I went to the dentist today, and there’s just no way that labor is worse. The hygienist kept asking me if it was too much. Here’s a hint, when you have to suction the pooling blood from my mouth over five times, it’s too much. You shouldn’t need a blood transfusion after a teeth cleaning.
This year the Holy Spirit has been teaching me about what it really means to be like Jesus. As a Christian, we often talk about how God is forming us into Christ’s image, but as I look at my life, it doesn’t look much like Jesus’ life. When we were in Congo and everything was falling apart, we took comfort in knowing that our sorrows were familiar to our Savior. We reminded ourselves that we worship a homeless man who was betrayed by his friends and murdered. We should expect no less if we want to be like him.
Right after I posted last week about struggling to find contentment, the Holy Spirit brought me Isaiah 53:3, which describes Jesus as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. I had to laugh at myself. Here I was wallowing in self-pity about my discontent. If I love Jesus and want to be like him, should I not expect to be a woman of sorrows and acquainted with grief? In fact, I should be rejoicing in the honor of sharing sorrow with my brothers and sisters. I should be so blessed as to feel a slight bit of the pain that Jesus felt when he walked the earth.
I don’t want to forget the world is broken. I don’t want to be isolated from its brokenness. As a wealthy American, my default is to flee – ignore the homeless, move to the suburbs, don’t watch the news, stay at a fancy resort in a developing country. Pretend like it’s not there. It’s easier to sleep at night. It’s easier to rationalize my own existence.
On Friday night I was blessed to join with some sisters to go out on the street to meet and pray with women who were selling their bodies to men. Each time I go out with this group, I am amazed and changed. Just miles from where I sleep and in the late night/early morning hours while I am sleeping, there’s so much activity. This particular night we were near Midway airport, a familiar drive that feels like a different place at midnight. You turn down a street and see the women scattered around, getting into cars with these strange men. It’s utterly heartbreaking, and it is absolutely where Jesus is.
Before we go out, I usually pray that I will see Jesus in the faces of the women, the pimps and even the Johns. I can’t say I’ve gotten there with the men, but when I see these women, I do see Jesus. While my whole body is telling me to flee, my Spirit knows that it is exactly where I am supposed to be. These are the beautiful unique children of God caught up in a world full of darkness.
Then on Saturday morning, we cooked breakfast at a cafe for the homeless. Another opportunity to meet with Jesus. An opportunity to praise God that this world is temporary and falling away. The brokenness is real, but so is God.
I don’t have any answers, but I do have hope. I have hope in a Savior who comes to save the lost. A Savior who has defeated death already. One over whom the powers of darkness have no power but that which he gives. I have hope that he will come again and wipe away every tear. I am sorrowful, but so is he.
Here in Chicago we have been having the most fabulously beautiful weather. It’s been sunny and warm and now sunny and cold. There have been a few rainy days, but most days are clear and bright. The leaves have changed and are now crunching under our feet. Fall is my favorite time of year in many ways, but the changes always feel harsh.
I’m having a rough week. The initial novelty of being job-free has worn off, and I’m now settled into a new normal. I don’t have any big projects that I am working on, and the days start to feel like they are running together. There’s always a to do list – groceries, cleaning, laundry, cooking, writing bad reviews about One World Adoption Services, Inc. – but nothing is really inspiring me or motivating me.
I realized that I am here again with my old familiar friend. The Wait. We are about three months from Baby Bean’s arrival, Lord willing. Close, but not that close. The closer it gets, the more anxious I feel. It’s not that I am scouring the Internet for possible things that could go wrong. It’s more that it feels too good to be true. Probably every mother feels this way to some extent. Add six years of infertility and adoption failures to the mix, and you have a person waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The flip side is that I’m embarrassed to be excited and happy. I still think about the little excited-ness and happiness I allowed myself to be about the kids and feel embarrassed. I so desperately want to daydream and talk about names and set up a crib, but it seems so stupid. How can I do that knowing that there’s not going to be a happy ending?
I feel like a crazy person. Maybe I’m being a martyr. I’m having a pity party for myself. I know better than this, but I can’t make myself feel it.
Where does this come from? Probably hormones. But, other than that, where? Is this a lack of trust? A lack of faith? A failure of understanding who God is? Why am I so unable to rejoice in all things at all times when I know it’s what I am supposed to do? Why doesn’t knowledge always translate into feeling?
Sometimes I wonder how Job felt after he was restored by God. Was he waiting for everything to be taken away again or had he been so profoundly changed that he trusted that even if he lost everything again, he would count it all joy? Probably the latter, but he was human so he must have struggled with faith and trust.
It comes down to the problem of being human. God created in us these good fleshly desires for relationships, comfort, babies, food and then tells us that we should only need HIm and worship Him. Ugh! Make up your mind, God! Doesn’t he know that I’m only human and I can’t possibly keep these desires in balance? I am an addict. Sometimes I think it would be better to have no one and nothing and live as a monk in a cave. THEN, I could get it done.
Alas, apparently God wants us to be in the world but not of the world. He wants us surrounded by temptation and strife. We are in a war. He doesn’t want me to be comfortable here because it’s not my home. My only conclusion is that he gets glory from the struggle and not the mastery. When I am weak, he is strong. He must be very strong right now.
We need to go back in time a little to recap on a few events from this fall.
