Then and Now

As an adoptive parent there is definitely one thing that I stress over more than anything else. One might think it would have something to do with doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, surgeries, or something else of that nature. But those things come easily to me. I’m usually sipping my cup of coffee and enjoying my book by the time I get the call from the operating room that the procedure has begun. No, what I struggle with most is the balance of preserving my children’s pasts while escorting them into their futures.

Every adoptive parent views their situation differently. I love adoption, and I encourage adoption. But it breaks my heart that my children had to lose so much in order to join our family. I also love China. I ache for “the land of my heart” on a daily basis. It makes me sad that my children had to leave it behind. One of my more poignant memories from my China trips happened in my daughter’s home city just a couple of days after I had adopted her. We were out for one of our daily walks, and as we were waiting to cross the street, a young couple on a small motorcycle turned around the corner where we were standing. Their laughter echoed through the air as she wrapped her arms around him a little more tightly. In that instant, I realized that was my daughter’s birthright. To grow up in that city, to be a young woman on the back of a motorcycle with the jokes on her lips in Mandarin. And I hurt that she would never have it. Both then and now. Yet, I’m so very thankful she’s here with me.

I feel like I owe it to my Chinese kids to honor their roots. However, I also want them to know that they are fully a part of us. Like so many other adoptive families ours consists of both biological and adopted children, and I am very conscientious about not having an “us” and “them” divide between the two. Birth stories and adoption stories are woven interchangeably into our lives. Red Envelopes full of “lucky” money at Chinese New Year are just as much a part of us as our Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. But I’m always looking for new ways to improve upon the delicate balance I strive to maintain.

So recently when I “coincidentally” stumbled across the website for an American photographer that used to live in China while re-decorating my entryway I was thrilled. My search for the perfect piece ended when I discovered a picture from the small village where my daughter lived with her foster parents before coming to be with us. A little bit of her past, right here in her home where she can see it every day. To anybody else it just looks like a picture of simple, tree-lined stream. But she recognized the location immediately. Once upon a time, she passed it every day. And she’s the one that counts. I’m way out of my area of expertise when it comes to this whole adoptive parenting thing. But this one I got exactly right. She is so proud of “her” picture, not because of the scenery but because of what it says. That photo in my entryway is a reminder that I cherish every part of her. That every, single bit of my baby girl’s life is precious to me…even the parts that came before I did. I am her “now” but I also hold the memories of her “then” very close to my heart.

The Party Blower

You know the ones – the party blowers for birthdays with Hello Kitty or Batman on them. They make a loud noise and extend with airflow, sometimes with streamers and usually accompanied by delirious laughter from children and sometimes adults alike.


We opened a package of these on a van ride home just for fun. Just for fun. But there are things in parenting a special needs child that should be fun but start as work first. Painful work to get somewhere normal. The places naturally taken for granted by most are worked for and inched towards on a daily basis. Grace took that party blower and painstakingly placed her lips around the mouthpiece and blew and blew to no avail. No extension of the party blower and no delirious laughter. In fact, the very opposite. A zero to ninety mile per hour build up of screaming, yelling and crying and the party blower is thrown on the ground. And she is mad and I am frustrated for her. There are days where nothing seems easy. Her siblings put their party blowers down in their lap and wait. I am amazed at their ability to grieve with their sister who grieves unexpectedly and without warning. That party blower is normal childhood fun, but for her, it is a speech therapy mountainous hurdle to leap over with lips that have scar tissue and the mechanics of a mouth not quite right. The truth is, she has every capacity in her to blow that party blower. She has the lungpower and the will, but just could not get things positioned right and that party blower is terribly hard.

Sometimes the hurdles she has to jump can really blow a party! She is angry and crying and the atmosphere has gone from celebratory to tense in a matter of seconds. It stinks to work that hard for joy.

I am reminded in that moment how I can strive for joy. I get frustrated in working for it, throw it down and feel defeated. How the capacity for joy is there at salvation but life sends it’s hurdles and the scar tissue on my heart can sometimes make it difficult to position that birthright of joy. For joy to project outward, there is a repositioning and restoring that has to take place. It can get stuck inside and only in my desperation and the throwing up of hands do things get loosened up enough for the capacity for joy to make its way upward and outward. An overflow in abundance is right there waiting. I have to acknowledge my need for it to be restored and placed right again.

