Holy Ground

21 June MMXIX
Three years ago today, my youngest son was found by a street sweeper in a public train station in Central China and turned over to police. He was clean and dressed sweetly and bundled with care. It was heartbreakingly evident he had been surrendered with love. Though we would not know it for nearly two years, our journeys to each other across the world began on this day three years ago. I would give almost anything to have the sweet clothes or blanket that had bundled him that day. But since he had been found in such a very public place and was surrounded by so much unknown, the clothes were discarded to keep them from introducing any possible illnesses into the orphanage when he arrived there later in the day.

While I was in China last summer bringing him home, I asked our precious guide in the city where he had been discovered to take us to the location where he had been found when he was about 3 weeks old. I felt strongly about returning to this exact spot. I wanted to witness every part of our son’s journey and pray there with him in my arms. With him strapped to me in a baby sling, I followed our guide to witness this profound place with my nine-year-old son and our Uncle, my Godfather. There is no way to describe the depth of feelings that entered in when we became aware that we were in the last precise place Ren had been with his birth family. And there was something so deeply healing about returning to the exact spot with our baby who had been discovered so lost now that he was so very found.

After returning home from China and having some time to reflect on our pilgrimage there, our 9 year-old, Thaddaeus, shared with me that he was disturbed by where his brother had been found. I explained to him that I could understand his feelings. Though I could absolutely recognize why his finding spot had been chosen, witnessing it was unsettling to me, too. And I was not encountering it at only 9 years old. It was dirty and vulnerable and uncomfortable. My son asked me, “How could anyone leave a baby there?”

I have spent these last months reflecting on this profound question and pondering it in my prayers. And a quiet, yet mighty, awareness has surfaced.

This is my heart’s answer to my son who was brave enough to make the hard, holy journey with me to not only to adopt his brother, but to adopt his brother’s history and story as well. My prayer is that this letter will be a lasting message to his 9-year-old heart when it is no longer the heart of a boy, but of a man.

My dearest Thaddaeus,

We have now been home from China with your little brother for nearly a year and have had some time to process all that we encountered there. I must tell you that I strongly suspect our entire life times will not provide either of us enough time to process our pilgrimage to him completely. That journey was beautiful and exotic but it was also hard and holy. It will be among the sacred encounters that we “ponder in our hearts” into eternity.

You must know that I could not be more proud of the way you welcomed your brother and his culture. I attribute so much of the miraculous way he has bonded to us to the way you “brothered” him in those first days that he was so very frightened as he was ripped from everyone and everything he had ever known. You were gentle with him and patient with his grieving and you were the first person who made him laugh! He trusted you first and when he saw you trusted me, he did, too. There is no gift this side of eternity that you could give your mother that could ever be more precious than that one.

But you had to witness some other hard things in China, too. Not many boys your age can say they have been to an orphanage of over 800 children. You have. And you carried yourself with such gentleness and reverence and grace that my heart was beaming with pride in you! That was hard! But, as we have talked about, loving your brother means loving all of his story. There is no part of his journey to us that I do not want to witness. It all led him to our family and, in that, it is all cloaked in beauty.

Several months ago we talked about the day we visited the spot where Ren was found as a tiny baby. You shared with me that seeing that place was hard for you and you asked me how anyone could leave a baby there.

It is important to me that you know your mother recognizes how uncomfortable and sad that visit was for you. While we were in China, I was so consumed with comforting your brother through his huge transition to us that it may not have been evident to you that there was not a single moment that I was not looking at all we were were experiencing through your eyes. Not for an instant was I unaware of all you were navigating in a foreign land with a young and sweetly tender heart. I need you to know that I have lifted your heart and the way it experienced that day in my prayers ever since. Please know that seeing that finding place was hard for me, too. It was dirty and uncomfortable and not a place that I would ever think to leave a baby. But I am also old enough to see it through the eyes of the mother who chose it. And I can completely recognize why she did.

