Behind the Design

“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.” –Derek Loux

In a perfect world, there would be no orphans.  All children would have families who love them unconditionally and are able to financially provide for their every need.  Parents wouldn’t find themselves in a situation where the only hope their child has for survival is to be given to another. That perfect world is coming for those of us who are in Christ, but the reality for now is that this world we live in is fallen–corrupt with sin, poverty, suffering, greed, pride, rampant with disease and sickness, and the list could go on.  It affects everyone and everything.  Too often some of the heaviest of those effects fall on the most vulnerable and helpless of souls–millions of precious children. It is a sad reality and one that most of us can not even begin to wrap our minds around.


In 2012, UNICEF estimated the number of orphans worldwide to be around 153,000,000.  Without any kind of assistance, these children will continue the cycle of poverty, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, prostitution, and slavery that haunts developing countries.  This number only includes orphans that are living in homes.  It does not account for the 8+million children living in institutions. Nor does it include the vast numbers of children living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed groups.

Every day 5,760 more children become orphans

Orphaned children spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home

Every year 14,050,000 children age out of the system and will never have a family

Every 15 seconds another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa

Every 2.2 seconds, another orphan ages out of the system with no family to call their own.

10-15% of these children commit suicide before age 18

As many as 60% of these girls are lured into prostitution, and 70% of boys become hardened criminals

Many of these children accept job offers that end in their being sold as slaves. Millions and millions of girls today are sex slaves simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.

Specific to CHINA:

Girls are twice as likely to die in their first year of life as boys

Parents who remarry have been known to abandon their child so they can have a new child with their new spouse

In 1995, the Chinese government reported that there were over 40,000 orphanages.  In almost 10 years that number has only grown…

And I’m not even going to touch on China’s gendercide issue, one-child policy, forced abortions, gender imbalance, infanticide, and poverty statistics, all of which play an important role in why we feel like the Lord called us to adopt from China.  But I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s another statistic:

Number of people it takes to make a life-long difference in the life of an orphan– 1

While it seems like the numbers and statistics are overwhelming and that it’s impossible to even put a dent in the walls of this mass crisis, there is SO MUCH we can do to help.  While I don’t believe adoption is an option for everyone, I do believe more people are called to it than they think.  There are so many other ways to help besides pursuing adoption though:

SPREAD the word–make people aware of this massive crisis that affects our world.

EDUCATE yourself–you would be amazed at the amount of people who’s hearts are set on fire for helping orphans simply because they took the time to educate themselves about the reality of what these children face.

HELP others adopt–you may have a heart for adoption but due to particular circumstances can not adopt a child into your home.  We all know that adoption is ridiculously expensive; help families ease the financial burden of bringing home their child.

GIVE– you don’t have to give to us–give where you feel the Lord is leading you to give! There are so many great organizations out there that support orphan care–isn’t it worth the sacrifice of what we would spend on dinner at a restaurant or a new outfit to know that the money you gave went to feeding a child or children for a month or providing life-saving surgery for one of them?

PRAY– God moves mountains when we pray.  As God’s children whom He sets His unconditional love upon, not one of our prayers falls to the ground empty.  He hears them all, stores them up, and answers in His perfect way.  It is not too hard for God to answer prayers for people on the other side of the world. Keep praying…even if you never get the chance to see the effects of your prayers in this lifetime…one day you will.

