Category Archives: Attachment


The Importance of a Family Code Word


Last month, our family went on a small trip, which included a very emotional, adoption-related event for one of our kids. In processing the event with him beforehand, I could tell it would be difficult, although meaningful, for him. The possibility of him becoming flooded with emotion was huge.

I told him the day before that we could have a secret code word that would let me know he was feeling overwhelmed and needed a change of scenery. He loved the idea and chose the word himself (I’ll use “butterfinger” as the example for this post). We went over it again the following morning, and he seemed to feel a sense of relief to be able to say one word to me or Matt, without his siblings or anyone else knowing, and we would help him get out of the situation immediately. We even practiced it, so he would see how easy it would be to say, “I wish I had a Butterfinger,” and we responded accordingly.

He didn’t use his code word that day. And I think knowing he could was part of the reason he didn’t need to.

He felt safe.

Since then we’ve had similar talks with our older child as well but for different reasons. At someone else’s house and feel uncomfortable for any reason? Call us and use the code word. We’ll come get you and talk about it later. Embarrassed to call us to get you out of an unhealthy situation because your buddies are there? Use the code word. We’ll figure it out.

We want our kids to feel safe- emotionally, physically, and spiritually. For us, part of that means the ability to communicate with us in a way that is private and reassuring to them.

There are many uses for a family code word:

1. To communicate emotional flooding in a public setting and privately express the need to get a breather. This is especially helpful with kids who struggle with anxiety- generalized or specific to certain triggers- or with kids who are in the midst of a very emotional time (e.g. at a funeral).

2. To let a parent know you need to get out of an unsafe situation. For us, this includes a general feeling of discomfort, even if they can’t explain why. We want them to learn to trust their “gut” and to know we trust them to make good decisions.

3. To let a parent know when you need help, even if you’ve created the problem yourself. As our kids get into adolescence, their freedom will increase. And so will the temptations around them. They will mess up. But if we can help them feel safe in coming to us, even in their sin (especially in their sin), we have a much better chance of decreasing their shame and helping them run to Jesus in the midst of it.

I bet there are many more ways we’ll use our code word(s) as our kids get older. Has your family ever used secret words? What worked for you?



Matt and Becca write about marriage, parenting, and life through the lens of a married couple, parenting team, and pastor and professional counselor. They share hope and restoration by giving a glimpse into their lives- the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. You can read more of their writing at WhitsonLife.

Adoption Reflections

When we first followed God’s call for adoption, we had an idea of what our family would look like, but God had a different one. Initially, my husband and I said we only wanted a little one as young as we could adopt without any special needs. Since I would never carry a child in my womb, we wanted to experience all those fun benchmarks parents enjoy with their children, and frankly special needs scared us. However, God kept pointing and dragging us toward the special needs, and the in the end, He opened our hearts to three precious children with hand and/or foot deformities who have transformed our lives in ways we could never have imagined.  

11181217_10107900757884744_498877627850055729_nSo our sweet little Grace Lihua entered our lives at 18 months old. She brought us great joy, and just like any other toddler, we had the opportunity to teach her English, experience the joys of potty training, etc. We have watched her grow in beauty both inside and out, way too fast! She is now six years old and continues to amaze me on daily.  




Then God did something crazy. Not crazy to Him, of course, but crazy to me. He brought an eight-year-old boy into our lives. My husband first saw his picture in an email from our adoption agency and simply sent me a text that said “I want him”.   

I’m gonna be honest with y’all. When I saw that text, I laughed, just like Sarah (Gen. 18:12). First of all, a text like this was very out of character for my husband. Second, there was no way I was going to adopt an eight-year-old boy. Think of all we had missed in his life. He wouldn’t speak English. How would he respond to discipline at the age of 8? Would he even want his life disrupted? I had any number of excuses and fears. But God had a different plan and He changed my heart. 

