So much to celebrate!

One year ago we got the news that China had approved us to be Joseph’s parents. On his 2nd birthday the Letter of Approval was stamped. He would be a Williams. Today, on his 3rd birthday he is celebrating in a family. It takes my breath away every time I think about the difference one year makes. Today, he was celebrated as a son. His life matters to us. He is treasured. He is 3! Can it get any better than this? Cupcakes, a ball pit, and some new Thomas the train track….we celebrated our Christmas baby big!

As if that wasn’t enough!

We got an email today – another letter of approval for a second boy. Can you believe that we got the approval on the same day one year apart? It is the Letter of Approval we have been waiting on to take us into the final stretch of adopting Benjamin. (By the way, we need to think of a fun blog nickname for this new guy! Ideas?) We still have several steps in order to make him a Williams and only a few more weeks to get it done, but we are at peace knowing that God is orchestrating this whole adoption.

Having the letter of approval gives us even more confidence. All the paperwork was turned in. They didn’t find any mistakes and all was accepted and approved. Phew! Now we pray for the same thing on the US side. We now submit all of our adoption approvals and paperwork to the US government to get the approval from that side of the ocean.

We also would appreciate you praying specifically for Benjamin in the coming days. He will soon find out that he will join our family. Hopefully he will be glad to join our crazy crew, but this also will be a difficult transition. He has lived in the Children’s Home for many many years. He will be leaving all he knows and entering a new season. Pray that he has courage, peace, and acceptance for what God has for his future. Can you imagine going and living with a Chinese family at the age of 13? Pretty crazy shocking. Pray hard for all of us.

We also want to thank you again – our matching grant to Brittany’s Hope was fulfilled because of generous gifts from you! Seriously, we are blown away by the support, love and gifts that have been poured out on us through this adoption. The financial commitment of adopting again was daunting – in two short months due to the generosity of God’s people and because of two grants we are only $1,500 short of being FULLY funded. It really is a miracle. Thank you seems so inadequate. We could not have done this alone. Thank you for being a part of the community who is praying and giving in order to bring this boy home.

Benjamin should be joining us in the next 6 weeks or so. We will be updating our blog through the process. We would be blessed to share our journey with you if you would like to follow along.

China said that he can be ours. This time it is a 13 year old boy. A boy we will call son, will treasure, and his life matters to us. That is the best Christmas present EVER. Next year there will be 6 stockings hanging from our mantel (well, um, from our bookshelf!)


Still want to give to help bring Benjamin home? You can give to our new matching grant through Lifesong for Orphans (they double dollar for dollar every gift and 100% of the gifts go towards bringing Benjamin home). We only need $1,500 more. You can give here. Direct your donation to adoption, complete the online form and fill in our family name and number (Williams 7399) Thanks again! Can’t wait to write the post that God provided every dollar we needed for this journey!

Front row seat to a miracle

Who are we to be a part of this miraculous story?

We are beyond humbled and in absolute awe as we see how God is providing for Benjamin to join our family. What seemed impossible is possible. $20,000 came in to pay for this adoption in two short weeks. It is miraculous and we have a front row seat in watching this miracle unfold! Gifts from family who are being so supportive, friends who aren’t calling us crazy (but blessed!) and even gifts from strangers – God has planted the desire on so many hearts to help this teenager find family.

Thank you. I wish I had more eloquent words, because these two small words in no way can convey the deep gratitude of my heart. Your gifts….they have encouraged us. They are making the way possible. They are placing a boy in a family. One less orphan. They are blessing our family with the treasure of another soul, and they mean the difference between us being able to do this or not. Huge. Thank you.

The paperwork is going at lightning speed and the invoices are rolling in – every need has been met and every deadline crushed. All of our paperwork to adopt Benjamin is being authenticated this week and we hope to have it sent to China next week. (In adoption lingo: our dossier will be sent to the CCCWA and we hope to have a letter of approval soon after.) Everything is on track for our family to grow by one at the beginning of the year. 5 short long weeks.

In between mounds of paperwork and grant writing, we are preparing as much as possible. We swapped bedrooms. The girls are now in the smaller room and the boys are in a room that will hold two sets of bunk beds. (That is a reality I never dreamt for my family!) Little Man feels all grown up in the top bunk with Mo sleeping up under him. I look at the empty space under the other bunk and long for the day to have it filled by the newest Williams. I thought this journey – because it is going so fast – would be easier. The waiting has always been the hardest part for me. This adoption is being expedited – the wait is nothing in comparison, but there is just something about knowing your child is sleeping in an orphanage. I can’t wait for those days to be done.

