Let’s be real here for a second. Chad and I don’t eat at home often. We’re talking one… maybe two nights a week tops. Well, I take that back. We do eat at home rather regularly but typically out of Styrofoam to-go boxes with contents of Tazikis, Blue-Coast Burrito, or any other cheap, quick establishment I pass between work and home. It’s kindof “our thing.” That’s what we’ll call it. I have friends who love to come home after a long day of work and unwind by preparing a beautiful meal for their husband and kids. I am truly in awe of it. As in, that sounds awful to me. But seriously, you go, girls. You give me hope! My brain is fried at the end of the day. It’s all I can do to figure out from where we want to “pick something up.” Maybe it’s just me, and I’m surely a whimpy woman, but the kitchen looks like a bomb went off after one of my rare attempts to “whip something up.” On work nights in particular, I just can’t.
This lack of domestic prowess used to be a mild source of embarrassment for me. For those of you who frequent our home, you’ve probably marveled and chuckled at the astonishing cleanliness and emptiness of our fridge. Who knows, you might have even felt a little sorry for “starving Chad” on your way home. Go ahead. Plan my “Stock the Pantry” party for Willa’s arrival. Go for it. I’d don’t know what to do with all those “ingredients” though. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here with my coffee, peanut butter and crackers, bananas, eggs, and diet Sundrop, happy as a lark until dinner when it’s time to call my friends at La Hacienda.
OK. You’re probably wondering why I’m choosing to reveal this not-even-that-fun fact about myself. Honestly, as I think ahead to what I came here to write today, I’m starting to wonder the same thing. Maybe it’s because I need everyone to know how unprepared I am to raise a child. Truly, I covet every single prayer. Maybe the vulnerability of this whole blogging thing has just really exfoliated my soul, and I’m addicted to the sloughing-off of all the “fake” we compare ourselves to in one another. Maybe I’m just angling for that “Stock the Pantry” party. Who knows? But I do want to tell you another bit of our story, one of my absolute favorite parts. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it. A distinct point in time over 2 years go. The day God used yet another to-go pickup to stop me dead in my tracks. The second time the Author wrote a specific part of this story on my heart. The day Willa James got her name.
Let’s back up for a sec. If you read my last post about the incredible, written-across-the-sky moment when God revealed His plan for us to adopt from China, you might be starting to see a common thread. Yes. You’re right. God speaks to me in restaurants. I think it’s awesome. Growing up in church, I vaguely remember sermon principles on how “God meets you where you are.” How “you can’t run from God.” And how “God will pursue you to the ends of the earth.” Well… during December of 2013, God was definitely “speaking to me where I was.” And in true Fuson fashion, I was in restaurants. Good one, God.
The Sunday afternoon after I left the bizarre, uniquely-divine, encounter at Brick’s café, I felt like God was watching me like a hawk. Truly, I’d never felt so “on-the radar.” I knew God was opening a chapter for us, revealing a plan. And after years of unsuccessfully authoring a crap story for my life, I felt God asking me one simple question. Do you trust me? I mean, why wouldn’t I, right? He was offering to take me on an adventure I’d been curious about for years. A true test of faith. Still, I wasn’t completely ready to give up all control. He could sail the ship, but I still got to hold the compass, right?
Isn’t that the way we are? I mean, He gave me a clear sign. Something I’d never truly experienced. Why could I not simply trust? I didn’t take for granted the clear direction He gave. I really didn’t. In fact, I was obsessed with it. I wanted more. But for those of you who’ve faced something scary, even with God evidently on your side, you get it. I wanted God to call in some back up. I needed one more flashing-lights moment to completely jump on board. At this point, I’m sure God was giving me one of those “eye rolls” we talked about. But on Tuesday, two days after I left Chad sitting in that restaurant next to the Chapman family with their two beautiful girls, God gave me one final push. He wanted my attention. More importantly, if we were going to do this, He needed my trust.
