There are no words.

There are no words to describe what it feels like to walk through the corridor of a government office headed to a board room to meet your new child.  It is unnatural.  You can imagine the nerves of new parents about to adopt and the fear of children who are being led through the same multi-floored building unsure of the new life that will await them.

We had done it twice before – but my heart still wasn’t prepared.  Agencies try to prep families.  They tell us that even though we are thrilled to be meeting our new little love, they, on the other hand, will be scared.  It isn’t usually a happy union, but a meeting of sobs, fear, and unknowns.

Why was I so caught off guard this time?

I was expecting a crying two year old.  Instead our little guy marched into that board room like a boss.  He was carrying the little photo book we had sent him.  The nanny who brought him to us pointed to the photos and asked, “Who are these people?”  He told her each of our names in the photos and then pointed to us in the room and said our names again.  He walked over to us and happily started playing with the bouncy balls that I pulled out of a special bag.

That was it.

I am not sure there could be a child who was more ready for a family.  He has embraced us with open arms and has stolen our hearts. He has shed a few tears and asked for his nanny, but he also has snuggled deeply into my arms, is calling me momma, and is sleeping soundly as if he has always been with us.

This child is brave and amazing. He has eaten our food like a champ.  He has sat quiet as a mouse during van rides and through meetings.  He counts every time he climbs stairs (up to 30 in Chinese and 10 in English) and has shocked us by sitting for over 3o minutes playing with play-dough or toy trains.  He is entertaining his siblings with new Chinese songs and hand motions and somehow they have been the ones to get him to smile quickest and laugh the hardest.

I wondered the most about Little Man.  How would he take becoming the big brother?  The first night we had Moe, Little Man curled up into my lap and said, “Thanks for adopting him, Mom.  He is the most adorable thing ever.”  I thought it was pretty darn adorable that he used the word adorable!

We finalized Moe’s adoption after several days in his province.  We are now back at home getting to know each other.  We will need to travel one more time to finish getting his immigration and visa paperwork for the States, but that can be done in a few weeks.

Tonight, as he snuggled in my arms and drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are.  Three times we have been given precious gifts to parent.  Each time I have watched as Father has chosen children that fit so perfectly in our family.  One of my favorite things to remind people is that #kidsneedfamilies, but I must admit as I look into his precious face – I need each one of them too.  They make me a better person – loving them calls things out in me I did not know were there.  I see Jesus in a way that I never would have if I hadn’t become their mom.  There are no words to describe that either.

5 in 5 days

We have travel approval to go pick up our new son!!  Next Sunday we will officially have 5 children that bear our last name.  (So maybe that is 6 days from today – but 5 in 5 is such a better title.)

The adoption journey really is a roller coaster of emotions, waiting, and wondering.  A paper pregnancy that has no due date.  It is such a relief to know that the end is almost here.  We are trading in a roller coaster of uncertainty and stress for – a bag of grief.

HA!

You thought I was going to say that we are trading in the stress of adoption paperwork for joy and excitement….didn’t you?!  Don’t get me wrong.  We are over the moon to have the blessing of parenting this sweet soul. He is an answer to prayer, comes to us after much desire and many hopes. That isn’t even mentioning how dearly wanted he is by our family.

 

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But for him….just think of it.  The grief that is headed his way in a short 5 days.

Everything he has known is about to change.  He is going to be saying good-bye to the nannies that have been caring for him these past two years.  Every moment that I have missed with him – they have been there.  They helped him heal after a surgery, gave him bottles, noticed when his first tooth was coming through, changed countless diapers, wondered about rashes, bumps and bruises, held his hands as he learned to walk….and so many more life moments.  They have been his life.  On top of that he is saying good-bye to the other 7 children in his foster home, saying good-bye to his pre-school teacher and classmates, his routine, his food.  I am sure you are getting the idea.  He is saying goodbye to living in an all Chinese environment and entering a crazy, white expat world.  Sad, hard stuff.

