Renaissance

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36: 26

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. – Galatians  6: 2

Renaissance

A new heart…a new spirit…the requisite preparation, stealth and explicit, if incomplete, had progressed sufficiently. Candice was now ready to receive these gifts as promised by the Lord in Ezekiel to the house of Israel, and, to each of us. There had always been many who would share the burden Candice carried, her new heart, new spirit, would now allow them to do so. The day of her renaissance now come.

As Candice mentioned in her letter to Dillon and Brooke, Marshall’s surgery was performed without complication. The bed rest it required was not as easy, at least not in terms of the frustration it brought with it. Marshall was becoming more restless with each passing day. Though he was assured a complete recovery, he had no clear picture of when, or now, even if, he would be able to return to his mission as the physical requirements for him to do so were quite demanding. During this period of time, he couldn’t work or play, he did however discover that his injury could sometimes be used to his advantage at chore time, as I said earlier, he is still a teenager!

With her first pregnancy, Candice experienced very little discomfort and no morning sickness; even her labor and delivery (induced) were relatively easy. She would not be as fortunate the second time around. She lost her breakfast nearly every morning and had a great deal of discomfort and pain, what else could she expect with twins? As the strain of her pregnancy began to take a greater toll, her doctor reduced her to half days at work and not long after, she was told to stop working completely. This helped somewhat with the physical problems she was experiencing but created other problems…namely bills!

We decided together that she would give up her apartment and move back in with her grandma, we would continue to make her car payment and other financial obligations until she could get back on her feet again. Though the majority of expenses (medical, counseling, etc.) are paid by LDSFS, there were many expenses which were not. The bill for the many plane tickets, Candice’s living expenses, phone bills, car payments, and Marshall’s medical bills mounted. In what can only be described as another testament to the fact that, as the Lord had shown me so many months before as I sat in Sacrament meeting on that day I described, he loved us, he was aware of our needs and he would meet our needs, emotional and financial.

Adding to the financial burden, but also a strong sign of her change of heart and her willingness to allow others to share her burden, Candice requested that all of the family be present for the placement of her twins. We couldn’t know then if this would even be possible with school and work commitments but we too liked the idea of her brothers sharing this experience with us as we knew it would be an opportunity for all to bond and to grow, together.

*****

Giving up my apartment was difficult. I was independent. I didn’t want to go back to depending on someone. I love my Grandma, and cherish the time we were able to spend together. We have formed a very strong bond. A bond words cannot describe. Saying that I love my Grandmother is an understatement. I can’t even think of words that can express accurately how I feel about my Grandmother. Still for an independent person that doesn’t like to ask for help, it was difficult. Add to that being constantly sick and in pain. I was just a giant grump. I appreciated the help my parents gave me. Worrying about all of the financial crap while not working was very stressful. Having them ease that stress was a huge relief.

By this time, I had all but stopped talking to the twins’ birth father. He got mad at me one day when he wanted to know what I was having, and I told him I didn’t know yet (I hadn’t found out yet). He told me when I wanted to act like an adult I could call him. So I decided it was better to just not call him, ever. If he was really that interested in the pregnancy, he could make an effort, I wasn’t going to force anything on him. As hard as that was, the stress relief of not having to deal with him was also nice, and welcome. Though deep down, I wanted him to care, I wanted him to step up, I wanted him to give me a reason not to place. Still I knew it wouldn’t happen. I had been disappointed too many times by people. What would make him any different. Nothing.

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The battle of wills (part 2)

Dear Dillon, Brooke, and Ansley 

I want to start by thanking you for dinner. I had so much fun. I don’t mind that Ansley was a “pill” it was great just to see her and the two of you. I will remember and cherish that night for the rest of my life. It was so good to see how Ansley acted towards the two of you. Seeing how happy she in person, not just in pictures, only shows me just how perfect she is for the two of you. It is confirmation of the decision I made to place her with you. I am also sending copies of the pictures, I don’t mind that we used my camera and don’t even think about paying me for them!  It is the least I can do!

Sorry this letter took so long to get to you, I was visiting my family in California for 5 days and didn’t get a chance to write. But I did have fun! I got totally sunburned! I went boogie boarding and ate it so it bad, the wave just swallowed me and the water was only waist deep! But it was freezing cold! I had a great time visiting my family, it was hard to leave. Marshall is doing well; he had his operation and is now on bed rest for the next four weeks. I bought this outfit for Ansley there, my mom found it and it was too good a deal to pass up, plus it is darling! The shorts are even made from the real “board short” material that big kid shorts are made from.

