Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Easy Answers

I don't really know where to begin with this post. I have been debating about writing anything at all about this subject for months. I have started several posts and deleted them but circumstances this weekend have made me really believe that the time has come to try to convey my thoughts on this issue, so here goes...

We have been anxiously watching the situation of Vietnam adoptions for months now and, on this past Friday, an announcement was made that the agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam will not be renewed and referrals will not be given after Sept. 1. Those who have a referral will be allowed to continue with completing their adoption. Of course, we feel very relieved to have our referral. That being said, there are so many other issues involved in this. It is not black and white. I'm not going to go into the details of all of the reasons behind the closing of adoptions in Vietnam. Anyone who is interested in knowing more will have no problem finding info if they search for it. I definitely have my own opinions about the situation but I do not want to use this as a place to debate the issue.

I guess what I want to address is where we go from here. When we began our adoption over a year ago we had no idea this stuff was going on. That may sound naive, but it is true. It was the last thing to cross my mind. As we have watched this situation unfold it has created so many questions in our minds. So many questions that do not have clear answers. There is absolutely no way that we would ever want to participate in anything unethical, so what should we do?

When it comes down to it, there is only one answer that makes sense; we believe that God is in control and He is sovereign. We went into this believing we were lead by God and we have turned to Him in every step we have made. We trust that He has been intimately involved in choosing this child for our family. I believe that if Anna Grace has been stolen or bought or taken from her family in any other wrong way, then it will be brought to light. That would be devastating for me to face, but I will trust God even then. We have seen God working in our lives in such amazing ways and we believe He will do what will bring Him glory. That is all there is to it. He is God and I trust Him.

Don't get me wrong. I am not some rock of faith. My heart aches for this situation and the families and the children who are being affected. I am so afraid of what may happen in our case. I desperately want Anna Grace to come home as soon as possible. I can't make that happen though. Only He can. I have to place her in His hands once again and say, "She is yours, not mine. Please do what is best for HER, not me." He will. I know it. But can I accept it no matter the answer? With God's grace, I will.

Monday, April 21, 2008

30 Hour Famine

Allie put together this video of the 30 hour famine she took part in with our youth group last weekend. They didn't eat for 30 hours and spent the time learning about world hunger. The purpose was to raise awareness and money. She raised $390! She did a great job with the video. Check it out!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Precious Friends

Last week I went to a baby shower for a friend of mine. It was a lovely shower held outside on a beautiful sunny day. It was one of those days when the sky is so blue that it looks like you could just reach out and touch it. For all of my friends in the north, do your best to remember one of those days. Anyway, it was just a great day and we were all enjoying being together. Just adults. No children. I don't ever see these ladies without their little ones so it was like seeing a different side of them.

We were doing the normal shower things; oohing and ahhing over pretty pink things, discussing the benefits of organic diapers, eating, and laughing alot. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I was caught by an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this group of friends. Being my introverted self, I was just looking around and I was struck by the strength of each one of these women. I felt honored to be in their company.

The mother-to-be is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. She could be very bitter that a time that should be so happy is, instead, so uncertain. She isn't though. Peace radiates from her beautiful smile. My dear friend, Sumi, was there. Her precious little girl, Jenna, went to Heaven just two months ago. I watched Sumi as she focused herself on celebrating this new life while, in her heart, she must have been feeling her loss so greatly. Another friend is dealing with the adjustment of taking care of a sick and needy mother-in-law who has moved in to her home. Yet another has dealt with some medical issues with one her children this year. Others are struggling financially. So many overwhelming circumstances were represented at that small gathering of women. Yet we were able to enjoy each other and recognize that life is still a gift. We are all walking down paths that we would have never chosen, but we are walking them together and with grace. I felt so proud to be in their presence that day and so grateful to be one of them. The world has such a distorted view of what "woman power" is. I experienced true "woman power" last Sunday. There is no greater power than that of allowing God to carry you when you can't take another step on your own. There is nothing more powerful than lifting your hands in praise when you are in the middle of a storm.

