Category Archives: Handling Questions With Grace

Our response to others around us

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

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

Except when it’s not exactly a dream.

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

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

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

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



Regarding a Child Who Gives Indiscriminate Affection

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jenny’s mom

Regarding a Child Who Struggles to Give and Receive Physical Affection

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

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

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

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

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

-Jenny’s mom


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

Dear Pastors… {a letter as you prepare for Mother’s Day}

church pewsThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. I know you know that. It’s kind of a big deal, and it’s been on your calendar all year.

Moms are going to fill your pews this Sunday wearing pretty dresses. Some will have been served breakfast in bed. Some will have received bouquets of flowers, roses or buttercups, already that morning. Some will be looking forward to children coming home that day to take them out for lunch. Some will be anticipating phone calls, hugs, kisses, crayon portraits, and homemade cards.

But, Mother’s Day isn’t always that pretty.

There will be women sitting before you this Sunday who are aching to become mothers. Some of those women are struggling to make it through each day as they have yet to conceive or endure painful infertility treatment. Some of those women are single and long to be married and wonder if they will ever have the joy of being a mother.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who are mothers but not parents, women who have placed children in other families to be raised by other mothers. They may not look or feel like mothers; they may struggle to define who they are.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who were mothers for a short time and didn’t consider themselves that at all, women who ended their pregnancies and motherhood through an abortion and now wonder what life would have been like had they made another choice and chosen life for their child.

There will be some women sitting before you this Sunday who are broken mothers, mothers whose relationships with their children are strained at best, mothers who haven’t spoken to their grown children in months or even years, mothers whose children are in rehab or prison or who knows where.

There will be some mothers sitting before you this Sunday who are divorced from their children’s father and who are tired, so very tired, whose little ones may not even know it’s Mother’s Day at all.

There will be people sitting before you this Sunday who have lost their mothers and people who still have their mothers but have been hurt by them.

And, all those people? They’ve had Mother’s Day on their calendars all year too. But, they aren’t coming to church dressed in their prettiest clothes ready to stand to be recognized. Instead, they wonder if they should come at all. Some are ashamed. Some are resentful. Some are full of grief. Some are angry at the mothers around them, you for pointing them out, and God Himself. Some are simply sad and have already put tissues in their purses in anticipation of the day. Some feel numb.

The ones coming to church in their best with smiles on their faces really don’t need to stand for recognition or be publicly thanked. They’ll get all that elsewhere. It’s the others who need you this Sunday. Speak for them.

To the women who are celebrating this Mother’s Day as mothers for the first time, know that we celebrate with you. 

To the women who serve day in and day out to little ones, cleaning noses and bottoms and sippy cups and car seats, know that we applaud you and support you.

To the women who work outside the home to provide for their families, know that we honor you for all that you carry.

To the women who have been celebrated by their families already today or will be later today, know that we take joy in that with you.

To the women who are not yet mothers and who long to be, whose hearts are heavy with that desire today, know that we walk with you through whatever God calls you to today and for the days to come.

To the women who wonder what life would be like if they were mothering now the child who could have been theirs, know that we want to hold your hand and encourage you.

To the women who are separated relationally with painful distance between you and your children, know that we hurt with you and pray for reconciliation and trust for you that there is hope for that.

To the women who are mothers here who haven’t had the recognition from their children and feel forgotten, know that we remember you.

To those who have been hurt by their mothers in some way, who find this day a painful reminder of that hurt, know that we acknowledge your pain and want to come alongside you and offer hope for restoration.

To those who are watching their mothers grow older and change or who are grieving the loss of their mothers, know that we grieve with you and pray for comfort for you.

As significant as all that is, as much as we want to honor you today, know that He wants to bless and honor you more. Wherever you are, whatever you are facing, wherever your heart is this day, He’s right there with you—right now—and wants you to know Him deeper however you view Mother’s Day.

It’s a big day. It’s your challenge…and your privilege…to communicate God’s love to everyone in your church this Sunday as is your call every Sunday. As you do that with passion and cross-shaped compassion, I trust that He will speak the words they need to hear.


