Author Archives: Kelly Raudenbush

Art for Ayis

I had an idea.

I was up early this morning, making a list and checking it twice. But, this list wasn’t a Christmas list; it was the list of gifts we are taking to China when we leave on January 6th. We’re heading to South China on this trip, to an orphanage in Guangdong province that has never had a team there before.

It’s considered a small orphanage with about 150 children in their care. And, while they are not new to adoption, they haven’t placed many kids until now. But, they’re partners with a good agency now and are on board with making children paper ready, even kids they thought were too old or too sick or too something. And, we get to go in and encourage them in what they are doing.

As I was counting out the gifts for ayis and the ladies who work in the office and the directors and the foster moms, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be neat to give them something from a child adopted from China? Something that sends the message that children adopted from China are okay and that what they do to serve those kids now matters…wouldn’t that be great?

I’ve come to discover that good ideas don’t always come at convenient times. And, today is hardly a convenient day as mamas everywhere are scurrying around to Target for stocking stuffers and making cookies for class parties and using up all their Scotch tape wrapping boxes. But, some things are worth some inconvenience. This might be one of those things.

Here’s what we need:

a piece of artwork on card stock, an index card, or watercolor paper no larger than 5″x8″
a printed photo of the artist with his or her name written on the back, the year he or she was adopted and from where (e.g., “Sam Smith, adopted from Guangzhou in 2010”)

Mail no later than December 31st for an arrival of no later than January 4th to:

The Sparrow Fund Art for Ayis
124 3rd Ave
Phoenixville PA 19460

Questions? Email us. Help us bless these people and magnify the good.

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Want to do more? You can.
Order a few of the supplies from our wish list for us to take with us.
Order an Oh Happy Day shirt and wear it with us on the first day we serve on Monday, January 9th.
Sign up to pray for the team HERE.
Find out a bit more about joining a future team.

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Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

A Beautiful Girl

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They told me she was introverted, easygoing, compliant. They told me that she gets sad sometimes but that she is easily comforted when her nanny, who clearly cares for her well, explains right and wrong. They told me that she can write her Chinese characters quite well, that her receptive knowledge is good, that her expression is okay. They told me she is good at math compared to other children in her class. And, they told me she really likes music and dancing and that she is remarkably talented.

I nodded my head and smiled. I believed them. Sure, I’m sure she enjoys music and likes to dance. And, it was endearing to hear her nanny say that she was talented in dancing…so sweet.

And, then they asked if I’d like her to show us.

This little girl hasn’t had her papers submitted yet. She has Down Syndrome, they told me, as if when I heard the words I’d agree that she would not be wanted.

She has Down Syndrome. And, she is beautiful and marvelous in every way. And, oh, how I hope that someone has room in their family for her. If you think you might, let us know. We’d love to talk to you about how to make that happen.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Serving the Servants

We didn’t come simply to hold babies.

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We didn’t come simply to play with cute toddlers with pigtails.

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We didn’t come simply to pat older children on the back and sing EIEIO.

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We didn’t come simply to assess waiting children so that when their papers pop up somewhere, we’re ready to help find families for them. All of that is good, very good.

We desired to do even more. We came for this. We came to serve those who serve. everyday. those who are paid little to do the most significant work. who are simply called “working staff” and are often criticized for not doing enough while they work in a system that often doesn’t support much more. We came to bless them.

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It took much less time than we anticipated for curiosity and uncertainty to become eagerness to be vulnerable and pleasure to become honored guests of ours.

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As children toddled around us and looked on, we washed the hands that serve. We spoke to each woman as we did, in words many of them did not understand and yet somehow understood.

You work so hard at what you do. You are so good with the children. Look how much she wants to be close to you. You are so important to her and to this place. We are so thankful for you. 

We saw a lot of smiles, more than we had ever seen there before. And, everything just seemed somehow brighter and lighter. What had felt like them and us just felt more like we, all women honoring each other and serving together for big big things…a spirit that was contagious.

Their smiles and sense of honor must be contagious too because all of us can’t stop smiling and feel like we were the ones served.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Hold the Hugs. High Fives and Fist Bumps, Please.

