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Kara turned 9 years old on November 8.  My baby is certainly growing up–not much of a baby anymore!  She has gotten so tall this year.  When we first adopted Kara, she stayed 30 pounds for a long, long time.  I just figured that she’d always be a little petite girl, but that has not proven to be true.  Oh, she is very lean, but she is so LONG!  I guess I may as well resign myself to the idea that I will probably end up being the shortest one in my family…..  🙂

Kara is such a funny girl!  She made out a list of gifts that she would like, and I couldn’t believe what was on there!  It was all crazy stuff like giant gummy bears, sparkle this-or-that, etc.  I did my behind the scenes research (i.e. interrogating the siblings) to find out what was at the top of her list, and they all agreed that she really, really wanted Illusion Putty.  At first I thought, “surely not! Why would she want that???”  But then I figured it out.  Kara loves molding things with her hands. She literally will carry around a little blob of poster putty in her pocket for weeks so she can make little figures out of it.  So, even though it did seem rather odd, I decided that Illusion Putty would make a good gift for my silly girl.  It did not disappoint!  Kara LOVES that putty!  Now she carries it around all of the time! Fortunately, it came in a round metal container that fits perfectly into a little purse that Kara has, so she usually has that purse slung over her shoulder with her putty close at hand.  She did make one mistake with that putty, though. She loved it so much that she took a little blob to bed with her the night of her birthday–NOT a good idea!  It smeared all over her pajamas and sheets, and although I was able to wash the sticky out, the color is a permanent stain.  So, yes, the putty is wonderful, but it is not a sleepy-time toy!

I know that every year when I post about Kara’s birthday I write about what a joy she is, but that is just the perfect description of her.  In fact, it gets more so as the years go by.  The road to Kara was so rocky, but God had it all worked out.  (For those of you who may not know about her adoption, that story can be found summarized in the “My Story” posts of this blog.  It was certainly not a “normal” adoption process!)  I remember so well when the days in China looked so bleak, and my dear sister-in-law told me that when the right child came, that child would be nothing but pure joy to our family.  So, that is how we named Kara.  Her name is Kara Joy which means Pure Joy, and even though we gave her that name before we ever met, it fits her perfectly.  I have learned so much from this sweet girl! She is so loving and happy, and, boy, does she love Jesus! It is amazing to listen to her pray–her prayers are so simple and yet profound. Ever since she has learned to communicate in English, she has talked to Jesus just like she talks to me, and that is so refreshing to see–simple, unashamed faith. When she knows of someone in need, she puts them on her prayer list, and she prays for them by name over and over every night.

I have had people tell me what a “lucky” girl Kara is to have a family, and I know their intentions are good.  But, the truth is that we are the “lucky”–blessed–ones to have her with us.  Yes, God’s plan is always perfect, and I am so thankful that she is a part of His plan for me.  Recently Brock said it best: “What would our family be like without Kara? She is always so happy and kind even when the rest of us are grumpy!” Indeed, she is a bright sunshine girl in this dark world, and I praise God for her precious life!

Happy Birthday, baby doll–I love you!

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So, the answer to the question in my last entry is this:  no, that is not Kara on TV, but it sure is a close resemblance!  And there is a story…..

Five years ago, we were getting ready to go to China to adopt a little girl.  We had planned and dreamed about this for quite awhile, and the time was getting very close.  Brock was in A Beka Academy 2nd grade at that time, and this cute little Asian girl was in his video class.  I couldn’t help but to think that someday, I would have a beautiful little girl like that.  Well, in late September, I did bring home our precious Asian princess, a cute three-year-old. I still noticed the girl on the video, though, thinking that someday Kara would be big like her.

Two years later, Kara was, of course, growing up a little, and Cosette was in A Beka Academy 2nd Grade.  This was the same video series that Brock had used, so this little girl was again in the class.  By this time, Kara’s hair had grown out a little, and I noticed that she looked a little like this girl in the class–same eyes, same smile, etc.  It made me smile inside thinking about how much that little girl had encouraged me while we were waiting to bring Kara home.

