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No Hands But Ours by Nohandsbutours - 1d ago

My sister returned from China with her little guy a month ago and I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And a smidgen of envy. Because you will take all the classes your agency recommends; you are a rule follower and you want to be prepared. But you will quickly learn that nothing, no class or book or blog, can prepare you to walk into a room and invite a total stranger into your heart.

That – doing that – is a thing so foreign and strange and yet it makes perfect sense to you.

So you’ll spend long evenings at your computer learning the language of adoption. Rolling words like cocooning and trauma-based behavior around on your tongue and being naive enough to assume you won’t ever need to use them. You will buy the books, especially the one about eating because everyone is telling you you’ll need it, but you be sure that food and love will cure all and that days after he or she is placed in your arms, they will be settled in and calling you mama. You will be sure of it.

And maybe that’s the way it’ll go for you. I’ve seen it often enough to know it happens that way sometimes. But more likely you will need the training and the books and the blogs. Some days you will need them like oxygen, like Jesus.

Because adoption is a dance that is sometimes flowing and lovely and feels so right and at other times is chaotic and painful and you will be all arms and legs and no grace.

But I know this: you will keep on dancing. Because the miracle of adoption is that its worth it. No matter how good or how hard, redeeming a life and becoming mother or father to the ones who’ve been left behind is worth it. You will tell yourself this over and over; sometimes relying on the words to boost your courage for another minute, hour, day. There will be times you want to climb the highest building and shout how great it is to anyone who will listen. Other times you will find yourself weeping on the floor of your closet, your body in a question mark, all your resources depleted.

Adoption is like middle school and sometimes you will be wearing the right jeans and your hair will do that thing that makes it look so cool and you will be it. But some days you will wake up with a giant pimple on the end of your nose and your eyes huge behind coke-bottle glasses and you will shrink into yourself and stifle a tantrum over the unfairness of it all.

This will especially happen when you are out for lunch with a friend and her kid is calmly eating while yours is obsessing over wether he will be able to have more when his is finished and how much? How much, mama?

Especially then.

Adoption may be a bumpy road or it may be the smoothest of four lane highways, but I suspect for most of us it’s both.

But know this truth: that this is precious work being done and someone needs to do it, so if you’ve taken that plunge, bless you.

And if you’ve brought meals or run errands or offered laundry help in those murky, jet-lagged first days, bless you.
If you’re wrestling, bless you.
If you’re linking prayer arms with a love who is wrestling, bless you.

Because what ever metaphor adoption is, a road, middle school, a dance, it comes down to simple math: there are orphans waiting to be your plus one. They cannot imagine a day when they will be chosen; when their nannies will come to them with the little Snapfish album you spent far too many hours on and they will point to your picture and say, “mama” and this may mean nothing to the child because they have never known it, but someday, someday, he or she will be in your arms and you will begin to teach them this beautiful language of belonging. And it will be hard and beautiful and a million other things all mixed up and it. Will. Wreck. You.

So that even in the hard, you cling to the updates of people there right now becoming family and you’ll never stop thinking of the ones who are still waiting. Those sweet babies watching their roommates leave and finding themselves unchosen once again. Those nameless faces will haunt you. Let them be your motivation to pray for God to raise up families. Let them be the fan that builds up a fire in your belly to keep writing, speaking, fighting until they are all home.

Friend, this life will wreck you for something. Let it be the orphan. And then have the courage to take us all along for the ride so we can relive those first weeks with our babies, good and bad. Tell us your pretty and your ugly; we want it all.

Promise us you’ll take us along?

The post The Fire in Your Belly appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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No Hands But Ours by Nohandsbutours - 3d ago

Adopting a child with HIV was never on our family radar. In fact, it was so far “off” our radar when I first approached the subject with my very open-minded husband the reaction was an immediate absolutely not.

Like so many other people that grew up in the 80s and 90s and learned about HIV in their middle and high school sex ed classes, our understanding of HIV stopped there. Back in those classrooms, HIV was AIDS. HIV could be easily passed through bodily fluids. HIV was a death sentence. HIV was terrifying.

We were ignorant, and ignorance could have easily stopped us from having the privilege of parenting the most amazing little girl on the planet.

Thankfully, we chose to become educated.
Let’s start with the facts.

1. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system.

The HIV virus attacks a certain type of white blood cell (the blood cells that attack diseases and foreign invaders) called CD4 cells and replicates itself within those cells, breaking down the body’s immune system making it harder for the body to fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV will eventually progress into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) when the body’s immune system is too weak to fight off infections. HIV does not equal AIDS.
2. HIV is not easily spread.

In fact, unless you’re having sex, being birthed/breastfed, having shady blood transfusions or sharing needles with a HIV positive person, you won’t get HIV. Period. Full stop.

What if my kids share cups? Nope.
What about toothbrushes and one of them has bloody gums? Nope.
What if my child has a cold sore and then kisses me? Nope.
What if… what if…. what if… Nope, nope and, hhhmmmm…. nope.
3. Treatment for HIV is straight forward and uncomplicated.

When we arrived home from China we went straight in for blood work to determine the current “viral loads” (the quantified amount of virus that is present) in her blood, which gave our doctor the baseline in which to start treatment. Many children come home “undetectable” (meaning the viral load is so low, it is not able to be quantified) due to consistent treatment in their orphanage or foster home.

Our daughter’s viral loads were not undetectable, therefore the goal was to get her to that stage as quickly as possible. Our Pediatric Infectious Disease doctor put together her best guess of a cocktail of three medicines, taken twice a day in pill form and, luckily, her first guess was a success and our daughter’s viral loads became undetectable in four months.

Why is undetectable so exciting? Because undetectable means untransmittable.


Remember those risky “do not do” behaviors we talked about earlier? Sex, needles, birth? Even if a person is HIV+, if their viral loads are undetectable, there is no risk of transmission. In October 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement confirming this fact. Again, undetectable = untransmittable.

Not so scary right?

Currently, we take our daughter every four months for a visit with her wonderful Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist for a quick check up and blood draw to confirm she is still undetectable. Viral loads increase slowly so if, for whatever reason, she starts to become medically resistant to her current medications we can catch it early and switch things up.

Right now current med regimens consist of three pills in the morning, and three at night, which is standard for her age/weight. As she grows older treatment options get even easier with single pills once a day being available and clinical trials are underway for an injectable treatment once every six weeks which is combating viral loads just as well as daily pills.

