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**

Miracle Soup

My mother-in-law has shared stories with me on how she managed a home with four kids on a budget. One thing she did – freezing left overs in a carton.  Once the carton was full she would pull it out and make soup.  You never knew what fun soup creation would result.

I kinda feel like this blog post is a bunch of tid-bits from the month of September.  Not really sure what the end result of this post will be, but want to save these precious moments and share them.  Mostly so I won’t forget.

We have celebrated an anniversary this month, Little Man’s 6th birthday, family day for both of our youngest kiddos and some milestones for our upcoming adoption.  It has been a big month.

 

My baby is 6 years old!  We had fun celebrating him with gifts, chocolate cupcakes, and his first ever birthday party.  So much fun to plan a Dragon Training Camp that ended with a piñata (created and painted with much love by two older sisters) that was fought with a sword.  Nothing like watching a bunch of kids swinging a wooden sword while your husband holds a piñata from a broom handle in the living room.  Fun times.  We may also have launched stuffed sheep across our living room at the book shelves and made our own version of corn hole…or feed the dragons.  The whole thing was a hoot.

I was having so much fun celebrating our big, 6 year old, funny, first grade guy…not one tear.  Then a couple of days later he lost his first tooth!  I must admit, that is when I lost it.  He is six.  He is missing a tooth.  My baby is all grown up.  Sniff.  Sniff.

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Maybe that is why I was savoring our “Family Day Celebration” with more vigor and focus.  Little Monkey has been in our family for 6 years this month – Little Man for 4 years.  On the outside it seemed that we celebrated by going to a huge ball pit/playground.  We then ate our favorite Chinese meal out – Hot Pot.  Fun times. Good food.  But, as I watched Soccer Dude carry little Man to the top point of the playground, I delighted.  When I had a little in my arms for a few moments of rest, I savored the warmth of my space in time.  I felt the joy and the miracle of my family that afternoon.  I wanted to hold on and take in the moment. Not to keep the kids from growing up, I have longed since learned there is no trick for that.  I just wanted to remember – never forget – our family that was brought together through pain, sorrow, redemption, joy and a lot of paperwork.

I felt the miracle of it.

I truly feel that every adoption is a miracle and as I watch our children grow and blossom, shaped by adoption (not just my younger two, but all four of my children…heck, me too) I am filled with awe and thankfulness.

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We are on a journey that will take another miracle.  I see the miracles our first two adoption were and I expect nothing less this time around.

We have completed all of our paperwork to submit to China for our next miracle.  It is being authenticated and soon will be on its way from our adoption agency in the US to our side of the ocean.  The next step….to be matched with the child God has for us.

Would you pray with us?  We know that Father has a child in mind for us….and He will confirm who the next Williams will be during this next step.  This will be part of the story of the miracle of our family.  It will be miraculous, life changing, and we are praying hard.

Thank you for standing with us, following our journey and praying. Can’t wait to share our next miracle with you.

Breaking News. 4 +1 = 5

5We have news.  News that probably won’t surprise any of you, but news that might be shocking all the same.

I have gone over and over how to write this blog post – sharing our decision.  Some cute photo perhaps? A snappy saying?   In truth, this long-in-coming decision can’t be summed up in a cute phrase or a witty blog post.  So, I will just blurt it out.

We are going to adopt again.

 

 

Yup.  Five kids.

It is kinda crazy.  We know it.

Something that is even more crazy?  Children are growing up without parents.  I know them.  They are my students.  Often, my students will plead with me, asking me if I would please adopt them.  I really don’t think I can explain how my heart hurts for each of those kids who long for a family of their own.  It is so very hard to say, “No.”

You see, when you teach at an orphanage…you face the need.  There are not enough families and there are so many amazing kids waiting, hoping, praying.   We can’t adopt them all.  But, we feel that by God’s grace we are able to be the family for one more.  We will grieve that we just can’t care for them all, but we will do all we can for one. We know we are able to love and care for one more.

We are facing the need I see on a daily basis and choosing to do what we can.  The true crazy part…we will be blessed for it.  I know that is truth.  As a result of our two adopted kids, my life is so much fuller, brighter, happier, and filled with more slobbery cheek kisses.  As a dear friend of mine (who has adopted 8 times!) once said, “We are just gluttons for blessing.”  Amen.

I never set out to have a large family, though my high school Sunday school teacher might argue otherwise.  I did once say I wanted 13 children and a station wagon.  No husband.  I am so thankful God hasn’t made all of that a reality.

There are moments – like today when we were shopping for jeans for our current four children and it took two extra strength tylenol, a half a gallon of sweet tea and the entire afternoon to get the job done, I wonder what kind of crazy woman I am.  And when I think about adding another child to the mix for next year, well, sanity may be a bit overrated.  Just keepin’ it real.