Many of you know that we have started a t-shirt fundraiser to raise money for our adoption.  All of this information I listed above is the basis for why we created the design the way we did.  We hope you like the shirt and would love for you to share in the mission.  On the back of the shirt is a Chinese symbol.  That symbol means ‘LIGHT’ which is also the meaning of our daughter’s name though I am not ready to give that away quite yet. ;)   The money that is made from these shirts goes directly to our big China Fee of $13,500 which is due upon referral.  We have 15 days to sell at least 50 shirts.  So far, we have put an estimated $10,000 into this process, a small price to pay for an invaluable life.  We have seen firsthand the Lord open his storehouses of blessing and provide for our every need in more than amazing ways and we believe with full confidence that He will continue to do that.  This story is His, not ours, this little girl is His before she is ours, and He loves her more than we can fathom.  Because of that, we know that He will move mountains to place her in our family.  We know that He has planned this from the beginning of time and that He created her as our daughter long before this process began and there is nothing that can stop him.  We would love for you to partner with us and purchase a shirt in support of our girl! But please do so only if you feel the Lord leading you!  Please feel no pressure at all! We know that God will provide every penny that is needed to get her home! More than anything at all, we covet your prayers for our sweet girl and for our family during this time. We CAN. NOT. WAIT. to see this little girl that the Lord has created specifically for us!!!

Here is the shirt design and the link to purchase is directly below it:


I am reminded of this scripture so often in adoption, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5    And that is the truth of it…so much darkness, but so much light…and so much hope.  


And so we wait…

Five and a half months after completing our online application with Holt, we are officially in the waiting stage.  All paperwork has been completed and copied and copied again and filed and mailed, and is sitting on a stack of equally precious and important files, somewhere in a little office in China, waiting for review.  Our hands are empty of tasks on our end for now, and our hearts are full of anticipation for what is to come.  We wait now for a referral, which is a child’s file for us to review, consisting of a photo or photos, and whatever medical information and history is available and known up until that point.  We have been told to expect between 6 and 9 months to referral, but also that it could be as little as 3.  I’m praying for the latter. I would love to know the face of my daughter before Christmas, but I am also content to wait on the Lord’s timing.  He has proven time and time again that there is no timing more perfect than His.

If I’m being honest, this stage is equally as scary as it is exciting.  I have moments where I’m more excited than scared and moments where I’m exactly the opposite.  Knowing that the Lord has clearly called us to walk this path and remembering ways He has reassured us, provided for us, and answered prayers in unfathomable ways, is what keeps us moving forward. There are so many unknowns, so many questions, and so many fears that all find their answers in the absolute goodness of God.   What will she look like? How old will she be? What will her medical needs be? Can we handle them? Will it be love at first sight? Will she attach well? Can I love her as much as my biological children? How hard will she grieve the losses she will face due to the family she will gain? All questions that beg sheer trust in the Lord to fulfill His promises that He is good and He longs to give good gifts that His name would be glorified and great among the nations.  I have a feeling He has much more in store than I can even fathom.

Sweet girl, our paths are getting so close. We are right around the corner.  We talk about you all the time and pray for you daily.  May you be a light in the darkness and may the Lord fill you full of joy, love, laughter, and favor.  We can’t wait to see your face!!

Our timeline so far:

2-17-14 Application sent to Holt via email

3-31-14/4-1-14 Home study visits

4-18-14 Home study approved/pending a couple revisions

5-8-14 I800A received by office in TX

5-29-14 Fingerprints at USCIS office 9:00am (security had to search my purse only to find a Thomas train)

5-21-14 Mailed docs to KS secretary of state for state certificiation

5-24-14 Received state-certified papers from KS secretary of State

5-27-14 Mailed docs to TX for state cert

6-9-14 Received docs from TX

6-13-14 Notice of I-800A app reviewed/approved/mailed

6-18-14 Received 797 in mail

6-19-14 Notarized & mailed 797 for state cert

6-25-14 Received 797 back in mail, mailed it w/ other docs to Chicago consulate for authentication

6-27-14 Courier emailed that docs went to consulate/2 are being sent back to go to TX

7-1-14 Received 2 docs back from Chicago

7-2-14 Mailed 2 docs to TX for authentication

7-3-14 Chicago courier put docs in the mail via FedEx Express

7-5-14 Receive docs from Chicago consulate

7-19-14 Home from K-Kauai Family Kamp; docs from Houston are waiting for us!

7-20-14 Make a million copies of completed dossier to compile three completed dossiers–one for us, one for Holt, one for China

7-21-14 Overnight/Express completed dossier to Holt

7-25-14 Our dossier is SENT TO CHINA! DTC!

7-30-14 We are officially LOCKED IN and WAITING! LID!



At long last…it begins.

On February 17, after many weeks, months, and years, of praying and waiting on the Lord’s timing, we sent our application for international adoption into our agency, Holt International.  It feels as if we’ve come full circle as this is the same agency we started this process with over 7 years ago when we thought that the Lord was not going to give us biological children at that time.  Six weeks into that process, I found out I was exactly 6 weeks pregnant with Malakai, then a few years later, Elijah, and a few years after that, Nathaniel.  During my pregnancy with Nate, we started praying about adoption again and God once again planted a firm belief in my heart that He would lead us down this path soon, to bring home our daughter.  After a couple of years of researching agencies, countries, timelines, and all kinds of other details in the heartbreaking world of orphaned and abandoned children, the Lord led us literally right back to where we had started–even to the same agency.  So after, much prayer and deliberating, we are confident that our little girl is in China somewhere, waiting on us and the Lord’s timing.  As of Friday, 4 weeks and 4 days after we sent in our application, all of our home study paperwork is in–praise the Lord!—even our TX and KS background clearances, which have been said to take over a month!  I actually called TX to make sure they had gotten our paperwork. They had received it on March 10, and the man I spoke with offered to write ‘EXPEDITE’  on it for us, so of course I obliged! 8 days later, I got a call from Holt saying that they had received it! That is some crazy fast time for that to happen.  What I love to think about is how every little detail like that, from paperwork getting in super early, or waiting days or months for things, is all part of His perfect timing and is going to lead us to be ready at the exact time that our girl’s file will be ready.  Oh how I would love to see God’s timeline written out as a map in front of me!  It will be quite intriguing to go back and look at the dates of when things are happening over here and what was going on in her little world in China at the very same time.   Our agency has told us to estimate about a year from when our home study is finished to when we will be traveling to bring home our child.  By the time our home study is completely finished, it could be close to the end of April, so quite possibly we could be traveling about a year from then, maybe a little more.  Since our girl will be between 1 and 2 years old when we get her, most likely that means she has already been born, and quite possibly, abandoned.  It puts a pit in my stomach to even write those words, but I know that all of it is part of her story and that God is using it to bring her to us.  I know that He’s near, protecting and comforting her when we can’t, and that His timing truly is perfect, but oh how it breaks my heart to miss this precious time in her life, not to mention the many heart-wrenching possibilities and unfavorable situations and conditions she could be in at such a tiny, vulnerable stage of her life.  There are so many more emotions involved in this process than what I had imagined and this is only the very beginning.  Our faith has been, and will be tested many times along this path.  So often it feels like we are taking steps in the dark, blindly walking into this unknown world with only our faith to push us forward, questioning so many things, but still walking on, knowing that it will all be worth it in the end.

Photos courtesy of Erin Kata Photography

Why Vietnam…

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.  See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples.  Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”  Isaiah 55:1-5

