Monday, November 30, 2009

Update from You've Got to Be Kidding Me Headquarters

Can you tell that I'm a woman stuck in a foreign country with nothing but 5 bars of internet service and a little boy who keeps asking when he will be going home for Christmas? Well, the bad news just keeps coming.

Apparently the orphanage does not have the two docs we needed so we will have to hire someone to get these. I'm not sure how long this will take. And just when I thought it couldn't get worse, we just found out that our family court judge had a stroke Friday. How horrible that the first thing I think is "how does this affect our case" but, yes, it seems I've stooped to that level of selfishness. And the answer? Well, they are looking for a provisional judge and don't know how long that will take. And my family court goes on a month long vacation Friday, Dec. 11. So if we don't get our certifications (and done correctly) by next week, our case will sit till court is back from vacation on Jan. 14. Thus, Brad and I will continue to live here until probably early February. I've run out of tears and minutes on my Guatemala cell phone and clean underwear for the boys. Please keep the prayers coming.

More than lots,

Ear Infections, USE Appointments, Missing Documents, Oh My

Every time I travel, there's always something I leave at home that I wish I had packed. This trip it's a straight jacket. This adoption scavenger hunt is so draining in the US, but in a foreign country it is ten times as frustrating. (By the way, when I post from Guat. sometimes it caps words in the middle of sentences and moves words around so if this is a crazy mess like the last post, bear with me till I can fix it.)

It's only 11:25 a.m. here but feels like 11:25 p.m. I hardly slept last night. I had trouble falling asleep cause I'm so stressed about possibly being stuck here over Christmas. When I finally drifted off, Alex (the little boy I'm caring for till his mom can join me this weekend) woke me up because his ear was hurting. Poor thing. I felt someone standing over me about 3:00 a.m. I woke up to see him standing by my bed with tears rolling down his face, holding his ear. He didn't want to bother me but was in such pain. I gave him the pain meds and ear drops that I was able to get from a pharmacy over the weekend. He finally fell asleep about 5:00. I'm going to try to take him to the doctor today.

This was the second night that I didn't get much sleep. (Warning for little eyes and ears here!) My second night in Antigua was, ummm, interesting. The walls were paper thin so I could hear all the street traffic and parties and, well, some private adult parties on either side of our room. (I'll let you connect the dots.) Never have I been so grateful that Alex and Daniel are heavy sleepers and that I have a limited Spanish vocabulary. I was on ick overload and never fell back asleep.

Anyway, Alex went back to sleep but I couldn't. I needed to get up at 5:30 anyway so that we could show up at the US Embassy at 6:30 a.m. to get a number. We went back at 9:00 for our appointment (another long wait) but the woman at the USE was super nice and helpful. (I'm so grateful for little angels God sends along the way.) We also met two other precious adopting families. It just makes me realize how many dear families and children are going through the same thing we are.

Speaking of angels, our friend John has been a tremendous help showing me what to do and where to go for this stage of the adoption. I would be a huge mess if he weren't here. It looks like he'll be leaving some time this week, praise God (he and his wife have been taking turns fostering their son here since last April). When he and another dear adopting dad leave this week, I'm going to just move into the nice lady's office at the USE. I'll fit fine because I'll be rocking back and forth in the fetal position at that point.

The boys are swimming in the pool now. We just got Daniel's birth certificate delivered to the hotel from our attorney's office so now we're going to grab lunch, then get Daniel's HIV test and see if we can find a doctor for Alex's ear. We're also waiting to hear if Daniel's orphanage has two critical original docs that we need to continue with the USE. If not, then we're going to have to hire someone to help us get these and it could take weeks. (Blood pressure rising!!!) If they do have them, we'll be visiting the orphanage today.

That's all for now. Thanks for your love and prayers.

Muchas Gracias,

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Update from Guatemala

Sorry I have not been able to update since Friday. I arrived safely in Guatemala and spent the weekend in Antigua. Unfortunately I had only about 5 minutes of internet service while I was there. We have moved to Guatemala City for the week. It's about a 2 minute walk to the U.S. Embassy. Although it's an older hotel, I love that we will be able so close to any appointments we have coming up. (I'm hoping they'll be so sick of seeing us, they'll move our case along quickly.)

Never have I been so happy to have 5 bars of internet service. I will not complain that to get it I have to stand at my hotel window, with a metal clip in my hair, balancing on one foot. It's amazing how creative you can become in a foreign country. If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the mother of completing an impossible adoption.

We did get some bad news on Friday. Our adoption attorney let me know that there was another error with our certifications and it will take a week to fix it and resubmit. As I got the news I tried to fight back tears so Daniel and his buddy that I'm also caring for could not see my disappointment. This is so frustrating because each delay means we may not make it home in time for Christmas. We lost one week because the guy doing the certifications was sick, a second week to fix errors, and now a third week to fix another error. (Each time there is a 3 day wait period that adds to the delay.)

