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More Than I Could See: Adopting a Non-Verbal Child

September 22, 2018 0 Comments

It was sentiment we shared for 15 months: we were way in over our heads with this adoption.

We had said “yes” to a seven and a half year old daughter who was deaf and had never received the gift of language.



There were no schools available to teach her in her province. Consequently, she lacked basic preschool skills. My husband studied American Sign Language in college and beyond, and as a family we had taken classes to attempt to grasp as much language as we could while we waited.

In spite of this (and the hundreds of hours spent reading books and attending conferences), we did not feel equipped.

We anticipated this journey would force us into a new level of dependency on God, but we couldn’t have seen how until we began walking it.

He made it evident that He was leading us to Noel and evident that He wasn’t just along for the ride. He would navigate the journey (as broken and as beautiful as it would be) as we looked to Him.



One of the best lessons I could have learned happened in China…

It was when I came to the end of myself. It didn’t take long! Less than 24 hours after meeting this sweet gift, I was completely overwhelmed with trying to assist her without language or relationship.

The first morning we woke up with her, as I got ready for the adoption appointment that would make her “officially” a Russell, I quickly uttered this prayer: “God, I don’t know what she needs… her needs are so great. Help me to be what she needs.”

I wasn’t talking about the obvious needs of love and family… I was seeing “her big picture”.

I reminded myself that I could not be her savior. I could not undo seven years of language deficit. I could not make her love or accept us or Jesus and in that particular moment…
I wasn’t even sure what to feed her for breakfast.

But honestly, instead of falling into despair (a common pattern of mine), I felt freedom.

Freedom to cast myself onto the all sufficient One.
Freedom to know that I didn’t have to have parenting “a new daughter who is deaf” figured out before we went to sign forever papers.

Even in this new place of freedom, those weeks in China were such challenging times. They say, “Just survive those first few weeks”… and survive, we did! It was long and hard.

A sweet and smart girl marched into our lives that day. She was a headstrong, 50-pound package of raw determination.

Although small for a typical seven year old, she was strong enough to challenge our ability to protect and lead her. As is the reality for many adoptive families, we were on a crash course getting to know our new daughter by trial and error – in the midst of trekking through all of the appointments and new beginnings into our family.



We were due for our first flight only 72 hours after meeting our little girl, and at the airport she wavered between extreme fight mode and shut down.

Security patted her down, sending her into hysterics and she clung to me (nails in neck) for dear life. I could sense the fear and almost shut down of my little girl, and it forced us both into tears as we left the security area.

I can’t remember my exact monologue with God, but it went something like this: “This. Is. Too. Much. This is so wrong. Hasn’t she been through enough? This is where I draw the line. Do we have to get on this plane? She just needs to go home and get away from these crowds and expectations and we can’t even communicate to her. I feel so powerless to protect her. It’s not fair.”

Intertwined in my desperate prayer were subtle accusations… that He wasn’t doing enough, He didn’t care, and that obviously He’d missed what just happened moving through airport security.

In response, He softly spoke to my heart. “Don’t you know I’m hiding her in my shadow?”

Psalm 36:7 ran through my head: “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

God was telling me as mama bear that I could stand down. Because He had her.

I certainly didn’t “see” this at the time. But His words of truth were enough to comfort and free my heart to trust Him again.



As the days turned into weeks and we were soon home, His perspective began to sink into my heart. He really did have her in His shadow. He always had.

Even before she was a prayer request on our lips or in our hearts, He had her. She was in His sovereign shadow of protection, love, and grace.

He met my mama-heart in China. He proved His commitment and care for our daughter to me, not because He was obligated to, but out of His lovingkindness.



He showed me that He will fill in the gaps and, even more, be in the gap, come what may. I’m learning the freedom and sweetness that come with taking God at His word day by day.

God has always used my kids as a means of revealing His character, and with this new daughter it is no different. His grace and mercy flood in like a tidal wave… if I’m just willing to see.

– guest post by Angela

Waiting for You: Striker

September 20, 2018 0 Comments

This handsome two year old little guy seems to be doing very well! Striker can walk, crawl and play with toys. He sounds very social and enjoys being around other babies.

His nurses say he is such a good baby and very adorable… we sure can see that!



Striker’s special need is male gonad hypoplasia (chromosome testing result karyotyped: 46, XY (20) ) and PFO.

Update from December 2017:

He can not speak now, but his caregiver told me that he’s smart.  
He can walk, he can eat biscuits by himself.
He is not picky, he has a good sleep, occasionally he wakes up during the night.
He has normal urination and defecation.

For more information please contact Amy at amy@smallworldadoption.com

Celebrating China In The Small Things

September 19, 2018 3 Comments

Somewhere, in the mess of paperwork I keep in an accordion file in my office, is information regarding our responsibility to celebrate our Chinese children’s culture. It may be the only paper that isn’t notarized and certified, but I’m pretty sure we promised. To go to stuff and do stuff and celebrate stuff.

