a very special day

On December 12, 2010, I saw a face that would change our lives forever.

We spent the next few months praying furiously and working tirelessly to make her a part of our family.

On April 7th, we shared her sweet picture, and very-much-wrestled-over middle name, here on the blog for the first time. And the next day we launched So Loved – a fundraiser to bring our girls home.

We even created a t-shirt especially for the occasion.

On April 29th, we received the news we had been waiting for – our LOA had been issued for both Poppy and Esther.

We were so. incredibly. happy.

Just weeks away from holding our girls in our arms.

But, we never did get to hold Esther. On May 9th, the day after Mother’s Day, we received a phone call that Esther had passed away. She had caught a virus and, because of her complicated heart defect, could not recover.

Today is Esther’s birthday. She would have been 3 years old. I spent the morning looking over the reports we received from her orphanage, detailing her time there – from the time she was a newborn to the time she passed away at 21 months. Tiny hand prints. Pictures of her smiling. Descriptions of her emerging personality.

And a conversation with her nanny in which the nanny talked to Esther about her new hair clips, sent by her new mama and baba.

To which Esther replied, “Mama.” “Baba.”

Big, uncontrollable tears fall in front of me.

I’m not gonna lie, y’all. Losing Esther broke me in a way I’ve never experienced. And it is still so incredibly difficult to grasp it all.

But God is so much bigger than my pain. And He made a way to honor Esther in a way I could never even imagined.

Just over a year ago, we began offering So Loved in the Wild Olive store, with a promise to donate 100% of the proceeds to fund a future heart surgery in China. And, despite the fact that we set the price higher to raise more funds, so many of y’all stepped up and purchased a So Loved tee.

And in doing that, you have done this

Sweet Kate resides at New Day Foster Home in Beijing, China. She was born in October 2011 and has unrepaired Tetralogy of Fallot, the same heart defect that our precious Esther had.

About Kate, written by her nanny:

Kate is an adorable, chubby little girl with big eyes. She doesn’t like strangers and enjoys being held by her aunts. She can stand on her own two feet with her hands supported by others. She enjoys playing in her walker and walking from one side of the room to another. She is very happy to greet me and enjoys being cuddled. It is a privilege to love this little girl each day.

And now her surgery is fully funded. Thanks to y’all.

$6562 was raised from the sales of So Loved for surgery to repair Kate’s heart.

God is so much bigger.

I cannot tell you how much it blesses me to be able to share, on Esther’s birthday, all He has done and is doing to honor Esther’s life and to impact the lives of orphans everywhere.

Like sweet Kate.

And it makes this day, the day that we celebrate Esther, so much more than a birthday. It’s a celebration of redemption.

It’s a story of beauty rising out of sorrow.

It’s a story that could only be written by God. And there is nothing more beautiful than being a part of that.

When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have set in place,
what is mankind that You are mindful of them,
human beings that You care for them?

~ Psalm 8:3-4



  1. Happy birthday, Esther. You have done so very much for so many and we are better because of you.

  2. You’ve once again brought tears to my eyes. I so wanted to see you holding that sweet girl in your arms. I know she’s at peace now, with so many other loved ones, and you will see her again in all her *healthy* glory. I’m so happy that she could bring so much to so many people… without uttering a word. What a miracle! Happy Birthday Ester!!

  3. A sweet birthday party in heaven today for sure. Happy Birthday sweet one.

  4. Just tears for the sadness AND the redeemed glory

  5. Happy birthday, sweet Esther. You are so loved and missed here. And Stef, we share in your pain. Maybe our beautiful babies are rejoicing together today…their ToF is over. They are healed and whole despite our broken hearts. Praying for you today.

  6. I love wearing the SO LOVED tee, most recently on vacation–it speaks so much through the verse … and also through the deeper story behind it. I have to say as I scrolled down as I read your post, those eyes of the little girl who will receive the outpouring of love from Esther caught me–she looked so familiar … and that’s when I realized she was Kate from ND! Oh the tears. How quickly these little ones become like family in our hearts!
    Thank you for seeking peace beyond the grief. It is purely BEAUTIFUL!
    and I just love that she’s from ND :-)

  7. Beautiful. Esther was (and is!) so loved. [Tears]

  8. Happy Birthday, sweet Esther!

  9. So, very touching.

  10. incredible story! little Esther’s short life was simply miraculous!

  11. Campbell says:

    I shed tears of heartbreak for y’all the day we heard the news that Esther had gone to be with Jesus. I shed tears today for the little girl who was gone too soon from this earth. I smile when I think of Poppy and how she’s grown…all your babies. You are a very special person. God Bless you and God bless your family.

  12. Happy Birthday dear Esther.

    It’s so awesome to hear about Kate. What a sweet face.

  13. Proud to wear my tee every week and to pray for the little ones whose lives will be touched by Esther’s story. And now, I can pray even more specifically for Kate’s recovery and for Kate to find a family.

    Praying for you today – It’s a hard week for a couple gals I love, for similar sad reasons…. may the Spirit comfort you all.

  14. Thank you Stefanie for being such an inspiration to me. Spending your precious time to talk to me was so precious to me! Now that we have our LOA for our precious girl I will wear my So Loved Tee in China to honor precious Esther’s life and to praise our God for what He has done even in heartbreak, He brings new life. :)

  15. Happy birthday sweet, sweet Esther. Stefanie, while you didn’t get to hold her here on this side of heaven, I imagine in my heart the day your spirits meet one another there.
    What a tribute to her that darling Kate is being given a chance early in life…

  16. kate hawk says:


    What a beautiful testimony to God’s goodness, and love. Just wondering if little Kate has a forever family on their way to bring her home?

