what we’re reading: 5.8.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it…

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.



Rob from tea in fairyland reflects on life and parenting after four months with his girls in Fridays With Father.

In Jasmine Flower, Lisa of Seriously Blessed shares about her daughter Jasmine’s positive attitude, medical challenges and memories of her life in China prior to adoption.

Momma at Joy Embraced asked are personal questions acceptable? in regards to transracial adoptive families.

Over at Parenting With Connection, moderators provide nine ideas in response to the reader question what activities can I do with my child that also promote connection?

John Simmons offers a Very Simple Explanation of Reactive Attachment Disorder to his then-teenage daughter, diagnosed with RAD and possessing an IQ in the high sixties.

Jim of Lanterns, Ladybugs and a Whole Lotta Love shares his conflicted thoughts about his child’s first parents in The Ghost at the Feast.

At Home Is Where the Heart Is, Andrea gives a comprehensive update on three of her children in No More Owies.

On its blog, Love Without Boundaries shares helpful information about the First Steps of the Adoption Process: What Happens in China.

Shannon at Here We Grow Again writes touchingly about her son’s first birthday home… at the age of eight.

Abigail Chuan-Ling Tuan MacLean guest-posts at Wordy Nerdy about her experiences as a biracial American in A Scrambled Egg — Not All Yellow, Not All White, Mixed.

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.


NBC Nightly News interviewed Professor Cole Galloway who, frustrated with inaccessible and expensive wheelchairs, created the Go Baby Go program which provides… Custom Cars With a Purpose.

Jeff Katz, executive director of Listening to Parents (a national organization that seeks to eliminate barriers to foster care adoption), ponders the question Why is it easier to adopt a child from overseas than from another state? in a Washington Post opinion piece.

Love Without Boundaries recaps the doctors final rounds for this year’s trip and shares a heart-felt thank you letter from Maureen Brogan, Director of Medical Exchanges, on Cleft Exchange Saturday.

#weneeddiversebooks goes viral. Created by several authors, including Asian-American author Ellen Oh, this campaign took social media by storm on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Max Pemberton, MD tells readers of The Spectator, As a doctor, I’d rather have HIV than diabetes.

Yahoo! News reports on The Lizzie Project, a kickstarter campaign created to fund an untitled Lizzie Velasquez documentary, in New Documentary from Woman With Rare Syndrome Aims to Curb Online Bullying.

An update on Mia, the daughter of Duck Dynasty stars Jase and Missy, who recently underwent her fifth surgery related to cleft lip-cleft palate.

May is Asian-American Heritage Month. Lots of good resources on this site.

Jeff Yang shares Why the ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ TV Series Could Change the Game in the Arts & Entertainment section of The Wall Street Journal.



In China now to bring home their child…

Hearts Set on Pilgrimage
September Sweeties
Becoming Home

Just Home from China…

Love is the Answer
Miracles and Mudpies
Our Sunshine Days
To Tallulah

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. Thank you to Sandy Puc for sharing her beautiful photo, and thank you to those who helped compile this week’s post.

Surviving Gotcha Day

A year ago today we had spent only one day with our daughter. After arriving in China, we spent 3 days in Beijing, visited the place she called Home for almost a year and met the women she called “mama”. Then we traveled to XinJiang, her province, tried to sleep on Gotcha Day Eve, and made our way to the Civil Affairs office in Urumqi on a sunny Monday morning. I had seen dozens of gotcha day photos and videos prior to our day; first moments of forever families in the lobbies of hotels, in front of gold or red words indicating a government office, and others in rooms filled with soon-to-be parents holding their breath. All of that giving way to tears in the moment they finally see their child face to face.

That isn’t what our day looked like. At all.

It just so happened that one of the miracles that occurred on Gotcha Day was that we were fifteen minutes early for our Civil Affairs appointment. In fact we were so early, the office wasn’t even open yet so we waited inside the van with our guide. After a few minutes our guide looked our the window and said, “I think your baby just arrived”. Narrowly avoiding whiplash, I spun my head around in an instant, looked to the end of the lot near the alley, to see a Chinese woman holding a small child.

I vaguely remember scrambling and scurrying to get out of the van. It was as if my very life hung in the balance if even an additional two seconds dared to come between me and my child. Once outside the van we saw them only about 50 yards away. After all this time of waiting, paper-pushing, planning, and travel – it really was her, all bundled up in a zebra-print fleece sleeper, followed by a fleece jacket with hearts, and pink stretchy hat.

For the year and three months prior I imagined what this day would be like. I had decided to casually walk into the building where our child would be waiting, breathing evenly and smiling as we rode the elevator up to meet our daughter. I imagined waiting in a room with other adoptive families, near bursting with excitement. Finally the door would open. I wondered if our baby would be first. I had every intention of remaining calm when I finally laid eyes on her so that I wouldn’t scare her or smother her with all of my pent up affection. I was certain I would remember every learned psychological reason to let her come to us in her time and woo her into my arms slowly and gently. I resolved to resist dumping my mothering all over her because she will be the only person among us who doesn’t know that I am her mother, and what feels like organized borderline kidnapping is legit.

