Sunday, April 19, 2015

At Which Point We Nearly Went To See Jesus.

Two days after arriving in Jinan we were once again packing up and heading to the airport to fly to Guangzhou.

Ahhhh the ignorance of what I was about to encounter was such a gift.
I cannot recollect the entire series of events because truly.....
they were just that terrifying.
But suffice it to say, mid-flight I was really convinced that we were all about to go see Jesus.
I began to wonder if the journey would be shorter for us since....ya know....we were already up in the air.
Distance between a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet and Heaven anyone?
Yeah. I don't know either.

To say it was incredibly turbulent is to say that the Titanic got a teensy bit wet.
It was more than turbulence.
It was more like the pilots were playing candy crush whilst the plane was being tossed violently back and forth like a pendulum.

Mid-flight Lori even looked over her shoulder at me with a look of death and asked if I was ok.
When we landed she admitted that "that was pretty rough" I know it's not just me being....ya know....a big wimp.

I tried to distract myself by blaring praise and worship music into my headphones and pretending to be able to read the Chinese newspaper from the seat back in front of me.

But all that did was confuse me.....

Eventually.....after 3 hours.....we landed....
and I exhaled for the first time in well....3 hours.

The promised land.
The Garden Hotel. 
We had arrived.

T minus 11 hours till the breakfast buffet opens.


Though I immensely enjoy recounting this trip through the lens of humor
I do want you to know and understand that incredible brokeness exists.
Sure it exists here.....but it exists differently over there.
There is so much I am unable to put into words.
There is so much I am unable to say.
There is so much that we saw and experienced that I cannot possibly convey.
The hard is....
My heart was shattered by so much that we witnessed inside orphanages and out.
And it's here I stand.
But with open hands.
Here I am Lord.
Send me.

And with that...
I leave you with this.
Snapped at the hospital where Joshua was found.

Ni Hao Jinan!

From Beijing we took the train to Jinan.
Rebekah's province.
Things were about to get real. 

We arrived at our hotel, unloaded and went to bed in anticipation of what the next morning would bring.
Had a quick breakfast before meeting our guide
and then it was time.
Here are some beautiful photos of Lori's gotcha moment...

I got nothin.
They are all on Lori's SD card.
You can hop on over to her blog to read all about this day. 
Jinan is a bit of a blur to me.
We were only there for 48 hours and it was met with some profound moments in watching a precious little girl get a family, and some rather deep discussions with Charlie, the orphanage social worker about the complexities of all that is occurring within orphan care over there.
Charlie went to college and majored in special education.
Charlie is good people.

I've ordered an "I heart Charlie" tee-shirt.
I'll get you one too. 

Annnnd back to Shanghai

My third trip to China but by far my most involved as far as the number of places and the amount of travel in between.

At this point we have taken the 15 hour flight to Shanghai.
Taken the one hour train to Hangzhou.
Taken the train back to Shanghai.
And trained to Beijing(5 hours)....all in 4 days.

When we came back from Hangzhou we spent a little bit of time walking around the ancient city.
People everywhere.
So. Many. People.
Loved. Every. Minute.

I'm not sure you can see me in this picture.....
but it demonstrates the amount of humanity that was there with us that day.
I'm the one with the backpack. Just wanted to clear that up. 

And then there was the food smells wafting through the air.
Trip 1 to China I was mildly freaked out by the food.
I remember trying to decide if the orange juice was safe to drink that first morning.
Oh how the tide has turned. 
I would have completely eaten any of the deliciousness that the vendors were selling if not for the 42 omelets I had eaten at the breakfast buffet.

Speaking of breakfast....
I grabbed one of these.

It looked innocent enough.
It was fried....which.....come on....
Just yes.
And it was right next to the spring rolls, which gave it an immense amount of street cred in my book.
So I dug my fork in to take a bite......
And this popped out.

A ventricle of some sort.
Alrighty then. 
Breakfast over.
I apparently still have some standards left. 

Mmmmm Pig Bag Soup.
My fav.

