Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Elijah Joseph

These past ten days have been full and amazing as we have started the process of getting to know our son. I am so very anxious to get on the plane tomorrow, get home, and show him what life will be like in the Williams family! I am sure my days will be very full and I wanted to take a moment to share him with all of you who have prayed for and supported us on this journey. We are SO very grateful!

We picked him up on Monday, April 7th. They told us that he had missed us very much. I had worried (just a bit!) about how he would receive us since it had been hard for him when we left. My prayer this past 5 months had been that God would be his comfort and he would know that we were coming back as soon as we could. It was so amazing to see that shy smile again! We could tell that he was a little bit anxious but he did SO well as we left the only home he has known for his entire seven years.

It is hard to put into words what we have experienced this past week and a half. He has amazed us beyond what we could have even imagined. He is brave, smart (super smart), funny, adventurous, sensitive, and sweet. What we had been told about his personality was confirmed for us today at our Bulgarian agency. We met with them to get our final paperwork and they marveled at the changes in him. They have visited him in his orphanage several times and they said each time he was very quiet, withdrawn, and shy. They had never heard him speak. Today they saw a smiling, laughing boy who has a lot to say! God's grace is SO evident in Eli! What he has endured in his body and spirit is enough to have given him every reason to completely retreat into himself. God has protected him. Although, by all accounts, he would not engage with other adults he came in contact with at his orphanage, including the workers, he has opened himself up to us. What an amazing honor and privilege to be witnesses to his transformation!

It is hard to get a non-blurry picture since he rarely sits still!! 

He wore this mask on his head all day!

He is SO very smart! He can already count to 10, say the ABC's to K, name eye, ear, nose, mouth, cheek, chin, and ear, and 5 different animals! He can repeat in near perfect English any word we say. He has immensely enjoyed the floor to ceiling mirrors in our apartment and sits at them watching himself talk and play for hours! Our Bulgarian attendant has listened to him talk (he talks, and talks, and talks) and told us that it is not Bulgarian. He is speaking in a language all his own! 

He can be overcome with sadness and when he is it is absolutely heartbreaking! Nighttime is hard for him. If he doesn't happen to fall asleep in the course of watching a movie or on his own....if it is obvious it is bedtime and we are all laying down he breaks down and can sob for hours. He is also very anxious when either Keith or I leave the apartment. He is happy and content when Keith, Hayden, and I are all where we should be....and that is "home"! Otherwise he is happy, engaged, and it is amazing to watch him explore his world. He is doing that with passion! 

First time falling asleep in Mommy's arms. 

Going head to head with Daddy.

I can only imagine that Susanna is looking down with happiness at Eli and is celebrating with us that we are now a family! It is bittersweet.....we wish she was here with us.....but we are so very grateful that God has brought Eli into our lives. Watch out world! 

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!