I’m Pretty Sure My China Mommy Cried

As an adoptive parent, I sometimes forget that my adopted children had a life before me… that their life did not start when we met in a Chinese Civil Affairs building.

The following essay was written last year by my 9 year old daughter, Mia, as part of a class assignment on “A Place I would like to visit.” It is a poignant reminder of how little I know about the first two years of Mia’s life. It also reminds me not to assume that my lack of answers makes the questions any less important. In many ways, maybe the opposite is true.

With Mia’s permission, I share it today hoping that it will spark important conversations at your house like it has here in ours.


It was spring in Feng Cheng City, China, when I was born. My tummy mommy had to leave me in a basket on the sidewalk, but we don’t know why. I’m pretty sure she cried.

She left a note, and it said, “April 1, 2005, by biological mother.” She had very nice handwriting.

A policeman found me and took me to an orphanage where I would stay. They named me Chu Chu, which is a princess name in China. I don’t know what my China mommy called me, but I’m thinking it was a beautiful name too. I stayed in the orphanage about two years, and I’m sad about that.

A husband and a wife named Mike and Anne came to adopt me in China right before I turned two years old.

One day during the adoption trip, we went to a fancy Chinese restaurant, and a funny thing happened! After we ate, they brought a big plate of watermelon for dessert. My mom and dad gave me one piece, and I ate it all. Then they gave me another one, and I ate it, too. I probably ate about forty pieces of watermelon! All of the restaurant people came around our table to see how much watermelon I could eat. I still like XiGua (shee-gua) (watermelon) today!

When I came home, everyone greeted me, and we are a very happy family.

I still have a lot of feelings about Feng Cheng City, and a lot of my feelings are questions. I wonder what it looks like there now? I wonder if anything has changed since I left? I wonder if they kept my baby stuff? I wonder if the people are kind there? Do they know about Jesus? I wonder if I have any brothers and sisters there? What do my Chinese mother and father look like? I feel sad because most kids know what their first parents look like, but I am happy for them. Sometimes I cry about my Chinese family, and sometimes alone in the backyard I sing songs to them; maybe it’s a song she sang to me when I was a baby.

If I was going to send a note to my China mommy, this is what it would say, “Dear China mommy: what is your name? I miss you. I want to know where you are? Why did you have to leave me? I would like to tell you what I can do now! I can sing, dance, read, and I have other talents, too! I hope someday you can come to where I live and stay with me. What is the real name you gave me?

Don’t worry, I have a nice family. I hope you do, too. Love, your daughter Mia.”


Maybe I will eat some more watermelon when I go back to Feng Cheng city someday, and maybe I will hear my China mommy sing our song so I’ll know which one she is.

Someday I would really like to go to Feng Cheng City again.

The Fruits of Attachment Labor

While we were waiting to bring Sunshine home back in 2010 and 2011, I learned as much as I could about fostering attachment. I tried to memorize all of the attachment advice. Build trust by meeting needs quickly, check. Be the only ones to meet all of her needs, check. Love unconditionally, check. Don’t let other people hold her, check. Wear her for as long as she’ll let me, check. Cocoon for a few months after coming home, check. The list goes on, but those were the ones that stuck in my head. The ones I repeated over and over.

Sounds easy enough, I suppose. Except, it wasn’t.

I prayed a lot and became very close to God during that time. Sometimes I got the attachment thing right, but I failed miserably many other times. Occasionally, I felt isolated because most of our friends didn’t understand. Many of our extended family didn’t understand either. Sunshine appeared “fine,” so I’m pretty sure a few of them thought I was being a controlling crazy person. It’s hard to put into words how much I desperately wanted to protect the bond with her! I should have done a better job the attachment theories back then though. Maybe it would have made more sense to everyone else. I had only a few friends to lean on for support in those firstmonths home. I relied on them and my husband heavily, and we pushed forward.

Fortunately, attachment came easily for Sunshine. I think her strength and bravery, coupled with the year with her foster mother really helped her thrive. I didn’t fully realize it then, but it was such a blessing! Over time, attachment became less of a concern as our precious girl blossomed into the child God created her to be. We became less about attachment based on her cues, but I always remained protective.