I am reminded over and over that we create a family, wherever we are, by nurturing the relationships with the people God brings into our lives. I struggled so much with moving to Florida. I still experience homesickness. I am learning, though, that what I am missing is not a place, but a time, and I can never go back to that time. Instead, I can focus on this wonderful family God has given me right now and right here. I am so blessed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman

Last night we were able to attend a Steven Curtis Chapman concert in Ocala. He and his wife are the cofounders of Shaohannah's Hope, the organization from which we received our grant. It was a great concert. We were really hoping to be able to thank him personally and maybe get a picture of him holding Anna's picture, but there were a lot of people there and a lot of families who wanted to do the same thing so it didn't happen. It was disappointing but we were grateful to the radio station who gave us the tickets and we had a good time together.

One of the things that made it worth the two hour drive was seeing the families who had adopted already. It was refreshing to hear so many positive things about adoption. There are a lot of people who view it negatively. Being the naive person that I am, I didn't have a clue about that until we started getting more involved. It was so nice to be reminded of why we are doing this and to feel that it is a good thing. I really needed that.

Steven talked about the fact that, as Christians, we have all been adopted into the family of God and though I've heard it before, it was so powerful to hear him say it the way he did. I have to say, we didn't start this process with totally altruistic motives of saving a child or anything like that. I had those dreams as a girl and then life happened. Our life became about taking care of Emma and Allie. When we realized that having another biological child was not an option for us, we started our journey to adoption. It has been a long one. I guess I view it as something we all need. I mean us and Anna. We knew our family was not complete and she needs a family. We all need each other. Anyway, being at the concert reminded me of that.

There are no easy answers in this life. We do the best we can with what God gives us and trust Him to fill in where we fall short. I know we're not perfect by a long shot but we're giving it our all, and if we give a home to a child who needs one we sure are honored to do that. But we need her just as much as she needs us.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Butterfly Kisses

I know this blog was created to be a story of our adoption but it has become much more than that for me. It has become a place for me to share my thoughts and feelings about life and for me that has a lot to do with my journey through grief. Sometimes I worry that people will think I should be over everything by now and I try to hide my feelings because I don't want to tire people with my story. I know there are people like that because I see the look in their eyes when I bring it up and some have told me that's the way they feel. I have been thinking about that alot lately, and I guess I have come to the conclusion that if people feel that way it is their problem, not mine. They have the choice to not read my blog or to stop being my friend. I am who I am and one of the gifts Emma left me is the realization that life is too short to care what people think. I still worry some but I don't let it rule my life or govern my decisions. That being said, I have to share some of my thoughts this week.

After Emma died, I started collecting butterflies to remind me of her new life with Christ. It brought some comfort but, as most of you know, that first year was a struggle for me. I struggled just to get up in the morning and each day I was so glad the day was over. I felt like it was one day closer to being with her again. I know people didn't get that. I know that some thought I should be relieved she was gone because the struggles were over and she was free and so were we. Nothing hurt me more than when people said those things. You see, I didn't feel free. I felt lost. For nine years, my life was defined by Emma. My day was scheduled to meet her needs. My purpose was to keep her alive. It wasn't a struggle for me. It was my joy. I believed that God had given me a job to do and I believed I did it well. I felt completely fulfilled being her mother. And then she was gone.

My world came crashing down around me. I knew she is in Heaven and all of that good stuff but I hurt. I was in pain. I didn't know who I was anymore. I wandered around the house trying to fill the days. Every day at 4:30 I waited for the bus to bring her home. There was no one who loved and accepted me so completely as Emma had. She saw me at my best and at my worst and she always smiled when she saw me. Who would be relieved to have her gone from their life? I held on to any bit of comfort I could and butterflies became a symbol for me of hope.

One day, about nine months after she died, we were in North Carolina in the mountains and we were walking down a trail to a waterfall. I heard the sound of the rushing water and I immediately thought of Emma and how she would have laughed at the sound. She loved funny noises. I felt so overwhelmed with sadness and the tears started coming. Just then, a butterfly came towards me and brushed against my arm and then flew around my head and came back to brush against my cheek. I felt such joy. I knew that Emma was with us and she did hear that sound and she was telling me to have hope. Butterflies became even more meaningful to me then.

Just this week, on Thursday, I saw several butterflies and on that day we found out we had moved on to the next step and we got another picture of Anna. Today I was working on Anna's room. Part of that process involves taking down Emma's stuff so I can put Anna's up and it hurts. I can only do a little bit at a time. I took a break to get the mail and I saw three butterflies on my way to the mailbox. That may seem silly to you, but to me they are reminders that Emma is with us and she is a part of us and I don't have to hold on to the past. I can look to the future because I am not leaving her behind me. I am taking her with me. I thank God for the gentle reminders to keep moving forward. I am so thankful that He is patient and loving when others try to push me to move faster than I can. I am moving as fast as I can and along the way I am finding who I am is who I always was.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Step Closer...

