Thursday, February 12, 2015


I must confess I've been acting like a five year old this week as it pertains to God. There's been some foot-stomping, some finger-wagging, some pleading and screaming, some silent treatment, and much crying in His arms. I am arrogant in my ignorance of His plan--I have learned from the best on how to act when things aren't going how I want them. My teacher is a girl named Ella--one sweet, sassy, stubborn little thing--she reminds me so much of myself in many ways, I just hide my strong will better than she does.

We have dear friends going through devastating loss and unthinkable pain--we are crushed by news that has come since last Thursday . . . a precious friend who lost twin baby girls at 26 weeks after losing  two other babies last year; our neighbors of 15 years who lost a husband/daddy to melanoma; and our close friends whose 12 year old daughter is battling cancer and they are running out of options for her treatment. Our whole family is heartbroken for those we love. I've gone about my days with a lump in my throat. It takes but a whisper of a little voice asking why I am sad and the dam of tears breaks into sobbing.

I can't remember a time I've been this broken since our own loss of our son (that I shared about in my last post) and then weeks later the loss of my mother to cancer.  Perhaps being "acquainted with grief" I have appointed myself some kind of safety-patrol of pain and I'm not liking the answer God is giving these families. But God is teaching me to surrender and to trust--this lesson was taught to me again this week in a hospital room.

When we adopted Ella, we knew her medical needs were significant. I remember our first appointment with the spina bifida clinic shortly after coming home from China. The nurse asked me if I had a medical background--she was trying to make sense of our decision to adopt a girl with special needs. She probably pondered "why else would anyone choose a life of surgeries, therapies, of disabilities?" She seemed alarmed to learn that I was an English major, I still chuckle at the look on her face--some days I too question placing myself on this high dive as I look down into a pool deep with diagnoses I can't pronounce or spell. But you see, we chose Ella, not her medical needs. I think it probably takes adoptive parents who are naive enough to make that leap of faith and know whatever is ahead God will equip us for. We love her exactly as she is and as her mom and dad we are just trying to give her the best quality of life possible.

At every doctor's appointment I brag about her--I tell the doctors that she has already exceeded expectations of what we were told she would be able to do. I share about how strong she has gotten with PT and show how quickly she can move with her walker. I pull out my phone to display photos of her climbing the rock wall at the playground. They humor me and then burst my bubble: "But you do know what her future holds, don't you? As she grows, her upper body will not be able to be supported by her lower body. She will most likely need a wheelchair to get around." The only words I hear are "most likely" which I translate into "we don't know what we are talking about" and in my mind I am determined that my girl will prove them all wrong.

But I do listen when my daughter tells me her short list of big dreams: "I want to run like everyone else on the playground, I want to wear pretty shoes like the other girls,  . . . I want a cell phone." That last one will have to wait, and I do cram those leg braces into modified Mary Janes and fur trimmed boots as best I can, but haven't yet figured out how to make that first request happen. And that makes me feel like I have failed her.

And so a couple months ago her sweet neurosurgeon explained there was one more surgery they could do to help her walk. Her tibia bones rotate out at a 45 degree angle thus causing her feet and hips to compensate for the improper alignment. Without surgical intervention she would never walk with a normal gait. He explained that they would saw the bones under the knees, position them correctly, then reattach with metal plates that would be taken out in a year or so. And as any responsible parent would do, I Googled this procedure to make sure he wasn't making it up and we decided to proceed.

So this past Monday we checked into the hospital for her tibia osteotomy. She wasn't the least bit afraid and announced to everyone she met that we were making her legs better. She was a trooper post surgery and handled the pain like a champion. We had some sweet mother/daughter bonding time with room service and movie night but by Tuesday afternoon we were ready to go home. As I packed, Ella asked if they were ready to take those heavy casts off. I reminded her that she would have those on for several weeks--I saw the disappointment. She had not understood the timetable and wasn't happy about it.  "But I thought I would be able to run when this was over?!" she pleaded. I did my best to put a positive spin on the coming weeks of coloring and play dough and quality snuggle time.

She pulled it together until her consolation prize arrived. The hospital had ordered a wheelchair and they were insisting that we leave in it. It was so big her legs didn't even reach the foot rests. It was black and metal and must certainly have looked ugly in her world that is adorned in pastels and themed with princesses. She has seen wheelchairs many times. Her big eyes watch them come and go at our PT appointments. She sees children completely dependent on them and didn't want any part of it--instead of her seeing the assistance it could be, she saw a huge step backwards after a year of great progress. There was a bait and switch in her mind--she didn't go through all this to leave the hospital in a wheelchair. I told her to imagine it was Cinderella's carriage taking her to the castle.  Major eye roll. Had she known profanity, room 4247 would have suddenly not been appropriate for all audiences. She instead gave me a look that spoke volumes and went into full-blown meltdown as the nurse and I put her in the chair.

I got to handle this little hospital adventure solo because kids under 12 aren't allowed during cold and flu season and Brad was home taking care of the others. I got us in the car and headed home--I was ready to have the home field advantage for the rest of the recovery. Ella drifted off to sleep with a pout still on her face. Mr. GPS guided me to familiar territory then I chose to go home a different way because I knew this time of day which roads and highways to avoid and needed to make a stop at the pharmacy. But he didn't like that I wasn't following his computerized route. He started insisting that I make a U-turn at the next light, or turn right, or turn around. I thought, "Oh great, now I'm getting attitude from an app on my phone!"

I turned the GPS off and drove the rest of the way in silence. I couldn't help but see the parallels between how I was acting toward God and how Ella had acted toward me. She didn't understand why we had put her through such pain--even breaking bones and taking her to scary places--when she was just fine before. She didn't know that it is because we love her and in the long-run it will help her--that we agonized over options and felt this was absolutely best for her. She doesn't know that although 8 weeks of casts seems like an eternity now, it will be nothing in the scope of her entire life. She doesn't know that she now has legs positioned correctly and grafted with metal--she will be stronger than she would have ever been on her own. And then I pondered my own spiritual adoption--chosen in spite of my brokenness, loved even when I am hard to love, ransomed so that I would not be subject to the consequences of my sin, and in my weakness I'm am made whole being grafted and held by God's strength.

When we returned home Tuesday night, we got the crushing news that our friend Kylie was too sick to go on her Make-A-Wish trip to New York City. Her dad's Caringbridge post confirmed it . . . it is without question the most heartbreaking thing I've ever read. We pulled our daughter Ava aside to share the news with her first--Kylie is like a sister to her and Kylie's sister Jenna has been one of Ava's closest friends for many years. I wished I had had words of wisdom. I'm the mama bird who is supposed to chew the big stuff into little bits before passing it along to the babies but the pieces were still too big for her . . . for us all  . . . to digest.

