Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Dinner: James 5:16/Philippians 4:6--"Knees to the Earth"

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Nothing wrong. Just wonderfully busy. Sometimes I feel like the only civilian mom in a world of Supermoms. Perhaps I've got a cape hidden somewhere under a pile of laundry. If I find it, I promise I'll post something each day.

If I only have time once a week to post (although plan to I do more . . . really), I want it to be on Sunday. It motivates me to meditate on a different verse for the week and share about another favorite song. This week I've chosen two very well-known gems.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16, KJV

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Philippians 4:6, NIV

I must confess that years ago I had times in my life that I've spoken the words, "I'm praying for you" then never actually did. Part of it was the thought that if God is in control of all things and knows all things, then it seems unnecessary for me to ask God to care for a situation that He is already working on. I also thought that prayer was kind of like a vote in a Presidential election--I already know so many others who are praying so what is my little prayer going to do to change things.

But at other times in my life, I've seen the power of prayer firsthand. I've seen jaw-dropping answers in impossible situations. I've watched faith grow and hearts soften. I've felt perfect peace in the midst of unyeilding pain. I've prayed for biggies like healing for a loved one with cancer. And I've prayed for little things like needing wisdom to parent my child that day.

Prayer delights our Creator. Prayer builds our faith. Prayer glorifies God. Prayer shows our surrender to His authority. Prayer brings perfect peace.

Few times in my life have a prayed more than during our adoption. When I felt worried, I'd meet God on my knees and after my prayer time would always feel such calm that it was going to be okay.

I often felt that it was a spiritual tug of war to get Daniel home. I think perhaps we'd still be waiting if we had not had so many interceding on our behalf. I even had a dear lady from the Guatemalan government write the following comment on my blog.

"Hello Kathie, I'm from Guatemala City and I work in the place where your file was finally release last Friday to get your baby boy's birth certificate. Your husband gave me your blog address so I can catch up on this process. You just have no idea how much it makes me happy to know that Daniel and your husband will be home for Christmas Eve. It makes me realize how wonderful it’s God’s plan for our lives, it definitely has a special one for Daniel’s life… to find a beautiful and loving family like yours. As I’m sure your husband told you, your file wasn’t gonna be ready until this week, but he told me your story and God made the rest, the thing is that your file got out so fast that I wanted to contact you and write about this so the people who reads your blog knew that their prayers definitely worked!... Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you and your family. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!!!
Kind Regards,

And perhaps the sweetest prayers uttered on our behalf were from children. From the kids in our daughter's classes to children of our friends, many people wrote that they were praying as a family. You'll never know how much that meant to us. Here's something one of my dear friends wrote about her daughter when we found out Daniel was coming home.

"While putting her to bed tonight she had this to say 'Mommy, Daniel is coming home. I have prayed for him to come home for a long time. God has answered my prayer.' She said all this with a huge smile. So cool when a 7 year old figures out that God does listen and can answer prayers."

And then there were the words of a little boy who, after nine years, got to spend his first Christmas with a family:

"I made it home for Christmas because God answered our prayers."

God convicted me a year ago that I wasn't praying "fervently." Apparently the whispers in my Father's ear weren't what He wanted from me. I think my lack of zeal was because I was tired. I know there's not an expiration date on prayers, but I had kind of hit a wall with our adoption. But then I began to ponder what "fervently" means. It changed the way I go to God. Now when I tell someone I'm going to pray for them, I mean it. And these prayers will be spoken on my knees, crying out to the Lord. I've also learned the importance of fasting. (And that I need to post caution tape and warning signs when I do because of blood sugar issues.) And I've learned how beautiful it is to pray as a family.

There are many burdens on my heart today. Burdens for two dear people who just found out they have cancer. Burdened for 147 million orphans. Burdened for a country recovering from an earthquake. Oh, my list is long. But I will place my burdens--great and small--at the foot of the cross.

This week's song is "Knees to the Earth" by Watermark. It's one of my favorites and is a great one to have playing when you go to the Lord in prayer. (And my favorite "knees to the earth" story is here if you haven't yet read about my prayer warrior grandmother.)

If you have a request you'd like me to pray for, post in the comments below or e-mail to And thanks for the gift of your prayers for our family.

Have a Blessed Week,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tips on Tuesday--Fun Family Ideas

Thanks to those of you for taking the time to send in your fabulous ideas for having fun as a family! (I thought it was interesting how many of these ideas include food.) Last week I shared our idea about "pajama rides." Here's what some other fun families are doing.

Camping In
"We love to camp out but sometimes it's too cold so we pitch our tents inside our house and 'camp in.'" Susan from Wisconsin

Rainbows in the Snow
"Where we live we have snow so I save dish detergent bottles. When we get a lot of snow with big piles I fill the detergent bottles with different colored water, using food coloring. The kids take them outside and decorate the big piles of snow. They love it!!!" (She added that she liked the pajama ride idea and a good pillow fight is always fun, too.)
Kathie from New York, you can visit her blog at On My Front Porch Looking In

Movie/Game Night
"I'm sure many people already do this, but Friday night is our movie night. Each week a different member of the family gets to pick the movie and we snuggle up with popcorn. Sometimes we'll have game night and play our favorite game." Amanda

Sundaes on Sunday
"During the summer months we have an ice cream sundae buffet each Sunday with a bunch of flavors and all kinds of toppings. We often have friends over to partake in our tradition with us." Allison from Florida

Cheers for the Chef
Okay, I stole this idea from my bloggy friend Linny. She shared one of her fun ideas in a post a few months ago (click here if you want the whole story and to see pics).
"Many, many, many years ago I started a rowdy little tradition to make dinner time a tad more memorable. =) Here's how it works.....When dinner is yummy my family claps to show that they appreciate the effort put into making it...and that they really like it. It is kind of a thank you for making such a delicious meal.

And what do I do? I decided that it would be a bit more fun to just stand and curtsey while they clap. Only I am not the type to just stand and curtsey on the floor. That would be so predictable. Boring. Yawnish. So instead.......I climb up onto my chair and curtsey." (She goes on to share that if the meal is really great and the applause continues, she stands on the table.) Linny from Colorado, visit her blog at A Place Called Simplicity

Here are a few more from our home.

Official Whatever Day
The greeting card industry always seems to keep making up more holidays for me to miss and then feel really bad about neglecting the grandparents, boss, pets, etc. Well, we often make up our own holidays (minus the guilt). It might be something like "National Mismatched Socks Day" when we wear socks that don't match (well, that's pretty much every day at our house). Think of something fun, then write it on the calendar and celebrate it as an official day. You could have a "Dr. Suess Day" and make green eggs and ham for breakfast and talk in rhyme (or do this with any favorite book, movie, or TV show). You could have a "National Hug Day" and say that you must hug a family member every time you enter or exit a room. Or perhaps a "Love Note Day" where all family members hide notes to each other under pillows, in shoes, under dinner plates, etc.

