Today was a free day in our schedule. We were able to sleep in a little, get down to breakfast at our own pace, and choose our own activities for the day. Following breakfast, Mom made a Walmart run while I stayed in the room to play with Liliana, feed her lunch, and put her to nap. We decided to Skype Mommy in so she could spend some time with us as well.
We had a fun time playing with a ball and stacking bowls. Liliana is quite good at snapping them together but is not able to pull them apart. So each time she snapped the bowls together into a ball with the little ball in it, she would ask me for help pulling them apart. When I did, the ball would drop, and Liliana would get a big smile and make a celebration cheer. What a smile this little one has. It can melt hearts and light up rooms. We saw many more smiles today.
Nap was a bit difficult. When I laid Liliana down on the bed after praying and singing, she began to cry. I laid down next to her to help, but it did not help. Eventually I sat her on my lap while I laid down. I stroked her back a bit, and eventually she laid on my chest and began to sleep. After a good amount of time, I tried to sneak out from under her since I had to get a few things ready for the afternoon. Now, I've managed to have four other children fall asleep on my like this and be able to slip out from underneath them when I needed to without disturbing them at all. So I am a bit of a pro at this maneuver (OK, in reality I am probably a better pro at falling asleep right there with them). Anyway, as I tried to move Liliana, she lifted her head, climbed back on top, and went back to sleep. I was trapped there until it was time to leave for Swallows Nest. I loved the cuddle time but did have to rush to get out in time later on.
Clay met us in our hotel's lobby today to take us to Swallows Nest. Clay and Pam are the founders of Swallows Nest, and we have been in communication with them via email for some time now. So it was great to meet face to face. If you need a visual, picture Saint Nicholas, and that's Clay (he enjoys the reference and dresses as him around Christmas time to teach about the history of Saint Nicholas). Clay hailed a taxi, and we headed off across town.
|One of Liliana's wonderful nannies along with|
Swallows Nest is the place where Liliana spent the last ten months of her time here in China. Swallows Nest is comprised of four homes in a neighborhood surrounding a local hospital. Each house is staffed with several nannies and contains a small number of children. Liliana's house had anywhere from six to ten children in it at any given time during her stay. Swallows Nest and those loving these children offers a love rooted deep in our faith.
We arrived at a gate that led to a neighborhood. A young man named Henry met us there. Henry is the son of one of the Swallows Nest employees, and he was there to be our translator. The streets were narrow. Buildings were no more than seven stories high. The predominant colors were browns, grays, and yellows, and almost everything was paved, bricked, or cemented. We walked past many buildings, and Clay greeted many people along the way. At one point we stopped by a street vendor and bought a yummy treat made from sesame seeds and honey. We wound our way around and down to a dead end where Liliana's house was. The house is more of an apartment within the building. The neighborhood according to Clay was a middle to lower middle class neighborhood.
|The other main nanny for Liliana ... wonderful as well|
Clay is sitting in the back
We entered the building at the ground level and walked up a fairly dark cement stairwell until we reached a door several floors up. We knocked on the door and one of the nannies answered. As we entered the house, I recognized so many parts of it since I had seen it in pictures Pam sent us. Yet it was also not at all what I was expecting. There was a main living room about 12x12 in size. In this room were several places to sit, a few high chairs, a TV, and some toys. Older blue carpeting ran throughout most of the house. Off to one side were two rooms roughly the same size as the main room. One looked like an adult bedroom. The other had several cribs in it. This was Liliana's bedroom. I recognized her crib from a picture and took several pictures of it and the room. Off the back of the main room was the bathroom and kitchen. Both of these were small and modest.
When we entered the home, there were two smiling nannies, a volunteer, and clearly a very loving and positive atmosphere. Liliana lit up when she saw her nannies and said something in Chinese along with some baby babbling. There were six children in the house now. Liliana interacted with a few of them, and clearly was happy to see several of them. One of the two nannies put her arms out, and Liliana went right to her. I had been wondering this whole time how Liliana was going to handle things. Would this be too much for her? Would she want to come back to me once we were there? Would she cry the whole way home? Now that we were there, we were about to see what would happen. My heart was nervous.
|Liliana in the foreground|
We snapped pictures and swapped stories asking some questions about Liliana. We did not learn too much that was new since they had already answered the basic questions about likes, dislikes, general habits, etc. just a few days ago when the orphanage called them for this information for the details page we received on our first day in Zhengzhou.
Mom asked most of the questions. I had a hard time thinking of any. I asked my first question which was, "Tell me all about Liliana." When I got the basic information, I was not sure what to ask next. When you are given a chance to ask any question you want, it can sometimes be overwhelming. What questions did I want to ask? I'm not sure. I just know they were not the fact-based ones like favorite foods and nap schedules. I am thankful for those as well, and since leaving Swallows Nest, I do have some fact-based questions I plan to email them. But the questions I had were not fact-based. They were heart-based and difficult to put into words. What I wanted to do really was to sit down over tea for days on end and have these two women who have known my daughter for almost the past year and who know her far better than I do right now explain to me every last detail about this little treasure I have here. I wanted to hear their mothering hearts come out and just open up about this little girl who has brought us together and who we share. Fill in the gaps in her story and not just for me but for her.
Try tearing a bunch of pages out of the first few chapters of a book and reading it. As a storyteller myself I recognize that incomplete stories are the worst kind around. So much of this week for me is about trying to find those pages of Liliana's and glue them back in for her. The first three years of this little one's life have been spent in three different places, and I need to scoop up as much as I can so that when she gets older and begins asking questions about how her story began, I can give her some answers. One thing I am grateful for is that as I am looking for these pages of hers, I am finding that God's hand has been in this little girl's life this whole time. For example, when we first decided to adopt Liliana, a wonderful high school girl named Sarah spent a week with Liliana while over here with a group. It was then that God made it clear to her that Liliana's nickname of Liliana was tied directly to Matthew 6 where God talks about how He takes care of the lilies of the field and therefore will take care of us. This week I am finding loving care givers in multiple places as well as people in Liliana's life who will most likely not see her again on this side of heaven but who will certainly, as long as Liliana chooses to follow Jesus herself, see her again once we all get there.
|The room Liliana slept in|
As we went to leave, our hearts grew heavy. I held Liliana in my arms as we hugged her nannies good-bye. We adults all shed tears as we embraced. I cannot adequately put into words the feelings I felt at that moment. I just know that I am thankful to God for sending these loving women into Liliana's life and for sending Clay and Pam to China to start this little thing called Swallows Nest that has such a huge impact on so many.
|Liliana with her nannies (mom on the couch)|
As we walked out the door, Liliana sat up straight, put up her hand to wave, and with a big smile and a clear, happy voice suddenly and unprompted said, "Bye-bye!" I could not have asked for a better way to walk out the door with her. Thank you, Father.
Though our visit was done, our time with Clay was not. He took us on a short adventure through an authentic Chinese market. Mom loved this time and probably would have spent the next two days there if she did not have other things to do. The only foreigners we saw were ourselves. Clay was a wonderful host and treated us to some local fruit and cuisine since we enjoyed it when we ate some at Swallows Nest. The adventure of getting a taxi again was great, and if I had more days and time, I would certainly spend them with Clay. He's a great guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him.
Back home we had a light dinner and prepared for bed. Liliana again had the same reaction of crying when she went to bed. We're not sure if it was emotions or something else, but for some reason, something bothers her when we go to bed since today. Please keep that in your prayers for her. I tried helping her for about an hour but had no luck. Mom tried a few different things next. She was not able to get her to sleep either but had her sitting in bed calmly. When I came out of the shower, I took her in my bed and let her sit up while I typed this blog in the dark. She sat there leaning against some large puffy pillows. Eventually her body wore out, and she fell asleep. Quite a big day for little Liliana.
Tomorrow we head back to Louyang with some other families to go to Maria's Big House of Hope and fine Liliana's finding place.