We are on our way to Orlando, Florida, because the girls have a cheer competition this week. We're going to take a couple days to visit Mickey Mouse while we're there and the kids are so excited. I don't have much time to upload the thousands of photos taken over the past week, but this is one of my favorites of them ready to come downstairs Christmas morning.
We had such a special Christmas just being together. Even though I'm still feeling pretty crummy, I just enjoyed watching the beauty of the season through my children's eyes. We even had a white Christmas in Georgia. It hasn't snowed on Christmas day in Georgia in about 100 years, so this was quite a treat for us.
Below is our "official 2010 Christmas letter" going out late this year. Most of this you guys already know, but it's my way of documenting God's goodness this past year.
Thanks so much for the blessing you all have been to me this past year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and may you have a blessed new year!
Dear Family and Friends,
The bar is set so low these days that I no longer strive to have the Christmas card postmarked by December 23--my goal is that it isn’t delivered by a postman wearing shorts and flip-flops in July. This was one of those years that getting ours out before Christmas just wasn’t going to happen. And I promise we have a really good excuse. Not as good as last years’ excuse, but pretty close.
Last year, the card never made it out at all. I was living in a hotel in Guatemala from Thanksgiving till mid-December trying to get our adopted son home. We had one delay after another, including our family court judge having a stroke and having to wait two weeks for a provisional one to be assigned. I finally came home and Brad took my place with Daniel with the hope of being able to bring him home by Christmas.
As late as December 22 it looked like Brad and Daniel would both be spending Christmas in a hotel room in Guatemala. We were sad at the thought of our family being separated during the holidays and even sadder that a boy who had waited 8 years to spend Christmas with a family would have to wait some more. But, with a lot of pleading with government officials and even more prayer, Daniel got the last VISA before Christmas and he walked off a plane into the arms of his new family last Christmas Eve. It was certainly one of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever been granted.
I’ll never forget Daniel walking into our home for the first time. Our front door was decorated with a sign and balloons from our neighbors welcoming him home. He saw our Christmas tree and dropped to his knees with tears in his eyes exclaiming, “There are presents here with my name on them!”
We’ve had many of these moments throughout the year, like on Daniel’s first birthday home. When he blew out the candles on his cake, his siblings asked what he wished for and his response was, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. There’s nothing left to wish for.” Then there was the day at Target that I bought him some Crocs and new tennis shoes. He questioned me repeatedly, “Are you sure you can buy me TWO pairs of shoes?” I assured him that I could and he just stood there with his mouth open in disbelief. As we walked out of the store, he grabbed my hand and exclaimed, “I love my life.”
It has truly been a year full of wonderful, yet it has also been a hard one. Daniel has a lot of healing to do and he’s still learning what it means to be part of a family. The transformation we’ve seen in him in just one year is evidence of God’s mercy. The transformation we’ve seen in our family is evidence of God’s goodness.
Many days I feel like Brad and I are the conductors of a small band of oddly different instruments. Here’s a glimpse of the tune that we hear on a daily basis. (Note: I don’t actually play any of the instruments mentioned, so bear with me with my ignorant attempt at this analogy.)
Olivia turned 13 last April. Oh my, officially a teenager! She’s in the 8th grade at Perimeter Christian School. She continues to love school and enjoys being part of the theater program--this fall she was a Lady in Waiting in “Once Upon a Mattress.” She has also had some wonderful opportunities to sing with her chorus and even sang a duet in the school’s Veteran’s Day program. We are so proud to see our shy girl step out of her comfort zone. She’s also enjoyed another year of doing competition cheerleading with Ava and we are on our way to Orlando for their national competition. She is the violin in our crazy band--a difficult instrument when you don’t know the correct way to hold the bow or position your fingers, but we often hear beautiful music coming from her section of the orchestra pit. She has been a very patient big sis to a crazy assortment of younger siblings and we are so blessed to have her in our family.
Ava turned 10 this past March. She’s in the 5th grade at Perimeter and also loves school. She is still involved with ballet, has such fun with the cheerleading program, and has a part in the spring play. She is the piccolo in our band--definitely a winded instrument with her non-stop talking, singing, and laughing. She truly makes every day seem like a party, is the official creator of all our nicknames, and is our hugger extraordinaire. We don’t underestimate the importance that her tune adds to our family, for when she’s not here, things just aren’t the same. As she ages we can see her turning into a flute, same sweet melody but showing more of her wisdom and sensitivity. We are so blessed to have her in our family.
