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A Back-to-School Letter

August 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Dear Teachers,

Here we go! The start of a new year! First of all, you both have my great admiration. I do not know how you do it. The energy, patience, and creativity it takes to shape, mold, and sometimes just wrangle a whole crew of almost-three-year-olds is something I do not possess. I’m so thankful you are investing in the lives of the children in your class, including my little girl.  


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I can hardly believe it’s time for my chickadee to go to pre-school. There’s so much I want you to know about my little one. She’s funny, spirited, mischievous, determined and a charmer. She has some hearing loss and her speech is delayed — mostly due to articulation troubles — but we know she understands just about everything we say to her. (Primarily evidenced by the fact that she does the exact opposite of much of what we suggest with a particularly ornery gleam in her eyes.)  

This is part of why we think pre-school will be so helpful for her; her speech therapist believes being around her peers and being in a classroom setting will help her self-correct her articulation problems. She’s incredibly bright, inquisitive, and curious. And did I mention she’s a charmer and mischievous?! Just wait until the first time she gives you her infamous stink-eye look; it’s adorable and exasperating all at the same time. She’s been in our family for 17 months after spending the previous 17 months in an orphanage.  And she’s doing so, so incredibly well.  

But sometimes her incredible progress is deceptive…  I know she seems so perfectly “normal.” And while on the surface she does appear to be adjusting beautifully, she has only recently been in our family for longer than she was in an orphanage, and that transition alone makes her special.

To be honest, more than her hearing loss and language delays, it is those 17 months of orphanage life that created her greatest special needs. When the other little ones in your class were being cooed to and cuddled by attentive mothers, she was staring at the ceiling above her crib. When the other little ones in your class were being rocked in the middle of the night, she was learning to soothe herself to sleep. While most babies quickly learn the unique cadence of their mama’s heartbeats from snuggling close, she was handed from caregiver to caregiver in a rotating shift of overwhelmed nannies doing the best they could just to keep 30-40 diapers mostly changed and bellies mostly full. As a baby, she never learned that grown-ups come when you cry or can be trusted to comfort you when you’re scared or can be depended on to meet your needs when you are cold or hungry or wet or just need to cuddle.  

And all those times she cried and no one came? Well, she learned her lesson from that. And by the time we got her at 17 months old, she wasn’t crying much. Instead, in the middle of the night I’d find her wide-eyed, heart-pounding, rapid-breathing, cold-sweating… and utterly silent.  

Because she spent so much time alone in a crib and didn’t get much appropriate sensory input, she’s a sensory seeker — flinging herself into swimming pools and smearing paint or food over herself even when you’ve just told her it’s time to clean up. In those early months when she was sick or scared or just needing some comfort, she wouldn’t fold into my arms like my other daughter does. Instead, she’d stiffly arch her back away from me, stare up at the ceiling, and assume her unique personal comfort routine… sucking on two of her fingers while stroking her chin with her thumb and massaging the palm of her sucking hand with her other hand. I realized as I watched her that she never got to hold onto her mama’s hand in that tight grip of infants; she’d only ever held her own hand.  

In short, in 17 months she learned lots of things from trauma, loss, and the repetitive and brutal cycles of never-enough… never-enough food, never-enough care, never-enough interaction, never-enough love and tenderness.  She learned that the only hand she could trust to be there for her to hold was her own. And for the last 17 months, we’ve been on a long and hard road to help her unlearn all those things… to learn that she can trust us to meet her needs, that her wounds can heal, and that we are her family forever.  

Slowly, she’s finding some degree of healing, and now when she falls and skins her knee, she runs to me for comfort. And at night when she’s all warm and relaxed with her belly full of milk, sometimes she’ll reach out to hold her daddy’s hand and hold his gaze in that intimate connection I used to take for granted when my other daughter did it.

She’s incredibly resilient and a fighter, and I’m sure she’s going to do beautifully in your class. But I’m going to ask you to keep your eye extra-close on her. When you see her, I’m pretty sure you’re going to see the same amazing little girl that most of the world sees; the tender-yet-tough, pint-sized fireball of typical-two-year-old energy.


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But I’m asking you to look closer. Please remember that she’s only been with her parents for half as long as all the other kids. Please remember that if she seems scared or overwhelmed or tired or angry, she doesn’t have the typical emotional-regulation abilities of her peers because she never had the chance to learn those as a baby. (And I know no two- or three-year-old has much yet!)

Please remember that she might need to be tucked a little closer under your wing in order to adapt to this new season of life. So often she responds to new routines and transitions with a high degree of anxiety, sometimes even getting sick because her body can’t cope with the stress.

I know no mother likes to see her child upset, and so when I ask you to let me know if she cries or has a hard time adjusting or just seems a bit “off,” you might think it best to mostly reassure me and let her press through the challenging days. Please don’t. Please keep me in the loop so that together we can help make her feel safe and secure and confident in her classroom as soon as possible.

