Telling the Story: Theirs, Mine and His

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I realize now that when we first brought our children home, I had an undefined, but deeply felt and well-meant desire. However, I have also realized that my desire was not exactly what God had in mind. Let me explain. I wanted our adopted children to be so loved, so secure, so encompassed in the life and culture of our family and our story, that they would come to a point where they never felt different or separate from us. I didn’t want them to feel like they didn’t fit in or that they were somehow “other.” I wanted the sadness and torment of their story to be absorbed in the love of our story. I wanted the pain of their pasts to be erased by the power of healing love.

But trying to lose the one story in the beauty of the other creates an invisible barrier that works to separate, which is the complete opposite of what I desired! It wars against the spirit of adoption which does not erase any of our pasts, but rather uses the past as part of the redemptive story of love. And that redemption my friends is the freedom that propels us all into our destinies.

As our children have grown up (Now 20, 21, 23, 23, 25, 25, 26. 3 by birth, 4 by adoption.), I have realized that God has not asked me to be an author/writer of my children’s stories. He doesn’t require me to heal or cover up or redeem their stories — that was His to do!

His plan for me, and for them, is so much better.

So, what is my role then? I have asked this question countless times over the past 15 years of adoptive parenting.

And I have discovered that He has given me a different role, one that invites me to fully embrace my child as I co-labor with Him in the transformation of an orphan into a true son or daughter. That is the story of adoption, both theirs and mine.

So, I have been learning to be:

A caretaker.

I have the privilege of caring for and nurturing their story. As a caretaker I cannot ignore or neglect my child’s past. Rather, I get to discover, along with them, the nature of this unique garden that is their life, filled with plants both exotic and unfamiliar. I have the honor of helping them discover the beauty of it, and make sense of the unfamiliar and even the unknown. I have sensed the Lord telling me to embrace each child fully, including their pasts.

As my children have gone through the process of trying to discover who they are, I realize that they are longing for me to see them. Really see them. See that they are, in fact, different from me. They are looking to me to see if I will approve, accept, and celebrate them as Russian, as members of a different culture and a different family. This has been tricky for me, because there are parts of their stories, by no fault of their own, that are not honorable, not worthy of celebration — things like rejection, abuse, addiction, prostitution, murder, abandonment. But you know what I have discovered? There is always much to celebrate in each story. So I honor what is honorable. And I care for the details, the good, the bad and the ugly.

A curator.

I select the content to be presented at the appropriate time, and to the appropriate audience. We have been intentional to search out all the details that we could find, collecting anything about their story and their birth families, so that when the time came, we would be able to help. Part of the role of a curator is fact-finding. To me, it is an expression of love to be a keeper of this information. Interestingly, some of our children have wanted, even needed to know details, and some have not — at least not yet. Depending on their age and their maturity, we release parts of the story we feel they are ready to see. This “time-release” issue is huge and I have found that prayer has been such a gift in discerning the right time to share.

I have also discovered that simply asking my child if he/she wants to know more has been helpful. I may not be able to find out more, or I may discern that more information would best be kept for a later time, but even so, by asking I am able to help my child recognize that there is a story that belongs to him/her, and that I am here to help.

In the early years the telling is easier, as we withhold the uglier and more painful details of the story. But as our children grow older, their questions also mature. They will wonder about motives, about fault. They will go over their story with the inquisitive eyes, seeking to make sense of the facts they know, and to fill in the details they don’t know. And my role in this process is, in part, to gather information and then release it.

A truth-teller.

For we wonder, wouldn’t it be nicer, kinder, more loving to keep the uglier parts of their story hidden? Our desire to protect is so strong. Isn’t that what good mamas do?

Truth telling is scary I have found. What if the information is too much for him? What if she is not ready to receive it? What if they lash out in their pain?

I have learned that as much as I would like to cover over, sugar coat or lie about these things, there very well may be a time when my child needs to know the facts. And so often the facts, even the darkest and most appalling facts, are less frightening than the fear of the unknown and what-ifs that often manifest in what looks like anger, hatred, rebellion or opposition, but is in actual fact simply deep-rooted fear.

In reality, I can’t actually cover up what they already know in the depth of their souls. But I can speak words of life and son-ship, hope and forgiveness, understanding and compassion, into those dark places.

So I have learned not to try to fix it — or them, but rather just be a presence of love, life, and hope in the complexities of their story, always ready to lead them up and out into the beautiful open spaces of son-ship, redemption and destiny in Jesus.

I’ve learned not to let fear of the negatives that I know, or fear of all the frightening possibilities that I don’t know, intimídate me from this important role in my child’s life.

A story-teller.

Recently I heard someone give this excellent advice, “Don’t get stuck in the subplots.”

As our adopted children take in, process, and make sense of the facts of their story, I get to be one who helps them shape the narrative. I have realized that although I am not the author of their story, God has given me the amazing opportunity to offer language and perspective that places my child’s story in the context of His story, the grand telling of a love so powerful that it redeems us all!