Texting and driving is bad. I know this. I know all about how it never leads to any good. But on that cold Wednesday morning, light-headed and tired from three late nights of pillow talk on China babies and God signs, I couldn’t help but text Chad my ever-loving thought on the way to work.
Baby names had been a topic of discussion in our house for years. Maybe Clara, after my middle name Claire. Or Clara James? I’d always loved boy names for girls. Or perhaps something Jo or something Ann, after various people we loved. But really, names didn’t seem to matter. Nothing ever truly “stuck.” After all, there was no baby. No real reason to dream of the name we would abbreviate, make into silly rhymes, and insert into songs countless times for the rest of our lives. A few months before, I glanced through one of those baby-name websites. My sister was expecting a girl, and I was so thrilled. Searching through lists of names old and new, names once old and new again, I saw Willa. “The English feminine form of William.” I loved it. Not only is Chad’s full name William Chadwick Fuson, but I’ve always loved names with an “L” sound. True story, during a large portion of the early 90s, I petitioned for my name to be changed to Laura. My mom declined. Willa. Willa Claire. Willa Jo. Willa Claire Fuson. I loved it all. You can imagine my disappointment that evening when I shared the name with Chad AND… crickets. OK, maybe a shoulder shrug. Was he serious?! It was so beautiful. Half-heartedly, he agreed to keep it under consideration, knowing this was not a pressing matter, and I’d probably change my mind 50 more times before we’d ever need to make a call.
But on that morning, the Wednesday morning just a few days into knowing we would be the Mommy and Daddy of a little one, one day, in China, I couldn’t resist the “name talk” once again. “I think her name is Willa,” I texted Chad while driving down Mallory Road. “Just think about it,” I added after a few moments with no reply. Chad must be busy, I thought. He didn’t respond. Sales meeting ran a little ahead of schedule that day. Thank goodness. I was starving. I’d have just enough time to run quickly into Jason’s Deli and get a salad before heading on to open the model home. It was 10:30 am. The place was a ghost town. Perfect. No one to slow me down. I quickly paid for my order and rushed up and down the salad bar. I needed to be quick. Why did they give me all these little plastic containers, and silver ware, and cups, and such a fantasitic cracker selections with no bag?? Uggghhhhhh. I’m going to drop this all. I haphazardly gathered my crackers, and salad, and containers, focusing solely on getting them back to the register where I could get a paper bag and be on my way.
Impatiently, I made my way back up to the front of the restaurant and saw a woman with blonde hair waiting at the register. Great. Where did she come from? I don’t have time for this, I thought. Move it lady. As I walked up behind her, I noticed her adjusting the load she was carrying. Then suddenly, above her left shoulder, a mess of short, inky-black hair rose to reveal the chubbiest little face. My heart skipped a beat. As I fumbled my barely-balanced containers onto the counter, I looked around. We were the only customers in the restaurant. I didn’t dare look directly at it, but I felt the chunkster’s adorable baby eyes, piercing the side of my face.
“Talk to her.” I seemed to hear the words deep down in my gut.
“uh uh. No way, God,” I thought to myself. “I see what You’re doing here and all. It’s cute. I see You. Thanks. But I really don’t have time for this.”
“Talk to her.” I heard the words again. Audible? No. Undeniable? Yes.
“Seriously? This lady is holding a baby. I don’t want to seem like a weirdo. What in the world would I even say?”
“Ask her the baby’s name.”
Now, I’m not kidding. At this point I’m telling you, it appeared every worker in Jason’s Deli was on a morning smoke break. Seriously, where was everyone? I was about to hop behind the counter and grab a brown bag for myself. I obviously needed to eat some lunch. After all, I was “hearing things in my gut,” and that’s just weird.
“I’m not asking her that baby’s name, God. She’s going to think I’m a psycho.”
A moment later, I felt my seemingly-psychotic body rotate to the left. As I turned towards the blonde woman with the adorable chunkster held closely on her chest, I knew I was going to do this.
