Coming Home: {the Joy and the Struggle}

September 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

A feeling of peace and anticipation washed over me as we began our decent into Nashville, Friday, March 25, 2011. Our time in China was hard physically and emotionally and we were ready to be home. Due to several flight delays, it was almost midnight when we landed, yet we knew that a small group of those we love most were waiting at the gate to welcome us home.

2015-09-02_0009arriving home with Lily in 2011

Our 10 year old son Spencer was the first to come running toward us to meet his new sister. Lily took to him immediately which was the first of many new things we would learn about her considering that she would not leave my side in China or go to Michael without crying. She looked deep into the eyes of each person who embraced us. She had a sense of calm and peace as if somehow she knew that it was ok to feel safe in this new place she would soon call home. In keeping with our family tradition of making homemade buttermilk pancakes on Saturday mornings, we stopped by the grocery on the way home (just minutes before they closed) to buy some buttermilk and eggs. We stayed up late talking with my parents about our trip until we collapsed in the comfort of our own bed. Our first morning at home began with a new tradition for our girl and four years later she still requests pancakes on Saturday mornings!

Another night, much like this one, is written on my heart. Saturday, December 20, 2014 we arrived home from China together as a family of five with our youngest daughter Mary Katherine. The pancake tradition continued the following morning only this time she, unlike her sister, wasn’t a big fan. This would be the first of many ways we would realize how different their “coming home” stories would be.    

2015-09-02_0008arriving home with Mary Katherine in 2014

What happens once the excitement of the airport homecoming has settled and you are faced with navigating life day to day? 

The hard works begins. 

Even as I write this I feel inadequate to offer any advice because we are still in the midst of our own challenges 9 months post adoption with our daughter Mary Katherine. So it is in my failures and through my mistakes that I share some nuggets of truth that have worked for us.

Get outside. 

I find myself more and more trying to avoid the sun as I age (in an attempt to stay looking as young as possible with our little ones running around) but post adoption, sunshine was our friend. Vitamin D does wonders to re-set your internal clock and help lift the “fog” from jet lag…not to mention it breaks up your day and keeps the walls from closing in on you! Even when it was cold we bundled up our girls and took wagon rides, walks in the stroller, played basketball, drew with sidewalk chalk, and blew bubbles. We also tried to keep them up as much as possible during the day, limiting their naps initially, to help them adjust to the time change. 


Keep your circle small. 

We stayed in a lot, to help our girls learn that this place we called “home” was constant, safe and secure. This was a little challenging with Mary Katherine because we moved unexpectedly in March; however, she didn’t skip a beat and now every time we pull into the driveway she says, “home” with such a tender, sweet voice. (and if you know our girl she may be little but having a soft voice is rarely in her vocabulary). Close family and friends came to visit and spend time with us but we always let the girls lead the interaction and asked our family to respect any distance they needed before warming up to them. We also leaned on other friends who have walked the journey of adoption.  They helped keep me grounded, answered questions and validated the range of emotions I had.    

Relish in the joy. 

Coming home is hard and most certainly has its challenges but there is so much JOY to celebrate! Some of my sweetest memories are those we made early on in the journey home with our girls. Hearing Mary Katherine learn to say “eee yuv ooo” (I love you), waking up to the sweet sounds of Lily saying “mama, mama” from her crib each morning, going in to kiss her goodnight and seeing her curled up in a little ball in the corner of her crib, laughing together, making new memories, reading notes of encouragement sent from family and friends, getting my Mexican fix a few days after we were home with Lily, watching the bond between sisters and brothers grow…so many beautiful moments surround the days, weeks and months coming home. Write them down, capture the moment in time with a video or photo, reflect on them often as these are the treasures that sustain us in the days that bring us to our knees.

Find the margin.   

Our pastor talks a lot about finding the “margin” in life…those small but intentional moments of time that can have significant impact. For me, that meant trying to wake up early to capture a few quiet moments to be still and sit at the feet of Jesus. I love to journal, and wrote a lot after coming home with Lily. It was good therapy to put on paper the things I was wrestling with in my mind. Finding margin in my day recently has been a challenge. Mary Katherine is intensely curious by nature and lives every moment to the fullest leaving the pages of my journal empty, yet my heart is full. Somehow I need to find the margin again for quiet time alone with God is like water to my soul. 

