Dear younger me, Don’t look back

July 27, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Recently, one of my little ones was walking backwards while also conducting a conversation with a sibling. After nearly tripping and tumbling, I warned him, “Turn around… you need to face the direction you are headed.” And, as so often happens, the gentle voice of the Lord whispered the same thing to me…

“Keep walking forward. Don’t look back. I’ve got this. I know what I’ve called you to, and there are good places ahead.“


Adoption is hard. I don’t think many of us mince words when it comes to that. But it’s not easy to share the hard stuff, especially in a public forum. The words that dare to veer from the ideal of Adoption Perfection are deemed unworthy of sharing and are given a cursory shove aside and locked out of view because to share is to be vulnerable.

Here’s the thing…

There will be really hard times ahead of you if you are in the paperwork chase. Documents will get lost. Waits will be long. Mess-ups will happen.
Maybe new medical information comes to light. Maybe your spouse takes a pay cut. Maybe your family has to move across state lines.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God who called you to this knows where every piece of your paperwork is. He knows your timeline. He knows where you will be when your child comes home. He knows every single last detail of this process. He’s got this. Trust Him.

There will be really hard times ahead of you if you are about to get on an airplane to go get your baby from halfway around the world. One way or the other, your world will be rocked. Your child may be everything you expected. Your child may be the total opposite of what you expected. She might scream and cry because she loved her nanny. He might retreat into a shell and refuse to change his clothes because they are the only things familiar to him. She might eat ravenously like she can’t get enough. He might shut down and refuse all nourishment. There might be behaviors you only read about and to see them being acted out in front of you might make your heart race with fear.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God who chose your family and this child to be family together will never leave your side. He will do greater battle on behalf of your heart during these days, even if it seems like your world is falling apart. He sees these first days; a family coming together in a way only He could have ordained. He sees. He is there.

There will be really hard times ahead of you if you are newly home and your child struggles and you struggle and everyone else in your family struggles. You might question your sanity. You might have the sweetest of honeymoon times and then be slammed with behaviors that seem to come out of nowhere weeks down the road.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God who sees all sees your struggles. He hears your cries whether they are out-loud or silent. He is the Light in the darkest of moments. You will know him as Father more than ever before as he holds you through these days.

There will be really hard times when you wonder if there is another soul who could possibly understand what you are going through. You may cling to social media and the normalcy that comes from finding others who know exactly what your days are like and how totally possible it is to eat your weight in dark chocolate. You may lose some friends, and that’s never easy.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God who created you knows you inside and out. He understands you better than anyone ever could, and he is available 24/7 for heart-to-heart conversations, which always end in a lavishing of truth.

There will be really hard moments when you’ve been home what you think is a “good” amount of time and wonder what happened to trigger the loud and public meltdown your child just had.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God who called you to the first step in the process knows every step along the way. He knows how the tantrums seem to come in waves and he knows how many days, hours, and minutes there are until the next meltdown happens. He builds us up for these moments, and gives grace we are sometimes unable to give to ourselves when the moments overwhelm us and our tempers are short.

There will be days when you are so terrified of what the future looks like with your new child, what school will look like, what doctors visits and surgeries and therapies will look like. You might wonder how on earth you are going to manage it all.
Keep walking forward. Don’t look back.
The Lord God sees the entire tapestry of your family, not just today or a decade from now, but generations. He knows exactly how to weave your new child into the fabric of family, and his handiwork is breathtaking.

There will come a day when your child might reveal in a casual tone a piece of their past that rips your heart in half. And you will realize… this is what you were walking toward. This moment. This grace of healing you are allowed to participate in. This gentle response that comes from a place you didn’t know existed inside of you. This moment when you realize you are broken and your child is broken but together you are being made into something beautiful.
You will know that existence isn’t about comfort, that nurture may always have to battle nature, and that love is a choice – a daily “yes”. You will know that who you are now would not be possible without the trial by fire. You will know the depth and sheer force of the Father’s love for you, and the depth of his love for the fatherless.

Keep walking forward, friends. Don’t look back. There are good things ahead.

His Hands and Feet: Adopting a Child with ABS

July 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

Sometimes you are clearly given a gift of grace and sometimes you find yourself in it. Both are of Him and from Him and are equally overwhelming and exciting.

