On Love

I haven’t written anything about our failed adoption in a long time, and as much as I would like to say that my heart is all healed, it’s still something I think about often.  It’s so weird to me that the baby that was almost ours is now 15 months old.  I wonder if she looks like Zoe did at 15 months.  I wonder if she has Zoe’s spunk and zest for life, if she says as many words as Zoe did.  I wonder if she is being cared for in any minimally appropriate way.  I think about her, and I wonder, and I have no answers.

At the same time, I look at my second beautiful daughter—the one I wouldn’t trade for anything—and rejoice.  I rejoice and I marvel and I realize that I couldn’t possibly have the answers.  I only see a hands-breadth in front of me.

Trusting God to work purpose through my pain and entrusting God with someone I love are among the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Yet that is what we are called to do everyday as Christians and as parents and as life-livers.  The things we grasp tightest didn’t originate with us.  Loosening our hands and lifting them up with thanksgiving and trust is the only response that will free us to truly enjoy them.  You can’t own or earn grace.  You just live in it.

The same is true for answers.  You can’t own or earn them either.  Sometimes, you are given them, and sometimes you just live in the mystery—and that is still grace, although not always in ways you appreciate.

With that perspective, it feels trite to try to understand: “if it hadn’t been for Brianna, we would have never been in the adoption process and we would have never gotten Riley!” because really? If God wanted us to have them both, He would have made a way (thankfully for my sanity, He did not make this happen).  I’ve found that adoption makes you wonder what God really intends as plan A and plan B and I am increasingly hesitant to speak for God on these matters.

But what I do know is this: despite the pain, loving Zoe, Brianna, Riley, and their birthparents has been a gift and a privilege.

We are meeting Riley’s biological family this week for lunch and I am so excited to look into her birthparents’ eyes, give them warm hugs, and hear—really hear—how they are doing.  I am thrilled to show them how our child is growing and developing and how she claps to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  I am nervous to see my parenting reflected through their eyes; I am hopeful they think we’re doing it well.  I am not new to this, so I know there will be some awkward moments and some lulls in the conversation where we don’t know what to say next. But I also know there is a gift of grace that binds us all together.

Glennon Dolyle Melton writes about her conversation with her young son after the death of his favorite fish:

“When he asked me, “why, mom? Why does God send us here where things hurt so much? Why does he make us love things that he knows we’re going to lose?” I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever; we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer.  Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways.  Even if people and animals leave, even if they die, they leave us better.  So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us and changes us.  And that’s what we’re here to do.”
–“On Fish and Heaven,” from Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed

I am thankful to have had the chance to love and to learn about love from these people.  It has made me stronger and weaker in the right ways and I am better for it.

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From the Other Side…ish

Today, we took a drive.  And our drive took us past that exit—the one that holds the hospital where I met Zoe for the first time, where my heart grew more full than I ever knew it was capable of.

It’s also where my heart broke.

It’s funny how an interstate exit can hold so much of my life’s experiences.

Someone asked me the other day if I was still grieving our failed adoption, or if getting Riley had ended my grief process.  I appreciated the question a lot, mostly because it’s something I’ve tried to avoid thinking about and sometimes the things we avoid are the things we most need to face.

Like everything grief-related, it turns out that there’s not a simple answer.  But here’s a start to an answer and some of what I’ve been mulling over: in my mind, these events aren’t comparable.

Loving Brianna resulted in great pain.

Loving Riley resulted in great joy.

They are different girls, different situations, but Brianna wasn’t an overture for Riley—she holds her own story, and so does Riley.

Riley isn’t a solution or answer to my grief.  She is a completely separate blessing.  I appreciate the gift of having her as my daughter all the more because of what I experienced on the way to her, but that’s MY story—not hers.  Her story doesn’t begin with my pain, but with her birthparents’ selfless decision to have her and love her in the best way they could think of.

Riley was born at a different exit of a completely different interstate.  Literally, and figuratively, this is the truth.

And that exit is where I’ll start her story when I tell her about it.  We didn’t adopt her to heal our hearts or to replace “the daughter that got away.”  We adopted her because we wanted and loved her.

But for those of you who have been following MY story, I will say this: for months after our failed adoption, I felt like I moved through life with a painful and gaping emptiness.  I tried my hardest to embrace and be filled by the blessing of Zoe, and was never NOT filled with joy by God’s goodness in giving me her and David to love.  But I felt, very keenly, every day, the absence of the family member we had wanted and planned for.  I felt this way before Zoe, too—I tried my hardest to embrace the life stage I was in, but I just knew that I had more love to give and so badly wanted another person to spread it to.  The emptiness was something I felt every day, through breakfast and lunch and evening walks and bedtime, a constant message beating in my heart even when I told it to shut up and go away: there should be another person here to love.

I don’t feel that way anymore.  My heart is fuller and happier these days; it’s a companion I don’t mind having along.  And that’s a wonderful, wonderful gift that I humbly and gratefully gasp out thanks to God for.

But am I “healed?” Am I “over it?” The unbidden thoughts and feelings that came as we drove by the exit today tell me, no.  I’m not.  And I don’t know how that works in this type of situation, honestly.  Maybe full healing comes with time.  Maybe it comes with reconciliation.  Maybe it comes with answers.  And those last two aren’t dependent on me, so maybe it doesn’t come.

But in case you’re where I was, in the emptiness…I thought I’d send you this message from the other side…ish of emptiness:

When you get here? The pain of the loss you’ve experienced doesn’t negate the joy of God’s grace.  The existence of grief doesn’t diminish the gift.  Just because there is darkness, doesn’t mean it wins forever (“the light shines in the darkness, and the the darkness can never extinguish it!”) It is scary now to think about opening your heart again, but when you do and it’s right, you will be able to cherish and love as if there was no in between.

IMG_3415Crowder sings, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”  I cling to that, not my situation, not the child in front of me.  And here, the writer in me would like a nice ending statement here, but the real-life-liver in me is finding out that, like all things grief, there isn’t one.  It’s a journey and an annoying one at that.

But you’re not alone on the journey.  And there is joy that you can’t picture still to come.