I promise I’m not the kind of mom who wants to hover and meddle in the classroom too much. I trust your wisdom, insight, and professional training, and I know you are going to change her world in a thousand amazing ways. I can’t wait to see how she transforms and blossoms under your care. So as we start this year, I anticipate she will shine. And I can’t wait to hear about all the good, but given her history, please do not ever spare me the bad or the ugly.

Sincerely,
Carrie

– images by Tish Goff

Aging Out: Sophie

August 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Beautiful Sophie was born in February 2002 according to parts of her file. This makes her 13 years old already and she will age out next February. Other parts of her file indicate a date that is two years younger. She needs a family who is willing to rush to her before she ages out, yet who is also prepared for her to be a couple of years younger than her official file states. Is your family the one she is waiting on?

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Found at approximately 4 months old, Sophie was placed in the care of the orphanage after her birth family could not be located. Her initial physical indicated that she was in overall good condition, had good mental response, stiffness of lower limbs, and spastic cerebral palsy.

When her file was prepared in 2014, her caregivers indicated that she is a clean little girl who loves to be dressed in pretty clothes! She likes to play with toys while sitting in her wheelchair, although sometimes it is hard to move her hands. A little social butterfly…she loves to be around others! Sweet Sophie is described as optimistic and bright!

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Although Sophie is currently on WACAP’s designated list, they are VERY willing to transfer her file to another agency with a committed family!
Sophie now has a Reece’s Rainbow account set up. She is “Katie Ann” on their site. If you do not feel that Sophie is your daughter but would still like to help, please head over to their site and support her account. She is just over $2,000, but we would love to see her account grow so that her parents can RACE to her before she ages out!

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The picture above in the pink striped shirt are only a few weeks old! It is SO important that we locate her family quickly. The thought of her aging out even though she is still so young is heartbreaking! Please pray, share, and consider giving to her Reece’s Rainbow fund. When a family finally steps forward, it would be wonderful for her family to have a large account to help them move QUICKLY without worry for finances.

WACAP is offering a $4,000 grant for qualified families. Seriously interested families should download and complete this pre-application (no fee, no commitment). You may email the completed pre-application to WACAP with your request and the first available case manager will respond.

Comfortable

August 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments

From the time I was a young girl, I always felt the Lord’s presence and His pursuit of my heart. However, I did not begin regularly attending church or consistently studying God’s word until a while after my husband and I got married. In the spring of 2007, we joined a “small group,” and every other week, we met with four other couples to learn about the Bible and have accountability with one another. I remember completing a study together about why God allows pain and suffering. Standing in my very young and immature faith, I could not fathom the answer to one of my heart’s biggest questions.

If God is good, then why does He allow suffering?

Rape. Murder. Betrayal. Lies. Deceit. Hate. Anger. Abuse. Neglect. Disease. Death. Brokenness. Loneliness. Emptiness. Rejection. Abandonment.

Even after the study on suffering was finished, I still questioned the validity of what the Bible taught about suffering. In all honesty, I was so young in my faith at that time that I wasn’t fully convinced that the Bible was inspired by God; instead, I thought maybe it was just a collection of books written by men with their own opinions and agendas. At that time, the world’s influence in my life was much, much greater than God’s. The world’s ideals and values had a much stronger presence in my life, so I couldn’t fathom how God could both be good and allow suffering simultaneously.

My foundation for doubting God’s goodness in the midst of suffering can be summarized in just one word. Comfort. As a very young Christian, I believed that if my life was pleasing to God, wouldn’t He want me to be comfortable?

But who could blame me? Isn’t the goal of comfort one of the most permeating messages of our American culture? Go to college so you can get a good job and live a comfortable life. Get married and have two kids because you can comfortably parent two kids (e.g., sit in a booth, share one hotel room, split up when sporting events take place at the same time, drive a car or small SUV… I mean, who wants to be seen in a minivan?). Epidurals, air conditioning, heated leather seats, tagless t-shirts, sleep number beds, DVD players in our vehicles, and so many others all serve our desire for comfort. Our homes, cars, relationships, and lifestyles reflect our need for comfort.

Throughout the next five years, and my faith and understanding of God’s Word grew stronger. We continued attending our small group Bible studies and Sunday services. I came to know with my whole heart that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. I, like many others, had always wondered about the purpose of our lives. I longed for more than just waking up, going to work, picking up my kids, eating dinner, and going to bed at night. Then, as Jen Hatmaker wrote so perfectly in her book, Interrupted, “God plucked me and my family out of complacent, comfortable, safe Christianity and dropped us into the deep end of struggle, injustice, brokenness, and a hurting humanity.” (p. XVIII)


CQ-CWIAn orphanage in China


The fatherless.

God wrecked the comfortable life Ryan and I had built together and opened our eyes to the millions of children who need families. He showed us their medical conditions, their neglect, their abuse. I looked deep into the eyes of real children who were living in heartbreaking circumstances. Picture after picture, I saw children with deep vacancy in their eyes. I was extremely uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I stopped looking at their pictures and focused solely on their medical conditions. If I saw the name of a medical condition that we were open to, I would then look at the child’s face. The experience was extremely raw and painful.

