Today we rode a cable car up a mountain about twenty minutes from our hotel called Bayun Mountain.
We spent about two and a half hours walking on different trails around the mountain, seeing lots of signs for everything from a Natural Bird Sanctuary to an Exercise Center to Temples, but we never were able to find much of anything. Despite our inability to navigate using Chinese characters on signs, we enjoyed the cool mountain breezes and green trees up above the heavy city heat and pollution.
But the real highlight of the day was dinner when we ate with an adopting couple also staying at our hotel. Their names are Kelly and Adam, and they are from the Midwest. They are with a different agency, but they were at the adoptive center at the same time as we were last Monday and we both got our little girls at the exact same time. Their daughter has cleft lip and palate, just like Mia Grace, only she has not had her surgery yet. And while Mia Grace came to us as silent as the grave, their little one began to cry from the get go and hasn’t really stopped. Kelly and I have had snatches of conversations in the lobby or at group paperwork appointments over her baby’s head as she rocks, bounces, soothes, kisses, and wipes away tears. To say I like her is an understatement. She has the patience of Job and is truly a kind soul. Their daughter was in a really tough orphanage situation and has developed a lot of self-soothing techniques, fearful responses, and grief. She is a beautiful little girl behind all of her tears, and Kelly and Adam know it is just going to take time to slowly bond, attach, and build trust and love. They both are strong Christians, and their rock solid faith in the sovereignty of God is such a day in and day out testimony to our family here in Guangzhou.
Every day, we meet more families like Kelly and Adam who are willing to risk big and love well.
There’s the family I met at breakfast yesterday who is here adopting their 10th and 11th child, a three year old boy with dwarfism and a five year old girl with hydrochiphilis. The mom is one of the most joyful people I have ever met.
There’s the family who was also with us on Gotcha Day who has two biological boys at home and is here adopting an 11 year old boy with CP.
There’s the family Jason met by the pool several days ago who is here adopting children number 7 and 8 – two boys ages 10 and 11. The mom is here with her 13 year old son from Ethiopia who was adopted just four years ago and came to the U.S. without speaking a lick of English. The dad is home with the other five kids and her 13 year old son is here helping her out with the other two. He is the epitome of politeness and kindness and carries on a conversation like he is an adult. The mom had to call security a couple of nights ago on her newly adopted boys as they were really acting out. I saw her today leaning over the edge of the pool giving each boy a kiss saying, “I love you.”
And then there’s the family I met at the pool yesterday (we spend a lot of time at the pool – it keeps the girls from scaling the walls of our apartment). They are here adopting a little girl a few months older than Mia Grace and are from Mississippi. They sound about as Mississippi as one can get, and I love hearing their accents. He loves to fish and hunt and farm and watch football, and she’s from a big family in Starkville…and they live in Northern India. They have given their lives to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus in one of the most unreached places in the world in a place where they are literally the only foreigners.
And these families are just a few of the families represented here at this hotel. Every family has a story. Every family has had to count the cost to be here. And every family I see or meet displays a little bit more of the radical, beautiful, redemptive, sacrificial love of the love of Christ. I am in the minor leagues when it comes to sacrificial love – the Single A team (anyone who knows me well can tell you that – sacrificial love isn’t exactly my forte). But many of these families are in the Majors, and all I can say is that it is a privilege to watch and be humbled and challenged by their courage and self-forgetfulness for the sake of another.
Would you please take a moment and pray for Kelly and Adam and their daughter? Would you pray for healing and trust and deep attachment to form quickly? Would you pray for strength and continued trust for their family and for signs of progress to continue to be evident every day?
And would you pray for each of the families mentioned? Grace for the journey up ahead both for the parents and the children? And pray that their families would be a sweet fragrance and aroma to many of the love Christ displays for us? They truly are heroes and super stars in the Kingdom of God, quietly and selflessly serving and giving their lives away to those who can only repay them in the Age to Come. How beautiful are the feet of those who live to bring Good News…
Thankful for the Beauty of those feet,
The Baker 6
Today’s outing was so amazing that I thought it needed its own post.
