This precious child has added so much JOY to our home and was so perfectly named~ 

   Elizabeth Joy!

December 2005 - An Indescribable Gift


“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
2 Corinthians 9:15

The Lord brought Ellie to us in such an amazing way! It is a story that I will delight in telling as long as I have the breath to share it….Since adopting Kate in Nov. 2004, I have continually sought the Lord regarding adopting again… I could easily find a million reasons why a second adoption would be a “crazy” idea and I had nearly convinced myself so. I forced myself to keep my heart open, though, in case God’s plans included something different than my own. Over the months, I would look at children with special needs waiting for families, but never sensed God’s leading in that direction. 

In early Dec., I heard that a new list of children had been posted by Christian World Adoption. I could not resist taking a look. I instantly fell in love with two little girls on their list– both with deformities of their left hands. I was afraid to even mention this to Doug, since we were struggling so much financially, so I quietly “checked on” the two girls every night to see if a family had stepped forward for them. 

A week later, one of the girls had been taken from the list, as a family had “claimed” her. I sat at the computer and cried. I was surprised by this unexpected response. Instantly I sensed God’s nudging… “This little girl was not yours… Rejoice that she has a home!” Still, I kept the website open containing the picture of the second little girl that had captured my heart. She was only 10 months younger than Kate and from the same Province in China. 

Finally I admitted to Doug, Sarah and my Mom that I could not stop thinking of this little one. Doug assured me what I already knew...this would be impossible right now! Still, I could not “let go” of her. I prayed constantly… If she was meant to be our daughter, the Lord would “hold” her for us and again make the impossible, possible!
On the night of Dec 22, Sarah called me to the computer. “Someone got our little girl!” she said. No!...This could not be! My heart dropped into my stomach. Sarah opened the website to confirm my fears. A family had stepped forward to adopt this precious little girl. I was crushed! Sarah and I stood in front of the computer and cried. 

Finally, I pulled myself together and rejoined the family in the kitchen. Instantly they sensed that something was wrong… I burst into tears… Another family had claimed the little girl I’d had my heart set on! Just then, Kate woke upstairs. I jumped at the opportunity to rock her back to sleep. It would give me time to cry, pray, and then pull myself back together.

Later, when I returned downstairs, a bit more composed, Doug presented me with an envelope. “An early Christmas present,” he said, “...because you’re so upset!” I opened the envelope to find a photocopied picture of “our” little girl with the words “Merry Christmas Mommy!” written next to it! A family had indeed stepped forward to adopt her… and that family was OURS! 

Doug had just presented me with a Christmas gift beyond anything I could have ever imagined– another beautiful daughter from China! Just that morning Doug had decided to call and ask the adoption agency to hold her on our behalf so that we could try to secure the money necessary to adopt her. They agreed and would give us the two week Christmas holiday to come up with the initial $5,000. to start the adoption. 

For the next two weeks I literally prayed “without ceasing”! I would even wake during the night and pray for God’s provision to bring this little girl home. If this was God’s will for our family, He would have to do a miracle, as we had absolutely no financial resources for another adoption right now. I could not even imagine how God might provide such a miracle, but I refused to believe that he would fail to provide what we needed if she was meant to be ours. Even when only 2 days remained before she would be placed back on the list for another family’s consideration, my faith remained strong. 

Doug and I met for lunch to discuss our options. We could draw from our small retirement account to “hold” her or simply trust that if the Lord did not provide, she was not meant to be ours and we would let her go. Just then, a friend from church passed our table and stopped to chat. She introduced us to her friend, also from our church, whom we’d never met… They asked about Kate and we told them about our hopes to adopt again, showing them a picture of the little girl in China we were praying about. They promised to pray with us on her behalf and left. 

Later that evening my phone rang… It was Leigh, the women I’d just met at lunch earlier that day. She had been touched by the story of this precious little girl. “How much money do you need to bring that baby home?” she asked... I don’t remember much about the rest of the conversation, as I was overwhelmed with tears at seeing the hand of God move on behalf of an orphan girl half a world away.