Lately I have acted less like a disgruntled preschooler and more akin to Mr. GPS. I am so sure that my ending to the story is better--that my route is in fact the best way to get from point A to point B--that I will not even consider other options. I know firsthand that His plan is perfect yet I still cry out to God begging for a U-turn, an alternative route, a miracle. I know that God does allow us to go through hard times so that we will draw closer to Him but with these families I just can't wrap my mind around a why--already such faithful believers, they had already pointed others to Him in their trials, they were already glorifying Him in their lives. Wouldn't it certainly bring Him more glory to heal a little girl of cancer?! But His ways are not my ways. His thoughts not my thoughts. But His grace is sufficient and I must rest in that. The only tragedy worse than losing a loved one is losing a loved one and not having the Almighty Comforter to carry you through it. He has been so faithful to me during my own times of sorrow, how can I question the wisdom of His plan. And yet as I type this, I still petition for his healing for this precious young lady.

Many have asked how is Miss Ella? She's doing well. Today she was playing with her toys and looked up at me and said, "I love you, Mom" out of nowhere. It took me by surprise and I needed to hear it so badly that I asked her to repeat what she said. She giggled and covered her face, acting all shy about it before repeating her "I love you." I'm hoping this means all has been forgiven. And the wheelchair? It's still in the trunk of the car and will be going back to the medical supply store very soon. She may need it in the future, but she doesn't need it now. We will happily carry her anywhere she needs to go in the coming weeks, just as I know our Father will carry our friends through this heartbreaking time. There is no burden so great, that He can't bear.

Ella--Not thrilled about the carriage, but happy to be going home!

Saturday, January 10, 2015


We've had a typical Saturday morning--the day starts with us shot out like a cannon in different directions. My big girls head out the door for a rehearsal for the school musical, Brad and Brady are at a local gym warming up for a basketball game. I scramble to get the little girls fed and dressed to watch Brady play, Daniel types the gym address into my phone so I know where we're going, I stir my coffee with a fork because we've run out of clean spoons and sip it on the way out the door. We sit on hard bleachers to watch a bunch of 3rd graders dribble and cheer with each basket made as if this is some kind of professional arena. This is the normal that I love.

Yesterday wasn't so easy. I walked around the house with a box of Kleenex close by--I blamed the sniffles on my head cold but truth be told, I spent the day fighting back tears. We celebrate three significant anniversaries this time of year starting with Christmas Eve and ending with January 9th. It's the last one that I dread.  These special days are related to my three boys--brothers who won't all meet until someday in heaven and yet their lives are so significantly and marvelously intertwined that it can only be attributed to the Healer of the Broken.

Eleven years ago today, I delivered our first son Luke. We never heard his first glorious cry. Due to an umbilical cord knot, he was in the arms of Jesus before he made it into mine.  Although we haven't stopped missing him, God in his goodness has since filled my arms so overflowing with children that I don't waste a day wallowing in the what-if. 

Many of you loved on us throughout the following year and know the rest of that story. Three months later I found out I was pregnant again with a baby due on Luke's birthday. We were blessed with our precious Brady born a little early to ring in the the new year. (I'm leaving much of that story out but it can be read here .) He just celebrated his 10th birthday and oh how we love him! He is the peacemaker and prayer warrior of our family--such a gentle and caring young man with a big heart for others. He is a living testimony of God's goodness and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for the gift of him.

Eleven years ago I sat in a hospital bed so broken that I couldn't imagine being whole again--if only I could have known that a year later we would be blessed with another son. What I also didn't know is that in Guatemala, my future son was also in a state of brokenness. Only a toddler at the time, but living in Third World level poverty and criminal level abuse. 

This past Christmas Eve marked the five year anniversary of his Gotcha Day. In the adoption world, that is the day that your new family "gotcha". We celebrate Ella's on the day she was placed in our arms in China but since it took a two and a half year ordeal to get Daniel, we celebrate his adoption on that glorious day that we finally brought him home. 

And so this past Christmas Eve we were talking about what a big deal it was--how we couldn't believe it had been 5 years and yet how we couldn't remember life without him. Christmas morning he gave me and Brad one of the most precious gifts I may ever receive. He typed out a full-page letter, printed us each a copy, put them in plastic page protectors (yes, this kid is one of a kind), and placed them on our pillows on our bed. We didn't find them till after the presents had been opened and we were upstairs getting dressed for the rest of the day. 

I don't want to share the entire letter here because it is such a personal outpouring of his heart, but I feel it's okay to share some sentiments. He said he remembers longing for a family at Christmas, but not believing it would ever happen. He shared that he is so glad God didn't give him boring parents (haha) and every Christmas he thanks God for the "first parents who really loved him".  He thanked us for not giving up on him through the long and difficult adoption. He thanked us for believing in him and loving him even when he is hard to love. He thanked us for making the holidays fun and regular days happy. He said his greatest gift is having a family and he is so thankful that we are his parents.

Those plastic page protectors were a good call on his part because the tears were abundant. 

Every year we celebrate Daniel's "gotcha" a few days after Christmas Eve. It's a family night celebration and he gets to choose where we go and what we do. It's usually dinner and a movie. This year he chose "Unbroken" that wasn't age appropriate for all of us. I haven't seen it and probably won't (I can't handle watching anything graphically tragic even if I know it will have a happy ending--never saw the end of "Schindler's List", "Slumdog Millionaire", "Bambi", . . . ).  I do know it's about an Olympic track star who overcame a life of hardship.  Daniel is a runner and he wanted to see it, but I was worried the content of the story would trigger bad memories.

But I let him go--he watched it with his dad and sister Ava and the rest of us went home for our night of G-rated fun. I couldn't help but think how the title of that movie is the perfect caption of his life. If you met him today--you'd have no idea that he didn't start out as a Williams--he is so very much like our other kids I often forget it myself. Our sweet son was protected just like that letter he wrote to us. He experienced pain, and trauma, and tragedy but throughout it all there was a covering from the Almighty that protected his spirit, that preserved his innocence, that provided him hope. Unbroken indeed!

And on the anniversary of the loss of one son, the blessing of another by birth, and the blessing of another by adoption--I see that I am unbroken too. 

Because that's what God can do. He can take a life shattered and make it whole. Not leaving us in bandaged state of repair--like a vase that has been glued back together in bits . . . still revealing the cracks and still displaying the damage and ready to fall apart at any minute. No. He is the Redeemer who restores it all if we focus on His scars from the cross instead of ours from this fallen world.

