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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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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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 11 – Getting around Guangzhou

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Day 11 was an opportunity to see more of the culture of the Guangzhou area.  (Ok, I admit it. There was also shopping on the itinerary!) More importantly, we are getting glimpses into the true spirit and personality of  our little girl.  It is truly exciting to the boundaries broken by love, trust and attention.  We are seeing a little girl we have loved in our hearts for a long time, start to bloom in the light.  We also have the privilege of watching our oldest begin to grow in tenderness and protectiveness as a big sister. My attention is drawn to so many fascinating things around me that it is hard to know where to look next!  I choose to focus closer to the heart.

We continue to venture out with the group in order to experience the culture and provide opportunities for ourselves and our girls to see new things.  On Day 11 we spent the day visiting another temple, the family Chen temple and also doing a little local shopping.  It was a great day to see more of the ancient artisan craftsmanship so appreciated by my hubby.  

Little Li is starting to break out of her shell a little to walk with us and talk to us. She has been sleeping through the night and we have to wake her up from naps, lest she sleep the afternoon away! She can say and sign ‘more’ at this point and can say ‘bye bye’ in a way that is about the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.  She has become her big sister’s shadow.  Hulaloo is loving it!

 

It may take 20 years to get a photo with everyone in it AND smiling

 

This is a carving on top of the Chen Family Temple


Chen Family Temple

Getting ready for her first professional photo shoot with windblown hair


Learning to trust Daddy’s hand

Tomorrow is a big day.  Our group has to have physical exams at the consulate.  All children over 2, have to have  blood drawn for a tb test.  That should be fun… (not.)

More to come!  Thanks for joining our journey.

Your friend,

Meredith

LLi

Day 8 – Top 10 Things I Don’t Understand About China

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Day 7 was kind of emotional and based on the responses I’ve gotten from some of you, I think you agree.  I’m running a couple of days behind because of travel and pure exhaustion, so today we will lighten the mood a bit.  For those of you who don’t know me well, this may give you a glimpse into my slightly warped sense of humor and perspective.

In tribute to the great David Letterman (also a native Hoosier,) I have devised a top 10 list.  

The top 10 things I don’t understand about China:

#10 -Scooters

We were warned multiple times in Beijing and again in Zhengzhou about the traffic in Zhengzhou . You cross the street at your own peril.  Nothing in western culture prepares you for it.  So imagine, my dear friend as you view the photos below that you are crossing the street pushing a baby stroller, holding the hand of a  5 year old and being accompanied by two family members with hearing issues.  I finally decided that if a car or scooter didn’t kill me, a heart attack would!  God was good and we did live to tell about it.

 

Traffic Lanes? Who needs traffic lanes?


There is no such thing as pedestrian ‘right of way’ in Zhengzhou


Obviously the hands-free rule has not been implemented here. The only thing hands-free appears to be the steering column


No car seats with 5 point harnesses in Zhengzhou!

#9 – The Water

Even in the major cities (maybe even more so,) you cannot drink the water.  China’s population and economy are booming (for the most part), but there are elements of the infrastructure that lag behind.  Water is a primary example.  You won’t find microwaves in the room here.  You find water kettles for boiling water in order to purify it. 

Our water kettle

#8 – BYOTP

Yes,  it is a BYOTP culture in China.  (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.) I guess with over a billion people, that’s a lot of tp that would have to be restocked by attendants.  However, the trees must be sacrificed either way!  I came prepared for this particular issue by creating my own water proof tp dispenser from my favorite dollar store, Dollars N’Sense in Casey, IL .  (www.Facebook.com/DNSense )  Cost me a whopping $1 !

Never Leave Home Without It

 

#7- Air Quality

This is not a very green or politically correct thing to say, but I am going to say it anyway.  I think its great that we worry about the ozone layer and air quality in the USA.  We should be good stewards of God’s creation.  It is the right thing to do.  However, after having been to China, I really don’t think me not using aerosol hairspray is going to offset the fact that people in Beijing see a blue sky a few days a year. This side of the world has got a problem folks, and we better hope they get it fixed because the planet seems to be getting smaller and smaller.  We haven’t needed masks yet, but I downloaded an air quality app just in case!

This is not fog

 

#6 Budda

As a Christian there are many things I don’t understand about Buddhism (even more so now that our newest family was somewhat affected by the Ying/Yang concept.)  I do, however, honor the heritage, beauty and longevity of the culture.  We have seen many breath-taking temples while here.  At one, we saw the only female Budda.  Our guide told us that rubbing her belly was good luck for fertility.  He asked us if our group wanted to pay to rub her belly.  We all looked at each other and said “No thanks!” Many people will also bring her offerings of peanuts which are good luck for having more children.  (One child in our party, who shall not be named, brought me a peanut and said ‘look mommy, free snacks!’ We had a brief discussion about why the peanuts were there and returned the peanuts to their proper place at the alter.  It was also a good time to talk about never taking money OUT of the offering plate at church…)

Are there any peanuts missing from that plate?


Man praying using incense

 

 

#5 The sidewalks

In the USA, the roads are for driving and the sidewalks are for WALKING.  There is no ‘in-between.’  The same rule does not apply in China.  Notice the people, cars and scooters on the sidewalk?

#4 – No Coffee

Yes, its true.  Tea reigns supreme over here.  I packed coffee singles for three adults and thought it would last 2 weeks.  They lasted 3 days.  Walmart to the rescue!  Our hotel in Guangzhou has a Star Bucks.  Praise the Lord!

#3 – English signs not proof read for English.  

I’ve worked on labels for countries all over the world and learned my lesson a long time ago that you need to ensure proofreading by a native speaker to ensure accuracy.  One of these was in CarreFour which is bigger than Walmart.

 

I love good Coocking


What more can I say?

#2 – Split pants

Many baby’s in China do not wear diapers.  They wear split pants.  I will not go into the implications here, but you can use your imagination.  The photo below is from www.cupofjo.com .

#1 – The bathrooms

Public bathrooms deserve their own post.  Mom and I have begun rating our experience based on the bathroom.

Below are 3.  One was at an airport, one was at an attraction and one at a hospital.  Can you guess which is the hospital? Read on..

Squatty Potty


Western Style Toilet

 

Trough Style Toilet

 

The trough style bathroom with the garden hose was the hospital and by far the worst we have seen.  My mother and I will forever be bonded by the experience of taking little Hulaloo to the bathroom there.  (But we have vowed to speak of it to no one…EVER!)

Until next time!

Your friend,
Meredith

LLI 

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