Another year passed, and Luke was in 2nd grade.  By this time, the resemblance was unmistakable!  I commented several times throughout that year that it would be interesting to see how Kara compared to this girl when she reached second grade.

Now, Kara is in 2nd grade, and this same little girl is in her own class.  Kara commented the very first day of school, “There is a girl in my class that looks just like me!”  Sure enough, she was talking about this same girl.  So, I told her that I would take a picture of her standing by the TV with this girl if she could catch her in a close-up.  It took until this week, but I think the picture came out very good, and I think the resemblance is striking!

Kara is definitely a dream-come-true for our family.  She is all I ever hoped for, and more.  God definitely has blessed us beyond all expectation, and we are so, so thankful!

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This afternoon I took Cosette and Kara to the Golden Dragon Acrobats program.  I thought that it would be neat for Kara to see these talented performers from China, and needless to say, she was delighted!  🙂

It sure made me miss China.  I brought home a very special treasure from China, but I still left a part of my heart there too.  Someday, I pray that God will give me the privilege of going back there–maybe for an extended stay!

We couldn’t take pictures at the performance, but here is a video of the group that we saw:

 

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As I wrote in my last entry, while Kara was in surgery last week, I stayed in her hospital room to wait.  While there, I noticed the little bear that our church gave to Kara sitting on her bed with her glasses.  The message on the bear’s tummy said “Miracles Happen.”  I sat there and thought about that, and was reminded what a miracle Kara is.  God truly has done miraculous things in that girl’s life to bring her home and heal her body and spirit.  I thought about how far she has come and was moved with thanksgiving to the Great Physician for His healing power.  Today I put together this brief slideshow as a reminder of what a Great Savior we have.  I just can’t wait to see all that God has in store for my dear daughter!

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Boy, have things been crazy around here for the last several weeks!  We have been running so much, that my regular to-do list around home has been getting longer and longer and LONGER.  I decided several days ago to start getting up between 5:00 and 5:30 just to whittle away at my list, and I am beginning to make some progress on getting caught up.  Today’s list item was to work on my blog–I have at least 5 entries waiting to be put together, so hopefully I can get some of these finished today.

Kara had her dental surgery last Wednesday.  It was longer and more complicated than anticipated, but it was successful, so we are thankful!  Kara and I are both rejoicing that this is her last known surgery (for the foreseeable future).  As we sat there in the hospital again, I think we both realized that we have been through a lot lately, and that God knows when we have reached our limits.  With each procedure, Kara has gotten more and more apprehensive about the anesthesia, and it’s just time to be done with this for now.

Anyway, because I knew that this was getting to be hard for Kara, I had promised her that I would talk with the anesthesiologist about what could be done to make it easier, and he worked well with us.  He gave her some medicine that pretty much made her asleep before they ever came and got her for surgery.  Even with that, the dentist told me later that she still teared up when they put the mask on her face, but she didn’t fight the mask and doesn’t remember it, so that is good.  After the surgery, Kara told me, “Mommy, last night I woke up worrying about the mask, so I prayed and asked Jesus to help me.  And He did!  I don’t even remember the mask!”  Good for her–she is learning to lean on her precious Savior!

I was glad that they went over Kara’s paperwork with me in detail prior to the surgery because for some reason, there were some mistakes on it that could have affected the anesthesia process.  I don’t know where the mistakes came from exactly, but we did get them corrected.  First of all, they had her listed as 4 feet, 8 inches tall instead of 48 inches tall, which is what she measured at her pre-surgical physical.  Secondly, they had planned a special airway for surgery because they had her listed as having a cleft palate?!  I have no idea where that came from!  Odd…..