Daniel summed this truth up in one sentence of that letter. "We don't know His plans, but we know that His plans are for a purpose." Wow. Embracing that is the very reason he is doing so well now. His behavior when he first came home was often difficult. He lived in survivor mode--his words and his actions were rooted in bitterness about the lost years of his childhood and anger about the adult-sized pain he had to endure. He had a need to control everything and trust no one.

While my pain had been different--I understood him. I was also "acquainted with grief." The loss of one son helped me understand the pain of another. The day that I surrendered to the truth that all God's plans are for a purpose--even when the road is hard, and it's not fair, and we don't see how on earth this could possibly bring Him glory--that's the day I was freed from the burden of bitterness and the bondage of fear. I knew if I could just get Daniel to understand this, he would begin to heal as well. Yes, we will have times of sorrow and pain--but we "do not grieve like those who have no hope" 1 Thessalonians 4:13. How grateful I am that he already knows what I didn't fully understand till I was an adult. And I'm so glad that when God gave this boy a second chance to have a family, He gave me the privilege of being his mom.

I've taken a lot of pictures of these brothers together the last five years. Oh how they needed each other! Although in each photo it seems there's a brother missing, I know Luke's presence is still very much with us. Thank you, God, for the gifts of Luke, Brady, and Daniel and for your plans that always have a purpose.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from the Williams Family!

Oh my! It's been a long time since I've posted anything here. The below update explains a bit why. I can't believe my last blog post was from China just before meeting Ella. That day seems a lifetime away. I honestly can't remember what it is like not having this precious girl as my daughter.

I hope to start blogging regularly again in the new year. I never intended to take such a long break--there are so many thoughts I want to record so I don't forget these very special days in our family. But we've been through a season in which I just needed to put down the phone, step away from the computer, and try to convince 6 kids and a husband that they had my undivided attention.

Merry Christmas from our family! Below is a photo and letter sent to some of our friends (the cards are still en route--these days that's how we roll). I've never written a typical Christmas letter and this one colors outside the lines more than ever--but it still sums up our thoughts from the year that has passed and our hopes for the one ahead. Much love to you all! We hope you had a beautiful day celebrating His birth!

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy holidays! Not trying to be politically correct—just covering my bases in case you get this card during another holiday like Valentine’s Day/Easter. We were spread too thin to get a Christmas greeting out last year and seem to be coming close this year. Since one of the highlights of our season is getting your cards, I was determined to rejoin the human race with photographical proof that we’re alive and semiconscious.

Let’s just be honest here. The last thing you have time to read is a two-page update on our family. And thanks to social media, you have probably seen more photos of my kids in the past year than you have documented from your entire childhood. So I’m going to forego the whole Christmas letter format and give you some info you can really use. I get the “six kids, how do you do it?” question from time to time. Not really in a tone of awe, but more along the lines of wanting a glimpse of our 8 headed family behind the freak show curtain. The following is not really helpful advice—these are more like metaphoric extension cords when there’s not enough time or energy to do it right and plug directly into the wall. Isn’t pretty but will keep the lights on.

1. Drink Coffee. I know I’m a millennium late to the game on this one, but I just this past year resorted to caffeine consumption in hot beverage form. Coffee is now my performance enhancing drug of choice and my Keurig has become my companion. She hums at me in a “we can do this!” sort a way each morning. I don’t bother with fancy mugs—I just let it drip directly into my mouth like a waterfall in one of those commercials for exotic vacations. Without Katie Keurig (had to name her), I’d spend most of my days looking like an extra from The Walking Dead.

2. Utilize gift bags. These gems are an invention right up there with electricity. I can’t tell you how much time and money I save each holiday with these. To maximize their benefit you must reuse them. Don’t judge my teen son if you see a pic posted of him with an Elmo gift bag. We have just learned to double dip into nostalgia and frugality. A few years ago we did have to retire a couple Hannah Montana gift bags after an inappropriate Miley Cyrus display at the VMAs. Just didn’t seem right to have her singing just a few feet away from the nativity scene. The downside to these bags is that it makes it very easy for curious kids to peek at presents before Christmas. Thus I keep the real gifts hidden till Christmas Eve filling the bags with decoys. It’s easy to spot the cheating children—they will whisper to each other: “Hey sis, I think money must be tight this year because I’m getting a pack of toilet paper for Christmas.” Sibling responds, “Lucky! I’m getting hemorrhoid medication!” You will not believe the gratitude on Christmas morning to find their gifts didn’t come from the personal hygiene aisle.

3. Don’t look at Pinterest after December 15st. Don’t attempt a family craft after December 20th. Don’t try a new recipe when the guests are arriving in two hours. Just trust me on this one.

4. Always wear festive attire. The holidays are stressful. And sometimes that means we don’t display our best selves. But if you have a momentary slip of the tongue, the whole experience can be softened if we “don we now our gay apparel, fa la la fa la la la la.” Example: let’s just say your Christmas tree falls for the 4th time this year and every last treasured ornament—little handprints done at preschool and baby’s first Christmas keepsakes—all of them are smashed to bits. And in that moment (and this is purely hypothetical) you start screaming, “overpriced, fire hazard!” while dragging O Christmas tree to the curb a couple weeks early. You see, the observing children will need therapy for that one. But let’s just say this all happens while mom is wearing reindeer antlers and a shirt with Olaf that says, “I love warm hugs”, then the whole incident becomes a hysterical retelling for many years to come.

5. Delegate the dirty work to the older kiddos. Every so often someone comes up with some really fun and clever way to add just one more impossible task to my to-do list. The latest one has been Elf on the Shelf. And so, I succumbed to the pressure and one year our elf mysteriously appeared. She truly was a delight—her antics were along the lines of nibbling on sugar cookies and making a heart with mini-marshmallows. But then my kids would report that our elf wasn’t fun—other elves were dumping out powdered sugar all over the kitchen and making snow angels in the mess. Yet another was perched upon the potty fishing for Cheerios. And so I explained that perhaps our elf knew that mom cleaned up after six other really messy elves all day long and just couldn’t handle one more thing. From that day forward, any Christmas creation/tradition/program involving creativity or clean-up has been passed along to the older kiddos. And I must admit this arrangement has taken a load off. And speaking of loads . . .

