Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Little Time To Reminisce

Today, we were privileged to attend the 90th anniversary of the construction of Pleasant Hill Bible Church in Summerville, PA.  This church was built by Rob's great grandparents among other family members.  I remember Rob's grandparents (Maw and Paw) talking so sweetly about their beloved church.  When Rob and I decided to get married, I said that I wanted a really small wedding (if someone put me into a big ol' gown, I'd go kicking and screaming down the aisle - LOL).  Rob mentioned this church and took me for a ride past it.  The moment I saw it, I knew that this was where I wanted to get married.  We went to Maw and Paw and asked them if they would see if it would be ok with the rest of the deacons of the church for us to get married there.  They were so excited that we considered their little church for our wedding.  I was excited to intertwine the beginning of our life together with something that was so near and dear to them.

Picture this:

The area is about as rural as you can get, where the roads are still dirt and the air smells of local farms.  The steeple juts out from the treetops.  It is the only church for miles.  Envision a one room schoolhouse and then put a steeple on the front.  As you walk in, there are eight pews on each side, rich red carpet stretched over the altar area.  The wood so finely finished.  A piano sits to the left of the pulpit and a place for a very small choir to sit behind the pulpit.   No air conditioning, just the flap of old fashioned hand fans murmur throughout the place.  The hymn board shows the numbers of the tunes that will be sung that morning from the hymnals that are secure in a cubby in the pew in front of you.  Voices ring out with the old fashioned tunes.  Instantly, you feel as though you have been transported back in time to the early 1930's.

Everything about today's celebration was intensely nostalgic.  This place holds so many memories for so many people.  As Rob and I looked around at the smiling faces, we could not help but feel a tinge of sadness at the reality that in 10 years, not only will we have aged, but the chances are likely that most of those faces will be but pictures on the memory wall.  I thought about what the pastor said in his sermon this morning on Hebrews 11.  "It is by FAITH, that our dear loved ones built this church, it is by FAITH, that the vision they saw for ministering to this small community would come to reality, it is by FAITH that those who are now angels are looking down on this day smiling and rejoicing at the accomplishments of the last 90 years."

God tells us that "FAITH is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen".

I look at the picture of our sweet little family that was weaved together by our great God as we stood in FAITH that HE would be the author of our lives, and I am overjoyed that He is in control of every aspect of them.  I can't help but have faith that Maw and Paw are smiling and rejoicing in heaven today as we, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren celebrated the legacy they left us.

What a wonderful day this is.

THIS is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Special Mother's Day

I sat in tears as I looked up at Rob and said "Not this month".  We had been struggling with infertility for our entire marriage and after 4 years of not even using any type of birth control, we were still not pregnant.  Deep down I knew the medical issues we had and the words from the doctor's like "impossible", "no hope", and the words I clung to on a monthly basis "a miracle is your only chance". 

This Mother's Day, I have been looking back at the "Miracles" that God has done in our life regarding children.  At the same time, my heart is crying for the woman who is sitting in tears, looking at her husband and saying yet one more time "Not this month". 

This woman is the one who goes unseen as the flowers are passed around at church on Mother's Day.  She is the one who does everything she can to place a smile on her lips while her heart slowly breaks into smaller pieces yet one more year without a child.  She is the woman who suffers in silence while caring for the children of those who seemingly look at each other and get pregnant.  She is the woman who trusts, as Hannah did in the Bible, that God would provide the miracle of pregnancy.

I felt so strongly about this woman today, since I was her years ago.  I can still feel the sting of the infertility and the monthly struggle to trust that God would not allow us to be barren.  Today, I want to share my infertility journey in the hopes that other women feeling this pain will find some solace in the fact that you are not alone and you are understood!!!

I was positively convinced that God was going to give us the miracle of me getting pregnant.  I was, you could say, obsessed, with counting days and buying test kits and just trying to control the situation (as if I had any control).  Looking back, I can absolutely see my codependency at an all time high as I tried to help God in the process of making babies. 

Rob's major health issues are the root cause of our infertility.  I would say the words that it didn't matter to me, yet my actions were such that any person with a brain could tell that it mattered.  I just wanted a baby and I was willing to do anything and everything to have that happen.  Poor Rob, I can only imagine the helplessness I know he felt at the time.  It is no wonder he started to distance himself from me.  I was a little bit of a "hot mess". 

We finally sat down and discussed the fact that pregnancy was just not happening after 4 years of "trying".  Rob shared his heart in the fact that he felt horrible that he could not provide me with my heart's desire of being a Mommy.  He then brought up the fact that he knew I wanted to some day adopt and that maybe we should look into this.  I, quite frankly, felt defeated.  I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die because I could not understand why God was allowing all of these people around us to get pregnant and not us.  I conceded to the fact that Rob was probably right, although, I held onto hope that God would still grant us His miracle.

So I contacted the local Children and Youth Agency and started the paperwork to start the adoption process.  It was summer of 2003 when we put in our "order" for the child we would like to adopt:
Our "order" was something like this:
1. The child must be no older than 2
2.  Race did not matter (pink with blue polka dots for all I cared)
3.  Must not have major medical needs as we were not equipped to handle this.

