Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blessed Child

I’m reading Blessed Child and in the book something just jumped off the page last night.
In it Ted Dekker writes:

“Whoever said that a straightened [leg] is more dramatic than a healed heart??”

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So which is better having straightened [legs] or a healed heart?

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That got me thinking.

Because of course we want Josie’s legs to be as straight and strong as possible but her heart  “health” is way more important.
And just in the last month we have sensed a difference in her heart.
She is truly happier.

The biggest change we have seen is that she is now praying at bedtime.
We knew she “did” that before she came to us and we were told she prayed wonderful sweet prayers. But we didn’t see or hear them.
But now she does. And she thanks God for her family.

There are times when I wonder why in the world I am called to parent a child with special needs?!?
I have zero qualifications.

(and just the other week I was telling a friend that if we would have known all of Josie’s “needs” I doubt we would have had the faith to adopt her….just being real.)

But as I sat at therapy on Tuesday and took in the sights and sounds of the PT room I was amazed and overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be a part of this awesome group of “normal” moms who happen to have special need kids.

There were 4 kiddos doing therapy, all at different levels,  and one therapist was trying to bribe her “student”  into taking steps in the gait trainer.  Helen did NOT want take steps until Kristie told her she would do a cartwheel for her if she walked the length of the room. (Kristie is about 32ish and a “retired” gymnast.)

So of course we all start cheering for Helen to take steps and she does!
And the look on her face when she saw Kristie do the cartwheel was priceless.

I see some of the moms at therapy watch Josie and I. And I can almost read their minds as they watch and think to themselves …she chose a child with special needs?!?!!? She must be crazy!

And I guess in a sense we kinda did. We could have said NO! We could have kept running away from “Niveveh.”

(And honestly some days the thought of getting swallowed by a big fish sounds inviting and almost like a vacation!)

But if we would have kept running I wouldn’t  be getting this front row seat into this special world called “special needs.”

These moms at therapy didn’t get to “chose” what needs they were comfortable “accepting” but they chose to parent and chose life.

And so I’m learning to be grateful for this unique window I get to look through and be a part of each week and I pray that I can be as much of an encouragement to them as they are to me.  I hope my words and actions will be an encouragement to these precious moms.  That we really CAN’T do it on our own strength. It is only by God’s grace and strength that I make it through the days.

I am finding out how h.a.r.d. it is parenting a child with special needs. It is time consuming, tiring and expensive!!

But as our eyes lock across the PT therapy room no words are needed as we celebrate the successes but also feel the pain and frustration when the therapy session isn’t going “as planned.”

Just relating to the fact that we really are just “normal” moms just trying our best and wanting the best for our kiddos. We aren’t “super heroes” nor we do have any “super powers.”

We just put one foot in front of the other and try and keep first things first.

Because it is way more about the heart issues then about having straight legs.

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Lynnea Hameloth

Lynnea Hameloth

Lynnea is blessed to be a child of God and is also thankful to be able to stay at home to raise (and school) the children God has entrusted her with. She has been married to her best friend for 20 years and really enjoys just “doing life” with him by her side. The Hameloth’s have three (awesome and/or amazing) sons born the old fashioned way and three precious daughters, who just happen to have been born in China, but found their way into their lives and hearts through God’s awesome plan. This (sometimes) fun and wild ride has been full of many ups and downs but worth it all. He who calls is faithful. Find out more about their crazy but fulfilling lives at www.hamelothjourney.blogspot.com.

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Will You Adopt Again?

I think Arie was home for just over one month when someone asked me this question for the first time.

“Will you adopt again?”

It didn’t catch me off guard because I’d asked myself this question a lot. During the fundraising. After the home study. After the first trip. In the middle of our court trip. When Arie came home. A week after he came home. Two weeks. Three weeks. A month.

But asking a new mom if she wants to adopt again when the adoption is in progress or shortly completed, is sort of like asking a new mom if she wants more kids when she’s in the middle of labor. Or those long, sleepless night with a colicky baby.

Theoretically she’ll probably tell you yes, but it’s also a lot to get her head around.

The process of adoption is hard. For us, the fundraising, home study, paperwork, and of course the travel was almost all-consuming. When we remember that very long year, it’s hard to imagine doing it again.

