Sunday, May 16, 2010

Between Revelation and Manifestation

It has been ten years since the inception of Danny's illness. A whole decade. The internal battle for an answer or an end was a long, painful process in which I needed to reconcile God allowing the challenge of this process with the additional purpose He called me to of raising a family. The emotional support of encouragement throughout his journey was the key ingredient to his sustenance. Thankfully, only one thing in particular was needed in which I was gifted in--encouragement.
Looking back I realize that was a gift I possessed. I did nothing to earn it. I just naturally did it. There were definitely many times throughout where my words felt empty...the ones spoken as well as the ones received. The times I was particularly discouraged in my role as his wife was when he would tell me, "You always say that and NOTHING has changed". The ONLY thing I had to offer was that God assured me through a deposit He made into my spirit that my husband would be healthy again, and a message of hope to a hurting world would be his offering after his restoration.
When Danny and I had been dating for almost 5 years, without a lifetime commitment as part of our relationship plan, I began to feel insecure. How could I know in my heart that this was the one I could easily spend my life with without him speaking about our future with the same perspective? He would tell me that he was waiting for God to "show him" with absolute certainty that it was to be me. I wasn't sure what would have done it for him...fireworks going off over my head perhaps as I used to jokingly suggest. I had done enough reading and listening on the topic to know that there were certain elements that were undeniable: mutual respect, the same goals for life, philosophies that were congruent, and most importantly a faith that was built on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the blueprint for this life. We had all of those. In fact, early in our relationship, when Danny was challenged by a friend about his unsettled perspective of the meaning of life, through a process of scientific investigation (which initially revealed to me his mode of learning truth) the undeniable reality of Jesus as the son of God and therefore being who He said He was and that is the ONLY way to God became evident. As a result Danny hung his hat (as well as our physical relationship) on the hook until the appointed time of marriage. (We did not have sex again until 5 years later after we walked down the aisle.)
There was always one issue that weighed heavily on me in my dating relationships and that was whether or not those relationships that I was involved in were right. Were the men in my life truly valuing me as a person or was the relationship driven by the physical aspect of the man's desire for sex?
When Danny realized that he had no idea how he would be able to accomplish no sex before marriage when he was accustomed to that being a driving force in his pursuits, I simultaneously knew that it was ME that he valued. To have been sustained in the relationship for the "right" reasons left me an obvious conclusion of him being "the one for me". It was disturbing that his brain needed a different assurance. Perhaps that was the first obvious place to me that we were wired differently. I had to release feeling insecure and trust that God would bring him to the same conclusion that he had me but I had to respect that it would be through a different process.
When I began putting the pressure on him near the end of chiropractic school and feeling undervalued with little effort (it seemed to me) of him searching for the solution as he did for meaning of life, it further added to my frustration. I began spending less time with him and more time with friends. I somewhat selfishly used it as an excuse to pursue my own ambitions without searching for God's purposes in them. Then I came to a crossroads. I saw Danny's faith grow in God's purpose for his life. There was an assurance about God's word--all of it--being true. It was the manuscript for life which wasn't open to interpretation; and the bible, in its entirety, was the infallible word of God.
I already knew this to be true but something happened to me when I saw the truth of this being applied to his life. Simply put: I didn't want to miss out on the life God blesses because of my own selfish desires. I told Danny this. I think it may have been the first time that he saw hope in me as becoming the woman for him to spend his life with; knowing that even though I did not necessarily know how to trust and allow God to mold me, I was willing to admit it was the only way to life a life that had purpose and meaning that would become an investment beyond my limited perspective.
Trust was a difficult concept for me. It is defined as having faith in another person or entity. Signifiant people in my life had let me down beginning with my biological father. Next my mother who was supposed to be there for me not just emotionally but also physically but never seemed to be. I understood her limitations but nonetheless I was impacted by the void that was created. As I encountered friendships from 1st through 12th grade I experienced many additional disappointments that further challenged the meaning of trust.
How then could I trust Danny to the point of feeling at peace with his character as the man I desired to surrender my heart to?
The only answer that fits is that in our relationship, this was the first gift God gave to me. I did nothing to earn it other than be myself. And this self was obviously the perfect one for him...handpicked by God Himself for the purpose he had for him.
It didn't take long to own that perspective when he first began experiencing strange and scary symptoms that squashed the personality of the man I knew and loved and revealed a threatened and threatening character underneath.
I quickly jumped roles from the one being protected to the one protecting. I protected our children, I protected myself (the best I could) but mostly I protected him from himself. This untrusting woman, who trusted no one but my husband, became epitomized by the circumstances that I now found myself in.
As God called me to trust in His work in our marriage I remember wondering what role I would play once Danny was restored. I now understand that due to being disappointed so often as a child and adolescent I had a theme of apprehension that had woven itself into the fiber of my being.
Again I had another opportunity to be healed myself from this hole in my own soul. It may not have been a physical wound as my husband possessed but it had consequences that were equally devastating.
God gave me another opportunity to trust. He brought Dylan and Olivia into my life. Ironically He did so when I was trudging through the emotional pain of having my husband not being able to "show up" for me. During this season of our lives, Danny was running from himself. He didn't like who he had become and he wasn't completely sure he would ever be himself again. His mind had only one way of searching for truth and this was the second time in my life with him I watched as this scientific process manifested itself once again in a most critical space in time. His relentless pursuit for answers did not disappoint him. Initially the process that led him to answers wasn't forthcoming as it led him down what seemed like empty pathways. Looking back, it was evident that God allowed that as well as it not only taught him to persevere with God in prayer but it also taught him about many different processes within the body that unless fully understood would only lead him to become a doctor that managed symptoms, even if naturally and without consequence, as opposed to the doctor he has become which is one that addresses the root cause and looks at the life of the body beginning and ending at its foundation: the cell.
The three years before he understood where in his body the breakdown occurred was the most difficult for both of us. For him, it was a trial of trust in God whom he had learned held the answers to life and death and controlled mankind's purpose if we trusted Him to do so regardless of where we started. For me I had to put my husband on a shelf and trust that the God who chose us for one another would return him to me in better condition than before.
I also had to trust that my life as a mother to two children who weren't wired in the same way I was or what I had learned to adapt to were not only going to make me more effective in my purpose as a wife and a mother but were also going to bring me joy and completeness that I have never known within myself.