Daniel turned 8 this April. I home schooled him last January to last spring, but he was doing so well we had him tested at Perimeter to see if he’d be ready to attend this fall. We were delighted that he was accepted and he is doing very well in the 2nd grade. What a blessing his teacher and classmates have been as he’s is loving his first experience in an American school. He also played soccer this fall. What a joy to cheer for him from the sidelines and celebrate as he scored his first goal. He’s also a gifted artist and loves to spend his afternoons outside sketching. Like Ava, he is also a winded instrument. Perhaps the saxophone would best describe the way he expresses his love and fear and joy and pain. He bellows his feelings in such a way that you feel his triumphs and his moments of the blues. He has a distinct sound that is all his own and we love having this amazing boy with such potential in our family.
Brady turned 5 last January 1st and is about to celebrate another birthday. He is attending school for the first time and loves being in Kindergarten at Perimeter. It has been such a blessing to watch all four kiddos walk into school together arm-in-arm. He played baseball this fall and loved it so much that he still wears his uniform around the house. He is such a sweet and thoughtful little boy who loves with his whole heart. I saw him wrapping a present to put under the tree and asked what it was. He said, “I want to give Daniel something special so I’m giving him my baseball trophy.” It is his most treasured possession, yet he was willing to give it to his big brother. We’ve seen such sweet moments between all our kids. I used to think Brady was our little drummer boy, but as he’s grown I see him as much more than just percussion. He’s the guy in the background strumming a guitar--just a simple arrangement of cords, but such a sweet sound coming our youngest instrument. Just when we forget he’s in the back of the car or sitting at the dinner table, he says something so funny that gets us all laughing.
Our big news is that we will be adding at least one more instrument to our band next year. It all started with something Ava said last Christmas.
We had had a perfect first Christmas with Daniel home. There’s truly something amazing about watching an 8 year old boy celebrate his first Christmas with a family. We had tucked everyone in bed and mentally recorded the day as one of our best Christmases ever. But Ava came downstairs in tears. My first thought was, “Oh no. Here comes the jealousy with all the attention that Daniel has gotten. Or perhaps she’s upset that we had a smaller Christmas due to all we had spent trying to get Daniel home.”
But as she spoke, she unwrapped the best gift I got last year. She said, “Mom, I had my radio on and they played Steven Curtis Chapman’s song ‘All I Really Want for Christmas’ about the orphan who wants a family.”
She continued with, “Daniel is just like that boy. All he wanted was a family.”
I couldn’t understand why she was sobbing. I said, “Ava, I know. But we’re happy now that he’ll never spend another Christmas without a family. Why are you so sad?”
She responded, “Because there are so many children out there who still need a family. Mom, we can do more! We need to adopt more!”
I had been so worried that we would “mess up” our lives by adopting an older child, I never realized what a blessing it would be to see them fully comprehend the brokenness and need of others.
So last August we started another adoption. This time looking for a special needs child in China. And we found a precious 4 year old girl with spina bifida who had been waiting a long time for a home. We had her file on hold and were talking with doctors about what kind of medical care she would need when we learned some surprising news.
In November we found out that I’m pregnant. It was certainly not what we had planned or expected (I celebrated my 40th birthday last June), but we certainly love God’s sense of humor and are thrilled to be granted yet another new life. We have temporarily put our adoption plans on hold as we pray about what is best for the little girl in China and what is best for our family.
Our new baby is due in June and thus far everything is going well. (Except I’ve been so exhausted that I’m barely functioning, which is the main reason this letter is so late.)
If you ever stop by our house, you’ll hear the music of four children, a couple of parents, and an assortment of pets. Most days it sounds like an orchestra pit tuning their instruments and warming up. But once in a while, we all come together to make a beautiful melody. Those are the days that we remember that the Almighty Composer has written a masterpiece and all we need to do is follow the notes. We can’t wait to see where His sheet music takes us in the days ahead.
We are so grateful to be together this year as a family, so grateful for the blessing of friends and family who pray for us and encourage us through life’s journeys, and are so grateful for the abundance of God’s goodness and mercy in our lives.
We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and have a blessed new year.
With Much Love,
Brad, Kathie, Olivia, Ava, Daniel, Brady, and Baby Williams
Brad, Kathie, Olivia, Ava, Daniel, Brady, and Baby Williams