I have put off writing this for so long now, not being able to even think of where to begin, let alone have the time to sit in quiet and actually try to process what the Lord has been doing in our lives over the past few months, years really.  However, I really want to document this journey and all that the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in the future, and be able to share our story in hopes of encouraging others in the paths the Lord has for them.  I like to start at the very beginning of things ;)  Most people that know me know that I have a strong desire to adopt internationally, and both Jason and I have felt since the beginning of our marriage that the Lord has placed that calling over our lives.  It was always just a matter of time.  A few years into trying to conceive a biological child led us to the conclusion that God might be closing that door in order for us to pursue the adoption calling earlier than we had originally thought.  Then, six weeks after starting the process to adopt a child from Vietnam in 2006, God closed that door, and opened another.  9 months later, our first son, Malakai was born.  Soon after, came Elijah, and soon after that came Nathaniel.  I had for some reason been convinced that Nate was a girl—my “motherly instinct” had just told me he was ;)  I even wore pink to the sonogram that day in support!   So when the sono tech told me that as a mom of 2 boys already, I shouldn’t be surprised, I could barely hold back the tears from the realization that I would not have a daughter. The sadness was short-lived, as I now realized I had another precious little boy living in my tummy and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  However, as we were walking to the car, all I could think about was adoption.  The desire had still been there all along, it had just been lying dormant as we moved through the busy years of pregnancies and babies and toddlers.  I felt in that moment the Lord bringing that desire to the very surface of my heart so clearly, once again.  As we were walking to the car, without having said a word to my husband about what I was thinking, and actually realizing that the two of us had not talked about adoption in quite a long time, he looks at me and says, “This makes me really want to adopt.”  Confirmation that the Lord was working on both of our hearts at the exact same time. I remember feeling at that moment as if the Lord had given us two children in this one pregnancy.  I know it sounds crazy, but in that moment, I fell in love with two babies, both of which I had never seen, and only one of whom was a boy.  My entire pregnancy I thought of and loved two babies.  One of those babies I would see and hold in a few short months, the other…it could be years.  Nate’s name means ‘gift from the Lord.’  It couldn’t be more fitting for him–his sweet, loving personality, his laid-back spirit.  He’s a pretty cool little guy :)  But I also love the meaning of his name b/c it symbolizes the gift of hope for another little life that the Lord has for our family somewhere on the other side of the world. When Nate was an infant, I spent much time in the little rocking chair in the corner of his room–rocking him, feeding him, singing to him, and just watching him sleep at all hours of the day and night.  Often during these times, I would find myself, with tears streaming down my cheeks, praying for my baby girl who would most likely never have the physical comfort and reassuring love as a baby that I was pouring out over my biological son. And then I would think of all of the millions of orphans around the world who would never know the comfort of a mother rocking them to sleep, kissing their tiny cheeks, and cherishing every sound they made. It’s overwhelmingly sad to think about and very difficult to wrap your mind around.  Knowing that my girl will be one of those orphans for the first part of her life absolutely breaks my heart. It is so clear to me that our God has such a passion and love for his orphaned children around the world that he so impresses  this love in our hearts and uses us to go and get them, bring them home, and set them into families.

A year later.

Adoption had been a regularly-occurring topic in our house.  There were still so many questions….what country, when, what agency, how much, is our youngest child still too young?…the list goes on.  Waiting, praying, waiting, talking, waiting, hoping, waiting.  Apparently, all of life is waiting, right?  One thing that we talked about often (and still do) is doing more than just adoption.  Our family may be able to bring home one, possibly two children, but there are millions of orphans in the world that are not even adoptable.  What about them? What about the ones who will never have the hope of a forever family because they are stuck in corrupt systems, countries that are closed to adoption, they age out of the system, they are physically disabled and never put on the list, children who are trafficked to countries and sold as sex slaves and other types of slaves?  What about these kids?  The desire to just DO SOMETHING started to become so strong it was literally blinding at times.  The desire to invest our lives in a country, a people group, a community, an organization that helps these orphans, pregnant women with seemingly no option but abortion, etc. While not sure exactly what God was calling us to, we felt God stirring in our hearts to give up certain comforts in this short life, and live with more urgency, trusting Him to work in the details and timing of adoption.  Then one night, after the boys were all in bed, my husband and I sat up late with a precious friend who was visiting with her kids from out of town.  We were talking of an orphanage in Kenya that her church supports and looking at images online of the beautiful faces of the children who live there and reading their stories.  The website where the children were listed to sponsor had a few other orphanages that they support in other parts of the world.  One in particular, House of Love in Lagi, Vietnam, stood out to me.  No sooner did I click on the link to be transported to their site than I felt the Lord stirring an unexpected love in my heart for these children, this place, these people.  It was a welling up, a filling up of the Spirit and a passion for this country that the Lord had placed on our hearts six years before.  We skimmed through the faces of children, read their stories, and learned more about the  organization and how it began.  I said to my husband, ” I want to go there.”

