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!


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