Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Day We Will Never Forget

My emotions are still running high, my mind and heart are overwhelmed and I know that I will not be able to adequately put into words our day and the emotions we experienced today! The tears are flowing even now as I begin to type.

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Max had another great night and was as cute as ever this morning as we were getting ready.

We left this morning at 9:00am to go to Max's Orphanage. As we drove through Jinan my stomach was in knots not knowing what to expect. I wasn't sure if we would be able to see Max's room, where he slept, meet the nannies that cared for him .... So many mixed emotions of wanting to see what his first 17 months of life were like and at the same time not truly wanting see the reality of his day to day life as an orphan.

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This is the gate that we drove through to enter the orphanage. Since it is a government building it is gated and guarded so the public can not enter.


We drove up to the orphanage. For months Eric and I have talked about what to do if we were granted an orphanage visit. We had talked about what going back could do to Max so we decided Eric was going to stay in the van with him. As we drove up the Orphanage teacher came to the van to welcome us. She said Eric could come in and stay in the lobby if Da, Da (that is what they call Max) didn't like it. So we decided to take that approach so Eric could at least see inside the building. When the teacher saw Max she said, "His eyes look different, he looks smarter!" So that is where the tears started for me. People who have cared for him his whole life see a new little boy after just 48 hours with the love of a mom and dad.

We went back to the office and brought our gifts for the orphanage, some of Max's nannies and the director. We were not able to meet the director because she was out today.

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We then headed to the 4th floor of the building and walked into the first room. This was the room for the walking babies. Oh my goodness I can't even begin to tell you how heartbreaking to see all these sweet faces and yet know some of them may never know what it feels like to be part of a family.

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The faces of these sweet orphans just broke my heart. When we started this journey we prayed that maybe somewhere someone would be touched by Max's story and be led to pray for the orphans, support those who are adopting or step out in faith to bring an orphan home. Sweet Andrew touched our heart as his mom and dad were in China bringing him home. It was the sparkle in his eye that caught my attention after just a couple days with his mom and dad. He is part of Max's story and why we are bringing home a little boy from China and now we have our own little boy with that sparkle that I pray may just touch someone else's heart. These sweet faces will be etched in my mind and heart forever.

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Is she not the sweetest little thing you have ever seen! In 25 days she will know what it is like to have a family. Daleea, Tracy and I met in a yahoo group for Max's orphanage. We were all on similar time lines. Tracy and her husband Tom are in Jinan right now and received their little boy the same day as we got Max. Tracy and I both got our TA and were able to get a CA before the Chinese New Year. We were very sad the Daleea's came a little bit later so she needs to wait until mid February to have her little girl in her arms. We were hoping we would be able to love on her little girl today and get some pictures. She was very shy so we didn't get to hug her but we got some beautiful pictures of her sweet girl for her and we were able to assure her mommy she is loved and well taken care of.

We then went up to the 5th floor to Max's floor. I looked up and down the hallway and was got off the elevator. It is so hard to believe that this is where Max lived for 17 months. This is what he saw every day. Before we walked into his room the orphanage teacher said, "Please do not take any pictures because many of the kids are not good mentally." As I walked in the tears flowed as I looked around the room. There were about 10 -15 kids who were just laying on mats. They truly looked lifeless and hardly moved. There wasn't one toy in the room. We saw a nanny try to help one sit up but we didn't even see one of these sweet babies try to crawl. This is where our sweet Max spent his days. The teacher told us he was very quiet and didn't move much. She said he was in this room because he couldn't walk and yet both Eric and I wonder if they thought something was wrong with him. They also told us that he didn't get a lot of hugs or attention because he was one of the better ones in his room. That was heart breaking to hear but I have to continue to trust that God had him in his arms until he was in ours. I just can't even imagine that our Curious George and Mr. Personality laid around all day with out moving much or making all his crazy noises.

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They then took us to his sleeping room.

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There it was the sea of cribs.

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This is the bed Max slept in. They told us he was laid down at 8:30 to go to sleep. At 10:30 they would bring bottles around and the kids would drink them in their sleep.

We were able to see the bathroom, kitchen and an acupuncture room. There were 4 little ones that were strapped down to a table and a doctor was there doing acupuncture on them to help them. He then took the little girl he had just finished with and tried to get her to stand up. They did confirm that they had never done this to Max.

Eric and Max were able to go to every floor with us. I felt God's hand in our decision to have Eric join me on our visit. I can't imagine having walked these halls without him. I never could have conveyed to him with words what I had experienced or saw. Max didn't show signs of stress being there and many nannies came up to him to say hi to him. He didn't try to go to them but instead wanted to stay by his daddy. One nanny took him from Eric and he quickly reached for Eric to take him back.

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This sweet nanny came up to us as we were leaving his floor with tears in her eyes and kissed him good bye. There was a group of nannies that worked on Max's floor that rotated around. That meant he didn't have the same nannies all the time. We will never know why he hasn't grieved his loss and yet after hearing what his world was like we have to wonder if he never was truly attached to his nannies because he was cared for by many.

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I took a deep breath as we went back down the elevator to the office. We had asked if they had any other pictures of Max from the first 17 months of his life. This little bundle is what was handed to me. It was the clothes that Max had on when he was found and his hospital bracelet. I once again stood there crying. This doesn't happen ... to visit the orphanage, take pictures and be handed the clothes your child was found in is not common. This little bundle is a precious treasure to us.

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The orphanage teacher wanted a picture of us before we left. Thank goodness for waterproof mascara!

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We were at the orphanage today with two other families that also received children from Max's orphanage on Monday. The gentleman on the right has a sweet little girl. His wife has been sick so he came today on his own. The other family is Tracy's family who I had mentioned before. The adopted Luke who is 10 years old. Her husband Tom is deaf and she is an interpreter. They are amazing people who answered God's call to adopt a 10 year little boy who was deaf. It has been amazing to see their little boy blossom in such a short time.

The orphanage teacher asked us for our e-mail and gave us hers so we can keep in touch and send pictures. I never dreamed we would have the opportunity to stay in touch with Max's orphanage.


I can't explain the emotions of watching Eric walk down the steps of Max's orphanage, the place he spent the first 17 months of his life. We are blessed, he is ours.


The joy we feel doesn't take away the sadness we feel for those orphans we left behind. My heart breaks for these sweet little ones. This little boy was a very visual reminder of that as he yelled at us from his window as we were walking away. I pray these sweet children with also know what it feels like to be part of a family, to truly feel the love only a dad and mom can give.

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These are my favorite pictures of the day! I feel like they encapsulate the day so well. Max full of life in his daddy's arms with the orphange blurred in the background. On January 17 Max's new life began, he now knows what it feels like to have the love of a mommy and daddy!


I think after that we could have called it a day but instead we headed to the Train Station. Guess who fell asleep again?


On Monday we were given a copy of his Abandonment Announcement. This announcements ran in the paper for 2 months. It told us Max was found by the police at the Train Station. His posting is the 3rd from the left on the bottom.

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This is the area around the station.


As Eric and I stood at the Jinan Train Station we couldn't help wonder how or why does a mom or dad leave their child here to be found. We know there are many reasons he could have been abandonded but when we look into his eyes it is heartbreaking to think of his parents laying him down at the train station to be found. I will forever be grateful to the mom that carried him for 9 months and I have to wonder how many times a day she thinks about the little boy she left at the train station on August 11, 2009.

These verses kept running through my mind over and over today.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,

I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

We are so grateful that God's plan for Max's life included us!

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We headed back to our hotel for lunch. We decided to have lunch in our room today after our heavy morning. As we try to figure out why Max reacts to certain things some of those make sense after today. One thing is he is 17 months and he still drinks quite a few bottles vs table food. Well today it makes sense after seeing what room he was in. He also isn't a fan of the high chair. The first day we had him he sat very quiet and didn't make a peep I am sure that is what he was used to. Lately he wants nothing to do with the highchair and wants to be on our lap. Again it makes sense after seeing and hearing about how he was fed today. It also has been obvious that he has never fed himself anything. I would have thought at 17 months that he could feed himself some things. He didn't have the slightest idea what to do with food in front of him. Well today that all changed. We broke out the Cheerios. He would pick up a Cheerio with his finger then I would physically take his hand and show him how to bring it to his mouth. After helping him with three he had it down. He always uses the same hand and picks it up the exact same way with two little fingers and the other three spread apart. I am pretty sure we just may have the cutest little boy in China.


We were going to go out to see Jinan Town Square this afternoon but emotions were still running high from the morning so we decided to just lay low in the room the rest of the day. What better way to spend the afternoon than cuddled with my baby watching him sleep.



We went out for dinner tonight with Tom, Tracy and Luke and of course we took Lillian. It was a fun evening with good conversation. It is so much fun to see Luke blossoming overnight. We headed back to the room to get ready for bed. Max finished of the night by playing a new game tonight. He would take his stacking cups one by one over to the hard floor and bang them. Like I said he loves to make noise. He also needed to spend a little time doing his other favorite new past time, laughing at himself in the mirror.

As I said .... this is a day we will never forget!


Kara'sKreations said...

May the blessings keep flowing. Like my tears. Praying for you guys and for all that is to come.

Jewels of My Heart said...

Julie..... I can't find the words.............
I am trying not to sit here sobbing as it freaks out my kids when I cry since Jeremy's accident.
Oh, how I thank Jesus that Max and Luke are safely with their families..... that they got to walk down the orphanage steps with their Mamas and Daddies never to return....
I will never be able to thank you enough for seeing my daughter, sending us the pictures and video, praying for her... thank you Julie from the bottom of my heart.
as heart wrenching as it is to me that my Isabella is still there... that because of just 3 day delay in TA she had to remain there another 5 weeks, I know in my heart of hearts God has a reason and I am so thankful that in less than 4 weeks she will be in my arms... for the little ones still there.......... how does one find the words.... praying for God's will for them... for people to go before their God and ask Him if they have a precious child waiting for them somewhere in the world and when He says, "Yes." for them to step out in faith and allow Jesus to lead them to their little one and to bring them home....
God bless the children....
God's Speed home....

wanda said...

Oh Julie. WOW!!! God is SO Good!! Praising Him with you for that amazing precious boy he has given you and excited to see all that he has for you and your family through this incredible journey called adoption.
God's Blessings and protection,


Krista said...

emotional day is an understatement. I wish I had been able to read today's post before chatting with you. your little boy is so blessed!

Steffie B. said...

Oh Julie.....I don't have waterproof mascara on and I am a complete mess!!! Beautiful post...you captured every moment so perfectly. I have never had the experience of seeing either orphanage Fia or Andrew were from....I am hoping we can see Olivia's and I too can see where she has spent the first 7 years of her life!

Enjoy every moment.....I look foeward to reading more!


nonnie said...

God has given a very precious gift to Max...your family!! I so look forward to see him grow up and the time that he understands how God had a very specific plan for his life even though he was abandon in a train station. Max was blessed with you, Eric, and the children beyond measure.

I couldn't stop looking at all the little ones that call their orphanage home...Yes, I want them all!! We will continue to pray for Max and his "family"...can't wait to meet him!!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Oh what a gorgeous, gorgeous post... I was crying like crazy - both happy and sad tears... we got home April 10, 2010 from getting our daughter... we have talked of getting another child - we will see what the future hands us. Shauna's orphanage was a poor one but I do believe that they looked after the children the best they could with what they had... developmentally she was behind and we had to teach her motor skills etc but now... she is a ball of energy... congrats...

Troy and Diane Sturgeon said...

I made the mistake of reading this AT SCHOOL! I am going to have to explain to my students why my makeup has run and why I am such a wreck! I cannot begin to imagine the emotions. It is so wonderful, and yet so hard, I'm sure, that you got to see his orphanage and the train station. We cannot wait to meet him, too! (Maybe Chinese New Year if you're all up to visiting and meeting new people so soon after your return!) God bless you all!
Diane Sturgeon

My Sparrows Nest said...

Many blessings Julie and Eric! Can't wait to meet Max in person. He is precious and God has a GREAT plan for him.

Kathy said...

Oh Julie,

I can only imagine how it felt to walk through your day today. I'm emotionally drained simply reading it! What a moving post.

I can't believe the contrast in the orphanage's description of Max and the photos I see of him with you and Eric. He certainly seems to know he is home. I loved reading that when he was with his Nanny he reached to go back to you and Eric. Smart boy--he knows a good thing when he sees it!!

I already can't wait to read about your next day with him.


Anonymous said...

Hi Julie
I am Tricia Veenendaal's sister (and I was Eric's sister Lori's RA her freshman year at NWC). We have 2 precious boys through adoption as well. I am writing this through tears after reading your posts from the past few days. Isn't God so good? Thanks for sharing this part of your journey - and oh, what a journey it is:) We will continue to pray for you, Eric and Max.
Sue Shields

Shans said...

WOW! What a day!!! I am with Kathy on this - emotionally drained just reading through your post. I can only imagine how it felt to go throughout your day.

Loving. Loving. Loving those photos of Max with his daddy and all the smiles. His face says it all. He is delighted to be with his mommy and daddy! What a true blessing!!

So happy for you all!

Dita said...

and today is one I too will never forget...the day I found your blog.

I am in tears watching your journey and all your beautiful photos capturing every single detail.

I know Steffie personally and I have followed Daleea's journey for almost 2 years....I don't know how I never "found" you before.

I will be back again and again to watch your beautiful baby boy blossom in the arms of his mommy and daddy from today forward.

Congratulations on your new son....with every wonderful thing life has to offer!


Emily said...

i found your blog from sonia at "His Hands His Feet"-- wow- your son is adorable! and what an amazing, special day you had-- and to be given the clothes and hospital bracelet-- takes my breath away-- wow!

Anonymous said...

God is so darn good!!!
Caeleigh and I loved the pictures...so precious.
She so wants a sister,unfortunately she has old parents...but my heart is so tugged.
Congratulations on your sweet, sweet boy!!
Karen and Caeleigh Whitt from OC, Iowa

Beth Nagel said...


My heart is broken and filled to the brim all at the same time. I, too, sat at my desk this morning and bawled as I read about your emotional day. Hearing of the miraculous ways God has already worked in Max's life leaves me without words. I can't imagine what it must be like to be the parents who have prayed diligently for him and to see what God has done. If Carl and I hadn't been convinced that God was leading us toward adopting from China before, we are now...100%. God is using your story and your blog to work in ways beyond your wildest comprehension. I know because He's working on me :) I hope its okay that I included a bit of your story and acouple of your gorgeous pictures in my blog post from yesterday. Praying for you guys and can't wait to give you all a big squeeze when you're back home. Love & Prayers, Beth

Kimberley said...

I am so happy for you that you were able to visit his orphanage and see his finding spot. The swine flu scsre kept us from even being able to go on the orphanage grounds when we went to bring our daughter home.
My heart was right there with you in this post. I remember so many of those feelings. It truly is life changing. Your son is beautiful and you all are so very blessed.

Debbie Sauer said...

What an experience! Most families never get that chance. He is so precious and I am so glad that he is loved by you. Blessings

Rebekah said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart and sharing your experience. We will be going soon to get our 2 sweet sons, and I just don't know how to prepare myself for such emotions.

Your son is precious, and I am so happy for you and your family!

Sarah said...

Oh, beautiful boy, I am so glad that you have a mama and daddy to love you...praying for all of those little ones without a family to love them.

Jane Schelhaas said...

Tears again! I cannot imagine the emotions you are feeling right now. I am thrilled that you got some answers. God is so good to bring you together as a family. AND, I totally agree that he is the cutest boy in China! Look at those dimples, that smile, what a beautiful little boy. Thank you for documenting this for us. I cannot wait to read this every day. I especially cannot wait to see how your other kids react to him. They will be in love instantly, I am sure!

nicole said...

thanks for sharing your experience. this is the one we all wish we could have. one in a million. luv the blog!

Andra said...

I'm aching to hug you three!!! I am so thankful you are the parents of sweet Max and I desire that for all the orphans. They will always be in my prayers!!!
Come home soon, I need to fly over. ;)
Love you

Anonymous said...

Julie, contact a publisher and make this story into a book. We are so hooked on your every word and check the blog several times a day for new updates. I just know you'll all be on Oprah soon sharing this story! Max has transformed so much since the first photo. His little face is like a drop in the water; the ripple affect is touching countless hearts, literally around the world. In the photos Eric looks like he has a serious hold on Max, like if 'someone touches my son I'm going to have to hurt you'! Big hugs! Robb, Jill & the boys

Amy said...

I just found your blog through Sonia's His Hands, His Feet blog, and just had to comment as I sit here with tears in my eyes reading about your visit to your sweet little guy's orphanage. Praising God with you for your precious child, for his new life, and for the glimpse you were able to have into what his daily reality for many months. Blessings to you as you bring him home! ~Amy in FL, mama to Lillian Joy An Xiao Xue, adopted 3/09

Sarah said...

Oh my, that baby girl from the orphanage in the pale blue is our daughter!!! Will you please email me your pictures of her? Oh mercy, praise be to God, you've just made my day!!!
God's blessings
Sarah :D

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