Two Years with Ethan and Anna

July 31st, 2019

Ethan in Victoria’s Chinatown, posing by the dragon.

Anna, being like her big brother.

Two years ago today we met Ethan and Anna for the first time. Simultaneously it seems like there is no way that two years have passed, and also that they have been ours forever! It has not been an easy two years, but I love that our family now feels like a family – they are comfortable and happy and know that they are loved. We still have challenges, but the blessings far outweigh them.

Ethan, you are creative, sporty, kind, fun, super smart, and up for anything!

Anna, you are loving, dramatic, joy-filled, spunky, and artistic!

You both have my heart, and I am forever grateful to be your forever mom.

(PS These were taken in Chinatown in Victoria – since the boys’ Chinese names both mean “dragon,” everyone had to pose with the dragon!)

Music Video Chosen For Film Festival

July 18th, 2019

We just got word that my music video for “A Greater Love” was chosen for the Content 19 Film Festival in September, and is up for an award! This is so fun, because that song is so personal, and I loved how the video came out!

I wrote that song before Noah came home. We had just been told that his heart condition was much more serious than we had thought (and we knew it was serious) because he had been left so long. We were told it was likely he was coming home for hospice, and this was so devastating for us. As I was praying about this and pouring my heart out to God, I felt that He said so clearly to me, “Jennifer, your job on this planet is not just to live a long time. Your job is to know Me. And if you can bring Noah home and help him know Me, you’ve given him eternity, whether his life is short or long.”

It was such a personal and profound moment for me. I wrote this song about the love God has for Noah and for all of us. And of course, after Noah came home, we found out he was still operable (praise God!) and so his health is much more stable now.

Noah is pretty private. He knows what I share about him, but he would hate to have a video about him. So this was a concept I came up with to take the video in a more general direction while still fitting the lyric, and I just love how it came out!

You can watch the video here.

We will let you know what happens at the Film Festival!

Podcasts and Radio Shows

July 7th, 2019

Since my article about making churches more accessible for families dealing with sensory and autism spectrum disorders came out (read it here), I’ve done several interviews on this topic. Spirit Radio Network (central US) did a short program and then followed up with a full hour, and I also did a longer parenting program on KNLB (based in AZ). I was a guest on John Clemmons reports (nationwide) and Off the Bookshelf (based in MI). Chris Pugh also did a full hour podcast with me on churches and special needs children – you can see that here (taped in a hotel room while traveling to visit a college with Rachel – it never stops!).

In addition, Campus Crusade’s (CRU) Radio Network released a spot nationwide for their “Making Your Life Count” which was picked up across the country. You can hear that here. I taped several shows for them earlier, so it’s fun to start hearing those making their way into the world!

Last Events of the Spring

May 7th, 2019

One of the Aspire events in NC.

With Debbie and Vicki after Sunday’s event.

Sally on Saturday night before her fall.

Setting up at Maranatha Baptist

Sound check at Messiah Lutheran.

I just finished up my last few events of the spring which is always a little bittersweet – it’s closing the door on another season, but also frees up time to deal with the busiest end of the school year stuff for my kiddos.

The last weekend of April was in NC and SC with Aspire. It ended up being one of the crazier weekends I’ve been on because of a freak accident. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook:

One of the craziest weekends I’ve ever experienced, and definitely a professional first! I was in the Carolinas this weekend with Aspire, and our first two nights in High Point, NC, and Simpsonville, SC, were wonderful with Sally Baucke and Debbie Alsdorf, but Sunday morning, Sally had kind of a freak accident and broke her arm badly. She is just precious (and hilarious!) and we felt so bad for her! We all ended up in the ER together until we finally had to leave and do the Sunday show back in Conover, NC (one of our tour managers stayed with her). Fortunately, Vicki Courtney was coming in to do Sunday night as well, so we were able to cover, and then we all went to see Sally that night in the hotel – pray for her, she’s having surgery tomorrow to repair it, and she’s been such a trooper!!

Even with all the craziness and confusion, God showed up and took care of all the details for all of us, Sally included. Wonderful ministry, wonderful people, and an absolute blessing to see people loving and caring for each other even in an emergency.

Then this past weekend, I had a few local events. Saturday night I did the annual women’s tea at Maranatha Baptist, a church I’ve been with before, and I’m just always so impressed with their team. You can tell the church really supports this event! I shared some about our adoption jouney and on the topic “Nothing to Fear” and had some wonderful conversations with women afterward about how they are seeing God moving in their lives!

Sunday I shared a similar message at a regional women’s event at another local church, Messiah Lutheran. I hadn’t been here before, and it’s always good to see all the different ministries in the family of God in our city!

And now I have some time off from ministry, but it’s actually really good. This has not been an easy year and life is very, very busy. I’m happy to have the summer to focus on my family and dive back in in the fall!

