs over the driveway and has rained down more acorns (thanks to an industrious squirrel) than we've ever seen before. If they were just falling in the yard it would not be a big deal, but since they fall on the drive, it creates a hazard for walking (think walking on marbles). With one child who has an unsteady gait and another who is visually impaired, it gets even trickier.
So Virgil has been continuously getting rid of acorns that have become a thorn in our side.

That is until the girls got involved.

What we saw as a nuisance, they saw as beauty in the making.

They were outside playing one day, when they called for me to come out and look.

They had gathered up those acorns and used them to 'draw' a picture of their Baba and Mama. Above it they had used acorns to write 'I love you Mama and Baba'.
This may sound like a proud mama ;-) but I thought that was pretty incredible.
The girls remind me over and over to look through the eyes of a child.
 To see the joy and wonder God gives us each day.
To think outside the box.
To stop complaining about inconveniences, and start turning those moments around and finding good in them.
To enjoy the simple things I often overlook in my haste.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Living in an Upside-Down World

We live in an upside-down world.

Why is it, that when you tell someone you’re adopting, you MANY TIMES get either a negative response or an indifferent one?

If I was telling someone I was buying a new car, moving to a new house, my husband was getting a promotion, a raise, or even won a trip in some give-away, they’d be excited.

But telling people you’re adopting usually seems to go something like this:

“Really? How many will that make?”

 “How in the world are you going to pay for that?”

“You’re a little old for that..”

“Are you sure you have thought this through?”

“Where in the world are you going to put them?”

“Don’t you think you have enough?”


There are also the looks of surprise, the looks that say we’re crazy, the long pause on the other end of the phone while they try to think of something to say, etc.

I usually move on without answering the questions, or give a quick answer, and try to change the subject. But today my heart wants to say what it is feeling.

How many -This will make me the mother of NINE children. Three are now grown, but I am fully aware that I have five at home and adding one more will make six.

Paying for it- We have been married 31 years. We have paid our bills on time – every time- by God’s grace Virgil has held a steady job throughout our marriage. We didn’t have much money when first married, and we learned quickly to budget. Though the pay has increased, our desire to live on a budget, and within our means, has remained. We do not have a lot of debt and we try to be good stewards of the money God gives us. God has provided in different ways for our other adoptions, and since He is calling us to do this, we know He’ll continue to be faithful in providing.

Besides all that – I am almost 50 years old and Virgil will soon be 52. We are not children who haven’t considered the financial part of things.

Also, since I am on the subject of age-
Yes, I am quite aware of my age. I realize that as our children grow into adulthood, that I may not be around to hold their children. Even so, I HAVE HELD MY CHILDREN, and they in turn will know how to love and nurture their own. None of us is guaranteed another day on this earth. For as long as I am here, I will love and encourage my children, and when I am gone, they will still have a large extended family that will continue to love them.

Thinking it through- We have thought this through more times than you can imagine. We have looked at all the facets, counted all the costs (I’m not just talking financial), and prayed over this decision for a while. This is not a flippant decision made on a whim. We are fully aware of the changes this will make. After all, we are the ones living it. We aren’t new to adopting, and we’re not new to children with special needs. I am the one who cares for the kids every day, takes them to every doctor appointment, sits through every surgery, wipes away the tears, fixes every meal, and washes every piece of clothing a family of our size goes through in a day. I am not wearing rose-colored glasses.

Room for another- our newest daughter will share a bedroom with her sisters that are almost the same age. I’d venture to guess that many other people shared bedrooms growing up and turned out fine. We’re probably one of the very few countries in the world that have such large houses for so few people. A smaller house allows us to be together more. We make efficient use of the space we have.

Enough kids- When I was growing up, I planned on having 3 kids. That held true for many years. But God had other plans. If you came to our house, you would see joyful children who love life. If you asked them, they would tell you they are LOVED. In many cultures a large family is a blessing. In our home, A LARGE FAMILY IS A BLESSING!!!!!!!

How many is enough? However many God says is enough. He now sets the number for the size of our household. Granted, our girls may not be able to do dance lessons, take lots of trips, or a plethora of other things kids in a smaller household could afford to do, but at the end of life, they will be able to say that we introduced them to God, tried to be a godly example for them, and encouraged them to live life fully.