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Grace finally has that desperation. She asks her sister with a teary raspy voice to pick up the party blower. Her older sister does, encouraging and desperately waiting too. There are some things we can’t give Grace as much as we want to. Joy is one of them. We can demonstrate it and model it, but that positioning of joy has to come from the Father and bubble up from within. So desperately, for a handful of seconds, Grace works for joy. And she finally gets the positioning correct and blows that party blower to full extension! We all rejoice in 5:00 traffic and she continues to blow the party blower and there is celebration. She has found the right position in her little cleft lip and palate to produce joy. That joy is contagious and covers over the grief just moments before. Joy restored in a party blower celebration and another piece of joy restored in her heart. And we learn as a family to ride the waves of grief and joy and marvel at the ways in which joy is more prevalent now and where grief is fleeting. So we celebrate in that van, the milestone of positioned joy, as we crawl baby steps home bumper to bumper.

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become a Mentoring Mom

I am so. excited.

This project has been in the *dream* stage for a long time. But with a website overhaul pending, and realizing our need for more organizational and informational supports to make NHBO all it can be, the time to turn this dream into reality is now.

Joining me on this adventure are Rebecca, Liberty, Becky, Amy and Sheryl. All moms of precious kiddos from China, who just happen to have special needs. All passionate advocates for the orphan. And all just as excited as I am to be working together to launch this crazy big idea.

And we want you, adoptive mama, to be in on this, too.

So just what is it we are doing? Well, I’m so glad you asked.

Our dream is to establish a network of Mentoring Moms (or Dads, as the case may be) to represent most, if not all, of the special needs that are seen in children coming home from China. Each need would be represented by two or more moms, depending on the amount of support a specific need might require and how many children are represented by that specific need. Each team would be lead by one mom who checks in regularly with the larger NHBO team.

Collectively, each team of Mentoring Moms would work together to 1) improve the resources available on NHBO and keep it updated with the most current and most accurate information available for that specific need 2) publish occasional posts on the NHBO blog and help raise awareness through social media 3) work together to help educate and inform those who are considering parenting a child with special needs 4) work together to support parents who are already home with a child and wondering what the best next steps in parenting a child with that specific need.

Individually, a Mentoring Mom would be someone who is parenting a child with a specific special need that they have become so familiar with, so knowledgeable about, that they’ve become something of a non-trained-but-eat-sleep-and-dream-about-it expert.

I know that parenting two children who came home from China with unrepaired bilateral clubfoot has pushed me to learn way more about clubfoot than I ever wanted to. I also know how much I love being able to share with other soon-to-be clubfoot moms about our experience. From the first traumatic look at Jude’s bruised and twisted feet in China, through 7 sets of casts, and then finally to tendon transfer surgery, we’ve been through a lot together. And I learned so much on the way.


So here is what we’d want from you, expert mama:

– Mom to a child from China adopted through the SN program
– Commit to volunteering approximately one to two hours per week
– Be willing to work on a two to three person team for each individual need, as well as the larger Mentoring Mom team
– Be available to discuss via email or FB the project as well as ongoing needs for NHBO
– Organize/collect information for the NHBO site (resources and special needs pages) as well as links, blogs and available support
– Write up one post, at least quarterly, about real-life parenting of a child with that special need
– Seek out additional resources, blog links, and other moms with wisdom to share with NHBO readers
– Be willing to help spread the word about the NHBO Mentoring Mom program through social media
– Share with other moms who are considering a child with this special need and/or are already are parenting a child with this special need

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? We would love to have you on board.

Below is a Special Needs Checklist we’ve created to help organized the more common special needs seen in children adopted from China. But by no means is it exhaustive. Please review it to find the specific special need you are interested in being a Mentor for and select that need when you complete the form below. If you would like to be a Mentoring Mom and are parenting a child with a special need not listed, let us know by completing the form – you’ll have an opportunity to share more about your child’s specific need there.


click checklist to enlarge

So, are you ready? All that’s left is this short questionnaire, designed to help us get to know you a little better. If you have questions, feel free to comment on this post or on the form below.

