What I haven’t told You…

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Prayer

My Friend Wes Introducing Us to the Westside Family

 

Let me take a minute dear friend to say thank you. I’ve been suprised by the reactions to this blog since we returned home and have been able to personally connect with friends who have been following us in this adventure.  It has made us realize how many of you have truly been walking along side us through the daily ups and downs of this journey.  I was thrilled when Westside (our church family in Sullivan) asked us to  come share the highlights of our experience. I felt a little unprepared, because there is still much we are absorbing, and to be honest, we are still in the frenzied state of adjustment!  Between doctor appointments, first introductions to Little Li, and adjustment to a new routine of ‘normal’, we haven’t had much time to reflect on our journey overall and to circle back to where we started.  Before going further, let me give a shout out to everyone at Westside for being eager to hear and to share in our excitement!  It is always like coming home and is the place where I truly began to realize that a church is meant to be your family and that meaningful relationships are built between Sunday’s, not sitting next to each other in a pew.

Looking back, the call was well timed to make us take a breath and fill in the blanks of some details that so far have been absent in this onine record of our adoption. For you see, there are some important details I have left out of this blog that you may find interesting.  Things that were beyond coincidence.  Things that were beyond our control.  Being asked to share our story from a perspective of faith and prayer helped us to circle back and capture these important details to ensure that glory is given where glory is due.

Our story began nine years ago before my husband and I were even engaged. We had a very frank talk about our ‘non-negotiables’ before committing to each other.  (Some people may think it was a little forward of me to be so direct early-on, but lets be honest ladies, I found him later in life and I didn’t have time to waste.  I needed to know we were on the same page. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! He didn’t run scared, so that was a good sign.) We found that we both wanted two children and we had a conversation about adoption.  Even back then, we felt like God was calling us to adopt a little girl from China. It was actually Hubby who first brought up the idea and plant the seed that would grow in our hearts over time.

Now fast forward 7 years. For every family who adopts, there is a ‘GO’ moment. A moment when you finallly quit thinking about it and say ‘Let’s do this!’ I remember ours clearly.  Hubby and I were at the dinner table and decided we should REALLY start praying about it.  For those of you who have never adopted, its not like you go shopping for a child.  You don’t just decide ‘we want a child , so let’s go get one.’ There are several different routes all with pros and cons and different timelines. It can be overwhelming to know where to start.  So we prayed.  We began researching different options that week and asking advice from friends who had pursued different avenues of adoption, but still felt strongly about China. On Thursday, Hubby said to me, ‘My cousin Amy adopted, maybe you should reach out to her to find  out more’  So Friday, I messaged her on Facebook.  She got back to me immediately and said ‘You aren’t going to believe this.  We have NEVER been in Marshall (our town) before.  We are going to be there TOMORROW for a wedding.  We are going to stay all night and have Sunday afternoon available and would LOVE to tell you more about adopting our daughter from China.’

Coincidence?  You can think that if you want.  Personally, I think the odds are pretty slim that it was coincidence .It was a door that God opened and we walked on through.  We walked away from the conversation knowing what agency we were going to use and that we were following through on a divine plan designed just for us. 

We continued to move forward and soon found ourselves in the same place where so many adoptive parents become restless..waiting.  Here we learned more about praying hard and taking action in faith.  (See this post for another interesting story..) 

I’m still in awe that we returned from China with 4 days to spare before Hulaloo started Kindergarten.  Just a few months ago it seemed impossible.  But that’s the beauty of it.  We serve a God who can do the impossible.  I ‘ve seen it.  I believe it! 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26 ESV

But here’s the thing.. We are his hands and feet. Alot of what is accomplished in and through our lives happens only when we take action.

 ‘Praying is 2/3 listening and looking (Mark Batterson – The Circle Maker). 

 Did you hear that, or were you not listening?!

I challenge you to quit praying that God change your circumstances, but instead  to change YOU so that you will see the direction he is pointing you. Some people say that when God closes a door he opens a window. Have you ever considered that you may be be standing at the wrong entrance? Don’t miss the open doors in your life just because you weren’t listening! Stop and ask for directions. Then TAKE ACTION.  What are you being called to do? more importantly, what are you waiting for?

