In the Quiet Moment

May 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

On March 20, 2009 I spent the quiet moments of nap-time looking at waiting child programs with various adoption agencies. Home from China just four months with our second child, we weren’t ready to expand our family just yet, but as a planner I wanted to have ‘all my ducks in a row’ for when the time came.

I did not realize it at the time, but my actions that day would soon change the makeup of our family. One search took me to a waiting child list and as I scrolled down, I saw the ‘slightly blurred for privacy reasons’ photo of a chubby baby girl. Keep in mind that when I saw it, this photo was blurred, but somehow she looked familiar; and I felt as if I had been looking for her for a long time.


Her information was sparse, listing a birthdate, the fact that she was a smiley baby, and a diagnosis of ‘neurocutaneous syndrome‘, which was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. A quick Google search lead to much confusion, as well as some very scary terms, but then there was that face… So I sent an email to my husband that read something like, “All I ask is that you look at her information and pray…there is something about her.”

In the weeks that followed, after getting more information and contacting several specialists, it was determined that her specific neurocutaneous syndrome was likely Sturge-Weber Syndrome. Up until this point I had never even heard of SWS, so the learning curve was high. What we found is that Sturge-Weber is a relatively rare syndrome presenting with several common symptoms and a huge window of severity. The following information from the Sturge-Weber Foundation’s website gives the best summary I’ve seen.

“SWS has no clear genetic pattern, and two affected individuals almost never arise in the same family. The syndrome presents in all races and with equal frequency in both sexes. Port wine birthmarks occur in 3 of 1000 newborns.

In a patient with a facial port wine birthmark, the overall risk of having SWS is only about 8% to 15%. The risk of having SWS increases to 25% when half of the face, including the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve is involved and rises to 33% when both sides of the face, including the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve are involved.

Seizures occur in 72% to 80% of SWS patients with unilateral brain lesions and in 93% of patients with bihemispheric involvement. Seizures can begin anytime from birth to adulthood, but 75% of those with seizures begin having them during the first year of infancy, 86% by age 2, and 95% before age 5.

Glaucoma occurs in 30% to 71% of patients.”

We spoke with a local neurologist who previously ran a Sturge-Weber clinic, one of the nation’s leading pediatric glaucoma specialists, a highly recommended dermatologist known in the area for treating facial port wine stains, and a fellow adoptive mother from our area’s adoption group.

Basically we came to realize that moving forward was going to require a leap of faith because from the limited information available to us, it was difficult to tell exactly where this little one fell on the spectrum. We could see the port wine stain, and glaucoma was highly suspected, but the information from the MRI that had been done left the neurologist scratching his head due to the vocabulary used to describe the images that someone across the world had interpreted. Basically he told us that while the information that no seizures had been recorded to date was promising, there were some confusing terms in the MRI report and he wasn’t sure if lesions on the brain were being confirmed or denied.

I think the turning point in our decision was speaking with our pediatrician, one who realizes that there is an Ultimate Healer. As he reviewed what limited information we had and painted a picture from best case to worst case scenario for us, he shared some words that moved me profoundly: “…just remember that you are not considering adopting a condition, you are considering adopting a child, THIS child. Pray, and if God gives you peace, then He will give you what you need to parent THIS child, whatever the road brings…” And so it was after much prayer that we were led to the decision to make her a part of our family.

Exactly 11 months from the day after I first saw her picture, we walked into a cold civil affairs office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and there she was.

Our daughter.

I was smitten at first sight, but my sweet girl, at not quite three years old, was already self conscious of what we have come to refer to as her ‘red cheek.’ When she began ducking her head and trying to hide from us I came undone, but by the end of our time together we began to see glimpses of the girl to come, and she went from shy and avoiding the limelight to a little girl willing to strike a pose for the camera.