We have chosen to selectively disclose our daughter’s HIV status, a topic that brings much debate within the HIV adoption community. We have found ignorance abounds, but ignorance combatted with a willingness to be educated. Ignorance in and of itself is not the problem, we are all ignorant on topics until we make the choice to become knowledgeable.

When ignorance becomes willful, facts are ignored, and people perpetuate fear regardless of information learned, many HIV+ people will continue to hide in the shadows of society.

We are blessed that our daughter is surrounded by a tribe of family and friends who love her, advocate for factual HIV information, and kick stigma in the face.

HIV is not scary, she is not scary (unless you count that high pitched scream she does when her brothers annoy her, that.is.terrifying), and the only way we can further combat the undeserved stigma surrounding HIV is if more people become educated in truth, and join the movement to kick that stigma in the face.

For more information regarding HIV you can visit the following websites:

Positively Orphaned
REDefine Positive
PKids Online

For information and advocacy specific to China feel free to join the Facebook group here.

– guest post by Erin

The post HIV: The Undeserved Stigma appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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No Hands But Ours by Nohandsbutours - 5d ago

“Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

When Robert and I were on our way home with our son, Howie, we started talking about going back.

When we found out Howie’s special need was nonexistent, we knew we would have the energy, room, and financial freedom to add one more child. We both dreamed of another daughter from China. We discussed which special needs we felt equipped for and put in an application and completed a Medical Needs Checklist with our agency.

We desired to keep birth order — we both felt Rachel (our “little Mommy”) should always be the oldest girl. We knew the wait for younger girls can sometimes be long, so we put our application in and planned to start paperwork when 2018 rolled around, with the hopes of bringing a daughter home in 2019.

Life continued on for a few months. Every now and then we’d mention #7 or get excited about one day returning to the cities that are now so beloved. But, more often, we were consumed with life with our six children. And our three 3 year olds kept us on our toes.

Adding another child was still a couple of years away.

Then, in July, Robert called me from work and told me to call our agency. He had seen something on Facebook about China adoption rules changing. Sure enough, China had laid out new, tighter controls on who was allowed to adopt from their country. The regulation that affected us was the one of a family size limit. We now had too many children to adopt from China. We were also told there would be no leniency or exceptions, even for children who wait with medical conditions.

We grieved. We grieved for our own personal loss. We were sad to have the door to China adoption shut. We grieved the loss of a daughter — though we did not know her, we dreamed of her.

Even more so, we grieved for the waiting children. Already, thousands of Chinese children wait in orphanages. Almost all of them have medical diagnoses that make it unlikely they will be adopted domestically.

The memories of our walk through the Zhengzhou orphanage were still fresh. So many beds. So many babies. Not enough families.

There was really no way to respond except to pray. For more families to step forward. That the Lord will break more hearts toward the needs of the waiting children. That China will loosen these restrictions so that more families may go.

And for ourselves — that He may use us. Give us boldness. Give us ears to hear His instructions.

For several months, any time I knelt before the Lord, China was on my mind. I prayed for the waiting children and for more families and for myself. “Please let it change, Lord, please let it change. I know I have another daughter.” In these months, I could not imagine our daughter coming from any other place. Our next daughter was Chinese. The thought of not returning to China to adopt made me ache inside. We tried to talk about adopting from foster care or from a different country — but my grieving heart could not conceive of it.

It was China or not at all.

And not at all was okay. I have six beautiful children. Our days are full with homeschooling my older children and play time with everyone, making meals and cleaning up, trips to the museum, and hiking in the woods. We spent many months in a peaceful season. It was delightful to focus on homeschool and play and nurturing our children’s little hearts. My heart healed and I felt thankful for these sweet children already given to me. My little half dozen would be more than enough. The Lord has been gracious to us, to be sure.

Then, in November, my heart started to stir. Every time I prayed, I could feel it… something was coming. There was a sense that we were being prepared for something. Change was on the way.

I continued to pray for China, but each time I did, I got a sense that the door to adoption in China has been firmly closed for us. We still love China. It is the birthplace of two of our children. We will still return. But, I believe when we do, it will not be as new adoptive parents. Next time, we will be tourists, showing our children everything we love in that country.

In those months of quiet between China’s changes and the new year, the Lord had been working a new thing in our hearts. At first, the vision was unclear. We prayed. We waited. I clung to the words in Habakkuk: “I will sit at my watchtower and wait for the Lord to answer…”

All I knew was He was working. He stirred my heart and told me a new thing was being prepared.

Then, the fuzzy vision became more and more clear. We do have another daughter. But she is not in China.

We prayed. We waited. He answered.

“She is in Haiti.”

“Haiti! But no — that process — it is so hard! It is so long!”

“She is in Haiti.”

“I can’t do that, Lord! That process is too hard! Don’t you know I will have to leave my child there… for a long time… I can’t do that!”

“Yes, you can.”

And so it went for many weeks. He had given Robert and me His vision. He had made it clear. There was no doubt what the vision was. We resisted at first.

But, in the end, He put a new song in our mouths and softened my hard heart, all for His glory. The process to adopt from Haiti is hard but the children waiting on the other side of that process are just as deserving of a loving home and family as any other child.

We started the paper chase this month, knowing full well it may be two or three years before we have our daughter in our home. But, we start this process with courage and peace that could only come from the Lord. We start this process with joy and humility that He has again called us to adopt. We are blessed to be of service and know that whomever He has prepared for us will be perfect addition to our little family.

We are almost eight months out from the changes in the China adoption laws and when I look around into my beloved adoption community, I see lots of families who were affected by the changes who are continuing to be used by the Lord to care for the fatherless. Though they cannot go back to China right now, they are encouraging others, educating others, helping families fundraise, and advocating for waiting children. They are fostering in their states or, like us, seeking out different programs so that they may go and adopt again.

Just as the early church was multiplied in the face of persecution and trials, so has this sweet community spread its reach in the face of an unfortunate change.

The Lord continues to press in and call His people to care for the fatherless. Truly, the Lord works all things for His own good.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:3

– guest post by Amy

The post A New Song appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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I’m training for a half marathon.

Actually, I’m starting today.

And what I mean by that is, I downloaded an app today that tells me what I need to do.

I look at Pins of runners and what forty-year-old dads can look like if they put in the work. I know how I want to feel and I also know how I actually feel. They’re not quite the same. I want to feel like I imagine Ryan Reynolds or Tom Brady feels. These are my peers (aside from the money and fame). If they can do it, maybe I can too.