Sick Days
We haven't done this one in a while, but I know we'll have to bring it out of retirement now that Daniel is home. Sometimes you just need a "sick day" when you're feeling just fine. I get Popsicle sticks and write on them in Sharpie to make them into thermometers. The temp on one might read "127 degrees, diagnosis exhaustion." Another might say, "32 degrees, suffering from the grumpies." This is something fun to do on a rainy day or after a week that has been stressful. It's a day to stay in your pjs, baby eachother, eat "comfort" foods, etc. Hopefully by the end of the day everyone's mental health will be much better.

Scavenger/Treasure Hunts
We sometimes hide clues around the house or yard that lead to a treasure. It might be something small like a sweet treat, or tickets to the circus or a fun place to visit, or the announcement of a surprise trip.

You're Special Awards
Occasionally we have our own awards ceremonies and acknowledge things like "Best Manners Award," "Cleanest Room Award," "Sweet Sibling Award." This could be a weekly, monthly, or even annual thing. You could just print out a certificate (and perhaps include a scripture at the bottom that reflects the award) or go as far as ordering ribbons or trophies, for example at the end of a homeschooling year. (There are many places online where you can get a personalized trophy for less than $10.) It could be for acknowledging something as small as one child putting a sibling before themselves in a situation or big like finally mastering something that has been difficult for them like learning to read or ride a bike.

Dinner Around the World
Like most of you, we enjoy foods from all over the world. But when we eat these foods, we like to set a table that makes us feel like we've taken a trip around the world. When we eat Mexican/Guatemalan cuisine, we use our placemats and tableware from Guatemala. When we eat Chinese, we bring out our Asian lanterns and chopsticks. When we have Italian, we have a red checked tablecloth and candlelight and play music from "Lady and the Tramp." (Authentic music adds a lot to the ambiance of these Around the World meals.)

Okay, I hope these get you inspired to do some fun things with your family!

For our next topic, I'm giving you guys two weeks to send in your ideas. The topic is in honor of Valentine's Day. I want your ideas on things you do to make your spouse/children feel loved and cherished. These could be every day types of things or a Valentine's/birthday tradition, etc. Send your suggestions to by February 7th. Your answers will be posted Tuesday, February 9. Each response will be entered into a drawing for a prize. I hope to hear from many of you!

Happy Tuesday,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday's Visit to a Place of Denial

Well, it's Monday. And you know what that means. Complete denial. (This is a fun thing started by MckMama at where we admit things we certainly would never do. Click the bloggy button below to read other mom's "Not Me" contributions.)

I did NOT wake up this morning to mumble expletives that the dryer took the wonder out of my Wonder Bra.

I did NOT find an oozing puddle of milk on my sofa confirming that there's no such thing as a spillproof sippy cup.

I did NOT find my five year old son webbing his face like Spiderman with a Sharpie.

I did NOT get off the phone with the pediatrician's office after a lengthy phone call on how to collect my nine year old son's stool sample.

I did NOT look at the clothing in my closet and worry that Stacy and Clinton from "What Not to Wear" might stop by.

I did NOT use the last dryer sheet and realize that I did 80 loads of laundry in the months of December and January.

I did NOT watch our cat sleep next the heating vent without a care in the world and wish I could be her for a day.

I did NOT make my husband swallow his spoon at breakfast by uttering the words "for our next adoption. . . ."

I did NOT get impaled in my ear with a light saber and calmly interject the following to a young Jedi, "If you do that again, the force will be with your behind."

I did NOT get asked by my 7th grade daughter for ideas for her science fair project and think "check the fridge."

But I DID snuggle up with my kiddos and our newest treasure of books from the library and think "I'm the luckiest mom on earth."

Don't forget that our first "Tips on Tuesday" is tomorrow. I'm compiling everyone's ideas for family fun. (For more information, check out last week's post.) E-mail your ideas to

Happy Monday,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 23:6--"Born Again"

Sorry I haven't served a "Sunday Dinner" in a while. (The idea behind Sunday Dinner is explained here.) I wasn't able to post songs when I was living in Guatemala and then the weeks following were all about getting Daniel home and then getting him settled at home. But now that life is returning to normal (well, as close to normal as we'll ever get), I plan to get back to serving a Scripture and a new song on a regular basis.

I had just about made it through the 23rd Psalm when I left off and there is only one verse left to go. It is perhaps the verse that has the most meaning to me.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6

As I've shared in past posts here and here, at the darkest time in my life it occurred to me that the 23rd Psalm doesn't end in the valley of death . . . it ends with goodness and mercy shall follow. And it seems that with the phrasing "all the days of my life" and "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever", this goodness and mercy would not only be a promise for eternity but for our days on earth as well.

My life is a testimony of this goodness and mercy. Those of you walking through a valley right now may be wondering what exactly goodness and mercy are. Well, they will be different for each person. Just like you wouldn't give your children the same gift at Christmas, God gives us all different gifts of goodness and mercy. But one blessing of brokenness is that you will be able to understand and appreciate these gifts like never before.

It is such a blessing watching Daniel appreciate the goodness and mercy in his life. I remember when we were living in Guatemala we would stay up some nights talking with our heads on our pillows facing each other. One of the questions he asked a lot was, "What is our home like?" I'd try to describe it and I had even shown him some pictures, but until he actually walked through the doors of HIS home with HIS family he could not fully understand the goodness and mercy of being there.

Now our home is by no means heaven, but in his eyes much of it is heavenly. It's a place that's safe. It's a place that he belongs. It's a place where his needs are met. It's a place that he can feel free to be himself. It's a place where he is loved.

The only other time I've been with someone who was anticipating going home like that was in my mother's last days before she died. I'd snuggle next to her in her bed--just like with Daniel, pillow-to-pillow and face-to-face. And we would talk about what heaven must be like.

The hospice nurse told me that she had seen many patients' last moments. She said often they would seem to see Jesus and loved ones who were already in heaven--sometimes even calling out people's names. She said one patient squealed, "Uncle Joe, I didn't expect to see you here!"

In my mother's last days she lost the ability to speak. She would communicate by blinking when I'd ask if she needed more morphine for the pain or ice chips for her drying mouth. I was bummed because I so badly wanted her to spill the beans on her first glimpses of heaven and the gathering of loved ones welcoming her. But she really didn't need words to share her first glimpse of her heavenly home. After her spirit left her body, the expression of pain embossed over her face was replaced with a beautiful expression of joy and peace. It was truly remarkable. There she was without control over her facial muscles just smiling away!

