To not belong

We have arrived at our Asian home and recovered from jetlag enough for a celebration to suit our boy who turned 8.

He is all about dinosaurs- so a trip to the small science museum was just the ticket. We are so thankful and blessed to have good friends, who are really like family, to celebrate with. I watched our sons running from one station to the next enjoying each one, and it made me sigh with such deep contentment. As hard as it is to say goodbye to family and the home of my birth – it is also hard to explain fully how good it feels to return to our other home and to embrace our friends and loved ones here. Sometimes, it can make me feel like I have dual banjos playing in my heart. To call two places home. To have so many loved ones I call family. To cry when I leave and cry when I stay.

My kids really amaze me. They seem to embrace both sides of their lives with ease and grace. Moe and Little Man both totally believe they can not speak Chinese – and if they are around Americans or Europeans they don’t. But the Chinese lady that comes to our home every week to hang out with our kids while I teach – well, they have full conversations with her too. She doesn’t speak English. They say thank you in Chinese to the vendor on our street corner and answer the questions from our neighbors. Flipping between the two languages comes so naturally that they are not even aware that they are doing it.

These two worlds that they flip between – they belong and they don’t. I have white kids who have lived most of their formative years in Asia and Asian kids who think white because of their parents and family culture. I could write a whole book about that in itself. But today what I am pondering…how my third culture kids teach me to embrace life and call no where home.

Want to watch my kids squirm….ask them where they are from. They know you would expect them to claim a city in America, maybe one of the rural communities their parents identify with, but I can assure you what flashes into their minds are beds in a small apartment in a city of more than a million people. But is that home? Can we call it home when we have to get a visa to stay and our passport is from a different country? Not really. We are keenly aware that this also is not home.

The more I strive to live life well, to be righteous and to lean into who God has made me, I am learning that “homelessness” should be my goal. I belong no where. It is hard to type those words and even harder to wrap my heart and mind around the truth that God sets out for all believers. We are not of this world. Heaven is home. A place I have never seen and a place I can not comprehend.

I want to let go of the things that tie me down and pull me away from having a heavenly mentality. Desires. Comforts. Culture. Thoughts. Expectations.

I heard a sermon in college by Dr. Kinlaw that still bounces around in my soul. He said, “Your eternity can start now.”

I have been letting that sink in for the past 20 years and yet I still uncover ways that I should lean into it more. I want to embrace my God given gift of eternity…now. I don’t want to belong to this world. I want to live fully in righteousness my heart turned towards heaven. Lord Jesus make it so.

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.

Out of this world

IMG_2523Little Man has his new leg and it literally is out of this world!  It fits great, looks cool, and he is walking more than ever.  We are so thankful for the folks at Shriners hospital for all they do to help our guy live to his full potential.  They bend over backwards to helps us crazy people who live half way around the world and travel in for medical care.  We are blessed to have them as our medical team.  In their great care for our guy and setting up what he will need next, his doctors let us know that he probably will need another surgery next summer.  It shouldn’t be as big of a deal as his bone reduction last summer, but due to his super growth, bone spurs are something we will have to look forward to.  We are keeping that in the back of our minds, and thinking that we may have another summer stateside in the near future.

Once Little Man was running on a new leg we were able to check a few other things off our to do list this summer.  Dental appointments down.  Eye exams and new glasses.  Soccer Dude’s follow-up and a minor outpatient surgery is done. Lots of grilling, a bit of camping.  Many lovely visits with friends and family in the memory books. Another year of homeschool supplies loaded into suitcases. The grand finale was two days of travel.  We are now home and can I just say….there is nothing like sleeping in my own bed!

It has been a busy summer! Now we are ready to settle back into our day to day lives.  We are taking the next week to rest and get over jet lag then we will start at it again.  Hubby can’t rest for to long – He has a trip scheduled for Thursday to look at the new campus in our city.  His university is moving!  It might prove to be a crazy fall with many new twists and turns as the university gets settled in their new location.  We will keep you posted as it develops.

Thanks for lifting us up this summer.  We are so blessed to have the support of so many!  Blessed.

 

Home Sweet Home

IMG_9530Last night at dinner Soccer Dude casually mentioned, ” Hard to believe the last time I ate noodles at this table I didn’t have scars on my face from a dog bite.”  It struck me again.

I have joked in the past that travel week for us is kinda like living out one of those sci-fi movies.  You know, where you enter a time machine and arrive on a different planet and in a different dimension.  We leave a world of grandparents, bagged salad, dryers, large yards with trees (and speaking English!) — to enter a world of friends, noodles, apartment buildings, and a college campus where we teach English and art.  They are two totally different worlds and it can be unnerving to hop from one to the other.  We really fit in neither, but love both…I struggle to wrap my brain around that, not to mention help my children navigate our two realities.

This summer has been extreme. HA, understatement!  We went from our busy world in Asia to a world of hospitals, dentists, immunizations, doctor appointments — and did I mention doctor appointments?

In a way, it has helped us to be more thankful than ever to be back “home.”  Surgeries are behind us.  Little Man has a new prosthesis that fits and he is running again. (See photo of him during a walk through the woods!)  Soccer Dude continues to heal and the stitches are dissolving.  Life is moving on.  We are beyond thankful for Father’s healing and our ability to come back to our Asian home.