My words to and over my child help them interpret the facts of their narrative, which is such a key in the teen and young adult years. Weave hope and destiny into the words you speak. Over time they will begin to see themselves defined by that, rather than by their past. By sonship rather than orphan. By beloved rather than rejected.

I find that it helps in this process to ask, what is the story the Father is telling about my child? And how can I help connect their subplot and mine to His glorious story? And I have found that I am empowered with courage to embrace what is hard in my child’s story when I tell it in the context of love and honor, and in the safety of God’s overarching grand story.

I look for ways in the telling of the story to speak to my child’s true identity, acknowledging the past, but speaking to the possibilities of the future. Asking questions with my child, and offering possibilities in the face of the missing pieces of their story has really helped me in this story-telling role. “I wonder what that must have felt like for you?” or “Maybe your mother was so so sad when that happened.” I like questions because they allow me to come alongside my child and connect with them where they need it most.

Templeton 2

Maybe you also have been discovering your role in your child’s story. I would love to hear what you are learning. For how wonderful is this, dear friends, the story is not over yet — theirs and mine and yours!

I cannot end this post without saying that all four of our adopted children have had seasons where they have pushed me away from their stories, or tried to deny any connection at all with their pasts, and the residue of relinquishment in their thinking, emotions and relationships. I have heard quite a few times, “The way I deal with that is that I just don’t think about it.”

And so I wait. I pray. I speak life. I stay emotionally connected, so that when the time comes that they are ready to “go there,” I am ready to go with them.

What a beautiful gift the Father has given us to participate in His story of redemptive love!

guest post by Beth Templeton who writes at Hope at Home

find my family: Jude

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Jude turned four years old in October and is diagnosed as having lower limb weakness. He came into care at the approximate age of two. His nannies report that he has big beautiful eyes and is very handsome.


When his file was prepared in October of 2014, he could stand up and walk while holding onto something or holding someone’s hand. He could also walk by pushing something like a small stool. He is cooperative and can help put on and take off his own clothes and shoes. Jude’s favorite toy is the wooden rocking horse!


He can get on and off of it and likes sitting and riding on it. He likes to hold the milk bottles to help feed the younger children. He also likes playing outside. The slide and swings are his favorite, but he enjoys playing with balls and toy blocks too. He can build a tower with 5-6 blocks. He doesn’t want the other kids to touch his blocks or he’ll cry. Jude likes taking baths and playing in the water. He eats noodles, eggs, and bread regularly.


He receives some physical therapy, but would benefit so much more from the love and support of his own family.

Jude is designated to Great Wall Adoption Agency, please contact them for more information.

Meet the Contributors: Nicole

November 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a way a traditional post might not allow.


Q: Tell us a little about your family.

A: I’m Nicole and I’m so honored to be sharing on No Hands But Ours today! I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart since 2003. Together we have four children, by birth and adoption. We have two biological children, born 2005 and 2007, and two children who joined our family through adoption. They came home from China in 2011 and 2014, our daughter at 13 months and our son at three years old. My husband is a financial advisor and I am a classical homeschooling mama. I am also a founder of Red Thread Sessions and a board member of The Sparrow Fund.  

Q: What led you to adopt from China?

A: God laid adoption on our hearts in January 2010, right after the big earthquake had hit in Haiti. My husband and I were enjoying a night out to dinner, and we happened to be watching the news coverage on the devastation. The news reporters were sharing about all of the children who were displaced and separated from families. We watched for a few minutes and then turned to each other at the exact same time and exclaimed, “We should adopt!” The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. After never discussing adoption and previously thinking our family was complete, we were both suddenly ready to bring a new child home. It was the beginning of the most amazing and stretching journey we’ve ever been on!

Q: Which provinces are your children from?

A: Our daughter was born in Fuzhou, Jiangxi, and our son was born in a Guangdong city named Zhanjiang.

Q: What special needs are represented in your family?

A: Cleft lip and palate and hearing loss.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of adoption? Hardest?

A: I have many favorites, but I’ll go with the two biggest. First, my children have added so much joy to my life! I can’t imagine not having brought them home. The extra love, hugs, kisses, laughs, and general happiness in our lives are so sweet. Watching all of my children grow together and love each other is very special, and I feel so privileged to be their mama!

Second, I love, love, love the adoption community we’ve become a part of. The connections shared with other families who truly understand the beauties and difficulties of our life journey are priceless. My dearest friends are now all adoptive mamas. Knowing that my friends have walked similar journeys and they “get” the struggles gives me such peace.

I think the most difficult aspect for me personally is letting go of my pride and need to control so the Father can teach me through my children. But I am trying to humble myself and learn to let go of my need to wrap everything up with a pretty bow so that we can grow together.

Q: In just a few sentences, share two tips applying to any part of the adoption process.