***It's funny as I type this in retrospect.....God surely must have been just shaking his head at us and chuckling. 

Fast forward to September 23, 2003.  I was in my car on my lunch break, just reading my Bible and journaling when I felt the need to read and contemplate on the book of Job.  It was such a strong feeling that I HAD to meditate on this book that I just immediately started praying and asking God to protect my Dad for I was afraid that God was planning to take him away from us.  Little did I know that this was going to be the start of a journey that only God's perfect plan can take one on.

I went in from my car and spent the last 10 minutes of my break in the back room when one of my coworkers came back and said, "Um, Ninee, you really want to take this call".  My heart dropped to my feet thinking it was my Mom, but low and behold, it was our caseworker.  She called and asked if we had a crib.  It took me a moment to register what she was saying and when it finally did, I just simply went numb.  There was a 2 month old baby that they had taken into custody and we were going to pick her up from the hospital the next day!!  The caseworker told us that she is 99% yours because there was sufficient proof that she had shaken baby syndrome and that there was NO WAY that the judge was going to give her back to the biological parents.  We were told to name her what we wanted to name her and that we should just consider her to be ours.

We were so naive......

We decided to name her Helena Marie after my Bubby and my and Rob's Grandma's.  We transformed our home overnight to accomodate baby Helena. The caseworker picked us up the next morning to take us to meet our daughter and bring her home from the hospital.  For those of you who really know me know that when I say I was silent the whole way to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, you know that I was not being myself.  I had this surreal feeling that life was about to change more than just with a baby entering it.

We got to the hospital and Rob immediately melted when he saw little Helena.  I, well, I couldn't even bring myself to go to the side of her crib.  I just wanted to cry (and not happy tears).  Rob finally coaxed me over and said "Honey, come hold our daughter".  I had my arms crossed and looked right at him and said "But, Rob, that is NOT our daughter"!  I continued to go through the motions as we transitioned baby Helena to our home.  I only remember the revolving door of visitors coming in and out to see our new baby.  My parents had come and I remember just thinking "please don't hold her and fall in love with her because our hearts are going to be broken".  I suffered with these thoughts in silence over the next 3 days.  On day 3, the caseworker came to the house with a bag of goods from the birth family and it was then that I knew Helena was not going to stay.  I came right out and asked the caseworker and she confirmed that the trial had to take place the next day and that I needed to be there with the baby.  At that moment, my heart broke into a million little pieces and I was not sure that even God could put it back together.

I called Rob to tell him the news.  He and I made the decision to have her moved to another home that cares for children for one night before their trials.  The caseworker promised if the judge did not give the baby back to the birth family, that she would bring her right back to us.  At 10am the next morning, I received the call that the judge gave her back to the birth family.  Part of me died that day. 

I did not know how to go on.  I distanced myself from Rob in my grief.  I poured myself into the website of just looking for children who had parental rights terminated and were free for adoption.  We put our profile in for 56 children.  Not one were to be ours.

In July of 2004, after moving to a different county, we decided to finally go on a honeymoon.  After almost a year of rejection and no child to call our own, it was time to move on.  So, we put money down on a cruise on a Monday.  It was a relief for us as we truly gave up our will to have a child and relented to the fact that we needed to pour ourselves into each other.  That Friday, I received a phone call from a caseworker who had known what happened in the previous county and she said "Janine, we have a child for you and Rob if you are interested in getting licensed in this county.  He is 5 years old and he has a little speech problem.  His rights will be terminated in February, at which point we will start the adoption process."

At that very moment I felt like I was in a Warner Brothers cartoon and some one just dropped an anvil on my head :-)

I could not wait to call Rob.  He was elated and the fact that it was a BOY was even more exciting for both of us.  So the following Monday, we went in to meet this 5 year old boy and let me tell you the joy in my heart as the first thought that came to my mind was "Rob, he looks like you".  Something deep within me awoke and I knew that God intended for this boy to be ours.  It was a long road, but we made it and 11 months after Christian came to live with us, his adoption was finalized.  We took the caseworkers out to lunch that day and at lunch they said "Hey, call us on Monday, we have another child for you if you are interested.  He's 2 and absolutely adorable." Ryan came to live with us 2 months later and his adoption was finalized in September of 2005.

God had plans that did not fall into our idea of what having children would look like, but His plans are greater than ours.  Our story just got started with the on.

We were asked if we would be willing to take Ryan's unborn sibling when he/she was born.  There it was, God giving the desires of our hearts, or was He?  We began to pray and there was that tug and that still small voice reaching out.  I remember the night well.  I was sitting at 3am in my Bubby's chair with her Bible wide open and asking God what He intended for us to do.  I knew in my heart that the baby would have a home.  We, however, had been building a relationship with Christian's biological sister, Crystal and that tug on my heart was that we should bring her home.  I was VERY apprehensive with this since I was only 28 years old and she was 13.  Yet, in my conversation with God, He was very clear when I opened my Bubby's Bible to the passage in Isaiah that read "Here am I, send me".  An overwhelming peace came over me and I knew that this was the direction we were to go.  About 9 months later, the judge finalized Crystal's permanency in our home. 

We have had our ups and downs as a family that has been weaved together by our Lord Himself, but I would not trade it (well, ok, there are some moments I would trade and some seasons in life in which I would like a do-over). 

I share this story as hope for that woman who will sit in her home tomorrow, or quietly by in church as the flowers are passed out to all of the Mothers'.  God has plans that you may never see coming and I want you to know that I am praying specifically for your heart this weekend as you endure the "festivities" with a brave face.  I have a special love for you and will continue to pray for God's will to occur within your lives.