 

Our Journey to Riley: Part Three

“Oh, how slow grief is to come to understanding! When the grieving women were sitting there ‘opposite the tomb’ (Matthew 27:61,) did they see the triumph of the next two thousand years? Did they see anything except that Christ was gone? The Christ you and I know today came from their loss.  Countless mourning hearts have since seen resurrection in the midst of their grief, and yet these sorrowing women watched at the beginning of this result and saw nothing.  

What they regarded as the end of life was actually the preparation for coronation…but they did not see it.

It is the same with us.  Each of us sits ‘opposite the tomb’ in our own garden and initially says, ‘this tragedy is irreparable.  I see no benefit in it and will take no comfort in it.’  And yet right in the midst of our deepest and worst adversities, our Christ is often just lying there, waiting to be resurrected.”
–from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman 

***

A few days into our grief process, I decided I was sick of hiding.  So I wrote about what happened.   And then I kept writing—about what sadness physically felt like, about how difficult it is to grieve with a child always watching you, about how I didn’t understand anything that was going on, about the sweetness that we found in our marriage in the midst of this loss.  I admitted to feeling angry with God for seemingly leading us to a dead end (an an expensive one at that), for not acting in a way that made sense to me, for allowing a child to have such a poor start to her life when there was another option for her.   I confessed my inability to understand the answer to the question, what now?

What I didn’t write about was that we re-entered the adoption process.

In February, I had a counseling session with a social worker from our agency.  During our call, she gently commented, you have everything ready for a baby and your hearts are ready for a baby.  Adoption takes a while and typically involves a lot of waiting, so why not start the wait now and grieve while you wait instead of waiting until you felt ready and then face a long wait? In the meantime, you can say “no” to a situation if one comes up and you don’t feel ready for it.

I was kind of shocked by the suggestion, but when I shared it with David, he agreed with her.  I talked with her again, saying I just wasn’t sure, and she said, re-entering the process might produce some closure to the failed adoption—a way of saying, “we know this situation with Zoe’s sister is over and we’re ready to accept that.”

David was enthusiastic about re-entering the process.  I was still hesitant, but was comforted that we could turn down a situation if we didn’t feel ready, so I updated our family profile and dropped it off on March 18.

As I drove away from our agency, I felt numb.  But the next day…I felt lighter.

I felt hope.

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I began praying for the baby we might have in addition to the baby we didn’t have.  This time, my prayer looked like this: God, for reasons that seem increasingly beyond my understanding, we felt you clearly calling us to adoption in October.  I don’t know what the heck You have been doing, or what any of this was, or why you let things go badly like this here on earth, but scripture says You work all things for our good.  All things means ALL THINGS, and “our good” means that you’re working for our good and for Brianna’s good too.  I want to believe.  Help me believe.  

My daily prayer became, I do not want the fastest adoption.  I want the RIGHT adoption.  Make it clear.  Bring peace when it’s right.  

A week after re-entering the process, we got a call about a baby due in a few weeks.  It was a bit of an unusual situation, so we had 24 hours to decide whether we wanted to be considered for it.  It was exciting to be considered so soon, but as the 24 hours ticked by, I felt increasingly like I wanted to throw up.  I didn’t feel peace—I felt the complete opposite.  I felt panic, anxiety, discord.

This is NOT right, I finally told David.

I feel the same way, he confessed.

And here, I began to feel thankful to God again—not just for the obvious blessings like family and friends that I had never stopped thanking Him for, even in the hard times—but because we had heard His guiding voice again.

Since that day in January when my heart shattered, I had felt His presence and His comfort, but His guidance felt nebulous and far away.  But here, I had evidence that He was still guiding—that I hadn’t messed up or misheard His directions—and with this little bit of encouragement, it became easy to trust that He would keep guiding us to the right situation.

I began to take small steps to ready ourselves again, as our agency was hoping to provide us with a shorter match or a “stork drop” situation after our failed adoption (a “stork drop” means the baby is already relinquished or is about to be relinquished when they call you…so you get a phone call that says “hey, come pick up your baby RIGHT NOW.”)  

I applied for an adoption grant to make up for the amount of money that we had lost in our failed adoption.

I updated our hospital bag.

IMG_2673I continued to feel lighter and happier and more at peace.  I still had questions about why God allowed this, yet recognized that these questions probably wouldn’t be answered in this lifetime and that I had to make a decision about whether I was okay with that or not.  I decided to surrender them, reminding myself over and over again, “all things means ALL THINGS.”

I decided to trust the process He was leading me through.  I decided to thank Him for what I DID have—His presence and His guidance and the assurance that He was with me and for me.

And I kept praying for our future child.

In June, Zoe and I went to Minnesota for a few weeks to teen-sit my siblings.  A day after my parents left, I began feeling deep angst.  It’s tough to describe, but my soul felt rattled and scared and unnerved.  All of the questions and doubts that I thought I had surrendered about our adoption were coming back up.

I asked David, pray for me.  I am processing something big.  

I felt deep in my soul that changes were about to happen in my life.  I just didn’t know what they would be.

A few days into this, I went to my best friend Whitney’s church.  The sermon topic was “God of the storm,” about how God is in control of the physical and metaphorical storms in our lives—a fitting topic.  During worship, I felt the presence and comfort of Christ so strongly.  I continued to feel like my heart was opening to something.

After the service, Whitney’s sister asked me something about our failed adoption and I broke down crying.  I don’t know why I’m crying! I said.  I’m so sorry.  I haven’t cried about this in months!  She apologized for bringing it up and I said no, no, it’s so strange.  I usually can talk about it.  I don’t know what’s going on here.  

Embarrassed, I fled to my car and went home.

Later that afternoon, during Zoe’s nap, Whitney came over.  We sat on my parents’ porch and I told her about how confused and unnerved I was and asked her to pray for me.  And that friend of mine said, “how about right now?”

So with our lattes in hand and the  summer sunshine warming our bare feet, she prayed: God, You know what You’re doing in Sarah’s life, and I thank You that what will happen next in her life is not a mystery to You.  Give her patience as she waits, and clarity about what You’re doing soon.  

The next morning, Zoe and I set out for our usual morning walk.

Rochester country

To keep her happy as we walked, I sang her the song she had recently become obsessed with.  Its lyrics:

In my wrestling and in my doubts, 
In my failures, you won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

In the silence, you won’t let go
In the questions, your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea.

