I See Love By Choice

June 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

Sometimes I can’t bear CNN. I can’t stomach Facebook. My heart can’t hold another story of gut-wrenching loss, more video of violence, another photo of a child swollen from hunger, yet more stories of families fleeing from hate in their homelands. I can’t read another word about ugly politics or strands of hateful, intolerant status updates. Sometimes this broken world is too much for me.

But God graciously immersed me in the world of adoption, and so very often he uses adoptive families to turn my eyes from humanity’s bad to its beauty. He uses faces of orphans turned daughters to lift my eyes to love. He uses medically fragile, fatherless, little boys that love transforms into miraculously healthy sons to remind me that He redeems.

Love by choice is splashed all over my Instagram feed, church and community. Love on display in its purest form in a thousand stories, families and redeemed lives.

I see parents pushing tirelessly, but war wounded, through obstacles and red tape for children they love, but have not yet held.

I see dads saying yes to adoptions that aren’t in the budget, and laying aside protective fears regarding the impact of medical needs.

I see moms pushing through the hard wait by researching about attachment, medical needs and a new country’s culture.

I see families who learn big lessons about God’s provision when funds are miraculously provided.

I see families struggle to fundraise, but who move forward still, learning different big faith lessons as they scrape and sacrifice to write big checks.

I see adoptive moms who work tirelessly to raise funds for other families.


I see adoptive parents who willingly say yes, knowing it will mean specialist appointments, g-tubes, wheelchairs, prosthetic fittings, chemo, HIV meds, catheterizing, enemas, transfusions, EKGs, OT, PT, medication filled syringes, and too much time sitting prayerfully outside operating rooms.

I see families bravely climb into planes bound for the Far East, taking giant steps into the unknown.

I see parents stand in civil affairs offices, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language, feeling the weight of their longed for, beloved child for the very first time. There’s fear, there’s a million questions, there’s lives forever changed, but there is raw, hard, beautiful love.

I see the supportive, cheering adoption community anxiously refreshing computer screens every Monday morning for the courageous love shown in Gotcha Day photos.

I see teary, beaming grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends welcoming little strangers into their families and lives in airport terminals.

I see siblings who welcome new brothers and sisters into their homes and share toys, time and mom and dad.

I see jet-lagged, shell shocked parents whose lives have been turned upside down, but who keep right on loving kids too afraid to be loved.

I see couples who sleep with a daughter in-between them for months until she feels secure.

I see dads walking their kids around in church hallways because little ones just aren’t ready for the stimulation or separation.

I see families who adopt older children even though the world suggested that it’s a bad idea.


I see brave warrior boys showing up for regular, life saving blood transfusions.

I see Instagram photos of adorable kids donning adoption fundraising t-shirts.

I see families adopting again, and then again.

I see couples giving up weekends to sit in conferences to learn how to best parent kids who’ve known trauma.

I see moms who push and plead to be the first face their medically traumatized child sees post-operation.

I see an adopted teen who sets a big goal of helping one thousand aging out or medically fragile kids.


I see families who organize races to fund other family’s adoptions or to pay for medical care for fragile little ones who still wait for families.

I see adoptive moms and dads advocating for waiting children.

I see friends who change their profile photos to remind friends to pray for the adoption community’s sick kids facing big surgeries.

I see moms and dads who continue to cheer and champion their kids from hard places as they grow and change and process and bloom.


I see adoptive moms generously answering a million questions for those who come after them about their adoptions, kids’ medical needs and attachment experiences.

I see dads travelling across the globe to love on orphans, advocate for waiting children, and teach English.

CS Lewis penned, “To love is to be vulnerable.” My adoption community restores my soul, fills me with inspiration and swells me with pride through its big, vulnerable love by choice. Because it has seen and knows, and refuses to be indifferent to the needs of the orphan. They love with hearts wide open in civil affairs offices in Nanjing, hotel rooms in Guangzhou, hospital rooms, therapists’ offices, IEP meetings, rocking chairs, and beside toddler beds at 3AM. They rally for each other, pray for each other, give back, and spur one another on.

