Well, I wasn’t going to post again this week, but then something happened. If you are just clicking over for information on The Love Project, scroll down. (I am going to add this to that post too!)

I have a difficult time explaining ‘orphan prevention’ and ‘family preservation’. It is such a new concept for many people…a concept most have never considered. As I wrote the post on Monday for The Love Project I wrestled with not feeling like I could fully explain the heart and the ‘why’ behind the project. The same day the project launched, my friend Meredith Toering met a father…a baby…the photo and words below are from Meredith’s Instagram account:

LoveProjectFamily

“In the bed next to Ruby in that Chinese ICU, a little 6 day old baby lay. I didn’t take much notice of him at first, another baby on a ventilator among the rows. Not until we heard the quiet doctor’s words. “The surgery…it’s too expensive. His parents can’t pay. They have sacrificed everything they have, but it’s not enough. We can’t do the surgery without the funds…so they are going to have to choose.” They are Going. To. Have. To. Choose.

My heart broke. Those parents. Without health insurance. Without the cash in hand for the cost of a unfathomably expensive surgery. Knowing full well that, if they were to choose to abandon…to walk away, there are systems in place to support the orphan. But friends, WHERE are the systems for the family? Who will stand for them?

I walked out to meet with the father of that baby…a baby not yet even named. The tears streaming down that new daddy’s face, the way his hands shook when he held mine, told me everything I needed to know. He would do whatever it took to save his baby’s life. Even if that meant saying goodbye.

Friends, I grasped his hands and was able to tell him that THAT narrative? That WILL NOT be their story. We are partnering with this family. The Morning Star Love Project is covering the cost of surgery. And tomorrow morning? That baby boy will have his heart fully repaired. As a son. Not an orphan. Treasured. Loved. Forever. PLEASE keep him in your prayers. His father hugged me and sobbed, and I cried right along with him.

This. This is the future of orphan care. Supporting the Orphan…but Standing for the Family. Join us?”

For more information on how support families and be a part of The Love Project, scroll down to the next post or click here.

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Lahna Winter - It is heartbreaking that parents have to abandon their babies so they can have the proper care… there is so many things that are wrong in that.
    I’m very happy for this initiative of the Morning Star Foundation.
    Yesterday I bought two of the printables, and one of them is going to my daughter’s bedroom. I’m going to photograph it and put it on my blog, telling the whole story about it. And hopefully it will touch other people, too.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Lahna for your support and for sharing the work of Morning Star Foundation!

  • Fiona - Your previous post made me applaud you. Made me think this project was a laudable thing and hope that it went well.
    This story moved me to tears and stirred me to action. I am so heart glad that that baby is to stay with its loving family, and that the mother and father can love their baby forever.
    I hope this project raises lots of money to help many, many families. But I also pray that systems can be put in place to support these children, so that families need not rely on the kindness of strangers from far away places. But instead can focus on loving their children, knowing that a health system is in place to help.

  • Chrissy - Like Fiona, this story moved me to tears and action. What a powerful example of the change we can be in the world. I will be buying a printable today.

    Love and peace to all families.

  • Tiffany - This really left me speechless.

  • Jana Taft - This is the sweetest and most precious post! I found your blog through my daughter Christine, who advocates for orphans and has such a heart for this ministry. What a blessing to hear that this father’s prayers are answered and that this baby was provided with the surgery….that this family is supported! God is so faithful, and so good to have laid this on your heart, and to have raised up such a ministry as this! Thanks so much for sharing. <3

  • Karissa - I’m reading this with my little girl cuddled on my chest, my little one who spent her first hours in the ICU, and I can’t imagine making a choice like that. I’m so happy that this family can be spared that and that there are people doing work like this. Thank you for sharing!

  • TheDenverPack - I could not love this project more. Our son has been home with us 6 months. While we may never know all of the pieces of his beginnings, our gut tells us that his medical need probably played a role in him becoming an orphan. I love him so much, but my heart breaks for his first family.

  • Suzanne - Praise God and His Hand in all of this. I am so forever in awe and amazement of His ability to “work these things out” as this little one is one of His as well. I will pray for Morning Star, for Meredith, and for this sweet family. Thank you for sharing this – God Is Good!

  • Jenny B. - Ashley, a few months ago, you posted some questions about how people read your blog, and I responded with a comment about how that your blog was a safe place for me and that whenever you posted something upsetting, it was always something worth getting upset over. I have tears in my eyes reading this post today, but that is OK because this is something worth crying about and then doing something about. Thank you for leading us!

  • Donzel - Thank you for the second post. My heart is so happy to know of this teeny baby staying with his family. Praise God that Meredith was able to learn of his desperate need and meet it!!