 

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There was a time that I CHOSE to leave everything to follow God’s plan for my life.  His calling.  I said a ton of good-byes, grieved deeply and struggled to fit into my new world.  I was an adult.  I chose to move – and still it was so very hard.  Moe, is taking it a step further.  He not only is changing worlds – his whole identity is shifting.  He didn’t choose any of this.  It wasn’t his choice to become an orphan. He had no say as a ward of the State.  He didn’t get to pick us.  Again, you get the idea.  Tough start to life.

So we would appreciate your prayers in the coming days.  Hubby and I desperately need wisdom as we help comfort, love, and learn who this sweet baby is.  Would you also pray for Moe, as he grieves? We are claiming the promise that mourning will be changed to dancing, ashes will be made into a crown of glory, and that God can heal all wounds….even wounds on a heart so young.  He will survive the hard transitions ahead and thrive!  Until then, we are trusting in the Father of the Fatherless to guide us all through this transition.

We are so very excited to have our new son in our arms and we will look forward to introducing him to you very soon! We hope to post updates here on the blog over the weekend.  We would be honored if you would follow along and pray for us.

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A new slower journey (plus a bonus adoption update!)

My dad is a story teller.  His fish are big, his journeys are long, and they are always uphill.

There is one story I vividly remember him telling me as a girl.  I have no idea if this is an original or true story – I just know it made an impression.

His story started with him being a lad on the farm with a chore to complete.  (I am sure he used the word “lad!”) His dad gave him a metal bucket to fill with water from the drudge ditch and bring to the big barn. It was a warm afternoon and as he carried the bucket he was enjoying the walk through the golden fields under the blue cloud filled sky.  To his dismay, when he arrived at the barn the once full bucket was empty.  He set out to try again aiming to please his father.  He went faster the second time around, but the pail still did not hold the water from the ditch to the barn…since it had a hole in the bottom.  Trying to get his chore done he tried many solutions: running, patching the hole with mud, and a few more that slip my mind.  (My dad is a better story teller than I.)

I recently thought of this story during a visit to a guest house in January.  It had been a long, hard, but very good semester.  Honestly, I think we could safely say the hardest semester we have had living overseas.  But, I also wouldn’t be lying if I said that I have learned more in this hard season than in the previous 10 years as an expat.  Maybe some day I will be able to tell the story of this semester, but for now you can just imagine me as a lad on a farm running hard trying to get my work done.

My natural reaction to a hard season…work harder, try harder, run faster.  The thing is, a bucket with a hole in it won’t carry water no matter how fast you run or how hard you try.

When I took time to slow down, reflect and get real with Jesus – well, the crazy thing is – I think rest is what He wanted to give me.  I don’t think He wants me to try harder or work faster.  I think He would be pleased if I simply would ABIDE.

I am not good at abiding.

Sabbath.  What?!

In general, I am not a disciplined person.  But when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, this is the one I am worst at.  I blame it on being a perfectionist.  I rationalize it away by saying that hard work is good for the soul.  I have small children how can I rest?  What will others say when they find out I had to take a break?

Really, it is pride.  All excuses that keep me from making space to abide.

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We took a much needed break.  Some very generous souls took over my responsibilities for several weeks to give us a rest and to allow us to attend a training conference.  I sat on the beach.  I went to bed early.  The dear folks who run the guest house for “workers” like us did our laundry, cooked all our meals and just gave us space to rest.  We made memories as a family and I read some great books (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta and  In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Both so very good.  Read them.  You won’t regret it.) We took space to prepare for the next season, got more training, and fell on our faces before our Creator.

Through it all, I felt a still small voice in my heart asking me to abide – to stop trying harder and just trust Him.

I needed it.

We are now back home and starting a new semester.  Not just any old semester, but one that holds many demands, high stakes and a new baby (to us) as well.

Isn’t God so good to give me the generous gift of a break right before another busy season?

As we start classes again, put together a toddler bed, dive back into our homeschool books, soak beans for dinner, and pack for an adoption trip….I keep coming back to the idea that I don’t need to try harder.

