November 12, 2015

...One is silver, and the other gold.


If there were ever a nugget of wisdom I want to impart on my girls, it is this: good friends are a great treasure.

And, let me be clear. I'm not talking about facebook friends. I'm not talking about friends who place pressure on you to be someone or something you aren't. I'm not talking about friends who keep score.

I'm specifically speaking to authentic, love-you-as-are girlfriends.

Make it a point to find them. You may meet when you're three or when you're thirty. Age is inconsequential.

Because, I've learned something recently. There is a secret to being a good mom and a good wife. It's simple: be a good friend. 

Have someone on speed dial who will listen as you cry or laugh with you as you relay the latest antics in your home. There is something therapeutic about sharing your struggles with someone who understands simply because she has been there. She knows of the struggle of the very long days and the very short years of mothering. She knows of the struggle to balance work and motherhood. She knows of the pressure of perfection. She knows of the struggle of surrendering control.

Spend time away from the pressures of everyday life with your girlfriends.

Stepping away from the world with real friends will renew your soul. Let go of guilt about leaving. You need time away to laugh so hard your cheeks hurt. You need time away to remember who you were before you grew up and had little people depending on you. You need to cry together and encourage one another and ask hard questions and speak truthful words. You need one another.

When you find the girls who have seen you at your worst and loved you through the dark days, who have laughed with you on your best days and who have celebrated the joyful days alongside you, TREASURE them. Pray for them. Remind them of how deeply they have enriched your world.

Recognize the gift of friendship and don't ever doubt the importance of the influence these girls have had in your life.

The words I sang as a six-year-old ring ever true, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." 

I spent this past weekend away with some of my greatest treasures. These girls are such blessings. And, yes. That is a giant photo on a stick of Brianna. She couldn't be there with us and we didn't want her to miss out on any of the fun. We sent her pictures throughout the weekend of all the fun "she was having" with the hope that silly photos would help ease the sting of sadness from missing this time together. 

November 3, 2015

Seeking Restoration. {plus, 3 pirates and a puppy}.

Last night, we gathered in our little farmhouse, here in a little town tucked into the northern corner of Arkansas, to dream together about pursuing restoration for lives across the globe.

Honestly, this is all a little surreal.

When Dave and I said that first hesitant yes to adoption all those years ago, we had no idea that God was setting into motion a plan to would bring together a tribe of justice seekers poised to impact communities in central Africa.

This morning, as I reflected on the evening and on the work that has led to this point, I just sat in awe.

I could share dozens of examples of how God provided every dollar for our feeding program, how He brought people into our lives to mentor and guide and partner and how He is aligning hearts and details to create long-term change in this country and for these people we have come to love.

When I opened my computer this morning aiming to share all He has done and is currently doing, I stared at an empty screen for some time seeking the right words.

Then, to distract myself, I started uploading photos from trick-or-treating the other night.

As I looked through the photos of my little munchkins and reminisced on the fun of that night, I felt a sudden swell of emotion. You guys. God LOVES seeing His kids running to discover the amazing treats waiting for us behind each new door. Treats including authentic community and passionate worship. Treats including serving the least of these and watching the Kingdom unfold right here on earth. He laughs in delight as we experience his absolute best for us.

I imagine God sat on the precipice of Heaven last night, captivated as He watched his beloved kids wrestle through hard questions and share painful stories. Listening with a broad smile as we offered prayers of thanksgiving and sincere pleas for wisdom. In the same way I gush with pride and intense love as I watch my children discover their distinct giftings, I believe He relishes the moments when we come together to seek His unique call on our lives.

And, you know what else I've learned? Even when we are the midst of an unfolding of God's plans, we can pause and soak up the joy of the sweet moments of this life. Including silly holidays and costumes and shrieks of laughter.

Interested in learning more about our work in the Congo? I'd love to share more about how our ministry is evolving and how you can get involved. Comment here or email me at to learn more! 

October 29, 2015

Hope for Kids from Hard Places {Part Two}

I'm excited to share this follow-up post in our Hope for Healing series. This information is vitally important not just for adoptive and foster parents, but also for the ones walking alongside these families.

If you missed the introduction post for this series, start here.

Today, Christa is walking us through a brief, easily accessible understanding of trauma, it's widespread effects and, most importantly, the hope for healing for children from hard places.


Trauma Changes the Brain

There are six known risk factors for healthy attachment:
  1. Stressful pregnancy
  2. Difficult birth
  3. Early medical intervention
  4. Abuse
  5. Neglect
  6. Trauma
These risk factors affect the chemical balance in the brain, brain development, and brain function and processing. Studies of children who have experienced these risk factors show that the levels of their neurotransmitters—the chemicals that carry messages throughout the body—are much different than those of their typical peers. The risk factors also change the child’s stress response system, impacting the way they manage stress and relate to others.