These were children, just like the two little boys who were born from my body, and they needed what so many of us can give – a family. I could no longer pretend that adoption was “neat” or “cute” or “fun.” Adoption was no longer optional – it was essential. We left our comfort zone, walked away from the booth, and took a leap of faith. We answered the call that the Bible so clearly gives to ALL believers – to care for the orphan and love the least of these. Our hearts were broken like never before, and the Lord brought us two new sons, Tucker (2013) and Tyson (2015).


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Throughout our journey to Tucker and during our transition home, the Lord finally helped solidify my belief that even though God allows suffering, He is still good. I finally had the spiritual maturity to trust that suffering in my life produces endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5) and that trials in life are an opportunity to grow in my perseverance and determination (James 1:2-4). Even when we experience trials and tribulation, God does not let them overwhelm or consume us because He is always with us (Isaiah 43:2). We are told not to be surprised by the suffering we experience but instead rejoice in knowing that we are sharing in Christ’s suffering and that believing that God will reveal His glory in time (1 Peter 4:12-13). All discipline we experience can seem painful, but great fruit is the result of those trials (Hebrews 12:11). We are guaranteed pain and suffering in this world, but in Christ, we can have peace knowing that He overcame the world (John 16:33) and that any pain we experience now cannot compare with the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Our adoption journeys brought significant pain and suffering, and if you are in the middle of an adoption process or have previously adopted, you know exactly what I mean. The waiting and not knowing if your child is being well-fed, loved, or nurtured is painful. The delays that take place during the adoption process while watching others pass you by brings tremendous sorrow. You suffer alongside your child when he or she comes home as you learn how institutional life has affected their development, their health, and their ability to bond with you.

But then again, if you have adopted or are currently in process, you also know that trading comfort for God’s Will reaps the most beautiful fruit. You understand that being comfortable isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Laying down your life – the comforts, the familiar, the easy, and the convenient – and living at the center of His plan is where true life is found. God has shown me that He indeed is good AND allows suffering. I now understand that when God allows us to experience suffering firsthand, He develops our character. When we witness the suffering in others, we are guided opportunities to do His work. Suffering truly is purposeful if we can view the situation through God’s eyes.

Tyson, our newest son from China, has been in our arms for almost 3 months now. Although we are still working through this transition and building trust and security with our little guy, I am already wondering what lies ahead. As the dust begins to settle, and we establish our new normal, I am realizing how uncomfortable it feels to be comfortable. I don’t want to go back to living an easy, convenient, comfortable life.

My heart yearns for more – more of God and more of His work serving the Least of These. I am not afraid to suffer anymore. God has shown me that the pain I experience cannot compare with the glory He has in store for us. As I look into the deep, dark eyes of my precious sons and watch my blue-eyed babies love their new brothers with abandon, I cannot help but smile in anticipation of all God might do with this army He has given Ryan and me.

Now the question is – what will God do with yours if you step outside your comfort zone?


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How Going to China Changed My Life

August 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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We have been home for six months and this is the first time that I’m actually sitting down and processing our trip to China. For a while, it was just too fresh, you know? The thought of any attempt in organizing my thoughts made my brain hurt, and so I just didn’t. But now, I …Read More

Find My Family: Sebastian

August 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Who wants to meet little Sebastian? He is as sweet as can be. Sebastian is an outgoing 3 year old boy who can be shy around strangers. He likes to play with his caregivers and loves to be held. His favorite activities are playing outdoors, listening to music, and watching cartoons. A bright boy, he …Read More

He Calls Me Mama

August 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It’s been 9 months since Dumpling has been in our arms. It also marks about 6 months of him seeking me out as “mama” and “mom” and “mommy.” I had to work hard for those titles though, they didn’t come easily. For the first couple months, he didn’t refer to me or DH as anything. He simply walked over …Read More

find my family: Paxton

August 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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I’m so lucky to get to introduce you to Paxton! He was born August of 2012. Paxton has been diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, otherwise known as Brittle Bone Disease. Paxton was abandoned outside of a local police station. He was estimated to be six months old. He was taken to the local Social Welfare Institute …Read More

Let Us Not Hinder

August 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to …Read More

Going to China: Orphanage Behaviors

August 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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With both of our adoptions, we knew that parenting these children would look a bit different than parenting our biological children. Despite all the trainings and reading prior to the adoption, we ended up desperately re-reading “The Connected Child” on the flight home, trying to piece together some of the strange “orphanage behaviors” our children …Read More

Lori Love

August 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Lori Love was born in October of 2013 and has Down Syndrome, had a heart condition repaired (ASD) and a duodenal obstruction repaired. She was about 5 months old when she came into care and was hospitalized around 8 months old for the repair of the duodenal obstruction and ASD. She has recovered well and …Read More

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