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

So….You’re Adopting!


stacey familySo…you’ve decided to adopt!  Congratulations!  Will you do me a favor?  Can we pretend we’re sitting across from each other in a coffee shop, hands wrapped around warm drinks, chatting for just a bit?  There are a few things I would like to share.  Let’s also pretend that you actually asked for my opinion.  Mkay? Thanks. 🙂

I am not an expert on all things adoption, and I am coming from the experience of domestic newborn adoption.  My opinion on some things now is quite different from what it was over two years ago.  It’s not a bad thing – but I’ve read and listened and learned and there are a bunch of thoughts rattling around in my brain now that I would love to share with you, if you’d like to listen.

So…over my soy chai latte, I would tell you these things:

Adoption is really complicated.  Each situation is so incredibly different so there is much room for variance, but I would tell you that adoption is very beautiful and selfless and, in some cases, a marvelous picture of the gospel.  But adoption is not only about you, the adoptive parent. You cannot have adoption without a biological family suffering profound loss.  Adoption is bittersweet, because on the day that your family is celebrating its greatest joy, another family will be deeply mourning.

She is not a birth mother yet.  Your words matter.  A woman is not a “birth mother” until the baby has been born and her parental rights have been irrevocably terminated.  Up until that point she is an expectant mother who has made an adoption plan for her baby.  A plan which she may or may not choose to continue with at any point.  She has (and should have) every right to do so.  This might seem like mincing words, and your agency will likely still use the term birth mother.  Ultimately I think the specific term we use is much less important than the intention behind it.  Which brings me to…

Be careful to guard your heart from a sense of entitlement.  Whew.  This one would be said across the table with as much kindness and grace as possible.  I see so much gray area here. an adoption “match” is not a guarantee of a placement.  It is a precarious dance between excitedly expecting and graciously waiting.  A friend and I were discussing via text message recently that the tough job of the adoptive parent during a match is to love and support the expectant parent(s) no matter what, being careful about laying “claim” to the child too soon.  They are not giving you a baby. They do not owe you a baby.  They are giving their baby you.  This is hard hard hard hard hard! I would sit in on doctor’s appointments with our daughter’s (now) birth mom, thrilled and excited to be there hearing the heartbeat and viewing the ultrasound and loving and supporting… excited, hopeful, but with the quiet understanding that this was not my baby yet.

Adoption is (emotionally and financially) costly, but it is so worth it.  Also, it doesn’t have to be THAT costly.  There are domestic newborn adoption agencies or attorneys that charge fees (that do not include medical or legal expenses) in the neighborhood of $30-40k.  Can’t afford it?  Yeah, neither can we.  Don’t use them.  It does not cost that much to provide good care and coordinate an adoption.  They charge that much because people are willing to pay that much.  So don’t.

And by then we would probably be finished with our drinks, and hopefully you wouldn’t be mad at me.  Hopefully?  I would tell you that adoption has blessed my life and that I am excited to cheer you on through this wild and crazy journey, and that I will bring you diapers and a casserole when your little one finally comes home.  It is all worth it, and it is important that it be done right, that it be done ethically.  Since we all just love discussing ethics, don’t we?  Um no.  Not really.  But it needs to be discussed, now doesn’t it?

Thanks for listening. 🙂


stacey coupleStacey lives in Kansas City, MO with my husband Tim and their two kids, born in 2012 and 2015. Both were adopted locally at birth and now Stacey has a huge heart for open adoption!  She works part time as a bookkeeper for a local nonprofit, but the rest of the time, Stacey loves being outside with her kids and drinking lots of good coffee.

The HOW of Adoption: {People Ask/Say all the Time}


You can imagine the stares and questions we get when we walk into a place with all our littles. And the head shaking that ensues when we share about CallaAnne! I know! I used to be the same way when we were a family of three girls and bigger families were near. The same questions popped into my head that I will share below and little did I know God had MUCH bigger plans for our family than we would ever imagine.

Giving God control of your thoughts changes your life and gives you blessings you NEVER saw coming!!!

People ask us all the time HOW in the world are we able to handle this adoption life God has given us and at times its hard to put into words. My husband Scott chose this topic today and hope together we are able to give hope to anyone called… you just have to say yes.

People Ask/Say All the Time:

“How in the World do you handle all those children?”

God is First: We don’t handle them. We love them with God’s help. First and foremost, a relationship with God is foundational to all successes in life. Being in step with God’s will brings strength, guidance, and assurance all is well. Everything begins with prayer and as long as Scott and I are praying together, God keeps our hearts, thoughts, and actions aligned. Each time we have gone forward with an adoption, we BOTH had to know it was the right decision for our family and the only way we knew that was communication with God and each other.