We would appreciate your continued prayers over this next month. Pray that each step of this adoption is expedited and that we will have Benjamin home by mid-January. Pray for us as we continue to prepare…not just our home but our hearts. A big transition is ahead of us, and we know we will need all the grace and mercy God can provide . Benjamin also is facing unspeakable grief as he leaves one world behind and enters this new one. Pray for his heart – for comfort, healing, and peace.

I hesitate to even write this next part, because you have all been soooo generous, but a few people are still asking how to give and how to help us on this journey. We have been given a matching grant through Brittany’s Hope. They will match dollar to dollar every gift given towards our adoption up to $5,000 which means we will end up with $10,000. 100% of the gifts will go to our adoption as they have generous donors who cover all of their overhead expenses. So if you are still feeling led to financially help us bring Benjamin home, then a gift towards this matching grant would be greatly appreciated. You can give your tax deductible gift here。 You can also share about this opportunity by giving folks this link http://www.brittanyshope.org/seedling/williams With this grant we will be very close to being fully funded. Amazing!

Thanks again for following us on this journey. I hope our next update will be telling you that we have all of our paperwork approved and that we were able to tell Benjamin that he will be joining our family.

Our Big Surprise….5+1=6

IMG_0229If the news we are about to share with you in this post shocks you, well, I can guarantee it shocked us more. We were blown away to receive a phone call from our adoption agency last month.  It was all so surreal that I really couldn’t make sense of the words our social worker was saying.  The agency that oversees all adoption affairs in China had called our adoption agency and asked us to consider adopting a child from the orphanage where I teach.  What?  Our adoption agency went on to explain they have never had anything like this happen before.

A million thoughts rushed through my mind as it tried to register the news.  We don’t qualify to adopt.  Hubby and I had said our family was complete with the five blessings already in our care. Why did they call us?

Wait!  I asked questions rapid fire-trying to gain clarity.  My mind was still trying to register the miraculous open door that was being given to us.  Who do they want us to adopt?  The boy who I have taught and loved for 7 years?   The same boy whose photo has been on our fridge for three years?  The child we have prayed would miraculously have the chance at a family?  The now 13 year old who only has until February to be adopted before, according to Chinese law, he can no longer be eligible for adoption?  That child?  They did his paperwork this summer?  They are asking us to adopt him? Seriously?

I wept.

We prayed.

A second shocking phone call came a couple weeks later.  China surprisingly agreed to grant us the special permission we need to adopt this precious boy, if we were willing for him to join our family.

We sat down with our kids and prayed as a family.  The words of Little Man summed up the feelings of all of our children, “Why wouldn’t we adopt him?  How cool we get to be the chance he has at a family and not to live all his life in that institution.”

Sometimes God uses us to answer our own prayers.

If they had called us and asked us to adopt any other child, we would have said no.  But, it just “happens” that they asked us to adopt the now 13 year old who has been on our hearts for years.  We said yes.  As a family, this is who God has called us to be.  We didn’t go looking to adopt again.  We thought we were done.  God had a different idea.

Who is this child that is changing our plans?  He is “Benjamin.”  Benjamin is super smart and loving.  He likes legos, playing with bouncy balls from his wheelchair, and listening to music.  He is also an absolute ham in my art class, making me and others laugh.  For all these reasons and more, he will thrive in our family.  He will make the most of joining our family and the opportunity for an education.  We have consulted the Western doctors here in our city, and they can help him get the additional medical attention he needs, which has not been possible while living in the orphanage.  To us, he is worth the leap of faith on our part.

We would really appreciate you being a part of his miraculous story.  We have to complete his adoption before his 14th birthday. The adoption process usually takes 11 months.  When you consider both American and Chinese holidays, we are working against a 10 week deadline.

We have about 10 weeks to raise the funds and complete all the paperwork to finalize his adoption.  It is going to be a crazy ride with many miracles needed along the way.

May I be so bold to ask if you might be a part of this journey with us.

Would you consider praying with us that all will be able to be completed in time?  Pray all the paperwork would move smoothly and quickly through the process.  I assure you, this will require miracles.

Would you also consider being part of the financial miracle that will bring “Benjamin” home?  Would you consider giving towards his adoption fund?  If being part of his provision story resonates with you, you can give a tax deductible donation here. We are simply trusting that what is needed will be provided every step of the way. If God is in this, He’ll make a way.

We weren’t looking to adopt again.  We have no idea how the agency that oversees Chinese adoptions knows about us, or why they care if this 13 year old boy is adopted.  It’s a crazy miracle- God has plans.  He moved mountains to make this adoption even a possibility, so we are trusting Him to continue to provide all that is needed to make it happen.  Oh man, is this going to be an amazing God sized story that will bring him Glory.  We feel deeply humbled and blessed to be a part of this story and I know you will be blessed for your part in it too.