Problem is, the cameras are only rolling on these guys when the stage is prepped, the props are in place, and the lighting is just right. It’s rare that a crew is documenting Ryan’s breakfast routine or his gym hustle. Nobody’s photographing his vomit episode at Mile Eight or his late night cramping. He’s not confessing his diet mistakes or that time he at an entire box of hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts in his car before he got home.

No, all I see are the carefully curated photo ops with his family or the cute playful shots he takes at his wife on social media to prove they don’t take things too seriously. Those are fun to see. But they’re not the full story. In between those Instagram worthy images are a conglomeration of hard times; work frustrations, disciplinary issues with his kids, disappointment from his wife, the loss of a loved one or the delay of a dream. I can guarantee that if I could sit with Ryan Reynolds and ask him to take me through a day in the life, he and I would be much more similar than different. I don’t have to interview him to know this though. Because he’s a human man and in many ways, the experience of being human levels the playing field.

And that’s true in adoption as well. Social media gives us a pervasive platform to share and discuss the topic. But often what we see in our social media feeds leans heavy to one side; the happy, winning side of adoption. I’m not down on that. We want to (and should) share the wins. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s encouraging to others. And the reality is, when you’re going through the struggle seasons, you’re probably buried so deep you’re not thinking of reaching for a camera. It’s nice to be able to look at the wins and be reminded there’s another horizon out there. It’s a burst of energy on this very long marathon route.

When a marathon starts, all the runners are bunched together; hundreds and thousands of us. By mile six, your group has thinned out. By mile eight, you’re almost all alone. Some runners ahead of you. Others behind. It’s encouraging to have people along the way cheering. But, sometimes the most encouraging thing is not seeing a pile of wounded, defeated runners.

I’m grateful for the resources available to adoptive families. There are online social communities, Pinterest boards, Instagram accounts, Amazon categories all dedicated to promoting adoption. The access to content on the subject is tremendous. But as encouraging as the content is, it’s unbalanced. It’s easy to find beautiful, heartwarming stories just by searching #wecouldhavemissedthis or #theluckyfew on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These images are inspiring, encouraging, connecting, and even life-giving. But these images are a milepost in a marathon.

Don’t beat yourself up. This race is hard. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t woken up with a hangover from sleeplessness. We’ve all cried in the middle of the day for no reason. Many, if not all, of us have locked ourselves behind the bathroom door and stared into the mirror convinced we’ve made a mistake and have ruined this child’s life. It’s not easy. This is not for the frail. This is endurance.

It takes courage to leave a normal life and run this lonely race.

It’s hard not to compare. In our Instagram culture, most of what you get to see of these beautiful adoption stories are the wins, the wows, the wonder. But please remember those posts are only a snapshot. A fraction of a second, literally, from a string of seconds before and after that are just boring and normal at best, and woefully hard otherwise. There’s a statue outside a prestigious university near my home. It’s a statue of a famous privateer who would later become the basis of the fictional character Captain Hook. This pirate had only one hand and a hook for the other. But his statue shows him with two fully attached arms and hands. When asked about it, the sculptor said, “We do not show our heroes flawed.” And in our adoption world, it’s tempting to see those who we admire through a similar filter; unflawed, carefree, and victorious.

But every family has a different kind of hard. It all depends on the unique mix of your adopted child plus your personalities, your work load, your home management strategies, and your other children, if you have them. Sure, there are medical and developmental benchmarks that are important to be aware of. But just because another five year old adoptee with your child’s same diagnoses is speaking full words, knows her colors and shapes, and can count to ten doesn’t mean your little one is falling behind. She’s running her race at her pace. She’ll get there. Maybe not at the same time as others. But she will get there.

There will be victorious moments and it can be healthy to capture those in photographic form because they can remind you that the hard is temporary. It’s good to see other families who post smiling pictures from a family outing or a video of their little one learning their ABCs. They can be an encouragement. It’s when we begin to compare that encouragement turns to sour milk and wrecks your perspective.

Those winning moments feel the rarest of all. I get it. Athletes don’t live to train, to fail, to lose. They train to win. You didn’t walk into the world of adoption longing for the sleepless nights, the scary hospitalizations, the IEPs, or the loneliness. You have other dreams and if we’re all a little more honest with each other, those dreams stay just out of reach more often than not. But the truth is, when our dreams become reality, we don’t stop dreaming. We just dream new dreams.

There will always be something hard or heartbreaking out there. It’s the human experience. Hard times may not always be knocking at your door or sitting in your living room, but when they are, please know it’s not forever. But also remember, that you’re no worse off than any of us. You’re just at a different milepost.

The post When I Feel Like a Failure at Winning appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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On a Monday morning twenty months ago, I rushed around to tidy my house before an afternoon appointment with an Early Intervention coordinator. At the time, I had no idea what Early Intervention entailed. I just knew that in the brief month that we had known our youngest son, we identified several areas where he was behind… what our doctors called “global delays.”

At the time, we didn’t know whether the delays were related to inadequate care and interaction during his time in China or something bigger. No matter the cause, we needed some assistance in order to guide him in the right direction.

If you haven’t adopted yet, please expect that your newly adopted child will be delayed. Experts say that a child may be delayed one month for every three months he is in an institutional environment. Some children will experience even greater delays.

If you are already home with your newly adopted child, you may be noticing that your child is lagging behind in developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, talking, or even eating. She may have sensory issues that baffle you. He may have self-soothing techniques such as head banging or rocking, swaying, picking at his skin or hair, or “checking out” and staring off into space. She may be very clumsy, falling often or bumping into furniture or walls.

To add to the confusion, internationally adopted children may exhibit what look like delays, but some behaviors (or lack thereof) can be attributed to adjusting to a new home environment or learning a new language. If you’re unsure if what your child is achieving is considered typical, you can reference this great checklist of developmental milestones. Early Intervention therapists can assist you in identifying what specialists your child may need to see, in addition to providing in home therapies or in community therapies.

What is Early Intervention?

According to pathways.org, “Early Intervention is a federally mandated program of coordinated services, through Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C, that provides support and education to children with developmental delays and their families. Children ages 0-3 exhibiting delays in physical, cognitive, communication, and social/emotional development are eligible for services. The goal of Early Intervention is to help children with developmental delays as soon as possible so they can reach their fullest potential.”

How do I get connected with Early Intervention?

You can ask your pediatrician or international adoption clinic for a referral for EI services, or you can contact your local EI program directly and request an evaluation. To determine your child’s eligibility for Early Intervention services, a health care professional will assess your child in a range of developmental areas.

