Part of Me Blog

international adoption

our adoption trip • part 4

Adoption, TRAVELlissa-anglin4 Comments

If you're just tuning in, here's Part 1 (Beijing), Part 2 (Gotcha Day), & Part 3 (Lucy's city).  

Our last leg of the trip was in Guangzhou, China- which is where every American adoptive family in China ends up before they can leave the country with their new child. Why? Because that is where the U.S. Consulate is, and you have to obtain a visa for your child before you can leave. 

So, Lucy boarded her very first flight and did great. It was only about a 3 hour flight. 

Knox and Dad were asleep like this before we even took off! Haha

Knox and Dad were asleep like this before we even took off! Haha

Guangzhou is further south than Lucy's city and we'd been told it was a more tropical environment, which honestly made it feel a little bit more like vacation in a way. The vegetation was beautiful and the city itself was very clean. We learned that they are a no-motorbike city, so that cleared up a lot of crazy traffic, pollution, and noise. Instead there were bicycles everywhere, which I enjoyed photographing. They have a popular rent-a-bike system there so you'd see rows and rows of them ready for riders.


There were far more Westernized things, too- probably a result of the many international visitors over the years. McDonald's was right next to our hotel and most people spoke English. There was Pizza Hut, Starbucks (in our hotel!), and 7 Eleven. 

When we arrived in the evening after our flight from Lucy's city, we were a little travel-worn and hungry. The China Hotel by Marriott has a beautiful, large lobby and as we were checking in we were greeted by an American man (also in line) with a smile that said, "Checking in? We've been here a week and it's great. You must stop by the Muslim noodle shop down the street. It's delicious!" Hearing his American English and reassuring understanding of where we were at (emotionally and physically) was so wonderful. And he was right- the Muslim noodle place (a simple noodle shop owned by Muslim Chinese) was my favorite restaurant of the trip! I think we ate there 3 or 4 times that week, haha.

All week, we continued to meet adoptive family after adoptive family- and literally everyone was so incredibly nice. It was neat to hear their stories and relate. I was so encouraged by them and because of that this was my favorite week in the journey. 

One of the first things we noticed when we walked into the hotel was THE staircase. The one we'd collectively seen in our agency's posts of families who had completed their adoptions. They were seated on a red staircase, smiling. I'd never known where that staircase existed, haha- but there it was, in all it's glory, and WE WERE GOING TO SIT ON IT AND TAKE A PICTURE, because we had DONE THIS THING! 

This was our travel group- some of the best people I am so thankful we know and call friends!

This was our travel group- some of the best people I am so thankful we know and call friends!

I also have to mention the breakfast. Ya'll- it was included in our stay every morning- and it was the nicest breakfast buffet I've ever seen! They were used to accommodating families with kids, so they had plenty of high chairs and delicious food and espresso.

One of the first appointments we had in Guangzhou was Lucy's medical appointment. All children being adopted are required to have a medical exam before leaving, and so my parents kept the big kids while we took Lucy. She did great, except when they had to draw blood for a TB test. She cried for a bit but was ok pretty quickly- that was one of the first times I realized that we had one tough little girl.


One evening we got to take a River Cruise down the Pearl River. It was beautiful to see the city lit up at night. Our guide had ordered pizza for us to take and eat on the boat, and there must have been a little bit lost in translation- because our chicken pizza was MOVING! Haha- check out the video below. We found out later that those are actually dried fish flakes reacting to the heat. My mom ate some and liked it, but everyone else was too chicken. Or fish....get it?!?


The next day was possibly the most fun of the trip- we visited the Chimelong Safari Park and it was amazing! They had so many animals to see and even though it rained on us we all really enjoyed it. 

We were so excited to see PANDAS!

We were so excited to see PANDAS!


We also got to visit the Chen Family Temple, which is beautiful and ornate. I purchased some keepsakes for Lucy here- a Chinese knot we will use as an ornament that has a monkey painted on it (her birth year was the year of the monkey), and a stone carved stamp with her English and Chinese name. Our guide also took us to the pearl market, which was a neat experience. I got to pick out pearls and have them made into bracelets and earrings for the girls- they made them right in front of us! Knox said he'd prefer something else :).

He has been the sweetest big brother!

He has been the sweetest big brother!

Bath time at the hotel!

Bath time at the hotel!

Another photo I was hell-bent on having. :) We love the Kickee Pants brand and when I found out they had a panda print I knew I had to get some pjs to take to China.

Another photo I was hell-bent on having. :) We love the Kickee Pants brand and when I found out they had a panda print I knew I had to get some pjs to take to China.

We also spent a lot of time just hanging out around the hotel and exploring the neighborhood nearby. We walked through this alley at dusk one night and I knew I just had to go back to photograph it- because it perfectly encapsulated China- all the hustle and bustle, colors and smells. I want Lucy to remember these things, so I photographed them as best I could.

Yep, this is how you buy your meat. No refrigeration needed.

Yep, this is how you buy your meat. No refrigeration needed.

We also got to go to Shamian Island- a part of Guangzhou that was once under British rule and has some beautiful buildings and landscaping. And also Starbucks, which we were excited about. 

Knox's souvenir from the Safari Park was a lemur tail, so he wore it everywhere after that, haha. Also super thankful we brought our stroller to carry all our bags!

Knox's souvenir from the Safari Park was a lemur tail, so he wore it everywhere after that, haha. Also super thankful we brought our stroller to carry all our bags!

We are forever bonded with these couples from our travel group. Not only do our children share histories, but now we do, too!

We are forever bonded with these couples from our travel group. Not only do our children share histories, but now we do, too!

Another photo I was insistent on! This sculpture on Shamian Island is visited by most of the adoptive families that come to China and it was a rite of passage for me! I could cry seeing my THREE right there!

Another photo I was insistent on! This sculpture on Shamian Island is visited by most of the adoptive families that come to China and it was a rite of passage for me! I could cry seeing my THREE right there!

Lots and lots of walking- lots and lots of transportation. Helped justify all those noodles we were eating!

Lots and lots of walking- lots and lots of transportation. Helped justify all those noodles we were eating!

After our appointment at the U.S. Consulate, we decided to go swimming at the hotel pool. I'm pretty sure it was Lucy's first time in the water, and she was pretty nervous at first, but then calmed down and started enjoying it when she saw Knox and Liv doing so.


We also ventured out to a local park which was just down the street from the hotel. It was beautiful and I couldn't get over the unique flowers we were seeing.


Finally, we had Lucy's passport, visa, and clearance to go home! The night before our flight, we took a train to Hong Kong. It was a little crazy carrying 7 people and alllllll our baggage, but we did it! 

Lots of toys and snacks were handy on the train!

Lots of toys and snacks were handy on the train!

The next day we arrived at the ticket counter several hours before our flight, ready to check in. It was at that moment we realized that somehow we had lost Shawn's passport. And I mean LOST. It was not in any of our baggage. It wasn't in the hotel room we'd checked out of. Shawn was running through the airport retracing steps and calling the hotel concierge. Ya'll- this is when I ALMOST had a full out panic attack. I'm so glad my mom was there to calm me and help with the kids. Shawn's name was on every adoption document and Lucy wasn't officially a U.S. citizen until we went through customs in the U.S. I was PANICKING. My dad remembered that we'd changed money the night before and went to that counter to see if they'd found a passport- and THANK YOU JESUS- they had it! Major crisis averted. The grace of God on our family. This photo is Shawn's face getting back in the check-in line- whew! 


The flight home was long but uneventful. We were able to fly straight into Dallas which was wonderful. One more short flight to Lubbock and we were HOME! Our friends at home had done such a wonderful job taking care of us when we weren't even there. Our dogs and home were fed and clean, fresh groceries and freezer meals were in the fridge- they even fixed my car battery when it wouldn't start up after a few weeks off! We were greeted by some of them at the airport, and it was so sweet. 

My sweet sister circled the DFW airport for 2.5 hours just to meet us in line for a few minutes. It was so great to see her face!

