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Our Impossible Adoption Story

If you're looking for the unbelievable account of how "impossible" became "done" in 5 business days, start here.

Captain’s Log: Day 354 – Over and Out

20 August 2018

The crew and I are finalizing preparations to leave this location and embark on the next leg of our journey. It has been almost a year since we landed here, and the crew has made some outstanding progress. We did not originally anticipate leaving this area so soon, but the situation has progressed and it’s time to move.

Preparations are nearly complete. The crew is cautious, but energetic and optimistic about the journey ahead. No one is under any illusions that the journey will be easy, but the crew is determined and I am confident we will be successful.


We are not sure how much access we will have from China. I’ve gotten conflicting reports, but we’re not super worried about it. We’ll see when we get there. Here are the best options if you want to check in:



If we can post any updates or pics, they will probably be on my Insta. If you’re interested, make sure you’re following me @estherproject. If you’re not on Instagram, you can always check online too.



Additionally, my mom will be updating the Facebook page periodically. We have a more reliable communication channel with her, so even if we can’t post updates directly, we can send some to her. She will post what/when she can on the page, so follow that or check in!


Some things people have been asking.

Q: Can I help with anything while you’re gone?

A: I think we’re all set. A friend will be house sitting, so we’re not worried about anything at home.


Q: When will you get Jude?

A: Monday, August 27 (which will be Sunday evening here at home)


Q: What do you need when you get back?

A: Time. There’s no telling how this transition is going to go, because every kid is different. Please don’t be offended if we miss events or tell you No for days or weeks (or months). Being safe and loved is not enough for a child who has experienced what Jude is about to go through, he needs to feel safe and loved before we can move forward. And you can’t schedule that. When he’s ready for people and crowds and playdates and parties, we will let you know.


Q: What are you going to do about the language barrier?

A: Translation apps and baby sign language


The one thing we really do need is prayer.

  • For Jude — He is about to experience a really, really hard thing. Yes it’s for the best. Yes God’s hand is all over it. Yes it’s going to work out in the end. But his little heart is going to hurt worse than any little heart should ever have to. Please pray for peace and comfort. Pray that he cries when he needs to cry, despite what anyone may have told him about “being good.”
  • For Niah — First (really, really long) plane ride, new place, new food, lots of activity, lots of waiting, only-child-gets-new-brother … It’s not going to be easy on him either.
  • For Husband and I — Patience, grace, and strength. There’s a lot to do, a lot to remember, and a lot at stake. We have a lot of help on the ground, but still. There are also going to be a lot of feels and a lot of stress.
  • For logistics and safety — Catching all the flights, getting all the paperwork right, packing all the right documents, avoiding illness and food poisoning …

Your prayer support has gotten us this far, I have no doubt, so I know it will get us over the finish line.

Here we go!


Letters to My Sons, Part 2: The Didi

9 August 2018

My sweet Jude.

I am so, so sorry.

It feels like I shouldn’t say that. Like some standard or some text book or some unspoken expectation is standing in the shadows, just out of frame, gesturing at me with wide, angry eyes to keep quiet about it. To smile and say the safe, happy things. To point at the future when we’re all healed and happy and whole and together.

But I can’t.



I am standing on stage, after almost a year of rehearsal, in front of a room full of empty chairs except one—except yours—and I am terrified. Because my heart is breaking. Because I see you smiling at me, but there are tears in your eyes. And it draws out the tears in mine, and I choke on the words I want desperately to say:

I am so, so sorry.

I am sorry for what I’m about to put you through.

You will spend your fourth birthday in a government office, being signed into the care of strangers. On the one hand, I can see Providence at work in that, and I hope that someday you will too, but in a couple weeks I don’t think it will feel like destiny. I think it will feel like a kind of death.  Read more…

Adoption Update: Travel Plans, Timelines, and Panic

6 August 2018

I owe you an update.

Everything We Were Waiting on is … Done

True to form, everything went super duper fast.

Last time I updated, we were waiting for our “Article 5” approval, which could have come any time from then (the 17th) to July 25. It came the next day, on July 18.

Then, we had to wait for Travel Approval, which could take, “up to three weeks.” Three weeks from the 18th would have been August 8. It came in three business days, on July 23.

Our agency was already putting together two travel groups for China when we got the call. We could leave August 15 or August 22. I wanted so badly to say the 15th, but I knew we would need that week – to prepare things at home, to hopefully get another grant in, to try one more fundraiser, to get myself responsibilities at work handed off well, etc.

Travel Arrangements



Next we had to book airfare, which, of course, is more complicated than just booking airfare. I’ve purchased plane tickets before, but nothing is that easy.

We needed to arrange airfare, send the itinerary to the adoption agency so they could review and approve, and then book/confirm. Our coordinator recommended a couple travel agents that they frequently work with, and while I’m not generally one to use a third party for something I can do myself, I thought it was worth investigating.