We leave to go get our new son in one week…maybe two.  Ekkk!  (Did you read that little adoption update in this long, ranting, personal growth blog post?!  We also have a name for our new sweet guy.  Call me.  I will tell you!  A hint: his middle name is after that story telling grandfather.) With a new little one on his way, life isn’t going to slow down any.  I need to slow down my soul.  I am taking deep breaths.  Going to bed earlier.  Reading a few phrases of my book.  Smiling. Walking. Trusting.

Abiding.

I am on a new slower journey.  Tell me how you abide.  I could use some tips!

 

Birthday Boy

Recently his best friend was adopted and he has been asking when his mother will come and get him.

Be still my heart.

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That is the update we received on our newest addition.  If it wasn’t hard enough to miss his second birthday…now I think my heart might break for a new two year old who is waiting for me.  I thought I was the one waiting.  How can a baby understand and want to be adopted?  But then again, if I really think about it…I am sure every baby who is left yearns for his mother.  Kids need families.

We were able to get a package to him for his birthday along with some Christmas goodies and a little photo album of our family.  He got a bowling set – in return we got new photos and more info on the little guy who will be the next Williams.  We have learned that he is very verbal, goes to preschool in the mornings, is big for his age, has a temper, and loves balls, trucks and blocks.  All of a sudden some of the names we had on our list don’t seem….big or enough!  Does he really look like a Moe?

 

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The nanny at his foster home promised to prepare him for adoption and asked us to come for him quickly, “He is waiting and asking for you.”  The next two months might be the longest of our lives.  We would appreciate you praying for him as he waits, praying for our paperwork to come through in a timely manner and for God’s provision for the remaining funds we need to complete his adoption. David, Ezekiel, Joseph, Levi or Thaddeus.  Zacharias, Seth, Jacob or Jeremiah.  We could use some prayer for the name department too!

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Happy Birthday, Moe.  It will be your last as an orphan.  Next year you will be in Momma’s arms.

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Click here to learn more: https://www.adopttogether.org/williams

 

More of the story unfolds…

yd003He will be two years old on December 23rd.  He lives in a city that is an easy train ride away from us.  He likes to clap his hands when his foster mom sings him “Twinkle Twinkle” and he likes to play with blocks.  We don’t know much more about this little guy, but what we do know – He will be the next Williams.

 

It is a boy.

Our Christmas baby.

 

Little Man is thrilled to have a brother coming, thinks we should name him Moses, call him Moe and keep his hair in a mohawk.  Momma isn’t sold on those ideas.

 

The countdown is on until we are able to meet this sweet boy and let him know that he has a forever family.  We have done so much of the work for this adoption not knowing who we were adopting, it feels surreal to finally see his face.

We want to thank you all again for each donation, word of encouragement, and prayer.  We stepped into this adoption knowing we needed to do it no matter what others thought.  (Honestly….we kinda thought we might get a few “you are crazy” comments.) But, we have been blown away and deeply blessed by how supportive you all have been.

Thank you.  Two simple words, but I really am not sure what else I can say.  We mean them deeply.

 

 

The story behind the t-shirts

A very smart, non-verbal, art student who is wheelchair bond with cerebral palsy wanted so badly to paint with the other kids.  I tried many ways to help him, but my attempts were unsuccessful.  Then one summer someone generously gave us some special paintbrushes with large handles and a bulb on the end.  I was so excited to give the brushes a try.

They fit the bill and my sweet friend has been painting up a storm with his very own brush that he can hold.  I love the art that he has produced.  It reminds me how these kids just need a chance – they have so much to offer and so much value.  Seems funny that a donation of a paintbrush can make a child feel remembered, cherished and loved.  Truth.

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His art work reminds me how a small gift, given in love, can make a huge difference in the life of a child.  That is why we are so excited to have Bonfire printing T-shirts that display the flower painted by my student.  The proceeds of each sale go towards our adoption fund.  So fun.  So life-giving.  Adult shirts are $20 (women’s slim fit and unisex fit).  They are also offering youth sizes and a long sleeve option.  They will arrive at your home before Christmas.  You can click here to order shirts.  There are only 2 days left to buy shirts so that they can be printed and arrive by Christmas.