Our Maeren was found in a very busy place…a place he was certain to be found quickly. He was found across the street from a police station that could take custody of him instantly and keep him safe. And he was found in a province with a wealthier orphanage in China. Since he was found near a train station in the morning, he may have traveled all night and quite far to be found in a place with more resources. As you get older, I pray you will see that, though desperate, this is, indeed, a face of love. Our Ren was undoubtedly loved from the very beginning of his life. For complicated and extremely sad reasons, the expressions of those loves just have different faces.

And I want you to know that in my prayers about all of this, another Baby has surfaced, too. Our faith centers on another vulnerable Baby who was found in a dirty, uncomfortable place. No one expected to find the infant Jesus in a stable where animals sleep and feed. People have certainly wondered of God, “How could you send your Baby there?” No one anticipated finding the King of Kings in such an unexpected place. Yet He was found in this surprise of a place by angels and shepherds and magi alike. And being found there did not diminish His birth or life but, rather, elevated the environment through which He entered.

Mystery surrounds the unexpected finding spot of both baby sons. But somehow the humble place where our Lord was found infuses our baby Ren’s humble finding place with dignity, too. And that precious stable in Bethlehem announced to mankind that dignity is not begotten by where we are born or left or found…but from the One who sent us and loves us into eternity.

I will always be so proud of the grace-filled way you entered into your brother’s story while you were still a little boy yourself. In witnessing the way my sweet son embraced his baby brother and his land of birth, I got a precious glimpse of the amazing man who is on the horizon. And you take my breath away.

I love you deeply and eternally, Baby Brother. Forever and ever…Mama

 

RenThaddaeusGotchaDay

We Could Have Missed This

30 November MMXVIII

On this final day of National Adoption Month……

I am not at all a brave person and when I first felt the tug to adoption, I was scared to death. I gave God a long litany of reasons that He could not, and should not, call us to this. I lost numerous nights of sleep tossing in burdened prayer. Literally. Now, I shudder to think of our family if I had not stepped through my fear to the other side…the side where my children were waiting for me.

If you have EVER felt this tiny tug to adopt, pray about it. If you share it with me, I will pray with you. Perhaps the tiny tug is actually God’s “still, small voice” calling you to your child. And if it is, you will find a cheerleader, a prayer partner and a fierce advocate in me as we work together to get your child home to your arms.

Because I believe deeply that there truly are no orphans….only parents who have not recognized their children yet.

#WeCouldHaveMissedThis

 

Thanksgiving Babies

Family Ever After

We are in the home stretch…literally! We expect to be travelling to China in the next few weeks to bring our son home. These shirts are perfect for Gotcha/Family days but also for the anniversaries of these precious days and for this season of family reunions. They also will be perfect for newly weds during this wedding season! These sweet shirts will help with the last expenses to get our sweet boy home while honoring all of the ways families are celebrated!

Family Ever After

Order here!

A Sweet Baby “Ren” Is Coming Home To Our Nest!

24 April MMXVIII
 
It is with joy overflowing that we share we will be welcoming a son this summer! After holding our breath for what seems like eternity, we have received formal approval from China to welcome this precious child home as a Williams!

 

Maeren Schamber Cai Williams (We will call him “Ren.”) will celebrate his second birthday next month. Our hearts will hurt being separated from him as he turns 2 but we will be deeply celebrating that it will be the last birthday that he will ever celebrate without his family celebrating with him! These next few months will be consumed frantically fundraising and preparing to bring him home. Bare with us and with this Mama Bird who will not rest until our Baby Ren is home in our nest snuggled safely under her wings.

