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!

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.

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!

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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**