Luke 9:24 (a verse I had always feared) says, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." I am now learning that embracing God's call, while the process of being stripped is brutal and at times even seemingly unfair, there is victory if we surrender to it. When we remember that once God declares something to us whether spoken aloud or in our heart...IT IS SO. Just as it was revealed to me about Danny's future being one with hope and tremendous purpose, I had to learn that fearing God's word, while a healthy perspective to our understanding, can lead us to doubt Him if we misconstrue His intended meaning.
I must admit it has taken me walking through adversity where there was no where else to turn before I began understanding that trusting God is not something to be feared but embraced. He alone is the author and perfecter of our faith and therefore He knows our breaking points as well as our strengthening points as well as the delicate balance between the two. Just as a muscle needs to be torn down to grow so we need to be torn down to mature.
I have clung to the deposit of God in my spirit, expecting our future to be an offering of hope to others just as God has given us hope in the midst of our pain. However waiting is required between what we know and what He reveals. We must wait on God with a posture of expectancy until He manifests the destination of our calling. And as you wait, expect a spiritual battle unlike you have ever known! The more times you are attacked release those attacks to the power of God and remember that it is giving Him yet another opportunity to show up and show off on your behalf (see my previous blogs for how this occurred in our life).
Another extremely invaluable component to your trial is praying your blessing into existence. There is a powerful verse in the bible in Isaiah. Chapter 54:17 says, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment God shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord." If we take God in the literal sense that He intends for us, this is a verse that can offer tremendous hope. It indicates the spiritual reference of the battle you are going through and helps you remember that just before the release of your blessing as a resulting suffering and proven worthiness there is going to be an attack from the adversary unlike you have ever known. In fact, this is why it is so important to maintain this posture as we wait.
The final element that must be dealt with is the removal of sin from your life. These are events God ordains that prepares us to receive the blessing within our purpose.
And finally, remember, that when you are waiting in the space between your revelation and your manifestation, it typically will not happen quickly, but it will happen suddenly. What you have sown in tears you will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5). When we were faced with the legal investigation regarding our children's trust, I remember being in the attorney's office in utter disbelief. We had done all that we knew to be functioning within the laws of the trust much so that we paid for the services of others to guide us through that process so we would never be where we were physically finding ourselves. (the complete story is in my blog titled How We Got Here...Where We Are...Where Are We?...Mother's Day 2010)
Once again I had to remind myself of the original intent of God through our suffering and He was giving us another opportunity to grow, first within ourselves and also as a family and beyond. What kept coming into my head was God's reminder to me which was becoming a theme: "Do not look at your circumstances, just look to Me." This statement was running over and over in my head just as it had in my heart through first my husband's sickness and also through my challenges with integrating Dylan and Olivia into our family. I am grateful as God has returned my husband more whole than He allowed him when he was taken. I have experienced becoming more at peace with myself despite my too numerous to mention challenges as a mother with one child much less five. And again, as we wait, I have to trust Him.
A pervasive theme of trust. Trusting that while God doesn't always choose our method for our maturity in our faith and our purpose, He certainly does allow those challenges to make the best of us for Him.
While we have had many opportunities to be sifted for His calling and having the requirement of trust as the prevailing element of our faith, in these past several months of legal turmoil God has shown up suddenly. While it certainly has not happened quickly, it is happening suddenly. Suddenly the phone rang the very same day we sat in the attorney's office at the beginning of this whole debacle and we were asked to meet with the owner of a direct marketing company that we had been involved with as a result of our appreciation for the quality of their products. Their interest in us was for the possibility of our mission being infused into it as it sought to become more purpose-driven. The story of our life had become most intriguing to those that desired to make a difference.
During that visit, the conversation also addressed the possibility of this company, Zylene International, manufacturing my husband's cellular detoxification product that would help so many that suffered without understanding, but through education on the scale of a successful direct marketing company, that we had the opportunity to become the voice for, we immediately saw the sudden move of the hand of God. While it was not something that occurred quickly, it certainly happened suddenly. While we were being shamed by the media, God was revealing yet another scripture that has shown up more than a few times as we have cried out to Him. Joel 2:23-27 says, "Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain and faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you...I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I AM the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."
Is faith required to believe these words? You better believe it! Faith is a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea or thing. It is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Trust is a synonym of faith. Is it any coincidence that God has given me faith while He challenged me with trust. How is that even possible? How can I further understand the dichotomy that exists between these two words that have such a powerful pervasive presence in my life and in the lives of so many Christians today? My mind is expanding as I type! The human condition is one of survival in times that are tough. We are faced with a challenge and we dig deep. It isn't until we have exhausted our natural resources that are within our reach that we are faced with being overtaken by our greatest nemesis that we are able to fully surrender and trust in our God through faith in Him alone. Unfortunately that typically does not happen until we are in dyer straits. In fact, when we finally release our greatest burden(s) to God we find our freedom and our peace. This cannot happen unless that process occurs fully. Ultimately. Finally. And with that release, we give God the carte blanche to act. Until that time, we are withholding His power. He will not be released in the spiritual realm and act on our behalf until we release Him to do so. Under His authority we have partnered with Him. We can now personify the principles of God by becoming the word of God in action.
If God has a specific purpose for those who love Him, and He does, and He alone is the giver of the gift, and He is, then we must prove worthy of it. We also must demonstrate trust that He can do it and posture ourselves expectantly. Within the confines of this world there are many stagnant places that need His influence. It is time for the wounds that prevent trust from delivering might to be healed. It has come into my life through a process of great pain but it has left me more whole. Yet another dichotomy within the plans and purposes of God.
Do not run from the places of life that challenge you. Embrace them. Relinquish your control. Know that by losing your life you are gaining your purpose. The scripture that used to scare me now excites me as we are about to be released for His glory, not our own. I will leave you with this: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (2 POWERFUL adjectives; not by accident is any word chosen by God himself for our internalization as we read His word), above all that we can ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20) NOTHING is impossible for Him, but until we trust Him alone for it, we will not fully see the purpose for which He has called us. Lay your burdens at His feet. The process of being proven worthy is costly, but it is also a revelation of the closeness of God to the hurting soul as well as the power by which He desires to change the world.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How We Got Here...Where We Are...Where Are We?...Mother's Day 2010

