Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the transformation continues...

Here are a few of my school boys. Don't you think I should be able to get them to look at the camera at the same time?
The bus will be here soon. Let's get zipped up!

Backpack on. Ready to go!

OK, doesn't this look like he's ready to take off walking?

Looking good, huh? Honestly, he's leaning against big brother's leg. But with his new SureSteps he's got good stability and balance!! One of these days...

These boys are true miracles. I can't even comprehend it sometimes. When I get them out of bed each morning I have to just say "Wow!" Thank you, Lord!
It would have been frighteningly easy for us to have said no to adoption. We couldn't afford it. We already had our hands full. The travel was nearly impossible.
We could have missed out on these unfolding miracles.
I'm so happy we said yes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Set your alarm...

I'm very happy to report that three children with Down Syndrome have been adopted from Theo and Zhen's old orphanage in Eastern Europe over the past three months. One came home in November, one in December and one just last week!

Here's more good news! Four more children (three with DS) will, God willing, be rescued from there, from a bleak future in the next six weeks or so. Pray for the Burman and Karol families as they make their way across the globe to redeem their precious children.

But, all is not well. Four little children are stuck. Four families are, too. They are in desperate need of prayer support TONIGHT. Tonight - while we sleep - around 2:00 am or later - the judge in their region of an Eastern European country will be deciding whether court dates will be given to two of the families - the Davis family, adopting Kirill and the Hook family, adopting Eva. I learned yesterday that NO CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME HAS EVER BEEN ADOPTED FROM THIS REGION.



I'll be setting my alarm for 2 a.m.

You can read the back story, as told by my friend Julia, HERE.

All four of these little ones are in the same region of an Eastern European country (not the same as Aaron's). Four children trapped in a system that won't let them go. Why? Because last year a woman in Tennessee decided to send back the son she had adopted. She put him on a plane, alone, to his country of origin. It was the worst kind of scandal. It made national headlines and all those in the adoption world quaked in fear because it had the potential to topple a house of cards in Eastern Europe. Fortunately for most, the worst did not happen and adoptions continued.

But not for these four families - their adoptions came to a screeching halt. Why? Because their children were in the SAME REGION where that child was returned. The officials there were hurt and angry. It horrified all involved and the judge, in outrage, put a moratorium on adoptions. Closed door. The families have been forced to wait. The children stuck in an unforgiving system. Three of the families did get to go meet their little ones. But they can't bring them home. They have prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed.

And things have moved. Slowly but surely.

And these four families are holding their breath - hoping - gasping - praying that the walls really will come down. Over the coming weeks, the judge, who finally agreed to lift the moratorium, is supposed to be issuing court dates for these families. Oh the joy unspeakable. But they are scared and weary of broken promises. They need us. They have increased their praying. They have committed to fasting and praying until they receive those dates. Will you pray with them? Consider fasting alongside them?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Please. Don't forget...

Please don't forget about Masha. I was unable to get updated photos of her so far this month. I may have another opportunity next month. She's special. Take my word for it! Pray for a family for her!

And don't forget to chip-in a little to her adoption grant. The money goes directly into her Reece's Rainbow account. You can give with confidence knowing that Reece's Rainbow has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in child specific grants to assist adopting families over the past 4 years.

Look at the latest cute giveaway item! It is a crocheted earflap hat in a popular Eastern European country's flag colors (light blue and yellow, with a white band) with a small embroidered RR rainbow-like decoration on the front. It is a toddler/small child size and made of acrylic yarns to avoid allergies and for ease in washing-handwash.

How sweet is that little hat?!

With six giveaway items and six contributors, your chances are good, huh? Again, one name in the hat for each $5 and once again if you share about sweet little Masha on your blog. :) Thanks!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Guess who?

Can you guess whose little piggies these are? Aren't they sweet and perfectly yummy?

They belong to my little lovey, Theo. Of course. :)

Theo now tips the scales at 20 pounds 9 ounces in his nicest jammies. So lets just call it 20 pounds. That means that he has gained 7 pounds in the past 5 months. He has grown three inches in height. He has gained 1 inch in head circumference.

Let's put that weight gain into perspective. He has gained as much weight in the last five months as he gained in his first four years.

I call that astounding. A miracle.

New adventures start this week...pre-school!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Word! Word! I have word!!

Do you ever have a memory that is so sweet, but far away...and you start to question it? Was she really that beautiful? Did it really happen that way? Did it ever happen at all?