I looked up both agencies and Adoption Airfare has a big “Get a Quote” button at the top of their homepage. (Excellent UI, guys.) I filled out the short form and in a few hours was talking to one of the most helpful, communicative individuals I’ve ever met in my life.

He found us an itinerary. I sent it to the agency. Our travel coordinator pointed out that we would be landing just before our first day of sightseeing. “You could go straight to your travel group, or you could miss your first day of sightseeing.” I didn’t want to do either of those things, so the travel agent moved some things around and we got all the thumbs ups.

We leave for China Tuesday, August 21 and we’ll be back Friday, September 7.  Read more…

Letters to My Sons, Part 1: The Gege

2 August 2018

My meatball. Man Cub. Baby Therst. Kid Therst. My “merciful gift from God.”

You are five-and-a-half years old and for the last (almost) year of your life we have been talking a lot about “brother.” One of my favorite parts of this whole crazy adventure has been watching you own China and then slowly fall in love with your “didi.”



Since we saw his face and read his file a few months ago, we’ve been talking about him even more. We’ve been telling people about him and getting excited about him and planning for him, and you have been right there with us.

But I know there’s something else happening in your heart too. Something you’re probably not fully aware of yet, although you will be in the coming months. I wish there was a way to prevent it, or even to establish a step-by-step plan for dealing with it, but I don’t think there is.

It started when we first got Jude’s file. I’ll never forget the moment. We sat around the table and I read the list of his developmental milestones off the computer. “Can recognize and count numbers. Can recognize basic shapes and colors. Can read some characters …”

We were excited—not because these were somehow outstanding achievements, but because they were normal. We hadn’t dared hope for “normal.”

But you made a calm, unaffected comment that shattered my heart:

“Huh. He’s better than me.

Daddy and I protested and explained and encouraged and hugged, although you didn’t seem too upset about it at the time.

Still, I saw it.

Several passing comments since then have reared their ugly faces, as though just to let me know they are still around.

And then the other night you laid in bed and asked me how I could still love you the same and also love Jude. Read more…

Adoption Update … ?

17 July 2018

“How’s everything going?”


adoption waiting


Our final paperwork is moving through offices in China. Still. We’re waiting for the Chinese government to approve our visit to come and pick up our son. They’ll send that approval to China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA, aka, “the Center”). That could happen any time up to the 25th.

Then, “up to three weeks” later (I’m not sure what the low end on that time estimate is.), we’ll get the official invitation from the CCCWA. Then we can book airfare and get visas.

So we’re waiting.


No one really likes waiting, right?


waiting period adoption


So I’m obsessively checking my email, hoping to see that notice that the paperwork has been sent to the CCCWA.

But even more, for now, I’m hoping to see a notice that a grant has been awarded. We’ve gotten several, “We regret to inform you …” emails and letters over the past couple weeks, but I have at least some hope for five applications that are still outstanding. They’re our last opportunities substantial financial aid.

I hate the waiting. If I could board a plane tomorrow to go get him, I’d take out a new credit card or whatever just to make it happen.

But we need the time. For grant reviews and fundraising … and for a few things we need to put together at home … and for me to get work stuff transitioned to the noobs before I take leave.

But still.

The waiting.


Pray. Current prayer requests include:

  • Jude — It’s becoming more and more real to me that we’re about to put this kid through probably the most traumatic experience of his young life (that he’ll remember – I’m sure he doesn’t remember being abandoned at one month old). Please pray that God would prepare his heart and give us favor in his eyes.
  • The foster family — They’re very excited and very appreciative … but they’ve also raised this boy for four years and they love him. Pray comfort and peace and joy over them.
  • The paperwork — We’ve been drowning it in prayer for 11 months and we’re not about to get lazy about it now.
  • The money — God has a plan.
  • My Man Cub — He is mostly so so excited to have a brother … but he has also started to have the occasional moment when he asks me how it’s possible for me to love him the same and love Jude, or he asks if Jude will be better than him. We knew the reality of all those first sibling things would hit eventually, so we continue to pray for his little heart too.



We’re also hoping to find friends who will sponsor some of the crazy travel expenses we’re facing next. Once we get travel approval from the CCCWA, our agency starts booking consulate appointments and doctor appointments (in China) and hotels, etc.

They finalize our travel package invoice and it needs to be paid within 24 hours in order to make sure all those appointments get scheduled. And the remaining balance on my credit card won’t cover this one.

So we’re looking for sponsors who can give $30 or more this month, and we’ll write your name on an old-fashioned suitcase sticker!



I’ve been assembling our packing list (and a few things I know we’ll need when we get home) into an Amazon list (so I can redeem credit card reward points for Amazon gift cards *taps temple*). But when I joked about retailers not offering a “toddler/adoption registry,” someone got excited, which led to me explaining I already kind of have a list, which led to requests for the list.

So if you’re the type that likes really practical, hands-on stuff … knock yourself out. 😉


That’s it. Nothing terribly exciting, just waiting for someone, somewhere, to officially approve my family so I can get frantic again.

Thanks for going on the ride with me!