As our family came together: me as a young woman with many plans of my own: the most important one with ME at the center which is the only perspective I have ever known; while also having a heart to serve God as I intended to raise my family to trust Him, I soon realized that God not only gave me 3 children of my own and a challenging set of circumstances to go with it but He also called me to sacrificially become a mom to twins who tragically lost not only their parents but also their own foundational identity. If I was going to bring God into their lives in an authentic way I had to lose MY plan. It took me awhile to realize that it would be within the heart of God to teach me what I couldn't read about. I could not run from it and expect it to occur because the task is least from my understanding of hard work and ONLY He could take credit for it as I believe with all my heart only He can; but He also handpicked this challenge for me alone. I could not talk about it as a future tense reality, but in order to honor Him in it, I had to experience the pain of being stripped of myself and my agenda and finding the glory that lay beneath the unearthed heart and soul that God planted within me. ME? How could it be that my insecurities would end up becoming places of strength that would see this family through the uniqueness of our pain and also our desires. All we wanted was to "feel" normal. To restore Dylan and Olivia while edifying our 5 year old son Daniel that their arrival and integration made our family better, not worse. Reminding Him that God doesn't make mistakes and regardless of how challenging it seemed at the time it will improve. God created him and He made him perfectly suited to adapt to this particular family dynamic. I reassured him that God would be able to do something so amazing with his life as a result of the challenge He allowed so early in it. I told Dylan and Olivia as well that there is a difference between God's blessing and favor and we had his favor. Even though my own mom struggled greatly with my acceptance of my new role because of her concern for Daniel and also of her understanding of what would come against us with my aunt, I stayed focus on the sovereignty of God. He didn't choose this fate, but He did allow it with a greater understanding of His mercy and favor as a result.