This is a glimpse of both.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

One of my favorite memories during our marriage, pre-kids, is when Denny and I went on a church mission trip to Honduras. During that time, we both fell in love with the people there and our eyes were opened to the extreme poverty so many people live in.

We talked of wanting to bring all those little kids back home with us. I believe this is when God planted the seed of adoption in my heart. Denny has always had a special place in his heart for orphans as his father, aunt and uncle were all raised in a home for children.

After our third child, Jonathan, was born, I was ready to do it all again. Or so I thought. Due to several trials soon after his birth, thoughts of having more children were put to the side.

Our healthy baby was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid on the brain. We heard things for the first time like “possible brain damage” and “likelihood of brain surgery”. There is nothing scarier that we have faced in our marriage than taking our five-month old baby for a neurosurgery appointment.

There is no cure for hydrocephalus and most people need brain surgery to install a shunt to drain the excess fluid. If the fluid is not drained, there can be permanent brain damage. Since Jonathan’s initial diagnosis, Denny kept saying he knew God was going to heal him. After two years of MRIs and neurosurgery appointments, the doctor was glad to see there had not been an increase in brain fluid and said Jonathan would never need a shunt. God healed Jonathan of hydrocephalus and to this day he is a perfectly healthy, active little boy!

Looking back over this terrifying, uncertain time in our life, I would not trade it for anything. There is nothing like the heartache a parent can have over their hurting child. There is also nothing like the power of an amazing God with His healing hands. God used this experience to open my eyes and heart to special needs.

None of this changed my desire to “do it all over again.” I knew we had more kids out there. A year or so later, Denny brought up the idea of adopting, but I still had a desire to birth more children. I prayed about this for a year and God completely changed my heart. Adoption was the way to our next child.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts…”

After much prayer, reading and research, we were lead to the China Special Needs adoption program.

My husband and I are both analyzers…. over-thinkers. We knew we would never make it through the adoption process if we were left to our own devices. We knew we had to surrender to God and let Him lead. When it was time to fill out the Medical Conditions Checklist we became overwhelmed but then quickly remembered… not us, but Him. Other than sinus infections, the flu, and stomach bugs, we have very little experience in the medical field and we knew we could easily over analyze this part of the process and come to a stand still.

We decided to do little research and review the list with a friend who is also a pediatrician and also read through the medical conditions right here on No Hands But Ours.

It is from this website where we first learned of Amniotic Band Syndrome. We had checked yes to limb differences on our checklist, but amniotic banding was not on there so we ended up adding that condition.

We received a little girl’s file for review in December 2015.

She has limb differences due to amniotic banding. We were expecting at least a nine month wait for a referral, but it came only two and a half months after we were DTC because we had added amniotic banding to our list.

My husband knew right away she was our daughter. I, on the other hand, had fallen victim to overthinking and fear. I’m gonna be real y’all… I was scared. Not of adopting, but by what I saw in the pictures.

She was absolutely breathtaking and full of so much joy. But I was scared of the appearance of her hands.

She only had thumbs. Amniotic bands had amputated her fingers and she was left with little nubs, many of which were webbed together… and two other little nubs were balls. Several of her toes were also webbed and she had another constriction band around her leg and we weren’t sure if she could even walk. I had never seen anything like this before. Yes, we were open to limb difference, and yes I had looked through many pictures of what that can look like.

But then there’s fear.

Thankfully, I was quickly reminded where fear comes from. Satan hates adoption. He wants to rob us of everything God has for us. Satan knows how to shake us up, and he has traps, and schemes, and he prowls around looking for someone to devour.

I went to the Word, shared my fears, and handed it all over to Him. The Lord gently reminded me who it was that brought our family to adoption, who had already moved mountains in our process, and who created this little girl.

These were His hands and feet. She was fearfully and wonderfully made. They were the hands and feet of our daughter. We accepted her file the week of Christmas, and she quickly became God’s gift of Gracie.

During those three months waiting for travel, I made contact with many other families whose children were affected by amniotic band syndrome (ABS). We were even able to speak on the phone with a renowned pediatric hand surgeon who reviewed her file.

