Hope is Slow: The Story of Adoption (Part I)

Hope is Slow: The Story of Adoption (Part I)

I had a dream two nights ago – a vivid dream.

It felt so real that when I woke up, I stared at the ceiling for several moments, separating fact from fiction in my mind, reminding myself of where I was, who I was, and what was true.

In actuality, the dream itself was absurd. It was the likely product of extreme fatigue, an Advil PM, and the movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I’d watched with the kids the night before. But it felt like there was more to this particular dream than just absurdity.

This was the kind of dream you don’t really want to forget, so you take a few minutes to review it when you wake up, solidifying every crazy detail in your brain before your feet hit the floor.

The dream started as most dreams start – right in the middle of the action. There was no lead up, no back story, if you will. If this dream were a novel, the reader would be confused.

I was in China, on a bus. Not too strange, given the fact that we are in the final stages of a Chinese adoption.

Oh, did I forget to mention that? It’s been a while since I shared in this space.

We are about two months away from flying to China to pick up a little boy that’s been set apart as our son. We’ve passed all the necessary background checks, been vetted and scrutinized by the United States powers that be, and the Chinese. We’ve been given the stamp of approval, and now need only to clear a few more hurdles before we go pick him up.

I’m going to tell you all about the events that led us to this little boy in the next post, but for today I want to focus on the dream.

So I was in China, on a bus, and I was scared. Terrified, actually. Outside the left window of the bus, a volcano smoked and belched ash. Flecks of lava spit from the top, and the air was kind of fuzzy and hazy with heat and smoke.

Outside the right window of the bus, winds swirled and howled as a hurricane whipped its way toward us. No matter which way I turned, there seemed to be chaos, and the overall feeling inside the bus was that of impending doom. People screamed and jostled around. Nothing felt safe or secure. It felt overwhelmingly frightening.

Now, trust me when I tell you that the silliness of all this is not lost on me. Like I said, I’d watch Jurassic World the night before with the kids, so the seed of outrunning a volcano was firmly planted in my consciousness (though, to be honest, it would have been kind of cool if I’d also been outrunning dinosaurs while escaping raining lava. Chris Pratt gets to have all the fun…).

And one year ago today, we were packing up our house and heading to a shelter as Hurricane Irma barreled toward Florida. That the two natural disasters came together in a single dream is not all that far fetched.

But there was more to my terror in this dream than those two events. Something deep inside me felt unsettled, like the moors of confidence had slipped away and I myself was being swept up in the winds outside the window.

I felt panicked. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and my throat was completely dry as my head whipped side to side and people screamed around me.

Then someone handed me a baby.

He was very, very small and had a head full of thick, black hair. His twig-like arms flailed and his legs kicked as he wailed. I don’t know where he came from or who put him in my arms, but somehow I knew that I was supposed to be the one holding him.

I pulled him tight to my chest, and immediately the feeling of panic disappeared. I didn’t hear the screams or the wind or the thunder of the erupting volcano. I didn’t feel the bus bouncing, and my heart beat calmed. I stared at his face, though I couldn’t really make out any features.

For a split second, I let the sounds of what was happening around me seep back into the moment. I looked up, confused, and tried to hand the baby to someone next to me, a faceless person who took the child from my outstretched hands. As soon as I let the baby go, the feeling of panic returned, the sounds around me were deafening, and I felt an immediate sense of dread.

I reached for the child again, and he was placed back in my arms. This time, he reached up for me, and I pulled his cheek to mine. The second our skin met the noise and panic and fear subsided again.

And then I woke up.

Part II of the story coming soon.

When the Past Touches the Present

Twenty years ago, I graduated high school.

I realize I’m dating myself a bit with that revelation, but let’s face it – you all know I’m not 29 anymore. I’m not fooling anyone.


Saturday night, I walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Chesterfield, Missouri, and I saw a sea full of familiar faces. Half of those faces I couldn’t connect with a name, but thanks to Facebook not every conversation was awkward.

