Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Miracles

Best.  Christmas.  Ever. 

Yesterday morning, our son came creeping down the stairs to be greeted by Paw Paw, Paw Paw-Pi'am (He still refuses to say "Grandma") Uncle Robb, Auntie Pam and a tree that looked like it had exploded with gifts.  After having had his birthday last month, he was quite adept at opening gifts and understood that there were treasures wrapped in that festive paper.  It did however take him a few times to understand that sometimes the treasures were encased in plain boxes under the paper.  The first one he opened in which the box did not advertise the gift inside, he patted the snowman on the gift box, scrunched his shoulders, said, "Oh Boy!" and went for another gift.  He needed a little guidance to open the box and find the coat inside.   He got trains and trucks and play-doh and bubbles and books and clothes and Mickey Mouse and tracks and toys galore. After a few runs with the distinctively wrapped Chugginton Trains, he would scour until he found another, hold up his little finger and exclaim, "Un moh Choo Choo"  (aka "One more Train" for the untrained ear) Every single gift was a new opportunity to be the happiest little boy in the world and every single minute was a opportunity for his parents overcome with new waves of gratitude that this Christmas looked so very different in every way than last Christmas.  

With the new Russian legislation in the process of passing banning American adoptions for Russian orphans, my  mind can't help but drift to how we felt this time last year and my heart can't help but ache for the 46 American families who very well may be the victims of the rash retaliation for some politics that are completely unrelated to adoption.  I am not going to venture to explain even the limited understanding I have of what is happening except to say if you'd like to research it a little more, you can google the Magnitsky law.  There have been a number of Russians who have been opposed to Americans adopting Russian orphans and my opinion, based on the very little information I have, is that this sect has been angling for a way to close the door on adoptions.   One side of me keeps looking at the sleepy eyed little boy- who incidently is blowing his new bubbles all over my newly washed kitchen floor- and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that, even with all the obstacles we faced, we have our son home and that this legislation does not affect that.  There is another side of me that has a numb hole in my heart that this will probably mean that the door  is forever closed on Roman, our other son in spirit if not in law.  And then there is the side of me that is furious on behalf of the 46 American families who have already met the children they consider their own who may never hold those babies in their arms again.  But most of all, there is the side of me that is  paralyzed with emotion for those babies who may never have another chance for a mommy and a daddy and Christmas mornings.  In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy and with the  ban on adoptions looming in our future, when are we going to wake up and stop making the innocents the ones who bear the burden of responsibility for a world that is spinning wildly out of control? 

As of this moment, the legislation is not in effect, although the Duma and the Upper Chamber  have already passed it.  On December 20th, even in light of the newly passed bilateral agreement between Russia and America, Vladimir Putin said he supports the bill but has not decided whether or not to sign it.  I have been heavy hearted and prayerful and am asking for those of you who pray to join me.  I am at peace that we may never see Roman again, but I am desperately petitioning the the One who can change hearts to soften Putin's heart so that next Christmas at least 46 more children will have the opportunity to wake up in their forever homes with parents who adore them and a future with more promise than an orphange could ever provide.  Pray for these little ones.  They are the victims of biological parents who could not or would not fulfill their greatest responisiblity and privilege.  Pray that they do not have to be twice vicitimized for political manuevering. 

The lyrics from the Christmas carol, "I heard the bells on Christmas day" have been running through my head for the last week.  For some reason, I couldn't get passed

And in despair I bouwed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth goodwill to men. 

This morning I woke up determined that I would take the minute to look up the rest of the lyrics since they had all but escaped me.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men.

I am grateful in a way that words are inadequate to express that we got to experience our Christmas miracle this year.  And am filled with hope that the one who seeks to kill, steal and destroy will be silenced so that those who are walking the road we've recently walked will experience their miracle next Christmas.

"Let us not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Galations 6.9

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Seven years ago today I walked down a pier in Nassau, Bahamas and pleged my better or worse to my Prince Charming.  It is amazing how quickly the time goes by.  And it's also, almost equally amazing how God can pull individuals from different places and create a family.  The title for this blog is no accident.  It's not a just a bunch of random letters thrown together for a haphazard, made-up word.  It's a symbol for me of God growing a man from Puxico, a little boy from all the way on the other side of the world in Arkhangelsk, Russia and a girl from Rio Frio, Texas and creating a family.  Puxico, Arkhangelsk and Rio Frio.  PARF.  Not random at all, but rather a very intentional and carefully orchestrated story.

One of the most common responses we get when we tell people that I am from Texas is an incredulous, "How in the world did you end up in Missouri?"  For those of you who don't know how our happily ever after began, I'll fill you in a little.  After Brock and I graduated from college- he from Mizzou and me from Howard Payne- we both had opportunities to move to Austin, Texas.  He was a wine salesman, and if you asked his parents, he sold "communion wine".  I worked for Apple Computer as a Senior Fraud Analyst.  That's right.  The girl whose only two C's she got in high school were computers and typing andwho didn't know how to turn an Apple computer on in her interview was working for a big computer company.  Since I had  a degree in Christian Studies and wanted to serve in my church, I wound up teaching the Single's Sunday School class.  There about 75 singles in the class and one day, a blue-eyed visitor came.  Ever the charmer, Brock and I became fast friends.  He joined my family and me for Thanksgiving that year as he was not able to be with his family and at one point during dinner, I was refilling his water glass and we locked eyes for a brief second.  As silly as it sounds, there was a little voice in my head that told me this guy was going to change my life.  Oh, little did I know...  We dated for a while after that but when he felt like it was time to move back to Puxico, I was convinced I would never see him again, and that was perfectly fine with me!  He had been playing the hot/cold game for a few months as he knew he'd be leaving soon and didn't want the entanglement.  I thought that was the end of that and had no idea what the "what next" would hold.

Brock continued to call me for the next two and half years.  I would throw his number away consistently and yet, he would continue to call persistently.  Finally in the spring of 2004, he offered to buy my plane ticket if I would just come for a visit.  It had been  over ten years since I had been on an airplane by myself and even then, my parents walked me to the gate, watched me get on the jetway and my grandparents were the first faces I saw when I got off the plane.  I was more than a little intimidated, but I thought that I would try it.  A three day weekend to Missouri?  It's not like it would change my life or anything...

The next seven months were spent flying back and forth to see one another and many hours on the phone.  We still say our "courtship" was more like a job interview and we processed through our individual thoughts and opinions on everything from money to children to in-laws to God.  Neither one of us were head over heels in love when we got engaged, but I knew he was a man I respected and trusted.  I knew he was a good man with a good heart and a good head.  And today, seven years later, I am more in love with him than I have ever been in my entire life.  I am so thankful he pursued me for those many, many months.  I am so thankful that some of the things I love the most about him were surprises that I've discovered since we've been married.  And most of all, I am thankful that the man that God gave me to love is not only a good provider and protector, but is also a smart and funny and sometimes even downright crazy man!  My very best friend. 

I wonder what I would have thought if I had known that when I stepped on that plane to come for my first visit to Missouri that it would the first of many other flights.  That the process to bring our son home would have involved 46 different planes.  I wonder what I would have thought if it had been revealed to me that the same perseverance it took for Brock to continue to pursue me for two and half years would be used to persevere as we pursued our son.  About a month after Daniel was born, Brock and I felt like God was telling us that He had a special child for us in Russia.  We had no idea what that journey would entail, but it took two and a half years to end that chapter.  Brock deserves a special spot in heaven for the five years he's had to wait on his family.  Two and half years for his future wife to stop throwing his number away and two and a half years for the Russian red tape to be procssed before we could bring our forever son home. 

My mind works very differently now than it did five months ago before Daniel was Daniel Wayne Williams.  Yesterday someone was telling us with the VA, he was able to get an MIC loan.  My mind automatically completed that statement with K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.  Mickey Mouse, or Nickey Nunn as it is known in our house, has been a favorite since July.  Daniel doesn't watch much, but when he does, he loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  I had a mini-epiphany the other day, thanks to Mickey and his friend Toodles.  For those of you who don't know, Toodles is magical and helpful character who shows up at the beginning of each episode with Mouse-ka-tools that are used to help Mickey and the gang through whatever dilemma they are going to encounter.  The tools are always seemingly random objects that actually are perfect for the  specific predicaments that the characters will find themselves in throughout the show.  I think we all have a little Toodles for ourselves.  God doesn't send us a magical little cartoon character with objects to help us in life, but He does provide us with opportunities and experiences that are perfectly and purposefully designed to empower us with the resources we need for adventures not yet experienced.  "All things work together for good for those who love the LORD and who are called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28 

So, maybe, just maybe eight years ago, my heart was a little guarded with Brock because I needed to know I was valuable enough to be pursued.  And maybe the peseverance that God matured in him was the very same perseverance we needed to withstand the challenges we faced on our journey to become Daddy and Mommy.  There were so many seemingly inconsequential events and decisions that led us to be in the right place at the right time.  But there has been nothing random about it.  So our little Missourian-Texan-Russian family is excited to see the good plans that God has in store for us for the next "what next" and we will keep trusting God to put the right "tools" in our "Toodles" so that we can handle whatever it may be.  After all, we, "...can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]"  Phillipians 4.13

Happy Anniversary, Prince Charming!  Thank you for loving me and for walking  with me through the first seven years of our happily ever after.  There is no one I'd rather live my life with than you.  You are my hero!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I am Thankful

November is my favorite month.  Tucked between all the candy and costumes of Halloween and the bustle and busyiness of Christmas is a quiet little refuge that seems overlooked by too many.  The fourth Thursday of the month is marked by families gathering around tables heavy laden with decadent food, all too quickly distracted by the daybreak of Black Friday.  I think I forget how powerful the simplicity of giving thanks in all things can be. 

