Monday, April 7, 2014

March 18, 2013

On March 18, 2013 we heard the story of a little girl named Susanna. For six years her crib had been her home. After much prayer we knew that we wanted to bring her home and show her life outside of her crib. 

We also heard the story of her special friend in the crib next to her. She loved him and cared for him through the bars of her crib. We knew that learning to live outside the walls of her crib would be very hard for her but that maybe if he came with her it would make things easier. We didn't want their special connection to be broken. That is how we were introduced to this special little boy.

On May 29, 2013 our hearts were broken when we learned that Susanna had passed away. We wouldn't be able to introduce her to the world outside the walls of her crib. We continued to work to get our son home. We visited him for the first time in November and fell in love with his sweet smile. He was clearly heartbroken and his poor body needs much repair as well. We have spent the last 4 months preparing for this day. The day that Elijah Joseph Williams becomes ours in more than name! Today we get to walk out of the orphanage with him in our arms. 

Without Susanna this day would not have been possible. Without her love for him and families who advocated for her, who shared her story (thank you Lesa and Linny!),  we would never have found our boy and he would likely not have found a family. So today we also remember the story, and the little girl, that we have promised never to forget. We wish more than anything that today she was in our arms. May more cribs be emptied by the telling of her story! This is Susanna's story!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Extravagant Love

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

John 13:34

I got into the taxi cab to head back to our hotel. We had just completed our first visit with Josie. Keith and I went into this journey knowing the significant developmental delays Josie has. All the medical reports provided by the orphanage say that she is at about the developmental level of a 4 month old. We honestly worked hard to keep our expectations very low going into the first visit. It is hard to describe the adrenaline that flows through you as you wait for them to open the door and introduce you to the child whose pictures you have been staring at for months. The door opened and there she was! She looked so much more vibrant than either of us expected! She was sitting in a stroller and I was struck by how very beautiful she is! We spent the next hour holding her and playing with her. 

There is no doubt that many of the things in her medical report are not accurate. She is doing much better in many areas than we were expecting. Yet the truth is that in many ways she is like a baby. She speaks in coos, tongue clucks, and sighs, and it is likely that she will never speak words (that is a typical symptom of her medical condition). She rolls back and forth, gets on her hands and knees, but is nowhere near walking, and the reality is that she may never walk. She absolutely engages with us in ways that we were delighted to see. She laughs when tickled. She smiles when she is enjoying a game. She has very clear ideas about what she would like to be doing! She loves to be held and will allow you to calm her by rubbing her hair. All things considered, our expectations were blown away.....and that was a very good thing!! 

Yet, as we walked to the taxi there was also unspoken fear. What will the future hold for Josie, and for us as her family? We were sort of holding our hearts in check and although we hadn't talked about it, we were each asking ourselves the same questions. While it is true that adoption saves a child from a life with no future, it also can profoundly change the lives of those adopting, if we will let it. God, in His economy, never wastes an opportunity to keep chipping away at the stone around our hearts, if we will let Him. 

 I had some ugly stone around my heart. As I got into the cab I could hear Him saying to me, "What lives have value? Who determines that value? If Josie never develops beyond the developmental level of a 6 month old, won't her life still have been worth saving?"

At times I catch my breath when I realize how the philosophy of the world creeps in to my worldview. The lie that life is assigned value based on contribution, and that the contributions that counts are strength, power, excellence in sports, intelligence/getting into the best schools, popularity, physical beauty....all based on a standard that changes with the wind. 

As I continued through my day it became so clear that God was showing me the very definition of extravagant love. He is redeeming Josie's life. A life that by the standards of this world has very little value. Yet, she is priceless to Him. She is SO worth the time, the resources, the effort, the lifetime commitment. This question is answered for me. For once and for all. God loves us extravagantly. Spiritually we have nothing to offer Him. We have nothing to contribute. Yet, He loves us and He longs to claim us as His welcome us into His forever family. It is all grace! 

