Why Do We Care About Things That Don’t Matter?


Recently there’s been some really wasteful coverage of a story that has since garnered its own hashtag (#redcup). It has been successful at two things. One, it has granted Starbucks some free advertising worth hundreds of millions of dollars. (Thank goodness, right? They really needed that boost. I was so afraid they were going under.) And secondly, this hothead instigator from Arizona has gotten the attention his ego was craving.

I don’t know why, but we seem to give the microphone to the guy yelling the loudest. Thankfully, more and more people are realizing what needless noise this is and are trying to distance themselves from the toxicity of this ruffian with an agenda.

It’s stupid stuff like this that keeps people from seeing Jesus for who he really is.

Homeboy is a bully. Ugh. So sick of it. 

On Sunday, an Instagram user shared a photo of a red Starbucks cup with these words beside it: “If one family in one out of every three churches adopted a child from foster care there would be no more orphans in the United States. But please, tell me more about how offensive this red cup is.” 

Children are dying — yes, literally dying because of neglect, abandonment, or abuse while families work their souls to the edge of madness just trying to complete the adoption process before it’s too late and their child dies in waiting. 

One family was just weeks from traveling until this morning when they got word that the child they’ve been fighting for, praying for, crying for, heartsick over, had passed away of malnutrition and neglect before they could get to her. Are you kidding me? You think the most important thing we could talk about right now is graphic design? You wanna cry about paper cups in the name of Jesus while that baby and thousands others die? You go right ahead. Let that judgement fall on your head. But for those of us who care, who know the fear of, “Are we gonna get there in time? God please keep her safe,” who cry themselves to sleep at night, who beg God, who lobby for quickness, who hurt for children without a family, we need to shift the conversation and take action… like NOW!!!

So my wife had a great idea and put together some really easy ways you and your family can help today; some that cost no more than your favorite seasonal latte.

If, instead of talking about why snowflakes and reindeer on a coffee cup are the crux upon which the entire Christian narrative hang, you’d rather talk about things that actually matter this holiday season, the lists below are a great place to start. We even provided some fantastic gift ideas at the end. Please feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.



This orphanage cares for medically fragile babies in China. They can always use monetary donations and medical supplies: http://chunmiaolittleflower.org/current-needs-list/


This artist donates money to help babies in China with broken hearts. Buy a Christmas gift and help fix a heart. http://morningstarproject.org/love-project/shop/


Did you know most kids in US foster care transport their belongings in garbage bags? You can change that by giving them a personalized duffle bag. https://www.togetherwerise.org/projects/sweetcases


Buy an advent calendar to support orphans and your donation amount will be matched up to $750,000 (now through Dec. 31, 2015) https://www.lifesongfororphans.org/get-involved/advent/


Handmade jewelry and home goods to help support families in poverty. Host a fundraiser to help protect first families and donate the money raised to an orphan care program or to a family that is adopting. http://www.apparentproject.org


Sponsor a child in the the Half the Sky foundation programs in China. Donate to the organization or sponsor a student in the China Care Club. http://www.halfthesky.org


Pray. Advocate. Donate. Your donations cover orphan care and specific surgeries. http://www.showhope.org


Help prevent human trafficking one child at a time. http://www.onelessministries.org/content/about/our_story.asp


Sponsor a child for less than $2 per day and help end child poverty, provide medical assistance to families to give their babies a better chance at a healthy life. http://www.compassion.com



Seven-day campaigns that give $7 to a weekly charity for every item purchased. http://www.sevenly.org/collections/show-hope


With every purchase, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth, and bullying prevention services to people in need. http://www.toms.com


Employing people transitioning out of homelessness. http://www.thegivingkeys.com


For every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. http://www.warbyparker.com


Apparel, merchandise, and the Run for 147 racing fundraiser to support orphan care. https://www.147millionorphans.com/store/collection/51


Follow organizations like Reece’s Rainbow or AdoptUSkids. Study their faces. These are real kids without families. Pray for them. Pray for their protection.

Pray for the families working so hard to bring them home. Encourage them. Promote their stories. Offer to host a fundraiser. Donate stuff for a yardsale or auction. Donate sky miles for travel. Donate hotel points for stays. Make freezer meals. Don’t waste the abundance God has given you.

You and I both know there’s enough anger, bitterness, sadness, brokenness in the world. What if we spend our energy fighting for things that matter instead of getting distracted by all this noise that’s so utterly inconsequential.

