At Season’s Change

Last night, David and I finally unpacked the last moving box.  We still have a few blank walls, and our fall decorations have turned up missing (which makes me wonder what else might be missing) but for all intents and purposes, we’re settled.

The fall semester is one third of the way done.

It’s football season, which means I see significantly less of David.

It’s finally cooling off a little here in Florida.  I saw people in sweatshirts on our walk Wednesday morning (and rightfully so—I mean, it was 78 degrees.)

I’ve switched to hot coffee drinks.

Riley had her two month appointment this week.  I found myself thinking: “you’ve only been with us two months?” It feels like she’s always been with us.

All of these signs point to a new season.  Thank God.  

It’s no secret that 2014 has not been an easy year for me.  The year has been full with anxiety, waiting, sadness, and loss, capped off by housing issues and a forced move.  I feel scarred by this summer, which held the highest of high notes with Riley but was very difficult otherwise due to constant moving and adapting (and honestly, summer in Florida could be its own brand of seasonal affective disorder.)  My grandfather died a few weeks ago, necessitating a 36 hour trip to Colorado to celebrate his life and the joy He has found in His eternal life with Christ.  I found myself telling David “I’m so eager for a new season” about 600 times this year, but it seemed to just keep blending together into one challenging one.  I’m not proud of what all this angst says about my ability to be content no matter the circumstance—but I’m also aware that some seasons are just hard, and that even if you do your best to choose joy in the hard times, it’s okay to look forward to when that joy comes more easily.

The last box we unpacked was full of random items.  Tools.  Newborn diapers (oops.)  And this stuff:

IMG_3453This is proof that, even in the midst of a hard season: a miracle can happen.

Riley came out of the womb without a name.  She left the hospital with a temporary name.  But in 2-3 months, she’ll have a permanent name.  How like our God—who lovingly takes us into his family as we are, gives us His name and His strength for our life here on earth, and gives us the assurance that we will belong to Him forever in heaven.

The miracle of Riley reminds me that no matter what my circumstances may look like, there is one circumstance that supersedes everything: that I have been loved, as I am, without doing anything to earn it, by a God who wants to unite me to Himself forever.  As I pass through seasons of life, learning from each one, this truth is my constant—and I long for it to be the lens through which I view every season, stage, transition, and role I play.

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!”
I Peter 1:3-4 MSG  

 

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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.

Needy

The two weeks have been…interesting.  Let’s recap, shall we?

Zoe is usually a happy, easy-to-please baby, but during weeks 7 and 8, she was a tearful little enigma.  This unfortunately happened during the same two weeks that David had to take five hard tests in Orlando as part of his ordination process.

Here’s a math equation for you: 1 screaming, unhappy baby – ability to be soothed + 1 sleep-deprived mama + starting part-time work – 1 dad around to help = misery.

As the craziness reached its peak, I started to wonder if Zoe was having an adverse reaction to her formula, so I began some food experimenting that exhausted her (and yet cruelly made her unable to nap.)  Here’s an example of when happens when HAPPY Zoe throws a random fit:

Photo on 1-15-13 at 5.05 PM #4

So now imagine an UNHAPPY Zoe with a tummy ache and without a nap—it was a truly exquisite combination of a demon, short-tempered Kate Gosselin, and pitiful sweet little baby, with lots of back-arching, screaming, and hair pulling.

Put her down for a second to eat or go to the bathroom?!! What are you, crazy?!! Go somewhere in the car? Again, ARE YOU CRAZY? Try to help her sleep when she’s exhausted? Now you’re just being cruel…

It’s SO SAD to watch your little baby struggle like that.

You wonder, what am I doing wrong? What could I do to help? Does she need a schedule? Is she allergic to her formula? Is she getting sick? Is this her new personality?!! Is this abnormal fussiness a normal developmental stage? Am I missing something? 

You find yourself googling phrases like “baby abnormally fussy + 7-8 weeks” and “signs of colic” and “allergic to formula?” You talk to other moms who share worst-case scenarios.  You fear that this is her new personality.  You reflect back on how nannying was so much easier because you got to go home at the end of the day and get a break.  You feel guilty about that and quickly kiss your baby and tell her “I would never want to be childless! You’re the best!” (She cries in response.)  You feel guilty that other people’s babies have harder struggles, then you realize you can’t think about them right now because it makes you want to cry and that isn’t helpful.  And you try to stay calm and adjust only one thing at a time so that you can isolate the problem, even though you want to just change EVERYTHING.

Thankfully, SO THANKFULLY, I knew my mom and sister were coming to visit at the end of week 8.  Truly, if I had not had that information in my mental back pocket, I would have probably laid down in the street and waited for an unobservant driver to run me over (and I live near a high school, so I wouldn’t have had to wait long.)

Our pendulum shifted on Wednesday night at 11:30 when I picked up my mom at the airport.  Instant relief for me.

On Thursday morning, I talked with our pediatrician about my suspicion that Zoe needed a new formula.  I had already discontinued her formula twice (and switched to breastmilk) and she seemed to do way better without the formula, so our pediatrician suggested that I should try a formula for lactose sensitivity.

Here’s Zoe and my sister Olivia on Thursday, 16 hours after her formula detox started.  You can still see Zoe’s sad little face:

IMG_0575“Mom, I’ve been through a battle.”

But the lactose sensitivity formula did the trick! By Friday, Zoe was back to her normal happy self after 2 weeks of on-and-off misery!

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We had a fabulous, fabulous visit with my mom and sister.  We went on walks, spent lots of time playing with Zoe, played games, and took Zoe on her first trip to the zoo.  My mom watched Zoe so that I could go to the gym twice (and Olivia went to Zumba with me!) David finished his last exam on Friday so he was able to spend time with us too!

This photo describes the visit:

IMG_0579Olivia feeding Zoe.  My mom folding our laundry and simultaneously playing a game.  David actually being able to relax after an exhausting series of tests.

Family is the best.

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Zoe and her sweet Auntie Olivia

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Zoe smiling at her Gigi

The last two weeks have taken this usually competent and upbeat girl and made her painfully aware of her own vulnerability.

I’m used to being able to put hard work, energy, and a positive attitude into a situation and get the result that I want.  But motherhood is a whole new set of rules—I can exhaust all of my physical and mental resources and still not have my baby feel any better.

Earlier this week when I was struggling I said out loud to God, “I just feel so NEEDY.  I have nothing left to give!”

Being in a position where I feel “needy” at all strikes fear into my heart—I like being self sufficient!

But I’m realizing that motherhood is not an independent journey that I can just handle on my own all the time.  I NEEDED this visit with my mom.  I NEED the support of people around me and it doesn’t make me a failure to reach out to them and say “hey, this mom thing is hard!” (I’m so grateful to you Wednesday night Bible study friends who smiled at my tear-stained face and said “you’ll feel better tomorrow!”  You were right!)

And I’m thankful for my neediness, because it keeps me seeking Him.