Simultaneously , we were working on the restoration of Dylan on yet another level as well--which was from the damaging affects of vaccinations--specifically the MMR shot. My husband was too dealing with his own battle with neurotoxins that invaded and deprived him of a life that could be completely normal. The irony that there were two of them, one who learned as I watched and one who had to learn to trust as we watched, not only in the process of healing but also in the role we filled on many levels regarding his recovery if he could stay the course and hope for a brighter tomorrow. How could there be two boys, one I loved with everything I was and one I learned to love as God's faithfulness showed up, took over and gave us all hope? The road that took us closer toward the call was painful. It stretched us, it twisted us, it gave others reason to doubt our motives and it also gave us favor.

As much as the circumstances proved to be challenging and in addition to the above mentioned struggles, there was yet a 3 year old and a newborn that I needed to be mommy to. They had no understanding of the difficulties and nor should they have. I tried with all my might to be all that God called me to be. I thanked Him for the amazing helper he gave me in a woman he gave me to model what a godly mother looked like--she had all the qualities I could identify with: she was funny and happy and adorable. She had one quality that I didn't: she LOVED to serve. She served us for almost 6 years. I refer to her as God's gift to me who came alongside an already underqualified woman and showed that despite my weaknesses He lavished His mercy upon me. Her name is Esther. I watched her spend endless hours and energy cooking and ironing and loving and praying for all of us. I watched her shoulder my burdens and my husband's and cry out to God on our behalf. She is no longer with us, but she still shoulders our burdens. She will never not be with us--forever in our heart and only a visit or a phone call away. She knows our heart and she knows our pain that is giving way to purpose. She knows our desire to raise our children that despite the odds, shows God's mercy and

