Saturday, February 26, 2011

Long Distance Love

Zach and I are longing to see Allie and have her with us in Charlotte.  For six months we have been working on a new solution to get more quality time with her throughout the year. It has been very challenging, but God is answering our prayers and providing ways for Allie to be with us more regularly and for larger chunks of time. Here are a few cool examples of His provision...
  1. God brought us to Charlotte, a city with a major international airport. 
  2. God provided a house less than 15 minutes away from the airport. (While in Florida we would drive 90 minutes each way to and from the airport.)
  3. Since Charlotte is the hub for US Airways, we have numerous direct flights to Huntsville throughout the day. (Previously it was very difficult to fly direct since Huntsville is such a small airport. This is a huge blessing! Now we have more flight options that do not conflict with school and abide by our legal schedule.)
  4. US Airways has a much more accommodating unaccompanied minor policy than other airlines. This allows us the flexibility we need to get Allie here quickly and safely.
  5. Since we shaved 3.5 hours off our driving distance from Allie, the flight time is shorter as well.
  6. Zach's mom, who lives 40 minutes away from Allie, is willing and able to help transport Allie to and from the airport as well as be her UM escort through the airport. We are so thankful for Cindy and all the tremendous ways she has helped Zach care for Allie over the years. 
  7. God has also provided a fantastic attorney who is well-versed in family law and is very passionate about helping us enforce the visitation schedule and resolve the existing challenges. 
Thank you Jesus! We are so thankful that He knows our hearts, Allie's needs, and the right way for this all to pan out. In this circumstance, we are also grateful for the governing authorities and the laws everyone involved must adhere to. I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but this situation has definitely tested our patience, our character, and our willingness to put our own plans aside and trust God to handle it all. Allie has been entrusted to us by God, but she belongs to Him, no one else. We must always remember that and trust His timing in this.

Even though it is extremely painful to be away from your child for any length of time, I have been so inspired by Zach and how he has handled this situation biblically and maturely. He definitely has Jesus in his heart (that I know for sure) and is extremely passionate about not only being an awesome dad, but a strong spiritual role model for Al.  It's his job, no one else's, and he takes that very seriously. I wish I had the time to tell you all the ridiculous ways Zach has sacrificed for Allie, poured into her, and given everything he has physically, monetarily, and emotionally just to be with her over the years. All you need to know is that he is an incredible father and I am completely honored to parent beside him.

Anyways, this is the first time in my life I have really had an up close and personal experience with a child of divorce and it is definitely challenging. Allie is an amazing child, but I can't imagine how odd it must be to have two families and be raised by two very different sets of parents. To have two homes, two bedrooms, two wardrobes, etc. She also has (soon to be) 4 half-siblings with her mother whereas she is our only child. There are a lot of big differences. Fortunately for her, Allie was still a toddler when Zach was divorced so she does not have memories of a different arrangement or preconceived familial expectations. She adores our family time together and has fully embraced me as her stepmom since day one. Please let me tell you what a huge blessing it is to have an amazing relationship with your stepchild. It's stupid amazing and I know not everyone in my situation is blessed with that.

Even though we are not blood-related, I feel as though she is also my daughter since we have so much in common and communicate so well. I love her so crazy much and am hugely humbled and honored she loves me. From what I've been told, Allie prayed for me for a long time, for someone to come into Zach's life. I cannot tell you how overwhelming and mindblowing it is to be the answer to a precious child's prayer. Words cannot express her tender, sweet spirit and just... all the priceless times she has sat there with bright tearful eyes telling me she's so happy I'm in her life. Seriously?! I am blessed.

So this "part-time parenting" and time away from Allie leaves us looking for creative ways to make her feel a part of our life all the time even if she isn't here. We never want her to doubt that she is a huge part of our life and we want her to know we talk about her constantly and will forever love her unconditionally. Zach calls her everyday (and has for many years since the divorce), but this month we wanted to do something more special since so much has changed in our life. We decided to put together a really creative care package of various items that would be fun, engaging, artistic, delicious, and give her a little taste of her new life in Charlotte. It's just as much a new life for her as it is for us and we want her to be able to experience it as much as possible, even remotely.

Here's a glimpse into Allie's care package...

1. Allie's Adventures photo book
Since it is pretty impractical to send Allie a bunch of loose photos, we made her a book of last year so she can remember all our fun times together and many adventures. It's 58 pages of photos and fun stories. My goal is to make one of these for her each year so when she is older she can visually remember a lot of big and small details from her childhood.

2. Blog posts
Allie doesn't get online much, but we wanted her to see all we've been up to since moving to Charlotte. We are sending copies of our posts from this blog so she can read up and see things like the idea images of her new room!

3. Letters
Zach and I each wrote her a personal letter.

4. New room sample bag
We wanted her to get a taste of what her new room will be like in Charlotte so I am sending a bunch of materials, colors, and textures for her to experience. She's gonna go nuts over this bedroom! :)

Bag full of samples...

New room samples...

5. Musical Notes game
We made up a secret message game using musical notes. Using the alphabetical key and sheet music, Allie will discover a hidden message from us!

6. Yogurt shop drawings
We are sending Allie the existing drawings we've done of her yogurt shop so she can work on it remotely and send me her revisions! :)

7. Did you know? biblical truth blurb
Since Allie loves to build tents, we also are including a little biblical truth blurb about Paul as a tentmaker in Corinth. See Acts 18 for the reference!

8. Treats, of course :)
We are also sending two oranges my parents sent from Florida as well as chocolate-covered oreos I made for her. The oreos were a special treat we would get from a chocolate factory near our Florida house. That girl loves chocolate!

We love Allie so much and are anxious to get our new schedule underway. Please pray for us, but especially Allie, as these new transitions begin to occur.

See you soon Allie girl! We love you!

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