Please feel free to add to the lists with organizations and companies that support adoption and orphan care.

And as always, your voice adds value to the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Happy Gotcha Day


Today marks one year. One year since our hearts melted into a puddle. One year ago we were standing in the natural-lit atrium of the Children’s Welfare Institute in China waiting to meet our sweet little girl. Would we recognize her? Would she come to us? Would she be healthy? Well-nourished? Nothing can adequately convey the emotion an adoptive family feels in that moment. I’ve never been so nervous. We waited for what seemed like hours. Two families met their little ones ahead of us. We have no idea if we’re next or not. The next nanny comes out, a tiny, round face buried in her shoulder. Is this her? Something in us tells us this is her. We both frantically scan the room for our guide. He calls her name… It’s her. It’s her! I don’t remember how we got from one side of the room to the other, but the next thing I remember is running my hand across her hair and looking into those dark eyes set atop her blushed cheeks. I wanted to stay in that moment forever. It was everything I imagined and nothing like I could’ve expected.

We’re home now. A year goes by so quickly. We’ve spent the last week looking through photos from that experience. Her hair is longer, softer. Her eyes are brighter. Her skin is clearer. But the overwhelming difference? She calls us Mommy and Daddy. She has a family. There’s a thing that most parents go through, almost unknowingly, with their naturally born children that adoptive parents pray about, work very hard to achieve. It’s called attachment and it’s the golden egg.

Reshearch tells us if attachment doesn’t happen within the first few months, this precious soul may not ever attach to her family. It’s hallowed. Every strategic moment. The cocooning. The co-sleeping. It’s hard and it gets harder. And then one day, she freaks out when you try to leave the house. A lot of parents of a three year old might hear this cacophony and wish for an escape to the coffee shop. But for adoptive parents, it’s a serenade. Most mornings, it’s not uncommon to wake up with a toddler on your face, but her cute, weird sleeping face, mouth gaping, tells the story of a little person who is at peace.

A year later, there’s no doubt… this little girl is home.

4 Things Love Will Do (The Bamboo Project 2.0)

As of a few days ago, we are now eight months home with our sweet baby girl. In these eight months we’ve seen her crawl for the first time. She’s learned to walk. She’s learning to form words. She signs. She’s eating table food instead of formula from a bottle. We’ve gotten to celebrate her birthday for the very first time as a family. These past eight months have shown us a lot of things, but mostly it’s shown us love is powerful.

Love will send you to the other side of the world and back.

When we started down the road we weren’t planning on traveling too far. Maybe to the next state at the furthest. Maybe. And then we saw her picture. It was her. That’s our daughter. But wait… she’s where? China? That’s far away, right? We had no plans for China. And we certainly had no money for an international adoption. But love doesn’t limit. Love goes.

Love will break your heart in the best possible way.

Our daughter’s story began with tragedy. Many adoption stories do. She was abandoned. We don’t know why but she was. Left in an alley behind the Children’s Hospital in her home city (a city of nearly 4 million). Was she born early? Were her parents young and scared? Was there pressure from her birth mother’s family? What happened? We’ll probably never know. But, this girl lights up my day. Every day. No matter what. And at the same time, I look at her while she’s sleeping and I realize that there are millions of stories like hers. Stories that break my heart. And yet, somehow, she’s with us. How in the world did we get so lucky? Love. That’s how.

Love will keep you up at night.

Especially those nights when you’re fighting off jet lag. But those nights fade. And then there’s those nights, Mom, when the baby is sleeping on your face (literally). Our kids seem to thrive at the night life, while all we want to do is sleep. Kelley and I have made a pact. When our children are out of the house, we’re going to call them randomly and at various times of the night, just to tell them that we need to go to the bathroom or that we’re cold or that we saw something in the closet. Seriously though… every parent worries. But for parents waiting in the adoption process, your worry is a unique experience. You wake up at 2AM and imagine what your child is doing at that moment. You pray they’re eating a healthy lunch or getting a good nap or that someone is holding them when they cry. You find yourself looking for a way to book a flight to just go volunteer at her orphanage just so you can see her, hold her, care for her until you can bring her home. Love will mess you up.

Love will invite others to come along.