The first week after the death of Dylan and Olivia's parents proved to be a fast reconciling of reality. We quickly remembered that their mom (my cousin and best friend) Lisa had asked us a few years prior if anything ever happened would we take the kids. Without a second thought we answered yes. When Simon only 6 weeks old, my husband and my dad flew to Florida to bring them to their new home. It was the only way. As their legal guardians no one was authorized to escort them except for either my husband and/or myself. My aunt and uncle (Lisa's mom and dad) were there, staying in the house that their daughter was murdered in and making plans while Dylan and Olivia were in the arms of their next-door neighbors being comforted.

The first obvious plan occurred when my husband and my dad walked in and my aunt said "meeting out back". They walked out by the pool and as soon as they sat down she said, "Well, we decided to keep the house." My husband's response was, "Whoa...we are going to wait until we talk to people who know more about this type of thing than I do." She proceeded to try to sell him on the idea.
After the memorial services my husband flew home with the kids. My aunt and uncle were busy loading a UHaul truck with as many items with monetary value they could fit into it and left behind most of the kids' personal effects that required us to take a trip a month or so later to select items that were important to them to feel as if a piece of their home was coming to Pennsylvania with them. It was hard to conceive and the bank that handled the estate told us we should put a stop to her ridiculous behavior. We knew her irrational tendencies and decided to stay out of her way and if this was the way she grieved then we preferred to stay clear and give her room to do so.

I can remember as a child my mom called her demented as a result of her anger that lashed out at my mom for allowing me to use a toy (a lemon-twist) that my mom bought for Lisa's birthday present. I was only about 7 years old but I still remember how upset my mom was at my aunt's over-exaggeration to my trying a toy that she bought for her niece. It was a moment in time that for whatever reason is forever ingrained in my memory. It was at least a year that they didn't speak.
I am not sure if it was that incident or the fear that my aunt evoked as a result of watching how she treated her kids that scared me. We always seemed to be punished by her. I still have pictures of all of the cousins lined up on the couch as a result of her wrath. Whatever it was, it stuck.

My husband and dad arrived home New Year's Eve 2003 with Dylan and Olivia. We began 2004 with 2 new children and a life of challenge that we NEVER could have predicted--even after all of the things we had already been confronted with.

It was within a very short time that I realized my aunt's anger for Lisa's decision in choosing my husband and I for the task of raising her kids was more than she could swallow.
I didn't know until they were already with us that there was a trust that would help with their support. I was thankful for that but it wouldn't have changed our accepting of Lisa's decision regardless. Along the way I am glad I didn't initially know when others have tried to raise issue with why or how we took the kids. Honoring God is not enough for many people without expectation of a return. It was enough for me. I remember telling my husband when we were processing the magnitude of the task at hand that I didn't need to be swallowed by the whale as Jonah was. There were many places in my life that I struggled to honor God completely but this was one undeniable role and call that couldn't be dealt with half way.

My aunt threatened our decision becoming permanent by telling us that if we accepted this responsibility she would do everything within her power to "ruin" us. My response was as steadfast as the call. I told her to take it up with God. That He chose us for it, and that we had no choice but to honor Him in it. I empathized with how hard this must be for her to handle under the circumstances and that even her other daughter, Lisa's own sister, who was 6 years younger than I, wasn't chosen. I was not insensitive to their reality but I was unable to offer a solution that satisfied her. I tried to help her see the positive points as she now had the ability to see her grandchildren without the distance between them. I assured her I would do everything possible to support their relationship. I found this particularly challenging as she began working behind the scenes on the kids' emotional and psychological pain. I attempted to communicate with her about it while being sensitive to her pain while at the same time adamantly insisting that she not create more for them or us. Ultimately I feel as if she knew she wasn't up against me personally but my resolve and determination to step up was a result of my trust in His call upon my life and it seemed to incite her all the more.

