a life worth remembering

This was the first picture I ever saw of her.

And still, even 3 years later, she takes my breath away.


Those pixie ears. That raven hair. Those crimson lips.

It didn’t take long for me to fall helplessly in love with her.

As most of y’all know, we watched as the Lord moved mountains to help us bring Esther home. So many ways He showed Himself mightily on her behalf.


Esther at 5 months

But, for reasons I won’t know this side of heaven, Esther caught a virus that fatally affected her broken heart.

She was just 20 months old.

And just 2 months shy of coming home and receiving the medical care her heart so desperately needed.


Esther at a 8 months

Today is her birthday. She would have been turning 5 years old.

I imagine she would have wanted something pink and heavily sprinkled to celebrate her birthday. Or purple. Maybe she would have asked for a bike. A baby doll. A nerf gun. Or all three.

It’s all speculation, though. Because she isn’t turning 5 today. And we aren’t having a birthday party today.


Esther at a year

But today, we will celebrate her. And we will remember her.

Even when it really, really hurts.

Because she is worth remembering.


Esther at 14 months

And today we thank God that He made her – fearfully and wonderfully. A precious child who fought bravely against a tide that was unkind.

With pixie ears that we never kissed. And raven hair that we never tousled.

Because we are so grateful for her. Even though she is not here with us, blowing out candles and licking frosting off her fingers, she is here… in our hearts.

And she is here in the work being done in her honor… in the funding of surgeries for children just like her who are bravely fighting a strong tide with a broken heart.


Esther one month before she passed away

I am happy to be able to share today, on her special day, that So Loved will be available again for sale. The order has been placed and I expect the shirts to arrive in about 10 days. And, if all goes as expected, they will be available here on this site.

The Lord has provided a way to fund a limited run of So Loved and I can’t wait to see all He has planned.


If you’re not familiar with So Loved, let me share a smidge of background…

Created as a way to say “thank you” those who helped us bring Poppy and Esther home, So Loved was not originally for sale at all. But after Esther passed away, we reconsidered. With the blessings of everyone who donated to our fundraiser, we re-released So Loved for sale with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit heart babies in China.

To date, almost $10,000 has been donated in Esther’s honor.

And it is my prayer that the Lord will see fit to bless our efforts to donate a lot more. In her honor and for His glory.

Because Esther, and all the orphans in China who are fighting bravely to survive each day, are worth remembering.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”
— Isaiah 35:3-4



  1. Michelle says:

    We love, miss, and will never forget sweet Esther and how she has touched so many lives.
    We lost our sweet boy mid adoption process as well… I know exactly what you are feeling today. <3
    A few years later we swung by his orphanage while we were picking up our daughter in a different part of China. It is one of the best things we have ever done. I would strongly encourage doing so when you are getting Clementine.

    Praying for you today, sweet Stefanie. <3 <3 <3 xox

  2. Beautiful!!! Happy birthday baby! You are so loved!

  3. I celebrate with you today as well as grieve for what could have been…

  4. sweet esther. happy birthday in heaven beautiful little angel. you have changed so many hearts on earth – you help us all to know that we all are ‘so loved’. xoxoxo.

  5. Oh, sweet friend, I remember the day we got the news that Esther’s broken heart was eternally healed. It still brings me to tears because I know your arms ache to hold her. Our Father has truly brought beauty from ashes as So Loved is helping save lives of so many “Esthers”! May He bring you the peace that only He can, my friend. Happy birthday to your precious Esther <3

  6. Jane Klingenberg says:

    Stef, I have tears reading about and remembering your Esther. A wild mix of emotions floods my heart for you on this day. And I remember you sharing about Esther with me when we met on Shamien Island that hot humid day, with Kendal and Lula. Prayers go up for you this very moment.

    With love and care.


  7. Mary DeGennaro says:

    Just read this today, remembering sweet Esther, and the news that she was now with her Father in heaven. I know that one day you will meet her, and what joy will fill your heart. It will be a glorious day..and in the meantime, because of her, babies are receiving the medical care they need to be able to live long lives. Praying for comfort for you, Stefanie.

  8. Patty Mears says:

    She knows she was loved. She knows she was a part of your wonderful family. God is blessing her today and He is blessing you also.

  9. Oh I am praying hard for your family right now. She was “so loved” even though you never held her on this side of Heaven. I am also very excited that you will be selling So Loved t-shirts again as I did not purchase one before you stopped printing it! I will definitely be purchasing one as soon as they are available! I had the honor of serving at New Day South foster home in China for 2 1/2 years and loved on some of the sweet children who your So Loved donations went towards. Thank you, thank you for all you have done for these sweet children who continue to wait for their forever families.

  10. Such a beautiful tribute.

  11. I’m so very glad Esther was blessed with a family like you to remember her.

  12. I’m reading, and …I’m crying ! Thank you so much to help us to remember a so wonderful little girl. I’m now preparing (and fund preparing) for our second adoption trip to China, but as soon as I can, I’ll donate for So Loved… and I’ll buy a shirt.

  13. Happy Birthday, Esther. I will NEVER forget you, sweet girl. You are truly, truly SO LOVED. My baby girl is wearing the shirt I bought for her big sister now. She is 4 1/2 and we were just beginning our journey to her when your Momma and Daddy were on their way to bring you home. You had a lot to do with us going back for our baby girl. Her heart was broken in China too and it will never be whole physically, but for whatever reason, God has allowed her to be here right now. Anytime she wears her shirt, we remember you. Always. I CANNOT.WAIT to place my next order. In your memory and for those who wait with physically broken hearts. I type through tears as too. And to Esther’s precious Momma, if I could reach through the screen, I’d be offering a hug and a big Thank You for doing what you do so that other heart babies have a fighting chance. Even when it hurts your own heart so very much. You, my friend, are SO LOVED too. Especially on this day.

  14. Kelli Hunter-Campbell says:

    such a beautiful tribute to sweet Esther. I imagine she is covered in hugs and kisses on a daily basis. I gave her name to my grandmother whom I KNOW is pleased to supply a lap and endless stories and lots of hugs. Esther is indeed SO LOVED by all who knew her through you and she will never be forgotten. My prayers continue for your family as you venture yet again to China to bring home another precious munchkin. Esther is your guardian angel and her life may have been short but she has had such an impact on so many children who need their broken hearts fixed. God Bless you and your dear family. xoxo

  15. What a wonderful tribute. It gave me chills. Thanks for sharing.

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