Monthly Archives: March 2013

Things That Matter

I’ve been counting down the days until this Spring’s Created For Care conference for over a year.

I stayed up until midnight the night registration opened to make sure I got on the list before it sold out.  I arranged a sitter months ago.  I made new friends online and even arranged to share a room with someone I’d never met, which is huge for a socially awkward girl such as myself.

Created For Care is a conference for Moms who have adopted to come together and be refreshed.  To learn more about what it means to parent for these kids that come from a broken past.

Cause y’all, it’s hard.

Harder then I ever imagined.

Josie’s six now and it’s been about six months since the questions started.

Some are easy, “How big was I when I came home to you?”

Some squeeze my chest until there’s no air left and I have to actively fight the tears back, “Can I call her Mommy?  Does she love me?  Would it be OK if I love her?”

It wretches and twists.

I selfishly want her all to myself, but that’s not the truth.  She once belonged to someone else and even if that woman has no clue what she gave up when she walked out of that hospital and left my Josie Girl behind, Josie has a right to know about her, to love her if she wants to.

I want so, so badly for her to have a positive view on her adoption story.  It’s special and,miraculous.  Touched by God so obviously that anyone can see it.  And everyday that Josie gets older I’m more aware that how she feels about her adoption will lay largely on how I react to her questions.

We’ve been age appropriate, but open with her.

We’ve recently began sharing more details with her when she asks.  We don’t know much and a lot of her story she won’t be mature enough to hear for quite awhile, but she has names and her birth story and, yes baby, you can love her too.

“You don’t look like your Mommy,” her true to the world six year old friend states matter of factly and I see her eyes searching mine.  I know that she’s feeling shy so I take her hand in mine and share the mystery of adoption with a huge smile on my face.  I watch her friend get excited and yell out, “you got to be adopted?!?!” and there’s Josie’s smile.  She’s ready to share.

Born in an ambulance, made to be a Pope but had to find us first.  It’s her story and she’s piecing it together and I’m letting her grow and ask and trying hard to hold fast to my peace that I get to be her Mommy now and it’s ok, it’s good, to share.

So it’s hard and I was excited to go to Created For Care.

I was going to meet other moms that could really understand me and hear me and know I wasn’t complaining or ungrateful, but learning and feeling my way though, hoping I don’t screw up these kids.

And maybe a little bit scared too.

The closer the conference got though, the crazier our days were getting.  We have a few big trips coming up and I am struggling to find ways to fit everything in.  I tried to fight it and push on, but the feeling that something had to give kept pushing back.

And after a stressful morning where I was unkind to Josie, I looked at her coloring at the school table and my solution became clear.  I didn’t need a weekend away to refresh and regroup.  I needed a weekend away with her.

Just the two of us.  Where we can talk and make memories and nurture this bond.

And so we are.

This morning we hopped on a plane and are headed to our Winter Wonderland.  We should land in Minnesota anytime now.  We are going to have tea and meet Baby Ralphie and, if I can talk myself into it, spend some time sledding down hills in the freezing cold.

Sometimes I have to get out of my own head and refocus on what’s important.  I’m sure I’ll go to that conference someday.  But today I’m going to hold my daughter’s hand and celebrate everything God gave me when he handed me this child.

It isn’t easy, but it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.


Nicole is a Northern Girl turned Southern Belle. She loves Starbucks, Photography, and Homeschool Curriculum Catalogs. Passionate about Jesus, adoption, and squeezing all the love and joy out of each day. You can follow along with her life at

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the bitter and the sweet

Zoe’s our daughter. I don’t think of her as a former orphan, though she is. We’ve settled into life with her, and it feels like it’s been far more than eight weeks since we brought her home.


Today has been bittersweet. Precious, but only made so by the difficult realities of adoption.