12189967_10107900757859794_3578549754294173009_nAnd so Anthony Jianyou became our son at the age of 8. It was by no means easy. The hardest thing for us was the language barrier. He wanted to talk with us, discuss things with us and vice versa, so we struggled for a while with a translator app, but God is faithful. This was His plan, not ours. I worked with Anthony daily, and after being immersed our lives, he learned English and our love grew and developed as did our ability to communicate. The things we learned about our sweet boy still bring tears to my eyes. He told us that while he was in China, he often wondered if there was someone out there greater than himself who loved him. Now his love for the Lord brings such joy to our hearts as does his heart for sharing God’s love with China.   

Our family still felt incomplete. We knew there was one more little girl waiting for her forever family.


Enter Eva Hanting. She was four at the time of her adoption and her transition has been the most difficult. She spoke a regional dialect so it was very difficult to communicate at first with her. She was unaccustomed to discipline and was very attached to her care givers. At four, she had a great desire to understand everything we asked of her so we struggled for a while, but now as we approach the one year mark with our precious girl, the change is remarkable. For the first time, this past week, she told me that she now liked America and did not want to go back to China. This is a huge step for her. And she truly has the desire now to obey us with a happy heart. Oh, and did I mention she is basically fluent now in English.  

No adoption is easy, Whether it is a older child adoption or a baby, there will be ups and downs and joy and pain, but oh the rewards and beauty of seeing their lives changed forever. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families . . . ”  Psalm 68:5-6a 



Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband Adam to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai, and Eva Hanting joined their family in May of 2015 from the Hunan Province. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to work part time as a Pilates instructor while home schooling their children and working as a part of the WAGI leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.


Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.


She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

Beauty 2

Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

BEauty 3

In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

Beauty 4

So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.








thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at 

But What About Our Other Kids?

“But what about our other kids?”


I hear that question all the time. I’ve asked it myself. And honestly, I think that’s part of being a good parent. We want what’s best for our kids, and we wonder what adding children to our families through foster care or adoption would be like for them.


Although I can’t speak for all families or children, I want to tell you a little about our experiences over the last two years. Although our youngest son was adopted, we received him as an infant, and our oldest was only two. As far as we can tell, the adjustment for everyone in that case was much like if I’d given birth for a second time. Over the last year, however, things have been very different.


When our 4 ½- year old daughter came to our family in November of 2016, she’d been in several families and had experienced things our boys never have. She comes from a place of hurt, just as many children in this country and around the world do. We didn’t know what it would be like for the boys to have a new sister with a different background, different race, and different behaviors. And those were legitimate concerns.


It’s been rough. They have struggled to love her, and at times, to even be kind to her. They’ve felt jealous and angry by the amount of attention she has required from us. They’ve been annoyed and confused by some of her behaviors, and I’ve heard several times, “I just wish it could be like it was before.”


I’ve had days where I’ve felt like I was in a constant counseling session… with my own children. I went from one room to the next listening and empathizing and talking and praying. But we’ve seen the light.


Do they still fight? Yes, like most kids probably do. Do they still get jealous? Absolutely. Sibling rivalry is alive and well. But now, they function as three siblings, not as two brothers and a stranger who moved in one Friday.


I was looking at Project Zero’s website a few months ago, and my kids came to sit by me. They saw a sibling group of five and another of two and asked about them. I explained that the kids needed a family, and do you know what they said?

“We can do that! Let’s go get them.” Then they tried to convince me that having two (or five!) more kids wouldn’t be a big deal at all. Bless ‘em.


God is working in their hearts.


Last year, our oldest son brought home an assignment from school that God used to show me He’s already redeeming our daughter’s pain and the difficulties we’ve all experienced through these years.



Matt and Becca write about marriage, parenting, and life through the lens of a married couple, parenting team, and pastor and professional counselor. They share hope and restoration by giving a glimpse into their lives- the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. You can read more of their writing at WhitsonLife.

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. 


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.