My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, My Lighthouse
I will trust the promise: you will carry me safe to shore.  

That morning, as I walked and sang, I realized the truth in Whit’s prayer and in those lyrics: that God was with me in every question, in every doubt, in every moment of wrestling.

He wasn’t surprised by them.

He wasn’t judgmental of them.

He was with me, loving me in them.

And He knew what came next.

That meant I didn’t have to know.  I just needed to keep seeking Him.  The rest would follow.

The next day, June 17, I wrote a blog post about learning to live with the mystery.  I said:

I feel God working in me as I surrender this time to Him and though I don’t quite understand yet what He’s doing, it’s enough to feel His presence with me and trust that He will sort it all out.

There is always room [in my life] for God to do something NEW, something different than what I pictured. And I continue to want to step out of the way to allow Him to work.

I pushed publish, almost an “amen” in my mind.  I was still sitting at the desk twenty five minutes later when my phone rang.

It was Tammy, our case manager. Don’t get excited, I told myself sternly.  It’s probably just a paperwork question.

But deep inside, I knew it wasn’t.  I knew I was about to get the answer I’d been seeking.  

“Hi, Sarah!” Tammy said breathlessly.  “Is David around?”

“No,” I said. “I’m in Minnesota…”

“Oh!” she said.  “Well…I can’t wait.  I just have to tell you! I’m just leaving a birth mom’s house, and she and the birth dad have selected you and David!”

“As parents?” I said, just to make sure.

“Yes!” she said.  “She’s due July 9.  And it’s a girl!” 

To make a long story short, over the next five weeks we rejoiced, prepared, met with the birth parents, loved the birth parents, filled out a ton of paperwork, learned we had to move, found a great housing situation within 24 hours, learned we had been awarded THE MAXIMUM GRANT AMOUNT from the adoption funding foundation even though I had only applied for what we had lost in our failed adoption, packed up our house, organized a move for the first week of August, prayed a BUNCH, and waited.

Photo on 6-28-14 at 8.25 PMAnd waited.

And waited.

It seemed like our little girl was quite cozy in the womb and wasn’t coming out anytime soon.  So we used the time well.  We kept packing.  I finished two of my three summer consulting projects.  I hung out with Zoe.  And we kept waiting.

We hadn’t told many friends about our potential daughter because of our previous failed adoption.  However, I told a few.  On July 20, one of those friends asked me, aren’t you going out of your mind with anxiety?!!  

And what I said surprised even me.  I am not anxious, I replied.  I felt that God was doing something in June when I was in Minnesota.  I didn’t know what He was doing, but I knew I wasn’t alone.  I told Whitney and David I needed prayers.  Whitney prayed over me and two days later, I found out about the baby.  I haven’t felt anxious since.  Through our failed adoption and again in this process God has been with me in every question, every feeling, every doubt, and I have learned that I can be entirely honest with Him.  THAT is the treasure.  Not this baby.  Of course I want this baby, and it would be wonderful to get her.  But if I don’t…I still have Him.  And I know He will be with me and give me what I need to make it through.   

The peace I had been praying for? Had been there through the entire process.

This really might be our daughter.  

The next afternoon, we got the call to head to the hospital.  A sweet little girl was about to make her appearance.  Forgetting half of the practical things we should have brought and almost forgetting to say goodbye to Zoe (oops!) we giddily hopped in the car.

On the way, David and I talked, reiterating our desire to enter into this situation with open hearts.  It would be hard, because we knew what it felt like to love a little girl and then lose her, but we wanted nothing more than to surround this precious creation of God’s with complete and unguarded love for her first few days of life—even if we didn’t get to take her home in the end.

We prayed as we drove.  And then looked at each other, beaming, goofily saying variations of the statement over and over again:  “let’s go meet our daughter.”

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The final post in Riley’s story—in my opinion, the coolest part of this entire story—will be coming soon!

Our Journey to Riley: Part Two

“In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith.  You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the journey will happen as you expect.”
–from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

When we left off in Part One, David and I had just agreed to adopt Zoe’s biological sibling, who was due in eight weeks.  Over the next month, we told our parents and closest friends about our news, prepared a nursery, prayed hard for our future addition, and got organized for life with two.

On Christmas Day, we told our extended family about the upcoming addition.  Everyone rejoiced.

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As the weeks went by, some red flags started to emerge.  The birth mom skipped several OB appointments and lied about several things.  But she kept reiterating that she intended to place the baby with us.  Ordinarily, red flags would make us run—but we knew her.  She had given us Zoe.  We loved her and trusted her.  And we didn’t feel like God was telling us to run.

Then, two weeks before the baby’s due date, I got a call from our case manager.

The birth mom was having second thoughts.

I want to make it clear that I respect the enormity of a decision to place a baby, and that I don’t automatically think I am more qualified to parent than someone else.  However, in this particular case, every professional involved thought it would be in the best interest of this child to come home with us as the birth mom lacked the physical, emotional, and mental resources to care for this child and lacked family support as well.  After working in Title I schools for a few years and learning the difference between “rougher than my upbringing” and “harmful to a child,” I agreed with their assessment.  We were scared by the thought of a child entering this situation.

The case manager and the social worker working with the birth mom suggested that I have a phone conversation with the birth mom to remind her of her positive feelings towards us. I agreed, feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this assignment.

The next day, I was on the elliptical machine at the gym when my phone rang.  Was I free to talk to her now?

I stepped out of the gym and sat in my car.  It was a crisp Friday morning, and I shivered a little in the car as I chatted with the birth mom.  At first, it was just a conversation between two moms—updating one another on their kids and on life.

Then it got serious.  She said she was having second thoughts about this adoption.

I told her, “I know it’s a huge decision.  I want you to know that we love you regardless of the decision you make about this baby, and we will always love and respect you because you are Zoe’s birth mom.  I want you to make the decision that is best for the baby.  I can’t tell you what that is.  But either way, we will still love you.  Please just let us know what your decision is.”

And at that moment, she said “I woke up this morning and knew what I have to do.  I need to place the baby with you.  It’s the right thing for the baby.  Talking to you makes me feel certain it’s right.”

She said it would be helpful if I would come to some OB appointments with her, as she didn’t have any friend or family support, and invited me to go to an appointment with her a few days later.  Everything she said sounded “right.”  But I still came home and said to David, “I’m not sure what will happen here.”

We felt exhausted.  But at the same time, we didn’t feel like we were supposed to “move.”  In many ways, I wished we felt that way.  It would have been easier.  But God kept telling us, “stay with this.”  1518807_709743621525_999587354_o

I wrote to my prayer group that day,

“I was reading this morning about how a planter and a harvester aren’t always the same person and I realized that in this situation, I feel called to faithfully ‘plant’ love regardless of whether I see this ‘harvest’ or not. I get the sense that God just wants me to obey and live out what He has called me to (pursuing this adoption and loving and supporting the birth mom) regardless of outcome.  I feel strongly that there is an entire spiritual dimension going on that I know nothing about, that may have very little to do with me, but that my obedience still can impact.  Of course, God is going to do what He is going to do and I couldn’t stop Him by NOT obeying—but maybe He wants me to play a ‘willing participant’ role instead of ‘mere bystander.’

And so my cry to God is ‘if all I am in this situation is a planter—let that be enough.’  I am praying for the outcome I want too, of course, and I trust that God CAN do that and very well MIGHT do that but that is not the most important thing to me anymore.  And so I ask for your continued prayers for this situation, for the outcome but also for the process in me and in whoever it is supposed to be impacting.”

Over the next two weeks, I attended two appointments with the birth mom.  She acted relieved and excited to have me there.  We made our birth plan.  My mom came, ready to help.

And then, the day of the C-section arrived.  We waited and waited for the phone call telling us our baby’s gender.  Hours went by, with no information.  “She should have been done by now,” we realized.

It was pouring outside.  My mom snapped some photos, trying to capture the mood of the day our new son or daughter would be born.  They are telling.

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IMG_3469Then the phone call came.  My mom, not knowing what was being said and thinking she was snapping photos of a happy moment, took these photos.  They make me tear up looking at them even now.

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IMG_3494It was not a happy moment.  Our birth mom had been through the C-section procedure, refused calls for a while, then finally got in touch with our case manager only to tell her, “it’s a girl.  I love her and I’m keeping her.” 

Our case manager said, “she sounded pretty loopy from the pain meds.  I bet tomorrow she will say something different.”

If you’ve read my blog or followed our life at all this year, you know that she didn’t.  For three weeks, she wavered while we waited, grieved, felt guilty for grieving, hoped, felt stupid for hoping, prayed and generally went crazy, but ultimately, she said she was keeping the baby—that she knew it wasn’t the best decision for the baby, but that it was her decision.

Our case was closed.

Now what?

We didn’t know.  But we knew—and wanted to trust—that Someone else did.

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Part III coming soon.  

Grief: Two Months Out

Brianna turned two months old last weekend.

So what is grief like two months out? Three words:

Honest.

Less ashamed of itself.  (I know, technically a phrase.)

Surprising.

I’d say honest, because I am finally being honest with the Lord about how mad, confused, and upset I am about how He worked and didn’t choose to work in this situation.  For a while, I didn’t convey the depth of my pain to Him because I didn’t want to say something out of anger that I would regret.  I know that is ludicrous, because God knows what is on my heart regardless of whether I share it with him or not, but it goes back to how I process my anger and hurt.

I’m an emotional stuffer, not a spewer.   If I talk to you about how you hurt me, I have already given the situation careful thought prior to our conversation.  I have decided that my feelings aren’t temporary.  I’ve helpfully reduced why I am upset to a bullet-pointed list.  I am ready to tell you what I want you to do differently.

It takes me a while to get there.  I have to value the relationship to even have this conversation.  If I see you once a year or if I don’t like you very much, I’ll probably just let you bother me every time we’re together because it’s not worth the conflict to me.

If I love you though, I am invested and want to have the best relationship possible.

This means honest conversation.

And that’s where God and I are finally at.  I’ve finally been telling Him bluntly, you didn’t work how I wanted.  Why? I’m upset.  I’m hurt.  You could have intervened and you didn’t.  Why? 

And I’m less ashamed of this conversation.  I realized the other day (thanks to a very helpful 10 minutes of Christian radio) that having this conversation with God, having these feelings towards God, is not reflective of a LACK of faith.  Rather, it is the epitome of faith.

Starting this conversation says, I acknowledge that You’re there.  This circumstance hasn’t changed my belief in Your existence.  

Secondly, it says, I believe that You are sovereign and powerful and COULD have acted in a way that made more sense to me.  This circumstance hasn’t changed my belief in Your sovereignty, even if I don’t get your methods.

And finally, it says, I value this relationship enough to be honest with you and to wrestle through this.  I’m not walking away in my anger; I’m going to stay and fight this out.  This circumstance hasn’t changed my desire for a relationship with You.

My friend Jess told me a few months ago that “being angry with God is the deepest form of trust.”  I didn’t really get what she was talking about then, but I’m starting to understand it.  I HATE anger; it is not something that feels comfortable for me.  So talking about my anger with God is like bringing my ugliest sin to Him and saying “this is disgusting–I know–and I am ashamed to even feel this way, but I’m going to be real with You because I want you to know the real me and I want to understand You.  I know that this is going to require a ton of vulnerability on my part and a ton of patience on Yours.  I trust each of us to hold up our end of what is needed.  Let’s do this thing, because it’s important.”

I think of Mary and Martha telling Jesus, “if you had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died.”  Jesus didn’t slap them across the face for questioning His handling of the situation; He felt deeply for them and wept with them.   I remind myself that the same compassionate, loving person weeps with me as I wrestle through this and try to understand—and that it’s important for me to wrestle because I value this relationship.  

Finally, grief two months out is surprising.  I’ve been surprised by the intensity of my grief throughout this experience.  I had hoped it would be a deep sadness for a week or two followed by a level of unhappiness for a week or two, and then back to normal.  I blame ignorance.  I won’t question anyone’s grief again.  It’s hard to understand or predict what you’ll feel, and nobody likes feeling this way but you can’t coach yourself out of it.  You just have to go through the stupid process.