Can you even imagine?

Somehow we made our way to her. A small gang of white people accompanied by one Chinese translator. I don’t remember my feet touching the ground. It would not surprise me one bit if there was video evidence of me taking flight from the van to the spot where she stood with the woman who brought her. I remember being in front of her, my eyes locked on her face, my smile reaching my ears, whole body shaking, and my eyebrows into my hairline as I barely squeaked out, “Hi Grace! Hi baby”

…and the next thing I knew she was thrust into my arms by this sweet smiling woman, “Here is your baby!”


Then came the crying. The panic. The screaming and the blue lips, fingers, and toes.

We were in an alley, in the sunshine, surrounded by noisy traffic and a screaming cyanotic baby who had just been released from the hospital with pneumonia; and I could barely absorb that this child I had loved for almost a year – 5 of those months loving her as our daughter – was at last in my arms. I knew to expect her to cry because we were strangers. We didn’t look like people she was used to seeing, we didn’t smell like people she was used to smelling. We were all together different and unfamiliar. For the first time I heard her cry, panicked and distraught and then it turned into a scream. I still hear it when I remember that day. I hear her rattling, congested attempts at breathing, her tattered lungs from infection after infection after infection. I smelled the sweet but herbal scent of medicine. I see a terrified, traumatized, sick, confused, and oh so tiny 19 month-old. She was absolutely beside herself – and so was I. We were both terrified. She was afraid because she was losing everything she knew to be hers – and I was afraid that I was about to lose the daughter I just met but already so loved.

We had fear in common that day. We have fear in common a lot of days. The woman who handed her to me was from the orphanage that had not been home to Grace for almost a year. There was little to no chance of a relationship between them; and yet she clung to her as if she was her birthmother. Grace was desperate to be in her arms and once she turned a deeper shade of blue – I handed her back briefly to recover, for us both to recover. As she held Grace and tried to comfort her immediately Grace settled and stopped crying listening quietly as the woman said: “Why do you cry? This is your Mama and Daddy. It’s going to be ok” – all in Chinese.


Those moments were loaded both with terror and joy intermixed in the strangest way. Somewhere inside my soul was crying out and begging God to comfort her in ways I couldn’t and be what she needed until we could be, until I could be. Praying through the business of adopting and red fingerprint signatures, that He who created her heart would keep her broken heart stable through it all. In those first moments I was begging God that she would calm and survive this trauma, this necessary trauma. She is the only one who didn’t know this was the worst moment giving way to the best moments of her life. Her noisy breathing scared us all, but she was breathing. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t breathe at all in those first moments with Grace.


Once we arrived to the civil affairs room in a tiny office with a desk and a couch the orphanage worker handed her back to us and the crying began again. We pulled out her bear from the foster home. No reaction. We pulled out toys and books. She didn’t care. Our teenaged daughter pulled out her ipad and the crying finally subsided. Flash card after flash card of pictures that she would recognize as babies or toys or fruits provided a common ground and she slowly began to accept us; a little bit here and a little bit there. I don’t even know if she accepted us in those moments, or tolerated our presence in order to have access to the ipad, to tell you the truth. I didn’t care what the reason. It was a start. It was the beginning, it was a step. After a very long day of steps forward and back and forward again, we returned to our hotel, a family of 5. We each survived Gotcha Day, and the days and weeks after.


Families begin in many different ways, don’t they? Some bathed in joy and answered prayer and others bathed in scary circumstances, hard hours, tragedy and life changing loss. I want to be a truth teller of adoption. I want to be a voice that says: It’s not always shiny and bright on Gotcha Day: hour one. It’s not always shiny and bright at the airport when you come home, or the first Christmas, or on day 366. But I’m here to tell you that if it cannot be shiny and bright, it can still be precious and treasured and beautiful in it’s own way. In 366 days we have had our share of ups and downs, good days and hard days, moments when the joy is so overwhelming we can hardly stand it, and moments when it’s so much harder than we imagined or expected.


That’s life. That’s earth. That’s the truth. It’s true about marriage, and biological children. It’s true about jobs and education, and aging parents. It’s true in times of tragic loss, and precious births, in answered prayer and funeral services. The things we live through that are the hardest, still hold opportunities for Joy. They can and often do produce treasured memories and reminders that we really can endure and heal from things that once seemed impossible.

One of the most healing things we can do for each other as we live our lives on this earth through joy and through hard things is to tell each other the truths about the hard things as much as we emphasize the joy. There’s power in admitting when things don’t always play out as they do in our imaginations. There’s comfort in a brave voice admitting, “Me too”. There’s healing in a hand resting on your shoulder that says, “I’ve been where you are and I know how it feels.”