“Your baby is beautiful,” I finally murmured. “Is she from China?”
[Let’s please not even get into how inappropriate this question was given the limited lack of context clues at my disposal. Sure, the baby looked Asian. But do all Asian babies come from China? No. Could the blonde woman have been married to an Asian man and be holding her biological child? Absolutely.]
In that moment though, my soul knew exactly what was going on here. The staggering lack of customer service in a usually prompt and attentive establishment was my first clue. The tugging at my heart was another familiar feeling. And the tightening in my stomach was undeniable. I knew. God was doing something here. He wasn’t going to be ignored.
“She is from China,” the lady answered. “We just brought her home a few weeks ago.” The smile of delight mixed with a bit of exhaustion on the woman’s face struck me. She looked down at her fat and utterly-adorable child with a joy I envied.
With no real indication of whether little chunkster was a boy or girl, I continued. “What’s her name,” I said.
The tightening in my stomach now changed to the swift sensation of a punch in the gut. Did I hear her right? God? Are you being serious right now?
“Willa?!” I repeated with big eyes and a shaky voice.
“Yes. Willa Claire.”
I had to get out of there.
“Ma’am, can I help you?” My gaze was interrupted by a gangly young man, apparently back from his smoke break.
As I retrieved the simple brown bag I came to collect, I felt my hands tremble and tears begin to fill me eyes. “Don’t look crazy, Katelyn,” I thought to myself. “Get your stuff and get out of here.” Clumsily placing my items into the bag, I could tell the woman was a bit confused by my reaction. I hadn’t even responded to her daughter’s name! I needed to pull it together.
“Her name is beautiful,” I forced out of my mouth. I meant it for sure, but the simple phrase didn’t seem appropriate for the situation. So I word-vomitted a bit. “My husband and I decided to adopt a little girl from China two days ago,” I continued. “We are going to name her Willa, after her dad. And Claire is my middle name. I literally just texted my husband before I walked in here and told him I knew our daughter’s name was Willa.”
Now I know what you’re thinking. This is the point where I look down to pick up my bag and look back up to see the woman and baby have mystically disappeared without a trace or maybe leaving behind a fading cloud of smoke. Truly? I wouldn’t have been surprised. Sincerely though, I don’t really remember what happened after that. The lady said a few kind words, but my head was spinning. I couldn’t hear her words. I made my way to the cold car and just sat. I no longer had an appetite, and I couldn’t care less about the time. I just sat, feeling the weight of what I’d just experienced. I’d never forget. I knew it was it was a sacred moment.
A few moments later, mascara stains surely on my cheeks, I put my car in drive, pulled out of the parking lot, and called Chad. This time, he answered. With my voice still shaking, I told him about the chunkster, about the blonde-haired woman, and about the conversation we’d had. Over my blue tooth, on the way to work that day, Chad agreed: God wasn’t just messing with us. These were clear signs from Him. And our daughter’s name was Willa.
“What about Willa James?” I said. After all, pastor Jake’s sermon on James was the topic that prompted our turning-point conversation over lunch only 72 hours before. Chad said he loved it. I knew he would. I loved it more than any name I’d ever heard. It was perfect.
Baby girl, this is the story of how you got your name. Or maybe? Maybe this is the story of how your name got YOU. Either way, I pray you’ll read this one day and know your name and your story are beautiful. They are incredibly “on purpose.” And if you ever want to change your name to Laura one day, I’ll laugh, I’ll roll my eyes, I’ll read you these words. I’ll say, “sorry, girlfriend. Your name is ordained by your Creator, as is every part of your precious life.”
Willa James, Woo, The Wills, VaWilla Wafer, I hope you know NOTHING in your story has happened by chance. Your mama isn’t making this stuff up! You were intricately designed, from your little lip, to your precious name. You are chosen for the life and family to which you’re coming. You are an absolute masterpiece, and there is no one else on the earth more perfectly appointed to be ours than you. Let’s get this party started.