Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sit back, grab a Kleenex... and read my WHOLE HEART

Ali's referral photo... isn't she adorable??
My current favorite photo of Ali... she looks so GROWN UP. This is the cake she made for her Birthday.

So - Ali turned 5 in December. I never got to write about that - other than her big day and the fun we had. (Please scroll down to December 2nd... I have added photos etc...) But I haven't really written about Ali. About how she's grown, how she's changed... and how WE have changed. I don't know if Ali can grasp the impact that she has had on my life - and how God has blessed me with the opportunity to be her Mom. I don't know if she will ever be able to grasp is an awesome responsibility. It has been a long, hard struggle... for a lot of reasons. But she stole my heart the minute I saw her face - and I have been working ever since then to try and change that look in her eyes... It's a long story. I've written it a few times... but this time I need to post it. (I have had a few people ask about it...) So here goes:

Many of you may not know the struggles that Tim and I went through trying to have a family. It was not fun, it was terribly expensive... and it was an emotional roller-coaster of astronomical proportions. I cannot describe to you the highs and lows... but anyone going through this...believe me when I say... I sympathize with you and your plight. God has a plan for our lives - I know that. I always have. I just have to wonder sometimes if He wasn't sitting there saying: "Jennifer... why don't you back off and let me be fabulous? Let me just WOW you and show you what I can do..." I was an average student in school, perhaps a little better... so, you'd think I would catch on a little quicker. I guess my head is a little harder than I would care to admit. I can remember beginning the first of three rounds of InVitro Fertilization... it was in February 2001... and we just KNEW we would be having a baby right before Christmas. It was GOING to work... I just knew it. Well... it didn't. It didn't work that time, or the next time... so I got to enjoy a little forced menopause during the sweltering months of August and September... and then we signed back on for round three! (Can you say STUPID???) I can remember so clearly the day that we got the call... I was at Fayette Mall with Jamie, Briana and Mom. Tim met us there so we could call the doctor's office back. It had failed yet again. But this time we had what they considered a "false" positive result. The embryos were not going to make it - but they had already begun to implant. Basically they were dying. It was devastating. It was the most grueling emotional experience that I can ever remember having. I knew in my heart that God can do I kept praying for God to fix what was wrong. Not to let them all die... I didn't want to lose them. We found out on November 28th that the implantation didn't work...and that our chances to conceive were less than 1%. (How do you get worse than that? LESS than 1%!) I remember hearing the Katina's singing "Thank You" on Klove when I left the Mall.

The Katinas - "Thank You" From the album Destiny
Just a little while longer I wanna pray

Can't get You off my mind so I came to say
Thank You Lord just for loving me
Many times as I do forget
Every need that You have met
Oh thank You Lord, I know You're showing me
You are there when I am down and out
You're holding me, Your love is so amazing
Oh it changed me

Here I am with all I am
Raise my hands to worship You
I wanna say thank you, oh thank you
For everything, for who You are
You cover me, You touch my heart
I wanna say thank you

I could have died in my sin but You saved me
Didn't have any hope at all
You gave me peace divine, strength to carry on
I should have been the one to pay
But instead You took my place
My Jesus, words cannot explain
Even though I don't deserve Your love for me
You look beyond my fault and
You showed mercy

repeat chorus

I wanna say thank you for the sun
I wanna say thank you for the rain
Everything You do is beautiful
I'm so grateful for Your love