6 months later.

I had been on this website many times over the last several months.  I could recognize the faces of the children and put names and stories to a few of them. I knew the vision and heart behind the organization that sponsored them, and I knew that they were taking two trips to Vietnam this year…one in July, and one in November.  There were also two children–one in particular–that the Lord had really impressed upon my heart as I skimmed through the pages.  We had talked about sponsorship, but honestly, were hesitant because of adoption and needing to save money.  After a few months of God laying this on our hearts, we decided to sponsor the two girls and commit to praying for them.  Let me insert a side-note: I am a very passionate, all-in or all-out type of person.  I get riled up very easily when I believe something is wrong–or right and something needs to be done about it,  or I see injustice in front of me, or if something is just plain wrong–I feel like I need to go after it.  I struggle with grace, patience, waiting, loving the ungodly and people who hurt the innocent.  My first instinct is not to give them grace, it’s to beat them to a pulp with my bare hands–as if I could.  Honestly, I truly believe if someone tried to hurt my children that I could do some major damage with just my hands, elbows, teeth, head, and legs.  To tell you the truth, I’ve actually planned this out a time or two and played out different scenarios in my head.  Sometimes I almost want someone to try….. OK, my point exactly.  I’m off on a tangent at just the thought.  Point being:  I’m passionate, in a good and bad way about the things that are important to me.  I’m thankful that my friends and family still love me despite my ‘issues.’ :)

So, being the ‘all-in’ type of person that I am, once we decided to sponsor these two precious girls, I felt the need to meet them in person.  And on top of that, down deep I wondered at the possibility of adopting them and if it were possible that these two girls could be my daughters.  At the time the youngest had just turned 3 in Feb. and the oldest was 4.  She turned 5 in August.  The oldest was between Kai and Eli in age and the younger was between Eli and Nate.  When I learned that the younger one wore a brace on her right leg and that her right arm was slightly weaker than the left, I loved her even more.  They were both shy.  They are not biological sisters.  Both had been abandoned at birth at the House of Love in Lagi because the biological mother could not support herself and a baby.  The same story is heard over and over:  an unwed woman, most of the time very young, gets pregnant–sometimes its rape, sometimes prostitution, sometimes just accidentally, but the family disowns her in all circumstances.  Without any outside support, the women can not care for an infant and themselves at the same time.  She is forced by her family, her boyfriend, or her circumstances to abort the child.  (Side note: Vietnam has the highest abortion rate in the world.  Most likely it’s due to the extreme poverty. )  The House of Love in Lagi takes in women who are pregnant and choose not to abort their children.  They are able to live there for the duration of their pregnancy and when their baby is born, they leave the child in the care of the orphanage staff.  This was the case for both of our sponsored girls, Thien An (older), and Truc Ly (younger).   My husband and I shared this website and organization with some friends and it eventually led to us planning a trip for the four of us to go to Vietnam in November.  However, I just couldn’t shake the July trip.  November felt so far away–and it was over Thanksgiving and Nate’s 2nd birthday…  July was wide open except that our husbands couldn’t go.  I kept shaking off the desire, but it just kept coming back.  I kept checking my motives and praying that the Lord would make it clear, that He would take away the desire and give me peace if I wasn’t supposed to go, but that if I was He would also make that clear, as well as provide us help with the boys.   The night of May 28th, my husband and I sat up late talking it all out.  I realized through that conversation that the only reason I would say no to going was out of fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of a foreign country, fear of flying by myself, and fear of leaving my boys for that long.  I quickly realized this fear was not from God, and therefore was not an excuse.  The next morning, just 5 1/2 short weeks before the team would leave for Vietnam, I got on the phone with the travel agent and told her to book my flight.  A couple seconds after hanging up with her, on a whim, I called my friend, Laura, who had already told me she could not go in July due to various circumstances.   I asked one more time, knowing what the answer would most likely be, but still hoping for the alternative.  To my surprise, her plans had slightly changed and after a call to her husband and to her mother-in-law in literally 10 minutes, we were going to VN together! I could hardly contain my excitement and amazement that the Lord had literally taken away one of my biggest fears– traveling overseas alone– and instead replaced it with sheer joy that I would be traveling with one of my closest friends– and we had just 5 1/2 short weeks to prepare.:)


