Category Archives: Celebrating Your Child’s Heritage

Celebrating Chinese holidays and heritage

Life Books – Memories Forever

Life Book 2

I have always been a memory keeper whether it be writing in a journal, saving boxes of letters and photos, or making scrapbooks. Keeping stories has been super important.

When the big girls were young, I became a Creative Memories consultant in an effort to do three things. 1. Create their books. 2. Create them at cost. 3. Help others catch my passion to be a memory keeper as well. I was successful at all and I have shelves of beautiful scrapbooks to prove it.

Then life happened and six little ones came home to their forever family so creating everything from scratch fell by the wayside. I could NOT print all those photos, collect all those supplies, and keep the mess out all the time. It was at this time I began writing my blog and scrapbook as I knew it came to an end.

I began printing my blog each year and those books became my scrapbooks of memories.

As the littles came home I knew I wanted to create a Life Book just for them. It would make a way for them to ‘go back’ and remember ‘their China’.  The books have done just that. None of my children really remember their time before us but their books sure help them think they do. They are their all time favorite books too. Not a day goes by that one of them doesn’t pull it off the shelf and want me to tell them THEIR story. It is fun for them to compare stories and see how the miracle of adoption has made us a family.

Giving them back a part of their China story was very important to me and now one of their most precious possessions.

5 Steps to Make a Life Book:

  1. Make up your mind to do it: This might seem like a no brainer but certainly makes a difference in the time set aside to do so.
  2. Gather all photos into one place: It is more doable when you spend some time getting organized like gathering all photos needed for the project into one folder on your computer.
  3. Create an account in Shutterfly: Creating an account is a good place to start and will be used through all future projects.
  4. Work on the book in batches: I find adding all the photos first is best. Then editing each one before adding the story. I include most all the photos of life in China before adoption, the time we were in country adopting, and some of the first weeks newly home.
  5. Tell the story as if speaking to your child: This story is for them and telling it as if speaking to them sure makes reading it special. Reading together when they are young will strengthen attachment and when older it will build confidence of their story.

As I was finishing up HollyMei’s life book last night I found myself taking screenshots galore for a tutorial to show you how to make one. This morning it dawned on me to make a video tutorial so I messaged my sweet friend Lisa Furey because she is the guru of everything. I have taken several classes from her so she shared with me how to make my own tutorial. Thanks Lisa!!!

Video Tutorial to Make a Life Book at Shutterfly:

PS. I thought you might need to see how large the photos show up in the book once published so here is a few pages from EC’s Life Book~

Life Book 1

I sure hope this helps you decide to take the plunge and get publishing! I promise your kids will feel so very loved because of it!!!


2015-11-12-16.43.29-2Shay Ankerich is mom to nine going on ten kids (seven from China), wife to Scott, and a homeschooling mom.  She loves Jesus, adoption, blogging, reading, photography, and crocheting. She might even be writing a book but it seems to be taking a lifetime to finish. You can find her writing at A Beautiful Symphony about Family, Home, Adoption, and School.

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.


Her Birthday #top10ofalltime

Lydia is 2 today. And, I didn’t expect to feel the way I do.

For a Raudenbush child, a birthday means a bedroom door decorated with streamers and balloons when he or she wakes up in the morning. It means a meal of their choice, some fun activities, some sort of party, gifts, a celebration of them all day long. In fact, they think about it pretty much year round, looking forward to their day, making lists of game ideas, themes, gift ideas.

And, for me, their birthdays mean remembering. I remember being pregnant with them and my labor and delivery. I remember those first moments holding them, studying their faces, memorizing their cry.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I feel like I do today.

We are celebrating Lydia with the streamers, balloons, gifts, a special meal, and all that. But, I am also grieving that I cannot remember those first moments with my child. I didn’t know them.

A sweet friend gave birth to her second baby last week, a beautiful baby girl. Another friend and I went to the hospital the next day to see her and meet the baby. The mommy was glowing as she shared her birth story. We doted on that little girl, admiring every wrinkle of her brow and how sweetly folded up she still was. We looked at her expressions closely—“Oh, I think she just looked like her big brother,” “Did you see that? She really looked like her daddy when she made that face.”

I’m thinking of that visit today, wondering what it was like for my daughter’s birth mother today 2 years ago. I know I can’t romanticize the event. I do not know what her situation was; I just know that she and the birth father could not keep her. But, I do wonder. I wonder if they loved her the moment they first saw her. I wonder if she nursed her and cradled her close. I wonder if they saw themselves in her and laughed about her strength even as a newborn. I wonder what they named her.