The dentist thought the procedure would take about 1 1/2 hours to complete, and said he’d send the nurse out to let me know how things were going.  Well, after that time frame, the nurse did come to update me that he was only about 1/2 way finished.  So, it took about 3 hours to finish.  After he completed the surgery, the dentist told me that it was much more complicated than he had originally planned.  Her mouth and the involved teeth were just so small that it took awhile to get things done. He said that he was so glad that we had decided to do this in the hospital under general anesthesia because it would’ve been difficult, if not impossible, to have ever done it in the office anyway. He said that if he had started it in the office and encountered what he encountered, he would’ve stopped and finished it in the hospital. So, God led that decision!

Kara was slow coming out of anesthesia as well.  Even after she was awake, she was still very “floppy” for a couple of hours.  Looking back on it, I think this may have been more due to the sleepy medicine they gave prior to anesthesia than from the actual anesthesia because she hasn’t had this before.  She usually just pops right out of it.  I felt kind-of hurried by the hospital staff to take Kara home.  In fact, they wanted me to get her dressed to go home before she could even sit up!  I told them I wanted to wait until she could at least sit on the bed before we left, so we hung around for a couple more hours.  Even then she was still woozy and stumbled from dizziness in the bathroom right before we came home.  It really took her most of the day for everything to wear off.

Yesterday, Luke and Cosette had their regular appointments at the dentist’s office.  While we were there, the dentist wanted to take a quick look at Kara’s mouth to see how it was doing.  He said it’s looking pretty good, but that the gum tissue in the area where he had such difficulties is still red and swollen.  In fact, he said that it might be that way for awhile.  She is eating normally, but she does complain that it is sore on that side of her face if she accidentally bumps it back there.  Lord willing, though, this should take care of her mouth issues for several years.  The dentist said that eventually she’ll need more work done when her mouth/teeth reach adult size.

One thing I don’t want to forget.  Before Kara went into surgery, our pastor stopped by to pray with her and give her a little gift to help encourage her.  It was a little bear holding a cross with “Miracles Happen” embroidered on it’s tummy.  She immediately latched onto that thing, and it has become a favorite ever since.  While she was in surgery, I waited in her hospital room where that bear was sitting on her bed with her glasses.  It made me stop to think how true that bear’s message is for my sweet girl.  Her whole life is such a miracle. What a story she has–I can’t wait to see how God continues to use her!

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Today was Kara’s annual checkup with Dr. G. for her clubbed foot.  Overall, things are looking pretty good.  She does turn her foot in, and that is not improving at all.  Dr. G. said that there are two things that are contributing to that, and that really it’s something that she has to live with.  The first cause his still her hip issue.  That whole leg (and even her “normal” leg) turn in from the hips.  Last year Dr. G. thought she might outgrow that, but now she doesn’t think that she will.  Another contributing factor is from all of her surgeries.  Her remaining muscles, tendons, etc.  are just not strong enough to keep the foot straight.  But, this doesn’t effect her mobility at all, so it’s really not much to worry about.

Kara will, however, have a minor surgery next week in Denver.  Believe it or not, it is to remove a troublesome staple that is still in her foot from China!  That silly staple has been a problem ever since we adopted her.  In fact, the week that we brought her home, that area of her foot became seriously infected, and we just about ended up with an emergency trip to Denver then.  After several rounds of antibiotics, she did eventually recover, and you could feel that staple right under the skin.  When Dr. G. operated on her foot in 2007, she decided not to remove the staple.  I am not completely 100% sure, but I seem to remember that she decided to leave it alone because it would have required an additional incision to remove, and Kara already had such large areas to heal that Dr. G. thought it wasn’t worth the trouble.  She also didn’t think it would cause any problems.  Well, fast forward to this year.  There has been a lump developing over that stupid staple.  Sometimes Kara complains that it hurts, and it has made wearing dress shoes nearly impossible.  Dr. G. agreed that it is time to take care of that, so next week we will take Kara back to Denver Children’s where she’ll have it surgically removed once and for all.

Other than that staple, Dr. G. thinks Kara is looking great and says that unless we have problems arise, we’ll go back in another year to check on it at that time.  God is good–all of the time!

