In Adoption

Adoption Fundraiser


“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” – Radical by David Platt

Everything has changed for our family. We are doing all we can to bring our Levi home as soon as possible. If you are interested in supporting our adoption financially, we have 2 options to do so. One is tax deductible, which is helpful this  time of year, the other is a t-shirt/notepad fundraiser. Both links are below!


Hello friends and family!

We are so close to bringing our  little guy home, looks like we will be boarding a plane for China the first week of January! We’re launching 2 options for giving to our adoption fund:



As many of you know we have been on our adoption journey since we first saw Levi’s face on our agency’s advocacy page a year ago. Our journey to bring him home included hosting him in our home this summer for 2 glorious (but way too short) weeks.

Many of you bought gingerbread cookies last December to help us cover the expense of hosting and have purchased jewelry from our Noonday fundraiser, we are so thankful for that support. We also have been so encouraged by your prayers for us as there have been many ups and downs, and long waits for files, approvals, etc.

We are finally at the point in our adoption where bringing him home is on the horizon. We are beyond grateful that thus far we have been able to cover our expenses, which have totaled close to $20,000, but as we embark on the last portion of our process we would love your support financially, as we have only covered half of what our total adoption will cost.

We hope that by inviting you into this process, you will see yourself as part of bringing Levi home.

Any donation made HERE will be tax deductible, which can be helpful this time of year for those looking for ways to increase charitable donations.  AdoptTogether is a project of Hoping Hearts Foundation Inc, an IRS approved 501c3 organization.  There is no charge for our family to create a fundraising profile. A 5% transaction cost is deducted from all donations. The 5% covers costs incurred processing credit cards and transaction costs to process checks. If you prefer to make a contribution to our family’s adoption by check, you can email Darby at darby613(at)gmail(dot)com.

With sincere gratitude,

Justin, Darby, Morgan, Paige, and John Martin Stickler

In Adoption/ Faith/ Life

Grace Abounds

Hong Yi we love you! from Darby Stickler on Vimeo.

Well here goes nothing! Today, Orphan Sunday, seems like a perfect day to post a little bit about our adoption journey. The internet tells me it has been 5 years and 4 months since I last wrote a blog post. That feels like a really long time, if I were sum up these last few years, my current mantra of “grace abounds” would be a perfect summary of the last 5 years. I recently told my Instagram friends that I would answer all the questions from last weeks post in the comment section, however, after reading the questions, I realized each question needed more than just a few word reply. To avoid coming down with what I call carpal thumbal from trying to type all the answers on my iPhone with my two thumbs, I am here, dusting off my old corner of the internet.

Before I start answering these questions I want to reiterate that we have little to no idea what we are doing 😉 … remember, God does not call the equipped, he equips the called. That’s what we simply are: called. I am not qualified to give advice. We don’t even have our precious son yet. But this is our story, our experience and my prayer is that God will use it for his glory, and perhaps encourage someone out there to adopt, because it’s not anywhere near as scary as it feels, although, I’ve not done it yet, so take that with a grain of salt. 😉 Matt Chandler says, “Where the ideal is lacking, grace abounds”. This applies to every aspect of our adoption, to me the epitome of ‘the ideal lacking’ is an orphaned child. Our family is not ideal, we are sinners clinging to the cross and trusting the truth of the Gospel. On our own accord, without our Savior, we are capable of nothing, but by the grace of God, we are saying, show us what you have for us through this… and we already know, his grace abounds.

Here’s what y’all asked on Instagram….

  • How did your older children handle it all when you first started to bring up the idea of adoption? And brutal honesty… was there ever any “jealous of attention” moments? Comparable to when a sibling is born? Sorry if these are too superficial for you to answer!

Not too superficial at all… you name it, we’ve thought about, worried about, prayed about it, and probably worried about it some more. Our concerns and anxieties ran higher primarily before he came; because let’s be honest, usually worrying/thinking about something is 100x worse than actually living it out! Adoption  literally has “ALL THE FEELS”.  The kids never voiced any concerns or jealousy about adoption. They’re all old enough to understand what an orphan is and understand that they have what he doesn’t. That’s not to say, once he’s home that  we won’t have bouts of jealousy or frustration that our lives will have to adjust greatly because he’s with us. If anything, it is such a powerful reminder that the world does not revolve around us! And to die (to ourselves) is to gain. When Levi was here with us this summer there was no jealousy. We tried to desperately soak up every minute we had together because we knew 2 weeks would pass in the blink of an eye. Overall, we have seen our children live out the gospel, to love the least of these, and to exhibit compassion towards their brother. Does it require sacrifice on their part? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. The honest truth is… it has grown the kids, it has changed them, encouraged them, it has given them grace and compassion and broken their hearts for the things that break God’s.

  • So happy for you guys! ❤️ When Levi came to visit, was this to see if he was a good match for your family? Do they often do this? Did he understand what was going on? I was just curious. ????