 

Palace Door of the Forbidden City


and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

 

‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭HCSB‬‬
 
Your friend,
Meredith
LLI 



 

Are you thankful for your family?

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Are you stuffed like a giant butterball? Perhaps you are  still in a post turkey stupor! 

Most of us gorged ourselves this Thanksgiving with too much food,  laughed with family and friends, watched some football and took a nap.  Its the American way!  Right? Perhaps some of you  took a moment before or during the mashed potato marathon to reflect on your abundant blessings.  The list is long:  family, friends, home, job, health, warmth, food…life.

How would you feel if you had no family AT ALL?  What if simple things like basic human rights or clean water were the things that worried you most, AND you were a child under the age of 14 with no one to stand in the gap for you? There are an estimated 17.6 million orphans in the world who have neither a father, nor a mother. *

As National Adoption Awareness Month draws to a close, consider this: 

85 million Americans have considered adoption.

If one in four of these people would adopt, we as Americans could eliminate the problem across the globe.  If one in 500 would adopt, we could provide a family for every child in the USA. **

Are you one of the 85 million?  What is stopping you?  


– Too old? (Yet you are still working and have enough energy to travel and golf)

– Too poor?  (Yet you have a house, two car payments and latte twice a week at Starbucks..)

– Too under qualified for a child with special physical or emotional needs (Yet you don’t let fear stop you in other areas of your life.)

– Too selfish (Because you are  comfortable and  ‘blessed’ with alot to be thankful for.  You are  living the American dream of making and saving money for lots of stuff and retirement.  You care, but not enough to do something.  You are leaving it to someone else.)

Look, I realize not everyone is prepared to be a forever family for a child in need.  But even if you can’t provide a home, there are SO MANY other ways to DO SOMETHING:

Be a foster parent

-Provide respite care to foster parents

-Sponsor a child in another country

-Be a child advocate in the court system

– Donate to a family or an orphanage 

– Educate people on the need for parents to step up and step in

 

As you are reflecting on the abundance we experience in the USA and your personal blessings, please consider sharing those blessings with a little soul who needs a forever family.  If you want to help, but are unaware of how or where to begin, below are some links to get you started.

https://adoption.com/

http://www.ccaifamily.org/

http://www.foster-adopt.org/

http://showhope.org/

 https://cafo.org/

 

Thank you for considering how you can help.  Feel free to reach out to me for more information!

 
LLI
 
Your Friend,
 
Meredith
 
 
* source – Christian Alliance for Orphans
** source – Dave Thomas Foundation
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say Yes

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Adoption is a Beautiful Thing

It has been a year filled with doctor appointments, therapy sessions, long days and late nights.  Our China doll is blossoming and has completed our family in a beautiful way! It’s not all been easy, but it has been so worth it.  A year ago she knew not a word of English, but now can sing for hours belting out the choruses of everything from Ol’ Suzanna to Jesus Loves me. 

 Like any three year old, her favorite word is ‘N-O.’  (We are trying desperately to turn that around! Suggestions, anyone?) In a world already filled with so many ‘NOs’, our journey to her began with saying  ‘YES’ to God’s will for our lives.  One year ago, our ‘YES’ was rewarded with the moment she was placed in our arms. Click the photo above for a glimpse into that special moment.

Dear friend, what is the ‘thing’ God is whispering in your ear? Just say ‘YES!’

 

 

The Universal Language of ‘High Five’

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Universal High Five

A Universal High Five

Adopting a toddler internationally poses a lot of blessings and challenges.  Communication has got to be at the top of the list of hurdles that have to be overcome early in the relationship.  In order to make progress as a family, you need to know and understand each other. Educational professionals will tell you there are a lot of techniques such as sign language, tone, repetition etc, that can make inroads into the mind of a toddler quickly.  And they would be right. We have been using them all.  

We have found, however, that there is a much more basic concept that provided common ground almost immediately with little to no instruction.  It was an international bridge over the river of communication dividing Chinese and English, toddler and adult.  Wanna know the secret? It was the universal language of the high five!  