I found several other moms whose children have similar hands due to ABS, and they told me their children were able to tie their shoes and thread a needle by five years old. I *might* have one or two kids in this house who couldn’t tie their shoes at that age with all 10 of their fingers.

Satan knows one of my weaknesses is worry so when I left for China, I was fully armed. Armed with the Word, armed with the names of other ABS mamas who had previously walked this path, armed with their encouraging notes and phone numbers to call in the middle of the night if needed… for when Satan tried one of his schemes.

I was in awe of how God showed off during Gracie’s adoption. When we first met her in China, Gracie was terrified, sick, and ground her teeth for two weeks because she was so scared. Gracie had spent the first 20 months of her life in an orphanage, with most of that time in her crib.

I didn’t even notice Gracie’s hands on Gotcha Day. I didn’t see the little balls she had instead of fingers. All I saw was God’s grace and love.


I am so thankful for our gift of Gracie.

The Lord gave me another gift that day. After we left the Civil Affairs office, we headed back to our hotel. When we piled out of the van, there were five or six men standing at the entrance to the hotel. They quickly noticed us and got really close to me and started pointing at Gracie’s hands and were speaking loudly in Mandarin. One of the men then noticed the band around her leg and pointed repeatedly at it with a disgusted look on his face.

This only lasted for maybe seven seconds, but it’s a very vivid picture in my mind. I wanted to instantly smack their hands and tell them to get away, to put it nicely. As I type this it brings tears to my eyes, but not for why you might think. I am so thankful for this moment. When I think of this, I see how God had given me an immediate Mama Bear instinct for our little one… who just hours before I had never met in person.

I was in awe of the fierce love I already had for our daughter – a supernatural love that only can come from our heavenly Father.

It’s amazing to me that these two pictures are just three months apart. These first few months with her now at home have brought a transformation like nothing we’ve ever seen before.


It has been such a blessing getting to experience “life” for the first time with this precious little jewel. Gracie had never felt the wind. Never touched an animal. Never felt the rain.

She had never felt the great love that comes from a having a forever family.

It’s amazing what love can do. It’s amazing the joy and peace that now pours out from our little girl and the great love our other three children have for Gracie.

I know the road of living with ABS will have bumps along the way… we have experienced that already. A visible physical difference is not a “special need” that can be hidden for privacy. And honestly, I don’t completely agree with her being labeled as “special need”. Gracie will be able to function just fine.

Her greatest need was love. And yes, she is special. The reason Gracie will have a “special need” is because of other people. The biggest struggle Gracie will probably have will be from other people. This upsets me, but this is also where God is growing me… growing me in grace.

In just a few months, Gracie will have major surgery in order to save her foot and part of her little nubs. This surgery will also change the appearance of her leg and hands; the doctor says, for the better. This mama adores Gracie’s hands and leg just the way she was made. Oh, how God has been working on me!


I want to forever remember the beauty of these differences before the appearance of what drew us together as a family changes. Gracie is fiercely loved by her forever family, and she has brought more joy to our family than we could have ever imagined. She has been home three months and her siblings still fight over who gets to sit by her at the dinner table.

I am thankful He heals the brokenhearted and puts the lonely in families.

We hope people can see her for who she is, not for what she doesn’t have. Really, that’s how we should look at everyone – through the eyes of Jesus. She just has different looking fingers and toes… that’s it. We want her to know she is fearfully and wonderfully made, just how she is.

She has His hands and feet.


“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:13-14

guest post by Julie: email || blog

Dear younger me, You are enough

July 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I’ve been thinking about you lately. Images of you have been coming to mind, and I’ve been remembering little things I heard you say here and there, moments when you said nothing at all, and sighs that said it all. All the memories led me to reach out to you. I think bridging the gap between us will help us both.

I know where you are. I know the struggle you are facing because I find myself there at times even now, years ahead of you.


You want to know things, and you do. Recommended reads fill your bookshelves. Books that can’t fit among the rest are stacked in front, above, and beneath the others. Most of them have dog-eared corners and stripes of yellow over the parts that you don’t want to forget. There’s part of you that considers all those books and scribbled notes like they are framed diplomas on the wall of your office as Director of Family Matters. All that determination, the commitment, the time spent studying all the greats have earned you something. You know things.