During the process

During the adoption process, there are few things more fierce than the determination of an adoptive mama (or baba) to get to her baby. She has a strange, indescribable love for her child that carries such intensity, it’s often overwhelming. The “my-claws-will-come-out-if-you-get-in-my-way” mama bear protective instincts kind-of-love are ferocious and very real. Anything that stands in the way of getting to her baby is met with aggressive determination to overcome. She is her child’s best earthly advocate and she knows it, so she fights with love for her baby in a way that may appear insane to bystanders. To have such powerful feelings for a child, sometimes living on the other side of the world who she has never met, is confusing for many people. It’s not logical and makes no sense. I know this. But love often doesn’t make sense, does it? And I am, once again, feeling these intense emotions as we wait to bring Dumpling home. Maya Angelou said, “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Yes, that sweet Maya Angelou, whose poetry I so enjoyed reading when I was younger, knew a thing or two about love.

Knowing that my God is fighting even harder to bring him home to us makes the feelings even more intense and staggering. He is already moving mountains, and I am anticipating Him continuing to overcome barriers in amazing ways as the process continues. I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring a SON home through adoption, to experience God’s intense love for His children in a small earthly way. Knowing that we will bring Dumpling home at the end of this long process is what keeps me focused and pushing forward. He is waiting for us and doesn’t even know it. I think about him all the time. I look at the clock, factor the 12 hour difference, and wonder what he’s doing. I study his referral paperwork over and over to try to memorize his routine, realizing that it’s probably different because the information is a year old. I cling to the information I have nonetheless. I watch the few videos I have of him obsessively. I stare at his pictures, looking for any new piece of information I may not have noticed before. I wonder if he got enough to eat today, if he got to play with friends, and if his boo-boos were kissed. I wonder if someone loved him today, yesterday, last week, last month. I wonder if he knows he matters. I wonder if he knows what hope is. I wonder if he knows how much he’s loved, by us and his heavenly Father.

New Picture- August 2013- An Orphan's Wish

Despite all that I don’t know right now, I know that He knows. And that gives me peace. I know that the Father has His hand on our precious little guy and He loves Dumpling more than I can imagine. His love is stronger and greater and mightier. His love is deep and His love is wide. His love prevails and crosses all oceans. His love is all we need, and knowing that is so freeing.

I’ll finish with this sweet quote from the late Maya Angelou: “I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you …’”

Never Say Never Again

My husband, Joe, and I never set out to be parents of this many kids. If there can be such a thing as accidental adoptions, we have experienced them. Now though, our adoptions are no longer accidental. This is the way we have chosen to live. The path that led us to this decision, at a rather young age, is long and winding. It’s also a source of curiosity for families with the average one to two children. We understand that, and that’s why we’re okay answering the questions ‘are you done now?!?’ and ‘how many more do you think you’ll have?’ We’re okay answering it now, because the answer comes easily these days.

We don’t know.

We have said we were done, both to each other, and to our friends and family, so many times that it has become ridiculous. Now, when people ask, we just smile and raise an eyebrow. People are so off put by the fact we won’t commit to an end point for our child rearing days that it bothered us at first. We felt pressure to know we were finished. Sadly, that pressure led to us feeling like we should be done. There is no should anymore, there is only watching and waiting to see what life has in store for us.

We started out knowing exactly how many children we wanted. We tried to have your typical American family, and when it didn’t work the typical way, we decided to forego infertility treatments of any kind because we thought that adoption would be ‘easier.’ We learned that lesson the hard way. It isn’t easier, but it’s beautiful. After adopting three little boys domestically, and then a treasured little princess, we declared ourselves done.

The domestic four

I felt sad about this, but comforted myself by working with children who had no parents and needed medical care that I could provide as a nurse. This led me to Ghana…and to our next three children.


People asked, yet again, ‘you’re done NOW, right?’ And, we felt the pressure, so we caved and said ‘FOR SURE!’ We had seven kids, which is three to four times the national average. And, we had just dropped three older children into the middle of the children we had parented from day one, wouldn’t it be crazy to consider doing this again?

Yes, it would be, but we did. Having a medical background as a pediatric nurse makes me unafraid of special needs that scare most parents to their core. And, maybe I should be more afraid. Maybe I’m naïve. But, my naiveté led me to China and to our daughter who was dying in her orphanage of a Congenital Heart Defect that turned out to be much more complex then even we could have imagined.

Tess in the orphanage

We barely made it home with our baby girl. Her heart condition will require an untold amount of surgical intervention in the future. It may lead to the need for a new heart. But, I’m not kidding you, the girl is a miracle. And, watching that miracle happen, right in front of our eyes, has done something indescribable for our family. It has made us never say never.

And, we didn’t. We happily welcomed our ninth child to our home in November of 2013. We could never say never to him.

Bowen and Joe

The world around us says it a lot though. They wonder how it is EVER possible to give enough to the children in our home. How will they have enough one on one time? Won’t they suffer having so many brothers and sisters? How will we have time for each other? How will we have time for them? When will it be ENOUGH?!?

Becky kissing Tess

I feel terrible every time I hear this, like I’m the most selfish person in the world for bringing these children into our home and forcing them to live this way.

Kids Playing checkers

So, yet again, pride made us promise we were finished.

Then, we had a fight. Yes, my husband and I fought. Because, one evening, in a fit of anger over the children on the other side of the world who were suffering with diseases that could be fixed easily here in the U.S., who were experiencing neglect and dying alone with no family, I decided I didn’t care anymore. I don’t care what other people think. I know what I can handle, and if a Social Worker agrees with me, and the foreign government approves it, then I want to keep adopting.

Being honest over the fact that we fought over this is hard for me. Just like I don’t want to be a bad mother, I don’t want to be a bad wife. I don’t want to push Joe into living in a way he doesn’t want to live. And, I was. I still do to some extent. Joe would be happy being dad of a small family. He’s just happy wherever we are in life. I am the one who pushes to the future, and sometimes, the future on the horizon in front of him scares him a little. This time, it scared him a lot. While I see what could have been for the children in our home, he worries about what will be for the children in our home. How will we pay for college for all of them? Will we EVER get to retire?

I called him selfish.

How unfair.

After arguing, discussing, and then praying, we finally came together, to the same spot in this journey. We came to the place where we’re okay taking it one day, and one child, at a time. We came to the place where we could move forward hand in hand, one more time…well, maybe…to China.

We would like to introduce you to our daughter, Cate.

Cate Collage

She is the reason that we keep on saying yes to this adventure. Well, her and the nine other little people who continue to say to me “Mom! We could do this just one more time!!!”

Kids on the Beach

~Guest post by Full Plate Mom

A Birth Story

Motherhood always starts with a birth story.

Because no matter if you pull your baby out of a birthing pool with your own two hands, receive her from the arms of a social worker outside the hospital nursery, or pull him – screaming – from the arms of the orphanage worker who brought him halfway across the province and met you in a stuffy civil affairs room thick with the smell of stale smoke and fear, motherhood always starts in a monumental moment.

And you never feel ready. But in that monumental moment, a mother is born.

Cora came on a cold Beijing night. After waiting out part of my labor in a hot shower, we called our doctor and I couldn’t speak through the contractions so she told us to get to the hospital as fast as we could. Jacob and I loaded up in an old jeep, borrowed from a friend, with our nurse friend Joan. (It comforted me to think that if the baby came faster than we thought and I happened to have her on the side of a road somewhere between our village and Beijing, I’d be accompanied by a nurse.) Joan massaged my back as Jacob sped towards the hospital. 45 minutes and too many excruciating bumps to count later, we were there. The night passed in a blur of sleeplessness, monitors, and talk of heart-rates and meconium. After a few tense moments when they discussed an emergency C-section, and another few tense moments when I shouted at all the nurses to speak English instead of Chinese, Cora was born. “It’s a girl,” the doctor shouted. “What beautiful double eyelids,” the nurses murmured. “I’m so glad I’m not pregnant anymore,” I sighed.

And in that moment, our daughter was born. But to be perfectly honest, it isn’t when I feel like I fully became her mother.

That came later… weeks later, actually, when I was sore and bleeding from feeding her; when every two hours I would literally bite down on something to keep from crying out in pain. It came from the round-the-clock care of a newborn, and meeting the never-ending needs that I had no idea how to meet. From the tears and the frustration and the fears and the uncertainty and the utter exhaustion. Somehow, from all of that, I walked through and came out the other side beginning to really feel like her mama.


Alea came on a warm Zhengzhou morning. Bundled in a thick pink snowsuit and groggy from a just-awakened morning nap, the orphanage worker thrust her into my arms at the bidding of an agency representative. Alea’s expression was stoic and calm – shocked to her core, I’m sure. She didn’t make eye contact, but she grabbed onto my necklace and wouldn’t let go. When we weren’t looking at her, she’d steal glances at us. But the instant we turned our eyes towards her, she’d look back at my necklace. We signed papers and took pictures and stared at each other in shock. We couldn’t believe that just like that we had another daughter. The only person who seemed unfazed by it all was Cora, who just kept cooing “Hi Sissy” as if getting a new sibling on the first floor of a stuffy Chinese government building was the most normal thing in the world.


And in that moment, our daughter joined our family. But to be perfectly honest, it isn’t when I feel like I fully became her mother.

That came later… weeks later, actually, when her mouth was sore and festering with a terrible virus that covered every surface of her mouth with painful ulcers. I felt utterly ill-equipped to take care of her. I’m not sure how we stayed out of the hospital… she didn’t eat solid foods for 4 days, and she’d only suck down the bare minimum of liquid requirements in a bottle slathered with Orajel. She’d cry out inconsolably every 30-40 minutes around the clock; it was like having a newborn for whom you have no comfort tricks. She didn’t trust me, and it seemed like I was always coming at her with some sort of syringe filled with medicine that I quite literally had to shove down her throat. She’d gurgle and spit out her medicine, and I’d clamp her jaws shut like our pediatrician had shown me while she clawed to get out from under me. My arms bled from her razor-sharp fingernails, and I cried as I worried about all the damage I was unintentionally doing to our fledgling attachment. But somehow, from the tears and the frustration and the fears and the uncertainty and the utter exhaustion… somehow, from all of that, I walked through and came out the other side beginning to really feel like her mama. And though I feared it would have the opposite effect, improbably her illness seemed to help her understand I was her mama, too. She’d cling to me moments after she fought me off, and she wanted me more than anyone else for the first time in our journey together.

In the thick of those days, my good friend Anne wrote me a note and in it she said something that settled deep in my heart and hasn’t left it. She said, “Don’t lose hope! God is doing a deep healing right now… And he is taking you through the labor pains your heart needs, too. He is making you a family, and in his great plan that process always requires pain and all-in sacrifice.”

And maybe that’s why motherhood always starts with a birth story. It always starts with pain and suffering and agony and this nearly-consuming fear that screams out of your most primal places that “I can’t do this” even as you’re DOING IT. And it doesn’t matter how you come into motherhood. It may not be physical labor – to be honest, I’m finding the “labor” of bringing Alea into my heart is much more all-consuming, exhausting, and painful than it was for Cora. I had an epidural when I gave birth to Cora, but there is no epidural for the labor of an adoption.

A few weeks before we traveled to meet Alea, I saw this post on my friend Tara Livesay’s blog. She featured a quote from Brene Brown that stopped my cold. “Faith isn’t an epidural. It is a midwife who stands next to me saying, ‘Push, it’s supposed to hurt.’”

Push, it’s supposed to hurt.

Making a family out of brokenness and tragedy isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t cute and pretty. It isn’t about what outfit the child is going to wear to their consulate appointment or when to get them their first haircut. Sure it can be beautiful in the midst of the pain, but it is supposed to hurt and you just keep pushing.

Some families come home with little ones who immediately need to be checked into hospitals for major cardiac surgeries. (And some of us wonder how they do it.) Some families come home with little ones who kick and claw and scream and fight to get away from them. (And some of us wonder how they do it.) Some families come home with little ones who get mouth viruses and won’t eat or drink. (I realize in the scheme of things, our little trial seems laughable.) Whatever the path our journeys take us on, one thing is a constant… Bringing a child into your family requires a lot of pushing through the pain; a lot of leaning into the pain and letting it do its work. It requires labor. It’s hard. It’s messy. It hurts like hell. You always think you can’t do it until you just do. (We are all capable of so much more than we think.) It hurts, you push and you push some more.

But after labor, a family is born.


Land of the free

Memorial Day. Pools everywhere open for the season. Grills are fired up. Sparkles are sparkling. That’s what it’s always been—a day off and a homecoming party for our good friend summer. I wouldn’t say I grew up without a patriotic heart; I knew all the words to the national anthem and belt out the alto part with my sisters. But, Memorial Day was more about burgers and hammocks than the red, white, and blue.

This weekend marks my 37th Memorial Day. Along the journey of the last several, my heart swelled for those stars and stripes and all they represent.

Four years ago, when I rode those escalators up to the 5th floor of an office building in Guangzhou, I rose my right hand and took an oath of truth, the last step in a 3-year journey that started before the life of the little one I wore on my side started. Our Chinese translators were not allowed into the room with us, a room packed full of American citizens who all either cradled or held the little hands of Chinese children who were nearly American citizens too. Despite the nearly tangible fatigue of red tape in that room, I could almost hear the sound of the national anthem in my heart as I saw the freedom I have in a new way.