First, a bittersweet and wonderful word…

She’s been saying it occasionally, but we haven’t been sure if it had meaning or not. Today, she was fussing on the floor with Jocelyn, and I scooped her up from behind. When she saw who it was who had her, our eyes locked and her mostly gummy grin let out a beautiful “Mama.”

This moment with each of my other two was just sweet. No bitter in sight.

But the reality is that adoption only exists due to brokenness, be it poverty or death or sin or some other circumstance that won’t exist in heaven and didn’t exist in the Garden of Eden. In the absence of brokenness, Zoe wouldn’t be ours. She would be saying “mama” to the one who gave birth to her.

The sweetness, though, is in redemption. Just as God’s redemption of me transformed me from a sinner to His child, the beauty of redemption in earthly adoption takes an orphan and makes her a loved daughter.

A daughter whose Mama’s heart fills with joy when she uses her first word to call me by name.

Second, a bittersweet and wonderful moment…
Lee went on a week-long business trip, returning today. Zoe has been a little cranky all week.

I thought it was teething, but she hasn’t acted this way with other teeth. It could be that she has been carted around more, with school registration and carpools and a developmental evaluation. It could have been any of those realities. But I realized today that she might not know that Daddy – her favorite parent by far, which I love – was coming back.

With Jocelyn and Robbie, I could say, “We’ve always come back.” And “Mommy and Daddy have always been here for you.” And “Do you have any reason to doubt us?”

For Zoe, we haven’t always been there. She’s learning to trust us. It’s different.

For Zoe, I don’t think she knew that Daddy was coming back. She is more tentative with him this evening than she has been since our first days in Taiwan. In time, she’ll trust him again, but we’re not quite sure she does right now.

That’s the bitter.

The sweet? It’s this.

China adoption baby

China adoption baby special needs


Shannon Dingle

Shannon and her husband Lee have been married for 7 years, with three children Jocelyn (5), Robbie (3), and Zoe (9 mo). The oldest two are homegrown, and Zoe joined the family via adoption from Taiwan in July 2012. Shannon is a stay-at-home mom, writing about family and faith and whatnot at Dinglefest, who also serves as her church’s special needs ministry coordinator, blogging about that to equip and encourage other churches at The Works of God Displayed. Their adoption of Zoe – including the picture to the left – was documented by The Archibald Project; all the pictures are on Facebook here. The Dingles love to call Raleigh home, and they hope to adopt again in a few years.

The Hard.

Adoption is a picture of redemption. True.

And adoption puts children into forever families. True.

And for us, as the adoptive parents, I think the picture of the journey to our children is often filled with waiting, pursuit, longing, waiting, paperwork, waiting lists, more paperwork and more waiting.

All True.

And there comes a point when, after all that anguish, we are able to put the journey behind us and declare it all worth it in the end.  True.

But there is more to the story. There is so much more to the process and to the journey than our “yes”.

There is hard, too.

Because while we were journeying and paperchasing and waiting and waiting and waiting,

Our children were walking through rejection, abandonment, shame, loss, hurt, longing, relinquishment, lonliness, abuse, trauma, neglect, malnourishment, sadness and grief.

Yes. Adoption is restoration, and it is redemptive, and it can bring beauty to brokenness.

But. BUT. It is also hurt. and loss. and more loss…..

It can be too easy, in my experience, to see the finish line and declare ourselves victorious without considering the hidden things. the broken things. the layers upon layers of hurt that we must carefully help our children peel back to bring true and complete healing.

We must be willing to walk through the hard, too, as parents.  We must be willing to acknowledge that those early hurts deeply affected our children. And we must be ready to grieve with them. To talk about the hard things. To be honest and trustworthy with our childrens stories. To love them through the anger–which will undoubtedly be directed at us– and to sit and wait as our children examine deeper and deeper inside their protected little hearts for the things they most want to be rid of….

We must understand that that finish line we celebrated. Was the starting line. We had simply arrived at the race.