Let us love as He loves us!

Here Again.....

Daddy and Josie

For our 2011 international adoption I had planned to blog on our first trip. The first half of our trip was very difficult. We agreed that if we couldn't be truthful we wouldn't blog. So, for the most part, we didn't blog. Adoption is redemptive and beautiful. For most of us who bring home children, there are also challenges to be faced. It is difficult to walk into an orphanage, having a pretty good idea of what is going on inside on a daily basis, and not be changed. Not be sobered by what you are experiencing. When you bring home a child from that hard place you are met daily with the lasting impact that starting life in that environment has had on your child. You celebrate the miracles.....and there are MANY...... and you watch with gratitude as they learn to trust and relax. You battle beside your child to get to that place, knowing and appreciating how hard it has been, for ME, to get to that place in my own life....the place where I can trust God and relax into His love for much harder it must be for a child who has been brutally neglected (at best) since birth. 

I have been amazed by how adoption has mirrored pregnancy and childbirth. The waiting. The worrying.  The wondering. My most anxious delivery wasn't my first but my fourth.....because I KNEW what to expect!! Sometimes the anticipation of holding my baby took center stage, but sometimes it was all I could do to control my fears about the pain I knew I would have to go through to get to the part where I was holding my baby!!! For Keith and I, adoption has been very much the same. Lilly and Noah are absolute MIRACLES! We have been privvy to watching utterly amazing things! We get to experience the wonder of feeling as though we could tell their birth stories because it seems as if they have always been a part of our family! But there have also been many hard days. Sacrifices. Scary moments. Time and again we have had to lay down selfishness, impatience, and fatigue. It is all SO worth it, but like pregnancy number four, as we enter this new adoption journey we have a much better idea of what lies ahead......both the awesome and the difficult.

I believe that the enemy uses fear to keep many away from adoption. How will I be able to do it? What will I have to "give up"? Will we ever go camping again? Will we all fit in our car? Will we ever be empty nesters? Will we be able to travel? How will we afford it? And on it goes. It can be paralyzing. The sacrifices are real. The difficulties are real. But so are the rewards....both temporal and eternal. We have had to work diligently this go around to keep our thoughts in check....some days we win that battle and some days we don't. By God's grace we are here!! The enemy is a liar and I can already see the blessings that God has in store for our family. May we encourage each other to fight the fight and stay in the battle! So many lives depend on it. 

So, here we are again!! And this time I am blogging!

We Have Arrived!

We arrived safely, on time, and with ALL of our luggage! 

Our hotel. 
The beds are amazingly comfortable (very important when you are exhausted and jet lagged!!) 
and everyone here has been so helpful and kind!

The view from one of our hotel windows

A beautiful old building

A nearby neighborhood 

Our amazing first night dinner!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's All Because of Her........

As we sat on the plane Friday, finally on our way to meet Will and Josie, my thoughts kept going to Susanna. Words can't describe how deeply I wish we were coming to meet her. How utterly sad we still are that we won't be bringing her home.

Yet, because of her amazing story of love we are on our way to meet these two sweet children:

We can never underestimate the power of loving. The courage to love, regardless of our circumstances, can really change lives. Even when things don't turn out in our favor, or that way we want them to.

Susanna taught me that. I am forever in her debt. 

We love you sweet girl!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We are happy to announce.......

......that we WILL be bringing home two!

How I love those big eyes!! 

After losing Susanna we just weren't sure if God would add another little one to our family. But, God has weaved another story and we are so blessed to be a part of it! We spotted her picture a couple of months ago on the website of an agency that advocates for children waiting for a family. It was simply a picture and her diagnosis, which is something called Rubinstein-Taybi. She really captured Keith's heart and that got MY attention because he has never responded to just a picture like that before. So, I asked our agency about finding her and we learned that it really is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Where was her file? Was she still available? Could our foundation in her country find her file, then request it AND actually receive it?? It could be months, if at all. BUT God!! I have an amazing friend who is an adoptive Mama and a warrior for the most fragile and vulnerable. There was a minuscule chance (and while I am not trying to be overly dramatic here it REALLY was minuscule)  that she could help me to find more info on Kristina.......and find it she did!! There had been an inquiry about Kristina two years ago and she was still able to find the information and provide me with the vital pieces that I needed to give our agency a fighting chance to find her.