Here’s my thought… There’s no need for the word “orphan.” There are enough families in the world that there should be no fatherless, no family-less children. The term “orphan” should be an extinct term. But sadly, it isn’t. The exact number of orphans worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated that there are 143 million. Of those, there are approximately 113,000 right here in the US. If one family from every 4th church in the United States adopted one of those 113K, there would be no more orphans in America. No more orphans. This is not out of reach. There are more than 300,000 Christian churches in this country. One family out of every four churches? That’s crazy!

What does this look like on an international scale? We don’t know the exact numbers of churches worldwide, so let’s play a little numbers game for a second based on what we do know. We know there are roughly 8 billion Christians worldwide. We know that the average size of a congregation is 100 people.  Based on this then, there are an estimated 80 million Christian congregations around the world. Do you realize what this means? If you’re a math person, you’ve already figured it out. For the rest of us who just pulled out our calculators, this means that it would take less than an average of two families per congregation across the world and the need for the word “orphan” is gone. This number is dramatically less we we do the work of helping families in financial distress keep their families intact instead of the alternative. Some churches could certainly do more. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church have a goal of 1000 families adopting. This is so attainable. No more orphans. Come with us!

The Bamboo Project 2.0

Last week I got to share some encouragement to adoptive dads (and those considering adoption) over at No Hands But Ours. Adoption can be a terrifying endeavor. But it’s every bit worth it. All the stress. All the fears. All the costs. All the heartache. All of it. All worth it. We are part of a small group of people who have had the joy of adopting a beautiful child from China with Down syndrome (Ds) through an initiative called the Bamboo Project. A diagnosis of Ds can be scary for expectant parents and caring for a child with special needs has a unique set of challenges. But if you’re still reading this, I bet it’s because you’re wondering if you’re capable. And if you’re wondering if you’re capable it’s probably because God has been putting this on your heart. I can tell you with confidence, if God is putting it on your heart, you are capable. You may not have any experience with special needs, but if you say yes to God, he will give you exactly what you need.

These children need you. And you fall into one of two categories. Either you are called to adopt one of these children or you are called to support the ones who adopt.

sweet moon baby, patrice barton, china, adoption

From the book Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark. Illustrated by Patrice Barton.

Here’s an excerpt from our friend Desiree (the matriarch of the Bamboo family) which originally appeared on No Hands But Ours

Two summers ago, the Bamboo Project was started as a focused advocacy initiative through Bethany Christian Services specially for children with Down syndrome waiting in China for a new forever. It has been such an honor to pray for these precious babies as they wait and for the unknown families as they step out in faith in adoption; to meet and cry with and rejoice with matched families as they bring their children home; and even to lament over lost sleep and celebrate the smallest of victories once these families have entered their new normal. It’s been an awe-inspiring journey with some incredible people. God’s hand has been miraculous.

With the success of the original Bamboo Project, the authorities in China have identified twenty-two more children with Down syndrome available for adoption. All of these beautiful children are under five years old, over half are under two. Each of these sweet hearts are full of a perfect joy carefully knit into their very DNA. Each waiting for a new forever in the arms of their loving family.

Will you join us in advocating for these perfect children?

1. Pray for their physical, emotional and mental safety as they wait in the orphanage in China. That their little hearts would be protected from fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
2. Pray for the nannies and foster families that are providing care for each of these beautiful children. That no medical issue would be missed and that compassionate care would abound.
3. Pray for soft hearts of forever families to hear God’s call to step out and welcome their child HOME. That they too would be protected from fear and blind to anything other than the Lord’s call.
4. Pray for God’s perfect timing and perfect will in each of the children and families’ lives.
5. Share about the Bamboo Project openly with your friends, family, coworkers, etc. Some one’s heart maybe waiting for ‘that sign’ from God that comes from your voice of advocacy.
6. Give your extra pennies or dollars or more to Bethany attn: Bamboo Project. Every cent goes towards bringing these precious ones HOME.
7. Pray that the Creator of these beautiful children would be glorified here in the US and in China through the Bamboo Project. That ultimately there would be no need for the advocacy initiatives like this because of the overwhelming value of life in both countries.

Click images below to enlarge…

bamboo2015-1 bamboo2015-2

Orphans, Sexual Abuse, and A Giant Need

Aila had an appointment yesterday with a GI specialist. I’ll spare you the poop-filled details, but after hearing her history, the doctor’s FIRST exam was to check for sexual abuse. Her first thought was abuse. Not a last ditch attempt to find answers, but the physician’s first thoughts went to sexual abuse because she said she sees it so often with orphans and especially kids with special needs. They have no one to protect them.

Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the issue for Aila. And while I’m beyond grateful for that, it is heartbreaking that we even had to consider it.

I liked Aila’s orphanage. I liked her caregivers. They seemed to genuinely care for her. But, there is no substitution for a family. Every child NEEDS a family. I’m reminded of this truth a million ways each day, but this hit me hard today. Our daughter spent 29 months in an orphanage and we believe she was well cared for during that time. Other kids aren’t so lucky.

I recently read about a girl, Jianna, who is about to age-out of the orphanage. She’s almost 14 years old and if she doesn’t get connected to a family, she’ll be on the street on her fourteenth birthday. She needs a family. More than ever, she needs someone to stand up for her, to be her advocate, to protect her and to love her. There’s not a lot of opportunity for a young teenage orphan girl if she doesn’t get adopted. This sad reality is what leads to so many girls entering sex trade and falling prey to abusive situations.

We’re so grateful that Aila was kept safe. But our hearts break for Jianna and the others like her who don’t know what life in a loving, caring family is like. I appreciate everyone who’s shared her file in hopes of finding her family. Several families inquired about her, but at this point, she needs a family already in the adoption process. So right now I’m asking you to pray. Please pray for this girl and her family. Pray for God to move mountains in the next six weeks to get a family to this girl.


Jianna, Reece's Rainbow


Adoption Update

It’s Update Time

It’s been a little more than two months now since we’ve been home. I hate that we didn’t keep up with the updates between leaving China and now. It’s been a busy few weeks with doctor’s appointments and follow-up home studies. On top of that, continuing the remodel of our house and getting ready for Christmas…

Sometimes when your boat is cruising into active seas, you need to put down the excess stuff and focus on navigating to calmer waters.

So let me take a few minutes to catch you up. Here’s the highlights of the last couple months:

Doctor’s Appointments

In early November, Aila had her first round of doctor’s appointments since arriving in the US. She’s had other appointments since we’ve been home and for the most part everything has come back normal. She had a long-awaited eye appointment TODAY at the butt-crack of dawn. The doctor has scheduled an MRI soon but this means that Aila will need to be under sedation during this process which always gives us a bit of anxiety. Not sure yet when all this will take place but please pray for us and for little Aila through all of this. I know at some point maybe we will get beyond all these discoveries and diagnoses and we’ll know everything that’s going on – everything that we need to watch and maintain – and we’ll find a groove.

Progress Isn’t What You Think

Not to say that we’re not finding a groove now. We are. Things are actually moving along quite nicely. She’s attaching well. She’s coming into her personality. She’s more mobile. More expressive. More demonstrative. Her skin is clearer. Her eyes are brighter. She’s sleeping pretty okay… sometimes. She knows how to tell us she’s hungry or sad. She loves Daniel Tiger. All these things are good things and give me comfort knowing that she is beginning to know her place in this party of six and we couldn’t be happier about it. But the new discoveries, especially the ones that require sedations and surgeries kinda interrupt our rhythm and we long to get back to creating our normal flow.

I know the radio silence of the last couple of months may have caused you to believe that everything was without worry and full of endless perfect moments and that our family never felt interrupted or out of sorts or perplexed by the addition of a new family member. Most of that is accurate. Most of the time. But it took us awhile to get there. And we seem to take a step back here and there.

Kelley was recently chatting with another adoptive mom who will be on the plane in less than a week to go bring her new little boy home. This mom was asking questions about what to expect and things from the Mom-perspective that she didn’t anticipate but could pass along. This is a brilliant observation that I think all of you adoptive parents out there should know…

For many of you, when you pick up your child and go to your hotel room, the first few days and nights will feel like perfect bliss. It’s likely you child sleep through the night. It’s likely he’ll never cry. The sad part of this is the reason why…

For most of these kids, they’ve learned that crying does no good. Nobody’s coming. Nobody’s gonna pick you up. Nobody’s gonna comfort you. So they stop crying.