And intentionally. purposefully. honestly. We must walk through the hard stuff with our children. We must cover shame with His grace and love. We must acknowledge unfairness and grieve hurts and losses and unanswered questions. We must be fully present. constant. never failing in our love and consistency.


Never forgetting that for us to be their forever family…

they have to have lost their first family.

“Adoptive parents and families are not always aware of how being relinquished has deeply impacted their adopted child. They are just so thankful to have that child in their life. But, all the while adoptive parents are rejoicing and celebrating, their adopted child is grieving the missing parts of his or her life before living with their family. Their adopted child has lost a part of his or her history, his or her DNA, his or her life –- and no one is available to talk about it.” 

-Carissa Woodwyk


Ashley Smith

Ashley Smith is a passionate and enthusiastic Blogger, Mother, Christian and Adoption Advocate. She often writes to release true stories and emotions about International Adoption, Faith and The Everyday Life over at In My Own Words and prays that her words would bring hope and life to readers. She is the analytical left-brained wife of a creative worship-leading right-brained (and yet still amazing) man and Mom to a 5 year old superhero-loving boy, Marvel, who joined their family in the summer of 2012 from Ethiopia!


Share Your Story {Openness}

We know. Just the word openness made some of you uncomfortable. But, here’s the thing, though not every adoption is “open” in the sense that the child knows and has some level of relationship with his or her birth family, every adoption can be open in that parents can share information and honor the birth families of their children, even if their names and identities are unknown.

And, that’s what we want to talk about today. Openness. How you do it. Why you do it. When you do it. And, maybe what God has shown you through as you’ve built a spirit of openness in your family.

Share an old post or write a new one this week and share that one. We want to hear from each other so that we can encourage each other as we do this thing God has called us to do.


Sometimes Lily talks about wanting to go back to her “old place,” as she calls her orphanage – her home for 4 years. She was loved there. She was a sick little baby who against the odds grew to be a sick little girl, sick but spunky. Her referral described her as “stubborn and coquettish” and it was all too true. We’ve been learning a lot from this little firecracker.

It was one of those moments when discipline seems unfair and being the littlest and having to follow rules is simply no fun anymore… “I want go back my old place.” she said, chin quivering a little bit.

Wrapping her arms tightly around Lily, my mom told her about how sad we all would be if Lily left. She was in our family now, she was our special. Lily squinted her eyes, pursed up her lips and blushed the way only she can when she feels loved and wanted. “I stuck,” she said.

Since that day, the word “stuck” has earned itself a new meaning in our family. “I stuck with you,” Lily says as she snuggles close – knowing that she’s safe and wanted and that the love of a mama and daddy won’t ever run out. “I stuck” she’ll sullenly announce when the little responsibilities of being in a family get tiresome. “We all stuck…” she’ll figure, naming each of her big brothers and sisters – all of us part of a big stuck-together-family.

She was sitting on her bed, ready to turn off the lights and go to sleep when she started remembering. “You meet my friend?” she asked. “At my old place?” Oh, yes, we did meet her old roommates when we visited her orphanage at the time of her adoption. There were three bunk beds, so six girls to a room. She had been the littlest, and three of the girls still in her room had been her friends. They remembered her, even though it had been over a year since she had slept on her bottom bunk. They called her name and she introduce her family. Her family.

“On my friends,” she continued, “she not stuck. I think… probably… she want be stuck.”

“Can we pray for her?”

This was the first time that we heard Lily express and acknowledge the fact that the friends from her “old place” are still orphans, waiting for a mommy and daddy of their own. They’re waiting to be stuck.

“Claire stuck. Levi stuck. Joshua stuck. Yanyin stuck.” Lily goes down the list of her friends. “Ohh… (she remembers other close friends who have yet to be matched with families)… they stuck? We pray for them.”

Let’s join Lily in hoping and praying that one day, every child knows what it is to be wanted, chosen and stuck.


