I woke up on November 4, 2008 with a desire to bow my head and pray to my Lord. My court appearance with Amber was less than 4 hours away, but my heart wasn't burdened to pray for that, but for the upcoming election. I found this odd. I was obedient to the desire, I believe, God layed on my heart and lifted both candidates in prayer. As I finished praying for the election, I lifted Amber and our court session in prayer and ended, as I always do, with "Your will be done".
As we (my mom, dad, and I) entered the large, double doors of our beautiful courthouse I was at peace. As a matter of fact, I had been at peace all morning. Only once did my heart begin to race as I looked at the time while working and realized that I would be leaving for court in half an hour. It was a brief moment of anxiety that was quickly stilled by the voice of my Savior.
I wasn't sure where to go once we entered the courthouse. Nobody had contacted me since I had been served with papers requesting my presence. I stepped into the Clerk of Court and asked her where I should go. She asked if it was a juvenile hearing or a Magistrate hearing. I told her that I thought it was probably a juvenile hearing. She asked why I was appearing and as the words "to give up rights to my daughter" left my mouth, there was an instant sting in my heart. I could see her face change briefly, I could only imagine what she thought, as she directed me to the 2nd floor.
As we neared the top of the steps I could see the large double doors that lead to the courtroom. We were the only people there. Of course, we were a little early, too. We weren't there long before I could see Amber, her boyfriend, and her mom, Sue, walking up the steps. They got to the top, looked at us, looked away, and stood as far from us as possible. I had smiled at them as they looked at us, but there was no response. I was thankful that my parents were there as I could hear them whispering and laughing. I suddenly felt like the unpopular girl in school who was being made fun of by the 'cool kids'. My parents and I talked, in normal talking voices, about the election, the beauty of our courthouse, and various other topics. I was determined to not play their game, although, the biggest part of me wanted to. That, however, would've been dishonoring to them and unpleasing to God.
The door to the judges chamber opened and a young woman walked past us. She called Amber's name and walked over to her. I could hear her introduce herself as Amber's lawyer. I heard her tell Amber that my lawyer had not shown up and that they may have to postpone the court date. I groaned at the thought of it. I was ready for this to be over. A few minutes later, another woman came out of the judges chamber and introduced herself to me. She would be filling in for my lawyer. She was apologetic for not being familiar with my case and I quickly put her at ease by letting her know that I had never spoken with the other lawyer so she was probably as up to speed as he was. She asked me what was going on and I gave her the condensed version of our story. She said she would have me testify and walked away. I looked over at my mom and she was weeping. My mom is one of the sweetest, most wonderful women I know. She would do anything for anybody. But....if you mess with her family, she is like a mother bear protecting her cubs. She was angry at Amber for all the hurt she had caused and it was too much for her to take. She had to leave.
The door to the courtroom opened and Amber's lawyer asked her to come in. My dad and I sat there not knowing whether we should follow. Shortly, my lawyer summoned us into the courtroom as well. The courtroom was very quiet. We were the only people in there besides the judge, the court reporter, and two spectators. My lawyer motioned for me to sit at the table next to her and across from the county attorney and the C.P.S. worker who had interviewed me about the abuse charges Amber had filed.
The judge asked me to speak first, so I gave her a very brief rundown of the events that lead us to be in front of her. Then the judge gave my lawyer a chance to speak. I couldn't imagine what my lawyer could possibly say. She had only gotten the file a nano-second prior to my testimony. However, she looked through the file the entire time I spoke and when the judge asked her if she had anything she wanted to say she pointed to a section in our adoption home study where Amber, in her own words, had said what a loving family we are and how she couldn't wait to be a part of it. Immediately my mind went back to that time. I remember when Amber was excited to be a part of our family and it hurt to be sitting there only a short two years later.
Then, it was Amber's turn to speak. Her lawyer asked her if she wanted to speak to the judge directly or if she wanted her (the lawyer) to speak on her behalf. Amber chose to let her lawyer speak for her. Amber's lawyer gave Amber's version of events and recommended that Amber be allowed to stay with her biological mom with the stipulation that DHS and CPS would be heavily involved. She also requested a change of venue since Amber doesn't reside in my county anymore.
The judge approved both requests, but was very hesitant. She harshly reprimanded Amber and Sue (Amber's mom) for using the system. The judge realized that Amber had been given a chance to live in a loving home and had thrown it away when she wasn't allowed to do whatever she wanted. She cited Amber's statement to the adoption worker (the one my lawyer had pointed out) as proof that our home wasn't the awful home that Amber was trying to make it out to be and was very concerned that Amber would end up back in court in a few months when she didn't get her way with her mom. I lowered my head as tears filled my eyes. I felt vindicated. Somebody who didn't know Amber and didn't know myself was able to see what she was doing. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. A weight I had no idea existed until it was removed. I felt so free.
As I sat in the courtroom this day, there was a part of me that couldn't believe that Amber was getting her way. All of the 'crap' she had put our family through and there she sat getting exactly what she wanted. However, God gently reminded me that although Amber was getting what she 'wanted' she was not getting what was best for her. She is far from Him and moving even further. Then, my heart broke for her again.
The rest of the day was hard. Her picture sits on my desk. A picture of happier times. A time when she was happy to be with us and eager to not walk down the same path as her mom. I thought about the fun times we had as a family and wondered when things went so wrong. My heart misses her and I have to admit, it surprises me. I didn't expect to feel so much. I thought my emotions had been pushed to the limit. See, that's the kind of person I am. I will only put up with so much and when I am done......I'm done! No regrets. No emotion. No looking back. Done. Moving on with the next chapter of my life. That's the way I have been for most of my life. Not this time. This is new territory for me as this is the first relationship I have 'lost' since finding Christ.
I praised God yesterday for how He had orchestrated the day. From my lawyer, 'Joe', not showing up....... to a judge who took time to listen and see the truth and didn't treat us like we were just 'another case' on her docket. I also prayed for Amber and will continue to do so. I pray for my children daily and Amber is still my child. She may not have been born into our family, but God placed her in our family. He also placed her into my heart.....where she will always reside no matter where she lives physically.
I am so thankful for the prayers of all who have prayed for us. What a blessing to know that someone is lowering their head before the Lord and lifting up your name and situation. There aren't words enough to express my gratitude.