In a typical situation, a child cries to express a need; this causes the excitatory (stress) chemicals in his brain to rise. Then the primary caregiver meets the need and provides comfort, which in turn causes inhibitory (calming) chemicals to rise in the brain.

For children who have experienced one or more of the risk factors, the stress response system cycle is not completed. They express a need and for whatever reason the need is not met and comfort is not provided. Therefore, excitatory chemicals in the brain are high for much longer periods of time. The brain learns to operate on a high level of alert all the time, rather than experiencing discomfort and then being soothed by a trustworthy caregiver.

The Effects of Trauma are Widespread

Children from hard places struggle more than same-age peers with emotional regulation and social interaction.

Because of the early experiences in their lives, these children learn that adults can’t be trusted and that they must manage their world on their own. When a child is constantly trying to manage her environment, the fight or flight fear response is active in the brain and short-circuits the stress response system, which is why the smallest and seemingly insignificant things can upset her.

The normal pathways for reason and decision-making have been shortened, and every message goes right to the emotional center of the brain which is constantly on high alert. The change to the emotional center of the brain is also what makes relating to others—even the loving adoptive parents who are now providing a safe home—so difficult.

Much of her time and energy during the day is spent being vigilant of the world around her and there isn’t any left over for building relationships and trust. It is easier and safer to use behavior (withdrawal, aggression, anxiousness, etc.) to keep others at bay in order to regulate the world in the only way he knows how. Breaking these patterns and re-wiring the brain for trust and healthy relationships can be tiring and difficult, but it can be done.

Not only does trauma change the emotional wiring in the brain, but it also affects physical development. Many of these children have sensory sensitivities or Sensory Processing Disorder (find more information about SPD HERE). They may have language delays, fine or gross motor delays, or learning disorders. Due to both the changes that occur in the brain and the lack of exposure to age appropriate activities, development in these areas will be slower.

For example, if a child spends their first two years of life in an orphanage with hundreds of other children, she likely will spend most of her time in a crib rather than playing and exploring their world. Children start learning and building connections from the day they are born.

For children from orphanages, the ability to process information, make associations, and make decisions may be delayed from the lack of opportunity to practice these skills, which will in turn cause challenges in learning and processing information as they grow older. If a baby spends the first two or three months of his life in the NICU, he may also experience similar delays. There is a limited amount of interaction with the world and primary caregivers because of their severe medical needs, which can cause language and motor delays as well.

Hope for Healing

Dr. Karen Purvis of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University says that relational trauma can only be healed in the context of relationship. That’s why your role, whatever it is, is so important.

For those praying, donating, and raising awareness, your role enables those in other roles to keep on. Relationship and healing aren’t possible without your gifts. You can continue to be sensitive toward families with kids from hard places, and help raise awareness for others who don’t know about the effects of trauma.

For those walking alongside a family with a child from a hard place, your role is invaluable. Loving this child can be tedious and draining before it ever becomes rewarding. Secondary trauma (emotional duress caused when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma of another) is very real for these families. Your support and love for the parents and the family of a child from a hard place is the healing relationship they need. You can continue to be there. Show up when it gets hard. Ask how you can best help. Listen without judging. Work to understand what it’s like.

And for the family in the middle of the battle of bringing healing to a child from a hard place, there is hope! Your love and investment is making a difference. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek help from a trained attachment therapist. In attachment therapy, the goal is to help parents and their child connect in meaningful ways in order to meet the needs of the child that were missed early in life and re-wire the damage that was done in the brain due to trauma. Consistent safe and understanding interactions are crucial for changes to be made in the brain at the deep level where the trauma occurred.

In time, attachment therapy and intentional interaction at home can change how both parents and children see themselves. Parents can see themselves as in control, capable of dealing with a child’s behaviors, strong, and loving. The child can see himself as worthy, loved, competent, special, and learn to see the world as a safe, exciting place.

About Christa: I’m a Licensed Associate Marriage & Family Therapist and a Licensed Associate Counselor. I live and work in Bentonville, Arkansas. I’ve been married to my husband Corey for four years - we love all things Bentonville and baseball. In my counseling practice, I primarily work with children and families. I am trained in several attachment and trauma interventions, including Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), Theraplay, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT). You can reach me via email at

October 26, 2015

Hope for Kids from Hard Places {Part One}

"She'll be fine. All kids are resilient!"

This may sound harsh or dramatic to some, but I believe those words {specifically concerning a child from a hard place} are a lie straight from the pit of hell.

Words meant to belittle a child's losses are never okay.

Once you've seen the arrows of the enemy spiraling around your own home - arrows full of debilitating fear and shame and immense grief - you can't deny the magnitude of loss and pain your child has experienced.

Such profound anguish cannot be swept under a rug with a smile and filed under "resiliency." It just can't.