I really appreciate the letter you sent me. What the two of you said means more to me than you will ever know.

I told you this before but I feel like I should say it again.  When I found out I was pregnant (the second time) I was really disappointed in myself. I had not only let my family and friends down but I let down my Heavenly Father as well. The first thing that came to mind was placing, but then I remembered how hard it was to place Ansley. I quickly brushed that thought away. Then I decided I should keep my babies. I have had a real hard time making my decision. There is so much that I want for these two little girls I am carrying. I weighed the pros and cons of both sides. The pros for placing were about as long as the cons for keeping. Yet I still had questions. That is when I started to pray. For the longest time and I still didn’t know what to do. It was like Heavenly Father forgot about answering my prayers.

I didn’t get my answer until a couple of weeks later, at work none the less. Sandra called me and told me she had just gotten off the phone with your case worker. She told her that you three got my letter and wanted me to know that you still loved me. She went on to tell Sandra that you had been praying about it and had decided you wanted to put your papers in to be able to adopt again. When I heard that, it was like a slap in the face saying, wake up Candice, you have known all along what needs to be done!

I still had my reservations. I still had one more question that I had to have answered in order for me to finally make my decision. I prayed about this question as well. I didn’t know how this question could be answered without me actually asking it. Then again I was proved wrong and received another slap in the face. This time it wasn’t a phone call, it was in a letter.

Brooke, you didn’t directly say it but you meant it. Dillon, you said it and it couldn’t have hit me harder. I started crying as soon as I read it. You said, “if you decide to place the twins with us we would be overjoyed. They would make a great addition to our family, and we would love them in our home.” You also said, “let the worry and stress leave right now.” Well it took a few more sentences but it did leave. That was the answer to the last question I had, the only thing holding me back.

I said from the beginning (to myself) that if I place, I will only place with Brooke and Dillon. I want Ansley to have half siblings; I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life trying to find them. And I definitely didn’t want to choose another couple. No other couple could measure up to the two of you, and I would constantly compare everyone to you. That wasn’t fair to other couples. Plus I don’t think there is a family more deserving than your family. That is why I am asking you three to take these two precious little angels into your family and make them a part of it. Love them like you love Ansley and teach them all the things they need to know to advance in God’s kingdom. Teach them of me and my love for them. And don’t forget to spoil them rotten!

Love always,

Candice     

P.S.  The little gift is from my Grandma! It is a little late but very heartfelt.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANSLEY!

Dillon, Brooke, and Ansley, unwitting allies in Candice’s personal battle of mind and heart. The difficult decision made.

*****

Was the decision made? Was I making the right decision? Was I going to be able to go through with it? I still battled inside every day. Even after I made the decision. I still didn’t think I would be able to do it, yet somehow I knew it is what I needed to do. I was terrified I was going to back out at the last minute, and disappoint them. Devastate them. Break their hearts. But was my heart OK to break instead? Was it OK for me to be devastated instead of them? Was it fair for them to be so happy and me so broken and empty? Only time would tell.

The battle of wills (part 1)

And it came to pass that I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against another; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people. – 1 Nephi 12:2

The battle of wills

The scriptures are replete with stories of great battles, many of which pale in comparison to the battles we wage within ourselves. These bloodless battles fought against an unseen adversary. These battles of wills, fought mind against heart.

As a child learning to walk, to talk, and to ride a bike, and then continuing throughout our lives “practice makes perfect”. If we find perfection elusive, at least we achieve a measure of improvement. For better or for worse, things do get easier with repetition. But, as the saying goes; “there are exceptions to every rule”. Placement, even the decision to place, is one glaring exception; repetition makes this far more difficult.

This time, placement was not a subject of much discussion, though Candice had told us that if she did decide to place, she would only do so with Dillon and Brooke. We thought her decision was made but Candice was secretly waging her own battle…mind against heart.