Baby stage

A sweet friend of mine and I were walking the other night, talking about life & kids and all of the topics in between.  One conversation we had was about how fleeting these moments are with our children and how sad it is that life seems to fly by at the speed of light.  I remember after I had my first son how those first moments, hours, days, and weeks started to go so fast and how every so often I would run into someone who just thought it necessary and important to remind me of just how brief my time with my son was and how in just a “snap of my fingers” he would be 18 and going to college.  To put it bluntly, I wanted to punch them in the face. I apologize if you were one of those people who said anything to that sort, it’s just, I have to be honest…plus, I was still under the emotional spell of having just had a baby ;)  I already knew that time was spinning way out of control and hearing those comments, well, just sort of dug the knife in even deeper.  I don’t do well with sad things. I don’t like being sad.  I want to do something about it–fix it, and I knew I couldn’t fix the brevity of our time.  However, I knew I could take advantage of every single second, moment, day that I have with them.  A wise acquaintance of mine posted on her blog a while back that being a wise and good mentor to our children is more important than being a mentor to a thousand of the most influential women.  Strong, powerful words.


I was telling my friend that I just adore the stage that Nate is in right now–the 9 month crawling, happy, laughing, snuggling, drooling, pulling up, loving mama stage :)  I told her some days I think I could have a 9-month old for the rest of my life! But the reality is, I don’t.  I don’t look at my 5-year old or 3-year old and wish they were babies again.  I just don’t.  I look at them and think how much I adore who they are right now and who the Lord is creating them to be.  I am so thankful that I get to be a part of it and have a front row seat to the story of their lives.  I am still very thankful for the brief baby stage of soft blankets, onesies, diapers (yes, diapers), breastfeeding, learning to say words for the first time, the word “mama” being the only word he knows how to say, teaching him to clap, wave bye-bye, eat foods for the first time, being able to hold him all the time if I want, carrying him around in a baby wrap, and the sweet moments at night in the dark of his room when I can rock him to sleep if I want and listen to him breath in my ear as his chubby little face rests on my shoulder.  I adore this stage as a mom, and I will be sad to see it go.  But, I am constantly reminded that this is not what we were created for, nor were they.  As great as we may feel we are at being a mommy to a newborn or toddler, we were created for much, much more.  We were created for life in maturity in Christ and to direct our children to that same maturity in Him.  We should be rejoicing as our children grow older and more mature in the things of the Lord, as He opens their eyes a little more each day to His goodness and promises, His everlasting love and redemption.  Though the sweet moments of snuggling tight with a 9-month old are precious, how precious the day that my child “snuggles” that close to His Savior.  And how my heart skips a little when my sweet boy lifts up his arms for me to pick him up–but oh the day when those little arms are lifted in praise to Jesus.  And how I laugh with joy when I see my little man following me through the house on his hands and knees with all of his might and the biggest toothy smile on his face–but how joyful the day when those little arms and legs are following the ways of the Lord with all of his might!  Yes, these baby days are beyond precious, beyond exhausting, so very important, and we should absolutely take advantage of every single moment the Lord gives us with our children to love them and spur them on towards Christ.  But, we have to also remember that we were not created for this–we were created for eternity if we are His, and our children are precious gifts entrusted to us straight from the arms of the Lord that come with great privilege and great responsibility.  I pray that we embrace that responsibility willingly and joyfully, and as we say good-bye to each sweet stage of life, that we look with eager anticipation and hope on what is to come.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” –Prov.22:6

Look who just found his mama:)