So I've been given the gift of watching a newly adopted child savor life's goodness and mercy and witnessed my mom meeting her Savior in the fullness of goodness and mercy. I think I have had the best seat in the house as far as Psalm 23:6 is concerned.

Choosing a dessert of song for this extravagant meal of scripture is a tough one, but I've decided to add the beautiful song "Born Again" by Third Day. Although it is talking about the overwhelming feelings when one first becomes a child of God, I think it also encompasses those feelings of joy after brokenness.

May goodness and mercy abound in your life.

Gratefully His,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Strong Wills and Broken Spirits

We had a great day of catching up on life followed by a fun family game night at our church. We got to see a bit of Daniel's competitive side (I didn't know Bingo could get so intense). He won twice although there were so many prizes odds were good. It was sweet that at the end of the night he shared some of his loot with Brady who had not been as lucky.

I'm about to call it a day but wanted to quickly share some thoughts that I have found helpful.
There are so many great books on marriage and parenting that I wish I could just download them into my brain so their information and wisdom would be in my mental file at all times. Two of my favorite parenting books are "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp and "Age of Opportunity" by Paul David Tripp (they are brothers). I have heard that "Instruments in the Master's Hand" also by Paul David Tripp is excellent and plan to read/mentally download this one next.

I got the opportunity to hear Paul Tripp the other night at a conference. I've heard him speak before and every time he makes me question how I parent. Perhaps the most profound thing he said the other night: "It's not the sins and struggles of your child that are in the way of your parenting. It's your own." There have been times that I've thought, "If only my children weren't sinners, they would be so easy to parent." But perhaps the thought should be, "If only I wasn't a sinner, it would be so much easier to be a parent."

We are only one month into parenting Daniel, but I'm already seeing that it can be a bit tricky at times parenting a mix of children we've had since birth and one that we were blessed with later in childhood. We try to be consistent with our expectations and standards for all our children, yet we need to be understanding of the root of Daniel's behavior and may need to handle a situation differently than we would have with our other children. But in doing so, we are at risk of entering a "double-standard" territory. So far it hasn't been a problem, but I can see that there's potential for it to be.

However I think perhaps one of the best things for Daniel is watching how we discipline his siblings. It has been good for him to see that he shouldn't be afraid of correction--that we are not going to abuse him physically or verbally--but there are consequences to inappropriate behavior and actions. I think he also sees that our love is unconditional and that our correction is an outpouring of that love.

I stumbled upon a blog I had never read . Her insight was so wise that I felt I needed to share it. If you are an adoptive parent, I encourage you to take the time to read Laura Mouro's thoughts under the post "Loving Adopted Children" . (Warning: I'm going to share the golden nugget in the next paragraph, so if you plan to read Laura's post, do so first so I don't spoil her epiphany.)

Her light bulb moment came while she was listening to a series called "Loving Little Ones" by Doug Wilson. He was sharing that when we discipline our children, we need to break their will without breaking their spirit. Then it occurred to her that her adopted daughter's spirit was already broken, but her will had been left unchecked for many years. Thus, her challenge is to break her daughter's will AND heal her broken spirit.

So far Daniel's will doesn't seem to be much stronger than my other three, but I can tell that his spirit is certainly broken. I'm grateful to Laura for sharing because it helps me understand my job description as Daniel's mom.

I'll leave you with one more quote from Paul Tripp's conference: "God will never call you to a task without enabling you to do it." And as I think of the task ahead, all I can say is "Amen".

With Love,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Putting Him Back Together: Lessons from the Toy Box

Okay. I know there are some of you out there who have also adopted older children and you are reading my blah, blah, blah about how wonderful things are with Daniel. You are either thinking:

1) Liar, liar, pants on fire.

2) Hee, hee. She's going through their "honeymoon" period and in a few months the real challenges will begin.

3) Not fair. We are doing hard time with our adopted child and they are already out on good behavior.

Well, first, I'm not lying. Things are going well. But . . . that doesn't mean that every moment has been easy. I had many times in Guatemala and have had some episodes here that have made me wonder if I was adequately trained for this job.

I've talked about our "newborn" days with Daniel and some days I reflect back on my newborn days with my others. I remember when we had our first child. We were just overjoyed with Olivia--our miracle baby after years of prayer. But although she was greatly wanted and loved, those first weeks were SO much harder than I had ever imagined.

I had expected sweet moments holding my cooing daughter and had a little calendar to record every precious minute of her first year. So I was not prepared to spend this blissful time with an icepack on my postpartum nether regions. I didn't know my daughter would break her collar bone during delivery and would scream non-stop the first 6 weeks of her life. And no one mentioned that there was an infection called mastitis that would make me want to amputate certain body parts. (If you are a female reader who has breastfed, you know what I'm talking about. If you are a male reader, don't Google mastitis.)

I was prepared with feeding and sleep schedules, armed with books from Dr. Denmark to Dr. Spock, but these things don't matter when you are in survival mode. I would do anything to get her to sleep, anything to keep her from crying, anything to have 5 minutes that resembled my old life of being a person who was able shower on a regular basis. Those first weeks I did not write anything on that cute little calendar because it would have been too depressing: "Screamed like she was starving. Fed her and she spit it all up. I smell like poop and baby wipes. Brad will be home from work in five hours, 37 minutes, and 12 seconds. I hope to brush my teeth."

I began to think, why didn't anyone tell me how hard this is? Then I began to wonder if perhaps it wasn't this hard for everyone else. Perhaps I'm the only mom who wants to run away from home. Perhaps I'm the only mom who feels like a failure. Later it was a relief when friends shared how hard those newborn days were for them, too. But why were we too ashamed to admit it then? (Hmmm. We were probably just too tired.)

That is why it's good to share our struggles--from toddler tantrums to teen years. And with our adopted children it's just as important to talk about everything from attachment issues to healing from trauma. I want to be transparent on my blog because I so greatly appreciate it when others do. Yet, I also want to respect the privacy of Daniel and the rest of my family who so graciously allow me to post stories and pics from our lives. I'll share when I don't think it breaches that parent/child confidentiality agreement and also share wise thoughts from others on this journey (and will actually pass along some fabulous adoption insight tomorrow).

Our first week home after Christmas, Daniel came to me with thousands of little Lego pieces wanting my help putting his Star Wars set together. This was my first adventure with small Legos. My girls were never interested in them and Brady had always been within choking hazard age. But Daniel really wanted this Jedi fort thingy for Christmas. (Sorry, I can't remember the name. I blacked out at Toys R Us when I saw how expensive a box of plastic can be.)