Let’s also remember that if they hadn’t been adopted, they would never have had those opportunities either, and I can guarantee that those aren’t the things they were wanting.


Which leads me to the why- When I am asked “why?” what I want to reply back with is

 Why not open our hearts and homes to a child who has waited years for love? Why not spend our money to make a difference instead of on that new car, or new home, or vacation? All those things will be gone in the blink of an eye. Only the difference we make in another’s life can last through eternity.

Showing them Christ’s love – there is no better thing we can do with our time and money.

God has called us to adopt again. We live in a world that thinks this is foolish, but-

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” 1 Cor 1:27

We are thankful and EXCITED to bring another child home. Soon there will be ONE LESS ORPHAN!!!



Another daughter coming home!

We are excited to announce -that hopefully sometime next summer- we will be adding another precious daughter to our family!!!! Her name will be Ettamei , and will be called Meimei (which is Chinese for little sister). She will turn 6 in a couple of months. She is from the same province as Xiaoyun. We are at the very beginning of our paper pregnancy, but it makes it so much easier already knowing the steps in the process. The girls are all very excited to bring Meimei home. We can't post a picture yet, but she is adorable!!

Soon there will be ONE LESS ORPHAN!!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nini is doing well 4 weeks post surgery

Nini went back to the surgeon for a follow-up and all is looking great. The surgery has taken care of one of her main issues, and we are so thankful for that answered prayer!! I have been so surprised by how well she has done since the surgery. For a girl who likes to show me every boo-boo (real or perceived ;-)  ) she complained very little following the surgeries. Her hair is growing back quickly-which is a good thing. She has decided she doesn't like her 'Baba hair' and wants her long like the other girls. Thank you to all who have prayed for her and we ask that you continue to do so!! Blessings, Cindy

Lifeline is hosting children from China who need families

My friend, Annie, wants to get the word out about an opportunity (for people considering adoption) to meet some of the incredible kids waiting for families from China. If you know someone interested please share this info with them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if each of these children went back to China only long enough for their paperwork to be completed, and then back here to their forever families? What a blessing that would be!!

"Southern Hospitality 2014" Hosting Program
Lifeline Children's Services is excited to announce that we will be hosting twelve children from Kunming City, China as part of our first ever hosting program! The hosting program, "Southern Hospitality 2014," will be held in Hattiesburg, MS on October 12-26, 2014.
We are inviting families to join us in Hattiesburg to help us make "Southern Hospitality" a memorable experience for the children. The children, with ages ranging from six to thirteen years old, will be staying all together in one hosting home with translators and a representative from the orphanage. Families will be visiting with all of the children in the home, learning about them and their culture, and participating in activities throughout the week. Families will also have the opportunity to meet with a representative from the Kunming orphanage and interact with the Lifeline China team. As a part of the hosting program, the children will also be seen by a medical doctor associated with the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham, AL.
Our goal in this endeavor is to shower these children with love, introduce them to the culture of the southern United States, and provide them with some unique experiences. This event is also an important element in our on-going development of our orphanage partnerships in China. Through our partnership orphanages we are able to serve the children of China, both adoptable and unadoptable, orphanage staff, directors, and government officials. We are grateful to be able to participate in an opportunity such as this one. Please join us in making this an unforgettable and life-changing experience for these precious children!
DATES: The dates families will be attending the program will be either 10/15-10/19 or 10/21-10/25; families will attend only one session (these dates are subject to change depending on the travel schedules of the children).

WHERE: Hattiesburg, Mississippi

CHILDREN PARTICIPATING: There will be twelve boys and girls, ages six to thirteen years old, with mild to moderate medical special needs.

  • ALL families must have an accepted Lifeline application on file at the Lifeline offices.
  • Families must have a finalized home study from a Hague/COA agency.
  • If you do not have a finalized home study, there are requirements that will need to be met before you will be able to participate in the hosting program. These requirements will include FBI clearances, Adam Walsh clearances, medical statement, home inspection, etc.
  • These children will need to be adopted through Lifeline Children's Services. Lifeline will not be able to transfer these files to another agency.
  • Prior to the camp, we will be developing pools of interest for each child. We will not be matching children until the program has been completed. Once the camp has been completed, we will look at the pools of interest for each child and matches will be made in the best interest of each child.
  • Families will be responsible for their own travel/lodging/food/activity expenses. Lifeline has secured a block of hotel rooms in Hattiesburg where all participating families will stay. This information will be provided to you upon acceptance to the program.
For information on the twelve children and to find Frequently Asked Questions about the program, visit our website HERE.
If you are a family interested in participating in the hosting program, please contact Karla Thrasher at: 205.967.0811 or by e-mail at karla.thrasher@lifelinechild.org

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nini is Home!!!!

