Forever Loved, Forever Young: An Adoption Story

I have no shame in admitting that I stole this article from someone else.  This is an amazing story of some Belhaven folks and their calling into the world of adoption.

Ashli Duplessis YoungIt was December 8, 2008—the day to finally meet Sam. After years of waiting, Ashli and Kyle Young found themselves in Russia, face to face with the 3-year-old child they would soon adopt and call their own.

“It was weird,” Ashli said of that first interaction. “People talk about instantly connecting with their child. I didn’t experience that. He was just a kid with a personality I didn’t know.”

Five years earlier, the couple began the adoption process after doctors said they had less than a one percent chance of getting pregnant. They wanted children and, through prayer, came to realize that God’s way of building their family was going to be through adoption. In the anxious period of waiting for the call that a child was available, the Youngs battled through learning experiences in their marriage as well as a surprising pregnancy that led to a miscarriage. In the meantime, friends were having children, and patience was difficult to maintain. “Even though I didn’t like God’s timing, I had to trust that it was His timing,” Ashli admitted.

When the call came through from Buckner International that it was time to meet their son, the commitment to follow through with adopting a child seemed intimidating. The couple, however, chose to trust that God’s hand was in the process, and brought Sam home to Texas where their lives would never be the same.

Sam adjusted easily. Within four months, he was speaking English. As he began kindergarten, though, evidence of his past struggles began to take effect, and learning difficulties made school more of a challenge than for the average student.

Kyle and Ashli decided to take action and figure out what worked best for their son. They found therapists who could help cope with his feelings, doctors who understood international challenges, and teachers who taught with patience.

In June 2014, the Youngs felt God’s calling to expand their family once more and adopt a girl domestically. Kayli, at age seven, had lived in seven different households and, because of that, had few reasons to trust that Kyle and Ashli were going to keep their commitment of forever to her. Kayli quickly began demonstrating behavioral issues at home and in school almost on a daily basis, something that the Youngs expected because of her difficult past and making adjustments to a new family.

young family“To deal with somebody who hurts because of somebody else’s choice can take an emotional toll,” Ashli said while fighting back tears. “But I want my kids to feel the safest they can feel.”

Day-to-day life can be challenging for the Young family. Ashli said she focuses on rejoicing in the little victories, such as Sam not having to call from the nurse’s office and Kayli not having to make a mark on the behavior chart.

Through the process of waiting for the calls, meeting their son and daughter for the first time, and now getting to raise their children, Kyle and Ashli have learned to lean on one another, to trust in God’s provision, and to count on the support of family and friends.

Though they first saw adoption as God’s way of building their family, they now also see it as a calling to choose to love someone who has been rejected, much like God’s love for the Church.Ashli said she looks at the challenges, such as dealing with learning difficulties and behavioral issues, as a chance to fight for children who did not have someone fighting for them for a long time.

Many people fear adoption will interfere with their lives, but the Youngs can attest to the process being a far greater blessing than an interference. Just knowing they can provide a safe place for children who would otherwise be without a family makes it a call worth surrendering to.

“We love our kids, and adoption fits us,” Ashli said. “We’re the right four people in this house at this time. Our hope is that our house will always be a safe place for kids.” Everyone can have a part in adoption even when they are unable to take in a child, Ashli said.

The Youngs rely a lot on their friends and family who can provide emotional support and would struggle deeply without it. When considering adoption or ways to help provide support to a family who has adopted, Ashli said the first step is to pray and say, “God, press on my heart what I can do,” and He will lead the way.

Though Sam and Kayli share different DNA, Kyle and Ashli have chosen to love them as their very own. The children will be forever loved and, as their family motto states, they will be “Forever Young.” For more of the Youngs’ story, insight on how to begin the adoption process, and ideas on how your church can minister to adoptive families, visit

Harrison Key Interview

We asked Harrison to do this alumni spotlight to spread the word about his upcoming book!

I’ve decided to provide my Belhaven alumni update in the form of an interview, because I am both difficult and prone to sloth, and this interview format precludes the need for thoughtful paragraph transition, which can be so tiresome to write.



BU:  It’s where you work, according to your website.