There was of course also the option of a duck at 6am with my coffee.
Which sounded oddly delicious.
I'm pretty sure duck with your morning coffee is going to catch on in the US.

And then there was the shopping.
Which I have no words for.
So I'll just show you a couple of pictures and leave it at that.

Ok then.
Moving on.....

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Ran Into A Wall

A big, big wall.
Apparently in Beijing there is a rather large landmark that is somewhat popular.
I can't quite remember the name of it,
but it looks like this
The Big Wall?
The Rather Large and Lenghty Wall?
The Winding Fortress Wall?
The My Glutes are Burning Climbing This Thing Wall?
I dunno.

It was pretty great though.
We took a questionably safe ski lift to the top of one section.
I may or may not have pee'd my pants in fear on the way up.....
you'll never know...
I admit nothing.

And took a sled down to the bottom.

Which was off the chain f.u.n.
Highly, HIGHLY recommend.

It was pretty profound to stand there and remember how many hands built this wall under the tyranny of slavery and imprisonment and how many lost their lives doing so. The wall was built by soldiers, common people....who were "invited" to participate in the building and criminals.
Brick by brick.
Hand by hand.
The sheer magnitude is overwhelming.

And in case you were curious,
there are panda hat/mitten combinations that are available at the wall.
Historical scholars are divided as to whether or not these furry panda ensemble's were available during the actual building but they are there now.
And when it's wicked cold when you arrive, they are your friends.
Your warm, furry and fashionable $5 friends. 

And then of course there are also these lovely pieces of artwork.

Come on.
Are just plain fantastic.
I can't tell you the regret that I am living with having not purchased one.
No seriously.
My birthday is in like 4 months......just sayin.

Ni Hao Beijing!

Today is the day in which I tell you all about a girl named Meredith.

I wanna be like Meredith when I grow young.
In case you don't know her, she is the international director of Morning Star.
She's the real deal.
She's the real, fluent Mandarin speaking tall white girl like she's lived here her whole life deal.
I spent our 48 hours in Beijing following her around like a puppy asking 8.2 million questions about her work there, her life, the babies, the surgeons, the nanny's, whether I could move in to her house and make her breakfast everyday, heart defects and and and and and
I'm so fun to have as a house guest.
Or something.

And then she sealed our friendship forever when she introduced me to the awesomeness that is a french press.

When we arrived at her gate that night the guards let us in and Lori called Meredith to let her know that we had breeched the gates and our driver needed further direction.
Lori then handed the phone to the driver and I overhear Mandarin being spoken by a female voice.
I just assumed that Meredith had a friend with her that was giving him directions.
Ummmm no.
It was Meredith speaking the whole time.
To which I was all like 
She speaks fluent Mandarin??!!
No joke.
It was amazing.
Meredith tells driver man to just stay at the gate and she will come get us.
So he then, of course, leaves the gate and starts driving us all around the 'hood.
Meanwhile we think she has given him directions to her house so we are happily being driven all over creation thinking he knows exactly where he is going.
He didn't.
This becomes apparent after a few minutes.
So we call Meredith back....she's trying to figure out where we are....we are trying to figure out where she's pitch dark and we are at the mercy of our non-English speaking cab driver.
When suddenly out of the shadows what does appear but Meredith jogging down the middle of the road.
She tells the driver to follow her.
So there we are.....driving 5mph all over her neighborhood in the dead of night...
with Meredith jogging alongside the car.
It's at this point that I'd like to ask a simple question that none of us thought of at that point.

Why didn't we have Meredith get IN the car?

We made her jog!
We made the poor girl jog! 
We are horrible, horrible people!!!

And because she has clearly been living in China too long,
she just steps out in FRONT OF THE CAB to make him stop when we got to her house.

Ok then.
Nice to meet you!

Morning Star foster home in Beijing cares for whittle bitty babies that all have complex congenital heart defects.
Can I just say
The way it's set up.
The way it's run.
The way they are careful to protect attachment as best they can with these cuties.
The way these kids get the best care within a system that would otherwise have been unable to meet their needs. 
I. Love. It.
I like wanna pass it a note in study hall and see if it loves me back love it.