It was amazing to me that something so simple could ignite a spark in Little Li that showed understanding, trust and encouragement.  It was one of the first things we did with her that led to a consistent smile and REAL interaction.  Early on a hug, a kiss or even holding hands was often out of the question.  She has become a high five junkie!  She basks in the smiles and encouragement it sparks in the people around her and asks for more. For a little human with limited interaction involving human touch, a hug is too much to ask early on.  But a high five?  No problem!   

The high five is  a gesture that led to understanding between two humans divided by words, age and pretty much every other difference possible.  Its a place were two people who seem to have nothing in common, can for a moment share the same space and revel in it.  It inevitably brings a smile and something to celebrate if only for a second.

We wait for children to grow up and mature, but personally I think we have a lot to learn from them.  Have all of the grownups in the world forgotten the  simple concept of the high five? They are not limited to children or athletes on the court or field.  We can encourage each other daily in everything we do.  Sometimes we just need to know someone is in our corner and cheering us on!  A kind word and ‘you got this,’ can be all that’s needed to push someone to the shore of success and break barriers that seem frightening at first.  (Just think about a Chinese toddler in the middle of a room of American adults!)

Even though I consider myself an optimist in perpetual training, I have often been dragged into the sea of negativity that seems to surround me wherever I go. It happens at home, at work and sad to say even church.  I would love to tell you I am always able to rise above the tide, but I am still working on it. Daily. 

I find it ironic that I had forgotten for a brief moment the power of the high five. (Although I have only recently fully realized its international and generational impact.) My company has been on a journey of leadership transformation to get past the social awkwardness and fully embrace the power of the high five.  (Check out the Heart of a Leader and High Five King, Brandon Johnson.  His training can be life changing.Not kidding!) As with any anything worthwhile, the journey to self-transformation from nay-sayer to encourager or ‘high-fiver’ starts with the heart and happens one high-five at a time.

Is there someone in your life who really needs a high five today? Your hubby? The kids? A co-worker? I know there is.  If you can’t think of anybody then you are just not trying hard enough. Start to bridge the gap of pessimism surrounding you. You can do it! I know you can. 

 

 

Consider this a digital high five

 Your friend,

Meredith

More about the Luoyang Orphanage

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Mimi and a Luoyang Little One

The Orphanage.

I’ve waited to write more about the orphanage, quite frankly, because I needed time to process it all before taking to the keyboard. Our daughter lived the first 2.5 years of her life in the care of the people of Luoyang.  We are grateful that she appears to have been healthy (with some minor issues) and grown normally during her time there.  We could tell from our limited interaction with the staff, that the people who work there do care about the pint-sized bundles of energy in their charge.

You may be surprised to know that visiting the orphanage of a child you have adopted from China is not always something that can or does happen for each adoptive family.  There are many factors such as distance, scheduling, personnel and paperwork that may throw a wrench into a family’s plan to visit their child’s orphanage. Furthermore, not all families want to make the trip.  When you have had a child for only a few days, there may be health or attachment issues that a long trip in a car or train wouldn’t help.  In addition to logistic problems there is an emotional risk of going back and taking your child with you.  Some children are very attached to their care givers and going back to their home and interacting with their friends and everything familiar, only to be taken away, can be traumatic.  They lose everything all over again.  It can also be hard for newly adoptive parents to watch as their children attach and cling to their former caregivers, wondering if they will want to come back into the arms of this stranger that now wants to be called ‘Mama.’  The truth is you don’t know how it will go until you get there.  You have to be willing to take the risk and deal with whatever happens…and we were.

I wanted to capture as much as we could in our time in Luoyang for the sake of our daughter.  I wanted to close the loop on so many open questions that called for more than second-hand knowledge from our agency. Only visiting in person could satisfy those questions. (Mimi felt the same way, so she joined us even though I was afraid her tender teacher-heart might not survive saying goodbye to the little ones that entered her life that day.)  Someday Little Li will want to know more and we will be able to at least share with her some basic first-hand knowledge of the first place she called home. 

 Our visit was the last stop of a marathon day that had started with the finalization of the adoption at one location, then a brief interaction with a notary official in another location and then a 2.5 hour drive to do the paperwork for her passport. (See my post on day 6.  )  Our visit to the orphanage happened at the end of an extremely long day and we were hot, tired and determined.  (Thankfully so was the other family adopting from the same facility. We were in this together!)  The clock soon ticked past the 5:00 pm mark, but the orphanage director was gracious enough to stay late in order for us to visit. What I saw there surprised me.  