6. Invest in 3M temporary hooks. These are awesome for hammer/nail challenged folks like me who in the past had so many botched attempts at picture hanging that my walls looked like I had used them for target practice with a machine gun. I think what is appealing about them is the word COMMAND on the label—this mom loves the power promised on this packaging. (Well done, 3M marketing people!) And so I have invested in an army of hooks and hung every stocking/wreath/garland on them. The only problem is that these little guys have weight limitations and I have a tendency to overload. This year as I watched my hooks fall to the ground in synchronized fashion, I couldn’t help but think how much they reminded me of myself. Trying to pile on as much as possible but always coming so dangerously close to snapping at any minute. So before you say yes to anything, check the weight limitations that you . . . I mean, these hooks can carry.

7. Don’t compare your family to the ones in the Christmas photos. The awesome thing about these one-dimensional documents is they hide the whining, the bribery, the tears over not wanting to wear a red sweater vest. Today’s family photos may look like they were taken for an album cover but thank God no one can hear the sound track of our lives on a regular basis. We are all sinners raising sinners. Believing the lie that you are the only mom with flaws and yours is the only family who needs forgiveness will ruin the season that celebrates the redemptive gift of God’s Son.

Speaking of family, Olivia is enjoying her senior year at Providence Christian Academy and looking ahead to college next year (still deciding where). She’s having a full year of football, basketball, and competition cheer and loves singing on the worship team each week at school. Ava finished her time at Perimeter Christian School and is now enjoying her freshman year at Providence. She is also cheering and busy with musical theater—always seems to be rehearsing or auditioning for something. She got to be Sharpay in a production of High School Musical last summer and had a lot of fun being a sassy blonde. Both girls are in Providence’s production of Beauty and the Beast in January. I can’t wait to see them on stage together for the first and last times. Sniff, sniff.

Daniel is in the 6th grade at Perimeter—he traded his soccer cleats for running shoes and had a great fall on the school’s cross country team. His real love is running track and we look forward to watching him this spring. Brady has had a busy year of baseball, football, and basketball. He’s in the 3rd grade at Perimeter and has already claimed that this is the best year of his life. He has a precious teacher and group of friends, he got to see Derek Jeter play in one of his last games at Yankee stadium (Brad, his dad, and both boys took a trip to NYC in the fall), and watched Georgia Tech beat Georgia in a nail-biter of a game. These two sweet boys are truly the best brothers I know—they are so tolerant of being sandwiched between two sets of sisters.

The dynamic duo in the family is Victoria and Ella—some days they are Thelma and Louise, other days they are Lucy and Ethel, always they think they are Anna and Elsa. They love each other so fully and so sweetly—they think they are twins and insist on dressing alike. They are both encouragers—I often get a round of applause for going to the bathroom all by myself—and really look out for each other. Every time I take Ella to the doctor, she always asks for a lollipop and a sticker for little sister, too. Not sure about the saying that kids keep you young but these two sure keep us laughing. I think the highlights of their year were going to Disney World and getting to be flower girls in their grandmother’s wedding.

I feel like I’m short-changing all six to canvas the year so superficially—they are all growing into such fine young men and women and I am just so very proud to be their mom. The only other big news in our lives is that we finished building our new home. Probably a bit ambitious for a couple who depends on plastic hooks to display their decorations, but thus far it hasn’t collapsed. (Please note our new address—the USPS has forwarded all your cards this year but won’t next year.) Although we miss our old neighbors terribly, we are grateful to be much closer to our kids’ schools and have more room for our family. And this year Brad took on the job of being the Athletic Director at Perimeter Christian School and is having such fun being in the same building all day with our boys and working closely with the awesome staff and parents at the school.

8. Let go of the things that are bringing you stress or taking too much time. Thanks to a little movie called “Frozen”, the song “Let It Go” has been played/sung almost daily at our house. It seems pretty fitting because last year I started tossing things overboard that weren’t absolutely necessary to give me time to hold onto the seven who really needed me. Last Christmas Ella was newly home—she has been a precious ray of sunshine from the moment she was placed in our arms in China. Although she is about the size of a tater tot, the weight of what she carried was not. This took me by surprise because I thought I was a veteran adoptive mama. But Daniel’s first year home was different. The weight of what he carried from his past was probably greater, yet he chose to hold onto it—trusting us came gradual . . . letting go of his burden eventual. But Ella clung to us tightly and frantically. At first I thought it was immediate attachment but soon realized she was just clinging to me out of relief of being held and fear of being abandoned. When I would take a shower, she would sit outside the bathroom door and cry until I could hold her again. When I went to the grocery store alone, I would have to talk to her on my cell phone so she could hear my voice. Victoria who was not normally a clingy child decided that if Ella needed mom 24/7 then she did too. For the past year I’ve had two little girls hanging on to my legs like a cowboy wearing chaps. They are both doing so well now it’s almost hard to remember how dependent they were last year. God has been gracious.

9. Spend time in a place that will give you perspective. I will never forget the first time I visited Daniel’s orphanage—I returned home Thanksgiving week and proceeded on my annual Black Friday shopping. After spending a week in a dorm of 100+ small children who didn’t have blankets, I found myself at Target watching people grab for the last whatever. I couldn’t help but think: “We are all idiots.” I was ashamed that I had become so oblivious to the needs of others. Because of Ella’s medical needs we spend a lot of time at our children’s hospital and in physical therapy--I can’t tell you how that has changed my perspective on life. On those days I get frustrated because I have a million things to do and we are sitting in a waiting area for more tests and scans, I see a family with a critically ill child just hoping they make it through the holidays. On those days that I feel unqualified to have a child with medical needs, but then I see my sweet treasure on the examining table being brave and feel just in awe that I get to be the mommy of this tremendously resilient little girl. You want to meet a group who is really cherishing this season of hope? Visit the cancer wing of a children’s hospital. (We love you Kylie and the Myers family!) How grateful I am to have a front row seat of perspective just about the time my vision seems to have focused only on me.

10. Celebrate the season by bearing one another’s burdens. The main reason I wanted to send not just a card but a letter this year was to say thank you to so many who have helped lighten our burdens. You have carried our grief in past years and lightened our load in recent ones. We’ve been so grateful for the welcome you have given Ella, for the meals when she first came home, for the help when she had her surgery, and the support throughout the year. I’m truly humbled by the support we have had with our church family, school families, community family, and especially our extended family. I think this time of year more than ever I appreciate that gift.

I’m not sure why this time that is supposed to celebrate joy and peace becomes such a time of stress and chaos. I know I am often to blame as I find myself once again trying to put too much on hooks that are artificial, man-made, and temporary. But we know first-hand that the burden of busy doesn’t even compare to the burden of broken. I guess that is why I can’t just stop at the celebration of a baby in a manger where hope was born . . . I must also worship at the foot of the cross where our burdens were borne. And there is my Lord nailed to the cross—permanently scarred, eternally redemptive—bearing the weight of my burden, carrying the weight of the world, displaying the weight of His glory.