But then of course, we think about our son…

…and the way he wakes up from his nap and waits for us to come and get him. I think about the cautious look he wears when he sees me peeking in the door, wondering is it time to get up? Am I allowed to be awake? And the smile he wears when instead of it’s nap time now I say, wakey wakey! Did you have a good nap?

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I think about that timid, obedient little boy we met at the orphanage and then I see our little Arie- still obedient, but walking around with a new swagger. And lounging on our furniture like he owns the place. Like he belongs here. Like this is his home at last.

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I think about the little boy we knew in Moscow who rejected almost every food we gave him but scarfed down whole bananas in three or four bites, struggling to control something in his strange new life. And now I watch with total delight as he digs his hands into the cookie dough to pull out as many chocolate chips as he can grasp. He eats them with a sly grin on his face and a sparkle in his eye and I think to myself that these are the simple gifts of belonging to a family.

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I remember holding him in July when we first met him and I remember the way his body flopped out and away from me. He’d been walking on his own two feet for so long, he didn’t know how to be carried. Then I watch as he climbs onto the couch with his stretched out papa, imitating what he sees with endless giggles, and then falling into his father’s chest.

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I remember that endless paperwork. I remember the giant doses of stress. I remember the long flights. The home study. The fingerprinting. The being-on-a-first-name-basis at Fed-Ex. The feeling like it was too much and that it would never end.

And then I look at Arie and I think about how immensely blessed I am. Not just to be a mom at last, but to have been used by God to change a life. I think to myself that all my angst-filled questions about what I’m going to do with my life have been laid to rest because I feel like I’ve done something. I can’t imagine anything greater in life than to receive a divine calling and to answer it.

I was really hard but it was worth it.

When I think about that, I think that yes I’d like to adopt again, if God calls us. And honestly? I’m praying he does.

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Don’t forget about the easy way you can support adoption and care for orphans…through shopping. Go find some gifts for your family and friends…or yourself…HERE.

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

Blooming

As we sat around my house earlier this month celebrating Mother’s Day (my 8th, whoa!) with family, I took a moment to meditate on the blessing of motherhood.  Sometimes I cannot believe that God trusts me to raise these three precious beings whom I have the privilege of calling “mine.”  All three of them are so special and unique, and I love each of them in different ways for the little people they are.  They all bring such joy to my life.  Angel is my little “mama in the making,” exploding with such compassion and love.  Lovebug is my court jester, with a heart of gold that he uses to love and feel so deeply.  And Sunshine is my fierce warrior, so strong and courageous, overflowing with love and hope.  I see Jesus working through their young lives all the time.  I am a better person because of them and my faith has been strengthened because of what they’ve shown me about unconditional love, grace, and life.  I celebrate how much more my children have given me than I could ever possibly give to them.

While thinking about this on Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but notice something God-breathed and simply beautiful.  It was the way Sunshine was so comfortably a part of everything, as if she had just always been.  She was happily climbing all over my dad as any grandchild would do.  She was interacting with her 93-year-old great-grandma in a way that no one else could.  She ran to each of her grandparents effortlessly, squealing their names with delight.  She played with and chased around her brother and sister as any sibling would.  She wrapped her little arms around her daddy’s neck so sweetly as he carried her around.  And she laid with me on the sofa with such trust and security and love, as if I had always been her mama.  It was the way it’s supposed to be.  It was breathtaking.

Almost two years ago, we brought her home to us forever.  At the six-month mark, I thought things were good.  At the one-year mark, I thought things were great.  But almost two years home, oh my it just keeps getting better and better.  The love that I have in my heart for this precious child has grown so big, it’s overwhelming at times.  It definitely had to grow and be nurtured, but it’s very real and it is fierce.  She is mine and that is amazing.  This plan that God has for Sunshine and for our family is pretty awesome.  And watching it unfold right before my eyes is truly remarkable.

living out his love blooming

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Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is a child of God and a wife to an amazing man.  She is a classical homeschooling mama to three (two homegrown, one who came to them through the beautiful gift of international adoption).  She is also a part-time newborn photographer, founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. She loves to blog and learn new things.  She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father. With His love, all things are possible.

 

Messages Through Music

I’ve been meaning to write this for a couple weeks, but we’re in the midst of a really tough season with the older kids. It’s nothing we didn’t expect or that’s not normal, but it’s kept us busy and exhausted nonetheless. It’s also made these words even more appreciated than they were when I meant to blog them.