I'm already so homesick. I talk to my kids and hubby on the phone and my heart just aches to see them. But right now I have Daniel snuggled up next to me coloring in his coloring book. Oh, my, how I love every crooked tooth in his smile, every long eyelash on each lid, every little crease in his hands. He is a Masterpiece and I'm just in awe that he is really my son. Now if we can just get him home, I promise, dear God, that I will never ask for another thing again! (Okay, that's a promise He knows I can not keep.)

We're going to see if we can find a place to eat dinner and I'll try to write more tonight. Thanks for all your continued prayers and support. I cherish each and every one of you.

Grateful in Guatemala,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Providential Pardon

Today I felt like I was the turkey who got the Presidential Pardon (I'm calling it a Providential Pardon). I was booked on a flight to leave for Guatemala yesterday morning and at the last minute circumstances changed so I could be home with my family (minus Daniel) on Thanksgiving. (It's a long story that I'll share later.) Anyway, thanks so much to Doug and Anna Dirrim, Paul and Tammy King and family, and John Lee for the tremendous blessing you've been to me and my family this week. (I have a really long list of thank yous for all the other weeks of the year.)

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day with time spent with Brad's side of the family and then my side of the family and finished with an adoption homecoming for Henry and Dalia Dirrim. What a special day.

We've got the fire going, a movie on, and are putting out Christmas decorations so the house will look festive when Daniel comes home. We're going to wait on the tree till he's home so he can pick it out and decorate it with us. I'm leaving for Guatemala early tomorrow morning and will try to write updates each day.

I hate to fly and will be traveling alone so please say a little prayer for me. If anyone wants to go with me, I'll pack you with my laptop (sorry but you'll have to ride in the overhead compartment). Thanks to you all for your continued prayers and support.

So Grateful,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 23:5--"The More I Seek You"

Okay, if you've eaten here before, you know the drill. On Sundays I serve a scripture followed by a sweet dessert of song.

This week the verse is:

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.

Psalm 23:5

It's funny that the way I view this verse has completely changed because of our adoption. I used to picture God's table as one of those long, formal "seats 50" dinette sets. Like a scene from a movie with the king at one end and the lowly subject at the other. So the thought of dining with the Almighty was an image of having the privilege of just being in the same grand banquet hall.

But as I've watched our Daniel grow to know and love us, I see this verse through his eyes. I remember the first times we took him on outings away from the orphanage, Daniel was a little nervous around us. When we took him to restaurants, and he would eat quietly. I think he was even afraid to order in case it cost too much. Once at McDonald's he worked up the courage to ask for ice cream. When Brad said of course, he swallowed hard and mustered up (in Spanish), "With chocolate, too, please?" Bless his heart. He was afraid to ask for something so easy for us to give. (Hmmmm. I guess we do that with God, too.)

When we were living in Guatemala in June, we got to take him to many restaurants and I even got to cook meals for our family at a house we rented. And Daniel's behavior with us was so different from those early days. He laughed with us and snuggled up with us and boldly led the prayer. I'd give him my papas fritas (French fries) and he'd offer a taste of his meal. Still polite and respectful, but no longer nervous of doing the wrong thing. It is simply because he is no longer a guest, but part of our family. (This is a pic from one of our favorite restaurants.)

The verse goes on to say that God dines with us in front of our enemies. Although the restaurants in Guatemala often had signs at the doorway asking for no guns (I'm not joking--leave the ammo in the car), the only danger I felt dining there was possible gastrointestinal attacks (sorry, too much information). (This was displayed outside of many restaurants.)

But there was something special about taking Daniel out in public. We were showing the world that he belonged to us and we would provide for all he needed. And then some of the most beautiful words in the 23rd Psalm, "my cup runneth over", remind me of Daniel's sweet face in finding out he can have the chocolate on top of the ice cream. So often I'll pray for something and God will provide far beyond what I had ever even hoped for.

Today's dessert is one of my all time favorite songs--"The More I Seek You" by Kari Jobe. The lyrics so perfectly say what I would certainly tell my Heavenly Father if I were seated at His table. Please take a moment to listen to the words--either playing on the blog or through the video.

This week is Thanksgiving and there will be lots of tables prepared before us. I'm not yet sure if I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my family here or with Daniel in Guatemala. Either way I'll be rejoicing in the gift of the ones God has graciously placed around my table. My cup certainly overflows and for that I'm truly grateful.

So Thankful,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Adoption Update from the Bat Cave

Long time, no blog. Sorry I've been quiet this week. Olivia was a nun in "The Sound of Music" at her school and I had to take a vow of written silence with all the rehearsals and performances as well as the regular craziness of school homework and day-to-day keeping everybody alive and in clean underpants.

(My little nun is the second from the left. I'm singing along in my head with a slightly different version of the lyrics: "How do you solve a problem like overcommitment. . . .")

(This pic is my trio with their sweet cousins after one of the shows.)