Children who receive Early Intervention may have a diagnosis such as chromosomal abnormality, congenital or genetic condition, nervous system disorder, or sensory impairments. Children might also exhibit developmental delays with no known diagnosis.

What needs does Early Intervention address?

The website understood.org explains the following about services provided by Early Intervention.

Babies and toddlers may receive services at home or in the community to help with development in these areas:

• Physical skills (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing, building)
• Cognitive skills (thinking, learning, solving problems)
• Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding others)
• Self-help or adaptive skills (eating, dressing)
• Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)
• Sensory processing skills (handling textures, tastes, sounds, smells)

A child who qualifies for an early intervention program may receive one or more of these services:

• Screening and assessment
• Speech and language therapy
• Physical or occupational therapy
• Psychological services
• Home visits
• Medical, nursing or nutrition services
• Hearing (audiology) or vision services
• Social work services

In our case, we had our son evaluated by Early Intervention only 4 weeks after returning home from China. Our EI coordinator immediately scheduled therapists to come to our home so that we could begin working with him in terms of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and feeding therapy.

What is the goal of Early Intervention programs?

The goal of Early Intervention is to work with parents and caregivers to formulate plans to help children meet their potential. This will look different from what you may see in private therapy. Our EI speech therapist observed our son and worked with me to explain what I could do best to encourage our son to attempt speech. It was a very parent/caregiver centered approach.

This is crucial because we, as parents, are with our kids the most, and we need to know how to help our children reach their potential. After each session, our EI therapists gave us advice, resources, and specific objectives to work on with our son.

For example, our son came to us with essentially no words, no language, and no means of communication other than crying. He wasn’t really even babbling like an infant in the language development stage. As a parent to four other children, I was accustomed to showing my kiddos a book, pointing out various items or characters, and simply asking, “What’s (or who’s) that?” After a few attempts, they nailed it, happily pointing to pictures and reproducing what I told them about the book.

This approach was a total fail with our son. I was operating at a level that was light years ahead of what he was capable of during that time. He couldn’t reproduce sounds, and he certainly couldn’t formulate sounds into words. Our EI speech therapists explained that I needed to dial my approach way back and start with easy, fun “environmental sounds” that would be entertaining and enticing for him to say, such as “moo,” “vroom, vroom,” and “meow”. That was absolutely the key to initiating speech for Caston.

What happens when a child “ages out” of Early Intervention?

Early Intervention is specifically for babies and children ages 0-3. Once Caston turned three, he was then moved into the school district’s program where he continues to see a speech therapist, a physical therapist, and an intervention specialist. Having already been involved in EI, our transition to the school district was relatively seamless. His previous therapists and coordinator gave input regarding his strengths and opportunities to the new team that now handles all his therapies.

They have been a phenomenal part of Team Caston since the beginning. They even attended Caston’s IEP meeting with my husband and me to help formulate the goals for Caston and help determine the best placement for preschool in the fall. I personally was not ready to send him to preschool when he turned three a couple of months ago. Our school district team supported our family in this decision. Although he’s not enrolled in preschool this semester, Caston is still receiving itinerant services through the school district free of charge.

I am so grateful that we have had such a caring team of people supporting Caston for the past 20 months. I can’t imagine waiting years until kindergarten, in hopes that he would simply “catch up” on his own, to begin navigating his delays and jumping into a world of IEPs.

If you have adopted a little one with delays, do not hesitate to contact your local Early Intervention program for an evaluation. And if your child is over three, contact your school district for an evaluation. While some children may catch up after some time, it is best to have a team in place that can work with you to help your child achieve his or her potential. You will never regret taking that first step for you child as early as possible.


Additional resources:
Milestones: Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Early Intervention Offices by State

Early Developmental Evaluations and Therapeutic Services for Adopted Children

Early Intervention Success Story: Croston Family

Early Intervention Success Story: Crider Family

The post Understanding Early Intervention appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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No Hands But Ours by Nohandsbutours - 1w ago

This sweet girl with the infectious smile is Stephanie! Stephanie was born in February of 2005 and will be aging out in 2019. Her caregivers are very fond of her and describe her as a hardworking child who has a good sense of humor. This is Stephanie’s last year to find a family before she ages out and is no longer able to be adopted. She needs a family to find her and run to her before it’s too late!

Stephanie was found in a public place in June of 2013 when she was 8 years old. She was admitted to the Children’s Welfare Institute in her province, where she lived until 2015 when she was moved to the House of Hope. Upon admission, she was given an exam and was found to have limited motion of her limbs and exotropia of her eyes. Her preliminary diagnosis was cerebral palsy.

In April of 2017 when she was 12 years old, her caregivers described her as sunny, active, and occasionally obstinate. She liked to play with other children and had a ready smile for everyone. This curious girl loved to explore and try new things, especially toys with sounds or music. At 12 years old she was unable to walk, but could crawl for short periods of time and sit alone. She could also stand with help. While she could speak some simple words and imitate words spoken to her, her speech was not clear. She mainly communicated through facial expressions. Stephanie is said to have delayed development, but she is able to understand instructions, recognize colors, and follow directions.

In January of 2017, Stephanie was admitted to the hospital for surgery to help increase her mobility. She recovered well and was released after a 20 day stay. In March of 2017, Stephanie was given a CT scan which found some abnormalities. The CT scan report is in her file, along with blood test results, vaccination records, operation and discharge notes from the hospital, and a Voluntary Adoption Letter from Stephanie stating that she would like to be adopted. Stephanie is diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and exotropia of both eyes.

WACAP received an update on Stephanie’s progress in in December of 2017, which showed that she has made great gains in the past few years during her time at House of Hope! Stephanie’s caregivers say she will always try to complete a task, no matter how difficult it may be, as long as she receives encouragement to keep trying. When she first arrived she was not able to roll over, and now she is able to crawl quickly. She stands every day and receives rehabilitation therapy daily. The greatest difficulty she has is with the tension in her arms. Because of this she is not able to reach them very high. Stephanie’s caregivers are especially fond of her. They call her daughter and say that she is always able to find the fun in things. She is currently learning to eat and is now able to communicate with her caregivers using pictures. Stephanie can identify a lot of different pictures and also knows her colors and shapes.

This joyful girl deserves a family of her own to share her happiness with. Her caregivers say that their dream is “to see her like a butterfly opening its wings to fly”. We hope that she is able to continue to make gains with the love and support of a family!