Shortly after Daniel came home, I had a friend ask me to identify my favorite part of motherhood.  The question haunted me for weeks.  I would creep into his room at night to watch him sleep and marvel at the miracle of him being with us.  Those were my favorite moments.  And then, in the morning, he would sit bolt upright in bed and smile, "Hi Momma" and melt my heart.  Those had to be my favorite moments.  Playing through the day, hearing his laughter echo in the house, listening to him jibber jabber at us, or hearing his feet pitter pounding as he drove his chicken around the house.  All of these were favorites.  And then there were the moments when he would take a "pit stop" from driving his Tonka Truck long enough to squeeze my leg or climb in my  lap for a split second and exclaim a boisterous "Gotcha!" before zooming off again.  And then there's the bedtime ritual of two books (and heaven forbid you're tired enough to cut corners with one book!  Oh no!  He will quickly correct his reader with "TWO boockas!") a prayer and Jesus loves me.  We start the "May the LORD bless you and keep you, cause His face to shine upon you, be gracious to you and give you peace" and he folds his little hands and closes his little eyes and a divine grin stretches across his face.  That is my favorite part of mommy-hood. 

I know all of these little treasures will all too soon morph into other treasures to be enjoyed in our journey to help young Daniel grow up to be the man he was created to be and I catch myself unwisely wishing for the day for his speech to become more clear or for him to get big enough to take himself to the bathroom twenty times a day.  But when the invetiable days for those accomplishments come, it will squeeze out some of the current treasures.  And while I might grit my teeth a little returning the thousandth "Hi Momma" on any given Thursday, I want to remember that those are all temporty treasures tucked into life. 

So today, on this first day of the Thanksgiving Month, I am thankful for the little boy who finally got to come to his forever home and the man who walked with me every painful step to bring him here.  I have always heard when a newborn is laid into his mother's arms for the first time, she forgets all the pain of childbirth.  I do not know this from first hand experience, but I look at our son and I know he was worth every single step.  I am thankful for the Spirit of Perseverance and when that was a bit smothered, the gift of encouragement offered to us.  It quite literally was used to put courage back in us with words and prayers.  I am thankful, not just for the encouragement, but for the courage given with it.  Isaiah 42.3 says, "A bruised reed He will not break.  A smoldering wick He will not snuff out."  I am so thankful that at the times when our wick was barely smoldering and our faith was so weak, He did not count us out.  He bent down, took us by the hand (Isaiah 41.13) and led us to the plan He had for us all along.  Thank you, sweet Jesus for Daniel. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Month Down And A Lifetime To Go!

It has been one glorious month since we walked out of a baby home in Arkhangelsk, Russia with our miracle.  Daniel is learning things so quickly that it makes my head spin.  And we have had to figure some things out fast, too.  Like if you miss that precious window of opportunity between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm to lay him down for a nap, we'd best just buckle up for a long and bumpy afternoon, evening and night.  We have figured out our little man is a slow waker-upper, but if you just let him wallow around for a few minutes, he will sit up on his knees, put his little hands on his little legs, give you a sleepy grin and say, "Hi!".  That "Hi" is not just a precious greeting, it is permission for us to pounce on him and shower him with the hugs and kisses that we've had to hold in for the ten hours while he slept.  (Although, sometimes, we get to sneak in a few very tender and quiet ones when we check on him at night)  We've learned that all three of sleep so much better if every man, woman and child is in his or her respective sleeping postition.  Mommy and Daddy in their bed and Daniel in his!  We've learned that Daniel does not like to be told no, but if you give him a minute, he bounces back to his usually playful and pleasant personality.  We have learned that if Brock comes home from work and quietly stands in the familly room until Daniel notices him, we get a delightful cheer and a two-year old charge!  But more than anything, we have learned even more fully that every good and perfect gift really is from God.  My very first Daniel hug came five months ago, and at that moment my only thought was, "This little boy is going to heal my heart."  I had no idea.  The patter of little feet-or should I say pounding of little feet (for 23 pounds, he is one heavy walker!) the music of his little laugh, and the supreme joy of discovering a whole new day has added such depth and richness to our lives.  Our gift is indeed perfect.

We have also learned some new Russian words.  Now, I'm not completely sure if it's true Russian or if it's Daniel's Russian, but what is communication except the ability to understand one another?  No one else in the world may get our fabulous mix of Russ-lish, but our family is making it work!  When Daniel first came home, he loved men.  He wanted the opportunity to be held by every man he saw, and he called most of them, "Daddy".  But we noticed that he would either point or go to Brock and say, "Dom Daddy."  At first we had to ask each other if our son just called his father "Dumb Daddy".  But then when we would tell him "Die" (I'll explain in a minute) for his monkey, he would throw his Obesyana (monkey-that one is certifiably Russian) over his shoulder and say "Dom!"  So, using our deductive reasoning skills, we quickly figured out that "Dom" must mean something like "Mine!"  So, every man was Daddy, but Brock was "My Daddy".  In other equally confusing Russian to English terms, if you ever see us out and about and we tell our son, "Die", we do not need child protective services called on us.  In Russian-again, this one is confirmed-"Die" means "Give".  So we are not suddenly unhappy and wishing that we never adopted-nothing could be further from the truth-we are simply telling Daniel to hand over that which could hurt him, injure us or require unnecessary headache if he spilled his juice cup on it.  Also, saying good-bye takes a little longer these days as Daniel likes to show that he is a bilingual boy.  "Bye-Bye" in Russian is "Paca Paca".  Our Daniel likes to say "Paca, Paca, Bye, Bye Bye" as if we were raising a Backstreet Boy.   We have also figured out the word for a bird.  So, please, please, please, if you ever see our son point to the sky and yell "TeeTee's" at the top of his lungs, know that he is simply a fan of fowl. We have not taught him to point out something he will undoubtedly figure out on his own when he is a teenager, I promise!  In other animal terms, Daniel likes to point out our back door and yell, "BACA!"  "Sebaca" is dog, so we've figured out that our son likes to yell "OG!" a lot.  If we ever leave and he wants to tell the "bacas" bye, he says, "Paca Paca, Baca Baca!"  Terribly adorable!

In addition to us learning a few Daniel words, he has learned some English, too.  He knows and can say with perfect clarity, purple and blue.  The other colors he's not so interested in right now.  If I count (and I'm counting a lot these days-one, two, three, two, three, two, three toys-you get the idea) I can get to, "One, two..." and I'm usually rewarded with an exuberant "EEEE!" "Please" is "Pesssss" and "Help" is the very quietly whispered word, "Elm".  I have no idea where that comes from.  He can "Huh, Huh, Huh", "Ull, Ull, Ull" and "Puh, Puh, Puh" all day long, but put those sounds together and out comes, "Elm".  I guess if it's a serious emergency, he might yell out, "Birch!" or something. 

His favorite game right now is to take the brightly colored afghan I made during the waiting season (Brock affectionately calls it the 747 coozie as it turned out a little bigger than what I wanted, but I digress!) He pulls it off the loveseat, covers his head, (and usually sticks his hand out to curl his fingers in a "come here") and starts singing "Coo-Coo".  All those toys we have and he's happy with yarn  and boxes.  We made a tent with the coozie the other day and you would have thought Christmas came early!  My favorite game is to tell Daniel, "Whew! That was close!" because I'm rewarded with his little hand wiping across his face while he says, "Phwaa!"  I don't think I'll ever get tired of that one!

A close second is something that has been in our house for years.  Every so often, when Brock is getting ready, he will look in the mirror and with his cheesiest voice say, "You good lookin' guy, don't you ever die.  You know that right!"  Charming, right?  So, last week we were doing our after breakfast routine.  Vitamins (nasty, liquid foul smelling stuff-really Daniel?  You'll eat that, but you won't touch hot dogs?!) then we brush our teeth. Then Daniel puts both hands behind his back while I wash his face, at which point he then offers each of his hands one at a time to be washed, too.  So, I got a wild idea and stood him up on the counter, turned him to the mirror, and showed him how to point his index fingers.  Then, the "You good lookin' guy, don't you ever die.  You know that's right!"  He thought it was hilarious, but now I've created a monster.  Every single time we get done brushing his teeth and washing his face and hands, he pops up, faces the mirror and points his fingers.  I then get the look like "Wellll, what are we waiting for?!"