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UPDATE:  The shoes have been spoken for by a family who can use them! Praise God!  I will post more shoes on this blog at a later time when we accumulate more pairs of the mismatched sizes.  So if you are in need of some (large left, small right) don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll see what I have.

As most of my readers already know, our daughter Kara has a corrected clubbed foot.  Although the foot is straight, it will always be smaller than her “normal” foot, and this is quite a common result of unilateral clubbed foot.  In her case, there is a large size differential, and we have to buy her two pairs of shoes every time she needs new shoes:  a larger size for her “normal” foot and a smaller size for her clubbed foot.  We don’t mind doing this–it’s really not that big of a deal.  There is only one problem, though.  We end up with these left-over shoes that are the opposite of what she needs.  I would absolutely LOVE to find someone who could use these shoes.  In fact, I would happily send them to anyone that needs them for the shipping charge only.  They are all brand new.  Here are the pairs and sizes that I currently have:

Pair 1

Pair #1 are blue and white Danskin Athletic Shoes. The left shoe is size 12, and the right shoe is size 10. These shoes were originally $11, and I got them on clearance sale for $7.

Pair 2

Pair #2 are pink and white Strawberry Shortcake Girl’s Athletic Shoes. The left shoe is size 11, and the right shoe is size 8. There are some tags attached, but they don’t tell what the price for the shoes was.

Pair 3

Pair #3 are a really cute pair of Garanimals pink, purple, and white Velcro Athletic Shoes. They have a sweet heart pattern on the sides. The left shoe is size 11, and the right shoe is size 9. There are tags attached, but no original price is listed on them.

Pair 4

Pair #4 are Faded Glory Athletic Shoes that are multi-colored and sparkly. There are cherries and stars on them. The left shoe is size 11, and the right shoe is size 9.

Again, these are brand new shoes that I will gladly give to anyone that needs them for the cost only of shipping. We used the other shoes from the two pairs to fit Kara. If anyone can use them or knows of a charity that can use them, please let me know by leaving a comment to this post. It seems such a waste to just throw them away.

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“We are in China.”  Those were the words that my sister-in-law Kyleen whispered to me as our plane landed in Shanghai.  I can’t begin to explain the feelings I had at that time.  Excitement, nervousness, fear all mixed together.   We were on the doorstep of an adventure of a lifetime, and I had the perfect travel partner.  Dan had decided to stay home with our other children, so Kyleen volunteered to help me through the process.  God knew she was the one that I needed for those days.

We met up with our travel group the next day in Hefei, which is the capital city of Anhui Province where we were to meet Shayanne and complete her adoption.  There were several families in our travel group, all of whom became very dear to us in a very short time.  Our guide’s name was Rui (pronounced Ray).  She also proved to be just the person at just the right time and place for the days to come.

We had a day to spend in Hefei getting all of the paperwork, money, etc. organized before meeting Shayanne.  We knew that it would be a very emotional experience, so Kyleen wisely suggested that we should write down a list of questions for the nannies so we could get as much information about her as possible.  One of these questions was “is there anything else about Shayanne that we need to know?”

You can imagine the anticipation that filled the bus as we traveled to the Civil Affairs office to meet our children.  Shayanne was the only child being adopted from her orphanage that day, and her city was several hours away from Hefei.  So, she was the last child to arrive.  The people who accompanied her were in quite a hurry to begin the trip back to their city, so they wanted to get through the process as quickly as possible.

When I saw Shayanne, I was completely unprepared for what I would experience.  She was so very tiny–nothing  like the other toddlers in our group.  She was very much an infant even though she was the oldest child there that day.  Kyleen and I both immediately felt uneasy, and to be honest, I knew right away that this was not my child.  Things just didn’t seem right, that’s the only way I can explain it.  We were rushed around into a room to sign temporary custody papers–we had to request that they at least wait for our guide to come explain what we were signing before they would leave.  Kyleen had the presence of mind to get out our list of questions, and they said they would only answer three.  She immediately pointed to the question, “is there anything else about Shayanne that we need to know?”  Quick, awkward glances were exchanged among the people in the room, and our guide talked with them back and forth in Chinese.  She informed us that there was something else, but that she did not know exactly how to translate it.  She said that she would work on it and let us know later in the day.