My sweet sister circled the DFW airport for 2.5 hours just to meet us in line for a few minutes. It was so great to see her face!


I still can't believe we actually went and came home with a new daughter. Our time in China was hard, wonderful, and precious. If you've tuned in this whole time, thank you for reading- and please feel free to comment with your questions- I love sharing our experiences and have been so encouraged by others who have gone before us, so I want to do the same.

I plan on continuing to post on other aspects of our adoption- like our packing list- very soon!

our adoption trip • part 2 (gotcha day)

Adoption, TRAVELlissa-anglinComment

Check out Part 1 here in case you missed it. :)

We arrived in Lucy's city the night before we would meet her, which was great and gave us a chance to get settled in at our new hotel. The next day, we were told to be ready by 1:30 p.m. Every minute before 1:30 was just plain full of anxiety for me. I wasn’t myself- could hardly eat and my parenting was definitely lacking. I’m so thankful my parents were here and that Shawn is generally chill in every situation. Poor Knox had not been feeling well the day before and really took a turn for the worse that morning- turning white as a sheet as we waited to head to the Civil Affairs office. I am SO thankful we had my parents in that situation- they dutifully took care of our sweet boy the whole time so that we could focus. 

A quick note on the term "Gotcha Day": I realize that some families choose not to use this term because it could seem offensive or insensitive- as if a person is something that can be owned or purchased. I totally get that, and am so NOT ok with those insinuations. However, for simplicity's sake our family has chosen to use the term "gotcha day" just to reference this very special day in which Lucy officially became part of our family and was adopted. Our purpose in using this term is only to pinpoint the much-anticipated day where we got to hold Lucy for the first time. We don't intend to hurt or offend and respect those who choose not to use this term.

About 1:00 pm, they let us know that we actually didn’t need to go until 2. Ugh. So, finally, 2:00 rolled around and we all piled into the van. Knox was losing color in his face and only wanted to sleep. Poor guy- we didn’t have any choice but to drag him along. There was such a tension among all of the families in our group- though we all tried to laugh and say positive things, but the unknown was at the forefront of our thoughts. We weren't sure who would be there- foster parents, orphanage directors, random civil affairs workers- we had been told it varies. And what would happen? Crying? Likely. It was like preparing for intentional heartbreak, knowing it was the right thing. In those moments, we had to lean on Jesus, and trust that He had brought us to that place, and He knew best. 

Just before we went up the elevator to meet Lucy. Check out my I'm-about-to-puke-I'm-so-nervous smile. I don't know why I even tried! Ha!

Just before we went up the elevator to meet Lucy. Check out my I'm-about-to-puke-I'm-so-nervous smile. I don't know why I even tried! Ha!

Once we arrived, we had to take an elevator up to the correct floor of the huge office building. We'd had grand plans of how we would capture this moment of meeting, and even had my dad prepped with the camera- but got pushed onto separate elevators and so our videos are pretty haphazard- which is really more how it all felt, anyway. Once we stepped off the elevator, we were immediately directed into the Civil Affairs office, which I recognized from some photos from other families, and as we walked in, I saw the silhouette of a little girl with pigtails being held by a woman who looked a lot like Lucy’s foster mother.

Lucy had been in foster care most of her life- and we had been told that her foster parents may or may not be there on gotcha day. I was excited at the chance to meet and talk with such a special lady. Sure enough, the woman recognized us- and we recognized Lucy. It all happened extremely fast. All three families along with their adoptive children and foster parents were lead into a separate room. For us, there were no tears shed in those minutes— not Lucy, Shawn, nor me. Lucy’s foster mother was smiling and talking up a storm to me- I wish I knew what she was telling me about! She pointed to me and said, “mama”. She pointed to Shawn and said, “baba”. Eventually I got to hold Lucy- just for a bit- and then she wanted her foster mother back. We did this routine a few times until finally Lucy let me hold her for a while. 

Lucy's foster mother- God bless this sweet woman!

Lucy's foster mother- God bless this sweet woman!

It was clear to me that Lucy’s foster mother was not new to this gig at all- and I really believe she contributed so much to the good experience we’ve had in these first few weeks with Lucy. She smiled and talked so positively about our daughter- answered our questions as best she could (we had some time with her and the translator to ask questions). When we asked if there was anything she wanted to tell us, she told us that Lucy is a very good girl- not spoiled, and happy with company. I saw her wipe away a few tears as she bounced Lucy and made her smile. She handed me some yogurt, a bottle, some formula and a few diapers, and before Lucy could realize it, she was gone. I didn’t get to say all of the profound things I’d planned on- but I didn’t need to. I think she knew what all my “thank you”s meant. 

Knox and Liv were so sweet and had a bag of toys ready to go!

Knox and Liv were so sweet and had a bag of toys ready to go!


Lucy fell asleep soon after this and so I was able to put her in the Tula carrier and watch some of the paperwork that Shawn was now involved in completing. There was a lot of signing and thumbprinting. The other sweet babies that were being adopted that day cried in the background and their mommas fought very hard to comfort them. I was so shocked that we hadn’t yet had any crying on our side that I wasn’t sure what to do- so I ended up praying for the other families during that time and I’m so glad I was able to. It honestly calmed me down just to be reminded where our help and strength comes from!

Finally and all of a sudden (yes, that’s how it felt- both long and fast at the same time)- we were told to come sit together in front of a red background for a photo. Knox was still feeling awful but was able to join us all for a quick photo. We went over some more details with our agency’s representative and then, it was time to go!

Always more paperwork to be done!

Always more paperwork to be done!

It was completely surreal to walk out of that building with a beautiful little girl who I’d stared at in photos for months, but didn’t actually know. She woke up and was melancholy. Her eyes stared blankly at anything but me. She didn’t cry. She just absorbed. Such a brave little soul.

Our photo for her official adoption documents. Lucy was basically still asleep during this photo, haha!

Our photo for her official adoption documents. Lucy was basically still asleep during this photo, haha!

Shawn and I walked down the street with our guide and the other parents and kids just after our meeting to take some passport photos. She just stared at us so solemnly. I will never forget that surreal feeling- standing there in the urban jungle of Lucy's city- soaking in the sounds and the realization that we have THREE kids!

Shawn and I walked down the street with our guide and the other parents and kids just after our meeting to take some passport photos. She just stared at us so solemnly. I will never forget that surreal feeling- standing there in the urban jungle of Lucy's city- soaking in the sounds and the realization that we have THREE kids!

Sweet Knox- he was such a trooper this whole day, even though he felt awful. Liv, of course, could NOT get enough of her new sister.

Sweet Knox- he was such a trooper this whole day, even though he felt awful. Liv, of course, could NOT get enough of her new sister.

Once we were back to the hotel (we took a trip to Walmart right after we received Lucy to get a few necessities for her), Lucy perked up and played for a while with Liv. Their giggles were (and still are) such a beautiful thing to hear. Going to bed that night was quite a long and hard process, but Lucy eventually snuggled up to Shawn and it has been better and better every night since. 

Playing at the hotel.

Playing at the hotel.

Looking back on it now, I will remember Gotcha Day as a long, hard, beautiful day- and a reminder that God is so, so good to us. I was so thankful that we could carry His peace with us- knowing that even if we couldn't comfort Lucy, He could. He was our reassurance to take the next step and trust Him in every unknown. Even Knox who felt terrible was sustained and healed in the days to come. He SO had our backs. No detail was new or a surprise to Him, and that gave me immense peace on one of the most stressful days of my life- not to mention my new daughter's. Again- He is so, so good. 

More of our journey to come!

if I'm honest...I'm totally afraid.

Adoptionlissa-anglin2 Comments

A couple of months ago, I asked my Facebook friends what they wanted to know about our adoption. Their questions were genuine and curious and I was happy to answer most all of them, because I truly believe that sharing our story will not only help educate people on international adoption but communicate the value and worth of these children who, by none of their own doing, have found themselves without a family.

Most were easy answers about processes and travel procedures...but there was one question I did not want to face.

"What are you most afraid of?"