Yesterday the most amazing thing happened.  We were helping Daddy at his office and it was almost time for us to go home for nap and lunch (we dare not miss the nap!) Daddy told Daniel that he loved him so much and Daniel responded with the sweetest, most perfect, "I wumv Daddeee".  What a perfect moment!  I did get my "I wumv Mommmeeeee" only a few moments later.  It was a moment that will be etched into our memory for the rest of our lives.  What a perfect gift! God is so good to us! Daniel has exceeded our every dream!  My mom asked, tongue in cheek, if Daniel has already been worth the wait and everything we went through to get to this point.  "Oh absolutely!"  "So, everything else is just gravy!"  You know how moms say that when the doctor puts their child in their arms they forget all about the hardships of pregnancy and the pain of the labor?  That's precisely how I feel! And another miracle is that there is not even a small part of me that feels cheated out of the first two and a half years of Daniel's life.  There's only gratitude that we get to be there for the rest of it!  Every single moment was worth it.  Every uncomfortable ride to Russia.  Every heartbreak, every setback.  Our prayer is still that Roman will find a forever family and we love that we had the chance to meet him and make a difference for him, but there is not a doubt in our minds that Daniel was the one who was meant to come home first.  Who knows what the future holds for our family or how God will add to it?  God alone does and for this moment, I won't try to figure it out, I'll just enjoy the gifts He has lavished on us for this season!  I'm am exceedinly grateful for the spirit of perseverance that was given to us so that we didn't quit too soon and miss out on too much!  To borrow a song quote from Chris Rice, "My souls wells up with hallelujahs!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life As We Know It

We have been parents for 8 days...I think.  I've never been so tired.  Or so incredibly happy.  The first two days were absolutely perfect in every possible way.  I am convinced that if we had opened the windows in Arkhangelsk, bluebirds would have flown in, singing a merry song-to which we all would have harmonized beautifully-and helped us dress.  Deer and bunnies would have been frolicking in the halls leaping over colorful flowers.  The air smelled sweeter, our hearts were lighter.  Life was divinely perfect.

And then came Day Three.

It wasn't terrible by any means, but some of the new had worn off and the ineviatble exhaustion had set in.  We found out that our precious little two year old is a bit of a bear if he gets too over-tired.  It's nothing terrbily abnormal and it is certainly attitudes that we had seen before, but for Day Three, I missed our angel!  I found myself on my knees several times begging for wisdom to find that perfect balance between establishing boundaries and overcompensating for the his previous lack of unconditional parental love.  He has most assuredly been testing both of us to find out who the boss is.  And we have been learning his rhythms, too.  I am exceedingly grateful for the advice that we received about isolating ourselves for a little while we get our bearings.  I am at perfect peace that this season of adjusting is new and none of the three of us have anything figured out yet.  But we are a team and we are working on it. 

Daniel was an incredible trooper traveling to his new forever home.  He fell asleep in my arms as we took off in Moscow, and, as the wheels of the plane lifted and tucked themselves underneath, Brock and I let a few tears of utter relief seep out.  All the waiting and uncertainity were over and we, all three of us, were going home.  Daniel alternated on the plane between going to the restroom and sleeping.  In the nine hours on the plane, he had to use the restroom no fewer than 12 times.  We would get him still and quiet in the seat between us and tell him, in Russian, to close his eyes and go to sleep.  Then he would stiffen up, place his hand on his backside and give a frantic, "Kah Kah".  Brock, being the parent on the aisle, would carry him to the lavatory and our dutiful son would squint his eyes, thus still obeying the "close your eyes" instructions.  It was precious.  We landed in New York at 12:20 PM EST and at that precise moment, Daniel Wayne Williams became an American citizen. Thankfull we had no  problems and customs and immigration was a breeze.  We had one more short flight and we would be greeted by our family.  We were in the home stretch....we thought.  After navigating the horrific lines in the Delta terminal with our suitcases and a very sleepy little man, we found out that our flight had been cancelled due to inclimate weather.  It's amazing to me that we took off in January in the Artic Circle in Russia with temperatures dropping near -28 F without an issue, but a little rain stopped us stateside.  But then again with 46 adoption flights, one cancellation isn't too bad.  Brock and I just gave a weary laugh.  What would our life be like without the hiccups along the way?  We found a hotel, and Daniel barely made it through his dinner of Cheerios-a staple at this point-before crashing into eight hours of solid, healing sleep.  Naturally, due to the previous day's cancelled flights the airport was insane in the morning.  We met several new friends and Proud Papa Brock couldn't help but announce to anyone who would listen that this was Daniel Wayne Williams's first full day in America.  And Daniel was all too pleased to show off for his new audience.  He wouldn't touch anyone he didn't know-and if they tried, he'd furrow his brow, stick his thumb in his mouth and turn his head-but he was all to pleased to wave and watch to make sure everyone was watching his tricks. Our theroy was to wear him out before getting on the plane so he would sleep and it worked.  He was out in my arms shortly after take off.  Of course, almost everyone on the plane knew his story by the time we landed and, as we were sitting in the first row behind first class, every single passenger got a big smile and a "Paca Paca" (bye bye) when we were deplaning. 

In the airport just past the security line, we saw red white and blue balloons, a sign, five huge smiles and even a few discreet tears.  Daniel greeted every single one of his new family with a big kiss.  Right smack dab on the mouth.  Several times.  (Since then we have taught him how to blow his kisses and thankfully he finds that just as much fun!) We went to eat with everyone and he regaled us all with stories about his recent travels.  Or at least that's what I assume he was jabbering about.  Being that we still haven't gotten his particularities on his tastebuds worked out just yet, we ordered one of everything on the child's menu hoping that something might work.  Nothing did.  I am convinced that Jesus did a fish and loaves kinda miracle on the Cheerios while we were gone, because that small stash I took to Russia lasted us the entire week.  That and blueberry Fig Newton cookies.  After the food had all been tried and rejected, he was playing with his Uncle Robb and Aunt Pam with his crayons.  It was the best game in the world!  He would put the crayons in Uncle Robb's hand and then take them out and put them on the table and he couldn't have been more excited about it!  Some of the paper came off the crayon and we have discovered that Daniel is also very particular about trash. 

When we were in a hotel somewhere in the world, Daniel had dropped a Cheerio on the floor.  He went to pick it up and I told him "Nit!" and I showed him that he could throw it in the potty and flush it. He LOVES to flush the potty.  No sooner had the paper come off the crayon than he squirmed to get out of his booster seat and he made a beeline for the bathroom he had already visited twice.  He loves loves loves to wash his hands so anytime he has anything in the reservoir, he likes to potty.  So, with crayon paper in his hand, without looking back to make sure anyone was following he made his beeline, went to the toilet, dropped the paper in and flushed.  Uh-oh!  We are going to have to get some locks on the toilet and teach him what a trash can is!  We have learned that he says "Kah Kah" for trash.  And "Kah-Kah" for poop.  And "Kah Kah" for book. (Brock says he must have been reading crappy, trashy books!  He insisted I give him credit for that joke-as if I wanted to take any for myself!!) I am sure that to the trained ear there is a discernable difference between the words, but to our inexperienced ears there is not.  We have learned that "Kah-Kah" with one hand on his backside means he needs to go potty...STAT! and "Kah-Kah" with a smile is usually a book and "Kah-Kah" with a snarl means trash, or a fleck of something small somewhere it ought not be.  He is learning that, "Come here" with arms out means he's about to get a huge bear hug and "Come here" with one hand out means he should follow us, and "Come here" from the other room means, "You are being too quiet and I need to know what you are up to".  Not that he gets out of eyesight very much at all, but even Mommies have to "indisposed" moments. 

We have also learned that Daniel loves going downstairs to the basement, and if I need to say something to Brock about the downstairs, I have to spell it, or he grabs my hand and heads for the door.  Last night, we had to make an unnecessarily necessary trip to get one pair of socks because I slipped, said, "downstairs"  and he heard me and was ready to go.  He walks down the first six, holding my hand and the rail, stops, reaches up and turns on the light, and then takes the last six steps.  I've also learned that he is a huge help while I'm down there.  I hand him the wet clothes and he puts them in the dryer for me.  And then he helps me reload the washing maching by grunting and reaching to throw the clothes in the tub.  I show him the buttons to push to turn it on and his eyes light up every single time from the power he has to control that big white box.  He was a little perturbed yesterday when we had gotten all caught up on the laundry and there was nothing left to do.  It takes three times as long, but it is ten times more fun, so it's an excellent return!  

Our first night in our home was a magical one.  We had left a photo album with pictures of us and our home so when he arrived home it seemed like he knew it was home.  We mistakenly showed him his room that night and it took forever for him to go through all of the stuffed animals and toys we had out.  And those are only a fraction of the treasures he has!  We hid most of his other toys so he wouldn't go into overload mode.  He took every single single stuffed animal and lined them up just so on the floor and held his hands out and jumped up and down, pleased with his collection.  All yours buddy.  You don't have to share them with anyone.  These belong to you.  He still sleeps with his monkey though.  We have renamed it obesyana-or yana, Russian for monkey.  Another new favorite toy is Brock's chicken from his childhood.  It looks like a banana with red yarn hair.  Daniel sits on it's back, grabs the handles and flings himself seemingly recklessly through the house.  I say seemingly because, even though he is moving at the speed of light, he can turn that chicken on a dime and never touch a wall or piece of furniture.  My favorite part is watching him come to the end of the hall, slam on his brakes, Fred Flintstone style, throw that chicken in reverse, back it's booty into the bathroom doorway, turn around and zoom again.  All the while he is squealing in delight.  We had no idea we were getting such a proficient chicken driver.

As I said before he LOVES the water.  Daddy gave him a bath last night while I cleaned up the refused dinner offerings when Brock called that I had to come quick.  I raced in the bathroom to find Brock pouring a huge cup of water on Daniel's head.  He would lose his breath for just a moment, grin from ear to ear and then slap his own head twice to show that he wanted to play that game again.  Over and over and over.  He was so excited!  And so was Daniel! 