It is NOT easy to move forward. We usually describe it as an elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we don’t discuss until we’ve prayed and have a decision. My prayer is always for God to press on Scott’s heart what is right and true. All in time, we come to the decision by allowing God to be First!

We can handle all God has called us to because it is His plan and He is First!


“How do you love so many at one time?”

Love each other like crazy: Scott says all the time we are able to love all our children because we love Each Other like crazy!!! Marriages need to be strong to handle the many facets of adoption. There is no way we could do this without each other. Complete submission and dedication in our marriage comes before the needs of our children and after following God. We are best friends and share everything. There are times when you feel you can’t go one more second and it is in those rough patches, a spouse can make all the difference.

I have sweet precious friends that are single and raising beautiful families too. I know they are surrounded by amazing people that support them in their journey as well. It boils down to putting your trust in the One whom has called us to this life. He gives all of us what we need for each day we wake up.

Scott and I certainly give God the glory for the Love we are able to pour out on so many and love each other well! 


“Well you all certainly had to be Called to adopt all those kids!” 

Being Called: We are ALL called in James 1:27 to look after orphans and widows. That can look so different for you and me. Our family was called to birth and adopt our children. You may be called to foster, support an orphan or orphanage, support a family adopting, or whatever you hear God telling you. The bottom line: You have to be Listening and Willing!!! We adopted our Chinese children because God showed us their faces and they were waiting for us to come. We will go until they are all home and we will know that being completely surrendered to God’s will.

We certainly did have to be called to birth and adopt all our children because God ordained it all!!!


“You sure do have your hands full!” 

Hearts Full: Yes our hands are full but mostly our hearts. When you are living a certain life, it’s not something you think about in tiny parts and decisions. It is a daily flow and rhythm of living and loving. It is being and doing the necessary things for everyone to stay alive and thrive. As basic needs are met, love begins to bloom because everyone is learning to be a family and feeling secure. When we are out and about, it does look like my hands are full especially walking through Target with six kids riding on the shopping cart, but there is strategy behind that practice and a whole lot of work back at home that brought us to this place. Love does not come easy or fast. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears come first.

Yes we have our hands full but our Hearts are the fullest and our life meaningful. 


“How are you going to send them to college?”

Confident: Educating our children is a one day at a time adventure. Two of our children have graduated college and living beautiful productive lives. One is in college now chasing the destiny God has laid before her. Six are home learning as we do life and I don’t worry about their future. God meant for them to be in our family and He is molding them into what He wants them to be. We spend much time reading the Bible and discussing how the stories apply to our lives then have time to actually practice them.

I LOVE our home life and confident God has their futures all figured out… I don’t have to be concerned with that just now. (Jer 29:11)


“Well you won’t ever retire, will you?”

Commitment: Choosing to have children is a lifelong commitment. It isn’t a choice made that ceases once they graduate college or get married or have their own kids. We are still extremely involved in our big kids’ lives and wouldn’t want it any other way. When we brought our children into our family, we committed our lives unto them. Our family hinges on this amazing scripture: 1 Peter 4:10, ” Each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace.” Where in the Bible do we ever see someone retired?

Scott and I will probably never have the retirement most people will enjoy BUT we will live our lives completely and fully to the measure God has set for us through our Retirement years.

“What do your big kids think about all these little kids?”

Sacrifice: We tell in our adoption story the amazing way our big girls (little then) wrapped their hearts around bringing home little EK when she was just 11 months old. None of us imagined we would soon have 7. There is no way adoption would have worked had they not been FOR it. Being for it doesn’t mean easy either. It is hard to be a child in a family and more being adding yearly but God covers that too. Our big girls have changed and matured so much through watching and accepting their little siblings into our family. Our littles are SO very blessed to have our littles in their lives. ALL of our children are SO very blessed to have so many to love them.

God did a mighty work in our big girls’ hearts when He brought us to adoption and we can’t imagine life any other way!


“You sure are blessing those kids and just so proud of you!”

Our Blessing!: The opposite couldn’t be more true. As much as we are blessing our children choosing them for our family, THEY are blessing us more than we can even put into words. We are different because of them. There are days when we are in awe and fright of maybe missing life with them and other days we wonder WHAT in the WORLD did we do. :) But when all settles down and we remember the calling, we are the ones being blessed just for saying yes!

