Monday, November 23, 2015

"You're just like your mother"

Following our ordeal with Ian, things didn't get easier. We considered several other children whose profiles drew us in. One was a beautiful little girl, a burn victim from Africa, with a heart-breaking story. But again, the answer was a gentle but firm "no."

By now I was terribly confused. I felt like a wind-up toy that was stuck against a wall, with no way to see where the Lord was leading us. Mila's personality wasn't mellowing out like I hoped it would as she got older. If anything, she was becoming more difficult to manage. I took a long, hard look at our finances and reminded myself that there was simply no way we could do this. And even if we had the funds to bring a child home, who was I kidding? I didn't have the emotional resources to extend myself more than I already was. Maybe this had all been an Abrahamic test. Maybe now that God knew that our hearts were willing, He would let us drop it and continue on our merry little way. I told myself it would be a good thing if that were the case. I was never cut out for this adoption thing anyway. I had heard of so many adoption stories of hardship. Why would I want to do something like that to my sweet little family? That was something only special people did- the kind that glow with patience and motherly love. And heaven knows- maybe a little too well- that I am certainly not one of those people.

But even with this new resolution, the feeling that one of my children was missing wouldn't leave me. I was emotionally exhausted and I desperately wanted to reclaim my life- the life I used to know before every waking thought was consumed by adoption. My sweet husband was also so very tired, but I asked him to bear with me a little longer. I still felt like we needed to complete the preliminary paperwork for an adoption, and begin a homestudy.  If this was what the Lord wanted for us, then at least we would have done our part in every possible way. If not, then after our homestudy was no longer current, we could put this all behind us. It involved a fair amount of upfront costs that we simply didn't have the money for, but I felt like we needed to take this last leap of faith and show the Lord that if this was what He wanted for us, then we would exhaust ourselves in our attempt to be obedient.

Ever being the wonderful man that he is, he agreed to indulge my persistence yet again. I love that man.

The mountain of paperwork to fill out and the things we had to do to prepare our house were overwhelming. One of the first things we had to do was to sit down and narrow down our search. What ages, gender, and special needs were we willing to consider? Up to this point, I had left that door wide open. Some months before a friend had suggested that it might be helpful to narrow down what type of child we were looking for. We had bounced all over the place inquiring about boys, girls, sibling groups, all sorts of special needs, and children of all ages. I still had no idea what (or who) we were looking for, but it had to be done. There was no way the agency would know which children's files to send us to review if we didn't even know ourselves.

As Dennis and I sat down to review the list of special needs, the process of elemination was surprising painful. The list was long as we went through each one discussing the dynamics of our children, the accomodations of our house, and the amount of time we could realistically devote to a child with those needs. The process of checking boxes or leaving them unchecked felt ruthless as I thought of the hundreds of thousands of faceless children waiting behind each unchecked box. I hated doing it.

Towards the end of the list was one special need- a medical need that would require on-going management and that had a laundry list of unknowns. Dennis shook his head, "Not that one," he said. "Leave it blank. I don't even want to go there."

I reminded him that we weren't committing to a child with this special need, but simply saying we would consider it.

Again he shook his head, "Nope. Leave it blank."

We argued back and forth for a few minutes, and then pulling out my Latin card (that I keep tucked away for special moments like this), I rolled my eyes and said, "Whatever..." and checked the box.

"You're just like your mother."

"Why, thank you."

I love this amazing lady. Anyone who knows her knows that she can move mountains, so anytime I am compared to her, I consider myself a lucky lady.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When God told us, "No"

Almost daily, we receive questions about our adoption: What led us to adoption, how did we choose her, etc. Over the next few blog posts, I thought I'd share portions of the story that led us to our sweet little girl across the ocean. It has been one of the most transformative and sacred experiences of my life.

This first portion is the most difficult for me to put into words. Even as I think about it, tender feelings of love for my Father in Heaven and His special care for "those who are the least of these" surfaces, and a lump rises in my throat. I know that God is near... nearer than we think- and that He cares about the details of our lives... more than we know.