For the first time in a week, Daniel slept in his own bed last night.  I missed the little feet that would kick back on my shoulders and the little arms that would fling themselves across my face and the little bony booty that would catapult itself into my chest, but I think we all slept better.  When we were getting him ready for bed, I laid down with him to read him a book and Daddy came around the corner to check on us.  Daniel sat bolt upright, patted the bed on the other side of him, said, "My Daddy" and curled all of his fingers in a "come here" kinda way.  He wanted his whole family to hear the story.  I looked at both of my boys listening intently to Dr. Suess for a perfect moment.  I am so incredibly grateful for our little family.  I have a big man who is counting on me to be his partner and his friend and we have a little man who is counting on us to help him develop to become the man he was created to be.  For the very first time in my entire life I feel like I am doing exactly what I was designed to do. 


What an incredible and precious gift you have been to your Daddy and me already.  Our life has slowed down so much and I know that at the same time the years that we will have with you will go far too fast.  I know that I will make mistakes, but I hope you know that my deepest desire is to be the mommy you deserve.  I can't wait to see the plans that God has for you unfold and it is my deepest honor to get to be a part of those plans.  I love you more than I ever thought possible.  I love watching you learn new things and I love watching you take joy in simple things.  I love your giggles and smiles and I know that you are a happy little boy.  I love how stubborn you can be sometimes because it tells me that you have spunk and spirit.  I love how you play with us-you have brought so much joy to our home.  And I love when you play quietly by yourself, you keep checking to make sure we are still right there.  Rest assured, sweet boy, we will always be right here when you need us.  You are our miracle and this has been your story. 

All my love,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

What an amazing ride the last two and a half days have been. As I type this, our son is sleeping beside me with his ever present Mollie the Monkey, sucking his thumb. When we left him in June, we left him with the stuffed monkey and the caregivers said that he played with it everyday. "Mine!" he would exclaim. We might have to rename him something more masculine and Russian, but Sergei the Monkey doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Daniel has been an absolute delight for every single minute of the time we have had him. Sunday night we rested well until around 4 AM when, much like kids on Christmas morning, the proverbial sun couldn't come up fast enough. The days are still about twenty two hours long. Natalie had given us her son's cell phone so that she could contact us when it was time, with the hope that it would be around 9 AM. She had not yet been able to connect with the social worker, Helen, in the baby home to set up an appointment and the social worker's office hours began at 9. We ate breakfast and came back to the room to wait. Minutes crawled agonizingly by, first five, then ten, then fifteen, twenty, thirty and then forty. We were both silent, anxious . Finally the hotel phone rang with a frantic Natalie on the other end. It seeems that the cell phone we had wasn't working and she had been trying to reach us. We were to be in the hotel lobby in "seven minutes" and then be rushed to the bank to exchanged money and the market to buy a treat for the other children in his group. She was frantic because she anticipated how nervous we must have been feeling so we found ourselves being the ones to console her, assuring her that , as long as at the end of the day we had our son, everything else was going to be just fine.

When we arrived at the baby home, dozens of little people were in the play yard outside the orphanage. It was a beautiful day and all the children were taking full advantage of the sunshine. We assumed Daniel was among them, but we first had to go into the baby home to deliver the huge suitcase of Buddies and trinkets we had brought for his caregivers. At the front desk, however, we glanced outside and saw a little commotion. Daniel was being led by the hand by his caregiver to the edge of the little fence of the playground. She was pointing at us and we saw his face explode into a smile. Brock went outside first and he started jumping up and down and began to climb over the fence to close the distance. He had watched for us every day and it seemed that he was as happy to see us and we were to see him. At long last our family was together! Since we arrived a little later than we had intended and the children had already had their second breakfast and were outside playing, we did not have the party as we thought. We instead took Daniel and the gifts upstairs to the Helen's office, and presented the buddies to her. She covered her mouth with delight when we opened the suitcase and the buddies exploded out of the bag. We emphasized that these gifts were from our friends all over the United States and she was visibly touched by your generosity. We then changed Daniel's clothes and we all oohed and ahhed over how handsome he looked. Even Helen, who sees these adorable children every single day, was not immune to his little converse sneakers and yellow and blue plaid button up. We walked outside and his little friends came over to say "Paka Paka" one last time. We loaded him up in the car and we were off to the greatest adventure of our lives.

He rode quietly in the car. Natalie had said that when she took him to get his passport pictures, he cried when they put him in the car because he was scared. But there were no tears that day. He sat in my lap and took everything in. It was then time for our first big hurdle to overcome. We had to figure out how to feed the little man. We walked to a restaurant that we had eaten at several times. He had a truck in one hand and Daddy's finger in the other. He sat quietly in his high chair at the restaurant and rolled it back and forth. We couldn't have asked for a better behaved child. Halfway through his chicken nuggets and fries, and two glasses of apple juice-rookie mistake, we were just glad he was drinking- he started yawning and rubbing his eyes. We hurried through our pizza and made the short trek back to the hotel. He wanted "Uppa" until he saw pigeons at which time he squirmed to get down so he could make new friends. If only the little rascals would have stayed still long enough. Heaven knows he tried to catch them though and I found myself running to keep up with his short little legs while his Dad stayed back with the video camera laughing at us. Back at the hotel, we changed him into pajamas, laid him down between us and even though it took him about 45 minutes to fall asleep, he stayed still and quiet. No fussing, no fighting. Again, we couldn't have asked for more. In fact, every single hour has brought a new blessing and new wonder. Our hearts have never been so full. The next day was cold and rainy so we played inside and he was absolutely delighted to chase the ball around the room. He read books to us and came running-more like charging every single time we'd clap our hands and say, "Come here!"

 During nap time, I slipped out of the room to go with Natalie to pick up his Russian passport and new birth certificate. Daniel Wayne Williams. Born November 15, 2009. Son of Brock Wayne Williams and Lara Ashley Corwin Williams. No sooner had we walked out of the office than Natalie did a happy dance and confided that she had been nervous since we had had such a series of unfortunate coincidences. Every step brought us to this boy. It was a broken and hard road to walk down, but as my son lays curled up beside me right now sucking his thumb, we know every minute was worth it. We will always love and pray for Roman, but I just have to trust that God has a perfect plan for him, too. But I am convinced that Daniel was made to be our son. Perfect and precious!

 Our plane ride to Moscow was wonderfully uneventful. Brock and I were both exhausted and Daniel was so content to sit on my lap and watch Mickey Mouse on the iPad while we closed our eyes. When we were landing, though, he lunged at Brock to see all the buildings and planes. He pointed and jibber jabbered all the way down the runway and everything was amazing to him! We were met by 31 year old Alex and Daniel was strapped into Alex's son's carseat. Again, he took it in stride. Alex was wonderful with him and managed to get him to close his eyes and rest. When we got to the hotel, we all trooped up to the room with the Doctor in tow and both men commented on how happy he was and how at ease he seemed with us. The Doctor left and Alex had Brock sign a lot of papers. I was reading to Daniel when I was "summoned" to sign some of the papers. "Don't worry I will pay attention to him." No sooner had I signed my name than did I turn around and Daniel was under the covers with Mollie the Monkey, sucking his thumb and drifting into never never land. We want to take Alex home with us!

Today is Wednesday and after Daniel woke up, we took him on the Metro subway to see Red Square and the Kremlin. We stopped for a street vendor juice box, chased more birds, ran around a water fountain and pointed at every truck, bus and tractor (yes tractors in Moscow!!) We can't wait to see him on the farm. The Kremlin and Pokrovsky Cathedral were beautiful, but no sooner had we walked through the entrance than Daniel's little thumb went in his little mouth, the tell-tale sign that our little man was getting sleepy. We quickly snapped some pictures, but it's amazing how even in the most famous place in Russia, we were completely distracted by our 33 inch miracle. He needed a nap and we needed to get him to a bed. He was an absolute champion though while we navigated the Metro back to our room and then fell asleep for a loong four hour nap.

We have learned so much in the last sixty hours. He loves Mollie the Monkey and does not love the generic elephant we brought for this trip. We learned that there are a lot of things that he will not eat, but he loves Cheerios and sour cream and french fries. That's all he would eat at dinner. Natalie wrote some phrases for us to ask him. "khochesh 'pee saht" Do you need to pee? "Khochesh peet" Do you want to drink? "Khochesh 'kooh shaht" Do you want to eat? "Khochesh Kah'Kaht" Do you need to take a poo? Unfortunately, we got 'kooh shaht and kah'kaht confused so we were wondering why he looked at us funny when we asked if he was hungry and we rushed to put him on the potty. Epic Parental Fail. Today, after having received a million and five kisses from us over the last two days, he puckered his lips like a little duck and laid a big wet one right on Daddy's mouth. He wiped his own mouth off and it became his newest favoritest game. I think he repaid every single kiss with interest. And we couldn't get enough. We've learned that every time he has to go potty, he has to make sure that Mollie is safe in the arms of the non attending parent. He loves water, and since our hotel in Moscow only has a shower, he has danced in the downpour, laughing hysterically. Also, apparently teeth brushing is the most hygienic way to tickle him. He laughs hysterically every time I put a toothbrush in his mouth.

One final highlight before I surrender to my own exhaustion. Tonight the most amazing thing happened. He has been sleeping between us every night. Daniel was laying quietly between us, and suddenly sat upright, spun around so he was facing us. He put on finger dead center in Brock's chest and said, "Dah Dah" and then one finger on my chest, "Mah Mah" Brock and I looked at each other in astonishment. Did he just call us Daddy and Mommy? Sure enough, the next fifteen minutes was spent repeating the same, until each word became more and more clear. Mommy, Daddy, Mommy Daddy, Mommy Daddy. Yes, son, we are your Mommy and your Daddy. We love you so much already. You are our miracle.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Gotcha Day

We are in the final hours. Our trip went smoothly except for only the smallest hiccup in Moscow. The printer stopped working at ticket counter for our connecting flight but after only a few moments, they had fixed the glitch and we were all set. "You are very lucky," we were told. "Normally, if it breaks it takes hours to fix and we wouldn't have been able to print your boarding passes." I don't know that we've ever been told that we were lucky while our feet have been on Russian soil. It was surprisingly delightful! * When we arrived at the hotel, we had just barely beat the torrential downpour that danced its way across the river. Another small blessing to not have had to pull our 130 stuffed animals and all our other luggage through the rain. We took our standard Sunday afternoon nap for a world record of six hours, got up, walked to a nice little restaurant and then to the grocery store to make sure our son had milk and yogurt, cheese and juice. The temperature is very cool here and I'm thankful that in my praying for wisdom on what to pack, I thought to grab some sweaters and long pants. It was so hot here last month that part of me thought it would be silly. Although, the time before that, only three months prior, the ground was covered in snow and ice and the river was frozen solid. Such changes in such a short amount of time.

As silly as it seems, there is a tiny, minuscule part of me that is a little sad to not have any more trips to Russia in the foreseeable future. There is a much, much greater part of me that is grateful to have this process behind us. More than anything I am relieved to leave this holding pattern of uncertainty and dive headlong into all the work and all the wonder of parenthood. This process has been a huge part of our lives for almost three years and now we get to dance to a new rhythm.

We have become masters at charades. When we ordered dinner tonight, our waitress did not understand what we were trying to communicate until Brock tappped his water glass and then wrapped both arms around his chest and shivered violently. She laughed and returned with a big bowl of ice. I would have thought that food would have been the most difficult thing to order, but thanks to bilingual menus, we are able to point. My favorite part is the way every waitress nods her head as if we've made a wonderful selection, and then repeats our order back to Russian. We smile and nod and hope for the best. Last night I ordered, "chicken in the capital style" which turned out to be a piece of very done fried chicken breast.

Two years, seven months and eleven days ago, Brock came up quietly behind me, put his arms around me and whispered the words that have changed our lives. "I'm ready to adopt if you are." Nine hundred, fifty four days, almost one hundred thirty seven weeks, twenty two thousand eight hundred ninety six hours, one million, three hundred seventy three thousand, seven hundred sixty minutes, and approximately, eighty two million, four hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred seconds. We have been on forty three different flights and have three more to go. We have fallen in love with two small Russian boys and have the amazing privilege to take one home. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this journey would have taken the twists and turns that it did. I couldn't have conceived the number of people to whom we are forever indebted for helping us, praying for us and encouraging us to take one more step when we felt like we couldn't even crawl. (Granted, I couldn't "conceive" even one person!! :) We have experienced every possible emotion. And we will finish with tidal waves of gratitude, amazement and the greatest peace that this part is finished and we have finished well. We got discouraged, but never quit. We got angry, but never stopped trusting God. We got disheartened, fatigued and sorrowful, but we held on. "...if you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on until there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold On!..." Rudyard Kipling If 

I am not in any way saying that WE did anything miraculous. Heaven knows that without the prayers and support of His people, we would have abandoned this a long time ago. I attribute all of our successes to His provisions of people and power.

In about three hours, we will walk into that baby home for the last time, bearing gifts and sweets and have a party with Daniel's caregivers and the other children and we will celebrate our family. We have had far too many days of mourning and heartache and today is the day of celebration and great rejoicing! Then we will walk out, with our forever son in our arms and bring him to his forever home. July 23, 2012 is Daniel's Gotcha Day. We will give him the best we can give him. We will shower him with love and affection and forever change not only his life but his legacy. But we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have been chosen for this incredible privilege. For to love any child is a gift and the love of a child is the greatest measure of success.

It is finished...and then it will have just begun....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let's Bring that Baby Home!

It's 4 AM and my brain is doing cartwheels.  We leave in less than 36 hours and, while I couldn't be more excited, I am completely and delightfully overwhelmed.  Brock and I have been around children our entire lives and we've never been scared of a miracle wrapped in skin, but this little 32 inch, 23 pound gift has me terrified!  I keep telling myself that every new mother I've ever known has had many of the same feelings when the doctor hands them a little bundle and sends them home.  "What do I do if he gets sick?  How will I know what to feed him?  How will I know when he's even  hungry?  What happens if he doesn't like me right away?  How do I keep him from getting scared and overwhelmed?  How do I keep me from getting scared and overwhelmed?  What if his ears won't pop on the plane ride home?"

Okay, that last one might be a little unique...

Then I hear the voice of our case worker.  "All you have to do is keep him alive.  He doesn't have to be eating all his vegtables and get on a perfect routine right away.  You just have to keep him alive..."  We can do that!  Lord willing!!  We will figure out something that he will like to eat and, even if he doesn't sleep in his adorable little toddler bed we have ready, we will figure out somewhere that will be comfortable to sleep.  We've done everything we know how to do to prepare-we've covered outlets, we've moved medicines, we've put family heirlooms away, we've read books and we've put all my bead projects in the basement.  Now, we just have to roll with it.  We get to enjoy it all.  We get to be there for his first English words.  We get to enjoy every run-across-the-room-jump-into-your-arms-bury-the-head-your-neck kinda  hug.  Life as we know it is over and now the party-and all the hard work-can start!

When events started spiraling out of control with Roman, we shut down.  I stopped all the nesting projects (Granted, first I DID have to get our home livable again!) and closed the door on preparations.  I never thought I'd say this, but I have been extremely grateful for this 30 day waiting period.  Of course, if we had had the choice, we would have brought him home right away, but since we didn't have that option, it has been nice for the prep time.  Neither one of us had  let ourselves feel too attached and up until the court hearing, we were on a bit of auto-pilot.  There was a big part of us that was scared of another drawn out tragedy.  But Perfect Love drives out fear and God gave us all the resources we need to take each new step when it was time.  Now, we are less than five days away from holding the little boy who captured our hearts.  That still voice I heard the very first day in the baby home, "This little boy is going to heal my heart" was happily prophetic.  We still pray and will continue to pray for little Roman, but we are also absolutely convinced that Daniel was destined for our family.  My heart is full.

We are leaving to drive up to St. Louis tomorrow and we will fly out on Friday.  We are scheduled to get to Arkhangelsk on Sunday around noon, just in time for our Sunday afternoon nap!  We aren't sure yet if we will pick Daniel up on Monday or Tuesday, but we will fly out to Moscow with him on Tuesday afternoon.  We will spend the rest of the week finalizing paperwork and getting ready to bring him to his forever home.  We will take the early flight from Moscow home on Saturday the 28th, spend the night in St. Louis and come home on the 29th.

It seems so simple condensed into five little sentences.  Our world is going to be upside down and backwards.  We are as  ready for it as we know how to be.  His world is going to be upside down and backwards, and he has no idea what's in store for him.   Please keep remembering us in your prayers!  First and foremost that we will have wisdom.  Wisdom to know what toys, medicine and what size clothes to pack!  (This relatively simple task has me completely bumfuzzled!) Wisdom to know what to do to help him feel safe and protected.  Wisdom to navigate a foreign country with a new addition.  Pray for Daniel, too.  It's always amazing to me how resilient God made most children.  Pray that he will have peace and not be confused and frightened.  Pray that he will be able to rest comfortably away from the only "home" he's ever known.  Please pray that he stays healthy as travel and stress can wear on an immune system.  Pray that he will feel safe and protected and loved.  Because he is.  More than I can begin to put into words.  He is that peice that's been missing in our lives for what feels like far too long.  But God's timing is perfect and Daniel is a good and perfect gift from Him.  What a treasure!  What a miracle!  And that miracle would have never been possible if it had not been for the prayers and support of God's people.  Words cannot begin to express the overwhelming gratitude we have for every prayer lifted and every gift offered.  You've all been a critical part of changing a child's legacy.  Brock and I just get to be the lucky ones he will call Mommy and Daddy :) 

Ahh, cup runneth over!

By the way, we will be bringing a stuffed Buddy for every single child in that Baby Home!  Waaahhh-Hoooo!!!  Thank you to all who made that possible!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Give a Buddy to an Orphan for only $20

When we left Russia this last time, we left a few things for Daniel as gifts, one of which was we little Scentsy stuffed animal.  When we gave the stuffed animal to the caregiver, she told us how cute and soft it was and then she said that since she couldn't give one to all the children, she would put it on a shelf and let him play with it a little each day.  Daniel wouldn't be able to sleep with it, though.  We completely understood, but it got me thinking....

Why can't every single child have their very own stuffed animal?  The baby home in which Daniel lives has a little over 100 children all under the age of four.  It tugs at my heart to think not only do these precious babies have nothing in the world to call their very own, but also that there is no soft little cuddly stuffed animal to hold while they close their eyes and drift to sleep.  Brock and I have been extremely blessed to have so many of you follow our story, pray for us and help us fulfill our dream of being a parent.  We are asking you to consider blessing an orphan in a small way. 