Blessings always abound when you say yes to God! 


In the end, we can’t imagine standing before God and Him saying,

‘What in the world were you doing loving all those children?”


What’s your biggest fear in raising a big family? Trust God. He is OVER it all!!!


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.

Knowing When to Say Yes to an Adoption Referral

It was just over a year ago that I answered the phone call that changed the trajectory of our lives. It was the call from our adoption agency family coordinator letting me know that she had two referrals for us to consider. As she began to describe the children my heart raced. This was it! This was the moment I had dreamed about and anticipated for so long. Could it be, that I was about to be introduced to my children for the first time?

It had only been the day before that call, that, I had received a text from a close friend, letting me know she had a dream that Kirk and I were walking out of the airport holding hands with Lily and Liam. Both children had excitement and a bit of worry in their eyes—but more excitement. She elaborated and said, “But the look on your hubs face, it was priceless!” She encouraged me that our referral was coming, “But not when you think.”

I woke the morning of January 16, 2014 at 5:30am feeling impressed to get out of bed. I was tired, but felt urged to read my Bible and pray. I’m not even sure how I came to this next verse, but when I did, I felt sure there was a hidden message in it for me. Habakkuk 2:3 says, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and not delay.” I wrote it down unsure what it meant. I had no idea that the calling we had been given, to adopt a boy and a girl, was about to be revealed but in the way I expected.

At 10:33 am my cell phone rang.

I saw the (703) area code but it did not register. Ashley (our family coordinator) was calling to let me know she had two referrals for us to consider.  I was beside myself when I realized who it was and why she was calling! After she explained the purpose for her call she gave me some preliminary information about the children to allow me the option of reviewing their files or waiting for another match.

She started by saying, “Okay, I have a little girl that is considered special needs. She is almost 8 years old. She has a vision problem, (crossed eyes). Would you like to review her file?

I swallowed hard. “Yes!”

“Okay.” She went on, “There is boy almost 10. He is only three months younger than your youngest child, would that be a problem if your children are in the same grade?”


She proceeded, “Would you like to review his file?”

“Yes!” I squealed.

“Okay, I’ll send you their files. Examine them with your husband and let me know if you’d like to proceed with a full review.”

After the longest ten minutes of my life, I had their information in my inbox.

I was floored with emotion as I opened those files for the first time. This was the moment I had waited so many months forI can still recall the intense emotions that sunk deep into my chest, as I looked blurry-eyed at their photographs for the first time.

Time stood still.

He was a handsome boy, an older child whose only special need was that he was older and harder to place and she an adorable little girl with what appeared to be a minor vision problem. I called my husband and forwarded the files to him. We were both at work, so we agreed to look them over together later that evening.

During the waiting, I had envisioned what it would be like to receive my children’s referrals. I wondered, how would I know if they were mine? Would I feel a connection immediately, or would that sense of knowing they were mine come gradually over time? The moment of discovery had finally come.

Months earlier we had discussed the list of possible special needs we felt comfortable with. I had done research on the various conditions and reviewed the information with Kirk. Somehow checking the boxes of special needs that we both were comfortable with felt awkward, but this was a required step. Part of the home study is designed to evaluate and approve a family to care for a child with special needs. The family is assessed by the social worker to determine if they are equipped to care for a child with needs noted on the list. Kirk and I had agreed that only special needs that we both were comfortable with would make it on our list. If one was okay with a special need but the other one not, then it was a no. It seemed simple enough.

At first glance the needs of these two children appeared to fit within our list of approved special needs. Yet, as we read through the little girl’s file more closely, we discovered she had significant developmental delays. This was an immediate red flag. We were adopting two children at once and we already have one child whose needs will require life-long support. Neither of us felt comfortable taking a second child whose needs will likely necessitate the same.

Despite the red flag, we both felt paralyzed to make any decision.

We questioned ourselves. Was God calling us to take on more than we had planned or anticipated? Or was our discomfort a signal meant to offer us direction? Either way, we were not ready to decide as we both felt unsure.

We immediately bathed our decision in prayer and then sought additional information to help guide our steps. We started with requesting an update from the orphanage. We sent a list of ten questions, and waited for their reply.  Next, we obtained an expert opinion from a physician who specializes in reviewing adoption referral files. Next we reached out to the adoption community, requesting feedback regarding ‘how to know when to say yes’ to a referral.