We took Shayanne back to the hotel, and began the process of trying to figure out what her exact issues were.  Her hearing loss did not explain the child left in our care.  For the sake of Shayanne’s privacy, I will not go into what our experiences were, but let’s just suffice it to say that she was in extremely poor physical condition.  When Rui returned to our room with the translation of what the nannies had told her, it all began to make sense.  This child had severe neurological issues that had never been explained to us.

My heart was torn in two!  I did not know what we were going to do!  I had never dreamed that our journey would lead us to this.  I did know that there were no resources available to help a child in Shayanne’s condition anywhere near our home that is “on the prairie.”  Dan was back in the USA, but I had to contact him with the details.  He wanted us to send pictures and information to our local doctor while we had her examined in China to try to determine what decisions we should make.  All of the advice pointed in the same direction:  that this child was not in strong enough condition to be adopted or to travel back to the United States.  All parties involved were in agreement, although we were told to expect to travel home with no child if we did not continue Shayanne’s adoption.

This was such a difficult moment.  It seemed hard to understand why God would have brought us to this point only to go home with no child.  But, God…  BUT GOD!  He spoke in my heart to trust Him.  Even if we were to go home with no child, I was to trust Him, and show nothing but praise for His goodness, sovereignty, and power.  Kyleen agreed that even if it never made any sense, we were in China at that time in that situation as part of God’s perfect plan.

So, dear, dear Rui guided us step-by-step of interrupting the adoption process.  She was a tower of strength as she spent hours communicating with our adoption agency’s office in Beijing.  She truly took up our situation as her own.  She explained our complex situation to the Chinese officials, and helped them to understand that this child was simply not adoptable at this time.  She pled for their mercy, while we pled with God for guidance, and that mercy was granted.  We were told not to get our hopes up, but that we should begin thinking about what special needs we would be open to if another child could be found for us.  We had a only a few days to work with because a week-long holiday was quickly approaching in China during which no offices would be open for business.

So, a light began to emerge out of the darkness, but we still had the difficult task of letting go of Shayanne.  The people from her orphanage came to pick her up, but only after I had time to say good-bye.  I’m telling you, it was like a death.  It was a death in many ways–death of the child that had never been.  The Shayanne that we had held in our hearts during those months of waiting and preparation simply did not exist, and that was heart-wrenching to say the least.  We dressed her up in the one pretty outfit that we had that fit her–the one 12-month outfit that I had packed, fixed up her hair, and gave her back with many, many tears.  It’s difficult to explain that there was peace amidst the tears.  We knew that God had led to this decision and that this was part of His perfect plan whether we would ever understand it or not.

Our travel group gave us nothing but support during those days of uncertainty.  They shared their hearts, their beautiful new children, and their love.

After Shayanne left, we had to turn our attention to the paperwork involved with requesting a new referral.  Rui told us to write a description of what had happen with Shayanne and to respectfully ask for another child.  She said to include the age range, sex, and special needs we would accept.  I wrote that we would prefer a child of either gender, any age (preferably younger than our youngest son, but not required), with any special need related to orthopedic issues, hearing loss, blindness, etc.  Kyleen and I really felt that this was a holy time–a time that God was truly at work to bring us the child He had planned.  It was exciting to see.

We were originally told to expect a wait of several days while the officials searched for a child.  We were surprised when our guide came to our room a few hours later with not one, but two children that had been identified as possible candidates.  There were no pictures, or even names.  All we had was gender, age, and general description of the special needs.  Both were girls.  One was approximately 12 months old, and the other was almost three.  The younger girl was described as having one leg fatter than the other, and the older was described as being “pigeon-toed” with a possibility of some problem with her fingers on one hand.  Exciting telephone calls back to the United States were made to confer with Dan, and he, Kyleen, and I all felt led by God that the older of the two girls was the one.  We had nothing concrete to base that decision on, but God had led us all to that child, so we proceeded with faith.