Anyway, Legos are great because they package them in little bags marked A, B, C, with instruction booklets marked A, B, C. Our problem was that Daniel in his excitement opened all the bags and dumped the pieces together. Then he promptly lost the instructions. Ugh! All we had was the box with the picture--inspiring us . . . taunting us.

He came to me with those big eyes and a baggie full of little parts and said, "Can you please help me put this together?" Well, after two and a half years of adoption, six weeks of Brad and I switching off living in Guatemala, one week of Christmas followed by a week at Disney World, I had so much to catch up on that I did not have time build a headquarters for Darth Vader. Yet, I also knew that I didn't have time NOT to. After a lifetime without a mom, he needed to see that I would stop everything when he needed my help.

We cleared the breakfast dishes and organized the plastic treasure on the table according to color. And we worked on it all day. We found some of the instructions in the trash and made the rest up as we went along. The whole thing reminded me of Daniel.

He is an amazing child and I can already see glimpses of the finished product that God has planned for his life. But right now he is broken in pieces. No one gave me the instructions. I'm guessing there are some parts missing. Sometimes I don't feel I have the time or energy needed to put him together. Every day I know that I must do all I can to try.

There will be times that I will need others help and advice. And there will be times that I need to realize that there is only one set like my Daniel. Other people's instructions may not work with him because he is put together differently. And, thus, my advice or instruction may not help another parent putting their child together because their son or daughter is also a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Still, we can offer one another help and support and cheer each other on as we see great progress in putting these precious children back together. And this pic taken at the end of the day shows a face that is one step closer to being whole.

Last summer I had a dear friend ask for advice as she was expecting her first child. Part of me thought I should warn her how hard it might be in those first weeks, but honestly all I could remember was the wonderful stuff. Like holding Olivia in my arms for the first time and bringing her home from the hospital. The sweet baby smell, those sweet little sighs, those smiles and giggles in her sleep where I figured she was remembering what it was like in heaven.

And as I sit down to write about our time with Daniel, sometimes I wonder if I should share about the hard stuff. (I may not have an icepack on my groin but I sometimes have a heating pad on my head.) But truly all I remember from the day was his laughter with his siblings, his bear hug at bedtime, and "I love you, Mama" whispered in my ear. And that's worth more than all the Legos in the world!

Missing a Few Pieces,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tips on Tuesday

I know. It's shocking. I'm posting two days in a row AND before midnight.

I've got enough of you dear people who stop by on a regular basis to start doing some fun things. Often the best part of my blog has been your fabulous comments. I'm hoping you'll continue to share.

On Tuesdays I'm going to post a topic and I want you to share your ideas and advice. This is how it will work. I'll suggest a topic and you'll have till the following Monday to e-mail your ideas at . I'll compile your answers and post them the following Tuesday. Include your first name, the state you are from (if you are a reader who is not in the US, include your country), and if you have a blog/website feel free to include that as well.

Okay, here's the first topic. I want tips on your fun family ideas. Something unique that you do to make memories. Here's an example. I read this idea in "Family Fun" magazine years ago and it's one of the favorite things my kids like to do. We call them "pajama rides."

Here's how it works. We ask the kids to get ready for bed. When they've finished putting on their pjs and brushing their teeth, Brad and I will say, "Well guys, you know what time it is." They think we're going to say bedtime, but then we squeal "pajama ride!!!" Then everyone hops in the family vehicle to go on a quick adventure. The outing is dependent on what you have nearby and what time of year it is. When it's Christmastime, we drive around and look at lights. When it's around the 4th of July or New Year's, we hunt down fireworks when we hear them nearby (often folks either try them out before the holiday or use up the remaining fireworks in the days following the holiday). We have a Krispy Kreme and a Steak & Shake near us, so sometimes we'll get a sweet treat. A few times after we've returned home (during the warmer months), we'll eat our yummy on a blanket in our yard under the stars. Anyway, it's always fun because it wasn't expected and is an inexpensive and easy way to do something fun as a family.

So this week, e-mail your tips to and I'll post your ideas for family fun on Tuesday, January 26. I can't wait to hear your ideas and try them out!

On another note, I know the situation in Haiti weighs heavy on your hearts, as it does on mine. I just read an encouraging update on a great adoption website . The article "Haitian Orphans Land in US" was posted this afternoon. They will continue to update on the needs of orphaned children in Haiti.

God Bless,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Let Freedom Ring!

I had a great day with all my kiddos at home due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I think my girls feel a bit left out when they hear of the fun the boys have while they are at school so we took full advantage of this time with everyone home. It's neat to hear four kids of varied ages and both genders playing together. (The pic above was from Saturday night as we celebrated some birthdays at our house with extended family. The pic below was today at the playground.)

Like probably many of you, when I think about Martin Luther King, Jr., I think about his "I Have a Dream" speech. I remember how moved I was the first time I heard it (I was probably about 8 or 9). It wasn't just the poetry of what he said, but the passion in which he said it. Although I can't possibly understand the pain from the past and hope for the future that inspired his words, his eloquence helps me understand how far we've come in recognizing that all men are created equal.

My favorite line is: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Now that I have a child perfectly pigmented with a dash of cocoa (and would love to have a rainbow of sweet faces around my dinner table one day), I am even more grateful that this dream is in many ways a reality.

Our family is fortunate to live in a culturally diverse community. And our church and school have many families with adopted children from all over the world. So having a son who tans better than the rest of his family is not a big deal. But I'm starting to realize that sometimes the world is not color blind.

Nothing offensive has been said, but we do get stares on occasion when people see our family and do a mental "one of these things is not like the other." (It actually seemed to be more of an issue when we were living in Guatemala.) I really don't think it has anything to do with race, it's just that people are curious and want to know what the story is. The issue is not the color of my skin or his, just that ours don't match. If only I looked like Eva Longoria, life would be easier. (In many ways.) Fortunately Daniel seems oblivious that mama is "melanin challenged."

But I am overly sensitive to curious looks and am vigilant in preventing ignorant comments. We were at the grocery store the other day and got a few stares. (Although I'm sure we were a sight to behold with two boys in a buggy shaped like a race car with full sound effects being added by the under-aged drivers.) When we'd get a lingering look, I'd say something in a loud voice along the lines of, "Daniel, you pick out the bananas and YOUR BROTHER can pick out the grapes." Or, "Brady, ask YOUR BROTHER if he would like a cookie."