We arrived home on a Thursday night and hit the ground running with appointments. Monday to the pediatrician, Tuesday to ophthalmology, Wednesday neurology, and Thursday dermatology. In that first week we learned that she had advanced glaucoma in her right eye, we’d begin treatments for her port wine stain in the fall, there was no apparent brain involvement in her case, and she was “unofficially” diagnosed with Type II Sturge-Weber Syndrome (meaning the port wine stain and glaucoma were present but with no detected brain involvement).

Within her first month home she had her first eye surgery to help alleviate the high pressure in her eye. Six months later was the first pulse-dye laser treatment for her port wine stain. Going forward there would be two more eye surgeries, and to date she is in the 20s for number of laser treatments (I’ve honestly lost count). She has a daily regimen of three different types of glaucoma eye drops. With her eye, skin, and craniofacial orthodontist appointments (her complex ortho case is most likely related to tissue overgrowth in her jaw area due to the port wine stain) we drive to Duke at least once a month, but it is manageable…most days she’s just another third grader.

It was about a year after she was home and settled that I was contacted by an adoption advocate who asked if I would be willing to help as she advocated for another little girl with the same condition. Her adorable little face tugged at my heart, and while we were getting ready to travel to bring home our fourth child, I agreed to be a resource for people with questions about Sturge-Weber.

I emailed, texted, Facebook messaged, and spoke on the phone with a number of families, but none of them were fully at peace with making her a part of their family, and about 18 months later it became apparent why…because she belonged in our family.

Afterall, we knew the symptoms, we had the doctors lined up, and we had a girl who had once asked for a sister “with a red cheek like me.”

Fourteen months later, we were in Changsha, Hunan Province becoming a family of seven, and just a few months after that we began our double appointments at Duke.


Yes, the medical appointments are many. Yes, we are on a first name basis with several specialists at Duke Children’s Hospital and I have their personal cell phone numbers stored in my contacts. But beyond all of that, they are your “everyday girls” and an integral part of our family.

We realized early on that Sturge-Weber Syndrome is one aspect that describes our little girls, but it is NOT what defines them. One is a free spirit, brilliant, loves art, a good friend, loyal, a dancer who gets lost in books. The other is our firecracker, a take charge gal, a math whiz with an amazing imagination, a limit pusher, and in the rare moments that she slows down enough, the world’s best snuggler.

Both just happen to have SWS and we wouldn’t change a thing.

-guest post by Kristi

He Knows

May 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Who knew ​this momma – who had once upon a time envisioned life with my husband to include ​a couple of ​children, a spacious home, and (of course!) many family vacations to tropical destinations​ – would instead​ learn (​and ​daily​ re-learn)​ that the path to the​ purest​ peace and the greatest joy​ is to​ yield to God’s ​plans​ and purpose ​for my life rather than my own?​

​God ​knew.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.”
Psalm 143:10a

Who knew ​that eight​ years ago, after ​a ​second heartbreaking ​​ultrasound of yet another lifeless, perfectly formed baby​ in the second trimester, God would conduct life-saving surgery on my heart? Who knew that I would reach the end of myself and, by His ​mercy, fall through an opening​ in the safety net of control I’d been ​residing in for so long? Who know that when I fell, I would land in the open ​Arms of Grace and become a soul surrender-er and a grace-receiver and truly, ​for the first time, ​begin to understand what it looks like​ and feels like​ to truly walk in freedom?

The One who saves knew.

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” ​Galatians 5:1

​Who knew that shortly after that season of heart refinement and soul surgery​, God would open our eyes to the reality of the orphan crisis by ​leading us​ to His Word and ​His call to us as Christians​ to love and​ care for them, and ultimately​,​​ ​open our​ hearts to ​adoption​?​

The Father to the Fatherless knew.