Adoption Truths: Grief


We will all experience it at some point in our lives. It is the part of our experience here on earth, but seeing one so small experience grief breaks my heart.
Our sweet Eva has been a part of our family for six months now (see my gotcha day blog post {{{HERE}}}). Over the last few months there has been transition, pain, joy and the mere busyness of life. From homeschooling to Pilates to bonding with Eva, I will be honest and say the last few of months have been exhausting and overwhelming at times. But each day is better than the last with Eva.
Today I am sharing with you what it has been like to walk with my sweet girl on this journey of grief in hope of providing encouragement where it is needed and hope to those about to walk a similar journey.
Many days are a roller coaster of emotion for Eva as she traverses the stages of grief as well learning how to be a part of our family. She gets frustrated when we don’t understand her and angry when we discipline her. There are days when she is happy all day and days when she is sad and angry, asking when she will see her China family. I have had to explain numerous times that we are her forever family, but that is hard for her to understand. And of course, a nap can work wonders on the difficult days.
There are so many things for her to learn and and comprehend at the young age of four:
  • what does obedience look like in our family
  • how to fit in and play with her new siblings
  • the realization that she is not going back to her foster family in China
  • the fact that we love her and that she will never be taken away from us
  • meeting new people all the time
  • who are all these people interested in her
  • English

This list could go on and on.

Stop for a moment and think about what is would feel like to experience all this and then think about what it would feel like to one so young. How would you react in the same situation?
But interspersed throughout her pain, sadness and sometimes defiance is joy. Those are the moments where we see the real Eva letting go and letting love in. And it is in those moments that I can hear God whisper to me, “patience, my child. I am ever patience with you, be patient with her, hold her, comfort her, discipline her and above all LOVE HER!”
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”
As Eva’s grasp of the English language grows, so does my ability to ease her fears and answer her questions. It is a beautiful thing to watch her open up her heart a little more each day to us. She wants to be a part of our family and has so much love to give but it is hard for her little heart to let go of the family that loved and cared for her for the first 4 years of her life.
“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”



Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband Adam to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai, and Eva Hanting just joined their family in May from the Hunan Province. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to work part time as a Pilates instructor while home schooling their children and working as a part of the WAGI leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.


“Dad, I’ve Gotten Myself into a Little Trouble”

It happened almost every weekday around 6:30 and it was one of the most touching things I have had the privilege to witness. It is a picture of adoption really—simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

Our three boys, all recently home from a Russian orphanage, would climb up on the wooden fence in front of our house and just look down the road. I remember the first time they did it I wondered what they were up to. (Back in those early days of adoption I wondered that a whole lot!!)

And the oldest, still speaking only Russian, pointed down the road and said something about “Papa”—being super bright I was able to translate that right away!  And I recognized “waiting,” a Russian word I had learned, along with lots of other mommy vocabulary like “brush your teeth,” “I love you,” “be careful,” “time for bed,” “don’t do that!” ……. not to mention a few cuss words that our children would repeat when angry. Wondering what in the world they were saying, I asked a Russian speaking friend to translate. Yikes!

Over the years there have been many moments like that one, the kind of moments that compel you to reach for your camera in hopes that you can somehow hold on to the warmth and beauty of it all. I didn’t get a photo of my boys waiting for their Papa back then, but I see them still and think, “That right there is what adoption is all about— that child has a Daddy to wait for at the end of the day.”
scanned orphanage photos004_2

And when I think about these children, who once were orphans standing at a different fence watching people who weren’t their parents drive away, I am overwhelmed.

But my understanding about what is beautiful has changed, or more accurately has expanded, since those early days of the Papa-lookout. God has been teaching me to see the beauty and power of adoption in what at first look (and even second and third look!) appears to be only ugly.

Let me explain by telling you another adoption story, although if you are like me you may not recognize it as beautiful.

A few years ago my husband and I traveled to Texas to be with his mother, who was having surgery. Leaving our seven children, all older teens and young adults by this time, made us a bit nervous since a few of them were not doing too well. Just as Stephen’s mother was being wheeled back into her hospital room after surgery his phone rang. Such bad timing, as so many parenting moments are!

As soon as I saw his face I knew two things: it was one of our children, and it wasn’t good.

I was right.

“Dad, it looks like I’ve gotten myself into a little bit of trouble,” he says.