I still remember her. She was the best. My 1st grade self loved her big smile and her early 80s old-lady perm. Everyday, she’d stand by the classroom door at the end of the day and hug each and every one of us. I was excited to go to school everyday because of her and her Mr. Rogers-ish ways. It’s a parents’ dream—a kid who loves school and has a teacher who showers their son or daughter with affection.

Except when it’s not exactly a dream.

Touch is a powerful thing. It can hurt tragically, and it can heal supernaturally. It makes neurons fire in our brain like the fourth of July. Touch is a remarkable God-given tool to build relationship and connection from the neighborly casual to the most intimate. And, it’s something our children who have had hard starts often have a hard time with. Some kids can’t get enough of it; some kids struggle to accept and receive it at all. And when they struggle with touch, we as parents struggle along with them.

When our kids are small, we can hold them, literally “wear” them, cosleep, guard those moments when we feel trust and connection can build. But, those small kids grow bigger and our strategies to help them give and receive appropriate physical touch have to grow with them.

A few weeks into the school year, what do you do when you realize your child has the warmest, sweetest preschool teacher in the world or the veteran 1st-grade teacher who has a poster above her desk that says FREE HUGS HERE? You thank God that your child got that teacher and that you know he or she is being taught by someone who cares about their heart and not just their brain. And, then, you might want to think about writing an email with a gentle request. Touch is important in the classroom; research and personal experience tell us so. But, high fives and fist bumps can do the trick and allow you to save those hugs and kisses for home.

Want a little jump start on that email? Here are two examples to get you started. The first is for the teacher of a child who goes after hugs and kisses from everybody; the second is for the teacher of a child who has a hard time giving and receiving affection. Copy and paste, switching out names and pronouns as appropriate. Or, simply let them be a starting point to create an email all your own. I’d love to read your final product, if you do. Send it to me; maybe yours will become the template for another family.

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Regarding a Child Who Gives Indiscriminate Affection

Dear teacher,
We so appreciate you. You know how to successfully teach a child to do something he or she has not yet done before–which would be magic in and of itself. But, somehow, you manage to not only teach a child but teach him or her in a room full of children. Each one of those children learns in his or her own unique way. And, each child comes from a different place and brings his or her own unique needs into your classroom everyday. What you are able to do by teaching each child individually and the entire class corporately is nothing short of an everyday miracle. We don’t take that lightly!

On top of all that magical teaching stuff, we know you care about each child. You care about their stories. We can tell. We can tell when you look right into their eyes and greet them in the morning (that doesn’t go unnoticed). And, we can tell when Jenny talks about her day and quotes little things you said (yeah, she does that). She knows you care. And, that’s so so important to us as parents…really really important. It’s because we know you truly care that I’m reaching out today and asking you to do something for Jenny that may seem slightly counterintuitive.

Jenny had a hard start. Children who aren’t in safe families where big people take care of little people often learn strategies to get what they need. One of those strategies is physical affection. It makes sense really. Big people respond to little people when they put their arms up and when they want hugs or a kiss. It works. But, it isn’t right. Our job, as moms and dads, is to show our children that we’re the big people who will take care of them, that we’re not temporary, we belong to them and we belong with them. Some days, John and I send that message well to Jenny and she receives it well. Other days, it’s a real struggle on both sides.

Would you be willing to help us in all this as you have Jenny in your care? It would be really helpful if you would partner with us to teach her that there are better, safer strategies than physical affection to get what she needs. At home, we are working on teaching her that we are always available and willing to give hugs and kisses but if there’s something she needs, she use words and simply ask for it. She often hears, “You know, if you need something, all you have to do is ask!” Another thing we have tried to teach is that hugs and kisses are for family, and high fives and fist bumps are for everyone else. We want to guard hugs and kisses as best we can so she learns boundaries and sees them as a “family thing.” So, can I ask you to do something that may feel a little strange at first? When she reaches out to hug you–as I expect she will–can you redirect her with a high five or a fist bump?

We want her to continue to feel the care from you that she has been because that’s important. We want her to know that we’d never send her somewhere we didn’t think was safe and that we trust you to take good care of her and teach her well. We know touch is a great way for her to experience that care. But, I truly believe that she’ll get it through the high five or fist bump paired with the consistency and personal attention that we know she is getting from you.

Let us know what you think as you find time to respond. We would love to keep the lines of communication open so that you are not only partnering with us, but we are partnering with you.

