Waiting To Be Loved

It was September 21st, 2010, early evening.  I was standing beside my youngest son at the kitchen counter as he happily mixed the cake for his birthday the following day.  Looking back, I can literally see myself glance quickly over at the phone as it rang.  My heart skipped a beat when I read the words on the caller id; Bethany Christian Services.  I wasn’t expecting a call from our social worker, which meant that this could finally be it.  The news that our social worker had to share may be the end to fifteen months of waiting to bring another child into our family through adoption.  

It was hard to fully absorb the words being spoken on the other end of the line.  I had the phone wedged between my shoulder and ear and was continuing to help my little guy mix his cake as I heard, “a beautiful baby girl, two and a half months old, Down Syndrome” and then, “ the birth mother would like to meet with you.”  I hung up the phone and continued on as if it had been a wrong number.  My heart was frozen in this strange numbness; I didn’t know what to feel so I was just trying to not really “feel” at all.

Only a few minutes after the phone call, my husband walked in with our oldest son and, as I walked up and down the hall, putting clothes away in the boy’s room, I recounted the conversation I just had with our social worker.  I delivered the news to my husband as if I was relaying a message that was almost trivial or unimportant.  I was certain if I was nonchalant about the whole thing, the fear and uncertainty that was hidden within this decision we now had to make would never actually materialize.  I wanted to separate the excitement from the fear.  As the reality of the decision that now lay before us sunk in however, it seemed the bulk of the excitement had seeped through the strainer and what was left were the questions, the uncertainty, the list of “what-ifs”, the fear of not being in control.

As I sat down with my husband to discuss whether or not we could welcome this child into our hearts and our family, the prayers we lifted up for wisdom, guidance and courage were joined by those of our social worker and the staff and prayer warriors that make Bethany Christian Services (Bethany) so unique and successful in achieving it’s mission of “bringing and keeping families together.”  We truly were not alone, nor were the members of this child’s birth family that were in love with this beautiful baby girl but unable to care for her in the way they knew she would need.  Bethany was the bridge between us and our social worker patiently guided our steps and united our families forever through the heart of a little girl in need.

Within ten days of receiving the phone call on the night of September 21st, we joyfully welcomed our daughter home.  God worked His miracle for our family through Bethany, as He has done for countless other children and families throughout Bethany’s thirty years of service to the New England community.  The need for children to be loved, respected and cherished is a need we hold close to our hearts.  It is a need Bethany works to address each and every day, and that is why my husband and I now serve on the Board for Bethany New England.  

We serve for all of the families that are anxiously awaiting the gift of a child to love. We know what it is like to wait; the questions that are always with you, the fear that creeps into your heart wondering if it will all work out, the roller coaster ride of emotions that leaves you tired, worn and running on empty.  The staff at Bethany understand that they are the facilitators of miracles that are orchestrated by God. Every meeting with our social worker began and ended with prayer, reminding us that all of our questions and all of our fears were to be handed over to the one really in control.    

We serve because we have seen firsthand the very real heartache that birth mothers face in creating an adoptive plan for their child, and we know Bethany cares about their healing.  A few weeks after our daughter moved in with us, I went to a local coffee shop to meet with her birth mother.  The baby girl she had given birth to, and loved dearly, was in the arms of another woman and it hurt.  I sat next to our social worker as she lovingly and patiently consoled her through her tears and did all she could to walk beside her in her healing process.  Adoption isn’t a business, it’s a ministry, and it’s one Bethany Christian Services takes seriously.    

We serve because, as the parents of three children, we know the stress of parenting.  We know how fortunate we are to be able to provide them with a warm home, three meals a day, transportation to activities.  We have access to doctors, medicine and insurance.  We live in a supportive community and have family we can depend on in times of need.  We serve because we are aware of the staggering number of families within New England that struggle to provide the most basic of needs for their children.  We understand that when crisis strikes a family already in dire circumstances, it can be tragic and families can be torn apart as a result.  We serve because Bethany works to prevent families being torn apart through the Safe Families For Children program.   (Safe Families)

We serve for all of the vulnerable and hopeful children still waiting to be adopted into their forever families.  We serve because we know Bethany cares about each and every child as the precious individual they are. Every child deserves a home and every child deserves to be loved.  

It’s hard not to look back on the two people we once were before the addition of our daughter to our family.  I can still see us sitting on the couch staring into each other’s eyes as we searched desperately for the answer to question, “Can we do this?”  The one question that still haunts me from time to time is simply, “What if we had said no?”

Two years ago, Bethany global launched a new initiative titled, The Bamboo Project, that has the specific goal of finding adoptive families for children in China with Down Syndrome.  Not long ago, these beautiful children were not even free to adopt, deemed unworthy and unfit for the love of a family.  Bethany worked to change that, and, within the last few years, over fourteen of these little miracles have been brought home to their forever family.    (Bamboo Project)

Just recently, I had the incredible opportunity to meet one little girl who was brought home after spending the first few years of her life severely neglected by the caregivers at the orphanage in which she resided.  At the time of her homecoming, the neglect was incredibly apparent.  In fact, her adoptive parents were actually told by the caregivers at the orphanage that they didn’t ever care to pick her up.  It was stated very matter-of-factly, as if this precious child didn’t deserve the same attention and love as the other children as a result of her being born with Down Syndrome.  I can not appropriately express how my heart soared with joy in seeing this little girl in the arms of her adoptive father, smiling, snuggling and being loved unconditionally.  In the short time she has been home with her adoptive family, she has thrived.  This is why we serve.

