Wednesday, 12 March 2014

..with this gun...I mean, ring....

March 12, 1985

It was a day that no young, love-struck girl could ever forget.

The Proposal

You know those stories of incredible thought, precision planning and meticulous events that end up with a million hits on youtube?

...the music montage of the couple's favorite love song, with all of their family in on it - ending up on a beach with rose petals and sea shells, and a man in a tuxedo  - down on one knee - reciting the perfect words of love and devotion...

yea, it was nothing like that...

My story was none the less - for lack of a better word...epic

It all began one day just before Christmas in 1984.  I was invited to a Christmas dinner at Dan Reed's house for all his friends.  The chef was none other than Daniel B. Adkins - of the renown Coffee Break...master of the famous Friday night Turkey Dinner buffet.   I had seen this cute red head before - at Lloyd's Rollercade - a few weeks before this.  He had quite the moves on the rink, a gorgeous gold Camero, and now...he can cook?  I must say I was interested.

After a few more encounters (trivial pursuit at Arlene McCommish's house, comet watching with Nathan Jenkins), I knew that this was a pretty special guy.

76 days later...he proposed

I knew that it was coming...sometime....but as he picked me up in his old, baby-blue F150 pick up that evening, he asked if I wanted to go to Calgary to pick out a ring.

Well, duh!  Yes!  He said something about not knowing how to ask and I said, "just ask".

He said, "okay, do you want to marry me?"

I replied, " Sure"...to which he replied...

"You are sitting on your ring"

Reaching under my butt I found a small plastic bag from Canadian Tire
(incredible foreshadowing here)

In that bag was a little purple box from Ben Moss jewelers.

...my ring...

We had looked at a few rings at different places, but a cook at the Coffee Break didn't make a whole lot of cash, so I never thought that he could have purchased it already.  I was wrong.

I was right about the lack of cash though...but then I found out the rest of the story.

A few weeks before this, my beloved took a prized gun...a Winchester model 96 - over/under shotgun...to Bud Haynes Auction to sell in order to purchase

...my ring...

His family thought he was a little crazy.  His dad thought he was totally crazy. Is this girl really worth sacrificing something like this?

He thought so...

He still does...



Who needs a million-hit-youtube-sensation proposal when you have that?

Not me...




Friday, 7 March 2014

fourteen months later...

fourteen months...

It's really hard to believe that it has been that long since I looked at this gathering of my thoughts and words.  I don't have a great reason for abandonment.  I could say that I was...
* too busy
* too tired
* had nothing to say
* had too much to say

All would be true.  I think it's just a matter of priority.  For fourteen months, this simply was not a priority - other things were.

Big things...like





*my 6th trip to Bogota, Colombia.  Every year that I return it feels a little bit more like my second home.  I love this country, it's food and especially it's people.  Their love is genuine and their faith is strong.  (Feb 5-15, 2013)


* another successful show - Fiddler on the Roof.  I LOVED directing this show, but more than this, I LOVED playing Golde - one of my all time favorite stage characters....especially opposite my dear friend and co-worker.  (May 22 - June 1, 2013)






* the GRAND arrival of my sweet, Grayson.  This boy is the apple of Grannie's eye and the keeper of my heart.  I look forward to many hours of spoiling him and loving him forever.  (June 5, 2013)



* I lost 52 pounds for my 52nd birthday.  After riding the diet train for so long, I finally decided that I had to get serious and commit to something that would work.  Well, I found that thing and although it will continue to be a battle, I am so thankful for my new-found health and stamina!
(April 1, 2013 - ongoing!!)






* Finally seeing the GRAND CANYON!  Dan and I did a week long vacation to Phoenix with a day trip to the South rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was such an amazing trip....lots of sunshine and shopping.  Two of my favorite things!  (July 17 - 24, 2013)






* my 7th trip to Colombia!  This time...without a team of kids and just for FUN!  I was beyond excited to be able to go to Colombia for the wedding of my dear Natalia...adopted daughter, from the first time I came to Bogota.  She has always had a special place in my heart, so it was incredible to be able to watch her marry her prince, Juan Sebastian.



The bonus...
Alyssa came with me!!   Finally she was able to meet all the people that I had talked about and of course, she fell in love with them too!  It was so much fun to explore parts of Colombia that I had never been to, without the responsibility of looking after a team of teenagers!  What an amazing trip!!
(November 14-22, 2013)





* my 8th (!) trip to Colombia!  It seemed like I had hardly unpacked my bags and I was packing again for our 7th PCA Missions Trip to Bogota. This adventure was full of challenges of sickness other adventures.  It is always pretty exciting to watch a new team experience Colombia for their first time.  As soon as I touch down in Canada, I'm already thinking about the next time!
(February 6-16, 2014)



That old saying, "time flies when you are having fun" is pretty accurate.  The last fourteen months have brought so many moments of joy & sorrow, celebration & reflection, laughter & tears.   Through every second...He has been faithful and I have been blessed.

Here are a few of the "other things" that have happened along the way...







Tuesday, 8 January 2013

...just like her

Walking through my favorite grocery store today for 10% Tuesday, I was happy to see and talk to so many friends, looking for the same bargains.  I find that if you do your shopping before 11 am, the crowd is a more "mature" one, so it is easier to forgo the screaming children pushing those mini ramming carts into the backs of your heels.

As I wandered through the aisles, chatting with some dear older ones, my last conversation made the deepest impact.  Standing in line at the checkout, a friend of my parents lined up behind me.  After the usual small talk she said, "You just remind me so much of your Mom...her smile, her laugh and the way she made you feel so special".

Just like her...

This is not the first time I've heard it.  It happens all the time.  Many years ago, it didn't make me so happy to hear it, but today it was a gift.

Today it made me blink back the tears until I was in the solitude of my car.

I drove from the IGA parking lot toward the west and turned into the tree surrounded sacred space where we laid her 10 years ago.


