01 May THE UNKNOWN
***Last week you read Amy’s story of how the Lord pursued her in unseen ways by reconnecting her with her family in order to bring her to recognize Him as her loving Father. This week, read her uncle’s side of the story!
Sometimes our past just haunts us from afar, but oftentimes it’s right in our face nagging at us, waiting for us to do something about it. That’s how it was for me when I thought about my niece that I hadn’t seen in 32 years. She was only about 8 months old the last time I saw her. Cute as a button, she had the family facial traits and everything. I was just 14 years old at the time and didn’t know any better that she would be stripped from my life.
Fast forward some 32 years, and I was faced with a daunting task. I had to find my niece that I had not seen in all these years and give her the worst news she could ever hear – that her father, my brother, Donald Curtis Conway, had passed away. How do you break news like this to someone that 1) doesn’t know you from anyone else 2) has not had any contact with your family in such a long time, and 3) may not accept you or your message? Wow, I was confronted with a task that I knew that only one entity, one trustworthy soul, one all-knowing and loving God could guide me through. His will be done.
Proverbs 1:5 says “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and the let discerning get guidance.” In this message, I prayed for God to give me the tools and guidance to discern what I needed to do to find my niece. I prayed for many days and nights, even before my brother’s death, that somehow we would find Amy. Often Donnie would say to me that he wondered what she was doing, how she was doing, what she looked like, and did she even know him or love him. I know that in his heart, without him saying a word, he loved Amy and longed to be reconnected with her. But at the same time, he realized his world was one that she didn’t belong in, and for her own good, he didn’t pursue her. In the years of having no contact with her, I often wondered if this was the right thing, but since she was his daughter, the decision of this magnitude fell to him and him alone.
Donnie had fought many demons in his life. Drugs and alcohol were the main ones that just continued to put him on the wrong path of life. Every once in a while he would get clean, “fly right” for a time, as our Mom put it, and do the right thing. Yet despite all the treatments and arrests and bail outs and lectures from Mom and Dad, he just could not see it clearly enough to get away from those things that tore him down. And finally, they had subdued him; the drug life had taken him away from us and into the arms of Jesus. When I heard the news, I was quite surprised. I had just talked to him a couple of weeks before his death and he was finally in a good place – clean, sober, he had a job and was living away from the influences that brought him to his knees. So as to what happened in those two weeks after that took him from this world, we will never know. However, I do know that God was with him, taking him from his misery into the glorious light.
In learning of my brother’s passing, I knew that the right thing to do was to find Amy. But how do you find someone that you have been out of contact with for so long? Again, I turned to God for the answer. Continuing to pray for a way to find Amy, a blessing came in the form of contact with a third cousin that I had just friended on social media. I soon learned that she had the tools to search birth records for the entire state of Texas. I knew Amy’s birthdate and I thought I knew what town and county she was born in. My cousin’s search was a simple task at that point, as she was able to find Amy’s birth record and other documents and information that would eventually lead us to her. Trusting in the will of God, we set out on our way to search for Amy Nicole Conway.
Armed with this new found information, I started on social media to locate Amy. I called it my “Finding Amy” project. Just as God led me to contact my cousin for guidance, continued prayers and encouragement from friends and other family put me in a position to make direct contact with Amy. I knew I was getting close and just could feel it in my heart that this was going to turn out just right, just in God’s way. I was really stepping out into the unknown, but I knew God was right there with me.
Psalm 81:5-7 “I heard an unknown voice say: I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you.”
I felt discouraged from time to time, but God has a way of keeping you going…and He kept me going through the myriad of searches that I thought were fruitless. By this time, I had put out about 20 inquiries to various young ladies on social media named Amy. And yes, that sounds odd in this day and age. Some of these messages were not very successful, while others even provided encouragement. I recall one message I received that just reinforced my search efforts to find my niece ever so firmly. The young lady was nice enough to reply to my questions and in doing so just touched my heart in such a way that only God’s hand had to be involved. Saying she wasn’t the Amy I was looking for in a very nice way, she urged me to continue looking and searching, never to give up. It was so amazing to read her message of encouragement that my heart just swelled and ached to be successful in my efforts. I had to find my Amy.
Having four daughters of my own, I couldn’t imagine a life without any of them. So it was with Donnie, having given up custody to Amy, because that was what her mother wanted him to do, I just couldn’t comprehend how he just could walk away from her. But now, even from these events of his death and his last will and desires, he wanted Amy to know she was loved and thought of often. Sometimes our circumstances in our life are just what we make them. Other times, we just see no way out. Donnie was pressured by his now ex-wife to have no contact with Amy from that point forward, and he honored that to the end of his days. And now, finding Amy was my burden, my task, my honor…and to find her was all I could think about.
I spent countless hours searching the web, social media sites, and just writing poignant, detailed messages to total strangers, young women, yearning for information, praying to hear that this Amy was the one I was looking for. It was at this point that I wondered if I was doing the right thing, not in the sense of looking to find Amy, but in the way that I was basically “prying” into the lives of other young women, seeking their confidence in me and trusting I was not some predator or nut case. I tossed and turned about this numerous nights, but a quiet voice kept telling me I was doing the right thing. I know now, the hand of the Lord was wrapped around my messages and they were not in vain. My Rescuer was doing His part to make this all come together!!!
Finally, a breakthrough we had been praying for was at hand. Realizing all this time I was searching for Amy Nicole Conway and having known that she did have her name changed through legal adoption, the key was revealed to us through my cousin again that Amy had recently married, thus another name change. Oh, glory to God in the highest – this was just the news we needed to hear!!! With a quick search on social media and looking through some pictures, we were pretty sure we had found our precious Amy!!! But now, the hardest part was yet to come…getting a message to her that she would see, acknowledge, and hopefully respond back to. But how would she respond? A multitude of possible answers came flooding through my head as I typed the message, one I had basically memorized because I had typed it so, so many times before. And now to hit SEND and wait…my heart was beating out of my chest!!! Would she respond right away or would she wait and respond later? Would she even respond at all? The suspense of all of this was tearing me up inside as I decided that once again, this is all in God’s hands and there was nothing at all that I could do about it.
“Amy Nicole Merritt” was the name that came up on the message that I just received a few days after I had sent that last hopeful inquiry. I guess my heart was pounding yet again, but I couldn’t feel it. I think I was just numb at that point. Opening the message, I was thrilled to learn that we had found our Amy!!! Glory be to God!!! At that point, I got down on my knees and thanked Him because He is so good to us!!! And then I read her message and felt so overwhelmed with emotion that I was probably a basket case at this point. A few more messages back and forth, a trading of emails, and phone numbers, and we made plans to meet at a local restaurant to reconnect.
Reconnecting the family, lost for years, just as the families that wandered the desert for 40 years, we were finally finding favor with God and in God to be a family once again with our Amy. Our trust in the will of God from the beginning made all of this possible. Without Him, we are nothing, and with Him we can be all. Thanks be to God!!!
Matthew 6:9-10 – “This, then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done…’”