I sold her adorable white wicker chairs and table, the beauti-ful hand-painted china. I sold the fake little tea party snacks that looked so real I wanted to eat them. I sold every last piece I had stored for years—just so I could buy my husband a surprise Christmas present with-out the price appearing on our credit card bill.
Now I don't even remember what I bought him. But I do remember the early December morning when I said good-bye to "Samantha."
My husband, Mark, had purchased this American Girl doll and her birthday collection at a fund-raising auction. It seemed a bit extravagant, since we had three small boys and no girl in sight. But that didn't seem to matter once he brought Samantha home.
My mom and I gleefully set up her chairs and table in my dining room. We displayed the plates and glasses just so. We fussed over Samantha's hair and smoothed the wrinkles from her dress. We giggled like schoolgirls before we packed it all up. Then I hid the doll in a back closet, beyond the reach of prying toddler hands.
Mother of Boys. Two years later, after my doctor confirmed that boy number four was on his way, I pondered Samantha's fate. All my life I had pictured myself as a mother of girls, and for a short time I was. In 1995 our second child, Claire Marie, was stillborn at thirty-seven weeks.
Don't get me wrong. I love my boys. I love their energy and the way they so easily forgive. I love their smelly feet. I love the way their hair stands straight up in the morning and refuses to lie down until the spray bottle emerges. I love how they can sleep on hard ground in a cramped tent, only to wake up and brag that it was the best night's sleep they ever had. I love how they are captivated for hours by the smallest of God's creatures. Most of all, I love the way their eyes tell me how much they love me.
And this is why I was able to say good-bye to Samantha. So what if I never had another girl? Mark and I had four healthy boys. Truly, we were blessed. As I tucked the boxes into the back of my friend's minivan, I murmured a prayer for the lucky girl who would find Samantha under her Christmas tree. I thanked God once more. I was at peace.
Read All about It! Then on Christmas Eve day, everything changed. An article from the morning paper attracted my attention and left me breathless. It told how several children from Romania were living with their adopted families in a nearby city and enjoying their first Christmas in America.
Heart pounding, I called to Mark. He bounded up the stairs, startled by the tone of my voice. I thrust the newspaper at him.
"You need to read this!" I was sure it would be as obvious to him as it was to me.
He skimmed the article and shrugged, "Huh?"
"Well, isn't it obvious? We need to adopt a little girl from Romania!"
"No," came his swift reply. And he went back downstairs where his future soccer team awaited him.
"Give Me a Sign, Lord." The article weighed on my heart for the rest of the day. At Christmas Eve Mass, I knelt with my eyes closed and prayed like I've never prayed before. "Please, God, I will go to Romania tomorrow, if that's what you want. But you'll have to hit me on the head with a clear sign that will help Mark believe me."
I was praying so intently that I hardly noticed when Mark and our oldest son surrendered their seats to some young children and a beautiful woman cradling a newborn. One of her little daughters peered at me through pretty dark blue eyes that peeked out from beneath her brown hair.
Then it struck me. "Okay, God, I've got it! If this little girl is named Claire, I'll take that as my sign that you want us to adopt. No, no, that would freak me out! How about Grace? I love the name Grace."
And so, at the Sign of Peace, I turned to the busy mom next to me and said, "Peace be with you—and by the way, what's your little girl's name?" She smiled warmly and said, "This is Claire."
I can't possibly describe the torrent of emotions that rushed over me. Our infinitely merciful and loving Father had heard my prayer and given me my answer—instantly and dramatically. It swept me away to realize that God was so present—around me, in me, and also in this woman, who was now looking at me with con-cern and compassion.
With tears streaming down my face, I told her what had just happened. She clasped my hand and replied through her own tears, "What a wonderful gift God has given you—and on Christmas Eve!"
Gift after Gift. The next year was like a huge box of presents—one inside another. I kept unwrapping, finding more and more surprises. There was the gift of Mark's silent resignation that grew into subdued enthusiasm. The gift of our deepening relationship as we decided to adopt a little girl from Guatemala and worked together to surmount the challenges of an international adoption. The gift of friendship with Martha, the mother I had met that Christmas Eve. The gift of seeing our boys rally around the cause and pray each night for the little girl they would soon call sister.
There was a gift that gave me goose bumps. One day as Martha and I chatted on the phone, I asked her when Claire's birthday was. It turned out that she was born exactly a year before our Claire died—to the day! They even share the same middle name.
Of course, the greatest gift of all has been our daughter herself. Ever since joining our family four years ago, she has brought us joy upon joy.
What name did we give her? There was never any doubt. Not Samantha, but Grace, which means "the unmerited and abundant gift of God's love and favor to man." n
Stacey Floersch and her family live in Omaha, Nebraska.