Dinosour moments

Sitting in church on Sunday morning so thankful to be with friends, singing, praying, and thankful to have the opportunity to take communion. I looked down our row with tears in my eyes as Hubby was explaining what was about to happen in communion to our newest son. That is when I happened to glance at Little Man who was happily serving part of his communion bread to his plastic dinosaur.

There are moments. Moments when I shake my head and wonder if all that we are teaching our kids is sinking in.

With my sternest mommy look and my “I mean business even though I am whispering” voice I said. “Little Man, Dinosours do not get communion!”

There are moments. Moments when things come out of my mouth that I can not even believe that I am saying. Really? Do we need to explain this? I looked nervously around to see who was catching my son in the act. While traditions surrounding kids and communion differ, our heritage has allowed children to particiate when ready. We have always been firm believers in explaining sacraments to our kids, and when they believe, we have them participate alongside us. In that moment I could see the other side – why our practice could be questioned!

Little Man’s response to my stern whisper in not such a whisper voice. (He really is our loudest child and is not capable of whispering.) “Mom, EVERYONE needs to be reminded of what Jesus did for us.”

Schooled.

So I let my seven year old finish his communion and share the juice with his favorite T-Rex. There is room in our traditions and rituals for children to show us the way.

There are moments when I realize that this parenting thing is hard, but these kids might turn out okay after all. But then again, as I am typing this my three year old has a plastic triceratops stuck up his nose digging out snot. No spiritual justification for that one. My work is not done.

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.

17 years and counting

We had been living out of suitcases for at least 5 weeks by the time we hit Ohio.  The kids were fighting in the van and I was nervous about the friends we were about to see in our state of mind.  That is when Hubby pulled onto Brice Road.  We looked at each other and smiled ignoring the chaos.  At a church called Brice 17 years ago, that is where it all began.

We have moved 8 times, finished degrees, experienced two births and three adoptions, lived in 3 countries, learned two languages, and worked countless different jobs since that hot day in September.  I had no idea what I was getting into!

That is exactly what I was thinking as I asked our kids to tumble out of the van to take photos on the steps of the church.  We have a photo of our young selves all dressed up in a tux and white dress on those very steps.  I still am amazed that at 24 I made a good decision like marrying this redhead. The grace of God.  That is all I can say. I have been thankful for and marveled at that decision every year since.

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Here’s the thing.  I would do it again.  Not because it has been easy.  It hasn’t.  Good but not easy. We now have tasted and seen sick, poor, bad, sad and a bit of ugly. But, there is something about choosing to do life with the same person.  I never doubt who is going to be by my side during each season.  He keeps on choosing me and I choose him.

Our new photo on those steps – we for sure are not as pretty.  Those capri pants were wrinkled from travel and I had been sweating over my peacemaking efforts as momma to my crew.  I am pretty sure I wasn’t wearing any make-up and I no longer can count the gray hair in somebodies chin strip.  But, I think I will treasure this photo more.  It shows us 17 years into this thing called marriage.  I know what I am getting into now.  I held his hand, gazed into his eyes and said yes again.  It grossed out my teenagers and did all of our hearts some good.

We have come a long way in 17 years.  I wonder what the next 17 might hold and am thankful that this redhead will be by my side.  Choosing him one year day at a time.

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Pizza Party Good-bye

There are moments when you know you have come a long way (and that there is so much further to go…Amen?!)    I had one of those moments as I talked to one of the teachers at the orphanage.  They had planned a pizza party for our last Friday class together as a way to say good-bye for the summer.  My heart was so warmed!

I have been hoping for deep life-giving relationships with the workers at the children’s home.  I volunteered at the orphanage for a year in the past and never really was able to build relationships with fellow workers.  I still am in awe over the open doors and how favored my time at the children’s home has been since our return almost a year ago.

 

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They bought all the ingredients for the pizza and set it up in the orphanage “apartment.”  One of the classrooms is set up like a home, full kitchen, living room and bedroom, to teach the kids what a home is like.  Both of my classes crammed into the tiny apartment and with remarkable attention watched as I mixed the dough and made pizza for them.  I looked up from kneading the dough to their sweet faces starring at me – it felt like we were a family.  I love them all so much, at times I feel like I could just burst.

 

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We were using the common oven you can find in these parts; they are the size of a toaster oven.  There was a lot of waiting as we baked the dough, put on the toppings, baked again.  The pizzas were very small so we went through this process four times.  The kids waited patiently and entertained themselves by looking at photos of themselves as I took them.

One Chinese teacher carried the first pizza over her head and exclaimed to the kids – “Your American pizza party!”  It made me laugh as I took in our small square treat.  They had decided to top the pizzas with Chinese hotdog (it is like spam in my opinion) mutton, carrot, onion and tomato.  I did put my foot down and told them I would bring the pizza sauce.  “No, ketchup is not what we use in the States as Pizza sauce!”  HaHa.   So “American pizza” is a term I would use loosely when describing what we ate…but the kids sure did enjoy it.  The beauty of these kids, they are honest.  So I know they weren’t pretending to like it!

 

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The second pizza was cut into tiny squares and carried up and down the hallway of the orphanage to be shared by the kids who are not in my classes.  It was so fun to hear the excited exclamations over eating pizza…and in between meal time at that!  We also had a steady stream of nannies coming to take a peek at the recipe which led to us planning a shopping trip over the weekend so I could introduce them to the import store where you can buy mozzarella cheese.  Relationship building at its best and I think I might just have started to become a part-time cheese supplier.  Who knew?

What a great way to end the semester.  I hate to see it come to an end; it feels like we just got things rolling.   I have high hopes that the 6 weeks we have off won’t set us back, but I will be able to pick up the relationships right where we left off come the fall.