I’d also say, though, that the resilience is surprising.  In a shorter period of time than I thought possible, I went from awful and barely functional to fully functional with an undercurrent of sadness but sense of future hope.  I attribute this to God’s provision of my husband and family, counseling from our agency, and my friends Whitney, Jeanette, and Jaima, who cannot understand what an encouragement they have been.

This doesn’t hurt either:

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My sweet girl.

I won’t be normal for a while still, but I am hopeful about the future.  I am trusting God to take care of Brianna and show her how much she is loved and valued by Him and by others.  I have to lay down my desire for a different outcome and my fears about the future and my wish for control down every day right now, but when I lay it down, I usually don’t pick it back up for the rest of the day and that’s amazing to me.

God never told us that life would be easy; He said we would have trouble in this world and yet the trouble doesn’t change who He is or the other promises He has made to us to be with us, to comfort us, and to work all things together for our good.  “For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.”  -Psalm 33:4 

This is grief two months out.

Writing in the In Between

I’ve been struggling lately with filling this space.

For me, writing is the process of tossing all sorts of loose ends to the ground, wrestling with them, and coming up with them neatly tied together.

But what do you do when you can’t organize your thoughts, when tying your words together is too great of a challenge because your life doesn’t feel tied together? What do you do when your prayers are so tangled up that you don’t even know what you’re praying for, when your emotions are so high and low when you’re used to stability, when your brain says move on and your heart says how? 

You can’t tie that together into some nice paragraphs and a conclusion.  You can’t write straight if you can’t even think straight.

And so I’ve journeyed on, thinking maybe someday I’ll have something to say, until today when it began to dawn on me that in this case, maybe the medium is the message.  Maybe the fact that I can’t put this all together into some clear message IS the clear message.

Grief isn’t neat.

Life isn’t neat.

Love isn’t neat.

Following God isn’t neat.  It isn’t safe.  It isn’t even fun all the time.

But as C.S. Lewis writes, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He’s not safe! But He’s good.”  

And I’m in this in-between place of knowing that, and believing that.  I’m torn between trusting regardless of understanding, and wanting to understand.  Life doesn’t look like what I thought I would look like.  God didn’t work like I expected.

And so I’m doing my best on a day to day basis to lean OFF my own understanding and lean ON His. I’m trying my hardest to lay down whatever I can that day without stressing about what I don’t understand enough to give up yet.  I’m praying that every day I feel worse leads me to feeling better in the long run and I’m thanking Him for every day that I feel happy and light and awake to His presence.  I’m listening to songs that piss me off as they talk about God’s goodness one day and I’m singing them the next day, trusting in their words and feeling their truth in my heart.  I’m taking steps forward while continuing to grieve what was left behind.  I’m looking at a little face and feeling the hope of seeing her future while I pray for the future of her sister that I won’t see. I’m clinging to my husband in love, feeling blessed for the sweetness we’ve shared in the midst of the pain we’ve also shared.  

I’m in between wrapped up and a hot mess.  I can get dressed and cook meals and I am confident in my ability to spend the day doing normal life again, but I am not ready to say “I feel normal” again.

In many ways I prefer the absolutely, 100% broken stage.  At least nothing is expected of you.  You can just BE a hot mess.  And your emotions are predictable.  You just feel sad.  There isn’t this weird back-and-forth thing, a tension between the old you and the new you that you don’t understand yet.  You’re just the devastated you.  It’s pretty straightforward, and people bring you dinner.

But I’m realizing that maybe being so broken and uncomfortable in this world and so pitifully aware of my inability to understand what I need, much less to heal myself from this, is right where the Father wants me to be.

“Do not love this world nor the things that it offers to you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but from the world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.  But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”  (from I John)

He never promised us comfort and an easy life.  He never promised us that our journeys would be safe and neat and protected from pain.  He didn’t tell us to seek those things, either, but as a lover of predictability and routine and control I’ve sought them anyway.  I’m learning that I can survive without them.

I’m learning that what I want most in this in-between time is not a return to safety—but instead, to be within His will.  I want to seek Him—not a specific outcome.  I want to be the person He wants me to be—not just my old self.

As Emily Freeman says,

“Maybe you’re asking what in the world is going on in your own life.  One way to ask that question is with a frantic soul, a furrowed brow and two tightly clenched fists, What now?!? 

…But there is another way to ask – same words, different posture. In the midst of the waiting, of the wondering, of the time of transition, we can rehearse the things we know for sure.

Our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

Nothing can separate us from his love.

We will never be alone.

And so we ask with hopeful expectation, with open hands and a willingness to sit with our questions as we whisper these words before God. What now?” 

It is from that place that I write.  It’s not where I want to be, but it’s where I am.  And so I offer it to Him.

What Is True

Oh, y’all.

I am starting to feel a little bit better.

Praise be to God.  Seriously.

I realize there are huge chunks of this story that have been missing for the casual reader.  Like, I never told you guys that our case was still open for 3 weeks after the birth mom took the baby home because she wasn’t sure she had made the right decision.  I never told you the back story behind why we were so worried and distraught when she brought the baby home with her.  There’s a lot in this story that needs to be hers and ours only, and unfortunately that means no one else can ever fully understand the journey that David and I have been on for the last four months.

But I’ve tried to convey what I could.  And you’ve tried to understand.  And for that I am grateful.

I thought that today, I’d share the things I can share.  The things that aren’t missing, the details that aren’t fragmented, the truths that are mine to share.   And here’s what I came up with.

-Truth one: God doesn’t always do what we expect or want.  But what He DOES do is work good out of all things.  All things means all things.

-Truth two: It’s frustrating, sometimes agonizingly so, when we don’t know or see how He’s working good out of a situation.  But faith means trusting Him to work good out of even the worst situations and releasing those situations into His care.  That does not mean continuing to grasp and wonder and try to figure it out for ourselves.  It means releasing.  Letting go of.  I now know even more deeply what it feels like to be Moses.

-Truth three: Everything I’ve learned in the last few months is now part of me forever.  While I would have preferred NOT to learn some of it if it meant going through this pain, this growth can’t be taken away from me.  This time, this frustration, this pain matters—if I allow it to matter.

-Truth four: The sweet little girl I care so much about isn’t mine.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t love her.  That doesn’t mean I can’t pray for her.  It does mean that I need to accept the situation, though.  From now on, I am calling her by the name her mom gave her.  Brianna.  