Nini is home and doing well. Our biggest challenge is keeping her from doing too much ;-)
Thank you to all who prayed  for Nini during her hospital stay. We'd ask that you continue praying that the tethered cord release will take care of some of the problems she has been having. Blessings, cindy

Saturday, August 9, 2014

One day after tethered cord release

Today has been Nini's roughest day since we came into the hospital on Tuesday. She has complained about pain and threw up again. We've had quite a bit of tears. She is on a muscle relaxer, pain meds, nausea medicine, and antibiotics. It's a balancing act trying to decide whether she is having spasms or pain, and what to give when. Since she can't explain exactly what she's feeling (when you only have a year of English under your belt it's hard to describe what is going on) it makes it more difficult to know how to treat. As usual, the staff here at Kosair is wonderful and go above and beyond in making her as comfortable as possible. Her headache brought a visit from a doctor immediately because it can be a red flag that there are problems with spinal fluid leaking. All was well in that area thankfully.
Her best medicine came when her sisters came to visit. She hasn't seen any of them since Tuesday and that's been hard on her. Since she was in PICU until surgery yesterday, we haven't brought them up (we live an hour away from hospital). It's been especially difficult for her to be away from Ximi, and I've heard quite a bit about how much she misses Ximi. She's shed tears everyday for her.
When it was time to say goodbye, neither one wanted to leave the other, so we got permission for Ximi to stay up here with us. Since Ximi will be sharing the window seat with me, I'm hoping she has a good night sleep ;-)
Tomorrow morning the physical therapist will come and get her out of bed and walking. As long as there are no problems we'll get to go home tomorrow. Blessings, cindy

Our little Peanut Butter(Ximi) and Jelly (Nini)

Xiaoyun, Virgil, Nini, Ximi, Elli and Enya

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tethered cord release surgery

Nini's tethered cord release went well. She has had some pain and threw up once after she was back in the room. Her nurse said that every tethered cord release she has ever treated threw up afterwards. The doctor said that she could have muscle spasms and pain from incision.  It is now a wait and see as to whether her symptoms improve. It may be that they just don't get worse. There's just no way to know right now. She must remain flat for the next 24 hours. Continued thanks for the prayers!!
Aren't they beautiful with their shaved heads?!!!!! Taken 3 hours after surgery. Nini is so proud to have a haircut like her baba's.

The incision was in her lower back. About 1 1/2" long. She is laying on her side in this photo and the blue is where she was marked prior to beginning surgery.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tethered cord release surgery tomorrow

Nini's pressure is good, which means no shunt. She will have surgery tomorrow morning at 9:00 for the tethered cord release. They will leave the EVD in until after the surgery. They will keep drain open during surgery so there is little risk of the Chiari causing any pressure issues during the surgery.

Nini was a trooper today. We went ahead and shaved the rest of her hair. There was just no way to make it look right without starting fresh. As I cut and shaved her hair, it was all I could do not to cry. There are little ones laying in the rooms all around Nini's that are battling cancer and are losing their hair because of that. It broke my heart to think of them and their parents. I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be for them.

After Nini's hair was cut (which, by the way, was harder than giving an eel a haircut!), I held her up to the mirror, half afraid she would be upset. She looked at it and said, "So pretty! I like my Baba haircut!"  (Virgil keeps his head shaved) She is such a sweetheart!!!! Of course, the nurses who were in here and I were bragging about how beautiful she is, and it is so true- both inside and out!

The hospital gave us some knitted caps and headbands that people had donated. If you happen to be one who makes these hats - THANK YOU!!! They are cute and just perfect for little girls who have no hair.

