the practice of saying no

January 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I clung to the steering wheel as if it was a floatation device and I was drowning. It seemed fitting. I felt like I was drowning. There I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store. Mothers with babies on their hips casually walking past my parked car to go pick up milk and eggs. Women shooting off one last text before finishing their errands. And, I sat there, crying wondering if we had made a very big mistake.

A few days earlier, we had been sent her file. She was beautiful. After over two years of walking down the adoption process path, we thought this could be it. We thought that this was the moment we had been waiting for. We had sat down together before an alphabetical list of words months before that day. We looked at a handful of words we couldn’t pronounce and debated over which of those words were scary and which were not-so-scary for us. None of them were without implications; we knew that. But, it almost seemed like the scariest part wasn’t the words and their implications but the actual box checking.

Months later, we saw her. Our social worker had locked her file for us and sent it via email with an intentionally warm but short, neutral message every family gets to the effect of: Look her file over. Show your doctor. Let us know if you have questions. You have a limited time to respond. And so, it began. I did what I knew to do. We poured over her file, studied her pictures, charted her measurements, read about where she was living, consulted experts, and prayed. Is this girl with silky dark hair pulled back from her face and large dark eyes our daughter?

We said yes. The time was running out on our deadline, and there was no reason to say no. The labels attached to her were diagnoses we had checked “yes” to on that list. And, as we did all that we had planned to do when that referral came, there were no big surprises. We showed her picture to our children and told our families all about her.

But, something wasn’t quite right.

Can we get another update? Can they send us video? Can we ask her foster family a few questions? Let’s get one more doctor to weigh in.

I had never done this before. I blamed it on nerves. I blamed it on my own fear of the unknown. Surely this was the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken. But, this wasn’t what I had imagined. I found myself looking at the pictures of a beautiful girl and looking for something hidden. I read her files over and over looking for red flags. The confirmation I had prayed for wasn’t coming; the only thing coming was increased anxiety and panic.

I wanted to say yes. I felt I had to say yes. Why wouldn’t we say yes? But, why did I find myself in the dark place of looking for a reason to say no?

I fell apart in the car that day, afraid that I wasn’t only wrong about this little girl on the other side of the world who simply needed a family but that I was wrong about much, much more. If I couldn’t say yes to her, if I couldn’t move forward in being her mother, maybe I was wrong about saying yes to adoption entirely, wrong about my own motherhood, wrong about my own heart, about everything. I could barely catch my breath. How did I get to this place?

He met me there. In the tears. In the chaos. In my conversations with my husband and with our social worker and with our children. He spoke to me and took my hand.

I was right where I was supposed to be, broken and poured out, wrestling to understand Him, His will, and my role in it. It was not my job to “save her,” so very much not my job. His plan for her did not ultimately depend on me. A checked box on a 2-dimensional list did not mean that we were required to move forward to make any multidimensional child our child. Those checked boxes simply helped prepare us as adoptive parents and helped our social worker in her difficult job. That’s all. People cannot be reduced to checkboxes. I could not fear any the opinions of others that may have come. No explanation was required.

It’s okay to say no.

She had arrived into my inbox and my heart like a little butterfly, gently fluttering by and landing for a moment only to flutter again to another heart where she’d safely stay for good. While she was here, God taught me more about who He is and who I am than I could have imagined. I fell apart right into His arms where He let me know that she wasn’t mine.


It was those same arms that took my hand and guided me to keep going and ultimately handed me the little one was very much my daughter only 6 months later. There was still anxiety, doubt, and fear at times. But, everything was different. Somehow in the midst of all of that, there was a peace and assurance, the confirmation that I needed that told me I couldn’t say no. My heart and spirit wouldn’t let me. I had to press on; she was our daughter.

Post-adoption depression: you are not alone

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Earlier this month, Erin shared her experience with post-adoption depression. Today, as January and our spotlight on PADS come to a close, Erin is back with a follow-up post she so generously offered to share.

I remember the first day when I woke up not in a complete fog from PADS. It was like I could see again. My world was clear. The medication and therapy were working. I started to think about how I ended up in such a place. Why was it so hard to come to terms with the difficulties I was facing and why did it take me so long to find others who were in the same situation? I then started to wonder how many other people are on this journey but are struggling alone. Behind closed doors. We, as a community, need to be real. We need to be honest.

Coming to peace with my own journey has been such a huge part of my road to healing. Sharing my story, reaching out to others, offering support and encouragement. That has glorified my struggle. It has given me a passion, a drive that perhaps was lacking before. But, what I do know, is that had I never embraced this journey, I would have never found healing.

Raw is beautiful, right? The grit is what we need. To normalize the hard. We do nothing to help others struggling post adoption when we allow ourselves to hide behind our own troubles. But even more so, we do not help ourselves. With honesty comes freedom, the freedom of knowing that even though your story isn’t perfect, it is beautiful. It’s those imperfections and shortcomings that make us real.


