Our Big Surprise….5+1=6

IMG_0229If the news we are about to share with you in this post shocks you, well, I can guarantee it shocked us more. We were blown away to receive a phone call from our adoption agency last month.  It was all so surreal that I really couldn’t make sense of the words our social worker was saying.  The agency that oversees all adoption affairs in China had called our adoption agency and asked us to consider adopting a child from the orphanage where I teach.  What?  Our adoption agency went on to explain they have never had anything like this happen before.

A million thoughts rushed through my mind as it tried to register the news.  We don’t qualify to adopt.  Hubby and I had said our family was complete with the five blessings already in our care. Why did they call us?

Wait!  I asked questions rapid fire-trying to gain clarity.  My mind was still trying to register the miraculous open door that was being given to us.  Who do they want us to adopt?  The boy who I have taught and loved for 7 years?   The same boy whose photo has been on our fridge for three years?  The child we have prayed would miraculously have the chance at a family?  The now 13 year old who only has until February to be adopted before, according to Chinese law, he can no longer be eligible for adoption?  That child?  They did his paperwork this summer?  They are asking us to adopt him? Seriously?

I wept.

We prayed.

A second shocking phone call came a couple weeks later.  China surprisingly agreed to grant us the special permission we need to adopt this precious boy, if we were willing for him to join our family.

We sat down with our kids and prayed as a family.  The words of Little Man summed up the feelings of all of our children, “Why wouldn’t we adopt him?  How cool we get to be the chance he has at a family and not to live all his life in that institution.”

Sometimes God uses us to answer our own prayers.

If they had called us and asked us to adopt any other child, we would have said no.  But, it just “happens” that they asked us to adopt the now 13 year old who has been on our hearts for years.  We said yes.  As a family, this is who God has called us to be.  We didn’t go looking to adopt again.  We thought we were done.  God had a different idea.

Who is this child that is changing our plans?  He is “Benjamin.”  Benjamin is super smart and loving.  He likes legos, playing with bouncy balls from his wheelchair, and listening to music.  He is also an absolute ham in my art class, making me and others laugh.  For all these reasons and more, he will thrive in our family.  He will make the most of joining our family and the opportunity for an education.  We have consulted the Western doctors here in our city, and they can help him get the additional medical attention he needs, which has not been possible while living in the orphanage.  To us, he is worth the leap of faith on our part.

We would really appreciate you being a part of his miraculous story.  We have to complete his adoption before his 14th birthday. The adoption process usually takes 11 months.  When you consider both American and Chinese holidays, we are working against a 10 week deadline.

We have about 10 weeks to raise the funds and complete all the paperwork to finalize his adoption.  It is going to be a crazy ride with many miracles needed along the way.

May I be so bold to ask if you might be a part of this journey with us.

Would you consider praying with us that all will be able to be completed in time?  Pray all the paperwork would move smoothly and quickly through the process.  I assure you, this will require miracles.

Would you also consider being part of the financial miracle that will bring “Benjamin” home?  Would you consider giving towards his adoption fund?  If being part of his provision story resonates with you, you can give a tax deductible donation here. We are simply trusting that what is needed will be provided every step of the way. If God is in this, He’ll make a way.

We weren’t looking to adopt again.  We have no idea how the agency that oversees Chinese adoptions knows about us, or why they care if this 13 year old boy is adopted.  It’s a crazy miracle- God has plans.  He moved mountains to make this adoption even a possibility, so we are trusting Him to continue to provide all that is needed to make it happen.  Oh man, is this going to be an amazing God sized story that will bring him Glory.  We feel deeply humbled and blessed to be a part of this story and I know you will be blessed for your part in it too.

How Mo became a US citizen.

We have had a time of it.  What was an easy process for our other two kiddos, getting Mo’s US citizenship has been one hurdle after another.  We were being told that due to recent changes in the process it could take up to 6 months to get his certificate of citizenship.  No big deal unless you need a passport and visa for your child in order to return overseas to your job!  After multiple attempts, much frustration and even with the advice of immigration lawyers, we were beginning to think we would need to give up teaching this semester and stay in the States to get it all figured out.

On  a Monday we were told that there was no way to have an appointment any sooner than 102 days.  On Wednesday of that week, an officer gave us a call and asked us to come for an appointment in 6 days for the much desired certificate.  We were thrilled.  Felt blessed.  Wondered how there was such a change. Of course, we soon found that it was a total God thing.

I sat in the office on Friday presenting all of the documents required listening to the story of our officer who was originally from the Philippines.  He knew first hand about poverty even though he is now living the American dream.  He spent the first several years of his life on the streets until he was taken in to a boarding school run by Americans who loved him, educated him and gave him a chance in life.  The officer told me how Mo’s profile on his application had reminded him of himself 60 years earlier.  “I wanted to help you help this boy like that couple helped me.”

I could hardly keep myself from crying in this man’s office.  I wanted to weep for the relief of finally having the documents we need to return to our Asian home, but snotty sobs threatened to overtake me as I realized how big this story is.  Only God can change a life 60 years ago and still have it paying forward today.  Amazing really.