Ty’s current favorite song is One Thing Remains. We’ve been listening to it a lot at home and singing it a lot at church.

The chorus echoes these words again and again…

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me.

Imagine if you believed the opposite in your core–that love always fails, and it has given up and run out on you. That is what our kids from hard places believe. Their behavior reflects their insecurity because their brain dictates survival and not logic. Traditional consequences are not just ineffective but damaging. Nonsensical arguments and hurtful words reign. Behavior is meant to push you away but also screams, “PLEASE!! Don’t leave me like everyone else.”

It will probably take years of love and consistency to change their paradigm. My head knows this, but my heart is frustrated at the ridiculousness that defines my day-to-day life. My flesh wants to give them what their words are asking for, but my heart is begging for the grace to give them what they need.

Enter song #2. Take My Life. Here are the lyrics that need to define my life if we’re all going to emerge on the other side.

Here am I, all of me.
Take my life, it’s all for Thee.

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine.

My new motto: If you thought marriage was sanctifying, try adoption.

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Melissa Corkum

Melissa Corkum

Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children, a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea, and 3 big kids from Ethiopia (adopted at 12 to 14 years of age). She resides in Maryland where they started a ministry called The Grafted. The Grafted exists to help the local Body of Christ connect to information, resources, and organizations in order to develop a compassionate culture that cares for orphans, vulnerable children, and widows. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog.

 

 

End of the Wait

I am so tired of waiting for joy.

I am so tired of saying that life will be great when ______.

When I meet my husband.
When I finish school.
When we have children.
When Amelia gets home.
When our finances change. (not that we lack!)
When my schedule clears.
When my work situation is different.
When this.
When that.
When
when
when
when

THIS is the life I am living. Here and now. And it is a gift from a God who loves me more than my tiny brain can fathom. A gift so big, I can only unwrap it in tiny layers, and I haven’t even begun to see a drop of this Life’s glory. (Because He is the Life.) Do I think I deserve something better than the oceans of grace He has flooded onto my life?

I AM TIRED OF WAITING.
I am DONE waiting for joy.

I remember when we were waiting for Amelia, God began to whisper to my heart that I wasn’t REALLY waiting for Amelia. He whispered this to my heart: “You are waiting to see ME.” Yes. I see now that I was! And wow… how He is now showing Himself to my open, starving, begging-for-more-of-Him heart.

I thought we would see God most in the wait. In the trial. But oh, thank You God! The real miracles in this heart of stone I carry have begun in the days since we got home. God is going to change me. I know He is. He wants to show Himself to me. To us. To whomever is hungry for the Only True Joy.

I will leave you with an incredible quote from the book I am currently obsessed with. I now think this: During the painful darkness of our adoption wait, I was in the cleft of the rock, being shielded from God’s consuming glory by His covering hand. But now… oh chilling miracle… He has lifted His hand so I can look upon the back of a Holy God passing by.

Wasn’t that too His way with Moses? “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back” (Exodus 33:22-23 NIV)
Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock an covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent. In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, cracking dreams. But maybe this is the true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting an earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look.
Then we will look back and see His back.
Yes, God. Help us look back and see YOU.

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Rachel Goode

 

Rachel has been married to her husband Brad for 5 years. They have a 3 year old named Caroline and a 1 year old named Amelia, whom they recently brought home from Uganda. God has used Amelia and adoption to show His love and glory to the Goode family. You can follow their story on their blog.

2 year Anniversary of the “slow down”

It was this week 2 years ago that we learned of major changes in the Ethiopia program. We learned that the process was going to slow down and that there could potentially be a waiting time of “years“. We had already been in the process for 9 months (with paperwork and home study), on the waitlist for 3 of those months, and I can remember the way I felt like it was yesterday. We were devastated  I couldn’t quit crying. I was asking “why?” more than I would like to admit and I was angry. We had already “wasted” so much of our time and money trying to get pregnant again. Then God called us to adopt and guess what? We were excited about it. We gave up our dream of more biological children and accepted God’s plan for us to adopt. So why in the world was He allowing this to happen? This delay, this heartache, this series of unknown events….why? And on top of that, what were we going to do? How could we wait for years? Were we on the wrong path? Was our child somewhere else?

Devastated and confused.

(You can read some of the posts I wrote around that time  HERE)

But you want to know what else I remember about that time? I remember how so many of you rallied around us. You prayed with us and for us. You signed a petition. You wrote me notes of encouragement. You loved us well.