WACAP is offering a $4,000 grant for qualifying families. Seriously interested families should email WACAP with your request to find out more about her.

The post Meet Stephanie! appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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No Hands But Ours by Nohandsbutours - 1w ago

“For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

March 2018 marks 13 years of our adoption journey, and our first adopted daughter is about to be a teenager. Where have 13 years gone so quickly? We remember our first moments with her like it was yesterday. She was the most beautiful baby and took to us immediately. She had been in her orphanage 11 months so she had been waiting her whole life. I took her in my arms and for 13 years she and her siblings have taught us more about ourselves than the other ones put together.

Each child has seemed perfect on the outside – yet with deep hurts discovered to be healed on the inside. We have all come a long way in 13 years, and we have a lifetime of love to go.

Adoption changed us, made us a better version of ourselves and gave us the privilege of eternal significance. All parenting, whether growing our families biologically, through adoption, or in foster care, can award us those blessings if we are intentional and diligent. Scott and I would like to share 10 lessons learned about ourselves through adoption we’ve come to believe over the last 13 years. 1. Love Takes a Lifetime.

The love for each of our children was quick because we had had at least a year to prepare. Their love for us wasn’t so fast.

How does a child feel being thrown into a strange family? How does love begin to bloom?

Love takes a lifetime. Even though she’s been in our arms 13 years, there are things we still love through every single day. We know her quirks so well, and she knows ours. We are connected by our hearts. It still overwhelms my heart to think of her birth mother somewhere in China. I promise I feel like I birthed her myself. She has taught us how to love even in the deepest hurt, and we know the best is yet to come. Even if takes all our lifetimes!

2. Our Hearts Are Big.

We really didn’t understand unconditional love until we held our children for the first time. It was a dream come true. Becoming a mom and dad was an indescribable feeling. It was kind of like trying to explain how much Jesus loved us. We just couldn’t. Most everyone thinks we could never love a second child with the same love we have for our first, but God expands us and we do. Our children have taught us just how big our hearts could grow… much more than we ever imagined! At least twelve times bigger (counting our heaven babies).

3. Life is About Purpose.

God put us on earth for a purpose, and it’s not about a job, wealth, health, or even success. Our purpose is Him. He gave us heart work to do on earth and finding it can bring more joy than we ever imagined. Being a mom is most definitely my life purpose.

Helping our children choose Jesus is the most important privilege we will ever have. As each child chooses Jesus, we have peace we will be together in heaven for eternity. Is there a better feeling? Our children teach us daily that Jesus loves them even more than we do and our life purpose is all for Him.

4. Calm Can Exist in Chaos.

Life is not always calm seas and perfect circumstances. Even 13 years later, it sometimes takes us hours to love away moods or hurt feelings or attitudes. It is often chaotic as one is out of sorts, and the rest oblivious to what is even going on. It’s a balancing act at times but keeping a calm spirit keeps the chaos bearable.

Sometimes words of truth helps the situation, and sometimes just being quiet helps. Whatever comes, we set the standard. Our calmness can make or break the outcome. Our children have taught us patience we never knew we had.

5. No Expectations.

If there is nothing else we’ve learned, it’s this: having no expectations will save our sanity. Setting up safe boundaries and offering support is so important, but having preconceived notions of how we think something will go is just futile brain work.

This truth has come over years of adoption experience. We learned it through having expectations and watching everything fall apart. There is no forcing a trauma child into doing anything. It will only backfire, and there will be more to deal with. Our children have taught us we are not in control. We are the support and safe space for hard things we encounter with no expectations.

Just except it and do the work.

6. More Give Than Take.

There is so much more to adoption than we ever knew going into it. The child we are given will grow and change requiring deep strength and endurance. I remember standing on a plane for 8 of our 14 hour flight holding our little boy with severe sensory issues and massive overload. I was so tired and worn out. I think I fell asleep on my feet. I quoted every scripture I had ever learned and sang every hymn I could remember. The flight attendants fed me bananas and offered me their special seats for rest.

We thought adoption was about us giving another child love in our family and yes, that’s true, but it’s so much more. Nothing is ever easy that has worth. Our children have taught us it is MUCH greater to give than receive, and it is the foundation of eternal work.

7. Some Things Just Aren’t Important.

We are such different people than we were in the beginning our adoption journey. Things important then pale in comparison to what takes our focus now. Careers and success took a backseat to providing for needs and security. Schools and churches were not places to go anymore. They became attitudes of the heart we could do right at home. Vacations and big trips were set aside to bring more of our children home. Retirement has been redefined in the realization that our work on earth will never be done until we are on the heaven side. Our children have taught us home is where the heart learns to love, trust, and grow.

8. Focus on the Next Right Thing.

How do we ever decide what’s next? Should we keep homeschooling? Should we bring another child home? Should we go here or there?

Through the years we have learned, the next right thing is how life is to be lived. Reading the bible and praying over our family helps us know what that looks like. Simplicity leads to clear thinking and less clutter. Our children have taught us to keep life simple so we can focus on what is right.

9. Time Heals.

It takes time for children to feel grafted into a family. We believe when a child has been home longer than they haven’t, the real change begins. For 13 years EK has been a daughter, sister, and love of our family. You can see the light in her eyes. As each child came home, there was more and more healing that had to occur in everyone. There were even hurts that crept back up with kids already home. As time passed, each healed in time. Our children have taught us love always heals and wins!

10. It’s NOT About Us.

When Scott and I got married almost 33 years ago, we had no idea where our lives would lead. It is way better than we could have planned. Through the years, we have come to know this is not our story. It is God’s story. HIStory! Our children have taught us to take our eyes off of self and think of others first.

It is in this frame of mind, we find our purpose and realize this life is way bigger than we ever thought it would be!

I wonder what life lessons adoption has taught you.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

The post Lessons Learned in Adoption appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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There is nothing more exciting than those first years of just about anything. First years dating… first years of marriage… and your first years of parenthood. As I think back to some of the first years of the sweetest times in my life when things were “new” — I get nostalgic and I almost always think how simpler things seemed and felt.

Our adoptions are no different. I mean — how exciting were the moments you and your spouse remember now — deciding you would grow your family through adoption?! Sharing this with your family and friends was just as exciting — and man… I also felt so close to the Lord longing and crying out to the Lord for my child. So much belief and certainty filled my heart. And so bold were my prayers knowing — believing He could and He would answer every prayer and bring my children home in His perfect timing. We would make “God timing” connections and share the coincidence of each piece of the waiting. And time and time again I shouted out the faithfulness of my God.