It didn't take long to realize that the experiences they were having while in her presence were absolutely not of the standard that we lived by. There were little things that became known to us. She only wanted the kids for a whole weekend while there were times that 2 nights made plans we tried to make as a family difficult. I welcomed some of those times to "feel" like the family I had lost and the kids I was most comfortable with had some time to feel that ease with us...mostly being sensitive to how hard it was for Daniel. We did explain that going to church was something we did and it was important to us that they do that as well. She began going to church. What could we say except that having her under the influence of God would not only help them and us, but her as well. So there was a stretch of time that she saw them many weekends. It was hard to conceive why Olivia came home happy to be back and Dylan came home disconnected. In fact, he always came in the house well after Olivia and would walk the long way around the house to avoid walking through the family room where my husband and I typically spent Sunday evenings. They always came home at 8:30--never earlier--which was a time we requested as it was their bed time.

The first 2 days of the week Dylan barely spoke at home. He seemed extremely hostile toward his environment and emotionally void of caring about the family. It was sad to watch a child that already was so compromised emotionally become void after a visit with his Grandmother that I had hoped would offer a place of solace and fill a void that I expected only she could. She was supposed to love him unlike anyone else on the planet and after what had happened I really trusted that my inherent fears of her would be put to rest as she found a newfound purpose that had a calling of love all over it. How could it then be that the opposite emotion was showing up after his time with her? And what about Olivia? She was fine. She was happy when she was with us...all the time. She didn't morph into an emotional recluse. I know Dylan always had certain challenges with his diagnosis of Sensory Integration but what was already an obvious part of his emotional status became exaggerated with his time with her.

He became obsessed with money that he claimed he had lots of. He talked about it with Daniel in particular. I couldn't imagine that she had revealed to them aspects of their financial reality when I specifically asked her when I found out that I absolutely did not want to discuss that with them...or anyone else for that matter. I knew money not earned was the fastest way to ruin anyone. She assured me she would not. She attempted at first to get information from us about the financial matters but we told her that we had asked the bank, who managed the trust, to handle every detail and there were attorneys and counsellors in place and associated with that task so that we would never be criticized by anyone, not even the kids, who we soon realized were potentially under her spell. As time went on we realized that she was working against us on every level. She even discredited my husband's knowledge and understanding of how best to care for Dylan's process of recovery. She questioned it, shed doubt about it to the kids and occasionally sent "other" information that was partially what we were doing but without the fullness of our process. Anything other than what we were doing was still managing symptoms and we weren't interested in just managing his symptoms but restoring the whole child. For a long time I thought that perhaps what he ate when he was with her was causing his emotional separation for the first half of the week and this is what I told his teachers when we spoke about the potential cause. Occasionally the kids themselves would let their guard down and tell us that their uncle was watching things on his TV that were not what we would approve of. They graphically described certain scenes to give us examples as they wanted us to know as all kids want to be found out. It amazed me how much of the bad things a child's mind could retain after just one exposure but when it came to the positive teachings it seemed that the reinforcements were endless and the fruit was sparse. I quickly learned that is how evil infiltrates.