I also remember my God who loved us well. My God who calmed me down and reminded me that He was/is in control. My God who assured us multiple times that we were on the right path and that our child is indeed in Ethiopia. My God who has continually met our needs from day to day and given us the strength to endure. My God who has helped us to find joy and purpose in this wait.

Obviously we are still waiting. 2 years and 9 months since we started this process (2 years and 3 months on the waitlist) and still no baby. And we are still more than ready. And we are still tired. And we are still longing. But there is one thing we are not still doing. We are not asking “why?” anymore.

And not because we fully know the answer to the question “Why?” We may never fully know until we meet our Savior face to face. But that unrest that used to be in my heart is not there.

Oh, I still get frustrated. And I even still get angry sometimes. And every single day I tear up and long for our child. Then there are the times that I wrestle with God over the wait and the time frames, over my desire to be in control.

But when it comes to the overall journey that we are on, in some way, I really think I have peace.

You know in scripture when it talks about “a peace that passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7)? Well, that’s the one. I think I’ve got it.

Not every moment of every day. But it’s there. And in the times when I’m struggling for control, when I’m frustrated over the passing time, the Holy Spirit really and truly fills me with that peace. And He reminds me that there has already been great purpose in this journey, and that the best is yet to come.

And I believe that. I believe that the best is coming. Even if hard is mingled with the good. I believe God has his best in store for us. And I can’t wait to see it!

One day when this child is home and when he/she is old enough to ask me “Why? Why did you wait?”, I know some things that I can tell him/her for sure.

 

Why?

Because God’s will is more powerful than my own.

Because my heart needed work and my Heavenly Father was gracious enough to take the time to do a major work in me.

Because God wanted to open my eyes (and your daddy’s and Hayes’) to the orphan crisis and He wanted us to know that life is not about us.

Because God the Father wanted me to know God the Son in a deeper, more intimate way.

Because there is a power in prayer that I wasn’t experiencing because until YOU I really hadn’t been on my knees, not really.

Because I needed to cling to Jesus and not let go.

Because God wanted us to experience the JOY that comes through pain.

Because God wanted me to learn how to love others and He did that by sending others to love us well.

Because my entire view of life, of others, and of this world needed to change.

Because God wanted us to let go of our plans and embrace His.

Because He had created YOU for our family since the beginning of time and he was weaving our stories together.

Because you are mine.

Because you are worth it.

You were worth every tear, every delay, every minute of the wait. You. Were. Worth. It.

And one day when I am telling our child these things I will know the answer to the biggest question I have right now.

When?

Because, at this moment in time, that is my biggest struggle. That’s what I wrestle with now. Wondering when.

And to tell you the truth, I think it’s time!

Praying that the Lord moves mountains in Ethiopia, that he changes hearts of leaders (all over the world), that he removes bars of iron (Isaiah 45), that he knocks down gates and opens doors, that he provides paperwork and sets our child and many others FREE. And that through it all, the world will see that HE alone is God and that He alone deserves all the glory, honor and praise.

Pray with me??

 

Meg DeCoudres

Meg DeCoudres

Meg and her husband, Shaun, have been married for almost 10 years and have one biological son, Hayes, who is 5. For the past several years, God has taken Meg and Shaun on a journey through infertility and He has used that journey to open their hearts to adoption. In June of 2010 they began the process to adopt their next child from Ethiopia and to this day they are still waiting expectantly. You can follow their adoption story on Meg’s blog, “Go and Tell“.

 

The new cyber Monday

The day after Mother’s Day. That’s today. But, we’re just going to call it the new Cyber Monday because you all have some shopping to do.

I met Kelly a year and a half ago over coffee in her living room. A mutual friend who knew that we shared the desire to serve children and families joined through adoption set us up on a “blind date.” As the sister to an adopted brother and with the hope of being an adoptive mom myself one day, I knew how important The Sparrow Fund’s resources were for families as Kelly explained what they did. I thought I knew— but to see has been another story.

Vertical Logo - Low ResI joined in the work, volunteering, helping wherever I could. With The Sparrow Fund, I’ve attended trainings, conferences, and retreats—what an amazing and challenging learning experience for me. I have been overwhelmed with how intentional, loving, devoted, and honest the adoption community is. Sorting through adoption issues can be difficult, messy, and exhausting. The Sparrow Fund does an extraordinary job of creating s p a c e for this community—space for adoptive families to come and be blessed through relational, emotional, spiritual, and financial support; space to be encouraged by each other’s experiences, informed by adoptees’ stories, and educated by professionals in the field. The brokenness that comes with adoption is just as welcome as the joy. It has been such a blessing to watch this space be filled over and over again.

The Sparrow Fund is doing excellent work. More than excellent, though, it is needed. There are few training and retreat opportunities like the ones that The Sparrow Fund offers. And, I can tell you from experience that they are such encouraging, life-giving times for adoptive parents. In addition, The Sparrow Fund awarded grants for preadoption counseling and ongoing support to 18 families this past year alone, ensuring as smooth an adoption process as possible. Those 18 grants played a part in 24 children being brought into their families as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

We need you to help create more space for support and encouragement for children and families—which is where the new Cyber Monday comes in. About 50 businesses selling guitar equipment to children’s books to jewelry to skincare have committed to celebrating adoption and honoring the work of The Sparrow Fund by donating 10% of their total May sales. All you have to do is shop to grow that 10%. Click HERE or on the page in the menu bar on this site, and start shopping!

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abbey leaman

Abbey Leaman

Abbey Leaman recently married her high school sweetheart of 10 years. She works in admissions at a private school in the Philadelphia area and volunteers for The Sparrow Fund in (most of) her spare time. She loves spending time with family and friends, gardening, cooking, and traveling. She and her husband have dreams of adopting in the future.

Fill in the Blank

“Go around and introduce your child and then say I love him or her because ____________.”

That was the ice breaker, and I had about 30 seconds until I was up.

This is David, and I love him because he’s really smart.

This is Emily, and I love her because she’s so kind and caring.

I’m up. And, I played along.

This is Drew, and I love him because he’s so silly and funny. And, this is Ashlyn, and I love her because she’s so helpful all the time. And, this is Lydia, and I love her because she is mine.

Isn’t that how I should have answered it for all of them?

I recognize my children need to be affirmed—probably because I recognize my own need to be affirmed. Words of affirmation are my love language.

But, what we were asked to do by filling in the blank had a fundamental flaw.

I don’t love Drew because he’s silly and funny. I don’t love Ashlyn because she’s helpful. I don’t love Evan because he’s sensitive and gentle. I don’t love Lydia because of how she lights up a room. I don’t.

red letter ink ephesiansI love them because they’re mine, and I’m called to love them. God has given them to me; and, in so doing, He has given me the very significant calling to love them. Sometimes my calling as a mother is easy, and love overflows. Other times aren’t as easy and I feel the internal resistance to continually pour myself out. Regardless, I’m still called to love—not because he’s gentle, not because she’s smart, not because he’s funny, not because she’s creative. It is really more about me than about them. I love; they are simply the receivers of that love.

If God humored us with joining our ice breaker, how would He fill in the blank?

This is Kelly, and I love her because she is mine.

If a million words of affirmation were spoken over me, 999,997 would be unneeded. She is mine. They’re the only 3 words I really need.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Titus 3:4-5a

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

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 blogMy Overthinking (where she’s going to have some super sweet giveaways this month, by the way).

The Waiting Child

Thinking about Adoption? Have you considered the Waiting Childl?

When my husband and I first started our adoption process, these children were referred to as Special Needs which can be a scary term.

But what if instead we called them “Waiting Children”? Doesn’t sound as intimidating, right, and it is the truth as well! Furthermore, what if we thought of “Special Needs” kids as “special”, amazing children in “need” of or waiting for a forever family? What if God had said, “oh, I don’t want to save people with problems, only perfect people”? None of us are worthy of Him. We are all special cases in comparison to our great God. Praise God, that He, in His mercy, sent his only and perfect Son to die for all of us (John 3:16)!

