there’s no such thing as an easy adoption.

Note: When I write about adoption, I’m speaking to other Christians. I can’t write about adoption “in general” without beginning and ending with my faith. Separating my feelings and beliefs on adoption from my feelings and beliefs about Jesus is simply impossible. I think C.S. Lewis sums it up perfectly: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I can only see adoption through the lenses by which I see everything: Christ. Adoption would never have been part of my story apart from Christ tilling up the hard ground of my heart and opening my eyes to the 150,000,000 children around the world who don’t have a mother or father to call their own.

Okie dokie then.

I haven’t written a lot about adoption in the last year or so. It’s not that I haven’t thought a lot about adoption, I think about one aspect or another of adoption much the time. I just haven’t poured my heart out here. And when I really thought about why, it’s because the bloggy world just doesn’t feel safe anymore. There are those who’d rather sling arrows at those they believe to be doing it wrong than devote themselves to working on behalf of the orphan. I’ve seen the result of many of those arrows and it has not been fruit, y’all. It’s been pain and division. It’s been shame and heartache.

But bring on the arrows, I’m gonna share my heart. Because, as much as I want to answer the Q and A’s y’all posed the other day, I need to say something first. Something that – as an adoptive mama who loves to encourage others to consider adoption – is not easy to say. And to those of y’all in the early phases of adoption, I’m betting it’s not going to be easy to hear.

There is no such thing as an easy adoption.

A smidge of pertinent background before we go on. My husband and I came to Christ in 2002. So when we prayed our little hearts out less than 2 years later, telling the Lord that we wanted His will for our lives and not our own, we were brand new, milk-still-on-our-upper-lip baby Christians. We had moved away from our close friends who had discipled us and we were on our own in a whole new community, in a whole new state. And less than 6 months after praying that prayer on trembling knee, God laid adoption on my husband’s heart. Completely out of the blue. We didn’t know anyone who had adopted, internationally or domestically. We didn’t have any Chinese friends. We had never heard a sermon preached on adoption. We had never heard of the “orphan crisis”.

We just knew what God said and we knew what we’d prayed. Eleven months later, Isabelle came home. And we witnessed God’s hand every step of the the way.

After Isabelle came home, we honestly expected to be done. Fini. The end. But it wasn’t the end. If you’re a reader here, you know the rest of our story… we stepped out again and again. And again. In 2012 we brought home Tallula, our 12th child (Esther passed away before we were able to travel for her), our 7th child by means of adoption.

Which is why, I suppose, I think a lot about adoption. We have more Chinese-born in our house than American-born. Our biological kids are outnumbered by our adopted kids. Adoption has consumed much of our thoughts, finances and energy for the last 9 years. And now that we are kinda-sorta-maybe done growing our family, and I don’t have to spend so much time changing diapers and wearing my Ergo carrier, I’ve managed to dig into the Word again and gain some much-needed and much-appreciated perspective on adoption. Because adoption is one meaty word.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” — James 1:5

When you let go of your plans and tell Him you want His plan for your life, He will give you the eyes to see it.

And I am so grateful for that. He opened our eyes and immediately our hearts broke for the orphan. He didn’t even have to give us a reference point for it… we were blank canvases who simply trusted. Some might call that naive, some might call that plain crazy. And I can’t disagree. But when you are trusting and believing in the One who made you, the One who made the universe and everything in it, trusting is really the only sane thing to do.

So there we were. Eyes on Him. And He was pointing to orphans halfway around the world. And on-my-goodness has He blessed us exponentially for our feeble trust. I have posted here for seven years, 1925 posts to be exact, and only managed shared a smidgen of the overflow of the joy that has come from growing our family by adoption.

But this post isn’t about the easy-to-see, fun-to-talk-about kind of blessings. It’s about the hard-fought blessings. The blessings that we not only don’t want to talk about, the blessings we don’t even want.

And I know these blessings-that-don’t-feel-like-blessings first hand. Thinking they were anything but blessings, I’ve resisted and ignored them. And although I didn’t see any of this at the time, I’m beginning to grasp the edges of it now. Because I had lost my sight. Or, more aptly, my Sight. Many times along the way I took my eyes off Him and I lost His perspective – I was more focused on glorifying adoption than glorifying the One who called us to adopt. Instead of loving God for who He is, I was loving God for what He could do: I was loving God for loving the orphan, being Father to the fatherless, and allowing me to be a small part of what He was doing to rescue, love and care for orphans.

