During this special season, I feel so grateful for all of you, and for the many ways that my life has been richly blessed by all of you. I don’t tend to be outwardly effusive about my innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences, but as this year comes to an end, I feel strongly that I’d like to share some things that have been profound for me especially this past year.Our greatest security is found in the love and support of our family and in our faith. Everything else is really illusory and truly doesn’t matter too much. Tim and I have taken risks this year, most of them haven’t paid off with financial success and yet it has little bearing on our overall happiness and sense of security. Our faith has been stretched, and we have grown closer as a couple and a family.
Decisions we make have far reaching consequences that we may not see immediately. These decisions and consequences can bless us if we learn from the bad ones, and are grateful for the blessings that come from the good. The most difficult thing about this year is that we have often only been led one footstep at a time, with no clear picture of what will happen. It has been a huge challenge and blessing.
Home is where you make it, and wherever you have each other. It isn’t about the perfect location, the best house, or even all the creature comforts. We should know that our homes can be a sanctuary from the world, and that heaven can be found here. Our homes can that place. Nothing is perfect, and that’s okay. I am so grateful to truly feel this way.
The Savior loves me, is aware of me, and is fixing things behind the scenes to bless me without me even being aware of it. I have felt much peace amid the confusion and chaos of moving, uprooting our family, losing a deal we were counting on, and having to look for constant guidance from God. While we thought we were moving here to buy a property, we soon found that was not the case. It didn’t discourage us too much because we had peace that we were in the right place. Over these past months, I have recognized him in the details of my life. Big and small things that testify of this.
The atonement of the Jesus Christ is our greatest gift. I have had times in my life when I felt so alone, so heartbroken, and truly lost. The only thing that got me through these experiences was the relationship I developed with my Savior. I have felt his arms around me and I know he can ease our burdens and understand our pain when no one else can. I also know that is prepared to bless us with joy greater than our pain if we will allow him in to heal us.
On November 11, I got an email that put all of these things into perspective for me, and reminded me again of the wisdom of God. When I was in college, I was very lost and felt very unloved. I do not blame anyone for this, but now find that in large part it was because I had not recognized WHO I was, and my relationship with my creator. I made some bad decisions. I think I knew that they were wrong, but I just didn’t care or know if it mattered because it made me feel temporarily happier. A consequence of these decisions was a pregnancy with a boyfriend that I knew I could not marry. To say that I was ashamed, full of regret, desperate, and confused would only begin to describe this time of my life. I kept the pregnancy secret from everyone for 5 months, before telling my parents. I moved away for the last 3 months of my pregnancy. This was partly because I was so ashamed and embarrassed and partly because I knew I would not have the clarity to make a decision if everyone knew and was telling me their opinion about it. The boyfriend and I tried to figure out a way to make it work, and yet, I knew. I just knew because we disagreed on all the major points: religion, family, work, money… and on and on.
I started looking for an adoptive family. I knew what I wanted, so I was shocked when I found parents for her that were nothing like what I thought I would pick. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and I knew they were meant to be parents to my child. While this was a solution, it was NOT what I wanted. In fact, I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could ever hand my baby over to someone else to raise. I looked for any way around this. I knew the pain and sorrow of it would demolish me.When she was born, I was thrilled and broken hearted. I stayed with her for 3 days in the hospital. I talked to her, and loved on her. Then I handed her to her parents.
The first stage of grief is denial. For 2 weeks I made plans to get her back. I could not deal with the reality. I did call social services and asked them to get her back for me. I kept her one more night. All night, I sat there crying because I knew she was supposed to be with her parents and not me. I gave her back, and then drove home to my parents house and broke down for a few months. My grief was killing me. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or think about anything else. Finally a couple months in, I was talking to a counsellor and he said, “ I can tell you are barely hanging on and you feel like you are in bottomless black hole don’t you?” I just nodded and cried. At that moment I made a decision to surrender all of what I was struggling with. I prayed differently, desperately for healing. For the first time I felt Jesus sitting with me, mourning with me. While I didn’t immediately get over this event, I began to feel better and I finally did not feel totally alone in my grief.
For 18 years I received yearly updates and photos of my child, but I had no direct contact with her or her parents. The last few years I hadn’t heard anything, and I knew that as of 3 years ago, she knew nothing about me. I was at peace knowing that she had a good life with parents who adore her.
On November 11, I got an email from her mother saying she wanted to meet me. To say that this was a major disruption to my emotional state would be an understatement. Four days later I drove to Calgary and met her. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Because of the details of our meeting, the way it came about, and where she lives (Calgary), I could only feel immense gratitude afterwards. I received strong confirmation that I did the right thing, and that because I did, I was being blessed now. I know because of how things happened that it would have been a disaster between her father and I had I kept her. I most likely would not be married to Tim and have these kids, or this life I love.
I can’t help but be so thankful that I live 10 hours closer to her. We are only a few hours apart instead of 15. As she has been an only child all these years with older parents, a mother whose family resides in another country, she has not experienced siblings and chaotic family life. So a couple weeks ago, we took our children up to meet her. She met us in Raymond and spent the night with our family at Grandma Dudley’s house. She is so excited to be included in our family, and this is the dream I never thought would be realized all those years ago.
To say that our move was preparing us for this unexpected event is right on. It made our family closer, it taught us all a lot about adapting, and about walking forward in faith. I don’t know how I or my kids would have handled this all a year ago, but I know now that we have been prepared. Sometimes the Lord in his wisdom sets our feet on unknown paths to get us where we need to be.
I feel truly humbled to share this with you, and I hope that as you read these words, you will feel the truth of it and that it will strengthen you in whatever circumstances, challenges, and decisions you are facing. If we let them, our greatest challenges refine us, improve us, and bring us closer to God’s vision of us.
I know this may be shocking or take you off guard, but please know that my intention has never been to deceive anyone about who I am or choices I have made. Tim and I have prayerfully made decisions about who to tell and when, in order to protect our children. I do not mind answering questions or talking about my experiences, so if you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
We face challenges that are completely foreign. There is no “how to”, or handbook on how to deal with integrating a grown child into your family after decades apart. There is no easy way to bring this up in conversation, introduce your suddenly altered family, or navigate the emotional work required to build a new family. However, I go forward in faith. Tim always says, “we have access to the divine, but we settle for google.” Well google has already failed me miserably on this, so I’m trusting the answers will come, and things will happen as they should.