10 years.

A decade

I can't believe it has really been that long.  In some ways it seems to have gone so quickly, but then I think of the events that she has missed and it has been a lifetime.

graduations, weddings, births, funerals, birthdays, Christmas's, everydays...

I stood by her grave this morning and thought about those dark days 10 years ago...her sudden illness...icu...singing endless songs by her bedside...so many tears...saying goodbye.   I remember thinking that life would never be the same again.  And it wasn't.  I still wonder how things would be if she was still here.

but she's not...
but she is

She lives on in...
my toothy smile
my loud laugh
my love for people
my passion for my family
my faith.

She gave me those things to live with until the end of my days.  The perfect gift.

At Christmas time I took a picture of Alyssa looking through a box of old treasures, and I put it on Instagram.  So many people commented on how much she was like me.  (I told her that I was very sorry for that.)

It has now made me stop and reflect on the traits that I have been blessed with by my Mom, I can't help but pray that they don't stop with me, but live on in my children and their children.

Mom didn't leave me with huge piles of money or cases of jewels, but she left riches that are immeasurable.

Her legacy lives on in a smile, laughter, friendship, love and faith.

And those things last forever.

Thanks Mom...I love you!







Saturday, 15 December 2012

silent night

The last 24 hours have done little to instill a sense of hope in this world.  Every network is covering the horror that enveloped a small community in mere seconds.   You can't hear about or watch something like this without somehow relating to the unimaginable grief of the families affected.

I have tuned in to CNN, Fox News and other agencies with live coverage.  I was drawn into the details, the possible scenarios, the back stories and the emerging personalities of this tragedy.  I have asked along with the journalists...

How could this ever happen? 

What makes a person do something so despicable to innocent children?

I have prayed and cried for the parents, the spouses, the siblings, and grandparents, aunts, uncles...

My heart aches for them.

My heart aches for us.

I've read numerous opinions of well-meaning people, trying to pin this on a rational cause...

* no prayer in the schools
* gun control
* violent videogames
* poor care and screening for mental health

I've read numerous opinions of well-meaning people, trying to prevent it from happening again...

* more gun control
* less gun control
* metal detectors in every school
* ban heavy metal music
* ban violence in the media

It's not going to work...

This side of eternity...it can't work.

Why?  Because evil exists.

It lurks in the minds of those that choose to believe that they will have significance if they commit a truly evil act.  It is fed by the biographies of others that have gone before them.

James Holmes...opened fire on a theatre of people watching The Dark Knight Rises...before killing himself

Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold...walked into a Colorado high school and gunned down random students...before killing themselves

Seung Hui Cho...Virginia Tech student, shot and killed 32 fellow students...before killing himself

The biographies are easy to find with one quick Google search.  They are easy to watch as day after day news agencies cover every detail of every case...often with possible scenarios, rather than actual truth.

It's food for the disturbed.  It nourishes the evil inside every deeply disturbed person with a sense that there is glory, power and fame attached to these acts.

We are feeding them.  Our hunger for breaking news, while it feeds our curiosity, it is feeding their cancer of evil.

So...I am going to stop.  I do not want to know the name of this murderer or any other.  Their names are crossed out in the list because that is exactly how I believe they need to be treated.

Crossed out
Obliterated
Erased

Not sensationalized.  Not glamorized.  Not immortalized

My focus will be on those families, and I don't need to see coverage of the funeral, or pictures of deep grief etched in the faces of mothers.  The love that I have for my own children is enough for me to understand that level of pain.  I pray for those mothers.  I cry with them.  I ask God to give them hope.

Shut off the television.
Turn off the news.

We know the story.  We know that children and others died and they shouldn't have.  That's all we need to know.

Silent night
Holy night
Sleep in heavenly peace








Friday, 8 June 2012

Listening

What is God saying to you?

Can you imagine at random times in your day, you hear a voice that asks that question.  Not when your are taking time to pray, or meditate, or read the Bible...

random times

Like - when you are in the middle of housework
       - when you are on facebook
       - when you are at a movie
       - when you are in the middle of an argument

Yea, usually that isn't the time that I think about what God is saying.

Until now.

We have been attending CrossRoads Church in Red Deer as often as we possibly can.  We love this church.  It has fed our souls.  Starting June 1st there has been a challenge by Pastor Shawn for a 90 day fast from meeting God on our schedules and our agendas.  Instead, we meet Him randomly.

Through text messages.

Yes...text messages from God.  Well, not exactly directly from God.  I signed up at church to receive 3 text messages per day - sent at different times - that just say...


What is God saying?

I wasn't sure how much this would really impact my life, but in the past 8 days, I have been amazed at how a sudden unplanned refocus of my mind is so incredible.  Usually when I spend time communicating with God, it is on my terms.  It's when I'm in that "God zone".  Either I'm needing something so I'm asking or I'm thankful for something specific.  Well this week it has been in the mundane and regular that I have stopped and thought, "in THIS moment...what are You saying?"

Amazing revelations.

It has felt like a big sigh deep in my soul...

It has reminded me of that story of Samuel being called by God - hearing voices in the night calling his name.  He kept mistaking the voice for Eli's until finally he realized that it was God talking.

I have found that He has been calling my name more often than I ever realized.  The "stuff" has been drowning out His voice for a very long time...

Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening    
(1 samuel 3:10)

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Lessons from a Marshmallow



Last night I had my sweet girlies over for a s'mores night for devotions time.  It has been planned for a very long time, but never seems to work out because of rain or baseball, or something else that seems to get in the way.  Tonight it worked out  - most likely because it was so last minute.

We had the perfect fire - in my new fire table, that I just love.  We had the perfect marshmallows - Kraft Jet Puff.  Those cheap generic brands never work out!  We had Caramilk and Aeros and chocolate cookies to squish the sweetness between.

Creating S'mores is an art.  There are good and bad ways to approach a fire when toasting.  The bad way is to just get right in the fire and watch as the flames engulf the poor defenseless marshmallow resulting in a charred mass of burnt sugar.  I know, there are some that prefer this outcome (their sanity I question) but my sources say that these are cancer causing...so definitely bad.  The good way is to, first of all, have the perfect fire - the coals at just the right temperature.  Good toasting takes time and patience.  It takes a careful hand, rotating the stick at the perfect speed to get that even browning.  A good marshmallow will end up twice its size if properly done, resulting in a golden brown, slightly crunchy outside with a warm and soft centre - perfect for melting that sweet piece of chocolate..creating the masterpiece.

Later that night I was thinking about that marshmallow and how it is so much like life.  I often have those fires that flare up - the uncomfortable, undesirable events that occur.  Many times - I'm like that bad marshmallow.  I am immediately consumed by the situation - overcome by the circumstances, leaving me a pretty useless, charred mess.  How much better is it to be that other marshmallow.  Rather than being destroyed by the fire, to use it.  Yes, it still hurts.  All fire does.  But it doesn't have to destroy.  Sometimes the fire - unpleasant as it can be - can help us to soften, to melt and to change us into something pretty incredible.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes the skillful hand of the Master, whose desire is not to destroy but to create more out of us...

S'more...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Smashed

no talk of diets or exercise today....

Today I want to celebrate good stuff....and I have lots of it!

I am a hoarder.  Not the TLC crazy Hoarder's kind of a hoarder...I just have a problem letting go of things - especially anything that is attached to any significant time, place or person.  Even clothes - some that I will never wear - I can't get rid of because I remember when I got it, or where I wore it, or some other such ridiculousness.

This little problem has seeped over into my work life.  I keep everything I get...pictures, sticky notes, cards, letters, gifts...everything!  You can imagine that my walls can get a little cluttered, but I love to have those reminders of good stuff around me.  It helps me to "de-clutter" my head after dealing with a "problem child" to look up at my walls and see a reminder of other "problem children" that have made it to the other side.

good stuff...

Well, I am happy to let you know that I have found a solution to this part of my hoarding habit.  It is called The Smash Book.  I found it on Pinterest  (where else?!) and have been on the look out for one since I discovered it.  I was so happy to learn that they are sold at Michael's, so I went and bought one.  Now, for those of you that are incredibly crafty and creative, I'm sure you are thinking, "oh good grief - I could put one of those together for half the price!"  Well, most likely I could too, but my intentions seem to get lost somewhere between the idea and the doing, so I thought I would just get a ready made one and go for it.

So far I have filled 13 of its pages with treasures from the residence.  It has become "that thing that I will grab in case of fire" in my office.  I love it.  As I was pasting and writing in it, I was overcome again with how incredibly God has blessed my life.  It is good.  so very good.

What a great way to count your blessings!!

This is my favorite page so far.  It is a series of sticky notes left to me by two of my Residence Assistants, Haley and Jenessa.  They wrote each note as if they were the other person, so it got extremely bizarre.   By the way, Haley became my daughter-in-law.  Back then it was just a high school crush...  treasures!

good stuff...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Weekends

I love relaxing weekends.  The only problem is that relaxing weekend equals no schedule and no schedule equals impulse eating and no exercise.

This I found true, but I think being mindful of my commitment helped me to not make horrific choices...just slightly bad ones.  We walked through the Red Deer Farmer's Market and the mall for most of the day.  The aching of my feet proved that I actually got off my butt, however, the meal at the end of the day was less than optimal.

Right next to the Farmers Market there is a beautiful space called Barrett Park.  This is where Lys' sister in law will be getting married in August, so we went to have a look.  In the park there is a fabulous fitness square with about a dozen different "machines" to work out on.  It was amazing!  I took some pictures because I would like to suggest this to our town council to implement in Anderson Park.  What a great addition it would make!!




Wednesday, 16 May 2012

I Chose...

for what I lack in originality I shall make up in plagiarism...

I choose...
to live by choice, not by chance
to make changes, not excuses
to be motivated, not manipulated
to be useful, not used
to excel, not to compete
self esteem, not self pit
to listen to my inner voice 
and not the random opinion of others


good advise...

*thanks Erin for the quote...and wherever it came from  :)

Monday, 7 May 2012

the whole story...

In case you are just reading this story for the first time or you would like a non-continuing version of the entire journey - here it is.   There are also some pictures at the bottom of the post.  Thank you to all that have encouraged me through out the process of getting it down on paper.  


* * * * *



I have a hard time believing that I am 50 years old.  I have a harder time believing that she is 30.

I met her in the summer of 1981.  I realized her existence from a white stick with a little red + sign in my tiny little bathroom in my tiny little basement suite.  Joy was not the outcome of that meeting.  I would say it was more like panic.

What am I going to do?

Much of that time is a blur in my memory, however a few things stick out pretty clearly. I remember feeling very alone.  I told "him" but rather than getting the emotional support that I so craved, I was given the phone number of a place that could "fix" it.  At the time it did feel like my only option, but I remember thinking that rather than take one life, it would be better to just take two.  I wanted to die.  It could look like an accident and no one would know about the other life that was also ended.

I told only 2 people - my little brother and my best friend.  They understood the pain and offered the only thing that I really needed.

Hope.

They could see so much further than I could and through their vision I made a step toward life, instead of death.

As she grew inside, life didn't get much easier.  I had decided that it would be best for all concerned that this remained a tightly guarded secret.  Tell no one.  Live in seclusion for part of a year then move on with real life.

I had no question in my mind that I was not going to parent this child, but believing that did not make it any easier to process through letting go.  Files of strangers were laid out in front of me and I was told to pick one.

Pick one.

How does one choose a mother and a father from a brief description?  How does one know with any certainty how this woman's or man's personality will mesh with this child's - all of whom you have no clue as to what those personalities are.  

Lists of descriptions...
-age
-career
-height
-hair color
-religion

Generalized characteristics that tell me nothing.  But that's all there was.  I went through the lists and qualified and disqualified the candidates.


- short - no
- tall - yes...I'm tall, he was tall - she will be tall - don't send her to live with the seven dwarfs
- government job - yes - financial security is a good thing
- baker - no!  a baker can't support a family very well  
- blonde/fair - yes - again, she will a blonde - she has to be
- redhead - no!  Everyone knows that redheads have bad tempers and are mean

After many hours of pouring over the tiny bits of information given, parents were chosen and the surrendering began.

sur-ren-der:
1.  To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion
2.  To give up in favour of another
3.  To give up, or back something that has been granted
4.  To give up or abandon
5.  To give over or to resign oneself.

My definition:  To cut out a piece of your heart and hand it to a stranger to look after.

April 4, 1982

The rest of the world met her.
Amanda  (she who must be loved)  Joy  

Her family all met her.  Her Grandfather held her in his arms and blessed her, giving her - surrendering her to God for the rest of her life.

Walking away from that hospital was excruciating and the days ahead were even worse.  In B.C. the adoption laws allow for the birth mother to revoke her consent to adopt for 30 days - no questions asked. Those 30 days were riddled with questions of doubt and despair as the decision was waging war in my heart.  In the end I feel that I did the "right thing".  At least that is what I was told many times.  It took me a few years to be able to really believe that.

Life post-surrender looked completely normal to the outside world.  I re-entered civilization as if nothing had ever happened.  I believed that the surrendering part was over.

It was just beginning...

* * * * *  

When the ache is a secret one, living a normal life is difficult.  Although no fault of theirs, I felt that I couldn't ask for that support from my family.  They were grieving too.  We had never been through a situation like this before.  We didn't even know anyone else that had, so there was no step by step guide on "how to heal after surrendering a child for adoption".  I believed that I had hurt my parents and family enough, so to add on the necessity for constant grief support was just more than I should ask for.

How silly.

That fall I decided to go back to Prairie to finish off my degree, switching my program so that it would only take one more year.  I entered back into a very full academic year with a very empty heart.

It was here that I started to find my way back to healing.  I found out that I was broken long before Amanda's existence.  I was lost.  Over the next two years, and with some amazing people that came along side me, I started to find me.  They pointed me to grace.  They pointed me back to hope and a future.  God became real in my life.  He went from being the Sunday School Jesus to being so much more.

As I tried to resume "normal" life, dating again was catastrophic.  Honesty about my past resulted in either rejection or being used.  I had strong doubts that I would ever find someone that could accept me and all the stuff.

I was wrong.

He drove a gold Camero Berlinetta.  The first time I saw him, he had a car full of girls hanging out the windows.

"Who's that?"

"Danny Adkins", my friend replied.

Later that night we were roller skating at Lloyds with a big group from Prairie when a red streak of hair flew past me - crazy crossovers and mock hops - all in perfect time to the music.

"Who's that?"

"Danny Adkins...stay away Sheila - he's just a kid", my friend again replied this time with a warning.

Well, I wanted to meet Danny Adkins.  Anyone that drove a car and roller skated like that was definitely worth looking into.

Over the next few weeks he became part of my life.  My first impression of him was completely accurate.  He loved life and lived it in color.  It didn't take long to realize that he was my forever.

I was so afraid to tell him about Amanda.  I was sure that he would decide that I wasn't good enough for him.  When I finally did, he just said, "That was yesterday.  I love you today"

and he still does

He not only loves me but he respects me.  He respected my story and never told one single person about it.  Both of his parents passed into eternity without ever hearing about it.  That kind of integrity is a gift - one that I so desperately needed.

To say that our married life was a picnic would be a great fallacy.  You can't come into a marriage with that much baggage and not expect to have to deal with the mess from time to time.  We had our share of struggles and full on war, but the assurance that we would never walk away, by God's grace, kept us together.

Finding myself pregnant was so exciting.  I remember feeling like finally everything was going to be perfect.  But the perfect dream ended in a miscarriage

and then another

I was sure that this was my punishment.  I told myself that because I gave away one baby, I wasn't fit to keep any others.  Those were very dark days.  All of the assurances given by Dan and others around me were drowned out by my own fear.  I had to surrender this over to Him - for His timing, His plan, His will.  I thought I was finished with surrendering my children, but I found out that He needed me to be willing to release my dreams and plans.

I am so grateful for the gift of Alyssa and Riley.  I think that because I felt the loss of 3 before them - one in adoption and two in miscarriage - I understood more the magnitude of the gift that they were to me.  They have always been my best accomplishment as a human.

So life took on a normal look to it.  From the outside looking in - all was well.  But on the inside, I carried the knowledge that someday things could all change.

someday...
    - someone could discover my secret and expose it all

someday...
    - my children would know that I gave away their sister

someday...
    - there could be a knock on the door, a voice on a phone - saying "hey, remember me?"

someday...
    - the past would have to be relived all over again.  A past that I had tried so hard to erase.

someday...

But that day did come - gradually.

 * * * * * 

I believe that God transplants newness into our lives to lessen the impact of the old.  That is what He did for me.  He gave me a full and busy life with kids, a husband, a job, and good friends.  I remember once feeling guilty for almost forgetting Amanda.  But Dan one day gently told me that it was a gift from God.  It was He that was helping me to release Amanda - not just physically, but emotionally as well.  If you can't do that, then she really wouldn't be completely surrendered.

As Alyssa and Riley grew up, I knew that there would come a day they would have to be told about their "sister".  I wasn't looking forward to it, but still, being the planner that I am, I tried to rehearse scenarios in my head what that reveal would look like.  I think I had figured out what to say - it was the when to say it that had me baffled.

But God had other ideas for my plans

News of my niece's unplanned pregnancy caused some serious conversations in and around our home.  Lys was in Junior High, so she was starting to figure out some of these things.  As the topic of what was going to be done about this new baby came up, so did the talk of adoption.

One night, during a horrific electrical storm, our power was knocked out and Lys and I found ourselves home alone, in the dark.  We sat in the living room together watching the bolts of lightning and started to talk.  The topic of her dear cousin came up and she said, "I don't think she should give the baby up for adoption.  I don't know how anyone with a heart could ever do that."

gulp...silence...

"Well, Lys...let me tell you a story"

My rehearsed plan of what to say was shattered, and instead I poured out a tale of brokenness, grace, forgiveness and redemption.  She was completely silent for the entire time.  In the darkness I wasn't able to read her expression, but at the end and after what seemed to be a LONG silence, I asked, "Lys, are you okay?"

Her teary cheek pressed against mine as she wrapped her arms around my neck and said, "Mom, I've never been so proud of you in all my life"

so much better than my scenario

What an amazing answer to my prayers.  I could have never imagined that it would have worked out that way.  Not only did she 'get it', but she was proud of me?

Amazing grace...

Alyssa is like her Dad in her ability to keep a confidence.  I knew that she would never tell anyone, and being that Riley was still pretty young, I didn't want him to know quite yet.  She promised her silence, and we didn't speak of it again...

until THAT day.

A frantic call.  "Mom, come get me right now!  I'm at the gym."  I had no idea what had happened, but hurried down to pick her up.  She jumped into the car and burst into tears.

"They know, Mom, they know!"

Who knows and what do they know?

"My friends, they know about Amanda!"

What?  How did junior high girls know about my secret?  This is impossible.  As the story came out I learned that during basketball practice, one of Lys' friends was talking about adoption, since she was adopted, she casually mentioned that Alyssa's mom gave up a baby for adoption too.  Alyssa was horrified.  I was horrified.

As I tried to calm her down, I needed calming as well.  Who all knows about this, and now that it was exposed to a group of junior high girls, EVERYONE would soon know that didn't already.

I quickly went into recon mode.  I decided that if this was going to get out, then I wanted to be in control of how it happened.  I started contacting some of my close friends and poured out the story to them.  The responses were that of surprise but also of support.  I felt that I was gathering up a team that would be able to stand around me when the gossip started to spread.

My plans were working.

My plans

Then my dear friend took me aside and said...slow down....do you really think that God lead you all this way just to drop you on your head now?  How about we let Him take this the rest of the way.

That was a difficult thing to do...but the right thing.

I reluctantly stopped the frantic damage control and watched the chips fall.  My world didn't come crashing down.  Everything stayed quite normal in fact.  I had gone a whole 2 weeks after the junior high gossip incident and all seemed to be well.

My dear friend was visiting in my house and we were in the kitchen, talking about the recent events - actually whispering, because I still hadn't told Riley yet. 

The phone rang.

"Hello"

"Hi this is_______ from Lost Angels Registry"

My thoughts raced through my brain trying to figure out what exactly that was when I remembered that I had registered my contact information on an adoption website dedicated to helping find birth parents/children given in adoption.  

"We have had a hard time reaching you.  It looks like you didn't update your information for a while"

Yes, it had been a number of years, but this is weird to be getting a call in the evening to update my file.

"We think we have a match"

A match...what is a match?  I'm confused...  "Excuse me?"

"A match - you gave a baby up for adoption on April 4th, 1982, correct?"

Why can't I breathe?  What is that sound of ringing in my ears?  Am I sleeping?  Is this a dream?  "I'm sorry, I don't understand."  I grab my friend and run with her into my bedroom and close the door behind us.  She is wondering what in the world is happening as my face tells a story that she isn't able to read.

"If you are in agreement, I have someone that would like to make contact with you.  She is really excited and is waiting for your call.  However, this is up to you.  If you don't want to make contact, we will respect that"

Still no air.  Breathing is supposed to be a reflex but one that I'm not able to do right now.  "No, I mean, yes, it's fine - I can do that"   I can?  No I can't!

"Alright, her name is Amy.  This is her number...."

I'm not sure how I was able to write down the number much less even hold a pen in my shaking hands.  As I hung up the phone, I just said to my friend, "It's her - she found me".  We both were in shock and sat for a few minutes taking in all that had just happened.  Then I dialed.

"Hello, is this Amy?"  But your name is Amanda...who is Amy?

"Yes"

Then what are you supposed to say?  I can't even remember that conversation from that point on.  It was the moment that I always looked forward to/dreaded happening, but for the life of me I can't recall - other than the emotions...joy, fear, regret, peace, thankfulness, wonder, more fear...every emotion that one can experience went into those few moments on the telephone.

I told her that I wanted to meet her and that we would make that happen soon, and that was the end of the conversation...

The next few days were a blur of calling my family and telling them the story, making plans for a reunion, and telling Riley...

Riley, my dear boy...never saw the negative side of it - ever.  He had another sister.  It was just cool.  Never judged - only loved.

Amazing grace...

We made arrangements for Amy to make a visit to Three Hills.  She was going to fly in and meet my family.  In my head I had always pictured what that would look like.  I watched so many episodes of Oprah's adoption reunion shows, that I had convinced myself that this is exactly what it would be like.

Of course, again, I was wrong.

* * * * * 

I'm not exactly sure what I thought was going to happen as I waited in the airport for Amy's flight to arrive.  I mean, after all, this is a stranger, joined by a few dna strands, but otherwise...

no connection

The last time I had seen this child was 3 days after she was born.  Although I had received a couple of pictures and a sweet letter from her new family just shortly after her arrival into their home, there had been no updates on

how she was
where she was
who she was

It was left to my imagination to come up with those details.  It was easy to pick her out of the crowd exiting the gate.  She was the one with the look of sheer terror on her face - the face that had some very common characteristics of our genetic makeup.  We hugged, cried and then hugged some more.  I can't really remember what it was that we said.  I am pretty sure it was nothing - because I don't think anyone really knew what to say.

Her 3 days in Three Hills were full of meeting our large family, many friends and other on-lookers that had heard the long kept secret story.  I can't imagine what was going through her mind.

We began to tell our stories - hers and mine - and in the process began to connect so many of the fragments of our separate lives into one that tied us together.

Connections

like - her grandparents knowing my Dad from the church that I grew up in at New Westminster

like - her family attending the Johnston Heights Free Church, pastored by Dan Nicholson - my youth pastor from Calgary

like - her parents going to a Bible Study led by my dear friends, Ed & Dianna Wallan

The stories helped us start to fully realize that God had a plan in it all.  Keeping us tied through common bonds, even though they were so unknown to us at the time.

A few weeks later it was my turn to travel west to meet her family - her parents, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.  All of the people that I had handed her over to love.  It kind of felt like I was watching this non-stop movie of someone else's life.  So surreal.  Amy drove me past all of her places - homes, schools, churches.

As we drove past one of the houses I recognized the neighborhood and tried to figure out why it looked so familiar.  As we rounded the corner, I realized why.

"Did your house have a tall fence around it that met in the corner with 2 other yards?"

.yes.

"Did you have a trampoline in the back yard?"

.yes.

"When you played on the trampoline - did you sometimes throw a ball into one of those other yards?"

.yes.

"Where there 3 little blonde girls that lived in one of those yards?"

.yes.

That was Dan's sister's house.
Where we were for Easter vacation one year.
Where a ball kept flying over the fence.
Where I threw it back to a girl on the other side.
That girl was Amy.

so very close...so connected...but not yet

goosebumps

I met Amy's best friend, Tiffany.  They had been bff's since they were in grade school - with some special bonds.  Born less than one week apart.  Both adopted.

Tiffany's mom started to tell me the story of how amazing their connections went even further.  The 2 families lived in separate areas of the lower mainland, but both moved to the Surrey area around the same time.  The girls became good friends and discovered the close birthdays, so decided that they would have a combined birthday party together.

As the Moms watched the party carry on, they began to tell their stories of how Tiffany and Amy had joined each of their families.  Imagine their astonishment as they discovered that both had been adopted, just days apart, with the assistance of a common adoption agency...Burden Bearers... with the same adoption worker...Lorna.

I am pretty sure the room started to spin at that point.
Burden Bearers?
Lorna?
This was my adoption agency - that was my case worker.

I started to look around the room where we were sitting.  For the first time I noticed the antiques decorating the walls.

a rolling pin
a pie press
a verse or something about "Bread of life"

"Was your husband a baker?"

.yes.

"Did he have red hair?"

.yes.

"I didn't choose you"

.excuse me?

It was a final decision between a tall BC Hydro worker and a red-head baker.  I chose the first one.  But here I was, standing in the home that I didn't choose - talking to a mother that I didn't pick - who ended up being given Amy's best friend forever.

goosebumps

It was in that moment that I realized how incredibly significant my life is in the grand scheme of God's plan.

Not an accident.
Not a coincidence.
It was a master plan - The Master's Plan


For I know the plans I have for you  
(declares the Lord) ..plans to prosper you and not to harm you...plans to give you a 
HOPE and a FUTURE...




Amy at 6 weeks old and 6 months old  
These are the only things I had connecting me to "Amanda" for 20 years

until....   
                 
 Meeting Grandma & Grandpa Hanson

The two "Moms"  

 Amy & Alyssa at the Guzoo

 Tiffany's "Baker" Family

Amy & Nate - Marred March 11, 2006

Isaac - Born November 9, 2007



Silas (born November 9, 2009)
 & Isaac 



Wednesday, 2 May 2012

connections

I'm not exactly sure what I thought was going to happen as I waited in the airport for Amy's flight to arrive.  I mean, after all, this is a stranger, joined by a few dna strands, but otherwise

no connection

The last time I had seen this child was 3 days after she was born.  Although I had received a couple of pictures and a sweet letter from her new family just shortly after her arrival into their home, there had been no updates on

how she was
where she was
who she was

it was left to my imagination to come up with those details.  It was easy to pick her out of the crowd exiting the gate.  She was the one with the look of sheer terror on her face - the face that had some very common characteristics of our genetic make up.  We hugged, cried and then hugged some more.  I can't really remember what it was that we said.  I am pretty sure it was nothing - because I don't think anyone really knew what to say.

Her 3 days in Three Hills were full of meeting our large family, many friends and other on-lookers that had heard the long kept secret story.  I can't imagine what was going through her mind.

We began to tell our stories - hers and mine - and in the process began to connect so many of the fragments of our separate lives into one that tied us together.

Connections


like - her grandparents knowing my Dad from the church that I grew up in at New Westminster

like - her family attending the Johnston Heights Free Church, pastored by Dan Nicholson - my youth pastor from Calgary

like - her parents going to a Bible Study led by my dear friends, Ed & Dianna Wallan

The stories helped us start to fully realize that God had a plan in it all.  Keeping us tied through common bonds, even though they were so unknown to us at the time.

A few weeks later it was my turn to travel west to meet her family - her parents, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.  All of the people that I had handed her over to love.  It kind of felt like I was watching this non-stop movie of someone else's life.  So surreal.  Amy drove me past all of her places - homes, school, churches.

As we drove past one of the houses I recognized the neighborhood and tried to figure out why it looked so familiar.  As we rounded the corner, I realized why.

"Did your house have a tall fence around it that met in the corner with 2 other yards?"

.yes.

"Did you have a trampoline in the back yard?"

.yes.

"When you played on the trampoline - did you sometimes throw a ball into one of those other yards?"

.yes.

"Where there 3 little blonde girls that lived in one of those yards?"

.yes.

That was Dan's sister's house.
Where we were for Easter vacation one year.
Where a ball kept flying over the fence.
Where I threw it back to a girl on the other side.
That girl was Amy.

so very close...so connected...but not yet

goosebumps

I met Amy's best friend, Tiffany.  They had been bff's since they were in grade school - with some special bonds.  Born less than one week apart.  Both adopted.

Tiffany's mom started to tell me the story of how amazing their connections went even further.  The 2 families lived in separate areas of the lower mainland, but both moved to the Surrey area around the same time.  The girls became good friends and discovered the close birthdays, so decided that they would have a combined birthday party together.

As the Moms watched the party carry on, they began to tell their stories of how Tiffany and Amy had joined each of their families.  Imagine their astonishment as they discovered that both had been adopted, just days apart, with the assistance of a common adoption agency...Burden Bearers... with the same adoption worker...Lorna.

I am pretty sure the room started to turn at that point.
Burden Bearers?
Lorna?
This was my adoption agency - that was my case worker.

I started to look around the room where we were sitting.  For the first time I noticed the antiques decorating the room.

a rolling pin
a pie press
a verse or something about "Bread of life"

"Was your husband a baker?"

.yes.

"Did he have red hair?"

.yes.

"I didn't choose you"

.excuse me?

It was a final decision between a tall BC Hydro worker and a red-head baker.  I chose the first one.  But here I was, standing in the home that I didn't choose - talking to a mother that I didn't pick - who ended up being given Amy's best friend forever.

goosebumps


It was in that moment that I realized how incredibly significant my life is in the grand scheme of God's plan.

Not an accident.
Not a coincidence.
It was a master plan - The Master's Plan


For I know the plans I have for you  
(declares the Lord) ..plans to prosper you and not to harm you...plans to give you a 
HOPE and a FUTURE...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

someday... Chapter 3

Living with fear can be crippling, but for the most part, I really didn't think about it constantly.  There was a time in my life when I believed that I would never be able to go a full day and not think of that little baby that I walked away from in the Williams Lake hospital...not wonder who she was, where she was, who she was with.

But that day did come - gradually.

I believe that God transplants newness into our lives to lessen the impact of the old.  That is what He did for me.  He gave me a full and busy life with kids, a husband, a job, and good friends.  I remember once feeling guilty for almost forgetting Amanda.  But Dan one day gently told me that it was a gift from God.  It was He that was helping me to release Amanda - not just physically, but emotionally as well.  If you can't do that, then she really wouldn't be completely surrendered.

As Alyssa and Riley grew up, I knew that there would come a day they would have to be told about their "sister".  I wasn't looking forward to it, but still, being the planner that I am, I tried to rehearse scenarios in my head what that reveal would look like.  I think I had figured out what to say - it was the 'when to say it' that had me baffled.

But God had other ideas for my plans

News of my niece's unplanned pregnancy caused some serious conversations in and around our home.  Lys was in Junior High, so she was starting to figure out some of these things.  As the topic of what was going to be done about this new baby came up, so did the talk of adoption.

One night, during a horrific electrical storm, our power was knocked out and Lys and I found ourselves home alone, in the dark.  We sat in the living room together watching the bolts of lightning and started to talk.  The topic of her dear cousin came up and she said, "I don't think she should give the baby up for adoption.  I don't know how anyone with a heart could ever do that."

gulp...silence...

"Well, Lys...let me tell you a story"

My rehearsed plan of what to say was shattered, and instead I poured out a tale of brokenness, grace, forgiveness and redemption.  She was completely silent for the entire time.  In the darkness I wasn't able to read her expression, but at the end and after what seemed to be a LONG silence, I asked, "Lys, are you okay?"

Her teary cheek pressed against mine as she wrapped her arms around my neck and said, "Mom, I've never been so proud of you in all my life"

so much better than my scenario

What an amazing answer to my prayers.  I could have never imagined that it would have worked out that way.  Not only did she 'get it', but she was proud of me?

Amazing grace...

Alyssa is like her Dad in her ability to keep a confidence.  I knew that she would never tell anyone, and being that Riley was still pretty young, I didn't want him to know quite yet.  She promised her silence, and we didn't speak of it again...

until THAT day.

A frantic call.  "Mom, come get me right now.  I'm at the gym."  I had no idea what had happened, but hurried down to pick her up.  She jumped into the car and burst into tears.

"They know, Mom, they know!"

Who knows and what do they know?

"My friends, they know about Amanda!"

What?  How did junior high girls know about my secret?  This is impossible.  As the story came out I learned that during basketball practice, one of Lys' friends was talking about adoption, since she was adopted, she casually mentioned that Alyssa's mom gave up a baby for adoption too.  Alyssa was horrified.  I was horrified.

As I tried to calm her down, I needed calming as well.  Who all knows about this, and now that it was exposed to a group of junior high girls, EVERYONE would soon know that didn't already.

I quickly went into recon mode.  I decided that if this was going to get out, then I wanted to be in control of how it happened.  I started contacting some of my close friends and poured out the story to them.  The responses were that of surprise but also of support.  I felt that I was gathering up a team that would be able to stand around me when the gossip started to spread.

My plans were working.

My plans

Then my dear friend took me aside and said...slow down....do you really think that God lead you all this way just to drop you on your head now?  How about we let Him take this the rest of the way.

That was a difficult thing to do...but the right thing.

I reluctantly stopped the frantic damage control and watched the chips fall.  My world didn't come crashing down.  Everything stayed quite normal infact.  I had gone a whole 2 weeks after the junior high gossip incident and all seemed to be well.

My dear friend was visiting in my house and we were in the kitchen, talking about the recent events - actually whispering, because I still hadn't told Riley yet.

The phone rang.

"Hello"

"Hi this is_______ from Lost Angels Registry"

My thoughts raced through my brain trying to figure out what exactly that was when I remembered that I had registered my contact information on an adoption website dedicated to helping find birth parents/children given in adoption.  


"We have had a hard time reaching you.  It looks like you didn't update your information for a while"

Yes, it had been a number of years, but this is weird to be getting a call in the evening to update my file.


"We think we have a match"

A match...what is a match?  I'm confused...  "Excuse me?"

"A match - you gave a baby up for adoption on April 4th, 1982, correct?"

Why can't I breathe?  What is that sound of ringing in my ears?  Am I sleeping?  Is this a dream?  "I'm sorry, I don't understand."  I grab my friend and run with her into my bedroom and close the door behind us.  She is wondering what in the world is happening as my face tells a story that she isn't able to read.

"If you are in agreement, I have someone that would like to make contact with you.  She is really excited and is waiting for your call.  However, this is up to you.  If you don't want to make contact, we will respect that"

Still no air.  Breathing is supposed to be a reflex but one that I'm not able to do right now.  "No, I mean, yes, it's fine - I can do that"   I can?  No I can't!


"Alright, her name is Amy.  This is her number...."

I'm not sure how I was able to write down the number much less even hold a pen in my shaking hands.  As I hung up the phone, I just said to my friend, "It's her - she found me".  We both were in shock and sat for a few minutes taking in all that had just happened.  Then I dialed.

"Hello, is this Amy?"  But your name is Amanda...who is Amy?


"Yes"

Then what are you supposed to say?  I can't even remember that conversation from that point on.  It was the moment that I always looked forward to/dreaded happening, but for the life of me I can't recall - other than the emotions...joy, fear, regret, peace, thankfulness, wonder, more fear...every emotion that one can experience went into those few moments on the telephone.

I told her that I wanted to meet her and that we would make that happen soon, and that was the end of the conversation...

The next few days were a blur of calling my family and telling them the story, making plans for a reunion, and telling Riley...

Riley, my dear boy...never saw the negative side of it - ever.  He had another sister.  It was just cool.  Never judged - only loved.

Amazing grace.

We made arrangements for Amy to make a visit to Three Hills.  She was going to fly in and meet my family.  In my head I had always pictured what that would look like.  I watched so many episodes of Oprah's adoption reunion shows, that I had convinced myself that this is exactly what it would be like.

Of course, again, I was wrong.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

letting go and moving on....part 2

Losing someone you love is never easy.  The ache of that missing entity consumes the very depths of your soul.  Most of us have felt that pain.  We manage through the moments often with the comfort and support of others.

When the ache is a secret one, things are much different.  Although no fault of theirs, I felt that I couldn't ask for that support from my family.  They were grieving too.  We had never been through a situation like this before.  We didn't even know anyone else that had, so there was no step by step guide on "how to heal after surrendering a child for adoption".  I believed that I had hurt my parents and family enough, so to add on the necessity for constant grief support was just more than I should ask for.

How silly.

That fall I decided to go back to Prairie to finish off my degree, switching my program so that it would only take one more year.  I entered back into a very full academic year with a very empty heart.

It was here that I started to find my way back to healing.  I found out that I was broken long before Amanda's existence.  I was lost.  Over the next two years, and with some amazing people that came along side me, I started to find me.  They pointed me to grace.  They pointed me back to hope and a future.  God became real in my life.  He went from being the Sunday School Jesus to being so much more.

As I tried to resume "normal" life, dating again was catastrophic.  Honesty about my past resulted in either rejection or being used.  I had strong doubts that I would ever find someone that could accept me and all the stuff.

I was wrong.

He drove a gold Camero Berlinetta.  The first time I saw him, he had a car full of girls hanging out the windows.

"Who's that?"

"Danny Adkins", my friend replied.

Later that night we were rollerskating at Lloyds with a big group from Prairie when a red streak of hair flew past me - crazy crossovers and mock hops - all in perfect time to the music.

"Who's that?"

"Danny Adkins...stay away Sheila - he's just a kid", my friend again replied this time with a warning.

Well, I wanted to meet Danny Adkins.  Anyone that drove a car and rollerskated like that was definitely worth looking into.

Over the next few weeks he became part of my life.  My first impression of him was completely accurate.  He loved life and lived it in color.  It didn't take long to realize that he was my forever.

I was so afraid to tell him about Amanda.  I was sure that he would decide that I wasn't good enough for him.  When I finally did, he just said, "That was yesterday.  I love you today"

and he still does

He not only loves me but he respects me.  He respected my story and never told one single person about it.  Both of his parents passed into eternity without ever hearing about it.  That kind of integrity is a gift.  One that I so desperately needed.

To say that our married life was a picnic would be a great fallacy.  You can't come into a marriage with that much baggage and not expect to have to deal with the mess from time to time.  We had our share of struggles and full on war, but the assurance that we would never walk away, by God's grace, kept us together.

Finding myself pregnant was so exciting.  I remember feeling like finally everything was going to be perfect.  But the perfect dream ended in a miscarriage

and then another

I was sure that this was my punishment.  I told myself that because I gave away one baby, I wasn't fit to keep any others.  Those were very dark days.  All of the assurances given by Dan and others around me were drowned out by my own fear.  I had to surrender this over to Him - for His timing, His plan, His will.  I thought I was finished with surrendering my children, but I found out that He needed me to be willing to release my dreams and plans.

I am so grateful for the gift of Alyssa and Riley.  I think that because I felt the loss of 3 before them - one in adoption and two in miscarriage -  I understood more the magnitude of the gift that they were to me.  They have always been my best accomplishment as a human.

So life took on a normal look to it.  From the outside looking in - all was well.  But on the inside, I carried the knowledge that someday things could all change.

someday...
    - someone could discover my secret and expose it all

someday...
    - my children would know that I gave away their sister

someday...
    - there could be a knock on the door, a voice on a phone - saying "hey, remember me?"

someday...
    - the past would have to be relived all over again.  A past that I had tried so hard to erase.

someday...