Family Stories

At No Hands But Ours, we love family stories. Since our inception in 2008, we’ve featured a wide variety of family stories – and we continue to add new stories regularly. Please use the links in the right sidebar to click through to stories on specific special needs, or you can scroll down this main page to read all our family stories.

If you are home with your child from China, and would like to have your family story featured here, just use this form to let us know.


For Ivy: Honoring our Hero

February 3, 2019 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It is with great joy that I share that Madison Adoption Agency is offering an adoption grant in honor of our daughter, and forever hero, Ivy Joy.

For those of you who are new to our story, our precious Ivy Joy went home to Jesus on March 20, 2017. Ivy had a complex heart defect with many complications and many miracles to follow. She came home at 21 months, unrepaired and very sick. But, more importantly, incredibly wanted and incredibly loved.

She would undergo five open heart surgeries in 10 months, have set back after set back, and miracle after miracle. She just never stopped fighting and she never stopped smiling. Friends, when our girl could have said, “Why me?” she said, “How blessed am I?” Honestly, she never ever complained or felt sorry for herself. She woke up every morning, choosing JOY in spite of her circumstances.

She is such a special child and she knew it. Boy did she know it! I know our girl is alive in heaven, singing with the angels, dancing with all the other precious children whose mommies and daddies also had to say goodbye, for now, all too soon.

When I left for China to bring our precious five year old daughter, Charlotte, home, my biggest fear was that my plane might crash and Ivy would no longer have me to mix her medicines, remember all the right snacks to take with us for her ongoing cardiology appointments, and care for her the way I do. I prepared the girls’ Easter baskets before I left, telling our older daughter where they were in case anything happened to me.

The last thing on my mind was the thought of me, having to learn live life without Ivy.

On March 20, 2017, just hours after meeting Charlotte in China, our baby girl, the light of our lives, took her last breath at home and took her very first breath in heaven. Our lives were turned upside down in one second.

And I am here to tell you, we continue choosing joy because she taught us how.

So, we continue to strive each day to make her proud of us as we count the days until we see her and hold her again. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t like it, but she taught me well and Jesus made a way for us to be together again so I have so much to be thankful for.

He never promised she’d make it past her first surgery but she did. I vowed to Him the day she came out of her first open heart surgery on ECMO that if He took her home that night, I’d still praise Him, I’d still thank Him, for the blessing of being her mommy even for just a few months. Well, with miracle after miracle, Ivy did come home. And we snuggled and giggled and grew and laughed and loved and learned so much from her for five precious years.

Oh, how I miss every single thing about her. It is new grief every single day and new mercies to get us through every single morning.

I traveled to China on March 18th for a March 20th gotcha day. I was so very blessed to have had a friend traveling with me on this trip. And I will never forget just laying on my bed, screaming out in pain and agony and complete brokenness. She came to me, so completely broken and scared and worried and she said, “Honey, what do you want to do? Whatever you want, however you want to go about it, no one will judge you, everyone will understand that there is no wrong or right here.”

And, without even having to think, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of all the modeling by example Ivy Joy had done for me over the five years I was blessed to have her on earth, I answered.

I said, “Kim, Charlotte waited 5 years to have a family, she did nothing wrong, and there is no way that Ivy would have any part of me leaving her in China. I am Charlotte’s mom as much as I am Ivy’s. And what I want is to get home to my family as fast as anyone could ever fathom, with Charlotte holding my hand. I want God to move mountains for me to get home tomorrow, so I can grieve with my family and see my baby for the last time, even if it’s just her shell.”

And so, with my friend’s non-stop work, and with the efforts and kind hearts of both the Chinese and American consulate, and the constant help and support of Madison Adoption Agency, Charlotte and I made history and finalized her adoption the next morning, and came home. My poor girl was so confused and scared watching this new mommy of hers cry so much. And it got even more frightening when we arrived to a group of eight more people crying and grieving. But she was grieving too, so we quickly bonded, as we all understood what loss felt like.

The beauty of our grief was that we had each other to grieve with and, at that moment, it was the only thing that mattered.

February is such an important month in our home! February is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness month and February is the month that we adopted Ivy and she became our beloved daughter! We met on February 13th (“her gothcha”) and on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, we signed all the China documents that made it official. How perfect that her family day was on Valentine’s Day!

So in honor of Ivy Joy and CHD awareness, We are proud to offer a grant through Madison Adoption Agency, for $1000. Even more exciting news – we have the opportunity to make the grant even larger.

Would you please donate in Ivy Joy’s honor? And share with anyone and everyone so one more child can come home and a special family will be greatly blessed!

Details on how the grant works, and how you can be the recipient is below.

I will end this with a testimony of the gift our daughter was to us. If I had a chance to do life over, with this same scenario and this same outcome, I would have my hands in the air with the biggest Yes just to be her mommy for however long God gave me!

Yes it was worth it.
Yes it was hard.
Yes it is hard.
Yes life is so much better because she was in it.

Easy is just that, easy. Easy would have meant that there was no Ivy Joy. No being Ivy’s family.

We know that true joy is chosen. It is searched for and chosen. We give thanks for so much more than just things that can be seen. We have experienced the richness of life, we have seen miracles, and we have watched doctors scratch their heads as Ivy recovered from things that she was not expected.