Continued thanks for all the prayers!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nini- Ventriculomegaly/hydrocephelus, tethered cord, Chiari 1 Malformation, Cerebral Palsy

I wanted to share what is going on with Nini in the hope that it will be an encouragement for someone who has adopted or is considering adopting a child with the same issues. There is a lot of unknowns when you adopt and if our journey through Nini's treatment can help someone else, that would be wonderful! I knew NOTHING about any of Nini's conditions until we found out she had them. It is a learning process, and as you will be able to tell from my very basic descriptions, I have no medical background.
Nini had surgery yesterday to insert an External Ventricular Drain to see if she has hydrocephalus or ventriculomegaly. In simplified terms (the kind I need!), they are trying to decide if she still has pressure inside the skull (hydrocephalus) or if there was pressure in the past but only enlarged ventricles now (ventriculomegaly). A scan didn't show any pressure, but she needs to have a tethered cord release (if you think of the spinal cord as a rubber band, it should look like it would if band was held in your hand. When it is tethered it is like taking that rubber band and pulling it taut. Somewhere in the lower area of her spine,  her cord is being pulled). If she had a tethered cord release and there was pressure in her brain, it could be extremely dangerous. Thus, they put the drain in yesterday and will monitor it for 48 hours. If the EVD shows pressure, she will have a shunt inserted on Friday. If there is no pressure, she will have a tethered cord release on Friday.

Her EVD surgery: bur two holes in skull, insert small tube in one and bring out through other hole. Close the first hole up with a few stitches. The tubing is attached to a drain/monitor. They open two valves in tubing up, once an hour, to measure for pressure. The number needs to be under 20, and so far the highest its been is 12. While the valves are open she needs to remain in the same position until closed again.

That surgery went well. She did end up with a really bad haircut. I haven't had the heart to tell her yet. She loved her beautiful hair, and until recently, it was very long. I haven't decided what we will do about her hair after the stitches heal, but am thinking it will be short for quite a while and she will have lots of hats if she wants them.

Nini also has a Chiari 1 malformation. The cerebellum has 'tonsils' that are located above the spinal cord. Some people's tonsils hang down further than they should and it hinders the flow of the spinal fluid. This has caused neck aches, gagging, and loss of muscle coordination for Nini. Right now it is a wait and see whether she will have to have surgery for this in the future.

She's slept well last night and has done well today. The next surgery will be Friday morning. We appreciate your prayers!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"You're a good Mama. You're a very, very, very, very, very good Mama.  You're the best Mama to me."

Truly, can there be any sweeter words to a mama's ears?

For some reason Ximi has started saying this to me every night when I tuck her into bed. She wraps her arms around me, pulls me down so that our faces are almost touching and says those sweet words. Then she hugs me tight and gives me kisses.

 Moments like this are little treasures that I tuck into my heart and will pull back out through the years.

When she's a teenager and going through the dreaded teenage angst, I will remember these words.

 When she moves away from home for college or job, I will remember these words.

When she's grown and has children of her own I will remember these words.

And one day, when I'm old and perhaps my memories fail me, I hope and pray she will still whisper these words to me...


“You're the best Mama to me!”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Love in the darkness

In the darkest times, love shines brightest...

Brice's (our nephew) funeral was attended by about a thousand people. Many more were able to watch it over the internet. Our city is not large, but the outpouring of love was. It has been amazing to see the caring of so many in the face of difficulties. Our daughter, Emily, said there were over 29,000 people who viewed the facebook page that was set up to keep people updated about Brice while he was in the hospital. Tonya and David have meals coming to them for weeks.
David (Brice and Brianna's dad) got up and spoke at Brice's funeral. He set his alarm and a few minutes into his talk, the alarm went off. He did that to make a good point- we live our life around time. We hurry up when we should slow down and enjoy. He encouraged us all to take the time to do that. To not rush life but live in the moment. Not always planning and forgetting to live.

These past few weeks have been challenging for us, but also a challenge as well.

 It has made me and Virgil pause and think about what we are doing to show love to others. We have seen the love shown not only to Tonya and David, but also to us. Many friends helped with the girls while we sat up at the hospital. They brought us food, hung out with the girls and prayed, prayed, prayed. They were there for whatever we needed. People came to the hospital with meals for all of us who were there. They put thought into what they brought. a cooler filled with drinks, yogurts, fruit and cheese; money to pay for parking; quarters for the soda machine; envelopes (many anonymously) with cash inside; gift cards for gas, pizza, etc.; lotion and chapstick and toothbrushes (Brice's accident happened at night and they had nothing with them for the first day or so); baskets filled with snacks, mints, tissues; the list goes on and on. There were people who came to the hospital who knew none of us but felt compelled to come and pray with the family. Teenagers and young adults who had known Brice sat or stood in the hallway and waiting room for hours and hours. Not asking anything in return. Just wanting to be there.

