Friday, December 12, 2014


We hosted through Bridge of Hope, a division of Cradle of Hope, this past summer and are in the process of adopting our little guy now!

Hosting is a little bit controversial because the child has the chance to leave the orphanage and experience life in America, but then they have to go back. There are no exceptions unfortunately. We tried to see if there was any way to get a medical waiver for our little guy but that is just not an option that is built into the system. And as we predicted, it was excruciating to send him back. Definitely good motivation to get the paperwork done!

On the other hand, it is an amazing opportunity for the child to be known by a family, and whether that family adopts him or not, they are able to advocate for him and share photos of him, and sometimes just the right photo can make all the difference for a waiting child. 

The closer we get to bringing our little boy home for good, the easier it is for me to see that even though it was hard having him here just temporarily and sending him back, for him and for us, it was so worth it because he will spend the rest of his life as our son!

His file had been sitting on the shared list for four years with just his name, age, and special need.

No mention of his great personality

 or the fact that he's the snuggliest snuggle bug when he falls asleep on your lap

 or that he makes the funniest faces

 and gets so proud when he's all dressed up.

That's what hosting gives these children, the chance to be more than just a line on a list of a thousand other lines!

We have had a very positive experience with hosting/adopting through Cradle of Hope. The hosting coordinators are very well-organized and they really care about the children. Their purpose is to help the children find forever families and they have had very good success. Our adoption process has gone really smoothly and efficiently, too. China expedited our approval, so instead of it taking 90+ days, it only took 17! 

For us, this is what hosting looked like-
The children arrived at Washington D.C. and had a day to get a little bit acclimated to the time zone before meeting their families. Generally the families meet the children in a hotel and spend time with a translator for a bit. (In our case, we were out of town at a funeral so we met him a day later at the airport. I flew up, met with the director, a translator, and our little guy, then he and I flew back a few hours later. We never left the airport, but that's not typical.) Then you head home with your child. 

The children do not speak English, although maybe some of the older boys might speak a little. Our five year old knew how to count and was able to say some English words for simple items, but he could not carry on a conversation. But really it's amazing how quickly you both figure out how to communicate and by the end of the hosting time, those kids are able to use some English. 

The first couple nights were tricky because he was exactly 12 hours different from us, so he was ready to roll at night which made for a tired mom the next day, but it was not a big deal. It didn't take long for him to be on our schedule.

                                                                                                                                                                                           For his first meal with us, we had Chinese food to celebrate his being here and to make sure that he had something familiar to eat. We stocked up on noodles and rice just in case, but our little guy loved all the American food that we served him! He especially loved fruit and cookies.

During the day, we just did fun things with him- took him to the library,

went to the park to feed the ducks,

went to Chick-fil-a for Cow Appreciation Day (and a few other times),

spent time with extended family

and just played outside.

 We took lots of pictures to send back with him both for his sake and for his directors to see that he had a fun time. 

Our three children absolutely had a blast with our little guy while he was here! It was hard for them to say goodbye, and they miss him, but they pray for him each day and know that we'll have him back for good before too long.

Could hosting be the right choice for your family?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Do Something!

Our decision to adopt kind of evolved over the course of a few years. It started one year when our tax return came and Barry gave the kids a certain amount to donate, and they were to pick the missionary or charity to give to. We guided them in choosing something of interest to each of them and made sure we did our due diligence on Charity Navigator before donating.

The next year we decided we wanted our children to learn to be more personally involved rather than just writing a check, so we found ways to make a difference in people's lives by donating our time as well as our money.

 The following year we decided to bring it even closer to home, and that's when God brought the idea of adoption to our hearts and minds. Adoption is costly, not only monetarily, but there is a lot of sacrifice involved. We believe that God used the years of giving and working to make it easier for us to recognize that what we had really wasn't ours anyway, so why not give some things up in order for a child to have a home?
God used those pre-adoption experiences to open our eyes to the poor and needy of the world and to open our minds to how much we really had been given. And He used the book The Hole in our Gospel to help us to realize just how important a mandate taking care of the less fortunate really is to Him.

