Friday, December 16, 2016

Nothing Is Wasted {Our Trip To Georgia}

I wrote this almost right after I came home from Georgia. Re-reading it again now, it seems so raw and vulnerable to me, and yet, that is what this adoption journey has been for us since the start. Today, on the day of her birthmama's birthday, her second birthday in heaven, it felt right to share a little about our trip to visit Xiomara's birth family in Georgia, something that would have brought a huge smile to her birthmama's face.


2 weeks ago, I got on a plane with my 5 year old daughter to fly half way around the country to meet her birth family. Just the two of us. Probably one of the craziest, yet bravest things I've ever done. After all, God did give me the word Brave this year as my word of 2016. I just didn't think that would mean getting on a plane and visiting my daughter's birth family, but He did.

If you follow me on Instagram at all, or if you are friends with me on Facebook, I mentioned that I'm not going to share much about Xiomara's birth family. As much as I'd love to share pictures that show how her eyes crinkle up just like her birth sister, or that her eyes are the same dark color as her birth brother, or that her chin is the same as her birth grandma, which was also the same as her birthmama. As much as I'd love to share those, this story is for Xiomara to tell. One day she may have a blog, or whatever is out there then, and she may choose to share all those pictures, or she may choose not to. Just because she is 5 years old, I'm not going to make that decision for her. I value her too much to do that. Even though her birth family gave me permission to share what I want of pictures, for now I'm choosing to allow that decision to be Xiomara's one day, not mine.

Since this blog is Xiomara's baby book in a way, I did want to share how God orchestrated this meeting in the first place.

A year ago, when Xiomara's birthmama died, I found out the night before her funeral. I frantically searched for plane tickets but being they live in Southern Georgia it was impossible to get there in time for the funeral. I was devastated not only at her death, but also because I wanted to be there to honor her life and the life she gave my daughter.

Chris and I talked of taking Xiomara to visit them last spring when she was 4, but it never really came about. Last Mother's Day, I got a call from the case worker from our adoption. We had sent Xiomara's birth grandma a little something for Mother's Day and she was so touched and wanted to know if we would be ok exchanging phone numbers. For some people, maybe this is an easy decision, but for this mama (and her daddy), that was a hard decision to make. But ultimately, love does. We decided to go ahead and share numbers because for Xiomara's sake this was the right thing to do. We texted here and there, and at some point, her birth grandma mentioned how she would love to meet Xiomara one day. I told her, we would love that too, and kind of just left it at that. I honestly have no idea when this became a reality, because all of a sudden we were talking about the possibility of actually doing this. Xiomara would be old enough to understand and remember this trip. This would be a chance to get pictures and questions answered. Most of all, this would be a blessing to her birth family, and although she doesn't realize it now, to her as well one day.

We flew into Atlanta because while her birth family does live in southern Georgia, it was a bit more spendy to fly to the closest airport there. This also gave us a bit of down time before the trip began and when it ended. We also were able to visit with my aunt and uncle in Atlanta, which was special being my uncle was the very first person in my family to meet Xiomara as we stayed with him after our placement. On Sunday morning we started our day out at church in Atlanta, and then began the drive through my daughter's birth state to southern Georgia. Some people may think I'm crazy, but I think in general this gave God a chance to show off because my very busy daughter was amazing the whole 4+ hour drive down and back.

We met her birth family for the first time Sunday afternoon. Words can't express the feelings flowing through my heart when I first saw her meet them. While I had met her birth grandma at placement, I did not meet her birth siblings, and this was a gift for me to be able to hug them.

Nothing can prepare you for the flood of various emotions of what adoption does to your heart. Turning this into an open adoption opened up emotions in me I never expected. Joy at seeing her with her birth family, wonder at the little things in which they were the same, and feelings of mama bear overprotectiveness that I never once thought I would feel.

Most of all, there was a bittersweet feeling of knowing her birthmama should be there. I was driving down the same roads she did when she was pregnant with Xiomara, I was in the home she grew up in, and where Xiomara lived in the womb. I visited the hospital where Xiomara was born so I could finally answer her question of, "Mama, where was I born?". I revisited the church where placement took place. The place I last saw J alive. And I saw where she was buried and got to say a final goodbye.

Monday these floods of emotions kind of broke me. It just was all too much and I became overwhelmed. Thankfully, the caseworker for our adoption was there, and helped me work through some of my feelings. Xiomara's birth family was gracious and understanding, and while this was a happy reunion for them, they understood that this was closure for me, and also a new realization that I was now going to share part of my heart with them.

As I've had time to reflect and try and think through those feelings these past few weeks, I've come to realize those same things that were the hardest things for me, are the most priceless things for her.

Because love does.

I will never once regret bringing her to meet her birth family. It was hard. It was brave. But it was worth it. In the end, I know Xiomara will appreciate having those pictures, those memories, and even a relationship with her birth family one day. I had to lay down my selfishness for her sake.

