Stitched Hearts

October 12, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

I have a rather comical relationship with one of the nannies at the orphanage. I’ve been back in the USA for about five months now (getting a 2nd degree in nursing, in case you were wondering) and this nanny (I’ll call her M Ayi) and I have had many a chat on weixin, a Chinese texting app.

“You there?” she’ll ask. Sometimes she has questions about children who were transferred to other NGOs for care… sometimes she wants to ask about how much it costs to purchase an iPhone 7 in the USA (which, I discovered, isn’t even possible yet. Hehe, sorry Ayi.) and sometimes she sweetly gives me updates on the kiddos I miss so much.

“Little B is going to get his passport tomorrow. He’ll be adopted next week.”

“Too wonderful! He will have a family soon!” I replied. (and I threw in some dancing penguin emojis because they’re cute.)

She replied, “We all wish him well.” And then, a few days later, “B went to America. I was working the night before. He cried when I left. He was amiable and polite… I loved him. Next week little Q goes.”

When an older child joined her family, M Ayi commented, “I’m not okay. She was so precious to me. I keep crying.”

When I saw that — when I read what she wrote – I really had no idea what to think, or what to say. Because for me, in my mind, adoption is 100% a good thing (also 100% a hard thing). But for some of the nannies who only know the sanctified daily grind of caring for children – sometimes 10 little ones all on their own for a 24 hour shift, adoption is an acute loss, a painful goodbye, and the sudden ending of what may have been an earnest attempt to fill up the love tank of a child, a tank pierced with holes of trauma.

It was less than a year ago when the first child ever to be internationally adopted from a particular orphanage left to join their forever family. The director of the orphanage commented on that day, “When a child leaves our side to be adopted, we feel very sad. But because we know that they will have a happier life and a beautiful future, we feel a sense of accomplishment. We have no regrets, we are proud of the investment we have made.”

No orphanage – no NGO or foster care center or even foster family, is going to be all sunshine, unicorns and rainbows. With orphan care we’re dealing with orphans. We’re trying to care for children who are often physically broken, and always, to some extent, emotionally broken.

I remember one day in November, years and years ago, when I got to help take a little girl to meet her forever family in a province far away. We gave her a bath that last night, the day before she met her mama and baba and joined their care forever, and her socks got wet. I set them in the window sill to dry in the sunshine, and couldn’t help but notice the tiny stitching, done by hand, on the toes of the socks. Her foster mama had done that.


Those tiny stitches, an attempt to mend a hole in a sock, were a perfect metaphor for the tiny stitches that this foster mama had stitched into the broken heart of the little one she loved on and cared for those months and months. The hole was gone, but the seams were not. Adoption mends hearts, but there will still be seams.

Thinking back to M Ayi… and the orphanage director… and all of the nannies and foster mamas and baby-lovin’, risk-taking souls who have traveled across the ocean to hold an orphan and tell them, “you are precious.” Each one of them is a seamstress, a stitch-maker in the heart of a child. Some sew tiny seams that stay tightly held together for years and years – the seam is visible, but only just visible. Some sew bigger, messier seams that need to be re-done, or are maybe really obvious.

“We all wish him well,” she said. I can’t get that out of my head. Two little ones will be adopted today, and three more next week. I’m thankful and thrilled that this orphanage has done the brave thing and leapt into the adoption world, but I’m also reminded of how hard it is.

I’m reminded that as adoptive parents, you get the privilege of holding these stitched-over little hearts in your hands. Some of the hearts nearly fall apart and maybe they’re still just hanging together by threads – the work of mending is going to be intense and exhausting. Sometimes the seams are hard to see at first, but when you get walking – moving forward with life, suddenly a thread snaps and the work of re-mending must begin. And sometimes the stitches hold together. Sometimes they all fall out.

Sometimes it’s really hard, but we’re all seamstresses. The needle is love and the pattern is the Gospel and these little sock-like broken hearts are going to be worn by some precious, beautiful feet.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” – Isaiah 52:7

Daniel Waits for his Family

October 12, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Daniel is the sweetest 18 month old who is listed as having multiple melanin nevus (birth marks). His file is listed as special focus with Small World Adoptions.


Daniel is described as an active boy that likes playing games and with toys that make sound. He is very close to his nanny. He has a beautiful smile and likes to communicate with is adults and his caretakers. Besides the multiple melanin nevus on his body no other special need is noted in his file.

The agency has just received new photos and videos of this little boy, please contact them to view them! If your family would be interested in viewing his file, please email Small World Adoptions.

Adopting a Child with Cancer: Easton’s Story

October 11, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Cancer. I went over and over it in my mind when I felt that familiar tug on my heart.

Dear Lord you cannot be serious. You’re kidding right?!? I watched my dad die from cancer and now I’m going to adopt a child that could be dying too?

Yes. And not only yes, but urgently.

Our son had been diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma and had already had several rounds of chemo and his left eye removed. His scans were noted as clear in China after these treatments, but this type of cancer is known for high recurrence within the same year. He needed to be home quickly to properly monitor this risk. We had adopted from China before, but never in an expedite situation where every week, every delay meant potentially life or death. We pushed hard and were able to book our tickets in less than half the time of a regular adoption timeline.

Then an email came that changed everything.

His foster home had mentioned they believed he might have an infection. This was getting progressively worse and they took him to the hospital for scans and we received a video of our precious son playing and being full of life, but sporting an alarmingly big growth from his socket where his eye was previously removed. Those scans confirmed that his cancer had indeed returned and little could be done. It was a terrifyingly anxious time. Were we still going to proceed knowing this was probably a reoccurance and an aggressive one? Yes. There was no question that Easton was my son, from the moment I saw his face, before we even knew we would be boarding a plane to China in a matter of months to bring him home.

