Day 2- East meets West

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Day 2- Beijing and the Forbidden City (East to West)

One of my favorite songs lyrically is East to West by Vocal Union.  

(Also available on an acapella training CD created by Keith Lancaster and some very talented vocalists. Shout out here to my Westside peeps!)

It begins with :

As far as the east is from the west
As far as the worst is from the best
As far as the future’s from the past
As for as the first is from the last

This journey has truly taken us as far as the east is from the west. While there are so many things in Beijing that are glaringly different from our culture, I am more struck by the sameness of the people.  The laughter of children, the smiles of the elderly and the sadness of poverty are the same in any language.  As I think about the first few lines of the song, my hope is that our Little Li will experience the vastness that life has to offer as we prepare to move her from her past to her future, from last to first, from worst to best and east to west.  

Today we went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square known for so many things historically.  It is nearing its 600th anniversary.  They LIMIT the attendance daily to 80,000 people.  There are people everywhere! Our guide William prepared us to expect massive crowds as we followed him as he carried his flag and spoke into our ear bud systems so we could hear him.  (There are 4 other families from our agency on the same tour.)  

He mentioned that we might be stopped by families for photos who have never seen caucasian children.  Let’s just say that little Hulaloo has her own paparazzi!  At first she asked ‘Mommy, why do they want my photo?’  Now she just stops and pours on the charm for another photo op..

Here she is with a little boy who really wasn’t into the photo.  Notice how far he is standing from her?

Another photo op

 

Forbidden City


Rickshaws

 

Hubby in the courtyard of the Forbidden City

 

Taking a ride with Mom

 

Tomorrow its the Great Wall and one day closer to the completion of our family!

Did I mention we took a four hour nap this afternoon?

Time for rest before our next adventure. Thanks for joining us on the journey.

Your friend,

Meredith
LLI 

 

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Lift Off – Day 1

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Day 1 to China

I began writing this blog just a few minutes into the longest plane ride I will ever take.  (No space flight aspirations at this point.)

We are literally traveling ‘As far as the east is from the west.’  Any further from home and I would be closer.

It’s amazing! As  little girl, I don’t believe I ever imagined traveling to the far east for an adventure as great as this. Surprisingly enough our travel so far has been uneventful. (If you knew the history of my family and vacations, you would realize that this is something to be celebrated in itself.  The Griswolds got nothin on the Swabys!) People have been patient and kind.  Thus far, the staff of United Airlines has been awesome!  (I managed to sweet talk a couple other passengers in allowing us all to sit together.  They were gracious and kind to do it without complaint.  We’ve had several people ask us why we are traveling to China.  Little HulaLoo says ‘To Bring my little sister home’ which leads to an open and encouraging conversation.  One of my first encounters on the walkway into the plane cabin was with a young women who works with some of the orphanages in China.  “I love to see families going to help the orphans there.  It is so needed.’   As far as I am concerned, she had me at hello.

The ride up to Chicago (in order to benefit from the direct flight) went pretty well thanks to Uncle Tony.  The hardest part so far has been the goodbyes to everyone at home.  Pappo and Grandma Patty are holding down the fort and anxiously awaiting our return. Aunt Jenny has provided a an assortment of fun surprises that we are opening periodically to reward behavior and fight boredom which has been a life saver since about exit #10 on the highway! also has a new tablet loaded with games which is the best $50 we have spent in a long time.  I have already been able to leverage it for good behavior!

Mom was concerned because she didn’t carry her snacks on to the plane, but I have assured her that I have packed enough food for a small army to survive for at least a few weeks.  (If they don’t mind a steady diet of Rice Krispie Treats and cheese and crackers..) Our baggage overfloweth… (I even have winter clothes for the orphanage!  Eric was amazed at what I could fit in.  Those vacuum bags really work folks.) I even have the portable baggage scale to rearrange if we need to! (China’s weight limit per bag is less than in the USA.)

I’m keeping my eyes open for opportunity and adventure! I want to say thank you to all the friends and family who have been praying for us and with us on this very long journey.  I got many warm text messages and prayer offerings before we set off on this journey of a lifetime.  You truly find out who your friends and family are when you step out on faith.  Can’t wait to see you all soon!

 

Your Friend,

Meredith
LLI 

 

 

 

 

When are you bringing little Williams home?

