During this season of thanksgiving, our family was blessed to share the table with my mom, my younger sister, her children and my mother-in-law and father-in-law. Earlier in the week, I drove two hours west to pick up my mother who turned 82 this year. We are definitely thankful that she was able to share this holiday meal and several days with us at our house one more time. We had a wonderful thanksgiving meal, and thanked God for our many blessings such as our family, our friends, our church, our jobs and our home. We also asked Him, as we do daily, to watch over Lucy until we arrive in Albania.
On this long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I have been thinking a lot about the word "gratitude." I realize that thankfulness and gratitude have very similar, almost identical meanings, but the word "gratitude" has been coming to my mind a lot. Hence, why I decided to write about it in this post. I have been pondering I Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Give thanks in all circumstances. Be grateful even when the circumstances do not seem to warrant our gratefulness.
This year has found my family in several circumstances in which it is hard to be grateful. In April of this year, I lost my older sister Lesa who I loved dearly to gliomablastoma multiforme, a terminal brain cancer that took her life in six months. I am not grateful that my sister had cancer or that I lost her so soon, but I am grateful that my sister knew God and realized His unending grace. I am grateful that she was my sister and that I had the chance to know her and love her, even if it was not as I long as I would have wished. I am grateful for the way that she could make me laugh, and I am grateful for all the good advice that she gave me over the years. Her best piece of advice came during a phone conversation that I had with her the night before she had a stroke caused by the cancer that would ultimately end her life less than two weeks later.
The conversation that I had with Lesa that night is forever imprinted in my mind. I still can remember it with vivid clarity. Lesa and I were discussing my impending trip that weekend to see her and spend some valuable sister time with her in West Tennessee. We were laughing and talking about different events of the day as we would always do when my sister suddenly became very serious. She asked me to promise her something, and I answered that I would promise her anything. She then asked me to promise her that I would do whatever it takes to bring Lucy home as soon as I could. I replied that I would. Lesa's tone became even more serious. She again asked me to promise that I would bring Lucy home quickly and that I would do whatever it took. I promised again. Lesa then told me that she meant what she said, and I replied that I understood. At her urging, I promised again that I would do everything in my power to bring Lucy home as quickly as I could no matter what happened. This was the last real conversation that I would have with my sister. After the stroke, she was unable to speak clearly.
I have thought about that conversation so many times over the last six months. It was as if she knew that the journey to bring Lucy home would be fraught with unbelievable struggles and that I would be tempted to give up. Indeed, this adoption has been so much more difficult than I had ever anticipated and in ways that I could not imagine. One would think that the second time around an international adoption should be easier, but for those of you have adopted multiple times, you know all too well that different problems crop up on each journey. I cannot go into a lot of detail about what happened to us this time, but just let me say that it culminated in the hold being taken off our daughter and us ending the adoption in late July. But, Lesa's words continued to haunt me and for that I am grateful. My promise to my sister has been a part of this journey that helped us to regroup and fight for our little girl when it seemed like all was lost. I know that Lesa is in heaven smiling at the progress that we have made these last few months in bringing Lucy home. By the end of this week, our home study should be complete and waiting on approval.
Believe it or not, I am also grateful for all of the hardship that we have had to endure through this process. I have learned so many valuable lessons and have found unbelievable strength and solace in the arms of my husband, my friends and my family. When we lost the hold on Lucy and ended the adoption, I grieved her as if she had died. I cried continuously for days. In particular, my friends in the adoption community were such a wonderful source of support and comfort. Several understood what it was like to lose a child that had been yours in your heart and that you loved beyond measure. For all of these things, I am grateful.
I am grateful for every 200 plus mile drive to Knoxville over the last few months to meet with our new agency and complete the requirements of our home study. I am grateful for our new caseworker who always makes us fill uplifted and supported, the agency director who has such a heart for families, and the whole adoption agency office which has made a couple of out-of-towners feel completely at home.
I am grateful for the moms and dads who have gone to Albania before us to bring home their children and have shared their knowledge and experience with us. I am particularly grateful for one mom who showed my facebook pictures, including those of my family, to the Mother Superior at my daughter's orphanage when the Mother Superior asked if she knew me. The Mother Superior then showed my facebook picture to my daughter, told Lucy that I was her "mami," and my daughter smiled and kissed my face.
I am grateful for my Lucy. I am grateful for this child that I have fought so long and hard for these last six months. I am so grateful that I get to be this sweet angel's mommy. Sometimes, well meaning people tell me how lucky my son Yuli is to have us as a family or how lucky Lucy is that we are going to be her forever family, but in reality we are the lucky ones. I get the most amazing privilege. I get to be Yuli and Lucy's mom! These wonderful children who are CHOSEN...who are LOVED...I get to be their mom, and I AM GRATEFUL!