So, we informed our guide of our decision, and she called the adoption officials with our decision to adopt Huang Min Cui from Huangshan.  She wondered if we wanted to wait until we could get more information about the girl, but we said no.  I told Rui that I knew God’s hand was at work, and that I knew I could trust Him.  Our time frame was very tight because of the impending Chinese holiday and our already scheduled Consulate appointment in Guangzhou.  Rui said she’d need an English name to begin the paperwork, and after more phone calls and discussions, Kara Joy was chosen.  “Kara” means pure, so her name means “pure joy.”  We knew that God was turning our sorrow into unbelievable joy.

So, our course had taken a serious turn from our original plan.  God kept impressing upon me that this was not a surprise to Him, and that I needed to show complete confidence in His loving care.  Rui was concerned that we might not have appropriate clothing for this child who was older than we had been planning for.  She recommended that we should shop for bigger clothes, but I told her how God had given me peace about the clothing as I packed, and that I felt certain that He knew all about what Kara’s needs would be.  Rui thought I was crazy, but I told her that I fully expected the clothes that we had to fit this child.

Rui also wanted to prepare us that this child would very likely be extremely frightened.  She had come from an orphanage that did not participate in international adoption, so she had not been prepared.  Again, God gave me the words to say to Rui.  I told her that I had complete confidence that God had prepared this child and that she would know that I was her momma.

A few days passed while Kara’s paperwork was hurriedly processed, and finally we were ready to meet the child that God had hand-picked for us–the child that had been in His mind all along.  I could not wait!  Her orphanage was very far from Hefei although it was still in Anhui province.  So, Kara was accompanied by two nannies on her first airplane ride to Hefei.  She arrived in the middle of the night, and was soundly asleep when they got to our hotel.

She was absolutely stunning sleeping on the nanny’s lap.  My heart overflowed with love knowing that this was my child.  I knew right away that she was not “pigeon-toed.”  Her foot was clearly clubbed.  In fact, she had just had a cast removed that morning from her most recent surgery, and her foot was still swollen (and still crooked).  I saw her hands.  Several fingers missing, the rest all deformed. But none of that mattered.  Huang Min Cui was my girl, and I knew all would be well.

The nannies could not get little Cui Cui to wake up that evening, but they had a story they really wanted to share with us.  They told us through our interpreter Rui that she had been a favorite in their facility and that they had all been really stirred to learn that she was going home to a family.  They said it was with mixed emotions that they would give her to us.  They said that everyone was crying when Cui Cui was ready to leave, but that that sweet little child had reached up with her stubby thumb to wipe away the tears and had said, “Don’t cry.  I am just going to find my Momma.”  That came from a girl who “had not been prepared for adoption.”  Rui looked at me with astonishment.  Yes, this girl knew she was going to her Momma just like I had said.  Truly, God was at work.

The next day we completed all of the final adoption papers, and Huang Min Cui officially became Kara Joy Mincui O’Brien.  She was naturally a little shy at first, but it did not take long for that “shy, introverted” child to transform into a happy, loving, beautiful Kara Joy.  The clothes?  Guess what–every item I packed fit Kara Joy perfectly except for the shoes.  But she didn’t need the shoes because she had just had surgery and was instructed not to walk on her foot anyway.  Yes, God had provided for her needs before I ever knew that she existed.

We spent the rest of our time in China getting acquainted with the special girl that God had given us.  We spent a lot of time taking her on walks in the stroller so she could be out in God’s beautiful sunshine.  We shopped, we played, and worked on being able to understand each other (which was no easy task since she spoke fluent Chinese!!)  We kept all of our original appointments in Guangzhou before flying home on the same flight that had been originally planned.