Today we received another picture of Anna Grace and she looks so beautiful!! She looks healthy and so petite. I am in awe of her. It is so hard to know she is on the other side of the world but, as my new friend, Leanne, reminded me, she is in God's hands and he can take care of her much better than I can. It is still hard though.

We also sent our paperwork in to have her approved by the U.S. to be adopted. This could be a very long wait or it has been short for some. There is no rhyme or reason to this process. So we just wait and check our email often. I am hopeful that it will be a quick process for us.

The good news is that we are moving along much faster than I anticipated and I am hopeful that this next part will be the same. I am praying that it will be anyway. Prayer is the only action I can take at this point so I am doing it earnestly. I pray for Anna every night before I go to bed because that is when her day is just beginning, and I pray for her in the morning as she is probably sleeping for the night (I hope).

It is so amazing when I look at her picture and I feel as if I know her. I can't wait to get to know her personality and her mannerisms, but for now I am content to place her in God's hands each night and each morning and know that He is working it all out in His perfect timing.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sisters by Heart

I know it has been too long since I last posted. I have had so many things on my mind this past week. Sometimes it is hard to sort it out and write about it. I tend to be a perfectionist so the idea of posting my random and confusing thoughts just doesn't make sense to me. I am still working it out in my mind but I will attempt to put it in words.

There is so much happening in the world of Vietnam adoptions right now. Every day when I log onto my email and read all of the updates and comments I am filled with dread and anxiety. I know the simple solution would be to ignore it all and stop reading but then I would be ignorant, and I certainly don't want to bury my head in the sand. I am also trying to balance the reality of what I read with my faith that God is working in my life and in Anna's life. It is a turbulent time for us.
Through all of this, I do have a strange peace. I know it is a gift from God and I thank Him daily for it. I have been doing a lot of thinking and I have come to some conclusions of where that peace comes from. I remember when we started this adoption process and I felt a sense of guilt that maybe I was trying to replace Emma, or maybe she would be replaced in our hearts. Allie even struggled with this. I also worried that it was too soon after Emma's death and we would not be able to parent Anna in the way she needed us. It bothered me that we would have a child who would never know her sister. There was a part of me that wondered if all of these things should keep us from pursuing this dream.

Time has marched on and time always seems to give us answers if we wait long enough. I have received some of the answers and I am still waiting for others. One of the things I have become very aware of recently is that my fears of replacing Emma are gone. I have been so amazed at how the lives of these two precious girls are intertwined. I feel like I can't even begin to explain this but I will try.
I worried that my grief would be a barrier to fully loving another child, but my grief has made me so aware of how precious her life is. I am overwhelmed by the love I feel for her. I believe my heart was made ready for this child because it was broken. Emma's life and death prepared my heart to love this child and, in the same way, this child has mended my heart in so many ways. I have reached out in faith and loved even when I didn't think I could, and I found that the capacity to love never reaches its limit. The well runs deep and there is always more there when you search for it.

I have also seen their lives intertwined in the way my faith has grown. Emma's life brought my faith to life in new and wonderful ways and her death tested that faith. I came through with my faith in tact and even stronger, and now that faith is holding me together as we face new tests and trials in Anna's life. Just as I had to let go of my hold on Emma and give her back to God, I daily release Anna to Him. She belongs to Him and I have to trust He will do what is best for her. I would not have chosen for Emma to die but it was His plan for her, and I trust His plan for Anna. I hope we are in that plan, but I want what is best for her and only He knows. I have had to give them both back to their true Father and , in the end, that is where I find my peace.

There are so many more parallels that I don't have the time to explain in one post but I hope you get the picture. These two sisters may not know each other on this earth but their lives have touched each other in so many ways. I believe they are sisters in the truest sense of the word and when they see each other in eternity they will know each other by heart.

Lest you think I have forgotten their other sister, please have no fears. Allison is the glue that holds them together. She is our joy and she keeps us going with her love of life, her passion for God, and her beautiful spirit. She makes me smile and reminds me to take it one day at a time. I am so grateful for each day I spend with her. Who wouldn't be?
Allison Anne, Emmalynne Susan, and Anna Grace- Sisters by Heart