HSK:  Oh, yes! The Savannah College of Art and Design.  Wait, I have a website?

BU:  Yes. 

HSK:  That’s convenient.  Easy to remember.

BU:  Didn’t you go by “Scott” when you attended Belhaven?

HSK:  I did.  I had other names, but Scott was one of them.

BU:  Why are you Harrison now?

HSK:  Actually, I’m writing the story about why I started using my first name and also the truth about my relation to Francis Scott Key. I’m finally ready to talk about it.

BU:  Where can we read this story?

HSK:  The Oxford American.  Summer 2015.

BU:  You can’t tell us now?

HSK:  Nope.  You have to buy the magazine, because my editors are poor.

BU:  So, SCAD.

HSK:  I’ve been at SCAD for going on nine years.  I came here to be a speechwriter for the president of the university, which was great fun, because I’ve always enjoyed telling other people what to say, just to see if they would say it.  My Ph.D. is in playwriting, and speechwriting is no different:  It’s just inventing words and stage directions for a character who happens to be real.  The only real difference is that the character can fire you, which has a way of improving your focus.  A few years ago, I was asked to chair the liberal arts department, where SCAD houses the core curriculum–philosophy, English, anthropology, political science, that sort of thing.  I teach courses in humor, memoir, story, composition, all kinds of fun stuff.  I don’t chair anymore.  I just teach and write, and participate in hurtful interviews, such as this one.

BU:  Art students have to take English and philosophy?

HSK:  Yes.  Art students are insane, generally, and like to come to SCAD to punish themselves with courses on Shakespeare and Existentialism, which help make them better thinkers and slightly less insane.  SCAD shares that in common with Belhaven, this belief that the liberal arts are what make us human, or at least what helps us to understand our humanness.  Artists and designers need that, I think.  Like every other human.

BU:  So, you have a book coming out.

HSK:  That was supposed to be a secret.

BU:  It’s on Amazon already.

HSK:  I’d prefer to not talk about it now.  It’s supposed to be a secret.

BU:  It’s call The World’s Largest Man.

HSK:  Spoiler alert.  It’s about my family.

BU:  Tell us about your family.

HSK:  I have one.

BU:  And?

HSK:  My wife, Lauren, attended Belhaven, too.  She danced here. I danced here, as well, but people soon asked me to stop because it was upsetting to many people.  She was a ballerina, which is not what you’re supposed to call them.  You’re supposed to call them “dancers,” I think, or something else.  I can’t remember. Cantaloupes, maybe.  She started teaching ballet not long afterBelhaven and has been doing it ever since.  She’s on the faculty at The Habersham School, here in Savannah, where our children are enrolled.  It’s great that she’s there, that they have an actual ballet instructor on staff.  Very unusual.  It’s possible they hired her for other reasons, such as believing she was a cantaloupe.  But it’s great.  She’s a great teacher, so much better at teaching ballet than I am at teaching writing.  She has a gift.  Also, she has me, and I am a gift, as well, according to my mother.

BU:  Tell us about your kids.

HSK:  We have three girls, ages 8, 6, and 4. Simmons, Eppie, and Ferris.  Simmons is my reader.  Eppie is my athlete.  Ferris is the ballerina.  All three are good at crying for no reason and have a rare disorder where they develop amnesia in the night and forget that attending school requires getting dressed and actually leaving the house, which they seem to find upsetting.

BU:  What do you miss most about Belhaven?

HSK:  Probably the card catalog.  Do they still have those?  I miss them.  I miss the smell.  I’m looking forward to coming back this fall. I hope to do a reading, after which I would like to smell the card catalog, if that’s possible.

Photography by Chia Chong
Styling by Libby Summers

Belhaven Alum, Scott Spivey, named Executive Director

Scott spiveyMy fellow Belhaven classmate, and friend, Scott Spivey has been named Executive Director of Mississippi Home Corp.  The Clarion Ledger article:

“Scott Spivey of Jackson has become the new executive director of the Mississippi Home Corp., the state’s housing finance authority.