-Jenny’s mom

Regarding a Child Who Struggles to Give and Receive Physical Affection

Dear teacher,
We so appreciate you. You know how to successfully teach a child to do something he or she has not yet done before–which would be magic in and of itself. But, somehow, you manage to not only teach a child but teach him or her in a room full of children. Each one of those children learns in his or her own unique way. And, each child comes from a different place and brings his or her own unique needs into your classroom everyday. What you are able to do by teaching each child individually and the entire class corporately is nothing short of an everyday miracle. We don’t take that lightly!

On top of all that magical teaching stuff, we know you care about each child. You care about their stories. We can tell. We can tell when you look right into their eyes and greet them in the morning (that doesn’t go unnoticed). And, we can tell when Jenny talks about her day and quotes little things you said (yeah, she does that). She knows you care. And, that’s so so important to us as parents…really really important. It’s because we know you truly care that I’m reaching out today and asking you to do something for Jenny that may seem slightly counterintuitive.

Jenny had a hard start. Children who aren’t in safe families where big people take good care of little people are affected in significant ways. One of those ways is in giving and taking in affection. It makes sense. When a child hasn’t experienced safe and sufficient nurturing as a baby, closeness can be really hard. It can make them feel vulnerable and threatened. We’ve been working on that as a family, practicing giving and receiving hugs and kisses. And, we’ve celebrated a lot of growth there. But, we’ve always been very careful, intentionally guarding that closeness, reserving hugs to family only and practicing the exclusivity of our family, something Jenny, unlike most children who have not experienced a hard start, needs to learn.

We are excited to have her a part of your class this year, but we’re also a little anxious. We are concerned that as we widen her circle, the small but significant successes we’ve seen may be hindered. Would you be willing to help us in all this as you have Jenny in your care? Would you be willing to reinforce what we have been working so hard for at home? One way you could do that is by not giving her hugs or kisses; they’re a “family thing.” We do want her to trust other caregivers who we trust and build appropriate connections there. We aren’t opposed to touch; we know touch is important to connection. But, high fives and fist bumps are best for her (and they’ll go a long way with her!). Hugs and kisses are for family, for people you love; high fives and fist bumps are for everyone else, people you like and who like you. That’s what we want her to learn–which is way more important to us than all the letters and numbers combined.

Let us know what you think as you find time to respond. We would love to keep the lines of communication open so that you are not only partnering with us, but we are partnering with you. If you have questions, we welcome you to ask. I can’t promise I’ll have an answer for you, but I’ll do my best to find one as I know you are doing for my child and the rest of her class.

-Jenny’s mom

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Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Beyond Folded Hands {a guided prayer kit to take orphans to the throne of God}

I’m not an artist. I’m better with words. At least, that’s what I’ve always believed, that’s what I’ve always told myself. I feel at home with a pen in my hand. It’s familiar and comfortable. I know what to do with it, and I am confident that the ink on the page will eventually produce something I can be content with. But, a paintbrush, not all that different in size and shape from my pen, feels utterly foreign and somehow makes me feel like a child again. That’s how this project started.

There’s no technically correct art. No syntax, grammar, logic, spelling. No thesis statement or 5 paragraphs. Art is free expression, spontaneous and authentic expression. Perhaps that freedom is what unnerves me. I prefer rules and order. But when I embrace that freedom, I am able to see things that all my rules and definition block out. I am able to pay attention to things that are often silenced.

Last spring, I started talking to Erin Leigh. I asked her to help me. I asked her to help me discover how I could use artistic expression that I knew made me weak to engage with God in new ways. I wanted to learn how to pray beyond folded hands and closed eyes. It was risky and scary, but I loved it. It was good, and I wanted to share it and bring others with me.

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Months later, Creative Conversations With the Creator is the result. It’s a kit that comes with an 8-page guidebook and everything you need to complete the various activities in the guide, including a quality watercolor palette and brush, pens, practice sheets, watercolor paper, a photograph focal point, and beautiful artwork by Erin Leigh created exclusively for this kit. Using the pieces included, you are invited to learn new ways to engage with God and put them into practice through projects that build on each other to bring the fatherless to the Father. Included is even an opportunity to return a piece to us to be handed as a gift to a child in China who waits.