We began the process to bring our Ellie home the next day... and the Lord provided for it all through the gift of a stranger!  God's provision through strangers!  But strangers no more!  When we arrived in Houston with Ellie 6 months later, those "strangers" (now precious friends) were waiting to welcome her home!  God used Leigh and her husband Larry to show us that He "is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we can ask or think"!


Leigh was there to welcome Ellie home!

May 26, 2006 - Ellie Bound...

5 months ago, a screen-saver became my daughter, a surprise-loving husband became my hero (again!), a stranger became a life-long friend, and God... well, He proved, as always, that He delights in doing "immeasurably more than I could ever ask or even imagine"!  And today...  We are headed to China to bring Ellie home!!!

It seemed almost “surreal” today, taking off from Houston. Memories of only a year and a half ago came flooding back. It has been such an emotional week and I keep finding myself on the edge of tears. I looked at Russ last night, standing in my family room in his cap and gown and it washed over me. Then, as Ryan left the house this morning for his last day of seventh grade and I kissed him goodbye for two weeks, it washed over me again. Just unloading the suitcases and checking in for our flight caused yet another wave of emotion. It seems just yesterday we boarded a plane for China to bring Kate home. I had no idea what incredible and wonderful changes that flight would bring to my life. I am now acutely aware of what changes this flight will also bring! Life almost seems to stand still in these moments and I am not sure whether the emotions I feel are incredible joy and peace or sheer panic, as they seem to change without notice. By the time we were only half way through our very long flight across the Pacific, I had my version of an “emotional meltdown”. It seemed that all I wanted to do (or could do) was cry. On board an airplane without a single empty seat, I found it the most “inconvenient” time for such a meltdown. Even when Sarah rubbed my back to express her love, I told her to not even try “being nice to me today!”- that too would make me cry! I marvel at how the emotions of an adoptive mom are so very much like that of a biological mother. It is a gift from the Lord, and though I do not like it at times, I am grateful that the adoption experience is as “deep” and profound as any biological one could be! I can not count the times that I held Kate closely and thanked God that He gave me the courage to step out and follow my heart to China a year and a half ago. I wonder what incredible things He must have in store for me again and I am overwhelmed by the emotions of it all!
Would this be considered packing "light"?
Her faithful friend-"Dog" made the journey with us!

I have asked many friends to pray for us- specifically for this long flight with Kate. She has always been such a wonderful traveler, but this long journey would press the limits for anyone and I was nervous. I am thrilled to report that, of the four travelers in our family today, Kate was the absolute best!!! She literally did not whine, cry, complain or act disagreeable the entire trip! She did not sleep as much as I had hoped, but she was an absolute angel the entire 10 hours that she was awake on the long flight to Japan. Then she happily played for 4 hours in the Tokyo airport before boarding our final flight to Beijing. She promptly fell asleep upon takeoff and I gladly held her close for the entire flight. As I looked out into the Beijing sky, I could not help but remember the night we were approaching Beijing with only a few days until we met her for the first time. What a joy to now hold this precious gift in my arms, while on that same flight to return for another daughter. I am awe-struck that the God who gives such gifts, would again bless me in such an incredible way! We will enjoy Beijing again tomorrow, but my thoughts seem to always be in Changsha where, on Monday, we will finally meet Ellie in person!

May 29, 2006 - Gotcha Ellie!

The morning started bright and early, but it's not like I could sleep anyway... I was awake before the alarm clock could do the job. I simply wonder how sleep could elude someone so exhausted, but all I can think about is what today holds...

I am as excited and anxious as I was the first time. This surprises me. I thought that I'd be far more calm and composed this time around, but my emotions are proving my theory false. There are so many unknowns and I am worried about how Ellie will handle the sudden separation from her foster family. The Lord calmed my heart through some beautiful songs on trusting Him and resting in His faithfulness when fears prevail. It was a sweet gift from His hand and I was grateful for a reprieve from my anxious thoughts.