Orphan care.
Heart defects.
Ring, ring.
SO calling my name.

We hung out with the babies.....which I have no words for that cuteness.

And I fell more and more in love.

We left 2 days later....and I cried and held on to her leg and told her she couldn't make me go.

But we left.
For now....
So Meredith. Get out the french press sister, I've got my jogging shoes.
I'm so totally coming back.
Your biggest fan

Birth Parent Searching, My Experience

Today we took the train from Shanghai to Hangzhou to do some birth parent searching for Joshua.
It was the day before tomb sweeping weekend, a HUGE holiday here in China.
Which, also fun fact.....makes it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get a taxi around town.
Ok. That was sarcasm....this no taxi bit......not fun.
Not fun 'tall.
I should have hired a car and driver for the day.....but sadly I was not briefed on the complexities of tomb sweeping holiday....I must have missed that day in Chinese high school.

After arriving via high speed bullet train (train travel in China = LOVE) we disembarked, met up with our guide/helper/translator and headed out.
I had high hopes of our day in Hangzhou.
Not only to pretend like I was Magnum PI and locate his birth parents, but also to enjoy the city. Hangzhou is one of China's top tourist destinations, largely due to the West Lake area which looks like this

I had never been and was so incredibly excited to breathe in this city where Joshua was born.

that didn't quite happen.
Did you hear that sound?
That was my expectations crashing to the ground. 

Buckets of rain.
Buckets of rain and no freaking taxi's.
This is pretty well what we looked like

Just kidding.
We looked absolutely nothing like this.

We ended up having to take a bus.
With approximately 8.2 million other people....
all on the same bus.
We had gone a few blocks, all "snuggled" up to complete strangers when Lori looked at me and with flames shooting out of her nasal passages said, "WE. ARE. GETTING. OFF. OF. THIS. BUS."
Roger that.
Off the bus.
So we tried again for a taxi.....
that's so not happening.

And then in a moment of brilliance our guide stopped a police man in his car, gestured wildly at the pathetic, dripping wet Americans standing in the middle of the road and asked for a ride to the orphanage.
And he said yes.
Jesus loves me.
We had a police escort to the orphanage.
In China.
We had a Chinese police escort to the orphanage with the lights on and everything.
Ohmygoodness. So much fun.

It wasn't until about 15 minutes into the ride that a horrifying realization swept over me.
I turned to the guide and uttered the words,
" are we going to get back into town?"
"No problem, I will call a friend and have her order us a taxi."
Me: "Sweet! That sounds perfect."
And I settled in for the ride to the outskirts of town to the orphanage.

After the orphanage visit we walked outside and there was a nicely dressed man, standing next to a car. I politely nodded at him, said hello, and began to look for our taxi....
No Taxi....
It was at this moment that I began to mentally calculate how many days it was going to take us to walk from Hangzhou to Shanghai, whether we would arrive alive, how to procure enough rain water to last us the journey, counted my change hoping I had enough to purchase a yak to ride upon and I began to whittle us an umbrella made out of grass for the trek.
I am ever thrifty and handy in such situations.

And then the guide walked out behind me and opened the door of this nice man's car for us.....
Ummmmm "Do you know this man?" I asked my stranger danger radar was signaling wildly in my head....

"No" she replied.....
"He is an uber driver."
Me: On the ground laughing my head off that China has uber.

So a police escort to the orphanage and an uber driver back home.
Day. Made.

Hangzhou, I love you man.
You had me at uber.

Why I Do What I Do.

I wanted to take a moment and explain why I keep voluntarily packing up, kissing the heads of my squishy babies and heading across the world.

I want to tell you it is to be sincerely supportive of my friends.

I want to tell you that it is because of the opportunities contained within such a trip that allow me to love on the fatherless and to learn more and more and ever more about the complexities of the orphan crisis.

I want to tell you that it is because I am noble. And righteous. And have a perfectly pure heart.

But what I'll tell you instead is the truth.

I go because of the dragon fruit. 

I said it.
It's cuz of the dragon fruit.
I want to marry it and have its babies.