“5 Things Your Church Can Do Now to Reach Out to Families with Sensory, Autistic Disorders” Article

April 25th, 2019

I wrote a new article to help churches be more friendly to families on the spectrum. It was picked up by the Christian Post (here) and The Stream (here) and a number of other places. I’m putting the text below in case the links expire:

Five Things Your Church Can Do Now to Reach Out to Families with Sensory and Autistic Spectrum Disorders

There is a major problem in the US that is flying under the radar of most churches. Approximately 1 in 50 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and some sources say the number of children struggling with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is as high as 1 in 20. Many of these families report that they feel unable to attend church because it’s too hard for their children or they feel unwelcome. When I talk to parents about their experience, they tell heartbreaking stories of being kicked out of churches for being disruptive or just feeling the struggle is too great. They feel lonely and isolated and often bitter or hopeless. They need the Church and the Church needs them! It would be wonderful if all churches had full disabilities ministries, but here are 5 things you can start with to immediately make your church more welcoming to families dealing with sensory challenges:

1. Educate your congregation.

This is so important. Try to give your congregation your vision to reach out to this population. Hand out a “did you know?” type flier in your bulletin with a few facts about SPD and autism and how that might affect behavior so they can better understand the challenges. Recruit the special needs teachers in your congregation to help, or ask a parent to share. Show people pictures of common tools used by families like weighted lap blankets and chewy T necklaces, and explain stimming and self-soothing behaviors so they aren’t staring if they see them. Ask them to consider themselves ambassadors and servants to these families. This is not easy, but I promise that it only takes one grouchy person “shushing” someone’s struggling autistic child in a service for that family to never be seen in your church again.

2. Tell them they can come late.

For most families affected by SPD, getting into church and the first 15 minutes of the service are the most challenging. Try to imagine entering church from the perspective of a person struggling with sensory challenges. If your brain can’t process touch, the press of people in the lobby is frightening because they may bump you. If you find visual or auditory input difficult, all the people moving and chatting and laughing is overwhelming. Then you enter a sanctuary where people sit close together and often the lights change and the music is loud. By allowing (even inviting!) them to come late and skip the whole scene in the lobby and possibly even the opening music, you are setting them up to win because they are not already overwhelmed and struggling before they even get in there.

3. Save them a seat.

Reserve a section at the back specifically for these families. If they come late, there is nothing worse than hunting around for a seat – this alone can keep families away. In addition, the back is often so much easier for people with sensory challenges because it distances them a bit from the noise and movement on the platform making them feel safer, and also gives parents an easy exit if their child really needs a break.

4. Give them tools to tone it down.

Most people with sensory challenges can handle a certain level of sensory stimulation. It’s when all the input adds up that they cross a line and become upset or overwhelmed or can have a meltdown. Give them some tools to help them tone down the input. Have a couple boxes by your sanctuary doors with ear plugs (or better, head phones if possible since many kids with SPD struggle with the feeling of ear plugs), sunglasses, and even squishy toys. The ear plugs and sunglasses reduce the audio and visual stimulation, and squishy toys are great for positive sensory input and anxiety calming. Yes, someone will have to wipe those down when they are returned, but that is a one minute job that can’t be compared to the message you are sending.

5. Start a buddy program.

Most families I talk to are exhausted. They need church to be their place to recharge and be renewed by God, but instead it is stressful and difficult to be constantly vigilant. Ask you congregation if there are people who could see this as their personal ministry and be trained to be buddies who could accompany children to Sunday school and let the parents worship and rest. Be prepared that buddies need to be trained (do you have an occupational therapist, a child development specialist, or a special needs teacher in your congregation who could help with this?), and that it may take a good bit of time for the child to get to know the buddy and trust them to go with them, especially depending on where the child falls on the spectrum. This should be seen as a long term mentoring friendship to be really successful.

Remember, even if no one ever takes the sunglasses or if they decline a buddy, just by having those resources available you are communicating “we want you here, we support you, you are welcome.” And that may be the difference between a family who is able to be in church and one who isn’t.

Jennifer Shaw is a Telly Award winning speaker, five-time Top 40 Billboard singer/songwriter, and author of the book “Life Not Typical: How Special Needs Parenting Changed my Faith and my Song,” an Autism Speaks resource. She is also mom to six biological and adopted children, some of whom have sensory struggles. For more information, please visit her at www.jennifershaw.com.

Conference in PA and Aspire in WA and OR

April 2nd, 2019

The first Aspire stop in WA – Lighthouse Christian in Puyallup near Seattle.

Northshore Church on our last Aspire night in Everett, WA.

Ways to recognize that you are in the Pacific Northwest – totems and fish tacos, baby!

Apparently I totally forgot to take pictures at my conference in PA last weekend. This makes me sad because we had a great time, and it was such a wonderful group of women! I did a three day conference with the ladies from the Eastern PA district of the CMA, and it was on the topic “U-Turn: Trusting God when Life Changes Direction.” We were at a lovely conference center in Amish country, and just had a lovely time together looking at God’s word, and eating lots of Amish food!