I see the hard too. I’m not ignorant, or immune, to all the gut-wrenching challenges, grief, loss, hurt, and struggle, but I see families choosing to say faithful, courageous, knowing yeses anyway. Choosing to keep going through battle-like processes, international trips, homecomings, stretching transition seasons, long nights and grief soaked conversations. I see love by choice.

Thank you, adoption friends. This circle blesses me, and is a much needed beacon of light in this hurting world. I’m grateful to stand among you.

A Few of Our Favorite Books

June 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

We love reading at our house. Love it.
As a middle school Language Arts teacher, this love makes my heart soar with delight.

So. Yes. We have a ton of books.
And yes, we have many, many books about {China} adoption stories.
As well as stories set in China, stories about China, toddler/preschool books with Chinese vocabulary, elementary age chapter books written by Chinese authors, Chinese recipe books, Chinese craft books, Chinese holiday books.
You name it. We got it.


Instead of writing about or featuring all of them (which I could easily do), I asked my two youngest daughters which books were/are their favorites. My girls are now 11 and 10 years old.

And boy, did we have fun.
It was a great adventure.
They felt important, helping mom with her post for No Hands But Ours.

We got the chance to “walk down memory lane” as we reconnected with some of our old dear “friends”. Books that brought back so many memories… taught us some many things…. brought us closer together as we navigated through some difficult but important conversations.

I asked the girls to choose one favorite book from when they were younger… like toddler/preschool/kindergarten younger. And they did.


We’ll begin with Avery, she is my ten year old. We adopted Avery when she was just shy of being four years old. It was a long first year of bonding and building trust. When she first came home, she wanted nothing to do with cuddling and reading books with me. She would watch from about three feet away as her older sister and I would read books together. It took a long time for her to feel comfortable joining us. Inch by inch and day by day, Avery would move in a little closer to me…. would lean over to see the pictures… would start to put her little body next to mine. It was a process, but she was intrigued….

Eventually she would end up in my lap (thank you Jesus), asking me to read this one book… a book about adoption.. a book that was fairy tale based.…. sometimes twice a day….

The Red Thread – An Adoption Tale by Grace Lin
PreSchool through Grade 3

The Red Thread2

Avery loves this book because it’s a fairy tale. A king and a queen? A baby princess? Yes, please.
She was drawn to the fact that something was missing from the parents’ lives. So much so, they were in pain, mysterious pain in their hearts that nothing or no one could explain or fix.
They went searching for their hearts’ desire, pulled by “the red thread”. The traveled far. They traveled long. As they traveled, their pain became less and less. They would not stop until they found what they were longing for…
Their child.

Such a beautiful story. So many parallels and symbolism to the journeys many of us have made to as we traveled “far and wide” to reach our children. And I love how the author incorporates the Chinese belief that “an invisible, unbreakable red thread connect all to who are destined to be together.”

My older daughter, Shea, is eleven years old. She became our daughter when she was 26 months old. When we first met her, she thought books were for throwing, like a ball. Once she realized that books were meant to be read, she was all in! Reading to her daily really helped with the bonding process. The touching, the sitting in my lap, the sound of my voice, the overall interaction of this simple routine of reading did wonders for our relationship.


When Shea was four, she loved, loved, loved a sweet adoption story told from the point of view of a ladybug.

Shaoey and Dot by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman
4 – 7 years old

Shaoey and Dot

This book so beautifully tells how a lady bug, named Dot, accidentally finds a “bundle” that wiggles. Dot is immediately captivated by this “bundle”. Dot promises to stay with her new friend as she is taken to the “place where babies are found.”

Oh my!

Such a touching story of friendship and loyalty. Every time I read it, I cry!

This book is written in a poem format, so lyrical and easy to read. And fun!