To make a long story short, Kara fit into our family right away.  The other kids all loved her, and she loved them.  There were challenges, of course, adjusting to life with a family after knowing only life in an orphanage, and it took time for Kara to learn how to accept unconditional love.  There were many challenges ahead, but we knew God was faithful, and that He placed Kara in our home and would guide us all through each step of the way.

We had a crash course in clubbed foot treatment because Kara’s surgical incision became infected shortly after we arrived home, but even that proved to be our Lord’s guiding hand.  He used that to lead us to the orthopedic surgeon who would ultimately be used to bring God’s healing touch to Kara’s foot.  He truly healed Huang Min Cui through and through.  He took that shy, broken child and transformed her into the confident, happy girl that she is today.  Her heart as well as her body are whole.

What a picture of what God did for me!  He took a broken, miserably lost soul and paid the eternal price to adopt me when I was completely unaware of His presence.  He took me in, cleaned me up, washed my heart and is in the on-going process of transforming my life.  My story, as well as Kara’s, are all for His glory.  He is the one to be praised for His mighty goodness and power.

In the final installment of My Story, I plan to explain where God has me today.  It is not nearly as dramatic as where I have been, but it is just as important in His purposes.

I will put three slideshows onto this entry.  The first will be pictures from the day that Huang Min Cui became Kara Joy.  The second will be more pictures from my trip to China for those who may be interested.  The last slideshow shows the dramatic healing that God gave to Kara’s foot.  My He be praised!

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In 2003, God began to stir my heart. I did not hear any “voices from Heaven” or anything, but God’s still, small voice began speaking to my innermost soul. Even though I had been richly blessed with four wonderful children and had been advised medically not to have any more babies, I was unsettled. In a way I can’t explain, God impressed on me that I had one more child, specifically a girl. I did not understand how this could be since I was not to have any more children until He began to move me towards international adoption.

I kept this hidden in my heart for many months trying to figure it all out. After all, my life was so full already: was it my own selfishness that had planted this seed? I did not feel ready to express what was going on even to Dan because I thought it all sounded so strange and unreasonable. One day, I had a divine-appointment in the Wal-Mart parking lot that confirmed God’s message to me and encouraged me to proceed in faith. I met up with a lady who had herself adopted from China, and I just kind of blurted out what had been stirring inside of me. She had wise advise. She said that when God has a job to do, He provides the way. If this idea of adoption was truly from Him, He would open every door. If not, He would close them. She encouraged me to take the first step of trusting Dan with my thoughts.

It still took me several weeks to gain the boldness to approach Dan about this topic. I knew it would be quite a shock for him and had no idea what he would say. Finally the spark burned so hotly within me that I could no longer contain it, and I poured out my soul to my husband. Yes, it was a surprise to him. He did not say no, but he wanted time to pray about it to see if God’s hand was truly in this process. Well, God opened that first door. It was not very long after that that Dan also believed that we should at least explore adoption–maybe international, maybe not.

We were completely new to all of this. No one in our families or close circle of friends had ever taken this path, so we started with what we knew: internet searches. We gathered all kinds of information about different countries and processes. And then I saw them–the lists and LISTS of kids from all over the world waiting for a family to love them. Oh, how my heart ached! I loved them ALL and wanted to bring them ALL home! 🙂 How in the world were we ever to find the right one when the needs were so great? Well, we just kept knocking on doors. Many doors closed because of our family-size. That narrowed our options tremendously. Our hearts were originally drawn to Haiti, but no doors there opened.

Eventually we were led to China. We had to trust that it was God’s hand leading us there because that seemed to be the door that was open. We applied to the program, and began the long process of completing all of the necessary paper work to be put on a waiting list for a “healthy, young” girl.