The following weekend I was with Aspire in the Pacific Northwest, and we did three events. Friday night was in southern Seattle, Saturday night in Portland, OR, and then back to Everett (north of Seattle). This was a great weekend of ministry, but it is also pretty exhausting to move everyday – so thankful for a great team!

First Aspire event

March 11th, 2019

First event in West Palm Beach, FL

The team after the event

Well, after an airline adventure involving delayed flights, missed flights, rebooked flights, luggage traveling the world without me (including all my books and CDs and shoes, darn it!), and, yes really, Air Force One, we actually made it to the Aspire Event in Palm Beach (Melissa Spoelstra and I were on the same flight and therefore, on the same disaster, um, I mean, adventure). Aspire, however, was great, and it was so fun to work with such amazingly talented ladies and the people from Extreme Productions!! Loved sharing the Lord with such a great group! So looking forward to our next adventure in WA and OR and hoping it’s maybe slightly LESS of an adventure getting there!

Three years with Noah!

March 7th, 2019

Noah and Toby were pretty much instant friends, and it’s been beautiful to watch them become brothers.

Three years ago today these two met for the first time, and our family got one of the best blessings we could have. Who could imagine how seamlessly you would fit into our family, and how very much poorer our lives would have been if we had never known you? Happy Family Day, Noah!! We can’t imagine our lives without you!

Crazy story from a crazy week

February 18th, 2019

Our homecoming picture – you might be able to tell what decade it was from the hair.

This past week has been crazy. We had our Chinese New Year and Rinnah headed back to school with her roommate only to call us the next night from the ER in terrible pain. After a lot of craziness just to figure out what to do, misdiagnosis, ice storm, transfer to another hospital in our state which necessitated Nathan traveling to IN to get her, and then major miscommunication and mistakes at our hospital here, it was 2.5 days before she had surgery. Almost as soon as she was discharged, I had to leave for Chicago with Rachel for a string quartet competition and college visit. It’s been cray-cray. Fortunately, Rinnah is okay, and recovering well. Hopefully she’ll be able to catch up all the work she has missed, but we’re just so relieved she’s okay.

With all that, though, one hilarious story did happen, and I’m copying it here from Facebook:

Okay, didn’t think I was going to share this, but then I thought, whatever, we both had epic hair, own it! So, here’s the weird, pretty hilarious coincidence that happened in the middle of this terrible time with Rinnah’s emergency surgery.

Put yourself in my shoes. We’ve just spent a day and a half trying to get our daughter diagnosed and switched to another hospital in another state while also covering several things that were really important to our other 5 kids – it was terrible timing. Rin and I had both been up most of the night with pain and procedures, etc, and I had JUST fallen asleep hard for about an hour.

So, I’m literally passed out face-down on the worst hospital cot ever when I realize that there’s a doctor in the room talking to Rin. I wake up, sure I have pillow creases across my entire face, and he turns around to introduce himself to me as the surgeon. I reach for my 10 year old glasses since the other ones coveniently disappeared as I was racing out the door to the hospital, and my blind self realizes as he turns around that the surgeon is…

The guy who took me to homecoming a hundred years ago. Hahaha! What a strange moment! And exactly how you’re hoping to run into an old high school friend!

So, maybe I’ll continue the trend and rock the old pjs, unshowered, no makeup, ancient glasses look for my next class reunion! Or maybe not. 😂

But at least I instantly remembered that he was kind and brilliant and wanted to do good in the world. Which he is apparently doing! So thanks, Dr, for being so good to my baby! Ironically, I found this picture so quickly because my mom got bored when she came to help me after Rinnah’s birth and put all my highschool pictures in order.

PS. He still has good hair.

Xīn nián kuài lè! Happy Chinese New Year!

February 10th, 2019

Somehow we got everyone at the table! 19 people, woot!


Everyone pitched in – here we are making dumplings on the left (for Noah’s northern region) and rolling spring rolls on the right (for Ethan and Anna from the south).


Braised tofu, voted (shockingly!) favorite dish, spring rolls, and dumplings done pot-sticker style.


Whole fish symbolizes prosperity and abundance and is both very traditional and Ethan’s most, most, most favorite thing. This American mom was challenged, but this year we got it right, and it was definitely delicious (even if they are looking at you).

Happy Chinese New Year! One of the things we’ve found to be so important with our “littles” is to try to support them in continuing to celebrate and know their home culture. Our adopted kiddos came to us older, and they have lots of memories and many years of living in China. We don’t want them to lose such an important part of their history, lives, and identity, so we’ve been learning SO much about Chinese cooking, holidays, and culture, and we had our second annual Chinese New Year dinner together last night.

One thing that really hadn’t occurred to me before is that our kids had not really celebrated this in China. CNY is a family holiday, and our kids did not have family. So, they had seen it and been around it, but had never been a part of it. As Ethan said, “Now it’s our turn, mom!” So happy to celebrate with them!

Two of my brothers and their families were able to come, along with my mom, Rachel’s best friend, and Rinnah’s roommate from college came home with her for it too. We cooked forever, and then had a fabulous time!