“God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:6

Who knew that every time we’d pra​y​​ eagerly and believe we were ready to begin the process, we’d ​inexplicably lack peace ​and instead​,​ quietly tuck paperwork away only to hear ​the Lord say, “T​rust Me?” And ​who knew that during this​ exact season​ of waiting​ and praying​, a ​tiny​ ​baby boy would be born on the other side​ of the globe who was known, seen, loved, and set apart​ by ​his Abba, Father​ to become our​ son ​one day?

​The All Knowing One ​knew.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord… “to give you a future and a hope.” ​Jeremiah 29:11

Who knew that in the meantime​ there would be a season of​​ surprise and​ ​joy​ as we welcomed the birth of a new​ baby​? And​,​ only​ ​a​ short time later​,​ that there would be​ a season of gut-wrenching grief​ ​as we​ ​watched my ​beautiful mother – my children’s beloved grandmother​ – ​suffer with ​pancreatic cancer until the Lord carried​ her home​?

The ​One who is our Comforter ​knew.

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21b​

“He heals the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

Who kne​w​ tha​t​​ almost exactly ​five years after our first ​prayer​ seeking God’s heart for our family with regard to ​adoption​, I would unwittingly stumble across a ​photo​ of a​ little boy​ who would steal my heart​ immediately, and I would know he was the son we had been praying for all these years​?


The Faithful One knew.

“I called upon You; for You will answer me, Oh God​.​” Psalm 17:6

​Wh​o knew that ​all those​ years of​ heartfelt prayers​ and saying that we trusted God,​ we would still struggle​​ to believe? “​First of all,​ he’s in China​, Lord​.​ ​H​ow could we ever afford the ado​ption costs? ​Not to mention, we fall short of the income requirements​. ​And, by the way, we were okay with one special need but not a list that includes words we cannot pronounce or understand​. This was not the child we were expecting.​ Our hands are pretty full already, so they say. ​How will this potentially affect our other children? Are you sure? You know ​we have no idea what we’re doing, righ​t?​ Now?​??​”

​The ​Savior ​who beckons us out of the boat knew. ​​

“Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Luke 8:50​

Who knew that China allows waivers,​ and ​when we finally took that first timid step​ out onto that Ocean of Unknowns​, ​our hearts would overflow with peace?

​The Prince of Peace knew.

​”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7​

Who knew that ​we’d desperately desire to hop on the next flight to China, that ​12 months ​could feel like 12 years, ​and that our hearts would ache for years lost and birthdays missed​? Who knew ​we’d ​have to ​learn that patience coincides with perseverance as we ​navigated trenches of paperwork, social worker visits, and adoptive parenting classes, books, and blogs?​

The One who sits on the throne knew.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrew 4:16

Who ​knew that when God ​told us​ to have the faith of a chi​ld, He meant it? ​Who knew our kids would willingly sell the family camping trailer, lemonade​, and ​homemade ​necklaces and voluntarily hand over​ their​ humble life savings​ in eager anticipation to help bring their brother home? Who knew ​that the ​seed​s​ of faith God planted in our family woul​d ​be watered and flourish​ ​as​ He​ ​faithfully ​provided every penny​ we prayed for ​through adoption grants and the generosity ​of cheerful givers​ who answered God’s call to care for orphans?


The​ ​One who ​Provid​es​ knew.

“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:27

Who knew that ​after that long year of heart​s prepared​, funds provided, and seas parted​, ​this​ Momma, who was so confident in Christ’s calling, would quietly squirm in ​my ​seat on ​a ​China​ ​bound plane ​a​s​ the enemy of ​our soul​s ​would​ attempt to launc​h​ one last​-ditch​ sneak attack ​​on ​my​ joy ​with missiles of doubt, fear, and inadequacy​?
​ ​
The ​Voice​ of Truth ​k​new.

And we know therefore, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

Who knew that faith causes fear of the unknown to flee, and obedience causes joy that knows no bounds? ​​And who knew our hearts would burst with love for our new son,​ and​ at the same time, we would​ wonder what we had done, all the while, traveling through China, overwhelmed with a fresh gratitude for the Gospel ​of Grace and the miracle of our own adoption as His sons and daughters through the life-saving blood work of Jesus Christ on the cross?