I'm sharing all this for those who are nowhere near having adoption even on your radar. There are many ways to get involved in orphan care without ever breathing the word "adoption." It may be that whatever you start out doing someday leads to cute new little (or big) family members, but it may be that God has another plan entirely for your family. The key is to start by doing something. I love the visuals in this song!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Fear is a house of cards that collapses with the slightest whisper.

Fear is an air-filled balloon that, when released, flies uncontrollably around the room.

Fear is the bird that pecks and flutters adamantly at the hand that is helping to get its fallen baby back into the safety of the nest.

Fear is desperately trying to find solid footing on a boat in a storm.

Fear is the dog that growls and snaps at the one who tries to care for it after it’s been hit by a car.

Fear is twirling and twirling and twirling until earth and body collide painfully, and still the twirling continues.

Fear is driving with a brake pedal that doesn’t work.

Fear is chasing the papers from the notebook that was blown out of the hand on a windy day.

 Fear is reliving that moment before impact over and over and over again.

Fear is grasping and grabbing to hold onto the air raft as the waves keep crashing and moving it farther away.

Fear is the assembly line that moves faster and faster and doesn’t stop when the emergency button is pushed.

Fear is that scrawny fox that snarls and snaps at any other creature who threatens its food.

Fear is spinning on a playground merry-go-round when one hand has come loose and the other is hanging on for dear life.

Fear is chasing the baseball that was hit all the way to the fence and running back with it in seemingly slow motion while everyone watches and waits.

Fear is a kite that gets caught in the wind and jerks violently back and forth before getting stuck in the branches of a tree.

Fear is the rabbit whose eyes never stop moving, darting back-and-forth, always looking for danger.

Fear is a struggling fish scooped up in a net to be placed in water while its tank is cleaned.

Fear is the hen that covers her eggs and holds them close to her body to keep them safe from the prowling raccoon.

Fear is a fogged over windshield that obscures.

Fear is the snake that strikes at the ankle of the foot that steps too close.

Fear is the roly-poly bug that curls into a ball and tries to pretend it isn’t there.

Fear is the deer that stares, unable to move or react.

Fear is the whisk that jumbles everything together.
Fear is the laugh of the kookaburra in the absence of humor.
Fear is the fire that moves from place to place destroying everything in its path.

Fearing is walking through a house of mirrors and not knowing what is real and what is perceived.

Fear is a question mark and an exclamation point.

Fear sees evil in kindness… ugliness in beauty…and oppression in safety.

So many children with so much fear. 

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…” I John 4:18a

Love looks beyond the behavior and beneath the surface to the depths of the soul where fear has its tightest grip.

May we strive to love perfectly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dolphins, and Kittens, and Orphans, Oh My!

I was recently talking with someone about Orphan Care and throughout the conversation they kept lumping it together with causes such as Saving the Dolphins and Spaying and Neutering.
Wait. What??

It bothered me, but it also got me thinking. Maybe that’s the way the general public views Orphan Care- as a cause; a good cause, but a cause none the less.
So what sets Orphan Care apart from other noble causes like Saving Dolphins and Spaying and Neutering Pets?

Simply put, the Gospel.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?Romans 10:14 (NLT)
When we care for orphans, whether through adoption, family preservation efforts, or support of the many organizations who are committed to helping orphans, we are paving the way to further the gospel. When a child’s mind and body are not consumed with survival, they are more able to learn about the God who loves them. When they see this love in action through His people, they are more able to believe that God is real. When they are in a situation where they are able to hear about God’s gift of salvation, the opportunity exists for them to have faith. Children who were once alone and hopeless are coming to know the Lord through the ripple effect of Orphan Care, and those children in turn are able to influence future generations.
This impacts eternity.