  • chelsea jacobs - This is so, so beautiful.

  • Chris - I really like this perspective on adoption and family preservation. My small group is reading Lee Strobel’s The Case for Grace. Chapter 2 on adoption as becoming part of God’s family has made me think of this post multiple times this week.

For nearly three years, I’ve been dreaming. Dreaming of ways to help families with children who need life-saving surgeries, but are unable to provide those surgeries. We each have different roles to play in our global community. For some, it is politics and policies. For some, it is digging water wells or providing micro-loans to establish business. For some it is community development. One mom advocates for cancer research while another raises her voice at the injustices in foster care. There is the teenager establishing a business that employees widows in third world countries and the businessman using his influence among his peers to help fund schools. So many causes. I’d like to think if we all chased after those things we’d see some incredible beauty burst forth in this world. It is often life experiences that lead to our passions.

My youngest daughter was born in China and considered ‘special needs’. Her special need was she needed cleft lip and palate surgeries.

As a result, one area my heart now beats for is families that face difficult decisions regarding providing medical care for their children.

This September will mark our third year as a family of seven! I am forever grateful for the gift and beauty of adoption. It was through adoption that our family was made whole. While I will always be an adoption advocate when adoption is the best option for a child, I am also an advocate for family preservation. I’m an advocate for orphan prevention. There are so many sweet, sweet things about adoption, the difficult reality is adoption begins with some form of loss. Often multiple forms of loss. My daughter is wholly and completely mine, but the reality that I share her with another mom is never lost on me. This daughter we share was born with a cleft lip and palate. There is a good chance my daughter will one day ask me if the reason she is mine is somehow related to her being born with a cleft. And I will answer her with all the honesty and truth I can. It will be her story to process.

There are countless factors that lead to children being displaced from their families. One of those factors is poverty and the parents’ inability to provide necessary care for their children. Every country is different. Every case is different. Others are tackling solutions to poverty. In the meantime – I want to help preserve families. Poverty or lack of finances for medical care should not lead to children separated from their birth families. It is unacceptable.

This is simply a hope from one mom to help another mom. Another mom, who also has a child with a medical need.

In many countries, healthcare is far different from what I know as an American. Chris and I are both self-employed. We have 5 kids…health insurance is a huge, hard, difficult area for us. However, in the most dire of circumstances if any of our kids need a life-saving surgery, we could find a way to provide the care they needed. We might have a huge financial burden, but we would still have our child.

There are countless children with life-threatening medical conditions whose parents face the worse kind of decision – a decision to insure their child gets medical care and a chance at life by relinquishing their rights or choosing to watch their child suffer a medical condition and possibly death. My friend Meredith Toering volunteers with Morning Star Foundation. She helps run a foster home in China that provides care for babies with various forms of Congenital Heart Defects.  A few months ago she shared with me her dream of helping parents she meets in the hospital…parents that are doing everything they can to provide care for their babies with CHD. Parents that without help will have to make the most impossible of decisions.

It is an exciting moment when dreams collide.

The photo and words below are from Meredith’s Instagram account posted the day this project launched (I edited this post to add it because…well you will understand after you read her words):

LoveProjectFamily

“In the bed next to Ruby in that Chinese ICU, a little 6 day old baby lay. I didn’t take much notice of him at first, another baby on a ventilator among the rows. Not until we heard the quiet doctor’s words. “The surgery…it’s too expensive. His parents can’t pay. They have sacrificed everything they have, but it’s not enough. We can’t do the surgery without the funds…so they are going to have to choose.” They are Going. To. Have. To. Choose.

My heart broke. Those parents. Without health insurance. Without the cash in hand for the cost of a unfathomably expensive surgery. Knowing full well that, if they were to choose to abandon…to walk away, there are systems in place to support the orphan. But friends, WHERE are the systems for the family? Who will stand for them?

I walked out to meet with the father of that baby…a baby not yet even named. The tears streaming down that new daddy’s face, the way his hands shook when he held mine, told me everything I needed to know. He would do whatever it took to save his baby’s life. Even if that meant saying goodbye.

Friends, I grasped his hands and was able to tell him that THAT narrative? That WILL NOT be their story. We are partnering with this family. The Morning Star Love Project is covering the cost of surgery. And tomorrow morning? That baby boy will have his heart fully repaired. As a son. Not an orphan. Treasured. Loved. Forever. PLEASE keep him in your prayers. His father hugged me and sobbed, and I cried right along with him.

This. This is the future of orphan care. Supporting the Orphan…but Standing for the Family.”

Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

I can’t change the face of politics and the medical system in China or any other country.  I can start where I am and use what I have. I have a blog. I have talented friends. I have a voice. I want to use those things to help families not have to choose life by saying ‘goodbye’. I want to help Meredith say, even if only to one mom or dad, “You don’t have to say goodbye. This is a choice you don’t have to make because surgery is taken care of.”

So I rallied some of my people. Talented artists that chose to stand beside me on this dream and donate their time and energy. I simply asked and they jumped on board. Today Morning Star Foundation and I are launching The Love Project. Our hope is that you will join us. Morning Star has a special fund called the Love Fund. Everything in the Love Fund goes directly to families in need of assistance to provide life-saving surgeries for children with operable congenital heart defects. Our goal is simple – to increase the Love Fund. To help families.

To do this, we created an online shop stocked with 17 original downloadable prints available for purchase. Our hope is that you would join us in providing life saving surgeries and helping preserve families by purchasing a print.

Below are the downloadable prints available for purchase. I couldn’t be more excited about the artwork my friends created. Never did I dream that blogging would allow me to meet such talented and generous artists. I am so thankful for them and their willingness to support this dream.

Room In Your Heart by Amanda Rydell          ~          Fill Your Heart by Pretty Girl Designs

1&2

Watercolor Heart by Jones Design Company          ~         Let Love Grow by Pen and Paint

3&17Let Love Guide by Life Made Lovely          ~          Love Never Fails by Life Made Lovely

5&6Beauty We Love by Life Made Lovely          ~          Wildflower by Joy Prouty

7&8Because He Loved by Julie Carson          ~          A Glad Heart by Katy Girl Designs

9&10All Things With Love by Kimber Creates          ~          Love Is by Lesley Zellers

11&12Love You More by Lori Danelle          ~          But First Love by Megan Modderman

13&14Love Conquers All by Ruth Chou Simons          ~          Above All Love by Fancy That Design House

15&16Love So Mighty by Hannah Singer

4

All the prints are designed to be 8x10s, but since they are downloadable – you can do a whole host of things with them. Maybe you are like me and running out of wall space, if so here are a few other ideas on how to use the files. Mpix.com graciously printed all my examples for this post as a way to support The Love Project.

TheLoveProject-01I printed round cards, folded 4×6 cards, flat 4×6 cards, magnets and business cards (to be used as gift tags!) To order these, I just uploaded the files to Mpix.com and used them in the same way you would use a photograph. Some of the products have a ‘DIY’ option – that is the option I used when I did not want to use a pre-designed template.TheLoveProject-02The heart tags are actually the business card print option. I punched a hole in the corner to make them into gift tags.TheLoveProject-03TheLoveProject-04Magnets and folded cards. The folded cards come with envelopes.TheLoveProject-10Calendar and business cards.TheLoveProject-12TheLoveProject-14Each print is $20.00. They are jpeg files that can be downloaded after purchase. For matte finish prints, I recommend using a local professional printer. I printed mine at FedEx Kinkos and was happy with the results. Most printers use 8.5×11 paper, so you might need to trim the print a little in order to fit into an 8×10 frame.TheLoveProject-07TheLoveProject-06

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~ Mary Oliver

Meredith and I talked about setting a goal for this project, but our goal is simple – to help as many families as possible. We are leaving room in our hearts for the unimaginable. We are holding out hope that lots of babies with various forms of operable congenital heart defects will receive much needed surgeries and will be carried out of the hospital in the arms of their moms and dads. Thank you for joining us in this dream.

Click Here to visit the Morning Star Love Project Shop and purchase a downloadable print.

flourish

If you would like to share about this project, we created a few blog buttons and Instagram images (feel free to use #morningstarloveproject). Click here to download those files.

buttonexamples

 

 

 

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Steffany - The first thing I do when I get to work is take a few minutes to read your blog. And today, today…sigh…the work that you and your friends do is amazing. I cannot wait to purchase a print later today, they are so beautiful and knowing the good that will come makes me smile. Your blog fills me with such hope :) Thank you, thank you, thank you for the work you do, the word you spread, and the love you fill the world with. :)

  • Emily - This is lovely. Thank you so much for letting us help.

  • Amy - I am loving the purpose of this project. I will be sharing it with my family & friends.

  • Rebekah - This is beautiful. I love that everyone here has come together to share in the work of healing hearts. It makes my heart happy. Thank you for being a vessel for the LORD’s work. Thank you for allowing me to purchase with a purpose. It is one of my favorite things to do.

  • Sprite - What an incredible mission. You have such a beautiful heart! Thank you for letting us support this cause and help you chase after such a wonderful dream. The artwork is lovely!