A: First, I would suggest that new adoptive families connect with other adoptive families as much as possible. I value the friendships I’ve made with other adoptive families so deeply – they’ve been our support many times! Second, I’d suggest that families read and prepare as much as possible before coming home. Some agencies don’t offer and/or require much adoption parenting education, but there are plenty of resources out there (HERE are my favorite reads). Obviously many serious issues cannot be healed by reading books. But a robust understanding of attachment, trauma, and the effects of institutionalization go a long way to help families in transition.

Q: How has adoption grown/stretched/changed you?

A: I have grown in more ways than I can count because of adoption. Mostly, I’ve learned and am reminded daily that I don’t have it all together. I used to think I did, so this was a very humbling transition for me. I don’t always get things right and I mess up a lot. But embracing this reality has made it easier to rely on my heavenly Father and His unconditional love. I don’t deserve the grace or forgiveness that He continually showers on me, but He gives it freely anyway.


Q: Can you share a few of your favorite blog posts shared on NHBO? Some from your personal blog?

A: A few of my favorite NHBO posts (I have many, but these came to mind):

I am so glad Stefanie wrote A Dirty Secret in Adoption. It’s true that this does happen but it’s so rarely spoken of or written about.
On a much more lighthearted note, Kelly’s #ohChina post makes me smile every time I see it.
Amy’s post titled Comfortable is filled with truth.
Mandy’s post about Intimacy in Marriage is a great reminder, no matter where you are in your adoption journey.
Rebecca’s Yes is so beautifully written … I just love everything about it.

A few of my own blog posts:

It’s Different is a post I wrote about the parenting differences that sometimes come up with biological and adopted children.
Her Birth Heritage is about making a conscious effort to keep China in our hearts so our children born there will know where they came from.
The Ripple Effect perfectly demonstrates one way our family has changed through the miracle of adoption.
6 Months is a more recent post about our newest little guy and how far we had come.

Q: What is your favorite book? Quote? Verse?

A: I love to read, but these days I study mostly non-fiction. During the days of fiction, one of my favorites was The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also enjoyed reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love a few years ago.

A quote that is sticking with me these days is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As I approach the year-mark of suddenly and unexpectedly losing my Daddy, this quote resonates with me because of how he made me feel. I want the people in my life to feel that too.

I have too many favorite verses to choose, but I just highlighted Romans 5:3-5 in my Bible a few days ago. It seems fitting for the tougher days. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?

A: A lot of people probably don’t know that my Daddy taught me how to shoot a gun when I was younger. Despite not getting out to shoot often, I’m pretty good at it. My Daddy always said, “It’s in your blood!” Ha!

Q: Can you share a favorite “mom hack” that makes life easier for you?

A: I don’t know if it’s a “hack,” but one thing that makes our mornings more efficient is putting together outfits ahead of time for my younger children. I do it as I fold laundry, so it doesn’t add a lot of extra time. They each have a hanging fabric organizer in their closets – an outfit goes on each shelf. They still get to make a choice about what to wear, but the process is streamlined and doesn’t involve me at all. Morning routines are low maintenance because they can do all of the other stuff on their own too.


Q: If you could share one parting thought with someone considering special needs adoption, what would it be?

A: Adoption is difficult and messy, but it is so very beautiful and redeeming.


find my family: Naomi

November 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


Naomi is a precious two year old little girl who is listed with Lifeline. Her special need is cerebral palsy. Naomi is a beautiful little girl! She responds to others asking for her belongings and waves goodbye to others. She is a good sleeper and likes playing with toys. Naomi’s file reports that she is …Read More

Nothing Else Mattered: FAQs About Anal Atresia

November 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

We saw her face. We fell in love. Nothing else mattered. My husband and I simply wanted to be parents and we knew in our hearts that our children were in China; we just had to go get them. Like most parents to be, we hoped and prayed that our children would be healthy. Our …Read More

Embracing Their Story: Going Back

November 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Their story with us didn’t start at the beginning. I think we jumped in around chapter 3 or 4. Much like opening a book midstream and trying to piece together a plot, our adoptions began with many unanswered questions and many holes that I knew we could never fill. Yet at some point, I knew …Read More

Embracing Her Story: Gracie

November 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


We know that God is the only one who can heal hearts and redeem stories. But what of our role as shepherds of their hearts? One powerful, guiding gift we can dig into is the experience of others, young and old, who are willing to share their stories. As part of our Embracing Their Story …Read More

Appointed One

November 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


“I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 In a crib, in an orphanage, halfway around the world, sits a boy. He’s easy to miss, …Read More

Tears In Your Bottle

November 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


I caught myself staring at my little Chinese boy tonight as he fell asleep in my arms. So much has changed in our three plus years together. He is a whopping five years old now, has gained 15 pounds and grown 10 inches among other things. Our life together is so normal now, it’s almost …Read More

Embracing Her Story: Sarah

November 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We know that God is the only one who can heal hearts and redeem stories. But what of our role as shepherds of their hearts? One powerful, guiding gift we can dig into is the experience of others, young and old, who are willing to share their stories. As part of our Embracing Their Story …Read More

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