Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Love of a Child

This blog is the place we share our stories, but specifically the story of how God brought Zach and I together in such a unique and profound way. Prior to meeting Zach and getting married, I prayed for many things, but one request in particular was for a good story. I wanted not just any ordinary husband or marriage, but a love story so special and out of the ordinary. I promised God that if he blessed me with one, I'd always share it to encourage others on their journey through life and relationships.

Now, years later, I find myself doing exactly that. I am humbled to see how many people - friends and strangers, have come to be encouraged and have their own personal faith strengthened through God's faithfulness in our life. It recently occurred to me though that this incredible story of God's provision doesn't stop with me and Z. It includes Allie. I've always known this, but only recently have I stepped back to examine all step-motherhood has taught me and how much God has shown his passionate and personal love for us through our Allie.

For those of you who don't know, I have the most incredible 11 year old stepdaughter named Allie. I never dreamed of having a stepchild, but I could not be more blessed through having her in my life. I am so grateful that we have such a strong relationship and have so much in common. For those of you who have met Al, you know she is special. Thoughtful, mature, honest, spunky, spiritual, and so much more. She has always embraced me as a mother, always wanting to spend time with me and even encouraging me to discipline her. She has literally uttered the words, "Shelly... you're my mom... you can tell me what to do." HA! I've always been thankful for the love she extends to me, but only recently did I realize the magnitude of this.

One of Zach's friends who is also a stepparent shared that it's a unique bond between a stepparent and stepchild because they don't have to embrace you or love you back. It's different than a "real parent." They don't have to welcome you into their life and want to share things with you, do things with you, etc. When they do - when they want you to tuck them in at night, when they want to run errands with you, or cook with you by their own choosing because they genuinely love you and except you as a mom or dad is... humbling and incredibly moving.

I can't help but think, "That must be how God feels when we choose him...when we choose to be apart of his family and want to love him back, want to obey him, etc." This point-of-view has given me such a fuller perspective of what it means to be adopted into God's family and how he must feel when we want to spend time with him and share the news of his son Jesus with others.

I wish I had the time to tell you all the ways God has used Allie to bless me, strengthen my faith, test my faith, and show me how fiercely God loves us and that His plan is sovereign and good. When Zach and I were considering moving to Charlotte I was initially very resistant. We had spent the last 10 months 11 hours away from Allie and 1.5 hours from the nearest airport. It was excruciating and moving to Charlotte (in my mind) didn't do us any favors. We needed to be close to Allie to be an active part of her life and lessen the stress in ours. I prayed and prayed and prayed... and then prayed some more for God to make a way... make a way for Allie. I can remember just reciting those words over and over as the stress of our circumstances loomed over me.

Before we moved to Florida (in February of 2010) and before we moved to Charlotte (in January of 2011), we had opportunities near Allie in Alabama. Both times, as we prayed for God to open the right doors, those opportunities dissolved before our very eyes. It was frustrating and we didn't understand, but we knew God had a plan and that we should trust it.

Now a year later, I see how deliberately and perfectly God answered my prayers in ways I never expected. He brought us to Charlotte, but in doing so, created a life for Allie beyond my wildest prayers and dreams for her. By providing me a job in children's ministry and opportunity to use my gifts, he provided Allie with great friends (the kids of my co-workers), great families (all the staff families who love her dearly and want to spend time with her), and a way to be an active part of our days when she is with us.

If I had taken any other job (like doing commercial design again or visual display at Anthro) I wouldn't be able to take her with me to work (which is seriously her favorite place in the world!), a place she can create and play and dream. I wouldn't have a flexible schedule that allows me to sometimes work from home. If God didn't provide us a house within walking distance to the church, I wouldn't be able to easily bring her home for lunch or to play and watch a movie.

It is so unbelievable how God has not only "made a way" for Allie, but made an incredibly full, happy, and thriving life for her here in Charlotte. And oh yeah... we now live 15 minutes from an airport with a direct flight to Huntsville. :) In looking back at those two dissolved opportunities, they were such a huge blessing in our life. I feel like God allowed those doors to be opened and then closed merely to tell us "You don't have to live in her backyard for this to work. I have a plan for Allie and it's not based on you living in Alabama or Tennessee. I got this."

We are so beyond thankful and humbled by God's faithfulness to us and to her. Seeing all the pieces come together - for Zach, Allie, and me is such a huge testimony of God's love. God loves his kids!!! Never doubt it for a second. He knows us so intimately and how to really fulfill the desires of our heart.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans for a hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

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