Hence the reason it took a year and a half before I was ready to leave her in the church nursery.

Fast forward to this past week. Over three years home with us. It was a big week of firsts. First Mandarin lesson with a new teacher. First day of homeschool co-op with a new tutor. First day of Community Bible Study (CBS) with another new teacher. First day on the IEP with a new speech-language pathologist. That’s a lot of firsts, even for an adult!

And you know what? She rocked it. Every single new adventure I threw at her.

Rocked all of it. When I picked her each time, she was beaming with a smile that cleared showed how happy she was. She has been asking for “dat Chinese wady” since her lesson. She has been singing the new songs she learned in co-op. And she said the only thing she didn’t like at CBS was “da bwocks” … I’ll call all of that a big win.

I couldn’t have been anymore proud of her, she tackled it all so beautifully.

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As I reflected on Sunshine’s successes this week, I thought back to those first few months home. The intentional attachment parenting was worth it. Every bit of it. To see her effortlessly thriving in so many new environments is absolutely priceless. I have a smile on my face just thinking about how well she did. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel on some days, but the fruits of all that attachment labor are paying off in such big ways.

No Boys?

That’s what we were saying back in 2006. We had 4 biological sons and felt like that was a good number. We had one daughter and felt like the Lord had perfectly planned it… we needed more girls! I had always dreamed of a sister for Katie. Of course not one that was 20 years younger but whatever!

We had heard about China’s one child policy and how every family in rural China wanted and needed a son. We read about all the little girls in the orphanages and our hearts ached. So we set off adopting our daughters!

The boys were desired and preferred in the Chinese culture. The little boys were not in the orphanages. They were not waiting for families. They were with their families, so we thought.

I am sure you have heard of the saying- “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans!”

As the years went by we started to see pictures of waiting boys. We learned that a boy with a disability was unacceptable to many families in China. They considered the child cursed, they could not work as hard as they needed to for their elderly parents and the family was unable to financially pay for what ever medical care the disabled son needed.

Our previous decision began to not make sense to us but we still proceeded with the plan.

And then God spoke to me…

As I was looking at a picture of an adorable little boy with a very serious and complicated heart issue the Lord said to me, “He is your son”.
WHAT God? What did you say? Really? How? We said, no boys, how can he be our son?

This little boy wasn’t even paper ready to be adopted. You cannot preplan an adoption of a child that is not paper ready.

When hubby came home from work he looked at me and said “What happened?”
He could see by the look on my face something big had happened. When I shared with him what God had said hubby’s response was an immediate “yes.” Now, that was a yes to God because we had no control over this little boy being ours or not. We believed what happened, we trusted God with the whole situation but we had no idea how or when this was going to happen.

Because of this little boy’s heart we were able to find out that he was going to have surgery before being paper ready.
Of course, if you’re going to adopt one boy you may want to adopt another boy because they like to wrestle and have fun like little puppy dogs! At least that is what we figured after having 4 older sons!

This is how God opened the doors and brought our boys home!
Sam came home in April 2011
Luke (the one the Lord spoke to me about) came home in December of 2011
Ben and Joey came home in December 2013 and now our next little guy will come home in early spring 2015.


Our boys are so precious to us! They adore us and I love that about them! The bonding has been very easy.



So many boys are waiting because they are… boys. Please consider bringing one of these treasures home! We can’t imagine our lives without them! Every day they bless us!


Brave New World

She’s living her childhood dream. I can still hear her squeaky little 3-year-old voice saying, “I do! I do! I do!” It’s been her mantra really over the years. And, now, it’s her turn. She’s finally part of the club whose membership card is a backpack. She’s a school girl.

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While her brothers and sister are way past the honeymoon phase, she’s still got hearts in her eyes and butterflies of excitement about the new career before her. It’s good. We all know the “Hello Neighbor” song, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is dinner conversation, and the Promethean Board is mind boggling.