Because I believe so many adoptive and foster parents are blindsided by the effects of the trauma our children have endured {regardless of the hours upon hours of training and research and preparation logged}, I've asked a child and family counselor who specializes in trauma and attachment to join us here for a two-part series we are calling "Hope for Kids from Hard Places {& Their Families}."

Christa is going to walk us through a very brief, easily accessible understanding of trauma, it's widespread effects and, most importantly, the hope for healing for children from hard places. I'm so grateful to Christa for her willingness to share her wisdom here. My hope is that this series will shine a light on the truth that our children are armed with strength and tremendous WORTH. We can't replace what our children have lost, yet we can arm ourselves with tools to aid in their healing.

"We all have a role to play in the greater story of hope and restoration for kids from hard places. “Hard places” refers to some type of abusive, neglectful or traumatic environment a child has experienced. Most often this references children who are adopted or have spent time in foster care, but can include any child with prenatal exposure to substances or high levels of stress, difficult labor or birth, or medical trauma.

For some, their role in this story is fostering and adopting. For others, it’s praying, raising awareness, and donating time and resources. Whatever your role, I’d love to share a few things about trauma, attachment, and healing from a counselor’s perspective. My desire is to offer you some insight into the world of a child from a hard place, give hope that healing is possible, and point you to some next steps if you’re walking through this journey or know someone who is."

- Christa Campbell, Family and Child Counselor  

** This is the first in a two-part series concerning the effects of trauma. Join us tomorrow as Christa walks us through the widespread effects of trauma and the resounding HOPE for healing for children from hard places. 


About Christa: I’m a Licensed Associate Marriage & Family Therapist and a Licensed Associate Counselor. I live and work in Bentonville, Arkansas. I’ve been married to my husband Corey for four years - we love all things Bentonville and baseball. In my counseling practice, I primarily work with children and families. I am trained in several attachment and trauma interventions, including Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), Theraplay, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT). You can reach me via email at

October 24, 2015

joy is a choice.

The past couple of weeks were a blur.

I mentioned here that Ben became ill and ended up in the hospital. We did the dance of logistics with friends and family picking up the other kiddos at school and juggling being at Ben's side while caring for his siblings for four exhausting days. Thankfully, it was just a nasty virus. Fluids, rest and medicine did the trick to get it out of his system.

Gratitude is not a strong enough word for the flood of relief I feel now that he is back to his silly, sweet self. It was as though we stood on the precipice of a cliff, knowing all of the ways the storyline could play out. Facing fear in the face and choosing to trust a God who is unpredictable is HARD.

"Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time." - Oswald Chambers

After Ben was feeling better, we went ahead with our vacation plans to the beach. There, God reminded me of our need for seasons to unplug and be present with our people, about the importance of being still and allowing our souls to breathe.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.

{Psalm 23: 1-3}

We came home and faced the aftermath of two unpredictable weeks for our Sylvie. She still struggles with unfamiliar and changes to routine. Maybe she always will. I don't know. All I know is that this past week was HARD.

I never want to paint an overly rosy picture of adoption. I also never want to glaze over the beauty even in the hardest of hard. Adoption is a broken and messy kind of beautiful.  

I know there are families who transition easily into their new normal, who just walk forward without skipping a beat. Love and bonding and attachment happen seamlessly.

We are not that family.

I want to be honest in that. I so strongly believe that other families who are struggling silently need to know that they are not alone. I have an amazing network of support. I have other mommas to lean on who get it. I can be honest and real and share the ugly. I am so grateful for the ones who listen to me vent and cry and yell and love me anyway. Who gently remind me to take it one day at a time. Who pray for me and my girl. Who model selfless love for me.

It's an ongoing, always evolving journey toward wholeness. Even though we have days that feel as though we have taken ten steps backward and will never climb out of the pit, we also have the most incredible glimpses of joy and such sweetness that I am left speechless.

In all of this, I've been continually learning the wonderful lesson of intentionally seeking joy, particularly in the hard moments. Because, after all, joy is a choice. I can choose to sit in the bitterness, the unanswered questions, the anger, or I can choose to shift my focus to the progress, the laughter, the good.

That photo at the top of this post? It's a reminder of how I have spent the past several days sitting on the front porch swing watching the leaves turn on those TWO trees out front. We only have two bright trees reflecting the glory of autumn although there are so many others in our yard. I choose to keep my eyes on them. I love that they are right out front and I can watch through the windows as the colors shift and the leaves start to fall.

It's all about perspective.

Yes, indeed. Joy is a choice.

October 16, 2015

salty air makes everything better.

This is what I've been up to for the past few days.

