August 26, 2013

The Choice

The screen door slams shut as Big Sister races across the grass, not caring that her feet with their purple nail polish are bare, oblivious to her pink-tipped hair being tossed in the breeze.  Reaching for the car door before the engine has even stopped, she can barely contain her excitement.  Since school has been out for the summer, she has diligently been counting down the days until this sweet reunion, anticipating the moment when she can finally wrap her arms around these familiar strangers who have come to visit. 

It has been many, many years since she has last seen them.  Much, much too long.  A lifetime of experiences have passed since then, and a brief afternoon together can hardly compensate for the lost years.  But it’s all they have, and there is not a moment to lose.  Every second is important, when it means spending it with siblings.

Their family started out like most families do – easy-going, friendly mother and quiet, pensive father, sweethearts since high school, deeply in love.  A baby girl swaddled in pink blankets soon completes the sweet picture.  She is loved, cared for, treasured.

Somewhere along the way, however, the idyllic path begins to disintegrate, becoming dark and tangled.  The young man and woman lose their way.  Simple disagreements lead to ugly arguments.  Blame is thrown about like mud, soiling the trail ahead.  Perhaps maneuvering the difficult terrain – the daily responsibilities, tough jobs, limited resources, and the immaturity of youth – perhaps it inevitably takes its toll.  

It could be a result of wanting to prove self-sufficiency; maybe it is feelings of embarrassment.  For reasons known only to them, they refuse the advice and assistance, the suggested maps that concerned family members offer.

Your parents made a choice.  A series of choices, really.  They chose to get married without being fully prepared, to have children that they were unable to properly care for, to refuse the support that people who loved them attempted to provide.  And eventually, they chose to allow pride and anger and resentment to replace humility and communication and forgiveness.  Their choices had a profound impact on you – forever altering the course of your life.  Setting the direction for your upbringing and circumstances and future.

However, not for one moment did your Heavenly Father forget you.  Before you were even born, He knew you.  He knit you together in your mother’s womb.  He ordained all of your days.  His thoughts of you are precious and vast!  The plans He has for you are good, and they can never be thwarted by anyone else’s choice.  Ever.

It isn’t long before Baby Brother joins the scene.  Unfortunately, he is born with medical problems, which further burden the already-weary travelers.  He requires a lengthy hospital stay, and when he finally comes home, it is with monitors and tubes and machines with wires.

The county social workers become involved, and like good trail guides everywhere, they try to ensure that the two children remain safe. They offer counseling and parenting classes and financial assistance, anything to help preserve this precarious, lost family.

It isn't too long before medically-fragile Baby Brother goes to live with a stable, experienced foster family, while Big Sister moves in with her loving grandmother.  It’s such a confusing time!  When will she see her brother again?  Why can’t she go home?  All of the changes are so sudden and so unexpected, and she can’t make sense of it all.

Over the course of the next few years, four more brothers and sisters are welcomed into the world, six in all.  Each one is born much too early and consequently, require special care for the medical needs that are common with preemies.  None of them leave the hospital with their parents.

It’s impossible for Big Sister to understand everything that is happening.  She knows that she has siblings.  She knows she does!  They just don’t all live together.  Every week, the various foster mothers bring all six of them to the social workers’ office, where they can visit with their parents.  Big Sister brings them little trinkets and plants big, juicy kisses on their chubby cheeks – the only ways she can think of to let them know how much she loves them.

Ultimately, the judge made a choice.  She decided that your birth family could not be rescued.  One by one you were each placed for adoption with different families.  The “Good-bye Visit”, marking the end of your journey with your birth family, was the last time you were all together.  It was a heart-breaking day of last-chance snapshots, several boxes of tissues, and final clinging hugs.  No family should ever have to experience such heartache!

However, as tragic as it was for you to be permanently separated from one another, the Lord was using those agonizing circumstances for a purpose.  Although difficult decisions were pronounced, and those choices forever reshaped the direction of your lives, the judge’s heart was in the Lord’s hand, and He was directing it according to His perfect design.  He placed each one of you in exactly the family that He knew you would need.  Even when it’s impossible to understand, even when the pathway is dark and disorienting, His plans are always good.  Always.

Today is the first time in many, many years that the siblings have seen one another, several of them having driven from out of state for this mini-reunion.  It’s bitter-sweet to see them together, to watch them interact, these young people who, if circumstances had been different, could have experienced a common childhood, who may have shared inside jokes.  Instead, they are awkwardly trying to connect with one another in one brief afternoon.  They are attempting to strengthen the fragile bonds of nature that unite them.

The families that have raised them can’t help but stare, looking for similarities in their features, in their mannerisms, in their personalities.  It’s impossible to keep from thinking, “What if . . .”  What if the situation in their family of birth had been different?  What if these children had all been able to grow up together?  What if the adults in their lives had made different choices all those years ago?  It’s a sobering reminder that a family grafted through adoption, beautiful though it is, also involves tragic, irreparable loss.

Big Sister is now a lovely young lady, just a few months from her 18th birthday.  “Baby” Brother stands taller than her, strong, handsome and confident.  And the others are not far behind, all nearing the crossroad of independence and adulthood.

Soon it will be your turn to make a choice.  Who will you become?  As you navigate the days and years ahead, will you carry the burden of pain that others’ choices have caused you?  Or will you choose to forgive and leave the hurts behind?  To become healthy and whole and happy?

Which path will you select?  Will you grieve the direction that your childhood was not allowed to take, or will you look forward to the future, seeking the route that your Heavenly Father has carved and shaped especially for you?

Choose life!  Choose to live it to its fullest, with joy and passion and gratitude.

Choose love!  Choose to open your heart and share it with those who are traveling this journey with you.  The adoptive family that raised you.  The grandmother who adores you.  Each other.

Choose Jesus!  Choose to cling to the One who will always love you, who will always guide you and protect you and sustain you.  Of all the choices you will face in this life, this is the most important decision you will ever make.  He promises to be your constant Companion, your Comforter, your closest Friend.

The past does not define you.  Your family’s path is only the beginning, the first mile.  It’s your turn now to become the navigator on this journey of life.  Where will you go?  What will you do?  Who will you become?  It’s your choice.

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