If you've never experienced such a thing, my condolences....and a moment of silence....


Allow me to introduce you:
Dragon Fruit. Jesus loves me.
Do not mind the fresh blackberry pastries next to the fruit. 
These are not the droids you are looking for.

I have no words for the deliciousness that is this fruit.
I eat an embarrassing portion of this each day that I am in Asia.
Embarrassing. Portion.
So if one day you too find yourself in the this.
And then send me a thank you card.
You're welcome. 

Ni Hao Shanghai!

Gooooooooooooodddddddd Morning Shanghai!

I've showered.
Ahhhhh people can breathe next to me again!
Gotten dressed in clean non-15 hour airplane clothes.
Because hello, necessary.
And had the most amazing breakfast buffet.
Would I like 12 omelets, 3 steamed buns, watermelon juice and fried rice alongside 27 other foods that I can neither pronounce nor identify yet cannot stop eating?
Well yes. Yes I would.
And maybe I did eat a pig snout or fish eyes somewhere in there accidentally.
Don't judge me man.

I'd say day 1 is off to a very good start.

We are staying at the Westin Bund.
I may never leave.
May I take your bag?
Would you like a towel?
Can I get you more coffee?
Here let me open that door for you and push the elevator button so you don't exhaust yourself....
I have found where I belong.

Well, that is until the art work.
It's ummmmmmm....... How you say......


I call this one "After 4 or 5 kids the rest just walk right on out."

Kegals sister, you gots to do your kegals.

And then this.

Alrighty then.
China is feeling a bit randy these days. 

And with those lovely images I sign off for now.
Big big day ahead.
The guide will be here at 9:30 so I must see how many more bowls of noodles I can ingest before then.

Tomorrow it's birth parent searching for Joshua in Hangzhou.

I'm a Big Girl Now

Or something like that.

After breakfast with these two

And being driven to the airport by this giant one

And Facetiming my wittlebitties

And an afternoon of buckets of tears in the airport bathroom
And after texting Lori this to see if I still had to go:

I got it together
And I gots on da plane.

It was supah spacious......

That's me in my silver flats stretched across all 3 seats and that's Anna Bates hanging out with me in Downton so that I could....ya know.....pretend to be on the ground in Yorkshire and run errands for the Dowedger Countess in Rippon. Thanks Anna. You're such a friend.

It was a pretty smooth flight right up to the point that we made a very rapid descent for what the pilot called a "little bit of saturation" approaching DFW......which I'm pretty sure means to avoid an immense amount of planes colliding into one another. But I liked his way of describing it better.
A whole lot better.
We flew up and down in a circle or 5 vectoring in and out of airspace as planes crisscrossed below and above us which was only mildly unsettling to me.

At one point the pilot, who was from New Orleans, encouraged everyone to look out the window because he wanted to show us the coastal erosion in the Mississippi delta.
And he was all like educational
And I was all like eyes shut, window shade down.

I got off the plane in Dallas, looked at Lori and said
I must really love you.

So we are here for the night, fly out to the mother land tomorrow morning.
1 flight down, 4 to go till home. Whoop.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Third verse, Same as the Second.

Just finished crying my eyes out in the bathroom stall in the airport for a ridiculously prolonged period of time. So I'd say far......trip not going very well.

I cried through my entire pack of tissues that I had in my backpack for going potty in China. And then I realized all the toilet paper that was right there next to me. Yeah. Awesome.

Y'all im sad.

I'm like super sad.

I get it together and then some mother with a boy will walk by and I start all over again.

Much, much snot.

Happier updates coming soon.
Here's hoping.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Second Verse, Same As The First.

T-minus 48 hours till takeoff.
And just like last time
I am currently alternating between vomiting at the thought of leaving these kids
and vomiting at the thought of leaving these kids.

So yeah.
Super productive.

I did finally pack.
And charged my camera.
And tried to remember what all I take to China.
Sigh. Vomit. Sigh.

I will say that when I get anxious....I clean.
So that worked quite well.
I mopped today ya'll.
I scrubbed the toilets because somehow knowing my kids will have clean toilets to pee in makes the leaving a little bit easier.