(Try introducing yourself to someone who says “Yeah, I know who you are. We ate lunch together every day for a year.” That’s fun.)

The entire evening was a pleasant as old friends caught up, and new connections were formed.  As the music of our youth blared over the loud speakers, we all talked like grown ups, because all of us are grown ups, and that puts us on a much more level playing field.

It’s really too bad we can’t be 38 when we graduate high school, because I have decided I like the 38 year old version of myself so much better. In fact, I liked the 38 year old version of all of us better.

I had lengthy conversations with several people who don’t share a single memory with me from those angsty high school days. In a class of several hundred, there’s bound to be several  with whom you never connect. I had vague memories of these people, but that was it.

I thoroughly enjoyed them as adults, though.

Perspective and life are the great equalizers. The social hierarchy of life is much less pronounced when you’re pushing 40. Most of us are simply trying to survive parenthood and job changes, and we’re all completely baffled by the election.

There’s no time to worry about the nonsense of our youth. How refreshing and so completely freeing. I suppose a crystal ball into the future would have been helpful 20 years ago, but probably not. One only gets to this place of freedom by walking through life.


Everything about this weekend has been a breath of fresh air. Touching home base makes a soul feel settled. From catching up with old friends to soaking in the crisp, fall air, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a weekend away in St. Louis with my daughter.

[Tweet “Touching home base makes a soul feel settled. #lifecreative”]

I even got to do my first TV interview this weekend, and how apropos that I did it in the place I call home.

My creative journey began here in the shadow of the arch. I wrote terrible poetry as a conflicted teenager who desperately wanted to fit in, but didn’t yet understand that fitting in is a nebulous concept.

I had my first taste of the Russian and Ukrainian cultures when traveling with groups outside of St. Louis.

Yesterday, I spoke to the youth at our former churchabout creativity and Christianity, and how the two blend together so nicely. It was a sweet moment to share with these grown up kids who were all so little when I moved away.

After the morning ended, I thought back on the whirlwind 48 hours I’d just experienced, and I realized that everything that is my today stems from my yesterday. And all of it connected this weekend.

I know a lot of people who desperately want to escape their pasts, and I get it. Sometimes the pain of the past is too hard to revisit.

But for many of us, revisiting the past is actually a good thing. There’s a sweet contentment that comes when we turn around and look fondly at that from which we came – the moments that shaped us, for better or worse.

We touch them and say hello, and then turn back to the present and the unknown future feeling somehow stabilized.

It’s been a wonderful weekend here in my home. But now it’s time to go home.

I’m ready, once again, for tomorrow.


If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, now is the time to do it! Click here to see the clip from my time on Great Day St. Louis explaining why you want this book.


Currently Amazon is, unfortunately, out of books. We’re trying to figure out why and what we need to do to rectify that situation. In the meantime, you can purchase the book at Barnes and Noble.com, and ChristianBook.com.

Grab your copy of Life Creative today and see why women are calling it one of the most encouraging books they’ve read this year!

Vacation, Huffington, and a WINNER!

Once upon a time, I wrote blog posts every day.


I don’t know how I did that, honestly. Life was different then. The kids were younger, most of them still napped, and our days were less dictated by sports and activities, and growing social calendars.

All that to say, I haven’t had much time lately to write. Not writing is hard for a writer. I feel like I’ve been neglecting a part of myself.


What I haven’t neglected, however, is some sweet time with this family of mine. We are in Texas for the week, holed up in a hotel (six people in one hotel room isn’t exactly a vacation, but I can’t find a better word for it…torture? No, that’s not right) while our daughter does a gymnastics camp.

Despite the cramped quarters, we’ve had some fun, and are making good memories with friends and with one another. And my brain is relishing in a bit of free time.

But it hasn’t been a totally work-free week! Before leaving, I submitted a blog post to The Huffington Post. It finally went live today. This was my response to the terrible attacks in Nice last week.