The orphanage updates were a mix of good and bad news. The boy’s update stated he was on grade level in school and appeared to be healthy in all respects. The little girl’s update indicated that her delays had prevented her from attending school and she was unable to speak full sentences. This news heightened our hesitancy about accepting her referral.

Next, we sought the opinion from a physician who reviewed adoption referrals. She stated very matter-of-factly that in her opinion, the boy was a healthy older child with the exception that he appeared to be very small for his age. She pointed that the little girl had significant delays that would likely prevent her from ever living independently. She held nothing back and gave me the worst-case scenario to think about. At first, I was a bit taken aback by her negativity, but later I realized she had done me a favor by making me see what I did not want to see.

While all of this information weighed heavily on us, we were eased by the encouragement we had received from the adoption community. So many families responded positively regarding how they had come to make hard decisions. Some told us of ‘knowing’ it was their child the moment they saw a picture.  Others said they did not know right away but came to their yes more slowly. Others told of stories where they did not accept the first or sometimes even the second and third referral they were given. I was comforted by the fact that there was more than one way to ‘know’ and that not everyone accepted the first referral. It became clear that there was no perfect formula we needed to use, we just had to keep asking, praying and waiting until a clear answer was revealed.

Why was this so hard? The answer I discovered was painful.

In that period of waiting I came to understand that part of my hesitancy to not saying ‘yes’ to adopting this little girl, was the implication that our lack of a ‘yes’ was really a ‘no’.

That was it. I knew that I was struggling with saying, ‘no’ to a child who really needed a family. Despite my gut feeling that this was not our little girl, I was not comfortable sending her file back and saying—no.

I wrestled with this one for several weeks until I found some encouragement from a book I was reading, Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis, a (single) adoptive mother of fourteen former-orphans in Uganda. As I read her story, I found answers to mine.

After adopting her eleventh child, Katie had decided not to adopt any more children. She felt her family was complete, until the Lord made it ever so clear she was to take another and not just any child. The child presented to her had significant delays. Katie described how she was hesitant to take a child with limited mobility since she already had a large level of responsibility to her other eleven girls as well as to the people she ministered to in the villages. Having a child who could not walk would mean she would have to carry her everywhere. But then one day the Lord made his plan so clear Katie could not deny it, and once more she embraced a new daughter.

I connected with this story, and wondered if this was my answer. Did God want us to take on more than we had planned but not more than He had planned?  Though I felt willing to move forward with her, my husband did not. I wondered at this discrepancy. We would have to move on this  decision soon. Although the adoption agency had given us a lenient two weeks to decide, the clock was ticking and we would have to give an answer soon.

January 27, 2014 “Not every child that came to Katie was Katie’s child.”

Those were the words I heard the Lord speak that morning as my husband prayed for God to show us his plan for these two little ones. One would become ours and the other one not.

After hearing from he Lord, I recalled the rest of Katie’s story. I realized that many, many, many children came to Katie for help. Sometimes people would bring children to her or ask her to adopt them, but she did not adopt every girl that she ministered to or every girl that needed adoption. Katie adopted only the girls that were her children—the ones that God had chosen for her.

God made his plan for us clear that morning. Our first referral for a girl was a no. She was not ours. My wrestling was over as quickly as it had come. In that moment of prayer, I knew this little one was not my daughter. I realized that even though I was not called to be her mother, she was His child. It wasn’t up to me to save her or any; I only need be obedient to the calling he set before me.

If you are waiting on a referral, here are some tips on how to get ready for your yes:

  1. Pray for your child while you are waiting. (I am in awe at how our Lily’s personality matches the prayers I had prayed over her exactly).
  2. Seek the Lord throughout the process and follow His lead. (Getting behind God instead of running ahead was a hard lesson for me at times).
  3. Seek godly men and women in the adoption community to offer their wisdom when you need help, support, encouragement or direction. (This is vital!)
  4. Seek to understand your spouse’s concerns about the adoption. Move forward only when you both agree.If one spouse is in on board and the other not, take it as either a no and move-on, or a wait-not-yet, but do not push. (There was a lot of waiting I had to do. God will move in a spouse’s heart, you just need to get out of the way and then wait.)
  5. Be prepared that if you do not accept the first referral that comes your way, there may be some people that will not agree with your decision. You may feel rejected and judged, but do not be discouraged. It is only God you need to please.
  6. Do not adopt to try and save anyone. That is God’s job and only He can do it. Adopt out of obedience to your calling then rely on Him to carry you through. (It is hard work but oh so rewarding!)
  7. Realize there is no perfect formula for deciding to accept a referral or what special needs (if any) you’re equipped to handle. “Pray like it depends on God and then work like it depends on you,” (Mark Batterson).