Some of you have met Mila, our youngest. She has a few nicknames that affectionately describe her personality- Cave Woman and Beasty (from the movie Maleficent), being the two most fitting. As harsh as they sound, they have been given with love, and partly out of desperation to find humor in the exhaustion that we feel at the end of the day because of her. While I love my little cave woman to pieces- in full disclosure- she has been our smallest baby, but has had the biggest personality. Maybe it's the combination of a Latin name with Latin genes. Whatever it is... all of that squeezed into less than twenty pounds, spills over into ear-splitting volume and enough energy to fuel a troop of caffeinated monkeys.

So, that being said... why would we consider adoption now, when our quiver was so recently blessed with such a rogue little arrow? I've wondered that same thing, at least a hundred times.

About a year ago, my sister shared a post on Facebook about three orphaned sisters in Ukraine who needed a family. Something unexpected happened inside of me, as I felt like there was someone unseen literally pulling me with a rope to find out more about these girls. After a couple of emails, I quickly learned that the post was outdated, and the girls had been adopted domestically. I struggled to gather my swirling thoughts. I was so confused. Why had I felt such a strong pull, only to have it lead me into a brick wall? Why was I feeling so deeply drawn to those three small pictures, even knowing that they were no longer available for adoption? I'm still not sure, but something inside of me changed deeply that day.

Out of curiosity, I began researching everything I could about adoption: the process, bonding with an adopted child, and talking to anyone I could that would help me understand it. I soon realized the magnitude of what I was looking into, and it was overwhelming, to say the least. Perhaps I was getting in over my head in thinking that this was something we should be considering at this point in our lives. We had just moved into our new house and we were still recovering financially from the move- not to mention the fact that I had five children under the age of 10, with my youngest being only 7 months old.

I discussed it extensively with Dennis for several days, and we both decided that now was simply not a good time. Perhaps in a few years it would be, just not now. And just like that, we decided to close the door on the idea of adoption.

And yet, I couldn't let it go. For weeks, it kept me up at night, and when I did finally sleep, it was filled with dreams of children. I felt the same sense of desperation and urgency a mother does when she turns around in a crowd of people, only to realize that one of her children is missing. All throughout the day and into the evening, I would continue researching and combing through hundreds of pages of children's profiles.

Dennis, however, didn't feel that same sense of urgency and it created feelings of frustration for both of us. He wondered why I was being so obsessive over something we had both agreed on not to do, and I couldn't understand how he wasn't feeling the same sense of urgency that I did. I spent many hours on my knees pleading for clarity. It seemed like every night my prayer was the same, "Father, I will do whatever You want me to do, just help me to know what that is, and I will do it." We inquired seriously on several children, but for one reason or another, knew they weren't the ones we were being led to.

There were several nights when I went to bed feeling heart-sick after hours of searching through hundreds of profiles. There is something inherently wrong about "shopping" for a child. How would I would pick him or her out of a sea of faces? I didn't even know who I was looking for! I couldn't help but imagine my biological children staring back at me through a profile picture and a few vague paragraphs, hoping against all hope to be seen by someone who would call them their own. Would I even recognize them?

The weeks went on, and I came across the profile of a sweet little boy in Ukraine. His screen name was Ian, and he stole my heart. I was put in contact with people who had met him, and they told me he was a diamond in the rough, more precious than we could imagine. His personality seemed like he would fit perfectly into our family. He even looked like he could have been one of our children. And best of all, Dennis was beginning to warm up to the idea of this sweet little boy joining our family. I was elated. It seemed like this is was who all the sleepless nights had been leading us to. After several days of prayer and feelings of peace, we felt like it was time to go the temple to seek our confirmation.

As I sat in the temple praying, I felt an overwhelming sense of God's love for this little boy. He was one of God's most precious children. I knew it. I could feel it in a way that was almost palpable, and tears of love began to flow. I also received a strong witness that God is in control, and that for Him, nothing is impossible.

But just as clear as had been my understanding of his infinite worth, I began feeling the tides of change from what I expected God to say, to what He was actually saying. A distinct and unmistakeable feeling of "no" was beginning to come over me. How could this be? I had felt His peace in the days leading up to this, and even just minutes before- and now the answer was "no?" I pled for understanding, and perhaps a different answer.

The silent tears turned to muffled sobs as once again the answer was a firm "no." Some of the temple patrons watched me with mild concern, but I couldn't stop the tears. I was a weeping like I hadn't wept in years- not for myself, but for all those precious faces that had flashed before me on the screen as I searched for my child. I was grieving for all the heart-wrenching stories of abandonment and loneliness that I had read. The flood gates had opened and though I had never met any of these children, it felt like I was grieving the pain and loss of my own biological children.

