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.

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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Broken Hearted

bingoglassesIt comes every year.  I try to prepare my heart – but frankly the pain and injustice, I just can’t get used to it.

Due to our summer travel plans, this week marks my last art class of the semester.  Children who live at an orphanage….well summer vacation has a whole different meaning for them.  They live where they go to school and since it is often better to keep the kiddos busy and on a schedule, they don’t take long breaks from classes.  I explained to my kiddos that I needed to travel with my family so there would be no art classes for July and August….but I would be back to start art classes again in September.  The kids often will ask me over and over again….”Are you really coming back?”  One little guy who was in a near panic over missing art, just couldn’t drop it.  Finally I asked him, “Friend, will you be here in September?”  After thinking a moment he said, “Yes, I am always here.”  My reply, “Then I will find you when I come back.”

But, that isn’t always the case.

When a teen turns 17 years old – they must leave the orphanage and are sent to a social welfare institute.  It is not a nice place.  This week I said goodbye to a student I have had since the beginning of my days at the Children’s Home. He cried as we hugged. He wasn’t upset about the idea of missing art class for two months.  He was crying because he knew this was the end.  He will not be living at the orphanage when I come back.

I cried too.

I cried because I will miss him.  I cried because he has no hope for the future.  I cried because if he had been adopted his life would have been so different.

These boys who were never chosen….Lord have mercy.

Kids need families.

Let’s make a difference. Foster. Adopt. Give. Tell their stories. Cry for the orphan. Pray.

 

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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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.

My Crazy Life – December edition

December is just one of those months.  Every year I get so homesick for my extended family and Christmas traditions that I could burst into tears at any given moment.  But, every year we have the privilege of celebrating Christmas cross-culturally, I am filled with joy at the opportunities to experience the true meaning of Advent.  I could explode over the wonder of it all.  My crazy life.

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This year was like the others, busy with open houses for students, story telling, cookie baking, Christmas art projects, frosting and sprinkles.  It has been breath taking…and so very fun.  I really think that this month will go down in the books as one of the best Christmas seasons ever.  It wasn’t perfect.  I burnt cookies, got overwhelmed by the number of guests that came through our home, and Little Man picked his nose through his debut in the Christmas play.  (Friend, that could be a post on its own.  My son dressed as a wiseman digging for treasure up his nose.  Yes, he saw me give him the “momma stink eye.”  Then says to me FROM STAGE,  “Just a second, I almost have it!” He then pulled it out and flung it.  True story.  Sigh.)

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So it wasn’t perfect, but there were moments that I will treasure for years to come.  I was able to be the first one to share the Christmas story with a student.  How perfect is that?  Decorating sugar cookies with all of my art students who called the frosting paint and couldn’t keep themselves from licking everything…Okay, a little gross, but oh so priceless.  My children hosting and helping.  I think that treasure is the one I will ponder the most.  Soccer Dude pushing a wheel chair and breaking off bits of cookies to put in the lips of children who are paralyzed.  That is a gift.

 

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There are many days that I long for Christmas of the past when I was at home with my parents and eating western food and attending a Christmas eve service.  But honestly, if next Christmas would find us back in the States, I would miss what I have here.  My crazy life.  True story.

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They are not faceless.

IMG_0587So many sweet moments at the orphanage these past weeks.

I love seeing a child sprawled out on the floor coloring on newsprint.  It might seem small, but when the child struggles with autism, pushed through her anxiety to lay on the floor to be traced, and then stayed on task to color — It is miraculous.

I love hearing the responses of my students when I pull something unexpected out of “the big art bag.”  I carry all of my supplies back and forth from our apartment to the orphanage.  I must admit, the anticipation of seeing what will come out of the bag can cause some of my dear friends to come unglued!  This week, when I pulled out modeling foam, several children gasped out loud.  Pure joy.  I want to be more like my students.

I love seeing that children in the orphanage are normal kiddos.  We used a spray bottle to blend washable markers on a coffee filter.  Sounds random, but actually the process is simple for everyone and the results are amazing.  One of the kids turned that spray bottle on me and gave it a big squirt.  At my surprise the whole class roared in laughter.  Yes, a little water fight broke out.  We were damp by the end but feeling good after some belly laughs.  All kids are tempted by water mischief.

Many moments are filled with laughter, joy and victory, but there are moments of tears and deep grief as well.

I love talking with my students.  One class found out that a 13 year old boy has been chosen for adoption by an expat family who lives in our city.  They were full of questions for me about this whole adoption thing.  “Teacher, will he go to America?”  “Does the family speak Chinese?”  “Do you know them?  Are they your friends?  Do you have more friends who might adopt us?”  The conversation kept getting harder and harder.  Just when I thought my heart might break the conversation turned and they almost forgot about me.  “Why do you think they chose him?” One teen asked another.  “Oh, he is smart, short and can run fast.  That must be why.”   Tears came to my eyes as I saw the wheels turning in their minds.  They didn’t say the words but the silence in the air was thick.  They all wished they were smart and could run fast.

My students….they are normal kids who love to color while laying on the floor, enjoy a good water fight and get excited by something new to play with.  The difference between them and most children – People don’t see them.  So they are left to ask questions like….why do I get left behind.  Why doesn’t anyone choose me?  What is wrong with me?

Yup, I know this has gone from a sweet blog post to a downer.  Welcome to my life – joy and sorrow mingle in my heart as I look into the faces of each of these children.  Thousands of Chinese children are waiting, hoping and wishing for a family of their own.  They are not a statistic.  They are not faceless.  They are my students.  Let’s make sure they are not voiceless.