At the time, we had just received our referral (had been matched with a child). I was so confident (and just plain excited that we finally had a darling face to look at)- I could have responded, "I'm not afraid of anything. I know God will work it out."

But in the 8ish weeks since- and in the interest of full disclosure- I've slowly sunken into a deep sea of fear, anxiety, and worry. And if I'm being honest, I'm scared shitless.

I don't say that term to be funny- I'm saying it because it is the complete and literal truth. I have actually had intestinal issues due to my stress level in the past several weeks, which I'm sure you wanted to know. I've also developed this reoccurring eye twitch, which is the most annoying physical ailment I've ever had. It's like a tiny stress meter that sits just under my right eye, pulsating at the presence of every anxious thought. Which, if you're me right now, is about every 3 to 4 minutes.

I've had moments where I just burst into tears. Moments where I become filled with anger and even vengeful (ugh, so embarrassing). I've melted into depressive states and ignored my husband and children for the perceived safety and darkness of my bed. Some of this is stuff that's normal-ish for me to experience on a monthly basis (if you know what I mean)- but what I want you to hear is that lately, it's been much worse. 

I don't say these things to gain sympathy- if I'm being real, my pride doesn't want you to feel sorry for me.  I'm sharing this, though, because it's therapeutic for me to write- and if by chance there is anyone reading this who wants to know what the "not fun" parts of this adoption journey look like, now you know.

So I'm finally tackling the question. What am I most afraid of? Here we go...


I'm afraid I'll have an emotional breakdown (or two or ten) during our trip to China.

I'm afraid that our new daughter will hate or resent me for taking her away from everything she knows.

I'm afraid that my child's special need will be more than I can handle.

I'm afraid that I won't be able to do three kids.

I'm afraid that my bio kids will have a difficult time adjusting or feel ignored.

I'm afraid that we will find out our child has additional special needs once she is home.

I'm afraid that I won't know how to respond to people's comments.

I'm afraid that I won't get any sleep. 

I'm afraid that it will put stress on our marriage we won't be able to bear.

I'm afraid my child will not bond with me.

I'm afraid that we won't have enough in our bank account to travel.

I'm afraid that I will be completely debilitated and overwhelmed with anxiety.

I'm afraid that I'll lose friendships, business, or sanity because any amount of free time I have is about to be obliterated.

I'm afraid that people will see our long, messy story and choose not to adopt.


Some of these things will actually happen, and we will figure it out when they do. Some of these will not. Much of this is completely out of my control, which only makes my anxiety amp up that much more.

Most of the attacks I've experienced lately (which I do believe are spiritual warfare) have been specifically targeted at my abilities as a mother and my mental and emotional health. It's been tough to weed through the tall grasses of my mind to understand what is worth paying attention to, and what is just an attempt by the enemy on an already vulnerable space. Somehow, even though I've mothered two biological children, there is always that exception...I've never done this adoption thing before. 

Targeting the lies and replacing them with truth has been a very slow and ominous process- one that sometimes I simply don't have the energy to pursue. But it's the only way out, and it's worth my effort. 

We aren't finished with this journey yet, but here's what I do know:

God knows. Especially when I don't.

He has prepared a way. Every minute, tear, and dollar has been worth it.

He sees our girl. He's planned our future.

My daughter- though I have not met her yet- has helped me understand the gospel of Christ better.

Scripture says that He has overcome! Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Not money. Not time. Not anxiety. Not physical, emotional, or mental sickness. 

From the weakest and strangest place, I can tell you that this is a story of victory. Amidst all of the unknowns, I have a peace in my gut that says, "this is right". 

So yeah, I'm totally scared. But I'm also incredibly excited. I can't wait to meet her. To love on her. To tell her she belongs. 

There's nothing about me that's "handling" it right now and I'm expecting breakdowns (on my part for sure, plus at least a few from my counterparts). Dear reader, I need you to see that there is nothing extra brave or special about what we are doing- except the God that has orchestrated it all. 

However, I can tell you that we'll be stepping onto a plane in a few short weeks, and doing the thing we've wanted to do for 5 years now. I don't know what it's going to look like necessarily, and that's killing me. I'm hoping I'll find some relief when we are actually GOING. But until then, it will be a day-to-day battle- replacing lies with the truth of scripture. Saying out loud the things that threaten to take away my peace and repenting from my unbelief. Hoping in Christ and practicing thankfulness.


Some scriptures I am holding on to:

John 9:3 (one of my favorite stories in the Bible)- "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 

John 16:33- I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Deut. 31:8- The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Psalm 68:6- God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. 

Psalm 119:133- Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Psalm 118:14- The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.

journey west

Adoptionlissa-anglin1 Comment

Naming a kid is a big deal in our home. With both Knox and Liv, we were able to decide relatively quickly in the pregnancy what their names would be. In both cases, we searched for good family names and I did a LOT of researching the meanings of different names. I truly believe that names have influence on who a person becomes, and so choosing a name for your child is an important honor. 

Truett means "faithful" and Knox means "hill". Knox is my father's middle name, and because my Dad had all daughters and two sisters, we were the last Rustens (my maiden name) of our generation, so it was important for us to carry on that legacy in some way. I do also believe that in the way that people use hills as reference points in a landscape, that our son will be a leader and a reference point for others. 

China has the most beautiful parks in the middle of bustling cities. I shot this image at a neighborhood park early one morning on one of my past trips- I can't wait for my family to see things like this!

China has the most beautiful parks in the middle of bustling cities. I shot this image at a neighborhood park early one morning on one of my past trips- I can't wait for my family to see things like this!

Liv means "life" which was significant to us because she came after a rough season in which I had several miscarriages. We were (and are) so thankful for her LIFE. Caroline, her middle name, means "joyful song", which fits her personality perfectly. My middle name is also Carrol (as is my mother and her mother's), and so this was how we chose to keep that going.

So, when it came to naming our third, I was just as particular about the name meanings, but even more so- because I wanted to make sure whatever name(s) we chose had both a great meaning in English AND Mandarin, and be easily pronounced by native English speakers and native Mandarin speakers. The reason this is so important to me is because if she ever wants to spend time in China, or research her heritage (we plan to do this with her), or learn to speak Mandarin- basically if she ever wants to dive in deeper to her Chinese heritage- I want her to feel that she belongs in both places...with a name that easily transitions.

Side note: I know that a lot of transracially adopted children (children born of one race and adopted by another) grow up with a sense of duality- feeling that they belong to two different cultures at the same time. This has both its positive and negative effects, and are constantly learning all we can about how to facilitate those feelings. We are so excited to celebrate her Chinese heritage, though she will be a fully American citizen. There are lots of sensitive bridges to cross here, and we will go one at a time, as best we can- but with the understanding that no matter her birthplace, she can and will fully belong in our family, even with respect (and honor!) to the mother that birthed her, and the country where she began.

We were hesitant to even discuss names for most of our adoption journey because things could change. Looking back, I am so thankful that we did not pick a name at the very beginning. When we decided to withdraw from the Ethiopia program and apply for China, I actually had to mourn the loss of that beautiful brown-skinned girl I had been imagining. It took me several months to adjust to the new plan fully, and I know it would have been even more difficult had we had a name attached to that person we'd been imagining. 

It wasn't until a couple of months ago that Shawn and I started talking about it casually and then we just sort of knew. 

Lucy. Her name would be Lucy. 


Lucy is actually a very popular name amongst Chinese adoptees, but we chose it for a few reasons:

1) It is the nickname my father would call me growing up. We like our "L" names around here, apparently! My two sisters and I all have names that start with L and even the our female dog is named Lola. So, Lissa, Liv and Lucy will definitely keep our tongues tied.

2) Lucy in English means "bringer of light". As a photographer, I COULD NOT LOVE THIS MORE. Photographers are basically obsessed with light and all it represents- spiritually, I pray that this will means she is a woman of truth, hope and encouragement to those around her. 