-Truth five: This little girl’s story isn’t over yet.  And our family story isn’t over yet.  A song I found this week says, “You didn’t know…[but] a thousand things are happening in this one thing.”  I don’t know what God is doing but I know He can and will do something from these stories.

-Truth six: So the best thing we can do is to share our story, to share what we are learning, to share where we are broken and where we are being fixed and most importantly who is fixing us.  This is what David and I feel called to do in our respective ways.  For him, this meant getting more personal with his sermon this week (prescheduled topic: loving your enemies…nice one, God) and sharing authentically about how hard this can be to do in real life by disclosing what we’ve been going through.  For me, this meant encouraging him to share it before he asked me, because I knew he didn’t know how to ask me in my grief.  It also means sharing here through my writing.

I can’t be stingy with our story.  It’s not ours.  It’s His.

-Truth seven: God is still showing His extravagant love and comfort in the midst of our pain.  We found out on Friday afternoon that our agency has refunded 3/4 of our money.  I had no expectation we would get any of it back and was genuinely so overwhelmed with joy that I didn’t know what to do.  God was addressing my strongest-lingering regret and fear.  Another adoption can happen now, when He is ready for it to happen and helps us be ready for it to happen.

I got up off the metaphorical floor this week.  I’m not lying there anymore in pain, passively knowing God is there.  I’m walking towards Him, and even though I can’t see where we’re going next, I know He will walk with me into the life He has for me–the life that isn’t exactly the same as before, and isn’t the future I pictured, but is still something beautiful.

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-Truth eight: I am beginning to heal.

Grief, Week 3

Okay, so I said that writing about my grief hopefully wouldn’t end up being a multi-week series, but that was when I was hoping I would be able to think about other things in 2-3 weeks 🙂 Probably a bit on the unrealistic side there.

So here are some notes on Week 3!

This week, I had the multitasking opportunity of a lifetime: to continue processing our failed adoption while being socked in the gut (literally) by a 48 hour stomach virus of some kind.

(Note to God: when I said “I wish I could just go to sleep and forget any of this is happening,” I didn’t mean “I wish I could sleep for 19 hours straight, waking up only to vomit yet again.”  Apparently I REALLY need to be more specific.)

I emerged from my couch cushions long enough to text my friend last night,

“I have to confess: I just asked God: an emotional ass kicking wasn’t enough? I needed a physical one too?!” 

(Yes, I am a pastor’s wife.  But every so often, only a swear word will do.  Don’t tell Zoe I said that.)

While lying on a couch for the entire day while life happened around me (have I mentioned my dramatic streak?) I thought, “don’t despair.  Count your blessings! You’re not alone! God is still here providing for you! Tell Him what you’re grateful for!”

My list went like this:

-I’m thankful that the Kardashians were somehow ALWAYS ON MY TV.  I don’t know what sort of marathon I interrupted, but as the day went on I found that I could drift in and out of sleep with their nasally voices on in the background, wake up whenever, and pretty much catch the gist of what was going on within 2 minutes.  (Scott is lying, Kourtney is trying to catch him in it, Kim is being a diva, Kris has a ludicrous idea and is not being supported by her family…you know, the template for any episode.  But BRUCE! What happened to him?!! I must have slept through that horrifying Michael Jackson-like-metamorphosis…)

-Related: this was the only month I have EVER had cable since leaving my parents’ house.  David signed us up for one month of cable only because of the Super Bowl and Olympics.  If I had the stomach bug LAST month, I would have had Hulu Plus and/or static to watch.  So yeah.  Thankful for cable.

-I am grateful that my best friend of 11+ years came to visit on Sunday.  I SO needed her to sit down in my kitchen and say “so…you only have one baby right now…let’s talk about that.”  We’ve been friends since high school (before I had any real responsibilities or roles) so I can say anything to her and wow…I needed that opportunity to just talk, get coffee, and sit in the sun with someone I can be completely unguarded with.

-I’m thankful that I only had a stomach virus twice in the last three months instead of continuously.  And hey…no holiday weight gain? <–(This is a joke)

-I’m thankful for my husband (this one is serious) because he jumped right into caregiving mode and took care of Zoe so that I could vomit and sleep in peace.  That guy rocks.

Today, my stomach is better.  But the physical exhaustion I feel plays right back into the emotional exhaustion I feel.

The truth is, I am just plain worn out in every possible way.

During Zoe’s nap today, I had a phone counseling session with a social worker from our agency.  She reminded me that everything I am feeling (emotionally and physically) is normal and gave me some ideas of activities that I can do to process some of what I am feeling (like a letter that I never send! It’s like an idea that I’ve heard somewhere before…oh wait, IT’S ONE I RECOMMEND TO STUDENTS ALL THE TIME.) 

But I am dutifully going to do all that she recommends because I don’t know what else to do.  I know God is the ultimate healer, but it will probably go better if I give Him something to work with beyond a giant shrug.

Our conversation helped a lot, but I could still use some input on one thing.  Maybe you can help.  Here’s the question: I feel strongly that I want to do something tangible to commemorate this baby’s journey in and out of my life.  But what? 

When my grandpa died, I printed out some photos of the two of us.  Whenever I felt sad about his death, I pulled them out.  The photos reminded me that my feelings of loss came from great love and holding them and remembering that love made me feel better.

When I went through a different tough family situation, I kept photos of that loved one in frames around my house to remind me of our relationship and my need to pray for him/her.

When I see a flower in the sidewalk, I think of my other grandfather (who is no longer fully with us due to dementia) because of a conversation we once had about how God makes beautiful things in unexpected places, and I smile and think of him.

But how do I remember this baby?

I don’t want to just forget her.  It was a real love.  It was a sacrificial love.  It hurts like a real loss.  But I don’t have any pictures of  her.  I wasn’t able to name her.  (Until last week, I didn’t even know what her final name was.)

I feel like a tangible gesture or item would serve as a touchpoint for me in these times when I wonder if I am just being ridiculous to hurt this much for a baby that wasn’t legally mine, and that maybe, as time goes on, this reminder can help me mark my healing (much like I eventually put those photos of my grandpa away because I didn’t need to look at them very often anymore…and in doing so, I didn’t feel betrayal.  I felt healing and felt that he would be pleased with where I was at in my healing process.)

