Saturday, March 21, 2020

3/21 is World Down Syndrome Day!

Today is World Down Syndrome Day! Celebrating this special need and these special children is nothing new to date we've given fifteen families our Say Yes - Downright Lovable grants and have over fifteen more to give this year alone. We featured Down syndrome adoption as the focus of our Orphan Sunday mission last November, and we're blessed to be part of a very special book project called "extraordinary."We're thankful for the chance to shine a light on Down syndrome and the extraordinary community who are known as "the lucky few."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stories of YES #42

Six years ago, the kids and I packed up the car and headed three hours north for a quick Spring Break getaway. About half an hour into our adventure, my cell phone rang. It was Beth from Holt, our adoption agency at the time. She had just come across a new file of a little boy, and she wanted to know if we were interested in taking a look. Beth mentioned that - out of all the families waiting for referrals - we were only one of a few families who are open to adopting a boy. Suffice it to say, that hit my heart.

We arrived at our destination a couple of hours later, and our dear relatives graciously allowed me to hop on their computer, so I could study his file and read all about this beautiful boy you see pictured. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I'm really tied in to signs and connections and all that divine stuff. Well, this child has my Grandpa's birthday of January 14th! He and I were very close while he was alive.

I could feel that my husband truly felt a sense of peace about this little boy. His medical needs seemed manageable, and we knew that we could give him the love and medical attention he needed. "Xiao Xiao" had just turned five, so that put him slightly out of birth order in our family, with little brother nine months behind.

The next day, we shuffled the necessary emails back and forth to submit our LOI to adopt "Xiao Xiao." We loved him already. It was March 19th, and we soon realized that it was the Feast Day of Saint Joseph, the earthly father to Jesus. I quickly found my yellow pad where I had been jotting down potential boy names the night before, and, to my amazement, guess what name topped the list? Joseph! But I had no idea - when I first wrote it - that it would be so meaningful the very next day!

Our Joseph has been home for almost six years now, and what an amazing boy he is! While I will admit that rough patches have been present with our son who spent so many years without us, we absolutely cannot imagine life without him, without our God-given YES to his adoption. God surely made a perfect match. And with our "twinned" brothers? They are Felix and Oscar. They are ying and yang. They are, without a doubt, meant to be together forever. We have been blessed by our yes.

- Lisa Murphy

Monday, February 24, 2020

Stories of YES #40

"Sometimes it’s hard to write about how good things are, especially when you’re a heart mom. Because it takes very little time, as the mother of a heart warrior, to know what it really means to hold that title. To connect with other moms who have worn similar paths around a hospital bed, or carried worry deep in their own hearts or fought from the trenches the trauma that comes to stay. To feel the loss of another mother’s child so deeply it can’t be put into words. But greater than fear and grief and even trauma, hope rises to the surface. It is an overwhelming presence in my tribe of heart moms. Of course, most of those heart moms are also adoptive moms, and we tend to be a scrappy hopeful bunch in the midst of some pretty challenging circumstances. And the battle cry that is always always always heard - even in the face of loss - is HOPE.
Heart moms (see, also, adoptive moms) are bold, tenacious (see scrappy), and their own kind of brave. They know how to tap into God’s ability to move mountains. One of my favorite things is their acknowledgement that life - even for one day - is a gift that we’d better make the most of. Their gratitude. Their ability to be real and transparent. Their commitment to finding light in the darkness. Their willingness to jump into a brutal race and pick someone up and carry them for a while. And someone is always awake in the middle of the night when prayers are needed!! Amen?
This wasn’t really the direction I intended to go when I sat down to write this, but it’s something I’ve needed to say because it’s been rough up in this village over these five years since I officially took up residence. Like, rough. And I’ll just be the one to say it’s hard to process being in the middle of your own hard when your tough days don’t even come close to someone else’s. Why are these stories of warriors and their families that battle alongside them written so very differently? Why do I get to wrap my arms around my girl at night, and others don’t? Ah. That’s where it circles back around to HOPE. Faithful trust in the One who writes the stories. Sometimes, excruciatingly painful trust. Trust in His answers we will one day receive. In the meantime, I don’t know one of us who would choose another path.
The metaphorical connection between our physical hearts and our emotional “hearts” is certainly not lost on me. As much as I’ve learned about the physical brokenness of congenital heart disease, I’ve learned even more about the emotional brokenness that can accompany it. With so much more to learn. I think, though, that the most valuable lesson in all of it so far is that brokenness is not weakness; in fact, it is just the opposite. Brokenness leaves behind scars, some seen, some not. Some scars are just plain ugly, but every scar represents strength. And “at the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength. Hope that it will get better, and strength to hold on until it does.” [unknown]