3) Lucy in Mandarin can be translated as Lù Xi (the x makes a "sh" sound). The "Lù" is translated as "road" or "journey", and Xi means "west". So, considering she will be making that very important journey from east to west soon, her new name will be a marker for her story. After doing the research on this, I had chills! 

Lucy also has a Chinese name that she was given, and we wanted to keep some part of it for her middle name. Fourtunately, her given middle name is Fei (sounds like "Faye"). It can be translated as "fly" or "winged", which I love, but we were told that her specific "fei" meaning was "flowers and plants flourish", which is equally as wonderful. 

So, Lucy Fei- our light bringer who will journey west and flourish. We can't wait to see how her names play out in her life. She has already shined light in our lives in so many ways. My prayer for her right now is that she would flourish.  

I've waited to share this video, because I say "Lucy" in it- but here is the moment we showed Knox and Liv her photo:

They were a lot more chill than I expected them to be- but also, they've been expecting to hop on a plane any day now for the past year- so it was just not that surprising to them, I guess! Also, did you catch Liv's response to me asking about Lucy's birthday? Haha- I love that girl!

sending our love


One of the things I have been most looking forward to has been sending our little one a care package. Now that we've accepted her referral, we finally get to send her something!

My experiences with care packages have typically been as the recipient...namely, in college- when I would get a large box from my mom filled with all the goodies I was too cheap (or too broke) to buy. I've sent things to friends and family- but never to a daughter I had yet to meet. 

Thankfully, many have gone before me and so I heeded their wise advice on what to send. In China, there are several companies that specialize in care packages & delivery to orphanages and you can order items through them or send a package yourself and have them deliver it to your child. We opted for the second option, because I knew I wanted to hand pick everything. One thing I am not sure of, however, is whether or not she will actually come home with the items I sent. There are mixed responses on this- some families say that their children come to them with all of the items they sent- and some (like clothing) are shared between all of the children in the home or orphanage. So, I couldn't be too attached to the items I sent- were they to be passed on to another child, that is just fine!

I had already collected several things for her, but because we didn't know what might actually make it home, I decided to get a few things that I wouldn't miss and save the most special things for when she is back home. So, here is what we sent:

2018-02-14 15.56.43.jpg

1) Swaddle blanket- Both Knox and Liv have loved these lightweight blankets and still request them for long car rides. This one is one of Liv's old ones. We included a hand-me-down for a couple of reasons- one, we have plenty more at home, and two- it smells like our home already. We are hoping that the smell will become familiar and help us be a tad less scary when we finally meet in China.

2) Baby doll- It was noted on one of the files we received that she loves playing with dolls (which is SO perfect because her sister does too!). So I knew I needed to send her one. Liv had already tried to steal this one a couple of times before I got it in the box to mail! Haha!

3) Pajamas- I half expect her to be wearing these the day we receive her in China, having been mistaken for regular clothes! I'm already regretting not putting in any actual outfits, haha- oh well, we shall see!

4) Family photo album from Pinhole Press- this is the MOST important item I sent. (Thank you Lauren Clark Photography for the awesome photos!) Because she is just two I really wanted to find a book with thick, easy to turn pages. I am praying that seeing our faces will make us more familiar and less scary for her, and that God uses this book and these photos to show her love, safety and hope. I know she's only two, but there is no limit to what God can do!  Many adoptive families have said that their children recognized them immediately upon meeting because their caregivers had gone through their family photo album with them daily. So neat and a testament to the work that they do.

One of the coolest parts about using a service like this is that they include a free letter translation. So, one day last week I sat down to write my first letter to my almost two year old daughter, whom I have yet to meet in person. Talk about a big task!

2018-02-14 16.45.03.jpg

Rather than get poetic (which doesn't translate very well), I was short and sweet. I also wrote a longer note to her foster family (she has lived in a foster family most of her life- something we are so thankful for). Writing that second note was more emotional than the first! How do you thank someone for giving your child a shot at a home and family? My gratitude for them is so huge...but that's another blog post. 

Lastly, we also sent a USB flash drive with a request to photograph everything! I would be so overjoyed to have photos of the home she lived in, the places she slept, ate and played...the faces who took care of her. We do not know if we will get to meet her foster family or see where she lived, and we won't know until we are there- but for her sake I'm making it my job to gather as much information as I can about her life in China. 

I cried when I took this package to the post office and the clerk told me it would arrive February 23rd. That's just 2 days before her 2nd birthday- so there is a chance it will arrive to her on her actual birthday! Also- fun fact- because her birthday is 1 day after Liv's, this year they will technically be celebrating at the exact same time! China is 12 hours difference from Texas- so one's birthday breakfast will likely also be the other's birthday dinner. I treasure things like this in my heart. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! I've got so much more to write about our journey, so stay tuned!

I'm also selling these cute personalized zipper pouches and keychains to pay for the last few fees we have- I'd love to make one for you!

the day we got the call!


January 8, 2018.

Shawn and I had just returned from Houston, where we photographed and beautiful wedding. I had written this blog post just 7 days prior. (If you haven't read it yet, go- it's a great precursor to this one!) The kids were back at school after Christmas break, giving me some quiet time in our house – something I treasure dearly. Somehow, I had finished up all of my work for that day, and had decided to sit down and draw. This is something that I have been wanting to focus more on as of late, and so I signed up for an online bootcamp. It’s been really fun so far!

January‘s assignment for the bootcamp was to draw the contents of my purse, so I had dumped everything out on the table and was giving it a go. And then the phone rang.

For four years, I had imagined that moment. When I would look down and see a Virginia number pop up on my screen (our agency is located in Virginia). There have even been a few times that I’ve received a call from Virginia and it turned out to be a telemarketer! They didn’t get the warmest response :-). But this time, it was real. It was happening.

I picked up the phone to hear our agency coordinator say, "Hi Lissa, it’s Leah – do you have a few minutes?" Um, yes- I have many minutes. However many minutes you want to have!

Leah then said the words I’ve been hoping to hear for so many years..."So we received several referrals, and I have a file for your family to review..."

In Chinese adoption, adoption agencies receive files on specific children from the Chinese government, and then they are able to match those files with the families on their waiting lists. There is no rhyme or reason, nor cadence to the frequency in which they receive files, and it often takes quite a while for the files to travel through all of the necessary offices within each government for them to finally arrive in the hands of the adoption agency. This is one reason that most of the children adopted from China are at least 18 months old- it simply takes time for the files to reach the agency's hands, and children keep growing. :)

They then refer those files out individual families, one at a time. Our specific file was exclusive to our agency for a period of 21 days, and in order to keep the process as efficient as possible, we needed to be able to review her information, and make a decision within 72 hours – so that if in the case that we chose not to accept this referral, they could then refer her to another family. So, we needed to make a decision relatively quickly.

Leah talked me through the files she had on our daughter.

She is almost two years old, born 1 day and 1 year after our daughter Liv.

There was a newborn photo included- which is unheard of and something we are so thankful to have- and a very small passport-style photo of her at one year old. The rest of the files were all medical records that had been translated into English. I talked with Leah for a half hour, and then called Shawn, still in total shock.

Our late-night reading has looked a little different lately- this book "Mine In China" is GOLDEN if you are adopting from China.

Our late-night reading has looked a little different lately- this book "Mine In China" is GOLDEN if you are adopting from China.

Shawn was up at our store, which we were in the process of closing down for good. He had been working his tail off for at least a month now, working from 9 AM to 7 PM, and doing everything he could to make sure the transition was smooth. I hardly even knew what to say other than. "we got the call! THE call!" I don’t think he had any idea it was coming.

The next 45 minutes seems like hours as we waited for Leah to email us her photo, and the rest of her files. I had dreamed of opening this email together with Shawn, sitting at home – but when it came down to it, we couldn't be in the same place and just didn’t care anymore! We had a new daughter!

When the email finally came, I just cried. There are so many details about her and her story that our evidence of God‘s great love for us. Even now, weeks later, I am realizing on a daily basis how detailed and specific an extravagant our God is in the way he loves us. Those are the things I want to be sure to share here in this space.

