A birthday to remember

I am one of those moms. You know the type. The sappy (let a few tears drip into the frosting as I make cupcakes for my babies who seem to grow a year older behind my back) momma. But this birthday celebration – a few tears did not do it justice. Every time I looked at our new son on his birthday, tears sprang to my eyes.

We have missed 13 birthdays with this boy. 13. Adding emotion to that fact, we have been counting down the days to this 14th birthday. It was the deadline. If we did not have all of his adoption paperwork completed by his birthday, it was a no go. By Chinese law children are unadoptable at their 14th birthday.

We adopted him 10 days before his birthday.

Can I just type that sentence one more time so that you can feel the force of its drama? 10 days before his birthday he got a family. His miracle (and ours) happened 10 days before it was too late. That is worthy of many grateful tears from this momma. Amen?! Call me sappy if you want.

We enjoyed celebrating our new son on his 14th birthday which happened to fall on Chinese New Year’s Eve due to the lunar calendar. We made cupcakes and had gifts, but added making dumplings (traditional Chinese New Year food), staying up till midnight and setting off fireworks. It is a birthday, for many reasons, that we won’t forget.

A few more photos of our dumplings and Chinese New Year celebration….

and a few more words about how our transition is going.

We were preparing for a rough road with a teenager who hasn’t lived with a family. Instead, we are experiencing grace filled days with a delightful young man who is embracing his new life….and our family. We feel incredibly blessed. Maybe it is the honeymoon phase – but we are taking every moment and storing up these sweet memories that will be treasured and will help if harder days come. We would appreciate your continued prayers as we get to know each other and find a new normal for our family. We are starting the Chinese New Year with thankful hearts for all that God has done to make our family and with great hope of all that will come to pass in this year of the dog!

Family Day

This is the story of a 13 year old boy who joined our crazy crew.

If I am completely honest, the story of this child being added to our family is one that I can only fully tell sitting at my kitchen table over a cup of coffee with extra sugar and cream. Even then, I am sure I would struggle with the words to describe…..the surprise factor. Miraculous provision. Hurdles that God overcame. Agencies willing to work over time on our behalf. Generous friends and family. Anxiety over the unknown – sweet confirmation in the face of the fear and grief. Obstacles. Tears. Victory.

Oh, the stories I have to share.

Friend, until we meet for coffee, these photos and few words will have to do. They will give you a peek at the miraculous adoption that took place.

I have never been so relieved to be in a government office signing papers and pressing our fingers into red ink. We promised to care for and not abandon the teen, who sat next to us taking it in silently with wide eyes. As the translator explained to “B” what we were signing, my hands shook as so many thoughts came to my mind. “Can he understand that we truly mean the promises we are making? How long will it take for him to trust that we are the forever deal?”

I thought that signing the papers felt big to me, but as I watched this brave, strong boy sign his own name as he agreed to enter a new strange life, I cried. I cried because of the hurdles had been crossed to make this possible. God had brought us together. I sniffled because a child should never have to sign this type of paper. My heart screamed at the idea of all that had happened before this day.

A child being without family is an injustice – everything that leads up to it should not be. But there is redemption. When I look at the smile on B’s face in this next photo….when we were holding the book that gives him our last name…it reminds me that there are second chances at love that only come about through grace.

A new beginning with three brothers and two sisters and some crazy white parents – that might just take any strong person down. But this guy entered our family and home with a quiet smile and a determination that puts me to shame.

We spent our first afternoon playing games and getting to know each other on these new terms we have agreed to. I am not sure what I expected, but for sure I didn’t think he would be laughing over Uno and Quick Cups. I never dreamed he would be calling us mom and dad. I never would have pictured him leaning in to tell his new sister a joke with a gleam in his eye.

We celebrated this new chapter in our lives at our favorite Chinese restaurant- Hot Pot. As a party of 8, we now fill a whole table by ourselves. I took it all in wanting to treasure the moment in my heart – all of us together.

As joyful as a new beginning can be, it also means an end. Our brave new son needed to say goodbye to the home he has known for the past nine years. The next day we walked the halls of the orphanage handing out small gifts trying to help B find a bit of closure.

The story I wish you all could hear and understand – it would be a story of the generosity and love that I witnessed as the children and nannies said goodbye. I wish I had a photo of the teen (who will never be adopted because he was not chosen before his 14 birthday) who pressed a few small bills of Chinese currency into the palm of B’s hand stating “Good luck in your new life.” I wish you could see the hat that another teen gave – a teen who B calls “big brother.” I can’t describe the tender moments of his teacher who cried as she hugged his neck. And for sure, I can’t even describe how wrecked my heart was by his nanny. She pulled me aside sobbing – “I will miss him. He has been like a friend. But I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is saved from a lifetime in the institution. Do you know how bad the place is where the 17 year old kids go?” She cried as she shook my hand saying, “Thank you for taking him.”

Over the past month, I have had a heightened awareness of joy and grief and how they go hand in hand. My heart has struggled to comprehend my deep grief as I said goodbye to my mom, but the sweet relief and joy I felt at knowing her struggle was over. I am over 40 and I can hardly handle the depths of those two emotions that stand side by side in my life.

As I look at my new son, I see the joy and the grief that co-exist. I understand it in a way I never did before. How hard it must be at 13 years old to say goodbye to all you have known, even when you understand something as good as a forever family is waiting for you.

Our first days together have been great. He is accepting us, trying all the crazy American food that I serve him, and learning all the rules to the games the kids pull out to teach him – but please do pray for him. Pray that he feels comfort and peace that go beyond his understanding. Pray he is able to experience new joy every morning. Also please pray for us – that God will guide us in knowing how to love and care for him well.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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**

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.