There are many causes that make the world a better place and I’m not advocating turning our backs on dolphins or kittens. I’m simply suggesting that we separate things of eternal value from things that are merely good. Perhaps the orphan that you help today will become tomorrow’s marine biologist?



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Just a thought

What if, instead of asking God for confirmation that we should adopt and waiting for Him to show us, we asked God for confirmation that we shouldn't adopt and moved forward until He stopped us?
Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Guest Post- Fiction by Amie Rapp

*This is a fictional story that Amie wrote for her eighth grade English class this semester. I thought it was fabulous!

     All along they'd planned on a boy. She honestly had no opinion, a child was a child, and she would love them no matter what. But her husband did, and made it blatantly clear.
   "They're good luck," her husband said, “He’ll take care of us in our old age. Girls are too weak".
     She utterly disagreed, after all, who was it that labored day after day, cooking his food, and cleaning his house and laundering his clothes? But as was custom for wives in her culture, she bit her tongue. She did want to make her husband happy, after all. However, as her due date drew nearer and nearer, she began to feel more and more apprehensive. What if it wasn't a boy? She shivered at the thought....



     The doctor entered the room, grim features plastered onto his face, carrying a tiny infant, hers. She remembered him taking the child, saying it needed immediate attention. And now, he was back.
     “Is it a boy? Please tell me it is…” She whispered.
He stared at her with… Could that be pity?
“It’s a girl.”
     The blood rushed through her ears. The world seemed to crash down around her. She sat back, stunned into silence. What would her husband say? What would he do to the baby? What would he do to her? She gathered her thoughts.
     “That’s no way to be,” she chided herself. After all, she promised to love the new child, no matter what gender. The doctor tenderly placed the child in her arms. The baby cooed as she stared at her mother. She gazed lovingly back at her child and then out the window, deep in thought. The cherry tree’s pink blossoms were especially beautiful and this time of year. An idea came to her.  She  proclaimed, 
“I shall call her Hua, which means blossom, since love for her will always blossom in my heart.”


     It was a late summer night, a bite in the chilly "almost-autumn" air. However, to her, it seemed as though an icy steel hand was gripping her fast-beating heart. She was torn between terror and despair, all because of the basket she was cradling in her arms. As she stepped from the dim alley, her midnight-black hair created a dark shadow over her face, masking the fear, the sorrow, within the otherwise beautiful eyes. 
     The city was usually a welcoming sight, with all it’s twinkling lights. However, tonight, it seemed chilly and forbidding. The twinkling lights mocked her as she scuttled towards the gate, still clutching the basket, thinking of what she was about to do. She'd begged her husband the day before, pleaded to let the precious contents of this basket stay. But no, "it", he said, must go. Nothing she said would change his mind. He’d even threatened to kick her out too. She continued her brisk pace towards the steps. "It", he'd said, as if “it” was just a worn hat, or perhaps a piece of parchment, something that could easily be thrown away or replaced. Not as if this was a child, her daughter, only three weeks old. She choked back a sob as she reached the gate of the orphanage at last. 
     Pain seared through her heart, driving sorrow into the deepest crevices of her very soul. She laid the basket down at the worn step, gazing down at her peacefully sleeping infant, taking in for the last time her tiny button nose, the way she breathed so lightly as she slumbered, her beautiful chocolate eyes, with long, black, fluttering lashes, picturing the way her eyes sparkled with innocence and mischief upon waking. She stared at her plump cheeks, her rosebud lips, miniatures of her own, imagining the half moon smile that shone on her face, and wondering if it would ever light her child's face again. As she crouched over her daughters basket and unclasped the necklace from around her neck, her opaque hair fell in a veil around her neck, shielding her fast-falling tears.  As she made to lay the necklace in the basket and stand, she realized the baby had grabbed a fist-full of her hair. She bent back down, and brushed her lips against her daughter's minute ones. She then gently pried her daughter's fingers from her hair, with a small prick leaving one piece in her baby’s hand, replacing it with the necklace that had been passed down through generations of her family. The ornate gold chain and lilac gems complimented her petite features, just as they had for many others throughout hundreds of years of her ancestors.Yet her baby would never know this. She’d never know the joy of having a family.  
     She was fully sobbing now, tears shining on her face in the once dreamy full moon's light. She rose once more, and as she turned to leave, to walk back home in woefully painful shame, she whispered for the last time through the night, "Wo ai ni." I love you.