I cannot tell Lydia today how long I was in labor with her, what the doctors said when she was born, how Daddy cried when she finally was born and she screamed for her first breath.

But, I can tell her what we were doing that day.

We joined the special needs program. On March 10, 2 years ago, after waiting nearly 2 years in the healthy child program, Mark and I sent an email to our agency with our application to join their program to adopt a special needs child—a step of faith we quietly took. We told them: “We feel like we need to open to the child God has for us. We do not know if she is in the sn program or not. But, we are opening ourselves to that possibility.” In another email I sent that day to an adoptive mom, I said, “We want to be open to what God may have for us, but this sure is scary.” And, it was.

I cannot tell Lydia about her first moments. I long to know what they were but have accepted that I most likely never will. But, I can share with her our story on her birthday and how God laid it on our hearts that very day to join the program that would lead us eventually to be a family.

We prayed this morning together as a family as we always do. We thanked God for Lydia, for her life, and for her birth family. We thanked Him that they protected her, that they cared for her as they did and made sure she’d be cared for 15 days later when they knew they could not do that any more. We prayed for them today that if they knew what day it was and if they are thinking about their little girl and missing her, that the Lord our God would comfort them and somehow allow them to know in their hearts that she is loved and secure.

Happy birthday, our sweet Lydia. Thank you, God, for this child.


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 has a Master’s degree in counseling and has been working with adoptive families since she and her husband Mark founded the The Sparrow Fund. 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.

No Debate #top10ofalltime

This post has been being written over and over again in my brain several times over the last few months. Last night I couldn’t sleep at all over it, so it’s time to get it out and put it to rest so I can get some rest! Way to often recently, an ugly debate has been raising its head on social network sites and quite honestly, I believe it grieves the Lord, and fuels the enemy’s fire to steal kill and destroy.

Domestic Adoption
International Adoption

If you have sensitive toes, you may want to stop reading about now. Because some things just need to be said.

First of all:

This is an argument we should NOT be having.

Disunity in the Body of Christ is a disgrace to the Lord. John 17:23 says that by our unity, the world will know that we are Christians and they would know how much we love people. Ephesians 4:13 says that unity is a sign of maturity. We are immature believers if we are arguing over this issue. We are NOT showing the world Jesus and we are NOT showing the world how much He loves them. If you want to talk to a family about their motivations behind one or the other, do it in private. I am 100% willing to bet that you will come to complete understand about their reasoning. At the end of the day, this argument only brings DISTRACTION from the real issue….every child deserves a family. And the enemy is having a party if he can take the focus off these children, and onto one another and ridiculous arguing.


No one child is more deserving than another.

I have worked for an adoption agency for 5 years now. The first three were spent in the domestic program. Over the course of that 3 years, I got to be in the delivery room 32 times to welcome precious children into this world. I took custody of 32 babies and handed over the majority of those tiny, squirming infants into the arms of adoptive mamas and daddies. I helped new parents figure out infant car seats and walked sobbing birth mothers out of the hospital and drove them home. Often times, the birth mom didn’t want to see the newborn. I spent many hours, in empty L&D rooms, with fresh newborns, rocking and praying over them, assuring them that they had a family coming. And they always did. More often than not, I was in tears as well just watching the process.
Those babies are just as orphaned as the ones in China. They are no more deserving of a family……and to say, “why go overseas when you can adopt right here in your neighborhood” is a very western, selfish, american, ugly, thing to say.

NO one child is more deserving than another.

I dare you to look at my children and say that they were less deserving because they were born in China. I bet not one person who has made that statement above would believe that if they spent one hour with my kids. Adoption is a picture of the very gospel….and to say one person is more deserving than another is a slap in the face to our call to care for the orphan. People who make this debate would never comment on a missionaries post and say, “why are you going to serve overseas when there are people right here who need Jesus?” Doesn’t that sound absurd? It sounds just as absurd when you ask it of the orphan.


Families go where God calls them.
Why did we adopt from China?
We had children there.
The Lord made that crystal clear.
We would’ve gone to China, Africa, Arkansas, or the North Pole if the Lord had asked us to. The Lord calls us the Body of Christ….we each have a function. If we were all called to the same place and the same thing, the world would be boring and lots would go undone. If we were all called to care for China’s orphans, the rest would go unnoticed. When families call me and ask about the process, the first thing I say, every single time, is “pray about WHERE.” Then call me back when God tells you, and we’ll move forward. Praise the Lord we are all called to different places!!! We get to be His hands and feet right here in our backyards and overseas!!! That ought to make us rejoice, not debate!!