We live in a world where perfection is considered the norm, where we ignore the hard realities and only focus on the outcome of glory and redemption and joy. I think this is so true in the adoption world. We have gotten to a point where honesty is too hard. We are afraid we will be judged harshly or fall short. But, honesty is beautiful. Both the ups and downs of adoption come together to form a masterpiece. The picture where trauma combines with love, where grief combines with family. Because, although the glory deserves its own recognition, so does the struggle. We need to speak of the hardships, to see the real. To open our eyes to the beauty that comes from the pain. To see that a journey can be both good and hard.

I feel as though so many struggle during post adoption but are afraid to speak out. Fear of failure or being judged. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of the unknown. But I’m here to tell you, first hand, that the struggles do not mean failure or inadequacy. And, it is up to us as a community to embrace those whose stories aren’t perfect.

I think of those who are struggling to make beauty from the ashes. Picking up pieces from their lives on a daily basis and praying that those pieces will, years from now, form some beautiful story of healing and hope. Of joy and love. But, today is not the day. Today is the day that they wake up hoping to survive the trials and tribulations. Hoping that they can muster enough strength to handle the screams and ugliness with the kindness and love that their child so deserves.

But embracing the difficulties doesn’t mean we let the hardness overcome the glory or the struggles overcome the joy. Because when we do that, we lose sight of what really matters.


So often I fail. And I remind myself that I am not alone. I text my accountability friends and I speak truth to them. Because these mommas understand. They understand the darkness of PAD and the difficulties of raising children from hard places. They listen, relate, offer advice and keep me accountable for bettering myself. There is glory in that. There is freedom in being real with other people. If I pray for one thing, I pray that everyone has those friends, those friends who know you because you share your struggles. Not best friends, but reliable ones. They, too, are walking in the path of the unknown; the realm of trauma and the palpable realness of grief. They know all too well because they are there, too. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our own imperfections, we also find a redeeming healing. A drive to be better.

So often, the struggle of post adoption depression and your child’s trauma intertwine. They form this unique wall that is so hard to break. But in order for our story to be made whole, we must separate the two because our child needs us, the real us. Not the us that is masked by the hard reality of post adoption depression. The us whose mind is clear so that we can focus on them.

While my PADS is under control, everyday I must make a genuine effort to not let my scars interfere. So, I try to find laughter among the difficulties. To bring joy to the moment. To giggle more and cry less. To replace screams with love. To bring beauty out of the ashes. But, again, it’s not easy, is it? My attachment and trauma therapist told me that I need to consider those months when I was knee deep in PAD as lost time. I can’t make up for it and I need to accept that. I have to move forward and let go of the guilt. I urge those of you suffering to do the same.

So, now, I work on healing wounds. The deep wounds of trauma that come from being adopted and leaving your birth country, culture and language. The wounds that come from grief and fear. The focus has shifted. And while my problems are still real, my son’s are at the forefront of my mind.

While I know and fully understand that attachment and working through your child’s issues are so very important, you can’t do them justice if you aren’t fully present for the journey. And, for months, I wasn’t fully present. So, we start anew. Working day by day to find healing and hope.


In the end, the days are hard, oh so hard! But, I have support. People to keep me up and alive and moving forward. People that tell me it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to slip back into my moments of imperfection, the moments where I need Jesus the most. But, pull yourself up. Lift your head up high and push onward. Because our children need us.

– Guest post by Erin, moderator on the PADS FB Support group

Will You Love Me Forever?

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Excitement, curiosity and fear of the unknown filled the eight year old boy’s mind as he entered the cold, stale room. His eyes landed on some smiling faces that looked vaguely familiar. Yes, these were the same faces that had smiled at him from the pages of the photo album he carried in his backpack, the faces of his new family. Who were these people that looked so different from him? Would they be kind, or heartless, as he was told? Would they send him back the moment he did something to upset them? Would they like him, maybe even love him? Wait, what were they saying? If he couldn’t understand them, how would they understand him? In that moment, as reality set in, uncertainty and excitement gripped him. When he looked in their eyes, he knew all would be ok. What could he do but follow them and leave all he had ever known and loved behind for a new life, a new family, a new world. In that moment of anxiety and anticipation, he simply had to believe that they would love him.

It’s been two years since that cold January day in Shanghai, and my sweet boy has finally begun to truly understand our love. We are not going to send him back when he is disobedient. No one is going to take him away from us. He will be ours FOREVER.

The process of attachment is a rugged journey. My son was with his foster family in China from about the age of 2 until we adopted him at age 8. I can only imagine how it must have felt to be ripped from the only family he has ever known and how confusing that must have been. Why did they let him go? Why didn’t they keep him? Is it normal to be passed from one family to another? Can it happen again? Could the government take him away? He has asked us all these questions and more as he has been processing his journey to us, his forever family. He is no longer afraid to share his experiences and feelings or divulge what he felt that very first day. Sometimes, even at the age of 10, he wants to be held like a baby and rocked while asking over and over, will you love me forever?