     By the time she got back to her humble home, the gentle light of dawn was beginning to spread its fingers through the darkness. Her tears had long since dried, she was determined to be strong. But when she turned the corner, as a strong breeze blew, she saw hundreds of cherry blossom petals floating through the breeze. They were everywhere. Carpeting the hard packed dirt road, swirling, twirling, and dancing in the wind. It was a sea of pale pink, and she felt like she was drowning. They gently touched the ground, like a thousand soft kisses. As she stared around her in awe, the tears began to flow again. The flowers… It was a cruelly ironic scene, how she was drowning in the blossoms that reminded her so much of her child. As the petals touched her shoulder, she brushed them off. When they floated to the ground, it was as though the earth were crying with her. Weeping a thousand tears for her precious angel, Hua.


 8 years later

     She stared out the dirty window, a tear tracing a track down though the dust. She was the picture of modest beauty, a long dark braid weaving down her back, and petite features. A layer of dirt masked her pretty features. She was dressed in a dirt brown dress, the color of a moldy potato, and the room she’d spent her whole life in didn’t look much  better. The spoiled-milk colored walls were peeling, and the floor was dirty.  
     Down at the street below, people bustled along, laughing and chatting with their friends and family. Family. The word was so foreign to her. She didn’t remember her family, just this sadness, this pain, this loneliness. All she’d ever known. If she dug back deep enough, she could remember a tear touching her face, a kiss, and then… darkness. And that was all it's been since.
     Hua fingered the necklace that hung around her neck. It had always confused her, with it’s ornate lavender gems encrusted in real gold. Why had her parents been able to give her the necklace, but not keep her? Or at least the nannies at the orphanage told her it was her parents. They said that she’d been found outside at the crumbling stone step next to the gate when she was just 3 weeks old, with nothing but the clothes on her back, a small blanket, and the necklace. They’d also said she was gripping one long, silky, black piece of hair. Possibly… her mother’s? One of the nannies had saved it for her, and now it was woven through her necklace. She treasured the necklace, as it was the only decorative thing in the whole orphanage. The only thing she had to hold onto her mother. The only thing that could cheer her when she felt crushed in the tsunami of sadness that was her life. Hua stared out the window, a tear tracing a track through the grime…


        Years of waiting and watching, lying, and forcing the puzzle pieces into place had paid off- Hua was alive and healthy, a beautiful young woman. 

        She’d spent the last eight years watching at the orphanage, playing the role of a caring nanny. Nothing more. Just a kind caretaker, perhaps more interested in the well-being of the children than most, but still, there was no special bond between her and Hua. Or at least, none that Hua knew of. But today she knew she had to tell her the truth and come clean about her past.


     Hua was laying on the edge of the old metal cot, counting the number of mold spots on the ceiling tiles. She heard a noise at the door, and one of the nannies entered. She didn’t really have any strong affection for any of them, but this one seemed… different. She had a gentle tone about her, kinder than the others, more caring towards the children. She came over and sat on the edge of the bed.

     She sat down and gazed at Hua. Hua looked slightly confused, and asked what was wrong. She looked at her, and without further ado, announced,
“Hua, I’m your mother.”

                                                                                       By Amie Rapp

She Wanted to Play the Guitar!