Then there are moments – like holding a small hand, reading a book, snuggling in bed, saying evening prayers, playing ping pong, and talking about the joys and pains of growing up – so many moments that I will not trade for anything.

We have never regretted adding any of our four kiddos to our family.  We won’t regret #5.  And at the end of our lives, we won’t look back and regret providing a home and a family for one more kiddo – even if it means stress and craziness and pressure in the short run.

I can’t wait to look #5 in the face and say, “Yes!”  I can’t wait to tell them, ” We are now your family. No matter what life throws at you we will all be in your corner, walking with you, cheering for you, grieving with you.  We are yours, and you are ours.” Oh, what a moment that will be!

 

So, we would really appreciate you praying for our family as we step out in faith to adopt again.  We have just completed our home study and we are facing much more paperwork and a lot of fees.  Please pray for God’s provision and strength as we wait, as well as His will as we seek being matched with the child He has for us.  We will keep you posted as God unfolds another story of His miracles and grace in our family.

 

 

What happens when you pray…

I often ask you to pray for the kids who are heavy on my heart – the kids without families.  My students.  The ones I love and hope to see in forever families.  Ever wonder what results from those prayers?  You are in for a treat today.  Here is a guest post from a friend of ours who can tell you from first hand experience what happens when you, my amazing blog readers, pray.

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Dear followers of this special blog who pray:

I’d like to say that these days I don’t have the life I was going to. For one thing I’m homeschooling, a thing I don’t particularly love. I’m also juggling eye-opening tantrums, both public and private. And, as I guy who’d rather change activities every five hours, I’m sometimes changing them every five minutes and finding it a challenge.

My soul is worn.

And my plans were better.

Maybe they weren’t super-clear plans, but, as this past fall we joyously marked the conclusion of 15 years of babies and pre-schoolers in the house—boy, did our ears ring that day—I had all sorts of plans that could have made use of that quiet. Any number of dusty pursuits that could have been brought off the back burner.

But. My plans aren’t what happened.

What did happen was the impossible. Or, at least, something that, just one year ago, I would have called inconceivable in the extreme. And our house is quiet no longer.

The paperwork says he’s fourteen. Though he looks certainly younger, and his emotional, psychological, or social age—whichever you please, I’m not being technical, here—seems usually closer to two. Our ears are ringing plenty, now, too, though not from quiet. For this guy—perhaps not unlike a kid you’ve known?—didn’t come with a volume control (or many other kinds of control, for that matter). So it’s not just our ears, but our heads, even our whole selves, ringing some days.

And it’s largely your doing.

Adoption is hard, isn’t it? At least the worst of the feral screaming and self-injurious flailing seems to be over (or so we hope). But it’s still difficult, for he’s a kid from a hard place, and the transitional throes of switching to beloved son from institutional inhabitant can be extreme. And even when he is fine, we at times still aren’t. An energetic, self-absorbed, as-easily-wounding-as-getting-wounded entity of tireless underfoot-ness—no matter how happy—truly can make your day drag by.

But saving one kid is good, right? It is. It truly is. And, way back when, that’s what we signed up for: one. One adoption.*

How did this guy ever become number three?

That wasn’t my plan. In fact, you could have pretty much said about me last year that I was anti-adoption. Not again. No way. Not us. But. You were praying.

And, more unexpectedly than snow in summer, God spoke. To—of all people—our oldest teenager (the one who’d said he’d run away if we ever considered adopting again, and to whom I always replied with laughing assurance about that being the last thing he needed to worry about):

“Mom, I think we’re supposed to adopt this one.”

What?

He was putting together videos—to help update their files—of six older kids from the local orphanage. The boy that our teenager was talking about said in his video that he wanted an American family, a big family, and a family with younger siblings. Our family was check, check, and check, and my wife’s heart began to melt.

But not me. Not in the least. Sure, I’ll pray this kid gets a family, but that family as sure-as-shootin’ ain’t going to be ours. No way were we going to think about adopting another kid. And a teenager to boot? Be serious. Even my wife concurred as readily as I did that our family was stretching its limits beyond what we could handle already.

But you were praying. And her burden grew.

She resisted it. Asked repeatedly for the burden to be taken away, and I was all encouragement: “It will go away, dear. It will. The burden will fade. There will be another family for him.” I knew: All I had to do was outlast her. Outlast that completely irrational burden brought on by übercompassion and her over-sensitive heart. “Honey,” she pleaded with me one day as her burden only got stronger, “would you consider at least just praying about it?”

“Uh…no?” Why would I pray for something I didn’t have the least intention of considering?

But you were praying.