But now, something else followed- a more gentle feeling of reassurance, though it did little to stop the tears. "There is another family who needs to blessed by Ian. He would be good for your family, but there's another family who would be better for him." It provided some comfort, but I had no idea how long it would be before that happened, and he had already waited so long. God's time table is often so very different from our own. How many more years would he wait while I was expected to continue living my posh little life? I left the temple feeling devastated. Where had I gone wrong?

The tears flowed freely in the days following whenever I thought of my experience in the temple or little Ian. And yet surprisingly, all I wanted to do was go back to the temple- to that same place where God had told me "no." Because even though it broke my heart, I had never before felt God so close, or His love so strong.

It reminded me of when I was a little girl and my mother would scold me for doing something naughty in church. I remember crawling under the pew and crying. But more than anything, I wanted to crawl back on her lap and have her remind me that she still loved me. I would slowly move towards her, finally resting my head in her lap, where she would stroke my hair and dry my tears with her soft hands. Those are some of my tenderest childhood memories.

I told the Lord that night after the temple that I would accept His answer, but that if in three months Ian hadn't found a family, that I would petition Him again. As the three month mark drew near, I had begun praying about Ian again, to ask if perhaps the Lord would now consider us as candidates for His precious son. As clear as my answer had been that day in the temple, I wanted so badly to think that perhaps it had just been a matter of poor timing on my part.

Just days before the three-month mark, I received the news from my friend. Ian had found a family! As I read on his adoptive momma's blog the details of how she found him, it was nothing short of miraculous. Clearly, it was part of a larger master design. Ian would be coming home to his new family soon- sooner than if we had committed to him. And the family he was coming into was perfect for him, a much better match than any mortal person could have designed for him. Again, the tears flowed freely, but this time they were tears of joy.

I realized that somehow this will all be made right. The day will come when the tears of the motherless and fatherless will be dried, and we will see His hand in all things.


I'm not sure why I felt prompted to share something so personal. Perhaps it's because of how many people have told me they have felt stirrings that seem to be leading them towards adoption. Because adoption has become so near and dear to my heart, I love hearing people's stories, and hope that this might help someone who might be feeling like God is preparing their path. Whatever our stories are, they are as unique to each of us as the fingerprints on the tips of our fingers. But this I have seen over, and over, and over again- adoption stories are full of miracles and constant reminders of God's love for each of His children.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Ugly Side of Trials

I apologize for the silence. Things have been crazy busy, though I'm sure people are getting tired of me using that excuse for everything I've overlooked lately. Several people have told me that they follow our family blog to hear news about the adoption and have asked for an update. We received our 1800A last Friday, which is the immigration approval for our little girl to come home. This is a big milestone, one that many adoptive families look forward to. Our dossier should be sent off to China soon, and from there we will have another long waiting period.

Our fundraising is also coming along- slowly, but painfully surely. It's hard not to get discouraged at how hard we've worked, and how far we still have yet to go. But when I think of what more we could have done, or could be doing, I know there is absolutely nothing more that we could be doing- physically or emotionally. We have exhausted ourselves in every way. This little girl will have been brought home- literally- with blood, sweat, and tears.

This past weekend, Dennis and I went up to the Owyhee mountains to harvest juniper firewood to sell as one of our many fundraisers. Juniper wood is on high demand and sells at a higher price because it burns hotter and longer, but also because of the difficulty of the harvest. The trees have to be cut down several months in advance to give them time to dry out over the summer. The branches are prickly and close together, and limbing the trees is grueling work. Dennis always come home with several bruises and gashes all over his body after limbing. The trees must then be hauled out, stacked, cut, delivered, and re-stacked at the customer's home. All in all, it is exhausting labor- probably the most difficult physical labor I've ever done. Dennis loves it though, and this was the third load of lumber that he has harvested for the adoption. Every time I work with him, I'm amazed at his stamina and strength. I have never met, and doubt will ever meet, anyone who can work as hard or as long as he does without needing rest. It's like watching Speedy Gonzalez, the Hulk, Spiderman, and MacGyver all working simultaneously within the same body.

