Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Letter

Dear Friends & Family,

Merry Christmas! I hope this letter finds you all doing well and enjoying the holidays. With the tight economy—both in our country and within the four walls of our house—we decided to forego Christmas cards this year. I still wanted to get in touch with everyone (and of course, make you all look at pictures of my adorable children), though, so here I am.

And since they are so darn adorable, let's start with the kids. Grace is 3 now, and just… indescribable! She is beautiful and fun and talkative and sassy and moody and all of the things that three-year-olds are. She loves princesses and reading and dancing (She started dance classes this year and loves them!) and singing. In addition to her dance class, she is also involved in AWANA (Approved Workers Are Not Ashamed), a kids' program at our church. It is hard to believe that she is getting old enough to be involved in things like that, but a lot of fun too.

Matt will be 2 in about 6 weeks, and he is getting more personality every MINUTE. He is constantly on the go—I don't think he even stops moving in his sleep! He is really into the Disney "Cars" stuff and Thomas the Tank Engine… but he also likes to wear his sister's dress-up stuff, too. (Yep, I have some pictures to use as blackmail when he is a teenager.) He is both rough-and-tumble and very sweet and loving—I love having a little boy!

Jon and I are doing well. His work is keeping him busy, and he recently joined a men's Bible study that has been a great addition for him. I am the coordinator of my MOPS group now, and it is a ministry that is very dear to my heart.

We continue to enjoy traveling, and this year had a chance to take some very memorable trips. In June we spent a week with Nana & Papa (Katy's parents) going on a bit of a patriotic trip—we started in Washington, DC, then went to the "Historic Triangle" (Jamestown, Yorktown, and Colonial Williamsburg) in Virginia. Then in October, Katy and the kids went with Gram (Jon's mom) to California for 10 days. Both of them were great getaways, and we look forward to more trips and more special times with the grandparents.

Overall, I have to say that 2008 has been… a year that we won't soon forget. If life is like a roller coaster, this was the Top Thrill Dragster of years. It was full of great opportunities… and great challenges as well. I won't bore you with all of the details, although I would love to talk more about it if you have the time! Suffice it to say that this year has really had our heads spinning at times. But above all, it has been a year full of God's faithfulness. Whether we are inching along or zooming full speed ahead, screaming with joy or gasping for breath, He is there. He is a great and mighty God, able to meet all of our needs, even when we don't know what they are.

As we look to 2009, to the changes in the economy, the White House, and even our own houses, I hope that God will be your companion on the ride of life as well. And this is my prayer for each of you:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

God bless!

Katy, Jon, Grace, and Matt

Merry Christmas!

Good morning! I just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a very merry Christmas. As you enjoy (and sometimes just tolerate) the family gatherings, gifts, meals, and other hustle & bustle, may the true meaning of Christmas occupy your hearts and minds. And tonight when the day is over and your kids are in bed and it is finally quiet, remember that night in Bethlehem when the King of kings lay quietly in a manger.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Permitting the Pain

It's been a while since I've written anything other than my adoption story. It is not for lack of material, believe me. God has given me plenty to write about in the past months, but I think I've been turning a blind eye to the lessons He's been teaching me. I finally decided to sit and listen to Him, and this is what is on my heart for today…

When I went through childbirth classes, our instructor admonished us over and over not to tense up during contractions. She encouraged us to relax during them, so that they could do what they were intended to do. Tensing up and fighting the pain only prevented the contractions from accomplishing their purpose. And the less effective they are, the more of them it takes to get the job done.

This all sounded fine when I was sitting in childbirth class 2 months before Grace was born. "Relax during contractions. Check," I thought as I went through my mental list. It was a much different story on June 2 when they actually hit. There is nothing about contractions that one could find relaxing. (Sorry, Erin, but it's true. J) I fought those contractions right up to the minute the epidural took effect! Aaaaahhhhh, now that was relief!

But 20 months later when I was back in the delivery room, something changed. I was not having an epidural this time (which is a whole separate story), but those contractions weren't any less painful. I did not, however, wish to endure any more of them than absolutely necessary. I remembered the advice of my instructor: "The more relaxed you are, the more effective they are. The more effective they are, the fewer it takes to get the job done." The contractions were painful, but they were purposeful, too. They helped me to bring my beautiful children into this world.

Recently, my spiritual life has been lacking something—me. As I have mentioned before on this blog, 2008 has been a very difficult year for me. Every time I got through one hardship, another came knocking at my door. I felt like the bear climbing over the mountain (You know, "The bear climbed over the mountain, the bear climbed over the mountain, the bear climbed over the mountain and what do you think he saw? He saw another mountain, he saw another mountain, he saw another mountain and what do you think he did? The bear climbed over the mountain…"), and I was exhausted. I finally told God, "Lord, I know that I have been growing closer and closer to You this year, and it has been really exciting. But the more I seek You, the more You test me and stretch me. I'm tired. I don't want to grow any more. I still love You, but I think I'm going to stop trying to seek You for a while."

And then life got miraculously easy. Because of course, walking away from God is always the answer to life's problems, right? Ha. On the contrary, I still had all of the same hardships to deal with, but now I was trying to handle them myself. I was fighting them, tensing up. And then one night, I remembered the instructor from my childbirth class. "The more relaxed you are, the more effective they are. The more effective they are, the fewer it takes to get the job done." God is working on me. He has a purpose for this pain. The more I fight it, the more I try to control it myself, the longer it's going to take to get the job done.

So I realized that it was time to stop my childish pouting, giving God the cold shoulder because I wasn't getting my way. And what was the result? I don't know yet. That was yesterday—I'm on day 2 of giving control back over to God. The pain is still there, but I'm permitting it to work in me, not fighting it. I know that God is in control and that there is something wonderful for me on the other side, if I allow Him to use this for His purpose.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Katy’s Family Forest, part 20

Over time, I had pretty much lost touch with Janet. At first we had e-mailed almost daily, then a few times a month, and then she got sick (I believe she has MS… but it could be something else… my memory is a little fuzzy on that…) and I didn't hear from her for several months. After that our contact was sporadic at best. Still friendly and welcome, but just less frequent. In fact, (if I remember correctly), when I e-mailed her to tell her that Matt was born, she said that she didn't even know I was pregnant! So yes, our relationship had definitely dwindled. She had been very happy to hear about Matt, though, and had sent me a nice e-mail with an update on her children (I believe that they had 6—some naturally and some through adoption—but it may be more…) and her husband, etc.

And that was the end of our correspondence for another 7 months, when I got an e-mail from her that absolutely blew me away. She began: "Dear Katy, I don't know how you are going to react to this email but I've decided that I should just go ahead and tell you what's happening." She went on to say that she and Frank had "reconnected" and realized that they were still very much in love. They were planning to be married sometime in the next year. She assured me that I was very special to her, that Frank was very happy to hear about my family, and that she hoped we could continue to stay in touch.

I was absolutely taken aback. Sure, it sounds romantic—they were separated 30 years ago by the death of their child, then reunited and found that they still loved each other. Except for a few important details… Like the fact that he cheated on her over and over and OVER when they were together the first time. That he left her the day of their child's funeral. That he had been married three times before he had lived with her, and then been married five more times after that! Oh, and here's one you don't want to forget: She's married with several children!

It took me a few weeks to e-mail her back. When I finally did, I was very honest with her. I told her that this whole situation made me very sad. It was sad to me that she would leave her husband of so many years for any man. It was especially sad for me that she would leave him for this man. And I also recognized that I had very little room to offer any opinion—after all, they were both grown adults, and as connected as our lives had been in some respects, I had never even met either of them! The absurdity of my family tree was really staring me in the face at that moment.

And then I told her that I didn't feel that we could keep in touch anymore. After all, she was going to be living with this man who had all but told me to get lost. And as much as she claimed he had changed, he had made no attempt to contact or know me in any way. And through his relationship with Janet, he obviously knew exactly where to find me, not to mention the fact that he had two grandchildren. And yet I'd heard nothing—no congratulations, no apology, nothing. It was just too much.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Katy’s Family Forest, part 19

Yes, I am still alive and well, folks. I know it seemed like I dropped off the face of the earth, but I promise that I am still here. No alien abduction, unless you count the three- and almost-two-year-old aliens in my house. ;-) The truth is that my absence can be attributed to two things: The continuation of the most drama-filled year of my life thus far, and my own reluctance to turn the page in my adoption story. We are about to embark on events that have transpired in the last 12 months, and honestly… It is very emotionally draining to go there! It's going to be good, though—so let's get on with it! J

Let me start by updating you all on what has happened with Jan since the time that I last wrote about. Once I realized how childish I had been toward Jan—whether to her face or just in my own heart—and how hard I had been trying to shove our relationship into some preformed mold, I was really able to let go of a lot of those things. My stress level, at least in regard to that relationship, plummeted. I was able to just really enjoy Jan for who she is, and enjoy our relationship for what it is. We now talk about once a month or once every other month, and we see each other a few times a year, and I really look forward to each interaction. And yes, I call her "Grandma Jan" to Gracie and Matt. And it is a wonderfully unique thing that they get to experience that most kids don't—having a whole extra grandma! J

Jan is a fun, intelligent person, and I have to say that in some ways I really like that our views don't always line up. It is very interesting to talk about the areas where we have differences and be able to intelligently discuss our points of view and gain a better understanding of where we both stand. And I truly mean where we BOTH stand—as much as I am better able to understand her thoughts and perspectives, talking to her about these issues also helps me to understand my own thoughts and feelings better as well. Have I already mentioned that I am really enjoying the new life this relationship has taken on?

It sounds like a great ending to the story, doesn't it? And it is—well, it's not an ending, really. It's still very much going on. But you know what I mean. J That part of my life is finally feeling settled and comfortable. My adoption story has worked itself out.

But then again… there's the issue of my birth father. The door had been closed quite firmly back in 2001 with his e-mail that basically said, "Thanks but no thanks. Don't ever contact me again." But then, on September 5, 2007, I got an e-mail from Janet—the woman who had helped me to find Frank—that threw that door wide open.