366 days later, by God’s grace, our Grace is thriving. Perfectly pink fingers, toes, and lips and a heart that beats beautifully. She is attaching and bonding with family and friends. She is spunky, and affectionate. She is sassy and adequately able to defend herself (ahem). She is curious and clever and so very brave. She is an over-comer, a survivor, a warrior princess who wears her battle scar with honor and pride because she is first the daughter of the King of Kings and He brought her a family who loves her like crazy. Then He brought about healing and continues to transform her daily restoring beauty from the ashes of her loss. I doubt she has vivid memories of those first hours of our new family so I will keep them alive for her so that one day she will know what I know – In the first moments there was pain and there were tears – just like every time a baby meets their Mama face to face.

In the first moments it was scary – because she was already so loved and so desperately wanted.
In the first moments it was hard to breathe for all of us – just like when her big brother and sister were born.
In the first moments, just as He does today, God was there bringing calm to each of our souls, healing to our fears, and bonding us so deeply that 366 days later it seems like it’s always been the 5 of us.

It’s not always shiny and bright on Gotcha Day. Sometimes the most beautiful part of Gotcha Day is the healing that comes in the 366 days of that first year.


Healing is a beautiful thing to celebrate.

The Best Mama

I’ll never forget the first time it happened. She threw her arms around me and exclaimed, “I love you, Mama! You’re the best mama I’ve ever had!!!” And every time it’s happened since then is carved on my heart as well. Every. Single. Time.

Cora and Me

The day I met my sweet Cora…just over a year-and-a-half ago…was a hard day. She was blessed to live with a very loving foster family, and the idea of this new “foreigner” claiming to be her mama wasn’t going over too well. Because in her four year old little mind, she had a mama. And she had just left that mama behind to join me. It took her awhile before she even acknowledged me as mama…and for the first months, she preferred pretty much everyone to me. Including a construction worker we met at the barber shop while getting her brother a haircut.

I called and emailed our social worker I don’t know how many times during those early days. It was my second adoption, but with my son we had anxious attachment. I didn’t have to work at all to get him to like me…prying him off my neck was more of the problem. This struggle with attachment was an entirely new concept to me. At the guidance of my social worker (and the many, many books she lent me), my husband and I decided to “cocoon” our new daughter. She didn’t leave the house and was with one of us 24/7. We took turns going to church, we didn’t have guests over, we brought in take-out rather than going out to eat, I cut back on the number of school functions I attended for my other children. It was an exhausting few months, but it worked. Slowly but surely, Cora was able to grasp the idea that we were her new family and a deep level of trust began to be established.

We’ve never stopped talking about her foster parents. We look at pictures of them regularly, and Cora’s foster brother was actually adopted by a family here in our local community. We’ve been able to retain a little bit of her “previous” life. As she’s gotten older, though, Cora has come to the realization that she didn’t grow in her foster mama’s tummy…she had another “China mommy” before foster mama. We talk about “China mommy” too, but I don’t have a whole lot of information to share. I mostly just try to communicate positive feelings about the woman who brought her into this world and parented her for the first several months of Cora’s life. There’s so much she has yet to understand about the adoption process, but she does know that I’m mama number three. And in her opinion, the best.

I don’t know that I agree with that statement. I think about her first mama. The mama that grew her in her womb, gave her life, and held onto her for months…until the day came that Cora was just too sick to hold onto anymore. And on that day Cora was left in a warm, safe place where she would easily be found. I don’t know anything more than the stark details in a short paragraph from Cora’s adoption file, but I do know that Cora’s first mama saved her life by giving her up. That scores some pretty high points from me.

And then there was her second mama. The mama that took her in, knowing that one day she would have to say goodbye. The mama who took care of Cora for two years as if she were her own, then one day put her in her nicest clothes, fixed her hair, packed her a snack and sent her to me. The mama whose concern was not the broken heart she would endure when she said goodbye…but rather nurturing the heart of the little girl who was in her care only temporarily. I can’t think of a mother’s love more perfectly displayed.

I can’t even begin to compare myself with the mothers who loved Cora so sacrificially. I often say that adopting Cora was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done. We pursued her adoption for no other reason than simply loving her and wanting her. Our motive was not to “help” her, but to fill a void in our hearts that only she could fill. And we have been so incredibly blessed by the sweet little firecracker who finds new and creative ways to turn our world upside down on a daily basis. Yet…by a sovereign act of God’s grace I’m not only Cora’s third mama, but her forever mama. And in her opinion, the best. I’m glad she feels this way. I’m thankful that she has learned to love me so deeply. But in my opinion, that title belongs to someone else. The mamas who loved her more than they loved themselves. The mamas who put Cora’s heart before theirs…both her physical heart and the multiple complex heart defects she was born with, and her emotional heart…paving the way for her to be here with me. Happy, healthy. And rocking my world. Cora has become such a part of me that to think of losing her is unbearable. I’m not sure I love her enough to ever let her go. It would hurt me too much. But the mamas who did? They’re the best.