If someone asked me a year ago, when was the hardest time in my life, the answer would have been simple. It was ten years ago, and I was 13 weeks pregnant. The doctor confirmed my suspicions that something wasn't right. There was no heartbeat, and my own heart seemed to break as I heard the silence. That night in the middle of the night, I miscarried the baby. It was painful, awful, and heart-wrenching. By 9am the next morning, I was boarding a plane to Chile where I had previously planned to rendezvous with my sisters and mom, feeling exhausted and weak. Camden was a 18 months old, and clingy; crying and fussing most of the flight. During the overnight flight from Dallas to Santiago, as I listened to my baby screaming in the darkened plane, wiggling and writhing on my cramping, exhausted body- I watched the irritated passengers shaking their heads and muttering as they tried to sleep. Tears of anguish slipped down my cheeks and I clearly remember thinking to myself, "Hell itself can't be worse than this."

But now if someone asked me what the hardest time in my life has been, I don't know if my answer would be so quick. This has been the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life... bar none. I've heard adoptive families talk about the challenges of adoption, and I knew to expect trials, but I never expected the stretching to be so uncomfortable and ugly. The ugliness, unfortunately, has come from how I've handled a lot of the challenges. It has magnified my flaws and highlighted every corner of my selfish, impatient, and short-sighted personality. The other day, our bishop mentioned how we could overcome any hurdle with the Lord's help. I told him, that when you think of hurdlers, you think of a person gracefully sailing over each hurdle, one right after another. But in my case, any hurdle jumping as been more like clawing over the top, falling onto my face on the other side, and then having the hurdle whack me on the head on its way down. And then I crawl, bruised and cussing under my breath, to the next one.

I long to be that graceful hurdler, who hikes up her petticoats and does whatever the Lord asks of her with a smile on her face and unwavering faith. But my faith has wavered, and most nights I go to bed despairing how I can possibly get through another day of this insanity.

Ironically though, no matter the level of discouragement or doubt, I can honestly say that I have never second-guessed whether or not this is what we should be doing. The clarity of feelings and events that led up to us committing to an adoption have been an anchor in getting me through the hardest of days.

The other day, a friend encouraged me to pray for my daily manna. She reminded me that manna was not given to the Israelites for the month, year, or even for the week- but for the day. And when manna wasn't enough, he sent them quail.

If anything, I have gained a testimony of the enabling power of the Atonement. The Lord has strengthened me to do things that I never thought possible. Here are a few:

  • After fasting and pleading prayer to help me find the hours in the day to take care of myself physically and spiritually, He helped me gain the strength to wake up at 4:45 every morning to exercise, pray, and read my scriptures. I had tried this several times in years past, but had never been successful. With the Lord's help, I have been given the stamina to wake up, usually before my alarm, and have the energy to make it through the day.

  • My back, which had given me unrelenting grief for the past two years, has miraculously healed, allowing me to get through each day without pain, and even allowed me to help Dennis harvest the juniper wood- something that even just 3 months ago, I would have never thought possible. Leading up to this point, I had tried physical therapy, chiropractors, and everything else I could think of up to that point, with no success.

  • People, who I never would have expected, have come out of the wood work, expressing and showing their love and support for us. This has helped counter-balance some of the negativity we've encountered, and has been a source of much comfort and encouragement.

  • I was led to find a part-time job that seems to be a match made in heaven for me and my growing adoptive family. More on that later.

  • My children and husband have been blessed with a triple dose of patience and forgiveness with me. Not a day goes by when I don't have to apologize to someone for a thoughtless word or action, and yet they still shower me with love, hugs, and forgiveness that I certainly don't deserve.

I'm sure that even as I write this, Heavenly Father is shaking His head, saying, "If she only knew all the other unseen ways in which she's been strengthened- the people that I've sent her way from both sides of the veil."

Yes, we have been strengthened on a daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute basis. God has been good to us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Crazy Cat Lady

I'm not sure why I'm so touched watching our kitty become a mother, but it's one of the most beautiful things I've seen. She was found last winter as a kitten herself, with her eyes frozen shut, stumbling around in sub freezing temperatures. When we brought her home, she was frightened, sick, and untrusting of everyone around her. As we nursed her back to health and taught her to love and trust, my thoughts went to motherless children who are also frightened and alone. And I wondered, for the first time, if adoption was something we needed to consider. As crazy-cat-lady as it sounds, this mama kitty was the first step towards softening my heart for adoption, and I love her for it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


This blog post is way overdue. Embarrassingly so. Not because of my lack of gratitude, but because I've struggled to put into words what the past few months have been like, and what the kindness of others has meant to me because of it.