We had made it to the check out without incident. And then . . . the lady at the register said, "Oh, this must be a playdate because obviously. . . ." I cut her off like a body part with gangrene and gave her a look that said, "If you finish that sentence, I will scan my Kroger Plus card across your forehead and take my business to Publix where shopping is a pleasure." Then I simply responded with, "It's better than a playdate. It's two brothers who have fun wherever they go." I was grateful that Daniel completely missed the exchange as he and HIS BROTHER were giggling and shooting eachother with bananas.

I have many dreams for my children--but my list of dreams for Daniel is a bit longer. I want him to know he is loved as much as his siblings. I want him to forget the years of abuse and abandonment and remember only the years that he was loved and cherished. I want this special boy to enjoy "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to its fullest.

And as I watched him today in the playroom and at the playground, his face seemed to announce in MLK, Jr. style, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last."

Let Freedom Ring!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Forgive me for not having much time this week to blog. I'm trying to catch up on life after two and a half years of adoption mess and trying to catch up on nine years missed being Daniel's mom. (NOTE: Although I'm posting this close to midnight, I actually wrote this one this afternoon at an inflatable play place.)

The boys earn Monkey Joe’s points during the week for doing their schoolwork and household chores. When they reach their goal, their reward is an afternoon of jumping. (And my reward is an afternoon to sit with my laptop between squeals of “mom take my picture.”) It’s been a great way for the boys to get all that energy out on these cold days.

I guess the word that sums me up this week is “overwhelmed.” It’s not always bad to be overwhelmed. I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude that I finally have my whole family together under one roof. It’s such a relief to have the paperwork, the traveling, and the tearful good-byes behind us and so much wonderful ahead of us.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how well Daniel is doing. I had prepared myself for early adoption boot camp, and so far it’s been more like summer camp. We have the occasional “poison ivy”(mild irritation followed by a generous application of ointment), but otherwise it’s been singing around the campfire kinds of fun.

I must confess I have days that I’m overwhelmed with the pile of laundry or dishes or bills. Or the number of times four children have yelled “mom." Or that I was too busy to sit down yet did not scratch one item off my to-do list. But lately I’ve felt overwhelmed over other things. Primarily that there are still approximately 147 million orphans in the world.

Since Daniel's homecoming, I've become consumed by the thought that there are other children just as precious who are still waiting for a family. And with the earthquake this week in Haiti, my heart breaks for a nation who has gone from extreme poverty to extreme devastation. For parents who have lost children and children who are now orphans. For those in the process of adopting children from Haiti who now must wait for news about their child and know that if he or she is still alive, this tragedy will only delay their child's homecoming by months or years.

And that's when "overwhelmed" really takes hold. When the problem seems so big that I feel too small to make a difference. To stand on the sidelines with feet of concrete watching it all happen and not know what to do.

I remember a time that I would see a World Vision commercial and change the channel as quickly as my fingers could grab the remote. I wanted to shout at the TV, "We already sponsor children, we already support ministries. We've done our part. Now leave us alone so we can pretend this doesn't exist!"

But I can't do that anymore. The past few years have redefined what "doing my part" really is. I've held children that could have been in those commercials. I have one that I tuck in bed every night. It is overwhelming.

I guess that's why it seems strange to sit in a place where children play without a care in the world while a TV hangs from the ceiling reporting of the devastation in Haiti. It's the same network that just days ago had nothing better to talk about than Kate Gosselin's new hairdo and the premiere of "American Idol". Why does the earth have to tremble to get our attention that there is great need?

So here I am with a heavy heart wondering what I can do. Mother Teresa once said, "We can do no great things. Only small things with great love." I need to remember that we have a Savior who carried not only our sin, but our burdens and our sorrows. I am only to be the servant in the image of His great love. And there is overwhelming freedom to know we have a God much bigger than earthquakes, famine, poverty, and disease.

I look at Daniel and his face right now is dripping with sweat from hours of jumping in inflatable heaven. He’s making sure his brother is okay after taking a tumble down the slide. He’s calling, “Mama, watch this” and his heart rejoices when I belt out a “whoooo hoooooo.” He’s gone from being a child who needed a sponsor to a child who has a family.

And so for a moment I forget about the overwhelming brokenness of the world we live in and thank God for the gift of His overwhelming grace.

Humbly His,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Savoring Each Moment

You haven't lived till you've taken a newly adopted child who loves books to the library for the first time.

I'm homeschooling Daniel and Brady for the rest of this academic year. Today was "library day" and I took the boys to get their own library cards and check out some books. While their selections were lacking in literary merit, they made up for it in sheer weight. The boys checked out 100 pounds of massive reading material about Star Wars, how cars work, outer space, and Batman.

Daniel was absolutely giddy when I told him he could pick out anything he wanted. I instructed the boys that they could each get 5 books and 1 movie (that's all I can keep up with at my house). It was like setting hungry kids free in a strawberry patch. The boys would pull a book right off the shelf, plop down on the floor, and start reading it right there. Daniel was certainly in Dewey Decimal heaven running from the aisle with kids Spanish books, then picture books, to early readers, and then the DVD section.

When we piled our books on the counter to check out, Daniel looked a bit nervous. Apparently I hadn't done a good job explaining the concept of the library because he whispered, "Thank you for the books. I know it cost much money." Then I turned to him and said, "It's free. It doesn't cost anything. We get to keep these books for two weeks, then we bring them back and we can get more." He just stood there with his jaw wide open in disbelief then replied, "Can we come back tomorrow?"

I'm absolutely drinking in every sweet moment with my four kids, especially Daniel because he's the "newborn" in our family. (And it's wonderful that my "newborn" sleeps through the night and is potty trained.) He does the cutest things just because so much is new to him. I know he will soon outgrow many of these things just like a young child eventually learns the correct pronunciation of words. I certainly don't want my children to grow to be adults saying things like "pasghetti," still I let out a sad sigh when "spaghetti" is uttered correctly for the first time.

Daniel just delights in everything. It's such fun to watch him get into a warm bath full of bubbles, or eat apple pie for the first time, meet a dog wearing clothing, or see a package under the Christmas tree with his name on it. It's fun hearing him joke around with his new siblings--he's so funny and he loves to make us all laugh. It's precious to watch him care for his new little brother as if he was created for this role.

I love it when I know he's eavesdropping on my phone conversation, and I'm bragging to a friend how special he is, and catch him out of the corner of my eye just beaming. It's cute that he loves to watch me cook, often stands very close to take it all in, and is always so sweet to tell me how much he enjoyed the meal. And his smile . . . it has a radiance that announces "I'm loved . . . A LOT!"

Last week we got in the car to pick up Olivia and Ava from school. I looked back to see him laughing and asked what had him so tickled. He exclaimed, "I didn't know you could drive!!!" (When I was living in Guatemala I had always had a driver and over the holidays Brad always drove.) Well, he will soon figure out that Mom drives a lot.

