Gazing Upward
  • Adoption and Orphan Care
  • November25th

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    bday girl


    blowing out the candle

    daddy and bday girl

    doll checkup


    getting nails painted

    face painting

    Grace and doll stroller

    Grace singing


    Grace's nails

    IMG_2287 - Version 2

    lemonade fountain


    table setting

    the cake

    the girls



    My little China doll is growing up! You are full of energy and enjoy dancing and singing…constantly. You often improvise on songs and incorporate lyrics from actual songs.  Most people would describe you as animated, expressive, and perhaps a little dramatic. We joke about you taking up acting because you can show the most mature expressions!

    In addition to prancing and singing around the house, your other favorite activities include playing games like CandyLand Winnie the Pooh Matching, kitchen (always the hostess offering us hot coffee), coloring and all sorts of crafts, doodling letters, and reading about princesses. Belle is your very favorite!

    Favorite shows include Caillou, Max & Ruby, SuperWhy, and Dora. We’ve also recently discovered The Care Bears on Amazon Prime. It brings me back to my own childhood.

    This year, you played soccer for the first time in the fall.  You are also taking a ballet/tap class with Ms. Gina. You are learning how to be a big sister, and you’re such a big help with Maryn. This year has also been one of power struggles. You will do almost anything to win a battle and not surrender.

    At school, on the other hand, I am told you are very well-behaved. You enjoy order and structure. And you have also taken it upon yourself to tell a classmate’s mom if their child has been in timeout during that day. They love getting the scoop from you! But we’re definitely working on cutting the tattle-taling.

    Over the last few months, you’ve had many questions about your China mommy and why we chose to adopt you.  While we have always talked about your background, I think you’re beginning to understand and grasp the details. And that’s difficult for a 4-year-old to do. I predict that we’ll have many more conversations before you turn five. What we want you to understand most is that you are loved, loved, loved, my child. Not only by your mommy and daddy, but also by your siblings, relatives, and friends. And most of all by God. What a story He has written for you!

    Happy 4th Birthday Princess!



  • June27th


    Today marks one year since Caroline so bravely entered the Civil Affairs office and walked right into my arms.  Today is a year since a beautiful Chinese girl named Yuan LiYun became our daughter.  It’s amazing to review the last year and trace her progress, adjustment, and growth.  

    I remember feeling so overwhelmed and frustrated in November because continually conversing through Google Translate was difficult, and I was so ready for conversations with eye contact.  I was ready to leave our awkward silences in the car far behind us and to be able to ask my daughter about school, her homework, friends, and activities.  For a long time, our after-school car convos were limited to questions like this:

    “Hi Caroline! Did you have a good day?”

    “What did you have for lunch?”

    “Do you have a lot of homework tonight?”

    Caroline’s English has improved dramatically in the last few months, and she’s beginning to read books on a 3rd-4th grade level.  I certainly couldn’t pick up a language that quickly!  Our communication is on a whole different level now, and we rarely have to dart to the computer now for translation.

    As recently has April, I would struggle to find Caroline breakfast food she’d find satisfactory.  In China, they often eat dumplings or noodles in the morning. She wasn’t used to, and didn’t particularly like, common American breakfast fare.  Now she’s enjoying cereal, yogurt, fruit, pancakes, bacon, and muffins.  This doesn’t seem like a big step forward, but it is in this mom’s mind!

    While Caroline remains very guarded emotionally, she’s begun to share more with us and even wrote for the first time in our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards that she loves us.  She’s warm and affectionate and often initiates hugs with us now.  In fact, she even enjoys our “family hugs” which got started a couple years ago.  It’s when one of the littles asks for a family hug and we all huddle up and lean in for a tight embrace.  We might do this 3-5 times before we put the kids down.  Caroline readily jumps in for these….and I’m not sure I’d say that many 13-year-olds would dig this expression of family love. 🙂

    What I’ve noticed most in the last year is Caroline’s transition from spunky young girl to blossoming young woman.  If you look at pictures from last summer, you’ll notice how much she’s changed and matured.  (You can find links to some of last summer’s posts and her adoption video on the Adoption and Orphan Care page under the Categories tab above.) In some ways, I’ve grieved this quick growth because I missed nearly all of her girlhood. But I’m thrilled to see her grow and thrive after such a stressful transition in her life.

    Caroline made this cute backpack last week during a sewing session at a creative arts camp!

    I explained my blog to Caroline a few days ago and asked if she would like to write anything to share.  I told her how hundreds of people had prayed for her and and followed her story, and that they’d probably love to hear her thoughts on the last year.  Below is what she wrote this morning…I’ve left it unedited with the exception of a few notes I inserted for clarification.

    As you’ll read below, she’s still unsure about God and Jesus Christ.  She’s in a great summer Bible study, and she told us the other night that she thinks she might be ready to believe soon.  We covet your prayers for her salvation. I know that my life and heart drastically changed after I became a Christian my senior year of high school. I know the healing that only God can bring about, and I know there are many wounds in Caroline’s heart that could be filled with the security, redemption, love, and peace of Jesus.  I long for her to have eternal hope and for her to grasp His incredible love for her.

    After reading her letter, I’d love for anyone to leave a comment for Caroline if they feel comfortable. Whether to offer encouragement, congratulations, “Happy Gotcha Day,” prayers, or even your own testimony of faith, I think she’d be touched to hear from you.  I know only a very small handful of my readers usually comment, but this is one time I ask you to not be shy. 🙂  She has no idea how many lives she’s touched through her journey so far.

    We are so proud of Caroline’s accomplishments and her courage to leave everything she knew to start a new life in our family.  We feel honored that God chose us to be her parents. And now I’ll leave you with her thoughts on the last year…

    Dear Everybody,

    Today is I had been came America one year! (It’s actually one year since we met…we traveled home 10 days later.) I know that’s really excited! Me too!

    In this year, I need thank you for my Daddy and Mommy. Thank you for they adopt me for their daughter. I have a happiness family.  I believe something is control my life, but I don’t know.  In here, I know you will said God.  Next, you be really sad… I don’t trust God! Because education of China is atheism. I live China 12 years.  Now I 13. But I try. I going this way. And I really stubborn.

    One thing about food, which I really hate, but Americans really like.  Cheese.  In China, most people don’t eat cheese.  So now you can understand why. (PS: I don’t like chocolate too. But I not hate it.)

    The 2nd thing is my English is pretty bad, sometimes speak the wrong way.  But I geting better, right?  For that, Dad and Mom find many way to help, like tutor, and now is read 4 books each month. Then I will get a new Chinese book. That’s good idea! Just for the book, I have to keep read!

    I go to middle school next year. I nervous about it because I don’t know every thing! But I know I can do it!  Secondly is my age, in China the elementary school are six-year system.  When you 13 year old you start going to middle school, that’s normal. But in America is different, when you 11, you go to middle school, 13 year old you’re in 8th grade, so when I tell people my age, they’re surprise, but my English is too bad for 8th grade. (Based on her previous education and the advice of other adoptive families, we held Caroline back two years, so she just finished 5th grade.) That what I’m worried the most. 

    In a word, the first year pretty well!  I had lots good friends, sweet little sisters and brother, grate family. I really gratified. (I think she means grateful?)

    Love, Caroline Brown

  • June17th

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    With Maryn being born June 5th and my desire to keep time at a standstill so I can ever-enjoy this newborn stage, I’ve neglected to recognize that we’re moving into the second half of June. How does that happen?? Anyway, I almost panicked yesterday when I realized that my monthly post for the China adoption resource site, No Hands But Ours, was due today!

    I’ve pasted the post below, but you can also read it here if you’re interested in reading other posts about adopting special needs children from China.

    And I’m almost done writing a post on Maryn’s birth story and how natural childbirth became one of the most memorable experiences of my life…stay tuned. 🙂

    The last twelve days have been filled with joy, awe, gratitude, and love as our family welcomed its sixth member, baby Maryn. We haven’t even reached a year since Caroline’s “Gotcha Day” and another little one has joined our family! Four kids in four years. A friend recently joked that it isn’t a requirement to add a child each year in order to send out Christmas cards.

    We had only been home from China three months last fall when I discovered with surprise, delight, and a little panic that I was pregnant. I worried how all my kids would react, particularly my adopted daughters. I was overjoyed to learn that all three of our kids were super excited and eager for a baby sibling.

    Grace (my 3-year-old) and I had some interesting conversations throughout my pregnancy. She would often say, “Carter comes from the hospital, and I was born in China! Right, Mommy?” And one time she asked, “Did you and Daddy come to China to get me in your belly?” I had to explain she grew in her China mommy’s belly and that we went to China to pick her up later. The conversations haven’t gone much deeper yet, but I know hard questions will eventually come as she digests and fully comprehends her background and her story.