    Thank you for sharing! Praying for your sweet little boy who is recovering from surgery. So very very soon, he will be chasing his little sisters!

    Bless you,


  17. Happy Birthday Esther! I just know you are celebrating with Jesus and all of his angels on your special day!

    Stefanie, I had no idea that Esther’s heart issue was TOF. Our Timmy has TOF and pulmonary atresia. Just one more reason why the So Loved shirt is even more special to me. When we get Ji in a few months, Molly and I are wearing are So Loved shirt on Gotcha Day!

    Praising God that Esther’s memory can live on in such a wonderful way. Prayers for Kate as well!!!

  18. Happy Birthday, Esther! I know you are celebrating such an awesome birthday because you are “so loved” by the Father!

    What a beautiful testimony! I proudly wear my So Loved tee. Praying for Kate and her recovery.

  19. Sending love to you all today, Stefanie…
    Praise the Lord for a fully funded surgery for Kate! Can’t get any sweeter than that…

  20. By sheer God-thing, I put on my So Loved t shirt this morning. I don’t wear it “just around the house” much, but it’s laundry day. As I put it on, I said a little prayer for Poppy, for you, and for Esther, too. So for 10 hours, I’ve been thinking of you three with love and prayers, and all the while, it’s been Esther’s birthday. God is so weird, isn’t He? Feel the love from the South today, lady.

    xoxo, Amanda

  21. This post, like all other posts about Esther, has touched me deeply. I too know the heartbreak of losing a child in China. In early June we were matched with a little girl but after submitting our LOI found out that she was too sick to adopt. We wanted to know what we could do for her and pressed our agency to find out. The next day they informed us that they received word from the CCCWA that she had passed away from serious illness. That is all we’ve been told. I suppose if we further along in the process we would know more. We will always remember her and carry her in our hearts.

  22. This is so, so beautiful. Tears.

  23. Yes- so much beauty has come for so much sorrow. God bless your sweet baby girl!

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful news about Kate!! God is so very good!!

  24. Coming from someone who knows and loves sweet Kate, and adores New Day Foster Home with my whole heart…I have tears reading this. Esther is SO LOVED….and her memory and legacy is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing…great big hugs to you all!!!


  25. You are SO LOVED, Esther…and that love has created a path for others to walk through.
    I remember the story of Esther every time I come here and she her face among all of your children’s faces…she is your daughter, for sure….loved beyond measure as are all of your children.

    Thank you for sharing the story of hope and healing that is Esther with us…in life and in forever.


  26. Just beautiful.

  27. Tears for Esther, and a huge big teary grin for Kate. I had no idea… none, that you were doing this for her.
    When I shared with my friends, wore my shirt proudly and smiled in my heart for the little ones whose lives would be saved through the sale of the t-shirt, I had no idea that the little girl in my arms would be the one whose life would be saved.
    I’ll be giving Kate an extra special hug today from everybody.

  28. She is SO beautiful! And, now, she can have a healthy heart, thanks to your efforts. What a wonderful outcome. Will you be bringing Kate home?

  29. Good morning Stef – Happy Birthday Esther – such a legacy you leave – you are well loved dear child!

    And Stef – “…broke me in a way I’ve never experienced.” That, my friend, is because in is completely unnatural for a parent to loose a child – it’s supposed to be the other way around. And you ARE – and always will be – Esther’s mom.

    So sorry for your loss – always will be – for all of you guys!

    hugs – aus and co.

  30. Praise the Lord.

  31. Our daughter who came home from China at age 4, almost 3 years ago also had TOF. While waiting to travel, we received a report that she was not doing well. I know your pain because we too could have lost her. Our Mei Mei had the happy ending and our family is complete because of her. We will be thinking of you and your daughter today.

  32. bittersweet tears

    love you

  33. Beautiful. Happy Birthday sweet Esther.


  34. Mary DeGennaro says:

    Thinking of you as you think of sweet Esther……..and rejoicing that because of Esther, precious little Kate will have the surgery she needs……I think she looks like Esther, particularly her beautiful little lips.

  35. Stef,
    I am sitting here on Emme’s bed while she sleeps catching up.. What a blessing to see this post! I love how God inspired you to honor Esther in this way… Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart!!! This sweet little girl now has such an amazing chance to be, “So Loved!’ too!!!!

    Hugs from MN!

  36. My heart aches for your loss. We too lost one of our China girls (we have 3 biological children and 4 adopted children). We adopted our Emma-Grace at 13 months old (cleft lip/palate). We had her for 2 1/2 precious years. Last year she contracted the flu and spiked a high fever. She went into status epileptics (seizures that are continuous) and was admitted into the pediatric intensive care. She had every test known to man and every treatment known to science over the next 13 weeks before passing away on May 13, 2011. She would have been 5 years old on August 5. I have found the only people who really understand the pain of losing a child the people who have lost a child. I take comfort in knowing my Heavenly Father understands because He not only lost His child, but He gave up His child to die for my sins. I imagine our little Asia princesses are playing on the streets of gold together. Blessings to your family.

  37. Thinking of y’all tomorrow

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