As most of you know, I have sold Scentsy for the sole purpose of raising money to help with our adoption costs.  In addition to the warmers and wax, Scentsy also has "Baby Buddies"-cute and soft little stuffed animals with a special pouch for a scented sachet.  Our goal is to be able to take 130 Baby Buddies to the orphange when we go back next month to pick our son up and bring him to his forever home.  We are asking you to be a part of blessing these children in this special way.  For $20, you can buy a Baby Buddy for an orphan.  We leave on the 18th, so I need orders collected NO LATER THAN JULY 5TH JUST TO BE SAFE!!!

You can give a Buddy to a Baby in one of three ways:

Click on the Donate button on the blog at  follow the instructions and donate $20 and include "Baby Buddy" in the note section.  If there is a particular Buddy you'd like to have given in your name, you can specify that, too!

Mail a check for $20 with a note for Baby Buddy to:
Ashley Williams
PO Box 86
Bloomfield, MO 63825

Go to and pick your buddy and ship to
Ashley Williams
312 E Shawnee
Bloomfield, MO 63825
(This way it will cost a little more because you will have to pay for shipping and tax.  The other two ways, we are covering those costs ourselves)

Thank you so much!  I absolutely cannot wait to see the look in these children's eyes when they get to pick out their very own stuffed animal!

Friday, June 15, 2012

No More, "Not Today"

I don't even know how to begin. I have no idea how to start. How do you put into words the conclusion to a two and half year journey? It feels surreal. It feels fantastic. It feels Divine.

The last three days have been an absolute blur. We arrived in Arkhangelsk, Russia on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 around 11:30 in the morning and we were met by a new translator, Natalie. While she was new to this position, she was not new to international adoptions nor the processes involved and she proved to be, as all of our translators have been, an incredible blessing. We were hoping to see Daniel that afternoon, but we were told that since it was a Russian holiday, we would need to wait until the following morning before we could visit him in the baby home. So, we took some much needed rest and woke up on Wednesday refreshed and excited. When we arrived at the baby home, we were amazed that the four feet of snow and ice had vanished and was replaced by dandelions the size of a chid's fist. It would seem that with the 24 hours of daylight, every living creature takes advantage and grows exponentially. We were ushered into the same small room that we had met Daniel just under three months prior. Could it really be that it has only taken eleven weeks? We had assumed that March 23, 2012 marked the darkest day in our lives after that court hearing and now we see that a plan had unfolded. March 23rd changed the direction of our lives forever. And each year will mark the anniversary of that bitterest-sweetest days of our life. No sooner had we sat down than we heard the light patter of little feet. The door swung open, and in bounded Daniel. He did a jump stop by the toys before the caregiver could call his name. He turned around, reluctant to divert his attention from the toys, saw us and his face exploded with excitement. He flung his arms wide and ran head long into Brock's open arms. He remembered us!

We spent the rest of that meeting and the next rolling on the floor with him, making him laugh, kicking the ball back and forth, building "towers" and knocking them over with trucks and trains. All three of us were in paradise. The translator and social worker had discreetly stepped into the other office, but every so often we caught their faces peering around the corner, smiling or heard a happy chuckle in response to Daniel's boisterous belly-laugh. When the caregiver came to take him back to his room the first time, he backed up with his back against the wall, puffed his little chest out and vehmently shook his head from side to side. The gentle caregiver gave him a sweet smile and said, as translated by Natalie, "He is having too good of a time with you and does not wish to leave you." No sooner had she said that than he ran to the child-size couch, popped his thumb in his mouth and flopped face first into the cushion. He seemed placated when he was told we could walk with him and he grabbed my hand and we walked him back.

The next morning, we were scheduled to be picked up in front of the hotel with Natalie, the translator, Eager, the driver and Sergei from the Ministry of Education. Sergei was to observe our interactions with Daniel so that he could provide testimony in court. We had met Sergei on the previous trip and found him to be a jolly, jovial gentlemen. He very obviously has a passion for adoptions and working in the best interest of the children and once again we were recipients of unmerited favor from someone who had compassion on us. We hopped in the car and were met with the infectious grin of Sergei and the solemn eyes of Natalie. "Bad news today," in her Russian accent. "We were told, just this morning, that you will be required to complete the medicals. Sergei is trying to work his connections, but I do not know what this means. I do not understand why they cannot accept the medical referral from your American family doctor. Family doctors are just beginning to be popular here. But today, we must see eight doctors, and they must all be the head doctors. Do not worry. We are trying, but I do not yet know how they will do this. My fear is that they will reschedule court for Tuesday. I know about your flights and I know about your visas. Let us not worry, we will do our best. I am sorry we did not know this before now. You are the first family who has had this happen."


 I looked at the white face of my husband and felt our journey spiral out of control once again. We had been required to complete our medicals in St. Petersburg last July and it had cost us $1600. And that was with appointments to the doctors, of which we had none now. We had spent our last rubbles on our lunch and we were concerned about finding the time to go to the bank to exchange more money. Our translator- self-proclaimed-miraculously had 5,000 rubbles with her (about $165) and we would go as far as we could with that since we were extremely pressed for time. Why again? We had already decided that we could not afford mentally, physically, emotionally or financially to be told anything but "yes" in court this trip. The last thing we wanted to do was walk away from this sweet little boy, but our emotions and our psyche were hanging on by a stretched thread. We could not walk through what we had just been through again. We would not delay another child from being put back into the database for another family while a judge vacillated. So one more day. One day more.

We could run the last leg of this race with everything we had left in us. One way or the other, it all would be over the very next day. We had no idea that we would literally be running a race. I had no idea that my decision to not wear socks with my Sketchers that morning would leave my feet swollen, blistered and bloody by the end of the day. From noon until 5, the day stretched like a blur. Unmarked buildings, needles, signatures, running on trodden down paths in fields of grass and dandelions that were literally two feet tall. Pressing on only knowing the next step as it came. We had eight doctors to see. Brock looked at me in a waiting room at one point with the look of utter defeat. "All it would take is one doctor not to be available and we've lost everything."

The first three stops were comical at best. We ran into the building for infectious diseases only to be told that we must pay before they would allow the chief doctor to see us. And to pay, we were to go to an ambigious building somewhere to the south of us. We spent precious, precious time chasing shadows and trying to find the right people in the right order. Sergei was with us, boldly leading and persuading with his charm and pull. He clicked through the halls with his briefcase, with Natalie following behind, me struggling to keep up and Brock somewhat despondently falling back. So many miles in the last two and a half years. So many times we rushed at break neck speed to complete something just under the deadline. We were pulling the last of our reserves, strenghenend only by the recent outstretched arms and infectious giggle of our sweet little Daniel. We were going to give it all we had. We met some very kind and understanding doctors. Some who were gruff and insensitive. One left me near tears on the table, staring up at the ceiling wondering how much more violated and vunerable I would have to be to complete this adoption. One more day. One day more.

By 5:00 PM, we had met with every doctor except the pulmanologist and radiologist. Sergei had procurred appointment with them at 9:00 in the morning as soon as their doors were open. One hour before our court proceedings. We were so close and so far away. One hiccup and it would crash around us. I couldn't sleep when we finally made it back to the hotel. My legs ached, my feet throbbed and my mind tumbled with every possible ridiculous question that I thought the judge would ask. I dreamed that the judge from Murmansk flew down to oversee the hearing in Arkhangelsk. By morning, I was exhausted. (and grateful that it was not the cardiologist that we were slated to see!) For all the stress, our appointment was blessedly uneventful. Every single doctor had made him or herself available. Our favorite was the pyschologist who spoke with a hearty, "Vellcome...Pleese, sit dowuhn" with a delightful grin that stretched ear to ear. We complimented her English and asked if she spoke more phrases. "Veery littl-uh. I'mmmm HUNGry...Dis is bedy expensuve." Each remark was accentuated with exaggerated hand gestures and animated facial expressions. After she completed her process, she bid us farewell with a, "Guud bye-uh and guud luck." And it just so happened that she was as delighted with our attempts at Russian conversations as we were with her English. What a blessing! By the way, the cost of all the medical evaluations? Let's just say that Natalie's 5,000 rubbles (paid back in full, of course) covered every single fee we incurred. God's provision once again proved sufficient. He is so good.

Our court hearing was in a much smaller and more comfortable room. Our judge, the honorable Andrei was a serious looking man with very thoughtful questions. My heart was racing and my breathing became sporadic when he asked the social worker about Daniel's biological mother. Natalie managed to, quite smoothly I might add, interject "don't worry-it's normal" in her translation without missing a single beat. I stole a quick glance at her face, and her professinalism never wavered. While my speech was written out explicitly (as we could use notes) Brock went first and then the judge proceeded to ask questions that covered every single topic of my speech. I took a deep breath, and did what I am not gifted at doing at all, and I "winged it". We were asked questions and then the others in the room gave their testimony. Sergei had said in our meeting the night before that we seemed like a funny couple and we would make very good parents and he was jealous that Daniel was going to be our son. We offered to adopt him. Svetlana, the social worker, announced that while she had been present for the meetings, she found that we were all three very comfortable and could communicate effectively enough that she wasn't needed for much assistance. She also, very diplomatically, pointed out that while he was very comfortable with both of us, he seemed especially taken with Brock. He seemed to enjoy sitting on my lap and playing with me, but he was thrilled when he could wallow all over Brock. It was also evident as our last meeting with him before that, he had been instructed to bid a "Paca Paca" (bye bye) to us and he ran for Brock, threw his little arms around his neck and then ran right by me while turning his little shoulder down. (But not to worry, I got more than my fair share of hugs and lovin's, as Svetlana announced)

After about an hour and a half in court, it was time for closing remarks. The Prosecutor, a round face woman with smiling blue eyes, told the judge that she saw that we were financially and physically able to provide for the child and that she believed it was in the child's best interest to grant our petition to adopt. When she said our names, she stumbled briefly on my Lara Ashley Williams and I caught her eye and nodded that she had gotten it close enough. She smiled and winked at me. Judge Andrei retired to his chambers while he deliberated. Svetlana and Natalie both said that our speeches were wonderful and that Svetlana had never seen the judge crack a smile in the court proceedings until Brock. That's my hubby! He came out a short time later and, after reading four or five pages of official documents, we heard the heart-stopping, long-awaited, "the court has decided to grant the petition to adopt Averin Daniil Sergeevich by Brock Wayne Williams and Lara Ashley Williams." It was finished. Well, somewhat...We will now wait for the 30 day waiting period and come back to pick up our son, finish the necessary paperwork and bring Daniel Wayne Williams to his forever home in July. Brock and I wish to remind everyone that we are so incredibly grateful for all your prayers and support! Please remember too, that when we first come home, we are going to "batten down the hatches" for a short time and let him get used to us and us get used to being parents. We absolutely cannot wait to introduce him to the world, but we need to introduce him to a whole new world in our family first. Please be patient with us during this transistion time...

