What Does Adoption Mean to Me?

Note: I recently had the opportunity to submit a one-page essay in response to the question in the title. Here are my thoughts on that.



When I read the question, “What does adoption mean to you?” I initially assumed that it would be easy to pound out a one-page response. Later, I sat down in front of my computer to type, but the words seemed to come out in a jumbled mess. How do you succinctly describe the complexity of adoption? That word encapsulates so many thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Adoption involves hours, days, weeks, months and sometimes years of endless paperwork. You have entities scrutinizing every aspect of your life from your finances, health, the safety of your home, and even the intimacy of your relationship with your spouse. Just when you think you have finished, another round of paperwork shows up. Sometimes you have a picture of a precious child that motivates you to work harder and move faster. Other times, it is the thought of seeing that face, that mystery yet to be revealed that keeps you going.  And yet, you do all of it. Because of LOVE – love for a child that you have never met. Love for this precious one that will someday become part of your family. Love that keeps you going when the task seems impossible, the costs daunting, and the unknown overwhelming.

After all of this paperwork, you are granted permission to adopt and are able to travel. For us, it meant flying to the other side of the world – to a new land and culture, to unfamiliar sites, smells, and language. And yet, when your child enters the room as you stand there breathlessly waiting, all of those moments required to reach this point fade away. Because of a CHILD. A beautiful, deserving soul that stands bravely before you and is walking away from everything he or she has ever known to become part of your family. This moment represents a dichotomy between a past that involved disruption, loss, and heartache; and a future that promises love, redemption, and forever.

This isn’t to say that the story that unfolds will always be rosy and the path smooth. There are long nights, challenging days, endless doctors appointments, surgeries, and many unknowns. This story has a thread of brokenness that has been woven through it from early on and this thread continues to intertwine through the story of adoption. But along with this brokenness, there is a thread of love that is strong. It is a love that is deep-rooted with fierce determination, redemption, and hope for brighter days. Another thread that weaves through this story – one that was previously severed and now has the opportunity to be forever connected is FAMILY.

So what does adoption mean to me? It is a story that is interwoven with the elements of brokenness, loss, and heartache, but at the same time a story that is redeemed through family, a child, and love. I am thankful for a God who orchestrates all of this, gave us the first picture of adoption, and for the children that so richly blessed my life through adoption.


A Season of Change

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do
than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain

I took a break from blogging as I kept thinking my next post would be about finding our new normal. I guess I naively thought there was a short phase we would pass through and then arrive at a point where everything fell into place. In hindsight, there isn’t a destination that we will reach in this grief process and I don’t know that I’ll ever reach a point of feeling “normal” living without one of my children. Yes, we are doing the ordinary and mundane things of every day life – making waffles for breakfast, going for bike rides, swimming in the pool, etc., but often during these times I inevitably reflect on the missing piece that is no longer a part of our family dynamic.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you may have seen a post where I alluded to some exciting things happening in our lives. Things. Plural. Did you catch that? Never ones to rest in a dull moment, I guess we decided one exciting thing wasn’t enough for our already full plate.

My husband is an artist, a dreamer, and a visionary. Throughout our years of marriage, he has explored many endeavors. When I look back, both of us have individually tried different things along the way. Throughout, we have allowed each other to explore our interests. Whether it was his music, my races, his painting, my endeavors to go back to school, his writing, my cooking/canning/gardening, we have stood beside each other. For the last nine years, my husband has explored his interest in filmmaking. In more recent years, he has become passionate about pursuing this interest as a full-time endeavor. As he was the sole income-maker after bringing our first daughter home from China, we were both hesitant for him to make the jump into full-time freelance work. At some point in the last year, he and his business partners began working very hard to secure financing so they could make a feature film based on one of his scripts. While the timing didn’t fall into place exactly as they had initially hoped, looking back on the sequence of events, it probably worked out for the best, as we were able to be together as a family in our time of early grief. In August, my husband made the bold move and talked with his long-time employer explaining that he would need to take some time off indefinitely as he would be making a film in the coming months. And that’s where we find ourselves now.
CHANGE #1 – jumping into the freelance world.