Happy To Fail

This past week, Grace was evaluated in speech therapy. She took a standardized speech assessment test and she failed it. And we rejoiced! High fives all around from her speech therapist and myself! Up high, down low and even some that were too slow but managed to hit the hand anyway! Because up until this point, Grace didn’t have enough sounds, words or phrases to even start there. But vowels are beautiful, consonants are increasing and she has phrases and words that are on age level. So, she was able to take a real speech assessment that had not been a possibility until now! And she failed. And that was a good thing.

I am happy for her to fail because in reality, it is a huge success. Similar to when she fails at things that she knows she could succeed in. She is in a season of what seems to be “on purpose” failure, so that she can turn right around and apologize, receive forgiveness and support and move on. Granted, there are consequences to throwing a toy in a fit of rage that involve some time with her mom away from the conflict but consequences can still be safe. That it is a safe place to “test the waters” and fail at something she knows how to do, simply to be brought back into acceptance and the knowledge that no matter what, we love you and you don’t have to do this, but if you do, you are always “in.” In our family, in our hearts, in our love and we love you no matter what.

So testing the limits of love, even if it looks messy or much like a failure is actually a success. That she is “on the charts” so to speak in knowing that there is something to lose and something to gain. Much like that speech assessment – it is progress just to fail. Grace’s speech therapist, in the midst of the rejoicing at a failure, commented that she is obviously thriving and gaining ground and very smart and very loved. Grace then articulated clear as day the word LEMONADE. L’s and M’s beautifully clear and a hard three-syllable word out on the table for everyone to hear. Because that girl knows what she wants. LEMONADE. GATORADE. I’M SORRY MOMMY. “It’s ok, you don’t have to throw a fit or scream. I always love you.” OK MOMMY. (head on shoulder, arms wrapped around my neck and that sigh of relief and safety). Failure that is really success.

Sort of like when Grace adeptly called her brother a “poopy head.” So crystal clear in articulation, I heard it over the music in the van. A failure in appropriate polite conversation among family but a huge success in speech improvement. Good articulation in the plosive “p” sound, nice ending consonants and used very skillfully in a sentence. The context was right on.

Happy to fail….

I had a plan

I have a personal problem. You know, one of those personality deficiencies that are just part of your makeup, part of who you are? This particular problem, though I’d still contest is a strength for the average Joe, pops up during the most inopportune times and throws me for a loop.

I’m a planner.

I married a perfectionist {albeit adorable and Godly and generous} planner.

I birthed a cutie patootie planner fourteen years ago.

You can see where this is going, yes? Plans are GOOD {said the nut job mama who likes to plan} and walking by faith is HARD {said the same nut job}.

The thing is, I/we plan like mad. We pray. We seek. We run numbers. We take notes {both mentally and for real!}. We research. And then we JUMP! It’s no surprise, this planning blows up in my face more times than I care to admit.

Take three years ago, for example, when we saved and bought a used Honda van because our ever growing family wouldn’t fit in our vehicle. Yeah, I had a plan to drive the wheels off of that dependable Honda. It was lovely {for a van, come on} and it was paid for and it fit us well.

Ooooh, I had a plan for that van.

And I had a plan to save enough money for next year’s entire school tuition {we private school 2 days/homeschool 3 days} before this summer ends. It was lofty. But hey, I had a plan. We were rocking and rolling with that plan.

Until the septic system needed major servicing {sorry for that visual} and the hot water heater, you guessed it…and yes, even our beloved “Hondassey” decided to leave hubby and our pastor stranded on the side of the interstate, in another state, at 10pm one night a couple of weeks ago.

Dead. That Honda, the vehicle that was supposed to outlive us all, was sporting an irreparable engine with no warning. It would cost more money than we had any hope of making to make it usable again.

And so, what about that plan? My great plan that would lead to financial responsibility and easy living next year?

It was superseded by His plan. His BETTER plan. Where He is glorified and I am walking humbly. Not in the dark, but where the path is lit right in front of me only. The one where He leads and we follow rather than doing it all ourselves, in our own power. The plan where you can’t even see the unbelievable blessing that awaits until you’re on the other side of it.

Adoption is no different.

Special needs adoption is especially no different. I wanted to provide the funds for our fourth child by working hard {and I did work hard}…but His plan was to use others way more than using my own abilities or talents. My plan was to bring home a little boy with extensive urological needs {among a few others and some pretty big unknowns} but ones that, God willing, could be corrected in a couple of surgeries. My plan was for him to not endure things head on and boldly as a toddler that grown men would weep and wail over had they endured them instead. My plan was to meet the insurance deductible and complete the needed surgeries {1 cardiac, 2 urological} in a single year. Ba-Bam. Done.

Can I just say, my plan stunk? It wreaked of self-sufficiency and selfishness. It had SELF written all over it.

