by Mari Venezia
I only desired to have a daughter all my life. As a girl, I pretended to be a mother to a baby girl. Frank and I were married in 1974 with the intentions of having a quiver full of children. Since both of us were raised in Italian Catholic homes, we felt it would be an absolute to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:22). Little did we know that we would be one of many couples who hear those sad words that we had a one-in-a-million chance to conceive and might never have a family. Little did those experts know that the God who was about to save us both from our sin and religion was able to give us a miracle son.
Frankie was born in August 1978, and we were not only thrilled but also sure that our plan for a full family would continue. After five years and still not being able to conceive, we received from the Lord a beautiful baby boy through the miracle of adoption. Nicolas, born in 1984, was a true result of prayer, and we fondly dubbed him our “prayer baby.” As thrilling as it was to have two wonderful sons, I still had the greatest desire to have a daughter, someone I could train and love and with whom I could share life. I knew Frank would never agree to another adoption (or so I thought) because of the huge expense and emotional roller coaster the adoption process required, so I began to pray. I claimed Psalm 37:4. “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (KJV), knowing that if my desire was not God’s desire, He would change my desire to meet His. I prayed fervently that the Lord would just lay a baby girl in my lap. Knowing the Lord had the power to do anything He thought good for me, I asked Him to make this one easy and very obvious that she was from His hand. I just wanted to have another true miracle.
One day–August 8, 1986–we got a phone call. Out of nowhere, the people who ran the adoption agency were asking to have Frank and me on the line together. When Frank picked up the phone, they told us they had a very unusual request. They explained that they had a very wonderful young mother bring them her six-month-old daughter. She was 17 and unmarried and was trying very hard to raise this child for the Lord but knew she had to place her for adoption. She knew if she didn’t leave the baby with them right then that she would be disobeying what she knew the Lord was telling her to do. There were many tears at the agency that day. As she was speaking, both counselors knew this baby was for our family.
I hadn’t filled out an application or told anyone of my desire. In fact, the night before I told Frank, for the first time, how I had been praying, he shook his head, knowing that something was about to happen. When you pray specifically, you know when your answer comes, and I knew this was straight from the heart of God. We were thrilled with the offer to take this beautiful child as our own, and within the week she was in our arms. (Within that week, I did pray one other specific prayer; I asked that she would come with pierced ears–and she did.) The day we met our daughter was a day we’ll never forget. She was the prettiest, little green-eyed baby we’d ever seen. (The prettiest blue-eyed baby was our Frankie, and the prettiest brown-eyed baby was our Nic.) I fell in love with her at that moment.
Our life with our daughter, Alyssa, has been a joy at every turn. She has grown into a very lovely young lady. Never did I realize what a blessing she would be when we fondly called her our “blessing baby.”
Alyssa turned 18 in January, and this birthday was no different for me than the past 18. Every year when Nic and Alyssa would celebrate their birthdays, I would remind them that we needed to pray for their birth mothers. I knew our day of celebration was also a day of sadness for the precious young mothers who gave us the opportunity to parent their children. We would always remember to pray for their hurting hearts on that special day. No matter how many years may pass, a mother’s heart is a mother’s heart, and that day will always be remembered.
One night I was awakened by a reminder from the Lord that when Alyssa turned 18 she could be given a baby book that her birth mother had prepared for her. I had forgotten all about that book until that night. The next morning I made arrangements for the book to be sent, and we would surprise Alyssa on her 18th birthday. The surprise was to be so special that we would have her brother drive home from college just to be a part of the event. When Alyssa opened the book, she just smiled. A real part of her past was in her arms. She just held it close and touched every page. We all sat with her and went through the book page by page, imagining who the people were on the other side of those names.
Over the years, Alyssa had a great desire to meet her birth mother. Frank and I knew it would be a natural desire and had agreed before we ever adopted either one of our children that this family would always be a triangle which would include our children’s birth parents. We told them we would help them when the time was right. Now seemed to be the right time. What better gift could we offer our dear daughter than to help complete the missing link in her life? Taking the next step would be difficult but not if God was in it. Within two weeks, we found the unselfish young woman who had made our desire for a family a reality.
