The Zoo Kids

The Zoo Kids
Finally Together

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 year later

Today marks one year with our Zoe Olivia...One year ago she became a Deavers and lost her orphan hard to believe its already been a year but also hard to believe its only been a year.  The picture above is our first photo.  You can see the reserved fear in her eyes.  That has been replaced by pure joy...she is now safe, trusting, attached, a sister, a daughter and a sweet blessing from GOd.

Zoe's name means life and it is so fitting....God knew what he was doing when he led us to name her Zoe.  She is so full of life!  WE've had several doctors look over her medical records and they have all come to the same conclusion..there is NO reason this little girl should still be alive.  Zoe was found abandoned at a train station as a baby.  A Chinese woman found her and cared for her as her own...until she began to get sick and had to be hospitalized.  She was dying in the hospital, no orphanage would take her, and a sweet British missionary team stepped up to the plate.  They took her into their home, gave her around the clock care for a year and 1/2 and nursed our girl back to health.  She got started on her needed, life saving meds and once she was healthy, she was transferred to a foster home where she spent her next 5 years until we came for her last year, today.  As far as Chinese orphans go...she was in the best possible scenario apart from a mom and dad to love her.  She was loved, fed, medicated, educated, taught and trained.  But her longing, her prayer every night was for a mommy and daddy of her own....and God answered the cry of her orphan heart and led us to her.

The picture above is our first day with Zoe in China.  She was full of nervous energy.  This girl has come SO far.  She came with a few English words but she is now fluent in English.  There is very little she doesn't understand.  She is reading on a first grade level and is slightly above that in math.  She has made friends, She loves to play and she is all girl!  Zoe had never been hugged or kissed which is a cultural difference and she now loves a hug and wants to be kissed on the head anytime I leave her or when she goes to bed at night.  She now says, "I love you" freely and without prompt.  She is stubborn but obedient.  She responds to discipline and correction so well.  She loves her sister and baby brother fiercely!  Her favorite memory over the last year she says is going to Disney World and seeing the Disney Princesses and she longs to go to the beach...shes seen the beach in pictures but never actually been....maybe next year!  She also wants to see snow...real snow...not sure that will happen in Lagrange GA!!  She wants to be a doctor when she grows up and she will surely make the best doctor after being the patient for so long.   She is learning about her heavenly father and reads the Bible that her Mimi and Grandaddy gave her often!

WE are so very thankful for everyone that helped us along the way on our journey to Zoe...she would not be here without generous friends and family that helped us get her home and the one family that gave us the confirmation that we were indeed supposed to bring Zoe home!  Thank you for everyone that has loved on her since she's been home, everyone that's helped provide for her needs from medical bills, to hand me downs to vacations to Christmas gifts...we are truly so grateful and you, my friends, are practicing "pure and faultless religion."

James 1:27  " Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Loving The Fatherless Without Adopting

How do you flesh out God's call to care for orphans and widows?  Adoption is obviously one major way and its near and dear to our hearts but as I said in the last post, not everyone is called to adopt but EVERYONE that claims to be a Christ follower IS called to DO SOMETHING!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

I am going to highlight some tangible ways people have loved on our family along with how orphan care has been lived out by friends of some adoptive families we know.  I will also list some organizations that are doing great work caring for orphans...orphan care can go in so many different directions and look different for everyone so this is definitely not a conclusive list!

Let me start by saying, none of our adopted kids would be here if it wasn't for the financial support of friends and family.  adoption is expensive...about $35,000 per child expensive with international adoption.  Most families don't have that kind of money sitting in a bank account.  We had many families come beside us to help fund our adoptions...they bought T-shirts, they organized fund raisers, they shared our blog posts to spread the word, they prayed us through and they gave and they gave and they gave.  Find families in your area that are in the process of bringing kids home, follow their blogs, buy t-shirts or other crafts they may be making to fund their adoptions, attend their bake sales, yard sales, and spaghetti dinners.  We have five families near and dear to our hearts in the adoption process that we would gladly connect you with!

Orphan care doesn't end on gotcha day!  Some of our greatest blessings have been from those that loved on us after we returned home.   You met us at the airport cheering us through, you drove us home, you helped with a major remodel project, you cleaned our house and helped decorate and paint our new kids' rooms, you stocked our pantry and brought us meals, you sent us emails and Facebook messages, and texts of encouragement.  You stood in the gap praying for us when we were sleep deprived and struggling through our new normal.  When families you know are returning home with their new kids, the adjustment process is huge!    Many families newly home do something called cocooning with their new kids.  That involves staying close to home with just the momma and daddy meeting the childs needs for awhile to promote attachment.  Many kids coming from orphanage environments have sensory overload very quickly and even a trip to target can throw them into a tailspin.  This can be a very lonely and isolating time for both the new parents and the biological kids.
Take that momma a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, offer to take the biological kids with your family to Chickfila, the movies, monkey joes, the mall or the water park.  Be a listening ear and love on the family from afar while respecting their boundaries with the newly adopted kids.

 There is so much you can do once the adopted kids are home as the financial impact isn't over after adoption but just beginning!  Many families take out loans or charge their airfare or hotel and in country costs to credit cards that can run in the thousands of dollars.  These need to be paid back once the families return home.  With special needs adoption, medical needs are immediate and costly.  With Mei, we hardly had time to recover from jet lag before we were having to have his feet amputated!  Just to give an idea of what that looks like in our family...God called us to adopt special needs kids after we already had for kids of or own.  Just in the months of August to November,  we've had about $10,000 in medical bills from our adopted kids alone.   We knew the cost of special needs kids would be great but just want to highlight our reality and the reality of every adoptive family with special needs children.  The blessing in bringing home special needs kids is so enormous that I'd pay their medical costs the rest of my life!    In order to make all their appointments happen, a good, reliable vehicle is needed.  We are currently praying for an 8 passenger van, but every family is different, know their needs and help meet them.  Some families need handicapped accessible vehicles.   We've been greatly blessed by medical services offered at a discounted cost.   From our eye Dr to our orthodontist (we aren't paying a dime for Sheltons braces), to our dentist (Traceys dental work was done for free), to our pediatrician to the OBGYN here in town thats offered free appointments.   Give gas cards to adoptive families...gas is a huge expense with all the medical appointments!

One of the biggest things we've heard happen for adoptive families was a blog fried in Missouri that had their mortgage paid in full...that is huge and rare but there are so many other things you can do.  Offer to pay a months rent or mortgage payment at key times in the year, offer painting services, remodeling, plumbing, electrical services at a discount.  Build a wheelchair ramp,

The list could go on and on and on...obviously groceries are never-ending.  In families bringing home babies diapers, wipes, formula are always needed., Families with multiple kids can always use gift cards for restaurants, movies, bowling, or any fun places for family time.

God has placed some amazing, orphan minded, giving people in our circle and here are some Tangible ways we've been helped post adoption:

  • Help with Christmas gifts... we love to bless our kids as much as the next family but with medical costs, that can be tough.  

  • A summer vacation...we were given a week last summer at an amazing resort along with Disney tickets for our entire family.  It was a vacation we would never have afforded and it allowed our entire family to go make precious memories together.  

  • while adopting Zoe and Eli, our medical costs with Mei were so high from surgeries and legs that we were struggling to save for adoption, we received a generous gift to help with those costs

  • hand me simple but huge for our kids!

  • gift cards for groceries and restaurants...our kids love to eat out and go to the movies but for a family of 9, its very expensive!  Chick Fil A is one of their favorites and they all received gift cards one year and loved it!

  • obviously the remodel project mentioned above was amazing!!!!

  • meals, having our pantry stocked

  • babysitting

  • tutoring

  • we had someone make a bunk bed for our boys and someone give us furniture for Mei

  • playdates, loving on our kids...biological and adopted


There are some amazing organizations that do great good in the orphan care world...just to highlight a few:

  • Compassion International...these are not all orphans but are all poor and needy.  let the family come together and choose a child to support monthly.

  • Operation Christmas Child...again this isn't just orphans but poor and needy.  It takes about $20 to pack a shoebox.

  • Our adoption agency Lifeline has several ministries to orphans.  One is called Unadopted and they support unadoptable orphans.  Lifeline also sends medical teams into orphanages so thats another great way to get involved.  

  • Start an orphan care ministry at your church, start a scholarship program for adopting families.  check out Show Hope or

  • With Christmas coming, buy your goods fair trade or buy from someone selling items that benefit orphan care.  
  • If you are local, lagrange people, there is an organization here called Foster to Adopt, Troup County.  Check it out...there are many ways you can get involved.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Orphan Encounter..

On the heels of orphan Sunday and with all the adoption stories/pictures/blogs floating around the internet during this month...Adoption Awareness Month...and all the questions that have been asked from friends and teachers and church members and random people that we run into at the grocery store that have encountered my kids...a blog post was birthed.  I have had numerous  people asking questions about adoption and orphan care but one question I keep hearing asked in a multitude of ways is this..."I feel great compassion toward the orphan and have a great burden to do something...I just don't know what that something looks like.   How did you know God was calling you to adopt?  What else can we do besides adoption to love orphans and answer the call of God to care for them?"

Our call to adoption began early in our marriage.  We always knew in the backs of our minds that we would adopt someday.  we always thought that would be a baby girl from China.  We didn't know about the orphan crisis or the condition of orphanages back then.  I'm not sure we knew anyone even adopting from China then, it was just on our hearts.  As we began having biological kids, the idea of adoption was further and further from our minds.   We thought we were done after Shelton.  We had our boy and girl.  About a year after getting a 99.9% proof IUD, i found out I was pregnant with Caleb.  It was then that we realized we weren't in control of our family size.  Briena came along four years later and then we were really done....but God wasn't done.  We moved a few times and ended up in Cochran Georgia with Tracey working as a campus minister for the Ga Baptist convention.    I remember clear as day Christmas shopping for our sweet kiddos after celebrating Thanksgiving with Traceys family in 2008.  Tracey and I were walking into Target and we walked past a little boy with down syndrome walking out of target with his mom.  Tracey and I looked at each other and simultaneously said...when are we going to look into adoption?

 God used that moment to bring to the surface a burden he'd placed on our hearts years before.  Soon after that, Tracey was attending a campus ministers retreat and learned of an opportunity to go to China leading a team of college students.  he texted me to ask if id mind him going to China for a month in the summer of 2009.  I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and said, 'GO".  Before Tracey left, wed started talking more about adoption and specifically special needs adoption.  We didn't know what that looked like but knew God had given us 4 beautiful, healthy kids.  Tracey met Mei in China while volunteering at an orphanage and fell madly in love.  He saw the horrific conditions in which Mei was living....the conditions many orphans around the world face daily.  He was burdened, he was wrecked, he was changed.  once you go, once you see, once you put a face to and a name on the "orphan", its never the same.  Tracey came home and began talking about Mei and his desire to make him ours.  (you can read back through our blog to see all the mountains God moved to make that happen!)  This was where we had to answer Gods call or miss out on His blessing.  Tracey had an easier time saying, 'lets roll" than I did.  We weren't adopting because we couldn't have kids of own, we obviously had no problems with that.  God wasn't leading us because we had a bunch of money laying around to use...we had precious little extra but what little we had was being saved for a kitchen remodel project.  (That money went instead toward Meis adoption and that remodel never happened.)  God wasn't urging us because we were great parents or because we were super organized or because we had it all together.  He wasn't calling us because we knew all about Meis special need.  When Tracey came home from China he couldn't even remember what Meis special needs were...he thought he was missing a couple fingers and toes:).  He fell in love with Meis heart!  These were all my excuses as we fleshed out Gods calling to adopt, we had 4 kids already, how could we possibly handle another, especially one with special needs.  Adoption is expensive and I selfishly wanted my new kitchen!  We were just normal people trying to balance four kids...why would God be asking us to adopt?  It was at the Catalyst conference in 2009 that God finally squashed all my excuses and that i said "yes" without hesitation.  God then began to provide financially for us to bring Mei home.

Thats what our calling looked like but its different for everyone.  I don't think everyone is called to adopt but I do think that God has pressed adoption on the hearts of many that like me, have many excuses and are afraid to say "yes."  Your family may not understand. your friends may think you are crazy.  It probably won't make sense in the worlds eyes when your money is going to adoption costs and medical bills, therapy, groceries, food, clothes, ext rather than living out the American dream...but let me tell you, you will never be more blessed, more changed,  have your lives and hearts more wrecked in every good way!

stay tuned for the next blog post....Loving The Fatherless Without Adopting