- Cindy Martens

{Cindy has just opened a really great shop called Dandelion Design House and she is selling her initial collection of designs to benefit orphan care. $10 of every purchase will come right over to Open Hearts for Orphans. Thank you for supporting her, and our organization.}

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Serving with HOPEful hearts...

We know the risks...
"They must be sized right or they do not work."
"They can be difficult to breathe through."
"They tend to give a false sense of security."
"They have proven to be ineffective against reduction in transmission."
These are risks we're still willing to take. Because we are "Open Hearts for Orphans," and we believe that THIS is where the rubber meets the road in orphan care. If just one life is saved from these efforts to protect against the coronavirus? Then the efforts are worth every cent. We hope you agree.
We've now sent over 1,500 n95 face masks, 10,000 nitrile gloves, funded an in-country purchase of 12,000 face masks for a partner NGO, and just yesterday agreed to a matching grant for another NGO to purchase thermoscan units, face masks, and disinfecting supplies for all of the orphanages in their province, despite price gouging and lack of availability in many areas.
These people are trying so very hard - for the sake of the orphaned children - to make sure the staff and the ayis stay healthy. They are a society living under quarantines and many in lock-down without any idea when this nightmare will be over for them. The people we work with there are putting the children first, and that is all we can ask for - that they stand in the gap for the most vulnerable, especially now...when the rubber meets the road. And we all serve with HOPEFUL hearts.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support of our mission and our urgent needs fund. Pray for China. 🙏

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Stories of YES #39 - Happy 12th birthday, Daniel

He'd be twelve years old today, this special boys of ours. It's been ten years now. TEN YEARS. An entire decade since meeting our son Daniel for the first time, and then laying him to eternal rest only four months later. I can't believe that's even possible for me to type into a sentence.

How blessed that we were able to spend a birthday with him at all.

February 2nd - so commonly known as "Groundhog Day" and in the similar way, every year the journey of love seeps in repeatedly through my Facebook memories feed...notes of safe travels and well wishes from family and friends, the journey to China - which seemed like it would take eternity in itself, the days leading up to meeting our son, and then the union of souls on Gotcha Day - January 24th, 2010. Praise you, Lord, for that gift.

If you're a believer, then you'll appreciate the signs of hope given to us through his life - the fact that our son's birthday - February 2nd - is also the the holy feast day of the Presentation of the Lord, concluding the celebrating of the Nativity, 40 days after Christmas. Every once in a while, it falls on a Sunday, and this day - 02022020 for our "Decade of Daniel", it did.

I don't have words to explain how he changed us so - this cherub of a boy with the brightest eyes, reddest lips, and sweetest voice. Our hearts multiplied in size from embracing him. And then our hearts were riddled with holes - 127 days later - from the shrapnel of grief. The Lord used His goodness to fill those holes, though, and it amazes us how so much has transpired in those ten years since Daniel climbed up to Heaven - three more adoptions in our family, a memoir leaving his permanent mark on the world through my own fingers, and then, a Holy Spirit-made ministry created to defend the countless orphaned and abandoned children in the world. The work of Open Hearts for Orphans keeps his precious spirit alive in this mama's heart.

