The Journey to 7.16.13: An Adoption Story

This is a guest post written by Leah Clevenger, my Aunt Lele. She is the wife of Patrick, and mother to three energetic boys, Samuel, Nathaniel, and Benjamin. I hope you enjoy her words, and her heart, as much as I did…

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As I sit here drinking my cup of coffee, my mind goes back to two years ago today. Benjamin Isaac Clevenger became forever ours, but with a lot of ups and downs. We fostered Benjamin for almost two years before he became a Clevenger. Never would I have guessed this would be the journey God had for the Clevenger’s, but WOW am I so THANKFUL!

I am reminded this does not happen without a biological mom and dad not doing well. I write today in the view of a mom, because that is what I am. :) Don’t get me wrong, I am so glad that Benjamin became ours forever, but my mind just keeps going back to his first mommy (this is what we call her). She had to make an important and hard decision about Benjamin. She knew she was not well and that she needed to do what was best for “B”.  I am forever grateful to her for making that decision; she gave us a precious gift.

Patrick and I were given the opportunity to meet “B’s” first mommy. As we sat across from her, my mind raced. I had so many thoughts and questions while trying to feel what she might be feeling, in making the decision to give her precious bundle of joy to people she had just met. My heart raced, cried, smiled… wow, so many emotions to even state. I remember thinking about how much I needed to learn about her because “B” would have questions. My mind quickly ran to deeper thoughts. Does she know Jesus?, I wondered. Does she know that He loves her with an everlasting LOVE, a love that is more than she could ever think or imagine? Does she realize this hurt and pain she has can only be take away by Jesus, as He fills the void inside her? I hope she understands where she has gone wrong and chooses not to walk this road again. Like I said, there were so many emotions wrapped up into one word: LOVE. Love for a little boy that I did not birth and love for his first mommy.

At that first meeting, we were able to tell her about the LOVE of Jesus, and that we want to see her get her life turned around.

Benjamin had a different name at birth. Patrick and I wanted to rename him “Benjamin” when we adopted him. but I was going back and forth with it. I did not want to disrespect her in anyway and I wondered how “B” would handle it in the future. This turned out to be just one of the ways God worked in this journey. When we were meeting with her, she brought up his name. Patrick asked her if she knew the meaning of his name. She said that she did not and so he went on to tell her what it meant, and that we would love to rename him. He explained to her that we did not want to disrespect her or her family. She looked right into my eyes and said, “Change his name. It’s okay with me.”  I remember that like it was yesterday.

One thing that stuck out to me while meeting her was her breakfast. It was around 8AM and she was eating a hamburger, dipping it into a pile of ketchup–and when I say a pile, I mean it was a huge old pile! She loved ketchup. Benjamin loves ketchup. He dips everything in ketchup. I love this because I am able to tell him, “Your first mommy loved ketchup, just like you!” I would never have known this if Patrick and I did not agree to meet her. I am so grateful for that day, so grateful that she wanted to meet us. Some people may think this is so small or crazy, but to us it is HUGE that we know his first mommy loved ketchup!

When we got up to leave, I did not know what I should do. But I decided I would not hold back from what I wanted to do, because I didn’t know if I would ever see her again. I hugged her with tears streaming down my face and told her that I would love him like my own and that we would take good care of him.

This is only a small part of the journey for the Clevenger’s. I say Clevenger’s because it is a journey for our whole family–a journey we would not change. We have learned so much and are still learning, things like what family really is, what true friendship is…  LOVE when it hurts! We are looking forward to the rest of the journey and what God has for us. Spirit lead us where our trust is without borders. Let us walk upon the waters, wherever You would call us. Take us deeper than our feet could ever wander, and our faith will be made stronger in the presence of our Savior.

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Benjamin’s first mommy is no longer with us; she passed away four months ago. All those emotions came roaring back and it’s like a piece of me is gone.

Patrick and I were able to be with her before she passed. I was able to hold her hand, not knowing if she could hear me but believing she could. I thanked her for the gift she gave us, and told her I was forever grateful to her. Patrick was able to share Jesus with her again. We never know what takes place in the heart of a person!

We are so grateful to her family, for letting us come into their lives so we could be with her and with them during this difficult time. We give thanks to Jesus for giving us the opportunity to share his story with them and show them His LOVE. Through spending time with them, we were able to hear more stories about Benjamin’s first mommy. They told us that she would talk about Benjamin and that she knew she did the right thing in giving him to us. She would say, “He fits so perfectly with them. They are so nice and will give him a great life. It’s like I had him just for them.”

Since we had Benjamin, we were only with his first mommy twice, but this does not mean she was out of our lives. We prayed for her every night, asking Jesus to watch over her, protection her and send people into her life that would share the LOVE of Jesus with her. We asked that she would surrender to His LOVE, and that we would see her in heaven one day. We don’t know if she did surrender to Him and that makes my heart hurt so bad.

During the funeral, a cousin spoke and told a story about her. She would run around, come up to you laughing the laugh that she did best, and then run away. Patrick and I looked at each other with tears running down our cheeks and said, “That’s ‘B’!” We smiled, and realized we had been given yet another little nugget to share with our Benjamin about his first mommy.

As I watch Benjamin, my mind wanders to all the things that she is missing. And yet I am grateful that I get to be in his life. I stop and wonder if he has her toes, her smile, laugh, energy…  :)  And this makes my heart smile….. Why, you might ask? Because that is his first mommy.

We are blessed beyond belief, and so thankful that we said “YES,” when we received that phone call to foster him in 2011. Not knowing what the journey would hold whether we would adopt or just foster him. Not ever dreaming that we would sit down with his 1st mommy. Not ever imaging that Patrick would be asked to do her funeral. If we were asked to do it all over again, the answer would be “YES!” a million times over.

Thank You, first mommy, for giving us joy, chaos, smiles, tears, belly laughter, and the famous saying, “Where’s B?”!!  We love you and are forever grateful.

Benjamin Isaac Clevenger, we are so glad that you are our son. Isaac means laughter and you bring us so much laughter. We love you and could not imagine our world without you. Always remember the scripture God gave us for you:

“O Lord, You alone are my hope.  I’ve trusted You, O Lord, from childhood. Yes, You have been with me from birth from my mother’s womb You have cared for me.  No wonder I am always praising You. My life is an example to many, because You have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising You; I declare Your glory all day long.”  Psalms 71:5-8

Much LOVE,

Daddy, Mommy, Samuel & Nathaniel

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The World Wanderer

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I used to think I was something in this world.

I was the Bible scholar (due to my being the pastor’s kid, I think), the believer, the one who knew herself and what she wanted too. Now I know that I’m just a wanderer upon the face of the earth. Much like everyone else, I presume.

Sometimes the reactions of photosynthesis, of which there are many, are easier to understand than myself. And to me, this is unsettling. I become frustrated and anxious when I cannot understand who I am. Consequently, my fears begin mounting. How can I comprehend the intricacies of creation when I cannot grasp the complexities contained within? I do not need to understand the world. But I want to do so, just as I want to know who I am–who I am created to be! In addition, I want to know what my tomorrow will look like–and how I will react to it. But I allude myself as the future alludes me. I cannot be fully known, nor can I fully know what lies ahead, with any nervous system understood by man. It takes a Superhuman and his brain to understand any human. And he always knows, which is both comforting and alarming.

We are human.

We are finitely infinite; only God sees every particle of who we are. From the hairs on our physical head to the scars on our emotional heart, he knows us. The most staggering thing is not that we are completely known, but that we are unconditionally loved. Would you love yourself if you could see everything God sees, from the perspective that God sees it? I do not think that I could love myself after a bitter taste of reality like that.

My doubts about myself and fear of tomorrow have left me somewhat empty. However, over the past year, I have found that God is faithful. He makes many promises, but he is faithful to keep them all. He does say he loves unconditionally, that he always gives grace, that he continually extends forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning and he will never leave or forsake me. I really don’t need to know myself or see the future so long as I have faith.

It was said of Abraham, the Father of Israel, God’s chosen people, that “he went without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) This statement leaves me breathless, every time I read it. It’s worth repeating: “He went without knowing where he was going.” I think Abraham went–physically stood up and moved from his home–not because he knew or was confident in himself. And obviously he did not go because he clearly saw the way. Rather, he went because he trusted God, the faithful promise keeper.

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I wander through the world.