I’ve never been more grateful for the sacrifice of the brave before me as I am now. I have never felt as indebted to those who have fought the fight and continue to do so to protect the freedom that I live everyday as a wife and mother of four — one of whom was not born to me within these borders but who now calls it her home too.

I don’t agree with all American policies. There are all sorts of things awry here, I know, but politics and patriotism are not the same thing. And, perhaps international adoptive parents should be the most patriotic of all, not in an egocentric or arrogant sort of way at all but with deep gratitude for those who have paid the greatest price for our peace and freedom, a freedom that allows our family to be a family.

The sun is shining today, and the air is just warm enough to tease us to go to the pool and try taking a dip in the water that still feels like spring. We’ll grill cheeseburgers, and my husband and I will sit together out back while the kids ride scooters in our driveway. Traditions are sweet especially when they help us celebrate a day that means more now to me than it did before. The freedom so many people have given their lives for is what has made our family what it is.

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

what we’re reading links: 5.23.2014

These past two weeks have been chock-full of news stories relevant to the China special needs adoption community! Here are some of our favorite articles and blog posts about parenting an adopted and/or 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.


Heritage Hardcore at highlights the importance of incorporating your child’s birth culture into family life, especially in the case of older child adoption.

Lori from IMMEASURABLY MORE shares her heart in a recent and very personal devotional called waiting…

Tammy from Casting a Stone talks about a recent conversation she had with a child living in an orphanage in “My life would be so different…”

At Unto Adoption, Mia shares details about navigating life with a child who has an unrepaired cleft palate in Cleft in the Rock.

A recent experience caring for a friend’s infant twins sparks thoughts of orphanage life from Amy Eldridge, the CEO of Love Without Boundaries.

On his blog, Jason Johnson makes a case for Killing the Orphan Care Hero Complex.

Mary Evelyn of What Do You Do, Dear? hangs up her superhero cape in The Myth of the Special Needs Supermom.

At the Verge Network, Jamie Ivey shares Four Things to Do When Bringing Home a Child from Hard Places.

Occupational Therapist Heather answers the questions Does My Child Have Behavior Problems? Or Sensory Processing Issues? at Golden Reflections Blog.

Adoptee and Holt employee Courtney Young discusses family, culture and the complexities of adoption reunion at No Fairytale Ending on the Holt International blog.

Jane Samuel, a board member of the Attachment Trauma Network and former ex-pat in China, describes Asian attitudes surrounding adoption in Adoptive Moms and Mother’s Day at Mothering in the Middle.

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


Today contributor Jacoba Urist writes about how HIV discrimination against children feels like ‘a punch in the gut’ for parents.

Several articles in recent weeks focused on how photography intersects with adoption and/or special needs:
‘Model’ children: Parents share beautiful photos of kids with special needs, disabilities on
Photos capture special moments with adoptive parents and children in the Lifestyle section of the Lebanon Daily
News From China with love: mementos of adoption at The Telegraph

Several news organizations shared special Mother’s Day tributes, including Channel News Asia, that highlighted the work of Dale Edmonds, adoptive mom and founder of Riverkids; and CBS in the Bay Area, that highlighted the work of Jenny Bowen, adoptive mom and founder of Half the Sky.

In the Health & Science section of The Washington Post, Caitlyn Dewey tells the story of Lacey Phipps: In pain and forced to use a wheelchair, a young woman opts to amputate her clubfeet.

Lantern Vision shares its video about Project Hopeful entitled Adoption is Redemption: Considering Children with Special Needs.

Sandra Upson of The Scientific American shares just one of many results of China’s one-child policy in Health Care Crisis Looms as China Faces Elderly Dementia Upsurge.

At Gazillion Voices, David Amarel, a transracial adoptive dad to teens, shares his recent encounter with a stranger on a train in The Unbearable Whiteness of Being.


Kate, whose mama blogs at The Trusty Family, just home from China



In China now to bring home their child…

Two Vandalgrads and Two “G”s
The Layers of Life
Stop for Flowers
My Life Song
Lanterns, Ladybugs and a Whole Lot of Love
One More Thing
Bringing Home Andi
Homework, Hotdogs and Valium
Love Makes a Family
The Collected Hord
Team Willie Goes To China

Just Home from China…

The Trusty Family
Hearts Set on Pilgrimage
September Sweeties
Becoming Home

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

P.S. A big thank you to Kristina for sharing a photo of her beautiful daughter, and another to those who helped compile this week’s post.

