Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exchanging My Ashes for His Beauty: Relationships (Part 3)

Now let me shout how God is bringing beauty from these ashes!

Growing up, I had an okay relationship with my parents. That relationship became extremely strained when I reached my college years. When Sarah’s choices started spilling consequences into our lives, my parents and I formed a friendship that I don’t think we would have if we hadn’t walked through these past 18 years of pain together. No one else on earth knows how this grief feels---except my parents. I wouldn’t have chosen this path if God had asked me. But now that I’m here, there’s so much I treasure from the experience.

God did give me a child of my own---well, a child that is her own person. Cami is a my special treasure, and has more than blessed my parents with her love for her Grammy and PawPaw.

Yes, Sarah rejected and abandoned me. But God has given me a few girlfriends who are closer to me than sisters.

Betsy lives in Georgia, and I’ve known her for 23 years now. As we've walked parallel paths long-distance, I’ve watched God heal broken places in her as He wants to in me, and in my sister. Betsy is the only person in my life besides my parents and aunts and uncles that knew me pre-Aziz. She brings huge perspective and speaks such godly wisdom into my life.

Melisa has been walking through grief for the past four years. Unless you’ve walked there, you can’t really understand the range of emotions – rage, sadness, anger, self-blame, and even relief – that goes with being betrayed and abandoned, then having that person just gone. Melisa asks me hard questions, then hugs me and prays for me while I excavate my heart for the truthful answers.

God continues to teach me how to be open and share my heart with other women that He places around me. Recently, when I was mourning the lack of aunts and extended family connections for my daughter, God showed me how He has provided surrogate aunts for Cami in many of these friendships He is giving me. He provides them because He loves Cami.

Although all of Sarah’s children adopted by Muslim families, those families have made a commitment that the children will grow up knowing their birth siblings. These three families bring all of the children together, spending time together on a regular basis.
In 1998, the older children’s adoptive mom started emailing my parents and me. Fatima encouraged us to be family to the children. She said, “You are still Aunt Candi, and will always be Aunt Candi.” The kids still call my parents “Grampa Jay” and “Grandma Judy.” Fatima sent us pictures of the children as they grew up, and it was such a comfort to see them happy and healthy. Fatima converted to Islam when she married her husband who is from Iraq, but she was raised Catholic. Since she passed away three years ago, my nieces and nephews feel close to her parents, who are Catholic Christians. The kids celebrate every Christmas and Easter with their adoptive grandparents, even though they have been raised to practice Islam.

We have more consistent contact with Sarah’s children now that they aren’t Sarah’s children anymore. MySpace has been a way I can get to know my nieces and nephews. I read comments from their friends, and their answers to the many surveys that are circulated. I have glimpses of their lives, right now.
My niece reads my blog, where I’ve been writing about the way God’s restoring these broken grieving places in my heart. Just last year, in response to a blog I wrote about the BCC women’s retreat, she asked me, “Why are you mad at my birth mom?” That question started a string of messages back and forth between us where we talked about what happened so long ago that is still so raw in both of us. I took the opportunity to explain to her how God is working in me, and how forgiving Sarah and Aziz doesn’t make them right; it just makes me free. My husband noted, “Do you recognize that your healing is a source of healing for her? that your forgiveness becomes a wellspring of forgiveness she can draw on? He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it through you in your niece's life and in her heart.”

Some of the kids' best friends are Christians. One nephew has commented on both my dad’s profile and my profile about the Christian music we post. God is pursuing those children because He loves them, and He’s giving me glimpses of how He hasn’t forgotten them.

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