October is Down Syndrome awareness month and November is National Adoption month.  In the marriage of these two incredible, life-giving, life-affirming causes, we are inviting you to join with us as we work to support children and families through Bethany Christian Services.  We ask you to open your hearts to the vulnerable children within our communities and answer their needs by making a donation.

In just a few weeks, we will all be gathering together with family to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We will join with those closest to us, those with whom we have loved, laughed and created memories that many children only dream of.  Please consider making a donation to Bethany Christian Services so other children can come home, can belong, can celebrate the love of a family.

By clicking on the link below, you can give directly to Bethany New England, as you will see that the designated location has already been chosen for the Candia, NH Bethany office.  We will be able to track our progress and will report back our success with this newly established annual mini campaign.  In honor of Mary-Rose and all the children still waiting to be brought home, we sincerely thank you for your support.  

Please give now (click here!) to support Bethany New England

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Love you more…

I compare it to the feeling of carrying a candle outside in the wind.  You hold your hand up in front of the flame and do what you can to protect it from the breeze, but there is a distinct awareness that, at any moment, the flame could be extinguished.  That’s how I felt when I held the positive test result in my hand all those years ago.  I was expecting and I was terrified.  The sense of wonder and excitement that is truly unique to the gift of pregnancy was there, but it was overshadowed by this paralyzing fear that we could lose this precious gift as easily as we lost our first child to miscarriage just five months prior.

Bound and determined not to let that happen, I remember going straight to my room, knelt beside my bed and prayed with a desperate heart and a fervent plea that God would protect this child I immediately cherished.  The pain of the loss of our first baby was still so poignant for me.  Not only did I miss this sweet being that I never had the chance to meet, my life, my future, felt so different now.  The reality of what little control I really had, was nothing less than life-altering for me.  It was both a brutal wake-up call to a girl who had always lived a charmed life and a test under fire of what my faith really meant.

When I knelt by my bed that day, I looked up to a statue of Jesus that I have had since my first communion as a child.  Jesus has one hand pointing to His heart.  It was the first time in my life that I can remember clearly hearing an answer to my prayer.  “Trust me”, he was telling me.  “Trust me”.  Each and every day, for nine long months, I prayed and I trusted. The first time I held you in my arms, TJ, true hope was restored in a heart that I doubted could ever be repaired.

We broke all the rules with you.  We were rookies in the first degree and we let our infatuation with you overrule what were the more educated and logical decisions we probably should have made.  For the first several weeks of your life,  you slept on a pillow between us and we snuggled you like our favorite teddy bear.  I remember the excitement I felt waking up each morning and remembering that you were now a part of our lives.  It was like Christmas morning over and over again and I marveled at the gift of our little man; of getting to love you and call you my own.

As you prepare to celebrate your fourteenth birthday, I sit in awe of this young man who once lived for Thomas the Train and mastered every song and dance move of The Wiggles.  In many ways, my sweet TJ, you are my anchor in this crazy world of parenting. You’ve been nothing but accepting and forgiving since day one, as if you knew you were the first and you’d have to expect some bumps in the road as we traveled down it for the first time.

I’ll never forget the moment I realized you were really there for me, that you had my back no matter how nutty a mom I could be.  You were all of three years old at the time.  I was cleaning up our bedroom and, when I picked a pair of jeans off of the floor, a big black spider fell to the ground.  I screamed and you dropped your toys and came tearing down the hall to see what was the matter.  You made it to our doorway just in time to see me grab a shoe and smack the eight-legged intruder.  The expression on your face remains ingrained in my memory.  I’ll never forget how you sadly proclaimed, “Oh Mama, now he will never get home to his family.”

From a very young age you have had such a mature understanding of what family means and a sincere appreciation for God’s design of your own.  You accept and love each one of us for all the intricacies that make us who we are and you quietly encourage us to be better people through your example.  In many ways, you epitomize the qualities of the first-born.  You are a true “pleaser”, always striving to do the right thing and keep those around you happy.  I sometimes secretly praise you for the moments when you do challenge the norm and show me the true colors of the teenager you are.  While I am so proud of you for all the ways you succeed in this race called life, part of me can’t wait for the day you mess up so I can prove to you my love doesn’t depend on you always getting it right.(!)

When you were in your second year of preschool, your teacher sat you down to “interview” you about your world, where you lived, your family, your favorites at the time.  Most of your answers were right on, some were funny and showed the innocence of your age.  It was your answer to the last question that stopped me in my tracks and brought me to tears.  When asked “why your Mom and Dad love you”, you replied, “because they are so happy God gave me to them.”  You were simply regurgitating the eight words I repeated to you each night when I tucked you into bed.  However, I can’t tell you how that affected me and daddy.  It feels impossible to find the right words to tell you the depth of love we have for you, for everything that makes you who you are.  Knowing that, in some small way, I had succeeded in teaching you how special you are to us, was priceless.

Always hold on to that TJ, for it is nothing short of joy living this life with you.  And, remember buddy, “I love you more.”

One of TJ’s favorite things to do when he was little was play his red hockey stick “guitar” and jam to the soundtrack to the Cars movie.  Take a look at this video to see the transformation from three-year old rocker to present day.  Enjoy!