Wayland {China Trip – Advocating}

I’d like to introduce you to a precious 7 year old boy.  His name is Wayland, and he’s amazing.  He delights in simple pleasures and always has a smile on his face.  He is joyful, friendly, affectionate, thoughtful, social, tender, and incredibly patient.  And he’s waiting for his family to find him.

I had the immense pleasure of meeting sweet Wayland.  He had such a positive attitude and a palpable zeal for life.  He smiled and laughed and looked into my eyes warmly.  He sought me out and called me ayi without prompting.  He affectionately hugged me and sweetly laid his head on my shoulder.  He talked to me during our time together, despite my limited understanding of Mandarin.  That didn’t hold him back though.  He taught me new words while patiently repeating each syllable over until I got it right.  Such a smart boy and a terrific teacher!  When he wanted something, he used words to ask respectfully, but accepted no when I couldn’t say yes.  He asked me to pick him up so he could get a better look at new sights, and he was curious about everything that he saw.  Handsome Wayland was a complete gentleman during our time together.

His repaired congenital heart defect does not hold him back – he is energetic and runs everywhere!  He has way more energy than I do!  He can dress and feed himself, use the bathroom alone, and understand directions.  He also sometimes helps the nannies with chores.  He goes to school at the orphanage, and is taught by a wonderful teacher who really cares for the children.  He is working on typical age-appropriate skills, and can speak in complete sentences.  He can sing preschool songs and loves to join in with games.  He appears to be at age-level for most skills.  He seems well-attached to his nannies and loves being social with the other children in the orphanage.

Sweet Wayland needs a family!  I truly feel that whoever has the privilege of becoming his family will be incredibly blessed.  He is a precious boy, but needs the title of son!  He is designated Special Focus and is currently with Madison Adoption Associates.  They have video and more pictures to review.  Also, up to $2000 in grants are available for his adoption fees!  Please, if you are at all nudged to find out more about Wayland, email Sarah Hansen at Sarah@MadisonAdoption.org.


NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

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In My Heart Forever {China Trip}

I’m home.  And I’ve been awake since 3am thanks to jet lag.  I gave up trying to fall back to sleep at 4:30am, and finally got out of bed.  With the children from the orphanage taking over my dreams, and their precious little faces dancing across my closed eyelids, I knew it was a lost cause.  While everyone else on this side of the world rests, I am wrestling with what I experienced and captured through my camera this past week.

Thinking of the children and the reality of their daily lives brings me to my knees.  While I can drink coffee without boiling water first, and write a blog post without a sometimes-working, buggy VPN, the children are most likely finishing up dinner halfway across the world.  While I will soon hug and kiss my beloved little ones good morning, and tell them how much I love them, the children will prepare for bedtime with no mama and baba to tuck them in and tell them how much they are adored and so very worthy.  While they sleep, my day will carry on in the peace and warm serenity of my home and church, surrounded by my treasured family and friends.  And some variation of my comfortable life will play out every day while the children in the orphanage remain inexplicably grateful and joyful and happy, despite all that they’re missing.

The incredible disparity of our worlds is almost too much to fathom.

I was invited into a community of His people that I didn’t know before.  A community that’s real, even though it’s easy to ignore because it seems so distant and far away.  A small community of His children who are hurting and longing for mamas and babas of their very own.  A community of His nannies who give their very best every day to help the children live and grow.  But even their very best simply isn’t enough because there are too many children and not enough of them.  Because nothing replaces the love and belonging of a family.

I think of precious Wayland and the way the Father literally put him in front of me, despite my ability to remain emotionally unattached behind my lens.  My job as photographer makes it easy to observe from a distance.  It’s a role that I’m comfortable playing because it allows me to stay focused and complete the task at hand.  It’s the role that I signed up for when I said yes to this trip – to document our time and bring home pictures of waiting children to help them find families.

Though I wanted to be open to what the Father had waiting for me during this trip, I did not expect to fall as hard as I did.  He wrecked me.  Not just for Wayland, but for all of the children.  For the nannies.  Although I was the designated photographer on the trip, the Father used the short time in mighty ways to show me why I was really on that trip.  Despite myself, I got to see a small glimpse of His love for all of His children.  To understand what’s truly important.  Not medical diagnoses or adoption files or questioning whether a nanny is feeding children the right way.

But people.  Loving people is what’s important.  No matter their status or special need.  Orphan, nanny, or otherwise.  That’s what He wanted me to see.  Because the Father wants all of us to be adopted as His sons and daughters.  And He’ll use anyone to accomplish His mission, if we just humbly offer ourselves to be available.

As Mike Foster wrote in his book, People of the Second Chance, “Bring what you have, no matter what it looks like.  His standards are embarrassingly low, and he will work with everything you’re willing to put into his hands.  You are imperfect, but you can be perfectly loved and perfectly used by him.” (pg. 30)  I’m resting in that truth this morning.  As I reflect on this past week and try my hardest to make good on my promise to Wayland, my prayer is that He perfectly loves and uses me and all of my team members, despite our imperfectness.


NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

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Celebrating 2016 and Anticipating 2017


It’s what we’re about.

Magnifying the good. Whether we’re walking alongside families here or children and caregivers on the other side of the world, we want to focus on the future and the hope that is written all over it and encourage others to do the same.