One last note–one of my concerns in writing this is that it would discourage a family from adopting a child with significant delays or offend someone who already has. So before I leave anyone with any negative impression of how we feel about children with severe developmental delays, let me clearly state that we highly value all children, but especially those precious ones with significant needs. They need families too! We are parents to a child with special needs and he is our pride and joy! Our hesitancy to say yes to another child with significant developmental delays was based on what we felt we could manage in the mix of our other responsibilities. We prayerfully considered it and do not want our decision to discourage anyone who has been called to embrace a child with significant developmental delays. Go and do what you are called to do and if you already have, then Amen!



Tiffany Barber

Tiffany is a wife to Kirk and mother of eight including six biological and two newly adopted from China. With a looming financial crisis at the outset of their recent adoption, God took their family on a journey of faith. Having been home just over ten weeks, they are currently working through the transition phase of their new adoption. Tiffany writes an honest account of challenges of adoption and the redemptive work of her savior Jesus Christ at Extravagant Love. Though her faith and limits have been tested, she points that adoption is paving the way for her to grow and experience God’s presence as never before.

Dear daughter

Lydia with Mama 2There’s something pretty cool about us. You and I look pretty different. You’ve got dimples; I’ve only got wrinkles. You have a freckle on your tummy; the only fun thing I have on my tummy is a turtle tattoo. You’ve got long dark hair; I’ve got short brown hair with highlights of gray. You’ve got Chinese eyes that look like crescent moons; I’ve got big eyes that scrunch up when I look at you because you always make me smile. I like that we’re different. We go perfectly together, and our differences make us a really colorful and fun pair.

Some people assume that pairs are the same. They think pairs should match on the outside as well as on the inside. So, the fact that we’re different on the outside may make some people not know right away that we go together. They might do things like that man did last week and ask you where your mommy is when I’m standing right next to you. We might laugh when that happens, but sometimes, we won’t. And, that’s okay.

People may ask you other questions too. I expect they will because I’ve been asked lots and lots of questions since you became my daughter. Sometimes the questions are easy ones, and I can answer them right away without even thinking really. Other questions make me feel a little funny inside, and I have to think before I answer. And, sometimes, there are questions that make me feel a little sad or mad, and I just don’t want to answer at all. I imagine you might feel like that too. We may be different, but I bet we might feel a lot the same.

When people ask you questions or say things to you about us being different, it may be because they’re being mean. It’s true. Sometimes people are just mean for reasons I really don’t understand. But, you know what? I bet that most of the time, people will ask you questions not because they are trying to be mean at all. Maybe they are interested in the fact that we’re different because they want to have a family that looks different too. I like when that happens. Maybe they ask a question because their family already looks different, and they want to know if we’re like them. Those can be fun conversations too. Some may ask simply because they are curious, and that’s okay. We ask people questions when we’re curious too.

The thing is, we may think we can tell why people do the things we do, but a lot of times we really can’t. People’s hearts are pretty mysterious things, you know? But, regardless of what’s in their hearts and if they are curious, interested, or just plain mean, we need to respond with respect. Let me explain to you what I mean. When someone asks you a question, you have a choice to make. You can share something about your story—after all, you’re an amazing girl with an amazing story. You can respectfully answer their question and tell them something about yourself. Or, you can share something that’s not about you specifically but is about families like ours that look different from each other. That’s another good option that may be a little easier because it’s not as personal as sharing about yourself. Or, you can respond in another way entirely and not respond at all. That’s a perfectly fine option, and you don’t need my permission in advance to choose that one. I’m telling you right now that it’s fine with me. But, if you choose that option, know that you need to do it always with respect. You can tell them you don’t really like the question or ask if you can talk about something else. You can tell them they’re your friend but you’d rather not answer that question. You can even blame me if you want and tell them your mom told you not to talk about that. Don’t worry; I can take it. I’m your mom, and moms are cool like that.