It also seems I'll be going to Guatemala next week to care for Danilo and try to finish the last steps of our adoption and I'm scrambling to get as much as possible done before I go. I'm not sure when I'll be back, so I want the house ready to bring our new son home and need Christmas presents bought and decorations up just in case we don't come home till late December. (The sound you hear is me breathing into a paper bag.) Pray that we make it home by Christmas or there will be some really pitiful blog posts!

One more update, we want you to know that our sweet son has a new name. When Brad was there a couple weeks ago and got to tell him that he is forever our son and would soon be home, he asked Danilo if he wanted to change his name. He explained that often adopted children wanted to start their new life with a new name. But Brad also assured him that this was his choice, it was also fine to keep Danilo as his name. I was conflicted about this because we have grown to love him as Danilo, but I also know that most Americans aren't sure how to say it (Dan-E-lo) and I've seen him get frustrated when it has been mispronounced (and in the South it would not only get butchered but pureed).

Well, he quickly announced that he indeed wanted a new name. Brad asked if he had one in mind and Danilo suggested (drumroll) . . . Batman! Brad agreed that it was a fabulous choice for a superhero and, although he is certainly super and heroic, he might want to choose something that didn't require a mask and cape.

So Danilo did a little mental Googling of great American names and came up with (drumroll again) . . . Junior. I'm not sure where this came from but I hope it's because D. wants to be like his dad. Brad explained that it would be a fabulous nickname, but we want him to have a special name that is all his. Brad suggested Daniel, because it is the English equivalent to Danilo. It would be a way to honor his past and celebrate his future. We have also prayed for many months that God would protect our "Daniel in the lion's den" from any harm or sickness. (I've actually got a little collection of lions waiting for him at home and his favorite animals when we took him to the zoo were the lions.)

His smile went from one ear to the other at the suggestion and he exclaimed that he loved the name Daniel. In fact, I've accidentally called him Danilo when talking on the phone with him and he politely reminded me that he is now Daniel. (And from now on on my blog I'll refer to him as Daniel.) We're still not sure of his full given name but his "working title" is Daniel Batman Junior Williams.

Mommy of a Superhero,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memorial Box Monday--Danilo's "Ultrasound" Photos

To introduce this story, I first need to fess up that I am a recovering eBay addict. Just a few years ago, I loved it. Every random thing I needed could be found in seconds without driving my kids all over town or dealing with a toddler meltdown in a shopping cart.

I did much of my Christmas shopping through eBay one year only to discover that my bidding skills were lacking and it only added to my stress. I’d be 3 seconds from the auction closing chanting, “I got it, uh-huh,it’s mine, uh-huh” only to have some heartless person outbid me in the last fraction of a second by 37 cents. “Nooooooooo!!!!” My husband would run to see what the tragedy was and the conversation would go something like this.


He’d ask, “The Georgia Tech stadium replica--new in box?”

“Worse. The American Girl ice skaters outfit in mint condition” taking a deep breath, “with free shipping!”

“Outdone by PixieDust437?”


But now I have found something on my computer that's better than ebay . . . blogs. Here’s the thing. Blogs are like the eBay of people. If you’re looking for a friend who has adoption advice, or can make you laugh, or has a great recipe to share, or understands your hurt, or is like-minded in things that matter to you . . . sometimes, that’s the easiest way to find them. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than a real live friend to laugh with, confide in, and cry on. There’s just an element of friendship that can’t be achieved with a keyboard and computer screen. Yet there are some wise and wonderful folks that I never would have met without the bloggy world and over time I want to introduce you to them.

The first one I want you to meet is a lady named Linny. Her blog is called A Place Called Simplicity. She’s a pastor’s wife and mom of 10 (so far) who lives in Colorado. Her posts make me laugh and cry--they encourage and inspire and convict me. I don’t want to tell too much because I want you to read her stories yourself. We often read her posts as part of our family devotion time. A good place to start is with her ongoing series called Memorial Box Mondays then read the items under “Special Posts.” (You can click on the bloggy button below to get there.)

Her Memorial Box idea is based on Joshua 4 where God instructs the Israelites to pick up 12 stones from the River Jordan as a memorial of what He has done for them. Their family Memorial Box contains little items that trigger a memory of how God has answered prayer. I’ve started one for our family so that when we are wandering through the wilderness and our long-term memory is hijacked by our short-term needs, we can look in this box and remember His faithfulness yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It’s a sweet way to build our family’s legacy and I hope my children someday start their own Memorial Boxes.

So, the first item I'm going to share about is a photo that you’ll see in a bit (no peeking). Here’s the quick background for those who don’t know. In August of 2007, we heard of an emergency need to place some children for adoption from a Christian children’s home in Guatemala (there was concern that they would be moved to a government institution). We wrote the director of the home that we would love to adopt a girl of any age or a boy younger than our younger daughter. Danilo was the last child needing a home and we were the last family on the list. We started paperwork on him having seen only one picture, having no history, and never having met him. We made a decision in 24 hours that would forever change our family. It was quite a leap of faith for this woman who won't buy a microwave without months of Consumer Report research.