In 2016, we blessed 13 adoptive families through grants so they could get the counsel and support they need as they grow their families through adoption. We also started a new grant specific to families adopting children domestically, the Avery Madison grant, and awarded our first 2 grants to families building their families through domestic adoption. We cared for over 100 couples at Together Called and many more throughout the year. Our board became further trained and equipped so we can better care for those families. We took a team of 14 to an orphanage in China to train caregivers to help them see the importance of relationship and use opportunities to build relationships with children and each other. And, we have loved hard. We’ve loved our team well. We’ve loved the One who called us to this work. And, we’ve sought to love well all those He has placed before us.

2016 was a good year.

And, 2017 is filled with hope and anticipation of more beautiful things.

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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.


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.


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.

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Gift ideas for the 2017 world traveler

Want a few little suggestions of what very well may be perfect additions to put under the tree for someone who is heading to China with us 🙂 or somewhere else around the world in 2017? Here are a few of our personal favorites to get you started.


screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-52-06-amAfter using packing cubes, you may never go back. They aren’t much money and work so well for organizing your packing as well as allowing you to pack way more than you think will fit in your luggage which is always important. This blue set is a good option as it comes with some pretty spiffy extras.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.25.55 PMA luggage scale is a must have because that 50 lb. international luggage weight limit comes fast and the 44 lb. limit for a domestic flight in China comes even faster. At least one luggage scale for someone on a team of travelers is essential for packing and repacking in China. Here are two of our favorites–this one from EatSmart or this one from Balanzza.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-04-22-pmWe love Timbuk2 bags in general. And, this Q laptop backpack is our favorite China carry-on bag. It’s great on the flight, at the pearl market, and at the orphanage. All that several times over, and it will still look essentially brand new.



China travelers need a passport holder, preferably one that can hold an envelope of crisp, brand-new-looking $100 bills without them having to be folded. This one from Ideawin for cards, passport, pen, travel documents, and even phone is awesome. It zips shut, has the wristlet thing, and comes in some pretty fun colors.

Yes, these tags are obnoxiously bright. But, that’s the point. Baggage claim is way easier with a couple obnoxiously bright luggage tags. These colors and the grippy texture are perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 6.07.21 PMWhen traveling to China, you really only need a plug adapter (not an electric converter) for your computer, phone, iPad, and camera charger. They can handle the voltage and just need the right type of plug. Trust us when we say travelers shouldn’t bother with bringing a hair dryer and/or flat iron to use with a converter. It’ll probably be destroyed within a day or two because the voltage is just too much (and you don’t want to burn your hotel down or anything).
We know this TRTL travel pillow is kind of odd. But, what travel pillow doesn’t look a bit odd? And, when you are on a flight for 13 odd hours, odd is just fine. Whatever works. And, this one does. We should be getting freebies from this company for how many we’ve promoted and sold. We like that it is cozy and that it isn’t some big fluffy thing that you wear around the airport or have to tie onto your bag that can and will get filthy.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-58-43-pmNothing is better in a stocking than more stockings. And, these
Yaktrax cabin socks are nice ones. Put them in your carryon for when you want to get a bit more comfortable on that forever long flight.





screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-07-54-pmAlways a welcome stocking stuffer. A Starbucks gift card is great for the airport before departing and when you only have one more flight to go before home. That decaf caramel macchiato or green tea latte just tastes even sweeter then.

Bathrooms in China often have sinks but no soap. This mini container has teeny tissue-like sheets of soap that are perfect for such situations when using hand sanitizer just isn’t what you want.

This is also a handy stocking stuffer for the China traveler–travel sized, concentrated laundry soap. Then you can wash clothes to rewear what you need to and spot clean the spots you get from eating with chopsticks.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-16-15-pmEvery China traveler needs something to bring order to plug adapters, iPad chargers, phone charges, headphones, etc. There are lots of them out there. But, this one from Bagsmart looks like a good one with its bold colors so you can spot it easily in the depth of your suitcase or carryon.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-21-50-pmA toiletry bag is essential, and we prefer hanging ones to keep them from sitting in icky water on a bathroom counter. Grab this inexpensive one from NeatPack in a fun color.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-53-24-pmSometimes you just get tired of drinking bottled water and room temperature Coke. Having a couple of these Crystal Light liquid things in your bag for such occasions makes staying hydrated a bit more tolerable.



Melatonin is your friend. And, it will make a good stocking stuffer that someone thanks you for later.






screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-30-55-pmAmylee Weeks is a talented designer. This journal is one of her designs, and we love it for a travel journal. Check out what the inside pages look like. They are inspiring but leave plenty of room for thoughts and doodles as you go and go deeper.





Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 7.21.57 PMOkay, so these are super expensive. we know. And, likely nobody’s buying these noise-canceling headphones as a gift since they have a high price tag. But, we had to share them because they are LIFE CHANGING. Seriously. If you have $250 to spare, get these. The plane ride and train rides and bus rides and long taxi rides are entirely different with these babies. You’re welcome.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-37-20-pmPlease don’t buy this for your China trip. It’s a post-China trip need. Every hotel room has an electric kettle to heat and clean water (no tea needed, just hot water). And, after China, you’re going to want one of your own. this one by Oster is great and the blue light is so nice in the wee hours of the morning.





A very special gift is a sterling silver charm like this one from Jiayin Designs with a special word or phrase to wear before, during, and after your China trip. You do have to think ahead to give the gift of this charm–they take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to arrive. But, they are so unique and will be sure to become an heirloom.

Don’t forget the gift idea of books about China travel, culture, adoption, etc…..

Be sure to check these out:

These links are Amazon affiliate links. What that is an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Use the links in this post at no cost to you and know that when you shop using them, we’ll get a small kick back to support what we do. 

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