Oh, y’all. I’ve learned this lesson so many times in my life. You’d think that I’d be done learning it. I’m stubborn and hard headed and so far from where I should be. Walking by faith is exponentially harder on many levels…but simplistically easier on most others.

It’s easier to let Him carry the weight and the burden. I’ve said before, I tend to gravitate toward “easy and light” way more than “hard and heavy” anyway.

Some of you are planning how to fund your adoption.

Some of your are making a plan to decide which needs you can feasibly consider or which agency to partner with.

Others are planning upcoming surgeries and appointments and therapies for children who are home.

Still others are just now making plans on how to even broach the subject of special needs adoption with their spouse.

I still believe planning is good. Even necessary to a degree. But letting go of unrealistic expectations while yielding to a plan higher and better is always the best option. I’m not at all comparing adoption to buying a van. Or the heartbreak that adopting can bring to the loss of a vehicle that you wanted to keep driving. Let me encourage you by saying that there’s a whole lot of grace to be found in the letting go. Except for the pain and suffering of 7 surgeries over a 14 month period, I wouldn’t change a detail about the road we’ve walked with our Gabe. Not one.

Easter '14-7423 copy

And just for kicks and giggles, I have to say, I’m freakishly in love with that new {to us} van sitting in my garage right now.

I fell in love.

I have been trying to write this post in my head for a month now.  Words seem terribly inadequate, but today I want to share a small piece of how my heart was changed in China.  Being invited into the amazing work that He is doing was overwhelming.  Working in the orphanages alongside nannies to care for precious children was so, so special.  Witnessing Him use people to do His work who don’t know Him yet was indescribable.

When I arrived at the orphanage, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  And although it was heartbreaking to see the significant medical needs of some of the children, I felt privileged to care for them in any way I could.  Boy or girl, it didn’t matter.  It also didn’t matter if they couldn’t respond to me or, in some cases, that they wouldn’t be on this earth much longer.  They were simply children.  Children who needed someone to love them and hold them.  To tell them they were precious and they mattered.  To pray over them, even though doing that brought me to tears more than once.  As an adoptive mama, it is easy for me to study the medical diagnoses of a child.  It just comes with the territory of special needs adoptions.  But in the days I spent in the orphanage, that need slipped away for me.  Sure, some of the children’s medical conditions were obvious.  But sometimes they weren’t.  And it wasn’t important anyway, because they were all His children.  Children who simply needed someone to love them.


It was freeing to hold a special one year old girl and know that her medical need didn’t define who she was.  She was left in a bumbo chair and given little attention, except during feeding time.  There were many other children in the room, and she was a quiet observer who didn’t demand anything.  Her head was so large from hydrocephalus that she could barely hold it up, but it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that when I cradled her in my arms and looked into her eyes, I saw her.  The beautiful daughter He intended her to be.  I fell in love with her.  When I tickled her, she threw her head back in laughter.  She let me see into her world for just a few moments, what an honor to love her back in the simple ways I know.  It seems so inadequate for all she gave to me.  I can only hope I showed her the kind of love He’d be proud of.

I met another precious boy, 18 months old and blinded from glaucoma, who stole my heart too.  He was delayed in all ways because of his blindness.  I don’t think the nannies quite knew how to help him.  God drew me to him.  I held him and sang to him.  I patted all over his back, arms, legs, chest, and belly.  As he soaked in the sensory input, he just giggled.  I tickled and kissed him.  And he giggled more.  He let me into his world too and I saw him.  I could see how he’d thrive in a family if given a chance.  I experienced all of the love bursting out of him that a mama would be so blessed to have.  His infectious laughter gave me way more than I could ever give to him.


And then there was my sweet PZ.  She was one of the 12 angels in the baby room, where I spent most of my time in the orphanage.  She was a beautiful 3-month-old and perfect in every way.  I held her.  I fed her.  I rocked her to sleep over and over.  I looked into her eyes and prayed for her family to find her.  I sang.  She smiled and cooed and giggled at me.  I prayed some more.  I cried.  I loved her as a mother loves her child, even if only for a few days.  I don’t know why God drew me to her, but He did.  I didn’t find out until the end of our trip that she had spina bifida.  And you know what?  It didn’t matter.  I loved her.  And she was a daughter too.  I still think about her every day.  I think about how the nannies propped her up in her crib with a boppy and how happy she was to sit there and just watch all the activity.  I think of her slowed breathing as she fell asleep in my arms.  I pray that her family finds her.  My sweet PZ will always have a place in my heart that I didn’t even know existed.

The nannies and orphanage workers were amazing, and I fell in love with them too.  I spent most of my time with the baby room nannies.  Through the few English words that they knew, and the few Mandarin words that I knew, we connected.  We tried to have Mandarglish conversations.  We laughed.  We shared knowing glances.  We took pictures.  A lot of pictures.  It was beautiful.  In those few days that I was allowed into their world, I felt like we became sisters.  They gave me hope.  I have so much respect for the women who selflessly give everyday to the children.  They do the very best they can with a tough situation.  Even though the children are not their own, they treat them like their own.

