Q: Tell us a little about your family.
A: My husband, Ryan, and I began dating almost 15 years ago while attending Hanover College in southern Indiana. Ryan proposed just before I graduated, and we got married on New Year’s Day in 2005. After finishing graduate school, I worked as a school psychologist for 5 years until we traveled to bring our third son home from China. I have stayed home full time with the exception of some contract work since that time. Ryan has worked for a leading health insurance carrier for the past 10 years. We have four sons – Noah (7), Liam (4), Tucker (4), and Tyson (2). Tuck and Ty are the little loves we adopted from China.
Q: What led you to adopt from China?
A: Our second biological son surprised us with a minor cleft lip at birth, which prompted us to get involved with Operation Smile. I was in the middle of reading one of their email messages about a child born with cleft lip/cleft palate in the Amazon. He was miraculously taken to an orphanage, but because of the way he looked, no one was interested in adopting him. That is when God spoke into our lives and asked us to adopt one of his precious children. As we began our research, we inquired about several countries in Southeast Asia, as well as many others in Central and South America. Every time we mentioned feeling called to adopt a child with cleft lip/cleft palate, social workers kept mentioning China. We prayed a lot over the decision and felt complete peace that our son was there. When we received Tucker’s referral, we were shocked that he did not have CL/CP but knew that he was our son. Nineteen months after bringing Tucker home, we traveled back to China to bring home Tyson, who did have CL/CP and was actually born the first day of our previous trip to China. God is in the details!
Q: Which provinces are your children from?
A: Tucker came home in October 2013 from Chongqing province (Chongqing Children’s Welfare Institute), and we brought Tyson home in June 2015 from Guangxi province (Social Welfare Institute of Beihai City).
Q: What special need(s) are represented in your family?
A: The greatest special needs both our son’s had in China are two-fold. First, they both needed families. Although they each had nannies who loved them, there is no replacement for a mom and dad. Their first homes did not provide the level of nurturing that all children deserve, which has had both short and long-term consequences. Second, both of our children from China are male, which is, unfortunately, considered one of the greatest special needs in China. The majority of families are only open to adopting girls, so boys tend to wait much, much longer to be adopted than their female counterparts. Additionally, as I’ve already shared, Tyson was born with a congenital cleft lip and palate.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of adoption? Hardest?
A: My favorite aspect of adoption is the walk I have experienced with the Lord. God took the impatient, controlling, self-centered, and fearful young woman that I was and showed me that He is GOOD. He is SOVEREIGN. He can be TRUSTED in all circumstances. Throughout the adoption process, during the trip to China, and after coming home, God is continually teaching me and shaving the ugly parts of my heart away. He has shown me that not only did my children need parents, but we actually needed them more. The Lord has opened our eyes to what it really feels like to LIVE and how living at the center of His Will for our lives is sweeter than anything else we could experience in this world.
The hardest part of adoption was learning that the longing I felt for my son during the adoption process didn’t immediately transfer upon meeting in China, nor was it immediately reciprocated. I had the head knowledge to know that situation is normal, but I felt a lot of guilt, shame, and disappointment during that time. It was difficult to learn firsthand that love often has to grow in time with a lot of intentional connection.
Q: In just a few sentences, share two tips applying to any part of the adoption process.
A: My first piece of advice is to live fully in the present as you find yourself in the middle of the adoption process. Once you begin this process (and especially once you see child’s face), it can be easy to wish the time away and long for a child who is halfway across the world. Fully enjoy and live out each day with your family just as it is. The Lord will unite you with your child in His sovereign time.
My second bit of advice is to be honest if/when the transition home is challenging. Sometimes guilt and shame can cause us to hide from those we love or from professionals who can help, which only further isolates us from others. Share your situation and feelings with people who will support you unconditionally. Talk to your agency’s post adoption team, trusted adoptive parents who have BTDT, or family/friends who will support you fully. Being honest about the challenges can bring such relief and put you on the road to healing.
Q: How has adoption grown/stretched/changed you?
A: Maybe the question should be, “How has adoption not grown/stretched/changed me?” In some ways, I honestly feel like there was life before adopting our sons and life after. The Lord has done quite a work in my heart and in my life, and I know I will never be the same. I have two beautiful sons who are a constant reminder of the millions of children who need families, and that is all the fuel I will ever need to continue encouraging, enlisting, and empower others to get involved in the lives of vulnerable children.
Q: Can you share a few of your favorite blog posts shared on NHBO? Some from your personal blog?
A: My favorite NHBO posts include:
A few of my favorite personal posts:
I had so much fun writing A New Dream when we announced our plans to adopt for the first time!
I’ll never forget the night I noticed an empty Place at Our Table after bringing Tucker home.
During our second adoption process, I was struggling with the heartache I felt for the fatherless and wrote “A Burdened Heart.”
Q: What is your favorite book? Quote? Verse?
A: This question is tricky because I love so many books from so many genres. In Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, I love where she wrote, “This is the unplugged version of how God interrupted our typical American life and sent us in a direction we couldn’t even imagine. If I seem to have tunnel vision, all I can say is that is what happens when God shouts in your face and demands entire life change. I am fixated, and the only objective as central as living out this new mandate is mobilizing others to join me.”
My favorite verse is Matthew 25:40 – “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?
A: I have a deep love for 80’s hairband music and listen to it frequently on my Firehouse Pandora station at home. We have regular family dance parties and can be found screaming “Here I Go Again on My Own” and “Don’t Step Believing!” Ryan and I saw the Rock of Ages musical live in New York City, Indianapolis, AND Chicago. I frequently end the songs I sing Guns N’ Roses style with a “yeah…yeaaaaaahh.”
Q: Can you share a favorite “mom hack” that makes life easier for you?
A: Doing laundry for the six people in our family got a lot easier a couple months ago when I reorganized the laundry room closet. I had five shelves installed in the closet so that I can put each person’s clean clothes in their own basket on their shelf and have it hidden away while I am washing, drying, and folding everything else. I start all of the laundry on Monday and finish on Tuesday. This gives me five days of week where I don’t have to think about it. #stayathomemom
Q: If you could share one parting thought with someone considering special needs adoption, what would it be?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is that beyond the Special Needs Checklists are real kids with real smiles, real laughs, and a real need for love. They are children just like the ones who live in your home already or just like your nieces, nephews, and friends’ little ones. Look beyond the medical need and find the light inside the child before you. That little light, that is your real child.