I don't pretend to know how things work in this world but this year, 2009, taught me more than any other about how the Lord works.
Let me start from the beginning. Two years ago, something horrible happened to our little Alfredo. Someone threw him in the air and watched him fall to the floor. Some folks say that all things happen for a reason. I don't subscribe to that thought. I don't believe that a sweet little boy's arm would be broken for any good reason. But what I do know is that God makes good things happen from even the worst.
So two years ago, just three days after we became certified to be foster parents, I got a call about this little boy, Alfredo. We were given just a dozen facts about him...his age, his condition, whatever they knew. And then we were asked if we would take him. I felt scared and unprepared but I called Rich, told him what I knew and he said "Let's do it". A few hours later, after a mad dash to Target to buy everything I thought we needed to care for this little boy, we were at the hospital to pick him up.
He had only his hospital gown. I'll never forget how scared we all looked...him and us. He looked up into our faces as he said a sound "Grrrrrr". We told the social workers that he was trying to say something. They looked at their folders and said "No, he doesn't talk." But there he was, trying to say something. Then Rich and I realized that he was trying to tell us that he was hungry.
I remember coming home that night and rocking him in a chair. It was awkward with the huge cast on his arm but that closeness of holding him then bloomed into love for him. If I had to say when exactly the love came, I would say it started that first night when he looked up at me with big eyes and trusted me.
He became so attached that he would cry hysterically when I left the room. So I would make a little nest for him out of blankets and pillows and I would sit beside him and talk and play and read books. I carried him with me everywhere. I had to figure out a way to take a shower, to use the bathroom, to make dinner, to do everything I used to do without even thinking of it.
Those first weeks my life shifted. Things that had been so important before were much less so. All that mattered was him.
Our love for him shaped that year, 2008. That was the year we became parents. That was the year I was given a mother's heart and Rich a father's heart. It is the greatest gift we've ever received and it has changed who we are.
And then late in the year, our little baby left us to live with his father on the other side of the country. Our hearts broke. Our life broke. We didn't know how to go back to the life we had before him. We didn't know what to do.
A little while later we met three little children...a "sibling set" as the agency called them. Two year old twin boys and their three year old sister. We took them to the agency's Christmas party. They were pitiful. I remember dancing with the little girl. She looked into my eyes and smiled this gorgeous smile and I wanted to save her.
We started last year off with the thought that maybe we could adopt these three children. That afternoon at the Christmas party wasn't so hard...it wasn't nearly as hard as we thought it would be. Lots of people do it...maybe we could do it too.
We went to California to see Alfredo for his second birthday. He didn't remember us. And he didn't seem like the same little boy. It was as if a light that shone in him before had gone out. It was heartbreaking. It's not that he wasn't cared for while in California...that's not what I'm saying. I just think that everything we were feeling, heartbroken and just plain broken, he felt too. They say that children are resilient. And maybe that's just what it was...he found a way to deal with his pain and it changed him. I think that's what happened.
We left California feeling rather sad. We were glad to see him and loved him more than ever, but, in a way, it seemed that chapter of our life was ending and we had to find a way to move on.
We came back to our life here with the idea that yes, we should adopt those three children. We started taking them every weekend...a little bit longer each time. And soon, very soon, we realized it was not going to be easy. These were broken, angry children. There weren't a lot of tender happy moments yet still we thought we could do it.
I think most children are happy most of the time with bouts of unhappiness or anger. But these three were truly joyless with just tiny bouts of happiness. Instead of us making a difference in their life, it seemed like their joylessness was effecting us. I woke everyday with the prayer that this day will be different...I will be more patient, more loving, more generous. But everyday was a struggle and I remember looking at the situation with fear and confusion thinking "THIS is my life? THIS?" I was beginning to forget myself, started losing myself. And I thought there was no way out.
This is a very difficult thing to talk about. We live in a culture where "doing what feels good" has become a religion. I knew that God often asks us to do more than we think we can. And I stood at the face of this situation with so much guilt because I knew I had to say no.
I'm still struggling with this. There are parts of me that really feel like it was God's will that we open our hearts and home to those three...that we step up as adults and do more than what feels good but what is good.
I learned the most from those difficult months. I understood things in a way I'd never been able to before. I understood depression. I understood being pushed to the point of breaking. I understood feeling like I would never be happy again.
The thought came to me that those three children deserved someone who loves them as much as we love our Alfredo. A dear friend said to me "Amy, I don't think you should do this. I keep waiting to hear you sound happy about it but you don't." I realized that I was about to change my whole life for one reason...charity. These children deserved more.
About that same time, we got a call from Alfredo's father. He asked if we would consider being "co-parents" with him. We didn't know exactly what that meant but we were so excited at the possibility of being a part of Alfredo's life again. We said yes and we could feel the rift between how we felt for this little boy and what we didn't feel for the three. It's so hard to admit to but there it is.
In early May, I boarded a plane for California with my two sisters and my brother and we went to get him. I couldn't believe this was happening. This thing that we wanted more than anything but didn't think we had the right to ask for, was happening. And that's just how it felt...it was like it was happening to us. We didn't force it or make it happen...we just said yes and it happened.
And that's the biggest thing I learned this year. I learned that when you are open to God's will, when you give your problem to Him and allow for Him to work through you, wonderful things happen.
It's been seven months since he's arrived and the light that dimmed in him before is shining brightly. He's so special and we love him so dearly. When the time approached for him to return to his father, we were all set to send him back, knowing that's what we agreed upon. But we worried about what that would do to him. He's so happy and is doing so well here. But this is shared custody and that means he's only with us part of the year.
But another miracle is working its way into our lives. Alfredo's father is moving here in a few weeks. Can you believe it?
Here we are on the dawn of this New Year knowing that whatever is in store for us, it is with God's good grace that we live it.
Happy New Year, my sweet friends. Thank you for tagging along on this great adventure and thank you for all your love, support and encouragement as we journey through. I do, indeed, love this life!