As I type, Ryan is getting his physical, one of the last remaining pieces to the adoption home study puzzle. Not the last, but one of the last. We still have to write our birthmother letter, get a letter from his employer and print out some form from the DMV website. Just things we have been putting off. Oh, and I have to get a TB shot.
Adoption still doesn't seem real. I'm very calm about it (perhaps too calm, as you may have noticed from all the remaining paperwork) and I'm pretty much trusting God and allowing his will to be done. It is so easy for me to do this with adoption, but so hard when it comes to trying to conceive.
But that is all about to change. Actually, it already has - starting on January first.
I am not a resolution sort of person, so this isn't one. This epiphany just happened to take place on the first of the year. We were making the 50-minute drive from my husband's parents' house to Lifehope's home. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I had borrowed the book-on-CD Left To Tell from her and since I was nearly finished, I figured we might as well finish it in time to give it back to her in person. Let me just say that this book is amazing. Immaculee Ilibagiza's story of spending three months hiding in a bathroom with several other women while the Rwandan genocide was going on outside is horrific, but her faith through it all is completely inspirational. This woman had the battle of good and evil raging in her mind as she spent nearly every waking moment praying. She fought off demons and was given great visions and messages from our Lord. She had moments of doubt, but she never collapsed into self-pity and never stopped trusting in God.
Of course, I listened to the book with my own struggles in mind. I wanted to perhaps adopt some methods for giving it all over to God. And I did - Immaculee's strength had already inspired me to be more positive and to trust that God would deliver. I had struggled with one thing, though - why had he saved her? I am certain other faithful Rwandans had prayed just as hard and with just as much faith as she did, but had been butchered by the Interahamwe. She does deal with this near the end of the book, by telling another refugee who wondered this very thing that God allowed them to live so they'd be left to tell their stories. It does remind us of the seemingly random manner in which God appears to answer prayers for some and not for others, why he gives the positive pregnancy test for some, while others will never experience that joy. I haven't thought enough about this yet for it to make complete sense to me, and I doubt it ever will, but I do feel very deeply that God doesn't want me to think about that. To think about the negative outcome that could happen is the devil whispering in my ear that God can't deliver, that he isn't who he says he is.
So as we were making the short trip north, we listened to the very end where Immaculee talks about her life since 1994. She had mentioned earlier in the story how positive thinking and envisioning God delivering her from the bathroom (even what the U.N. peacekeeper who they would take refuge with would look like) had played an important role in her story, but she went into even more detail in the epilogue. I won't say exactly what she prayed for, in case you want to read the book, but there are two things, in particular, that she discusses. She prayed fervently for each thing, but also envisioned it happening, even to the point of pretending, in a sense, that it had already happened. She trusted that the Lord would grant her prayer, but seemed to balance it with an acceptance of his ultimate will.
Both things she prayed for (and these are big things on par with pregnancy) came to be. We know that God calls us to have have faith that our prayers will be answered. As Christ says in Mark, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. So, as soon as the book ended, Ryan and I began to discuss ways we could put this very thing into practice - starting that night.
As I've said before, I have felt very strongly that God has been calling me to have trust that he will answer my prayers. That has been the message I've been receiving on my heart throughout the fall and early winter. In adoration, when I read Scripture, whatever I am doing, it always comes back to that. And whenever I question Scripture passages about believing that your prayer will be answered (because millions of prayers go unanswered every day - and for very good reason, I know), I always feel confident that I am not supposed to think those thoughts. I am not supposed to contemplate it. I am supposed to leave it alone.
So we spent the rest of the ride to Lifehope's house and also the ride from her house to ours, thinking up ways to really, truly put this into practice. We decided to come up with names, and while I am not a naming ahead sort of person, I think this is important for us. It might seem a little weird to do this before you even conceive - even the idea of putting a baby's name on a cake at a shower makes me shudder (maybe I've stolen that from the Jewish religion.. don't they take great care to not write a baby's name before it's born?) - but we need to do tangible things that show we are confident our babies are headed to us. So we came up with more definitive names. They were basically the ones we were already going to go with, but now we will refer to them by name (but only to each other. And they could change - we are most definitely not locked in).