Good things, yes. But God? Most definitely no.

And nothing can bear the weight of glory except God. We may be able to prop our love and devotion on other things for a time, but it will always, always fail us in the end.

When we allow ourselves to identify with good things more closely than we identify with Christ, we have a tendency to veer off toward self-righteousness. Pride. We can even feel entitled to launch arrows at fellow Christians, on behalf of the orphan, because they’re not doing it the way we think they should.

Instead of looking to Him and allowing His love to sustain me, I wrestled away from Him. Because I wanted to do what I wanted to do – deceiving myself into thinking it was what He wanted because it was a good thing. After all, He had called us to love and care for the orphan – wasn’t I loving Him because I loved the orphan?

But He wanted me to love the orphan because I loved Him.

Despite all this, God never leaves nor forsakes us. And despite my faltering allegiances, and my propensity to stray, He has carried me, sustained me and loved me undeservedly yet lavishly. He has showered me with a joy I’d never known by allowing me to be His hands and feet to my children… to allow me to witness their transformation from brokenness to beloved. Because, once my eyes were opened to the need of orphans around the world it changed me. It changed our family – inside and out. Now I want to be the mama to my children that came to me without a mama. I want to bring them joy and watch them blossom. I want to love them well and point them to the One who knows every hair on their heads.

But, let me be honest. I am a painfully slow learner. Because even as He has been revealing His truths to me, I falter again and again. When struggles surface, when issues arise, my actions reveal what I often want most: Comfort. Ease. Normalcy.


And this is what I want to share with y’all. With those of us that choose to follow Him off the beaten path and onto the exceedingly beautiful but often crooked path of adoption.

Adoption is one heck of a sanctifying experience.

It will showcase your fears, anxieties and failings. It will make you want to run screaming from the room when your selfishness surfaces or your laziness reigns again. It will reveal all the broken places you’ve not-so-effectively covered up. It will point out your sinfulness like nothing else.

Adoption is walking out God’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To “care for the least of these.” To bring a child that was once a complete stranger into your home to love and cherish forever. And the truth of it is, sometimes your “neighbor” drives you absolutely nutty. Sometimes your “neighbor” shrieks all night and throws temper tantrums all day. Sometimes the needs of the “least of these” positively overwhelms. Sometimes you fear that you can’t even parent your other children well for trying to fill the seemingly unending needs of one child. Sometimes you feel like you simply can’t go on one. more. day.

This is when, if you allow Him, He will show you that you are as broken and in need as the child you are trying to parent.

This is when, if you allow it, He will do His mightiest, most redemptive work in you.

This is when, if you allow it, He will make you more like His Son.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

So don’t miss this, struggling mama. God uses the weak, the broken, and the flawed to fulfill His plans. He calls us to join Him in this mighty, redemptive work called adoption. He brings children out of orphanages, binds up their wounds and makes them beloved children. And He uses every bit of the joy and the pain to point us back to His goodness for His glory.

We just have to keep our eyes on Him, and trust Him to do the rest.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

If you’re just getting started on this journey, know this. Adoption always takes us out of our comfort zone. You might feel more than ready for that, but undoubtedly there will be moments that there is nothing you’ll desire more than the “comfort” of what used to be. And in those moments – or for some of us, those days or weeks – instead of giving in to your own desire for normal, allow Him to have His way.

Because the Jesus that is worthy of following into adoption is the Jesus who is worth trusting in the middle of adoption. When the shiny veneer of adoption is long gone.

James 1:27 is a call to action that resonates deeply with those of us who have adopted. We highlight it in our Bibles, we wear it on t-shirts, we memorize it and share it with others because it is truth. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

But how does the book of James start?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” — James 1:2

We need to put theses two truths together, sweet sister. We must cling to what we trust He will do with the pieces when we admit the brokenness of ourselves, and lay it all at His feet. Because His promises are true.

And as we trust Him to work on us, may we humbly recognize the sanctifying work He is doing in our fellow believers who are called to adoption as well. May we pour out grace upon grace to those who are struggling. Instead of throwing arrows, may we offer mercy. Instead of self-righteousness, may we offer help. May we point them always to Christ, the only One who is able to make all things new.