Another customary and particularly disturbing occurrence after Dylan's time at his Grandmother's house was that he would have terrors in his sleep during the night--either on Sunday or Monday without exception. He would run through the house flailing his arms and screaming frantically: "Mommy! Mommy!" He would run to me every time. It was awful to see this already starving child for his mother's love behave from such a subconscious level of pain. And why only after visiting his Grandmother? This troubled us more than anything. What could we do? How could we possibly ask her about their visits? What did they talk about? How could we and expect her not to become completely hostile toward us (even though from what we could ascertain she was already)? Was it presumptuous to think that the woman who emotionally loved them most could also be intentionally harming them the most as well? We asked Dylan's counsellor what we should do. Without knowing the details, he felt that she was clearly keeping us from becoming a unified family. His advice was too hard to take. How could we possibly separate them from her? They had lost so much already. So had she. They would resent us for doing such a thing. It would surely cause another horrendously painful wound that no child should have to endure, especially after what these 2 children had already suffered through and were learning to live with. It was also hard to conceive and therefore there was doubt that she could really do such a thing. I always knew her to be angry and resentful...she would even get upset when Lisa would come home for an occasional visit and want to stay at my house instead of with her. She would put up such a fuss and Lisa wouldn't want to confront her further so she would stay with her mom and within a few days she would be regretting her decision but mostly her inability to confront her mother's desire for control. It was the very reason Lisa needed to leave Pennsylvania. Her control and her anger was stifling. There was a pervasive oppression associated with all of her relationships. Perhaps that is why the relationship with her Grandchildren was not capable of being normal. If she cannot control the significant people in her life, then she starts trouble. An example of this is that she has been divorced from my uncle for over a decade and my mom told me when she was still alive, which has been about 3 years, that mail still goes to her house and she still writes his checks. Her son, who is a year older than me still lives in her home at the age of almost 44. It is a very sad reality. It also seems to be the men in her life that have been most affected by her control. But for me, I am caught in the middle of accepting a role that is supposed to be life-giving and being frustrated by a woman who is life-taking.

My husband and I have talked this through so many times without resolution. We finally agreed that as long as she didn't cross a line, we would not interfere with their relationship. We understood that while we were risking our better judgment for the sake of a relationship with their Grandmother, despite our experiences with her, perhaps we were just being overly paranoid. She, like us, had to be concerned with their final destination that was under her influence: that of adults. Or did she?
It was a year ago when I received a phone call from the school. My 3 oldest children, Dylan, Olivia (who we had at this point adopted 3 years earlier) and Daniel had been pulled out of class and questioned by Children and Youth Services! I didn't even know what CYS stood for before that day. The principal of the school didn't owe it to me to give me notice of what had occurred but he did. It spoke volumes to who he knew my husband and I to be and it also spoke of who he knew my kids to be. That very same day, my son Izik answered a knock on the door to find 2 police men standing there asking if everything was ok. He told Esther of them wanting to see her and she laughed it off as she walked to the door thinking he was joking with her. They questioned my kids about the food they ate, the way they were disciplined and the conditions in which they were living. Their conclusion was that they were living and eating better than they or anyone else they knew. Esther invited them to a Mexican dinner and/or stuffed chicken. With their apologies they were on their way.

I considered this to be the time when the line was crossed and our family was put in jeopardy. The kids felt the same way. I was thankful that we did not need to assert our authority and have them resent us for opting to keep their Grandmother out of their life. She did it. They saw her motives for what they had been all along and now we had no doubt about whether or not she was sabotaging our efforts of restoring these children. Right after that occurred the kids started sharing many disturbing emotional and psychological plots that allowed her to attempt to lure them in to a depraved emotionally unstable world filled with manipulation and paranoia. When CYS finally made a visit to our home to complete their report they told us that they would most likely be back again because they were told that she would keep calling UNTIL they found something on us.

I received an email that was most disturbing from her a month or so later and then another and another. The accusations were horrifying and even frightening. She accused me of being "responsible" for Lisa's death! She said I always wanted everything that Lisa had and now I think I have it! WHAT?!! WHERE did that come from?! Could her mind have distorted my respect for Lisa as my cousin who was 4 years older than me and naturally someone I looked up THIS?! I just couldn't wrap my head around the degree of torture to which she lived within her own mind! THANK GOD!

Needless to say as my uncle and her daughter who began making attempts to connect with the kids and were turned away...unless it was done on our terms and under our roof, the kids told us emphatically they wanted nothing to do with any of them. It was significantly noticeable how instantly at ease they became...especially Dylan.