He was making this call from jail.

The details aren’t necessary, but I will tell you I was so angry. I felt deeply disappointed, deeply discouraged, and deeply weary of the battle.

And I could only see the ugly in this.

A few hours later I was able to take the time to pray, which began with me complaining to The Lord, and then asking Him once again to please tell us what to do to help our son heal and live in the freedom of sonship.

And as is always the way with God, He answered my desperate question with a life-giving response, so different from what I was looking for.

“But Beth, this is a SON who has a DADDY to call when he has ‘gotten himself into a little bit of trouble.’”

Just that.

One sentence that completely changed my perspective and transformed what was ugly into something truly moving.

What felt like yet another failure, of my son and of our parenting, became a powerful picture of adoption.

For this was no orphan.

This was a SON.

Who had a FATHER.

This was simple, deeply moving, and truly beautiful.

This, my fellow adopters, is what adoption is all about. It isn’t what I had dreamed of when we brought our children home 17 years ago, and it has cost us more than we ever imagined, but it is the work of the Father’s love played out in all of our lives.

It is what adoption is all about.

Beth Templeton

Beth Templeton

Beth has been married to her husband Stephen for 27 years. They have seven children, ages 18-24. Several years after giving birth to three girls God called their family to the adventure and blessing of adoption. In 2000, they brought home a brother and sister, ages 5 and 10, from Russia. Then they returned to the same orphanage 18 months later and brought home two more brothers, ages 7 and 10. Beth’s heart has been deeply and forever changed as she has watched the love of Father God poured out on her whole family through adoption. She leads Hope at Home, a ministry dedicated to help adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father’s heart for their families, partnering with God to transform orphans into sons and daughters. For more parenting insight and encouragement in the Lord, go to Hope at Home.



We hit a big milestone in our house last month. After being home for over 9 months, Dumpling slept in his very own big boy bed in his very own room shared with Gēgē! This was huge! Before now, he had been sleeping on a toddler bed in our bedroom to foster attachment. It worked well for us because we were able to keep him close, but we still got to sleep as husband and wife. I know many families co-sleep, which I think is a wonderful choice. But I personally like my bed to be my bed, so a toddler bed was a perfect alternative.

web 1

We started with the toddler bed pushed up against my side so that we could hold hands as he fell asleep. Once he was asleep, I’d gently pull my hand away and tiptoe out to spend a little time with my hubby before going to bed myself. A white noise machine helped too. I still came back to bed pretty early in the beginning though, so Dumpling could reach up and touch me for reassurance if he woke up.

After a few months, we let go a little and moved the toddler bed across the room so he could still see us. This gave us some freedom, but still kept him close for attachment purposes. If he woke up, he looked to make sure we were still there, and then he went back to sleep. Once he started saying our names, he’d sometimes call out for us too. I remember thinking about how precious that sound was the first few times I heard it.

Toward the end of the summer, we began staying with him until he was almost asleep. This eventually worked up to a more typical bedtime, when we said goodnight right after all the rituals had been completed and he was still awake. It was a very natural progression and his laid back personality made for few sleeping issues. I know sleeping can bring huge anxiety for many children from hard places, but fortunately Dumpling hasn’t been one of those children.

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It wasn’t always easy having him in our room though, especially on the mornings we wanted to sleep a little extra and he woke up at 4am. Or another child came into our room for some reason, and accidentally woke Dumpling up too. But overall, it went very well and I wouldn’t do anything different. I am so thankful we were able to spend that time sharing a room with our son. Especially because of his difficult past, we were very intentional about cocooning him from the world and other adults. Sleeping in the same room was one more way we could foster attachment and bring him closer to us.

But when the time came for him to become a little more independent and move into his very own big boy bed in a room shared with Gēgē, our whole family celebrated and his eyes beamed with utter joy. He pointed to all of his blankets and pillows and loveys with pride, asking, “Mine?” for each one. The answer of “yes” every time made him smile even bigger. He took ownership of his new bed immediately and loved every moment. It was a precious sight indeed.