Prior to learning of her second pregnancy, inspired and emboldened by other birth mothers she knew who had such opportunities, Candice wrote to Dillon and Brooke to let them know that she would like the opportunity to meet with them and their baby, Ansley. Time passed with no response, but eventually her reply came. Their gracious offer to meet Candice for dinner at the place of her choosing for a reunion was welcome news. It also presented a problem. Candice would not be able to hide her pregnancy from them, neither did she want to. With much apprehension, she responded to their offer with another letter. She first told them of her second pregnancy, and secondly, if they were still willing, she accepted their offer to meet. With this revelation from Candice fresh in their minds, wisely, Dillon called the agency and spoke with Sandra about the situation. Brooke also called, and through the agency was able to talk to Candice directly. They too were supportive and loving, no surprise to us at all, knowing them as we now did.

Marshall by now had completed his therapy, but had shown no signs of improvement. Another visit to the doctor was scheduled but produced only more bad news. His injury would require surgery. This was scheduled for a few weeks later and was to be followed by three to four weeks of bed rest, then more physical therapy…his return to his mission now seemed to be in some jeopardy.

As Candice’s battle, mind against heart, raged on, she kept her date with Dillon, Brooke, and Ansley, scheduled, appropriately and thoughtfully, two days after Ansley’s first birthday, on the anniversary of her placement. It would prove to be much more than a dinner.

****

Telling people of my second pregnancy was extremely difficult. Maybe that was because I didn’t have to tell anyone of my first one. Actually taking ownership and doing it on my own, was not easy. When it came to telling Brooke and Dillon, I was very scared. I didn’t know what they were going to say, think or do. I didn’t want them to hate me. Their understanding and forgiveness was a welcome emotion. I was grateful for that.

At this point I still hadn’t decided if I was going to place. I knew there was no way I could take care of 1 baby let alone 2. I was still young, still selfish, and not emotionally, or financially prepared for it. But I also knew there was no way I could go through another placement. I was there, I was present for the first one. Unless I could do it without actually being there, there was no way I was capable of doing it again. And with twins. How does one garner the strength to place twins for adoption after going through it once. After knowing what happens, what emotions you feel, how heartbroken you are? It is amazing the strength you can find when you really need it. And the help all around to lift you up, not only from family and friends, but from the Lord.

The way Prepared (part 3)

Perhaps looking for a silver lining, we were encouraged to have heard such emotion in Candice’s voice and words, more in this one phone call than we saw in nine months with her first pregnancy. This was the first of many differences between this and our previous experience.

Other than her brothers, Candice did not have to tell anyone, even us, about her first pregnancy. Right or wrong, we told family, Bishops, counselors, and friends we trusted with the information. After talking to us about her second pregnancy, Candice said she wanted to tell her grandmother, and my brother and his family. Additionally, she had already called her Bishop to arrange a meeting with him at which she would begin again, and in earnest this time, her repentance process.

She wanted to tell her brothers as well, a separation of eight hundred miles made that rather difficult. Together we decided that she would write a letter to them explaining her situation, Mary and I would then gather the family together to read the letter to them.

When her letter arrived, we did as prescribed. All four sons and our daughter in law Breanne, were present. Candice’s letter was sincere, heartfelt, and personal, qualities conspicuously missing the first time. As we read her letter, and realization began to occur, dry eyes first became misty, then watery. All were affected. Emotions ranged from compassion and understanding, to anger and bitterness. We gave everyone the opportunity to voice their feelings, to vent if necessary. This was done perhaps most poignantly by Candice’s youngest brother Lucius, when, fighting to hold back his tears, he said; “she promised me this would never happen again”, then, burying his head in his lap he lost his fight against his tears. We continued to talk, to cry, and to vent until we also began to understand the circumstance and empathize. And, having achieved this understanding, we were then able to overcome the negative emotions and realize that what Candice needed now was our love and support, from that point forward, given freely by all.

Though well concealed most of the time, mom and dad too, had their share of emotions, one of which was anger, anger at times misdirected, and regrettably so, at our Father in Heaven. Again we asked why? Why did he allow this to happen? What we had yet to learn was that he allowed it to happen not to our detriment, but for our good and that as He promised in the Doctrine and Covenants, “…with the chastisement, I prepare a way for their deliverance.”

In spite of his discomfort and disappointment at having to leave his mission we were all glad to have Marshall home, his support was so helpful. Silently at first, we wondered if his accident wasn’t really an accident at all. Could he have been sent home to help us through this trial? Could he be a part at least, of our deliverance?

Candice had scheduled a visit with her doctor for what she thought would be another routine checkup. Later that day she called to inform us of the results. True to form, Candice was about to drop another bombshell. She would, in a few months, give birth to twins!