Our final visit with Daniel this trip had an entirely different flavor. For the first time in this entire process, I looked our son in the eyes, pointed to his chest and said "Daniel." Then I pointed to my chest and said, "Mamma" Brock, gently picked him up in his arms, and with a choked voice, pointed to Daniel's chest and said, "Daniel." Then, with his hand over his heart and with the most tender look on his face, "Daddy. I am your Daddy." I believe that Daniel knew. When we left him, we took turns carrying him down the hall and when he reached his room, he whimpered. "Paca, Paca Daniel" Natalie looked at us with her huge, soulful blue eyes and said, "He is sad because he knows he won't see you for a while. But he nods when they ask if he understands that you will come back." We are coming back, Daniel. The minute they let us, we are coming to take you to your forever home. We will tell you of the miracle of your story. We will tell you about Irina, Margie, Andrei, Natasha, Sasha, Roman the driver, Tatiana Red and Tatina White, Denis, Sergei the driver, Sergei the apartment owner, Irina the social worker, Nina, Nasta, Natalie, Eager, Sergei at the Ministry of Education, Svetlana, your caregivers and of course, your brother Roman. He led us to you. I am so glad you are our son.

I want to interject here briefly and say that every single person we have dealt with in Buckner has done an exceptional job. They have cried with us, they have aided us in ways that we never would imagined. Brock had asked Natalie, in a choked voice if she knew our story and knew why another potential delay was so hard for us. She teared up and said she was aware and she couldn't imagine. These people have cried tears for us. They have cried tears for the children who deserve so much more. I must also say that almost everything about our Arkhangelsk experience has been relatively easy. If it weren't for the fact that our scars are only two months old and still healing, we would have had as close to the ideal experience as we coud have had. We know that we are richly blessed in friends, family, supporters, helpers. As I was sitting in the court room this morning, I started mentally listing all of the people who would rejoice with us. All these people put our family together. Finanically, prayerfully and with just good old-fashioned hard-and I know it's stressfully difficult sometimes!-work! Who are we that we should be the recipients of such favor? Daniel, God indeed "blessed the broken road that led [us] straight to you." And you will hear every single day for the rest of your life that you being our son is our miracle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ramblings of a Future Father

How do you start to put together the excitement and uncertainty of a new phase of your life?  One thing that is interesting with the human spirit is that you have the choice to give up but if you really feel that something you want great enough you will fight to the end for it.  I truly feel with all of my being that we are nearing the end of our adoption journey and in a very short amount of time Daniel is going to be sleeping in his room with all the stuffed animals and new clothes and everything that he probably never could imagine at his disposal.  We met with Daniel yesterday and to say that we are getting tired of being ushered into a room to spend a brief amount of time with a child that we would lay our lives down for, would be an understatement.  Even though we are still reserved in fully embracing being Daniel's mommy and daddy we are not reserved with Daniel.  He is a wonderful little boy and with that he has a child's excitement that is intoxicating.  When he goes to get a toy he more often than not will jump when we gets to his destination.  To see the jumpstop of this child melts my heart and it is part of the reason that we once again flew many thousands of miles to see it once again.  Daniel has not been feeling well the last couple of days we were told and you could tell that he was a little weary by the look on his face.  When he saw us and heard the caregiver say momma and poppa he ran and lunged for me and gave me a big hug.  Then he lunged for Ashley and gave her a big hug.  Then he headed straight for the toys.  I truly feel that Daniel remembered us by the way he reacted to us.  Maybe in his mind momma and poppa are people that play with him and yes we are going to do that a lot but there is so much more to the equation.  Not only are we going to play with him but we will care for him, love on him, support him, and try to do our very best at giving him a life that is perfect.  Or at least as perfect as a life can be.  Ashley and I have spoke about not spoiling Daniel.  Sure we are going to want to give him everything that we have the power to afford and shower it on him but that isn't what he needs, all Daniel truly needs is our love.  Our love for this child that has not even begun to grasp the meaning of the play time that he has had with us.  It is going to be tough not to be the parent that says "I want him to have all of everything" but we don't want to be that way.  We don't want Daniel to grow up expecting everything to be handed to him because he "deserves" anything he wants.  Don't get me wrong he is going to have everything that he needs and many of the things that he wants, but I just pray that we will be good parents to give him the loving home that every child so much deserves.  It pains me to think about all the children that are living in homes that they are an afterthought to their parents.  The "thing" on the parents minds are so much more important that these precious little children.  Whether that "thing" is alcohol or drugs or chasing a partner or work or whatever.  I just wish that people would realize what is truly needed in homes today.  One thing that I think is missing in society are homes.  I am being a little abstract here but a home is not four walls and a roof, a home is a loving safe place for all living there to be.  Whether it is a husband and wife and children or whatever the combination.  I hate that the failure rate with marriages has broken down that vital part of what a home should be.  I know that no one is perfect and I also know that there are times in a marriage that can be very challenging.  I just wish that people would not throw in the towel so easy.  I love my wife in every way you can imagine and surprise surprise sometimes she gets on my last nerve!!!  There is nothing wrong with that as long as you learn to deal with it and move on.  Oh and a secret for everyone, yes I get on her last nerve also.  I know, hard to believe.   As I get off my soapbox I am brought back to where I am sitting as I type this, Arkhangelsk, Russia.  I never in my wildest dreams would have ever thought I would go to Russia in my life much less 5 times in less than a year with hopefully one trip left.  All of these miles traveled so I get the chance to be a dad.  This is not the plan that I had for my life.  But I am so proud and happy for the plan that God set in motion for me.  It is truly a blessing to be able to have the opportunity to be a daddy to Daniel.  He is a sweet little boy that I cherish even with the brief amount of time I have spent with him.  Am I going to mess up at times being a dad?  Sure I will, but I have to learn and move on.  As long as I keep Daniel's best interest in the decisions that I make concerning him the rest will work out.  Does that mean that there are not going to be hard times?  Nope, sorry to say there are going to be a lot of them.  I am sure that I am going to get to hear the dreaded phrase "I hate you" some time during my life from my precious son.  I regretfully remember saying that to my father and more than likely those of you reading this have said the same at one time or another to your parents.  I just pray that some day Daniel will get on the other side of that and be like me and regret that I ever said something like that to my dad.  He has been a great man for an example of what a real dad and what a real man can be.  Is he a perfect man?  No he is not.  Is he a good man?  There are no men that are any finer.  I want to say thank you to my dad, Rudy Williams, for being the man that he has been and the man that he continues to be.  I can't wait to see him as a grandpa.  This Sunday is Father's Day.  For me I pray that it gets to be my first, I will be able to answer that after court on Friday.  But this sunday is also going to be Grandfather's Day in my book.  And if you want to top that off with one more thing June 16th is my dad's birthday.  I hope that I get to give him a best present of being a grandfather.   Please continue to keep us in your prayers.  We have tried to have a strong face throughout this whole journey but this has truly been the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.  The amazing thing is that through all of it things in our life continues to get better.  We are in a better place in our marriage than we have ever been.  We are stronger as a couple and also stronger is our friendship than we have ever been.  Now does that mean that we never argue???  Nope, we still argue, that is part of being with someone.  But I love Ashley more today than any other day in the history of time.  She is my best friend and she is the mother of my children.  I pray that anyone that is reading this has a best friend like I have.  If you don't and you are married work on making that person your best friend.  This journey would not have been the same without my Ashley.  So we push forward!!!  We get to go see Daniel again today to play again and then tomorrow we go to court.  I think we are oddly at peace with going to court tomorrow but at the same time we are nervous about it.  I don't know how to describe that set of emotions but they are all jumbled together.  May God Bless everyone of you reading these words.  If you have a quick moment please say a prayer for all of us, Ashley and I and of course Daniel.  Please also say a prayer for Roman, if it weren't for Roman we would not be sitting in this hotel room right now.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

June 15th is coming!

We have another court date!  I will fully admit that I'm more than a little nervous as 10 AM June 15th will be here before we know it.  I am hopeful that our trip to court this time will not be a repeat of the same nightmare we had in the first three months of this year.  How much has changed in a year!  And yet, how much is still very much the same.