I wanted to wait until I got out of the darkest part of it before I sat down to write about it. I knew I needed to write from a clearer perspective, instead of from the muddled one I knew I was in.

A few weeks ago I wrote about having left the light and navigating in darkness. But, oh, how dark that darkness can be. I had completely over-extended myself with photography work, adoption paperwork, but most of all, guilt over what my children were missing out on because of a busy mother, and I simply didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t want my children and my sanity to be the sacrificial lambs, but I felt powerless against what I thought the Lord expected of me. I didn’t know where else to pull the hours out of the day to accomplish the things I needed to do. They were some of the darkest days of my life with overwhelming feelings of failure, and it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, after I hit rock bottom, that the darkness began to lift and flecks of light started to appear.
Painting by Brian Kershisnik

I once heard it said that an angel is someone who does something for another person that they can't do for themselves. As I look back on the past few months, I see how our family has been shored up by angels, both seen and unseen, both living and passed on. God is not only aware of us the way a distant king is aware of his subjects, but in the way a caring Father weeps, prays for, and listens to His children. Even during the darkest of days, not a day went by when God, or one His angels, didn't intervene on my behalf.

When my friend, Becky, approached me several weeks ago, saying that some wonderful people had come together to plan a yard sale for our adoption, part of me cried tears of joy, and the other part of me cried tears of frustration that I didn't have the capacity to do it myself- not physically or emotionally. It was bittersweet.

...And to see how it all came together was phenomenal. The donations kept pouring in, and so many of them amazing donations. At 6am, a large group of people were already assembled, unpacking and sorting. By 7am, items for the bake sale were out, and people were shopping. One of my dear friends even brought her machine and sold fresh cotton candy. I had thought that the helpers would come and stay for only a few hours, and go back home to enjoy the day with their families. It was a scorcher of a day, and surely they had a hundred other things to do. And so many of them stayed ALL day long! As I watched these wonderful women work under the hot sun, who are more liked sisters than friends to me, my heart swelled with love for them. I found out afterwards that one of the ladies helping was just days away from watching her son undergo surgery to remove a brain tumor... and there she was helping me. These were living angels in every sense of the word. By the end of the day, I was completely spent, and I can only imagine how exhausted they must have been. As I counted the money up that afternoon, I was in tears again. Over $2,000 had been raised to bring our little girl home. 

A few weeks later, my sister, Cristina, called me and asked me if she could also do a yard sale for us when we would be in Utah for a family reunion. Again, the feeling of despair that I simply didn't have the ability to do it welled up. She told me she would take care of everything, and her and her husband worked hours upon hours spreading the word and gathering donations. The morning of the yard sale, again, I was amazed at the donations. So many people had donated for someone they didn't even know! My cousin and his wife set up a table and spent the entire morning selling delicious authentic Belgian waffles. A woman from my sister's neighborhood, who I had never met and who my sister hadn't known for long, came with her husband and spent most of the morning helping. As I talked to shoppers, many of them shared stories from their own families of adoption and offered words of encouragement. The yard sale earned a wonderful $700! And my heart was full.

Another dear friend, Leena, also organized a farm day at her house, complete with pony rides, crafts, games, face painting, lunch, snacks, and a petting zoo. It was AMAZING! And what was even more amazing was that at least a dozen teenagers, many who I had also never met, spent their entire day helping out. It was a phenomenal event and my girls said it was one the highlights of their summer. As she handed me the $400 that it raised, I again felt overcome with humility and gratitude for her sacrifice. 