Our prayer was that if God didn’t want this child in our home, that He would close the door. God had called us to adopt so who were we to question His plan? But there were nights I’d wake up at 2 a.m. in a panic wondering what on earth were we doing. What if he had behavior issues that we didn’t know how to handle? What if he had delays and handicaps and was never able to live independently? What if he had experienced abuse that he would act out in our home? I was praying that God would give us some kind of sign that he was truly ours so I could have peace that we were doing the right thing.

A few weeks later, a team of men from our church visited Danilo’s orphanage to do some construction work. They returned with hundreds of photos, not knowing which children were being adopted. There were 9 families from our church adopting from the same home and we had been invited to our fellowship hall to watch a slide show from their trip. The men told us when we saw our child, to call out his or her name and they would make copies of those photos.

We were giddy with excitement to see new photos of our little ones. We all joked that these were our “ultrasound” pics, but inside I had a knot in my stomach. I didn’t have a good track record with ultrasounds.

You see, when I was pregnant with our other three, I could never figure out what I was looking at. With our first child I commented, “Awww. I see her cute round rear end.” And the ultrasound gal replied, “Oh, that’s your full bladder.” I knew I had gotten it right when I exclaimed, “Look at her precious profile!” But again I was a bit off: “Umm, ma’am, that’s your partially digested breakfast.” From then on I would look at these black and white blurs and pretend to see what seemed so clear to everyone else.

So there we were sitting as photo after photo flashed up on the screen. Families were squealing, “There he is! That’s my baby!” But I just knew I was going to be the one mom who didn’t recognize her child. In the sea of beautiful faces of dark eyes and silky black hair, I needed some kind of divine caption stating, “Hey, Kathie, this one is your son!”

As the slide show progressed, everyone else had identified their child. I thought perhaps our little guy's photo had come and gone and we had missed it. The prayers continued, “Please, God, help me out here.” If only God could stick a Ga. Tech shirt on him (the team our family cheers for), or maybe some Mickey Mouse ears (we‘re big Disney people), or perhaps have him holding a sign that says, “I’m a Williams.”

I resigned myself to the fact that God would most likely not Photoshop these pics for my benefit, that is until I saw this one.

I thought, "Wait a minute. I think I saw him and he's wearing what looks like a Disney shirt." Several pics passed and I was going to ask them to go back until this popped up.

That was him! But I couldn't make out what the shirt said until this one.

There was Danilo sporting a “Disney dreaming” t-shirt. The tears poured down my face and I looked over at Brad who was a mess, too. I was too stunned to speak but Olivia, Ava, and Brady squealed, “That’s our brother! There he is! Look, he loves Disney World, too!”

Our friends started kidding us. “You mean you’re 3 weeks into this adoption and you’ve already sent him a Disney shirt?!” We explained that we hadn’t sent him anything. The shirt he was wearing must have been donated by someone else. And Danilo just happened to pick that shirt out of a box of clothes shared by 17 boys and just happened to be wearing it the day our mission team stopped by to take his photo. God is good to answer the prayer of this crazy mama who desperately needed a clear ultrasound photo.

But you know what, I didn’t need the cheat sheet after all. I recognized his sweet face before I even saw the shirt. But it was neat that our God of big and small things cared enough to make sure I knew this child was our son. I’ve never questioned it again and after all this time of loving him, I wonder why I ever doubted.

Grateful Mommy,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 23:4--“If You Want Me To”

Forgive me if I sound solemn in this post. I received news this weekend of a family who tragically lost their husband/father. This isn't even a family that I know well, yet when you are "acquainted with grief" it doesn't take much to feel their hurt. As a close friend of this family shared details, I was reminded how quickly one can go from the mountain top to the valley of death with a phone call or a doctor's appointment, without warning and within minutes.

I'll never forget when my mom was battling cancer. My eldest daughter Olivia was in first grade at a Christian school and each week a different memory verse came home in her folder. The very day my mother died, the following verse written on a little card came home in her backpack.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

It was no mistake that this was the verse that I would have to say over and over with my daughter until she (and I) would never forget it. It was like a love note from my Heavenly Father.

A couple week’s ago I shared a bit about my first real valley and why the 23rd Psalm is special to me. The darkest valley of them all is the one in which you face death. It’s that “can’t see your hand in front of your face” kind of dark that makes you so unsure of what’s ahead that you just stand there paralyzed, afraid that any step in any direction will make you fall deeper into a pit that you’ll never be able to climb out of. So to be able to say that you can walk in a valley of pitch black darkness and not be afraid because the Almighty Shepherd is with you . . . well, that’s pretty big stuff.

The second part of this verse is just as important because it’s our clue to the tools He uses to get us through these valleys--His rod and His staff. There are many biblical scholars who can more eloquently explain what these items represent, but in my humble experience this is what I’ve found.