But just like having a real newborn, this is a time of getting to know each other. I'm learning his likes and dislikes . . . if his cries are from fear or frustration. I'm learning how to meet his needs and he is learning to trust that I will. And I'm learning that love for an adoptive child is just as strong as that of a biological one.

One of my favorite "newborn" memories of Daniel was when we were all living in Guatemala in June. I had bought him a bunch of new clothes because for the first time in his life he wouldn't have to share them with the 27 boys in his dorm. I called it his "6x layette." I washed everything and placed the items in some drawers in the house we rented. When I showed him his treasure chest of shirts and shorts and Spiderman underwear, he was overjoyed.

But then he did something I wasn't expecting. He pulled an item out, held it to his face, and took a deep breath. It took me a minute but I finally realized that he loved the smell of his clothes. I'm guessing living in an orphanage, his clothing had never smelled like an "orchard breeze." For a few days when he'd get clothing out of his drawers, he'd hold up his hand as if directing traffic to stop and say "moment." Then he'd breathe in the aroma of his new clothes washed with love. Too precious.

He doesn't do it anymore. I guess it's one of those newborn things he's outgrown. But it's recorded in his list of firsts and written on my heart.

Our New Year's was so busy that I never got around to making resolutions. Perhaps the only one that seems to be important right now is to savor each "moment." And so today, I took a deep breath and smelled the sweet fragrance God has poured over our lives.

With Joy,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Remembering the Past and Rejoicing in the Present

January 9th is usually a difficult day for me. On this day six years ago I was at such a place of brokenness that I honestly thought I'd never be the same. But for the first time since that day, the 9th came and went without tears. Perhaps it's because we've had such a precious week followed by a special Saturday. (I spent the day getting my girls ready for a sweet daddy/daughter dance and spent the evening with my boys playing games and reading books by the fire.) Perhaps it's because I'm living proof that God can heal all wounds. Perhaps it's because God's goodness and mercy abound in my life.

In honor of two special blessings in my life--one who had a birthday today and another who celebrated his birthday last week, I decided to dust off another Christmas letter from the past. (I laughed when I reread it because even back then I was using Disney World analogies. I promise to lay off the Mickey Mouse references for a while.)

I shared bits and pieces of this story when I first started my blog. (You can find it at "From Paper Rain Clouds to Glorious Rainbows.") But this letter will fill in a lot of details of our lives that I haven't had the chance to share.

You may need some tissue to get through it, but I promise it has a happy ending that only God could have written.

So Grateful for Every Gift from God,

Dear Family and Friends,

The most frequently asked question of our December 2004 was “Where’s the Williams’ Christmas letter?” (With “Are you STILL pregnant?” being a close second.) Well, we needed the last minutes of 2004 to play out before we sent our annual update.

As you’ve probably experienced in your own lives, some years are so predictable you could almost write the Christmas letter the previous January. And other years feel like a rollercoaster ride with its highs and lows, twists and turns--leaving you in suspense as the journey unfolds.

If life were a trip to Disney World, then we’ve spent the past year riding Space Mountain. You know, the ride where you travel in an aluminum can in utter darkness as every few seconds you plunge to you death with nothing but a “safety bar” keeping you from impending doom.

To many of you this may sound like a lot of fun, but I’m an It’s a Small World kind of gal. I like riding in a boat that only moves an inch per minute while small robotic children adorned in colorful costumes sing softly. Safe with short lines and air conditioning. No surprises and nothing scary (except the song that never leaves your subconscious).

But early last year we realized we were no longer in Fantasy Land. We were busy getting read for the birth of our baby boy due Valentine’s Day when one morning I realized I wasn’t feeling the baby kick. Although I was concerned, I figured there was some logical explanation for the decrease in activity. After all, no one (except on the TV show “ER”) loses a baby so close to their due date.

Brad held my hand in the hospital room as they did an ultrasound. After a long silence the doctor told us what was too painful to fully comprehend, “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”

We held each other and wept. Then the magnitude of what was ahead came crashing upon us. That I would have to deliver a baby that would never cry. That we would leave the hospital without our precious son. That we would have to tell my mother who had cancer and was trying to live just long enough to welcome her first grandson. That we would have to tell two little girls that their baby brother had gone to heaven.

And so, I found myself on a ride I hadn’t volunteered for. I bargained with God: “I don’t meet the height requirements for I’m short on faith, strength, and courage. I want the boat that goes nowhere--or maybe I could handle something along the lines of the teacups. But this is more than I’m humanly able to bear!”

On the ride of life there are two kinds of passengers. There are the ones who rely on their own strength to make it through. They sit as stiff as mannequins and hold onto the safety bar until their fingernails dig deeply into the palms of their hands. They ride silently or scream in terror as they suffer through the bone-jarring jerks and plunges. They grow bitter because this is not what was expected or deserved. They feel angry and helpless because this ride has no steering or brake--no way to control what comes next.

And then there are the passengers who rest in the knowledge that there’s a man in charge of the rollercoaster who will ensure the safety of each rider--that each minute of this journey was carefully planned and perfectly orchestrated. You’d recognize these passengers as the ones who lift their hands above their heads and squeal with laughter. They seem to know that if they surrender to the plan of the One who created this ride that this will be a time to appreciate not endure, not a trial but an adventure, no matter how dark the tunnels, high the hills, or low the valleys.

As Brad and I sat in our hospital room on January 8, we knew the ride had already begun. We weren’t sure how long it would last or how it would end, but we knew that our only choice on this journey was what kind of passengers we would be. So we lifted our hands to our Heavenly Father and said, “We will rest in You if You will carry us.”

He carried us through the next 24 hours. We delivered our son the evening of January 9 and learned the reason for his death was an umbilical cord knot. We named him Luke Dixon. Luke because it means “light”--for he had been our light during a dark year--and Dixon after my mom, Dixie, because he would be her baby for eternity.

She made it to the hospital and held him. It is how I imagine them together in heaven. And on January 12 we had the most beautiful baby dedication for him--a celebration of the 35 weeks we got to love him and the gift he will always be in our hearts.

God continued to carry us through February and March. Already so broken from our loss, we held each other tighter. We knew that my mother’s days with us were few. We cherished each word, hug, and moment--we had the gift of one more slumber party, one more boat ride on the lake, one more snowfall, and many “I love yous.”

She told us not to look for her at the cemetery. Instead we would find her love notes written in the sunsets, her hugs and kisses delivered by the birds on our windowsill, and her music played through the laughter of her grandchildren. On March 11 she joined her grandson and her mother at the feet of Jesus. Not because she had lost her battle with cancer, but because she’d been granted her eternal healing.