Once we received her information, we knew we needed to get a few consultations with doctors. Our pediatrician took time out of his busy day (hello flu season!), just look over our files and discuss them with us. We were also able to speak with a group of doctors who offer this service for free for adoptive parents. We are also very thankful for Dr. Chambers of Children's of Alabama who reviewed her files for us as well and went over every detail. Dr. Chambers is not only an international adoption specialist, but she has daughters adopted from China as well, so that was extra comforting to me. Once we had the doctors' professional opinions, we were all in.

At this point, we submitted our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt) to the People's Republic of China, and would wait for a LOA (Letter of Acceptance) before anything was official. It was a tough few weeks not being able to be public about our referrals we waited, but at least we had some photos to look at 1000x a day!

Once we received the official LOA, we celebrated! And began a new mountain of paperwork, haha...

Remember how I mentioned her birthday earlier? Our daughter was born on February 25, 2016. This is a big deal because we wanted at least a one year gap between Liv and our newest addition, which is another part of the reason we have waited so long (17 months). (Our agency won't refer us any children that didn't match the requests we had made when we first began our adoption process- i.e. gender, age range and special needs we were comfortable with). I couldn’t believe it when Leah told us her birthday – it is literally one day and one year after Liv's! I feel like this is such a special detail because over the past few years, I have had many desperate conversations with God where He has graciously heard me ask why we continued to wait over and over. I feel like in giving our new daughter a birthday literally one day and one year after Liv's, he saying to me, "See? I didn’t make you wait one more day then you needed to". 

I also think that it is no mistake that we received our referral at the same time we were closing our store. Shawn has been more available to help than he has in the past 6 years and right now I am SO thankful for that. We have about 1000 plates spinning right now and I have needed his help so much. I also know that the Lord has used our new daughter to plant hope in our hearts when we could be focused on the end of this chapter. 

You may have noticed I haven't shared much about her medical needs or any photos of her yet. We have decided to wait until we are with her in China to share photos of her, and wait until we are back home and can see our doctors here to share about her medical diagnosis. I can tell you- she is adorable, as big as Liv already, and that her medical needs (as far as we know) are surprisingly low-maintenance and do not seem to inhibit her whatsoever. Thanks for being understanding about this- her privacy and her story are worth protecting and are really hers to tell, so we want to be sure to honor that. I do plan to share more about her medical needs specifically- simply because I think that is one of the things that concerns people most when considering international adoption- but we want to make sure we have the best understanding of everything first, and that will take a few doctor visits here in the US first. :)

So, she will be two by the time we receive her China. This makes me very excited and also very nervous to have a two, Three, and seven-year-old – but I can’t have been the first, right?!?

To answer a few other questions I have received, I am just going to list out a few things below:

She does not know any English yet, and we do not know any Mandarin, really – but we are going to do our very best, and trust in time will be speaking the same language :-) One friend recommended learning simple words in Mandarin and teaching her sign language to bridge the gap. I love this idea and plan on doing that. We also have some helpful apps.

We do not know our specific travel dates yet, as we are waiting for some paperwork to process, but we hope to travel in April. Our trip will be about 2 1/2 weeks, and we will bring her home permanently. It is just one trip. During our time in China, we will go through several appointments, a medical review, and wait for her visa to process. When she lands on US soil, she will be an American citizen!

We plan to take both Knox and Liv with us, as we believe they would be present were we having a new biological child, we want them to be part of our new daughter's story as well.

Thanks for reading! I'm planning another post specifically about our trip to China next. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section- I think adoption is awesome and want to educate as much as I can about it. 

Related blog posts:

Why we chose International Adoption

Why we said "Yes" to special needs

a day in the mind of a waiting adoptive mom

MOMLIFElissa-anglin1 Comment

Beeeepppp…..Beeeeeeepppppp……that alarm is always too early and too loud. I lean over to silence it and breathe a deep yawn. With my head still on the pillow, I realize it’s a new day.

Lord, can it be today?

We’ve been in our adoption process for almost 5 years now. For much of that time, I knew that there was a very slim chance we’d get to see our daughter’s face that day- so it was easier to push that anticipation to the future- telling myself that we were not in the season to expect that just yet. I could still pray, be satisfied knowing God’s plan is perfect…anticipating that time when “it could be any day now”.

And now, for the past three months…every day of those months…“it could be any day now”. We are anticipating that moment when we will get a phone call- that leads to an email- which contains my daughter’s face. This part- the “any day now” part- has not been what I expected.


“Mooooooommmmmmmmyyyyyyy….I want cereal! Moooooommmmmmyyy!!” Instead of hopping out of bed, I pretend that they really aren’t there and beg my pillow for a few more minutes of sleep. Thankfully, my husband arises to feed the hungry and make coffee.

Kids are sent to school, husband heads to work. It’s finally quiet and I have some head space. Time to spend with Jesus. We talk and I’m honest. I worry that there is something he’s waiting on me to “figure out” before we get that call. Something I can control or fix before it happens. Ha! Why are you always grasping for that control, Lissa?!?

And he tells me, “Child, I love you. Rest in my timing. Her redemption is coming. She will be home in my perfect time." So, I ask again that our phone call would come. Can it be today, Lord? I pray about the other hard things in my world- things that seem so much bigger than our adoption. Gracefully, my Savior hears it all. 

Work begins for the day and takes over my brain waves. Emails, texts, images to edit. It’s family photo season and as I look at the sweet faces of the families I photograph I wonder, “What will ours look like next year? This time last year I was sure there’d be another face in our photo…”

During my efforts to lessen the chaos of my email inbox, I see an email from our adoption agency. Could this be it?!? And maybe I just missed the call?!? Hurriedly, I open the email. It’s just a monthly program update. It’s nice, and encouraging, but not the email I really want today.

The email prompts me to check our agency’s private waiting child website. There, I can see the faces of the children recently matched, as well as some who are still waiting for their families. It is exciting and heartbreaking- in some of their faces I can imagine my own daughter’s, and seeing some my heart breaks knowing that they wait still- and that we are not the family for him or her. I should be praying over this list. All of these children are in a wait, too. It’s not just me. And I have a husband to hug, and babies to hug. I’m ok. Lord, bring these kids a family.


Before I know it, it’s time for my daily school pick up parade. I pull up to my daughter’s daycare and jump out of the car because as usual, I am riiiight on the edge of being late. As I approach the door, a few Taiwanese mothers stand talking as their children play nearby. What will they think when I have a baby in my arms that looks more like them than me? Will they ask about her? And how will I respond? I’ve never spoken to these women before, but I have gazed upon their beautiful children more than once, thinking of my own beautiful Asian. We do not yet have any close friends who are Asian- though we are dying to find some…but what do you say? Hi, our daughter is coming from China and will you be our Asian friend? Really, Lissa?!? I roll my eyes at my inner thoughts as I open the glass doors of the building. 

Daughter in tow, I hop back into the car, and I’ve got a voicemail on my phone from a friend. She’s just checking on me. Tells me she’s praying for that baby to come. It is sweet- because I know she knows. Her adopted baby girl is now approaching 3 years old and is absolutely beautiful and full of just the sass and flavor God knew my friend could mother well. Don’t forget, Lissa, she waited too- her daughter is your reminder. I haven’t forgotten you.

My littlest and I head to my son’s school to pick him up. As we wait for the 1st graders to file out of the school building, I chat with a mom friend who happens to be holding a very tiny, very new foster daughter in her arms. She asks about our adoption process and I have no real news to tell her. I love that she asks- that she cares- but I wish I had something new to say today. Her family has been fostering for about a year now and I have seen several sweet children in her arms during that time. The vast differences of our current journey with international adoption versus the rhythms of foster care hit me. While we wait, she has babies in her arms. When we bring a baby home, it is permanent. When they welcome one, there is no promise of permanency. Still, both take care of children in need. Both are a means to a family. We have so much in common and yet so many differences. 

My son smiles as he approaches us. We wave goodbye to teachers and friends, and head to the car. Loading my two and getting them buckled amidst school pick up traffic proves to be more challenging than anticipated. How in the world am I going to do this with three kids?!? Ugh. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. 