So our wish for you this Christmas season and the coming year is for you to be blessed by things that can’t be contained in a gift bag, may your cup of coffee and your joy overflow, and may you celebrate the only One who can carry the weight of it all.

With Much Love from the Williams Family
Kathie, Brad, Olivia, Ava, Daniel, Brady, Ella, and Victoria

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor and Delivery Via International Adoption

We are sitting here waiting to meet our new daughter. Never in my life have I wanted to impress a four year old so badly. I feel so very ready and at the same time completely unprepared. Keep praying for us! Thanks for you sweet comments and encouragement! You don't know how much that means to us!

I feel like I was admitted to the hospital Saturday and we are finally being wheeled into labor and delivery now. I will never forget the first child born of my heart. I can't help but remember the day I first met our precious Daniel.

My longing to adopt began when I was a little girl. This longing continued to grow early in our marriage but Brad wasn't feeling it was the right time. But in the summer of 2007 we heard about a need for 27 children in an orphanage in Guatemala to find families. That call for help ended with us being the last person on a list of folks who had inquired about adopting and our son Daniel being the last child on that list still needing a family. We had many confirmations during our adoption that being matched with this precious boy was no accident. I'm still in awe at how what seemed so random was so providential.

What made this process easier was the fact that we were going through this journey with 9 other families from our church who were also adopting from the same orphanage. And in November of 2007 several of us plus some other friends from our church, went on a mission trip to help at the orphanage with the added blessing of us getting to meet the children we were adopting for the first time.

I had been on mission trips before, but it's different when you know you will be bringing home a souvenir that wears underpants and calls you mom. (I knew he wouldn't come home with me on this trip but we all thought our kids would be home by that spring.) The reality of this fact hit me on our flight to Guatemala. The paperwork was done. A complete stranger was about to be our son and there was no turning back. I was feeling all kinds of cold feet knowing once I introduced myself as his mom this would be for forever. I felt like a little kid on a high dive with no ladder of escape. I had no choice but to jump into the deep end of the pool and start swimming.

I'm a white knuckle air traveler and the turbulence on the flight and within my being didn't help. We landed at their tiny airport and I followed my friends through customs, silently taking it all in. We pushed our way through a crowd of locals grabbing at our luggage with the hope that they could carry it to our van and make a little money. I got my first glimpse at children selling their wares and begging for help. I was a domesticated animal that had been let loose in the wild. I wanted to go home.

We hopped in our getaway van--no seatbelts or air-conditioning in a land where the need for emissions inspections had not crossed anyone's minds. Black smoke poured out of every tailpipe and white feathers drifted out of every chicken bus. I was in the back row of our van holding onto my carry-on bag like a security blanket. It was a long drive up winding mountainous roads--the beauty of the Guatemalan landscape juxtaposed with people living in shacks with cardboard walls and tin roofs. There was an occasional storefront with American signage--a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, a Chuck E. Cheese in the midst of barefooted children wandering dangerously close to a road without a speed limit accompanied only by a dog with open sores and ribs showing.

I closed my eyes as the wind blew in from the open windows--I was praying for peace and keeping my contact lenses from clouding up from the polluted air. A headache had turned into a full-blown migraine and I was getting the business end of it behind my left eye. Occasionally someone would call from the front of the van to check on me, "Kathie, you okay back there?" I'd give them a thumbs up and mouth the words, "Awesome!" but I knew I wasn't fooling anyone that the bag of peanuts eaten on the plane was dangerously close to reappearing.

Then there was the announcement that we were almost at the orphanage. I felt a knot in my stomach--all nerves, no excitement. I was so disappointed in myself.

I did all I could to take control of a situation that was so out of my control. I applied hand-sanitizer, popped a breath mint, and reapplied my lipstick. Not an easy task on these gravel roads. I looked at my traveling companions--some smiling, some chatting, some taking photos to never forget the excitement of the day, all looking like they had stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog if they carried a mission trip collection. I, on the other hand, had hair that had been teased by the wind and the smog and had lipstick zig-zagging from my chin to my nose. I was going to meet my new son looking like a clown from a horror movie.

We entered the iron gates of the orphanage. The number of children greeting us as we stepped out of the van was overwhelming. A friend who had arrived a few days earlier asked if I was ready to meet Daniel. My mouth said yes but my mind said no. We walked into his dorm with a courtyard full of children ages 0 to 8. I spotted my sweet boy in a sea of big brown eyes. A mom knows her child and it was like we recognized each other. I leaned down to say hello and he put his arms around my neck. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life. That moment was every bit as special as the moments that I held my other children for the first time. The week I was there was truly special yet heartbreaking that I couldn't bring him home. Little did I know that it would be another 2 years before finally coming home. It was that very first hug that kept me going and kept us fighting.

I'm grateful that today, Ella won't have to wait for us to come back and get her. I pray that she recognizes us as her new mom and dad and she will know how much we love her from the very beginning. I'm so very grateful that God has blessed us once again through the miracle of adoption.

The Uncertain and the Certain

We are in Guangzhou, China just hours away from meeting our new daughter! We arrived at our hotel about 2:30 pm yesterday--China time. We are exactly 12 hours ahead of our home base in Atlanta, Ga.

The flights were long but the kids did great. Brady is such an easygoing little guy that you can take him anywhere. Victoria is your typical 2 year old but thinks she is 22. Apparently she must be under the impression that she is some kind of goodwill ambassador to China. When she got restless on the plane, we'd let her walk down the aisles. She would wave and chat with the passengers like she was one of the flight attendants. By the time our flight landed the Korean Air crew knew her by name and all the flight attendants said,"Bye, Victoria!" The 5 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, gave her additional opportunities to make friends on the little playground they had. She talks nonstop (very little of it actually English). Other travelers must certainly have wondered what language she was speaking.

Today we rested and ventured into the city a bit. We went to Trustmart which is their version of Walmart and to the mall across the street from our hotel. It's funny but this city reminds us so much of Guatemala City, Guatemala. You see poor and rundown areas next to luxury hotels and shopping malls. Then there's glimpses of the western world with their 7 Eleven, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks. More than once I have tried speaking to people here in Spanish. I guess Spanish is my default second language.

I'm sorry I can't post photos yet. For some reason I can't access my blog from our laptop (anyone else have a problem with Blogger when traveling?) and am doing this from an iPad. I've posted a few pics from my phone to Facebook and will continue to do so till I can get them from my camera to my blog.