I’m not expecting you to have some sort of issue tomorrow or even next week; so, you don’t need to worry. But, if you do—whenever you do—know you aren’t stuck; you have a choice to make. You’re the one in charge of how things go. And, know that even if I’m not there to help you, I’m cheering you on just like how you cheer me on when I wrestle with the kids in the living room and you yell, “Go Mommy! Go Mommy!” And, I wanna hear all about it afterwards so I can scrunch up my eyes again and smile real big at you because no matter what choice you make and how things go, I’m going to tell you I’m proud of you and that I love that we’re different and that I really, really love that you’re mine and I’m yours. I hope on those days that I need it, you can do the same thing for me because you’re my daughter; and daughters are cool like that.


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.

Am I Really Yours Forever?

Doubts and concerns flood his young heart and mind.

Two years come and gone and yet.

Am I really yours forever he asks? 

Will you always love me?

Always and forever, dear one.

But my last family didn’t keep me.

They were your foster family, watching over you until it was time.

Time for what?

God’s appointed time for you to join your forever family, us!

But could the government change their mind and take me away?

No, buddy, you are ours, always and forever;

Just as you belong to God, always and forever.

No one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand.



This Christmas Anthony has really been processing and trying to wrap his brain around the fact that he is with us forever. He has had me hold him like a baby and rock him and reassure him numerous times that he is ours forever. As we come up on the two year anniversary of his joining our family, we see his understanding of forever love growing. As he understands that our love is like the love of our Heavenly Father, unconditional and unchanging, you can see the joy on his face. He still asks these questions because there are clearly still some doubts lodged in mind as he tries to comprehend the love of a family. He was with his foster family in China from about the age of 2 until we adopted him at age 8. I can only imagine how it must have felt to ripped from the only family you have ever known and how confusing that must be. Why did they let him go? Why didn’t they keep him? Is it normal to be passed from one family to another?

Pray for his sweet heart and for the heart of our new little one, Eva. She joins our family in 2015. She turned 4 on January 4, and it was hard passing through that day knowing she is on the other side of the world without us. 



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 another little girl will be joining their family in 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.

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

Do’s and Don’ts for Talking with Adoptive Families

Adoption always comes with loss. No matter what the situation, at least some part of the adoption triad (birthparents, child, adoptive parents) has experienced loss. Often all three. Because it’s such an emotionally-charged topic, we thought we’d give you some tips on talking with friends and family who are in the adoption process or who have already brought their child home.

  • Don’t compare the adoption process to pregnancy.  Many prospective adoptive parents have been through years of painful infertility, and hearing that their process is like a pregnancy may be hurtful. Sometimes the differences in adoption and pregnancy/childbirth are glaringly obvious for adoptive parents. I remember sitting in the waiting room during Cy’s birth and saying to Matt, “I never thought I’d be in the waiting room waiting for my child to be born.” Few of us picture that or the many other moments that come with adoption.
  • Follow the adoptive parents’ lead to monitor your excitement. If they are ready for baby/child showers before the placement of the child, go for it. If they want to wait until they feel more confident that it will actually happen, please respect that and wait. I can’t tell you how many adoption situations have been presented to us, and we’ve always been very careful about how much information we’ve shared because we know things can change very quickly. The same is true for accepting gifts. We just weren’t comfortable until the revocation period was over.
  • Don’t talk about your own fears unless you’re asked. Even then, please make sure you only share informed opinions. Open adoption can be scary for family and friends who aren’t educated in the realities and benefits of openness. Asking prospective adoptive parents to give you resources or educate you is a great way to get involved in the process. Please remember that children are precious, regardless of their genes. Comments like, “Adoption is scary… you just never know what you’re gonna get” are insensitive and hurtful. Not to mention the fact that we have no idea what our biological children will be like either, right?
  • Treat the homecoming similarly to if they’d just delivered a child. Offer to bring meals, help with older siblings, etc. For older child adoption, check out this post. For infant adoption, remember that they’re just as tired as you were when you brought your biological child home from the hospital. (I’ve done both). And post-adoption depression is just as real and difficult as post-partum depression.
  • Keep your curiosity to yourself. I know this is difficult. We’re naturally curious, especially about situations in which we’re inexperienced. However, the story of a child’s biological family and the reasons that child was placed for adoption are the child’s story. Children should have the freedom to share their stories when they’re ready, if they’re ready. Also, the financial aspect of their adoption is none of your business. Please don’t ask how much it cost, especially in a rude, inaccurate way like, “So how much did he cost?” Adoptive families don’t buy babies. They do, however, pay an agency, attorney, and often help with expenses for the birth family.
  • Please, for the love, don’t tell an infertile, adoptive mom that she’ll probably get pregnant now. Because that happens all the time! First, adoption doesn’t take away the pain of infertility. So your comment may be hurtful. Second, the surprise-pregnancy-immediately-following-adoption thing doesn’t actually happen all the time. Adoptions don’t magically activate ovulation or erase other factors that cause infertility. (Side note: saying “just relax” doesn’t help either).
  • Refrain from comparing an adopted child’s struggles to your biological child’s. Yes, some issues may seem the same, but issues in an adopted child’s life are multi-layered. Saying “all kids do that” or “that’s normal” may seem to you like you’re normalizing the behavior and encouraging the adoptive parent. However, it may be that you don’t understand all of the facets of adoptive families. This is especially true with older child adoption. Their “behavior problems” come with years of history and hurt. Even with infant adoption, families look at issues through different filters than you. When Cy was a preschooler, he’d say very hurtful things in anger. Hearing, “I wish you weren’t my mom” is hard for any mom to hear. But because I have children through birth and adoption, I can say with certainty that hearing a comment like that feels very different when it comes from an adopted child.
  • Treat and talk about the adopted children with respect. Don’t ask adoptive parents if they have (or will have) children of their own. Our adopted children are ours, and they aren’t second-best. Don’t assume all non-white children are from other countries. Asking if a family adopted domestically or internationally is completely fine and much better than assuming.
  • Don’t treat adoptive parents like saints or saviors. They’re neither. For more on this, please read this post.