Because of her limb difference, Julia can either strum or play chords on a guitar, but she can't do both at the same time, and this girl likes to rock and roll!
So we took a little trip to Shriner's Hospital and talked to a prosthetist. She was very enthusiastic about developing a device for Julia that would help her to hold a pick with her left hand!

Julia was a little scared because this was a new experience, but it didn't take long before she was smiling and asking questions again.

First the prosthetist measured Julia's arm.

Then Julia got to pick out her design. She chose blue marble.

Now it was time to start making her device. Her arm was covered in a couple socks, and then it was wrapped in "mud", which didn't look or feel like mud at all. It was a roll of sticky white stuff that hardened after it was applied.

This part didn't hurt at all!

Now the prosthetist marked different places on the form to show where Julia's bones were and where her arm bent.

Once the form was hardened, it came right off! Now all we had to do was go home and let the prosthetist work her magic.

A couple weeks later, we returned to Shriner's to pick up her device.
First, a sock was put on her arm and then a silicone-like sleeve was used to hold the device in place. It had to be adjusted just a little bit to make sure that it fit perfectly.

Now for the big moment! It was time to try it out with a guitar. The prosthetist checked to make sure that the angle was correct

Then Dad gave a few quick pointers.

And after a little bit of practice...

        We have a ROCK STAR in the making!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Fragile Thread

I mentally started this post about a month ago, and in my mind the title was, "Never Underestimate the Value of a Mom." My premise was going to be that even though we moms are great at knowing what we're not so good at, our children see past all that and love us unconditionally.

You see, my daughter had gotten into an unintentional habit of looking up at me multiple times a day and saying the words, "I'm so glad I have a mommy and daddy!" 
Every. Single. Day. She said those words with the most serene, happy look on her face, and she would usually be holding my hand, so she would snug up on my arm and melt into me. What a treasure! What a treat to hear those words even when I had made mistakes or mishandled situations earlier in the day. When we were playing together or taking a walk, just spending time together, inevitably she would look up at me with her dark brown eyes and speak her happiness into my heart. "I'm so glad to have a mommy and daddy!"

"This is the message that has to get out there," I thought. "Kids need moms, even moms who don't feel like they have it all together. I certainly don't, and my daughter doesn't even seem to notice. She's just happy to feel loved and belong."  That was the post I was going to write, and if I was lucky, it may have even included a picture of Julia's face as she smiled up at me in that moment just before the words poured out of her mouth.

But I got busy, and the blog took a backseat to working with my husband to build a playset in the backyard and then to planning the big birthday party for a certain little girl. And my post never got written. Why not write in now? The party was last weekend. Everything is cleaned up and put away. Thank you notes are written.  Everyone's in school, and I've got a quiet house.

Well, about that. Um, a couple days ago my daughter said that she wanted another family. She even named one of her friends and thought that her family might be a better fit. Ouch!

Come to think of it, I hadn't heard her daily mantra in awhile. Wasn't she still glad to have a mommy and daddy?  What about the swing set? That was mostly for her. And the birthday party? Definitely for her. Yet she recently had been acting like she was auditioning to be the poster child for kids who misbehave just to get attention. You know that whole theory that says negative attention is better than no attention at all...

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had gotten completely caught up in doing things for her and had neglected to do things with her. For about a week and a half, my priorities were focused on getting things done, and my sweet little girl who was so happy to have a mommy and daddy was pushed to the side.

A child needs to know that they're precious and valuable, and one of the best ways to convey this message is to just be with them. So the next morning when Julia woke up, I scooped her up and rocked her back and forth, looking into her eyes and telling her how precious she was. We held hands walking out to the car when it was time to go to school. After school, we played in the backyard together and planted some flowers.Over the next several days, as I became more intentional, her attention-seeking behaviors lessened, which was a win-win for us all!

Yesterday we were playing dolls in her room when she stopped and looked me straight in the eye. I saw the expression on her face before I heard the words, and I knew what was coming. 

"I'm so happy to have a mommy and daddy!"