These angels have also been there during my darkest of times, when money wasn't what I needed. One afternoon, when I had hit rock bottom, I stayed home from church. I used my cold as an excuse, but really, I just couldn't do it. I felt so depleted, and the thought of mustering up a fake smile was more than I could bear. I ended up taking three separate naps that day from sheer exhaustion. Leena noticed I wasn't at church and texted me, asking if she could come and see me that night. For the first time in our many years of friendship, I declined her invitation, and told her I didn’t feel up to seeing anyone. Being the wise friend that she is, she insisted, and we went on a long walk that night. I cried and told her every way in which I felt like I was failing. After listening for a while, she quietly suggested that maybe I wasn’t putting as much trust in the Lord as I needed to- that I was thinking I had to do it all on my own, forgetting Who is really in control. It’s a good friend who will put you in your place while making you feel loved. But she was absolutely right. Our beautiful little girl waiting for us across the ocean is not our child. She is God’s, and He is the one who directs the course of her life… not me.

I would be a wretch if I didn't mention one of the angels who has been by my side throughout this entire process. Aside from my husband, Becky Preece has been my biggest cheerleader and encourager. She recently adopted a darling little boy from Russia with Down's Syndrome and has been there from the day I first started tossing the idea of an adoption around in my head. She was the first one that I confided in that I was having crazy thoughts about adoption. She has listened, given me wise counsel, and endured reading my novel-long texts. I can honestly say, I don't know what I would have done without her. I doubt I would have had the courage to push forward with this adoption if I hadn't been for her. Where would I be without these amazing women I am so blessed to have in my life?

Another day, a friend messaged me with these words of encouragement:

"...Alas, my master! how shall we do?

"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

 "And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."

The other night I read in the book of Matthew, what was surely one of the darkest hours of the Savior’s life as He cried out, “…my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

On a small scale, I could relate to that feeling of despair. When I feel the most alone, He knows exactly how I feel, better than anyone else ever could. And I believe we are surrounded by loved ones, many who are unseen, as we stumble through the darkness and feel the most alone.

Dennis gave me a blessing a few months ago which told me that the veil had been made thin for me, as I was coming to understand the love God has for His children. He also helped me to understand some of the promises I had made with my Heavenly Father, and how this process was fulfilling those promises. One of those promises made me realize that my link to my grandma Bonnie is closer than I thought. We are bound by more than a shared bloodline, but by similar covenants made with our Heavenly Father. My heart is full when I think of the angels, both seen and unseen, who surround me and bless my life.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Letter to my children about gay marriage

Dear kids,

There are a few times in life when you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. I was sitting in a parking lot at Les Schwab's, waiting for the tire on our van to be fixed when I read about the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. Immediately, I thought of my brother, Percy... and I thought of you.

You know Percy well. He's the one who teases you and makes you laugh. He's eloquent, thoughtful, a good listener, physically fit, quirky in his fashion sense, and passionate about life in all its forms. His partner, Casey, you also love. He is gentle, optimistic, also a good listener, well-cultured, a wonderful cook, and genuinely kind. He is one of the loveliest people I know.

As I sat in the parking lot, so many thoughts went through my head. I thought back on the day that I realized that my brother is attracted to men. I remember it like it was yesterday, though it was more than 10 years ago. Camden was just a few months old and I was laying on our couch  reading from the Ensign, when somehow the thought came into my heart, and I knew. Percy wouldn't officially "come out" for a few more years, but I knew then. An immense feeling of peace washed over me. This was my brother, the same brother I had always known and loved. It didn't change who he was. Now, I just knew. And with equal certainty, I knew that my Heavenly Father loves him.

I thought back on the pool party that Percy and I happened upon in his apartment complex several years ago.  About half a dozen men who were gay had gathered together to swim and listen to music. They were kind and welcoming as we walked by with my boys, and encouraged us to join them. We accepted their invitation and changed into our swimming suits. As I asked questions about where they were from, they began sharing their stories about "coming out." Many had been disowned by family and friends, and were far from home in search of acceptance.

I'll never forget the man who had sat silently in the corner of the pool, sun glasses shading his eyes, holding a beer bottle. I thought that perhaps he didn't appreciate my many questions, but when the conversation quieted, he said in a low voice, "Do you know what pisses me off? It's when people tell me that I've chosen this. Why the hell would I choose to be disowned by my family and friends? This isn't the easy way out. If there was a straight pill, I'd take it."  I sat stunned and my heart hurt for him. Pain and loneliness was behind so many of their friendly smiles. I watched my two young boys playfully splashing and jumping in the pool with some of the men, completely unaware of the pool-side conversation. I never told my brother, but that day changed me forever.