We found out that she was still available, but getting her file was another matter. So, we waited while our agencies here and in her country worked to get her file. Time passed and we just weren't sure it was going to happen. We considered other children. Prayed. It didn't make sense, but we just didn't feel peace about several children who we previously would have said "yes" to immediately! Maybe it was just supposed to be Will.....we weren't sure. Keith kept asking, "What about HER"? Again, not like him. We waited. I would occasionally look at the one picture we had of her and do a bit of research about her syndrome. We were camping in August and I googled it again. I went to the official Rubinstein -Taybi website and was surprised to see a link at the bottom of the page to Cincinnati Children's......the hospital that was a big part of our decision to move to this area.....and they actually have a center to treat her specific condition! Another confirmation?? 

 Then about three weeks ago the word came, "We have her file!" My heart was racing as I opened the email to see lots of brand new pictures! Videos! Medical info! Beautiful big eyes. Amazingly curly hair. We have had her file reviewed by our local international adoption clinic. Her needs are great but so is God! While she has made small amounts of progress over the past couple of years, it looks like she has damage to her brain that may keep her from ever developing to age level. She is not walking or talking. She has some vision limitations but we don't know what those are yet. She may not even have the syndrome that she was diagnosed as having.....all of that we will figure out when we get her home. What we know is that she is of great value to God......He is redeeming her life and placing her in a family. She has GREAT value! He will see that she becomes all He created her to be! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

It is hard to believe that it has been more than a month since I have written here!  The past month has seemed to speed by and crawl along all at the same time! We continue to grieve over the loss of Susanna, yet we are finding more and more peace and daily are choosing to put our focus on getting Will home!

Today we had our biometric fingerprinting done and that means that all we are waiting on now is approval from US immigration and then our dossier goes to Will's government to await our official referral. Right now his country's government is experiencing some major unrest and upheaval and it has seriously stalled many families in their adoption process. We pray that peace and stability will come and that these sweet children will start getting home!

We have received requests to provide a tax deductible donation option for our fundraising. Tax deductible donations can be made by clicking on the yellow button on the right side of our blog. We are currently unable to get updates from Project Hopeful when donations are made. We are so sorry that we are unable to directly thank people as they donate.....but please know that we are so utterly grateful for every dollar that comes in. We have been humbled by those desiring to help get Will home, both through donations and prayer support! You are the very hands and feet of Jesus and are a very real part of providing for him a real future and giving him hope!

Adoption is such an opportunity for God to refine our hearts. Some days it can be very painful and overwhelming. How the enemy would love for us to believe that it is just too much to enter in to the stories of these hurting children that have been hidden away from the rest of the world. Right now I know that the tactic is to get me to feel hopeless because of the wait that lies ahead. Thinking of our Will as he lays there, missing Susanna, confused, alone. Not knowing how long the governmental delays will be. I fight the desire to question how God can allow it to take SO long. Each day I must choose to rest in truth and to recognize the battle vs. getting swept away in the facade that it doesn't exist. That is such a dangerous place to be.....forgetting that there is an enemy who is actively opposing the redemption of these children. If we forget then the temptation is to give let someone else take care of deceive ourselves that the doors that we have to fight to open are God's way of telling us to move on. I read this quote a couple of weeks ago on one of my discouraged days. It shook me right out of my focus on self and got it back where it we need to encourage each other to remember this!!!

“When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of “your perfect plan” means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the “show me a sign” or “this is a sign” or “this must mean God is closing a door” or “God must not be in this because it is hard,” but all that is garbage. You know what’s hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will.”
–Jen Hatmaker