The exterior of the orphanage

The building is over 10 stories tall and towered much higher than I expected.  It was large.  Very large.  It would have to be because it houses over 700 children.  That’s right. 700+ children wake up and go to sleep in a mass community of young citizens that band together to form their own family.  Keep in mind this was just ONE orphanage in ONE city! 

We were greeted outside by care givers on their way home.  They were excited to see both girls and obviously wanted to say goodbye.  We then were ushered into a first floor room that was our daughter’s actual room.  There were 14 cribs (probably twice the size of an American crib), 2 children in each crib and 2 caregivers.  We were told that the children only spend a few hours each day out of their crib.  At first you are enraged by the thought!  But then you consider the reality.  If you had to feed, change, bathe and play with 28 children under the age of three in one eight hour shift, that is no easy task.  (Much less trying to the emotional needs of the demanding toddler temperament!) Is there a better way to care for these kids?  Maybe, but there is no ideal solution and always a lack of people, time and money. (Some of the other orphanages have foster programs, but not every orphanage have  the resources to coordinate such a program.) Its just reality, like it or not.

Nannies leaving, but saying hello

 The children were already in their cribs when we arrived a little after 5:00 pm and immediately started calling our daughter’s name when we walked into the room. I tried to get her out of the baby carrier in order to  allow her to interact, but she wanted no part of it! (It was as if she was saying ‘I thought we had a deal and I was done with this, Mom! Don’t let go.’) Little arms began reaching for the grown-ups in order to be held and get attention for just a moment.  While my arms were full, Mimi couldn’t resist the sweetness of the little hands so desperately in need of attention.  She was drawn in by a small, waif-like girl that melted immediately into her arms . This little girl was grateful for gentle hands, even if they held her only for a moment.  In those brief minutes, I wanted to load our van up with these beautiful munchkins and high tail it out of dodge! Irrational I know, but it left me wanting to do more.  Looking back, it may have been good that Mom held this little angel instead of me.  When we got back home and I opened up the photos from the camera I had sent ahead to the orphanage, this little girl was in most of the photos and the video.  I think she may have been one of our daughter’s close playmates.  She will forever be in my prayers.  I pray that God will give her the same  opportunity for a new life as our daughter and the other children in our group. (She is pictured above with Mimi.) It was hard to leave her behind.

Little Li’s friend saying hi

 

Overall, the facility and the few parts we saw appeared organized and clean.  (It was far better than the hospital we visited earlier in the day!) The children seemed to be adjusted and the caregivers engaged.  It was better than I had anticipated to be truthful.  Good. Yes.  Great. No.  As long as there are children in orphanages, the situation will not be great or anything less than ideal.  It is not the the way God intended for children to be raised.  It made me keenly aware and thankful for the other families of the same mindset who had joined us in this international adventure.  9 children started over that week with new families and new homes.  They are orphans no more! The week also made my heart ache a little more for the little ones still there.  I have touched their hands and heard their cries.   It leaves an ache in your heart when you think about the lives of excess we live in the USA. I  could rant a little here, but instead I will move on and revisit that later!

We explored a few other areas of the facility with the director and looked at her playroom as well as the back courtyard.  The director answered a few more questions and then it was time to leave.  Traffic would be heavy, so the driver didn’t want to stop for dinner.  (I was starving!)  So we stopped at a gas station that would make a 7-11 look classy and began our journey home.  (Again, visit my previous post for an entertaining story..) We will forever have a special bond with the other family than ran the Luoyang gauntlet with us that day.

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Kung Fu Kindergartener

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The first week home from China has been filled with a flurry of activity.  Bills, appointments, email, snail mail, groceries and oh so much more. One of the main purposes for taking advantage of the opportunity to travel when we did, was so that Hulaloo would be able to go with us on our family adventure without missing school.  Not just any first day of school.  But THE first day of school, which is also the first day of Kindergarten. We had just a few days to shed the jet lag before school started!  (Luckily we are at the end of the alphabet, which bought us another day. If we had been letters A-J, she would have had to go Wednesday.)