On a different note, we purchased our first home together thirteen years ago. After looking at over forty homes in a specific area, we happened upon a man who was mowing the lawn beside a home we were checking out. He asked if we were hoping to buy a home, said they were getting ready to build on that property, and we could be involved from the ground up in picking out fixtures. Having looked at plenty of homes with old wiring, bad pluming, no closets, and realizing we weren’t going to land on an HGTV show as fixer-uppers EVER, we quickly signed on the line. We were fortunate to get into a beautiful, historic area of town that was on the upswing but hadn’t yet peaked. Recently, we have begun discussing the possibility of selling our home in hopes of paying down our mortgage, especially as the dream of going freelance began to develop into a plan. But I always hesitated. I was so invested in this house. We love the neighborhood, our little street, our friends and neighbors, our small little raised-bed gardens, and our home. We brought both of our girls home from China to this house. It just wasn’t the right time in my mind to sell. We tabled that discussion and said we would only consider if the perfect option opened up. And then I saw an open house and convinced my husband to take a look. It had almost everything on our checklist of things we were looking for including the possibility of paying down our mortgage. We put in an offer late last Thursday. We weren’t sure of our chances, but the seller accepted our offer! However, the it is contingent on the sale of our home, so we have spent the last five days frantically cleaning, organizing, decluttering, yard-selling, weeding, pruning, and more to get our house market ready. And here we are CHANGE #2 (which is still very much uncertain at this point) – selling our home and buying another. We are only relocating a few blocks away from our current home. We’ll still be able to take walks in our neighborhood and visit all the things we love about where we live now.

And last, but certainly not least, I thought this change was one that would be further down the road, although my heart was ready much sooner. It turns out my husband was on board sooner than I thought as well and it didn’t take too much to convince our big girl. CHANGE #3 – we are ADOPTING! Here’s a little backstory on that. Eisley became very sick in early February and went back to the operating room for a procedure. I wasn’t sure she would make it through that one. As I was sitting in our “waiting room”, I realized in that moment that if she didn’t make it through, I hoped we would someday be able to adopt again. I am so thankful to have a close relationship with my brother and sister and will never be able to fully convey to them how much their love and support means to me. While I can’t guarantee this kind of relationship for my child, I can at least give her a sibling and hope for the best. I was hopeful that she and Eisley would have that kind of relationship. Unfortunately, time never gave us that opportunity. She talks often about having a sibling and I desire that for her. We have started the process to adopt from China again. We are still in the midst of paperwork and we don’t yet know how long the process will be. But we are excited, and hopeful, and longing to meet our next child.

So there you have it. We have jokingly declared 2016 to be the year of change for us. Good changes. Bad changes. Hard changes. Beautiful changes.

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
-Robin Sharma


Learning about Grief

I have been wanting to write a post about where we find ourselves these days and what we have termed “finding our new normal.” But those words haven’t hit the paper or the screen just yet. They will in good time. For now, I’ll leave you with an article I came across when I googled that phrase. You can find it HERE.

Here are a few points that I really connected with:

  1. “The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life — warts, wisdom, and all — with courage.”
  2. “Healing is seasonal, not linear.”
  3. “Trauma is terrible. What we need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow her own discomfort and fear, sit beside us, and just let it be terrible for a while.”
  4. “Love shows up in unexpected ways.”
  5. “This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again…….In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you.”

Whether you are in a place of finding your new normal or you know someone in that place, I hope the article might be helpful. Continue to show up. Continue to love. In the end, love always wins.

Hold me close young tiny dancer

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

From our earliest days with Eisley, it was apparent to us that she loved music. And more than just loving music, it moved her. She felt it in her soul. She couldn’t help but dance and sway whenever she heard a funky beat. One time we were at a restaurant when someone’s ringtone played a song, and Eisley immediately started bobbing her head up and down. In addition to the head bob, her dance moves included the pointer finger bounce, the hands-waving-in-the-air jam, and the body sway. A very serious look of concentration often accompanied these smooth dance moves. You couldn’t help but laugh when you watched her groove to the music.

Here’s a video compilation showing our girl and her love for music. You’ll notice I have a lot to learn from my dancing girl. I could have taken some pointers from her.



“Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.”
—Leo Rosten

It’s time for a little comedic break. We’ve had several serious posts so now we’ll pause and highlight an especially funny memory of our time with Eisley. She was a sharp girl who loved to laugh and smile. She picked up sign language quickly and eagerly used it whenever she could. In the three months prior to her surgery, she learned the signs for “more,” “water,” “eat,” “help” and several more. We chose to focus on signs that would be helpful in everyday communication since she hadn’t picked up spoken language yet. I imagine transitioning from hearing Mandarin all the time to only hearing English would be challenging for anyone. We believed it was only a matter of time before she spoke, though, as you could see the wheels turning in that bright girl.

 There was one sign though that became hilarious to our family. I learned soon after bringing home our first daughter that the only moment I had to myself (and I didn’t even always have that) was when I went to the restroom. Having a husband who works from home often allowed me the privilege to hand off one or both of our daughters to him briefly while I took a break and had a moment of peace and quiet. Once he thought it would be funny to come up with a saying and sign for this. He began saying “Hash tag Mama’s on the potty” (#mamasonthepotty) and making the hash tag symbol by hitting his pointer finger and middle finger of one hand against the pointer and middle of the other hand. Here’s a good example.

It wasn’t long before I discovered his little trick. Eisley quickly began using the sign as soon as I handed her off to Shawn while I went to the restroom. As he would say, “#Mamasonthepotty,” Eisley would grin knowingly. It made me laugh every time.