Okay, by now you’re probably regretting ever opening your mailbox. This year’s letter is better suited to be a Lifetime movie than correspondence between friends. Fortunately, our ride wasn’t all downhill. (This was Space Mountain, not the Tower of Terror.) We believed in God’s wisdom and had hope that good things were coming. After all, the 23rd Psalm doesn’t end with “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” It ends with “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow.”

We got a glimpse of His goodness in May when we found out we were pregnant again. After weeks of hearing our little girls pray, “God, please give us another baby,” we were truly grateful for this answered prayer.

And so we began our time of waiting. There’s something significant and necessary about the wait between the valley of the shadow of death and the goodness and mercy that follows. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land. The world waited 2000 years for the Messiah. There were three days between Christ’s death and resurrection. And there would be one year between the loss of one child and the birth of another--our due date in 2005 was the day we lost Luke in 2004. What a special gift that God would grant our goodness and mercy within one year.

But waiting for God’s goodness is hard. How difficult it was to start over--going from third trimester back to first. I don’t do pregnancy gracefully--my morning sickness usually took encores in the evening. So I spent last summer kneeling at God’s throne and the porcelain throne. And last fall my days and nights were consumed with counting kicks, contractions, and the calendar. But our weeks in the wilderness kept us leaning on each other and dependent on our Heavenly Father. We continued to rest in Him and He continued to carry us.

Just like the rollercoaster, our lives seemed to travel at the speed of light, yet each minute seemed excruciatingly endless. And soon we were back where we had started--celebrating Christmas being “great with child.”

We were hoping our new baby would come by Christmas. The holidays were difficult without Baby Luke, my mother, and my grandmother. The girls must have sensed my sadness because one day they speculated. “Gigi, Grandmother Little, and Baby Luke aren’t missing Christmas, because I bet in heaven every day is Christmas.” I told them that they are so right. And since Christmas represents the celebration of God’s outpouring of love on us, in a way, every day on earth is Christmas, too.

We decided to leave up our Christmas decorations until our “gift from God” was delivered. And after we rang in the new year with sparkling grape juice and tossed confetti, I went into labor.

We went to the hospital New Year’s Day. As I waited for my labor to progress and hear the magnificent announcement of 10 centimeters, I reflected back on my past gifts from God.

I remembered holding my girls for the first time--such overwhelming joy over these amazing miracles. With cone-shaped heads, splotchy skin, and sprouts of wild black hair, they looked more Chia Pet than Gerber baby. Yet, I remember thinking when each of them were placed in my arms, “Wow. She must be one of God’s greatest masterpieces.” I couldn’t believe that out of all the women in the world, God had chosen me to be their mother. And although not a typical lullaby, my grateful heart could sing nothing but the simple tune, “God Is So Good.” (You may remember from past letters that the term “tone deaf” is a gross overestimation of my vocal ability. Thus I sing on a Vacation Bible School level.)

Then I remembered a year ago when Luke was delivered. There was nothing but silence till my midwife asked, “Do you want to hold him?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer. Would it be too painful to hold a child I couldn’t keep? Maybe it would be better not to see him--perhaps to pretend he never existed. But I knew later I’d wonder what he looked like and regret not saying good-bye. So I nodded and she placed him in my arms.

At 5 pounds, 11 ounces, he was smaller than his sisters, yet he looked complete . . . precious . . . perfect. I held back my tears so I could study his sweet face. I knew these few moments with my son would have to last me till our reunion in heaven. As I held him in my arms I thought yet again, “Wow. He must be one of God’s greatest masterpieces.” Then I remembered that as his mommy, I owed him a lullaby.

I waited till we were alone. I thought some might think it crazy to sing to a baby already at peace and I didn’t want to leave the hospital in a straight jacket. Then in my shaking voice barely above a whisper I began, “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.” But this time I sang not with a grateful heart, but a broken one. This time it was not a proclamation of His goodness, but a reminder of His mercy. I sang until I could no longer contain my sorrow and anointed his tiny head with my tears.

And there we were again, starting 2005 the way we began 2004 . . . in the hospital. But this time we weren’t waiting for death. We were waiting for life. We were once again surrounded by angels disguised as nurses and midwives, being prayed over by a host of family and friends. I looked out my hospital window to see the most glorious sunset and to be reminded that my mother, grandmother, and Baby Luke were with us in spirit.

Then on the evening of New Year’s Day, our eight pounds of goodness and mercy was born. The only sound sweeter than “It’s a boy!” was his newborn cry. And when they placed him in my arms I thought, “Wow. Not only is he one of God’s greatest masterpieces, he’s proof that my Redeemer lives.”

My retired lullaby was reinstated as the anthem of my heart--and once again I found myself weeping before my Lord singing, “God is so good. You’re so good to me.” But this time it was a happy cry, as my tears of joy washed away the pain of the past year.

We named him Brady--so his daddy’s name could be part of his. And his middle names are after his dear grandfathers: Jack--meaning “God has been gracious” and David meaning “beloved.”

I wondered if my mom had “regifted” Luke. I held him close to my face to see if he smelled of her perfume, only to find he smelled like heaven. I searched him head to toe looking for an enclosed card, or maybe her signature on his bottom, but instead saw God’s magnificent handiwork. Brady looked strangely familiar, remarkably like his brother. Same mouth and chin, same eyes, same head full of hair (although we’ve since kissed Brady bald), but a new blessing.

After a year of our girls praying for another baby, kissing my pregnant tummy, and sleeping with ultrasound photos, they finally got to meet him. When Brad brought them into the delivery room to meet their new brother, they trembled with excitement. Ava whispered in her Daddy’s ear, “It’s so wonderful it feels like a dream, except it’s really true.” And later Olivia told me, “I think God gave us a baby as special as Luke.”

It was truly a triumph to leave the hospital with my arms overflowing with newborn treasure. It was almost 70 degrees for our trip home, as if nature was rejoicing in the baby who brought us springtime in winter. Just a year ago I returned home with my eyes swollen shut from crying. But for this homecoming, my cheeks ached from smiling.

When we pulled into the garage, it was like our rollercoaster returned to the platform. I looked at Brad next to me--my soul mate, prayer partner, and best friend. He cheered me on during the slow ascent up each hill and reminded me to laugh during the freefall down. We’ve shared the blessing of brokenness and our marriage, family, and faith will never be the same.

I looked back to see my daughters who had been on this ride with us--on my darkest days they gave me a reason to keep going. They reminded me not to mourn over the empty cradle, but to rejoice over the little girls kneeling in prayer by their beds.