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You don’t wear T-shirts but feel led to give a small gift toward our adoption that will make a huge difference in the life of an orphan and be a huge blessing to our family?  You can give a tax deductible gift to our adoption fund that will go directly to our adoption agency to help pay for fees.  Just follow this link. Our agency thinks that we could have our new child as quickly as 2-3 months from now!  Yeek.  There are a lot of fees between now and then so every $5 gift will help.

Thank you so much for considering helping us as we adopt #5 and for remembering my sweet students who are not forgotten by God and who are so very valuable.

 

 

Looking for him

We had the sweetest 16 month at our house playing.  Just for him, we pulled out baby toys and had them set out on the coffee table.  Our apartment is far from baby proof….especially the living room.  There is a long entertainment center type table that is low to the ground (complements of the university whose housing we live in) that holds our TV and other fun looking hands off stuff.

What does a smart baby do when he sees stacking cups vs. a dvd player?  Why, he crawls straight for the electronics, of course.  And when Momma says no to banging on the TV, what does the same sweet boy do?  He lays down on the floor and cries huge tears and has himself a little tantrum.

I laughed.  It struck me so funny that there was a whole stack of toys that momma would say yes to, but he just wanted what was off limits.

My giggles choked me when I felt God nudge my heart.

Over the past 2 months I have faced some situations that have not gone my way – one of which surrounds our adoption.

We really had hoped that we might adopt a child from the orphanage in our city.  Doors got closed. There is no possible way for our adoption agency to get files from this orphanage, which means we are not able to be matched to any of the precious kiddos from the city that is our second home. That is kind of a simplistic explanation to a complicated situation, but it means a no.

I have cried.  I have sulked. I have tried to trust God in the midst of it all, but you know what….I kinda was just pitching a big ol’ tantrum.  I wasn’t laughing as God told me no…and I was having a hard time accepting the things that He was graciously offering me as a yes.  He has clearly been closing doors and leading us in a new direction – we have been praying for clear direction, right?

It is sobering when you realize that you act like a toddler in the faith department.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that God has listened to my woes with grace.  He is comforting me and meeting me right where I am at, but He doesn’t want me to stay there.  He has a different plan that will be so very good for our family.  Our agency has so many children who are waiting for a family, and we are excited to have been approved to be a family for one of them.  One day I am going to look back and see how God perfectly was guiding us through this adoption.  There is a kiddo out there who is to be a Williams, and we are on the adventure of our lives looking for him. I don’t want to forget even one bend along the road.

I want to mature in my faith – accept a “no” and be filled with peace, joy, and excitement for what God has planned.

 

She squats

Once upon a time, a crazy American art teacher was super thirsty and downed a whole bottle of water before class began.  Half way through the class she had the desperate need to use the bathroom.  Usually she does not leave her dear art students in the middle of a messy paint project, but nature called.

At the orphanage the bathrooms are not private.  There are four squatty stalls with no doors.  On the first floor you can find an adult bathroom with more privacy, but the art teacher was on the 4th floor.  She wanted to be quick.  Other teachers have done it before.  So, she took her cue from those local teachers and slipped into the public bathroom, locking the outer door.

She heard the lock click.  All was good, until she heard a different class in the hallway.

She tried to hurry not wanting the kiddos to wait.  That should have been the least of her worries as the door began to rattle – then open.

“Someone is in here!”

The joy of teaching this group of special kids comes due to their innocence and curiosity.  That was not in Art Teacher’s favor when trying to keep the kids out of the bathroom.  Before she knew it, there was a mixed audience of 8 children as she struggled to finish with dignity.

They stood there and watched like good, curious, Chinese children.  One of the more observant fellows mentioned to the others, “Foreigners pee too!”  To which his friend replied, “Did you know Teacher could squat?” Thankfully none of the other teachers came in to witness the grand event of foreign teacher squatting.

Just a day in the life of an art teacher at an orphanage.  The children learned how to paint leaves on fall trees, and they learned that even their foreign teacher squats.

The end.

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Help the Williams Family Adopt #5

Looking back at some old family photos….when there were only four of us and before adoption rocked our world.  Wow, what we would have missed if we had kept our world small!