The next hour or so if full of homework and play, snacks and tying up loose ends from my work day. Before I know it, it’s 5:00. Our adoption agency is closed for the day. Ok, another day done. No call. That’s ok. Maybe tomorrow. Just be where you are and enjoy your family.

We eat and my husband and I talk about our day and discuss plans for the weeks and months ahead. Will we be able to make that trip? There is still so much in the air. We can’t make plans too far in advance. We don’t know when that call will come. We don’t know when we will travel to pick up a new daughter. But there are still schedules, and jobs and trips in the midst…and we can’t just stop living…

We clean up, do the bath time and bedtime routine. Our youngest is 2 1/2, and still wants to be rocked to sleep. I’m ok with it- because it’s as much for me as it is for her. I can’t rock my baby in China right now. But I am so very thankful for this one I hold in our warm house, snuggled under her blanket. I turn on our songs and we sing as we rock. 

Take courage, my heart, stay steadfast, my soul- He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting

Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds- He’s never failing, He’s never failing

("Take Courage" from the Bethel Starlight album)

One daughter in my arms, and one half a world away. Both in the protective and loving arms of my Father. It’s now 8:15 p.m., which means that China is waking up- men and women are doing their morning exercises in the park, maybe my daughter is eating breakfast. Maybe she was done with that hours ago and now she’s playing. Maybe she is crying or being held my a nanny, or a foster mother…I don’t know. And I won’t know…and maybe I’ll never know. But that’s ok. God’s promise is good and He has her right now, just like he has me. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new chance we will get that call. 

Lord, can it be tomorrow?

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been in the process of knitting a quilt for our adopted daughter. I put the project down for a couple of years and have recently picked it back up- maybe as a coping mechanism?!? Here's to hoping I can actually finish it. Either way, it helps. :)

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been in the process of knitting a quilt for our adopted daughter. I put the project down for a couple of years and have recently picked it back up- maybe as a coping mechanism?!? Here's to hoping I can actually finish it. Either way, it helps. :)

yeah, we're still waiting...


It has been 4 years, 8 months, and 14 days since we first started this adoption process, which feels like the LONGEST bleeping pregnancy in the history of EVER.

Sweet, sweet people come up to me every day and ask about our adoption (thank you for caring!). I have finally just started telling them exactly how I feel. I am SO. DONE. with the waiting. But more on that in a minute...

I realized I may have never answered a few general questions about our adoption here on my blog, so:

  • We are adopting from China. More on why we chose international adoption HERE.
  • We do not yet know the exact child we will adopt. (Essentially, we are waiting on THAT phone call from our agency, saying they have a child for us.)
  • We do know that she (yes, it's a girl!) will be somewhere between 12-19 months old. It is very rare to see a child adopted internationally from China under the age of 1. These aspects (age range and gender) are all things that are part of our family's specific request. 

Side note: Did you know that currently in China there are more boys currently waiting on a forever home than girls? It's true! We were not aware of this when we first started and requested a girl (it is also possible to be open to either gender). If we would have requested a boy, he would have been home months ago. Our agency consistently has boys of all ages on their waiting children site. This is something we have battled with after learning, but we feel a peace about our current process and have decided to continue with our original request- at least for this current adoption. :) It seems that China's one-child policy of the 80's has trickled down to a (now outdated) Western mindset- including mine- that there are many unwanted girls available, therefore feeding the uptick in the request for girls. Here is a great article by Kelly Mayfield that explains this more fully.

  • Our daughter will have some type of special need, and we do not yet know what that will be. Our agency is aware, however, of the conditions/needs that our family has decided we are "OK" with, and what we are not comfortable with- and they will not match us with a child who does not fit within our "OK" list. Much more on the special needs thing HERE.
  • When we do get THAT CALL, we will have the opportunity to review everything that is currently known about the child, including a medical file which we will have reviewed by our pediatrician and international adoption specialist doctors (yes, this is a thing). We will have the opportunity to say "no" if we feel like her medical needs may be more than we can handle, or for whatever other reason- though we expect that would be a rare occurence.
  •  She will have a given Chinese name, which we are hoping to keep as her middle name if it has any connection to her biological family or special significance. If it is just a name given by the orphanage, we may not keep it. We DO have a name for her, but aren't quite ready to announce that yet. :)
  • Yes, adoption is expensive. Adopting from China will cost over $30,000 by the time it is all finished. These fees go to pay our non-profit Christian adoption agency, social workers, the U.S. Government, the Chinese government, translators, notaries, document authenticators, doctors, travel costs, and all of the people who have cared for our daughter before she is in our arms. Our agency has been transparent about each and every fee and what it goes toward. Because of all of the paperwork and people involved, the costs are high. But I MUST tell you- the Lord has provided every cent we have needed. Yes, we have worked hard to save, and I have about broken my fingers off filling out grant applications- but we have been provided for SO WELL by the body of Christ that it has instilled a true passion in Shawn and I to give to others' adoptions in the future. 
  • Why has it taken 4, almost 5 years now? Part of that is our "fault" and some of it isn't. When we first applied to adopt, it was through our agency's Ethiopia program. At the time, adoptions from Ethiopia had been very popular and families were being matched quickly- within a year. But right about the time we got in, timelines started to slow down. At first we were told 18-24 months, and then it was 24-36 months, and the wait time continued to grow. This is a confusing matter- because agencies aren't able to predict wait times- they don't know when they will be receiving files of children. They are only able to state the trends that they are seeing- as in, how long families currently being matched have been waiting. So essentially, timelines were growing. That is when we decided it would be ok to have another biological child. Our daughter Liv's story began broken and ended beautifully. I am so deeply thankful God wove her into this process and into our family. After Liv was born, we decided God was asking us to China's special needs program. So essentially, we started over. We've been waiting on our China baby since March of 2016, so about 18 months now. Another thing that has lengthened our wait in the China program is that we have requested our Chinese daughter be at least 12 months younger than Liv. Because China does not refer out children younger than 1 year very often, we've also been waiting for Liv to get older. She needed to be at least 2 for us to receive the very rare referral of a 1 year old girl. Most children are around the 18 month mark when referred from China.


Those are the facts. Now here are the feelings:

I HATE that our process has taken so long, because I worry that it will deter others from pursuing adoption. I pray every day that we will see more and more adoption happening in our specific community- our church, friends, and family. I was discussing this feeling to a wise friend not too long ago and they responded, "Lissa, someone else's decision on whether or not to adopt is their decision- and however your story influences them isn't up to you- it's up to God." Essentially, Lissa- YOU CANNOT CONTROL THAT. Amen. I needed to hear that. 

I want people to see that this process has been absolutely worth it- and we don't even have a baby home yet. God has refined our hearts and attitudes so much through our journey. One of the most consistent themes for me has been giving up control. Control of the timeline, the circumstances, my idealistic plan for my family- you name it, this adoption has likely impacted my perspective on it in some way. I'm thankful for that.

Literally all of my assumptions about how this process would look have been extinguished. I really thought we'd apply, wait a bit, decorate a cute baby room, fly to another country, get baby, come home, live happily ever after...and so far it just hasn't looked like that.

After we applied with our agency to begin the process in 2013, I scoured the internet for adoption blogs. I would read them late into the night, like a crazy Netflix binger. I was so hungry for others' real experiences. I wanted to be the EXPERT on how this would go. I remember reading one family's blog who had recently announced that they had a biological son while waiting on their adoption from Ethiopia to be complete. In my naivety, I thought, "Wow, they really lost focus. How could they possibly have another child without considering the one waiting for them in Ethiopia?" About a year later, I got to eat my presumptuous feet like a Thanksgiving meal. We were pregnant in the middle of an adoption. The pregnancy was an answered prayer and something I had hoped for for a long time. Wow- I'm so glad God knows my future and consistently writes a much better story than I do.