But, I know the thoughts that creep in when you close the cover of another book.

What if this is it? What if I’m simply the mom who tried hard? What if years from now, all that can be said of me is this: “Well, she read a lot of books and tried to do what they said. She tried to follow the manuals….She tried.”

There’s a battle you feel like you’re in where both the offense and defense is you. On one side, you are the mama who gets it, the strong and able one, the informed, the knowledgeable, certified and Hague approved. You give yourself a proverbial high five when your child successfully performs a redo.

But, on the other side, you think about all the times you wish you had a redo and didn’t. And, you are tired, wondering when you’ll be able to just be normal, if you’ll be able to just be normal, wondering what “normal” even is, wishing some sort of Trauma Nanny 911 would fly in on a cloud and tell you that you’re on the right track because you’re pretty sure that despite all the tools you practice you’re altogether not.

I’m not Trauma Nanny 911. But, I do have a word for you from the frontline. You are enough. Just you. Not you with all your skills and strategies. Just you. It’s really just that simple. I want you to hear that. I want you to read it again, say it aloud, right now, wherever you are… say itI am enough.


Pay attention — all those strategies aren’t futile. Don’t go burning any books. There’s good stuff in there. But, that good stuff isn’t good in and of itself. None of it is good for anything without you. They are made good by the fact that you are the one doing them.

Your children don’t need perfect strategies; they need you.

I urge you to call a truce. Declare a cease-fire and regroup. Bring both parties to the table and recognize that there’s no battle here to fight; you are on the same side. Surrender the drive to know it all and put it into practice as well as the underlying belief that doing so defines successful parenting. At the same time, surrender the burden you carry and insecurity you have become so good at hiding. Don’t be ashamed of the trying. The trying is precisely what matters.

Your children don’t need a mom who follows the manuals or even writes one. They don’t need a mom who gets it “right” as defined by some expert or some research. They need you, a mom whose efforts and words within them communicate that she knows she’s imperfect and broken but will try hard even still to parent them in a way that puts balm on their broken places.

You are enough. I am enough. When you hear otherwise in the quiet or not so quiet moments, take a deep breath and remember what I’ve told you. You’ll be blessed by it and so will I.

Dear younger me, You were wrong

July 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Dear Younger Me, You were wrong about many things, and I am oh so very glad you were. /// You got married and designed a life plan. It was a dreamy projection, and you believed you had control of how it all would go. You had a timeline, a number of kids in mind, visions …Read More

Thoughts from an Adult Adoptee: Two Sides of One Coin

July 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments


Hello Readers, I am new here at guest posting on No Hands But Ours. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Parrie Liu and I am a Chinese adoptee. Since the age of almost four, I have lived in Texas with a loving family. Currently, I am attending university and pursing a degree in …Read More

Dear younger me, Enjoy them

July 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


After I agreed to write this guest post on what I would tell my younger self, I wondered how I could narrow down all the things I would tell my younger self. Here is all the advice that people gave me about life with children that I now know was actually helpful. These are the …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Nikki and Katie

July 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Meet sweet Nikki. Nikki is an adorable six year old girl with a tender heart for others. Nikki’s special need is Down syndrome and esotropia. Nikki came to Lifeline’s March Kids Camp and was a joy to be around. She is described as outgoing, active, and full of spunk. She is strong willed and has …Read More

Pondering the “What-Ifs”

July 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 10 Comments


I remember reading all the recommended adoption books, watching all the training videos, stalking all the mom blogs, and talking to other adoptive moms during the time leading up to our own adoption. I got myself familiar with so many new terms and tried to educate myself on any possibility of trouble our future daughter …Read More

No Hands But Ours: Reader Survey 2016

July 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


A little over a year ago we created a reader survey, asking our readers to weigh in with your thoughts about NHBO – what you liked, what you didn’t like and what you thought would make NHBO better. Well, y’all delivered. We received so much wisdom and insight – we used your ideas as a …Read More

Luke Waits

July 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Meet seven year old Luke! Luke is a charming boy who has a close relationship with his caregivers and is known around the orphanage for his helpfulness. He is attentive when the little ones cry and runs errands for his caregivers when they need an extra hand. Luke likes to play games with others, especially …Read More

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