Use positive adoption language. For instance, people have often said, “Your boys look so much alike, they could be real brothers.” The intent is good, but the delivery is lacking. Our boys are real brothers. They are not biological brothers. And they’ve never entertained the idea that their genes would keep them from being “real” brothers. We’d like to keep it that way. I could go on and on with examples like this. The best thing you can do is to read this short list of positive adoption language compared to common language.


Becca Whitson

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.

Difficult Conversations . . . Try Infertility and Adoption {Summer Rewind}

As adoptive parents, we all know this day is coming.

That day where your child starts asking questions that you can’t answer. The thought of it breaks your heart, and so you try to prepare yourself, but you can never really be prepared.

Somehow these conversations always happen when I am putting on my makeup in the morning. Captive audience, I guess! 


Grace: “Mommy, when are you going to have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Well, baby, I don’t know. Only God knows if that will ever happen.”

Grace: “I was a baby in your tummy.” (she said this directly and without question)

And there it is; the question I knew would come, heading straight for me like a freight train.

Me: “Sweetheart, you may not have grown in my tummy, but you grew in my heart.

Grace: “Well, whose tummy was I in, Mommy?”

Silence. Deep breaths.

Will it be enough for now, Lord?

“Peace, Child, be still and know that I am God.”  

Me: “Sweetheart, we don’t know, but you were always in my heart.”

Grace: “Ok, Mommy!” (she hugged me and ran off her usual happy self)

For now, as an almost four year old, that is all she needs to hear, but I know a day is coming when she will not be satisfied with that statement of truth. That is OK and natural, but won’t make it any easier. I hate that I won’t have more information for her. I hate that the truth about her birth parents may hurt her and possibly rock her to the very core. But I must have faith because I know that God will be with her on this journey, guiding her, loving her and protecting her. My job is to teach her about Christ and His Sacrifice and how her worth and significance comes only from Him!

As I look at our recently adopted older Chinese son, Anthony, who has told us that his first mommy as he calls her (he is referring to his birth mother) was bad because she threw him in the trash, all I can do is pray to the One who heals all hurts, knowing that only He can give Anthony the strength and ability to forgive.


Naturally, as their mother, it  breaks my heart to see my children suffer, just as it broke God’s heart to watch His only Son die on the cross, taking our sin upon Himself. And yet, God allowed it, because it was the only way we could spend eternity forever with Him. Praise God for His amazing mercy and grace.

Thank you, Father, for your steadfast love. You are our rock and our salvation. Whom shall I fear?!



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 on Mother’s Day in 2011 from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China. And, their son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family in January of 2013 from Shanghai. Their family will be growing again very soon. 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.