The illustrations are lovely and captivating.

Shea loved this story because it re-told “her story” in a way that was non-threatening, but also touched upon some very real truths about adoption. Dot, the ladybug, is a true friend. She never left the baby’s side. I know this was an important aspect to the story for my daughter.

We read this story to her kindergarten class when the kids started to ask Shea questions about adoption. Again, because this is written as an “adventure” showcasing friendship and loyalty, it was a good book to read to five and six year olds who really didn’t understand how Shea became our daughter. And yes, both Shea’s kindergarten teacher and I were bawling as I finished reading this book to the class.

As they girls have gotten older, they have enjoyed books by Grace Lin.

Dumpling Days (A Pacy Lin Novel)
Grade Level: 3rd to 7th

Dumpling Days

The Year of the Rat (A Pacy Lin Novel)
Grade Level: 3rd to 7th

Year of the Rat

The Year of the Dog (A Pacy Lin Novel)
Grade Level: 3rd to 7th

The Year of the Dog jpg

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Grade Level: 3rd to 7th

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon jpg

Starry River of the Sky
Grade Level: 3rd to 7th

Starry River of the Sky jpg

Pretty much anything by Grace Lin, we have loved and enjoyed. I highly recommend checking her out here, here and here!

My youngest son, Jude, is really into “diggers” and all things construction. His favorite books seem to revolve around this “theme”. Jude is four years old and has been home with us for just over two years. Although his first “reading” choice would be about trucks, he will happily sit in our laps as we read to him just about any book, adoption themed or not.


I like reading to him one of Kay Bratt’s children’s books, Eyes Like Mine.

Eyes Like Mine jpg

Not only is this a great book that talks about love, acceptance and adoption, but it’s one of the few books that feature a father and son. One day, the little boy realizes he doesn’t look like anyone else in his family. He feels like he doesn’t fit in. He “runs away” to his treehouse. His father “finds” his son, and with such love tells that sweet boy all about his adoption story. This book is so endearing. It’s short story that tells so much! Perfect for on the go four year old boys!

Reading is definitely an important activity at our house. I (gently) push it and endorse it. We find time to read every day, whether independently or to each other.

I know with certainty that reading has helped our three youngest children with bonding.
And reading adoption/China themed books have been a springboard to many discussions…. some were light hearted, some were deep and thought-provoking. Regardless, these books got us talking…..

The Good.
The Bad.
The Ugly.
The Sad.
The Unknown.
The Redemption.
The Beauty….

Whenever our children, who have come from hard places, can open up to us – can share with us their questions, thoughts, fears – that is a good thing.

And if books can help in this process? That is a really good thing.

Why We Won’t Be Seeing Finding Dory on the Big Screen

June 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 27 Comments

Debuting on the 17th, Finding Dory has blown box office records out of the water, making its debut the highest grossing one for animated movies ever. It’s as if the crowds have been waiting for it for the last 13 years since its prequel Finding Nemo. My kids are among that crowd having grown up quoting “just keep swimming” and Crush’s “dude…” But, we’re going to be moving against the tide this summer.

finding dory poster

I’ve read the reviews. Critics are generally raving about it. It’s no surprise really; the Disney/Pixar crew are masters at their craft. I grew up watching cartoons; my kids are growing up watching animation that is so remarkable that colorful little fish and octopi become humanesque in every way. We had to exercise the suspension of disbelief to imagine that little penguins could dance and bunnies could talk. Not any more; the graphics look too legit for that. But, honestly, that adds to the reason why we’re not going to be seeing it.

Critics have applauded the underlying message: “it delicately explores the challenges of raising— or being — a child with special needs;” “it tugs at the heart strings; teaches valuable lessons about disabilities, teamwork, and the unconditional love of family”. Disney covered the sisterhood bond in Frozen and the intricacy of emotions in Inside Out; but special needs has been largely unchartered territory. Building on what they started with Nemo’s little fin is admirable. But, does that mean it’s necessarily good for our kids?