Hmmm….maybe we will have to start the fall semester with me planning a cookie party for them at my apartment?  Already planning and dreaming for next semester!

Happily Ever After

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He was one of my first students.  A tiny five year old who we all recognized as having potential – I mean look at those bright eyes!  He was younger than the rest of the class but was allowed to join us because of his natural artistic ability.  As I got to know him, I also was learning as an orphanage volunteer, about the world of adoption, and about kids with special needs – specifically boys.

I wondered why he wasn’t being adopted.  I was told he was un-adoptable.  My heart broke for him.

Two years later the orphanage director decided to give him a chance and began the process of preparing his paperwork.

It will be a sleepless night that I will never forget.  I got the email saying his paperwork would be done at the end of the summer.  I tossed and turned through the night as the grave reality hit me.  A seven year old boy finally given a chance, but how often do you hear of a family able and willing to take a chance on an older special needs boy.

Last night, I tossed and turned again.  It will be a sleepless night that I will always remember.  This time it was not prayer of anguish on behalf of a boy without a family, rather I was awake excitedly saying a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.  I knew in the morning there would be less one orphan – and not just any orphan – my favorite student now has a family!!  Last night, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep giving thanks for what was coming.

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Can I just type that one more time….just so you understand the depth of my excitement, utter joy and unbelievable relief?!

HE HAS A FAMILY.

He was chosen.  He was adopted.  It is forever.

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Let me introduce you to Luke (his new english name!)  He is an amazing artist who is so very smart.   While living this past year with his foster family,who now is his forever family, he learned English and caught up to his peers at the international school.  Watching him roll and tumble with his brothers and running around at school, you seriously would have thought he has been there forever.  Now forever is possible.

Luke is the poster child of older adoption.

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I know you have heard the horror stories….and older adoption can be difficult, but today I want to tell you a story that has an incredibly happy ending.  This guy dove into family life and never looked back.  His mom exclaimed to me a few months after having him with them, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is it supposed to be this easy?”

I stood in a governmental office taking photos of a family as they pressed their thumbs into a well of red ink.  They read the document they were signing out-loud to their boys.  “This means we will never abandon you.  We will treat you like a biological son.  We will give you a good education.”   Luke asked, “What does abandon mean?”  His mom pulled him into a hug and replied, “It means we will never leave you.  You will always be with our family.”

 

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You can not see my tears through the photos I took.  But they are there.  I couldn’t hold them back.  Just one or two slipping from the corner of my eye as I captured the grin of a boy who now has a last name and a family who has been blessed immeasurably by another son.  It will be a moment this art teacher treasures in her heart…right up there with my wedding day, the births and adoption days of my own four children.

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I think I might just carry this photo around in my art bag from now on as a reminder that there is hope.

When I returned to China to teach at the orphanage, I fell in love again – with a different seven year old boy named Renny.  I thought of him this morning as I took pictures of Luke.

There is hope.

Maybe you are a part of the hope that needs to be extended to Renny.   He is cute as a button, loves learning and has mild CP.  In China he isn’t allowed to go to public school because of his disability.  He needs a family so that he can have hope and a future.  His adoption paperwork is completed and waits to be chosen.  You can contact Annie Hamlin with Lifeline Children’s Services and ask to view Renny’s file to consider adopting him. Click here to email her.

Maybe Renny isn’t a match for your family, but God is calling you to be hope for one of the other 1393 boys who are right now on the waiting list to be adopted from China.  That isn’t counting the girls who wait…..in total there are about 1831 children currently waiting on the shared list which means anyone can adopt them.  (Did you catch that?! 1393 boys and 438 girls.  That is a sad statistic for a different blog post!)  There are even more children who wait in orphanages without paperwork and even more who are assigned to specific agencies.  It is staggering….but not hopeless.

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Happy family day to the Tompkins family!  Thank you for being willing to step out in faith and for giving this art teacher hope!  Look at the grin on that boy’s face.  Nothing else needs to be said!

 

Priceless

When I was in High School I babysat….a lot.  I loved those three kids like they were my own sister and brothers and dreamt of a day that I would be the mom.  I burnt their canned ravioli, figured out how to change diapers and to give baths (although there were many times I seemed to need every towel in the cabinet to get it done).  I learned that you shouldn’t leave a baby on a counter who might roll and figured out the art of pretending that I knew what to do even when I was clueless.

Just thinking about those babysitting days and how grateful my children should be that they were spared the many mistakes that I learned in my teens.  I never have let another child roll from a counter top….thank you AJ Lobb.

 

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Now I am the mom.  It is a job that isn’t over after a few hours and I don’t get paid $2.50 an hour.

I didn’t know that being a mom meant breaking up a fight for the millionth time and that I would need to be a detective to find out who broke the cup that was hidden behind a dresser.  I had no idea that I would need to be a counselor when faced with a spelling word meltdown (ok, honestly it was me having the meltdown over the spelling list not one of the kiddos, but still.) Cook, nurse, friend, teacher….I have decided that there is good reason mom’s are worth more than $2.50.

 

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I hauled the kids out on campus for photos.  I had it in my mind that I needed some new photos of my sweet babies to celebrate mother’s day.  They had it in their minds that I was being sappy.

I downloaded the photos and began to edit and I could hardly stand it.  (Sappy as charged.)  Looking at their smiling faces (okay and a few grumpy “aren’t we done yet” poses) it hit me again how blessed I am.  I feel like my heart walks around outside of my body….a piece with each one of these precious four.

Priceless.

Somedays I get tired of being referee, maid, dentist, coach mom, but those are the days that I have forgotten to slow down and take a good look at my four crazies.

So for Mother’s Day this is what I want…..a good look so I can remember.  Motherhood is priceless and I don’t ever want to take my four blessings for granted.

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