Beth Russell with her daughters
Jaden and Lily
When Beth Nonte Russell traveled to China in 2000 to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thought only that it would be a fascinating adventure. But her friend, who had planned the adoption for many months, panicked and began to have severe doubts about adopting the frail infant. Russell, a former Capitol Hill staffer, not only felt an immediate bond with the baby she named Lily, but was amazed to sense that their relationship had begun more than a lifetime ago. Author of Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China, Russell  spoke to Beliefnet about her spiritual awakening, her foundation for adoptive families, and her belief that love never dies.

Listen to Beth Russell:
"My Friend Changed Her Mind"Access to a Past LifePraying for the Highest GoodHelping the Children Left Behind

This is a very surprising adoption book. It's about your spiritual journey to meet the child you were destined to have.
I didn’t set out to write a book about adoption. I thought of it as a spiritual memoir, if anything. But my publisher felt the natural audience would be adoptive parents, so they kind of went down that road. But I feel that as people get to know the book, it will become more known in spiritual circles as being about the transformation that can occur suddenly and what happens as a result. 
You didn't go to China to adopt a baby yourself, but to help your friend adopt. Then she backed out of the adoption. What happened?
"My Friend Changed Her Mind"
A friend of mine asked me, sort of out of the blue, to go with her to China where she was adopting a child.
Her husband couldn't come with her because they already had a child at home. I love to travel, and I thought, Well, this could be a really interesting thing to witness. I agreed to go, not knowing much about adoption, certainly not international adoption, or even the situation in China pertaining to the girls there. So I went into this very naively.
When we got to China, my friend, who had been beforehand exhibiting some nervousness, and seemed to have some cold feet, she had a breakdown of some sort where she changed her mind about the adoption. She came to the conclusion she could not go through with it and couldn’t take the baby home. 
By that time, which was just about 24 hours after the baby was brought to her, I already felt this strong connection with this child and I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen to [the baby] if she was sent back to the orphanage. I saw the conditions there and I just knew I could not live with myself if I did not try to somehow bring her out.
It sounded like you had an immediate spiritual bond with the baby.
I did, and it was totally unexpected. I had three stepchildren going in to this whole scenario. I helped raise them, and they were in their late teens at the time and had sort of moved out of the nest. And my husband and I were really looking forward to having our lives back, in a sense.
When I felt this bond with this child, I was really overwhelmed by it. It was certainly not something that I thought would happen. I don’t consider myself a baby person. Or I wasn’t at that point. I think I’ve become that. For me to feel so strongly about this child was something that took me completely by surprise.
You also describe a series of very vivid dreams you had in China. Do you think they were giving you a message?
I began, as soon as we were in China, on the plane actually, to have these dreams all having something to do with China and ancient China. At first I really didn’t understand what they were. I have always had a vivid dream life. So until this unfolded, I really didn’t see the connection of the dreams to what was happening during this trip. It was more than dreaming. I felt that I was being shown a past life experience. As I looked back even two years before I went to China, I could see other dreams and other experiences that were also related to this. Dreams about China, dreams about babies, dreams about rescuing babies. All these strange things that didn’t add up until this trip unfolded.
The reason that I was able to sort of piece it together is that for a good period of time I wrote down all my dreams and was able to go back and look in my journals. And then I saw how this all had really been building for some period of time beforehand.