The rod is God’s Word. Just like the shepherd’s rod was used to defend and protect his sheep, God’s Word serves as a mighty weapon. It keeps us walking on the path of truth and protects us from the vultures of guilt, anger, depression, bitterness, blame, and questioning. This rod also disciplines and so often when I read the Bible I have those ouch moments of conviction.

The staff is a bit harder to define. The shepherd’s staff is used to guide the sheep in the right path, to draw them closer to the shepherd for protection, and even to rescue the wayward sheep who is trapped in a thorny thicket or stuck in a dark pit. Perhaps the staff represents many things, which I think includes scripture and certainly the Holy Spirit. But I also think it includes the prayer support and encouragement of fellow believers. Now this is just my goodness and mercy grocery list and yours may be different.

While I'm on the subject of groceries, I've been known to toss a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream into my cart when I’m having a rough week. In the same way, praise and worship songs are such a source of comfort and encouragement during the walks through dark valleys. Surround yourself with uplifting music for (unlike their edible counterparts) these aren’t empty calories--they will nourish you in ways that nothing else will. And that’s the main reason I even have music on my blog. Whatever blah, blah, blah, I do through the week, I at least know if someone is hurting and they show up here, they will be fed something that makes them feel closer to their Shepherd.

So speaking of dessert, there are many wonderful valley songs that I played over and over during some hard times. One was “He Will Carry Me” by Mark Schultz. It's such a sweet song celebrating the privilege of being carried in the safe arms of our Heavenly Father. Like a piece of gum, songs have a way of losing their flavor if they've been chewed too long and I've certainly sucked the marrow out of this one. But it still brings such comfort that I wanted to include it on my play list for any readers who haven't heard it.

A newer one that is my favorite 23rd Psalm song (now that's a tongue twister), is Psalm 23 by Glory Revealed--the artists on this one are Geoff Moore and Trevor Morgan. For those of you who aren't familiar with Glory Revealed, it’s a collaborative effort led by Third Day’s lead singer Mac Powell and features Powell and some of the best Christian artists today. It's undiluted scripture put to song with beautiful instrumentals. It’s not available on my play list below, but can be found on i-Tunes. I keep their songs playing at home and it’s amazing how many scriptures my kids have learned just listening. It’s dinner and dessert in one bite--kind of rod and staff in Swiss Army knife form.

The song I’m featuring today is a classic--”If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens. If you aren’t familiar with her story--she lost her eyesight at 2 years old and has been walking a literal dark valley ever since. Her voice is so pure and the lyrics so poignant. The first time I heard it I was in my car and pulled over so I wouldn't miss the words that so perfectly seemed to echo my prayers at that time. This video includes the beautiful lyrics with her sweet voice. 

As always, thanks for coming to dinner. Have a blessed week.

Humbly His,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Loved to Pieces: Lessons from the Toy Box

Big Bird just turned 40. Six months older than me but aging much better. My only consolation is that he’s still learning his alphabet (and I’ve pretty much got that down).

But the most popular Sesame Street friend at our house is Elmo. Pronounced Melmo. Not sure why the “M” is invisible, but every child I’ve known under the age of 4 has called him Melmo and I frankly don’t have the energy to debate with a preschooler. (And, well, it’s just so cute, why would I want to correct them?)

Brady’s Elmo once looked like this. (This special portrait was done by my niece Kaitlin.)

Now he looks like this. (Warning: Due to the graphic nature of this photo, it may not be suitable viewing for children or furry monsters.)

I hear gasps of horror coming from toy boxes around the world.

This former Tickle Me Elmo hasn’t laughed in years. Passed down from two big sisters, Brady and Elmo became buds early on.

No other stuffed friend would do. Believe me, we’ve tried to expand Brady’s social circle. Elmo has been to doctor’s appointments and Disney World,

school activities and sister's slumber parties,

grocery store runs, library reading time, and trips to Guatemala.

He provides comfort, security, and companionship like no other.

Unfortunately he hasn’t aged as poetically as the Velveteen Rabbit. He’s been washed numerous times to keep the Centers for Disease Control from running tests on him. His intestines leaked out and he lost his eyeballs when a friend’s dog mistook him for his chew toy. His deteriorating condition has earned him nicknames such as Industrial Accident Elmo. At one point his box of batteries connected with wires began to hang out of his nether regions, thus he was given the name Colostomy Bag Elmo. (I don’t think this one would market well.)

But I relate to Elmo. Sometimes after a long day, I look over at him and know just how he feels. Worn out and emptied, used as an emergency Kleenex, missing most of my original parts, and broken. There are times that I feel loved to pieces . . . by my kids, by my husband, by my friends, and even by God.

Well, a few months ago, my metaphoric twin was lost. We couldn’t find him anywhere. We retraced steps, called stores, distributed flyers, and offered a reward (okay the last two we didn’t really do but we were close).