Jason was under the weather and Lillian’s stomach was still hurting her, so the two of them stayed behind. But Caroline, Lizzie, Mia Grace and I went a place known as Shamian Island, a part of Guangzhou that was settled and occupied by the British, was home to many foreign embassies, and still maintains a traditional, colonial feel today. Tall banyan trees frame the sidewalks and form a canopy over bronze statues, fountains, and gardens below. Fans blow over old-fashioned porches and verandas in large colonial style houses, and if you close your eyes, you think for just a moment you might be somewhere in the South.
Except that to get to Shamian Island, you have to walk through the Medicine Market, something I am fairly certain doesn’t exist anywhere in the South.
First we walked through stalls of people selling all kinds of animals – cats, dogs, turtles, fish, you name it:
And then we entered into this huge hall, a place I like to call “The World of Medicine.” And when I say medicine, I mean anything that used to be alive and now isn’t that can potentially be put into a pot, boiled, and then put into a cup to be drunk down as medicine.
Here’s a video if you want to see them for yourself:
Oh my word.
It took mind over matter to get my already compromised digestive system through that medicine mart without completely losing my breakfast. Lucky for you the pictures can’t convey the smell in that market.
When we emerged from the mart into the light of day onto Shamian Island and saw a restaurant up ahead called “Lucy’s” that served things like apple pie and quesadillas, I almost cried and kissed the ground. Sometimes it feels good to be an American and not have to drink things like boiled sea horses when you turn 13 so you will grow faster.
Needless to say, we enjoyed Shamian Island. We watched people play a game similar to hacky sack. I thought my nephews would be great at this and kept wishing they were there to give it a try:
All in all, it was a good day, especially with Mia Grace’s laughter topping it off in the afternoon.
We hope you enjoy your Sunday and day of worship and rest as we sleep. We love and appreciate you all so much,
The Baker 6
Thank you all for continuing to pray for us the last two days. Both Lillian and I are definitely feeling better. Our fever is gone but our stomachs still continue to give us fits. Jason started feeling off yesterday, and he was pretty much down for the count today. Thankfully, we have always had one parent who feels well enough to care for everyone and Lizzie, Caroline, and Mia Grace have stayed healthy. Please continue to pray they stay that way and that Jason’s stomach heals quickly. Thank you!!
Last night I fell asleep before I was able to blog, so I will catch you up on our day yesterday (Saturday) and then fill you in on today. So many firsts are happening around here – it’s been a fun 48 hours!
Yesterday morning started with a bottle and long hug from Daddy. Mia Grace loves to get quiet and still and nestle in close. We are soaking in having a little one again who fits into the crook of your arm.
Our big outing of the day involved going to see the 2000 year old tomb of a king who ruled and reigned in the Guangdong province. What was the king’s name? I have no idea. What were his feats or accomplishments? I have no idea on that end either. To be honest, it sounded like a great way to pass the time (we’ve only been here in Guangzhou now for 8 days with five more to go, but who’s counting??), and if something has been around for two thousand years, I thought it was probably worth seeing, especially since I know so very little about Chinese history (I sound like a great home school mom, don’t I? Maybe I should have my Aunt Ann come in and teach history instead of her niece ).
And here are the dead king’s teeth…sorry, gross, I know, but I figured if I had to see them, you should have to too..
After the tomb, our guide took us to the Pearl Market. I was expecting a few stalls with merchants selling pearls but was amazed to step into a multi-leveled building the size of the Galleria with store after store of merchants selling every kind of gem imaginable. The girls were in awe and Jason was very nervous with so many girls around him who all like jewelry!