My heart was forever changed during our trip.  I fell in love over and over again.  The Father cemented my heart’s desire for orphan care even more – I know it will be my life’s passion.  I’m excited to watch that unfold and to see what that looks like in my life.  It was a life changing experience and I am so thankful for His invitation.  

If you feel led, I would love to encourage you in any way I can to pray about joining a similar trip.  My dear friend, Kelly, is leading another trip in October back to the same orphanage.  I promise it will bless you much more than you can imagine.  Click HERE to find out more.

web 12 1

The Adoption Tetrad

I still read them, the blogs of families traveling in China meeting their children and bringing them home. The images of their first moments together and a mother’s first words after meeting her child never fail to draw me in.

But, this blog was different. This post was the first of what I hope is many. A child we had served and quickly fell for is now a son. He was a favorite in our class; he loved stickers and toy cars. He raced to pop the bubbles I blew and to tell the ayis he called Mama all about it.

I knew he’d be the first we got to see come home. He’s got a family, we whispered to each other with smiles on the first day we were there. Six weeks home, and we got word that his family was there right where we were, but they were there to bring him home.

My fingers couldn’t keep up with my heart as I raced to click on the link to their blog. I quickly skimmed the words, anxious to see the pictures of my little friend with his new parents. There I lingered for a long time, unprepared for what it would bring out in me. This is good; this is good; he needs a family; this is good. I knew that, but something unsettled me. There I sat with a lump in my throat, staring at the screen in front of me, wondering what was wrong with me.

In his new family’s pictures, I saw a nanny I knew. She was shorter than me and knew no English, but she smiled all the time so large her eyes disappeared. She nodded her head and chatted many Dui, Dui, Duis at our team. We didn’t need common words to know she appreciated us. I’d pat her back and tell her what a good job she was doing. She didn’t know what those words meant, but she knew what I meant, and she’d nod and smile some more.

In their pictures, I saw the director I knew, the same man who delivered my daughter to me. All the children called him Baba, and he knew them all by name. He had stood in the hallway of the orphanage studying each page of the book we brought with updates on children who had been adopted from the orphanage. He would point to a child on the page touching their picture as if he was touching their actual cheek.

As the new mother shared about their first moments together, she also shared that the nanny and director quietly slipped out without saying goodbye. The people who loved him, the woman he called Mama who snuck him little snacks and zipped up his coat to keep him warm, the director who called him a strong boy and laughed as he raced down the hall on a little bike—they just slipped out with no goodbye and no expectations to see him ever again.

I spent three years reading everything I could get in front of me on attachment and loss and trauma, preparing for the little Chinese person I’d one day meet in a smoke-filled office in a bustling city. When that day came, I took my sweet baby out of her ayi’s arms, and I took her loss as well. My empathy for her and the foundational building of our attachment drove me; every action was intentional as I sought to be an agent of healing for her.


As I pressed on in that journey, I confess that I rarely thought of the agents of healing who were there before me. Before I even knew who she was and what she looked like and where she lived, those ayis she called Mama while I was still reading books were there. They weren’t there like I would be there, her exclusive Mama ready to meet her every need day or night. But, they were there when I wasn’t. And, when she lost them, they lost her too. While we were pacing in our posh hotel room and admiring this sweet little thing who now was our daughter, they returned to the orphanage, to what they do everyday, caring for children to help them leave. Their lives are riddled with loss, living in a constant flux of happiness and grief as they celebrate the future one of their children gets to have and say goodbye again to a child who made them proud to be called Mama. I wonder if they learn to guard their hearts and or if some emotionally flat line.

I know why I was unsettled, why I was staring in front of me at a blog post waiting for something to click. I have been changed after serving at the orphanage six weeks ago. I see things more fully, in a way I haven’t seen before. The adoption triad—it’s familiar verbiage to those of us in the adoption community—the adoptee or adopted person, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents. But, there’s more to the picture. There are those who care for those children for weeks, months, years, day in and day out. There are those who feed them, nurture them as they know how though it may look different than how we define it, nurse them after surgeries, teach them songs they knew from their own childhood, and then bundle them up for a long car ride, hand them to another, and slip out without saying goodbye.

Adoption is a good thing in a world that is broken. I just see a bit more of the broken part now.


Kelly led a team to serve at an orphanage in Shaanxi in February/March. She is leading another team to go again in October for 10 days to love children and love those who care for them, many of whom were orphans themselves and whose lives are riddled with loss. There are a few remaining spots to be a part of that team. If you’re feeling the nudge, do something about it. Email Kelly to learn a bit more.

what we’re reading: 4.24.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it…

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.



Yvette from Bringing Home Holland reflects on her fears about bringing home an 11 year old boy.

Our own Amy, home from a recent vacation, recounts some painful moments when she and her “conspicuous” family ran head first into adoption and orphan ignorance.

