Saturday, January 10, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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