This promise hits me in the solar plexus every year during Lunar New Year. I scroll facebook, gasping over moon cakes and red envelopes and field trips to places with dragons and lanterns. For so many years, I failed miserably at this part of adoption; fail often still. I have purchased a red silk for myself, even if I feel like a moron wearing it, go into the kid’s classrooms and pass out red envelopes and read books and try not to mispronounce the mandarin.

We light lanterns on New Years and send them off from our frozen back yard, gasping at how beautiful they are, tummies full of noodles and fortune cookies. Each year I hit my stride a smidge more.



For a few years after my babies came home, I was in the trenches too much to celebrate any non-essential holiday, especially Chinese ones. Which was easy to justify because I was one hundred and twenty percent focused on just not hating China. Can I say that? The fall out from two trips, two adoptions in eleven months, was considerable all the way around, so as far as celebrating cultures went, I was thrilled if the only mention I made of China was anything other than opening up the garbage can and not exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, it smells like China!”

Those bitter days, those hard, long days have given way to much sweeter ones and with them have come the desire to celebrate the beautiful country that gave us our babies. I look at pictures now of our trips and can exclaim with Abe and Maggie how stunning their provinces are, can remember aloud the trips we took during those brutal days of travel and bonding. I talk to them about how kind the people are in China, how stark the line between high rises and rolling hillside is, how congested and exciting it is there.

If you’re just newly home and it all is too close right now, if you can’t bring yourself to make moon cakes with your cherub, can I persuade you to just read them a book, arms tight and breathing the words into their ears? Can I assuage your guilt by saying that whatever you’re doing to love on that precious baby is celebrating their culture.

Rest assured, there will be an end to the jet-lag and anxiety over whether you’re bonding well and when that comes you will fill up little red envelopes like it’s your job. This might be years from now or next season, and both are ok.

The culture your babies were born in is so worth celebrating, but if exhaustion or medical worries have killed the party for you, can you please drop that guilt right this very minute and give yourself a teeny break?

You are doing the hard work of celebrating your child’s culture by adoring one of its children and that is the best party you’ll ever be invited to.

The rest will come, trust someone who has lived on both sides of that fence. For now, there is snuggling to do and reassurances to give for the millionth time to a child who can’t yet believe that you are forever.

Do what you can to celebrate their culture today and accept that it is enough. You are enough. And when your social worker comes for your next post-placement visit tell her you are doing everything you need to be doing and if she looks at your tired face and decides to school you on the way her other client dresses up and hands out red envelopes at the nursing homes in Chinatown, well, she’s not your Holy Spirit.

Mama, this is survival and you are killing it.

Someday you will tell them all the things you love about their birth country, you will serve the native food and dress up even if it makes you feel like a goober.

Someday you will do all these things and it will be fantastic.

But today, you just hold that child up tight and whisper the reminder of who you are and who they are – and let that beautiful gift of words be enough.


Beauty from Ashes

September 17, 2018 3 Comments

This is a story of trauma and beauty and tears and hopelessness and hope. This is a story of my darkest moments, my greatest growth and the resulting joy. I cannot say that this will be everyone’s story, but I’m praying that you can see the hope in this story even in the darkness. Adoption …Read More

Benjamin’s Turn

September 16, 2018 0 Comments

Three and a half years ago, Holt learned about seven children who needed families from a small but exceptional orphanage in China. One by one, six of those children were matched with their adoptive families. One by one, they said their goodbyes and left the orphanage to start new lives with their forever families. Benjamin …Read More

Hong Kong Mama: Using Food to Connect With China

September 15, 2018 0 Comments

Food is the greatest way to connect people to their past, it creates the kind of memory that isn’t easily forgotten. It’s been 26 years since I came to the US, but I still remember my favorite foods during my childhood in Hong Kong. I treasure the delicious dishes and soups my mother used to …Read More

Waiting to be Chosen: Sofia

September 14, 2018 0 Comments

Sofia is an absolutely beautiful little girl, born in February of 2013 with Down syndrome and congenital heart disease – ASD, VSD, and PDA. One month after surgery to repair Sofia’s heart, it was discovered that her trachea had been injured while she was intubated during surgery. At that time, she underwent a tracheotomy and …Read More

O Father, Where Art Thou?

September 13, 2018 0 Comments

My husband and I had the privilege of studying abroad in the country of Austria when we were students in college. We were dating at the time and visiting the quaint little town of Pochlarn. As we walked through the streets we talked about my adoption story, specifically my birth mother and my desire to …Read More

Find My Family: Genevieve

September 12, 2018 0 Comments

Beautiful Genevieve! Born in August 2006, Genevieve is now 12 years old and is quite the performer. She enjoys singing and dancing for her friends. Can you imagine how much joy she would bring to a family of her own? Genevieve was found by police when she was about 3 years old. After much investigation …Read More

Special is in the Eye of the Beholder

September 11, 2018 2 Comments

It was only a couple of months after we were married that my husband and I started researching adoption. We both wanted a family, and with me being over 40 and having a history of endometriosis, conception without major fertility treatments seemed nearly impossible. We decided, for us, it was more important to parent a …Read More

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