Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Almost home

Guangzhou is a beautiful city. We've enjoyed our time here and it has been nice spending time the last few days with other families that are adopting.  However, the weather here has been pretty brutal. It is hot, humid, and has rained a lot.  I thought Atlanta was humid. The humidity here is at another level. We're definitely missing the weather we had in Kunming. 

On Saturday we took Daniel to the clinic for his medical appointment along with other families from our agency. Although there was no AC and some kicking/screaming, overall it wasn't too bad. 

We spent Sunday morning with the group shopping at a pearl, jade and jewelry mart. It was a huge indoor facility with several floors, but no AC. We had lunch at a great Chinese restaurant with another family we met here from GA that adopted a little girl about the same age as Daniel. Thankfully the restaurant was indoors and air conditioned.  

We went to the zoo on Monday morning. The kids had a great time seeing all the animals but it was very hot so we didn't stay too long (the zoo was outdoors with no AC). 

On Monday night we took a dinner cruise down the Pearl River in Guangzhou. It was a very cool way to see the city. 

On Tuesday morning we went to the US Consulate to take our oath and submit Daniel's visa documentation. Chad and McKenna enjoyed some time at the pool Tuesday afternoon. Thankfully this pool was not as cold as the one in Kunming.

While we wait for the visa, on Wednesday we will go shopping and eat lunch at Shamian Island. We will then head home late Wednesday night. I hope it's not hot, humid, or rainy in Atlanta. If so, we may just go back to Kunming. Please pray that Daniel will be like this on the flight back...

And not like this...

As this chapter of the journey comes to an end, we can't help but thank God for His mercy and grace. Thank you to our friends who prayed for us over the last year during this process. Thank you to our family who supported us and prayed for Daniel before we even knew who he was. Thank you to Jamie and everyone at Lifeline children's services for your support.  We couldn't have picked a better agency.  

We'd like to close this blog with an excerpt from Lifeline's commitment to families which echoes our heart's desire to serve:  Even through the hardships, difficulties, and sleepless nights – physical adoption is rewarding.  Spiritual adoption by our Heavenly Father is the greatest reward of all.  It is our prayer that spiritual adoption and the Gospel would be made known more than anything else through the ministry of Lifeline.

Chad and Carlyn
James 1:27

Friday, May 16, 2014

From Kunming to Guangzhou

We spent the last couple of days in Kunming sightseeing and just allowing Daniel to continue going through the grieving process and trying to bond with us.  On Thursday we went to The Luyu Tea Culture Exchange Center and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. We learned a lot about the history of all the people groups in Daniel's province (and a lot about tea). 

On Friday we took Daniel and McKenna on a stroll through the park while Caleb stayed back in the hotel with the grandparents. We got some stares and confused looks pushing a stroller with a 4 year old curly haired white girl and a Chinese baby, but we just rolled with it.

On Friday night we got on a plane and headed to Guangzhou for 5 more days of doing paperwork, signing documents, medical appointments, working on Daniel's visa, and our consulate appointment (mixed in with some shopping and sightseeing in between). Daniel did pretty well on the flight. They served chicken and rice and he ate two servings of rice. Well, actually about half of it ended up on his shirt, Chad's shirt and the floor. That was just a two hour flight. Not sure we can keep him occupied with eating rice for 15 hours on the flight back home.

I can't believe it's been almost a week since we've had him. It's amazing how much his attitude has changed toward us over the last few days. He laughs and plays so much. At times it feels like he's always been a part of our family. He is getting a lot more comfortable with Carlyn now. She is able to hold him for short periods of time and will now stay with her without Chad being in the room. Thank you to all who have supported us and prayed for us.  We really appreciate it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Becoming family

It has been 2 and a half days since Daniel has been with us and although there are still some challenges, overall things are going well. He is becoming more comfortable with all of us and seems to be realizing that we are his family. He is still hesitant with attaching to Carlyn but is slowly showing signs of affection. 

