Sunday, January 02, 2022

The Elephant in the Room

Allie Joy and Anastacia Joy (Stacia) continue to explore things they enjoy doing together. Running doesn't seem to be a winner, painting has potential... Allie has been with us for nearly eleven months. 

We certainly never looked to be Bonus Parents in 2021. When Allie moved in, we expected her to be with us a few weeks or months. I think we all guarded our hearts in the beginning. As time goes on, we've decided to live out our family vision to love courageously, and we will deal with goodbyes when/if the time comes. The joy and love of connecting will outweigh the pain of goodbye - it always has before. We've never regretted connecting deeply with others - even knowing a goodbye may be in the future.  

For now, we love. Allie blesses our family in many tangible and intangible ways.  Stacia loves having a "seester" to share her room, Allie moved in February 15, 2021, just a few months before Krista's wedding.  The grands find it great fun to have a new Auntie.  Together, the girls have the courage to conquer social awkwardness and have started organizing youth group social gatherings. Together, they've battled anxiety and are both becoming beautiful young ladies.  It has blessed our hearts to see the elder Gherkins unquestioningly embrace Allie. 

Moving in with a multi-generational family like ours can be daunting. Allie has done so with courage and a determination to move towards what God has for her life. Her drive to catch up in school has given all of us new zeal for home education.  Her courage to continue moving forward, forgiving, loving, healing has inspired us all.  She is a young woman of integrity. Many I've known in 30+ years of ministry wear injustice as a badge and share their grievances far and wide.  Allie doesn't because she has a vibrant relationship with her heavenly Father and seeks to please Him even with her pain.  Allie is quite simply precious to us, not because of a single thing she does, but because of who our loving God created her to be. 

We are aware we bless Allie. What people don't seem to grasp is Allie blesses our lives.  Loving her is not noble, it's not an outreach project or missional ministry. Loving Allie is a response to God unexpectedly placing her in our family through a phone call one Saturday morning in February. We have no idea how long Allie will be in our home, we KNOW she will always be a part of our family. We have given her our hearts; she has trusted us with hers. 

Our family vision - "Love God Wholeheartedly, Love Others Deeply," in other words Love Courageously. It's been our vision as a young family, through our military ministry, into civilian ministry, and God simply put us into a new classroom in 2021.  It's been a blessing to see how well our Gherkins, both young and old, have caught the vision to love courageously. 

This spring when Allie began showing up on the blog many of you assumed she was "just" Stacia's friend. You have seen her at weddings, around campfires, learning to drive, at lakes and dip-netting. It was a fair assumption; one we were happy with as we thought she would be with us short-term.  We barely knew Allie - I'd say we were acquaintances. By fall, many were asking questions for which we simply didn't know the answers, nor did we know how to address the questions. This was part of the reason we quit blogging for a few months. For those who have been concerned we have put ourselves in legal danger - thanks for your loving concern. We did not coerce or "rescue" a child. We agreed to welcome a young lady (16 at the time) into our home when her mother called and asked us to do so.  We have not kept her here against anyone's will. We have had several sessions with a lawyer to make sure we are not doing anything illegal. We seek to honor the legal rights of all involved parties. 

We have been reluctant to share much of our recent family life, but it's time to live unapologetically. Our goal is not to hurt anyone - but this is our life. This is what it looks like in this season. Yes, you have noticed correctly, our family has grown this year.  I noted as I published the fall months that Allie is HERE, and I can't post without posting Allie. As with any of our children, you can be assured she will approve what I say about her and/or her situation. She has also been given FAIR warning - "Smile when the camera comes out because if you look goofy in the only photo - it's fair game to post." ::snort:: In other words, we've discussed the blog thing with her, and how we handle it safely. 

This is Allie's story. She will decide how, when, and where she shares her story. If you are local and have questions beyond this, ask Allie. Of course, she has the freedom to decide if you are invested in her life and need answers or if you are simply curious and she would rather not provide details. I've watched her navigate this maze with wisdom and grace.  If you've not had a personal talk with Allie in 5 years (or ever), you are probably not invested in her life. 

This is my attempt to explain how Allie's story intersects our story, and how it has produced blessing to both her story line and ours. 

This post started to be about two young ladies working together on a painting. As I observed them each painting the numbers on their side, staying in the spaces mapped out for them before they began to paint, contributing their part to what turned out to be a beautiful painting, this post wrote itself. Michael has encouraged us often this year to "keep the big picture in sight" and "play for the big picture."  The purpose of this post is not to share every detail of Allie's life or every detail of why she is living with us. The purpose of this post is to address the elephant in the room. The photos illustrate what has been happening on a larger scale with Allie and us. We are painting in our spaces; others are painting in their spaces, and we believe God is going to make something beautiful from all these strokes within the spaces where we each paint.  As I began to back publish blogs, we began to receive even more private messages. 

"Who is Allie, why is she living with you, how can we pray?" 

"What a blessing you are in Allie's life."

And most recently, "Why are you consenting for surgery?"

Allie is a young woman for whom we were asked to provide a home. We have.  

You can pray Jesus uses this situation for His purposes. Isn't it true His working doesn't always look as we expect it to look? 

I consented for surgery as her parents had the foresight to give us a medical consent ten and half months ago. We contacted her parents when we were aware this would be more than a routine doctor visit. 

 Yes, we are humbled to be called to love and bless Allie, but it is also true she loves and blesses us daily. Allie is not a project, she's a young woman we love.  We are playing for the big picture. 

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