Spivey, who has 16 years of experience in the affordable housing arena, succeeds Dianne Bolen, who is retiring after 24 years of service. Spivey served MHC as senior vice president of corporate communications, senior VP of information technology, and federal and state government liaison. He has a bachelor’s degree from Belhaven University and a master’s in English from Mississippi College. He has served as an adjunct professor for Belhaven College.”

Congratulations, Scott!


Twas the night before #Giving Tuesday, when all through the internet,

packages purchased on Cyber Monday, where credit cards and deals met.

When what to my wondering heart did appear,

but an opportunity to give joy at the end of the year.

“#Giving Tuesday is upon us,” they cried with glee,

Where the joy of giving isn’t found under the tree.

Yet, to each student at Belhaven who is in need,

gift-giving here, is an opportunity, indeed.



Who is Miss Fanny Bright?

There is no official answer to that question that I could find.  There are many different theories as to who (or what) that may be.

James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893)–related to the J.P. Morgan of corporate finance fame–wrote and published the song under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh.”  Although it is now associated with Christmas, it was meant for the American Thanksgiving holiday.  There is a plaque  in the center of Medford Square in Medford, Massachusetts that claims it as the “birthplace” of “Jingle Bells.”  And, apparently, it is thought that the song was inspired by the town’s sleigh races during the 19th century.  


All this and still no answer to “Who is Miss Fanny Bright?” BUT, on December 5 and 6 at 7:30 you can hear Belhaven folks sing “Jingle Bells” among many other favored Christmas songs.  You may even hear (as has been sung before):

“A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon, Miss Bettye Quinn
Was seated by my side.”

It will make you smile!  Make plans to attend the 82nd Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree this year.  And, go ahead and make your gift to The Belhaven Fund for Student Scholarships in order to receive your very own commemorative Singing Christmas Tree Ornament.

Upcoming Belhaven events and why you should attend!!


Fall Dance Concert is here!!

This year will showcase the choreography of dance faculty and guest artists from the Belhaven University Dance Ensemble at the Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Center Studio. Styles will include classical and contemporary ballet and contemporary modern dance.

Performance dates include:

Friday, November 7, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 14, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 15, 7:30 p.m.

General admission for the performance will be $10. Admission for seniors and non-Belhaven students will be $5. Admission will be complimentary for Belhaven faculty, staff, students and immediate families.

Why should you attend?  Because our students are making a difference in the lives of others!

Korea 2014 Dance at Hospital Korea 2014Dance at retirementcenter Korea 2014Cynthia Newland, Associate Professor of Dance and Chair of the Dance Department said, “I am looking forward to our department offering the University and community the occasion to experience high quality art created by artists who continue to make an impact in secular and sacred arenas. Our students are blessed to be given the opportunity to work with artists in the greater field of dance. These guest artists work on our students’ behalf to make connections to the world of dance, fulfilling the mission of the university.” 

Our dance students have an impact that reaches beyond the Jackson Metro area. During the Belhaven University Dance Department’s 5 weeks (May-June 2014) tour three faculty members and nine students traveled throughout South Korea. Faculty members Cynthia Newland and Laura Morton drove the Korea Dance Ensemble nearly 3,000 miles, traveled to 13 cities and performed at 33 venues. The aims of the trip were successfully accomplished as the Ensemble brought the truth and hope of Jesus Christ through the art of dance to both Christian and non-Christian. The group offered dance teachings and performance to a variety of settings including K-12 schools, colleges and universities, churches, theaters, a retirement center and hospital.

What motivates you to support Belhaven?

I received an appeal from RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) in the mail last night.  I opened it and read with great care of the things happening in that organization.  There was a little tug on my heart and I told my husband, “we should give to that.”  Then we reminisced for a bit about our personal RUF experiences.

There is a tug on my heart when I remember the impact Belhaven had on my life.  The Lord used this place and the Faculty therein to change my life for the better.  It pulls on my heart strings and I am motivated give.  I give to Belhaven because I believe in her mission, the Faculty and the execution of her training.

It is my job to raise awareness and money for Belhaven.  While some would hem-and-haw over that, I really enjoy my job.  I love the people.  I love the process.  I love Belhaven for what she is.  And that motivates me to give. What motivates you?