Its easy in all of the excitement of a new family member to overlook the change and sacrifice that is automatically thrust on the other little members of an adoptive family (without their consent.) Think about it….  Our little five year old has literally been around the world to China, gotten a new sister, and started school, all in just two weeks.   Any of those things by themselves is a big deal in the world of a five year old. Add to that about 12 hours of jet lag and it could be a recipe for major drama. (I prepared myself for large bouts of whining that haven’t yet materialized.)

As so often happens, I have been surprised by the resilience and adaptability of children. I am amazed by the way Hulaloo happily stepped into the role of big sister and overcame the challenge of 12 hours of jet lag to step onto a bus full of strangers without Mamma.  (If you have never experienced 12 hour jet lag, it feels like a bus just rolled over you.) 

It’s not been all chocolate and roses since returning home.  There have been many ups and downs, but the good far outweigh the bad. Looking at the way our little five year old fireball has handled all the change in her little life, made me realize that her confidence comes from her trust in us.  She knows that we won’t leave and that regardless of what happens at school, WE ARE HERE.  The only way we would allow her to get on a bus is if we know where it is headed and who’s in control. 

That’s kind of how God’s plan works for our lives, isn’t it?  We may not be in complete control of the bus (and there may be bullies and … heaven forbid, bad words on the bus,) but He’s in control.  HE IS HERE.  

Much like Hulaloo, that is all I need to know.

 

Your  Friend,
Meredith

LLII 

Day 16- The Long Ride Home

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We were all excited to be home, but nobody in our group was excited about the actual process of going home.  We had a direct flight out of Hong Kong (a 2.5 hour drive from Guangzhou), a 14 hour flight home, then a four hour drive.  And that was the shortest route I could calculate.

Ugh!

View from our plane leaving Hong Kong


 
We left at 5:45 am in the morning and Jason had a van ready with a boxed breakfast for each of us to eat on the way.   He gave us explicit instructions on paperwork for entry into Hong Kong, the airport and immigration.  I almost felt like crying when it was time to say goodbye.  Perhaps it was the fact that so much had taken place in the last two weeks and CCAI had taken such good care of us.  No detail had been too small.  No question too dumb.
 
Our experience was amazing and now it was time to pull  away from the curb and say goodbye to someone who had helped us complete one of the greatest adventures of our lives.   As I looked at his smile as we drove away, I realized that it was likely I will never see him again.  I certainly won’t find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other social connections we Americans take for granted.  But I will hold him and the other CCAI reps (Yisha, Vivian, William and Cecelia) in my heart for a lifetime.  
 
 
 

Our guide Jason from CCAI

The sun rose as our van drove us 2.5 hours through the hills to Hong Kong.  I’m  a little sorry we didn’t spend some time in Hong Kong, because it looked gorgeous.  But we were so ready to get home that we couldn’t be lured by an exotic desitination.  I will put it on my bucket list! 
 
We were able to navigate getting checked in (with an emigrating citizen) and to the gate without issue.  (Insert audible sigh of relief.) There were TWO security checks of baggage (one right at as we boarded the plane) which was no small task with two little ones in tow.
 
I would love to tell you that there was no drama on the flight, but let’s be real here folks. A 2.5 year old and a 14 hour flight is not a good combination any way you slice it.   At about hour seven, she got fussy and couldn’t sleep and who could blame her. I got ‘the look’ as a gentleman in the row in front of us leaned up and over to indicate he wasn’t happy with her crying.  We had tried every snack, toy and trick and I was quickly rocking to and fro at that point.  Out of frustration and pure exhaustion, I leaned up and in towards him with a look that said ‘bring it on buddy, I’m doing the best I can and she’s two for cryin’ out loud.’  He turned around and sat back down…
 
Touching down on American soil was cause for celebration since it made our daughter officially a citizen!  I felt relief knowing that were home and could start the next phase of our journey.  (And the fact that I knew  I could order  a coke without pointing or needing sign language!) Because she was an immigrant, we had to wait through multiple lines to finish paperwork (not to mention baggage claim and another baggage security scan.)  It took us almost two hours just to get out of the airport.
 
It was a joy to see my brother-in-law Tony who was waiting on us and the first familiar face in the USA.