From the reviews and spoilers I’ve read, despite adoring parents who worked together to help their child strategize so that she could live safely with her differences, Dory’s “short-term remember-y loss” led her to be traumatically separated from her parents as a child. She was later adopted by our favorite clown fish family and fairly content with that until she started having flashbacks about her birth family, bringing up big feelings that lead to a big move. With help, she leaves home in search of her birth family, who viewers learn have been looking for her but who are now in captivity and dependent on Dory to save them.

That’s a lot for any kid to handle with real looking sea creatures jumping off the big screen. It’s even more for a kid to handle who understands in one way or another that his or her special need may have played a large part in the loss of his or her first family.


I’m all for the hard conversations. I’m all for using every cracked-open door to enter into a conversation with our children about brokenness and big feelings. I make sure they know that we want to be a safe place for any conversation they may want to have. But, I’ve also learned that each one of my children responds best when we can meet them right where they are in those conversations which means they aren’t always convenient.

So, what does that mean for a family movie night for our family? What that means is that we absolutely will be watching Finding Dory at some point but not now. We’ll be watching it on our small screen in our own home where we can press pause every so often for a popcorn or ice cream break and chat as we’re dishing it out with things like, “I really like this movie, but it makes me feel kinda sad. I wonder if it makes you feel a little sad too.” “Watching movies about big feelings always brings up big feelings for me. Does it do that for you too?” “There is a lot in this movie about adoption and birth families, isn’t there? I wonder if it makes you think about your birth family at all. It does for me. It would be okay if it did for you too.”

Our daughter from China may or may not be emotionally affected; our biological children may or may not be emotionally affected. They could all watch it straight through and love every minute. But, if big feelings come and tears show up or they want to withdrawal, I’d rather be ready for it right here safely at home with remote in hand where we can control the intermissions, the volume, the lighting, and the company.

5 Waiting Children from Bethel China

June 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


During the month of June we are joining Bethel China in highlighting children who are available for adoption. All of these children are blind or have significant vision loss. All of them need a forever family. For more information on any of these children, please email Anna at Bethel China. Josh is five-year-old boy who …Read More

How Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale Found Its Way

June 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We all have a history. Even my picture book, Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, carries a unique backstory. When I was four years old, I had three goals: a husband, a daughter, and a book. I was sketchy about how to accomplish the first two, so I tackled the book. In purple crayon, I …Read More

Different Than What We Asked for, Better Than We Imagined

June 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments


When considering the orphans of China, many think of the the one child policy and specifically the incredible amount of girls that were abandoned as a result. When my husband and I began our adoption process we too thought that it was the girls most in need of homes and loving families. Like many others, …Read More

You Can Do Hard Things

June 19, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


About two months ago I stared at the number on the scale beneath my feet. I’d never seen a number that big before. Maybe the scale needed to be calibrated. Surely this wasn’t right. I stepped off. Calibrated it. Set a 10 pound dumbbell on it to confirm it’s accuracy. Then I stepped back on. …Read More

Multi-Cultural Adoption Books for Kids

June 18, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together. From The Red Thread by Grace Lin There is a subtle thread that ties some of these books together. It’s the bridge from Asia to America through adoption. When kids are placed into loving …Read More

Adoption Infertility: When Not Now Feels Like Not Ever

June 17, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


“Come, sit amidst the ash heap; pick up your potsherd and pray.” That was a phrase borne in my heart from a season of personal lament… a time during which my own sorrowful meditations were keenly focused on the circumstances of the biblical saint of old, Job. How he must have pondered there in that …Read More

Cherishing Today: Adopting a Child with OI

June 16, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


Our littlest love, with us now for three months, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), also known as brittle bone disease. Adopting a child with OI was not something we set out to do, nor was OI something we had ever been exposed to or educated about, but when Tessa Kate’s adorable picture appeared on the China …Read More

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