There are other things I still hope to incorporate into my daily routine. I want to write a prayer that I will say every morning, referring to my future babies, and thanking God for his future answer to our prayers. I will plan the nursery in my mind and clear out the room, so it will be all ready to decorate once I am pregnant.
We are also making changes in our attitude, which could be the most important changes of all. For instance, I will no longer refer to our potential to remain childless or make cracks about all the great things childless couples could do that I have no desire to do. I will not use the word barren, because I am not. I have eggs and a real-life doctor has declared that I do, in fact, ovulate. I also try to spend some time each day picturing myself getting the positive pregnancy test and then, later, a pregnant stomach. That concept has been has difficult in the past as envisioning myself with antlers.
There may seem to be a delicate balance between faithfulness and too much confidence, even appearing that we are telling God what to do and neglecting his will. I don't think that balance is too difficult to maintain when you are coming from the perspective of having no faith that your prayers will be answered. All I can say is I feel called to this, to have supreme confidence that the desires of our heart to be pregnant will be satisfied. I can barely type or think that thought without immediately thinking about the "what if?": sometimes God says "no", many faithful couples never conceive, etc., etc. I don't have a good, sound theological argument to back this up, but as I've said before, I just KNOW that I am not supposed to spend any time on those doubts.
Immaculee could have thought that she, too, would be murdered because, after all, why was she any better than the other hundreds of thousands of Rwandans killed? God had let her family, her friends, all die, so why should she have confidence that he would hide her? God promises to remain with us all, but God could be with her and the killers might still find her. The odds were most definitely on the side of the killers. She shouldn't have lived.
But she didn't let those thoughts creep in. She blocked them out because we are called to have faith that can move mountains. At one point, Jesus spoke to Immaculee, saying:
Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculée, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone. Trust in me, and know that I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear. Trust in me, and I will save you. I shall put my cross upon the door, and they will not reach you. Trust in me, and you shall live.
If Immaculee had let those doutbing thoughts creep in, she probably would have died. She would have lost her spirit, her faith. She wouldn't have allowed the Holy Spirit to work through her, to come up with ideas of how to better hide the bathroom door. She might have given up a thousand different times. But she didn't. She trusted that God would save her, not just that she would be with our Lord in Heaven if the killers did reach her, but that God would blind the killers to seeing the door and would make their ears deaf to not hear them shaking and breathing.
I have been close to losing my spirit. And I am not naive enough to think that my new, positive attitude will mean that those days are over. If anything, things might get more difficult. I can imagine it will be even harder to endure months of failed cycles while trying to remain confident that a successful cycle in on the horizon. Just the other day I was in a bad mood, and my first inclination was to give up on my new attitude. That scared me, because it wasn't even a real bad day, it was just a momentary bad mood. I know the depths of depression can go much lower and I have to be ready to fight through that, not letting myself lose hope.
It would have been much easier for Immaculee to give up, and to let the devil move in. That is the road of least resistance, at least in the immediate future. Staying hopeful and confident that God will deliver is much harder, when all the signs are pointing toward him being no where to be found.
It is up to us to stay positive. I can still cry, but instead of letting the crying and disappointment turn into anger at God and doubt in his power, I cry with the Lord, uniting my suffering to his own. And I will cry on the shoulder of Our Lady, knowing that she is comforting me.
I really hope this new attitude doesn't crash and burn. I think my first test will be if it doesn't happen this cycle (I know that it might not happen right away, but it will happen), but, thankfully, I have my husband to keep me on track.
I have such high hopes that this is what God wants of us right now, but I will continue to pray for his guidance, that he put us on whatever path he has ahead of us. That's all that is important.