One year with Josie

May 1st, 2016

One year ago, a girl with a wheelchair and a beaming, crinkly-eyed smile entered our lives and hearts to stay.  Oh, we didn’t know that then!

After months of prayer and deliberation, we had concluded, “Let’s give it a try one weekend.  We think we will love having her here and she will love being here.”

From my first emotion-filled glimpse of her sweet face as she rolled out of her wheelchair van that Friday afternoon, through a weekend filled with laughter, to my inner pain at having to say goodbye on Sunday evening, it was obvious to all that Josie fits in our family like hand in glove.

How did we get from there to here?  We can’t really say for sure.  One thing sort of led to another and here we are!

How slowly time crept along as we awaited her arrival at Christmastime.  How time has dashed along since she joined our family!

It seems to me so ironic that He chose us, out of all His possible choices, to be her family.

How grateful we are that God disregarded the “No” signs with which I had desperately blanketed my life, moving past them as if they weren’t there.  “No more children of any kind, from anywhere, ever again…”  How skillfully He turned my “No” into a “Yes.”  The very idea of adoption brought me crushing, suffocating soul-pain, but Josie wasn’t the idea of adoption, she was just Josie.  

And we love her so dearly.

Maybe God had to give me an overwhelming love for her because nothing else would be stronger than my overwhelming fear.  But if I had insisted on protecting myself from further risk of pain, how much love and life and beauty we would have missed!    Incidentally, we learned that very same Friday morning that He had sent another little one to us in a different way.

How thankful we can be that His vision for us is greater than our vision for ourselves.

We have grown, she has grown, inside and out.

 

First visit~

 

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Second visit~

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Big Families and Friends picnic, 2015~

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A friend watched me make sure Josie had a good time although there was no adaptive playground equipment and asked, “Having fun yet?”  I said the first thing that came to my mind, “I feel like I’m doing exactly what God created me to do.”  And then I realized that it was true.

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It has been delightful to watch the special bond of friendship form between Laura and Josie.

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This was Memorial Day Monday.  The night before, we’d had a campfire in the woods up behind our house, and the kids all slept out in tents and stayed up late telling stories and laughing so uproariously Joe and I could hear it from our bedroom as we went off to sleep.  We were bummed later to discover that none of the three of us with cameras had taken any photos!

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Messy Mussers doin’ their thing.  Remember, “That Family”s have more fun, heh heh!

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Third visit~

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Our pastor’s wife is also from China.

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Josie was lonely, bored, and hurting in the hospital after her bilateral foot surgery in mid-June before we brought balloons and a barrel of Musser monkeys to cheer her up, haha!  But hurray for new feet!

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Six weeks later, we visited her in rehab two hours away, and gave her photos of all her visits with us.

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What color will you want your new room to be, girls?

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The eleven of us who visited her this time took Josie and her two best friends at rehab out for a walk.  The sheer number of us may or may not have influenced the staff to give their enthusiastic consent to going outdoors for a while, ahem!

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Some of the kids explored the nearby woods and found a turtle.

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Building more bonds on our second visit to rehab, we talked non-stop for several hours.

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Again, bringing her photos of our prior visit with her.

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The fall fest!  We were celebrating our first day as Josie’s legal guardians!

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I love these people and they love Josie.  Lindsay told her, “I guess you’re my new little sister!”

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“I love adventures!” says Josie the sport.  Eight hours on the road were worth it, both for the connecting time and the fall fest fun with friends!

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One more trip to bring Josie out of rehab for some family fun, this time for our annual gingerbread house decorating!

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This is how Josie got around our place before it was handicapped-accessible.  <grin>

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What do you think of your new room so far, my dear?

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One more reading of her favorite “new feet” story before we said one more goodbye.

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All those photos represent the joining of Josie’s story with ours, all taken before she moved here permanently, all now part of our shared history.

As we walk through the journey of life [I explain to Josie], sometimes we stop and turn around and look back at where we were.  That’s a good and healthy thing to do sometimes.  But not to get stuck there.  We look and remember, and then we turn around again to face forward and keep walking in the direction God is taking us.

 

Josie after church this morning with her trusty secret service agent, ha~

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Thank You, Father, for this first year with Josie.  You give the best gifts.

 

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He places the lonely in families: Carpenter girls before and after!