While she’s in Mrs. Nowak’s class, her mommy and daddy have been doing their own studying. We’ve been learning a few things ourselves. She still needs us; she still needs me, maybe even more now than just a few weeks ago when kindergarten was still a dream and we were always within reach of each other.

All kids have questions before their first day of school. But, her questions weren’t about snack time, recess, or homework.

Mommy, are you going to miss me when I’m in school?
Oh, yes, my dear. I’m going to miss you so so much.

Are you going to cry a thousand tears?
I might just cry a thousand tears until you come home then I’ll be so happy again.

She giggled, content with the thought of leaving me brokenhearted without her. And, I’m okay with that because she should know she’s worth that, that she’s so special, so significant, so desirable and so beloved that she’s worth crying a thousand tears just because she’s not in my sight and by my side.

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Everyday I stand at the busy stop and wait with her with my China Starbucks mug in hand. We chat while we wait about the old man wearing pajama pants walking down the street with a newspaper every morning, the ladybug she spotted on the ground, or the truck passing by whose engine is too loud. My feet stay planted on that corner until the bus full of little people barely tall enough to see out the windows is out of sight. She watches me watching her and waves back with a quiet confidence in her eyes as she leaves me rather than the other way around.

When her day is over and that bus brings her back, there I stand, waiting, as if that’s all I’ve done since she left me hours earlier. And, then she welcomes me into her new world, telling me all about her friends and her teacher with a sense of pride over her new independence, an independence she wants me to share. I make listening noises and ask follow-up questions, explaining how I wish I could have seen that video or that new book and how I can’t wait to meet that new friend maybe one day. I take the open door and enter in.

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When she’s all done (at least for now), she takes a deep breath as if her next move will be loosening her neck tie after a long hard day of work. And then she comes back into our world, the world where she doesn’t need to know what sound W makes, where she can be dependent again, where I’m her mommy and she’s my baby, where she can drink out of a bottle without any judgment and act the age she feels instead of the age she is.

We worked hard to give her that world and keep her close, knowing that it was the best way to love her for now and love her forward, the best way to prepare her for her forever. For now, we’ll just live right where we are, in two worlds where little girls can be babies and backpack-carrying school girls with mommies who wait at a bus stop all day long with tissues to dry tears…and Starbucks in hand.

Ready or Not…Kindergarten, Here I Come

I’m no novice when it comes to parenting. And I’m definitely not a novice when it comes to sending my kids off to Kindergarten. But this year, there was something different about the three times I’d done it previously. This time it was my China babies.


Nothing could have fully prepared me for the first day of school. Walking up to the entrance with butterflies in my tummy reminded me of the days I had walked the entrance to the Civil Affairs buildings in their respective provinces with the same crazy nerves. But instead of wondering whether they would accept me or if I was going to be completely overwhelmed by the newest addition to our family, I was nervous for them.

All of our children are precious. But my little ones from hard places have a whole lot more to overcome than my biological kids do. Their appearance is different from that of their classmates. Their family is more conspicuous than average. They’ve got scars…both physical and emotional…that display to the world that their path has not been an easy one. We’ve learned to adapt at home, making the effects of early childhood trauma a part of our new normal that hardly gets a second thought. School is different though. The new “friends” with stories oh so different from the ones my babies tell. It’s hard on a mama’s heart to begin introducing them to the big world.

Yet when I think of what they’ve already overcome, I know they’ll be their own little Kindergarten success stories. Not everyone can lose their birth family, survive in an institution, leave their home country, learn a new language, deal with doctor visits and surgeries on a regular basis and still have the best giggles on the planet. But mine did…and do. Besides, now they’ve got something they haven’t had during so many of the other challenges they’ve faced: A mama who loves them with her whole heart and will fight to her last breath for them. A mama who waits rather impatiently for the final ring of the bell, when her life is filled once again with those smiles and the accompanying stories of their day. I still can’t believe they’re mine, and that I get to walk through all these experiences with them. Savor their joys, cry my own tears over their hurts. It’s one of the greatest honors of my life.

