Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy Gotcha Day, and Introducing Our New Daughter

It's a rainy Christmas evening in Georgia right now. We have attended five family gatherings in four days, given/received many gifts, eaten way too many cookies, and hugged a lot of necks. As much as I love the crazy fun of Christmas, I really cherish the post-Christmas time as a family where we are just simply enjoying being together.  I'm sitting by the fire now and am grateful for the time to write.

I've seen those cards that say, "Santa, I can explain" and feel like saying, "Bloggy friends, I can explain." I never intended to take such a long break and I have so terribly missed blogging.  But we have had such a wildly busy year, I haven't found much time to update. God has been doing some awesome things in our lives and I know I need to document every detail. I will try to be better about doing so in the coming year.

Not only are we celebrating the birth of our Savior today, we are celebrating Daniel's "gotcha day"this week--the day we brought Daniel home from Guatemala. After two and a half years of praying him home and after Brad and I took turns living 6 weeks with him in a hotel room in Guatemala, having him walk off the plane to see a huge gathering of family and friends to greet him is one of our sweetest Christmas memories. He came home Christmas Eve night three years ago and we are still so grateful for this precious gift to our family. 

He is such a blessing and a joy to our family. Here we are picking out our Christmas tree Thanksgiving weekend. (Some of my kids have asked me not to share our Christmas morning photos of them in their PJs so this will have to do.)

Keeping up with this crew keeps me busy, but my lack of blogging time isn't just because of our life full of baseball, soccer, play practice, carpool.  I've been doing some paperwork . . . yes, adoption paperwork.

This is what our family looks like now . . . .

Olivia (15), Ava (12), Daniel (10), Brady (7), and Victoria (18 months).

But here's a glimpse of what it will look like in the coming year. We hope to have our new daughter home this coming summer.

There's so much that I want to share and will try my best to update in the coming year. The prayers and encouragement of so many of you helped us get through that long journey to bring Daniel home. I would be so grateful to have your support as we bring home the newest member of the Williams family.

Below is the annual Christmas letter that I sent out in those last days before Christmas. (The more children we add to our family, the later these cards seem to get sent.) It tells the story of how God led us to our newest daughter. I wasn't able to send it to many of you who are dear to us--realized a bit too late that our list had grown and I just didn't order enough cards. But know this letter is meant for every person taking the time to read it now.

We hope you and your family are having a wonderful Christmas season celebrating the birth of our Savior!

Dear Family and Friends,

You would think with the end of the world breathing down my neck, I’d be able to get my cards out before the 20th of December. If you are reading this it means the Mayans and I have about the same sense of timing. If not, I was standing in line at the post office when the asteroid hit.

I could give you a list of things that delayed this Christmas greeting—when you have a family of 7 it increases the number of trips to the doctor for ear infections/cold/flu, the pile of laundry that accumulates, the number of parties and programs to attend. But although there are days that I can hardly keep my eyes open, I truly have never been happier. Life is loud and crazy and busy, but it’s so much fun.

I’ve debated whether or not to even do a Christmas letter this year or in the future. When I started writing these letters, it was the only option to reconnect with friends.  But times have changed. I remember a conversation with my kids about the “olden days” (what they call my childhood years). They were most certainly envisioning me in Little House on the Prairie attire churning butter. Their eyes widened with horror as I told of a world with four TV channels and no computer or Internet. Their response was “How did you get a connection for your cell phones or iPods?” I informed them that our phone had a 6-foot spiral cord and music came from a boom box that weighed more than the average 7 year old. They uttered declarations that I had the “worst childhood ever.”

When my kids are grown and sending out their own Christmas cards, I’ll tell them about my years of taking photos with a camera that had two settings—flash working/flash not working. I’ll share about waiting for film to be developed hoping for one decent picture, explain that cropping was only done by farmers, and if you asked where you could find a memory card you would be sent to Hallmark. And then I will tell about Christmas letters—little updates between friends they didn’t see often. And then they will ask, “But what about Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?” Upon realization that I survived those critical years without social media, they will tweet that their mother had the “worst young adult life ever.”

Twelve years ago, I started writing these letters like many of you. Each year we get fewer—I guess they seem unnecessary in a world where we can all see every detail of each other’s lives the minute it happens. This piece of paper doesn’t have a “like” button or a comment section, can’t be reposted or go viral. (Unless you sneeze on it.) It is an old-fashioned Christmas letter and yet, when I find one tucked inside my Christmas card, it’s a treat.

Our year has been so full that I don’t even know where to start. It has been such a heartbreaking time for so many that it makes me feel like all I need to report is that we are grateful for another year. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not overwhelmed by God’s grace, grateful for the health of our children, awed by God’s provision in every area of our lives.

There will be a new member of the Williams family in the coming year and she deserves an introduction. Thus far I haven’t posted anything about her because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in adoption paperwork since August, but also because I just simply didn’t know how to share the news since to many of you an additional child is the last thing our family seems to need.