I remember thinking, HOW CAN I BE THANKFUL FOR THIS??? This is where God - your faith - and your family are crucial. I remember being so depressed at Christmas... but knowing that we needed to move forward. Dr. Akin - who is a kind and wonderful person - suggested a surrogate, OR adoption. We did actually discuss the surrogate idea. But lets see: Jean had a baby that was 2 months old... Jamie was on heart medication and couldn't come off of it... and Jodi had the beginnings of problems that we later determined were the onset of MS. Just didn't seem to work out. We had always been open to I channeled my energies into learning everything about adoption. We read, went to seminars, called agencies, talked to people... and felt rather confident that we knew what our plan was going to be. (Once again... in take-charge mode...) We also knew that we would be going to either (a) China (Tim's choice) or (b) Romania (Jennifer's). Then the more that we began it investigate - we found that there were MORE countries to adopt from than we even knew existed. Seriously... I hesitate to tell you my rationale for not wanting to fly to China... and I promise you that I had heard of Guatemala... but there is NO WAY that I even knew where it was. (Keep in mind... I am still not sure where Egypt is.) ;) In February 2002 Mom and I flew out to see Jean, Chris and TABITHA. On the airplane ride there I read an entire article about the Mayan ruins in Antigua, Guatemala. When I opened the first of the many many many information packets... I was immediately drawn to the little children from Guatemala. To their eyes, to their faces... to their situation. EVERY banana that I bought... said Guatemala right there on the Chiquita label. It was as if God was saying... "Hello... can you hear me now????" After many months of discussion (Tim and I were a little more like Gideon... and a little less like Abraham, I'm afraid) we decided to adopt in Guatemala. Once the decision was made - it was as if a weight had been lifted off of my heart. (That would be God saying, "Whew... FINALLY.") We sat back and began to wait for out referral. (This REALLY IS going to get back to Ali... I promise.)

The call came just a few days after Rachel was born... if you have scrolled down through all the old entries... there is little that you can tell about Rachel. She was cute... but the picture was grainy, blurry... and her eyes were closed. However, it was when I saw Ali... I knew. Instantly. I knew that this child was my child... and that I would spend the rest of my life trying to take away the sadness from her eyes. To take away the pain that you could see that she was in... it was haunting. Needless to say - we accepted the referral with hearts already full!

At that same time we received our referral, Jamie and I were doing a Beth Moore Bible study: Believing God. We were working on a timeline... of all the significant things that occurred in your life... and how God was always there even if you didn't know it at the time. I began to plot things out... things like: becoming a christian... the death of loved ones... and it asked about your darkest day. That was easy... I plopped November 28th, 2001 right on that timeline. It was truly my darkest day. Then it asked for the good things in your life...when you were married... when your children were born... Hey! I could fill that in now! I ran to get the referral packet and check those dates out. Rachel was a newborn... November 1, 2002. So, I plotted that on the chart. I got Ali's paperwork... December 2nd, 2001. I went to plot her date on the chart... and my hand just stopped. I was stunned to realize that on my darkest day... the day I thought things would never be any could I be happy or thankful for anything... that Ali was born JUST 4 days later. I was immediately moved to tears... and they still flow freely today when I realize His awesome power and all that He has done! I began to SEE that when we BEGAN our attempts at becoming parents... all the shots and IVF cycles... she was very likely conceived within days of that first cycle.

GOD IS SO GOOD. He is in control of our lives... and when we step back and let Him... He will do amazing things. We didn't know about Ali for 11 months... but He was taking care of her... and preparing another blessing for us in Rachel, as well. It hasn't been easy for Ali. She grieved a lot. (If you have never seen a child grieve... it is painful... it is hard.) She has so many attachment issues that no one (who hasn't been down that road) can understand. It took me a long time... and a lot of counseling and patience that I didn't know that I possessed. (For anyone out there about to adopt a toddler - read read read and talk talk talk to other people. I was prepared in my head... but so unprepared EMOTIONALLY... and made too may mistakes.) Ali is my own PERSONAL gift from God. She is a promise fulfilled... she is an answer to prayer. She is the light of my life... and yet she has single-handedly given me more time on my knees before the LORD than any other person in my life. I may spend the rest of my life trying to SHOW her that I will never leave her, will never hurt her... and will never stop loving her. However, I don't think it will take that long. She already knows so much more... and she has learned to trust so much. I can see a light now in her eyes... and that makes me so happy. God knew all along what His Good and Perfect plan was for our lives. Tim and I just didn't let go and let God...! Ali is such a blessing to us... and she may never know the impact that she has had on my life. The passion that she fuels in me to be diligent and work hard to be consistent and fair... to help other people walking this same path that we have already walked... and to help other mothers NOT make some of the same mistakes that I made. In the Bible it says: "For I know the plans I have for you," saith the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future." Jer. 29:11. If there is anything that I know for a fact... it is that God has a plan. I take comfort in that... In knowing that He is in control. Being a Mom can be hard at times - but oh, it is so worth the effort. Each success with Ali gives me hope. My life is so full - and so good. Ali's future is bright - and I am so proud of the accomplishments she has made. I work every day to let God know that I appreciate His gift... and that I am doing the best that I can to honor Him.