It's true. I am SICK of the waiting. But it has been refining. I am a better mom and wife because of it. At my most vulnerable, I'm also completely scared about what's to come. We are anticipating a lot at our household right now- and weirdly- we are full of peace. I know that this is because God's peace surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7). I know it's because He hears the prayers of His saints and boy, do we have a lot of people covering this specific issue in prayer on the daily. I can't tell you what a blessing that is! I have many more thoughts to share, and I plan on posting more in the future. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned- greater things are still to come!

Pictured here: "You Belong Here"- the sweetest children's book I bought a while back, a jade necklace I bought on one of my trips to China, our passports, and just a smidge of the paperwork!

Pictured here: "You Belong Here"- the sweetest children's book I bought a while back, a jade necklace I bought on one of my trips to China, our passports, and just a smidge of the paperwork!

why we said "yes" to special needs


This post is number two in a series of posts about questions we get about our adoption. To see the first post- "Why International Adoption?" click here. 

Our family is currently in the process of adopting a special needs girl from China. I love talking with people about it- because even though we don't have her home yet, it somehow helps me process it, and get excited about it just as I would be doing with a pregnancy. (Many in the adoption community refer to the adoption process as "paper pregnancy"- which is a perfect way to describe it!)

A question we get a lot is:

Why did you decide to adopt a child with special needs?

Well friends, it pains me to tell you that we actually didn't.

Have you ever been cruising along, thinking that you understand just how your life should go and then all of a sudden, hard stuff happens and you realize your plan is crap and you should really just trust God- the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE- with it? No? Oh, me neither. :)

Truthfully, in the years I've been a parent, God has taught me over and over that His way is better than mine. And so one of my biggest pieces of parenting advice to new moms is to acquire the taste of your own feet. Never say never. God's plans are bigger.

Photos in this post are from a past trip to china. the children there captivated me and i loved photographing them!

Photos in this post are from a past trip to china. the children there captivated me and i loved photographing them!

You can read a little about how our adoption process started in this blog post, as well as a little bit on why we chose international adoption. Adopting a special needs child definitely wasn't our first choice, in fact – it was one of the only things I thought I could never do. God has been patient and gentle with me, however – and we are confident in the path that we're currently on.

Because I am a habitual list maker (and also love to see how God uses small things to make big changes), I've decided to list out the catalysts for this change of heart and direction in our adoption process.

1) We got educated.

One of the hardest parts of this process was realizing that I had my own misconceptions and suppositions about what a special need was, and what it was like as a parent to live with or treat. When we begin the process with the China program, our agency sent us a huge list of special needs that they commonly see. I was surprised to see that hemangioma – something that our biological daughter was actually born with– was on that list. Other small things like asthma, eczema, and missing a finger or toe were also listed. Don't get me wrong, there were many more severe needs and many of the "minor" needs were often in combination with another one or two. But, it was very interesting to realize that the Chinese definition of "special needs" is very different from ours as Americans. 

We were asked to go through the list and do some research to see what we would be "ok" with. Our agency provided us with several excellent resources that were specific to China special needs adoption. It was a hard process. We felt like in saying no to some need that we were saying no to a child- and essentially that's what was happening. However, we had to be realistic about what our family could handle and how we could best meet the needs of our child. We eventually came up with our own list – and talked through it with our social worker and agency.  We eventually decided that we were OK with anything that wasn't potentially life-threatening – things that could be treated with surgery or medicine.

We will not know what special need(s) our daughter will have until we receive a referral, review her file, do the appropriate research, and accept the referral. It is possible to just request one special need, such as cleft palate, but because we chose to list several, our agency can refer us a child with anything on that list. It is possible that after reviewing the files and seeking the appropriate medical advice, that we could choose not to accept the referral. But, I would have to say that is very unlikely.

2) We are wealthy by the world standards. 

I mentioned it in this blog post, but once Shawn and I realized that in the world's eyes, we were wealthy- and by that I mean as average-earning Americans, we make more than 99% of the rest of the world- it was hard for us to forget. Our American dollars are able to buy excellent medical care, healthy food, and a safe place to live. We don't take that lightly.

3) We have ample resources in our city.

Speaking of excellent medical care, our city has two amazing hospitals and thousands of medical professionals available when we need them. Lubbock is a hub for the medical field in this region- and knowing we would have access to specialists, clinics, and expert opinions when we needed them was reassuring. It also doesn't hurt that we have a Pharmacist brother-in-law that doesn't mind midnight text messages about children's medicine dosages. :)

4) It could've been our biological child.

This was a mindset shift for me. I mentioned earlier that our daughter Liv was born with a hemangioma on the top of her head. This was and is hardly an issue (except for a few unusual comments from strangers)- and now that she is two it has almost completely receded and is covered up by her hair. 

Liv was born in the middle of this long adoption process- and one day, it hit me- I do not have to fear- whatever special need our adopted daughter will potentially have could have just as easily been something our biological child could have been born with! Yes, the genetics are different- but if Knox or Liv would have been born with a cleft palate or limb difference, would we have said "no"? Absolutely not- how absurd would that be?!? So in many ways, that is my mindset. And, with adoption, we get the perk of knowing what is to come- preparing for her needs before she arrives.

5) It's Biblical.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
— James 1:27

Another hard truth I have wrestled with is knowing that somewhere out there is another momma who gave me her daughter so that she could have life. I am not going into this process expecting to know much about my daughter's history. Most children in China are abandoned in a "safe" public place where they will be seen and rescued quickly- such as the doorstep of an orphanage or hospital. Many are abandoned because their parents are unable to care for their needs and know that they must give up their child in hopes that they will be adopted and have access to proper care. You guys, that is heartbreaking. 

God tells us to look after these children, and it will be an honor to do so. 

One very exciting thing I learned about just today is The Love Project. This project was created by Meredith Toering, who runs the Chinese foster home Morning Star Foundation that cares for babies with complex heart defects. The proceeds from their shop go directly to families who cannot afford care for their babies. How wonderful is that? Please, check out their store and consider doing something powerful with your dollars today.

The Love Project

Click here to visit the shop!

6) Many have gone before us.

Seeing as we have been in this process a little over 4 years now, we have been exposed to a number of families adopting special needs kids. Their attitudes, perspectives and stories have really shifted my own mindset. It helps me realize that I'm not alone. There are parents who have gone before me. And that is really relieving. I know that whatever we are up against, I will have a village to refer to (whether online or in-person)- and I am so thankful for that!

7) Because God won't be surprised. 

Speaking of going before us...

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
— Deuteronomy 31:8

The Chris Tomlin song came out just as we began our adoption process and I can't tell you how many times this truth has soothed my soul. God WILL NOT be surprised, even if I am! The road we are walking is one we trust that God is leading us on. All we need to do is follow in obedience.

8) All orphans have trauma.

This is another tough truth. Our agency has supplied us with many awesome books like The Connected Child and one of the most consistent things we have learned is that no matter the circumstances- not age, location, or physical need- all orphans deal with trauma. The adoptive parent/child relationship is one born of brokenness, and because of that, there is pain to be dealt with- be it ever so subtle or severe. 

I don't mean to be pessimistic- just realistic here. Yes, I absolutely do believe that Christ's power is so much bigger than any of the trauma that exists. But it is there- and needs to be recognized and worked through for healing to happen. Having a non-"special needs" child does not mean that the trauma won't exist.


9) Every child's "normal" is different.

Selfishly, one of the concerns I had was the potential for consistent comparison between our biological kids and our adopted one. Until one day I heard an adoptive momma explain that  her daughter's "normal" was never supposed to look like her biological daughter's "normal". It was a breath of fresh air and made total sense to me. Already, in our two bio kids we can see how different they are. I could never discipline and reward them the same- it just simply wouldn't be effective! I've learned how to effectively discipline and encourage Knox and Liv in their own ways- ways in which they respond best. So of course, the same would go for our new daughter. 

And, as for any differences in physical appearance, how she gets things done, etc.- that is exactly how God created her! We will choose to celebrate that difference and appreciate the uniqueness of it. 