One of the heaviest doors that had to be opened by God related to my history of depression and the resulting protective-custody arrest. (These incidents were related in earlier segments of My Story). The social worker that handled our case was somewhat concerned that my police record might result in our paperwork being denied. It was easy to try to cover it all up since it had happened many years prior to this, but God convicted me that I needed to trust Him with every detail of this adoption. It all had to be open and honest–it was His job to open every door, not mine. So we proceeded that way. Part of the paperwork required a police history background check. It had to be faced head on, but GOD WAS FAITHFUL! When our local police ran my report, it came back CLEAR. I even told them about the protective custody arrest, so they did further checks. They all came back CLEAR. No record at all of any arrests. God had literally wiped my slate (and my heart) clean! Praise His Name! So, the law enforcement agency provided the letter stating that all was clear in my case, and the adoption door remained wide open.

We finished our paperwork and submitted it to the Chinese adoption officials on December 5, 2005. God continued to lead us as we waited for our paperwork to be approved. He began to impress on me that we needed to revise our request for a “healthy, young” girl. In fact, he began to reveal to us both that the child He had for us was going to have special physical needs. So, we did the required paperwork to switch over to the special needs program, and began to head in that direction. Again, we found ourselves pouring over photolistings of beautiful kids needing homes. What a heartwrenching experience! We began to research what needs we were open to, and began the painful process of applying for a specific child. At that time, the competition for a young girl from our agency’s special needs lists was intense. We applied for several different girls, and were turned down every time. It was terrible! God kept closing every door, and it made no sense.

Then we saw her: a lovely 2-year-old Chinese girl born with deformed ears who had resulting hearing loss. She seemed perfect to us because I had worked with hearing impaired kids after graduating from college and felt very comfortable with that special need. The only problem was that she was not listed with our agency. We inquired about her, but were told that we would have to withdraw our paperwork and resubmit it with the child’s listing agency in order to adopt her. This would mean a great deal of lost money and time. But, God. How many times do I say that??? BUT, GOD!!! The representative from the child’s agency contacted the Chinese officials about our case, and they decided to grant an exception for us. It would be an almost unheard of dual agency adoption. The child’s agency would handle the special needs paperwork, all other paperwork and travel would remain with our original agency. Our original agency could hardly believe it–it was completely unprecedented in their experience! In fact, this was only allowed for a few cases in a very brief time period before it was not done anymore, and our adoption was one of the few that squeezed into that short time frame.

So, we really saw God’s hand opening every door, and we just waited for His timing to complete the process. We spent that summer readying our home for our new addition–especially learning about this child’s special needs and the treatments that were available. We decided to name her Shayanne.

The waiting for travel was terrible! I so wanted to go grab that child and bring her home, but we had to wait for all of the appropriate arrangements to be made. On August 29, 2006, our travel approval arrived and we immediately began getting all of the details arranged to leave for China on September 14, 2006. Those were hectic days! I specifically worried about packing. There was a very restrictive limit on baggage weight, and trying to pack everything for myself as well as Shayanne seemed almost impossible. I had no idea how big the child was or what size of clothes to take, and it frustrated me for several days. But God calmed my soul by reminding me that I did not need to worry about what to eat, drink, or wear. His Word says that He knows that we need these things and that He will provide them. We are to set about seeking Him, not worrying. (Matthew 6:31-34) He impressed on me that I should just pack what looks good and makes sense and trust Him with it. So that’s what I did. I put in one 12-month outfit, but put in mostly 18-month cute clothes that I had picked up during our waiting period. I thought they might be too small for a two-year-old, but rested knowing I had followed where God had led.

I kept a blog during those days, and those entries can be found in the beginning sections of the Prairie Family Chronicles. The day before I left for China, I wrote out a prayer praising our great God for all He had done to bring us to that point.  Here is a portion of that prayer:

God, as we are now ready to go to China, I have many fears, but I know You are with me and that this trip is all part of Your plan. Please use this trip to help me to grow. Teach me the lessons that You have for me. Help me to see You in each step–for I know that You have gone before me.

Truly this all was His plan–he had been so clearly at work at each door.  Little did I know that His thoughts were way beyond my own, and that His way was going to be difficult.  Indeed the events of the next few days were for my growth and His glory.  My life was never the same.

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