The same awe and certainty of God’s hand in our story continued through travel, meeting our children and the months that followed coming home. I can remember the first years home for both of our boys. For the first years home, I would post pictures and share stories on Facebook often with something along the lines of, “Can you believe he is right here?!” For the first birthdays home I would cry and make the biggest deal…and grieve the birthdays I missed.

And then… somewhere along the way — the years set in and we all got real comfortable… and so did our children. This — this is honestly when the real healing began. This is also where my “unbelief” began as well.

The first years of waiting, bringing home children and the therapies for my children — it was so easy to believe God was going to work miracles for us, our family uniting together and deeply heal the heart of my children from hard places. But as the years flew by and the days became long, unbelief set in. When we were released from therapies and the counselors said we were good — I found myself feeling more disconnected. When I stopped having miracles to share — and they were finally comfortable to heal and let the years of bottled up feelings out (always when we were already 10 minutes late for something important) — my buttons would be pushed and I realized I was the one that had the most work to do.

When things feel desperate with a clear solution — when it is clear to me that He is the only answer — it was easier for me to trust and believe.

It’s the years into a process where I give up, feel I just need to accept my lot and begin to get by no longer desperately crying out to see Jesus come through.

I love what the Lord says in Malachi 3:6a-7, “I the Lord do not change… return to me, and I will return to you says the Lord Almighty.”

I thought the first years home we were connecting deeply — but it wasn’t until I began to see where we really were that any of us was really ready for real, deep connection. Our children are fighters. They come home ready to play, color and do many things they did in their foster homes and orphanages. They go with the flow — and thank goodness they are resilient and can do this — but this is also what made it possible for them to survive with multiple placements. Often it isn’t even until years in that they are finally feeling safe enough to unpack the years of hurt bottled up inside. Finally —this is their place — so I guess we should feel pretty thankful when years later it all starts coming out. After all, they are home. It just some times takes a long time to fully realize it.

For many of us — when things unfold for us this way — years later it surprises us as adoptive parents. The support has left the building and the friends and family see the new behavior as discipline problems. This is where I developed unbelief like the man in Matthew 17 who very much wanted to believe Jesus for healing but knew he needed to deal with a few things first. Unbelief? So I believed God for big things that were easy to see, but years in I had developed unbelief. For everyone it looks different, but for me…

…Trust would always be different for my kids from the hard places. As long as I could keep him happy, we would be okay…

…I can trust Jesus for my relationship with my children now while they are safe — but God when they are teens and adults — I don’t know about that… that feels scary to me…

….Things will always be harder in this relationship — God can’t fully connect us…

These were my “unbeliefs” after home 5 and 7 years… and, to be honest, many more that are too personal to share. I know the “right” things to say — but digging deep — I knew unbelief had taken root. I love what Spurgeon says about acknowledging this…

“While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but as soon as they get a little faith, they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief.”

The bottom line…

It is so easy to trust the Lord in the big things and in the beginning while we see God doing such big, miraculous things. In the mundane of meltdowns, laundry and, “Why did you clog the toilet and eat all the muffin tops off all the muffins AGAIN?”… I began to forget everything the Lord had already done to get us this far.

I stopped calling out to the Lord to takes us deeper into relationship with one another. The first years were filled with creativity to make eye contact, build trust and form connections. Finally — the years of connection were here — and my children were free to be children… messy, some times naughty, mischievous, wild and free little children.

I would let my mind run wild in those moments: Well — there went the muffin tops… I bet as a teenager _______ will happen. I would let my thoughts run wild – when I know good and well we are called to take our thoughts captive and give them all to Him.

I was wildly thinking of anything bad that might happen instead of remembering all God had already done.

Which – which makes me think of my baby bull. Y’all. I visited a farm and bought this sweet little bull — a Longhorn Wausi cross. He was this tiny thing whose mother rejected him and would only feed his sister. Staying on that farm he wouldn’t have lived — so we bought him and brought him home with the agreement when his horns are too big for us to handle the farmer will gladly buy him back.

Y’all. He is the cutest.


But when he is grown — I like to call it majestic. Take a gander…

One look at that picture of what he could look like.

Fear… right?

So that’s exactly what I realized years into our adoptions I had started doing. I was allowing fear to be birthed from behavior rather than crying out to Jesus for more healing. God doesn’t want me to look to the left or the right — or even to worry about tomorrow. Just today. We can’t be driven or live in fear based on how things might turn out — but rather what we know to be true today and what the Lord is asking me to do with what is true today.

I realized my “unbelief” was actually rooted in fear of the future based on behavior changes — and you know what happened when I asked the Lord to show my any and all unbelief I had allowed to creep into my heart and mind regarding our adoptions? I was able to see them, begin praying through them and asking the Lord to show me truth to combat them. He showed me things to believe and trust Him for again and, to be honest, this has been the thing that has taken our family’s relationship deeper than I ever imagined. I truly believe there were fears rooted even in those first days I hadn’t uncovered. But, as I continued to ask the Lord to show me my unbelief, healing deeply began in a new real way.

In Matthew 9, there is a bleeding woman who has carried her ailment for too many years. She sees Jesus and pushes through the crowd to touch Him. Because she knows He can and will heal her. She really believes Him! She touches that tassel-filled cloak the Jewish men all wore and immediately she is healed. Truly — when we acknowledge our unbelief and really begin to believe Him — miracles happen.

I bought a tassel to keep on my key chain as a constant reminder as I run my sweet loves to school, activities and on errands — that He is who He says He is and He is the same God who led us and miraculously made us a family. He is going to do greater things than I can even imagine in our family and in the hearts of my boys.

The days may be long but those meltdowns feel differently to me now. And those tassels remind me while my voice might not always be as soothing as Dr. Karyn Purvis’ was He can do miracles even through a momma like me that struggles in the mundane and mess with one too many loads of laundry.

Once again — I am excited to see what He will do and I believe He will do it! I also believe He wants to and can do it for you as you strip away unbelief and believe Him again for miracles in your families lives too.

The post When the Days are Long… And We Forget What He Has Done appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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When my biological son was 4, his arm got caught in an elevator door. Adults nearby were able to pry his arm free. No permanent damage was done, but it shook and scared him.