​The Grace Giver knew.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Who knew​ we would come home and make many trips back and forth to doctors and​ that our other children would actually enjoy tagging along with their little bro​ther​, cheering him on along the way? And who knew God would weave together a ​special and​ ​beautiful​ bond between ​one of our bio kids, who had been ​anything but ​excited​ about a new family member​, and our​ adopted son​?​

​The​ Redeemer ​k​new.

“And we​ know that in all things, God works together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28​

Who knew there would be some truly miraculous days when we’d ​marvel at God’s heart-mending work​ in our son​ and how far he’s come​,​ only to ​hit our knees the next, pleading with God ​for His patience​, ​strength​, grace, wisdom, power, mercy and peace to ​parent this child, who has been through so much in his short life, one day, one step at a time?

​The All Powerful One knew​.

“​And He said, ​’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

​Who knew that when a well-meaning person would mention, “He’s so lucky,” we’d internally cringe ​and quietly respond, “No, no, we are the ones who are blessed,” because we know the truth of our inadequacies, and it’s only by​ God pouring out His ​grace​ upon grace​​ over us that we ​have been given the gift of parenting this precious little
​ ​
The ​Giver of every good gift ​knew.

“​For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.​” John 1:16​

And ​who knows what will happen if there ​is a dark day ahead​ and we ​begin to sink, forgetting to look straight ahead with our eyes on Him​ for every decision, every challenge, every victory, every breath,​ and ​we ​suddenly​ find ourselves​ cr​ying​ out ​to Him in desperation?​

The One who never leaves and never forsakes knows.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Who knows what​ the future holds, and who knows what words we will give when​ our precious son asks ​the inevitable ​questions we simply cannot answer?


The ​One in Whom our identity is found knows.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me.” Psalm 14-16
​ ​
The One who is writing a beautiful story in each one of us knows.


​”For I am confident of this ver​y thing, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippian​s​ 1:6

-guest post by Joanna
Instagram: @rangerwife4

Large Families: the Good, the Bad, the Blessing (part two)

May 19, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Today we continue with the second post of our two-part series featuring Large Families. This mom of six shares some fun, creative, and pragmatic ideas that will help us all (whatever the size of our family) to keep things running smoothly. You can find part-one here.

I’d like to share some of the things we’ve learned along the way that can help with the logistics of living in a big family. All the things described here aren’t for everyone, of course, but perhaps you’ll read an idea or two that strike a chord with you as you are undertake the intense and beautiful task of raising a big family (or the prospect of doing so!).


Be intentional about connecting with each person, every day.

This seems like a fairly obvious thing to say but I can tell you from experience, there can easily be days when it doesn’t happen. I have laid my head on my pillow at night many times and had the sinking feeling of, “Did I even have a conversation with so-and-so at all today? Did I look him in the eyes? Did I listen? Or was I just his manager?”

Some specific ideas to help with this:

*Individually greet each kid warmly the first thing of the day. Seems simple, but in a household with a lot of moving parts (and especially with older kids), you may convene at the breakfast table having not yet seen each person. It is easy to jump right into things like “Did you put your library book in your backpack?” instead of “Good morning, ______! I love you, buddy! How’d you sleep?” Same thing after school, save the nuts and bolts of everyday life for later – let the first things they hear in each juncture of the day be the joy in your voice just to see them. Bedtime too – in our house, even if Dave puts a few kids to bed and I do the other “set”, we always switch and head into the other bedrooms to close out the day with a quick hug for each kid. It is a human thing in all of us to desire to be individually noticed, not just part of the backdrop.

*We’ve recently given each child their own notebook and told them they can write notes or draw a picture any time and put it under Mom or Dad’s pillow. Mom or Dad promise to write something back within 24 hours. This is kind of old school “texting”.☺ They can use the notebook to ask anything they want, to give their opinion, to apologize for something, simply to connect. (I love it when I go to bed and feel a notebook under my pillow!) We initiate it sometimes too.

*After breakfast each day, we read a short passage of Scripture together, and each kid has “their” day of the week they get to participate by reading every other verse in the passage out loud with Dad. For a season, Dave and I used each kid’s day as a reminder to pray for that child intentionally (Reuben on Monday, Levi on Tuesday and so on. . . )

*Use errand time to take one kid out alone. Grocery shopping with just one kid is so fun! Often I’ll invite the kid who has needed the most grace recently, who has been in a struggle with me over something and needs a confirmation of forgiveness.

*Speaking of outings, the summer we brought Linnea home we did not do a big family vacation, wanting to keep our routine a little simpler and let her adjust. Instead, we took some money we would have spent on a vacation, and told the kids they’d each have a sum of money and three hours with each parent and they could plan the outing any way they wanted. Five kids x two parents = ten “dates” were planned that summer! It took some creativity with the family calendar, to be sure, because the other parent of course had to be home during that time. But they had so much fun deciding exactly how to spend their money, where to eat, what tickets/admission to buy, where to go. (Example: Our then-7-year-old had always wanted to go visit the big camper store in town so he and his daddy went and wandered through all the big campers on display; then went to Hobby Lobby to buy craft supplies; then to a park to sit at a picnic table and paint and make crafts; then out for ice cream. You can cram a lot in 3 hours! ☺) It was such a memorable summer, and Dave and I looked forward to focusing on each kid, help them process adding a new sister to our family, and confirming in their hearts that their “place” in the family was still solid and secure.




(In subsequent summers, we’ve changed this up a bit – last year we did “DICE DATES”. Six kids works quite well for this ☺ — our firstborn was #1, second #2 etc. and we rolled the dice to come up with a pair of kids to go on a fun outing with one parent. You get unique combinations that way!)

*Avoid the “herd mentality”. When things are falling apart at the seams, it is so easy to throw up your hands and say, “You guys! Knock it off, you are all a mess today!” when in reality, it is probably only one or two or three kids who are having a “moment” (some of them simply being immature) and making the entire day seem like a disaster. When I’m feeling that way, I pause and think through the six kids in my head and realize, “Wait now. This is really a two-kid issue, not a six-kid issue” and try not to spew my wrath on the masses. Also, I find I have much more effectiveness when I use people’s names instead of give a general directive. i.e. “Kids, go put on your shoes!” yields less results than, “Gideon, Micah, Nora, go put on your shoes.” It takes longer to say, but when kids hear their own names is always a plus in a big family, and a quick way to make a personal connection.

(Side note: if you have a bunch of little kids, adopted or not, right now go order the book “Loving the Little Years” by Rachel Jankovic. Game changer book for me — the above paragraph was something she addressed. You can finish the whole thing in one or two middle-of-the-night nursing sessions and it will put your work with all your little people in a whole new light!)

*These intentional connections within the family include your spouse. Connect with him/her too. And I don’t mean getting a babysitter and going on an elaborate date, because let’s be honest, that may not happen for many months after a new little one comes home – No, I mean really seeing them and picturing what life looks like through their lens right now. Sending a quick text after a morning kid struggle and saying “I really appreciate the way you handled that, babe. We are on the same team!” Or, if you didn’t like the way they handled it, “Wow, that was a tough way to start the morning. I hope your day gets better from here.” Dropping off a mocha on his desk at work when you are out running errands. A note on the steering wheel. Praying for him/her, individually and together. Adding some flowers to the grocery cart. Doing a chore they normally do. Giving each other a “sleep in” morning so they can be off kid duty. Kicking each other out of the house for some R & R (“It is a gorgeous day, honey, why don’t you go for a bike ride?”) Encouragement is a powerful tone-changer in your home, and it starts with Mom and Dad.