We arrived in Changsha and were greeted by our guide, Peter, who informed us that we would meet Ellie at the Changsha Civil Affairs Office at 3 PM today. I had hoped that they would bring her there, as this is the exact place we met Kate a year and a half ago. Doug and the girls went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel, but I had a strong urge to "nest" and prepare our room for Ellie's arrival. Besides...who can think of food at moments like these???

We left promptly at 2:30 to go to meet her. It was again a very surreal experience as we pulled into that familiar parking lot and headed up to the 3rd floor waiting room. We arrived to find 10 families there who had all met their girls today as well. I was thrilled to discover that they were all from Yiyang CWI (Kate's orphanage) and were all the same age as Kate was when we first met. Chatting with them kept the wait almost "bearable"!
Moments later, I turned around to see a little girl in a polka dotted dress being carried in by an orphanage worker. She sat down and stood her next to her chair. I looked at her and instantly knew that it was Ellie. Mostly because I thought she looked so much like Kate! I had thought, too, that I would not cry this time... wrong again! Just seeing her standing there set me off!

We were not allowed to approach her, as the "officials" had not checked our paperwork and our guide was not there. She stood there tentatively and looked at all of us as if wondering who we were and why we were there. After what seemed an eternity, our passports and approval were checked and they summoned us over to Ellie. The moment she realized that my intention was to remove her from her caretakers side, she made it clear that she wanted no part in that! :( Her cries were the most pathetic I have ever heard. When she started calling out for her "mama", I could hardly take it anymore and joined her in her disintegration. No one could calm her breaking heart. We tried bribing with food, balloons and bubbles. She lunged toward the windows where she could see her caretakers walking away. Finally when she decided that her crying was in vain she settled down a little bit and took an interest in Kate. We were ushered back unto the van to head back to the hotel. Just leaving the building seemed to help a lot and she actually almost smiled as she watched Kate's antics in trying to make her happy. 

I was completely blown away by how beautifully Kate handled those stressful moments. She gently stroked Ellie's arm and softly said-"It's OK Ellie...Don't cry!" Finally tonight, as we walked to supper, Kate took Ellie's hand and walked her down the hall in front of us. This, too, brought tears to my eyes. Which should not surprise anyone, as EVERYTHING seems to bring me to tears these days! :)

I was also very surprised by how unsteady Ellie is on her feet. Almost as if she just learned to walk weeks ago. At 22 months I expected her to be an experienced walker, but assume that she has had very little opportunity to strengthen her legs. That will surely correct itself in short order.We had only received a snapshot of Ellie's hand, taken at 8 months old, so we were uncertain as to how affected her left hand really was. Unfortunately, her little hand is far worse than we expected. She has no wrist, no palm, and absolutely no use of any of her fingers. It appears that an amniotic band attached itself just above her wrist and hindered the proper development of her wrist, hand and fingers. to the hotel. Just leaving the building seemed to help a lot and she actually almost smiled as she watched Kate's antics in trying to make her happyI feel strongly that the best solution for Ellie, may well be a prosthetic hand, as I can not imagine how surgery would be able to make up for the damage already done.  It does not seem to bother her though, and it is precious to watch her work around the "disability" handed to her at birth.  She tucks everything under her little arm and uses her right hand to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.  Sadly, Ellie is really having a difficult time with the monumental events of this Gotcha Day... I thought that I had done the whole- "hope for the best, prepare for the worst"- thing pretty well.  But I feel sadly unprepared for how to comfort a little girl in her terrifying position.  I am struggling to watch her grieve so deeply, but stand in awe of a God who is big enough to see us all through this difficult change...

I saw the face of Jesus
in a little orphan girl
She was standing in the corner
on the other side of the world

And I heard the voice of Jesus
gently whisper to my heart
Didn't you say you wanted to find me?
Well her I am ~ Here you are
So what now?
What will you do, now that you've found me?