Hannah Samuels

When Hannah traveled to China in 2002 with her parents to adopt her sister Elisabeth, she fell in love with the country and people. In 2004, when her other sister Naomi was adopted, she started dreaming of going back. It took 5 years for that dream to come true. She now serves in a foster home for special needs orphans in China. Hannah spends her days studying, writing for the foster home and on her personal blog, Loving Dangerously, and most importantly, holding babies. Hannah loves the adventure of living overseas with her family. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.


i try to remember and can’t. i try really, really hard. but when i go back in my mind, it’s not there. i then i remember it didn’t happen that way. all it takes is a clip of a commercial…the one with the mothers holding their new born babies, and my mind goes racing back to the day when i gave birth to Sophia. but i didn’t. and it’s one of the the strangest feelings i’ve ever had. the first time it happened, i kind of freaked out. i was watching some movie on tv, and there she was, a new mommy holding that precious little baby, and in my mind i thought, “oh, how sweet…i remember how i felt when i…” and then i froze. no, i don’t remember that, but oh how it feels like i should! we’ve been home with sophia for over a year now and God has sealed us together so tightly as a family, that i forget we went to China! i feel as if i gave birth to her…i feel as if it should’ve have happened! the first time i had that realization, i cried. i guess i was grieveing what didn’t happen, but i was also just plain feeling sorry for myself because one day i would so love to tell sophia about the day i gave birth to her. and on top f that, i never want her to feel as if she is different than any other little boy or girl whose mommy and daddy love them and brought them home a few days after entering the world. so, i did what i always do…i turned to Him. and He did what He always does… He gently reminded me of His perfect plan. His plan of how He brought our family together that day in China… the way He wanted to. He reminded me that i need to trust in Him when the time comes to explain those things to her, and that giving birth is miraculous. whether it’s natural or supernatural, like ours was. after the initital shock of trying to conjure up a memeory that was not there, i realized how blessed i was to feel that way. she IS my daughter, and yes, I am her real mommy. nothing will ever change that. our circumstances are different, but boy are they incredible! today we celebrate her birthday. and even though i may not remember the day she was born, there is someone who does. a nameless woman, halfway around the world, who, today, i’m sure, is remembering the day she walked into a hospital in Nanjing three years ago and gave birth to the sweetest little girl on earth. her memories, i’m sure, are filled with pain. i can’t even imagine what she may be feeling. i pray for her today. i pray that God somehow will let her know that the child she gave birth to is with a family (and i mean a great big family!) that loves her beyond the moon and back. i wish i could thank her. thank her for loving her enough to risk going into a hospital to give birth. to thank her for choosing a better life for her. to thank her for following God’s plan…even if she didn’t know what she was doing. one day i may be able to do that. only God knows…but for right now, i pray that today will bring peace to her. we have such a beautiful story of love to share with our daughter one day. and although our memories with her start at 21 months old, i think we are doin a pretty good job of making some wonderful memories with her. today is her day. and we will celebrate the joy of who she is in our lives. a daughter we can’t imagine never not having. and it really doesn’t matter how God did it. i’m just so glad He DID!


Margy Hughes

Margy and her husband, Darren, traveled to China in November 2011 to bring their daughter home. Sophia Li was 21 months old at the time and has been helping Margy burn lots of calories ever since. The three live in southeastern NC and enjoy ice cream, visiting Disney World whenever possible, and being a forever family that God brought together by His perfect design.  You can follow their story on her blog, Hughes House.


Adoption Breaks My Heart Sometimes

When you adopt a child internationally, so much of their previous life is a mystery. Thus far, William has been unable or unwilling to share any but the tiniest and most mundane details of his time in the orphanage. Because of this, every scrap of information I can glean from other children who lived with him is a treasure. We keep in contact with the other families, and as different children begin to share we are able to fill in a few gaps and gain a better understanding of their journey.

The things we learn are both amusing and heartbreaking.