Fast forward a few years, the same son and his older brother were in China, on an adoption trip with us. He and his older brother were playing on an elevator ride, going up almost 20 stories. While exiting the elevator, his older brother jokingly pushed him back into the elevator, the doors closed, and he, alone, took off with a group of strangers. Following moments of panic, and a rushed search by my husband, he was returned by a group of kind Chinese adults.

He was tearful, everyone was frazzled, but a huge sigh of relief came after everyone calmed down. These two incidents obviously caused him to fear elevators. When we enter an elevator, I feel him hesitate beside me. If I ask him about this hesitation, he sometimes forgets why he dislikes elevators, until I remind him of these stories and validate his feelings. The reason for his fear helps him to understand; even as a child, he sees the past influencing the present.

Sadly, this is not always an option for my daughters who joined our family thru adoption. They experience fears that I cannot explain and that they are unable to remember enough pieces of their life before us to provide context for many of their feelings.

When one asks why she is terrified of thunderstorms, I think of possible scenarios, things that might make sense. When another asks me why she doesn’t like loud noises, I wonder myself, and can only reassure.

I am learning them, and I know many of their stories, but I do not know all of the stories. I cannot imagine having years of my life simply missing, but that is their reality. Their early years were not like mine and continuity was not present for them. I understand that I will never have all the pieces of their puzzle, because this is a reality of international adoption.

This season, in particular, has begged for context for questions asked, and we do not have that context. I am learning that adoption brings with it a struggle for how to process the unknown and this struggle ebbs and flows throughout a lifetime. As I realize the questions will come throughout their lives, I want to give them answers.

Recently, I sat in my car after a particularly difficult parenting week with one of my daughters. She was struggling and she was asking the ‘why’ questions that I don’t know. I felt frustration that I could not help her with understanding, frustration for her especially. One fourth of her life was spent without us and I cannot answer many of her questions, or explain the missing seasons. I can’t always tell her whether struggles are a result of adoption, her genetics, or my own parenting.

However, in these moments, I am reminded that I believe God does know every piece of her and her sister’s brave and precious stories.

He is God that is ever-present in all my weakness.
He is God, who never wanted my daughters to suffer, but was there in their suffering and heard their cries.
His heart broke the moment they went from being part of a family to an orphan.
He was there in the moments of abandonment and the pain and loneliness that followed.
He was there in the multiple transitions from institution to institution.
And, He was there in the hard moments, when country and language were torn away for them to become my daughters.
He also knew they were being loved by nannies and they had friends in their orphanages.
He saw the good and the bad and God was there in all the moments that I missed.
He knows all of their fears and why those fears exist in a way that I never will.

I don’t know the answers, but He does, because he knows my daughters fully. He is a God that cares for them and understands the context of their life and the loneliness of the orphan and the process of adoption. This is my reminder in this season, that I cannot humanly answer all of my precious daughters’ fears and questions with clarity, but I can sit with them and look to the God who knows the answers to their questions.

He is a God who remembers all the ‘elevator’ moments of their early life, and He cares deeply for them. This does not simplify our journey, but it does give us hope in the moments where the past influences the present.

– guest post by Rachel

The post Their Brave and Precious Stories appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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When I sat down to write about how our family incorporates and celebrates Chinese culture in our American home, I first thought of the decorations we put up during celebrations. However, my mind quickly turned from decorations, events, and holidays, to the people who have enriched our lives by sharing their lives and culture with us and by bringing us in or “adopting” us. I can’t share about the decorations and activities that mark our year without sharing about the people and experiences through which we learned about them.

Our journey, especially my journey to adopt, specifically from China, was one that started long ago. The desire to adopt was placed on my heart at a young age when I overheard a somewhat secret conversation that my grandmother had been adopted and had adopted my uncle. It was around that same age that I developed a special interest and liking for Asian knick-knacks and culture.

My mother and grandmother owned an antiques business so I was forced to spend more hours than I wanted at estate sales, auction houses, and the like. But soon, I was spotting the porcelain figurine of a Japanese woman in traditional dress, or the Chinese fan. It wasn’t long before I had a small collection of the least expensive of these treasures. Since then, I always had the desire to travel to Asia, specifically China.

Fast forward almost 30 years to 2013 when our family was invited to an informational meeting regarding the International Friendship Program at the University of Houston. This program was designed based on the research that showed that the international students often find and socialize with only students of their same nationality or culture and that many students never set foot in an American home! Families are recruited to befriend a student and engage them by inviting them along on family outings and into their home for meals, family game night, birthday parties, etc. Essentially, we were asked to share our life – and thereby, our culture – with him or her.

We were handed a list of students that included their gender, nationality, hobbies/interests, major, and how long they planned to stay in the Houston area. Immediately, my husband spotted this young man’s profile that listed his interest as basketball, guitar, table tennis, and watching movies. (This would have been the exact combination of hobbies for my husband if he had been on the list.) This young man was planning to be around Houston for 5 years as he was working towards his PhD. We loved the idea of an extended amount of time to really make meaningful connections with this person. He happened to be from China. We were matched!

We decided to meet our new friend, Dongjun, for the first time at the zoo that May as we had two small children and I was expecting our third. We hit it off right away. He was eager to interact with our son and daughter, as he explained it, because he was an only child. I am an only child, though not from China. We discussed both the advantages and disadvantages of having no siblings. Our kids immediately took to his kindness and playfulness.

Our relationship grew over the next few years. He came to meet our third born and she enjoyed it when he held her. He attended all of our family gatherings and celebrations. He invited us to the Chinese New Year festival at the Chinese Community Center which became a yearly tradition. He asked us to come watch him play guitar as a part of the Mid Autumn Festival at U of H each year hosted by the Chinese Student Association. We shared a meal with his parents when they visited from China and they gifted us with two Chinese knots, which we proudly displayed in our home.

On two occasions, Dongjun has offered to come and cook Chinese dishes for us and attempted to teach me how to replicate them. Once, Dongjun came to our house bearing a gift he had asked his friend who had returned to China to bring back for us: a cross-stitch of a boat and a pier with Chinese characters that translate as “People are like the floating boats and home is the warm, safe harbor.” (I may have become a little emotional at this gift and we weren’t even in the adoption process yet.)

Before we knew it though, Dongjun wasn’t our only Chinese friend. Through my husband’s job, we met and befriended two Chinese Americans, one of which happened to be long time friends of a family we are very close to through our church. It was also around this time that we felt the prompting that it was time to adopt as the way to grow our family in the future. (You can read more about our adoption story here.)