Before we left I had many ask if we were nervous or excited. There's been an equal mix of both. As we inch closer to actually meeting Ella, the nerves seem to be winning over the excitement. It's a lot to ask of a 4 year old to be handed over to a group of strangers and be told that this is your new family. We know it will be hard on her and my heart already aches for what she is about to go through. And as her new family, we know we will be parents to a little girl who is hurting, may not trust us, may not like us, and may need some time and patience throguh this transition. We also don't know the severity of her medical needs. To be honest, I think those emotional needs are harder to heal than the physical ones, yet I still worry that I'm not prepared or equipped for what she needs from her new mom. The only certainty today is the uncertainty ahead.

It reminds me of when Daniel first came home. We took him to Disney World. (By the way,I wouldn't recommend taking a newly adopted child to Disney World. Too much stimulation. Rookie mistake.) Anyway, we arrived and he loved the park but was afraid to ride the rides. We begged and pleaded and he finally agreed to get on the Buzz Lightyear ride. When it over he announced that he loved it and wanted to ride it again. We were thrilled but explained that we would come back after riding some other rides. He had a meltdown, refusing to try any other ride. He liked Buzz, he knew it was fun and knew what to expect. We finally persuaded him to try the race cars and, of course, he loved them and then only wanted to ride Buzz and the race cars. This went on all day, but he eventually learned to get over his fear of the unknown so he wouldn't miss out on the fun of the next ride.

I find myself doing the same--only wanting the ride that is known, familiar, and predictable. But I know I would have missed out on so much of what God has planned for us if we had let fear of the unknown guide our actions. And yet, as we stood in line at midnight Thursday night ready to board a plane to China with our two youngest kiddos, Brad turns to me and asks, "What are we doing?" We started laughing because my only answer was, "I don't know."

Yes, lots of uncertainty but here's what is certain:

1. I have one awesome husband who would travel to China with me during the first weekend of college football.
2. I am truly blessed that our children are so supportive and so excited about their new sister.
3. We have such an amazing extended family who never questioned this adoption (even if they had concerns)and are taking care of the three kids we've left at home. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for Ella who have loved her and been praying for her for the past year.
4. We have a dear community of friends from church, our neighborhood, and from the schools our children attend. Their love and encouragement means so much to us.
5. Most of all, we have a God who is faithful, who has been preparing Ella's heart for our family and our hearts for her.

Tonight I rest in that truth.

Thanks for your love and prayers!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time to Get Our Girl!

I've been needing to update for some time, but just haven't been able to squeeze a spare minute in. To catch you up in a sentence: WE ARE LEAVING FOR CHINA IN HOURS! Yes, HOURS. We are finally getting our little China doll. 

I do plan to give updates on Facebook and on my blog as I'm able (if you aren't my FB friend and would like to follow along that way--send a friend request to Katherine Dobra Williams). 

Anyway, we are leaving our house at about 7:00 p.m. to drop some of our kiddos off with grandparents, then heading to the airport for our 12:30 a.m. flight. Yes, that's just after midnight. Sounds crazy but it actually might work to our advantage because we are taking our 2 year old and 8 year old with us. (We are hoping/praying they will sleep much of the first flight.) And I realize that decision moves us from crazy to a whole new category of Laughably Foolish. We agonized over which kiddos to take with us and for many reasons it was best to take the two youngest. But . . . I'm fighting back tears right now at the thought of being away from my oldest 3 for two weeks.

This will have to be a short post because even though we are packed--my house looks like a fraternity party was here. Well, that is if college boys like to play with Fisher-Price toys and eat animal crackers. Anyway, I'll have lots of time later to write more (sure I will!) but for now all you need to know is that we are finally going to meet our new daughter!

And her name is 

Ella Evangeline Xin Williams.

These sweet photos were taken in May when we were able to send a birthday party to her orphanage to celebrate her 4th birthday. Can't wait to finally kiss on those sweet cheeks!

Thanks for your love and prayers,

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day from a Special Needs Mom

It's Mother's Day! Got home from church a bit ago and my crew made me a very interesting, I mean, special lunch. They are taking me to dinner later tonight and but this meal will be hard to top.

I've read a lot of beautiful, poetic tributes to mothers the past couple days and didn't feel I needed to attempt to do the same. Kind of feels unnecessary to serve my picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwich-like prose after dining on a gourmet dinner of words.

But I did think it okay to reheat an old post I wrote when we started our adoption from China two years ago (that we put on hold when we found out I was pregnant with Victoria). I reread it the other night as I was pondering what our new little girl might be thinking knowing she has a family coming to get her in a few months. I wonder if she's excited about the new life ahead of her; I wonder if she is afraid of leaving all she knows behind. 

I wonder--if given the chance to look through a hundred files of "waiting families"--if she would choose us. I wonder--if given the choice of who her new mother would become--if she would choose me. 

I am grateful that had I been given the choice of mother, I would have chosen the very one that God gave me. She died 9 years ago, but her legacy lives on. And I have been so blessed by other mothers given to me by His grace--they are known as sister, mother-in-law, aunt, and friend.

And I'm so very grateful for the 6 precious children that God has blessed me with. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank Him for each treasure.

When we were doing our homestudy, I had to make a listing of all the "special needs" that we would consider. Once we knew we had fallen for Xin Xin,  we spent many hours researching her condition and talking with doctors about what kind of long-term care she would need and how we could improve her quality of life.

And here's what I discovered. There was no "special need" on any listing that outdid my own "special needs." I felt that it would only be fair for any prospective adoptive child to be given the same information on this possible mother with full disclosure of all imperfections.

My file would read something like this:

She goes by the name "Kathie." She is considered an "older parent" (over the age of 40) although there are no grants available. Should you choose her, it is with the understanding that by the time you are in high school, others will think she is your grandmother.

She will need reading glasses to read you a bedtime story and may not be able to stand upright after sitting Indian style at a tea party.

She has many well-meaning behaviors that may cause extreme irritation. For example, she will take millions of photos of you but has no actual photography skills. You will have to put up with the auto-flashing and shutter-clicking, but you'll only have out-of-focus pics with your eyes closed to show for your patience. 

Small toys not put away will mysteriously disappear. She can't stand "happy meal" items that didn't make anyone happy and you should note that these items are quickly donated or discarded.

She will sing you lullabies in spite of the fact that she has the vocal range of three notes. Every song will sound like "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

She will want to dress you until you go to college. This may not be an issue in the early years, but by the time you are a teen, you will be wondering if you can escape through the air-conditioning vents of the dressing room during a shopping trip gone bad.