This world would be a better place if the rest of us took our cues from children on how to treat each other. That day at the pool, you boys didn't see labels. You only saw men who were kind and friendly- nothing else. We've talked to you about Percy and Casey, and you understand their relationship. And yet, to you, it's a non-issue in deciding how to treat and act around them. How I pray you'll never outgrow that child-like love for all of God's children.

If I narrowed down the most transformative things of my life, it would come down to these: the gospel of Jesus Christ, becoming a mother, and having a brother who is gay. My brother has truly changed me, and I will forever be grateful that my Heavenly Father gifted him into my life.

Statistically speaking, there is a high likelihood that one of you, or one of my grandchildren, might be gay. If that's the case, there are a few things I want you to know. I hope none of these come as a surprise.

My love for you is because of who you are, not what you are. What you are may change with time. Your personality might change. Your strengths might fade and some of your weaknesses might grow. But you are my child, and that can never change. Not ever. Whether you are straight, gay, or tatooed in polka dots, you are the ones who gave me that explosion of love that transformed the very core of who I am. I could never go back to who I was before I became a mother, nor would I ever want to.

I've heard some question whether a family can still be called a family if it doesn't fall under the traditional definition. I want you to know my definition of family. It's a gift- a group of people, given to us by God. Sometimes we come into each other's lives biologically, and sometimes God places us into each other's lives. We circle our wagons around each other and love unconditionally. It is the soft place to fall when the world surrounds us with thorns. It's not just the people you share a roof with until you leave the nest or have a difference of opinion, it's the people that love and defend you fiercely when the wolves are at your door.

And this, I want you to know. Whether you choose a man or a woman to be your companion, I will cry at your wedding and hang your pictures on my wall. I will rejoice that you've found your soulmate, and pray that your life brings you as much happiness as life with your father has brought to me.

I'll love you forever- no matter the what, because of the who that you are.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stepping into the darkness

She wouldn't even look at me, and without her having to say it, I knew. She resented me for having taken her away from her friends, China, everything that was familiar to her- and my heart sank. The girl that was described as cheerful, optimistic, and kind was gone, leaving an empty shell in her place. We had worked so hard to bring her home, and all she could think of was going back to her home.

I woke up from my dream with the same feeling of heaviness I'm becoming used to. The difficulty of what we're doing is beginning to set in- of raising a substantial amount of money, filling out piles of adoption paperwork, with five children under the age of eleven who are home for the summer. Juggling three monumental tasks that are each a full-time job in and of themselves.

Harold B. Lee said, "You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness."

The comfortable security of the light is far behind us, and we are now navigating in what at times feels like overwhelming darkness of uncertainty. Uncertainty of how we'll secure the needed funds, and how we will bring home one child, without neglecting the others. And sometimes that uncertainty dances back and forth between the line of discouragment and despair.

But then come the flashes of light that remind us that God hasn't forsaken us- that the darkness we feel is only a temporary veil to test our faith.

It came  the other day in the form of a dear friend who stopped by with a handwritten note with words of encouragement and her favorite scripture. A $50 bill was folded inside, and she apologized that it was only a drop in the bucket of what we needed. I struggled to hold back the tears as I later wrote her that the impact of a drop in the bucket is relative to how empty the bucket is, not only financially, but emotionally as well.

It came as I was working on adoption paperwork, and came out of my room to find that my boys had cleaned the kitchen and tidied the house to surprise me.

And then it came again when another dear friend stopped by to give me the surprise that more than 70 friends and acquaintances had come together, without my knowledge, to organize a yard sale, a bake sale, a farm day, a haircutting day, and a jewlery sale. She told me I wasn't to worry about the details, that they were being taken care of. She had been on the receiving end of similar blessings several years before, and said how much she enjoyed being on the giving end this time. That night as I lay in bed, tears of gratitude flowed. If they could only know how much their kindness meant to me.

In my despair I had forgotten the other half of Harold B. Lee's famous words, "...then the light will appear and show the way before you."

In Sunday School a few weeks ago, I told my class that as we study the scriptures, that it is equally important to study the Lord's promises as it is to study the commandments. The promises are the safety line that we cling to when obedience seems out of reach.

Somehow this will all come together. I know it will. I don't believe in a God who leads His children towards paths doomed for failure. I may not see the finish line, or even a clear path to get me there, but somehow we'll get there.

"I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:5-6.)