Be respectful and prayerful.
People need Jesus. Children need families. Families need children. Before you take a stab at an adoptive parents motivation, consider what YOU might do. If you look around and you aren’t doing a thing, please keep your opinions to yourself. Adoptive parenting is HARD ENOUGH. Adoption brings baggage. Even to a two day old infant. It’s a lifetime process and is a beautiful thing. It’s a good hard. Instead of debating, we should be praying for one another. Asking the Lord what we can do. Holding the hand of a broken mama who’s birth mom has changed her mind, and the baby has to go back. Bringing dinner to the family who just came home from two weeks overseas and can’t get their days and nights turned back around. Serve one another! (1 Peter 4:10)

Toes ok?

Put it to rest, friends. Give it up. Let it go. If you are called to this road, celebrate it with one another. It will change you…….and it’s not a glamorous life. Adoption changes the way you see the Lord, changes your checkbook and how you spend your money, and gives you a burden that some days is all consuming. If you haven’t been on this road, respectfully keep your opinions to yourself. Be the Body of Christ that we are called to be to one another and to a dying world that needs Jesus like nobody’s business. And if we are going to fight over something, let it be:

Philippians 1:27
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

my lil’ fighter



Emily Flynt

Emily and Jay have been married for 11 years and have 5 childen–Avery 8, Ally 6, Annalyse 4, Ashley 3, and (finally) our BOY, Asher 2. Ashley and Asher were adopted from China and were both special needs adoptions.  Emily spends her days chasing toddlers and waiting in line at carpool. Her favorite place in the world is in her van, all alone with the worship music blaring! She would count it an honor to have you be encouraged at

He Called Her “Real Mom”

Death by Great Wall

I’d love to know your opinion on this one.

The other day Wenxin and I were talking, and I’m not even sure how it came up. I think I was telling him that I bet his foster mother would be so proud of him.

And then he asked.

“What about the other one?”

“The other what?” I replied.

“The other mom. You know . . . my REAL mom.” (emphasis mine)

“Oh, I see. I bet your first mom would be so proud of you, too.”

We talked for another minute or two, and as he ran out the door to go play, I said with a wink, “Hey Wenxin, don’t forget. I’m REAL, too.”

Big grin, and he was off.

So here’s the question. He’s 10 years old and adopted for three years now. Is it important for me to teach him what most people consider to be appropriate adoption language? Should he call her his first mom or his birth mom instead of his real mom? Does it really matter?

My gut tells me he should be able to call all the mothers in his life whatever seems appropriate to him — because it’s his story. My gut says I should follow his lead on this one. But he is only ten and is still making sense of his own history. On this issue, does he need guidance from me? Specifically, does he need me to choose his words?

I’m not concerned about my place in his life. I know this kid loves me. I also know I’m his third mom. I’m OK with this. And I think I can live with him calling her his real mom.

But since it’s not what’s normally done in the adoption world, I’m wondering if I’m missing something here?

I also have a real fear that some adoptive parent will correct him. It could happen, you know, cause calling the birth mom the real mom. . . those are fightin’ words in a lot of places.

I’m also pretty sure he’ll call her whatever I ask him to call her. He’s sweet and obedient. And he believes what I say about things. If I say he should call her his first mom or his birth mom, then I’m pretty sure that’s what he’ll do — for now, anyway. But do I want to make that decision for him?

So what do you think? What would you do in my place?

Waiting for all of your words of wisdom.

If you are an adult adoptee, please let your voice be heard on this one.




In 2010, Dana fulfilled a lifelong dream when she walked on the Great Wall of China. The climb almost killed her, but the view from the top was totally worth it! On that same trip, Dana and her husband, Mike, adopted 7 1/2-year-old Wenxin. Dana blogs about older child adoption and family life at Death by Great Wall.

Looking Back at Adoption

Adoption has been a precious gift in my life. To be a part of God’s redeeming and extravagant love for children, to be a part of the eternal work of the transformation of an orphan into a son or daughter–WOW! This is the ride of a life-time, and it only gets better with time–not always easier (sometimes, but not always), but definitely more powerful as the work of adoption reaches the deepest places in all of our lives.

What has gotten me so excited once again about adoption? It has been 14 years since we brought our first two children home, so you might think that the deep satisfaction and excitement might have worn into an every-day kind of thing.

But there come these special moments when I feel the Holy Spirit whispering to me, “Hey Beth, take a look at this! Are you seeing what I have been doing here? How beautiful is this?! Is not the love of God amazing?!”


Celebrating Russian Women’s Day

My daughter Kristina and I hosted a Russian tea recently with lots of Russian chocolates and other special goodies to help celebrate Russian Women’s Day.

Our guest of honor, Judy Grout who was visiting from Russia, was the missionary who taught Kristina English lessons in the orphanage. She shared the wonderful testimony about how she had been trying to get permission to minister in the orphanage our children were in for years and had been turned away repeatedly by the director. When Stephen sent her an email after finding the Vyborg Christian Center on the internet, and we developed a friendship, she went back to the director and asked if she could teach English to the two children who were being adopted by an American family.

The director agreed, and from that time on Judy has had an open invitation to minister in that orphanage. Many children have come to know the Lord, and many have experienced the love of God through this one door of adoption.

Beloved friends, we do not know what other amazing things God has on His mind when He calls us to adopt. We see that He is doing a work in us and in our child, but you can be sure that His plans reach deeper and farther than even the amazing depth of His love for your child and for you. Many of these stories won’t be told until we are together in eternity, but I am quite sure they will be told, and that our wonderful God will get all the glory. To our family, this one story is a taste of heaven.


Kristina and Judy

I sat there in our living room and looked at a sight that left me in awe again at who our God is.

Kristina, Elena and Veronika

Kristina, Elena and Veronika

These three beautiful young women all told a little of their stories of being adopted from Russia and Ukraine. Kristina (on the left), Elena, and Veronika sat together as friends who have been given a future and a hope through adoption. Just seeing them with those beautiful smiles spoke to me of hope and God’s extravagant love.

For those of you who are in the earlier stages of adoption and raising your children, know that there have certainly been some significant challenges in the lives of these young women and in their families. But also, be encouraged to see that in the midst of these challenges, adoption is doing it’s work in your child, and in you too! And it is a beautiful work, filled with hope and a future.

And then there is this photo–the story behind this never ceases to amaze me. It is a story of the “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20)


Jenny Grout with Kristina and Veronika

On the left you see our dear Russian friend Jenny. She is married to Judy’s son, Joe. They met and married in Russia and then decided to move to America so Joe could attend college. Jenny had worked, and even lived, in some of the places our children had lived. And of all the places they could go in the USA (the Grout family has no family or real connections in Georgia), they ended up in Toccoa, Georgia! Jenny became a wonderful friend to our family, and to Kristina especially. She helped her make the huge adjustment to life in America and to life in a family and to life in the kingdom.

So, here is a young woman who not only is Russian, but from the same town as our children, who God sends to help them and us in the most amazing ways. Is this not extravagant? Seriously, I would never have thought to even ask God for such a gift.

I hope that these stories encourage you dear friends. God is at work in our adoption stories.

In the mundane, day-in-day-out realities of life, it is easy to forget that what is happening is a long story being told by the One who is The Beginning and The End of every one of these beautiful stories of sacrificial love.


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.

A Letter to My Daughter’s Birth Parents {Summer Rewind}

Dear Amanda and Conner,

I have no idea if you’ll ever read these words, but I have to write them.
I have to hope that, even if you never stumble across this blog or
open the card that we sent on your court day, you somehow know the way that
we feel about you.

I remember getting the call that you were at the hospital, Amanda.  It
was June 28th- the day that we would meet our girl.  I had
simultaneously anticipated and dreaded this day since May 16th, when I
first heard your voice on the phone.  Although I was grateful to be
allowed in the delivery room when Piper was born, I was also unsure of
myself.  Would I say something stupid?  Would I pass out since
I’d never seen a live birth before?  Would I be able to convey my
excitement about bringing home Baby Girl without rubbing salt in your
 At least our case worker would be there to help us know
how to navigate this situation that most people never face…

Except that when Andrew and I arrived at the hospital, you only wanted the
two of us back there with you.  Panic.  I was honored that
you and Conner trusted and loved us enough to let us experience something
so special, but up to this point, we had depended on Bonni to help us know
what to say to you and how to act.  Andrew put his arm around my
shoulders, and I quickly prayed for the kind of strength and wisdom that
could never come from me.  Please don’t act like an idiot, please
don’t act like an idiot.

When we walked in the room, my fears were gone, and I immediately felt at
home.  “Hey guys!” you grinned.  Even in labor, you looked
beautiful and seemed calm.