How History Can Help Our Fight Against ISIS


Now, moving on to the GOOD news!

like a river - 400

A winner was drawn this morning for the Like a River From Its Course giveaway and blog tour! Congratulations to Miranda Marchese! My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and who helped spread the word. It’s been fun to see so many new faces around Twitter and Facebook!

If you haven’t ordered your book yet, do so today! I’m blown away by the reviews and responses I’ve receive from readers. This book was a labor of love, and it holds a large piece of my heart, so hearing the impact it’s leaving on readers has blessed me so much.

Order Like a River From Its Course now and find out why people are calling it the best book they’ve ever read!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying some sweet down time with family here in the middle of summer!


Get Lost on Purpose

The building was cold. Drafty would be one way to describe it, but the word wouldn’t do it justice. The heat never worked, and the winter months dragged on. We sat at a long, white table, all bundled in our hats and coats, hands tucked into pockets in an effort to stay warm while the teacher drilled us on the Nominative case, the Genitive Case, and everything in between.

It was 1998, and I was a student at The Institute of Foreign Languages in Kiev, Ukraine. There were seven students in my Russian language class – six of them from China, and me, the blond-headed American with a love for languages and a longing for adventure.

After school we’d attempt small talk. Our only common language was Russian, so if we wanted to converse it had to be in the language we’d come there to learn. We did a lot of gesturing, and a lot of laughing. I’m sure we looked quite comical walking down the street, the Chinese and the American charading our way through Kiev.


On the afternoons when I wasn’t hanging out with my classmates, I’d explore the city on my own. My very favorite pastime was getting lost.

I got lost on purpose.

I’d walk in a new direction and take multiple turns until I didn’t quite know where I was, then I’d make myself find a way back. In my self-induced confusion, I found so many great little treasures.

I stumbled upon a tea shop on one of my wanderings. I walked inside and breathed in deep the heady scent of hundreds of different teas. Glass jars lined the wall from floor to ceiling, all of the labels written in Russian so I couldn’t quite make them out. But oh, how I enjoyed the challenge.

The owner of the shop was an older woman with bright grey hair and piercing eyes that probed my face. She found me amusing, maybe even a little annoying, and after a few attempts at speaking and realizing that my language was not strong enough to keep up with her fast speech, she left me to explore the walls on my own.

Another day, I got so turned around I could not find my way back. It was getting dark, and I was freezing cold. I was twenty, and didn’t always make the best decisions, but I did know that getting lost in a big city after dark on a cold night was a bad idea.

So I hailed a cab.

In Kiev, anyone can be a cab. Stick out your hand and anyone looking for money could swing by and pick you up. I decided to wait until I saw an actual cab car before sticking out my hand. You know, for safety.

I ended up in the car with one of the happiest, friendliest men I’ve ever met. His eyes swam with kindness. He spoke no English, but he was fluent in Spanish. My Russian language was stronger at that point, and I had a small cache of Spanish words stored in my memory from high school, so we pieced a conversation together using Russian and a bit of Spanish.

It’s been nearly eighteen years since I spent that semester in Ukraine, and even now I find that I still long for adventure. I crave that feeling of being lost.

Last year just about this time, I jetted off to Munich for a week with my dad, and on my first day there I took a walk. I turned left, then right, the left again until I was significantly turned around, and my heartbeat quickened. I was lost, and I was thrilled.

There’s beauty in wandering, and comfort in adventure. Sometimes it’s scary, not knowing where the next turn will lead you. But if you’re willing to take the ride, to seek out the treasures in the unknown path, you just may find that the unknown is the place where your soul comes alive.

[Tweet “There’s beauty in wandering, and comfort in adventure.”]

Some days, I feel swallowed up by the predictability of my life. Each day, though hectic, is relatively the same. We wake up, we have sports and school and bickering and loving, we go to bed, and we wake up and do it again.