The morning we met our son he was full of life and spirit, as he always seems to be no matter what is going on. He had a patch over his eye socket where the tumor was fast growing. In silly 2 year old fashion, he ripped it off and exposed to us a bulging, bleeding tumor. I often wondered the night before what I would do when I first saw it – what would my human reaction be? Would I be scared? Even horrified? I felt silly because I felt none of these.

I looked at him and just loved him. And that was it.


It was a whirlwind to get him home. I had contacted several medical teams back home now that we could send them video and pictures for their evaluations. We expedited through China as well due to his condition. My thoughts were going a thousand miles an hour. I kind of felt like we were on automatic, not even able to take in everything that was happening. Every flight was a battle with profuse tumor bleeding through more gauze than we could pack and begging officials in broken English to let us board with him so we could get him to medical care.

By the time we reached the states, we had a plan to head to our local children’s hospital within 24 hours to start care. Inside those first couple of weeks, phone calls were made around the world to establish a specialized plan for Easton due to the extent of his cancer, biopises and scans were done and a port was placed. People from all over the world were praying.

On New Year’s Eve, we drove to the hospital to start the first cycle of chemo, less than 3 weeks home. Easton was very used to medical environments, but to be thrown in a completely new situation with new people, language, sights, smells and experiences was hard.


Easton would receive several different types of chemo over many days and then we would get discharged around 2 weeks later. He would be exhausted and still very sick, but we all loved at least having him home so he could start bonding with the entire family. His brothers and sisters loved finally getting to spend time with him.

Unfortunately the cumulative chemo had several negative effects, one being completely wiping out his blood counts and we would be admitted within the week again for fevers or infections to stay another week or longer. This was the cycle for 3 months. It was the hardest on Easton first and foremost, but the toll it took on our entire family was substantial.

Our other kiddos would wonder if Easton was coming back home and cry. We had to have several hard talks with them, but reminded them that God is in control and they are helping with their prayers. Their maturity and care for their brother through everything was amazing. We had to lean on our family, church, teachers, neighbors and friends more than ever.

Over the many weeks of chemo, his tumor was getting smaller and smaller! With the third chemo round, though, Easton was not bouncing back. A little infection grew enormous and landed us in the clinic, where Easton almost died in the office. Thank goodness that God has other plans. A hard decision was made to stop chemo. We then started a five week course of radiation. Several weeks after radiation we waited for the next scan in hopes that it would be completely clear. At the end of June, we received word although the cancer had shrunk tremendously, he was still not cancer free.


He continues to battle today with more strength and bravery that I can even relay in this post.

It is the *highest honor* to be called mama everyday by Easton. These past ten months have stretched our faith in ways unimaginable and showed us true miracles more times than we can count. We are not superheroes or extraordinary people because our adoption journey reads this way. We wake up everyday needing grace and guidance just like any other parent. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, let alone next year.

I don’t know if his next scans will be clear or if we will continue this battle. I do know that Easton will never walk alone though anything and his life is worth every battle we step up to face. He has a home, he is a son, brother and friend. He is a survivor. He is an inspiration. He is a miracle.


There are children waiting right now with cancer or a history of a cancer diagnosis. If your family is considering adopting a child with cancer or a history of cancer, please reach out to your local children’s hospital oncology team and speak with them about what their plan of care may be. Cancer is individualized with treatments, effects and outcomes and there is much to consider. Gather your resources, team and support. Listen to the facts, but also to your heart. I truly believe God will never lead you on a journey He will not equip you for.

– guest post by Brandi

Not Okay

October 11, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


I think a good lot of us have a little habit of telling un-truths. Specifically, when asked a common question such as, “how are you?”, we respond with “I’m ok” or “I’m good” or “I’m fine” – when in fact, we are not. Sometimes we are not ok. It might be a day, a week, …Read More

It Takes a Village: “Dear Church…”

October 10, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


Dear Church, From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank you! Thank you for praying for us during our adoption wait. Thank you for buying our fundraiser t-shirts. Thank you for donating some of your bazaar earnings to our family. Thank you for allowing us to use your fellowship hall to host our …Read More

Find My Family: Hansel

October 10, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Hansel is a cheerful little boy whose special need is abnormal liver function (elevated ALT and AST) and minor delays. He was born September of 2013 and admitted to the Institute November of 2013. His motor skills improved greatly when he was placed with a foster family in November. He can walk with assistance, speak …Read More

A Family for Sterling

October 9, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Sterling, who will be 4 years old this month, is beyond precious and may have one of the sweetest personalities ever known to man. His special need is Down syndrome and a minor heart defect. He lives in a group foster home and attends kindergarten for special needs children. He knows his numbers, can climb …Read More

It Takes a Village: A Letter to My Husband

October 9, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


Dear Ryan, When we began dating in college, I was barely 19 years old, and you were nearly 21. While dating, we spent a lot of time holding hands and dreaming about what our life might look like together. We talked about where we would live, what our careers might be, how many children to …Read More

It Takes a Village: The Grandparents’ Perspective

October 8, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


The announcement that you are going to be a grandparent again… this time through adoption. Being a grandparent is one of the most amazing experiences we could imagine. When our daughter and son-in-law announced the pregnancy of their first two children, we were so excited. When they announced their plan to adopt a child, we …Read More

Waiting Child Highlight: AWAA

October 8, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Willow 2

The following children are all designated to AWAA via an orphanage partnership, if you would like to know more about how to make any of them a part of your family, please email AWAA directly. Also, please be aware that these three children require a dossier to be logged in with China and AWAA only …Read More

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