Make time for yourself.

Every ounce of emotional and physical energy is being poured into your child and the thought of doing something for yourself can become a distant memory. Finding time to do something that you love is a gift for you and your child. And if you are married, making time for your spouse is equally as important. Maybe it’s taking a walk, going for a run to clear your head, having a friend over for coffee, reading a book, or sitting on the porch for a few minutes of solitude… whatever it is, finding something that brings you joy will help you be better equipped to handle the daily challenges that come with transitioning home.

A few weeks after being home with Lily, Michael encouraged me to take a barre class he knew I loved. I was hesitant to leave because Lily was struggling to attach to him. Releasing that control and trusting she would be ok turned out to be one of the best things we did. That day was a turning point for her. She realized that I was always coming back home and slowly she began to trust her daddy more with each day that followed. 

Plan ahead. 

I didn’t do this with Lily but found it to be very helpful with our most recent adoption. A few weeks before we traveled to China I made 10 freezer meals we could use for dinners once we returned home. This is perfect for those days that have been L-O-N-G and you don’t have the energy to cook or your little one is stuck to your hip and you don’t have an extra set of hands in the kitchen. Not to mention my sweet husband loved coming home to dinner on the table after a long day at work.    

Be intentional about bonding.

Coming “home” for our girls was not magical in their eyes. A chapter of their life – the only life they had known since birth – had ended. Their circumstances, while different, have the common thread of forming a healthy attachment to those who cared for them. This made the transition and their grief more profound initially, yet long term it laid the foundation for them to love and be loved.

Look for opportunities to build trust and attachment in your daily routine. A friend of mine calls it “love therapy”. Let them explore, be curious, get messy with paint, “help” unload the dishwasher, sit on the counter when you cook (oh how we loved our bumbo seat), try and imitate their big brother or sister, sing together, and dance because every interaction, regardless how small or insignificant it may feel at the time, is a building block to establishing a healthy attachment. I still sing the silly songs I made up in desperation while we were in China and our girls love it. We limit their use of technology because we want them to learn to be engaged by us and love being with us and not a screen. In fact we managed to survive both flights home with our girls without any screen time or technical device. When they are ready, tell them their adoption story. We began at an early age telling Lily her adoption story and she often asks me to tell it to her at night when I tuck her in bed. Over the Moon by Karen Katz is one that we love reading and used as a model for creating her unique story.


Embrace the unexpected. 

With both our girls we knew there would be medical challenges and possible surgeries once we were home. Lily was born with a severe bi-lateral cleft lip and palate and Mary Katherine has a single ventricle heart. One month after being home with Lily she had her palate surgery and a lip revision 4 months later that we didn’t anticipate. While I feared surgery might unravel the progress she had made learning to trust us, it actually provided a unique opportunity for us to pour more intense “love therapy” over her and it brought us closer together. By God’s divine intervention, Mary Katherine is thriving and we are hopeful that we can wait a few more years before she needs surgery. 


Honor your story.

Our story will look different than yours. What works for us may be the last thing you would ever want to try. I am learning more about the value of honoring our story, not trying to compare myself to someone else who may seem to have it all together or who is soaring through the post adoption process with ease. God is the author of our story and the creator of the beautiful children He has entrusted to our care. His design is perfect even when I feel inadequate to keep moving forward as the pages of our story unfold.     

Our struggle is a gift. 

With both girls, the days, weeks and months following the magical moments of our airport homecoming were hard.

With Lily, I was a first time, jet-lagged mom trying to navigate day to day life with our 15 month old beautiful brown eyed girl (Spencer is my step son and came into my life when he was 4 years old). Physically, I felt like I had been hit by a train. Adjusting to the time difference was much more difficult than I expected. I didn’t think clearly, I was sleep deprived and many nights as I fell asleep, silent tears would fall. I felt like I was failing in my new role of motherhood. Everything I knew to be comfortable, safe and secure was turned upside down. I yearned for the simplicity of our “airport moment” and missed the predictability of my life prior to adoption.