She will occasionally go freaky with the food she serves--going gluten-free, low-sugar, wholly whole wheat, and completely organic. You may try to trade up lunch items at school but no one will want a protein bar that tastes like cardboard in exchange for their Little Debbie snack cake. And then there are moments that she passes a Krispy Kreme establishment and the "hot donuts" sign is on. You should not call her a hypocrite if you'd like to partake of the white-flour, sugar-glazed manna that she is about to inhale.

She will often seem completely unfair. There will be movies and music and TV shows that everyone else is allowed to see and hear, and you will be the ONLY one not watching/listening. If you ask why, she will simply respond with "Not Philippians 4:8 standards." ("Whatever things are good, pure, lovely, think on these things. . . .")

When you need clean socks you will be directed to a laundry basket solely dedicated to socks who have no partner. It is your job to play matchmaker and find two that are somewhat the same size and color. Good luck.

You will be fine if you need this mom to provide help in proofing papers, annotating poetry, and diagramming sentences, but you will up a creek without a scientific calculator if you need math help past the 6th grade. The Pythagorean Theorem makes her break out in hives, any attempt to find the area of a complex polygon will reduce her to her lowest common denominator, and she would rather poke her eyes out with a protractor than check your math homework.

She is a strong advocate for enjoying God's creation. She will pull over on the side of the road to behold a sunset, a rainbow, or wildflowers growing among asphalt. She will make everyone stop what they are doing to hear the birds singing outside and make you watch butterflies instead of TV. She will insist that you run outside at night to marvel at the stars and require that everyone pose for a picture with the first flower of springtime (which will no doubt capture you not smiling and cut off part of your head).

Although she cooks with love, she also cooks using whatever she has in the pantry and with the fewest number of ingredients possible. All her recipes are named something that ends in the word "surprise" (some surprises are better than others) and it's a safe bet that these culinary creations will never be featured on the Food Network. 

She absolutely can not handle whining or pouting. If there are words/sounds/looks that even hint at ungratefulness, you will be forced to select an item from her "consequence jar." On this little slip of paper, you will read your consequence (for example, wiping down baseboards and window blinds) for attempting to voice your concern. It's her sick way of teaching you a lesson while having you do a chore that she hates to do herself.

She suffers from Broken Record Syndrome. For example, you will hear phrases such as "good behavior equals privileges, bad behavior equals consequences" repeated till you think your ears are going to be permanently damaged.

She is a cryer. She will cry at your classroom doorway on the first day of school and at your ballet recital or soccer game. She will weep the first time you get your hair cut, swim without floaties, and ride a bike without training wheels. She will wail at birthday parties, graduations, and your wedding day. (Note: We are not talking delicate tears caught in monogrammed handkerchiefs. We are talking big ugly sobbing, sometimes snorting, pass-that-woman-a-box-of-tissues kinds of boo-hooing.) She is also a hugger and a kiss blower. You've been warned.

She might have attachment issues. Every single time another child is added to the family, she worries and wonders how she can possibly love the new one as much as the others. (But she, thus far, has had no trouble attaching to the ones God has given her.) 

No matter how hard she tries, she will never understand what it feels like to be taken from your home country, to lose the only family and friends you have ever known, to have to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, and acquire a taste for new food. 

She will often feel overwhelmed in caring for your physical and emotional needs and wonder if she will ever be the mother you deserve. She won't understand that some days you need special care and other days you just want to be treated like everyone else. 

Sometimes she gets tired, sometimes she feels stress, sometimes she loses her patience, sometimes she says things that she wishes she could take back.

She is a sinner, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world, raising children who are sinners, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world. And this means that she is flawed, that she will make mistakes, that she will need forgiveness. 

And this is why she often feels so unworthy to be the mother of those precious children God has already entrusted her with and why she is so grateful for every child He brings to their family. 

Hoping She Chooses My File,

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Glass Jar

It's almost Mother's Day and there are a lot of dads with high blood pressure trying to find something special for the kiddos to give mom tomorrow. So I thought I'd share about one of the best gifts my family ever gave me and let you dads copy the idea. (If you're a mom, forward this post to him with a "wow, this would be a sweet idea" wink wink.)

Before I can share about the gift, I must first tell the story behind it.

You see, I've kind of been going through a "mid-life crisis"--not a "need to buy a sports car" kind of thing, but a "need to have purpose in my life" kind of thing. I'll share in another post the events leading up to this yearning to do more, but part of it is realizing that I have only a finite number of years to raise my children in a way that they will make an impact for God's glory.

I know there's always been evil, I know there's always been tragedy, but because of technology, we are able to see it through photos, read it from articles, live it through video right as it happens. While some days this just makes me want to turn every electronic device off indefinitely, I know instead this is can be a way for us to find out about a need. We are able to help others in a way that people couldn't when my mother and grandmother were raising their kids. This also means that we are responsible for things that were once too far out of reach for us to be able to help.

My inspiration came from an article shared by a friend on Facebook. It was posted the day of the Sandy Hook elementary shootings, on the heals of the announcement that Russian adoptions would be closing, and in the midst of reading articles on gendercide, abortion, and forced abortion such as this one.  

My TV, my computer screen, and my phone seemed to be sounding the same alarm and screaming the same cry for help--we are living in a world at war against the innocent. This is the holocaust of our time and yet some days we feel defenseless to do anything.

On the day of the Sandy Hook shootings, I had kept the TV off--I couldn't bear to hear the updates of this unthinkable tragedy and didn't feel like my younger kids were able to handle the news. I spent much of the day just praying for those families and praying over mine.

But my daughter Ava got on the family computer and saw the news about the shooting and came to me to ask what had happened. I shared what I knew and what I felt was appropriate and she simply asked the same question that the world was asking . . . "Why?"

It was a rare night of one-on-one time with my number 2 daughter--the boys at a birthday party, Olivia and Brad at a basketball game, the baby asleep. I was searching for words of wisdom, of comfort, something to show that as the mom I had all the answers, yet came up with nothing.  Instead I grabbed an article I had printed earlier that day before the world fell apart. I had first read about this courageous woman from a link that had circulated through Facebook--the beauty of her life story seemed overtake the ugly of the day. I had needed to hear something good in the wake of such bad and thought perhaps Ava did, too.

There are many accounts of this woman's amazing story but this is the article I read to her,  found at The Journey website.