I went to the grocery store for milk and walked out with $342 worth of groceries to tide them over for the first week that I am gone.
I bought them an Easter ham.
A ham.
A freaking ham.
Sorry piggy. Hungry boys and understand right?

I bought all their favorite munchies that they love in their lunchbox.
Because again....somehow that makes the leaving easier.
Tomorrow I'm taking the Suburban to get cleaned and vacuumed.
I don't know why.
I think knowing their dirty little baseball cleats can rest on clean floor mats makes the leaving a little bit easier.
Clearly I have issues. 
All of their uniforms for next week are lovingly folded and organized in their slots.
Because somehow....this makes the leaving easier.
And I ironed their underwear
because somewhow, this makes the leaving.....ok no I didn't.
I'm not that far gone.

Tomorrow I'm declaring it The Day of Mom. 
I'm taking the teens out to lunch.
The twins out for Yogurtology.
And the Asian sensations and I are going to make gigantic ice cream sundaes and watch their favorite movie....Chronicles of Narnia.
I'm soaking them in.
Every breath.
Every smell.
Because man am I gonna miss them when I'm gone.

And in case you tire of hearing me bemoan leaving my children for 17 days you should know that I do tend to be ok once I get's the days leading up to it that are the hardest for me. 
So once I am in China and begin posting all the zaniness that is occurring over there without mentioning the kids you'll be all like, "Wow. Didn't she have kids she missed? Whatever happened to that? Does she karaoke with Chinese people when she is sad? Does she climb the Great Wall when she misses them?" And all be all like, "Well yes. Yes I do." It's gonna be epic.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I'm Not Sure She Understood.

A wittle story for you:

I never never drank coffee
until I had newborn twins
and then....
you's gots to do what's you's gots to do.
Only one out so far.....I'm already tired.
What is this coffee you speak of? I. Need. Some.
Over the years as my addiction compulsion increased I have tried many a variety of creamer.
Loralie Gilmore ain't got nothing on me. 
Many a flava flav.
Many a brand.
And it wasn't until this delicious creation was sent down from Heaven itself that I have been hooked on this one and only this one.

It's been years now.
And this is my friend.
It greets me every morning.
It says hello and welcomes me with it's aloha coconuty aroma and it's all manner of things that are bad for you but I can't bring myself to care because it's so yummy.

And so it was that I ran to the grocery store the other day.
I was out of coffee creamer.

Did you catch that?

Problem is....I approached the dairy case.....
and they were out of my coffee creamer too.

Did you catch that?

So I sat down on the floor
right there in the middle of the dairy aisle
and with tears streaming down my face I drank copious amounts of whipping cream and began to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to make myself feel better.

No I didn't.
I'm not that far gone yet. 
But what I did do was push my nose against the glass and peered straight through the milk into the back storage room desperately seeking any box that had the words "Coffee mate" and "Coconut Creme" on it.
It didn't take long for an employee to notice the apparent tragic look of desperation on my face and offer assistance.
I hugged her and explained that I needed my creamer.
Like camels need water.
Like people need oxygen.
I. Need. My. Creamer.

And so it was that I begged her to go into the storage room and seek liked she'd never seeked before to find me some.
Certainly there was a box in there somewhere.
This is America people.
We sell 872 varieties of cereal and 491 varieties of toilet paper.
There simply

because she clearly doesn't know me
what she did was to begin to offer me other flavors that were right in front of me.
"Well maa'm have you tried the vanilla bean?"
It's quite good.
"Or the carmel macciato is very popular."

And as she continued pointing out other flavors
I simply looked at her and blinked.
I had no words to offer this lunacy that she was suggesting. 
Vanilla almond?
French Vanilla?
Blink. Blink.
It was at about the fifth suggested flavor that she realized that I was alternating between silently blinking at her and pressing my body ever further and further into the dairy case itself to look into the back room that she realized the true enormity of the situation at hand.
Middway through her suggestion that I try new girl scout thin mint flavor she abruptly stopped, regained the use of her faculties and dashed into the back.
I watched her searched.
I kindly pointed through the case in what general direction I thought I had seen the word "Coffee" on a box.
And eventually
she found it.
And she brought one bottle out for me.
And music played
and glitter rained down from the celing.
And I hugged her and promised her my first born.