We are closer than ever to receiving a referral (essentially a phone call from our agency saying we have a match)! There are some days I think I might burst from the anticipation, but others I just long for the waiting to end. In the meantime, I'm soaking up all the info I can. Check out some of my favorite bloggers who have adopted special needs girls from China:

Ashley Ann- Under The Sycamore               Shay Shull- Mix and Match Mama               Ann Voskamp

What other questions do you have regarding adoption? Feel free to comment them below!

why international adoption?


I've been wanting to start an open series of posts related to some of the questions we get about adoption- and this is by far one of the most popular. So, here we go!

The common question I get is something like this:

Why are you going to adopt from another country when there are plenty of children here?

Sometimes it's more specific:

Why international adoption, and not domestic or foster-to-adopt?

This is a big question we get all the time. And as a frequent receiver of this question, I have to tell you, it's a loaded one. If you're willing to be the asker of this question (which is totally an OK and appropriate thing to ask about), I do beg that you lay down any assumptions first.

I will answer this question from our family's perspective- realizing that for all the hundreds of adoption stories I've heard while in our adoption process, each and every one has been different. Every family's "why" is different, though some of the reasoning will be the same. So, please also understand, that while we are talking about something that many people do, there can be no one answer.

I'm actually going to answer the last part of these questions first, which is:

Why not domestic adoption or foster care?

Something I must emphasize first is-

In saying "yes" to international adoption, we are not saying "no" to domestic adoption or foster care. 

Please let me explain...

Yes, there are "plenty of children here". There is an absolute need right now for foster families in our area. The One Heart Orphan Care Alliance is doing some amazing things for foster kids and families in our area. Even if you're not ready to be a foster parent, you can still help- check out their website for more info. Reputable foster care providers in our area (Lubbock, TX) are Children's Home of Lubbock, Arrow Child and Family Ministries, Buckner International, and Texas Boys' Ranch.

When we began our adoption 4 years ago, our social worker advised us to get a few more years of parenting under our belts before we went the foster-to-adopt route (we had 1 barely 2 year old). Now, I think we could have done it and been fine. Admittedly, we were not educated on how fostering works and were just scared to look into it at that point- yes, we have had our assumptions, too. :) At this point in time, however, we have had years of watching others foster and that mixed with accurate education and information has made us much more open to the process. We know of many families who began an international adoption at the same time we did, and have since decided to forego the international adoption in order to foster, or chosen to foster in the interim. 

At the point in time we decided to adopt, we lacked the information and education we needed to foster. And at this time, we feel that we are too close to finalizing this adoption to start the foster care process- but who knows? It's a definite possibility for the future.

I also want to point out that though still imperfect, the foster system in our country is structured for reunification- a.k.a. reuniting kids with their biological parents. I think this is wonderful, however it can make for a very long process for those hoping to adopt. It has been a major blessing to me to get to watch friends love on their foster kiddos fully, not knowing how long they will be in their home, or how much it will hurt when they go. These foster families are making a conscious choice to love regardless of outcome, whether it ends in reunification or adoption- and that is exactly what God calls us to do!

As far as domestic adoption is concerned- our social worker explained to us that as a young couple who was able to have biological children of our own, we wouldn't be the first choice for most American birthmothers, who tend to prefer couples who haven't been able to conceive a child. (I am sure there is someone out there that will argue this point or knows someone for whom this wasn't true. Please remember the statement above- every story is different. Every adoption is a miracle.) From what we knew at that point, our wait for a domestic infant adoption would likely be a very long one.

And, the cost for domestic adoption is in the same range as international- on average, $20,000 to $50,000. So, for us, there was no clear advantage to domestic over international.

Why are you going to adopt from another country?

When Shawn and I began our adoption process, we were 28 and 29 and had a barely 2 year old biological son. We had experienced some infertility issues and 2 miscarriages. We had been to China 6 times collectively, and had the privilege of working in an orphanage there. We knew before we were even married that adoption was something we both wanted to do. China was on our hearts, however, we didn't meet China's adoptive parent requirements (age and income), and so we decided to pursue an Ethiopian adoption. 

However, when it came time to do our home study with our social worker (one of the first steps in the process), I was a ball of nerves. I look back now (over 4 years later) and realize I'd brought all sorts of guilt and expectation with me to those meetings. Guilt that we should be "staying in our own country" instead of "taking a child from their home". Worry that we wouldn't be up to the task of raising a child who didn't look like us and has a different genetic makeup. While mailing off paperwork one day, the postal worker said to me, "well you know there are a lot of needy children here in America..." (thanks a lot, lady I don't even know). Really, I had the same question myself- why would we go halfway across the world to take a child from the only "home" she knows? Isn't that just cruel?

Our blessed social worker also helped us work through several of the reasons we'd felt led to adopt internationally. These were the two major reasons for us:

We had a global perspective. That first trip to China really opened my eyes as to how other people live in different parts of the world. Seeing another culture first-hand created a respect for other cultures and a thankfulness for my own upbringing that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I realized that "different" doesn't equal "bad", and that my American culture was good but had it's own downfalls- just like any other world culture. This perspective has allowed both Shawn and I to consider our future adoptive daughter as "our daughter" and not necessarily "our adopted Chinese daughter". Though she may be referred to in that way as to avoid confusion, there is a difference in mindset. 

We are totally excited to incorporate some Chinese culture into our family traditions, and as adoptive parents of a daughter born in China, we are required to. As a part of our lifelong commitment to adopt and care for our daughter, we will also be required to send the Chinese government yearly updates and have promised to teach her about her heritage. We consider her birth country and heritage an exciting and special part of our daughter's story.


We were (and are) rich. No, this doesn't mean we had tens of thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account, waiting to be spent on an adoption. But by the world's standards, as average-earning Americans, we made more than 99% of the rest of the world. And because we are Christians and believe that all we own is given to us by God- and that it is our job to steward it well- welcoming one more makes sense. Within 5 miles of our home, we have 2 of the best hospitals in the region, our pediatrician, and at least 5 urgent care clinics. Specialists are a phone call or doctor's referral away. Our local school district is excellent. Our city is not polluted and disease is kept under control. Our neighborhood is safe. That kind of access to resources is NOT something the rest of the world can boast about. One of the things our social worker pointed out is that the basic needs of orphans in other countries are typically needs that literally cannot be met in that country. In our future daughter's case, we know that her special need will likely be the major reason she will be eligible for international adoption. It is not that China does not have the ability to treat her needs, they do- but that treatment requires caregivers who are able to afford it, and most in China cannot. 

At the time we filled out the application with our agency, we actually only had about $2,000 saved- but thanks to a very generous community, several grants and fundraising, we've been able to do it completely debt-free. God has proven Himself to us financially in many ways through this process. 

Now for the sticky, messy part. The part that deals with the question behind the question- 

Why are you not adopting from “your own” country?

I know that right now, our country is in the middle of a big immigration mess. "Immigration" means many things to many people right now- but to our family, it also means "adoption".

Without getting too political, I have to say that the insinuation that we would be going against "our own" country by adopting internationally is rooted in ignorance. As a family, we have been very intentional to "help those in our own backyard"- especially children and families in need- and do frequently (so can you!). 

But after all, this is America- we were all immigrants to begin with. The more I think about this question, the more I realize it is rooted in ethnocentrism. If our hearts are truly for the orphan- any orphan- it wouldn’t matter where they came from. So there is my stance on immigration. People are people.

Our daughter will be a naturalized American citizen. She will be "our own" just as we natural-born citizens are.

I had a moment I will never forget when Knox was about 2 years old- right at the beginning of our adoption process. He was playing by the window in a diaper and I thought, "what if that baby waiting halfway across the world was my Knox?" Oh, how quickly I would go after him! How forcefully I would pursue a new home and life for him here with us! It didn't take my Mom heart long to totally "get it".

Friends, a child who needs a family- no matter where they are located on the planet- is a child who needs a family.

So there is my (albeit long-winded) answer. It doesn't matter how you get there, or where they came from. We LOVE adoption, and think it is GOOD. Period. 

To see more adoption-related posts click here: