A Prayer for National Adoption Month

November 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts…? – Psalm 13

Adoption awareness and orphan care have become a life’s work for us, a calling bigger than adding children to our family. It’s seeped into our faith, hearts, conversations, serving, friendships, and Instagram feeds.

Though our first steps in were tentative, three adoptions later, we are a family flying the adoption banner. We’ve compiled dossiers, read books, received grants, fundraised, waited, travelled, and attached. We’ve also served, bought t-shirts, spoken, written, advocated, and conference-d. We’ve started an adoption ministry, urged our church to offer an adoption grant, and served on mission trips. We’ve jumped onto the bandwagon and we’ve driven it too.

But just because we wear the t-shirt doesn’t mean we’ve got it all sorted out.

This year, this veteran adoptive mom found herself rattled by Orphan Sunday and National Adoption Month. I love the awareness it brings. It stokes the fighter in me who wants to shout at the world to stand up for vulnerable children. I pray that we’d all be outraged that families give up their children because they can’t afford food or medical care. That we’d not be OK with kids growing up in the US foster system or in the world’s orphanages. That the world would see the redeeming beauty of adoption.

But the truth is, I’m still in process with my thinking, and my understanding has layers now. I wrestle with how best to “defend the fatherless”. I wrestle with how to help in a way that doesn’t hurt. I wrestle with my role and my motives. I wrestle with my own apathy and my own helplessness. I wrestle with how much of my kids’ stories to share and with what words to use. I wrestle, and I pray you will too.

Our family was given the gift of three children birthed in China, and they are perfectly fitting puzzle pieces. But, I don’t think God intended them for our family or that we saved them. I wrestle with that thinking. Rather, I think He can redeem any of the losses or the traumas of this broken world, even parents having to give up their children. We are merely grateful that He chose us to receive these beautiful gifts. They are cherished children now, but we didn’t save them. As much as I’d love to believe that, we just don’t have it in us. It was us who were saved. Us who could have missed it. This life turned upside down by adoption and these glimpses into brokenness. This life less comfortable and full of heart checks.

We are just a crazy, under construction family blessed by adoption, redeemed by God, wrestling with how to see with His eyes and love with His heart. Like so many of you, we’re a big mess with rattled hearts.


I’ve come to realize that God is a fan of heart-transforming wrestling. I can say now that I’m grateful for how adoption stretches my trust, comfort and thinking. From the signatures on our first application, we wrestled to understand the wait, the red tape, the apathy of governments, and the sheer number of children without birth parents who can raise them. We just couldn’t fathom why adoption was so hard when so many wait. One side of my brain gets angry with God and the other knows to trust that He’s good. I pray that even with the hard questions, that I will trust His goodness. I pray you will too.

I don’t yet have tidy answers to my questions, and I don’t suppose I will this side of heaven. This is messy redemption business happening in a broken world, and I think grappling is part of the package. This questioning has forged a sweet, new understanding of who He is to us, to our waiting kids, and to the world’s fatherless.

Years ago, my fired up for orphan care self landed in Zimbabwe to serve kids in group homes. I arrived planning to serve and save and left unsettled and having not saved a soul. One afternoon, while painting strokes of blue paint onto the wall of a home alongside the teens that would inhabit it, I contemplated the words Save and Orphans written in giant letters across my t-shirt. Knowing they could read English, realizing that I was nobody’s savior, and seeing that these “hurting orphans” were not just a cause, but souls with beating hearts, thoughtful minds and stories beyond my comprehension, I felt differently about my well intended t-shirt. My mindset shifted, and though I still fail, I’ve been more carefully considering my words ever since.

Now as I parent three kids who know great loss, words matter. I don’t expect to always say the right thing. I don’t have that within me either. It’s just that I want to intentionally tell our story, while still protecting and honoring theirs. I want to consider first how my kids would/will hear my words. There are just too many complexities within parenting from adoption that I don’t have the luxury of ignoring. I’ve made mistakes in this, but I’m learning. I desire to honor God, protect the hearts of my kids, and “look after orphans and widows in their distress”, so it’s a dance I want to dance prayerfully.


Honestly, I’m just beginning to process how my need to feel good, matter, and belong within the adoption community might subtly sneak into my mindset when serving, advocating, and posting on social media. God’s given me passion, but I’m learning to pause before I act, speak or write. I’m praying that moment by moment, I’ll defer to His guidance in first shepherding my kids’ hearts.

My National Adoption Month prayer is that together we’d wrestle with our role on behalf of vulnerable children. That we’d be shaken by what we’ve seen, what we know, and what we’ve been called to. That we’d wrestle with whom and how we’re called to love. That we’d openly celebrate the beauty of adoption, passionately advocate, and prayerfully consider how to do it well.

Hero and Rescuer

November 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

“Why don’t you look like me, Daddy?”

“When did I come out of your tummy, Mommy?”

“Why did my “real” Mom not want me?”

“So, you are still my real parents, or are they my parents?”

“Will you ever leave me?”


If you are an adoptive father or mother, questions like these from your child are inevitable, and no matter how well you plan your answers, a child’s heart and awkward curiosity are never predictable. Some questions and thoughts will be easy to answer and discuss, while others will be challenging and require tenderness and patience beyond your abilities.

I remember the first time my father sat on the floor across from me and told me how he and my mom became my parents. It sounded loving and very genuine at the time, but I needed some time to really process it all. It is a lot to take in when you discover your adoptive parents are not your biological parents, in light of the obvious racial and ethnic differences.

I admit that I struggled at times with the differences. Sometimes I even wondered what life would be like had I never been adopted just so that I would not have to go through the difficult parts of my adoption journey. Looking back, I regret having those occasional feelings as a young boy as my parents were just as much involved in the journey as I was. Still, my parents showed a lot of grace and loved me through the process of understanding and discovery. I remember my father spending hours talking to me and reaffirming his dedication and love for me and my other adopted siblings.

You see, every story has a beginning. Like any adopted child, I wanted to identify with and know my story. For me to truly discover my unique story was to begin to accept how our Heavenly Father identifies, loves, and embraces each one of His children, whether or not they have biological parents.

Galatians 4:4-7 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

I, too, was spiritually orphaned like every person on earth. When I realized this, I finally cried out deep within me, “Abba! Father!” This is what I was made and crafted to do!

Despite the need to identify with my adoptive parents, I was grateful for a father and mother who would love me on this earth. However, my greatest desire was to be loved by my Heavenly Father. I wanted to affectionately embrace God who made me and how he perfectly ordained my life circumstances through adoption to bring Him glory.

Embracing my story meant finally letting go of what I could not change and being at rest with the circumstances God had ordained from eternity past. I repented of selfish thought and sought contentment with His perfect provision for me. It meant asking my Heavenly Father to wrap His arms of grace around my life through the care and love of my earthly parents.

Even now, I am still amazed by God’s adoption of me. I know that my earthly adoption is temporary and is a journey to knowing God’s adoptive eternal love for His children.


If you are an adoptive parent, help your children embrace your family’s story that is uniquely crafted by God’s mercy. Encourage them to see the story in light of God’s eternal story of redemption, God as Father. Give them freedom to explore their past and even ask uncomfortable questions while fellowshipping with others who are on the same journey of discovery. Allow your children to see you only as an instrument of grace God wants you to be. God the Father is the Hero and Rescuer, and He always loves to provide generously!


Steven was adopted from Korea through Holt International when he was 9 months old. He is now an ambassador for the Gospel of Jesus, urban missiologist, and advocate for global orphans. He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and he lives with his wife and daughters in Birmingham. You can follow him on twitter.

Older Children and Incontinence, a Family Story

November 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Our adoption journey started with two infant adoptions from South Korea, in 2008 and 2010. Our first was a healthy baby boy; our second, a daughter with limb differences. When we considered adding to our family again, we decided to adopt an older child and looked into the China special needs program. We pondered the medical needs checklist helplessly. We had good insurance, but what kinds of needs could we manage on a daily basis with a busy family of six? Could we provide years of possible surgeries and therapies? What kinds of special needs were more “convenient” than others?

At some point along this journey it occurred to us that no matter how inconvenient a special need might be for us, it was infinitely more difficult for a child without a family. We changed our outlook and began doing the research. In particular we felt pulled toward a child with physical special needs. Spina bifida topped our list as we searched photo listings for the child who would be our new daughter.

In June 2011, I found her. She was a 7 year old girl with repaired lipomyelomeningocele, tethered cord, and bowel/bladder incontinence. She lived in an orphanage, and had been there since being abandoned at a year old. A note left with her detailed the anguish her birth parents had felt at watching her untreated spina bifida derail her growth and development, necessitating decisions no parent should ever have to make. Photos of her showed large, sad brown eyes and a shy, fearful disposition. Orphanage notes said she preferred to play alone, and did not allow people to get close to her. Due to her incontinence she was not allowed to attend school, but instead stayed in the orphanage preschool.


As we filled out paperwork to adopt her, I started to prepare myself for the types of care I would need to provide for her when she got home. I learned a lot about how incontinence caused by spina bifida and anorectal malformations affects children socially and physically, when the causative conditions are untreated. For example, many children are classified by China as being regular and not having constipation, because they have a bowel movement each day. However, the vast majority of children with these untreated conditions suffer nerve damage affecting the ability of the intestines and colon to push stool through and to release it on a regular basis. Once the colon is full, stool will fall out, but the colon is stretched and any sensation is lost, making toilet training difficult or impossible. Children can benefit from bowel management programs which use laxatives, enemas, and dietary changes to produce a bowel movement each day and achieve social continence.