In a few minutes, the nurse came in to see how far you were dilated.
She looked at Andrew and me, hinting with her eyes that we should
step out.  We took the clue and started to leave the room when you,
Conner, looked at her and said, “No, it’s okay.  They’re
.”  I wonder if you know how much those words meant.

Time seemed to stand still as we spent the next hour or so talking with
both of you and trying to wrap our minds around this huge thing that was
about to take place.  Though we had met you before, those moments in
the delivery room were especially precious to me as we actually got to know
the parents of our little girl.  In the moments away from the agency,
the paperwork, and the caseworkers, you became my friends and not just the
couple who had chosen our profile book.  Conner, I learned that you,
like my husband, hate making decisions about restaurants.  Amanda, I
learned that you and I are both somewhat obsessive about using the Weather
Channel app on our phones.  It was the little things in that
hour-long conversation that made you both seem more real and made me love
you more.

When the nurse came back later, it was “go time.”  Andrew and I stood
awkwardly at your head and stroked your hair as we tried to think of
something to offer other than, “You’re doing great!”  Conner, you were
a natural.  You knew exactly what to say and do to help your girl.
And Amanda, wow.  You made labor and delivery look like a walk
in the park.  I honestly expected so much anger and frustration, but
all I saw in that situation was love.  I wish there was
a way for you to have stood back and watched the scene like we did.
Your relationship with each other is inspiring, and your affection
for a baby who you bore for someone else is, frankly, earth-shattering.
Those words that Conner whispered as you pushed, “Come on, Amanda,
this is the last thing we can do for her,”
melted my heart in more ways
than you’ll ever realize.

Just 30 minutes after you started pushing, Piper was here.  I cried
the happiest tears of my life as I took in her thick hair, her chubby
cheeks, and her perfect little body.  Then I watched as the two of you
held her, and my heart broke.  This was the reason why I had
been so afraid of our time together in the hospital.  You clearly
loved her as much as I did, yet you knew that she wasn’t yours to keep.
You said that we deserved her, and I knew that wasn’t true.

The nurses came in and out to check on Piper as the four of us bounced back
and forth in our conversation between the trivial and the significant.
Andrew and I left for about an hour to pick up some food and to give
you two time alone with Piper.  We got back to the room and ate dinner
together, and I found myself wishing (though I knew the impossibility of my
idea) that there was a way for the five of us to be the little family who
lived happily ever after.

The hospital prepared a room around the corner for Andrew, Piper, and me,
and we slowly collected our belongings to spend our first night as a family
of three.  Before I went to bed, I walked down the hall to refill my
water bottle.  Your door was open, and I stopped.  Conner, you
were headed out briefly to get some fresh air, so I sat down in a chair
next to the bed for some “girl time.”  Amanda, as I listened to you
share your hopes and dreams, as you talked about your friends, and as you
revealed your plans for college in the fall, I felt connected to you in a
way that few people will probably ever be able to grasp.  Though we
didn’t always talk over the past nine months, we were in each other’s
hearts as we shared this journey.  We have a unique bond: I wanted so
badly to be in your place (to be pregnant), and you wanted to be in mine
(“established” enough to raise a baby).  There is no way to explain
those feelings to anyone else, but I think you know.

The night passed uneventfully, and I began to think about how the two of
you would be going home to a new “normal” in just a few hours.  I
started dreading those last moments in the hospital.  Finally, around
2:30, both of you came down the hall.  This was it.  Andrew and I
stepped out of the room to give you the space that you needed with Piper.
We held each other tightly and prayed for the words to say as we waited for
you to come out.  About five minutes later, the two of you entered the
hall with Piper, and all the tears that I had been holding back came
flooding out as I looked at your faces.   I never guessed
that goodbye would be so hard.
  Amanda, I’ve thought that you
are unbelievably strong throughout this entire journey, so seeing you
dissolved by emotion was almost unbearable.  It would have been wildly
inappropriate to take pictures in the moments that followed, but the scene
will forever be captured in my mind as you handed Piper to me for the last
time and as you, Conner, hugged my husband like there was no tomorrow.
In those moments, every word I had rehearsed was gone.  Each of
us knew that there was nothing to be said which could possibly convey the
feelings we had.  In shaky voices and through blinding tears, we all
said how much we love each other.  Amanda, you asked me to “take good
care of her,” and I promised that I would.  Then the two of you walked
around the corner and back to your lives.  I still cannot fathom
how a day can be so joyful and so gut-wrenching at the same time.

Andrew and I walked downstairs to the hospital’s chapel, where I buried my
head in his lap, and we both sobbed.  I have never seen my husband cry
like that before.  I had thought that I would be filled with guilt
when you two went home without a baby, but really I was just overcome with
sadness like I haven’t ever known.  I was sad for you because of the
difficulty of your decision, and I was sad for us because I felt like we
had just lost two people who, in a matter of days, had come to mean
everything to our family.  “Be still and know that I am God,”
the walls of the chapel read, and this is ironically the verse tattooed on
the wall of our bedroom at home.  Both of us found it difficult to “be
still,” because our hearts were so heavy for you.  We prayed over and
over for God to give you peace, and I still pray every day that you’ve
found it.

As I got ready the next morning, I burst into tears all over again, and I
wondered how many days would pass before I woke up without crying for you.
In the weeks since we have been home with Piper, time has slowly
eased the hurt, but I don’t think of you any less.  I have never once
doubted that you would change your minds about the decision you made, but I
have felt an unexplainable stillness in knowing that if you did, I would be
okay because as much as I care about Piper, I care about the two of you

Every night before bed, we tell Piper how many people love her, and the two
of you are always at the top of the list because you will always be her
parents, too
.  I can’t wait until she is old enough to ask
questions about the picture of the four of us on the wall in her room,
until she wonders how she got her beautiful black hair, and until she makes
the connection that her middle name is the same as her birth mother’s.
I can’t wait for that day because then I get to tell her, once again,
the story of two people named Amanda and Conner who loved her so much that
they made the greatest sacrifice two people could ever make.

People say that you can’t understand true love until you have a baby.
Although I don’t fully agree with that statement, I do believe that
I’ve experienced a fuller and deeper kind of love because I met you.
In your words, Conner, this situation was just “meant to
 Through our whole adoption journey, I have been the
most worried about our relationship with our child’s birth parents, and
that has actually come to be the most beautiful part of it all.

You named our sweet girl Grace when she was with you for nine months, and
grace has absolutely been the theme of our song.  “Thank you” seems so
inadequate for expressing the gratitude we daily feel for your selfless
gift- Piper.  Somehow I hope you know just how much you mean to us,
not just for giving us a daughter who we could never have on our own, but
because of the truly strong and special people that you are.  I love
you and respect you both, and because of you, my heart is full for the
first time in years.


Mary Rachel


Mary Rachel Fenrick

Mary Rachel Fenrick

Mary Rachel Fenrick recently became a mom when she and her husband adopted their daughter from an agency in Oklahoma City. God used infertility to not only teach them more about himself, but to bring them a perfect baby and two wonderful birth parents. You can read more about her journey on her blog, the Fenricks

The Other Mama {Summer Rewind}

My 6 year old daughter has just begun to ask some very thought provoking questions surrounding her birth mother lately. She’s my thinking child, so although this doesn’t surprise me, I must admit some of the questions……let’s just say I’m thankful they have come mostly at night in her bed, with the lights off…so she can’t see the tears that roll down my cheeks. We’re entering a whole new chapter in this adoptive parenting journey and begging for wisdom and revelation from the Lord to help us wade and part these waters.

And at the same time, I’m often in awe of how the Lord has been preparing us for these moments, long before Ashley came home. I’ve mentioned before that I worked in the domestic side of adoption for a few years before transitioning over to the international. Over those years, I worked with birth mothers. And you better believe I took mental notes and had dozens of “light bulb, heart pounding, Holy Spirit” moments with these women. Some of them I knew for months and others I met literally in the delivery room or the day after.

But one thing I knew about each one of them….as hard as they tried to hide it, or as openly as they grieved, was that this was a gut.wrenching.process, and one that they would never, ever forget.

One day the Lord gave me this verse:

Isaiah 49:15
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!”

The very God of the universe in His Word, gave an answer to our children…”Did she forget me?”

Can you see it? “…even if that were possible…”  which means….it’s NOT. And even if it were…HE WOULD NOT!!!

Meet little miss “A.” She’s just a week new y’all and has the most perfect baby skin I’ve ever seen!!!

Her mama, “M” called me from our church’s Crisis Pregnancy Center a few years back. She was pregnant was interested in adoption. We began meeting and a few months later, a baby girl was born. I watched her do the most courageous thing a woman can do….hand her child over to another mama and daddy to love and raise as their child. And as I watched her grieve, I prayed deep for the woman that had left my baby girl at the orphanage gate for someone else to raise. It’s as if the Lord just allowed me a glimpse of her grief through these women in my care.

A year later, she called back. Pregnant again. And, choosing life for her child, a few months later I stood in the L&D hallway yelling for them to run FAST because their son was about to be born. And she did it again, this time knowing full well the grief to come. Don’t miss that this girl had made some very poor choices, but she had made the most important one for her children….LIFE.

This time around, she’s ready to be a mama. She and her family will raise baby A and get to experience all she hasn’t gotten to with her other children. And rest assured, she has not forgotten them….their pictures hang on her walls. As I left her house, I wondered if Ashley’s birth parents had photos of her….she wasn’t abandoned as a newborn. I’d never wondered that before.

When questions come that I don’t have answers to, I go to the Word. It tells me that it is impossible for a mother to forget her child. And it drives me to pray deep for the two women that will never know this side of heaven how the Lord had His eyes on these babies, and how He placed them where they are loved and treasured.

Oh, how I wish I could send you pictures. For your walls. Just so you would know.

Thanks for the reminder, M… are one of the bravest women I’ve ever met, sister.

Emily Flynt

Emily Flynt

Emily and Jay have been married for 11 years and have 5 childen–Avery 8, Ally 6, Annalyse 4, Ashley 3, and (finally) our BOY, Asher 2. Ashley and Asher were adopted from China and were both special needs adoptions.  Emily spends her days chasing toddlers and waiting in line at carpool. Her favorite place in the world is in her van, all alone with the worship music blaring! She would count it an honor to have you be encouraged at


The Fall

Lucy fell

Lucy always falls

but this was a bad one

this one was down our stairs

like all – the – way – down!

She hit hard

and so did I…

For you adoptive Mamas out there, you know the moment when you have that kick in your heart, the moment you have that “oh my gosh, I REALLY DO LOVE this child” moment?

Well today was that moment.

Not that I have not loved sweet Lucy, cause I have.

I loved her before we brought her home and I loved her when we met her and all the days after and the day we stepped foot into the R Hospital where she lived for 4 years, I knew that we would be ok cause this was so not ok.

Know what I mean?

Today though…

today was my kick in the heart moment when I realized just how strong, how deep, how real my love for this precious child is.

As I watched Lucy plummet down the stairs and land in a heap in the floor…

my world stopped

and I was terrified.

As I held her and comforted her and kissed away her tears and wiped away the blood on her lip and told her that she was ok and that I loved her and cried with her…

I knew…

I also knew that, even though she seemed ok, she needed to stay home from school…

I needed her to stay home from school…

The fall 1

and as she rested all tucked in on the sofa with a blanket and a doggie or two, her heart began to open up and she began to tell me a bit more of her story and I got my second kick of the day.

The fall 2

What Lucy told me did not shock me as I have heard many stories, heartbreaking stories, from other older adopted children and I saw first hand what I thought her life had been in China, so I was not shocked but still completely heartbroken for this beautiful child – my child.

The fall 3

Lucy told me that she would fall down all the time and that no one would help her.  She shared that she would fall in the bathroom a lot (here my heart broke as I saw what this bathroom looked like) and that she called for help and no – one – would – come.

(heart shattered)

I asked her if her sweet BFF at the hospital would help her and she said yes.  This sweet boy, who is now home with his family (praise God), told his Mom that he would help Lucy up and down the stairs and pick her up when she would fall.


Again, heartbreak for my sweet girl and for her BFF as he was just a child too.  They apparently just decided one day that they were going to be big brother and little sister.  He took care of my girl!

Lucy told me that she would get scared in her bed at night and that she would cry but no – one – would – come…

She said that when she fell down and hurt herself, no one would kiss her and make it better and that they would be angry with her, always angry with her.

Oh sweet Lucy, would that I could have come to you…

 I know, however, that I cannot stay “there”

I know I have to be here for her – now

so we talked and we hugged and we cried and then we watched “I Spy”

I know there is more to come and Maggie’s story has really turned us inside out (more to come on that later) but for now, we just keep on coming when she calls and kissing her when she falls and loving her through it all!

This is why we have 3 more children than most people thought we should have had.

I cannot and I will not ignore their plight or His call.

Praying more will begin to hear this call and not just to adopt but maybe to help others who are adopting or sponsor a child or at least be supportive of those who do hear the call and choose to answer!

My heart is heavy for my daughters but I know they will be ok

My heart is heavier for those who will never have a Mom or a Dad to come to them when they call or kiss them when they fall.