Tuesday Daniel officially became a Jackson!  After meeting with more officials, signing more papers, and getting Daniel's passport photo we attempted to go out to a restaurant for lunch and dinner. Handling a 17 month old that's only been in our family for a few days, not to mention our 4 year old and two year old, was challenging but we all did pretty well.  Fortunately we have Carlyn's parents here with us to help out.

Daniel loves to play and is starting to laugh a lot more. It's so cute to watch him coo and babble in Mandarin (google translate has been a valuable app).  We weren't really sure how he'd do in the bathtub but he loved it.

On Wednesday we went to visit the orphanage Daniel lived in from the time he was a day old until he was six months old. He lived in an extension of the orphanage in a Foster village over the last  year (which we were not allowed to visit). We found out that Daniel's main caretaker in the Foster village was a man, which might be part of the reason he is bonding with Chad faster. 

We decided to take McKenna with us to the orphanage. Chad and I were both apprehensive about the visit, but it was a lot better than expected. The orphanage in Kunming is one of the nicest in China. It was very clean and the ratio of nannies to children was pretty good. We were able to thank some of the caregivers that took care of him. Although the orphanage was nice, the reality that Daniel spent the first few months of his life in an institution was still heartbreaking. 

The day ended on a wonderful note. Daniel continues to amaze us. He loves to play with his siblings and has begun to follow them around. It is so precious. McKenna and Caleb have completely embraced him and treat him as if he has always been apart of our family. It is so wonderful to see how their relationships are already forming.  

To everyone who has been praying for us "Thank You!"  We feel your prayers. Please continue to pray for the bonding process.  As with our other children, loving Daniel has allowed us to see and experience God's love even more. We are so thankful for what He continues to do in and through us and pray that others may see His love- not for our glory but for His.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gotcha day

Gotcha Day

It has been a very long and emotional day. We got up this morning knowing that today was the day that we have been waiting for. Our appointment wasn't until 3:00 P.M. so we tried to keep ourselves busy while we waited. There is a park with a beautiful lake near our hotel so we rounded up the family and took a nice stroll around the park. McKenna and Caleb continued to get lots of attention, but they handled it pretty well. It was as if we were movie stars walking around. The locals all loved McKenna's hair. 

After that we came back to our room and Chad took McKenna to the pool. The water was very cold, so they ended up mostly playing around the pool instead of in inside it. It was so fun watching those two and the precious bond they have. 

At 2:30 we met our guide in the hotel lobby. I (Carlyn) was a ball of nerves. I couldn't believe that meeting Daniel for the first time and him becoming our son was about to happen. 

When we pulled up to the Civil Affairs office, Chad and I looked out the window and there was Daniel with his care taker. I cannot even begin to tell you the emotions that were going through us at that exact moment. Our son, the one we have been praying for and dreaming about for months was right there. 

Daniel immediately bonded with Chad and would not let anyone else including me get close to him. There were lots of tears during the meeting, but we got through it. We got in the van and I was able to get Daniel to sit in my lap by feeding him. That boy loves to eat. McKenna loved feeding him and nurturing him. Caleb is having some difficulty with a new baby brother, but is so cute with him. Please pray for all of our bonding. 

We took Daniel shopping at the local mart to buy some things the orphanage recommended getting. After that we played back in the hotel room together and enjoyed dinner together. Chad got pizza for us and some rice/noodle concoction he thought Daniel might like. He ended eating the pizza. 

Daniel finally fell asleep around 9 pm. We are all exhausted at this point so forgive me if the blog doesn't make much sense. Today was a beautiful day and we love Daniel more than we could ever imagine, but there is still that sorrow that comes with gotcha day. We were concerned that Daniel would be terrified of both of us. God took care of that by creating an instant attachment to Chad. I am so thankful for this immediate attachment. It is a little sad for me because he is hesitant around me unless Chad is close by. Please continue to keep all of us in your prayers. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

1st day in Kunming

After being on 3 planes for a total of 22 hours, we finally made it from Atlanta to Kunming, China-where Daniel is from. We left our house at 1:30pm on Friday and got to our hotel around 11 am on Sunday(it's 12 hours ahead of Atl here, but still- that's a lot). McKenna (4) and Caleb (2) did surprisingly well. Lots of snacks, activities and sleeping (some) on the plane definitely helped.