Valued at approximately $50, we are making it available for those who make a suggested donation of at least $45 to The Sparrow Fund. If you are local and would like to pick up your kit, the suggested donation is $35. Donations beyond the cost of producing the kits will be used to fund orphan care initiatives in China. Get your kit now while supplies last HERE. We are so excited to link arms with you as we go deeper together.

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Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Here it is, W___. I’m telling them {advocating}

WM letter

Dear Uncle and Aunt,
I am very happy to write this letter to you. My name is W____. I’m thirteen years old. I study in the senior class here, and my favorite class is Table Tennis. I desire to be adopted by an American family. When I see some other children going abroad, I really envy them. I hope that you could help me find a family soon. Thank you! Below are some of my homework (Chinese and math homework.) Best regards, W___

Dear W___,
I am glad to help you! I am going to share about you with as many people as I can. I will also tell them about how you are a little shy but have a lot of friends, often chatting with the other children in your class and whispering in their ears, and how you love to smile. I know your papers say you have what we call “CP,” but I’ll make sure families know how you can play basketball and ping pong, help your foster mom and dad out around the apartment where you live without any trouble or fuss, and that you’re a healthy kid.

When you were in the English class we taught, you worked so hard to learn “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” I know it wasn’t easy to get all the words and all the motions right. But, you did great.

our canopy bed picAnd, when you were a part of the photography workshop in October 2014 when you were only just 11, you were a superstar with that camera. You took one of my favorite pictures from the whole workshop!

I’ll tell them all that. I’ll be sure of it.

It makes sense that your heart hurts when you see your friends leave to be adopted. It makes sense that you would want to have a family too, one of your own who will take you home to live together for everyday forever. I will do my best to spread the word that there is a really great boy who really wants a family and who will make a really great son who is available to be adopted right now.

Your friend,
Aunt Kelly (and Uncle Mark too)
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Interested in learning more about this young man? He’s currently available for adoption from “the shared list,” meaning that any agency with a China program can help you. If you are not already committed to an agency, I recommend contacting Madison Adoption Associates (who gives $3,000 in grants towards adopting boys over the age of 8 and has confirmed they will give that in addition to income grants for the adoption of W___) or America World to learn more.

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Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

Irrationality {my one word for now}

You may not realize it, but today is a big day. It’s January 14th, a somewhat normal Thursday. Doesn’t seem much like a big day. But, today means that we’re officially 2 weeks into the new year which means that workout centers will start to clear out starting today and donut shops start picking up business again. Resolutions die today, at least according to popular research.

For some reason, many of us still feel compelled to make one—I’m going to read more this year, workout three times a week, drink less coffee, organize my life. We put our foot down and resolutely say, “This no more” or “This going forward.” But, only 2 weeks later, we start to drop the ball on whatever we promised as we watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. I’ve found myself there before though it usually took me a few more weeks to notice my feebleness, shrug my shoulders, and say “nevermind.” This year, I had none of that—not because I’ve got resolution superpowers. I just didn’t make any conscious resolutions at all.

But, I read something this week (note to self: be careful what I read because I will be challenged and compelled to respond which means lots of discomfort and unrest which seems to be my modus operandi as of late). It was from the well known psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner famous for getting the Head Start program going in 1965 and for demonstrating the importance of connection.

In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last, and always.

kids in a rowI read it and then I read it again. I want to love my kids like that.

It makes sense. We all need that. We long to be loved with a crazy kind of love, a love that defies reason, a love that doesn’t make sense, a love that says that nothing you do could make you loved any less or any more. That’s the kind of mom I want to be, for those children born to me and the one who was born to another. I want to be an irrational mom.

But, I’m so much more comfortable in the rational world. I like A + B = C. I like the comfort of predictability. Reason is my friend. And, yet. I know I need to let that go. Relationships require me to let that go. The hearts of my children require me to let that go. Reasonable love simply does not suffice. When he pushes me away and slams his door, I still love. When she yells and screams and refuses to listen, I still love. When he won’t put his shoes on or forgets his folder again, I still love. When she sulks and avoids eye contact, I still love. It’s not easy. I don’t know what that looks like all the time. It stretches me, demands practice, is easier with the help of a partner, and keeps me very aware of my own frailty. It’s where I need to be.