Put organizational systems into place that make your life easier.

I admit it, I’m an obsessive label-er. I’ve been mocked several times about a box in my storage unit that I once labeled “Knick Knacks and Picture Frames Not Being Used Due to Seasonal Décor.” (Okay, perhaps that was a little overly detailed.) But seriously, if you have a whole slew of kids, you’ll have to find ways to be organized even if it isn’t your natural bent. Otherwise you might go stark-raving mad. (Which, honestly, might happen anyway if the rest of the people you live with don’t share your affinity for labels and organization. Ahem.) Here are some big family organization ideas:

*All the piles of paperwork coming home from school from your tribe of scholars can take over entire rooms of the house if you aren’t proactive. Here’s our system for taming the paper. Right next to the kids’ lockers is a hanging file on the wall. Their completed work from each day goes in their slot of the file, minus the flyers and permission slips that need to be responded to. When the files are so stuffed you can’t fit any more in (about every three weeks), kids each take a turn on the couch with Mom or Dad looking through their stack together. Most of it gets thrown away at this point (a few things displayed, a few things kept). I find that batching it like this instead of dealing with the paper each day is much simpler, and makes an easy connection point with our kids as individuals – they love showing and describing their work to us on the couch.


*Color-coding! In our house, each kid has a different color cup they always use, which makes setting the table a way to subtly dictate seating and also helps you know which leftover half cup of milk in the fridge belongs to whom. (We use “their” color for other things too – the notebooks described above, tags on presents, toothbrushes, etc.) Speaking of cups, I know an adoptive mama of six who has hooks on the wall at kid-height in her kitchen for each of the kids’ water bottles. Anytime they want a drink, there it is. Easy to grab as they are walking out the door too. Another friend of mine made ceramic tiles for each member of her family and has them out on her counter – they put the cup they are using on their own tile after each meal/snack and use the same cup the next time – majorly cuts down on dishes!

*“Special Place” boxes – if your kids are anything like mine, they are always collecting things! A rock or acorn on their walk home from school, a gift shop purchase, a postcard from a grandparent, a craft project from VBS etc. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all the STUFF. At our house, each kid has a small box in their closet called their “Special Place”. I tell them they can keep anything they want if it will fit in their box. Each summer I have them dump it all out and re-evaluate each item – do I really want to keep this? Most often what meant the world to them in September doesn’t really have the same appeal in June and it gets thrown out. But the real gems stay, the traces of their childhood that they’ll hold on to forever.

*“The Sock Drop” – this is almost too silly to mention except that since I’ve started doing it, my life is noticeably easier! ☺ I don’t know about you, but in my household, socks are everywhere. They seem to have babies in every room of the house, I simply don’t get it. Finally it hit me one day that the kids really don’t have any place to put their socks when they take them off. The laundry chute is waaaaaaaay upstairs and the hampers in the laundry room they never know if the clothes are clean or dirty, coming or going. Enter the Sock Drop. I put a small basket in a tucked away corner of a high traffic area and all dirty socks go in there at all times. People actually use it! Lovely. I empty the sock drop into a load of laundry a few times a week and, voila. No more sock babies all over the house.

(Similarly, I have a basket in the living room for JUST library books so they don’t get mixed in with ours. The snack bowl in the pantry filled with after school grab-n-go snacks. The craft bin with supplies. You see the trend.☺)

Divide and Conquer

*When I say divide and conquer I mean divide both the work-load and divide the people up at different times. Both can do wonders. A friend once shared with me that in a big family, if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, you are not delegating enough. Truth! Look around you! You have a whole little army of people at your disposal! They need to learn the valuable lessons of work anyway, so they might as well be reducing your load. True, you have to put in some initial labor and time in teaching how to clean a bathroom or fold laundry, but you’ll thank yourself in a few years if you stick with it now. Some ideas:

*Give each kid a different room of the house to pick up toys and have a race (I’ve found you can get a little boy to do almost anything if you say “Ready, set, GO!”).

