Monday, December 16, 2013

a lot of little things

i'm walkin through an advent series right now... read some Scripture, read the author's poetic take on said Scripture, reflect on both through a couple of questions at the end. i love questions - i love asking them, and i love answerin them, so this is good for me. one of the questions this week was, "when have you seen God take what was torn and turn it into a gift?" (voskamp, 2013, p. 83...probably not the correct form of citation, but apa has served me well the last four years).

i read the question and immediately thought of a few friends.... those whose lives have been struck by ridiculous illness...but rather than gettin stuck with their families lives bein defined by those illnesses, the illnesses seem to be serving some sort of more beautiful turn strong men tender, to turn sure people gentle, to turn stories of grief and labor into stories of profound faithfulness. i'm 32 years old now, and when i have these moments of recognizing the stories around me, i'm often struck...i find it hard to believe that i'm old enough to know people who struggle and fight and grieve and suffer like this....through illness and divorce and abuse and death and loss.

it's easy for me to get stuck here, in the suffering and in the struggle. it's where i lived for years in the realm of infertility. and it made me angry. really angry. i felt bombarded by the injustice of of it all... how could i, of all people, not be able to have a baby? i actually had someone tell me once that i was "the all-american girl," so what was there about me (or my handsome, smart, tender, big and strong husband, for that matter) that deemed us unfit to conceive? and this self-righteousness was inflammed every time someone else became pregnant or delivered a baby or nursed an infant...

the adoption process inflammed the anger, too. although my logical mind understood the reasoned purpose which drove so many facets of the adoption process (i.e. homestudy, cost, legal aspects, strangers delving into our most personal matters), logic didn't make it any easier. of all people - rich and poor, active and sedentary, urban and rural, broken and whole, educated and illiterate - only people who choose to adopt are required to take such profound inventory of their lives and relationships, turn back pretty and ugly corners alike, and bear all to a group of strangers (a.k.a. the adoption agency) in order to be measured and found fit-to-be-parents...and that's before the tumult that can follow bein matched with a birthmother!

even the word "choose" there inflammed the anger and the hurt. we weren't choosing to adopt out of the benevolence of our hearts or the abundance of our lives or b/c we felt divinely called. we were "choosing" to adopt b/c we longed for children we couldn't naturally create, and we flat out didn't have the money to pursue fertility treatments and then have enough reserve to adopt if the medical world didn't fix us. we didn't feel like we were choosing as much as we felt backed into a corner with only one realistic way out - adoption.

 i was sad and heart-broken, but those two emotions make me really uncomfortable. they have a connotation related to weakness. anger made me feel better. it made me feel less weak and less out of control. it gave me somethin to clench in my fists when all else felt like sand runnin through my fingers. it gave me a way to emotionally bull-doze my way through a situation i wasn't at all happy about. anger gave me a way to avoid the sadness.

i've grown up in the church and done all-things-God for as long as i can remember, and yet during this time of loss, all the things that were supposed to help and comfort weren't doin the trick. it didn't soothe any place to "trust that everything happens for a reason" or to hold to the belief that "God has a plan." even those exhortations felt like invitations to avoid the sadness. tossin romans 8 and jeremiah 29 into a chasm of confusion and hurt didn't seemed more like tryin to swing on Scriptural ropes across the chasm rather than walking through it one small, treacherous step at a time.

i can't really say for sure what happened, what changed between then and now. i didn't have one singular moment in time when the momentum slowed and then shifted away from anger. i didn't wake up one day and see the world from a different perspective. it was more like a series of moments, a string of countless decisions and subtle realizations that i didn't want to live angry. i didn't want to be an angry mother (or wife or friend or daughter or neighbor or....). the only way out of anger seemed to be a journey through the depths of sadness.

so i started learnin how to be sad... how to be sad about living my life with an empty womb...