I just returned last week from a two week vacation to see my family in Texas.  It was nice to be distracted for a little while.  Wonderful to play with neice and newphews.  Lovely to catch up with a few old friends.  It brought much needed relief from daily looking at clothes that have never been worn...a baby bed in which no little head has rested.  And just when I was beginning to wonder how many more distractions I would need to get through the rest of this journey, I had a slow awakening.

I was sitting at the breakfast table with my grandpa.  Sunlight was streaming in and he was, as he always does, listening very intently as though he had something to learn from me.  Grandpa has always embodied Emerson's "Every man I meet is my superior in some way.  In that, I learn of him." Naturally, we were talking about Roman and Daniel and the dichotomy of all the inherent emotions.  Then he mentioned Samuel.  My stomach recoiled.  You must understand that Brock and I have not been pillars of strength and faith that so many are so quick to attribute to us.  I've been downright angry.  I have felt ambushed.  I feel as though my faith has made me look a fool.  I won't go into our private rantings, but suffice it to say that there have been many moments in these last fews months that have been dark with anger and resentment.  When Grandpa mentioned Samuel, I recoiled because it was yet another fresh slash at my already broken heart.  If you aren't familiar with the story of Samuel, it's found in the I and II books of Samuel in the Bible.  I Samuel opens with a godly man named Elkanah with two wives-yea, I know, I don't get it either.  One of them had sons and daughters and the other, Hannah had none because the LORD had closed her womb.  Elkanah loved Hannah more than the other wife and Hannah's "sister wife" provoked her to iritate her since she was barren.  I imgaine that poor woman was jealous of her husband's love for Hannah.  And I can all too easily empathize with Hannah's despair.  An empty womb...the inability to provide a giggling, healthy baby for her husband.  I know the emptiness and longing.  I know the confusion of not having an answer when you ask, "Why not me?"  I know the tears she cried when she went to the temple to pray for a child.  I have cried those very tears.  And then the LORD had mercy on her, opened her womb and she experienced the miracle of having little feet kick in her belly, little tumblings that felt like flutterings.  She got to experience the wonder of feeling her son, the manifestation of her husband's adoring love, grow inside her.  I never felt those feelings for Roman in my womb, but I felt them all in my heart.  And my heart echoed Hannah's prayer centuries after she prayed it.  "I prayed for this child and the LORD has granted me what I have asked of him" (I Sam. 1.27)  That's why I recoiled.  Yes, I did pray and I was certain that Roman was the answer to my many months of prayer.  I was convinced and I felt utterly betrayed.  But that Tuesday morning at my grandparent's table, with the sunlight streaming in, I felt another softer voice asking me to abandon for just a moment the distractions and walk a little further down that path.  It whispered to my heart.

"What's the rest of that story, Ashley?"

After Hannah had weaned Samuel, she brought him to the priest Eli and consecrated him to the LORD.  She offered Samuel back to the LORD and saw him once a year when she went for the annual old testament sacrifice. 

"Ashley, Hannah didn't get to parent Samuel either.  Can you trust God to provide an Eli for Roman?  You can still love him like your son.  Just trust God to provide for him."

And then there was this peace that passes understanding-or as I like to say-a peace that make absolutely no sense.  The good news for Hannah is that God gave her three more sons and two more daughters.  I know that none of them took the place of Samuel, but I also believe that each of them brought a complete sense of pleasure at each of their arrivals into this world.  I look at the story of Job and all that he lost and that God gave him more in the second half of his life than he did in the first, but the losses that he had were still incredible.  I'm certain he still mourned the loss of his first round of children.  And I'm sure that he deeply loved and cherished the second set.  We don't deserve to be excused from immense pain any more than we deserve any of the precious gifts we get.  And even though my faith has been shaken to the core, I still have to cling to the promise that my God still has a good plan.  I am hope-filled that the plan includes little Daniel-the little boy who hugged our neck so sweetly that his little arms hugged our hearts, too.  Precious and tender Daniel. 

I want to close with one more story, more than anything so I don't forget it someday.  One of my old roommates was having a Scentsy party and had invited some women from her small group.  She had shared our story with people in the small group and as a result, we had people we've never met before praying for us.  I had the privilege of meeting one of these prayer warriors at the party.  She told me that she was crying and praying on our behalf asking the same "Why?!" questions that I have asked repeatedly-oh the precious feeling of actually knowing that people felt our burden that intensely!  She said that she felt like Jesus spoke very clearly to her and said, "I know.  I've cried those tears, too."  I've known as long I can remember that God is a God of compassion and that He stores up our tears.  I know He knows so much more than I do and that, even when it doesn't look like it, He still "...causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose" (Roman 8.28)  I also know that my mind cannot comprehend why all of this happened and I know that I might not know this side of heaven.  And I know that my God knows that I don't understand it all either.  If He didn't step in to do something nine months ago, there is a reason.  There is a purpose.  But to know that my all-knowing, all-loving Jesus has cried the same tears I have...the tears of exhaustion from the fight....the tears of anguish about Roman's future...  But I don't believe He could have cried the tears of confusion, of helplessness, and despair. He's not confused.  He's not cruel.  He's not helpless.  He's not causing havoc for havoc's sake.  And I don't believe He's cried tears of despair because even in these, there is a redemptive story that hasn't been finished.  He's still got a plan.  I don't have to understand.  I just trust Him for the strength to get through whatever we will face next.  I will trust Him to still have a perfect plan for Roman's life, for Daniel's life and for our life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Beauty from Ashes

Life shouldn't have to look like it does sometimes.  We should be able to grow up in happy homes, find true love, make babies and all live happily ever after with days filled with purpose and work that is more joy than job.  We aren't designed to struggle with lonliness and heartache.  This world is broken.  And yet, hope can still spring new.  Beauty can still rise up from the ashes.

Our emotions in the last month have been a jumbled, tangled mess.  In a single hour, feelings of tentative hopefulness can be deflated by overwhelming uncertainity and then salved with reminders that, in spite of everything we have been through, our good God still has a good plan.  I've been heartbroken, I've been scared, I've been hope-filled, I've been resolute and I've been shaky.  I've been angry, I've been peace-filled and I've been despondent.  It seems like there isn't a single emotion in the spectrum that we have not lighted upon for even a brief snippet.  Looking backward, I miss Roman with every fiber of my being and, while I know logically that we could not have done anything more, I feel responsible that this little guy is still in an orphanage without a mommy and a daddy there.  Looking forward, I am more and more excited about Daniel and the progress that we are making to bring him to a forever home.  Where every step in the last six months of Roman's story brought us a new obstacle, it almost feels like we are being carried by a gentle current through this part of Daniel's story.  Things have fallen into place with remarkable ease.  We've reconnected with the people who helped us with paperwork in Roman's story who were eager and ready to help with Daniel's.  The court in Murmansk would not release the paperwork they had and when we were first told about this, it felt like a horse had kicked us in the stomach.  We would have to redo our FBI background checks, our psychological evaluations, our financial statements and, since so many months had passed, we would need an updated copy of our homestudy.  It seemed like every scrap of paper that had been so incredibly challenging to get the first time had to be redone.  We pulled up our cell phone records for the contact we had made through the Secretary of State's office for help with the fingerprints and, while he did not remember us, he was willing to help us again.  The psychologist who helped us with the evaluation still had our records on file and  was able to fit us in quickly.  Our case worker came to our house the next week for an updated homestudy, and, since writing letters of employment had become routine at this point for home office, we were able to get that in order quickly also.  Everything came in or had come in by April 24th, just in time for us to take it with us to St. Louis on the 25th on our way to the airport for the Bahamas.  Finally, a trip that didn't require snowboots and a visa!  Brock had earned the trip through work and I don't think either of us realized how desperately we needed to be away for just a little while.  Brock had made a connection through a friend of a friend in Washington DC who was able to get our fingerprints apostilled and overnighted back to us, thus saving us the eight week waiting period.  It no longer feels like we are dancing the one step forward, two steps back.  We are moving forward.  Without too much drama and without too much delay. 

Both Brock and I have had  broken hearts before.  The feeling that we'd never be able to feel a certain way again is one that is familiar to us.  In those days, we never would have dreamed that by God saying "no" to one story meant that He was saying "yes" to another one.  In a strange way, the familiarity of those feelings is comforting to me now.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Daniel is a precious little boy.  I have seen a sweet nature in him and have been mesmerized by his joy in his play and the reflective way he seems to take in his enviroment.  I have finally started having dreams about his tender smile and his delicate little body in my arms.  But to be completely open and honest, there is still a part of me that is scared to give my heart completely to this little boy.  We have reason to hope and we have experience to make us cautious.  I know though, that if I had allowed fear to dictate my emotions when Brock and I were dating that I wouldn't have gotten to experience the incredible gift God had given me in a best friend and husband.  In the same way that we both celebrate the families that God has given to the people with whom our lives were once entwined, we pray feverently that God would provide a family for the little boy with whom we have been entwined.  So maybe Roman's legacy to us taught us preseverance because we would not have been in the right country at the time that Daniel's referral became available.  Roman will forever be our son in prayer and we will keep trusting God for whatever comes next in Daniel's story. 

So yes, failed adoptions are just another one of the many things that aren't fair in this life.  But I do know this:  there have been far more blessings in my life that I have not deserved than there have been burdens that I've had to bear.  We were never promised a life free from pain and conflict.  I've just been promised that I have a God who still causes ALL things to work together for His glory.  Our story isn't over yet.