Dawn from Fried Rice and Noodle Soup retells “A Beautiful Story” in which she unwittingly found her future daughter through the internet.

Laura from Bringing Home Emily Hope shares her recent experience upon visiting her daughter’s orphanage in China.

Photographer Sandy Puc travels to China and captures some powerful images of “gotcha day”.

Two-time adoptive mama, Ginny, shares some wise advise for those first few weeks home with your new child.

Alex Chase, mom to two boys from US foster care, shares what motives her boys to better behavior and a happier demeanor. And it’s not sticker charts.

Kelly from Mine in China thoughtfully responds to the remark oft-heard by parents who adopt internationally: “We need to take care of our OWN!”

And Maureen at Light of Day Stories with a reminder that all adoptive parents should consider. As beautiful as adoption can be for the parents, for the child adoption is traumatic.

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.


Mercury news shares 18 powerful images of orphaned children in China. Estimates are that there are now close to 1,000,000 orphans in China.

A follow up on one of the links we shared in our last WWR post. With the help of an Upsee, a little girl with CP – unable to walk or stand on her own – was able to be the flower girl in her aunt’s wedding. She said she ‘felt like Cinderella’.

Medline Plus reports that the recent outbreak of measles is, at least in part, due to U.S. adoptions of children from China.

An interesting read on Daily Life – why Chinese parents don’t say I love you to their children.

Louisville News with a story about Carly Donner, member of the National Honor Society with a 4.7 GPA and adopted from China as an infant. Carly was recently accepted to the Naval Academy with a special nomination from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Adoptive dad John Simmons shares his thoughts – and frustrations – at the recent decline in international adoptions. Says Simmons, “I am frustrated that there are outspoken people who evangelize that adoption is politically incorrect. I am even more frustrated that there are people weak enough to succumb to those words without consideration, simply because they are afraid of what others might think.”



In China now to bring home their child…

Miracles and Mudpies
Our Sunshine Days

and just home from China:

Scarlet Threads
Difference for One
Our 7th Heaven
Bringing Home Emily Hope
Adoption Adventures with 2 Princesses and a Prince
From God’s Heart to Our Home
To Tallulah
To the Moon and Back

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. A special thank you to Sandy Puc for generously sharing her beautiful photo for today’s post.

10 Things Adoptive Parents of Medical Needs Kids Want You to Know

Our plane from China touched down just five months ago. With our two newly adopted kids, both with emotional and physical needs, we stepped out into new lives, all things from before suddenly family history. Life now is both harder and more blessing rich. Six hospital admissions, two surgeries, and a thousand tests and appointments later, our hearts are a mix of weight and awe. We’ve had to hold our daughter down over and over again through IVs, blood work, MRIs, x-rays, sedation and medical probes at a time when bonding should have been our only concern. The beauty is that we’ve seen God meet us exactly where we’ve needed Him over and over in ERs, specialists’ offices and on our bathroom floor with medical supplies spread round. On a trek that we weren’t qualified to traverse, we’ve been carried.

10 Things

Many of our adoptive friends share a version of this story, and if allowed to speak for them, these are some things we’d like for you to know.

1. Sometimes, “How is she?” is a hard question to answer. We’ve probably answered it at least five times that day at church, school or gymnastics. Spoon up some grace if we hesitate and fumble through a response while passing each other casually in a hallway. We might just not have the energy for a coherent, summed up response for medical issues that are complex and heavy on our hearts. Still, know your remembrance was appreciated.

2. Sometimes it’s easier to share medical updates on FB, a blog, or in group email updates. We do want to express our hearts, and these help us do that when we can string our thoughts together to share at once with everyone we care about. Most likely, we can’t remember who we’ve updated and who we’ve missed. We want you to know the latest medical details, and we deeply cherish your walk alongside us.

3. All the time, we need you to PRAY. Nothing is more comforting to us than knowing that our girl has an army of prayer warriors fighting for her health and heart. We’ve felt the covering of your prayer during surgeries and procedures, and it has carrying power. We are always ready with an answer when you ask, “How can we pray?” And it matters much to us when you simply say, “We are praying.”

4. All of the time, your messages, texts and phone calls are of high value. When you email us prayers, we’ve probably read them two or three times. We likely have listened again to your phone messages while waiting for a doctor’s update. They are instruments of God’s provision of peace. Unfortunately, our to do and to go lists are long, and the thoughtful responses don’t happen. Don’t give up on us. 
We need you more than ever.

5. Sometimes we’d rather just hear about you. If we tend to constantly push the conversation back in your direction, go with it. Know we appreciate your effort to ask about us, but we still want to know how YOU and YOUR family are doing. Our path doesn’t eclipse yours. Have a struggle or need to vent? Tell us. We can handle it.

6. Sometimes we worry that we are burdening you with too much medical talk, and we find ourselves pretending to be more positive than we feel. We don’t share because we’ve already shared so much. Our medical journey doesn’t end after a surgery. There are always appointments, therapies, decisions, more surgeries and more days of at home care, and we wonder how many times we can ask for your prayer. We wonder how many times we can tell you that we are worried and weary.

7. Often we hear, “Let me know what I can do.” Though so grateful, most likely we are clueless about how to answer. We appreciate your offer and likely need help, but probably don’t have the energy to let you know how. It is a gift when someone asks specifically, “I would like to help you. Can I babysit your kids for an appointment this week?” Or, “I am planning to bring you dinner. Does Tuesday work?” While an incredible blessing, being served over a long period of time is also stretching. We see the care overall as extravagant provision from God, but on an individual basis, we feel like a burden.

8. Sometimes people praise us for adopting a child with medical needs, or they praise us for caring for them. Know that we didn’t say yes to a diagnosis, we said yes to our child. Most parents wake up each day and meet their child’s needs. Please don’t see us, because we are weak, grumpy, and utterly insufficient. See a God who meets needs for His children. See a God whose heart beats for the least of these. Don’t praise our messy selves, praise God for work that is so evidently only Him.

9. Often, laughter is a load lifter. Milton Berle once said that, “Laugher is an instant vacation.” Mini vacations are always a yes. A Jimmy Fallon clip sent while we sit in a hospital room is a good dose of medicine. When you opened the fridge to get milk, did you find your cell phone? Text us. Our house is crazy, and it’s great to know yours is too.

10. Often we are told that God doesn’t “give us more than we can handle”, but we are finding the very opposite. This is way more than we can handle. We are far outside the borders of our own capacity, but every morning God meets us where we are, replacing our weakness with His strength, our fear with His hope. Experiencing what it feels like to take steps forward only because of God is the greatest blessing of this journey.

Thank you, family and friends, for journeying with us. Our family is weary, but has had to learn to trust, release control, pursue joy, find hope and live with more intention. God has much to say, and He often speaks most clearly through the little people that He gifts us with. Let’s all lean in and listen carefully, as the fragile ones have mighty lessons to share.

the fruit of your labor

Two months ago, we asked for your help.

We were looking for a few new bloggers to help round out the NHBO team.

And boy-o-boy, did y’all come through.

We received 115 nominations. And we sifted through each one. What fun to visit all those adoption blogs and read the stories of so many precious little ones and the parents who fiercely love them. The only hard part was coming to the final decision… which three would be the best fit for No Hands But Ours?

Somehow we managed. And we not only found three, but the three we asked said “YES”.

Welcome to Mike, Desirée and Rebecca!

(Yes, I am a bit late in getting this posted. In fact, each of our new bloggers has at least one post up on the NHBO blog. But I wanted to announce it officially, and to let you all know how grateful we are for your help in finding these amazing writers and big-hearted adoption advocates.)



Mike is married to his high school sweetheart, Anne. They live in Cincinnati with their six children – Abby (13), Adam (11), Mia (9), Will (7), Ellie (5), and Sammy (3.) The youngest four were adopted from China. Two of them have hearing loss (microtia), and two of them have HIV.

As if it were not obvious from the perfect spacing and alternating girl-boy pattern of his children, Mike is an engineer. During the day, Mike develops new hair care technologies for Pantene. (He is passionate about both Jesus and lather.) On nights and weekends, he volunteers with the youth group, drives to dance, attends Cello recitals, coaches soccer and basketball, plays a mean game of Freeze Tag, updates his budget spreadsheet, and occasionally binge watches television shows with Anne.

You can read Mike’s posts on NHBO here.



From Desirée: “In 2012 God choose me to be the forever momma to the greatest little boy ever. He just happens to have been born in China… and have an extra chromosome. Our life now is helping others fall in love with adoption & Down syndrome and to have a dance party at least once a day, sometimes in the cereal aisle. We are super excited about doors of advocacy that the Lord has opened up for us! During my “free” time, I am a director in a family practice residency; getting to teach the newest generation of primary care providers to value each and every life they touch.”

You can find Desirée’s posts on NHBO here.

Desirée’s personal blog is The Adoption Seed.



From Rebecca: “Mark, and I are the parents of four little people, three of which are gifts from China. God has used adoption to expand the borders of our hearts. Each journey has been filled with beauty and challenges, laughter and weight, each showing us the heart of our Father in a new way. He’s drawn us closer to Himself, and never seems to stop pushing us to step beyond our comfort zones to serve the fatherless in new ways.

For years I have followed NHBO, and have been so inspired and challenged. If I might “pay it forward” and offer encouragement to others, I’ll call myself abundantly blessed. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to serve, this creative stretching, and this way to connect with families who share a heartbeat for adoption and orphan advocacy.”

You can read Rebecca’s posts on NHBO here.

Rebecca’s personal blog is La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life.

So thankful to have such talented writers added to our team. And so grateful for the adoption community that rallied to nominate so many amazing bloggers. Y’all are the best.