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I will admit that I don’t think he needed to sleep in our room for so long, as children sometimes do. I think he would have been fine if we had put him in his big boy bed the first night we were home. Obviously I can’t be sure, but his easy-going personality suggests this may have been the case. Regardless of how he would have done though, we wanted to foster attachment in any way we could. It’s difficult to teach who mom and dad are with very little verbal communication, so it had to come in the form of actions instead of words. That also meant not allowing any physical touch with all adults for a long time, in addition to keeping him close at home.

Although he is gaining independence and we’ve opened up his world when appropriate, we still keep some experiences and new adults at a safe distance, even at 10 months home. He likes new people and affection a little too much still, so we are working intentionally about teaching appropriate physical boundaries. I don’t know how long that will continue, but I do know that cocooning and intentionally limiting him has paid off in huge ways. He loves us as his mommy, daddy, jiějiě, gēgē, and jiějiě. And we sure love him to the moon and back. I am so incredibly thankful that God chose me to be this boy’s mama. It’s a true joy to watch him grow into the person that his Heavenly Father intends him to be.

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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.


The Marvel of Language Acquisition and Adoption Realities

“I need to go potty.” said a precious little voice said near me.
“What?!” I replied, with more excitement than the normal for a jaunt to the potty while out and about.

My Sweet Silly Girl Rocking Her New Bangs!

This was our Eva’s first grammatically correct complete sentence, made on July 30, 2015.

As we reached the three month mark, she began putting two or three words together as well as some whole complete sentences, out of the blue, without a question asked of her. Now that we are at five months home, her understanding and grasp of the English language astounds me. I’m so proud of her work at learning and understanding a language that was completely foreign to her! Now, as her language increases, we have reached the greater frustration stage. She wants to be understood and have conversations, but there are still big pieces missing from her sweet little mind. Imagine what it would be like at our age to go a new country, wanting to interact but having no way to communicate. Imagine a child having to deal with that and being ripped from everything she has ever known.

Eva amazes me. Her ability to remember English vocabulary astounds me. I will tell her something and she repeats it a few times, with great pronunciation I might add, and remembers it! Oh to have the mind of a young child!

One of my favorite things she says quite frequently is “Nope!” Not “no”, NOPE!!

While the English language acquisition is going well, there are, of course, still struggles with discipline. This is the most difficult part of the transition on this adoption, that and her sadness over the loss of her foster family. Imagine being four years old, ripped from a safe and loving environment and then not only being asked to adjust and live with people who speak a different language but to also behave. I think we can all agree it would be hard. She gets frustrated daily which is completely understandable. She is also at the age where she sees things as black and white and needs clear direction but there is that tricky language barrier. We also definitely do things different from what she experienced in the foster home at the orphanage and require a certain level of respect that she is not used to as yet. She has a such a sweet spirit but is also constantly testing us (as toddlers do). “This is my toy, why should I share? I’ve never had my own toy, I don’t want to share. I want things on my own terms.” But by the grace of God, she is learning.

Our adoption journey has been unique to each child. Grace was only 18 months when we adopted her so she never learned Mandarin and was easily guided with discipline as she learned English.

Anthony was 8 when we brought him home so he was reading, writing and speaking fluently in Mandarin. The biggest struggle for him was the frustration over communication. He wanted to talk things through and it was so difficult with our translation app, but God guided us.   It was much harder for him to grasp the structure of our sentences and to remember vocabulary. But, when you speak to him now, you would never know! He has done an amazing job of learning English and we have crossed a threshold with his Chinese as well. He can now think independently in one and switch over the other language with having to translate in his head like he was before. I’m so proud of him.

This is just a brief look into our adoption journeys. God has been with us every step of the way and I am so thankful for His constant care and provision. We are excited to see what the journey ahead holds us for as Eva continues to bond with us as family. Every day is better and our love grows daily.

Last Friday of Summer!!


First Day of Our Homeschool Coop!


After  Coop!



Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for 5 years, God led Suzanne and her husband Adam to His Plan A for their lives—adoption! Their daughter, Grace Lihua, came into their lives in 2011 from the Fujian Province, China. Their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai, and Eva Hanting just joined their family in May from the Hunan Province. After a career in politics, Suzanne is thankful for God’s provision in their lives that now allows her to work part time as a Pilates instructor while home schooling their children and working as a part of the WAGI leadership team. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.


This is Adoption {Summer Flashback}

I remember the yellow hue of the hospital lights in Moscow. Not the warm, buttery kind of yellow that warms you up inside, but the dingy kind. The kind too dark to usher the relief that light usually brings into the dark.

I was there with my husband John, a translator, and our newly adopted son Arie. He wasn’t sick. We were there for his visa exam: the one that would grant us permission to go home.

For me and for John this was a momentous step forward: one of the last details to check off our long but dwindling list that would make our adoption complete.

For Arie this trip to the hospital was terrifying. He whimpered in my lap, fighting back the urge to cry with as much courage as his two-year-old body could muster. I held him tight, reassuring him as best I could as a relative stranger with a foreign tongue.

“It’s the smell,” said our translator, trying to explain the fear on our usually happy boy’s face. “It reminds him of getting his shots.”

Indeed, it did smell like alcohol swaps in that waiting area. Our translator whispered some encouraging words to Arie in Russian. He started sucking his thumb feverishly.

When at last it was our turn to see the doctor our boy’s demeanor turned around. The crinkle of the paper on the exam table and the happy tickles from the jolly Russian doctor distracted him from his fear. He laughed! Soon the exam was over and we were on our way back to our temporary apartment. Ever closer to home.

Two years have passed since that day, but I remain forever changed. Forever changed for having witnessed the inner turmoil of a child scared and alone. My husband and I were there with him of course, but oh how little Arie knew of us. He called us Mama and Papa, yet had no way to know what those names truly meant. He didn’t know we were going to be with him forever; to him we might have been two more faces in his ever changing sea of caregivers.

Today Arie knows exactly what Mama and Papa mean. He knows we are forever. He knows he is safe and secure. Just this morning I took him to the dentist and rather than wail in terror as he did at first, he climbed into the dental chair and laid back without hesitation. He giggled as the hygienist “tickled” his teeth with raspberry flavored toothpaste, glancing occasionally in my direction with a goofy grin.
These days when he is scared, Arie searches out my comfort. A normal action for most kids; a milestone for those who have had a lonely start like his. In the night, if he wakes up in the dark he cries out for me and my husband. Those suppressed whimpers we heard at the Moscow hospital have been replaced with loud cries for help. Where my foreign words formerly provided him with little relief, my simple presence is now his favorite comfort. He falls against my chest; the sound of my heart and the whisper of my voice quiet his wailing. He sighs deeply and snuggles in.


This is adoption. This is a picture of redemption. This is something that was lost, found. Broken, put back together. Injured, healed.


Adoption is not easy. Not for the child, not for the parents. When I say that I have been forever changed, I mean it. My eyes have been opened to a world I would rather have not seen. I know that today there are thousands of children just like my son who wait. Hundreds, at least, who have been brought to hospitals not by new parents and not for a simple visa exam, but by a nanny or caregiver- maybe known, maybe not- sick or for surgery or an extended stay.

The caregiver will leave when her shift is over and a new one take her place. Or maybe not. Maybe the child will be left alone, under the care of nurses and doctors who have to check his chart to remember his name. They do their best, I know it- those caregivers and medical staff- but they are not Mom. They are not the one he really needs to walk him through his fear. Not the ones to hold him in his time of need.

We do not adopt out of obligation or sympathy. We adopt because we long to hold the hand of the one who needs us. Because every child deserves to know the love of a family. We adopt because we were made to live for more than ourselves. Because we know what it means to be redeemed. We adopt because in Christ we know what it is to have been chosen.

We love because he first loved us.

Do you have more love to give?



Jillian Burden is still adjusting to this beautiful thing called motherhood; she and her husband are parents to a son by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not have expanded, her heart and her faith sure grew as her family did! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.