How Mo became a US citizen.

We have had a time of it.  What was an easy process for our other two kiddos, getting Mo’s US citizenship has been one hurdle after another.  We were being told that due to recent changes in the process it could take up to 6 months to get his certificate of citizenship.  No big deal unless you need a passport and visa for your child in order to return overseas to your job!  After multiple attempts, much frustration and even with the advice of immigration lawyers, we were beginning to think we would need to give up teaching this semester and stay in the States to get it all figured out.

On  a Monday we were told that there was no way to have an appointment any sooner than 102 days.  On Wednesday of that week, an officer gave us a call and asked us to come for an appointment in 6 days for the much desired certificate.  We were thrilled.  Felt blessed.  Wondered how there was such a change. Of course, we soon found that it was a total God thing.

I sat in the office on Friday presenting all of the documents required listening to the story of our officer who was originally from the Philippines.  He knew first hand about poverty even though he is now living the American dream.  He spent the first several years of his life on the streets until he was taken in to a boarding school run by Americans who loved him, educated him and gave him a chance in life.  The officer told me how Mo’s profile on his application had reminded him of himself 60 years earlier.  “I wanted to help you help this boy like that couple helped me.”

I could hardly keep myself from crying in this man’s office.  I wanted to weep for the relief of finally having the documents we need to return to our Asian home, but snotty sobs threatened to overtake me as I realized how big this story is.  Only God can change a life 60 years ago and still have it paying forward today.  Amazing really.

I makes me pause.  Anyone who knows me even a bit, knows that I am a rubber meets the road type of gal.  If it isn’t working.  Don’t bother.  If I can’t see results then it needs to be changed.  But honestly, sometimes the things we are called to aren’t measurable.  For me, faithful is putting a lot of effort into things that I don’t know what the outcome will be.  That couple who started a school for street kids…their work is helping our work.  I am sure they never thought to put that down as a goal.  They never got to write a newsletter about how their projects would have world wide ripples.  I wish I could call that couple up – let them know how their work continues today – how their lives are impacting many.

This officer didn’t just help us get the papers we need to return to Asia.  His story reminds me not to measure our work based on what I can see.

We have the citizenship paper that we needed.  We were able to rush to Atlanta to get a passport for our guy and mailed it in for his visa which will give us permission to re-enter China as a new American citizen.  The visa….that is another whole God story and we will see how that ends!

update on our boys

Our borrowed vehicle is full again.  It’s brimming with bags and snacks for 7, as we wear a path between North Florida and Tampa.  But I am thankful for all of the loud voices and our space challenges.  It means that we are all together again.  I find myself taking in our craziness with tears in my eyes – thankful for all of it and thankful our season of separation has come and gone.  We survived and I now have a deep appreciation for single mothers.  Wowzers.  Parenting three kiddos on my own for 7 weeks was totally enough for me!

Granted, the last 7 weeks have not been normal ones.  With one kiddo healing from major surgery and a second who is learning how to be in a family (but his family was oceans apart) created some interesting days.  Like the day I was driving 6 hours from the hospital to our summer home and it took 8 hours because I learned our newbie gets car sick and Little Man was allergic to one of his medications!  Fun times.

But, honestly the hard days were few and far between.  Things went so much smoother than I could have dreamed.  Little Man continues to heal and is delighted with the progress that is being made on his new prosthetic.  Weekly trips to the hospital are tiring, but will be worth the effort once he is walking again.

He has been measured, casted, and chosen a color and design for his new leg.  This past week he went for a fitting – everything has been made except the outer shell.  He walked on it.  The prosthetist adjusted the rod and metal plates that make up the inner parts of the leg after watching him walk.  So cool how they can match his legs and help him walk with an even gait.  Every time we have a new one made I am amazed at the process.  One more week and we should be done.

Little Man isn’t the only one making progress.  Mo has gone from being car sick every ride and screaming in his car seat….to being a better traveler.  I wouldn’t say a great traveler, but he is doing much better.  He also is learning new English words every day – dinosaur, corn, and neck to name a few.  He often will say a new word over and over – proud as punch that he has figured out another piece in the puzzle of communicating with this crazy new family he has been dropped into.

We are learning new things too.  We have discovered that Mo LOVES swimming.  I mean all kids like swimming, but this kid wakes up every morning and only wants to wear his bathing suit and has taken to sleeping with his puddle jumper.  Teddy bear?  No, thank you.  His new comfort thing is a flotation device.  I can’t make this stuff up.  He also likes trains, singing, eating (almost anything) and jumping around after his big brother.  His first 4 months with us have flown by.  He continues to delight us with his sweet ways and I often wonder how we have been chosen to be so blessed by these kids I get to call my own.

If this post is going to be true to its title, I should update you on Soccer Dude as well!  He is about to start an online driver’s ed course and before long he will be starting his Sophomore year of high school….say what?!  Time is flying with this one.  Hubby and I keep asking ourselves what we need to pour into him before he leaves our nest.

Today at the beach Soccer Dude carried Mo on his shoulders out into the waves to give me a break from the toddler who never wants to stop swimming.  (Such a good teenager, right?!) I watched them wrestle in the water and play way rougher than I ever dreamt necessary – laughing, sputtering water, and enjoying each other.  Love my boys.  This mom, who grew up with only sisters, is a much better person now that I play with trains, wrestle and can shoot a nerf gun.

 

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On the road to recovery

Little Man was very nervous rolling into his 2 week post-op appointment.  His surgery went really well, but the first few days of recovery were a bear.  He was so worried about the bandages coming off and what was expected from him next.

We both sighed with relief when they told us how great everything looks.  The nurse actually said, “it looks beautiful!”  Because it has healed even better than they had hoped, we don’t need to make the 6 hour drive back to the hospital again until June 14th.  They also had prepared us for the possibility of needing physical therapy, but right now his knee has full range of motion and he is keeping his leg strong on his own.

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In other words, we have an easy 3 weeks ahead of us!  I am one thankful mom. It is downhill from here. While Little Man continues to recover, we have our minds set on enjoying parks, playing outside, eating a lot of pizza and trying not to miss the other half of our family too much.  They will be joining us in 23 days.  Not that I am counting.

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The next round of appointments, starting mid June, will begin the process of building him a new leg.  He already is starting to think about what pattern he wants them to use and is also counting down those days.  This boy is ready to run again. He is having fun popping wheelies and winning races against his sister on her scooter, but I don’t believe he will be sad to say goodbye to the wheelchair.  We should have his new leg the first or second week of July.

Thank you for all your prayers.  I know people say this all the time, but I really mean it….the prayers are getting me through.  The night after Little Man’s surgery, I was exhausted and he was in so much pain.  We both were reaching our limits.  I asked Hubby, “do you really think everyone who says they are praying is?”  His simple “yes” helped me to pause, take a deep breath, and push through that night.  I also believe that it is by G0d’s grace that Little Man is healing so well.  So you guys keep praying and this mom might keep surviving!

 

I can do all things

I usually end the year by making pizza for my students at the orphanage.  Some of the teens knew something was up when I came in this week with all the contents for a pizza party.  I explained that I needed to go to the States so my son could have a surgery.  Most of the kids simply accepted my need to go and asked if I would come back – everyone except one teen.

He is wheelchair bound and unable to use his hands well.  His speech is unclear, but his mind is sharp.  This amazing teen is caught in a body that just can’t respond.  He inspires me often.  He uses his mouth to hold a paintbrush, will encourage the other students to do their best during projects when he is unable to participate, and has used his spare time learning all of the colors (and many other art words) in English during my class.  Amazing.

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After he processed that I would be gone for several months, he asked if I had an app on my phone that would allow me to call some of the local teachers.  “Then you could keep in touch.” He claimed satisfied with his plan.  I shrugged and said that my Chinese is bad and I really can’t use those apps.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I speak bad.  There are many things I can’t do.  Teacher, YOU can do this. Don’t say that.”  He finished his verbal reprimand saying that he would help me!

There have been several times facing this upcoming season that I simply want to sit down, cry, and tell God that I can not do this.  I can’t say the goodbyes.  I can’t travel with three kids.  I can’t face my baby’s surgery without Hubby.  I can’t be separated from half my family for this long.  Oh, my list (and self pity) could go on.

I have decided that all I need to know I have learned from disabled children and Sunday school.

Really. Who am I to say that I can’t do these things?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  We are going to do this – one step at a time, remembering that it could be harder and that Christ will strengthen us as we go.

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Not unlike my sweet student who was so willing to help his technology challenged teacher – so many of you have offered to help us through this season.  Thank you.  Every encouraging note, prayer, and gift have been deeply appreciated.  They help me to know that Father is providing for us….holding my hand every step of the way.

I have help for every leg of the journey.  A friend is driving hundreds of miles to pick us up from the airport and loan us their car.  Family is taking time off work to sit with us at the hospital.  A local church near Shriners has offered to be my community and help.  We have a furnished apartment to live in as Little Man recovers.

That is a pretty amazing list.

With each of those things in mind, I am going to say goodbyes with confidence.  I will trust that Moe will be filled with peace as we travel.  I won’t worry in the waiting room and I believe our family will thrive during this season of separation.

Through Christ.