However, with overcrowded orphanages, poverty, and short-staffing, children in care in China are unlikely to have these opportunities. Instead, they face a lifetime of shame and separation, where foster families are unwilling to bring them home, schools reject them for the inconvenience and odor, and opportunity for education and social integration is nearly impossible.

As I prepared to travel in June 2012 to adopt our daughter, I considered the challenges that might be involved in managing the incontinence of an older child. Our daughter would have been used to a lifetime in a diaper, without a regular caregiver. Would she trust me? Would she be willing to let me try to help her?

Our adoption day was full of surprises. Our daughter walked confidently into the civil affairs office and sat in my lap. She was shy but sweet as she carefully touched my cheeks and searched my face for clues as to what kind of person I was. She eagerly gave her fingerprint to be adopted and in the weeks that followed, began to blossom!

As she settled in we started the medical workup to assess the range of her needs. It was determined that she could benefit from clear intermittent catheterization and bowel management. One thing that many parents find surprising is how little doctors know about the day-to-day management of these conditions. It’s one thing to learn about incontinence, but another to live it. Most of us find that doctors provide a good starting point for advice on how to manage, but because every child is different, and we ultimately find trial-and-error to work better for managing our kids’ needs.


For example, children with spina bifida experience many different symptoms related to incontinence. Some children are completely continent, or are continent but need to use the restroom on a regular basis, rather than using sensation to decide when to go. Some children may have the sensation of having to urinate, but cannot control it. Some have a neurogenic bladder, in which signals between the brain and the bladder are interrupted by spinal cord malformation, leading to a bladder that spasms constantly but cannot release or hold urine effectively. If the child is not catheterized regularly, damage results from the bladder’s pressure becoming too high and the urine can reflux into the kidneys, causing problems with kidney function. Finally, urinary tract infections are an issue where the bladder does not empty correctly, causing health concerns. Many of these children benefit from a medication such as Ditropan, which stops the bladder spasms, and catheterization, which completely empties the bladder.

Over the course of several months, I slowly introduced catheters and laxatives. Our daughter was nervous at first but agreed to try the protocol that was recommended. It wasn’t long until she was dry and wearing underwear, and we were using glycerin bulb laxatives and cone enemas to empty the colon each day. We use the “bucket approach,” which says that the colon is like a bucket. When a bucket is full, it spills over, but if you empty the bucket each day, you have another day to slowly fill it and empty it before it can spill over. This has worked successfully for several years.

In 2013, I happened to come across the story of a young man who was aging out of China’s adoption program. An outgoing, smart, sweet 13-year-old boy, he had imperforate anus as one of a constellation of symptoms related to VACTERL association. His incontinence had led to his abandonment, and it had caused him to be kept out of school and foster care while he spent his life in an institution.

While reviewing his file I was touched by his hopeful smile, and his statements that he would like to be adopted. I cried reading about how, as a result of bowel incontinence, the students’ parents at his school had called for his expulsion. My husband and I considered what his life would look like if he stayed in China, without access to lifesaving medical care and the tools to achieve daily bowel continence. And then, we said YES.


I traveled to China and adopted him in March 2014, while my husband stayed with our other children. Those days in China were not easy, though my son and I can laugh about it now. He, too, walked willingly away with me toward his new life, and apart from being nervous and active, adjusted easily into his new life. We found that he was lactose intolerant, which negatively impacted efforts to achieve bowel management. However, with the use of a Miralax cleanout followed by daily high-volume enemas, he too found himself continent. Within just a month or two he had learned to measure the ingredients for his enema and to administer it himself. Today, both children manage their own incontinence and are proud of their ability to blend seamlessly into their peer groups, after a lifetime of segregation and humiliation.

There are some things I’d like to mention that I think are unique to achieving social continence in older children. For example, while we may be anxious to begin the journey toward “fixing” the child, it’s important to take the child’s lead. You may think that incontinence is the end of the world, but it is your new child’s “normal.” I was not prepared with either adoption for how comfortable my children were in diapers. I had imagined that both would be excited and eager to wear underwear and to manage their conditions. Instead, both found it easier to be in diapers, without having to stop to go to the bathroom or to learn new ways to stay clean. However, I always prioritized bonding and building trust over imposing invasive procedures. I made sure that both kids were ready and really understood what we were undertaking. They were willing to try the techniques I introduced, but weren’t overly excited about the goal. There are no words to describe either child on the first day of successful continence. My son was amazed that he, too, could wear underwear like everyone else. It was clear that he had lost hope of this ever happening… and he was thrilled by this development!