Days passed with Brady absolutely distraught that his “Ruined Elmo” (as he affectionately calls him) was missing. One night I was trying to convince him that it was okay that the old Elmo was gone because we could get a new one to love. He pleaded that there was only one Elmo that he would ever love and he could never be replaced. I asked him why he was so special and he replied with an answer I wasn’t expecting from someone in Thomas the Train underpants: “He’s special because he is always wif me. He’s special because he ruined himself wif me.”

Gulp. I did a rewind of his words: “He’s always with me . . . He ruined himself with me.” Or even better: “He ruined himself FOR me.”

Hmmm. Maybe I was seeing my analogy upside down. Perhaps it is my Savior, the One I cling to for comfort and companionship, the One I feel lost without when I feel He’s not near, the One who is too special to be replaced, . . . the One who “ruined” himself for me. And if I am to be in His image, then emptied, worn out, and broken just brings me closer to understanding who He is and how He loves us. For this is what it truly looks like to be “loved to pieces.”

We did find our sweet Elmo, praise God, and he is now under house arrest (not taking any chances of losing him again). And when I look at Elmo snuggled up with his buddy (smiling even though he’s been reduced to an orange nose with some red threads dangling from it), I remember that being loved to pieces isn’t such a bad thing.

Gratefully His,

P.S. Today is Veteran’s Day. Few people exemplify Christ’s sacrificial love as beautifully as the brave men and women who serve our country. Thank you, veterans, for your service, for your sacrifice, and for you willingness to be “loved to pieces” for our freedom.

This post is linked to The Finer Things in Life Friday because there's nothing finer than being loved.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 23:3--"Dearly Loved" and "How He Loves"

It’s Sunday again, way past dinner time but I’ve been feasting on the details from Brad’s time with Danilo. It’s neat how his stories parallel the verse for this week:

He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3

I already wrote last week about how God restores our soul, so this week I want to focus on how He loves us. When I think of how He leads us in the paths of righteousness, I picture our children grabbing Brad’s hand or mine whenever we are walking by a busy street, or somewhere unfamiliar, or perhaps just to show the world that they belongs to us.

There’s something so sweet about those little hands reaching up for ours--even my 12 year old on occasion will forget that she’s too old or too cool for such a display of dependence or affection. I hope my kiddos never outgrow holding my hand.

The flip side is that I grab hold of their hands so they won’t get lost, or be scared, or run ahead of me into harm’s way, or just so they know I love being with them. How beautiful to imagine that’s how our Heavenly Father wants to walk with us. But I guess it's the times that He picks us up and carries us on His shoulders that are the sweetest. Like the Shepherd with the lamb draped around His shoulders. Safe. Loved. His.

We are still rejoicing in the fact that Danilo is forever our son (if you missed Friday’s news, you’ll need to read it next). He is officially a Williams--announcing to the world that we have chosen him and he has chosen us. It’s funny because he’s not yet even home, but because he has so many characteristics that are like us and our other kids, we already hear comments like, “He’s definitely a Williams!”

Then I think about how God leads us on the right path to bring glory to His name. Oh how I hope when I’m walking with the Lord others look at me a think, “She’s definitely a child of God.”

Now regarding dessert, this was a tough one for this Christian music junkie. There are so many amazing songs about God’s love for us that it was hard to choose. My current favorite is “How He Loves” by the David Crowder Band, but Jimmy Needham has a song called “Dearly Loved” that I just couldn’t leave off my playlist.

So I’m going to do something completely unprecedented. (Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement since I’ve only been blogging a few weeks.) I’m posting two songs today. First, I’m serving a favorite Southern dessert--cobbler. (And in Georgia, that would be peach cobbler.)

“How He Loves” is hot, exchanging bites of smooth violin and piano instrumentals with big chunks of profound lyrics, sprinkled with some crunch with the drums. Boy is it good. Makes you want to go back for seconds. But . . . cobbler must be topped with ice cream. “Dearly Loved” is cool and sweet, simple yet soothing, familiar without being predictable. Although these two songs couldn’t be more different, melting together they complement each other.

The only You Tube videos I found for “Dearly Loved” seemed to distract from the lyrics, so just enjoy it as it’s played in the background of the blog. But below I posted the web address to the David Crowder Band’s official video for “How He Loves” (embedding wasn't available for this one). Now, it’s very different from the past two videos of sunsets and rainbows, but I love it anyway. (Although I couldn’t keep from thinking about how my metaphoric cobbler would be a disaster in David Crowder’s facial hair.)

This week, walk hand in hand with the One who guides, protects, and truly loves us.

Gratefully His,

Friday, November 6, 2009

Signature of the Divine

There are two kinds of good news. The kind that makes you jump for joy and squeal and the kind that makes you fall to your knees and weep. Yesterday we got the latter. I’m still crying.

For 27 months we’ve been trying to convince two governments that a boy named Danilo is our son. We got a phone call yesterday that the Guatemalan government recognizes and approves what God ordained since the beginning of time.