 Here are some more videos of Eisley using signs to communicate her needs. (If only we had a video of her using #mamasonthepotty.)

Eisley’s Birthday

Eisley’s Birthday

While we were in the hospital, I was fortunate to be put in touch with a kind and generous photographer, Suha Dabit. Suha understood the hardship of the PCICU first-hand: Her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) and had several open-heart surgeries before she received a heart transplant.

Suha’s empathy has compelled this beautiful soul to donate a portion of her time to take photos of heart children and give families beautiful memories in the midst of hard times. The way she draws your focus to the child and not all of the wires, tubes and machines is a gift. Her work is breathtaking.

I was thrilled when Suha took photos of Eisley on her second birthday. I will be forever grateful for the wonderful images she shared with us because they are tangible way for me to remember Eisley’s special day and the way we chose to celebrate her. Suha even compiled a video of all of the photos, and the lyrics of the song she chose to go with the video so accurately describe my feelings for Eisley. Here’s a portion from Matt Hammitt’s song “All of Me”:

“I won’t let sadness steal you from my arms
I won’t let pain keep you from my heart
I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I’ll share with you

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start.”

Here is the video collection of photos from Eisley’s birthday.

You can read more about Suha’s story HERE. And check out her Facebook page HERE. Follow her on Instagram at WOBHEARTS.

Thanks Suha for giving me these glimpses of Eisley that I will treasure forever.

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

Special Times in the PCICU with Eisley

“Sometimes you will not know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
—Dr. Seuss

 There were many small, joyful moments from our time in the PCICU with Eisley that I’ll hold on to as long as I can. For example, I won’t forget the few glimpses of her eyes that we were fortunate to see, the shaky finger she offered me one day as she attempted to swipe left and right on my phone to look at pictures, and the times when her heart rate would return to a somewhat normal level as I sang her lullabies. I also wanted to share a few big moments that I’m grateful for and will remember forever:

 Chinese New Year & Baptism – In early February, Eisley’s condition rapidly declined, and we thought we would lose her. True to her fighting ways, she pulled through. A few days after one especially scary time, I decided I wanted to have her baptized. If she didn’t make it out of the hospital, I didn’t want to have any regrets, and our priest graciously honored my last-minute request. As this event also fell during the Chinese New Year, I took the opportunity to dress Eisley in her China silks to honor a tradition that we maintain with our older daughter. I had been debating for weeks whether or not I should bring silks to the hospital and go through the formality of dressing her. It certainly wasn’t the easiest task with all of the tubes and wires connected to her! Thankfully, our wonderful primary nurse didn’t balk at my request and even went so far as to make Eisley’s bed with special blankets and dress her in her finest silks. My darling girl looked so beautiful!

 Valentine’s Day – After 40 days without holding her, on Valentine’s Day, I FINALLY got to hold Eisley. 40 days. No mother should ever have to wait that long to hold her child. I was on cloud 9 for the entire hour and a half that I held her and for the rest of the evening as well. Considering that we almost lost her the week before that, this time with her was especially poignant. Despite the tubes, lines, ventilator and everything else she was connected to that could have made holding her awkward, I didn’t hardly notice them. I concentrated on her face. She snuggled into my arms and it was if time stood still and the problems of the world melted away. Every now and then she would open her eyes, glance at me as if she was thinking, “Oh good, you are still here with me,” and then close her eyes again. I half-jokingly instructed a nurse to hook me up to a catheter and a feeding tube and I would just hold her for the rest of our time together.

 Eisley’s second birthday – As we approached March 8th, I wasn’t sure what to do about her birthday. She certainly wouldn’t even realize the significance of that day as she had probably never celebrated her first birthday. Plus, under such heavy sedation, she wouldn’t know we were celebrating anyway. However, I decided it was still a milestone that required a proper celebration; not to mention, it was an outlet for me to channel all of my energy in a positive way rather than focus on gravity of her deteriorating health condition. I made a special birthday outfit for her, as I wasn’t able to slip a onesie on her. That day, both she and her sister had matching Cinderella tutus and headbands! I crafted decorations for her door and room, and my mom and brother helped me bring in food for both the day shift and night shift nurses. Our family gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. We even had photo booth props on hand and captured some fun photos with the medical professionals who cared for Eisley that day. For an entire day I didn’t once dwell on any of the ups and downs of her vitals, x-rays, new diagnoses, etc. I simply focused on honoring her. I even got some birthday snuggles! I’m forever thankful for everyone who helped make my crazy ideas reality, as it made that day so special and an enduringly happy memory for my family.

 It would be easy to dwell on all of the difficult, scary, and overwhelming times during our hospital stay. We certainly had a lot of those moments. However, perhaps these dark moments were necessary to reveal the value of those special, bright moments and bring an appreciation to those moments that may not have existed otherwise.

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 “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
—Desmond Tutu