It never felt better to walk in our apartment door.  Starting the routine of homeschooling in our own space has been a comfort and facing a new fall has been a joy.  There is no way we would be back here without the pr.yer and support of so many of you.  It carried us.

A mentor always willing to take a phone call when we needed a sounding board, an ophthalmologist who fit Soccer Dude for contacts the last week we were in the States because his glasses were bothering the wounds in his nose, a pediatrician’s office willing to work us in to talk about hives and swelling, friends who drove an hour to play with us at a park and express their love and concern, friends in Asia calling and sending us gifts, a simple text message saying “we are pr.ying for you”….all these things (plus many more I could add to this list) carried us and reminded us of the love of a Father who provides.

So when we are weary from jet-lag, facing another busy semester after a crazy summer, when Soccer Dude breaks out in hives again…we have no doubt Father will provide.

Wow!  This post has been full of lists!  I am sure you could make your own list.  How is Father providing for you this season?

 

Out With the Old and In With the New

The smell of rancid meat is a great welcome home.  Oh. Yes. We. Did.  Our careful selves unplugged the power bar under the desk to keep our $20 printer safe from a power surge in our absence.  Well played except that we forgot that our extra fridge also uses that plug.  If you can skip the weird factor that our extra fridge is in our bedroom next to our desk/office space that is also in our master bedroom, you can go straight to the fact that this extra fridge was left to us by previous teachers.  This used fridge was a welcome gift since tracking down ground meat in this city can be a treasure hunt and when I find it, I stock pile.

We were gone for three weeks.  It was a fantastic time filled with great training, renewal, and rest.   Nothing like pulling out for a few weeks to give you a fresh perspective.  I am sure you will hear more about our trip in the next couple of posts.  We came home armed with new resources and a vision to embrace our new semester with boldness and innovation.

Kinda funny how you can be so ready for something new and be hit with the smell of the old as soon as you walk in the door.  Actually, we could smell it in the hall of our apartment.  So sorry neighbors!

A freezer filled with meat that had thawed and sat in my bedroom for three weeks…Wow!  Actually it was the two bags of chocolate chips and the 3 lb bag of coffee that I was saving in that same freezer that brought me to tears…and I never cry.  (Okay, that is a lie.  I cry a lot, but these tears I am blaming on our late evening arrival and my crazy love of both chocolate and coffee.  Oh, Ld deliver me!)

My sweet husband rolled up his sleeves and began to scrub.

It has been two days and you can not believe the smell that lingers.  We have tried everything, but due to the “excellent” design of the freezer that has a seam at its back that leads to a 2 inch compartment….well, let’s just say we push on the bottom of the freezer and we see red foam.  Crazy.

Today, I gave in.  I think we might just need perform surgery on the freezer and saw out the bottom or throw it out.

Not that I am over thinking this rancid meat as I come home thing….but, it really feels so ironic.  Sometimes all you can do is throw in the sponge.

Hubby starts his classes today.   He again has been assigned the literature classes with the added bonus of being asked to teach more freshmen on a second campus.  My classes start tomorrow.  No new students for me….the same sweet kids will be eagerly greeting me as I enter the orphanage halls.  So, what is my new?  Oh, that I could put into words what is taking place in my heart.  I guess all I can say is that I have new depths in my heart.  I am being broken so that I can love even more deeply.

I also might be shopping for a new freezer.

 

We are back!

The horrors of jet lag.  I swear hell might look like never ending jet lag.  Oh, so painful!   All in all our travels back east were uneventful and smooth.  There was only one moment I about came unglued.

Only a crazy art teacher would pack a good chunk of our luggage allowance full of glue, glitter, Crayola, and craft sticks.  One huge bottle of glitter would not fit in the suitcases.  My sweet son stuck it in his carry on knowing his momma can go through a lot of glitter and there is non to be bought in our city.

It is the last flight in a Chinese airport that is known for its security measures, I was prepared.  We had no liquids and confidently were waltzing through.  Then….

They took my glitter!

Hey, Hey, Hey!  That isn’t liquid or flammable I heard myself whining and then pleading with my sweet husband to come to my aid in defensive of the red glitter.  How do you explain what glitter is to an officer who  never has seen the likes of a 5 lb bottle of the stuff  before!

I promise I won’t blow up your plane with it!

Meltdown was completely unneeded.  The second round through the scanner machine thingy deemed it harmless and it was handed back to me.  I noticed them raising an eyebrow at the crazy white woman and her glitter.

Jet lag is to blame for a lot of bad behavior….my whining included.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.

We are back glitter and all so thankful to be “home.”

Now that jet lag is mostly behind us we are jumping back into life.  The kids started homeschooling today and attended Chinese classes in the afternoon.  Hubby had his first day of classes – three literature classes, two oral english classes and a weekly lecture are sure to keep him busy.  I had my first meeting at the orphanage to set up classes too.  It was a big day setting up the fall semester for the Williams clan.

One of the kids at the orphanage summed it up well.  “So glad you are back.  How about you start art class NOW.”  Love that kid!  I think he will get an extra scoop of glitter the first day of class!