In November of 2016, just after Thanksgiving, JM and I  were laying in bed, Justin was in the shower, and I  was doing my usual Facebook feed scroll when I came across an  album from Cradle of Hope adoption agency in Silver Spring,  Maryland. It was an album a friend had shared and it was a compilation of bios on about 15 waiting children from China, accompanying each child’s bio was a video. These were all special needs children that were available for a winter hosting program that was actually cancelled shortly thereafter. I’ve learned, with adoption, you have to roll with the punches, and there are a lot of punches. Fortunately, my friend who shared the post of children looking to be matched, had also hosted and adopted through the same program, so I quickly shot a few texts off to her to ask a few questions about what hosting meant. In a nutshell, the intention of our agency (and any agency offering hosting programs) was to “host with the intention of adopting”. So what piqued my interest quickly escalated (in about 3 minutes) from a 2 week commitment to a lifelong commitment. Ultimately, my longstanding dream of adopting was staring me in the face and if we didn’t act, someone else would host and adopt this sweet boy they called “Levi”. JM and I watched Levi’s video over and over again and envisioned what life would be like if he was in our family. Justin got out of the shower and I introduced him to his new son,  Levi. 😉 I also set him on Justin’s background screen and lock screen and proceeded to text him pictures of him several times a day. Levi is actually the name our agency gave him. Each Chinese child is given an English name to make referring to them much easier. In our case, it just so happened that we loved his name, which means “bound in harmony”.  (continued below in next question)

So to answer the question more directly, ‘was it to see if he was a good fit for our family’? The purpose and intent of hosting programs are to match children with families. All children listed in hosting programs are “special focus”, which in the adoption world, is one step above “special needs”. Meaning these children are less adoptable, usually due to age, disability or illness. When we applied to host him last November, we committed to adopting him. There was no “let’s see if he is a good fit”. We were fully committed to adopting him from the beginning. However, several of the children hosted were being hosted by  families committed to advocating for them, and helping them find their forever families. The sad reality is, some children, due to age, or special needs are harder to match with families. Hosting programs have great success with matching these children.

Since we began our journey a year ago there have been 2 rounds of law changes from China and unfortunately, the hosting programs have been cancelled. I have so many mixed emotions on this, but I will save my thoughts on that for another post. 

  • Were you and Justin on the same page/equally committed to adoption throughout your journey?

I started praying about and exploring adoption when Morgan was born, 13 years ago. Back then the best resource for adoption was “message boards”, which really  makes me laugh. Over the years I have followed friend’s adoptions through blogs and Facebook. Justin and I have casually discussed adoption. We had a very transitional season in our lives that took us away from our home for 4 years (5 years for Justin) to Orange Beach while Justin was on the oil spill response, that season kept a lot of things on hold. I always thought that foster care would be vessel  to adopt, it seemed less scary to me. However, the Lord clearly had other things in mind. Justin was not surprised by my introduction of his son to him. And within a day or two, he said, “let’s do it!” 

  • I never knew you could adopt boys only girls. Is this something new for China?

Chinese orphanages are actually filled with boys and girls. From Holt International adoption agency website: Twenty years ago, the children coming home from China looked very different from those coming home today. They were almost all healthy infant girls! Most children now living within China’s social welfare system have some degree of medical or developmental condition. They are between the ages of 2-13, and to many families’ surprise, they are about 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys. Most children are under age 5 at the time of placement.

  • Congratulations, so happy for your sweet family! I’ve got a non-adoption question…where did you get that gorgeous blue top? ????

The blue shirt came from Ross (Dress for Less) 😉

  • I feel so much a part of your journey as I prayed for Levi along with prayers for our girl! What area is he from?

Levi is in Northwest China, which seems to be a less commonly traveled to section of China. He is in Lanzhou, Gansu Province

  • Will you call him Hong Yi or Levi? How did y’all decide on China?!

We decided on China when we saw his precious face and fell in love with him, he just so happened to be in China. We will likely call him Hong Yi for a while, that is what we called him when he was home earlier this summer. And within a few weeks, we will transition to Levi.

  • Can’t imagine the excitement your family must be feeling…Would like to know about where he is now? Does China have orphanages similar to what the US had before the current foster system? Would love to hear his story of how he ended up in the orphanage.

China has so many orphanages and hundreds of thousands of orphans. I am not familiar with what US orphanages were like before foster care, but I imagine there are some similarities. Levi’s story is sad and personal. What I will say, is what most of these children have experienced is completely heart breaking and unimaginable. Regardless of how they got to the orphanage, they lack the love, affection  and stimulation that parents give babies/toddler/children, and this creates obvious deficits for them all. 

  • ???? blessings abound!!! I recall you shared a book that you read before or maybe it was during the journey…. am I making that up? Would love to know the title!