I bailed on a resolution this year. I probably was too busy being rational to make one. But, I’ve got a new word now that I’m shooting for as we head into the remaining 50 weeks of 2016—irrationality. Yeah, how’s that for my one word? Everyone else is picking words like strong, commitment, freedom, purpose, intentional. I may be the only one wanting someone to make me some hand drawn word art to hang by my desk that says “Be irrational today!” But, that’s my desire. That’s what I want my kids to say about me at the end of the year—my mom? she’s kinda crazy. she doesn’t get it right all the time. in fact, there’s a lot of things she could have done better when I look back on this year. but, she is crazy in a good way about a lot of things and she’s crazy about me. 

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Kelly has a Master’s degree in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary and founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

What Orphan Sunday is Not

Child-with-Down-Syndrome-October-2015-1-265x398Orphan Sunday.

It’s not about a movement. Movements eventually fade with time.

It’s not about a cause. Causes are embraced by only a few and can distract us.

It’s not about providing content for pastors who preach every Sunday. There are nearly 775,000 words fully able to provide content for a lifetime of 52 weeks.

It’s not about checking a box. One designated Sunday service of 52 Sunday services even if every word and moment of those 2 hours bled a particular topic does not allow anyone to say a box can be checked and their job is done.

It’s not about telling people they need to do more. It’s not about urging the Church to adopt. It’s not even about adoption.

If it’s not about a movement, a cause, content, checking a box, rallying people to do more, or adoption, what is it about?

It’s about the heart of God. It’s about who we are as His children.

A devoted and faithful child cares about the things that his or her father cares about. As those who follow Christ, we are called to mirror His heart. And, His heart is for the one without, every single one without.

On Orphan Sunday, the Church reminds those within its 4 walls of the ones without its 4 walls who are dear to our Father’s heart—the approximately 153,000,000 children around the world who are orphans—and need to be dear to our hearts not just during a nice service, singing songs that stir our hearts, watching videos that leave us in tears, or hearing His Word preached and responding with Amens. Those things are not without purpose; they are tools He uses to grow our hearts to look more like His own. It just can’t end today because tomorrow is Orphan Monday and the next day is Orphan Tuesday then comes Orphan Wednesday, Orphan Thursday, and Orphan Friday…

His call. Our call. It isn’t about today; it’s about everyday.

Learn to do good. It doesn’t come naturally and is not easy. But, we have the best teacher to help us.
Seek justice. It can be hard to find in a broken world.
Help the oppressed. If you have been comforted, you can be comfort.
Defend the orphan, every orphan. They are His and, therefore, our little brothers and sisters.

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Kelly has a Master’s degree in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary and founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

The Big Brother {Advocating}

We were getting into the van to leave the orphanage for the day when the director gently touched my arm and said something to our translator.

He wants to know if he can show you one more child to find a family for.

He brought me to a tall boy who was waiting for me on the front steps, fiddling with his fingers obviously nervous but also impressively willing to look me right in the eye. He continued to stand before me, nodding his head occasionally as the director spoke about him to me with the translator next to us relaying every word.

He goes to a school nearby and is very smart. He’s very social. He likes computers and running.

I saw an opportunity and jumped in.

Running? Wow. Are you fast?

Bigger smile and a head nod as he answers.

He says he’s good and wins races.

I offered him a high 5, and he accepted. The director went on.

The only thing wrong with him is that he looks weird. His brain is all normal.

I was stunned.

His eyes looked away from me as I blinked more than I should have in nervousness.

I wrote down notes in the green binder I carried with me everywhere.

school. smart. very social. computer. running….only his eyes.

That’s his reality. He’s known as the boy who looks weird. But, by some supernatural gift of grace, he’s still able to smile with his crooked teeth and unusual features and look me right in the eye.

On the last day our team was at the orphanage, the staff allowed us to take all the children who were able outside for free play. We blew bubbles and used sidewalk chalk and bounced balls and raced plasma cars. We were nearly finished when I saw L. C.G. in his school uniform running to join us. He looked right at me as he had done before with a big smile but then walked right past me. I saw his head turning, clearly looking for someone. I thought he might be looking for an ayi, maybe looking for the other boys his age whose disabilities keep them from going out to school as he gets to do. Suddenly, he stopped turning as he found what he was looking for.

big brother
L. C.G. scooped up a child, a little one who clearly knew him as evidenced by how tightly he wrapped his poofy little arms around his neck. There in the courtyard of a place known for broken relationships, I witnessed brokenness being redeemed.

big brother 2

Before all else, the boy who “looks weird” was searching for this little boy. He hugged him and spoke to him as I stood marveling at how he knew he could offer this child something no one else in that place could.

