Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In Defense of Suffering

When you read my words of anguish and grief, does it inspire you to step boldly towards what God is calling you to?  Or does it stop you in your tracks watching me grieve?

I struggle sharing the darkness I've been through.  I want to share this story, unite myself with others who are suffering, and provide an insight into where God has called me.

But, late at night, I wonder, am I scaring people out of their callings?  Because in the middle of the night, I have tremendous powers of persuasion.

Hear my words of heartache and anguish, but look to what God has done in my life.

Suffering has transformed my heart.  It has been turned inside out, so now my focus is on others instead of myself.  It has been broken, but it has also been remade.  Into a heart big enough to reach for heaven.

When we started down the road of fostering, we heard a lot of voices expressing concern for how we would guard our hearts against the possibility of loss.

As I sat one day, holding a fragile five pound baby, I answered that question boldly, "God gives us no promises on any of our children.  I'm not guarding my heart, she deserves it."

My family raised a beautiful, feisty little girl for too short a time and entirely too long to guard our hearts.  How could we guard ourselves against falling in love with her for 29 months?  Every day of that time, she was with us, rocked to sleep, bumped knees kissed.

I poured love into her with reckless abandon.  I was her mother.  What were the options?  She deserved nothing less than all of me.  This precious child entrusted to our care.

I haven't made light of what it was to lose her.  What it was when her bio parent cut off all contact.  Devastating.  Crushing.

It took me a long time to come out of a very dark place after losing her.  I'll mourn the loss of raising her as my own the rest of my life.  Every day.

But what was the alternative?  That precious precious girl needed a home and God called us to be it.

We aren't promised no suffering because of our faith....in fact, sometimes that faith causes more suffering through persecution.  But, we are promised redemptive suffering.

It wasn't the losing of Sweet Baby that made me a better person, it was the fiat.  The unconditional surrender to God's plan for our lives, even if we were taking a big risk in the eyes of all around us.

Maybe it looks like we gambled and lost.  Some days that's what it feels like.

But everyday I look at SP, my rainbow baby with no medically explainable reason for existing, I am reminded that God blesses our fiats.

Maybe the fruit of my next fiat won't be additional children in our family.

But always, always, God shows up when you say yes.

In big ways and little ways.

Take risks for God.  Be bold in your faith.

It will be hard.  It will crush you.  But you will be made new.  Allow God to remake you, to refine you by the fire.

Do not guard your heart from your calling.  Give with reckless abandon and trust.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Pinprick of Light

The response to my last post was overwhelming....so, so lovely. 

Sharing that darkness weighed so heavily on my heart.  As I sat in the silence of it, I felt pushed to speak, pushed to break the silence surrounding me.

It was hard to speak of the dark.  To name it.  To own it.

I didn't know others were sitting in Mass, deadened to the feelings of grace around them.  I didn't know others were leaning on the motions to carry them through the darkness.

I thought I was sitting in the dark room alone.

When I spoke, the weight of it shifted, a burden shared.  Messages sent my way, speaking encouragement, solidarity, experience.

It gave me strength to be still in the dark and trust the motions a little while longer.

You friends, were the first of pinpricks.  The first light showing what has been developed in me.

Another pinprick came in a most unexpected way.  A religious sister was speaking on the role of women.  She looked up from her notes and said, "We are first God's daughters."

In that moment, she radiated.  Her whole being was transformed with joy, and there I sat a witness.

I felt something shift in my soul at the witness of her joy.  It wasn't her words, it was the transfiguration of her being as she spoke them. 

These days, I move through foggy grays and twilight skies...not quite the black of night.  And as I walk, there I see the stars.  The little points of light, shining with all the truth and goodness and beauty I cannot quite yet reach.

Perhaps one day, hope will flood my soul again.  For now, I am grateful for you, and for small moments of light.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Dark Room

I've had a fascination with old school photography my whole life.  My paternal grandfather was a ground-breaking photographer, developing chemical processes and guest lecturing for a major film company.

He passed away before I was born, and I was always fascinated with his life's work.

The dark room is the tricky part; the moment when you make it or break it.  Unprocessed film cannot be exposed to light, or it will be destroyed.  So, the photographer works in complete dark, a series of practiced motions leading them. 

Hands move without sight, opening canisters, winding film, placing in the processing tank, and sealing the film away again, safe from light and ready for the next step.

In the dark room, you need to trust your hands.  You need to follow the motions you've done before, confident that the practice, the process works. 

It will only be in the final steps that you will know if your hands have been true.  Everything from the moment you step in to the dark room to the moment you see the developer bring your film to life is an exercise in trusting the process. 

It's a leap of faith until the moment everything suddenly becomes visible.  Until then, it's all darkness, trust, and hope.

Since June, I've been sitting in the dark room of my soul.  No breaks of light or foreshadowing of great things.  Just the feel of my own hands working in the dark, moving through the motions I've spent a lifetime learning. 

Practicing blind trust because I feel no hope.  No grace.

In May, I was able to see and touch the relics of St. Gianna.  After the experience, I felt my chronic uterine inflammation (a piece in the infertility puzzle) was relieved.  With that relief, I was one katrillion percent certain a(nother) miracle was imminent and that I would be pregnant shortly.