    Caroline, my 13-year-old, loves to help and be hands-on with the baby. I had anticipated this. What I hadn’t expected was her lack of knowledge about newborn care and precautions. I had forgotten that she had been the only child in a foster family for seven years prior to her adoption, so she hadn’t really been around any newborns. In one of several scary and disconcerting incidents, my helper took off running to hide from the two little ones coming down the hallway…WHILE CARRYING THE BABY! I think this was the first time I ever yelled at Caroline, but I panicked when I saw Maryn’s fragile little body flopping at high speed across the room.

    After a few incidents, I found myself very irritated, wondering how and why my teenager was making such poor decisions. And then I remembered…. a sense of consequences, perception of cause and effect, linear thinking, are concepts many adopted kids lack and have not yet developed. Hence why Caroline hopped on a bike last summer for the first time and thought she could ride it down a hill. As you’ve probably concluded, the situation didn’t end well. She crashed into a fence and got pretty scraped up. Adopted kids typically don’t have a sense of danger, and this mixed with impulsiveness can be a recipe for disaster.

    The key to handling this “special need” that often goes unmentioned? Patience. While my first thought was, “How does she not know better than to jerk a newborn around,” my eventual response was to extend Caroline grace and gently instruct her on some basics of newborn care. I had to remind myself that she wasn’t trying to be annoying by clapping loudly in the (sleeping) baby’s face…she was trying to find a way to engage. And she wasn’t purposely being careless when she swiftly swung her baby sister back and forth in one arm…she was trying to be a fun big sister. (After all, Grace and Carter love to be tossed and swung about.) I had to review my expectations through a filter of adoption knowledge in order to have the right perspective and the right approach to my daughter’s behavior.

    If you’re adopting an older child, be prepared for the unexpected in regards to behavior. It’s easy to think your child will have age-appropriate knowledge of manners, or social cues, or safety precautions. It’s also easy to become frustrated, perturbed, and even disappointed when your child falls short in one of these areas. Just remember that adopted kids have such limited life experience, particularly if the orphanage was their only home, that they never learned the lessons that are second nature to others. Lessons we tend to assume have already been learned. I believe this delay can be as much a special need as a medical issue, and it’s often overlooked when preparing parents for post-adoption challenges.

    My eldest child may not know all the ins and outs of newborn safety and care. But part of my role is to teach her these things. I’m learning to anticipate situations in which Caroline may be unfamiliar. What I do know is that she truly loves her baby sister and desires to help her momma. And lovingkindness and service are two traits that are much tougher to cultivate. As our family has grown, I believe Caroline has as well. Again, I feel overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.


  • April12th

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    Almost ten years ago, I returned home from a mission trip to Romania with the conviction that I would one day adopt a child.

    Along the way, God impressed the country and orphans of China upon my heart. And I would stare at photos of little Chinese girls on adoption websites, wondering what my one-day daughter might look like.

    For 3 years, I prayed that the Lord would give my husband the same passion for adoption and the readiness to leap.

    Almost 3 years ago, tears welled up as Scott told me he was ready to move forward.  I thanked God over and over again for answering my prayers.

    On October 24, 2009, we were matched with this beautiful girl, Guan Xue Hua.

    With that dimpled smile and sparkle in her eyes, she captured our hearts from halfway around the world.

    And on April 12, 2010, Guan Xue Hua became our daughter, Virginia Grace Xue Brown. I will never forget those first moments of seeing her in person.  She was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. And her fear gradually turned to trust over time. 

    Grace, you are one of the greatest joys and blessings of my life.  Your personality can light up a room. Your affection stirs up love and gratitude in my heart.  Your stubborness tells of your strength and survival skills before you reached our arms. And   we simply couldn’t imagine our lives without you.

    Happy Gotcha Day, Grace! We are forever changed because of you!

  • March24th

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    A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive an email from Stefanie (of the amazing and popular blog Ni Hao Y’all) and be asked to join the team of contributors for her site No Hands But Ours.  This site and its blog provide resources, encouragement, and support for families adopting special needs children from China.  I’ll be posting the 17th of each month. Here’s my first post (from a week ago).

    And I’ll hopefully have pics up soon from our spring break trip to Chattanooga! (Or as the littles call it, “Chagganooga.”)