After a few minutes, he put him down and brought him to an ayi and then ran off to join his buddies racing around the yard on bikes way too small for their growing bodies but not unlike my own sons would do at home.

I added more notes to my binder that night.

Gentle. Compassionate. Would make a great big brother. Look for his file. This boy needs a family.

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His file has been found. He’s on the shared list right now which means any agency can show families his file. And, any family—no matter where they are in their adoption process—can hold and lock his file to move forward to make him their son. Feel free to email me at kraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org if you have questions about him or the adoption process or about an agency to help you. And, click HERE to read the letter he wrote only days ago for me to share with all of you.

Your permission slip

When I asked you how things were going, you started to cry. Through your tears, you told me how great your new son’s eye contact is, how he likes to be held, how he lets you know what he wants. You told me how everything is really so good, so much better than you were prepared for. But, you were still crying when you said that.

I imagine you were your social worker’s dream family. You dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts. Not only was every form filled out completely and perfectly, but you didn’t fuss about any of the training required. You were your agency’s star student, soaking up every minute of every training with paper and pen in hand, taking notes lest you forget something. Every recommended book is now part of your library with broken bindings and yellow highlights throughout. You can channel your inner Dan Siegel and Karyn Purvis and explain the attachment cycle and define time-ins to any captive audience. You’re it—the well-prepared, ready-to-go adoptive mom equipped with a full holster of every attachment-building tool there is.

And, then you adopted your son.

You remind me a little of that friend we all have, the one who went to Lamaze classes or the like and somehow heard the message—or simply chose to hear it—that if you learn all the breathing tricks and positions that labor and delivery would be relatively painless, that somehow her own learned skills and oxygen-inhaling prowess would trump the reality of biology.

Yeah…it doesn’t that work that way.

Here’s what just happened. You and your husband, quite comfortable and relatively confident in your parenthood experience to the one biological child you already had, grew your family again. That’s always hard. And, since you did that through this incredible adventure of adoption, you multiplied that hard exponentially. While it’s normal for a mom to feel overwhelmed and tired and totally consumed by her new child who needs her all the time, you feel all that and your new child is not a sleepy infant and your child doesn’t understand English and you are scared to death that all the anxiety and growing sense of oxygen-inhaling failure on your part is going to break down whatever foundations of attachment have been built and that your adoption fund is going to be replaced by a therapy fund to pay for all the additional trauma you are going to bring into your child’s life.

{take a deep breath right about….now}

Lydia-in-China-in-arms-1-265x398

All those rules and tools you’ve studied and prepped for—the babywearing, the cosleeping, the skin-to-skin contact, the commitment to be the only one to meet his every need, the keeping him within several feet at all times, the cocooning, the intentional regression—they are not the end all; rather, they are the means to an end with that end being relationship. That’s the most important thing. If those good rules and tools are so binding to you right now that they are actually hindering relationship, you have the permission to step away from the books and the blogs and the webinars and experience freedom as the mother God’s called you to be to your son. It’s not forever, but for now, find what it is that you need whether that is grocery store runs sans anyone under 3 feet tall, a break to go have coffee with a friend one afternoon, going back to your weekly women’s group with a sitter in your friend’s basement, or something else entirely different. Find what it is that you need so that you can get on track with building a relationship with your son rather than falling into a pattern of going through the motions that you think you need to do but growing seeds in you of fear, questions, and resentment—all of which are enemies to relationship.

Friend, this is hard, yes. But, you can do hard; you were made for hard. You are exactly what your son and your daughter need right now—in your frailty, in your weakness, in your tears.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly has a passion for supporting adoptive families, specifically to encourage parents to be intentional and understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for their hearts of their children. Kelly cofounded The Sparrow Fund with her husband Mark in 2011 to serve adoptive families. After a long time using her Master’s degree in counseling informally, Kelly recently joined the team at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA. Married to Mark since 1998, they have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed by the experience of adoption, and what life for them looks like on Kelly’s personal blog, My Overthinking.

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