And then? When we are parenting these precious children He has entrusted to us? Children from horribly broken places? Then we can speak His truth over them like no one else. Because we have made a covenant with Him, the most unbelievable exchange in history: His strength for our weakness, His fullness for our lack, His perfection for our sin. And we can point our children to Him to be made whole – perfect and complete, lacking in nothing – as well.



  1. Thank you for sharing this! I began to cry as I got halfway through because this is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been frustrated at myself because I have these beautiful girls that I’ve brought home from China (as well as 2 bio sons) and I feel like I fail them all the time. Yes, my laziness gets in the way of giving them everything they need and yes, I get frustrated some difficult behaviors I seem to always be dealing with. I’m glad God doesn’t give up on us!!

    • Amen. He never gives up on us – He is outrageously long-suffering. May we be made to be more like Him every day!

  2. Stefanie…this was such a great, needed post. Hats off to you for your authenticity. Thanks for wrestling with me through emails a few weeks ago. It was just plain refreshing to be able to discuss the different viewpoints of adoption issues, and do it until we find the one thing that remains….Jesus. I too want the realities of adoption to be discussed MORE. Our first three years home have been beautiful yes. But I refer to them as hellishly beautiful, because there were days, when the tantrums and the PTSD, took more than I have to give. The emotional exhaustion and spiritual exhaustion were numbing at times. And at the end of it all, even the messy, very messy emotional, end of it all, He. Was. There. He is smashing my idols of perfectionism, ease, comfort, and convenient. He has given me a situation I couldn’t control no matter how hard….so hard….I tried. But I’d do it again….in fact we are. :) Awaiting nothing but a phone call for little miss Katie Joy, to start this hellishly beautiful thing called adoption all over again. Come to think of it, His adoption of me has been pretty hellishly beautiful too. :)

    • Agreed, Amy. I so enjoyed our discussion as well – as two moms who are passionate about their children and adoption.
      And congratulations to you on your new adoption adventure! Blessings await, for sure :)

  3. The struggles are HARD and real. Its very lonely at times, and people who havent walked down this path often hurt and judge. But its so worth it. It takes Faith, and for us the support of professionals and letting go and Letting God. Thank you Stephanie!

  4. Wow! That was BIG and BEAUTIFUL! Alot to digest. . . I will be reading that one again. We are on our way to adopt a 9 year old from Anhui. Not my story but his. Thank you for this.

    • His story, indeed Amy. If we can just keep that perspective, that we are players in His story, it changes everything <3

  5. Sister, I had no idea how similar our stories were – from salvation to adoption! Thank you for sharing your sweet heart!

  6. This was right on time! We have 2 biological teenagers and just adopted a 2 year old from China. While the process is going smooth, oh my, I relate to the feeling as if Im failing him when he is getting on my last nerve. And i feel my other 2 are suffering as this little one consumes all my energy. Thank you for the perspective!!!

  7. Wow. Just wow. Love your heart and words.

  8. Ouch…. my recent blog was about how hard this current adoption has been compared to last time. I could clearly see myself in some of the situations you mentioned! Thanks for your honesty, I needed this today.

  9. This was a huge blessing and just made me cry my eyes out!

  10. Exactly this. Exactly.

  11. Thank you Stephanie.. I have stopped blogging and actually stopped reading blogs because there is not much honesty out there when it comes to adoption. I am so blessed with my 6 children and we are in a great place, now….but it was a long road getting here. I felt so lonely for so long becuase no one ever goes there. I wondered why God would lead me to such a place that I was surely not cut out for, but now I see. He was with me even in those days where my flesh begged and pleaded…now my blessings are overwhelming.. sometimes still difficult but I know HE is in this with me 100%!

  12. Amen! Amen! !! Thank you for sharing & being honest girl! I want to share this with the world. .. Because so many have rose colored glasses. Its time to be Real.. When we become REAL.. Our GOD becomes Real to others!;)

  13. Really, really needed to read this. Beautifully said, very loving and true even if it was hard to say. And hard for me to read. Thanks for being faithful to share what was on your heart.

  14. Oh so beautifully and truthfully said!

  15. Wow! Even if I did write well I could not have said it more beautifully. Thank you for your honesty Stefanie. It’s encouraging to know I am not as alone in this as I sometimes feel. Hugs!

  16. Sally Girl says:

    Beautiful Post!! Thanks for sharing your heart so eloquently with all of us who feel the same!!