We have seen heartache that we wish no one would ever have to experience. Every moment, every high and every low, was so worth it!

Reading the file of a child with heart defects is scary stuff, it’s not for the faint at heart, it comes with no promises. But behind that file, is just a little child who needs a family! We had no idea how much we needed Ivy, but it was certainly more than she needed us. Our yes was hard; but with our yes came unspeakable joy!

Don’t let hard scare you. Hard teaches, hard grows us, hard matures us, and hard causes us to reach out for the only hand that will always be there for us, today, tomorrow, yesterday, and infinitely.

With Love and Joy,


MAA is humbled to offer the ‘For Ivy’ $1,000 grant to families adopting any child with complex CHD. And while Ivy’s story is being featured in February in honor of Heart Awareness month, Madison will offer this grant year-round, as they stand by all children with CHD like Ivy, and strive to get them all home as soon as possible. To meet some of the children MAA is advocating for with complex CHD, please visit their website.

The Unlikeliest Gift

December 22, 2018 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

As I sit down and reflect on all the gifts that my Lord has bestowed upon my family and I, there are too many to count. Yet I know that, on so many days, I forget. My mind soars in other directions and I lose sight of these gifts. Or perhaps… as I have realized with our most recent adoption.. sometimes His gift is not one that I first viewed as a gift. It was hidden.

But after pushing back lies, refocusing my eyes on things eternal, I see it.

The gift.

We have adopted two beautiful daughters from China. Our first adoption in 2016 and our second adoption just a few months ago in August. Both of these adoptions I can without a doubt say were a gift to our family.

How has adoption been a gift to our family? The ways are too many to count. But today, I want to highlight a gift that may not be so obvious. A gift from adoption that, if I am being completely honest, is sometimes hard to see as a gift.

The gift of the unknown.

When you start your adoption journey, you may think you know how it will all play out. You envision and pray for your child, and you plan every detail in your mind. But then, as one step leads to another, you start to realize the lack of control you have in this crazy process. You quickly realize it has nothing to do with you or your plan.

But one foot in front of the other – you press on – trusting that the fire that sparked you to first say Yes will continue to blaze. Even when the days seem dark and the day you finally meet your child seems too very far away.

It seems so unknown.

And then your day finally comes… the day you have dreamed of. When you finally get to hold your child. The details of this day are so unique for each family, and so unknown.

Will my child cling to me?
Will she smile?
Will my child shut down in silence?
Will he scream in fear?
Will my child who I have stared at for so long be what I envisioned them to be?
Will she love me?

Unknown. Every detail so unknown until the veil is pulled back and this picture you have been staring at comes alive right before your eyes.

This past August, we adopted our second daughter, Charli Ying. The days leading up to her joining our family were again filled with unknowns. In August, my mother-in-law and I boarded the plane and headed to China to bring our Charli home. This time was very different than our first adoption. The “transition” was very smooth and full of peace and joy. I slowly got to know Charli and reveled in the softness and gentleness that her personality revealed.

But this time, as the days went on in China… my mind began to race more and more. Quite honestly, I was very scared of her health and what all was exactly going on. I just wanted to get her home. I wanted to get her to a doctor and I wanted answers. I told myself that I was going to be OK with whatever the answers were, but I wanted her home and I wanted answers so we could have a plan.

We had a beautiful two weeks in China but I was so glad to be home. We found ourselves in the cardiologist office less than 24 hours and received the best news we could have. Her heart had been repaired beautifully in China and it was strong. Thank you, Jesus.

I remember the relief of that washed over me as I heard the news. I like to go back and remember this day. A day of victory for Charli. You see, her fight didn’t end in that cardiologist’s office. And it is still not over yet. She has a lot of fighting still left to do. The outcomes of this fight – the exact days we will see victories, or when we will see setbacks – are unknown.

So how is a world of unknowns a gift? How is each diagnosis or each appointment that goes by where I hear the words “we just don’t know yet”… how is that a gift?

Because no matter how unknown this world is to us, it is known to Him. He knows every detail. There are no surprises to Him. He knows. He is our constant that doesn’t change.

So these unknowns, though many days may leave me in tears, really should be pushing my eyes back to the Lord. Because I have no other guarantee but Him.

So when I get frustrated that I can’t get answers, when I feel defeated that no one seems to know exactly what the future holds… a gentle voice reminds me to let go. I may not be able to fix everything. I may not get the exact answers I want. I may not get any answers. But one thing remains the same: these unknowns are known to Him. So may I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. May my hope not be in any physician, or any medication. May my hope be Christ Jesus alone.

So where is your Hope? And what will you do with these days we have been given here on earth? If tomorrow is no guarantee, if life for all of us, is really a world of unknowns, what are you going to do with those unknowns?

This Christmas, I am thankful for the gift of unknowns. May this road of uncertainty draw me closer to the Lord than I could ever imagine.

And, though so many answers to questions I have are unknown, I do know one thing. Charli is loved. That is one thing I can promise her. I can promise her my love. And – more than that – I can promise her that she was fearfully and wonderfully made perfect by a God who loves her more than I will ever be able to.

Thank you Lord for this hidden gift. The one tucked back behind the Christmas tree, not visible to all. May this little hidden gift light a fire in my heart for You.

And may it burn so brightly that all the world will see the goodness of Your love.

– guest post by Ashley: email || blog

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