Stepping Up to Adoption/Orphan Ministry

Amidst piling documents into our first dossier, we sensed that our adoption journey was to be a wider stretching. Beyond becoming mommy and daddy to three beloved gifts from China, God nudged us further. Our hearts enlarged for more kids than those to be in our family. We stood in our daughter’s social welfare institute in Chengdu, China, surrounded by 500 orphaned children, and the game changed. Like so many other adoptive families, James 1:27 became marching orders.

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes. ~ David Platt.

Platt resonates with those of us with hearts for orphans, because we’ve walked the halls of orphanages, looking into the solemn eyes of babies filling row after row of cribs. We’ve watched our own adopted children blossom, fueled by family love. We’ve seen and we’ve held, and we were moved to action.

No longer were we indifferent, nor were the adoptive families that we connected with. We believe the church and its people are charged with orphan care, and have expectations for how our home church should be carrying this out. We loved our church, but had our list of “shoulds”. We thought it should support adoptive families, should serve in foster homes, should raise awareness.
Then it hit us.

We WERE the church.

If we wanted the church to serve orphans, WE were the servants that needed to step up. So, a group of us met to dream, pray and plan, and an adoption ministry was born. Three years later, we are two busy adoptive moms, who said yes to a leading.


Neither of us felt ready, has time, or is exceptional qualified. The good news is that this is God’s thing. Our only claims are that we long to empty out the world’s orphanages, have hearts for adoption and foster care and have sought Him. We fail, cancel events and always have to keep our desire to do MORE or LESS in check. But, He has come through month after month, project after project. And when things failed in our eyes? Our guess is that it was an idea of our own making.

Heart Check: If adoption and orphan care ministry stirs your heart, first pray through whether this is something YOU want to do, or something God wants you to do. Be mindful first of stepping before God directs it. Being parents to your adopted child is a high calling. Are you being asked for more, or do you just desire more? Is this the right season?

Or consider, is God stirring your heart toward such work, but you aren’t feeling ready or adequate? We get it, but you’ll have to get over it. Never will you be ready. This is God-sized. He just wants you to show up.

If you made it past the caution statements, here is a practical glimpse into our group. We are ACT 24:12 based on Proverbs 24:12.

“Once our eyes are opened, we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we know and holds us responsible to ACT…”

We are Spirit-Led: We plan, but are flexible and open to HIS leading. We are organizers. If you’re reading this closely, you probably are too. Our prayer is to boldly step where led, but not beyond.

We are Prayerful: Our top priority is prayer. Prayer for orphans, adoptions, foster families and orphan care projects. At meetings, families share their stories and then we circle up to pray for them. The sharing of prayer requests is top priority in all communication.

We Meet: While we once met monthly, we now meet every other month, which works best for our group of over-extended families. Meeting attendance is not our goal, so this removes pressure from the core group, and makes meeting months special. People sign-up on FB to bring snacks and drinks, and a volunteer offers child care for $5 per family. Our agenda includes family sharing, updates, and explanation of service projects, and is sometimes topical (foster care, the wait, etc.)

We Connect: We are intentional about relationships. Questions get answered, and new adoption families find inspiration from experienced adoption families, over potluck at our quarterly socials. On non-meeting months, mentoring happens around tables at women’s dinners.

Our desire is to walk alongside families navigating the hard adoption/foster journey. We want to show up with tissues and chocolate when obstacles arise, organize meal trains for newly home families, and stand at the airport and cheer as a child arrives home. Sometimes meeting for coffee with families with questions about adoption can be the needed nudge toward one less orphan.

We Serve: We organize monthly “orphan serves”, as often as possible, family friendly, with a mix of local and global projects. We step forward boldly with what we feel led to do, and then trust for provision. These are planned around church mission teams, foster home/agency needs and traveling adoptive families.

Our past projects include Easter baskets for a foster home, medicine and PJ packed suitcase for Love Without Boundaries’ Heartbridge Healing Home, meals for newly home adoptive families, Valentine bags and backpacks for foster kids, a Both Hands orphan/widow project, school supplies and toiletry bags for mission trips to a Haitian orphanage, decorated photos/cards for orphans in Ghana, formula drive for Brighton Their World, races for orphans, kid made bracelets for mission teams, and a clothing drive for foster families.