On the other hand, I also think that undergoing such sensitive and invasive bowel and bladder management built trust more quickly. I promised them that I would help them to stay clean and feel healthy, which no one in their lives had done before, and I followed through with my promise! We learned together and grew together. We laughed together over messy failures, and celebrated successes together. Catheterization forced us to focus solely on each other at regular points in the day, around everything else that was going on. They opened themselves up to vulnerability and saw that my husband and I didn’t reject them for their incontinence, or disapprove of their conditions, as so many people had.

As time went on and our relationship grew, they both shared some very humiliating stories of abuse and neglect which was cathartic for them. We have always made a point to honor those memories and to treat them gently, and to nurture the present, so they can overcome some of the trauma which resulted from their incontinence.


Related to this, I think it’s worthwhile for parents to really consider the social and emotional effects of incontinence as it relates to our children. There is no simple fix here, folks. For adoptive parents, it’s a medical condition to be managed. Honestly, it always surprised me how often people overlooked incontinent children for others whose needs I’d consider more involved, since it seemed a nonissue for us. But for the older child, it is the central focus of his or her life and the source of most of his or her negative experiences in life.

Children are acutely aware that they were abandoned because of their medical conditions. They have watched other children be adopted while they waited due to their special need. Many, if not most, children have been denied an appropriate education, field trips and excursions, foster care, and warm relationships and have been told in no uncertain terms that they smell, or that they failed to potty-train normally. They have been mocked about their conditions and it is the source of great shame.

In your home these memories will compound the typical challenges associated with older child adoption, which are to be expected as a child settles into life with a new family, siblings, language, food, educational system, expectations, and culture. You will need to gingerly approach social continence without putting your child on the defensive or making the child think you believe he or she needs to be “fixed” to be good enough. You will ask questions about bathroom behavior and your child will try to size up whether you are mocking them. Any accidents will be hidden in anticipation of discipline or scorn.

Eventually, you will realize at some point that the hurt is so very deep, and the child’s self-esteem has been damaged so severely, as you slowly pull apart the layers of your child’s personality. You will realize that incontinence has affected the child so much more than physically, and that so many seemingly unrelated experiences your child has had really stem from the medical condition that put your child in the situation.

You will slowly conclude that long after your child achieves social incontinence, he or she will still remain an “incontinent” or “disabled” child inside, with the stigma and shame, and that it will be up to your lead and your child’s resilience to change this. It will be up to you to patiently rebuild the child’s self-esteem, while showing him that his identity is so much more than what happens in the restroom.


And one day, after many other exhausting and difficult days, you will realize that it’s been a while since you comforted a crying child after an accident, or found a hidden pair of stinky underwear, or treated a urinary tract infection, or had a conversation about poop at dinner, and you will realize how far you have all traveled, together. Your child will realize that her worth is bigger than her trips to the bathroom. Incontinence will be just another feature of your child’s life, like his eye color or his favorite color, rather than sorrow that is written upon his soul.

Your future, together, is now.

– guest post by Tracy

Orphan Sunday: An Answer to Prayer

November 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Thanksgiving was just a few days ago, and I find myself reflecting on all that I am grateful for this year. I filled my belly with turkey, Mama’s dressing, corn pudding, and pies while sitting around a table with some of the people I love most. I celebrated the presence of my new son and …Read More

Waiting Twins: Chad and Tad

November 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Chad and Tad are twin brothers who are 3.5 years old. They were found as infants and determined to be premature and of low birthweight. After a few months of careful care provided by their orphanage, they grew and matured enough to be sent to foster care. The two brothers have lived in separate foster …Read More

Looking Beyond the Label

November 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Gastrointestinal Issues. These two words changed our world and lives forever on December 2, 2012. My husband and I had poured over the list of special needs provided by the Waiting Child Program at our adoption agency and chosen those we felt we could handle emotionally, physically, and financially. Gastrointestinal issues was a special need …Read More

My Wounding

November 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 25 Comments


“I not only have my secrets, I am my secrets. And you are yours. Our secrets are human secrets, and our trusting each other enough to share them with each other has much to do with the secret of what it means to be human.” – Frederick Buechner Be gentle with me, dear reader. Please …Read More

Telling the Story: Theirs, Mine and His

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Templeton 2

I realize now that when we first brought our children home, I had an undefined, but deeply felt and well-meant desire. However, I have also realized that my desire was not exactly what God had in mind. Let me explain. I wanted our adopted children to be so loved, so secure, so encompassed in the …Read More

find my family: Jude

November 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Jude turned four years old in October and is diagnosed as having lower limb weakness. He came into care at the approximate age of two. His nannies report that he has big beautiful eyes and is very handsome. When his file was prepared in October of 2014, he could stand up and walk while holding …Read More

Meet the Contributors: Nicole

November 25, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a …Read More

© 2015 No Hands But Ours

The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.