It has been a bright spot.

Tangible, visible acts of caring and concern.

So many acts of love.

So many things to remind us to look for ways to help others.

To be a blessing just like the people who have crossed our paths these last three weeks have been a blessing to us.

To stop letting the clock (and the distractions of this world) dictate how we live and love others.

Virgil and I have decided to sit down this week and write out the ways we as a family are going to be intentional in being love in the darkness. Ways we can show Christ's love to others who are hurting. So many times we get caught up in the chaos of 'life' and forget how many around us need a little light in their dark times. We want to be blessing to others like we have been blessed.


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away

I have shed a million tears in the last two weeks.

Two phone calls-one week apart -at almost the same time of night-changed our family's life forever.

Two weeks ago today, our 17 year old niece, Brianna, died from injuries sustained when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and slammed into her car.(the other girl in her car, Mickayla, is still fighting for her life) She had graduated high school only a couple of weeks before. The visitation went for 11 hours- without a lull. They finally had to close the doors. Throughout it all, her brother, Brice, was David and Tonya's  shoulder to lean on.(Tonya is Virgil's little sister) Brice got up and spoke at the funeral. He was strong for his parents when I am sure that all he wanted to do was grieve himself. Brice and Brianna were very close. More so than most siblings I know.

Even as I type this, I have a hard time telling - or believing- what happened next.

A week after Brianna was hit, some friends were holding a small gathering to remember her. The house  was just down the street from David and Tonya's. On the way home, Brice,  (their only remaining child) hit a deer that had run out in front of him. He was thrown from his ATV and suffered traumatic brain injuries. His parents were right behind him and watched it all happen. The same pilot that had flown  his sister to the trauma hospital in Louisville, picked Brice up and took him.

 Family and friends kept vigil by his bed, praying for a miracle. Praying for healing.

God chose to heal Brice by taking him on to Heaven. He died July 5.

This morning they will go to the same funeral home where they went two weeks ago and choose yet another coffin. Make another set of funeral arrangements. They will place their other child in the grave this Wednesday - one day before he would have turned 21, and two days before Brianna would have turned 18.

I know the hurt I have, and I know that my pain is nothing compared to theirs. They have shed a billion tears and will continue to shed them in the years to come. As David said, they had so many plans. So many things they were looking forward to. Now there will be no college graduations, no wedding plans, no grandchildren....

Throughout this time David and Tonya have displayed a faith that many will never understand. They have comforted the very ones who came to comfort them. I watched them as the people came through the line at Brianna's visitation.
 They did not rush them through.
They stood up there by the coffin THE ENTIRE TIME.
They hugged and cried with each one who came to pay their respects.

I watched them this past week at the hospital.
Comforting family and friends.
Taking time to speak with strangers who had heard their story and wanted to offer their condolences or pray with them.
Getting to know those who were caring for Brice. Hugging everyone who came into the room.

Every nurse who had Brice cried with the family. Most of the doctors who came through were crying as well.

Brianna's injuries kept her organs from being donated, but they were able to donate Brice's. We know  several people were given the gift of life through their generosity.

Brice would be pleased.       

 He was a giving person.           

He learned that from his parents.

The great comfort that we all have in this, is the fact that both Brice and Brianna had given their life to the Lord. They believed Christ died on the cross for their sins, was in the grave for three days, then rose again and is sitting at the right hand of God. Their Savior was there to welcome them both into Heaven - home for them now, and one day home for all of us who believe. We know that one day we who believe will see Brice and Brianna again. God comforts us with that thought and that promise.
God has sustained David and Tonya - and indeed all of us- through this dark time. We know He holds each tear we cry and we know He loves and cares for us.

The book of Job in the Old Testament talks about a man who lost all his children. When he was told the news that they had all been killed at the same time his comment was:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21
We know that through Brianna's death 4 people accepted Christ as their Savior. We pray many more will believe through the testimony of faith that is being shown during this time. We will continue to praise His name!!
Brice and Brianna