When our caseworker mentioned this list as a possibility to us, we looked at each and said, “we don’t think so”, but God had other plans. He began to work in our hearts and brought people into our lives who had adopted children from China on the waiting child list and showed us that He had a completely different plan than we were thinking of for our adopted child. He showed us that we didn’t need be scared of this special list of children but rather to see them as beautiful children created by their creator, perfect in His eyes, and waiting for us to adopt them! The truth of the matter is that many children on this list in China have things that can easily corrected in the United States such as cleft lip/palate or limb deformities. Of course, there are children on these lists with more severe issues, so pray about God’s plan for your adoption and seek His will alone. Don’t focus on the fact that you want a “healthy” child but rather on the child God has for you. Step out in faith, knowing that His plan is far greater than any you could ever imagine. Yes, there will rapids along the way, but He has promised to carry you through those times of trial and difficulty that are inevitable. He will be faithful. WE CAN TRUST HIM!! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understand.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

Meet Grace Lihua

Grace Before and After Adoption

Grace Before and After Adoption

Grace is a vivacious fun loving three year old who makes friends everywhere she goes. She was born on November 12, 2009 and joined our family in May of 2011. Grace has deformities in her fingers and toes. She is missing her big toe on her left foot and the middle toes on her right foot are fused together as one. Additionally, her right foot was a slight club foot. Her index finger on her left hand is not properly formed and two of her middle fingers on her right hand are short. We took her to a renowned pediatric hand surgeon at Scottish Rite in Dallas who did some work on her right hand to help with mobility and will do on a follow up surgery on each hand in a few years. We also went through a series of casts on her right foot/leg to work on stretching the muscles and helping the foot straighten.  While all this sounds complicated, God has walked with us every step of the way, and we are excited to watch His plans for her life unfold!

Meet Anthony Jianyou

Anthony - Before & After Adoption

Anthony – Before & After Adoption

Anthony is full of life and energy with a flair for the dramatic! He is extremely intelligent and is picking up English with incredible speed. He was born on September 23, 2004 and joined our family in January of 2013. Anthony has a deformity in his right arm and hand. He is missing the bones in his right thumb and the radius in his forearm shorter causing his arm to slightly curve in. Additionally, the muscles in his right arm are very weak. The same doctors who worked on Grace’s hand will perform a surgery on his hand this coming September. They will be removing the limp thumb and moving his index finger to the location of the thumb so that he will have more mobility and ease when grabbing things with this hand. It is truly amazing! He is a little concerned about this surgery, but does want his hand to function better, so keep him in your prayers. We are excited to share with Him the incredible, unending, perfect love of God who created Him just as he is for a special purpose ordained by God.

Our greatest struggle will be dealing with our children’s hurt feelings when other children ask them why their hands and feet are different. We know and will always communicate to them that God see them as perfect and beautiful, but that we live in a fallen world, so there will be questions and looks. Haven’t we all experienced the cruelty of children at some point in our lives? Did any of us escape the teen years unscathed, without a hurt feeling stemming from ridicule by someone over something “wrong” with you? Of course, this will break our hearts, but we pray that we will use these opportunities to point our precious babies to the One who loves them more than any of us could imagine or fathom. 

My Children are BEAUTIFUL! See my post about this here.


“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:3-4, NIV)

To quote Johnny Diaz, “More Beautiful You”,

“There could never be a more beautiful you

Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through

You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do

So there could never be a more beautiful you.”

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Suzanne Meledeo

Suzanne Meledeo

After struggling with infertility for five years, God led Suzanne and her husband, Adam, to His Plan A for their lives, adoption! Their three year old daughter,Grace Lihua, came into their lives on May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day) from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China, and their eight year old son, Anthony Jianyou, joined their family on January 14, 2013 from Shanghai.  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 spending time with Grace and preparing for the home schooling of their boy. You can follow their adoption journey and life on their blog, Surpassing Greatness.

10 ways to care for orphans [without adopting]

This is a question I get asked a lot: How can I answer the biblical call to orphan care if I am not able to adopt?

God does not hide his will from us and if you are someone who has earnestly sought God’s will concerning adoption and he has not led you to adopt (or has not led you to adopt right now), there are other very valuable ways that you can serve the most vulnerable children in our world today.  If you have a heart for orphan care—whether or not you are able to adopt—here are ten invitations to orphan care for you to pray over:

Original photo by flickr user Moving Mountains Trust, creative commons.

1. Host an orphan in your home: This is one of my favorite ways to get involved in orphan care without adopting. New Horizons is an international orphan hosting program. US families host children for 4-6 weeks in their homes and pour love into them. The children see what it is like to live in a family and have opportunities and they have their “horizons” broadened. The goal is not for the host family to adopt the child, although sometimes either the host family or family friends will go on to adopt after the experience. The goal is to show the child a life other than the one he knows and give hope for a better future. Please take a moment to sign up for the photo listings and ask yourself if you have 4-6 weeks to give to one of these children.