In one of her emails to me she assured me if I did not allow her to see her Grandchildren then I could anticipate spending all of my time in court "instead of at the gym". It did not phase me. Within a few months of that email we were served papers in the state of Florida where the trust was initially held and because it had been moved to Pennsylvania within the year, papers were served in the state of Pennsylvania and by the D.A.'s office. It was more than shocking since we had NEVER had "control" of the trust (or at least we thought not). We trusted and requested the attorneys and counsellors to guide us through that process anticipating needing to protect ourselves from her unstable and jealous tirades. We felt at some point she would attempt to turn the kids against us...we just didn't expect it so soon.

I cannot say for sure whether or not she actually planted seeds that began the investigation, but I do know for certain that she did call the newspapers and the media who dredged up the past and how the kids came into our lives in the first place. So my question of doubting but struggling with how she could not protect Dylan and Olivia after everything they had been through was answered definitively within an evening with 2 major news channels and 2 major newspapers report gross distortions and inaccurate information about our character. My husband, who had a successful practice was shamed in an instant. The man who would give the shirt off his back to protect another was suddenly being portrayed as a doctor who was "siphoning money out of orphans trust fund"!! We didn't get a new patient in our chiropractic office for more than 3 months. It was almost too much to bear and if it weren't for our faith in God who ordained our role I do not know how we would have handled the challenges of this legal process in addition to the pain that we suffered through finally getting to a place with them that revealed why it was so hard in the first place.
God does promise to work all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28-29.

I have been speaking that verse over our family for the past decade and needless to say a few others have shown up to keep me hopeful in the midst of our circumstances. Psalm 91:14 says: "because he loves me, I will rescue him." I often wonder if our story will ever be "heard" in the court system. I have my doubts. I do hold on to the fact that God knows our heart, He knows everything we have done in order to honor Him and maintain a position of integrity. He alone knows that as we were instructed, we trusted. There is a saying in chiropractic that says "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree". The way we were bent was according to people in positions that have knowledge and expertise in their field. I would never admit to understanding the position I had been called to as a trustee as well as a guardian and therefore I requested the support of those professionals to always be in compliance with my role.

Again, I learned from this particular challenge, within this overarching position of restorer of hope, family and future that regardless of the amount of effort that is put into a job, even if it is well done and protected, evil can infiltrate without substance. It can devastate and disseminate every protective mechanism in place to avoid the very evil it creates.
When life is lived at the level of what lies beneath the surface of one's outer shell, I have found God uses certain trials to show even us what we are made of and who we ultimately trust in. When we are shaken what comes out? Who will we be found to be in our adversity? Are we worthy of the call? I have been challenged on yet another front and I can only pray I will not remain who I was when this all began. I desire to become a woman of influence to offer hope to a hurting world. How can I be able to offer it myself if I simply adopted 2 children I didn't choose and who didn't choose me but merely applied what I knew to date about mothering and neurotoxins? However my story has become enriched and I have become enriched with the depth of pain at a level we didn't earn, but have had to defend with every ounce of my fiber and still have nothing to show for it. How will this all turn out? I honestly do not know in the courts but I do know in light of our family: we will continue to be strengthened and prosper as we have since the last day they spoke to their Grandmother, our determination to seek God and trust in His redemptive power alone will see us through regardless of the outcome. I will trust in God alone to restore what the enemy has stolen--in this case, our reputation and our children's security at a certain level. The more we are afflicted, the more we will multiply for a greater purpose than ourselves.

Our family has a gift of restoration. We have already been restored. With any gift there is a responsibility of earning its worthiness. Are we worthy of influencing others? When Jesus had to feed the multitudes He had to break the loaves of bread and put it in baskets and pass it around. It never ran out and there was plenty left over. How is that possible? It is the result of being broken that produces supplies that are unlimited in others times of need. If this family is going to feed the masses then we need to be broken, even in ways we didn't deserve so that our gifts can be shared to encourage others and offer hope.