But the highlight of the day was giving Mia Grace her very first taste of french fries. And where else do you go for your first taste of fries but McDonalds?! We are tried and true Chick-fil-A fans back home, but there are limits to how much Chinese food one can stomach, and McDonalds sounded like a treat for all of us (something I would never have expected myself to say 🙂
To say the least, MG LOVED her fries and ate, or should I say gnawed, every last one. I had to pry the last remaining stub of a fry out of her hands after an hour.
But the real firsts came today (Sunday) after nap time. We walked down to the hotel pool to watch L, L, and C swim, and as we approached the side of the pool, MG’s eyes got wider and wider and wider. And when Caroline jumped in right in front of her, Mia Grace must have jumped a foot in my arms. I could feel her little heart racing underneath her shirt. I think the sight of a large body of water with people jumping in and disappearing underneath the surface with a loud SPLASH absolutely startled and amazed her.
It only took about 30 minutes, though, for her curiosity to overcome her fear. We made our way down to the baby pool and she stood on the edge looking in. All of a sudden, she was trying to climb over the ledge and hoist herself into the pool! All this willpower from a little thing who has yet to really smile or give us more than a tiny peep for a sound!
So off came her clothes and into the pool went MG in her diaper…and she loves every second of it!
But the best “first” of all came when we pulled her out of the pool and wrapped her in a towel to dry her off. As I laid her down to change her diaper, Jason began to tickle her tummy and she began to…laugh…for the very first time with our family. We all stopped and looked at each other in awe. Jason has tickled her tummy many times before, but she remains completely silent through it all or will even push his hand away. But this time, she laughed! And I can truly say it was one of the best sounds I have ever heard:
We are still waiting for her to smile – but we know now she has it in her! Praying for many more laughs to come,
The Baker 6
Thank you, thank you for your prayers today. The Lord was gracious, and all six of us were able to go to visit the orphanage today – the Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute. Lils and I were barely hanging on by the skin of our teeth at times, but we made it.
Today was another sobering day, for many reasons, but it was also a day full of gratitude as we realized more of where Mia Grace has come from and where we are bringing her to.
The woman who met us at the front gate was the same woman who placed Mia grace in our arms on Gotcha Day. Her name is Wendy, and she has worked in the orphanage for ten years. She is a really special person and she helped to answer so many of our questions about Mia Grace and orphan care in general.
The first place she took us was the picture at the top – the baby hatch, the place where Mia Grace and so many other babies were “dropped,” or left by their parents. This was probably the most emotional place to see. Most parents who drop their babies are from rural areas that do not readily have access to medical care for babies with special needs. This was, most likely, the case with MG’s parents. I do not know their specific reasons for leaving her at this station, but I could almost feel their heartache standing there. I pray for her parents frequently, particularly her mom. I long for her to come to know Jesus Christ. Seeing the baby hatch today only intensified that prayer. Wendy told us that in 48 days, they had 200 babies dropped or abandoned. Because of that, they had to shut the hatch down and are thinking of other ways to try to help and educate these parents from rural areas. The writing on the side of the hatch reads something like, “Parents, please stop and consider. Do you really want to leave your baby? A parents’ care is much better for a child than an orphanage.” What heartbreak that small hatch has seen.
As we walked away (and honestly, I really wanted to run away – standing there thinking about Mia Grace being abandoned, or any baby for that matter, was a thought I could endure for only so long), we turned towards the front entrance to the orphanage.
The orphanage itself is located on the outskirts of Guangzhou in a more peaceful, rural area than the packed, dense area where our hotel is. I was thankful for the sight of green plants growing in peaceful fields. And we found out that Mia Grace had a foster mother for a month after her surgery, and her foster mother was the local farmer. Maybe MG will end up with a green thumb!
We walked through the front entrance stopping long enough for a photo…
…and then walked up a flight of stairs into the main building where the children live.
Our first stop was the room where MG spent many of her waking hours. It was the baby room, a room full of babies 3 and under. There were women in the room called “grandmothers,” and they work for an organization called Half the Sky. There is 1 grandmother for every two children, and they spend eight hours a day with the children. We had the opportunity to meet MG’s grandmother who loved on her, patted her cheeks, rubbed her head, and was genuinely excited to see her. I am so thankful for that woman and the time she spent with MG. Mia Grace didn’t bat an eyelid through the whole affair and calmly sat observing everything from her perch in the baby carrier.
We then walked down the hall and saw the room where Mia Grace slept along with nine other babies. The room definitely didn’t have much fluff, but the sheets were clean, and frankly, I was thankful she had sheets. We met another family here who got their little girl the same day we did, and their daughter has had a really tough time. Cries and cries and seems inconsolable. The parents told us her orphanage was pretty rough, and the babies slept on boards in a crib. There weren’t even mattresses. So MG’s room seemed like a five star hotel from that perspective! We also got to meet her night nurse, the woman who oversaw Mia Grace’s room (along with five others) during nap time and night time. Here is Mia Grace’s bed and her room:
But the sweetest and saddest part of the day was seeing the other children at the orphanage. There are 1000 children at this particular orphanage, and each one of the faces we saw was beautiful. Taking photos of the children was not allowed; I wish I was able to send you images of their faces. Many had some sort of mental or physical handicap, particularly the boys. Beautiful little girls stated at us out of the same somber eyes that Mia Grace looks at us with, and little boys shyly gave us high fives or submitted to having their head rubbed or patted as they passed by.
I’m not sure which was harder – imagining Mia Grace being there or leaving the 999 children who were still there behind us.
Wendy told us that every year, about 60 children are adopted from the Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute, mostly by Americans. 60. With 1000 children still there. In one orphanage. In one city. In China – a country of over 1 billion people.
I promised myself that this blog would not be something that hits people over the head with petitions to adopt, so this is the only time I am going to say this. But please hear me on this: the Bible is clear that we are to take care of widows and orphans. In other words, for Christians, it’s not an option of whether we feel called it to orphan or widow care or not. What it comes down to is just simple, plain obedience.
I know there are many ways to care for widows and orphans and adoption is certainly not the only way. But it certainly is one way. And what I want to say is this: if you or your spouse feel any movement towards adoption, any push, pull, or openness from the Spirit of God, keep walking through that door. We serve a God who is big enough to shut the door on your behalf if it is something you are not supposed to walk through. But if you are meant to keep walking, just do it one step at a time. That’s what I had to do. I finally had to stop waiting for some big “call” to adopt and just had to take the next step of obedience…and then the next step…and then the next step. The fear never totally went away and at times seemed to be downright overwhelming, particularly the morning of Gotcha Day. I almost had to start blowing into a paper bag. But at some point as believers in Christ, obedience has to trump fear…and we begin to walk forward. But go ahead and take the next step and have that conversation with your spouse. Or maybe just start quietly praying for your spouse. Or call the agency. Or meet with a couple who has adopted. Or if adoption isn’t the way you are to take care of orphans, ask the Lord to show you the way, and trust that He will. But whatever you decide to do, simply decide to take the next step, and see where it takes you.
There. I said it. Thank you for taking the time and space to read and to listen. The faces of those children today compelled me to say it. I know the Lord will show each one of us how and when and where to take the next step.
I am off to bed, hoping tomorrow Lillian and I are truly are virus free. Thank you for your prayers for us today. They made all the difference.
The Baker 6
I woke up around 1 or 2am with aches, chills, and a fever. Not exactly the best way to start off an expedition to the zoo. Jason definitely deserves Trooper of the Day award, because he went ahead with the scheduled zoo trip and took all three big girls. Mia Grace stayed here with me and we spent the day in quiet rest together. She slept on my chest again for her nap for over two hours, we read books, and got to know one another just a little bit more.
I wish you could hear firsthand Jason’s stories from the zoo. In a city of @ 19 million people, he said 10 million of them were at the zoo since today was a public holiday (we did not know that- hah!) and of those ten million at the zoo, at least 5 million wanted their picture with the girls. There is a priceless picture he took on his phone of a guy taking a selfie with his arm around Lillian. Lils was innocently looking at an animal exhibit and had no idea this guy wanted a picture. If there were 100 animal exhibits at the zoo, the girls were the 101st. They saw koala bears, panda bears, twin white tiger cubs, and life-like dinosaur exhibit straight out of Juraissic Park. In Caroline’s words, “It was very neat but very freaky.” I think she needed Sam, Gray, and Seth there to have her back just in case the dinosaurs stepped out of the exhibit!
When everyone trooped in from the zoo, hot and sweaty (weather and temperature here is a lot like Houston, but if it’s even possible, even MORE humid!), Lillian said she wasn’t feeling well and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening on the couch.
So…as if you all haven’t already prayed enough to last a lifetime for the Baker Family, I am humbly asking for more prayer. Please pray that Lillian and I wake up healed, rested and refreshed in the morning and that no one else catches whatever virus or bug we have. Tomorrow is a special day – we get to go see Mia Grace’s orphanage and meet the women who cared for her, so apart from Gotcha Day, this is the day I have been anticipating the most. Thank you, thank you for letting me ask for prayer and for being friends and family who I know will pray.
And speaking of prayer, your prayers for Mia Grace, so beautifully expressed in your comments and emails, have been powerful and effective. As much as I wanted to take her to the zoo today, I think our time hear together was more effective. For the first time, when she was bonked in the head by her sisters (on accident of course), SHE CRIED AND WANTED TO BE COMFORTED! Huge progress! And at meal times, she fed herself a few bites for the first time, picking up a piece of cantaloupe she wanted and taking a huge bite out of it. She also almost, almost gave me a smile. I was singing to her changing her diaper and the edges of her mouth in the faintest way started to turn up. They quickly went back down into her somber expression, but hey, we will take it! One day at a time. God is definitely moving through your prayers.
Last thing: several of you have asked about Caroline. How she’s doing. How she is adjusting. I think she definitely felt like the odd man out for the first couple of days; she was the only one who couldn’t really hold MG while standing or walking around. And she balanced intense interest in her new sister with needing some space and mom time. But today since Lillian and I were sick, Caroline and Lizzie got to do more. Caroline’s got the holding her on her hip stance down, and whenever she comes close to Mia Grace, Mia lifts up her arms to Caroline. I loved watching that today. I didn’t take any new pictures today, so I downloaded the video from Gotcha Day of the first time Caroline attempts to hold MG. I almost drop the phone and Caroline almost drops the baby, but in typical Liney style, she figured it out…enjoy! (I had to put it in two parts.)
Today was a long day of doctors visits and passport appointments. Our guide who leads us through each and every day and step of the process is wonderful, and she makes each appointment as smooth and easy as it can possibly be. I think there is just an emotional toll the six of us are feeling, so that by the time 7pm comes, we are all practically falling asleep in our chairs at the dinner table.
Today Mia Grace had to pass her medical exams to be able to leave China and enter the U.S. No fever, infection, etc. And while she passed the exam and was a trooper throughout each stage of the afternoon, she was silent throughout each and every part of the examination. And while I have always prayed for my babies NOT to cry at the doctor’s office, this was the first time I was praying that I would hear my baby cry. Because tears at discomfort, pain, or unfamiliarity would show that she believes if she cries, someone will hear those cries…and respond with comfort. The lack of tears tells me at some point she learned, probably very early on, not to cry…because nobody would be there to answer.
I’m not trying to be melodramatic or overly emotional. It’s just factual. And while I’ve known that fact about institutionalized kids for a while now, knowledge has turned to compassion, empathy, and even grief today as I have watched Mia Grace. The knowledge that she already had her surgery when she was less than a year old and didn’t have parents there to comfort her in the hospital through surgery and recovery is really tough to think about. I’ve thought about today all of the ear infections, stomach bugs, coughs, runny noses, and downright strange viruses my three girls had their first 18 months of life and all of the late nights, rocking chairs, TLC, and doctors visits that occurred for each of them. And then I think about Mia Grace. It has been a teary day for me and a somber day for Jason as we contemplate the reality of her past.
I know, though, that the Lord has a plan for this little girl that will combine her tough inner strength and the healing I know will inevitably come in her heart to move her towards trust and attachment. I know the Lord will not waste her tears, or lack thereof, but will use all things in Mia Grace’s past, present, and future to make her into a woman who will fulfill all of God’s purposes for her in her generation.
Until that day of ultimate healing and strength, as her parents, we pray for her tears and thank the Lord for the opportunity to know her and love her in His perfect time.
Tomorrow we have a day off from appointments (hooray!) and get to go to the zoo. I am hoping the monkeys or giraffe will be a delight to our girl, and maybe tomorrow we will even get the first hint of a smile…
The Baker 6
Our first full day with Mia Grace is almost complete. I say almost because everyone is asleep except MG…she is sitting up next to me in bed, wide awake. After her bath (first hair wash) and bottle, I went to lay her down in her bed and she immediately started crying. So, we are up, and who knows for how long. She will probably be sleeping with Mama tonight.
All in all, it was a good day. A day of getting to know each other. She continues to stare at us out of big brown eyes, silently soaking everything in. And thank you, Carol Taylor, for that word. For she is indeed soaking. After going back to the civil office today to complete some paperwork, Mia Grace fell asleep on me in the car, and when I tried to put her in her bed when we got back in the room, she began to cry, her first real sound of the day, so I scooped her up and she took a two hour nap laying on my chest on our bed.
The longer I am in her presence, the more grateful I am for the privilege it is to earn an orphan’s trust. Someone who has never, in all probability, fallen asleep on anyone’s chest for two hours is willing to take a risk with someone she does not know and fall asleep on mine. What a gift. I can tell that a mighty foundation of prayer has been laid on her behalf and our behalf by her response to us the past few days. Thank you for those prayers. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
And thank you for all of your prayers for our big girls. They have handled the trip and the transition like champs. The only tears around here are over who gets to hold, feed, bathe, play with Mia Grace next. We should have adopted three babies all at once – one for each girl!
Here is a video of Lillian and Lizzie helping her take a few steps:
One final thing: I know I mentioned how well she ate last night at dinner, but just to reiterate, the girl can eat! She will try anything! This morning for breakfast she polished off one fried egg, a serving of kale (I know, right – who eats kale for breakfast?!), cantaloupe, and a link of chicken sausage. Just so you all would believe me, I took a picture of her dinner plate. First time to eat watermelon – and she loved every bite! (Aunt Cara, she really is your niece )
As you all wake up, we are off to rest – rest in the great, great love of the Lord who loves to set the fatherless in families. Thankful for the gift of Him and each of you,
The Baker 6
My favorite moment of the day was after dinner (she ate and ate and ate…squash, zucchini, pork, rice, cantaloupe…we all literally stared at her for over an hour as she steadily devoured everything on her plate). We gave her a bath, gave her a bottle, and began reading the Scriptures and praying over her. She was asleep within minutes, as were all of my other girls as well. Our arms and hearts are full. Thank you for walking the day’s journey with us. We love and appreciate each of you,
The Baker 6
Family and Friends, meet Mia Grace! There simply are no words to describe the supernatural joy and peace that comes when they place your child in your arms.
(I couldn’t get the whole video to download – only just this first clip. Will try to post more later.)
The girls first time to hold her…
Mia Grace has been with our family for three hours now, and she has yet to make a peep. She simply takes everything in with those big beautiful brown eyes and stares at us all. She is like a live doll. The biggest surprise of all when they handed her to us was that she has already had her cleft lip and palate surgery! We had no idea! She had the surgery back in November before we were even matched!
So…let the adventure begin! It is truly surreal holding this sweet petite little girl in my lap. She is precious beyond words and truly, now, Mine…Ours…Our Mia.