Day 13: Where Orphans Live

Two days after being united with our son we had the opportunity to visit the social welfare institute (orphanage) where he spent the first 22 months of his life. He was over 4 years old by the time we adopted him and had spent 2+ years  living with a foster family; which we were very grateful for. So while we knew that he likely didn’t have many memories of living in the orphanage, visiting the orphanage was strongly encouraged by our agency and by my China mentor moms.

I have to be honest, I knew that it would be beneficial for Kai to have photos of his orphanage for later on in life, but I was deeply dreading the visit. I had seen YouTube clips and documentaries showing what life in the orphanage was like and I didn’t even want to imagine Kai there. But, my feelings aside, we signed up for the visit and went. It was about as emotion packed as I assumed it would be. I filmed a lot and have been debating whether or not to share it with the world. I am crying during most of the filming, I couldn’t pull myself together despite the myriad of nannies who must have thought that I was crazy.

The visit left me unbelievably heart broken and emotionally drained. When we got back to the hotel room later that night, I wrote and posted this to Instagram: “I will never forget today. Visiting the place where Kai spent his first 22 months of life was hard. Let me start by saying that there is no doubt in my mind that the nannies here care for these children. Every single nanny that we saw knew Kai’s (full Chinese) name, and there were dozens. The ladies in that lower photo were only a small amount of them; these were the ones who assisted in Kai’s classroom. I was so overcome with emotion when I saw them in action with the other kids and Kai that I burst into tears and walked around the room seeking out each one to thank and hold by the hands. These women looked after my Kai when I was thousands of mile away worrying and praying for him; I owe them everything. We gave Kai a giant bag of candies and he passed them out to every child we saw (until it ran out). They ALL called him by name when thanking him. Out popular boy! But guys, there were so many that it broke my heart over and over again. 5 tiny babies sunbathing in one crib, 10 little boys with Down Syndrome holding a rope led by a teacher. Countless baby babies playing in the nursery, a dozen toddlers wadding on the pavement. Is there something you can do? Can you give up a bit of comfort to do something miraculous? If I was a soapboxes before, this upped the ante X100. These babies NEED and DESERVE families. Is your baby here? #wehavekai but what about you?! It takes work, and stamina, and yes MONEY, but these are real live children, not statistics. We are blue collar workers, we own a 2 bedroom townhome, not a mansion. God used us, you can be used too.” (@leftylex)

CD1ECE05-6EED-4DC0-BF1F-4BBD702744DCI still stand by those words and that call to action. Friends, I’ve never attempted to sugarcoat adoption. It’s hard. Somedays you’ll wonder if you’re strong enough for the challenge, before, during, and after your child is placed with you. I know that I have! But, it is absolutely more than worth it. Holding my son in my arms after all of the mountains of paperwork and money it took to get him here only makes it sweeter. Looking back at these photos I’m reminded of the goodness of the Lord and his incredible faithfulness. Perhaps these photos and this mama’s recollection of her son’s first home is tugging at your heartstrings. And I pray that it does. Perhaps that subtle tugging will turn into something larger and you just might find yourself, someday, visiting the place where your orphan first lived.

Day 4: Waiting Children Challenge

If you’ve landed here, then you have at least some vague interest in adoption. Perhaps its something you haven’t really considered personally, but you’ve somehow found yourself following a few adoptive moms on social media and are interested by their stories. Maybe you’re ready to jump head first into the adoption pool, but your spouse hasn’t even put his/her swimsuit on yet. Or maybe you’re in the middle of an adoption or you’re an adoptive parent already. Whoever you are and however you stumbled here, I I have a challenge for you today!

My challenge is simple:

  1. Visit one (or all!) of the following sites
    1. http://www.nohandsbutours.com/children-wait/
    2. http://www.rainbowkids.com
    3. http://waitingchildinfo.com
    4. http://newdaycreations.com/foster/kids/kids_bj.htm
  2. Choose one child who (for one reason or another) catches your eye
  3. Pray for that child for the next 2 weeks straight

I want you to check out these sites for a few reasons. First, to see the sheer quantity of waiting children. Second, to see how minor (or sometimes major) the special needs of these children are. Third, and most important of all, to see their faces! I can throw out statistics to you left and right about how many children are left orphaned worldwide, etc. but no statistic could break your heart the way the faces of these children can. They aren’t stats, they’re kids! And every child deserves a family.

Perhaps adoption is not appropriate for you at this present time, but maybe it is. Maybe you just need someone to give you a gentle nudge towards the adoption path. Maybe you’re interested, but you don’t know where to start; start here! Maybe you don’t want to adopt, that’s fine too, but you can still pray for waiting children or share this post with someone you know who is interested in adoption.