Slowly, I began to embrace our new normal realizing that life can be messy… maybe even ugly for a season when we take steps of faith that rock us to the core.

I am still walking the season of struggle with our second adoption, yet I feel God’s presence. We have a front row seat watching God at work in the story that is unfolding before us. When we said “yes” to the miracle of adoption, we welcomed struggle by default. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. 

The gift of struggle. 

Often wrapped with heartache, insecurity, humility, uncertainty and unknown challenges, but oh what a beautiful and treasured gift it is that God allows me to struggle. The more I struggle (and fail miserably) the more I need my Savior. The more my children need (and demand more of) me…the more I need Him.


A similar truth holds true for our children.   

As their mom, I have the privilege of walking by their side as they work through their own unique challenges. I do my best to wrap it with unconditional love, trying to meet them where they are, allowing them to work through their grief in their own time and in their own way without rescuing them from it.   

The gift of struggle is part of their healing.

The gift of struggle can be the wings that allow them to soar. 


If you are struggling today, you are not alone. Jen Hatmaker’s post “after the airport“ is a reminder that the journey of “coming home” is beautiful yet oh so hard at times. I am learning to find rest knowing that God gives me a fresh start each morning. I am learning to end my days not by adding up where I have failed (and believe me there are many) but by celebrating the beauty of His everlasting grace and redeeming love. 

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:21-22

– guest post by Amy

Sadey Joy

September 4, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Sadey Joy was given the advocacy name she was because she radiates joy from every one of her pictures. Sadey Joy was born in approximately February 2013. She was found in front of the local community hospital at the age of approximately 18 months old. Sadey Joy was found to be underweight and was diagnosed with a visual defect known as Peters Anomaly of the eyes. Sadey Joy cannot “see clearly” according to her file, but she can absolutely see light and dark and shapes. She picks up small objects with her thumb and forefinger slowly, because she has to get close to see them, but she is able to do it. This is a wonderful indicator of Sadey Joy’s visual capabilities.

Photo 1-10

Sadey Joy’s development was found to be normal at the time of admission. She could crawl, stand while holding onto something for approximately ten minutes. Sadey Joy can ask for a hug and put on some of her own clothing. She loves to play outside. She likes cartoons and eating noodles. She seems like an average, and amazing, toddler.

Photo 3-9

Sadey Joy is living with a foster family currently. They report she sleeps well and is adaptable to new people and situations. She shows love willingly and is obviously well cared for as evidenced by her continued growth and development. It’s our hope Sadey Joy’s family finds her very soon!

Sadey Joy has a $4,000 grant for eligible families through WACAP. If you would like more information on Sadey Joy, you can email WACAP.

What Does Life with EB Look Like?

September 3, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

What does life with EB look like?

It looks like swinging on swings at the park.


Epidermolysis Bullosa is a genetic connective tissue disorder. There are many types and sub-types, each affecting the individual in different ways. Regardless of type or sub-type, one thing that I have noticed about kids with EB, and their families, is the desire to live as normal a life as possible.

Epidermolysis Bullosa seems to be in the news more and more these days. Recently, I was talking to a mama about our daughter’s condition, and she responded, “Oh yes, I’ve heard about that!” Seven months ago, that may not have been the case. EB is definitely in the public eye. There are videos of brave kiddos making the rounds on social media alerting people to this condition, which is great. The more attention EB garners in the news or via celebrity appearances, the more funding we are likely to receive for research. This research works on solving a variety of common problems like chronic itchiness, or finding ways to help wounds heal faster, or even finding a cure.

What does life with EB look like?

It looks like practicing ninja moves before bedtime.


Our daughter is pretty much like any other four-year-old, activity-wise. She does all the things her siblings do because she refuses to sit on the sidelines and just watch the fun happen. She wants to be a part of the party! And who can blame her?

Granted, there are precautions that must be made. For example, if we know we are going to be in the heat for a while, I come prepared with frozen water bottles and a fan to cool our little princess off. I bring a stroller with us most places in case her feet start to blister. I have a kit in our car with all of the supplies we have at home in case she needs to have a wound cared for while we’re out and about.

We plan our activities and outings around the weather during the summer months; outdoor craziness happens before lunchtime, and then we find indoor activities to do during the afternoons when the heat is at its worst. Overheating can cause more blistering to occur, but if we can work with it in South Texas, it can be worked with anywhere.

I know that when she plays hard, she might get hurt. That’s okay. She has spent too much time being sheltered from normal activity during her lifetime.

Wounds happen.

They. Just. Happen.

And it’s okay. We can bandage a boo-boo or decompress a blister. No problem. The time spent taking care of broken skin is well worth the experience of being a normal kid.

What does life with EB look like?

It looks like swimming on a hot summer day.


We often encounter curiosity when we are out and about. Sometimes the curiosity is good, and we have the chance to educate and inform. Sometimes the curiosity looks like a kid yelling, “what’s wrong with her legs!” repeatedly in the grocery store while the mom ignores him and he continues to yell all the louder. Sigh.

Julianne is just starting to realize that moments like this happen because of the appearance of her skin, and these moments become a chance to talk about the importance of kindness and for us to reassure her that there is nothing “wrong” with her, that she is beautiful just the way she is. My heart will break as she encounters ugliness in the world. It’s unavoidable, really, and that’s tough to deal with some days.

Epidermolysis Bullosa is teaching us so much about perseverance in the face of adversity and how to love unconditionally, even when someone (intentionally ornot) hurts you.

What does life with EB look like?

It looks like bright smiles.


The other night I woke up to the sound of giggles rising from the toddler bed beside me. Our daughter was laughing… in her sleep! I had heard many noises come from her during the past 7 months at nighttime… crying, whimpering, yelling, thrashing around, trying to get comfortable in a bed that was bigger than she was used to. But giggles? Laughter?!? It made me smile in the darkness and realize that when it comes to life with EB, laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter covers the moments when there is hurt and reminds us all that she isn’t an EB kid, she’s just a kid who happens to have EB.

She is a spunky, chatty, slightly bossy little thing.

She has the most precious chubby cheeks, the sweetest dimple, and amazingly awesome hair.

She loves to dance, she loves to color, and she loves to eat eggs like they are going out of style.

What does life with EB look like?

Beautifully chaotic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

what we’re reading: 9.2.15

September 2, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Hallie on Adoption Day

Hello end of summer, to celebrate we have some great links for you to peruse today! To share a blog post or news article go here. To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling family, go here. Andrea looks back on what she has Learned Over the Past Two Years. She shares …Read More

Ayi for a Day: {50 for 50 in 5 weeks}

September 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

baoji orphanage in park with ayis

They are oft overlooked much like the children they care for. They live in a place where what you do and how much you make is everything which means they have very little. Watching over and meeting the needs of children with no known roots is hardly considered a career; it’s a job. Some of …Read More

Going to China: Gotcha Day Expectations

August 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


Today is the last day of August, which means it’s the end of our two-month feature, Going to China!, as well as our final post in the series. We’ve spent July and August covering everything from travel tips to orphanage behaviors – 23 posts in all. We hope it’s been a great resource, whether you …Read More

Life on Pause: Thoughts on Orphan Hosting

August 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Pause. The best way I can describe the way my life feels right now is that it is on pause. On pause because I met my daughter, spent five beautiful weeks with her, and then promptly returned her to the airport just like I had guaranteed I would do. For me, the whole idea of …Read More

Belinda Waits for Her Family

August 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Belinda is a BEAUTIFUL little girl (Born January 2008) with pink rosebud lips and wispy hair. She gets along well with other children and has a quiet, gentle personality. She especially enjoys playing with other children her age. Her caregivers report that she is very sharp! She is able to count, name colors and shapes, …Read More

The Back to School Post

August 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


I don’t think our school district fully grasps the whole paperless concept. I’m staring at a stack of forms they’ve called “children’s homework” that I must complete. Somehow, the paperwork required to send our children to public school each year feels like we’re assembling an entire dossier. There’s even a fingerprinting form somewhere in this …Read More

Going to China: Feeding Concerns

August 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


When we were adopting our two new daughters we were not really well prepared for what they could or could not eat. We knew one of the girls was severely malnourished, but we did not understand that it was entirely possible that nobody taught them how to eat or drink. Neither of our new daughters …Read More

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