Please pray for all of these precious ones who wait and all of the families who step out in faith and ignore the promptings of this world to follow the promptings of our heavenly Father.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

It is not easy but we were not promised easy and nothing that comes easy is treasured nearly as much as that which comes out of true hard work and challenge and we are so incredibly blessed by our challenges right now.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 

Annie H.

Annie H.

Annie H. and her husband, Chris, live in Charleston, SC along with their 7 children, Christian, Charlie, Caleb, Emmeline, Lizzie, Maggie and Lucy.  After Annie and her family adopted their daughter, Lizzie, from China in 2008, Annie’s heart was forever changed and following the Lord’s call, she became an advocate for those precious children still waiting. Annie now works for Lifeline Children’s Services as their International Adoption Advocate and has loved working with the same wonderful agency who helped her to bring her daughter home in 2008 as well as their two newest daughters in August of this year. Annie manages the Lifeline advocacy site Wonderful Waiting Kids where she advocates mostly for older children and those with more significant special needs and blogs about their family and adoption at Cornbread and Chopsticks

Changed by broken walls

It was never an easy journey to get there.

old location parking lot1

When I said we wanted to visit her orphanage in 2010 when we were there to adopt her, we met resistance. It was too far. The train was too fast for a child. We would be too tired. We would bring germs from America. We wouldn’t want to go. But, that’s where they were wrong. I was determined to go, determined to physically enter into her history even if only for a moment. And so, we went. We drove about 3 hours there to stand at the gate, walk across the grounds, allow the ayis who knew our child infinitely more than we did to dote on our baby, and take lots of pictures.

old location playground1

I had never been more aware of my foreignity as I was at that moment. We were out of place, standing among ayis speed talking in a language only unrecognizable to the two of us. They pointed at us and spoke freely, knowing we would stand still in front of them and smile regardless of what they said. We watched as our new baby responded in a way we could not. She wasn’t a stranger there; they knew her and she knew them. We were the strangers surrounded by grey cement walls and dusty ground. The only thing I felt connected to there were the very walls themselves. I tried desperately to grab hold of something to take home with us, not even knowing really what, while the walls seemed to desperately present themselves as cheerful with some colorful cardboard cut outs stuck to them for now until the next rainfall would turn them into more dust on the ground. I cried. It sorta felt like the grey, tiled walls were crying too.

old location window1

When I said I wanted to visit the location of the old orphanage a few weeks ago, I met resistance. It was too far. We would be too tired. It wasn’t safe. We wouldn’t want to go. And, while I had been determined to get there, I was willing to let it go. I had already been given so much, and it wasn’t the reason why I came.

When the driver pulled our van over and pointed to the right, my heart stopped for a moment.

There I was again, standing at a new gate that looked 50 years old already, looking at what used to be.

Baoji orphanage old location edited1

Most of the walls that had cried along with me four years ago were no more. I stood looking at what was in front of me and cried alone.

It’s China. Buildings are built and torn down and built again to be torn down again. It’s a seemingly never-ending cycle of building and destruction. Standing witness to it before me, I didn’t feel like the foreigner I had four years ago. Everything was different now. At the very moment I stood crying on Bao Ping Road, my daughter who had been there, who had lived behind those gates and inside those broken walls, was sleeping soundly beside her sister in a warm bed in the place she knows and I know as home.

I saw a picture of adoption that day in the form of broken walls and a quiet construction site.

They gave us a bag of dirt the day we received our daughter in March 2010. The director handed us a little bag of stones and dust from the grounds of the orphanage. I thought it was nice, thoughtful, a memento for her to have as she got older. We put it in a special box for her along with the clothes she came to us in and other special things. Now that gift means something entirely different. It is not a memento; it’s a monument. It gently says:

Those walls that were the only home you knew need to come down now. Let God turn them to dust, as hard as that may be, so that He can build new walls, strong walls, walls that will not crumble, walls where you will never be alone. It’s never an easy journey to get there; but, stone by stone, brick by brick, while it may be a painstaking journey, you can get there. Accept this gift so that you always remember your story and so that you can trace the work of the Repairer of Broken Walls, the Restorer of Crumbling Dwellings, the One who makes beautiful things out of stones, dirt, and dust.


Kelly Raudenbush

Kelly Raudenbush

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 has a Master’s degree in counseling and has been working with adoptive families since she and her husband Mark founded the nonprofit The Sparrow Fund ( 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.


Wanna learn more about going to China with The Sparrow Fund in October to serve at this orphanage? Click on Upcoming Events to read more, and email us for more information.