There have been people who have disappeared from my life and they are so far gone that it almost seems that they never existed. And there are memories that are so sweet and lovely that I'm sure I'm romanticizing them in my mind.

Masha. My beautiful, sweet Masha. I have word about Masha. God willing I will have some new photos of her soon.

She exists! And she really is beautiful. I now have independent confirmation. :) Look what I found in my email this morning:

She is beautiful - absolutely beautiful. I don't know ifshe is walking but she is able to stand by her self in her crib. They fed her a bottle - so not sure if she is spoon fed too????? But she is so little - I can't believe her age! But this was surely her!! Her hair is still shaved :( I wanted to pick her up so bad, it is so hard to hold back. Her sleeping crib is right across from Anna's - so the two were both standing just looking at each other - Priceless!!!!
Please consider Masha. Share her story. There is no future for her in Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Listen up...

One thing about the orphanage that you might have heard about but you wouldn't really expect to be so very true is this: it's eerily quiet. Walking down the hall you might not even believe that there are really bunches of children living in the building.

Maybe it has something to do with the construction techniques used in Eastern Europe. Every building I saw was built of concrete or stone. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that crying is not rewarded with attention. Theo and Zhen do not cry to get my attention. They sit quietly in their beds when they wake in the morning. Makes me a little sad.

Theo's grouppa was very quiet. Honestly, only one or two children were ever up and about at any one time. Even Zhen's grouppa was mostly silent, even with three or four children up and "playing" (sitting and staring into space). I often wondered why no music or TV programs? At least one other family has reported that educational TV programs were played for their child's grouppa. Those were different groups of children though.
Though I believe Theo has a profound hearing loss, I noticed that he lays his head on those annoying toys that have sirens and honking sounds. He lays on them and smiles. And smiles. He also calms when I sing close to his ear. He will press his head into my mouth as I sing to him.
I don't want him to live in silence. I feel like he is, in a way, still locked up if he cannot hear. In an effort to give him something more interesting to listen to than a firetruck siren I broke out some headphones tonight.
What would be good for him to listen to? How about one of the Bach Inventions? Yes! So I sat him on my lap, started the music and placed the headphones on him. Well, of course he immediately threw up on me! No biggie. Happens all the time. We finished the song before getting cleaned up. haha!

Whoa! What's that I hear? When he finds something that he can actually hear his eyes fill with wonder! I LOVE it! We will have to make this a habit for certain.

I know there are plenty of hearing impaired people who live full and happy lives. But hearing things makes Theo sooooooo happy! I can't wait until next Monday when I find out for certain how much, or little, he hears. Then we will know how to help him even more. No more living in silence.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I've got no new photos to share tonight. Sorry! I just have some good news to share before I hit the hay...

Theodore has a sedated procedure at the super large regional children's hospital next Monday. For all sedated procedures a child must have a physical exam completed within 30 days prior. We had to cancel this procedure last month when Theo caught a cold. Boo! So his physical expired by a week or so.

Today I took him in for his repeat physical exam and found that he has finally broken twenty pounds!! He was 20 pounds 9 ounces in his nicest, warmest pair of jammies.

Since September he has grown three inches in height. His head circumference has grown by one inch. His growth charts are skyrocketing!

I'm so thankful to God. Thankful for preserving Theo's life for the first four years. Thankful for access to medications and nutrition to help him with catch-up growth.

Goodness! At the rate he is growing he may actually be ON the growth charts by his next birthday!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy! Hurting. Hopeful!

Happy! Happy birthday sweet Zhenya!

We must have sung the birthday song a hundred times to him today. I hope that he enjoyed all of us singing to him. We'll have his party in a couple of days when daddy is home to share in our joy.

Hurting. Yes, certainly. Zhenya had a rough day for one thing. Every now and again some orphanage behaviors pop up and surprise us. Just when we think we are smooth sailing. What is it about orphanage life that harms children so? It hurts me that he lived that way for so long. He cannot tell me what is the matter. Not with words anyway.

And I'm wondering about Zhenya's birth parents. Are they hurting today, too? Do they remember the day their 2nd son was born? How could they forget? Do they know that he was adopted? Do they know he is now an American citizen?

As always, I have more questions than answers.

And I'm hurting for Masha who turned four years old today, too. Dear sweet, tiny Masha. No cake for her. No ice cream. No joyful singing. Just a day like any other day, except...