Our social worker suggested planting a tree, but to be honest, my track record with plants is 0-15 or so at this point and if I killed a tree that was supposed to be commemorating my almost-baby, I would REALLY feel bad…

If you have any ideas, PLEASE send them my way.

In the meantime, I’ll just be drinking my electrolyte enhanced water and trying to recalibrate on multiple levels.  Bottoms up…

Photo on 2-20-14 at 3.36 PM #2

Grief, Week 1 (Hopefully NOT a Multi-part Series)

I was really moved with all of the responses to my last post and I’m glad I decided to share it more publicly.  I don’t post everything that I write on this blog or on Facebook—just the things I feel compelled to—and I am glad I followed that pull to push “publish” and share this time.  Everyone’s responses have been meaningful and lovely and healing in their own way.  Thank you.  

Today I thought I’d write a little recap of the things I’ve done and/or experienced so far in these days after our loss, in case it is helpful for anyone else going through something like this or supporting someone else.

-I’ve struggled to remember what normal life feels like.  

We found out about this baby and agreed to adopt it two days before Thanksgiving.  Since that day, I’ve spent most days juggling my “normal” life with thoughts and preparations for this baby, so now I am trying to remember what normal, mother-of-one-not-preparing-for-anything-else activities are and what my normal level of enthusiasm about life feels like.

Fortunately, I had spent the hours before finding out about the baby writing out some fairly detailed goals for myself as a woman, wife, mother, and professional in 2014, so I have those as a reference point.  The things I thought I was capable and desirous of accomplishing in 2014 then is probably the vision of “normal” that I can pursue now.

Still, these goals are designed to be pursued by “normal and enthusiastic Sarah,” not “grieving Sarah.”  I don’t feel like myself at all right now and simple things like getting dressed and putting a load of laundry through the wash feel really challenging.  I know this is normal after a week like we had so I’m not too worried, but I am hoping to settle back soon into the contentedness and energy that usually characterize me.

To make this easier, I’m not allowing myself to deviate too much from my normal expectations for myself.  When we got “the call” about the birth mom wanting to keep the baby, I wondered, what should I do?! The obvious answer to me was, the dishes, I guess.  I’m not going to embark on some wild deep cleaning project or take on extra projects for work right now, but I can try my hardest to just keep our household going so that things look and feel normal around here.  I’m also taking Zoe to our normal activities—the park, the library, a playdate, our exercise class—and keeping her world as normal as possible.

-I’ve practiced the self care I know I need. 

A few things I try to keep in mind whenever I am struggling are my basic self care principles: eat, do my Bible study, get some alone time to process, get healthy amounts of exercise, don’t emotionally eat or drink, don’t ignore everyone, take showers and get dressed in decent clothing, and practice sleep hygiene.  I actually have to chant these in my head sometimes and cheerlead myself into them, but if I do these basic things, I feel like my normal self physically and that helps a lot emotionally.  These become my most important to-dos above anything else.  In the psychosocial education classes I used to teach, we talked about self care being like a “chair” or a “stool” that supported you in any situation.  You have to figure out what legs of the stool YOU need to be the best you and then make sure you plant those legs on the ground.  (For example, some people are more extroverted than me and would be horrified by the minimalism of my social goals.  More power to them.)  

I’ve been craving hard exercise, cookies, and time alone and I’ve tried to give them all to myself…balanced with rest, nutritious food, and time with friends who I feel 100% comfortable with.  I haven’t forced myself into large unstructured group settings yet because I just don’t feel comfortable with it but I’m also not letting myself withdraw into hermitdom like I’d secretly like to.

-I went to church. 

I remember learning that after King David learned that his newborn baby had died, he went to the house of the Lord (2 Samuel 12.)  This week I also experienced the loss of a child, though not in the same way as King David (thank goodness.)  Though I had no clue how to begin to process this loss, I knew staying away from church wouldn’t help.  In many ways church was the only place I wanted to be…and so I went.  I sat in the back and left pretty quickly but now going to church won’t feel like this big hurdle.  I’ve done it and I’m going back on Sunday.  GET READY.

-I’ve gone through every stage of grief Elizabeth Kubler-Ross named…sometimes all in one day.  

And I know I’m not close to done yet.  Emotional roller coaster much? But whatever.  That’s what the self care is for, I guess…

-I’ve forced/allowed myself to accept the gestures of love offered to me.

As I’m typing, I’m drinking a soy latte a friend brought me.  She asked me if she could bring me a coffee today, and while part of me is like why should you drive from your house to mine just to bring me a coffee, the other part of me is like LET HER HELP AND ENCOURAGE YOU…God shows His presence through people.  And I do feel His love a little stronger this afternoon because I allowed her to love me.

I’m also sitting in an empty house right now.  I usually don’t ever take David up on his offers to give me “alone time” on his days off, but I know it is crucial to my processing and thus my healing that I spend a little time alone, and so I sent them to the park together this afternoon.  I know they’ll come back happy and I’ll be a little more ready to give them my love and attention because I won’t be so internally preoccupied.

-I’m writing.  

This was one of my goals for 2014 and it’s my way of processing and organizing my thoughts (if you couldn’t tell from the bullet points I made to organize my thoughts today.)  So…get ready to see more blog posts in my future.  Unsubscribe now and save yourselves!

Well, thanks for allowing my grief and self-indulgence a platform for another day…I have some little park buddies that just walked in the door that I want to focus on.  Happy Friday!

An Empty Room, My Healing Heart

(Note: this is probably the most honest blog post I have ever written.  I love openness and authenticity but I am NOT the kind of person who likes publicly sharing my pain as I am processing it.  I would rather sob into my pillow quietly, fix my makeup, and plaster on a smile in the midst of it…and then share my story with its nice little bow once I can point to lessons learned and feel a little less vulnerable about it all.