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International_adoption__diagram.jpeg

‘When will you bring Little Williams home?’  That’s a good question and one I wish that I could answer.  It has become a question asked of us almost on a daily basis.  

When I gave birth to our oldest daughter, I took for granted that I pretty much knew the exact timeline  of her arrival within a week or two.  When people asked ‘When are you due?’ I gave a specific date.

This time is very different.  As I look back, I’m glad we didn’t share the news with everyone right off.  As we near ‘Gotcha Day’, talking about it has become exciting.  However, I think I may have gone crazy if I had to answer the question ‘Where are you in your adoption’ on a daily basis for two years before we were even matched.  Dear friends, don’t think that I don’t appreciate your concern and don’t stop asking!  Its just that the process is so different from a physical birth.  There is so much waiting and so much out of our control.  It can be almost maddening.

It’s interesting because I have encountered some people that I think may suspect I am intentionally being evasive about the question.  The opposite is true.  I WISH I KNEW.  If Dr. Adoption would give me a due date to arrive at the hospital to pick our daughter up, I would gladly go.  Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. There are many things about this process which have been eye opening.  The complexity of multiple governments, agencies and paperwork is mind boggling.  (But worth it!)

The Adoption Process
Not for the faint of heart (or the averse to paperwork and killing trees…)

For those of you unfamiliar with the international adoption process, let me try to provide a cliff note version of International Adoption 101.  This post has been in production for quite a while because it took me quite a while to create the graphic.  Bear with me as I paint this  picture for you.  (It resembles a Picasso, not just because of the beauty but because it’s not exactly an orderly process.  You will see what I mean!

There are a few things that affect the length and process for every family:

#1 – The country you adopt from

Every country had different parameters for potential adoptive parents.  (Age, marital status, financial requirements, etc.)   Every country also has different elements affecting the length of time it would take to adopt, such as: the number of children available (which is is also affected by whether or not children with and without medical conditions are available for international adoption), the sophistication of the country’s paperwork and communication system(s) and the passport and visa requirements for entering that country.

 

#2 The Hague Convention

Countries that have signed the treaty known as the Hague Convention, have instilled additional safeguards to ensure that inter-country adoptions take place in the best interest of the child.  There are some additional safeguards and steps in the paperwork process.

 

#3 Your state requirements 

Some states require additional steps or documentation that are unique to the individual state.

 

#4 The travel requirements

Requirements vary based on the country the adoption is originating in.  (Some countries have very limited time frames and constraints for entering with a Visa.)
  

There are a few things that are consistently required for the process of international adoption.

– A Home Study
– An International Adoption Agency
– A Dossier (A collection of supporting documents)-This sounds very covert, but it i not driven by the FBI (although the government does fingerprint you TWICE under  the current process..
– Immigration Approval 

 I won’t go into detail in this blog entry about the complexities of each step, but I will say it can be confusing even for the most organized of people!  I realized early on, that I was not going to be able to push our adoption through the ‘system’ more quickly just by being more organized.  Anything with multiple governments, agencies and people is not going to be a fast process.  There is more waiting than doing. But it is worth it my friends.  So worth it!

Look for more regular updates as we get close to our ‘Gotcha’ Day.  Thanks for joining us in the journey.

 

Your Friend, 
Meredith

LLI  (Live Life Intentionally) 

Match Made In Heaven

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We’ve been matched!

Its been a while since I have posted, and there was good reason.  We have been waiting.  And waiting. And waiting.

To be honest, I didn’t have the patience to do a post about patience.  (Side note – I also was not effective enough to actually finish reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  But alas, that is a conversation for another day..)

The tide has turned, and now the countdown to China has begun!  This train (perhaps the Oriental Express) is leaving the station. We have been matched with a little girl in China.  The news came the Friday before Mother’s day.  (How cool is that?)  The weeks since then have been packed with yet more paperwork (even though they say we are at the end of the paper chase, I’m not sure I believe them.  Ugh.)

The moment I first heard her story will be a moment I will never forget.  It reminds me a lot of the ultrasound I had with little Hulaloo.  Within a few minutes I had a picture.  I saw her face and I knew she was ours.  To be honest, I knew before I saw her picture.  Here’s why..

I read a lot of books and it takes a lot for me to say that a book really affects me, but the  The Circle Maker was one of those books.  Our small group recently read and discussed the book over several weeks while we ‘ prayed through’ the big issues affecting our lives. The highlights are Dreaming Big, Praying Through and Going Long.  If I said nothing more than that, I think you would agree that the long process of international adoption requires all those things. But wait.  There’s more.