Now that she is four years old, she could be transferred to the mental institution at any time. How is that for a happy birthday?

Hopeful. I'm hanging on the the hope that, although I have no idea if this is how it really works, many children have been adopted from Masha's baby home over the past 9 months. At least nine that I know about. Perhaps there is room for Masha to stay in the baby home a bit longer? Perhaps she will still be there when her family arrives?

Hopeful. I'm hopeful that we will find a family for her very soon. With a $5,000 grant and the money we raise with her giveaway this month and another possible large donation in the works my hopes are high, indeed!

Won't you help me honor Zhenya's 4th birthday by making a $4 (or more!) donation to Masha? Help us seal the deal for her and make 2011 the year she came home to her forever family!! Cash is fine...donations made by check can be made payable and mailed to:

Reece’s Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

Or, you can quickly and easily donate through the chip-in, where the money goes straight to her account with Reece's Rainbow.

Remember I am giving away Crazy Love, a beautiful Lia Sofia necklace, pretty silver earrings, funky cool bracelets, and a taggy sensory blankie. Your name goes in the hat once for each $5 you gift and one more time if you share about this giveaway on your blog. Please...share this and leave me the link in the comments section.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More items and more good news!

Thank you Dara, for donating these beautiful earrings to give away for Masha. Aren't they pretty?
Dara is a preschool teacher in Wisconsin. She moved to the USA from Sweden 5 years ago. Back in Sweden she worked as a special education teacher for children with Down Syndrome. Thank you, Dara!

Here is a cute little taggy blankie from Shelly in Texas. Shelly and her family adopted three children with Down Syndrome from Eastern Europe about a year ago. They are adopting again and will soon be traveling to meet their two new girls. One of the girls lives in the same group of children as Masha!

Shelly has lots of these awesome sensory blankets to sell, but she has donated one for me to give away for Masha. If your name is drawn you can choose, OK?

God is so good!! He has moved many hearts to contribute to this giveaway project. He knows how much I love her and want her to possess the love of a family. He also knows how frustrated and overwhelmed and shattered my heart can be.

The need is so incredibly great for orphans in Eastern Europe. Families are getting ready to travel and are thousands of dollars short on funds. Beautiful, worthy children are being transferred to hopeless institutions. They are living, and dying, with unrepaired heart defects and other untreated medical conditions. They are abused, alone, and unloved.

I was feeling particularly low this morning. I didn't want to go to church, but of course I did go. And God met me there. Among lots of other things, I realized that I have not yet sacrificed to the point of shedding a single drop of blood. And I may never have to. I can carry this pain in my heart and still have joy.

So I wasn't a bit surprised later in the day when I checked my email that Masha now has...ta-DA!!...a $5,000 adoption grant fund. Five. Thousand. DOLLARS!! And then, almost immediately, I got an encouraging phone call from a friend who knows where I've been and where I'm coming from. Thank you, dear friend! Thanks be to God! What would I do without you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

More pretty items to give away!

Good things are happening for Masha. Just believe me when I tell you this! Today I received these two beautiful bracelets in the mail from Ann to give away for Masha.

Can I just tell you a little bit about Ann? She is in the process of adopting a beautiful little girl from Eastern Europe. Ann is in a pickle. She just found out that she needs to raise 100% of the money for her program BEFORE she can travel to see her girl. She needs our help, too. Read her plea HERE.

I have found a group of the most generous people on the face of the earth. They don't have a lot. Many are desperately raising funds for their own adoptions. Some are digging out from under recently completed adoptions. Some are dreaming of the day that they can finally adopt a child. Whatever the case, they understand the power of giving sacrificially. It amazes me. And it warms my heart!

Aren't these two bracelets cute together? I'm so pleased to add them to my list of items to give away for Masha. Check out all the other pretty bracelets HERE and help support Ann's adoption.

Here's a completely gratuitous photo of my Theodore. Those cheeks are really chubbing out. Doesn't he look good? Minus the scratch on the forehead, of course.

When you are just learning how to get around and play, boo-boos happen. It's so sweet to see him learning what toys are for. Ruby is so patient with him.

I hope that Masha will find a sister as loving and fun as Ruby! More photos HERE.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

With love, from Sarah...