So, if you’re ready to take the challenge with me, here are a few specific things to pray for:

  • the child’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well being;
  • the child’s caretakers;
  • that the child’s daily needs are being met (warmth, food, water, clothing, basics!);
  • that the child feels loved and precious;
  • that somewhere God is preparing a forever family for that child;
  • that all obstacles between that child and his/her forever family would be minimal and that God would be glorified even through those obstacles!

One of my favorite adoption quotes is by a pastor named David Platt, it reads: Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It’s easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.

That’s it. That’s my challenge, please take it. If you choose to join this challenge, leave a comment below or let me know on Instagram (@leftylex) and let me know the name of the child and which site he/she is on.  Let’s commit to a full two weeks, so encourage and remind one another to be steadfast in your prayers. My son was once one of these waiting children, and I have received several emails from families who prayed for him for months on end. What an amazing gift!

photo-2

3 Months a Mom

On January 12th, 2015, Ryan and I sat in a drafty room in Guangzhou, China alongside 5 other families who were all awaiting the arrival of their babies. Mind you, these babies ranged from age 2 to 13 and had been more loved, prayed for, worked for, and cried over then they will ever, ever know. The first family was called to the center of the room and a beautiful 13 year old girl in a wheelchair was brought out to them. My heart broke! Until that moment, I had remained uncharacteristically calm, but seeing that little girl united with her family just did something to me that I could never put into words on a blog post.

My heart began racing a mile a minute when I heard them call out “Chen family”. We were up next! Out waddled the sweetest little man you could ever pray to lay eyes on. There he was, in the flesh, our Kai! This was the moment I romanticized and dreamt of for nearly 17 months. We had our son! As we walked, with Kai, back to our little corner of the room, I was struck with the reality that we were FINALLY a family! That little Mandarin/Cantonese-speaking boy was OURS. No one was going to take him from us, no one was going to parent him for us. For better or worse, this was 100% on our shoulders now. It was a very beautiful and scary thought.

If you follow me on Instagram (@leftylex), then you know that life has not been an endless unicorn ride since bringing Kai home. Nor did we expect it to be. Kai spent the first 22 months of his life in an orphanage and over 2 years with the same foster family. We would be naive to think that his life experiences before us would not affect him. Of course they had! Some times its easier to pretend that Kai has always been ours and that he has always known the love and warmth of a family. But that’s not true and it’s not fair to Kai to create such a story. There are emotional and physical scars from Kai’s life before us. Every time I lay Kai down, put a hat on him, or wash his hair, I am reminded that he was not held as an infant. The back of his head is flat from laying in a crib all day. Stop and think of your son, daughter, niece, nephew or any other little one who is near to your heart. Can you imagine them crying as an infant and not immediately running to them to tend to their needs? Kai had no one to tend to him immediately; he shared a nanny with dozens of other kids in the same room. There simply was not enough (wo)manpower to hold all of those infants as much as they should have been held. But, the Lord protected our baby and made him a survivor.

It has taken an insane amount of coddling, kisses, tickling, and wrestling to slowly break down Kai’s walls so that he can truly trust and love us as his parents. Over the past three months, we have learned to love and trust together, as a family. There have been moments of complete emotional exhaustion and moments of ridiculous bliss. I have been hit, punched, bitten, hugged, kissed, and cried on more than I ever dreamed. It is not all sunshine here, nor do I want it to be. I want Kai to know that he is allowed to be angry and grieve for the people and things that he has lost in his short life. Most of us will never know that amount of loss. But there is such beauty in seeing him laugh, and smile, and learn to truly love. Ryan and I are in constant amazement at how much Kai has changed since that cold “Gotcha Day” in Guangzhou. It’s beautiful to witness the healing that has taken place in our son’s life.

Three months with Kai, three months a mom. They’ve been the most challenging and beautiful months that I’ve ever known.

Left: Kai's referral photo (2012) Right: Kai enjoying his first Easter egg hunt (2015)
Left: Kai’s referral photo (2012) Right: Kai enjoying his first Easter egg hunt (2015)

New Site Coming Soon!

So, clearly I haven’t touched this (absolutely horrendous) blog in about 18 months. And if you’re here, it’s likely due to the fact that you follow me on Instagram (@leftylex) since that’s where I’ve been microblogging for over 2 years now. And, if your an Insta follower, then you know that I’m enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School and that this week we were focusing on websites. Eeek! Quite the challenge for this chick. However, I have made a few steps towards establishing a real website (not just blog) that I will be proud of… and where you can actually pick up some Lefty Lex hoops! Thus, all of this rambling to simply to say that better is coming (and I pretty much just needed to post something so that my most recent post isn’t from 10/2013!). Cheers to improvement!

Lex