Twice a year we create “Say Grace” bags, our prayer based project. We compile 31 prayer requests, regarding family adoptions/fostering, orphan care ministries and general orphan related prayer requests. These are then cut into strips and bagged. Families are asked to pull out a request each night and include the need when they “say grace” before dinner.

say grace 2

We Communicate: We share information via monthly emailed updates and on our group’s Facebook page. Sign-Up Genius helps us coordinate donation drives.

We Offer Financial Support: If a family is hosting a fundraiser, we try to rally for them. We also encouraged our church to set up a Lifesong for Orphans matching grant.

We Open Our Doors: One of the big goals of our ministry is to host two seminars per year, focused on adoption and foster care. We simply invite agencies, provide some snacks and advertise. How amazing that open doors might unite families.

Why do these? They build families: “Years ago, my husband and I attended a seminar led by a Christian adoption agency.  We chose to attend, literally, at the last minute and walked through the doors of the church unsure if we should be there. Our hearts raw and hurting from years spent struggling with infertility. But oh, how thankful we are we took those steps into that church! God did an amazing and beautiful work in our hearts. Our view of adoption was completely changed during those 2 hours. We now have 3 children through adoption and are incredibly thankful for that day and God’s beautiful plan for our family.” ~ Angela

An answer of yes. That is all that is needed to begin an adoption ministry. The rest will come if you are open to it. We started in a living room, and are still a small group of people, connected by heartbeats for orphans. We are an adoption support and orphan care team, and have stood in awe of how God has done immeasurably more than we even knew to ask for. Be encouraged to act. There is work to be done, awareness to be raised, families who need community, and orphanages to empty out.

Please leave a comment or contact me if you have further questions, we’d love to support you.


Overwhelmingly, the number one word used to describe my son and the majority of those rocking an extra chromosome like him is…HAPPY. This is seriously not a bad reputation to have! In fact, there is a great YouTube video going around with groups of people with Down syndrome gleefully shaking what God gave them to the hit song Happy. You can’t help but tap your toes and grin ear to ear. Who wouldn’t?!


But the more I hear the word ‘happy’ being used to describe children & adults with Down syndrome, the more I don’t like it. Not in a weird, over sensitive I’m-a-mom-of-a-child-with-special-needs-and-I-need-to-defend-him-from-the-world kind of way. (We all know those types!) But, I think I have two pretty solid reasons to not totally love the word in describing my boy:

First, I believe it robs my son, and those like him, the opportunity to be human. It is true, overall, Isaac is a pretty happy kid…except when he is not. *wink* (This is usually my semi-flippant response when people coo over ‘what a happy boy he is!’) My son is human. He has good days. He has bad days. Some days he is just plain mad, I mean truly & royally NOT happy. And he deserves the right to feel those emotions and learn how to react to them appropriately. He gets selfish and jealous and rebellious and frustrated and angry. He is a toddler for Pete’s sake; his emotions are ALL over the place — it’s like beta testing for puberty! And, just like you & me, he is a sinful creature of this broken earth in need of God’s grace. It’s my job as his parent to teach him to both acknowledge how he is feeling and be accountable for how he responds to his emotions–happiness, anger and everything equally in between. It’s not about just being happy, it’s about the Fruits of the Spirit.

Second, I simply don’t think ‘happy’ is an accurate word. In my mind, what people describe as happy is really misinterpreted JOY. Happiness is a fleeting emotion, but joy is a gift of character, given by our Creator to enjoy His presence and ALL that is in it. “My joy in you will make your joy complete” (John 15:11). People feel happiness but ARE joyous, even with the occasional bad day. This is why dancing with your whole person to a catchy tune in the middle of the street isn’t happy…it’s joyful! Feeling it from your toes, moving, breathing & finding your being in Christ (Acts 17:28). The Psalmist said “You fill me with JOY in your presence” (Psalms 16:10). David would know…he danced for joy before the Lord…naked! There is no anxiety in joy because true joy grows out of faith, hope, thankfulness & love; it is aware of the abundance of Grace in our lives and delights in serving others. Joy is simple and born out of a deep response to our Maker. I honestly don’ t know if the Lord knit this gift into my son via his extra chromosome or the simplicity of my son’s heart isn’t hindered in receiving what has been readily given to us all. Either way, THIS is what I believe people are seeing in Isaac and all of his chromosomal buddies. A contagious, I-want-some-of-what-he’s-got JOY in the Lord!