What now?
What will you do with this treasure you've found?
I know I may not look like what you expected
But this is right where I said I would be

What now?
  Steven Curtis Chapman ~ "What Now"
There's the smile we've been waiting for!

Blessed smiles!

Yes...it was a rough start!  The first few days were far from the "romantic" Gotcha Day moments new Mommies dream of!  Ellie grieved terribly for her foster Mama!  And it might be safe to say that this Mommy cried more in our first 7 days together than Ellie did herself!  I spent quite a few evenings locked away in the hotel bathroom with my face buried in the thickest towel or bathmat I could find!   But thankfully, once Ellie figured out that we were here to stay, she decided that maybe we weren't so bad after all!  Her first love was Doug! (so what's new, right?)  Then she decided that Kate was alright...then Sarah.  Lastly, and FINALLY, she figured out that I was Mommy and since she was stuck with me, she'd give me a chance!    But that first week together was one of the more difficult weeks of my lifetime and not one I'd want to repeat.  Many times I was certain that we had gone wrong in giving Ellie the name Elizabeth JOY... what were we thinking?  There was obviously not a hint of joy in her little body!... Oh, but how wrong I was!!!  Each day Ellie woke up with a brighter and brighter perspective!  And, finally, as our first week together closed and we boarded our flight to Guangzhou, Ellie gave the priceless gift of a smile, meant just for ME!  Those final days in China seemed like 3 steps forward, one step back kind of days, but by the time we were heading home to Houston, Ellie was completely content to sleep in my arms for the entire flight!  Her joyful heart was beginning to peek through, boil up, and finally spill over to prove her to be every bit the JOY God made her to be!  

“He Knows My Name”
I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call

Here are some of my favorite photos from our journey to bring Ellie home...  What a precious blessing she is!

Our first REAL smile!

Not the best photo... but one of the best moments in my life!!!  A smile for ME!

Sisters Forever!

Red Couch Favorite!
"God sets the lonely in families"

And Ryan was nervous she wouldn't like him? IMPOSSIBLE!

Gran's girl!

July 25, 2006- Happy Birthday Ellie!

Ellie is TWO!
Isn't she precious?

A princess indeed!

Summer 2006- Ellie makes 7!

If someone had told me just a few years ago, that in 2006 we would be bringing our second daughter home from China to become a family of seven, I’d have laughed! I was myself from a family of seven, and even while in the midst of it, wondered how my mother held it all together. One of my closest friends had three children very close in age to my own three, but for several years after I thought that I was “finished having babies”, she delivered 3 more! I can’t count the times that I declared that God had somehow made her “different” than He had made me- I couldn’t handle such a family! How God must have laughed from heaven at such declarations, …knowing what He had in store for ME in the years ahead!

In times like these, I am so grateful that God’s plan includes things so much greater and eternally fulfilling than my own plans ever could… I shutter to think what I’d have missed, if I’d chosen my own way and forsaken His! This journey of adoption has been absolutely wonderful and yet so scary, exhilarating and yet so difficult at times, but without a doubt~ one of the most incredible experiences of my life! Through it all, I’ve caught a glimpse into the heart of God that I am convinced I would have missed otherwise. And in the end, when my life is measured, I want more than anything else, for it to be measured by the number of people I have loved, the sacrifices I have made for His Glory, and the servant’s heart I displayed most evidently within the walls of my own home! I have other hopes and dreams, of course, but none so great as the living out of my dreams through the beautiful family I have been so blessed to be the mother of! Let me proudly introduce them to you!....

Doug, Lori, Russ, Sarah, Ryan, Kate and Ellie

It seems a lifetime ago since meeting Ellie for the first time in the Changsha Civil Affairs Office. Thankfully, that first painful week together seems such a distant memory now, in light of the happy little girl she has become! She is hardly the same little girl and has made such an incredible adjustment into our family! If I had not witnessed this beautiful miracle with my own eyes, I would not have believed it myself!