There is an Ancient Chinese Proverb that says, "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break."   

(That's the look. She LOVES her daddy!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Unexpected Reaction

Julia and I were watching the dress rehearsal for my son's school musical last week. It was phenomenal! He goes to an academy of the arts, and they know how to put on a show!  The performance, featuring different books and Broadway musicals, moved seamlessly from Beauty and the Beast, to The Jungle Book, to Mary Poppins, to The Music Man. The next group  included a few little girls, one with red hair- Annie!  I just knew Julia and I would enjoy this song and dance as much as we had the others. 

And then they started singing, and my eyes immediately filled up with tears. 

Wait. What? This was Annie, a delightful musical! Why was I fighting off the ugly cry like nobody's business?

These were the words that I heard, really heard, with my heart-

      "'Steada treated, we get tricked,
        'Steada kisses, we get kicked..."

      "Empty bellies, 'steada full
        It's the hard-knock life."

And I sat there holding my daughter, who came to us at four years old weighing a whopping 19lbs., who talks of the man with the stick who hits children and uses black markers to color on their limb differences, who tells of how scared she was to go to bed at night. And the tears kept filling up my eyes as the children on stage sang and danced to the words-


    "No one's there when your dreams at night get creepy!
      No one cares if you grow... or if you shrink
      No one dries if your eyes get wet and weepy!"

I told myself, "It's just a song. Look at those cute kids! Look at their dance moves! They're really in sync. What cute choreography!" But the tears would not leave my eyes and the lump in my throat threatened to burst into a sob. For my daughter, before June 11, 2012, THIS WAS HER STORY. For so many children, THIS IS REALITY. THIS IS THEIR LIFE.  

       Empty belly life
       Rotten smelly life
       Full of sorrow life
       No tomorrow life"

The song just kept going on and on, sung by beautiful children with dazzling smiles, and I held onto my daughter a little more tightly and willed the tears not to overflow onto my cheeks. 

I could picture the faces of the many parentless children who are being advocated for daily by other adoptive moms and their adoption agencies. I kept seeing the soulful eyes of children who had no reason to hope for a better tomorrow. And I heard the words,

      "No one cares for you a smidge,
       When you're in an orphanage."

And I wanted to say, "I care! I care that you're hungry and scared and lonely! I care that you don't have toys to play with or enough food to fill your tummy. I care that you are mistreated and neglected."

I care enough to cry for you, but do I care enough to do more? Will I advocate for you so that your family can find you? Will I sponsor you so that you can have your needs met? Will I donate to organizations who give grants to adoptive families so that your parents can get to you more quickly? Will I bring you home and be your mom? 

Will I play a part in your tomorrow?

The song ended, the audience clapped, I blinked away my tears and my daughter was none the wiser. For her, that life is over. She has so many people who love her profoundly! Her needs are met, her heart is healing, her future looks bright. The smile that reaches her eyes speaks volumes!

But what about the others?  It's not my intention to ruin "Annie" for anyone, but if you're anything like me, this song will be running through your mind for the next several days. While you fold laundry, when you're washing dishes, as you're unlocking your car and pulling out of your driveway, you'll be mentally dancing to the tune of "It's the Hard-Knock Life." Then you'll catch yourself and the words might hold new meaning.  I know. I've been humming, whistling, and singing it since last week! It's one of those things that can't be helped. But when you hear the words, "Santa Clause, we never see, Santa Clause, what's that, who's he?" leaving your lips, would you use that moment as an opportunity? 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can bring hope to a child who desperately needs it, here are a few links to check out:

If you're not quite to that point yet, here are some books that I read that opened my eyes to the plight of the orphan:

Daughter of a Thousand Pieces of Gold by Peg Helminski
Silent Tears by Kay Bratt
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

And if transfomations inspire you, here are a couple links to movies that we've made to chronicle our daughter's Gotcha Day and her first year home.