After four days of Ben being hospitalized for a crazy virus that left him dehydrated and weak and extremely cranky, we were finally allowed to come home last Friday. Originally, we had planned to leave for the beach that night for our annual fall getaway, but we decided to wait a few days to let Ben rest and continue to recover. He had a rough couple of days that weekend. I thought our beach plans would need to be cancelled.

Yet, here we are. Answered prayers!!! He is 100% back to his normal, silly, sweet, eat-everything-in-sight self. I am so, so thankful. Not just to be here breathing in the salty air, but to have my boy back. He had me worried.

The drive in was adventurous... twelve hours overnight, one SCREAMING little one who proceeded to vomit just to prove her point: "I. WANT. OUT. OF. THIS. CAR." One flat tire at 3 am in a place that gives new meaning to the phrase "the middle of nowhere." And one serious celebration as we ascended the bridge, welcoming us in with ocean views and a spectacular sunrise on the horizon. We had made it.

We've spent our days playing in the sand, swimming in the sea, eating donut ice cream sandwiches (this is a thing. I can't even), and taking leisurely afternoon naps. Perfection...

...with the exception of all of the sibling squabbles and tears. For some reason, these four little people have been a little crankier than usual. And, yes, these words did escape my lips yesterday, "that's it! We are on vacation and we WILL have fun!"

New mercies each morning.

Nate is off fishing with daddy (he is the most serious little fisherman) and the other three littles are playing at my feet. They're making one another laugh with a made-up game involving a truck, a stuffed monkey and a race car. I'm not really clear on what is happening but I know better than to mess with a good thing.

Happy Friday, friends.

If you need me, I'll be completely ignoring my phone, email and messages for the next several days. My priorities include breathing deeply, looking into the eyes of my loves while they recount stories of adventures at sea and jumping the waves in the (freezing!) water next to my favorite people.

*Oh, yes. And, despite the fact that listening to my own voice is reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard, I can't not share Part 2 of my interview with Tiffany over at A Mom's Mission Field. In this episode, we talk about the details behind our adoption and how Feed Their Tummies began. I hope you enjoy it. Listen HERE

October 7, 2015

my boy.

The boy who first made me a momma (one minute before his brother...and he won't ever let Nathan forget that he is the oldest) has been sick. The helpless feeling watching your little one in pain is the absolute worst. After a week of sickness, thinking whatever stomach bug this is would go away, we finally ended up in the ER on Sunday night because he was in so much pain.

After a round of IV fluids and lots of testing, including a CT scan (thoroughly shaking me up), we were sent home.

The next night was a LOONNNGG one with lots of projectile-ing (I'll spare you the details), therefore, I called his pediatrician in the morning to follow up. After a brief check-in at the clinic, we were sent home with a Zofran prescription and orders for rest and plenty of fluid intake.

As the morning went on, he seemed to be getting worse. He couldn't keep a drop of ANYTHING down. Water, gatorade, pedialyte... everything came right back up. He started to get very lethargic and stopped talking altogether. I was on the phone with his pediatrician's office on and off throughout the day giving updates. I knew something wasn't right.

Thankfully, his pediatrician called at one point and asked me an important question I hadn't even thought about: "when was the last time he went pee?" I realized I didn't know the answer. It had been a while. She wanted to see him again so we loaded up and drove back to the clinic.

She looked him over and confirmed he was dehydrated and would be admitted to the hospital. I am so thankful she made that decision. He is now receiving his fourth bag of IV fluid and is starting to look like his old self again. The labwork from last night showed that he was severely dehydrated. I can hardly think of what would have happened if he hadn't been here getting such excellent care. He had another long night of getting sick. If that would have happened at home, without the access to IV fluids, well...I just can't think about it.

He hasn't stopped smiling!

They still aren't sure exactly what is causing him to be so sick. More tests will be run today. Likely just a nasty virus. Regardless, he will be okay. He is already starting to feel much better and I couldn't be more grateful!!!

This whole experience makes me think of all of the mommas around the world who have no access to care. The helpless feeling of watching your baby get sick and be in pain for these women is magnified tremendously because they don't have a doctor on call or a hospital down the road. I just ache for those mommas. I am incredibly fortunate to have been born here in the US and I pray that I never take the abundance of gifts here for granted.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, my friends. Hopefully, we will break out of here soon enough to enjoy the gorgeous fall day outside.

So many of you have prayed for my boy and I cannot thank you enough!

*Oh! I can't forget to share that I recently had the really cool experience of being interviewed for A Mom's Mission Field Podcast. Tiffany and I had a conversation about my journey through infertility, premature twins, adoption and more. We talk about how God interrupted MY plans for HIS. And, of course, His were much, much better. (Also, forgive the rambling. Apparently, I do that. I am anything but brief. Gah. Not my gifting...) :)

To listen, visit and click on "podcasts." Or search for "A Mom's Mission Field" on iTunes or stitcher and subscribe.