As I sat by her birthmama's grave reflecting on the life she lived and the life she gave, I couldn't help but think nothing is wasted.

It's from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will see before the end
That every broken piece is
Gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what's lost will be found again
Nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Reedemer
Nothing is wasted

Not a single part of J's life was wasted. God is using it for good. It's not at all the way we thought it would look, but I am choosing to believe and I have seen the beauty from the ashes. I'm so thankful Xiomara and I had this chance to do this trip together.

"Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with ashes." ~Elisabeth Elliott

Monday, January 18, 2016

On One Year Without You

Shortly after J died, I read this, "At any minute your life can change. Remember this. Between one breath and another, the song can stop and everything can be different." (The Midwife of Hope River)

On January 18, 2015, the song stopped for me. I went through a depression so deep there were days I couldn't get out of bed. I hurt so much for all that we lost and all that those that loved J lost. If I'm honest, there are many days I still hurt and the tears just won't stop.

I've also never publicly talked about it except with a few close friends, but I went through major anxiety when J died. Some of it was anxiety over things like, will I be "mom enough" for Xiomara one day? Other times it was this crippling fear that what if Xiomara would lose me too? If you've ever dealt with anxiety in your life, you know it can be so incredibly debilitating. In my head I knew my anxiety was unfounded, but my heart kept telling me something different.

"The more death one experiences, the more painful it is. For almost a year, I hovered on the edge of my own dark grave; then one afternoon I raised my head, sniffed the air, and recognized the changing light. It was spring again." (The Midwife of Hope River)

This is how I have felt, and it has taken me almost a year to be able to feel like spring is coming again. That is not to say I am over grieving. I never will be, but my grief will change and will continue to do so. In her book, After This, Claire Bidwell Smith writes so poignantly about grief when she says, "We must learn to live in this world, because we have no other choice. What we do have a choice in is how we choose to live. We can remain gray and immobile in the wake of our losses or we can open ourselves up to the world, let the sunshine in, fill our surroundings with heaps of flowers, and know that we loved someone truly and deeply."


I loved you truly and deeply J, and that is why I have grieved so this past year.

It's been one year without you. It seems unreal that it has been that long. As I write this in the days leading up to the anniversary of your death, I keep thinking that a year ago you were still alive, still here...and now you are gone. Sometimes, I wonder how I am still here and you are not? Life sometimes feels unfair. And when someone I love dies unexpectedly, or incredibly young, it's really the only time in my life I question God.

I miss being able to share pictures of Xiomara with you. I miss being able to show you a video of her doing gymnastics. I wish you could see the love and talent she has for it. I cried when Xiomara lost both front teeth (and the two others before that). I wished you could be here to see her now, and to hear her little lispy voice as she says her f's and t's without her two front teeth. I wish you could feel her energy and see her zest for life. That you could be captivated by her joy and contagious laughter. There are a hundred other things I've missed sharing with you this year, and I'm sure thousand more in the years to come.

I have no idea how heaven works, and oh how I wish I did. Then maybe I wouldn't be so sad thinking about all you are missing here. But maybe, just maybe God gives you a glimpse of those you love here on this earth. That you would see that Xiomara is so loved. I know I'll mess up a thousand times in being her mama, but if I succeed in one thing, it will be that she will always know that you loved her. We still talk about you constantly. Most of the time I let Xiomara bring you up, but every once awhile I'll tell her something about you. At bedtime she often whispers to me, "Mama, can you tell me about my birthmama again? Can you tell me about my birth?". So I curl up close to her little body and whisper the story of her, and of you.

I've learned this past year that God makes beautiful from the ashes. If there is one beauty throughout this death, it is the bittersweet joy in connecting with your mama. Xiomara calls her Grandma and she regularly gets updates and a glimpse into her granddaughter's life. We are even planning a trip to go see her. I am thankful that in the loss, she and I both can see the beautiful.


In the quiet of my house, I turn on the music and the Gungor Song, Beautiful Things, comes on. Tears run freely down my cheeks as I let the words wash over me.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

I'm reminded that God is here. In the messy, gut-wrenching, hard times, He is here making beautiful things out of the dust and ash of death. I don't understand, and probably never will understand it all, but I know that He is here.



Xiomara, one day you will probably have questions as to why God took your birthmama from you at only 4.5 years old, especially when there is so much you wanted to know about her. I don't know if I will ever have the answer to that question sweetie, but know this, God was there on that day in January just as He is there with you today when you are reading this for yourself. He knows your pain, He knows the hard, and He isn't afraid of the messy. He is ok with you being mad. He is ok with your questions. And I promise you that God has made, and will continue to make beautiful things out of your pain. That doesn't mean you have to be ok with her dying, it's ok if you are never ok with that. Just know that He is there and that He loves you and your birthmama.


If there is one thing I have learned in the one year without J, it is that death cannot take away love. We are all still a part of those we love. Our bodies may pass away, but our spirits are still alive, and in those spirits is the love we have for others and the love they have for us. So today, we say we love you J.