Hunger before they came into care. We knew this was the main reason children are relinquished for adoption. There simply is Not. Enough. Food. Family members must make difficult decisions in order to ensure survival: adoption or starvation. I knew this was their reality, but to hear it from the mouth of a child that I know and care about is unbearable.

Fear and mourning after relinquishment. These are real children who are separated from the only life they have ever known. Their loved ones decided to place them in an orphanage so they will have a chance at a better life; so they will survive long enough to have a better life. Unfortunately the children don’t understand that. All they know is that yesterday they were home with mommy, and now they are in a strange building with strange people and mommy isn’t coming back. How would your preschooler react in that situation? Our babies reacted the same way: crying, screaming, clinging on for dear life. I wish I could erase those memories and heal that hurt, but I can’t.

Making the best of things. We heard about how Will would get out of bed at night and start dancing to make his friends laugh (totally sounds like him, by the way), and then the nannies would get on to them. We also heard about haircuts, games of tag, and the pandemonium that a little mouse can cause (imagine boys chasing the mouse while the girls scream their heads off!). For the most part, the orphanage was a happy place. The nannies love those children fiercely and although it’s not the same as a family, they do the best they can to make it a home.

Grief shared by close friends. The children were able to laugh and play during the day, but when nighttime came, sometimes the weight of grief was too much to bear. It was at those times that William and his friend would climb in the same bed and cry together. I can’t even type that without tearing up. There is only so much that this momma’s heart can take. I’m thankful that he had friends to walk through that time with. I’m grateful to the older children who helped care for the younger ones, both physically and emotionally.

These kids have been through things that would make a grown man crumble, and yet they are willing to love, trust, and start over.

Just this afternoon William was talking about Ethiopia which, as I said, is rare.

He was talking about the day we came to get him (in the cutest accent you have EVER heard).

“I was far away in Ethiopia, and Mommy and Daddy drive car (vroom, vroom noises), and the car go ‘beep! beep!’ and the thing go bzzzzzzz (we honked the horn for the guard to open the gate). And they say ‘watch out’ and we move and the car come in. And you get out and…..”

(Huge grin and twinkling eyes)

“…You hold me!”

Yes, baby, we sure did. And we will never let you go.


Tiffany Castleberry

Tiffany lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her high-school-sweetheart husband and five fantastic kids, four by birth and one from Ethiopia. Her passions include Bible study, adoption, writing, and homeschooling. When she isn’t doing laundry or driving to her children’s activities, you can find her blogging at Stuff and Things.

The Masterpiece

He has me wrapped around his little chubby finger.

Those eyes.

Those cheeks.

That smile.

I love to just stare at him and take in all the details of this amazing little creation.  He is a masterpiece.

I was thinking the other day (as I often do) about his birth family.  It thrills me that he is ours, but it makes me sad sometimes to think about what his birth family is missing out on.  He is such a treasure, and it’s hard to believe that the people who made him don’t get to enjoy him each day.

But as I tried to comprehend the complexity of adoption, God gave me a small glimpse of what adoption really looks like.  It’s not always about neglect, abandonment, or betrayal.  Many times, it is really about LOVE.

Imagine a struggling artist.  He works and toils to create beautiful imagery that captures the eye and touches the soul.  In his small, dimly-lit apartment he covers a canvas with shades, colors and images that reflect the very core of his being.  A piece of who he is is transferred into this work of art.

When it is completed, he is filled with awe at the beauty of his own creation.  Yet he knows that his humble home is no place for a masterpiece such as this.  There is a part of him that wishes to keep the painting for himself and be able to look at it as often as he wants.  But he knows deep down that his painting is worthy of a grander display than what he can offer.

He calls museum curators and art critics to come and view his masterpiece.  They are all struck with the raw emotion that is evident in the brushstrokes and lines of his painting.  Many of them offer him a great price, but finally, he settles on one particular gentleman who seems to really grasp the meaning behind the work of art.  It doesn’t even seem possible to put a price on the artist’s labor of love, but they finally agree on an amount and the gentleman covers the canvas and, smiling, walks away.

