Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gracious Giving

I have felt a need to write about something for a long time, and yet have been unable to find the words to do so. Many of you know part of our story, and many of you have joined our blog later down the road after certain posts have been pulled and explanations of activities have been purposely left vague and fuzzy. As all of you know by now, we are in the middle of the process to adopt two more children. At this time I am not free to share the details and will do so at a later time when it is "safe" and at that time I will also re-post the old posts which also help explain how this all came to be, when we initially thought Kenny would be our 3rd and last child.

We are a blessed family, of that I am certain. We are blessed to have found one another, blessed to have been taken care of by God in so many ways, blessed to have some very special people walking through our lives. But we are not "special". The LaJoy family is very, very ordinary. There is no one who knows us in "real life" who would ever say we are anything other than average.

And yet somehow, despite being very average and ordinary, something very special has happened to us which has allowed us to move forward with this adoption. Someone made a choice to reach out to us and offer us the opportunity to become parents one last time. They wanted to partner with us to make it financially feasible to help two children find their forever home. We couldn't do it ourselves. I guarantee you we would have done everything within our power to try to make it happen, but the fact is it would have broken us financially to pursue it. We had even seriously discussed the possibility of selling our home, this meant that much to us and would it have been able to raise the needed funds, we would have done it without question.

But there was so much more to this than a monetary gift. This was God deciding to teach us about the keys to gracious giving. It was not easy for us to accept a gift of this scale. It is a very humbling experience, it makes you examine your heart to see if it is pure. Believe me when I say that it really is far better to give than receive.

Were it not for the graciousness of the giver, I don't know if we could have accepted this even though the end result of bringing our two children home was our greatest dream. This generous offer had the potential to change our life and the lives of two wonderful kids, and yet it also could have proven to be one of our worst decisions ever to accept it. We could find ourselves walking away feeling forever indebted, or perhaps having lost a sense of who we were. It had the potential of leaving us feeling like "takers", something we have worked hard in our life to avoid becoming.

We have learned so much through this experience thus far, and I know we have much more to learn as we continue to progress through the process in the coming months, and much of what we are learning has nothing to do with adoption at all. I'd like to share some of what we have learned thus far...

1) To be a Gracious Giver can be as much of a challenge as accepting the gift. It can be hard to approach someone you'd like to help and leave them with their dignity intact. When the gift is quite large, it makes this even harder.

2) Being a Gracious Giver is about far more than the gift itself. The money was a means to an end, but the gift was far greater than that. Our Adoption Angel, as I have called this person, has offered support, prayer, encouraging cards and emails, little gifts to lift us up when we have been feeling overwhelmed, and has let us know that we are not alone in this. Having someone to walk through this with us as we have experienced the roller coaster ups and downs has meant so much, it has lifted us up when we have low and been wonderful to have someone to rejoice with when things are going well. Although the financial gift is making it possible, the emotional gift is worth its weight in gold. We feel we have been given someones heart as well as the means to make something possible that was previously impossible.

3) Give the gift without reservation, give it with no strings. If you feel confident enough to give the gift to someone in the first place, then be confident enough to trust them with it. We can not believe the level of trust placed in us with this extraordinary gift. Although we have offered it, we have not been asked to account for it. We have been encouraged to do with it what we need to do. We have been asked no questions, we have not been made to feel for one moment as if anyone is worried we will squander it or use it incorrectly. 100% trust has been placed in our judgment.

4) As the receiver of a gift given with such trust, it is up to us to show even greater responsibility for it without being overseen. We are aware ourselves that we are our own "overseer". We prayerfully consider every move, we are careful to account for all expenses as incurred, we realize the potential for abuse exists when there is no accounting, and we want to express our gratitude in the ways we can...and one of those ways is with complete honesty and reassurance that the gift is being used wisely, to the best of our ability.

5) God's people can do things well beyond their imagination if they pool their resources. This was a harder one for me to accept personally...that my "resource" was my energy, love and determination...and that those resources also had value. I felt that if I didn't have the finances to bring our children home, then I had nothing to offer to this venture. I was made to see that I have "gifts" to offer as well, that they come in a different package than money might, but that they are valuable as well. Grouping those gifts together can bring about change in the lives of others, it can literally change the world, at least for two little people it will. I am filled with gratitude that our Adoption Angel was gracious enough to point this out to me. Where their gift will end, ours will then begin in the loving and care taking for 2 precious little people.

6) God is with us, always. Yea, I know...I already knew that...but I have felt it in ways I never imagined through this. I have learned to see and hear Him everywhere, and perhaps that has been the greatest gift of this experience as I will carry that with me the rest of my life. I "get it" in a way that I never have before, and it is in large part due to the Gracious Giving of someone.

7) Believe that Miracles do happen. There is no doubt that we are walking smack dab in the middle of a God Sized Miracle. It has been the single most unexpected and humbling experience in either Dominick's or my life. The miracle is not just the finances either, although of course that is huge. It is the fact that other factors worked to free our kids, that something we had been told would NEVER happen indeed happened. Our God is HUGE, my friends, He really is. That whole "moving mountains" statement is true, as He has done exactly this to reveal His Power in our lives. I can only hope that we have done a good job of sharing that with others, that they are seeing Him in all we do right now. Honestly, it blows our mind.

8) There is a time when pride needs to step aside to let those big things happen. I will never forget Dominick's tears when we realized this was all "for real" and he laid his head down on our kitchen table and said essentially "I surrender...I know now that what you have felt all along is real and I am 100% on board and am overjoyed.". Putting your pride aside allows God to work, and it is sometimes very difficult to do...and yet very necessary.

9) Sadly, this far into our unique journey we have also learned that not everyone will rejoice with you. Some will judge you, some will give voice to their anger over what someone has elected to do for you. Some will call you hurtful names and will make assumptions because you prefer to keep certain things private that might exhonerate you in their eyes.

10) You can not always give back in equal portion. I personally have struggled with this as I feel we are being given far more than we can ever repay in any way. Individually and as a family we do what we can to help others, to try to lessen burdens for others in ways which we can. We offer our meager portion in terms of time and talent...and yes, money when we can. But how in the world can we EVER show thanks and repay what we are being given right now, what our future children will have been given in terms of opportunity and love? The answer is that we simply can't. BUT...and this is what I have been repeatedly reminded of, we CAN give all that we have to give and give it freely as our gift has been given to us. We can offer ourselves up for service, we can take care of others, we can give of our time and our hearts. If we give all that we have, than we have done enough. We all have different sized portions, it is how we spread around what we have that is important. Maybe I am finally getting that.

We have been shown so much kindness the past couple of years, we have had people reach out to our family and offer love, warm thoughts, clothing donations, babysitting time as we handle much of our adoption related work. We had a very special day at Disneyland thanks to a couple of wonderful folks. Can I repay these people individually? No, but I sure wish I could. But can I pass on our clothes to someone else? Can I watch someone elses kids? Can I lend a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen? Can I help pay a child's fee for an activity when his or her family may not be able to afford it? Yes...those things we can do and try to do on a daily basis. Can I offer my time to others? Can I show them I care? Can I work with kids whose parents may have to be at their jobs? Yes, that I can do. We may not have the financial resources to do some tremendous thing for someone, as has been done for us. But what I have to offer is also all I have to give, Dominick and I try to give as much of ourselves as we can to others. Is it an equal portion? No, we know it is not. But we hope that God accepts our offering and knows we are giving all we have to give to Him and to others.

I was reminded of the value of the gift of time myself this weekend when unexpectedly someone made an offer to us of the gift of their time. With what will likely be the "Winter to Remember" ahead of us as we look forward to surgery for Kenny, adoption paperwork and travel arrangements to be made, as well as possible adoption travel during our ski season when we are beyond busy anyway, someone offered to train to be a "back up" for us at work. Knowing that someone had taken the time to even think about our family and what might be happening, that they cared enough to have given us more than a passing thought in the first place was so touching. Sometimes, when you are in the midst of a storm, you know you need help or might need it eventually, but you don't even know what to ask for or how to ask for it. There had been a lot of thought given to how to help us, and a desire to do something that would really help us feel supported and encouraged. This will give us a peace of mind that is worth a lot more than an expensive gift. And suddenly, as I walked away from this conversation feeling all warm and fuzzy, I recognized that my gifts to others might do the same thing for them...even if they appear to the outside to be less than glorious or breathtaking, the little things we ALL do matter a great deal. There is no gift from the heart that is not worthwhile, and maybe I can eventually put to rest the notion that the ways in which we can give or not worthy.

When all of this first started coming together, I never could have imagined the impact it would have on our lives. I never could have foreseen just how much growing I would do this year, how much I would learn from certain very special people. At moments it feels like I am back in grade school, and I am learning how to read, and everything is starting to gel for a full understanding of how it all works. Instead of learning how to read though, I am learning how to give. It's better than any university lesson I might ever be taught!

5 comments:

Heather Brandt said...

I enjoyed this posting so much! I needed to be reminded today that our God is a God of miracles. Thanks so much for sharing the story of how God is providing for your family and your reflections on giving to others.

God bless,

Heather

Anonymous said...

Cindy,
You talk about not being able to repay in equal portion and I have to disagree! :) When you raise these children with kind and giving hearts and show them how to be loving and giving you are paying back in ways so much more valuable than money.
It will be your children and their children who are raised with the same spirit who will make this world a better place. Not much better payment than that!!
Let us know when you are getting closer. I am living in the land of shopping and have walked by a bunch of fru fru girly stuff that you would just LOVE :)
Kim in Seoul

Sunflower and Daisy said...

Hello Cindy,

Your posting left me in tears, we're going through a difficult phase and sometimes it's good to be reminded that there is someone out there looking out for ALL of us.

Blessings,
Teresa

Lenore Ryan said...

So beautifully written, this gives us all a window into your lives. Such an amazing family you have now and will be adding to! I feel so honored that you are sharing this all with us....thank you so much!!

Cindy LaJoy said...

Lenore,

Thanks for the comment! You are one of the few people who read the blog and know us in "real life" as well. I am glad you found us here in the virtual world. I hope you still like us as you get to know us better through the blog! hahaha!

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