And then I saw all of you known as father, mother, sister, family, neighbor, and friend. You had joined us on this journey from January to January. You have mourned with us, prayed for us, and now rejoice with us and we will always be grateful.

So the answer to the question, “Where’s the Williams Christmas letter?” This is it. Yes, I realize we are well into 2005, but we’re celebrating heaven-style where every day is Christmas--every day is a celebration of the outpouring of God’s love.

So this year, our holiday color is baby blue and our favorite Christmas carol is, “God Is So Good.” And we’ll not only find our Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke, but we’ll be reading from the 23rd Psalm. It always ends with “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow.”

With Much Love,
The Williams Family

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wonderful White Stuff

Okay. You readers from any place north of Georgia are probably laughing at the thought of children playing in a half inch dusting of snow.

The only thing better

than a snowfall

in Georgia

is watching

your newly adopted son from Guatemala

play in it!

Thawing by the Fire,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Magical Moments: Lessons from Disney World

We're home!!! I'm sorry I wasn't able to update from Orlando. Our hotel charged by the day for internet service. When I finally agreed to pay for 24 hours of contact with the outside world, I discovered that our signal was weak making our service as slow as the lines for Space Mountain. It would have taken a week to post one pic (I felt like I was back in Guatemala). But now that we're home and the passports and Mickey ears are in storage (for a long, long time), I promise to post more regularly.

Happy belated new year!!! I have finally come to terms with the fact that Christmas is officially over (I let out a big sigh when removing the Christmas tunes from my playlist). We've had such a sweet holiday homecoming that I just don't want it to end. But we will be celebrating God's gifts all year. We wish you and your families a blessed 2010.

This pic is proof that Disney World didn't eat us alive.

Many have called or e-mailed wondering how our trip went. I'm guessing our friends who have adopted older children placed bets on how things would go and they want to know who wins the pot. Some friends predicted a "bloodbath." They weren't being mean . . . they simply know that taking a newly adopted child to meet Mickey during one of the busiest times of the year might be a bit, ummm, ambitious.

I wholeheartedly agree that I wouldn't recommend taking a newly adopted child to Disney--we had to be there for the girls' competition, otherwise we would have planned such a trip several months from now. Thus we went with realistic expectations and I'm thrilled to report that it went much better than we had anticipated. In spite of the fact that the odds were stacked against us, we had a truly special time. However, it wasn't always easy--less "bloodbath" and more like pressure washing.

We certainly felt hosed down a few times. I will be honest on my blog for anyone considering adopting an older child or is knee deep in the challenges of raising children (bio or adopted, parenting is hard no matter how God gave them to you). Not every minute was a Kodak moment in front of the castle. Brad and I would look at each other and laugh that we were certainly not going to be living in Fantasy Land. Nope, closer to Frontier Land. "Yo, ho, ho, ho, a pirate's life for me!" Fortunately, no one walked the plank.

Our challenges have been small. Most issues dealt with Daniel not understanding the rules of our family and the world he now lives in. He is very sensitive and any correction (although always done gently) would often result in tears--and by tears I mean loud moaning, hundreds of people staring at us kinds of episodes. (Which I might add, his tween sister Olivia would usually take a few steps away from all of us and pretend to be part of someone else's family. Bless her heart.) But soon he realized that we didn't want him running 20 feet ahead of us into a sea of thousands of people because we love him and don't want to lose him. He eventually understood that if we tell him no, it's not because we don't love him, only that we don't want him to have ice cream before dinner or that when we say he can choose a souvenir we were thinking something cheaper than the $200 Darth Vadar costume. He now understands that it's not appropriate to eat off someone else's plate without permission, press the emergency button in the hotel elevator, or put the pepper shaker up your nose.

By Saturday, we had no tears and he is making great progress in calmly verbalizing his fears and frustrations instead of acting out and making us play detective as to why he's upset. In fact, his behavior was better than many other kids around us who were not coming from such difficult circumstances.

It's funny that so many life lessons can be gleaned from a place that can make a rational person pay $3.50 for a bottle of water. For example, Daniel had a tendency to find a favorite food, or ride, or article of clothing, and then not want anything else. He rode the Buzz Lightyear ride and announced that's all he wanted to do for "infinity and beyond."

We tried to explain that there were other rides he would certainly enjoy and had to coax a pouting boy on a second ride. He would, of course, love that one, too, then he would announce he would only do the Buzz ride and the teacups (and on and on). How often do we do that with God? We get so comfortable in our safe and familiar surroundings that we resist His call to anything else--from reaching out to someone new at church, to going on a mission trip to another country, to adopting a child. But, oh, what we miss out on when we refuse to ride anything else.

One of Daniel's favorite rides was the race cars.

It was a great ride for him because it enabled him to steer, yet because his legs were a bit too short to reach the pedals, I was able to control the gas and brake (thus not causing whiplash to the guy in front of us). It is also on a track so it's not possible for him to move into someone else's lane or go in the wrong direction.

Once he got frustrated with me because the car wasn't moving fast enough. I explained that I was pushing the gas as much as I could but asked if he would like to try. He said yes and for about 2 seconds pushed the pedal then agreed that it was harder than he thought and understood that we were going as fast as we could. I will certainly be reminding him of this ride in the future. There will be many opportunities for him to steer, but mom and dad will control the gas and the brake. (And I'll remind him that often our job looks much easier than it actually is and we are truly going as fast as we can.) And God sets the track that directs our path. It's freeing to know that the course before us has already been perfectly planned.

Another thing Daniel loved was the 3-D movies.

I don't think he fully understood that the items coming toward him weren't real and unfortunately the people sitting in front of him would sometimes get whacked in the head as he tried to grab the items that seemed to be within arms reach. (After the first movie we made sure he was sitting behind a short child for future 3-D adventures.) But it is a good analogy for our family as we try to understand each other. We need to take the time to wear each other's 3-D glasses. We need Daniel to see that we love him as if he has always been our son. We need him to understand that correction is often an outpouring of that love. We need him to see that our love is unconditional. And we, in turn, need to wear his glasses. We need to see through his eyes how overwhelming this all is. We need to see that he is often not acting selfishly but out of a need for security. We need to remember that he comes with scars that aren't visible without his glasses and we need to be patient while he heals.

But most of all, we need to remember that for every moment like this (he turned into the Grumpy dwarf for a minute when asked to pose for another pic) . . .

There many more moments like this.

From watching parades . . .

To light show displays.

I'm so very grateful . . .

for each smile . . .

for each laugh . . .

for each hug . . .

for each "I love you."

We cherished every giddy beginning . . .

And grand finale.

But I think our greatest lesson from Disney World is that all you really need for a happily ever after is . . . love!

Still Smiling,