We honestly looked into every option for adopting – domestic, foster to adopt, various international countries. But at the end of it all, we had ruled out domestic and fostering. We were limited by health issues and other criteria to only a couple of international options. We leaned toward China because it was a good fit for practical reasons, the ones that limited us from so many others. We were open to a large range of medical needs due to being so close to Texas Children’s Hospital. We really wanted a boy, as we had 2 girls and 1 boy who prayed for a brother daily and we knew that China had/has so many boys with special needs waiting. Houston’s Chinatown with Asian markets, various authentic (read: not buffets that pass out fortune cookies) restaurants, and cultural events is just a short drive away.

However, it was the relationships that we had with our Chinese friends, who had so openly and lovingly welcomed us into their culture, that gave us appreciation for this culture and the confidence that we could continue to learn about our son’s birth country and culture, and truly adopt parts of it as our own.

Here’s a funny story to illustrate that I have learned more than the little I once knew about Chinese culture, again thorough interactions with a Chinese friend. I wanted a fun, more-creative-than-blurting-it-out way of telling our three kids and extended family we were adopting from China. So I, of course, thought of fortune cookies. I searched and found a local couple originally from Hong Kong who make custom fortune cookies and you can get any short saying you want inside. Knowing that our kids and family associate fortune cookies with China (thanks to the Chinese buffet restaurants aforementioned), I only asked that “We are adopting!” be written as the message. After sharing a meal of Chinese food at home one night, we gave one to each of our kids. They got the point — that we were adopting from China. We handed them out as we met extended family. They, too, got it. And, the next time Dongjun came over, we gave him one. He opened it, read it, and said something to the effect of “that’s nice.” We had expected a bigger reaction. We were, after all, adopting from his country. But no. He said nothing more, nothing less. I was left scratching my head.

Just a few nights later however, we watched on TV a show that explained that fortune cookies don’t exist in China, that they were invented in America, and only became a staple of Chinese restaurants here to satisfy the American culture of having dessert after a meal. Oh! A lightbulb went off in my head! Dongjun didn’t associate the cookie with China and the intentional meaning had been lost! I realized that he still didn’t know we were adopting from China! When we finally told him, we got more of the reaction we were expecting and curiosity as to why China, to which we shared some of the reasons I’ve mentioned here, but that our relationship with Dongjun was an important part of it as well.

The fortune cookie reveal may have been a fail to some degree, but through it I met the nicest couple from Hong Kong, Long and his wife, Lin. When our friends hosted a Chinese-themed adoption shower/dinner for us a few months later, I ordered more fortune cookies from them. Long and Lin remembered me and asked about the adoption and I shared a picture of our boy we were waiting to get.

When our son came home in April 2016, I texted them an update and picture. Even though I know fortune cookies aren’t from China, they now remind me of both the cultures I love, compromising to understand one another, and of my friends, Long and Lin. You know, I think I may have to order some more fortune cookies for Lunar New Year this year, if for no other reason than to take our son to visit Long and Lin.

As I mentioned earlier, we had started celebrating in some small way two of the major Chinese holidays – Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival – with our friends. As we were preparing to travel to China for our son, an idea came to me as a way to decorate in a way that would keep China in the forefront of our minds and hearts on a daily basis, not just seasonally. When Dongjun had gifted us the lovely cross-stitch piece, I had it promptly framed and it was given a place of honor on the only empty wall in the living room. But the wall really was quite large and the frame was quite lonely, so my idea was to make it “Our Great Wall of China” by using pictures and souvenirs from our adoption trip to decorate it as a permanent representation of our son’s birth culture. On this wall I included photos I took on our trip of interesting things that represent Chinese culture, a series of photographs of the Canton Tower in Guangzhou in its various colors, and a collage of more personal pictures of our sightseeing and adoption process, including guides and staff that we wanted to remember. From chopsticks that had been used at our adoption shower, I chose one pair for each one of us and mounted them. (See my inspiration here.) A few other pieces finished out our “Great Wall of China,” like one of the vinyl stickers of the character for “friends” that a man from our church made for our entire airport welcoming party which I stuck on a black canvas. I painted our son’s Chinese name on a red board, his name translates “celebrate the road ahead/future.”

I often catch our adopted son staring at the wall and when I engage him he will say “China.” I know that there may come a time that he may not want to be reminded every day of his heritage and the loss of it, but for now it’s a great conversation starter both with him and people who visit. I hope he hears the pride and respect I have as I share about each item on the wall.

Since we returned from China with our boy almost 2 years ago, these are some of the decorations and traditions that have become our norm with some variations each year depending on what works best at that particular time. Since Lunar New Year is this month, I will start there. I have some Asian/Chinese ornaments that have been gifted to us, were bought while in China, or I’ve ordered and we leave our Christmas tree up (yes even when CYN falls in mid-February). We take all the other ornaments off, except red and gold balls, and add these Asian ornaments to it. Our Christmas tree skirt looks, well, Christmas-y too, so I found an inexpensive red with gold glitter one at Big Lots last year. I take down our Christmas décor and stockings from the mantel and replace them with some Chinese décor — the dragon decoration that was gifted to us after our adoption shower, some artificial oranges, and this year I’m excited that I finally found a use for at least some of the Beanie Babies I collected in my much younger days. There is a retired set of Chinese New Year Beanies, but I only had the rooster from that set, I suppose because it represents my birth year. But due to the size of my collection I was able to find a Beanie to represent each animal in the zodiac. (You can find the CYN beanies here.) We still attend the local Chinese New Year festival and eat in Chinatown. We try to find new books about China or Lunar New Year each year to read. During homeschool time, we try to learn about China or Chinese culture in one way or another often. Every now and then we will pick up a Mandarin word and add it to our vocabulary. We have used a few different sources but really like these books from Usborne. During homeschool, my older kids (8 and 6) have enjoyed listening to me read aloud several of the YWAM Christian Heroes Then and Now series about missionaries to China such as Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, and Eric Liddell. Last year at this time we hosted an exchange student from China, which was a learning experience for all!

We know we could never recreate in its entirety the culture that our son lost by not growing up in China. What we can give him is a family culture where China – the people and the culture – is respected, celebrated, cherished, and loved because of what it lost, and what it gave – our son. This is the story of how we have assimilated parts of Chinese culture into our home and our lives. However, it is the people who brought these traditions and ways to us that have a place in our heart.

– guest post by Marla

The post Making Friends, Finding Culture appeared first on No Hands But Ours.

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