This is nothing short of a miracle. There have been so many times over the past 2+ years that made it look like this adoption would never happen. From problems with paperwork, to hearings needed, to watching the Hague Convention door close only to find out we were standing on the wrong side.

Even our recent good news of finding out we were finally in family court was followed by an announcement that the Guatemalan courts would be starting Christmas holidays on Monday . . . half of them. We had just gotten in yet there was a 50/50 chance that our court would be taking a break from Nov. 9 to Dec. 4 OR we might be fortunate enough to get one breaking from Dec. 14 to Jan. 14. We knew that if our court was taking the earlier break, there was no chance for our son to be home by Christmas and if we got the later break, the chance was still very slim.

We had a very Pepto weekend waiting and hoping and praying. Monday we got good news that our court would be taking the later break. But we knew that our file had to be perfect. If there were any problems with our paperwork, if just one document needed correcting, then a Christmas homecoming just wouldn’t be possible. From what we’ve seen the past several months, it usually takes 2 to 3 months to get through family court. But we were hoping and praying for a miracle anyway.

And to add more pressure to this mama with an ulcer, when I was visiting D. a couple weeks ago, we went shopping. I took him down the toy aisle to get ideas and asked what he wanted for Christmas. He looked longingly at the bikes and studied a remote control car. And then he looked at me with those big eyes and said, “Christmas at home in Georgia . . . Yes?” My eyes welled up with tears. I wished my answer could have been “absolutely” but as we approached November, Christmas didn’t look possible. I answered with, “We are doing everything we can to get you home, buddy.”

So Brad gets on a plane yesterday to visit Danilo. We’ve been trading off since June, spending a week per month with him so he wouldn’t think we had forgotten about him. Yesterday I decided to pray and fast--for our adoption, for my husband flying through a tropical storm, and for the adoptions of many precious children and their families who are also trying to get their gifts of life home. We were hoping to get a meeting with our family court judge--if he could see our son (D. has a face that’s hard to say no to) then perhaps he would show grace when reviewing our file.

Our attorney called yesterday afternoon. I thought it was to tell us that he wasn’t able to get Brad a meeting. Instead he said, “I have good news. Your file has been approved.” I think I asked, “For what?” (Cut me some slack. I haven’t slept all week and hadn’t eaten all day.)

He continued, “I talked with the secretary and the judge, they reviewed your file and we discussed it at length. . . . They approved your adoption. You’re done! He is legally yours!”

I just sat there stunned. It was too wonderful to even believe. Everything about our case has been so hard, yet this one step, the step that decided whether or not our son would finally get to spend Christmas with a family after 9 years . . . was miraculously done in 3 days instead of 3 months. The tears began to flow.

I told Olivia, Ava and Brady that their brother was finally coming home. There was much rejoicing--we all did our happy dance. Brad got to tell Danilo that he is forever our son. He said it was such a sweet and emotional moment. He was grateful that he was able to be there to tell him in person and see his precious smile.

So what this means is that we have another 4 to 6 weeks of final paperwork and certifications to get his new birth certificate, US Visa, and passport. It’s not a sure thing until he walks off that plane, but it is very possible he’ll be home by Christmas.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and encouragement throughout this journey. Please keep them coming till he is finally home. Thanks to an angel attorney named Marco, to many in Guatemala who have worked so hard on our case, and to a family court judge who just granted us one of the best Christmas gifts ever.

(I just had to add a new song to the playlist in celebration of this news. After 27 months of waiting for many signatures, we finally got the only one that really matters, God’s miraculous “Signature of the Divine.” We have certainly seen His mighty hand throughout our adoption. Our victory song is by Need to Breathe and we’ve been singing it around here to the top of our lungs.)

Overwhelmed with Joy,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Gift of Long-Awaited Firsts

When we started our adoption almost 2 and ½ years ago, our social worker warned us that this adventure would seem like a ride on a roller coaster. I mentally replied with, “Oh hush. We have done roller coasters, the kind that make you wet your pants and cry for mama. This will be ride on a carousel.” Well, I threw up down the first hill and unfortunately this last bit of track is looking like a doozie.

Nothing about our adoption has been easy or normal or even good . . . except for a nine year old boy, with big brown eyes, currently no front teeth, and a heart of gold. Few can understand why we are still doing this 27 months, 1 homestudy and 2 homestudy updates, 2 fingerprintings, 3 dossiers, an intestinal parasite, 1 earthquake, 3 active volcanoes, 1 robbery (and this was in the US!), 17 lice treatments, 22 round trip plane tickets to Guatemala, and the contents of our bank account later. Well, we’ve had our moments of just wanting to give up but the two things that keep us going are our love for this child and the joy of each long-awaited first.