I’m not complaining. I love my life. It’s messy and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to walk this path with anyone besides the people I’ve been given. So in the moments when I find myself longing for adventure again, I look at the unknown that stands before me.

Though my schedule may be predictable, the truth is I don’t know which direction tomorrow will lead me or my family. It’s always a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and looking for the adventure that is right now. 

Even today, it’s possible to get lost on purpose. The fun lies in exploring each new turn life throws our way.

Are you an adventure seeker? How do you find adventure in the mundane spaces of life?

How Does She…

She crawls out of bed, her feet padding lightly against the cold, tile floor. Moving almost silently past closed doorways, she holds her breath hoping that the simple increase of her heartbeat doesn’t somehow rouse the little ones from their own needed slumber.

She pulls boots onto her feet because the winter air leaves her chilled. For a brief moment, she considers crawling back beneath her warm covers, the thought of snuggling deep down into her bed wrapping itself around her in tendrils of desire.

Instead, she takes a deep breath, grabs a glass of water, tosses a longing look at the coffee pot that she can’t yet turn on for fear of waking anyone up, and she sits down. It’s time to work. This is the only time work.

And work she does.

I’ve spent the better part of the last year watching and observing how creative women merge their art with motherhood. It’s such a beautiful, messy blending together of two callings isn’t it?

In the past few months I’ve been asked several times, “How do you do it? How do you find the time to write with kids around?”

My answer? I don’t really know – I just do it.


There are so many books out there offering tips on time management. We could all probably share the many bits of advice we’ve been given or read for building a business, generating a successful brand, or creating a successful work environment. The pointers and tips are thorough, and I’ve no doubt they’re effective.

To be a writer, you must write every day.

To build a successful brand, you need to constantly engage in your arena of expertise.

A painter needs to paint, then share her work.

A baker needs to spend time in the kitchen experimenting, developing, and perfecting her craft.

Only…what about the children?

Some of us have a few sacred moments of quiet built into our days. The children head off to school, and for several blissful hours the house is quiet. That doesn’t, however, make fitting creativity in any easier because there’s still the issue of setting the time apart.

There are always a thousand things for mom to do on any given day, even with the children in school. There are field trips to chaperone, homes to clean, meals to prepare, and a myriad other things that beg of her time.

Finding the time to create takes discipline, even when the quiet hours stretch long.

Many of the creative mothers I’ve observed and spoken with in the last year, however, don’t have those extended slivers of time alone. They’re mothers of very young children, fitting art into the cracks of their days.

They’re homeschool moms piecing creativity in the crevices while the kids are at “recess”, eating lunch, or reading a book. They’re simply fitting it in where they can.

I have a book coming out later this year, co-authored with Wendy Speake, in which we offer a glimpse into the lives of these beautiful, amazing, successful creative mothers. It answers the question “How does she do it?” but even more than that, it answers “Why?”

Why do we forgo that extra hour of sleep to tap away on the computer?

Why do we slip away each day while the children are at school and put paint brush to canvas?

Why do we study the art of photography and dedicate ourselves to capturing the beauty of the world through a lens?

Why do we find joy in helping others decorate their homes, pulling together spaces that bring joy and peace?

Because the truth is we can’t really answer the question “How” without also addressing the “Why.” The two go hand in hand, and they have to be examined simultaneously.

In this present digital age, we have the ability to enter right into the living spaces of women around the world. Women are showcasing the beauty and the glory of life and art and motherhood in their online spaces, and the picture of it all is stunning. Because the truth is, it’s all art.

Life and motherhood are simply a moving picture of art – creation – and all of it an extension of the Creator.

[Tweet “Life and motherhood are a picture of creation-an extension of the Creator.”]

So it is that in the midst of all that living and mothering, women are showcasing their art, and it is worship. Every bit of it.

So how do I do it? How does she do it? How do any of us do it?