Irena Sendler was born in 1910 in Otwock, Poland, fifteen miles outside of Warsaw. Her Father was a doctor and most of his patients were poor Jews. Undoubtedly Ms. Sendler was influenced by her Father's compassion for his patients. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Irena was a Senior Administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, the poor and the destitute of the City. She enrolled Jewish families under fictitious names and often used quarantine for such infectious diseases as typhus and tuberculosis to keep nosy officials at bay.

In 1942, however, the Nazis walled off sixteen blocks of Warsaw, herded Jewish families in, and created the horrific Warsaw Ghetto.

Horrified by this new development, Sendler joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, and recruited ten of her friends to help her. In order to get into the Ghetto, she obtained a pass from Warsaws Epidemic Control Department and posed as a health worker. Sanitation and basic services were lacking. The Nazis saw little need to provide these things, but were concerned about the possibility of disease epidemics that might escape the Ghetto.

Irena was deeply moved by the plight of the babies and children. Initially she and her fellow workers smuggled in food, clothing and medicine as they performed their work as sanitation workers, but knowing that 5000 people a month were dying in the Ghetto, Irena was compelled to do far more. She and her 'fellow employees' smuggled babies in their tool boxes, older children in sacks and boxes on their trucks. They often sedated the children so they would be quiet but she is said to have used a dog on one of her trucks who would bark menacingly whan soldiers would approach to inspect it. The soldiers had no desire to get close to the dog and left the interior of the truck unsearched.

Sendler, a young Mother herself, had to convince other Mothers to hand her their babies and children. One Mother asked her: "Can you guarantee my child will live?" Her answer was the harsh truth that if the child stayed, he would surely die. "In my dreams," she once said, "I still hear the cries when they left their parents."
"Irena Sendler accomplished her incredible deeds with the active assistance of the church. "I sent most of the children to religious establishments," she recalled. "I knew I could count on the Sisters." Irena also had a remarkable record of cooperation when placing the youngsters: "No one ever refused to take a child from me," -- Jewish Virtual Library

Most of the children who left with Sendler's group were taken into Roman Catholic convents, orphanages and homes and given non-Jewish aliases. Sendler kept the only record of their true identities in the hope that one day she could restore them to their families. The names of 2500 rescued children were placed in jars which Sendler buried under a neighbor's apple tree.

On October 20, 1943, the Gestapo, who were becoming increasingly aware of her activities, arrested Irena Sendler. Even under torture -- they broke her legs and feet -- she refused to give up those names. She was sentenced to be executed but her friends bribed officials and she was able to escape.

After the war Irena dug up the jars and worked to reunite children with their families. Sadly many had no family to go to anymore. The woman they had known only as 'Jolanta' was sad that she could have not done more for them.

Honored by international Jewish organizations - in 1965 she was accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashemorganization in Jerusalem. In 1991 she was made an honorary citizen of Israel.

Irena Sendler was awarded Poland's highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle. She died at the age of 98 on May 12, 2008.

When I was finished, Ava didn't say a word--a rare moment with the talkative girl we call the "Speaker of the House." 

I told her that for every person who acts out of hate, there needs to be hundreds acting out of love. Already emotional from the day's events, I confided in her with tears rolling down my cheeks and simply added the words: "I want to be an Irena Sendler."

And she grabbed my hand and said, "I do, too."

It was a sweet moment that I had kind of forgotten about until Christmas morning. The kids handed me a gift bag and inside was this.

It was an old Mason jar. Inside it Ava had typed out the names of all the children in our family including our Xin Xin waiting in China. She had also included the American, Chinese, and Guatemalan flags "to add some color." Love her.  

And then my husband let me know that he had given a donation to a family adopting who is very dear to my heart--a link to read about the precious Garcia family is here on their blog or here on their Reece's Rainbow page. Lisa Garcia is Ava's voice teacher and we followed their blog during the Christmas holidays as they made their first trip to Bulgaria to meet their 3 boys ages 12, 10, and 6 (unrelated, in different orphanages). Reading their blog during the holidays helped us focus on others during a time that we unfortunately start focusing on ourselves. Their story was a bright spot amongst a dark time. When these boys come home in just a couple weeks and they are forever free of the prisons they live in, we will add their names to our jar. Not as a way of patting ourselves on the back for doing something so small, but as a way of inspiring us next time to do something bigger.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to introduce you all to some modern day Irena Sendlers because here's the thing--Irena could not have done all she did by herself. She needed others to help her. Every name on every slip of paper was an effort of love and sacrifice on the part of many. God just used Irena to organize it.

The Irena Sendlers of today need an army behind them as well, but we often do nothing because we don't know about the need or the need is so great that we think our trite contribution is worthless. I'm going to show how you and your family can fill your own glass jars, how you can build a family with purpose, how you can focus on good in a world that seems so filled with evil.

So tomorrow, give your wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, a glass jar and read them the story of Irena Sendler. (You don't have to use a Mason jar--they sell some really pretty apothecary jars at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, TJ Maxx.) I may eventually upgrade mine as it fills up.  Tell her that she exemplifies the love of Irena Sendler and you want to honor her with a gift of purpose. What a sweet way for a husband and children to "rise up and call her blessed." 

You can also start this jar yourself at any time of the year. You might want to pick a time that you have family devotionals to introduce it. 

Put inside the names of your own children/grandchildren if you have them. Then find a child or family who needs your help. Sometimes our impact on others will be significant, sometimes it will be small, but everything done with love makes a difference. 

The Garcia family would be a great place to start. They have worked tirelessly to raise the $30,000 needed to bring their boys home--even their children have sold many of their toys and treasures to bring their new siblings into their family (they have 9 other children--4 currently living at home). They are only $2,000 short of raising what is needed to bring these boys home debt-free--the amount shown on their site doesn't show what they have saved or raised on their own. (Wouldn't it be an awesome Mother's Day gift for this sweet family to be fully funded?) Decide what your family is able to do. You could, for example, donate $10 a week to a different child or family in need, then put that child's name in your jar. Perhaps you can do more, perhaps you need to do less, but it is better than a life with an empty jar. How special it will be to read off each name at the end of the year.

One of our modern day Irena Sendlers is named Andrea Roberts. She started an amazing organization called Reece's Rainbow that helps find families for typically hard to place children with various medical and developmental needs. I'm going to write more about Reece's Rainbow in a future post and am going to start a new feature on my blog that will be called "Fund Me Fridays" to highlight a different deserving family each week to help any of you wanting to fill your new jars. But you can go on their site today and find many families like the Garcias or donate directly to a child still waiting for their mom and dad to find them.

Much love to you all as you celebrate the gift of mothers from our Heavenly Father.

With Much Love,