April 30th, 2016

Friends!  Thank you for loving the Lord and for loving Annie and the Carpenter family!  We are seeing Him answer prayer!  Please keep praying and sharing the following link about Annie’s urgent need:

https://www.youcaring.com/annie-556471  

 

“Wow…I am blown away by the goodness of the Lord but He loves Annie more than we do and He has heard her cries for a family…His Word says He places the lonely in families…”

~Stephanie Carpenter

 

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First, there was Sasha!  Many years ago, Brian and Stephanie went to Russia to adopt a healthy seventeen-month-old.  After they arrived home with her, they were told that she had cerebral palsy and would never walk.

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Did she ever prove the doctors wrong!  Today, she is a student at Bucknell University and an intrepid advocate for orphans, especially those with special needs who have been overlooked until they are aging out.

Brian has told his daughter Sasha countless times, “God rescued you for a purpose.”

 

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By the time God sent them for their next daughter, they were no longer afraid of the cerebral palsy diagnosis.  They brought home Ellianna from Taiwan as she was going on three years of age.

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Look at her now!  Meeting her challenges and exceeding expectations!

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Her two favorite things are visiting her big sister Sasha at Bucknell…

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…and gymnastics, in spite of the fact that she is profoundly deaf, non-verbal and can’t walk!

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When I first got to know Stephanie, she was the Bulgaria adoption specialist for the agency we used to adopt Katie.  She and Brian were heading to the Philippines this time, bringing home tiny four-year-old Avigayil who is profoundly affected by her severe cerebral palsy.  She came home with a feeding tube but learned to eat by mouth relatively quickly and no longer needs the tube.

 

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Avi is nine years old now and like an infant.  She has the saddest cry lip and the sweetest smile!  Stephanie usually brings her to our adoptive moms’ group for some mommy/Avi snuggling time!

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One night in the fall of 2011, after I returned from visiting Katie in the Pleven orphanage in Bulgaria, Stephanie was looking through photos of other children in Pleven who had been newly listed for adoption.  She looked at a tiny girl with a cerebral palsy diagnosis and knew she would be their next daughter.

Here is Angelina when she existed on the top floor in the bed across from Katie’s, one of the children God used to break my heart the previous spring and compel our family to begin praying for a way to help the rest of the children with special needs to be adopted.

 

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Lina came home from Pleven almost four years ago, about six months after Katie did.  She quickly bloomed into a happy girl who always has a mischievous twinkle in her eye!  What a happy reunion for Toni, who last held Lina when she was almost six years old and wearing six to nine month size baby clothes!

 

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God next sent Brian and Stephanie for two girls in Ukraine, both of whom had spent far too much time in a mental institution.  Brian and Stephanie fought so hard to bring these girls home!

Olyvia has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and is on the left with big sister Sasha.  Rachele has significant cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder and is on the right with Stephanie.   Olyvia was nine and a half and Rachele was six and a half when they came home two years ago.

 

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They have both flourished since coming home.  Olyvia is still profoundly affected by the institutional autism caused by the years of neglect she suffered, left to lie in bed all day.

 

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These children are all eight, nine, ten years old.  Is this still happening in our world today?  Oh yes it is, my friends!  Thank the Lord that many families like the Carpenters are answering His call to bring little ones like this home and loving them to life.

 

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It’s hard to believe this is the same girl as in the above photos!

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This photo of Lina and Olyvia was taken at Christmastime, very close to the time that Brian came down to lend us his expert painting skills!

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Rachele is also very impacted by her level of disability and years of institutionalization, but she has responded to her family’s love and care by growing an unbelievable fifteen inches since coming home two years ago at the age of six and a half!

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It is a privilege to witness the strong and determined love of this couple for each of their daughters, and their drive to minister to orphans with special needs.  Wondrous to behold their six girls, now in their own family, greatly beloved.  It’s also fantastic to see their outstanding supportive network of friends in action.  Truly the hands and feet of Jesus!

We love you, Carpenters, and are standing with you as you head to China for sweet Annie!

 

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Big sister Josie

April 29th, 2016

When I look at these photos…

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…I am overwhelmed with gratitude…

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…knowing what a privileged child Nathaniel is…

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…to grow up with Josie as his older sister.

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He will never know our family without Josie…

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…and that makes my heart so glad!

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