While these questions make my heart ache for him, they are questions he needs to ask and are a part of the attachment process. He didn’t ask them in beginning. It was all too new, and there was so much he didn’t understand. Fear coupled with excitement, but as time passed he began to trust us and our love. He realized that the decisions we make concerning him stem from our unconditional love for him and our desire for the best. As his understanding and love grows, so does his courage, and as the questions come I welcome them. As I hug him for the 15th time today, reassuring and physically demonstrating love, my thoughts turn to the One who has wrapped me up in His arms more times than I can count.


“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17, NIV)

Reflecting on my sweet boy’s journey of understanding and attachment, my thoughts naturally draw the connection between his adoption and my own spiritual adoption. What can I take from my experience and apply it to the journey of earthly adoption, especially as we prepare for our third adoption?

Once we believe and trust in God, we become adopted as sons and daughters. We are co-heirs with Christ! We are children of God! Do we really understand what that means? We believe that God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in our place, but do we really BELIEVE God, His promises and forever love?

Did my son truly grasp that cold winter day in China what it meant to have a forever family? He didn’t know much about us, but he trusted us enough to follow us, strangers from an unknown land, out of that room because he believed we were his new family. In that moment, he knew we would not hurt him, but did He really BELIEVE in and understand our love? Of course not! There was a long journey ahead.

Similarly, as we begin our walk with our heavenly Father, we believe in Him and hear words like “God loves you”, but do we really BELIEVE that? We begin a journey of discovery and understanding just as our precious older children do. Over time, our eyes are opened to His truth, and we finally come to a place where we truly BELIEVE that He is who He says He is and that He will keep His promises. Do we still sometimes question Him and struggle to understand? Of course! How many times have we doubted even when we knew that God is faithful and trustworthy? Too many times to count. But as we witness example after example of His love and provision for us, our faith and understanding of His unconditional love grows exponentially. We begin to see that even though we won’t always understand all that He does, His love is unwavering and unfathomable.

Our adopted children experience life up to a point and then are suddenly ripped away from all they have ever known. Can we walk unwearied with them as our Father walks with us through our doubts and fears? Are we ready to traverse the confusing waters of abandonment? Can we be as patient with our children as our heavenly Father is with us? Will we hold them when they just need to held?

God made a way for each and every one of us to be adopted, and then He gave us this amazing picture and reminder through the example of earthly adoption. As I look at my son on those days when I am frustrated and tired of answering the same questions again and again, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind me again of the beauty of my adoption and the gentle, patient, never-giving up love of our awesome God.

~Guest post by Suzanne


Older Waiting Children

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To learn more about any of these children who wait contact the Advocacy Team.

My Oxygen Mask

January 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

yoga 1

Excited to share the first post from Mandy, our newest contributor on No Hands But Ours. Mandy shared her family’s story about a month ago and has joined NHBO as a monthly contributor for 2015. She and her husband Bryson have one daughter, Lydia Grace, and are now in the process to bring home another …Read More

waiting child highlight: AWAA

January 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Meet Jessa, a bubbly and cheerful little one looking for her forever family! She is fun and friendly and sure to bring so much joy to the family she joins! She is 3 years old, soon to be 4. An AWAA ACT mission team visited this orphanage in November 2014. The team noted that Jessa …Read More

it was a good year: a look back at 2014

January 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


2014 was quite a year for No Hands But Ours. The Mentoring Mom program launched in June to an amazing response from over 100 mamas. The No Hands But Ours site was masterfully overhauled by Northstar Marketing over the course of a year, and the beautiful, super-functional site went live in September. Each of the Special Needs …Read More

not disabled. differently abled.

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


When I was fourteen I taught Sunday School for a year. One of the kids in my class of four year olds had a short left arm. The first day of class I found myself thinking “that poor little guy was born with only one arm.” It took next to no time at all for …Read More

find my family: Lacy

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Lacy is a beautiful 9 year old girl, who has recently had surgery to correct her club feet. She is new the agency list at Hawaii International Child! Lacy was born with a meningocele, and club feet. She was found when she was an infant, and stayed with that family until 2013, at which time …Read More

find my family: Kyle

January 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Wonderful Kyle! Please read about this precious boy who participated in Lifeline’s Hosting program and very much wants a forever family. Precious Kyle is 10 years old and is designated to Lifeline’s special focus list. This sweet child is stated to have an eye condition called cryptophthalmus (missing eyelid) and caligo cornea (speck on the …Read More

Chronic: The Race Set Before Us

January 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


I am coming to terms with it.  This is not passing.  It’s not over after a surgery, or two.  Or after a therapy session, or three.  The first year is behind us, but there are more miles in this marathon.  I’m discovering what chronic means.  I’m learning that adopting a child labeled medically complex truly …Read More