The artist watches the gentleman until he can’t see him anymore.  Then he turns, heart heavy, and begins to clean up some remaining paints and rags that were left over from his work.  He knows he has done the right thing.  If he would have kept the painting, the conditions of his apartment would have taken their toll on its quality.  Few would have been able to see and enjoy the beauty of his masterpiece.  But where the painting was headed, it would be cared for, displayed and enjoyed the way that a true work of art should be.

He loved his creation enough to give it away.

Josiah is a masterpiece.  He is someone’s creation.  His features, personality, stature- everything about him is a reflection of the ones who made him.  He was loved enough by those who made him that they wanted something better for him.  They knew he was worthy of greater care than what they could provide.  So selflessly, they chose to share their work of art with us.  And what a humbling thought to be given such an incredible treasure.

I thank God every day that Josiah’s birth family chose to give him life.  I am thankful that we are the ones that God chose to care for that life.  I am thankful for the beautiful gift that is adoption.

And I am thankful that, because of the Master Artist, we are all a reflection of the love of our Creator.


Heather Fallis

Heather Fallis is a wife, mother, preschool director, youth pastor, writer, musician and coffee addict. She and her husband have two biological daughters and recently adopted a son from South Korea. Heather has documented their miraculous adoption journey in hopes of inspiring and encouraging others who have dreams of adopting. You can read more at

…but we’re afraid

The words in my inbox were words I had read before.

we’ve been prayerfully considering adoption…but we are both still wrestling with a lot of fear and uncertainty….I know God will provide, but I really don’t know how to move beyond this place of fear.

The same words have been parts of other messages from other women. The same words had been written on my own heart years ago.

I remember when our family story began. Mark and I met at Young Life camp right before my senior year of college. Only 3 months later, after only phone calls and emails (which was nearly brand new), we started talking serious, and I knew where we were headed. After one of those late night phone calls with Mark, I called my mom, and I cried. I was scared out of my mind. I knew he was amazing and that God was leading and I was following — all good things. But, I was so uncomfortable and scared of the unknown and the commitment I was likely to be saying yes to soon. Fear and uncertainty filled me. My mom said something seemingly not all that brilliant; yet, 15 years later, here I am with her words still playing over in my head. They were words that quieted me and helped me move past my own self in spite of myself.

Kelly, I’d be worried if you weren’t scared.


Here’s the thing. Adoption is a big deal. And, wrestling with fear and uncertainty is right where you should be. It’s all part of the adoption journey. If we take that lightly and not wrestle with it, well, that’s when I’d be concerned.

It’s really not about having the best parenting skills or being able to stay at home or knowing all about attachment or all that we can wrongly claim as making as fully able and therefore ready. It’s about discerning if God has called you to it and if He has, if that timing is now. Even after we discerned that ourselves, I still battled fear, fear that literally took me prostrate to the ground at times. Some days while we waited, I wondered if we were making a mistake. I wondered if I forced something and if we were headed down the wrong path, if I’d be able to cut it, if I could really love a child who wasn’t “my own,” if I was motivated by the wrong reasons. But, God wouldn’t let us not do it. So, we pressed on. It wasn’t the easiest road–the wait, looking over files of very real children, traveling across the world, coming home with a toddler who was now our own, the grafting process. But, I know that right here is where God wants me to be, even when I’m overwhelmed by my inadequacy and wondering what He’s doing.

No one is “perfect” for this journey. But, He is and the journey itself is when He has called you to it.


Kelly Raudenbush

Forever changed by our experience of being adopted and adopting, Kelly is a stay-at-home mom/manager to 4 children and a professional juggler, juggling her calling as wife and mother with her secondary callings (editing and serving adoptive families through The Sparrow Fund). You can learn more about their adoption story, how they’ve been changed, and what life for them looks like on their personal blog.


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