Today however,
today is a day.
P-Dub posted this yesterday. 
Butter in your coffee.
We are definitely living in the end times. 

Just so we are clear....some things that I love:
  1. Jesus. 
  2. Butter. 
  3. Cheese.
I'm so trying this.

I'll update later today with how it went.
Butter. Coffee. I can't wait!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Who Can Save Your Life Apparently?

This girl.

I tried on lab coats today.
In the lab coaty/scrubby store. 
Hahahahahaha still makes me laugh.....
I picked this one.
Is this how they are supposed to look?
I have no idea and clearly should have been paying more attention rather than compulsively worrying that I was going to have to wear the hose.
(Which I am  NOT, btw.......let us rejoice)

I had way more fun than the normal people that were in the store with me I am pretty sure.
I'm ready for the blood, guts and gore that apparently comes from fulfilling an order for home health care.
I've been googling varying diseases so that I can pretend to know how to treat people.
I've been watching You Tube videos on how to stitch a wound
and deliver a baby
and transplant an organ
and take out your tonsils
and perform a vasec......never mind. I didn't watch that one. 
and turns out I was right about that whole "don't remove the knife" thing.
Man. I'm so much more of a doctor than I gave myself credit for.

So here ye, here ye, sick people of the world.
Come to me.
I can totally pretend to treat you.

And lest you are new here and not realize I speak in jest first,
I can't save anybody.....just so ya know. 
Please do not see me in the halls and say, "ooooo woman in the white coat! Please, place my intestines back inside my body cavity where they belong!"
Cuz I will probably vomit and run the other way screaming.
So glad we cleared that up. 
and second
only Jesus can save you.

If you don't know Him.
You should.
Because whether you believe or not,
one day you will meet Him too.
EVERY knee will bow.
And hey, if nothing else remember that if I'm wrong....I've lost nothing.
If you are wrong, you've lost everything. 

For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ~ Romans 3:23

Want to know more?
Go here. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Two Years Ago....

A little more than two years ago today I had hopped on a flight to JFK and waited for Lori to arrive....
I strolled around the airport and said hi to a bunch of people who didn't say hi back and I changed my name to Merl....which you can read about right here. 
I drank way overpriced coffee.
I approprached strangers with the offer of free airfare if they would go in my 'stead.
I tried in vain to fake a stomach bug so Lori would send me home sympathetically with a pat on the head.
I begged the CEO of Carnival to boat me over there instead.
It didn't work. 
Nothing worked.

I couldn't find a way.
No. Way. At. All. 
So I got on the plane with her....
and she only had to drag me a few times.
I'm such a grown up.

It ended up being one of the most incredible trips and exactly two years ago today I stood in that Civil Affairs office and watched family after family be transformed.....which you can also read about right here.
Orphans found families.
Families found treasured sons and daughters.
It. Was. Something. Else. 

And bonus, we ended up meeting an incredible group of ladies.
They had me at chimichanga. 

And I met a couple of guys who gave me the cold shoulder.

Big time.
They wouldn't let me play with them.

On the way home I stayed in DC for a couple of days and got to meet my sweet precious brand new niece....who is now much taller now and walks and talks and all that toddler goodness. I can't tell you how much I love this little girl.

And then one year later I returned to China.....a little bit flat.

This time we are going for the 3-D version again.
We leave in under two weeks.
I have packed nothing.
I have thought about what to pack not at all.
I work all next week...which will be super helpful in my need to pack and prepare. 
I've started saying to the children that mommy leaves in under two weeks whilst practicing not crying at the thought of it at the same time.
I'm so far failing miserably at this. 

Going on an adoption trip with friends is incredible, I love it.
Like I love, love it.
Like I want to pass it a note in study hall and tell it how much I love it.
Like if your name is Lori and you want me to go with you I'm so there.
But leaving my 7 behind......hard.
Really, really hard.