As I sat in Mass, two days after the onset of a new cycle declaring a continuance of infertility, I physically felt my heart break, my soul shatter.

It was in the moment I entered the dark room.  I could see nothing, feel nothing.  Only the absence of miracles.

Since then, every Mass, every Confession, every prayer has been said from practice, from blind trust.  Not from any feeling of grace or goodness.

In the dark room, it's easy to doubt.  It's easy to think that perhaps it would be easier to just open the door and let the film spoil.

In the dark room, there's a lot of time to think.  In the moments when the dark room seems too much, I think about Mother Teresa.

Every time I do, I thank God her confidant didn't listen to her and throw away the letters detailing Mother Teresa's lifetime in the dark room.

She spent decades, acting on a faith she couldn't feel in her soul.  In her private writings, she details the pain of faith without tangible grace. 

The grace there, just outside the door of the dark room, constant and present, but unable to reach through.

I haven't wanted to talk about this darkness.  I've been hoping it would be relieved and I could put it behind me and move on to happier, more cheerful things.

But it hasn't lifted, and I wonder.  Who else is sitting in a dark room?

Do you know you're not alone?  I'm here, sitting in this room with you.  Trust the movements of your hands, trust the prayers spoken by rote but unfelt in your soul.  Trust, friend.  You are not alone.

The dark room cannot extinguish the truth or existence of the light.  The dark room is a part of the process. 

We need the dark room to keep the film safe, perhaps here our souls are resting and staying safe as well.  If only we trust the process.  Now our training will be what we lean on, and the stories of those who have braved this place before us.

Hold my hand, friend.  You are not in this room alone.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Painting is Teaching Me

I've always said that I can't draw - can't paint. 

But, for our kids, we'll try things and do things we wouldn't do for ourselves. 

So, I've been drawing and painting saint dolls - because Sweet Pea is absolutely ENAMORED with her "Mawee dolls". 

These were last month's dolls - St Elizabeth of Hungary. 

Days and days of work. She ended up looking a little cranky, and from that I learned that next time the eyebrows need to be less severe. 

But you know what? I was really proud of how they turned out. All that free hand drawing and painting - and it turned into something recognizable!  Not perfect, but beautiful. 

This month, I'm working on four pieces for a nativity swap. 

None of them are exactly perfect, but again, all beautiful. All a little different. 

A new experience for this time painting was the addition of animals for the manger scene. I elected to do camels. 

The trick to these was that they had to be painted straight onto the raw wood. That meant no take-backs. Where the paint landed was where I had to go. 

So, I leaned in to it. I let go of perfection and worked with the paint, coaxing it along. 

As the camels' faces changed because of a particular brush stroke or grain of the wood, I had to let it go. I had to lean in to what that moment gave me. 

And right there, sitting on my couch with a bunch of toothpicks, paint brushes, and acrylics, it just hit me. 

I only got to where I needed to be when I let go and trusted my hand, when I worked with what I had and let it be enough. In the end, it became beautiful. 

If you need me, I'll be sitting here thinking about those implications for the rest of my life. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's Up Doc?

Talking hormone crashes and mood swings today =D

Last cycle, I had a bad reaction to my hcg injections - an entire day of morning sickness type symptoms before the onset of my new cycle.  It was a really rough, emotionally draining day.

I don't have to tell anyone who's been hoping for a new baby what it is to spend any amount of time thinking you might be pregnant, only to have your new cycle start approximately 3.2 seconds after finally taking the pregnancy test.  Rough, friends.  Rough.

It just cracked me last month.  So much so that I called my NaPro doctor immediately for a consult.  And I'm such a non-interventionist that I really veer more towards not calling when I should....so bad.

Today, I made the four hour round trip to go see my specialist.  We reviewed my hormone levels and decided that a switch from hcg to straight progesterone was warranted.  Turns out, my estradiol was perhaps too high to have hcg be an effective option, so the hope is that oral progesterone (YAY! NO MORE NEEDLES! For now at least.) will do the trick and create a better balance - and fewer side effects.

Aside from the awesomeness of switching from an injection to a pill, that pill costs about 20% of what the injections did, so yay for cost savings!

After some additional talking, my doctor felt that a blood draw to check my thyroid was in order.  Apparently, you shouldn't have to exercise two hours a day to lose any weight?  Is this true?  Who can verify?!  :)

So, right before lunch, on an empty stomach, I had a couple vials of blood drawn.  My face must have shown that the draw made me a little woozy, because the poor sweet nurse was very solicitous. 

Hoping for more answers.  Honestly, a poor test result would be a blessing just to have something to pin this conundrum on.  Seven to ten business days and I should have an answer either way.  Whether that leads to more testing or a treatment plan remains to be seen.

The other bonus:  progesterone is naturally anti-depressant/anti-anxiety, so I'm hoping I'll be back to feeling like my old self again after the rollercoaster of grief and hormonal substitutions.

In related news - 4 of the 5 women I prayed for at the relics of St. Gianna are pregnant! (I'd the be fifth and non-preggo.)  I told my mom that St. Gianna's success rate of 80% is a totally respectable number :)

Happy to have more answers today.  Hopeful that new protocols will yield a happier, more energetic me.  Balanced hormones make a world of difference.