  17. Thanks so much for posting this. Needed to hear this. This week has been steps back with our daughter who has been home almost two years. I know it is part of the spiritual warfare too as we are in the midst of paperwork for our second adoption. Sweet Mia has taught me many things about Christ’s love for us.

  18. ditto and ditto again– that whole section about it being sanctifying and hard and driving you nuts— YES– my daughter and I are going thru major struggles- and have been from the get go- we just had a heart to heart about this same verse (James 1:2-12) thank you for sharing!

  19. Thank you and Amen! I’m Mom to 3 adult, married, bio sons and two sweet Chinese born daughters. Sometimes the pain and anguish is just too big for me. I thank God for God and you, Stefani. Thank you for being you.

  20. Thank you Stefanie…I’m so glad you decided to share your heart, despite the possibility of “arrows.” We’ve been home 8 months and I am struggling SO much…it helps just to know that even a seasoned adoptive mama like you has had those days where you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. I’ve felt SO.FAR.AWAY from Christ ever since we came home…I know I need to get back to Him but just can’t seem to figure it out.

    • Praying for you girl. Ignore the way you feel :) , and trust His truth. He is right there with you, EVERY step of the way.
      .Deuteronomy 31:6
      6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
      Isaiah 40:31
      31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

    • Hang in there Virginia. Our first year home with my DD was probably as traumatic for me as it was for her. It exposed my (now ex) husband’s weaknesses, ripped apart my marriage, made me an inadequate mother to my other two bio kids, and yet I knew that this little girl was where she belonged. Fast forward 8 years, and my once traumatized little girl is now the brightest, funniest, exceptionally compassionate, most delightful child to be around! I chuckle when I get comments from teachers and parents of her friends who talk about how easy she is to be around — if they only KNEW the tantrums, crying, and misery of that first year!! Adoption does indeed change us in ways that we never thought possible. If I knew 8 years ago what I was about to go through, I would have run in the other direction! And yet, here we all are, enriched in ways that far exceed the losses of that first year.

    • I have had seasons of feeling far away as well, Virginia. But He is not far. Would be happy to email with you privately and see how I can pray and encourage you… just let me know. You are not alone!

  21. This. I needed it. I will be rereading it many times. Thank you.

  22. Susan McIntire says:

    Thank you! This is a wonderful post!

  23. That was so powerful and true. I’m saving this post to read again and again. Thank you.

  24. Thank you thank you thank you… It’s so refreshing just to know that we are not alone. My selfishness & laziness rear their heads entirely too often. This post helped with my guilt so very much. I know that guilt is not from Him. He caught me entirely off guard when He asked me to adopt. It was nowhere on my radar. Nothing I ever thought I’d do. He truly opened my eyes. And I have never been the same. It has been hellishly beautiful at best. SO so hard. SO so beautiful. And yes, I would do it all again if He asked

  25. Thank you for this. As we’ve been struggling with “special needs” and the question of “what can we deal with”… I haven’t felt too good about myself. What the doctors and various sources say about effects of institutionalization, malnutrition, abandonment, etc. is frightening. It help A LOT to know that we aren’t alone… and to be reminded that we have Him in our corner.

    Thank you. Thank you.

  26. Stefanie, I so enjoyed and appreciated reading this! Thank you for your thoughtful eloquence this morning. : )

  27. Thank You! Most of my friends have done traditional adoption, or maybe some special needs, but we…. found a face…after years of longing and trying fostering, domestic adoption, not meeting China’s financial requirements, all we needed was a face that came in God’s perfect timing but with a twist. It was an older orphan on a hosting program that was not Asian…what? She was 13 YEARS old? Where on Earth is Ukraine? What is a hosting program? What is Hauge, oh wait they are not that. Siblings too? Special Needs? Oh Wait, she speaks Russian not Ukraine? 45-60 days IN COUNTRY WITHOUT MY KIDS? No agencies allowed?
    And oh yes, the arrows have flown from the most surprising of places. Well, surprising to me. But apparently YOU my new friend have been reading my mail!
    That face is my fb profile pic and imagine that face with a smaller (less like mine) forehead, and you will be imagining my daughter, with a mole on the jawline at the exact same place! My daughter CHRISTIANA has asked for an older sister. And God has answered with Snizhana, translated…
    Yes, that is her name in Ukraine. Tell me HE does not sit back and enjoy showing us things that will blow our minds to make us more like HIM!
    Pray for us! She will visit Dec 19 to Jan 16 and we are hoping to have our home study done by then!! Debbie Byrd Rowan