*I’ve been known to call out, “Freeze!! Everyone in the house! 20 things! Go!” Meaning, every person in your house picks up 20 items and puts them away – it is amazing how in about 3 minutes time your house looks so much better with 160 things put away – big families for the win!

*Taco Nights have become much more enjoyable since the decree that each of the oldest three children shall completely compile a younger sibling’s taco before building their own.

*Pair kids together in different rooms for “quiet time” when you need 20 minutes to make dinner.

*On outings where you are one-on-six (or more), designate a buddy system before going out for hand-holding in parking lots.

*Hand everyone, big and small, a rake and go tackle that leaf pile together. (Don’t forget to jump in! Mom and Dad too!)

Divide and conquer!


Last week, I came out to the porch swing to join Dave and Linnea and Micah who were having an afternoon snack. A few other kids were running around on the grass. Linnea looked around, taking a mental tally. Then she giggled and looked up at Dave with a gleam in her eye and said, “Whole family! ‘Gether!”

Oh, thank you Lord Jesus, that we get to belong. The eight of us, we go “gether”.


I don’t know what is around the bend for us, or for you . . . what challenges await our families as our packs of kids get older. But in every challenge, when we feel like we don’t have the wisdom or patience or grace for this (um, daily!), may the Holy Spirit repeat in our minds over and over the truth of His Word…

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:10)

There are indeed many challenges to raising a large family, especially when it has grown through adoption. But the benefits are so vast!

They’ll learn a huge array of social skills – conflict resolution, collaboration, compassion, empathy, self-sacrifice, to name a few.

And they’ll have a front row seat to watch time and time again the way Christ leads and provides and shines through all our weaknesses.


guest post by Rhonda

Aging Out Waiting Child: Wren

May 18, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Wren is described as active and smart. He likes outdoor activities and gets along with others well. He has lots of friends. Wren is also described as sensible, obedient, and innocent. He greet whoever he meets politely. He can usually answer questions others cannot. Wren is a bit shorter than his peers, but he is …Read More

Find My Family: Henry

May 16, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Henry RK

Meet Henry, age 4.5. He was abandoned on the day of his birth. Henry underwent a successful surgery last summer for hypospadias and is also diagnosed with cryptorchidism (undescended testicles), but he does have normal bowel and bladder control. He was initially labeled with disorder of sexual development, but the orphanage says they are certain …Read More


May 15, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

HoldingHands_FatherChild 2

I love Jesus. I love His simplicity. I love how easily He puts things into perspective. I love how when all the religious leaders wanted to prove Him wrong, false, and even sinful that His answers were never hour long oratories. Simple, concise. Believe and follow or don’t. Often I find myself in the midst …Read More

The Blessings of an Unknown Road

May 13, 2016 by nohandsbutours 17 Comments


Let me start by saying I am an ordinary middle aged woman living an ordinary life but just happen to have five extraordinary children, three of whom are adopted. My children have forever changed my life. My oldest son is 31 with a beautiful wife and two precious children of his own. My second oldest …Read More


May 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We did everything backwards. After watching our best friends adopt two girls from China, my husband and I were very open to adoption. However, we are both “take it slow” kind of people so it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I felt ready to build our family through adoption. My husband? He …Read More

Find My Family: Trent

May 10, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Trent is a gorgeous little boy waiting for his forever family to see him! Trent is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates. He is three years old and is diagnosed with ankle joint contracture of both knees; reduced muscular tension. His file states that after admission, he was given symptomatic and supportive treatment and received …Read More

Two Years of Blessings

May 9, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


It has been two years. Two years since China said yes. Two years full of unexpected blessings. Two years of being asleep before your head hits the pillow at night. Two years of going to work with kisses on your cheeks. Two years full of learning new things for both Lock and us. Has life …Read More

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