You see, as I’ve grown to love this little boy, I’ve had to grieve all that I’ve missed. I’ll never have baby pictures or home videos of when he was little. I’ll never watch his dimpled legs take their first steps or hear his first word spoken. I’ll never be able to turn back time to care for him when he was sick, comfort him when he was scared, celebrate lost birthdays and Christmases, or recover years of bedtime prayers and hugs. But what I will have is just as special. I’ll have firsts that few people will ever have the gift to experience.

I’ll have sweet arms wrapped around my shoulders and hear his very first “I love you, Mama” whispered in my ear.

I’ll have pics of a little boy who knows he won the lottery when he got Brad as his daddy.

I'll have proof that he realizes girls aren’t so bad . . .

when they are your sisters.

I’ll watch two boys play trains together . . .

and pretend to be superheroes . . .

and walk hand in hand like they've always been . . .


I’ll watch a child, who once looked through garbage for food,
eat until he is full . . .

and then top it off with ice cream with his family.

I’ll get to take him to an amusement park for the first time (see, I told you there was a carousel in this story) . . .

where he hugs and thanks me after each ride . . .

and he tells me at the end of the day that it was the best day of his life.

I’ll give him his first birthday party at nine years old . . .

and watch him blow out his first birthday candle (he was so fast that my camera only got the "after", but oh what a smile).

I’ll watch him swim in a pool for the first time . . .

and laugh with his siblings . . .

and be part of the Williams family team.

I’ll get to read to him for the first time (he was very patient with my Spanish).

I’ll get to see his first dance in ocean waves (he’ll have to wait till he gets to the states to see white sand).

I'll watch him grow into a child who knows he's loved and cherished, . . .

not a guest, but a true member of our family.

I’ll get to tuck a little boy in bed for the first time and hear him thank God in his prayers for his new family. Then I’ll watch him sleep and say my own prayer thanking God for the gift of this special child.

I’ll get a phone call from him that says, “I just needed to hear my mama’s voice before I go to sleep.” And I’ll get a letter that reads, “I love you lots. I love you more than lots. I love you with all my heart and all of me. I can‘t wait to come home to the USA.”

And some day I’ll get to tell him that he is forever ours. Some day I’ll hold his little hand when we walk off an airplane and take his picture as we stand in customs with an American flag as the background of his sweet face. I’ll see a crowd of family and friends who have prayed 2 and ½ years for him holding “Welcome Home” signs. And I’ll see him hug his sisters and brother and daddy. (Well, I probably won't really see any of it because I'll be crying big ugly tears of joy.)

And then the world will open to a whole new list of firsts.

With Hope,

(The above post is shared through a "blog carnival" for a fabulous adoption website “Grown In My Heart.” This month’s topic is favorite adoption photos. Take a peek at the other precious faces of adoption.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 23:2/"You're Beautiful"

It’s Sunday dinner again. (For those of you who didn’t dine with us last week, the idea behind this very low cal buffet is explained in last Sunday’s post.) I do need to warn you--on busy weekends dinner may become a midnight snack (but I will try to post some time on the Lord’s day).

This week’s verse is:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.

Psalm 23:2

The key to getting the most nourishment out of this verse, is taking a peek at the first few words of the next one. “He restores my soul.” I just love the word “restoration” and the images that it brings. If our Shepherd is bringing us to green pastures and still waters for restoration, then I’m guessing we’ve spent some time in barren deserts and turbulent waters. And the funny thing is, we can’t truly understand the peace and refreshment that comes from these pastures and calm waters if we haven’t endured life’s deserts and storms.

Until we’ve known profound hunger, we can’t understand the blessing of being full. Until we’ve known profound need, we can’t appreciate the gift of having plenty. Until we’ve known profound sickness, we can’t rejoice in the gift of being well. Until we’ve experienced profound sorrow, we can’t understand overwhelming joy. Until we’ve grieved at the foot of the cross, we can’t celebrate at the empty tomb!

And this, my friends, is the blessing that is brokenness.

Once you have felt so broken that you think you will never heal, then are completely restored through God’s goodness and mercy, that is when you will lie down in green pastures and splash cool spring water on your face and squeal, “God, YOU ARE SO GOOD TO ME!”

You will then see God’s face in every sunset, hear His voice in the ocean waves crashing on the shore, feel His breath with each breeze, and see His majesty in the stars.

So today’s dessert is a song called, “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham. It’s all about seeing God’s beauty in everything. I stumbled upon his music doing an i-Tunes scavenger hunt for something new to listen to and all his songs are just as powerful. I cried my make-up off the first time I heard this and haven’t tired of it yet. (My daughter Ava danced to it at her school and church talent shows--pic below. By then, I knew to go with waterproof mascara.)

Below is a video some talented person put together for the song. There’s another one on You Tube with the lyrics that is also very good. (My kiddos voted on posting this one--so it won.) Remember to pause the playlist at the bottom so you won’t hear both at the same time.

Thanks for joining us for dinner. (Don’t worry about the dishes.) May you see His face everywhere you go. Have a blessed week.

Still Saying Grace,