Heartbreaking, right? I cry now just thinking about it. They don’t wake up at night. Or if they do, you never know because they make no noise to indicate that they need you. Because nobody’s coming. So for however long they lived in the orphanage, they stopped calling out. They just stopped. And then you get them home. And you love on them. You hold them. You kiss them. You play with them all day long. You keep them awake at night just so you can see their beautiful eyes and tickle them and make them laugh. And in the process of the playful interactions, she bumps her head on yours and she cries. She cries! For the first time, you hear her cry. And you comfort her. You pick her up. You kiss her and hold her and rock her and sing to her and tell it’s gonna be okay. And she calms down and looks at you with those deep dark brown eyes and you melt and she begins to unlearn what she once thought was true.

Someone will come. Someone will care. Someone will help calm. It’s okay to cry. Someone is coming.

Over time, these little moments happen again and again and the serve as little hooks in her little heart that she begins to hang her trust upon. She begins to think, “I can tell someone I’m in need and they will respond.” And she learns to cry again.

For parents who haven’t adopted, to celebrate this may seem a little backwards and in fact it is. Why would you want a crying baby? Well, we don’t actually want her to cry all the time. But we do want her to know that if she cries, we will be right there. If we walk out of the room and she whimpers – no matter what – one of us will turn around immediately and go pick her up. I told her the day we met that I’d never leave her lonely. She was left in an alley behind a hospital when she was days old. Then she was left in an orphanage. Then when she had open heart surgery at a year old, she was left alone in the hospital with only the attending doctor to check on her from time to time. She will never be alone again. And when she cries to tell us she’s scared or overwhelmed or insecure. We consider that a step forward. Progress. She’s just gone from believeing that no one hears her cries to knowing that when she cries we pick her up. That my friends, is a win.

So That Just Happened

Hilton Pier

Here’s what is heartbreaking to me. Hundreds of thousands of children – 128 million in fact – going to bed tonight without knowing the love of a forever family. Without a mom to tuck them in and re-tuck them in and then one more time, just in case the blanket shifted and just to steal one more kiss and to breathe in their scent and to push their hair out of their eyes and thank God for the gift, for the privilege of being their mom.

We’ve felt for some time now that God was calling us to adopt a baby with special needs. In the last few months He has started opening our eyes to the possibility of adopting a baby with down syndrome. Our initial plan was to pursue a domestic open adoption; someone local and someone we could maintain a relationship with, to grow our families together – birth mom, baby and forever family.

Over the course of the last few months, as we’ve been putting the puzzle pieces together, we’ve been connected with a network that coordinates adoptions of babies with Down Syndrome. They deal primarily with placing children in domestic adoptions. They just partnered with a big, well-known agency in an attempt to help find forever families for hundreds of waiting children in China. Over the last few months, this network has posted pictures of countless faces of babies that have grabbed my attention, faces that have frequented my prayers. But today, one face grabbed my heart in a way I can’t describe. My breath caught in my throat. We were in the car while Randall ran into the store. He returned and found me crying over this year-old baby girl, Adina. And I don’t cry often. And I certainly don’t like to admit that I’ve been crying my eyes out in the parking lot of a Food Lion grocery store while my husband is buying pita bread. I’ve pretty much been crying on and off all evening.

Throughout this process we’ve taken notes from other adoptive moms who have said you will have tough days, days where your heart breaks for your future child. They suggest that you record those days, write about them, remember those tears, because your child needs you. So pray now and then look back at these moments and you’ll probably find that God was leading your heart to care for your baby before you ever got to hold her.

So what does all this mean? So far, this adoption process has been God presenting us with opportunities and us following His lead on faith. The outcome isn’t always what we hope, but we continue to be obedient. We couldn’t ignore this opportunity. We needed to act. And I couldn’t go to sleep tonight without at least sending an email the Network. Which led to sending an official inquiry to the Agency. Which led to filling out a preliminary application. I hit ‘send’ and looked at Randall and said, “So that just happened.” He was busy learning Mandarin (so, when we hopefully go to China, he can now count to ten and recite the months of the year).

For now we wait. And pray. And we’re asking you to pray with us. Specifically, pray for Adina. I want to ask you to pray for her because I hope she becomes ours. But, even if we’re not approved, even if she already has a family trying to adopt her, pray for her anyway. Because tonight she goes to bed without knowing the love of a forever family. Pray for the Chinese government because so much of the approval process lies in their hands. Pray for Adina’s caregivers in the orphanage. Pray for her doctors and nurses. Pray for the agency handling her details. Pray for anybody and everybody connected to this little girl and the unfolding story being written by God’s heart.