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Asking for help is humbling.  So you can imagine what a blessing it has been to have folks contacting us wondering how they can help us as we adopt #5.  How do we have such a great community?!  We are totally blessed.  Many people don’t feel called to adopt, but are able to give and pray for a family who does.  Thank you – from the bottom of our hearts.  We could not do it without you.

We are about half-way through the adoption process and are hoping to be matched to our new son or daughter soon. Even though we live in Asia, we have to go through the adoption process like any other American couple.  You would think there would be some perks of already being here, but nope.  I take that back – travel to meet our child might be cheaper and we won’t be dealing with jetlag and getting to know our new child.  That is a win!

What can you do to help?

1. Pray for God’s direction for our family at this pivotal point in adding #5. It is overwhelming to look at files and “choose” your child.  Pray for wisdom and God’s clear direction. Not so ironically our family is memorizing the hymn “He Leadeth Me” by Joseph H. Gilmore as part of our homeschooling.  Perfect timing  Perfect words.

2. Give towards our adoption.  Adopt Together has graciously offered to gather funds for our adoption.  You can designate funds to our family through Adopt Together and they will send your gifts to our adoption agency to go towards our next fees.  Your gift will be tax deductible.  You will get a receipt immediately if you donate using a credit card or a PayPal account. If you donate by check, you will get a receipt at the end of the year. You can donate here.

3. One more way you can help….share our story.  Point others to our blog or to our story on the Adopt Together website.

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Adoption is expensive.  Some have asked why?  Here is approximately where it all goes:

Agency Application:    $1000
Children’s House International (our U.S. Agency):    $6,550
Home study:    $3,000
Translation/Document/Dossier Expenses:    $1,770
China Program Fees:    $2,660
China Orphanage Fees:    $5,600
Visa Fees for Child:    $400
Travel in China:    $3,000
Flying Child Home:    $800
In-Country Costs:    $3,000
Post-Adoption Report:    $500
Re-Adoption in U.S.:    $3,000

Approximate Total:    $30,000

One way God has confirmed in our hearts that this is the time for us to add #5 has been through His provision.  In the past 6 months as fees have come up to start us on this journey, the funds have been there – extra teaching jobs for Hubby, generous gifts from friends and family who had no idea there was a need, and the support from another adoptive family who felt led to give to us.  We stand amazed.  Actually, it is one of the blessings of adoption – seeing how God cares for His children and provides to set them in families.  We are looking forward to seeing how He provides for us in the coming months as we finish this journey.

 

Thanks again for standing with us.  We will keep you posted on our journey.

**Photo Credit — Ben Hall — B’s Photography**

New Beginning

We have had such a weird fall.  Hubby’s first class started October 17th.  Not a typo.  The university started almost 2 months late because of construction.  Shi Da (where he teaches) moved their whole campus to a location outside of the city.  No small feat. New dorms, classrooms, library, offices, and then some were built.  It is a university city – a self contained campus.  It has everything the students need and they don’t need to leave the grounds for anything.  There is even a supermarket!

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Construction is not uncommon in this growing country.  Getting things built on time is uncommon.  Hubby (and all of his colleagues) are now busier than ever teaching make-up classes so that the semester can end on time just before Chinese Spring Festival.

To add to the craziness, the teachers were not moved to the new campus.  We still live on the old campus and Hubs now commutes the hour outside the city to his new classroom whenever he has a class. We have been very content to use public transportation.  Our city is big and the bus system is a well oiled machine that most locals use.  But, if we have ever been willing to study to get our Chinese driver’s license and bite off buying a car in a different culture….well, the hassle has never felt worthwhile till now!

Commuting is a pain, but our true disappointment comes from not living close to the students who we feel called to invest in.  We have taken great joy in hosting the 7 years we have worked here with students.  Holiday parties, loaning English books from our little library, English corners, tutoring, baking, and just hanging out…an hour bus ride prohibits all of these precious times.

This fall feels like a new beginning in many ways.  We are figuring out how to live spread out.  We would appreciate you thinking of us as we experiment with new ways to reach out to students and try to hit a new rhythm and a new norm.