However, this is our story and I wholeheartedly believe that the stories we don’t want to share are the ones we most need to share.  Hiding what’s going on anymore feels inauthentic and wrong, not to mention that half of our community knows about it anyway and I’m sick of staying in the house trying to avoid seeing someone who might ask about it.  Putting it out here just seems like an act of mercy to myself at this point and hopefully feels like an act of kindness to those of you wondering how we are and if and how you should approach us.  We are thankful for you and your love for our family, and we know that God will heal us in time so sharing the brokenness isn’t bad because it’s just the beginning point of His work.  Also, I am overwhelmingly grateful for my husband and his willingness and encouragement for me to share this very personal glimpse into our lives even as we work through it.  He never wants me to be anything less than my authentic self and I am grateful for that gift.)

***

How to begin.

How to begin to process everything that has happened over the last few months, joyful and exciting and scary—-and then the last few days, awful and tragic.

I’ve successfully avoided writing for a few days but something in me tells me that the only way out of this is through it.  And maybe I won’t share this but maybe I will, because our stories matter.

The long and the short of it is, I’m hurting.

I have a box of newborn clothes sitting on my counter.  A box that arrived on my doorstep today for a baby that was supposed to arrive a few days ago and then go home with me.

The baby—a 6 lb, 2 oz baby girl—Zoe’s biological sister—arrived on Friday.

But she didn’t go home with us as planned.

She went instead to her new home with her birth mom, who had a last minute change of heart that has basically broken mine.

The technical term is a failed adoption, not that labeling this somehow makes it easier to understand or process.

I still have my sweet Zoe, of course, and a host of other blessings that I gasp out grateful prayers for every day.  I am not lost or broken or wounded forever.  But I am wounded for now.  I am hurting now.  And everywhere I go, there are boxes on my doorstep and someone that hasn’t heard and asks “what’s going on with the baby?” and something I did for “the last time as a mom of one” that I’m doing again as a mom of one.

I know I will heal.  I know I will.

But right now I am feeling so broken.

Forgive me if I don’t seem like myself.  Forgive me if I’m avoiding you.  Forgive me if I just don’t want to talk about it or if I do past the point of where it’s comfortable for you.  I don’t know how to do this grief.  I don’t know what you do when you lose a child that wasn’t really yours but that you have prepared for, dreamed of, prayed for, built a nursery for.

But I’m finding out.

I’m finding out what happens when you hear a heartbeat one week and hear the pain in your social worker’s voice one week later.

I’m finding out what happens when you have your mom come for two weeks to help with your new baby and say goodbye two weeks later without her ever having met the baby, because it’s not your baby.

I’m finding out how you grieve as a mom, when you have to compartmentalize grieving and processing for nap time because you don’t want your child to see you cry.  I’m finding out the beauty of a closed door so you don’t have to see the nursery you lovingly prepared in all its emptiness.  You may call it escapism; I call it survival.

I’m finding out how you can feel thankful towards a woman for giving you your greatest happiness in one child and simultaneously feel angry that she has interrupted your happiness with that child by seeking you out, planting an idea of more, and then uprooting it.  I’m finding out how you can admire a woman’s sacrificial love for one child and abhor her selfishness in the case of another, how you can defend her vehemently to others because she’s Zoe’s mom and yet accuse her in your own mind because one loving decision doesn’t pardon a thoughtless one.

I’m finding out very firsthand that mothers don’t always make decisions with their children’s best interests in mind and I’m finding out just how sad it feels to realize that Zoe’s sister will never have the same safety, quality of life, or resources that Zoe will have.  I have always had such a heart for vulnerable girls…now I’m finding out what it feels like when the vulnerable girl is Zoe’s sister.

I’m finding out what it feels like when the open relationship with her birthmother that you’ve worked hard to cultivate and hoped to offer as a gift to your adopted child is altered and maybe even taken away through no fault or actions of your own.

I’m finding out how you work through these things as a couple, and how it’s different than working through other losses.  Other losses we’ve faced have affected only one of us strongly, so the other has been able to be a partner and supporter to the griever.  I’m finding out what it feels like when both of us are grieving equally but differently.

I’m finding out what financial loss feels like when you’re a stay at home mom married to a pastor and, let’s face it, you only have so much in savings and you’re only going to accumulate so much more.  I’m finding out what “our money is God’s money anyway” means when you spend it on what you feel called to spend it on and…crickets.  No obvious ROI, no obviously changed lives, no extra family member, no tangible anything.  Just boring obedience and a bunch of questions.

And I guess that describes this stage well…a bunch of questions.  What the WHAT was any of this? We felt very strongly we were on the right track by agreeing to adopt Zoe’s biological sibling…does that mean her birth mom was on the wrong track or that we are awful at knowing where the right track is or none of the above? (David actually has a good answer for this one) What is the purpose of pain and why does God allow it? (Random deep questions come up but I don’t actually want to have any deep discussions) What do we do next? What does this mean for our family? What will I feel in 5 minutes and can I handle it? (Probably different and I’m finding that yes, I am handling it)

The one thing I don’t question is this: the goodness of the Lord.  He wants good for this baby; He wants good for us; He wants good for Zoe’s birth mom (and we do as well…we don’t wish her poorly at all.)  Although I truly believe that the “good” He wanted was to place this baby into our family, He doesn’t control our actions like we are puppets and as a result, a different decision was made.

But He is big enough to redeem any situation and He is big enough to bring “good” out of “not the best” decisions and situations.

And so I will stop wishing for something better and let Him use what is.

I pray He works through our pain to make it have a point, because no pain is wasted when we hand it over to God.  I pray He works through Zoe’s birth mom’s struggles to grow and shape her.  I pray He develops her love for this child into something pure-hearted and gives her wisdom and ability to provide a better home life for this child than what is available now.  I pray that He gives us wisdom about our next steps.  I pray that He helps us find every secret place where unforgiveness is buried, dig it out, and give that gift of peace to ourselves and to her.  I pray He helps us heal and become whole again.  I thank Him for my even deeper appreciation for the gift of the child we already hold and the man that holds her with me.  I thank Him for my family, for our friends, for our community, for the gift of writing that helps me finally understand and express my feelings, for the material possessions that haven’t been taken away and for the relationship I have with Him that can never be taken away.  And I trust.  Trust Him to walk me through the ugliness, trust Him to handle my questions and sorrow and pain, trust Him to make something beautiful out of our story…as He always does. 

I don’t know how to begin to process everything. But this is where I choose to start.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength.
–Habakkuk 3:17-19a