A Concrete Call To New Life

28 April MMXVI

This week has been such a significant one in Song-Felicity’s journey home to us. Last weekend we received immigration approval to bring her home as our child. The last few days have been consumed with applying for our visas to enter China and for her visa to come home to the U.S. With monumental encouragement and cheer leading from our sweet Goddaughter, we completed Song-Felicity’s visa application yesterday. It should be the final complicated document we are required to navigate before bringing her home. One of the questions it asked was the name she was going to be given by us.

Seeing the name we have chosen for her on a legal document was very striking to me. Maybe because I am a lawyer and witnessing it on something legal makes it “official” to me somehow. But it was palpably profound seeing both the name she has in China and the name she will have with us on the same document. Seeing them together made me increasingly aware that, when she finally comes home to us, she will also be leaving a part of herself in China. The changing of her name concretely symbolizes the changing of her life. The name that was chosen for her by the orphanage is being replaced by the one that has been chosen for her by her family. And seeing this in type-faced letters on a screen caused me to contemplate the gravity of other name changes.

When my last name changed on my wedding day, I left a part of my life behind to enter into a new chapter of it…a new calling for it. When I was Confirmed in the Church, I took a new name…one I had chosen for myself to bind me to a heavenly hero I had personally connected with. It was added to the names my parents had chosen for me…concretely symbolizing my faith crossing the threshold from the one chosen for me by my parents and Godparents into the one I was choosing for myself.

When nuns and religious sisters take their vows, their names often change to symbolize the new life they are saying “yes” to. And Christ, Himself, changed the names of some of His most intimate followers before He called them to something especially significant. Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul. The Lord changed their names Himself to signify that they would need to take on a new identity in Him to accomplish all He was calling them to.

Song-Felicity is keeping part of her China name and taking on some others. The meaning attached to each was discerned with a profoundly prayerful and purposeful intent:

SONG: The name chosen for her by her doctor when she arrived at the orphanage. I pray that it always anchors her to her Chinese identity and reminds her of the joy that her precious identity gives to us. Within hours of knowing I was her mother, I was perpetually praying the psalm, “My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise Him.”

FELICITY: Having a double first name is a bond she will always share with her mother and each of her sisters. All Williams girls have double names. And Felicity honors her China mother by honoring Saint Felicity of Carthage who is the patron saint of mothers who are separated from their children.

THERESE: The name I chose for myself when I was confirmed in honor of the heavenly hero I had loved since I was only 9 years old. It does not escape me that St. Therese longed deeply to be a missionary in China during her earthly life but was prevented from going by her poor health. And though I have three daughters older than Song-Felicity, none of them have ever had my name. It feels right that she is the first one who does. Her sisters have my genetics. She has my name…the name I chose for myself.

WILLIAMS: She is one of us! She is eternally part of our family and part of its heartbeat.

The call of a name…such a concretely powerful and beautiful symbol! May Song-Felicity’s concrete call to her new life eternally remind her of her enduring heritage as a daughter of China, of the love of both of her mothers and of the saints who intercede for them, and of the family who has so joyfully awaited for her to come home.


A Heart Broken Open

14 April MMXVI

Last Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I found ourselves in Urgent Care with our then four-year-old. She had been repeatedly vomiting for over 24 hours and we were getting concerned.

For several hours, the life was frightened out of us. X rays were done looking for “abdominal masses” and there was mention of brain tumors causing uncontrolled vomiting. I held my tiny sick girl in a gurney with Jimmy in a small chair next to us for what seemed like an eternity. I kept vigil watching the door to the room we were in that was not much larger than a closet… hyper aware that each time it cracked open we might receive news that would jerk the rug out from under us and change our lives forever. I clearly remember that swallowing was an effort during those hours and that I had to consciously remember to breathe.

By the very early morning hours a doctor who ended up looking a lot like an angel to me entered the room to tell us that none of the scary things they were looking for had been found…that our girl was going to be fine after some rest and a lot of fluids.

Within no time our baby was chomping chips with her Godmother and enjoying the fuss that was being made over her. Once she was snuggled in to rest in front of “Frozen” with a tiara on her head, I fell apart.

This was not unexpected. I typically navigate crisis with a perhaps too- stoic calm. But when its threat passes, I collapse.

The tears came the morning after our urgent care trip. And they came and they came and they did not stop. For days they did not stop.

In an attempt to comfort me, Jimmy reminded and re-reminded me that our baby girl was FINE. He did not understand my ceaseless tears. I did not understand them either.

It took several days before I could somewhat begin to put their source into words. I attempted to explain them to one who rarely needs me to explain myself. I confided in a dear, maternal friend that what my husband did not understand was that my tears were no longer only for our baby who was okay. They were for the babies who weren’t and for their Mamas who had to helplessly witness them suffer knowing there was nothing in the world they could do about it. Something deep within me was grieving for sick children I did not even know and my heart was breaking over and over again for their mothers. I could not get past the heart break and I did not know why.

Until a few weeks later when Song-Felicity’s file showed up in my email in box. Until I learned her story…how she had a heart that was too sick for her China family to fix with their resources and how she had been left when she was nine months old out of a desperate hope that someone could give her the medical care that they could not. I was beginning to glimpse that God had allowed me to taste the anguish of watching my daughter briefly suffer so that He could break my heart open enough to receive her sister into it from across the world.

The part of my heart that broke open that frightening night will now perpetually break some. A space was cracked open within it that cannot be closed this side of eternity. And the font of tears that springs up from that break within me will always remain just beneath my surface leaking out due to nothing more than a thought of Song-Felicity’s China family or the multitudes of families so very much like them.

I suspect that I may never cease contemplating how my heart was broken open for one daughter so that it could receive another one…how in a single evening in a sterile closet of a room God prepared me to recognize and receive the daughter He had already chosen for me across the world…the one He was only days away from revealing to me. And it makes me ponder what remains within me that needs to break open so that I can recognize all that He still desires me to.