We have traveled hundreds of miles by car and by plane since arriving home in early June. I totaled our driving time after one of those trips and I figured that the girls had spent at least 37 hours buckled into their car seats over a two week period. Whew!...That is a lot of traveling when it includes two 2 year olds! But Kate and Ellie have been angels…sleeping in so many different places, and visiting with so many old friends over lengthy meals on the road…all without complaint from either of them. I entered this adoption very cautiously, knowing that the odds of getting another “angel” like Kate were slim. Praise God,…He is not a God of “odds”! I have been so incredibly blessed; I am humbled by the mere thought of it on a daily basis! I am convinced that if there were only two angels in China, I got both of them! I regularly feel embarrassed by the lack of faith I displayed in this area. 

Unfortunately, Ellie’s first month home was not her healthiest. Our entire family battled a stomach virus and upper respiratory infections while away from home in June and July. This meant a very traumatic visit to a pediatrician in my home town for Ellie, following two days of very high fever that we could not bring down. The poor baby had to have her ears cleaned out so that they could see her eardrums, was catheterized, had three vials of blood taken from her arm and then had to be held down for chest Xrays before it was finally over. She is feeling much better now, but has developed quite a dislike for anyone in a white coat coming toward her with any kind of medical instrument! So much so, that our ENT actually had to put her to sleep to clean all of that wax out of her ears, after she did not pass a hearing test to his satisfaction. But she has been an absolute doll through it all! Little does she know that her time with those “people in white coats” has just begun! The Shriner’s Hospital here in Houston has accepted Ellie as a patient and we had our first visit with their hand surgeon last week. They will do surgery to release the amniotic band sometime in the next few months. Then we will wait and see what can be done to make her hand more functional as she grows up. They will also provide a prosthetic hand for her when she gets a little bit older that she can wear whenever she chooses. Because we don’t have insurance to cover these expenses, all of her care there will be free of charge. Once again, the Lord has graciously provided everything we have needed for Ellie. I look forward to the day when I can tell Ellie what a wonderful Father she has… How visible His hand has been in her life already!

With every new day I am falling so much in love with Ellie that I think I might explode! It reminds me of being pregnant for the second time and being fully convinced that I could never love another child the way I loved my first, only to discover that there is more loved welled up inside of me than I could have imagined! My emotions for Ellie have proven this true yet again and I am enjoying watching her grow and blossom into such a precious little girl, so perfectly fashioned for our family! 

This summer has not been an easy one, though, and I find myself completely exhausted following four separate viruses for me and the kids, along with the adjustment of adding another toddler to our home. Caring for two 2 years olds is a lot of work no matter how you look at it, especially when combined with three very busy teenagers! Even so, I am saddened to think about packing Russ’ things and driving him to college next weekend. It seems just yesterday HE was only two years old! This gives me a new perspective on how fleeting these toddler years are, and I am determined to enjoy every moment of them with Kate and Ellie! We “forced” everyone to take some time for our last photo session as a family of seven all living under one roof. Just looking at those photos now brings tears…How blessed I am to have been entrusted with five beautiful children! I could not have imagined it 19 years ago…but I wouldn’t change it today for the world! I thank the Lord for leading me places I would not have taken myself to show me how rich life can be when I follow His plan! I feel caught up in an incredible story I could not have orchestrated myself and am daily blown away to love and serve such a God as mine!


God's immeasurable provision for Ellie...

Before we even arrived home with Ellie, a friend had connected us with Shriner's Children's Hospital in Houston.  We applied and Ellie was accepted as a patient in their "hand clinic".  Shriners were the old men that wore those funny red hats and occasionally used those hats to collect donations for disabled children --- that's about the extent of what I knew.  And though I still don't have a clue what they do behind closed doors (not sure I want to!), I have been blown away by the incredible service they provide for the children in their care.  Now when I see the men with the big red hats... I personally thank them profusely for the wonderful care they are providing for my very own daughter!