I makes me pause.  Anyone who knows me even a bit, knows that I am a rubber meets the road type of gal.  If it isn’t working.  Don’t bother.  If I can’t see results then it needs to be changed.  But honestly, sometimes the things we are called to aren’t measurable.  For me, faithful is putting a lot of effort into things that I don’t know what the outcome will be.  That couple who started a school for street kids…their work is helping our work.  I am sure they never thought to put that down as a goal.  They never got to write a newsletter about how their projects would have world wide ripples.  I wish I could call that couple up – let them know how their work continues today – how their lives are impacting many.

This officer didn’t just help us get the papers we need to return to Asia.  His story reminds me not to measure our work based on what I can see.

We have the citizenship paper that we needed.  We were able to rush to Atlanta to get a passport for our guy and mailed it in for his visa which will give us permission to re-enter China as a new American citizen.  The visa….that is another whole God story and we will see how that ends!

Miracle!?

Our new little one is getting used to being rocked to sleep.  He (along with most children who are cared for in an institution or group home) was put in his crib with toys and he would play himself to sleep.  His group home was awesome, but now he has a mom and a dad.

He laid his head on my chest.  It is his new favorite spot – listening to my heart beat.  But tonight as he snuggled in close, he raised a hand up to rub my face.  As he rubbed back and forth, he said four words over and over and over again.

“This is my mom.  This is my mom.  This is my mom…”

Lord Jesus have mercy.

Unimaginable.

A two year old claiming me as his own, thankful for my arms, and reminding himself that he no longer is alone.

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Of all the waiting children who are hoping for a family – God led us to him.  A baby who desperately was ready for a family.  Miraculous really.  But, I wonder where is the miracle for all of the other babies (and not so little babies) who wait for a mother of their own?

I know the children who wait.  You can’t possibly get paint on your elbows alongside the beautiful children who live in an orphanage and not fall in love.  They have asked me – “Do you have friends who want another little boy?  Why would I not get chosen?  Would you take me home?”  Some of the kids go as far as to call me “White Momma.”  I can’t tell you how often I walk away from that place crying out for a miracle for the sweet ones I leave behind in the classrooms.  They were created in the image of God – to love and be loved – yet they live in one of the deepest forms of poverty.

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”  Mother Teresa

Some of our friends and family have joked with us about our expanding family.  Five is pressing the “acceptable” limits just a bit.  My own supportive Mom recently asked when we would start the paperwork for #6. “Oh, honey,” she said “as long as you work at an orphanage, how could you ever be done?”

I am not the only one.  I have read story after story of adoptive parents who come to adopt their child and are forever haunted by the orphans left behind.  An amazing, raw post just written by a friend of mine could have been my own words of wonder and lament.  Where are the miracles for the ones left behind?

Over the past week one of my favorite things to hear come out of our new son’s mouth is “Bao bao,” which means, “Hold me.”  I drop everything at that request.  He made a game of it today throwing his arms open wide and laughing every time I would make a dramatic run for him.  Sweet boy.

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His miracle came.  Our miracle came.  God provided every dollar we needed for this adoption.  The approvals were met.  Paperwork was completed and my sanity is still in place.  We have squeezed another soul into a small apartment, and now there is life to be lived.  I catch myself reliving this adoption story.  Marveling at the miracle.  Soaking in the perfectness of my new one.  My heart sighs and is filled with the joy of it.

And my heart cries out and breaks over the injustice of it.

Why do so many still wait, and yet this baby is being held?

Lord have mercy.

 

 

 

Hope

We might see it every time we walk through town, but it still takes my breath away.  Beggars.  Men with missing limbs painting with water on dusty sidewalks and women sitting with babies in their laps rocking back and forth – they all break my heart.  I see my son in them.  I see the birthmothers of my children in them.  How can I not?

How do I deal?  Well, we have gotten into the habit of carrying extra food like yogurt or rolls and small money to pass out.  The children are quick to help me.  It isn’t perfect.  And really, it eases my conscience more than it helps, but I keep telling myself that it is something.

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Recently we went through the center of town headed to a western restaurant as a treat.  We were celebrating another visa in our passport!  Now that friends, is worthy of some fried chicken and fries at KFC!  As we came up the steps headed for the door, Little Monkey pulled at my sleeve.

We both saw the young mother at the same time. She was sitting on the sidewalk clutching an infant wrapped in so many layers I wondered if he was able to move.  The mother’s head was bent down to the ground.  She didn’t make eye contact with anyone hurrying past even when a few small bills were dropped into her metal bowl.

Then my daughter….

My sweet, sensitive daughter who has an old soul and thinks way beyond her years, she stopped me in my tracks.  “Mom, giving her a dollar won’t help her keep her baby.  Please let’s buy her a meal.”

That woman on the street – I am sure she had never had fried chicken in her life, but she ate it that day….along with fries, soup and a soft drink.  I wept as we bought her the meal knowing even that would not be enough.  Mostly, I bought it for my daughter, for her birthmother and for hope.

I hope for a time when mothers and children will not be vulnerable.  I hope for all children to have families and for the sick to be healed.  I hope for a second coming when all things will be made new. Come Lord Jesus come.

 

 

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!