We’ve read several books and completely endless hours of online International adoption training. A few of the books that come to mind first are: The Connected Child, Adopted for Life, The Bridge that Love Built, and You Belong Here. We are in a busy season of life and I’ve not been able to read near as much as I would like to. Please leave your adoption book recommendations here in the comments or on Instagram!


Will try to post again soon!

xo Darby



Thank you Marla Carter for these priceless photographs. We will  treasure them for a lifetime!

And thank you Kim Hilliard for compiling our video, it too is a treasure to our family!


152 In Life

Not Giving Up!

Hello my long lost friends, I’ve been held captive by life & thankfully all is well!

JM is officially a big rover… and now that he’s 4 I hope to not see faces like this anymore!


It has been far too long since I’ve been here. I don’t think its even possible to bring the blog up to speed, but I’ll do my best! Those who have checked in, thank you for doing so! Life is good. Life is busy. And as many of you know… life goes by way too fast. I don’t want my children to look back on their childhood and picture me behind a computer. I think I’ve told y’all that we haven’t had cable television here at the beach for over a year, but we’ve also not had a phone line or high speed internet. Which has certainly helped cut back on my computer time drastically, which I feel certain is for the better. If you’d like to cut back on your computer time, just turn off your internet! 🙂 We use our cell phones as “hot spots” to access the internet and while it’s convenient, it’s not that practical for everyday use. Especially if you run a web-based business and write a blog. Our cell phone internet is SLOW, like slower than dial up… uploading pictures takes FOREVER! It’ll make you either want to not open your computer or throw it out the window. I’ve dropped in the public library from time to time to do some high speed surfing and it’s lightening fast… I’ve almost forgotten what a fast connection is like!

I’m here to report the kids are BIG. They are such precious blessings to us, each with their own spunky personality. They keep us on our toes, asking good questions and making us laugh all the time. It has truly been a treat to step away from the computer and be able to invest that time with them. They enjoyed their schools here at the beach, made knew friends and learned so much! Just as school was out for the summer we did VBS at the brown house {not literally} and we did VBS here at the beach. I taught the upcoming Kindergarteners here at the beach and have a renewed appreciation for school teachers & VBS teachers! Whew! There were 21 4 & 5-year-olds in my group and they about did me in. I came home everyday, made lunch and crawled in bed as soon as JM was down for his nap. It was a good & it was hard!

We are still living at the beach and love being here, it is the beach after all! Like I’ve said before, I’d be amiss if I didn’t admit that it’s complicated. We have a home, friends, family, a church, and I have a business 3 & 1/2 hours from us and we are trying to juggle both while maintaining sanity and stability for our kids {& ourselves}. We travel back the brown house about once a month and it still feels like “home” to us, even though we are just visitors breezing in and breezing out. If we knew the duration of our stay here on the coast the obvious decision would be to relocate here while the job is here, but Justin was hired almost two years ago for a 3-month duration… and those 3 months are looking more like 3 years everyday. This “unknown time frame” is not the fault of anyone, just the nature of a massive oil spill and its ripple effects that last for years.

Before sitting down to write this post I went to grab my camera bag {with camera, hard drive, & cords} and quickly realized I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m sure hoping it’s at the brown house! So for today it will be all phone pictures {that unfortunately look a little grainy}! In a nutshell we’ve been: celebrating birthdays, riding bikes, fishing, hosting friends, hitting the pool, hitting the trail, playing softball, seeing family, sneaking in boat & island time, traveling to see friends & family, and doing our best to soak up sweet summertime before it’s over!

All of these are from Instagram {darby613 if you’re so inclined to follow along there}. If you put your mouse on the pictures below a little caption will pop up, officially called a “mouse over”. Thank you Auburn University’s Marketing on the Internet course that I took in 2001. Hugh Guffey would be proud, maybe.



Really neat tracing pads from the sweet girls at Trio Design Studio… a long overdue THANK YOU! We love them! They have provided hours and hours of entertainment for the children!


















If you didn’t know, my twin sister is a total rockstar! She’s been super busy these last few months and all her hard work on the Coastal Living Ultimate Beach house has paid off! It’s open through October in Rosemary Beach, FL and it’s simply amazing. She is so incredibly talented and the house shows that. So very proud of her! This picture was taken the night of the opening party and we all had a wonderful time!!




That kind of brings me up to speed on family life! I will try not to be such a stranger and as soon as I get my paws on my camera bag and hard drive I’ll fill you in some more! And I’ve got a couple recipes to share as well!

My dear friend Lindsey is holding down the fort back at Honey Bee Tees and keeps me in line as best she can. Thank you for your continued support of Honey Bee Tees despite my major lack of blog activity. The good news {for you} is that we have oodles and oodles of inventory {including super cute dresses, new designs & new colors} and it’s time to move some out and make way for fall. So here’s a little something that I think will help! Code: SUMMER30 at checkout to save 30% through Saturday {7/14/12} at midnight!

{ps- word went out on Facebook about the sale first, be sure to follow us there to be in the loop!}

I truly hope to not be such a stranger!