avoiding the uncomfortable has never proven helpful for me... it's led to anger, depression, and life hurled toward blame. for me, the uncomfortable here is inextricably related to sorrow. so it came as a surprise to me a few weeks ago during our homestudy when the social worker asked us somethin to the effect of, "tell me about your journey through infertility and healing from that." healing? i don't feel healed. i'm certainly not physically "healed" of whatever keeps me from carrying a little life inside. i don't feel emotionally "healed" either...

but maybe that's b/c my definition of "healed" isn't a whole one. because the thing that surprised me when the social worker asked that question was the answer that came out of my mouth. "i think i'm learning to accept that i may never have a baby that we create. i may be sad about that for the rest of my life. but i'm learnin to be okay w/that. and i'm not angry about it anymore."

i'm not angry about it anymore. do you know how big of a deal that is?

that doesn't mean that i'm blindly trusting that "everything happens for a reason" or that "God is in control" in the ways i've always understood those things...b/c even now, even though i'm not seething anger, those claims don't quite settle the dust.

what i am beginnin to believe wholeheartedly is that The Lord is Good, through and through. that He may not move the mountains of circumstance around me, but He continually offers to move mountains of anger, hurt, and unbelief in me. that in the really crappy context of infertility, He gives the most beautiful gifts. w/o infertility, we wouldn't know our riley bear. and i cannot imagine my life without her.

Friday, December 6, 2013

our christmas girl

as it began to grow colder, and the days grew shorter, i found myself wonderin how we'd pass the cooler, darker hours of the evening. during the warmer months, we stay outside as long as possible, which is a great way for a toddler to spend her last couple hours of each day. i was a little afraid she'd grow restless w/all the time spent inside - i knew i would! fortunately, her imagination has taken off the last few weeks, so now she spends the better part of her evenings lost in a world of stuffed animals and song. 

of the many wonder-full delights that her imaginary world brings into our lives, one of the sweeter ones has begun this week. sunday school this last week was spent decorating one of the church's christmas trees. though reluctant at first, riley eventually joined in the fun and had a ball. the next mornin, we loaded up into the pickup and went into town to buy a real christmas tree. a while later, the tree assumed its rightful place in the livin room. from that moment on, there's a phrase that's been repeated countless times... "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!" it's as if she forgets over and over that there's a christmas tree in the house....and so over and over again, as she emerges from her imaginary world, she realizes that it's there, and she exclaims suddenly each time, "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!"

i love it. i love her surprise and sudden recognition over and over again. i love that she delves so deeply into her world of song and play that becomes unaware of the obvious. 

she loves christmas music and christmas cartoons. in the middle of summer, she sometimes asks to watch this old mickey mouse christmas carol movie. 

while watching 'the sound of music' last night, she sang and danced around the living room.

she likes crawling up into our bed, squirming under the covers, pulling the comforter up to her neck, and sayin, "it's chrismas every day."

there's a dusting of snow on the ground right now. she was pining to go outside yesterday evening: "mama, we'll get our socks and our shoes and our jacket and our hat on and bundle up and go outside, and it'll be okay." how could i resist? so bundle up we did...and we stayed outside for a few minutes, just long enough for our hands to hurt. when it was time to come in, she cried. at first, i thought the tears were due to the pain of having such cold little hands, but when i asked her if she was crying b/c of her hands or b/c she wanted to stay outside, she blubbered, "b/c i didn't want to come inside."

and i know - all of these things are probably universal findings in all toddlers.... but as a mother of a baby born on christmas day, i've slowly begun to melt into the beautiful delight of this season...and i can't help but watch her, listen to her, laugh w/her, sing with her, and think.... our christmas girl, through and through.

as advent lingers and draws us to linger as well, i do so w/the smell of a fir tree and the sound of a fire and the beautiful presence of our christmas girl lightin up every corner of every room....

and still we wait and we long.... our christmas girl will be a big sister at some time in the (hopefully near) future. the agency called and told us we've been approved. there are a couple of logistical things josh and i have to take care of before we're "official." but hopefully we'll get those things wrapped up next week. 

in the meantime, we savor every "mama, it's christmas. it's christmas, mama." yes, darlin, it is....