  • Stefanie - Incredible! What an amazing display of LOVE on behalf of the vulnerable – and these prints are spectacular! So excited to see how the Lord blesses this effort… Ashley, you and Meredith (and all these talented artists!) are doing a beautiful thing <3

  • The Love Project - […] Star Foundation, Merdith Toering, and Ashley from Under the Sycamore just launched the Love Project, an online shop full of prints for purchase and download. Proceeds […]

  • Marie - Wow! I’ve been so excited to see & hear what this project would be! I love it & can’t wait to purchase a print! I just pinned it to Pinterest- my only social media account but I’m sharing with friends too! I can’t wait to see how God uses this to heal and bless these children! It’s amazing! Thank you for showing us that we can all have a great role in this even if we are halfway around the world!

  • amber - Yes. I am so completely thrilled that I can help with this! Thank you! Praying hard that this amazing project explodes for these precious babies & their parents. What a tremendous thing to do…

  • emily - Beautifully on so many levels!

  • Nicola - Beautifully written and very inspiring. I’m off to the shop x

  • kimberly oyler - ashley, these are amazing. and all the fun mpix things! i love your heart.

  • Tanya - Beautiful! Thank you.

  • Cody - Thanks for doing this. Brings joy to my heart because my daughter was adopted from China and her little life was saved by those at Morning Star. They loved her so well!

  • Mary - May God BLESS this endeavor!

  • emily - My heart just breaks and sings and embraces all of this. Doing what each of us can to help others. What Meredith is doing feels so big, but to play a part in it is such an honor. Thanks Ashley for all your work and talent and for allowing God to use you right where you are. Love it. xo, emily

  • Tracey Lebel - Love all of these! I just purchased 2 but at work I can only access one, other is blocked. Do you know how I can download from another computer? It didn’t send any email with links, just had on the confirmation. Sorry to bother you with this!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Thank you, Ashley. This is beautiful!

  • Tracey Lebel - Ignore my question, they sent email. Just took a little while. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!!!!!

  • Lacey Meyers - I want one of each! These are all beautiful and what you are DOING is beautiful, Ashley! Many prayers of success for this project and for the babies and their families who will be blessed by it. <3

  • Ann Voskamp - All in and sharing everywhere… this is what it means to love the orphans — that we love them enough to create a culture where *they stay with their parents* — and we don’t *create orphans.*

    Thank you for doing this, so we GET to join in God’s remaking of the world, friends!
    Thrilled to join hands with you!
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  • AndreaB - Thank you so much for letting us help! I cant imagine the pain and anguish it must be to be in this situation. Thank you for allowing me to do my tiny part from half way across the world.

  • oops i didn’t blow out the candle & current crush » simple thoughts from Paige Knudsen Photography - […] care for babies with various forms of congenital heart defects.  a few months ago she & ashley ann from under the sycamore dreamed up a way to help families…right where they are with what they […]

  • Jenny - Beautiful! Love the messages and the work. Love seeing the different printing ideas… now to choose!

  • Rivers Teske - LOVE Love Love – all the world needs! Thank you

  • Weekend Links and {my} Vintage Moment – - […] The Love Project {#morningstarloveproject} || Under the Sycamore // There is so much heartbreak in this world but every now and then, someone comes along with something tangible you can do and a story of hope. This project is exactly that- with the purchase of some lovely art, you can make a donation so that families who need life-changing surgeries for their children can have those surgeries done without giving their children up to orphanages. It’s caring for our fellow human in the most beautiful of ways. Read the story, buy some art, and make a difference in a family half a world away. […]

  • Terri Inouye - LOVE the artwork and the inspiring words. Keep creating and sharing your God-given talent to glorify Jesus!

SnapShopPhoneJuneSnapShopDSLRJune

When I pick up my camera, whether it is my phone or my dslr, life seems to slow down. As I look through the lens, I see the stories that make up my days. From the way my son dives off a diving board to how my daughter twirls in her favorite dress, photography teaches me to notice the beauty in daily life. In both the ordinary moments and the extraordinary ones, there are stories told I don’t want to miss or forget. SnapShop Workshops began in 2008 out of a desire to help others capture their everydays in beautiful ways.

Currently, I offer two online workshops. Both courses are introductions to photography. One focuses learning to shoot in Manual with a dslr and the other focuses on phone photography (tips, tricks & apps). Each class is built around my approach to capturing my days. You won’t find lots of posed images or spectacular scenery. These courses are created with the very beginner in mind, the mom that wants to capture fleeting moments, the dad that wants to get off Auto, the grandma wanting to learn the basics. You also won’t find a lot of technical jargon, just me sharing how I approach photography in a conversational way.

Registration for the summer sessions is open.

Click here for more information on each course.

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend