It’s Sunday morning on Mothers Day.  I should be using my ticket to sleep in because I know I could do that.  Instead the house is all still asleep and I am awake thinking about today, about being a mother.  One of the most amazing roles I’ve ever been given.  Thinking too the first time ever about a mother I will never meet, the mother that gave my son life.

I was asked to write an article this month for Belle Magazine.  I was so thankful for the opportunity.  Since May was mothers day month I was asked to write about Frankie and mothers day and his journey to our family and me becoming his mom.  As I started putting it down on paper I began to see all the dots of brokennes and beauty in my own life weaving together as our journey lead to each other.  It was hard for me to be really honest about my past brokennes because some of it was my own doing and then since my high school years and partially due to Facebook I’ve been able to reconnect with some past relationships and have been so blessed by new friendships that have come from them.  But I wanted to tell my story of becoming Frankie’s mom because I think there is power behind it.  When you hit rough spots in life and can’t even begin to understand what they may be about, I believe there is always a reason because God is weaving the all threads of our life together for His good.  I hope you enjoy and maybe learn something about me today that you never knew.

The Scent of a Mother’s Love:

I just pulled the box off the top shelf of my son’s closet.  I love opening his box of special things and looking through them from time to time. This box holds so many special memories. I see the pair of clothes that he was wearing the day we picked him up from the airport in Orlando. They were the only belongings he brought with him to the United States after the7.0 earthquake hit Port Au Prince, Haiti, on January 12,2010. 

And then of course there is the worn pink plastic bag. I brought this back with me from the first visit I took to see our son. The bag has such special meaning to me because it was from Frankie’s birth mother. She knew she was dying, and so she prepared a bag for her week-old son. It was packed with care. There are some clothing items and some baby powder. There’s a brush and comb still in its packaging. And then there’s the thing that grabs me the most – a bottle of her used perfume. I was told this was a token to her son so he would always remember the way she smelled. I smile and think of the meaning behind this perfume as I spray a bit of it in the air and walk through the sweet gentle mist. It’s the scent of a mother’s love. And this scent helps me reflect on the journey that brought Frankie into our lives.

In the summer of 1993, I was 17 years old and had just finished my junior year of high school. The past few years had been hell as I often found myself alone as I walked the halls of my high school. I was a pastor’s kid in a small town in upstate New York who faced lots of peer struggles and friendship issues. During my high school years, I was someone who both made some bad choices while also trying to follow God’s heart the best I knew how. I made a mess of things so many times. I think we all can relate to that struggle.  In the midst of trying to find the balance of how to live life, I faced a massive attack of rejection from girls who had once been dear friends. Some of it was deserved and some of it was just the reality of girls being mean to each other.  Regardless, it brought a pain that pierced deeply. It was ugly. Someone spray-painted the bridge in our town with my name and words that should not be spoken. I saw the key marks on my car every time I went to open my door. From the prank calls to the eggs being thrown on the house, there was no hiding the brutality or the toll that hatred from these high school girls brought.

In the midst of some of my darkest moments, as I thought about transferring schools for my senior year, my father said something that I still remember: “Kim, it’s about time you stop thinking about all this stuff that has happened to you and start thinking about other people.” Other people? After all that had happened to me, I wanted justice and compassion of my own. And then he continued. “The church is sending that missions team to Haiti in a few months, and I think it would be a wonderful idea for you to go.” I had not thought about taking a missions trip before, but the idea brought some hope to my dismal, lonely summer. I agreed and planned to go. This was my first visit to Haiti, the country where our son was born.

My first trip to Haiti changed my life forever. I saw things that I never knew existed world – real hunger, real need, real problems. But in the midst of all the brokenness I was amazed at the beautiful people, their strong will to survive, and the beauty that shone through. I served my heart out that week as God worked to change it. I saw God differently that week and began to understand Him more and the big world He created. I came back to my little town and my little school in my little world and realized how selfish I had been. My biggest problem was rejection, but how could I complain when I had a home, food and life abundant? I left Haiti in 1993, and when I did I took a piece of Haiti with me. I swore one day to return.

Two years ago I did. I had always wanted to go back to Haiti, but life had been full – college, marriage, careers, and children. We had just celebrated the first birthday of our youngest daughter Izzie. Her name means laughter.  She got her named because of the joy she brought us after our battle of infertility that followed the birth of our older daughter Emma. We spent three years trying to grow our family with no luck. We had just finished our last round of infertility treatment, and we got the news that doctors could do nothing more to help us unless we wanted to invest large sums of money into other options. I had always had the heart to adopt, so as much as that infertility news was devastating, it also brought a strange peace because I knew it meant that a new journey was around the corner. We contacted an adoption lawyer in Spartanburg, SC and set up an appointment to meet, but two weeks later, in a shock to everyone, I found out I was pregnant. The doctors still can’t explain how it happened. It was a miracle. Nine months later, Izzie “ our laughter” was born.

Our journey with infertility birthed a desire for adoption in our family that did not go away even after we were blessed with a miracle. I had an unexpected opportunity to go back to Haiti in May 2008, and my husband, Dave, encouraged me to go. It was amazing to go back and serve the country that had stolen my heart so many years ago as a 32-year old mother of two. While there, we saw many ministries in action, and my heart beat for the many orphaned children I saw. 

Dave was in trouble when I got home. There was no doubt of what would happen next. We had room in our family to love more children. It was pretty clear to us that we wanted to adopt an orphan from Haiti. I had encountered a great organization called Heartline that ran a children’s home in Port Au Prince, and I was amazed by what this 20-year-old ministry was doing. We started the paperwork process in June 2008, and a few months later we were referred of a little boy named Frankie. The funny thing is that during my 2008 trip to Haiti, I had seen Frankie at Heartline. He was standing in his crib while our group toured the facility. Little did I know then that he would be our son.

The adoption process in Haiti was long. We were told it could take anywhere from two to four years from start to finish. We knew we had a long wait ahead of us. Our paperwork finally got to Haiti in October 2008, and a year later we seemed discouraged as we were through only one of the many steps in the Haitian side of the adoption process. In November 2009, Dave and I took a trip to visit Frankie. It was Dave’s first time to visit Haiti and to meet our son. We came home and celebrated another Christmas for which Frankie was not with us.

Then on January 12, 2010 (the day I turned 34), our lives changed. When that day started, we were almost a year and a half into the adoption process, with at least a year to go. But that day, Port Au Prince, Haiti, the city where our son lived was rocked by 7.0 earthquake.  Within 20 minutes, we got word through Facebook that all of the Heartline children were OK. A week later, the U.S. government granted Haitian orphans like Frankie humanitarian parole to enter the country. And two weeks after the earthquake, Dave and I flew to Orlando to pick up our son. 

Frankie has been here now for four months. He’s adjusting well to his new life with our family. Many times I think of his mother and wonder what she would think about the journey her son has been on. I am honored to be called mama by Frankie. And I think back to my own life and my journey, and I see how God used my past brokenness and rejection to bring such joy and beauty to my life through the gift of my son. 

The earthquake in Haiti in many ways did what all tragedies do. It exposed the brokenness and magnified the beauty that was already there. It called our attention to poverty and death and destruction. But it also exposed numerous missionaries, common people and organizations, who were acting heroically long before the world started calling them heroes. Our story and Frankie’s arrival home under these circumstances is a testimony to the good work and beauty of others who have worked and continue to work relentlessly for great reality of redemption – that beauty can be made out of what’s broken.  And now, for us that means spending our lives living up to the scent of a mothers love.