  28. Wow, Stephanie! This is so right on. I feel like you just took everything I have ever had in my heart about this thing and put it on paper. We, too, knew nothing about adoption and I have to say that when I discovered this blog world, a place I thought I could run to for encouragement, I was amazed at the “arrows” being thrown. The judgmental perceptions that were passed to believers that were doing their dog gone best just to follow the Lord. It was hard for me to swallow at first. But I am so thankful that we followed what He said because I trust Him the most, even if we didn’t do everything perfect. And I am also thankful that He is so patient and full of grace towards us as these ugly parts of us are revealed. And like you said, thereby showing us sometimes the very things that we have struggled so to handle in our children. My, my have I seen brokenness in me. But I am so so thankful. Thankful for His gentle ways and for opportunities to show my children that a life serving God is not a life without mistakes and apologizes, forgiveness and redemption.

    Thank you for this!

  29. Such truth written in such beauty! THANK YOU!! Words fail me to express how true this resonates in my heart. Thank you, thank you!!

  30. I love this Stephanie! Thank you so much for being willing to share from your heart. I couldn’t agree more. As an adoptive mom of 2 girls from china with special needs, I echo every word you just said. Our experience has been nothing short of miraculous and positive for my entire family, including all 4 of our bio kids, but it’s still challenging and life altering nonetheless. I think it’s our duty as adoptive parents to not glamorize adoption, but be more candid about the redemptive process that we ALL go through bc of it. As much as I love seeing the beautiful pictures of everyone’s kids, these kinds of posts are what we all really need and is the reason I started readings blogs in the first place. Being honest about the reality of adoption is the best gift we can give to a prospective adoptive family. Keep sharing!

  31. Thank you for your honesty. So needed & refreshing.

  32. Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful truths, and exactly what I needed hear today.

  33. I love the quote by CS Lewis. While I don’t know what life is like for those who are called to adopt thrihg their faith particularly Christianity I think this was a very poignant post which I enjoyed, I vividly remember you posting quite openly at the time that your family was in fact “done” your family of 6. I’ve love watching all yoir journeys. I know others disagree about those adopting large numbers of children but I try to ignore it as long as the children are loved and nurtured. I know yiuce stepped out in faith many times with each adoption but I’d like to throw out a very dare I. Ay heated topic. If you saw the Reuters expose on rehoming of internationally adopted children who find new parents online for them brouht many topics involving ethics into play. What is your thought on families committing to a child or 2 unrelated children (China) without the funds necessary? I’m not woes king if someone who will have soke garage sales and other ways oh raising funds, however there is an increasing change of people committing and then withdrawing when they realize it takes more than god to provide. So more children languish. For most we don’t have an extra $25 grand sitting around but there seeks to he an increasing number of families bailing last minute. I also hope that those Christians who are affected by children in orphanages need support so for families not inte
    resfed in adopting there are so many ways to help

  34. Aww, wow, thank you so much for sharing this. Hits home in so many ways.

  35. I don’t want to brag or come across as smug or anything… but I told you so. You are a blessing to so many, girl :)

  36. great post. i’m always amazed at how gifted writers can put down in words what the rest of us are experiencing. i have several friends in the process of adopting – i will forward your post, in lieu of telling them not to think it will all be roses 😉 :) xo ellie

  37. Thank you for your words of truth and the reminder of what (or rather, Who) this is all about.

  38. Such a needed read for me. I am a mother of 6 bio kiddos ages 10-28yrs (one with special needs). God has called us to us adopt a special needs child (or possibly two) from China. We are logged in and waiting for a referral. What I find interesting about your post is that I haven’t adopted yet and I already feel inadequate and wonder why God would ask me to adopt. As a mamma of six bio I have already had experience teach me that parenting is hard stuff and as excited as I am about this whole process of adoption I am also scared to death about how our lives are about to change. As tough as it may be though, we know that God has called us to adopt and we are proceeding despite our fears. It sounds as though our adoption will be as much for us as it will be for our child/children.
    Thanks for sharing!
    BTW please direct me to any info you can regarding adopting two at time v one at a time.

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