In the Miry Clay

I was thinking about parents in the adoption trenches today, those stuck down deep in the mud – you know who you are and this one’s for you.  I have had a little time in the trenches, not nearly as much as some of you, but I know that when you are in the muddy pit of it all, you are just surviving.  Just getting by.  Doing good to prepare a meal and get a load of laundry done without feeling like your lungs are caving in.

I am not in the trenches right now but can easily recall being there, that there was so much I wanted to read or view about behavior and attachment and other adoption related topics.  But in the trenches you are tired and weary and it gets put on the back burner.  Put there not out of lack of desire, but a need to sleep or just feel normal when the house gets quiet.  So, I am viewing a DVD series for you – over four hours long – and giving you the highlights by chapter so you can journey from there or know exactly what pit stop to visit quickly for a rest when you catch a spare moment to try to exhale.

TCU’s Institute of Child Development has a wonderful DVD series called Trust – Based Parenting: Creating Lasting Changes in Your Child’s Behavior.  Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross span many topics relating to behavior in “children from hard places.”  The hurdles that these children must jump range from fear, pain, rage, sadness, violence, helplessness and hopelessness.  It is an overwhelming set of hurdles for both parent and child.  For those in the trenches and for those considering the possibility of jumping in…I hope this helps.

Chapter 1:

  • Acknowledge your pain and disappointment – It is ok to grieve that your “gotcha moment” looked like trauma instead of a Hallmark card.  That your evenings that were once spent with a routine of family dinners, bathtime and stories are now a war zone.  It is ok that you love this child but don’t like this child at the moment.  You can forgive yourself.  This is not what you planned for or hoped for and to acknowledge your grief and loss is the first step to healing.
  • Fresh eyes of empathy – It is very likely that most of the chaos in the behavior of your child had access and an entry point long before you ever signed your first document to bring him or her home.  The trauma existed previously and it is the fear and pain of that trauma that drives the behavior.  While terribly disappointing, this is the state of their existence.  It is all these children have known.
  • Neglect and abuse impair development – There is a change in the neurotransmitters responsible for sending chemical messages to the rest of the child’s body.  Everything from physical response such as heartbeat, to mood, memory and coping mechanisms can be affected.  The brain is altered in development and the neglect, abuse and abandonment can cripple the ability to grow and think clearly.  When there is a lack of attachment in the very early years for a child, when that soft “sensory bath” that mothers and fathers give a child is missing, it can literally reorganize a nervous system.  While that is overwhelming in and of itself, the good news is, it isn’t about bad behavior.  When a small baby is not cared for, he can lose his voice – his cry doesn’t matter or produce results.  The synaptic connections literally change and a child learns to fight, flight, manipulate, control or just plain check out.
  • Control and manipulation are strategies to survive.  Deep fear triggers a deep need for control.  It isn’t about infuriating you.  It is about safety.
  • Traditional discipline can be counterproductive.  New strategies are needed to coach and retrain.
  • As parents we need to look with compassion and new eyes but still deal with the issues that cannot be ignored.  The behavior has to change but we must look past the behavior into the child’s heart.  When this happens, the emotional bond changes too.

Chapter 2:

  • It is all about a power struggle.  If the initial damage was done to the child in the context of relationship (or lack of relationship) then it must be healed in the context of relationship.  That is based on trust.  When a child is asked and taught to give up unhealthy strategies, trust is foundational to change.
  • There is no quick fix.   This is a marathon, not a sprint.  There is a level of engagement beyond normal parenting.  It is exhausting work.  As parents we have to drop the idea that we “rescued” these children and it is smooth (and appreciative) sailing from then on.  The rescuing was easy.  The parenting is when it gets challenging.  Lots and lots of repetition.
  • As parents we must come to terms with our own historyOur ability to be emotionally present is the greatest predictor of the child’s outcome.  We must honestly access our own history and unresolved issues so that our emotions are in check.  We have to be thoughtful, deliberate and mindful.  This is impossible when our own baggage has not been dealt with.  We can become triggered and the chaos intensifies.  “You can only take a child where you have been yourself.”
  • Create a support system.  Ask for help and ask from people who “get it.”  Find those who will be compassionate and understanding.   Love is not enough here – find those who understand adoption and attachment and everything in between.  Do not stay closed up at home – healing cannot come in isolation.

I have two favorite parts of these two chapters.  These are my thoughts now, not those of TCU’s Child Development Department – although they are rock stars in my opinion (Imagine Karen Purvis as a rock star – guitar slinging leather wearing as if she were the third member of Heart.  No matter what kind of day you’ve had, it just got better!). It is a freeing thing to know that some of the issues that you may be in the pit with, are scientifically the result of damage.  Neurotransmitter synaptic connector damage.  And it can affect everything.

A disclaimer – I have a surgeon husband who can look inside the human body and say without doubt, “There is a God and He is good.”  Design like that is extraordinary and certainly not accidental.  I have a degree that spans fine art therapies for at risk children.  I remember sitting through many lectures thinking, “That is God’s science – He should get credit.”  OR, “That is a counterfeit way of doing things – it is better with God.”  So, I am fascinated by the science of trauma and all of its intricacies in the brain.  Equally fascinated with the truth that for every interrupted transmitter, there is a “science” in the hand of God to heal.  It is how He works – He doesn’t leave his own without a way out, without a lamp to guide or a broad place to stand in when all they’ve known is “backed in the corner.”  The truth that safe and loving attachment can “rewire” is a beautiful thing.  It looks just like God – I remember what it felt to be distant from Him and how it feels up close now.  It is Holy.  It is His.

The holy healing isn’t just for our sweet ones who now have a forever family.  I love that Dr. Purvis advocates for parental healing too.  To know that my child can only go where I’ve been is a motivating statement.  There are places to pursue healing – adoption counseling, trusted friends in real conversation over coffee and tears, and ministries devoted to this very act of healing from the inside out – there is hope and it’s a comfort to be reminded that it is available and does not disappoint.

So, if you’re in the trenches, I hope this reads like a little bit of light shining in a dark place.  What would take hours to watch is now available in my cliff notes, just for you.  I always feel guilty in the trenches – like I should be doing more to make it better or fix it.  So check that box tonight that you did something proactive and peel off guilt and leave it in the trench as you take baby steps out.  You are not alone. 


Two Septembers

He sauntered into the room
While our hearts were beating fast,
The papers had been signed
No longer an orphan, a son at last.


A grin stretched wide
Across his adorable face,
Straight to his daddy’s lap
A picture of grace.


We played, we laughed
We shed a few tears,
But he? He just giggled
Sensing no need to fear.


Lunch time upon us
We watched as he ate,
A steaming, mushy porridge
Just like every orphanage day.


Two hours flew by
They said we must leave,
“Come back tomorrow”
But oh, how he’d grieve.


Morning dawned in Bangkok
Time to visit Joel again,
Today our son could leave with us
Both he and that gorgeous grin.

Three short years later
A new son on the way,
To Henan, China we’d go
For another September “Gotcha Day.”

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Tired and timid
Soaking wet and scared,
Gabe came to this mama
Wearing a sad, serious stare.

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He held it together
So brave when just then,
We pulled out some bubbles
And he gave us a grin.

Grins led to belly laughs
And huge smiles galore,
It barely seemed possible
To ever love him more.

But adore them we have
Each and every single day,
Both beautiful, chosen sons
Learning to walk in God’s way.

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Nearly 18 married Septembers
Blessed with four children since,
Among them our Thai Tornado
And our adorable China Prince.

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Sometimes Love Is War

She’s been clawing – literally, until I cut her fingernails – at my legs all day long. Whining and whimpering and the hours go so slow I sometimes wonder if the clock is moving at all. Cora entertains herself, like she does almost every day lately, and I squelch the feelings that I’m letting her down… that I’m not present enough for her… that I’m not putting together Pinterest-worthy craft projects to help her grow and learn and get ahead of the curve.

I stare at the dishes in the sink and the laundry in the hamper and the spilled juice on the floor. I vow to finish cleaning the kitchen even if I have to pry Alea off me 1,000 more times. I know the saying about letting the dishes pile and the laundry stay unfolded because babies don’t keep. Believe me, I feel guilt for this too. But I can’t breathe in a cluttered house and it seems like the only time she isn’t fussing is if I’m either holding her or not present to pick her up. I look at the clock again and calculate how many minutes are left until naptime. 3 hours. 180 minutes. It feels like the first time I’ve used my brain all day. The whining cuts through my thoughts again.

“Alea! You’re OK!” I bark the words, cringing at the harshness ringing the edges even as they come spilling out. Alea is unphased, and her fussing continues unabated, but Cora pipes up.

“Mama, be nice.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just feel a little tired because Alea has been fussing all day long.” I sigh, feeling like a failure again. The critical voice inside pipes up, “Actually it’s been 4 months of fussing, but what does that matter… who speaks sharply to a baby who is going through the greatest trauma and transition of her life?!”

“Did you make a bad choice, Mama?”

“Yes, Cora, I made a bad choice. I need to use kind words, don’t I?”

“Yes Mama, but it’s ok. You can try again.”

I look at the clock. 175 minutes till naptime. I try again.


I often find myself looking forward to a year down the road. When she’s not so frustrated by her lack of communication. When our heart bond is deeper and stronger and wider and we both have more grace for each other. When she feels more secure and doesn’t need to be held for 8 of the 10 hours a day she’s awake.

And, if I’m being honest, I often find myself looking backward, too… to our years in China when orphan care was more exotic and garnered more attention (Yes, I just said that. Yuck.) and seemed more meaningful because it was happening “on the ground” and with actual orphans. I remember those hot Beijing (pre-children) summer nights when Jacob and I would get on our little red scooter and explore the villages around our home, watching them harvest the wheat by hand and lay the corn down to dry on the road. I can still hear the cicadas thick in the trees, buzzing over the roar of the scooter’s engine. I’d listen to worship music on headphones and spread my arms wide and marvel at how I’d ended up in such a place at such a time. I can still feel the breeze.

But I pull myself back to the now and the here. The dishes and the unmoving clock and the two little girls at my feet. Here and now. I know it’s where I find my Emmanuel. He is with me now and here, even if it sometimes feels like nowhere. Even if the beautiful everyday more often feels like the boring mundane. I’m not sure how to be fully present in this season that I often find so tedious and draining and challenging. I’m not sure how to be fully available for these little girls who have been entrusted to me… but I know it is the task He has called me to for this season of life, and I trust that somehow He equips me every day for what He has called me to. I try again.


The doorbell rings and the dog barks and Alea jumps out of her skin and starts screaming again. A woman stands at my door holding a package, and as she apprises the meltdown happening in my living room, she smiles and says, “No need to sign; I’ll just mark it as left on the porch.” I nod my thanks and balance the box on one hip and a baby on the other. Cora runs for her scissors and descends on the package, excited to see what it contains.

“Who’s it from, Mama?” she asks.

I glance at the address. “It’s from Sammy’s family.”

We get the box open and she begins pulling out packages of Chinese noodles and hot pot spice mix and bottles of Chinese cooking wine and black vinegar. There’s a note saying that Sammy and our friend Joy wanted to help us find some of the Chinese cooking ingredients that can be hard to locate in our small West Texas town. Cora finds a prettily wrapped package for herself, and I pull the card out. The handwriting is neat and precise. It’s from Sammy… I read the note and tears well and the words blur. He calls us his heroes and thanks us for the role we played in helping his family find him. As I read the last line, I don’t contain the tears anymore. “Without you guys there won’t be a Sammy S. in this world.”

And just like that, I hear His voice deep in my heart.

“Without your yes, there wouldn’t be an Alea M. in this world.”


I don’t want Sammy to give us too much credit. God sets the lonely in families, not us. And I neither expect nor want Alea to “appreciate” the fact that we adopted her someday. She is my daughter, plain and simple. Children don’t owe parents a debt of gratitude for doing what parents are supposed to do. So please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying and think that the reason we adopted a child was an extension of our heart for “orphan care,” or that we’re looking forward to the day when Alea can express her thankfulness to us.

What I am saying is that this stage of grafting a child into your family… these early weeks and months when their worlds are still topsy-turvy and their hearts are still unwon… this stage is HARD AS HELL. Of course I think she is adorable and sweet and cute as can be, but rooting her deep into my mama heart is hard work. It feels more like pruning than growing at this point. And pruning hurts.

In my experience, the process of making an orphan your child doesn’t allow for much of a blissful baby-moon. It is part orphan-care, part baby-sitting, part mothering, part trauma-therapist, and ALL-consuming. When I hear people say things like, “Well I’d rather adopt a toddler than have a baby and have to do the newborn stage again,” I feel like screaming. This is so much harder than having a newborn! I’m in a fight for her heart, and to be honest, I’m in a fight for my own too.

But sometimes Love is War.

And I’m going to keep fighting to give Alea her rightful full place in my heart. I’m going to keep fighting to give her the chance for full healing and restoration and redemption that she deserves; it’s her birthright as a daughter of the King. I’m going to keep fighting until the dark shadows of her orphan spirit are gone and she is secure in her identity as my dearly loved daughter, Alea M.

Love is War and she is worth fighting for.

You may be in a battle, too. And if you’re like me, you often feel exhausted, hopeless and like you are drowning in triviality (and perhaps dishes, diapers, and disorder). But I think I have a plan. It’s impossibly simple, really. We try again. We don’t necessarily have to try harder – striving rarely gets us anywhere. But we do pick ourselves up, try again, and keep saying yes to love. And I don’t mean fluffy-feel-good, everything is beautiful love. I mean the hard stuff. The kind of love that dies to self and puts others first… And I’m the first to admit that sometimes the hardest “other” for me to put first is the little one clawing at my legs.

We keep saying yes to love. That’s how we win this war.

I see glimpses of the girl she will become… the woman she will be someday. I see the spark of life in her eyes, growing in trust and love and hope. But Alea is still becoming Alea, and she still needs me to say yes.

Without my yes, there would be no Alea McKean.

I’m going to keep saying yes. When I fail, I’m going to try again. I’m going to stay in the battle, because Love is War and she is worth fighting for.


Who needs your yes? I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to pray for you as you keep saying yes. If you don’t mind, take a moment and fill in the blank. “Without my yes, there would be no _____.” Saying YES is hard, but I can pray for you and you can pray for me and maybe together we will feel more brave.



one-of-a-kind opportunity through Lifeline

From Lifeline:

Lifeline Children’s Services is excited to announce that we will be hosting twelve children from Kunming City, China as part of our first ever hosting program! The hosting program, “Southern Hospitality 2014”, will be held in Hattiesburg, MS on October 12-26, 2014.

southern hospitality

We are inviting families to join us in Hattiesburg to help us make “Southern Hospitality” a memorable experience for the children. The children, with ages ranging from six to thirteen years old, will be staying all together in one hosting home with translators and a representative from the orphanage. Families will be visiting with all of the children in the home, learning about them and their culture, and participating in activities throughout the week. Families will also have the opportunity to meet with a representative from the Kunming orphanage and interact with the Lifeline China team. As a part of the hosting program, the children will also be seen by a medical doctor associated with the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham, AL.

Our goal in this endeavor is to shower these children with love, introduce them to the culture of the southern United States, and provide them with some unique experiences. This event is also an important element in our on-going development of our orphanage partnerships in China. Through our partnership orphanages we are able to serve the children of China, both adoptable and unadoptable, orphanage staff, directors, and government officials. We are grateful to be able to participate in an opportunity such as this one. Please join us in making this an unforgettable and life-changing experience for these precious children!

For more information, please visit our website HERE.

Fault Lines

It takes an earthquake to remind us that we walk on the crust 
of an unfinished earth. ~ Charles Kuralt

At some point in my heart, you became just our little girl. You moved from orphan with a file, to a longed for daughter, to newly adopted, to just a loved girl with an incredible, unfinished redemption story.

Liu Wu Sha3

But there was a time….

when your world looked monumentally different

when your infant eyes peered into the face of another mother

when your world cracked open, a giant fault line forming between what should have been and what was to be

when you were in the gut-wrenching epicenter of loss, the in-between: no mother, no home, no orphanage, no records, no plan

when you became an orphan in a building filled with orphans

when all you understood of love was a nanny’s care

when meals were tasks on a busy nanny’s list


Then, mercifully, you were somewhere in-between again. On the other side of the world, our family saw your face and recognized you as our own. The label orphan was no longer yours to carry. You didn’t feel it, but your world was trembling again.

Then, there was a time…

when you went on living unaware in Chengdu, China, no idea that a room was being painted pink, papers with your name being pushed, and your photo framed

when you couldn’t fathom the magnitude of love reaching for you from across oceans


Next, in one swift moment, your world cracked open again as your nanny carried you in her arms one last time, making her way to a conference room. A door opened, and your world collided with ours. All of us trembled, knowing life as we knew it was behind us. The earth didn’t shatter, just pieces of our hearts. You sobbed until you could only sleep, somehow knowing that another fault line had formed, a traumatic end and a scary, but hopeful, beginning.

Then, newly adopted, there was time….

when a hotel room became common ground for tentative smiles and guarded trust

when you boarded a plane bound for the world’s other side, clinging to two almost strangers, toward all things new

when teary eyed strangers at an airport cheered because you’d finally arrived

when your little feet padded through your new home, investigating, but overwhelmed by the stimulation, something missing in institutional life

when you first sat at a family table, binge eating in case the food ran out, an orphan at heart still

when you weren’t sure about sleeping alone without the familiar rumblings of a roomful of other children, the only lullaby you’d ever known

when cleft clinic doctors evaluated your palate and prescribed dental surgery and years of speech therapy

when your pediatrician caught you up on shots and treated orphanage parasites

when you’d plop indiscriminately into the lap of anyone who’d give attention, hungry to fill up your far too empty love tank

when we wondered if you’d ever find your voice, or attach to us as mommy and daddy


Then, without realizing it, between speech therapy, siblings, soccer and spaghetti, the weeks and years passed, and the tremors calmed. Though you’d survived seismic fractures in your foundation, you emerged just our brave little girl who smiles, plays and loves. Today you are a compassionate, silly, obedient five year old who loves stuffed animals, music and rice. You face no more fault lines.
But, as much as the first, hard struggles of adoption are behind us, the journey continues. It keeps evolving, and we now navigate occasional aftershocks.

There are times when the world shakes the ground again…

when a friend asks, “Is she your REAL mom? Where IS your REAL mom?”

when grocery check-out clerks question, “Is she yours? Are they REAL siblings?”

when giggling playground kids stretch the sides of their eyes and babble in “Chinese”

There are times when the rumbling arrives from within you…

when you place your little brown arm next to my lighter skinned arm

when you turn your face toward mine and see eyes shaped more oval than almond shaped

when you ask, “ARE you my REAL mom?”

when your baby pictures have nannies in them instead of parents

when you wonder about this “first mother” somewhere far away

Yes, my girl, you were adopted. Yes, the world will always notice. Yes, there will be long stretches when adoption is not on your mind. But, yes, there will be times when tremors of emotions come. Trust that we’ll walk with you as you try to understand the fault lines and navigate your unfinished story.

I can’t explain the loss of your culture, birth parents, or extended family, but I can point you to the One who carried you up and over those fault lines. I don’t believe God’s plan for you was for your earth to quake and land you somewhere else, but I do believe that He takes the hard and reclaims it. I trust that His work in your life, and on this earth, is unfinished, still a beautiful, emerging redemption song.

NHBO Claire

Only God can reconcile your loses and help you uncover your story’s beauty. Know that your forever mommy and daddy are praying for you to have eyes to see that beauty at a young age. The word “adopted” might feel like a qualifier before you name, but it is a sweet word to us. It comes at a high cost, but it tells the powerful love story of unique, delicate, brave you.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
– Psalm 46:2-6