Thursday, July 30, 2015

Angels

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, 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 your 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.

Love,
Mom