It’s a slow mend, not a magic wand.

Xiao Mei is officially Chaela Marie Odell- all of our required appointments are done and she has given her consent to be adopted for the last time today! Many have asked how her name is pronounced: it is Shay-la, which sounds somewhat close to her Chinese name, pronounced She-ow May, which is why we chose it. We’ve been using her new name interchangeably, but she seems to understand that this is what we are calling her now. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose everything in your life all at once- even your identity. My heart ached for her this morning as she was asked by the U.S. Consulate Officer if she consented to being adopted. He had to first preface this with questions to be sure she was a true orphan by definition- has she had any contact with her biological parents, and was she indeed abandoned by them and able to be adopted? We didn’t know what was being asked at first, but just saw her shaking her head “no”, which was concerning, to say the least. I imagined she was telling him that she didn’t want to come with us, as our guide has told us it has happened before. The Officer then interpreted what he had asked her, and what her response was- no, she does not know who her biological family is, and YES, she wants to come with us! It was happy and sad all at once. We are relieved to be done with the formalities and begin our travel home tomorrow after her Passport is issued. The U.S. consulate requires your stay in-country to be at least 48 hours after the appointment time to account for any delays in the visa processing. Assuming there are no hold-ups, we will take a shuttle tomorrow evening into Hong Kong (a 3-4 hour car ride) and stay two nights in Hong Kong before our 16 hour direct flight home on Saturday morning (Friday night in NY).

Outside a little slice of America.

Outside a little slice of America.

The same person who gave us free Disney tickets on the way in has been reading our blog and messaged Joey with the offer to give us free tickets to go again, with Chaela this time, on the way out, too. She thought it might cheer her up before more hard times come with the transition home into a new normal. We are so blessed by this woman’s willingness to reach out to help us and we have never even met her. In fact, she is a Facebook acquaintance through a mutual friend of her and Joey- and she has touched our life in such a directly positive way. She has a unique perspective on adoption as she chose life for her baby many years ago and placed her baby up for adoption and has had to walk the difficult road from a birth mother’s struggle. I can only imagine what she has faced as I was once that same young girl debating the very difficult choice of what to do with an unplanned pregnancy. What an amazingly selfless choice to give life to a child when it feels like it is of no benefit to you personally. I am so thankful to three women I will probably never meet who gave life to my precious children, and I only wish there were a way to tell them that their children are loved in a family today!

Inside the White Swan Hotel, which used to be the sole lodging for adoptive families in China.

Inside the White Swan Hotel, which used to be the sole lodging for adoptive families in China. As you can see, Chaela continues to have definite times of stand-off-ish-ness.

We’ve met some truly amazing families with each of our adoptions while in-country. We ate lunch today with one of the families we were with in province who shared our same Gotcha Day. It’s wonderful to see the change in these children from the beginning of the trip to the end of it- the baby who was once fussy and reserved is now playful, laughing and interacting lovingly with her new mommy. It’s a beautiful thing to get to witness. The connections we have made on each of these trips are something we will likely share for a lifetime as we’ve basically each been in the “delivery room” with each other and shared some of the most precious times life has to offer together. Almost exclusively the families we have met are overtly Christian, doing something most of the world can’t understand and thinks is crazy. One family here (who shares our same last name) is bringing home two children at once, and another mother is here with her older biological daughter to bring home a 7 year old little girl with HIV. These are some brave families who aren’t just “talking the talk”, but living it out, and on each trip we’ve been inspired to trust a little more, and step out just a bit further from our comfort zone. It was because of seeing families adopting some older children on these trips that we have witnessed the need to not just bring home the cute little baby Charlotte’s, but the crazy-wild eyed Carrigan’s and the scared, sullen Chaela’s. I hope that through these open blog posts that I have not scared anyone off from adopting, especially from adopting an older child. I am not going to lie- it is hard. Harder than I expected. And, I know it will probably get harder before it gets easier. But, these children are so worthy!

Communism.

Communism. This will definitely make for a difficult wait for the food to come.

Chaela is the oldest child in the groups we have seen here at any appointments this week or last. I wonder what she is thinking as she sees most of the other families with little babies and she is the only one who is aware of what is really going on in all of this. My heart aches for her, and I pray she knows she is not second best- that despite her “baggage” of a decade of difficult history, we WANTED her! My only regret is that we couldn’t bring one of her friends along with her. In some ways I really feel like adopting two children from the same orphanage at once would be so much easier on everyone. She would have someone to talk with and share with and who spoke her language. The only consolation I have in this is that her best friend, Fen, will be going home with her family to Tennessee in about 6 months. I cannot wait to see the reunion between the two girls when they are able to share their experiences of both being adopted by American families living just an hour away from each other (assuming we go back to TN at some point like Joey wants to)- what an amazing plan God has orchestrated for these two little girls! I can’t wait to see what will become of her life.

This picture location never gets old for us.

This picture location never gets old for us.

A family contacted us today who has been reading our blog and our experience after Gotcha Day with Chaela. They reached out to us and told us that they just happen to be here in China now on a heritage trip for their daughter who is now 12, and was adopted just two years ago. She texted Joey’s phone just as we were finishing up lunch, and she said they had just left the same restaurant a few minutes earlier and they were across the street at the park! I love “coincidences” like this. We met up at the park and spent a good half an hour talking to this family and interacting with their 12 year old daughter, who is now fully fluent in English and can’t even remember not being able to speak it! It was such an encouragement to meet them. The lady is involved with our agency, Lifeline’s “Unadopted” program and she said she has visited Charlotte’s orphanage in Suixi. Her description of it was heartbreaking and I am so thankful our sweet Charlotte is out of that prison, and so glad that from what we know, Chaela’s past decade was in a place that, while less than ideal, sounds like a far cry from life at Suixi. This family encouraged us with how well their daughter did learning English, how best to help her when we get home, and had their daughter try to talk to Chaela to encourage her, too, from an adopted peer perspective. I love the way the Lord places the right people at the just the right time in our lives to bless, encourage, inspire and convict us. Please pray for our travels home. I am not looking forward to a three hour van ride through China in the rain tomorrow night- driving here is insane. Please pray for Chaela as she leaves the familiar and goes to a new place with strange smells, music, surroundings, foods, and people that don’t speak like she does.

Caitlin was grabbed by this lady as she forced her cell phone into Carrie's hand.  It's insane here even without the driving!

Caitlin was grabbed by this lady as she forced her cell phone into Carrie’s hand. It’s insane here even without the driving.