As we were walking in the Kunming airport, several of the locals stopped and took pictures of the kids and a few wanted to touch McKenna's curly hair. Guess there aren't a lot of white kids in Kunming. Or maybe it's just that they're just so stinkin cute. Our guide, Lulu showed us around the city and we did a little shopping at the local mart to load up on snacks and bottled water for the week. Kunming is a beautiful city with great weather year round, similar to San Diego.  After our brief shopping we rested after being exhausted from traveling. 

We have been filled with lots of emotions today. Knowing that tomorrow is the day we have been waiting and praying for makes us so incredibly excited. It is bittersweet though. Adoption is filled with joy and excitement. God placed a desire on our hearts a long time ago for this precious child of ours, but with adoption comes great loss as well. For Daniel to be a part of our family, his birth family had to give him up. Tomorrow he will also leave everything that he has ever known and I am sure that is incredibly difficult.

If you think about us please be praying for tomorrow. Pray for Daniel and this huge transition. Pray for Chad and I that we will be able handle whatever reaction Daniel has. Pray for McKenna and Caleb. This will be new for them also. 

We will post a blog tomorrow with an update on our new family of five. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

China bound

A little over a year ago we started the process of bringing another child into our family through adoption. And in a few days we will be traveling to China to meet our son, Daniel for the first time and will bring him home. We contemplated on whether or not to do a blog- for a few reasons (mainly since neither one of us are experienced bloggers/writers), but decided to move forward anyway.  It is our hope that anyone who reads this will not focus on us, but on God. We pray that God will use this for His glory, to shine light into the darkness and allow others to care more for the fatherless, not out of obligation or guilt but with joy and gladness because of His grace. 

The following excerpt from the book Becoming Home (where we stole the title of this blog from) expresses how we feel a little more eloquently:

Any effort to help others can quickly become about us. We come to see ourselves as noble rescuers, riding into perilous situations on a white horse. Words we use can perpetuate this narrative, such as “rescuing orphans” and “saving children.” Of course, these words are not bad themselves. The world is full of children who do need rescue. But when our narrative subtly becomes “us as rescuers,” we are in serious danger. What often follows is the pride, self-focus, and I-know-better outlook that have been at the root of countless misguided efforts to help others. This can be especially corrosive in how we come to see and speak of children themselves. Children are never a “cause.” Each one is a person of matchless worth, utterly unique. They need to know they are embraced not as a “noble undertaking” but because someone is truly crazy about them. Whether as adoptive or foster parents or advocates for orphan care, both our language and our actions must keep this truth foremost. Thankfully, Christians have no need to find our identity in being “the rescuer.” We are the rescued. Even our best efforts are simply small, imperfect reflections of the way we have first been loved.  This truth frees us from the compulsion to charge out to solve the world’s problems alone. Rather, we are released to begin by listening and learning — from those who’ve gone before and from those we desire to serve. If we start here, we will rarely go wrong.

There is no doubt the Bible carries a clear mandate to care for orphans. But caring for orphans is not mandate alone. It is foremost a mirror of God’s heart. Not every Christian is called to foster or adopt. But every Christian community is called to embody the pure religion that includes caring for orphans and widows in their distress. No other institution in the world is capable of embracing orphans and supporting their families like the local church. This is something we can only do together — becoming home for those who most need it.

Barna Group; Jedd Medefind (2014-01-07). Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care, and Mentoring--Living Out God's Heart for Orphans (Frames) (p. 36). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

So please join us as we continue this journey of bringing Daniel home- pointing him to the true Father of the fatherless and to a Home that will last forever!
This is the first picture we received of Daniel

Daniel's 1st birthday in Kunming, China

16 months old