A highpoint of the book for me was a section that discusses the difference of prayer made in true faith.  Most people who pray regularly ask God for guidance and answers with a hopeful attitude and heart.  But like Indiana Jones who steps on to the invisible bridge in The Last Crusade (all things in my life relate back to Indiana Jones, Star Wars or Seinfeld) someone who truly has faith, ACTS with confidence (as if the prayer has already been answered.)  If we truly trust God hears and will answer our prayers, there comes a point where we are assured its a done deal before we actually see it.

As I mentioned before, we have been waiting for a year and a half.  I was starting to waiver a little bit and become weary and impatient.  I had faith, but I was tired and having difficulty understanding why things weren’t moving more quickly.  I believed there was a little girl somewhere in China that was ours, but I wanted to see her little face . I thought about the birthdays we had already missed.  I want her to know that even though we weren’t with her , they were celebrated.  Every year on our little Hulaloo’s birthday, I write her a note that talks about the year and my hopes and dreams for her.  I put a little gift in the card and don’t give it to her.  I save it.  The cards will be a gift for her on her 18th birthday. Since I knew that our newest little one was out there, I decided to act on my faith.  I wrote the first birthday card for her.  I told her about our eager anticipation of her arrival and told her the special meaning behind her name.  Everyone in our family has the middle name Lee and Leigh, spelled differently but part of the same family.  We are different, but we belong together.  I shared with her that her middle name would be Li, spelled in a way that honors her Chinese heritage.  It would be different but fit perfectly in the puzzle God is fitting together to make our family.

Two weeks AFTER I wrote that letter, I got THE CALL.  During the call the agency was describing her medical history and some of the details regarding her life in the orphanage.  The name of the girl? Her last name is Li. 

Yep, you read that right. Her name was already Li. We will truly be honoring and keeping her Chinese name.  God had worked it out already.

This was one of those few AHA moments in my life.  We probably only get a handful of those in our lifetime.  I’m keeping my eyes wide open for more in the next steps of this journey! Keep your eyes wide open for the aha moments God has planned for you. You never know when it will happen!

LLI (Live Life Intentionally)

Your Friend, 

Meredith



 

The Circle of Community

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The Farmer in the Dell by Hoopla Kidz

 

Did you ever play the Famer in the Dell as a kid?  Remember ‘Hey Ho the Dairy O, the famer takes a wife?’  

It was one of my favorite games as a kid.  I would sing my heart out and eagerly walk the circle hoping that my hand would be taken next.  It didn’t matter if I was the farmer or the cheese, I wanted to be part of the game!  I have always craved being part of something bigger than myself.  I love being associated with a group that has a common vision and values.  In school it was sports and later in college it was the Cooperative House that I lived in at Purdue University. Even now, all these years later (lets just say double digits,) I get together with some of my girlfriends from the house twice a year.  Its easy to step back in to a place and reconnect with those that have common memories and interests.  I love it!

One of the things that has been an unexpected bonus in our journey to adoption has been the strong and passionate adoption community. We continue to be introduced and welcomed into the circle of those who have traveled the path before us. It is amazing to me the people that God is placing within arm’s reach every step of the way.   From bloggers  that we have never met to family members we haven’t seen nearly enough, we have found resources to answer questions and clear the way for our next step toward completing our family. I  can already tell the adoption community is a group with strong ties and a commitment to something greater.  I am looking forward to moving inward for their support as we get closer to welcoming Little W into our arms.

The process has made me reflect on the influence of community in my life.  The power of a community to change lives isn’t a new concept.  Its over 2000 years old.  Its called the Church.  Say ‘church’ today and most people think of a building with a particular denomination on its sign.  In reality the church building is the home base for a particular body of believers.  Whenever I have moved or changed jobs, I yearned for a ‘family’ where I was accepted and embraced just as I am. For me place where I have always felt most embraced and free to be me is the church.

I have often heard people say ‘I don’t need to go to church to be spiritual or a good person.’  Nope you don’t.  
But this attitude misses the beauty and strength and intended purpose in its community.    Is the church full of hypocrites? No, but there may be a few. Rest assured that the church is made up of 100% sinners.  Like a biological family, it can get messy in any community when human beings are involved.