 

Ren

Things Above

16 March MMXVIII

“SET YOUR MINDS ON THINGS ABOVE…” —Colossians 3:2

We are so excited to launch these new shirts that were designed by one so dear to our family as a fundraiser towards our ongoing China adoption process! We treasure the beautiful reminder to keep our minds on things that truly matter. And the charming image of the globe balloon keeps our hope and vision on the trip we will soon make across the sea to bring our next child home. Orders can be placed through this link for the next 2 weeks. Your support is a blessing to our family.
Thing Above

New Year Blessings

New Year Blessings to you! Our family is entering 2018 and the approaching Chinese Year of the Dog with hopes of welcoming our next child home from China. Proceeds from these shirts will help us to celebrate the Chinese culture of our Chinese children and assist us with the adoption expenses to bring our next child home. Happy New Year from our family…on both sides of the sea! Order Here

Chinese New Year Blessings

A Christmas Longing

29 December MMXVII  
 
“A Child, A Child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold”

I have always loved the Christmas octave. The week between Christmas Day and the new year retains all of the loveliness of Christmas without all of the hurrying. I treasure quiet time by the twinkling tree after all of the gifts are opened and the stockings are, once again, empty. When my babies were tiny, there were many midnight hours treasured nursing newborns by the light of our Christmas tree. Those rocking chair moments are carved into my heart for eternity. They are among the most holy and sacred encounters of my maternity.

Historically, this late December week-in-between has fostered nostalgia. It has been fertile ground for smiles and tears recalling Christmas Past…giving root to memories of people who joined me in those Christmases but who are no longer here for Christmas now. It has been a week to savor Christmas Present once the Christmas morning “deadline” has come and gone. I have soaked up children still in Christmas pajamas until lunch on cold days because they are out of school and all home together in our common, still  tinseled, nest. It has been a spring board for bitter sweet contemplation of Christmas future as colleges await on our horizon and I glimpse too-soon Christmases when my babies will only be home as visitors. It is a week of both sweet sentiment and quiet ache tucked tenderly into a quiet enclave of time to digest them both a bit.

Two years ago at Christmas when we were waiting to get to Song-Felicity, I was longing so deeply to get to her that I thought my heart could not possibly hurt more. I was wrong. While my arms ached to hold her, I could comfort my heart by seeing frequent pictures of her growing and smiling and gaining weight. We could see emailed images of her with the Christmas gifts we sent across the sea and, though she did not know they were Christmas gifts, we did. And knowing that Christmas had extended to her through us comforted my heart more than I even knew at the time.

Our family joyfully “adopted” 2 children in foster care this Christmas. They are both infants about the age of our baby who waits. I threw myself into choosing the things I would treasure witnessing under our tree for our baby. I wrapped them in the same sparkly red paper I had chosen for all of our children’s gifts and was deeply aware that a significant part of me was wrapping them for my own child…a child who also waits this Christmas in an orphanage or foster care…praying that some far away Mama is caring for my baby as her own until I can get there to tend to my precious one myself.

This Christmas stings so much more than I could have believed possible only two years ago. This year, I know I have a child waiting and without me at Christmas but I do not yet know who he or she is. I cannot reassure myself that my baby is warm or full or that cries are met with tenderness. The not knowing is so much harder than the knowing…so much harder than I could have imagined before I encountered this experience of tangibly holding a child in my heart whom I have never seen. Nothing in my life has been quite so painful as imagining the unanswered cries of a child for a mother and knowing that the mother is me.

A far away baby waits for me. Maybe in cold and maybe in hunger and maybe in too many unthinkable conditions for my maternal heart to carry. Within this awareness, I have found myself this Christmas Present approaching the manger as a mother desperate to get to her baby. And I find myself on my knees pleading with the Child waiting there to get me to one who waits now so very much like He did.

The Child, The Child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light 

A Wardrobe Change

19 October MMXVII

I love clothes. More than likely, way too much. I deeply enjoy getting ready for my day, drinking a cup of coffee and deciding what I am going to wear. I love everything about them. I love fine fabrics and lovely colors. Linens and silks and fine cottons all speak to me. I enjoy the way clothes allow me to express outwardly who I am inwardly. My affinity for clothing has been something I have struggled to keep in check for as long as I can remember…constantly discerning “needs” from “wants”. When I was younger and discerning religious life, I was teased that I would need to find an order that would allow me wear a designer habit.