We get up, pad across the tile floor, blink the sleep from our eyes, and we give in to the call to create. There isn’t a one size fits all formula. There’s simply an acknowledgement that this is what we do. It’s life.

And all of it is art.


The Thing About Christmas

There’s this memory that sort of hovers over me every year. It floats in sometime after Thanksgiving, and grows increasingly strong until Christmas morning when it roars past me like a freight train.

Sometimes I wish I could catch the memory, maybe climb back into it, and wrap myself up in the warmth of that moment.

It was Christmas, and I was young. My brother and I burrowed beneath blankets upstairs as the winters winds of Wisconsin knocked at the window panes. It was the middle of the night, not even close to being a reasonable time to wake our parents. The clock by my bedside said 3:30. We decided to wait until 4:00 to go downstairs.

Because, obviously, 4:00 is more than reasonable. Ask my mom. She loved getting up that early.

Brett slept on the floor by my bed, and on this night (morning? No…definitely night), I was reading Ziggy to him by flashlight. I’d read the words, then show him the pictures, and we’d both snicker because, for whatever reason, we found Ziggy hilarious.

It’s very tactile, this memory of mine. I remember the darkness that wrapped around our house, the way the windows rattled now and then with the wind. I remember my toes being cold, and not really wanting to get out of bed, but so longing to see what treasures waited for us under the tree.

I remember being happy and excited. I remember feeling both cold and warm, or…maybe it’s just the memory that makes me feel warm?


Mostly I remember feeling completely at peace.

The thing about Christmas is it tends to get under your skin. There’s something about the holiday season that wraps all tight around your heart, forcing you to recall short snippets of time, replaying them like movie reels in your mind.

[Tweet “”The thing about Christmas is it tends to get under your skin.” http://www.kellistuart.com/the-thing-about-christmas/”]

I love that Christmas memory. I don’t remember the gifts we received that year. I just remember being happy in my bed, giggling with my brother, anticipating the day to come.

There’s another Christmas memory that has loped it’s way into the reel in recent years. This one, too, has been pressing down on me for the last few days, reminding me that I’m not a kid anymore, but that Christmas can still hold a particular brand of magic.

It was three years ago that I sent off our completed dossier to Russia. I’d had eleventy frillion documents tracked down, signed, notarized, and copied, and I sent the stack of paperwork as thick as my arm off with a thrill in my heart.

And the week before Christmas it all sort of unraveled. Whispers of a Russian ban on American adoptions made their way into my heart, and began to squeeze tight.

It was Christmas night, and I was up all alone. The children were in bed, the events of the day having pushed them into slumber swiftly and mercifully. Lee was asleep, too, and so I sat alone.

I curled up in front of the tree, all lit and glittery with memories old and new, and I sipped my hot tea. I thought of a little girl far away, alone and waiting for a family to choose her, and I prayed the prayer that only a mother can pray when she feels powerless to help her child. 

I’m not one to claim to have heard the voice of God often. I don’t toss that idea around lightly. But on this still night, I heard the word Wait.

In this memory that keeps flitting around my subconscious, I hear the voice audibly. I don’t believe it was quite so clear that particular night, but I do remember growing still in spirit as the message washed through me.


Tonight, we brought home our Christmas tree, and while Michael Buble´ crooned Jingle Bells in the background, we pulled out the lights and ornaments, and we dressed the spruce in our living room.

“Put the breakable ornaments up a little higher so Annika can’t get them,” I told the big kids, and they did. And all the while, Annika stood in the middle of the carpet, her eyes dancing with delight at the wonder of it all.

Three years ago last week, I put our dossier in the mail to Russia. It’s been a long wait, but tonight I felt a warmth spread quick through my soul. It’s the same feeling I get when I think of that Christmas morning in my bed with a flashlight, and a Ziggy book.

Peace. Joy. Anticipation.

The thing about Christmas is there’s always room for one more memory – another snippet to add to the reel.

And it is magic.

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