We had an appointment with the hand clinic just a few weeks after Ellie arrived home.  Tests and Xrays confirmed that she does, indeed, need surgery to release the amniotic band from just above her left wrist.  Without that, she would likely lose her left hand, as it would self-amputate, as her arm continues to grow.  I did speak to them about the possibility of amputation, but they feel confident that they can optimize the use of what little hand and fingers she has with the option of lengthening her arm and fingers as she grows.  Surgery was scheduled for late fall, but then an unexpected opening became available so that we could go ahead and get the surgery completed before school starts in late August.  We met with hand surgeon Dr Gogola a few weeks ahead of time... LOVED her!!!  We are to check in 24 hours before scheduled surgery for pre-op, and then expect to spend several days in the hospital afterward.

When we arrived at Shriner's they treated us like royalty from the moment we walked through the front door.  After we checked in, we were taken to Ellie's room, where a stuffed animal was waiting for her in her crib.  They also invited us to a pizza party being thrown for all of the patients currently hospitalized.  We, of course, joined the other families for the party- complete with pizza, sodas, and a gift individually wrapped for each child - including Ellie!  I was stunned!  I'd never experienced anything like this before!  The following day Ellie's surgery was completed in 2 and 1/2 hours and all went perfectly as planned!  Her amniotic band was very tightly attached, all the way to the bone, pressing on her vessels and tendons- making the circulation to her hand very limited and it almost impossible for her to move her little "boo-boo" hand at all.  This forced Dr. Gogola to practically sever the hand from Ellie's arm and reconnect it with a zig zag stiching.  Ellie came out of surgery wrapped to the shoulder with a soft cast.  We'd have to wait ten days to see if the surgery produced the results we were hoping for...

I actually really enjoyed the time in the hospital with Elle -  It allowed us some time alone away from our crazy household where there is always someone trying to "steal" my attention from my new baby girl.  And since I was the very last one that Ellie accepted into her circle of "love", it was good to finally have her build a new level of trust with me and look to me for the comfort she needed.  She is one strong little girl though...  She did not cry once from the pain!  The only indication I ever got that she was in pain was the way she would begin to sweat profusely and get a little quieter.  This makes me sad, realizing that she had learned at a very young age to internalize her pain and deal with life (and hurt) on her own... 

It was a thrill to watch as they removed the soft cast to reveal the results of surgery!  Ellie sat in my lap for the "unveiling" unaware that this would prove to be a special moment!  I wish I'd had a camera to catch the look on her face when her hand suddenly bent at the wrist.  Her little head snapped around and looked at me as if to say... "Did you see that?"...then back to watch herself do it again and again!  She could move her hand at the wrist and her hand and little fingers were warm and pink!  Sweet success!  Dr Gogola was thrilled.  This would enable Ellie to use her wrist to hold small objects and open up the possibilities for lengthening her arm and fingers in the years ahead.  Shriner's will take care of Ellie through out her life and will provide any further surgeries she will need along the way in addition to providing a prosthetic hand, should she want one as she grows up.  Right now, her hand hasn't proven to be an "issue" at all... There is absolutely nothing Ellie won't try and usually succeed at and her fine motor skills already appear to be ahead of children her own age!  She is absolutely amazing and yes, the JOY of our home!  My cup of blessings is overflowing!

Ellie- a "disability"?
NO!...Greater "abilities"!

                                      Joy - Joy - Joy!

I can't let this opportunity pass without sharing some of my favorite photos of our precious Ellie's first year home... The caption for every snapshot of our lives since bringing her home could be "Joy - Joy - Joy"!  It overflows from her and is contagious!  She is a tender, tender soul and so eager to please.  What a precious gift she is to our family!

Go Woodlands!!

"Uncle" Larry and "Aunt" Leigh

Getting to know Mamaw!

Christmas Tree Farm - Ellie's 1st Christmas!

We found one! 

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