I am a dress and skirt girl. I find nothing wrong with jeans and more casual clothing, but I like the way dresses and skirts make me feel feminine and pretty. I have never outgrown delighting in the fabulous feeling of twirling like a ballerina in a skirt.

Nearly 3 years ago, I found myself, very unexpectedly, sticking my toe into international adoption waters and I was quickly christened into the adoption t-shirt phenomenon. Many adopting families design and sell these shirts to help with the oppressive costs of adoption, immigration and travel. The first shirts I purchased were before I ever suspected we had a daughter waiting for us in China. I purchased them because they made me feel good. I could give something so little and become a part of something so very, very big. I had purchased my first few from families who were strangers to me. The sacred community of international adoption grows quite small quite quickly. I liked the thought of having contributed to families finding each other…brothers coming home from Africa, a daughter longed for and welcomed from India, a breathtaking blessing of a baby girl from Vietnam, and, of course, numerous children who were waiting in my, now beloved, China.

I never anticipated wearing the t-shirts really. They were not quite my “dress and skirt” type of taste. But when the first ones began to arrive, I HAD to have them on me! I loved being reminded of the children I had never met who had, nonetheless, been written on my heart. The fundraising t-shirts kept these children and their families and the oceans that still separated them perpetually in my prayers. It felt so good to be clothed in all of these warm, holy feelings. I quickly acquired quite a collection and believed I could not love them more.

Until just a few months later.

We found ourselves trying very suddenly and desperately to get to Song-Felicity on the other side of the sea. We had an insufficient financial reserve to fund the process but a whole lot of faith that she was ours. We stepped out in a trust that the same God Who was calling us to her was going to equip us to get there and my precious goddaughter designed OUR first adoption fundraising t-shirt.

There are no words to capture the warm feelings of support that comfort and encourage our family when we see people wearing our shirts. And nothing brings me to tears as quite as quickly as receiving notice that one of our adoption shirts has been purchased by a stranger. It is truly like a hand from heaven reaching down to encouragingly reassure us that God is calling the people He has chosen to get us to our daughter. Though we do not know them, He does. Nothing can be more beautiful or humbling than witnessing His people say “yes” to His prompting to help one of His children get home. There is nothing more profound than experiencing His love in that way or in giving it that way to others.

And perhaps the t-shirts express their purposes most profoundly when they are being worn in country by excited, nervous, frazzled adopting parents on their pilgrimages to bring their children home. We silently support each other by wearing each other’s shirts on air planes, in civil affairs offices, in police stations and to dreaded doctor appointments in foreign lands. They are silent witnesses to the fraternity we share with all families who have navigated red tape and financial mountains and the very seas themselves to get to their children. I often weep on Monday mornings when the “Gotcha Day” photos from the day before begin to post. I witness seemingly infinite longings satisfied with full laps and holy tears…all the while wrapped in t-shirts that helped to make it happen a few dollars at a time.

My t-shirt collection is now precious and sacred to me. It represents homecomings I have had the honor of having a small part in. It represents babies who are safe now. Who belong now. Who have finally found their way home to their mamas now.

These days, chances are that if you run into me you will find me in an adoption t-shirt (paired with a fabulous skirt!) Never has my clothing more authentically expressed who I am…a woman humbled by the generosity of both friends and strangers who helped me to get to my daughter, a passionate mama of babies from both sides of the globe…and who loves, more than anything, to be a part of other families finding their way to each other, too.

Our adoption t-shirt fundraiser ends tomorrow. Proceeds all go toward our pending adoption from China. If you would like to join us on this pilgrimage to our next child, our shirts can be purchased here: https://www.bonfire.com/joy-to-the-world/

Joy to the World Shirt