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 



 

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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. 

Day 3 – The Great Wall

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3 GENERATIONS OF WOMEN


Day 3 – From the Goosepond to the Great Wall

 

Today three generations of women in my family  (strong women as my Mom would be sure to say) stood on the Great Wall of China.  Our roots lie in a rural community half a world away in southern Indiana that now is a protected Wetland called the Goosepond.  The house that I grew up in was where my mother grew up and my grandmother as well.  Just thinking about how far we have traveled in such a short time blows my mind.  I’m sure that our family isn’t that unique in the fact that each generation seems to push the boundaries a little further, reach a little higher, extend the circle a little wider.  It leaves me wondering how the generation behind us will stretch the possibilities for the path their lives will take, and the responsibility we have as parents to give them roots and wings.  Both are important.

As I watched my Mom climb the steps behind us and periodically stop to rest on a particularly vertical and rather intimidating stretch of wall,  I was reminded of the kind of mother I want to be for my girls.  It probably wasn’t Mom’s preference to follow us half way around the world to a foreign country where they eat noodles for breakfast and you have to BYOTP when you go out in public.  (For those of you not seasoned in the ways of the far east that means Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.  I’m not kidding.. ) We were determined to bring Hulaloo with us because if we were at home in the hospital, she would be in the midst of the excitement. This is a once in a lifetime adventure that a five year old will never forget. The life experiences we provide to her are way more important than any money spent on the latest trend in toys.  Mom offered to put aside any priorities or commitments at home (as well as any fears) and join us on the journey.  She has never complained and has jumped right in to help with Hulaloo in moments where we needed to focus on what the guide was saying to us to ensure we got to the right place with the right currency and paperwork.

And that’s the kind of wife and mom I want to be.  Whatever sacrifice it takes.  Whatever is needed.  I am ALL IN.  Unfortunately, I think I have a long way to go to work out my selfish tendencies. However, I am working on it! The best guide is a great example.  Thanks Mom!

Here are few pictures from the day:

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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 

 

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)