This story starts May of 2010. Daniel had been home a year and a half and was doing so well. We just love that sweet boy and can’t imagine our lives without him. But I was haunted by the children we left behind. As Daniel said good-bye to his friends at the orphanage, children came to me in tears pleading, “Take me, too.” Guatemala is now closed for adoption but there are millions in other countries who desperately need a mom and dad and we can’t forget that fact.

We started our adoption paperwork and by October had completed our homestudy. We even had a precious little girl on hold and were about to submit our documents to be officially matched when we found out I was pregnant with Victoria.  God provided another family for her (a sweet story in itself) and it was clear that we needed to put our adoption plans on hold. While we were disappointed to have missed out on the little girl in China, we were so grateful for this precious new life God had granted us. Victoria has brought our family so much joy--what a precious gift she is to us all.

As our life was returning to a new normal, plans to add to our family were indefinitely on hold. We would occasionally look at the photolistings of children waiting for a family--we’d pick out specific ones to pray for and rejoice when it showed they had been chosen. But there was one little girl posted last summer by Lifeline Christian Services. It wasn’t her photo that won us over; it was a video they had posted. Although she can barely walk, she was pushing her buddy in a doll stroller. She stopped and politely answered questions she was asked and waved at the camera. There was something so sweet and so familiar about her that we were smitten. Months passed and she still wasn’t matched with a family.

In August Brad gave me his blessing to inquire about her. Her agency told us she was still waiting and sent a copy of her file to review. I didn’t want to admit that we were just “browsing”—that this was not a good time for us to adopt. I looked over what I thought would be a basic account of her medical history. What it turned out to be was a love story.

As most of you know, in China they have a one-child policy. Most want a son—they carry on the family name and take care of their parents when they are old. For years this caused the abandonment of thousands of healthy baby girls—many who have been adopted by families around the world. But as ultrasounds have become available for these expecting couples, many of these unwanted girls are now aborted instead of abandoned. The orphanages in China are still overflowing, but now it is with children with medical needs (both boys and girls) born to parents who did not have access to medical care and didn’t know the child they were expecting was not the preferred gender and had medical issues.

Some of these needs are minor and easily corrected, some are more severe, but all of these needs pose a problem. Many families are very superstitious and consider these defects a curse. Others simply can’t afford the lifetime of medical care that child will require. These special needs babies are usually abandoned at birth.

But what I read in this child’s file was a different story. This baby girl was born May 2009 with spina bifida. Her medical needs were obvious from the very first time they held her and perhaps she wasn’t the son they had longed for—but they kept her anyway. Perhaps there was pressure from family members to abandon her immediately before they got too attached—not to delay the inevitable and go ahead and try for another child. Still, they kept her anyway. Not only did they love on her for a year, they scraped together enough money to get a surgery that she most likely would not have gotten in the care of an orphanage. And then knowing they could not provide the long-term care she needed, they made the heartbreaking decision to give her up.

This little girl’s file told of the busy bus station in which she was abandoned; it detailed the beautiful white outfit adorned with flowers that her mother had dressed her in for the very last time. Both evidence that this child was dearly loved and their hope was that someone would find her and rescue her. The tears began to flow as I read her story—for I, too, have held a baby that I knew I wouldn’t be able to parent on this earth and wished for just one more day. I, too, have lost my mother and imagine the ache in that baby girl’s heart as she looked around the bus station of strangers wondering where her loving parents had gone. I, too, have a one-year-old daughter and would be beyond broken to have to make such a choice out of love. And then I saw when she was abandoned—May 2010. The very same time my longing to add another child began. I felt a connection that I couldn’t undo--as if our lives were already intertwined.

I flipped through the pages to see the end of this story. She was found and taken to a local orphanage. She has spent the last two and a half years there—yet she was still waiting. I couldn’t walk away from her knowing we had the ability to change the ending of her story. And to be honest, we feel we need her more than she needs us. Our sweetest times as a family have been during times of brokenness . . . during times of complete dependency on God. We have gotten to a place of green pastures and still waters and are starting to forget those days where He carried us through the darkest valleys. It is our turn to do some carrying. We look forward to what God will teach us as we care for her needs and we are honored to be this little girl’s new family. Oh how proud I am of our children for how excited they are about their new little sister. How grateful I am to have a husband that saw her video and said, “Let’s go get her.”

I must admit that in this world of sorrow and uncertainty, it has been our efforts to bring this little girl home that give us hope and purpose. Just as the wise men must have certainly looked foolish for the years of searching for the promised Messiah, we must certainly look foolish to many for adding another child to our family. But only by seeking Him, will you find Him (Matt.7:7) and we see evidence of His guiding hand as we obey His leading.

This Christmas and always, we are grateful for a Child born to change the ending of our story. Thanks for your love and support for so many years. May you seek Him and find Him in the coming year.

With Much Love from the Williams Family