The Pursuit of Olivia

I was in Developmental Psychology, when my professor said something that caught my attention.

Adopted children can have physical, psychological, and emotional problems from early traumas in their lives, creating a variety of special needs….

And suddenly, my mind races back 7 years to when Olivia came home from China. At almost one year old, she could not even sit up. It was the result of being left in a crib in an orphanage all day- she  had no strength in her abdominal muscles. She also did not have a sucking mechanism, so we had to cut the nipples of her bottles so the formula would flow freely and she could drink. She had an extreme gag reflex, sensory issues and was very malnourished.

My teacher was right. She had many special needs.

But what God knew, was that she really only had one special need. Love. 

Olivia had never had a mother to hold her, to kiss her, to tuck her into bed at night. To love her. Olivia came to us not knowing what it meant to attach to someone, to trust a Mom and a Dad to care for you. Olivia didn’t know what it meant to be loved.

Olivia’s first bath with my parents in China.

And so my parents loved her. It wasn’t always easy. Olivia wouldn’t make eye contact with my Mom. The intimacy of eye contact was something Olivia had never experienced, something that was foreign and uncomfortable to her. But my parents pursued her. My mom would put a sticker on her nose when she went to wake Olivia up every morning & it would catch Olivia’s attention. She would make eye contact with my Mom, if only for a second. It was a start.

My parents continued to love and pursue Olivia; holding her, rocking her, feeding her, even when she resisted it. It would reduce my Mom to tears- but not once did she give up. Watching my parents pursue Olivia reminded me so much of our relationship with Christ. He loves us and pursues us, and even as we struggle and fight against Him, He holds us firmly in his arms.

And ever so slowly, Olivia began to love us too. She started to trust she would never be alone again, and my parents would provide for her needs. As she began to allow herself to be loved, and love us in return- suddenly, her other “special needs” started to disappear.

Olivia was able to sit up by herself. And within a few months- she was WALKING.

She gained weight, learned how to suck on a bottle and a straw, and her gag reflex and sensory problems got a little better.
Oh- and she started talking. Boy were we in for it ; ) Olivia has the biggest personality, and is so smart! She has memorized all our families phone numbers, and leaves us messages while we are away at school or work. She has an opinion about everything & is not afraid to show it!

Although it was difficult at times, Olivia was so beyond worth it. Watching her transform before our eyes showed us how powerful love really is.

Olivia Rose Ping Adams, the chance to pursue you is one of the biggest blessings we have been given. I don’t know what I would do without your sarcasm and goofy-ness during the day, and kisses and cuddles at night. My heart flutters every time you say “I love you” because that love wasn’t instant, but instead a beautiful process. I will forever cherish it. Oh Olivia, words cannot express how much we love you. We love you to the ends of this earth.

Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight?  
I have come so far to find you.  So far to find you.  
Will you take my love and give up the fight?  
I have come so far to find you.  So far to find you.
From a world away I’ve journeyed just to hold your hand.  You will never be alone again.
I have come so far to find you.  So far to find you.

Isabella Grace

We will never know what really happened the first two years of Isabella’s life.

But we do know what should have happened.


Isabella was born in a province in China that has one of the highest rates for female infanticide. And Isabella wasn’t just born a girl- somehow during birth, her right shoulder’s upper nerves were damaged, leaving her with a brachial plexus injury. Or, in other words, her right arm and hand were paralyzed. What could have happened, what does happen to baby girls with special needs like my precious sister Isabella, makes me tremble.

What actually happened leaves me speechless.

It is because of what did happen, that I know Isabella’s birth mother loved her deeply, passionately, unfailingly. She loved her so much, that she fought for her life. Isabella’s life did not end in tragedy, but instead she was brought safely to the gates of an orphanage, a place where she could be found, a place where she would be protected, until they day that we were so blessed, and she joined our family.

And today, Isabella has that same, passionate spirit. She is a fighter.

Isabella has been told many times in her life that she “can’t”. We were told by doctors at a very prestigious hospital she would never gain much movement in her right arm and hand. But she proved them wrong. She can now move her pointer finger and thumb, hold onto items, and lift her arm up to her shoulder. She has excelled in karate, ballet, and swimming. Nothing stops her.

Isabella after her surgery, still smiling!

Isabella is hilarious! From her “faces” to the many funny things she says, it’s not uncommon for her to have our entire family rolling on the floor laughing.

Isabella loves Jesus. Another one of her proudest accomplishments was learning how to fold her hands to pray. You will never hear a sweeter prayer than the precious ones Bella says. (She also insists the entire family bow their head, one by one, as she calls out each persons name.)

Isabella loves to dress up. Isabella is one rough & tumble girl- but she would much rather run around outside in a poufy princess dress, high heels, and a tiara. Her current goal is to be a “mermaid princess” when she grows up. I wouldn’t put it past her.

One of the most amazing things I have been blessed to witness is how Isabella came to love and trust our Dad. Isabella immediately attached to Mom. But the first few days in China she was a little wary of Dad, never letting him get too close. Then slowly she would let him play with her, then let him take care of her, and today? Isabella is a complete daddy’s girl, and they are best friends. It’s adorable.

Isabella, you are light. You light up a room, you light up my heart, you light up our entire families life. You have taught me so many lessons lessons on perseverance, strength, courage, and joy. We love you more than you can ever imagine, and cannot believe God blessed us with the incredible gift that is you!

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with Discomfort
At easy answers, half–truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart

May God bless you with Anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with Tears
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough Foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in their world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.