The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. 
Membership is not dependant on performance.  Isn’t that awesome?!

For each of us, community and human connection can fill a void that no amount of facebook or tv can replace.  Maybe you too are adopting, or you are caring for an elderly parent, or are single and lonely. Each of our needs is different, but the common denominator is that each of us can gain strength in connection.  YOU have to take the first step.  Reach out.  Don’t wait for it to come to you!

LLI

Meredith 

Thankfulness is Bittersweet

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This is the day that the Lord has made.

This is the day that the Lord has made.

Have you ever felt like life is just pounding you with blows that rattle your faith or your joy?  It seems like we have been surrounded by immense loss and sadness in the last month.  Death has shadowed dear friends and our own family,  putting a damper on what is normally a festive kickoff to the holiday season.  Do you ever wonder why God allows loss and sorrow in the world?  I do.  Life is sometimes painful.  For many people the holidays hold an emptiness that no amount of music, food or Black Friday deals can fill.

Now I’m no theologian, but I know myself enough to understand that there are things that I’m not going to catch on to without a little help from our Creator.  I guarantee that with my selfish nature if I lived in a world without valleys, I would have  no appreciation for the beautiful view from above.  Losing people I have loved makes me more thankful for those still with me.  Being financially strapped for a time in my life, makes me thankful for every dollar I have.  Seeing persecution half a world away makes me more thankful for my religious freedom.

A friend of mine recently lost both his mother and father in a tragic accident resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning.  (Sidenote – make sure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector in your home!)  In the waiting room of the ER my friend gathered his children around him in the midst of the trauma and the pain to pray.  They thanked God for the day that HE had made.  He wanted his children to see that God doesn’t always allow us to see the plan in the moment.  Regardless of how we feel, there IS MUCH to be thankful for, even if we have to look carefully.

A few days after the funeral, I received results from yet another (minor) surgery.  It made me wonder if I had asked better questions or taken action earlier, perhaps we would have conceived again.  The answer is maybe.  I thought about what my friend had said, so I pulled my car over and thanked God.  If things in my life had gone differently, I likely would not be on this road to adoption, and I am VERY sure its His will.  He knew what it would take to get me to this point.  So in the midst of circumstances that some would find disappointing or disheartening, I choose to be thankful.

Dear friends, pray for and reach out to those experiencing loss and sadness this season.  If you are in a dark place yourself, please look up and inward to find something to be thankful for, even if it is only the sunrise.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118: 24 English Standard Version (ESV)

LLI

Your friend,

Meredith

More Blessed to Give than to Receive

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When we started down this road of adoption it was a very personal decision that we made as a couple.  Some of the challenges we have anticipated and I’m sure there are many more we haven’t. We knew what it would cost.  We agreed that we would bear the responsibilties for this new child and that included financial responsibility.  Will it all be easy?  No. Have there been and will there be many sacrifices along the way? Yes. Yes. Yes.

So when our small group asked to do a special benefit lunch for us, my initial thought was ‘There are so many people that deserve it more than us.’  But then I thought about something my Mom had shared with me a few weeks before. She reminded me that we need to be mindful not to  deny others the blessing of providing love and support.  And the truth is every ounce of support is helpful! We have gained strength and reassurance from those around us as we move farther into this adoption process.  That need will do nothing but grow as we get closer to being matched and bringing Little W home.

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. ‘

Acts 20:35

 

Has there been someone in the last 30 days who has asked you ‘How can I help?’ or said something like ‘let me know what I can do?’  My guess is that most of us gloss over it while in our minds we are formulating the plan that will move us to a goal all on our own.  ‘I can do it!’ is our internal mantra.  Not a bad thing, but some things in life are better when we let people move a little closer to us.  My question to you is this:  ‘What blessings are you denying to others and yourself?  Is your ‘I can do it’ attitude keeping others at arms length?
 
Denise & Cathy  (true servants / servers !)

Denise & Cathy
(true servants!)

Mike & Dee (Hamming it up)

Mike & Dee
(Hamming it up)

We were recently surrounded by peope who wanted to bless our adoption process. Our small group will be some of the first family members that this new little one will know in the USA.  How fitting that they should play a role in bring Lil’ W here! Of course the principle of ‘More Blessed to Give than Receive’ is one of the primary reasons for us choosing adoption in the first place.  Dear friends of MFCC, please know that we will pay it forward.
LLI!
Your friend,
Meredith