***

When I first found out I was having twins I was shocked. I thought it was a cruel joke being played on me. I had taken the morning after pill. I thought I had done everything in my power to prevent this, and come to find out, I am having twins! Little did I know, that when there is a plan in place, no matter what you try to do, it will come to fruition.

After I told that father about the pregnancy, he was angry, and didn’t believe me. I showed him the test. He tried to convince me to have an abortion. After I told him I wouldn’t, he thought about adoption (he knew about my previous one). However, he told me, if it was a boy, he wouldn’t do it. (red flag there). I didn’t completely cut him off from information, but I did limit what I told him. I didn’t tell him that I was having twins. I couldn’t at the time, I needed to protect myself. I was also getting threatening phone calls from his sister. She was saying the most hurtful, hateful things you could imagine, then would end the voice mail with something about how we could be great friends. I contacted the police, but because she didn’t directly threaten me, they couldn’t do anything. The Officer did know the father and his sister, though would never tell me how (all I know is that it was not personally).

I confronted the father, told him I didn’t appreciate the phone calls I was getting from his sister. I didn’t know her, and had no idea how she got my number. He told me he would make her stop calling me. They nearly stopped, not completely, but I was no longer getting daily calls.

Throughout this entire ordeal (and my previous pregnancy), I had the support of one dear friend who is more of a sister. Without her, I don’t know if I would have been able to make the same decisions I did. She helped me to not be a doormat. She helped me have the strength to stand up to him. To this day, she is still always there for me, always helping me to stand up for myself. And I hope that I do the same for her. Getting pregnant for a second time will really let you know who truly cares about you and who doesn’t. I have a few friendships that have withstood my trials, and some that haven’t. It makes me really sad for those friendships that couldn’t last. But I cherish those that did even more now. I don’t take them for granted. I can count on one had the friendships that did last. Some people just couldn’t forgive me. That is their choice, I can’t make them. It hurt yes, but it was probably for the better.

The way prepared (part 2)

Sandra has a list of “unhealthy boundaries” which she uses in counseling girls such as Candice (we keep a copy of it hanging on our refrigerator), they discussed this at length in their counseling sessions. At least somewhat unbeknownst to her, or perhaps known but not accepted by her, was the fact that in spite of the progress she had made, Candice was still (eight months after placement) very vulnerable. Always having been an independent, strong willed person and thinking she was in control, she did not always heed these unhealthy boundaries or recognize her vulnerability.

This was all about to change.

Mary and I had just come home when the phone rang. It was Candice, her nightly call earlier than usual, but not surprisingly so. We were surprised when she told us that Sandra was on the phone with her. Because of the hour (Sandra should have been home eating dinner by now) we knew something serious was at hand.  After a brief period of obligatory chit chat, during which Candice’s mood seemed unusually somber, her tone became tense and subdued. Now, anticipating what was coming, a moment of uneasy silence was broken by her now obviously emotional voice…Candice told us she was pregnant, again. We struggled to contain our own emotions, our hearts now figuratively on the floor, our stomach’s tied in knots. We tried to talk, but words were hard to find, for Candice and for us. Emotion still choking her voice, she told us she was afraid to tell us because she didn’t want to hurt or disappoint us again. I remember telling her, as calmly as I could, that we were hurt, and disappointed, but that didn’t change how we felt about her. We still loved her and we would support her through this pregnancy as well. Candice then made what would prove to be one of the most telling statements of her lifetime when she then said; “this time, I disappointed myself too.”

*****

I really had disappointed myself. Maybe not for the reasons I should have been disappointed. But nonetheless, I was disappointed. I was vulnerable. Deep down I knew that but wouldn’t outwardly admit it. I was also longing, longing for love, for companionship. I thought I found that. I thought this boy felt the same. He had been trying to get me to agree with having sex with him for a while now. I had stood my ground. I was not going to do it. Finally my need for love and companionship won. My brain told me that if I didn’t he wouldn’t stay with me. Healthy right? So I did. I immediately regretted my decision, and we stopped. The next day I decided to get the morning after pill “just in case”. Apparently it didn’t work. Which in hindsight was not a bad thing.

Sorry Mom and Dad. You are probably going to start getting more information that you know/want.

The way prepared (part 1)

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you. ~ D&C 95:1

The way prepared

As stated in Isaiah, His ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts our thoughts.  Though not understood by us at the time, His way, even now, was to prepare a deliverer.

Called to serve a full time mission and having done so for about four months, we were notified by his mission President that our son Marshall, was involved in a seemingly minor accident while riding his bike on his personal day. He had injured his back and would receive medical attention as needed. He continued to work as well as he could, including walking up to 12 miles a day, this proved only to aggravate his pain. When it became apparent, in spite of his efforts to work through the pain, that his condition was only getting worse, he was scheduled for an MRI to determine the severity of his injury.  The results revealed one ruptured disc and another bulging disc. Much to his dismay, about two months after the accident, it was determined that he would be sent home for further medical care after which he could return to his mission.

We (and he) wondered why, why did this happen? And, having happened, why were our prayers not answered allowing him to continue doing what he loved, what he had prepared for his entire life. In our ignorance we could not then have known that our prayers, other prayers, were being answered, in a way we would soon come to understand and for which we would be so very grateful.

After his initial examination, the doctor, a back specialist, prescribed six weeks of physical therapy and bed rest, believing that this conservative treatment would be effective in treating Marshall’s injury. We were optimistic that he would be able to return to his mission after the six weeks of treatment. As we would soon discover, this was not to be.

The Broken Heart

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. ~ Psalms 147: 3

The broken heart

  It has been said that time heals all wounds. But I believe that time alone heals no wounds. It may make them tolerable or help us to forget…It can not heal. We wondered, silently and aloud, would our broken hearts ever heal? Our wounds, be bound up?  …Oh ye of little faith. Indeed, we would be healed, but not in a way any of us could have imagined.

Immediately following the placement we met with Sandra, time for emotions to settle, for composure to be reestablished, and time for sharing. Our return home and the hours that followed, were subdued and somber, hours occupied by me with much introspective thought at least some of which was only destructive to an already broken heart. A wound can not heal if we will not allow it.

In my minds eye was a vision of the contrast between what we were now experiencing and what Dillon and Brooke were experiencing, emotions at opposite ends of the spectrum. The love, appreciation, and gratitude we felt for them, for me at least was being crowded by feelings of envy, jealousy, anger, and selfishness. Ugly, disparaging questions occupied my thoughts. Were they aware that their happiness was only possible because of our pain? Did they really appreciate the sacrifice Candice had made? And what right had I, to even consider such questions, my sacrifice minute compared to that of my daughter who did not harbor such questions.

Throughout this experience with Candice we have talked within our immediate and extended family about things she needed to learn from this trial to help her change her life. Though we have all learned many invaluable lessons, I have come to realize that she was not the only one who needed to learn from this, perhaps not even the principal target of this opportunity for education. The coming months would provide for me, confirmation of what I already knew to be true in regard to my questions and provide me with valuable lessons in my own life, perhaps the most valuable of which would be gained from my learning to partake of a large, healthy helping of humble pie.

The time for our return home, after placement, came all too soon. The days turned to weeks, then to months, hearts were softened if not healed. Candice decided after placement that she would stay and live in Utah. She got a job, an apartment, a roommate, and a car. She continued her much needed counseling with Sandra and in the group with Rachel. She was healing, outwardly at least.

When we discovered Candice’s pregnancy we encouraged her to meet with our Bishop which she did do. Though she went through the motions, mostly to placate her parents, her bitterness at that time precluded any real repentance. Still, she was making a good effort now to change, and though she couldn’t settle on a ward in which she really felt comfortable she was attending church regularly. She had made friends with a few returned missionaries, and other girls from the agency, which for the most part accounted for her social life. She called home everyday (some days several times) and our optimism for her continued progress grew into visions of one of her returned missionary friends sweeping her off her feet, temple marriage, a family of her own, and a life lived together, happily ever after.

*****

The time after placement was difficult. Maybe it was because I was prepared. I have never regretted my decision. Maybe it was because I knew I had made the right decision and was completely trusting in Brooke and Dillon to provide for Ansley what I could not. I did hate myself. Hate is a strong word, I know,  but I did. I couldn’t stand me. I felt undeserving of anyone’s love. Undeserving of the Lords love. I was going with the motions. Like the saying goes “Fake it til you make it”. I was faking it. I was in a dark place. I was still on the fence about a lot of things church related. I wasn’t ready to commit 100% to church. I still wanted to be young and free. And living in UT, I was. These were issues I never discussed with anyone. I kept them bottled up inside. Maybe that is why my store isn’t over here.