Only one who's gone through child loss understands this overwhelming desire to move mountains in their memory, just to cling to them more. I have connected and prayed with so many of those grieving mamas since - one of those Mamas a lovely woman named Ann Bartlinski, whose beautiful daughter, Teresa, left such a mark on the world. So many of us from the adoption community and beyond prayed as she bravely fought through a heart transplant, and then we grieved collectively when Teresa left the world as we know it. There's an extra layer of pain for those who've walked the path; those who "get" the grief up close and personal; those who want nothing more than to comfort and console. In the past couple of years, God - through our Heavenly babies - united the two of us to serve the voiceless together, and now - ten years after meeting our boy and seeing him off to eternity, we were given the opportunity of absorbing another amazing non-profit called Little Hearts Medical - with a mission to mend the broken hearts of orphans and impoverished children, children like Daniel and Teresa. Seems like only the kind of thing that God would deliver as the greatest gift - to continue glorifying Him in memory of our little ones who blessed us so and all the other heart warriors we love so much up there.

I still think back to Daniel's adoption referral. We could have said "no" to that file. The mere thought crushes me...even with the unbearable weight of losing our boy in his physical body, the weight of never having loved him? Lord, that would surely crush me more.

My tears today are not tears of sadness - they are tears of sheer thankfulness.

Happy birthday in Heaven, Dan Dan. The world misses you, and we love you so.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Stories of YES #38

My husband and I have four healthy biological children - three boys and one girl. My pregnancies weren’t perfect and I lost two babies in between, but in the end we had little people that we adore.

When our daughter was getting close to two, I felt that unmistakable pull to have another baby, but my husband did not. I begged and pleaded, he still had no desire. God started talking to me about foster care during this time, so I started talking about foster care to my husband. After a while I at least got him to the place of “we can go to the first meeting.” At that meeting, he was absolutely broken by the statistics that were presented to us and agreed we could begin fostering. In our state, five children is maximum capacity, and we already had four at home, so we knew any placement would only be for one child. We started down the road of becoming certified foster parents.

It was a long road, and due to circumstances beyond our control the process ended up taking more than a year. After all of our fostering classes were done, we had to complete all the home safety inspections and meetings with a social worker for our home study. During that time, I was praying that God would give me peace about not physically having another baby. God has to have a wicked sense of humor, He answered my prayers with a flashing neon sign! While we waited to be officially approved to foster, I received an out of left field diagnosis of stage zero cervical cancer, and I was lucky since it was found very early. The doctor said a hysterectomy would give me the best outcome - full recovery with a minute chance of recurrence. Pretty sure my husband had the procedure scheduled before I could process the information! I had the hysterectomy and recovered before we were officially approved in late December of 2015. And I not-so-patiently waited till February before we got our first placement.

It was after two short-term placements when we got the call that changed our lives forever. “There is a newborn baby, a little boy in the hospital.....” That was really all I heard before the mama bear in me came to life. There was baby in the hospital that needed to be held and loved on, and I was chosen to do this. He fit in with our family from day one. We did visits with his biological parents and therapies to make sure he was meeting milestones. We would go to court not knowing what the outcome would be. His biological parents loved him and wanted to regain custody, but ultimately relinquished their rights to us after close to two years. His adoption became final a few months later.

This little boy that I didn’t physically carry within my body owns a piece of my heart the same as his siblings. Adoption changed us. It changed the way we look at the struggles people face. It changed the way our family looks at other families, and our hearts immeasurably grew when our youngest son came home from the hospital that day. I pray that more people will at least go to that informational meeting that is offered and listen to how almost every family can make a difference in the lives of children in their communities.

- Melissa Poplin

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Stories of YES #37

Yesterday my baby girl played alone in her room for a little while- (which never happens, she never wants to be alone ever again). When she came and found me in the next room she sat down quietly and said, “I made an orphanage mom. But in my orphanage there are enough nannies to take care of all the babies AND they love them.”

As a little girl, my world was small. There were no orphanages full of lonely babies longing to be touched and fed. There were no nights in the cold darkness listening to the loud shrieks and moans coming from all corners.

The utter feeling of being completely alone.

Some days the lives my girls lived before being placed in our arms smacks me square in the jaw. It’s there. The elephant in the room that you can never push out the door no matter how mightily you are willing to shove - and believe me, I’ve both wanted and tried.

So today I just closed the door, sat down, and softly cried for all things lost. For all things a “fixer” cannot - and was not meant to - fix. For the weight my girls carry in their hearts every single day. For orphanages full of lonely children longing to be loved. And for little girls silently hoping they will be. 

- Lisa Michelle