It would sound too good to be true to allow anyone to think that Frank and I weren’t scared to death about this venture. There was so much to lose. We could really be setting ourselves and our daughter up for all kinds of problems. After all, what if the birth mother wasn’t the kind of person we would want our daughter, whom we were so careful to protect over those years, to associate with. What if Alyssa found the lifestyle of her birth mother exciting and decided to leave us? What if Alyssa loved her birth mother more than she loved us or wanted to live with her “new family” now? All of these “what if’s” were running crazy in my mind. I did have much to lose; but “trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) kept me focused. I had always said I unconditionally loved my children. But did I? Did I love Alyssa enough to risk losing her to another mother? Did I love her enough to complete her by being able to see hands that looked like hers or to see that she had her mother’s eyes? What kind of love was I displaying? I had so many friends praying for this meeting and encouraging us not to do it. But deep in my heart I had to take the risk–for Alyssa.
Just 10 years earlier, I really knew the hurt of losing a child. Our firstborn miracle baby was killed in a Jet Ski accident. I knew how hard it was to live without him all those years. Although I truly knew firsthand about the all-sufficient grace God so freely gives, I was afraid to feel such pain again. But as much pain as Frankie’s homegoing continues to be, I had to be willing to feel the pain of losing another one if that is what it took for her to know the joy of meeting her birth mother.
Not being able to put off finding out who she was another moment, I asked Terri, my dear friend, to drive by the house and to see where they lived. Terri pulled across the street and called me to say it was a nice, neat home. “Oh no, someone is looking out the window,” Terri said in a panic. “I have to go to the door. What should I say?”
I told her to get the birth mother alone and to tell her the truth. As Terri approached the door, there was only enough time for a quick thought prayer–“Oh Lord, please let this be good.” I waited patiently for the phone to ring again. And it did. This time a voice I had only dreamed of hearing was on the other end. “Hello, Mari. I am Evonne, and I have been searching for our daughter.”
Tears of joy and fear were filling both mothers’ hearts. I was excited and yet so afraid.
Little did I know that Evonne was feeling the same way. For 18 years, she had dreamed of meeting her daughter again. On Alyssa’s 18th birthday, she did what she had done for the past 17 years–she read the letter I had written to her at the time of the adoption. In the letter, I told her how I had prayed for this child. I tried to reveal to her every corner of my heart and our desire to raise this child to know, love, obey, and serve our dear Savior. I gave her a little insight into our home, life, and family. I tried to let her know the depth of our personal love for Jesus Christ. Evonne read this letter every year to reassure herself that she had made the right decision and that this adoption plan was what the Lord had designed for all of our lives.
The part that just seemed to be another piece of the puzzle fitting so perfectly together, as only God in His wonderful wisdom can do, was the grieving process she would go through year after year. It was April, and I knew May was coming, only to be followed by June. Every May and June for the past 10 years, I went through a similar grieving process. After our son’s homegoing, I would try to psych myself into thinking I would get through the anniversary of his death and not feel the horrible pain of missing him. I would play all kinds of mind games to try to convince myself that it was just another day. In spite of all my game-playing, I could not be separated from the sorrow of his loss. Like a thief in the night, the overwhelming feeling of missing him would hit. I’d try to hide the miserable way I felt from everyone. No matter how big my smile, my heart felt so barren. Evonne shared how she would feel when Alyssa’s birthday would approach. Although she tried to continue “business as usual,” anyone who knew her and what she had been through knew she was grieving the loss of her firstborn child. Even though she now had two sons and another daughter, there was still a void in her heart and in her arms for the special child who had given her the title of “Mother.” I knew the longing within this precious mother’s heart. We both had lost a child.
Now we were both asking questions back and forth–two mothers loving the same child, both with so many unanswered questions. The greatest question at hand was if and when we could meet. The question was answered, and we would now try to orchestrate two very busy families to come together from cities 1,000 miles apart.
Terri graciously opened her home to be the place of the reunion. We would both be on neutral ground, and Alyssa would be comfortable at Aunt Terri and Uncle Rick’s. Rick and Terri Greene had been a part of Alyssa’s life for 17 of her years. Alyssa had been their flower girl, and they had loved and prayed for her all those years.
The next thing was to tell Alyssa that the dream she had imagined would never come true was to become a reality. Her reaction was quite different than I expected. She was so full of fear that she almost seemed apprehensive. After the news settled for a while, she decided she didn’t even want to talk with Evonne until she had met her face to face.
Frank and I worked hard to coordinate the meeting. We had to get permission for our son, Nic, to leave school for the weekend and to find time to leave a very busy business. Alyssa’s school schedule had to be considered, not to mention Evonne’s busy nursing schedule. Everything fell into place like a concert carefully rehearsed, and the meeting was set.
We arrived at the Greenes’ and prepared for the day. Alyssa was so nervous that I told her she could call the whole thing off. She is too practical for that–after all everyone had done to make this dream come true. She would work through her emotions, but we had to do it her way. We would greet the family first, and then she would meet Evonne.
We arranged two chairs under the shade tree in Terri’s yard for the two to talk. Alyssa was pacing like a panther, and we all knew to pray. She tried to calm herself by playing the piano, but that didn’t help. Finally, the call came that Evonne and her family were at the entry gate.
We waited at the door and greeted the children and Evonne’s husband. It was a warm time with lots of hugs and kisses. Then my eyes fell on Evonne, and I couldn’t stop smiling. She was absolutely beautiful. I hugged her and cried and thanked her and thanked her. Then Frank had the same reaction and said the exact words he had said the moment he saw Alyssa as a six-month-old baby. “Mari, she’s beautiful.” He squeezed her until I know she stopped breathing for a moment. Then we all went inside, leaving Evonne on the porch to see, finally, her daughter’s brilliant smile and sparkling eyes. Alyssa walked right to her, and the two hugged and rocked and cried for a long time. Finally, they sat down and began to unlatch the locks of hearts that had been closed for 18 years. They talked, but both were still very guarded. The question on both of their hearts had to be answered.
Evonne had to know if Alyssa was upset or angry that she had been placed for adoption, and Alyssa had to know “why.” Within minutes, each had her answer, and each was settled that this meeting was good. Alyssa found out exactly why Evonne had done what she knew the Lord had led her to do. She knew that if she truly, unconditionally loved Alyssa, then she would be willing to let her go so she could live. I was reminded of the Bible story of the two mothers. One child died, and both mothers wanted the living child. So they went to King Solomon. He said he would cut the living child in half, and then each could have half of a baby. The real mother said to give the child to the other mother. The king knew then who the true mother was.
Evonne was that kind of true mother to Alyssa. She had known it was better to live without her than to have her not have all she needed to live. Now Evonne had to know if Alyssa resented her for placing her for adoption. I was a little afraid of the answer. I had always hoped that Alyssa was thankful for the Lord’s placing her with us. I felt sure the Lord had always planned it this way. I wanted to know that Alyssa wouldn’t have changed a moment in history; that she knew in her heart that this was God’s perfect will for her life; that she would be raised and loved in our home. All the fears that I had were settled with her response. Alyssa only wanted to thank Evonne for the adoption plan that had given her our home. She wanted to let her know that she was not only happy but also eternally grateful–that because of the life she had been given, she also now had an eternal home prepared for her in heaven. The two left their little “meeting place” under the shade tree arm in arm and were ready to join the family together.
And that is just what they did. We immediately fell in love with Evonne and her precious family. We were able to begin a relationship we believe will not end. Frank told Evonne we wanted to adopt her, too, and she was so excited that she said she wanted us to be her family, too.
We were able to point her husband to our Savior. Less than one week later, he prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior. The next day, we worshiped together and went to lunch afterwards. Frank then wrote out adoption papers for each member of our new family. Everyone signed, and we had the document witnessed. We believe they are all a part of us now. The seal was stamped in each of our hearts.
This story is hardly over. Our new family came and visited us for a week this summer. We had a wonderful time sharing our lives, interests, pasts, and hopes for the future together. Knowing that not every story has this kind of outcome, we are thankful for the way the Lord has allowed our lives to be “knit together in love” (Col. 2:2).
When we remember those sad words that we had a one-in-a-million chance to have a baby or ever to have a family, we just chuckle at the wonder of our Great God. He had planned before time that we would have not only a family but also a very special one. The Lord has truly given me the desire of my heart. Now, instead of having just one daughter, I also have Evonne–and that makes two.