2. Get your church connected to an orphanage:  I found our about the organization The Hope Epidemic through an instagram hash tag of all ways (although I #cantrememberwhichone) and I am so impressed with what I’ve seen through them. Their mission is to connect American Evangelical Churches with orphanages all around the world. They want these churches to connect in order to share the gospel, to build relationships, to better the orphanage environments, and to advocate for the adoption of children in the orphanages. I’ve always wondered what it would look like if the church arose to take care of our orphan crisis once and for all. The Hope Epidemic is trying to do just that.

3. Donate on behalf of children with special needs: Reece’s Rainbow is a Down Syndrome adoption ministry. You can look at pictures of waiting children with Down Syndrome or other special needs on this site donate to a specific child’s adoption, whether or not a family has been found for them.

4. Support an orphan graduate program: There are a few different orphan graduate support programs out there but Hearts for Orphans caught my attention because it is run by adoptive parents and shares the gospel with orphan graduates. When orphans age out of the system most turn to crime, prostitution or suicide simply because they don’t have any support systems or life skills. Orphan graduate programs work to equip teens with life skills, like cooking and budgeting, and help them find meaningful work. Hearts for Orphans works in the Ukraine. If you have a specific country on your heart, do a google search for “orphan graduate support” + “country.” If you can’t afford to donate to these ministries, consider volunteering for one in your area! Organizations like these always need volunteers to do tasks like photocopying, putting mailers together or even cleaning.

5. Advocate for a specific child: Project Hopeful is an organization that educates and advocates for the adoption of children with HIV and other special needs. Their FIG program (Family In the Gap) exists to match families with orphans overseas. As as a FIG family you would pray for, sponsor, and fundraise for the adoption of a specific child. You can also be matched with an unadoptable child (in their home country’s foster care system) and you would support the foster family as they care for the child. This is such a cool program and I love how you can get your whole family involved. I can picture families with children working together to brainstorm fundraising ideas (summer lemonade stand??) to help with the child’s someday adoption costs.

6. Help parents and families in crisis: Safe Families is a movement by Bethany Christian Services that serves families who need safe, temporary care for their children. From the website: “This network of host families help parents who need to temporarily place their children due to unmanageable or critical circumstances… this temporary care for children in need gives parents time to establish stability in their homes. Can you open your home to a family going through a troubled time?” There is a video on their site that’s worth watching if this movement interests you at all.
 
7. Sponsor a child: Most of us are aware of these programs that help provide food, water, and education for children in developing countries. If you have a heart specifically for orphans, you can use Compassion International’s search tool to find and sponsor a child who has been orphaned. You can also select country or special need if you desire. I’ve heard of families sponsoring children who share birth dates with little ones. Some couples honor the loss of a pregnancy by sponsoring a child who was born around the time of the expectant due date of the baby they lost. When you sponsor a child you have the opportunity to do more than just give money; you can correspond with the child, send gifts, and share the love of Christ with her!

8. Give to an adopting family: Whether you’re able to write a $500 check or sell knit-wares online for cash, donating to a family who wants to adopt is a much needed and very fulfilling way to answer the call to orphan care. If you are wondering how much a $30 donation could help just take a look at my son and know that he didn’t come home via a few enormous donations. He came home though a ton of small ones. Every.penny.matters. Also there are nonprofits like Lifesong and The Sparrow Fund who give grants to adoptive families if you want to give to them so that they can continue to serve adoptive families. If you have no money or wares to sell you can help by offering your services. Maybe they need babysitting or volunteers at a fundraiser. Maybe they need someone to mow their lawn because they just don’t have time between working and completing the home study. If you look hard enough I know you can find a way to help!

9. Send care packages to orphanages: In the end of January, my church asks all the congregation members to use one Sunday for an act of service. This year our small group used the Sunday to put together a care package for Arie’s former orphanage. If you know anyone who has adopted, consider sending a care package to their child’s former baby home or foster home.

10. Support Antihuman trafficking efforts: Because orphans are so vulnerable and too often without protection, they are at increased risk of being trafficked.Take a minute to visit WAR International’s website and view the video on their about page to learn more.

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Don’t forget about the easy way you can support adoption and care for orphans…through shopping. Go find some Mother’s Day gifts for your mother…or yourself…HERE.

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

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