And the rest of that long, long story (that I now call “God’s 2×4”)—of how a boy called Manning come to be in our family, and how I was the only one who needed to be outlasted—has been told in other places already.**

Sometimes it isn’t our compassion that saves. Some of us don’t even have a whole lot of what might be called compassion. God can save just the same.

You prayed for Manning, and, because of it, things and powers and hearts that were not otherwise going to be moved were moved. A boy on the verge of a life sentence to institutional existence was spared. Though he might possibly have known abuse and neglect and hopelessness as companions forever, now this same boy notices and repeats (well, shouts, rather) the word “Jesus” every time he hears it in speech or song. Though not long ago he may have been doomed to never mature beyond hurt and anger and revenge and manipulation, now we’re building up trust. Just tonight he put his headphones on my ears so I could know which was his favorite Chinese worship song: “Isn’t it moving, Dad?”

It’s largely your doing, you know.

You prayed. And he’s home.

 


 

*The story of the Johnsons’ first adoption (and how that unexpectedly became two) can be found in Lily Was the Valley: Undone by Adoption, available on Amazon in both Kindle and softcover formats.
**Those who would enjoy reading the full story of the genesis of this most unlikely of third adoptions can do so at dannrobertjohnson.com, the earliest ten entries.

 


 

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Your next project?  Pray for “Hemingway” my youngest, happiest and sweetest student.  He is four years old, a Down Syndrome super star who loves painting with the color yellow.  He is waiting for his family to take a step of faith and come get him.  Pray that he isn’t destined to life in an institution.  Instead, may a family see his sweet face and recognize the value of his life and embrace him into their family.

You can contact Amanda (amanda.h@chiadopt.org) a social worker with Children’s House International to get more information on how to adopt him.

Just a side note: if our family can get approved to adopt and overcome the hurdles…ANYONE can.  Seriously. I am sure the Johnsons would say the same!

Twists and turns along the road

Pizza and catching up with an old friend – two rare treats that came my way last week. This friend, although absent from my daily life for years, has made significant impact on my life. Just been pondering where I would have been. Just been walking down memory lane.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7 years ago (Could it have really been that long?) we were in the throws of adoption paperwork for our little Monkey. The process was taking so very long. We watched other families get approval and travel to their sweet babies while we waited…and waited…and waited. At the same time, a natural disaster had struck in the part of China where little Monkey was living. It was heart breaking, excruciating, mind numbing…and then some.

I remember venting all my woes to my dear friend over dinner in our home. She was the special education director at the orphanage in our city. She challenged me. “Do something while you wait. It will make it easier.” That is where it started.

As I waited for little Monkey, I taught one art class once a week. One class of 8 students. I thought it would keep me busy and give me something to do rather than check my email like a crazy woman, hoping for news about our adoption. Instead, the children in my class helped heal my broken heart; they taught me to serve and to love in a way I didn’t know was possible. It amazes me.

Our journey to adopt had begun as a seed in my heart as a college student. Hubby and I knew it would be a part of our family story from the beginning. What we didn’t know – that adoption would take us on a heart journey that didn’t end with our youngest two children. Our hearts and eyes were open to the world of orphans, children with special needs and we would be forever changed.

I shake my head and laugh as I look back on those times, 7 long short years ago. I thought it was about waiting for our daughter, Little Monkey, to join our family. It wasn’t about the wait at all. I was learning about the Father’s heart.

This was a pretty big twist in my life story. I had no idea the joy my heart would glean from painting with a child suffering with Cerebral Palsy. The surprise was mine when I learned to communicate with a non-verbal pre-schooler with Downs Syndrome. I didn’t know the peace that would wash over me while holding the hand of a child with Autism. I have learned that every life has value and my life is deeper when I see God’s image in each one of His children. Pretty big stuff. It has shaped me.

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The twists and turns that my journey with Jesus has taken – they take my breath away. It is easy to see how He was leading my heart as I look back. It gives me courage for the future. I am so sure that there are more bends in the road. He is leading us down a path and we can’t see the end. I want to trust Him. The lessons He has for me to learn…they are good. The road He is taking me down…will make me better. Even when I don’t understand the bends in the path, He is good. He is leading.

Recently, I was asked to share at a conference about how and why I work and live where I do. I laughed at the request. Seriously, I am the last person that should be inspiring others on knowing where God is calling them. As I prepped that talk with honest words of ending up in a place that I didn’t expect, I was reminded again that my story with its bends twists and turns probably isn’t that unique. When we make our own plan…it is just that…ours. He has so much more for us than we ever could hope or dream for. I am living His dream.

I was so desperate 7 years ago. I wanted my waiting to be over, to hold my precious daughter in my arms. What joy to look back and see how God used that time of waiting for so much more. In this season, I wonder again. What will I see with such clarity 7 years from now.

Trusting Him in the journey. Taking one bend in the road at a time.