It's always encouraging when our children "get it." At Sarah's age I had no clue about orphans or children with special needs. Here is a message I received from her this week:

I am 12 years old, and I have a heart for helping others, especially orphans. I am the new and proud big sister of a sweet little boy, Elijah, who just came home from Theo and Zhen's former orphanage in Eastern Europe. I was on a mission trip to EE earlier this summer, and I would LOVE to go back. I love to crochet and I am raising money for orphans on my blog by selling my handmade items ( Right now I'm raising money for Eddie. He is in Elijah's former groupa and isn't treated very well. I hope to raise enough money so that his forever family will step up and bring him home.

This is a necklace I got for Christmas, and I would like to donate it to Masha if you would like it. I just followed you, but I have been looking at your blog for awhile. Just let me know! We will be happy to ship it out to whoever wins it.


Lia Sophia Pearlette Necklace - Retail $48

Thanks Sarah! Thanks for donating the lovely Lia Sophia necklace to raise money for Masha. Thanks for your heart. Thanks for loving the "least of these."

I hope that you will visit Sarah's blog and purchase some of her adorable handmade bath mitts, baby hats and more. And don't forget to chip-in a little for Masha and you might be the winner of a beautiful pearl necklace!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

This is what...

Not that we are perfect, or even that great, but we are family. My children...

Minus Ruby who really needed a nap. :(

This is what I want for Masha! And for all the other children who are loney, unloved, neglected, starved, sick, scared, hurting, abused, and so on.

More giveaway items are coming in. I'm afraid I may have more giveaways than contributors! Eeek! God's got it though. I know lots of people like Masha. I just wonder why she is still waiting for a family?

They must not know about her yet.

Let's fix that, ok?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thank you!

Thank you Jenni for being the first to contribute to Masha's fundraiser! And to think that you are in the process of raising funds for your own adoption. I'm really blown away by the generosity of the families I have "met" through Reece's Rainbow and adoption in general. You know who you are and you are so precious.

Also, I have received several offers for additional giveaway items. Yay!! I'll give more details here when I pin them down. Isn't that great?! I'd almost rather give away a bunch of small items than one big thing. More happy people, right? I'm hoping to come up with 31 different items, one for each day of January.

When there is a big job to get done around our house I always tell my children, "many hands make light work." That's the whole point behind a chip-in type fundraiser. Thanks for lending a hand!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Birthdays

Thank you for all the kind comments about Zhen and Theo. Since I see them everyday it is difficult to notice the incremental changes in them. Only by looking back can I see the enormity of the changes.

In a little over a week Zhen will have his 4th birthday. His first birthday as a part of our family. What a happy day it will be for him!! If he had not been made a part of our family he would be facing a move - transfer to a home with even less to offer than a poorly funded orphanage. In that region, transfers typically occur on or soon after a special needs childs' 4th birthday.

The institution. Mental hospital. Internat. Different names for the same place, which is no place for any child.

There is another child who shares a birthday with Zhen. Born on the very same day, in the same region of an Eastern European country, they ended up in the very same grouppa in the very same orphanage. It won't be a happy birthday for her.

My Masha. In my heart, she is mine. I love her. LOVE. HER.

Have I told you how she would buzz over to meet me each day in her little walker? Have I told you about her bright smile and cheerful nature? In my head I can imagine her with pigtails! She is a little ray of sunshine. A little ray of sunshine who will soon lose everything and everyone she has every known. She'll find herself in a place much like you will read about HERE. Unless...

I feel so helpless. I'd go back for her in a heartbeat but I can't just yet. She needs another family to step forward for her, and quickly. I can raise awareness and I can raise money, right? But I have no iPad, iPhone, Kindle or any other fancy gadget to give away. How can I create enough excitement to prompt people to give without a huge giveaway item? Can it be done?

All I have is a crazy love. My love for God. My love for Zhen and Theo. My love for Masha. Crazy. So I'm going to give away a copy of this book by Francis Chan. The message of Crazy Love had a huge impact on me and my desire to adopt special needs children.
On January 31, I'll randomly draw a winner from the list of contributors to Masha's grant fund chip-in. One chance for each $5. I'll throw your name in the hat again if you also share about Masha on your blog. Please help me get the word out about this little gem of a girl. Do I have to beg? I will! Just leave the link in the comment section.

I know. It's crazy to think that I could raise $20k for Masha. I'm so busy with the new boys and their needs and the rest of my large family right now. The truth is I can't do it. Alone, I can't. With God's help, anything is possible. :) Will you be a part of this?

PS - I hope to add more items to give away on January 31. If you have an item you would like to donate or a fantastic idea email me at Thanks!

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