On September 22, I had the privilege of sharing our 7 fast journey with the women of The Moody Church. Three of the other ladies who joined me in the fast also shared, and we had a really rich discussion. We shared our many failures as well as the things the Lord has shown us and continued to show us. It was such an encouraging morning!
The discussion opened first with the 7 trailer video, and it was almost surreal to think that we actually did all those things over seven months. As I prepared in the days before the conference, I realized how much happened over the course of those months. Each month there were so many lessons, and it was so nice to take time to reflect on that experience. The fast ended somewhat abruptly for us and in the middle of the post-adoption fallout that we never had a chance to really debrief and process what we had learned. The conference was a great opportunity to go back and look through the old blog posts and recall the crazy journey.
I still can’t believe that we did it, and I really can’t believe that other couples joined us! When I originally saw the book, I thought I was crazy for wanting to try it myself. Apparently I am friends with other crazy people!
It’s been amazing to see the response from other women at our church after hearing us speak. I’ve had a number of women come up to me on Sundays to share their journeys. One woman proudly declared that she wore the same outfit for three days in a row and that it wasn’t too hard. Another woman cornered me in the bathroom to talk about how hard it would be to give up wearing accessories. I love these hearts! Most people would hear this idea and just brush it off. By letting the Holy Spirit creep in ever so slightly to challenge, these women are ready for God to do amazing things.
Mary Welchel, our director of Women’s Ministries, pushed us to reduce excess in our lives in some way over the coming months, even if not through a 7 month fast. I personally was again challenged since I’ve been off of fasting for almost two months now. We are kicking around some big ideas for 2013, but in the meantime, I’ve been re-challenged to confront excess.
We have kept a lot of our habits from our 7 experience. We are still recycling, keeping car use to a minimum when we can, eating in, avoiding shopping, and stretching those groceries as far as they will go. I’ve been trying to learn more about products that are regularly produced through slave labor, the biggest culprits being chocolate, coffee, sugar, and clothes. As a result, we are having a fair-trade or non-chocolate Halloween. I am threatening to give out pencils, but we are slightly concerned about getting our tires slashed. As I research baby clothes/products and maternity clothes, I am avoiding brands that are known to use slaves. Also, we are planning on using cloth diapers to cut down on cost and waste.
One big area where we are trying to avoid excess is in baby preparations. So far, we’ve managed not to acquire any baby products in our apartment (although I suspect more than a few people who will remain nameless are stockpiling stuff in their basements). The purpose is two-fold. First, we want to focus on the present and not plan for the future. This process is in God’s hands, and He has made no promises that a baby will be born in January. We are trusting in Him and not living in fear, but we also want to respect this reality.
The second reason is that we don’t need anything yet. One of the big lessons I took away from 7 was that I only want to buy what I need. [Now, granted, my needs are often wants in disguise. I try and be reasonable, and this is an area that is personal. We all define needs differently.] The point is that I am the type of person who would buy three bottles of shampoo so that I wouldn’t have to go to Target again for 6 months. I once found 6 cans of shaving cream under the bathroom sink. Apparently I was fearing that the recession might cause a nation-wide shaving cream shortage. Bottom line is that in the world of baby preparations it seems that it is absolutely reasonable to talk about which tricycle to buy a fetus. I am trying to stay away from that discussion for as long as possible.
The other big 7 takeaway for 2012 will be felt at Christmas. We have decided to fast from Christmas gifts this year. I am scared and excited. If you know me, you know that gifts are my love language and that Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I love love love gifts. I love buying them, wrapping them, making lists of what I want, seeing them under the tree, and unwrapping them in excitement. When I was a kid, I would wake up every hour and creep downstairs to see if Santa had come yet. This is going to be hard for me, but I am anxious to see what God will do.
The idea was really born last Christmas with my parents and sisters. We talked about how it would be nice to have a Christmas not focused on gifts so it was an an easy sell to them this year, and the whole fam is on board. We’ve decided that we will do some sort of family event to celebrate the day (either fun or service or both). My parents are in charge of scheduling that, so I’ll have to let you know what they decide. I am also excited that we will have some extra money that we will be able to donate.
This gift-free Christmas is not totally born out of a desire to keep Christ in Christmas or some silly slogan like that. Although the amount of money, advertising and focus on gifts at Christmas is nauseating, I do realize that there are lots of benefits to gift giving. I’m sure I’ll share more posts on that in the future. The main point for me is to keep focusing on areas of excess and detox from my obsessive consumerism. There have been too many negative things associated with gifts at Christmas, so we need to take a step back and reassess.
These 7 lessons continue to pour out and infect my life. I can’t get away from the lessons learned, the opening of my heart to the world, and the communion with my Lord. I almost want to do it again…
I can’t thank you all enough for your lovely notes, texts, FB messages and comments. It’s lovely to feel so supported. I started this blog as a way to remember the adoption and to process through all the crazy things that we were learning. It’s evolved to a broader spectrum of topics and a way for me to journal all aspects of my life. Thanks for reading!
I hope to keep blogging about adoption and orphans even though we aren’t officially in the process anymore. We are currently researching foster care, and all options for growing our family and loving orphans continue to be on the table. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to some big issues in the world over the past few years, and we feel a little overwhelmed about what our response should be. In some ways we are just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. We pray that God will continue to use our lives for his kingdom work, and we are open to anything. It’s possible that it will be something much different than adoption.
Currently, we are feeling God pull us into local ministry here in our neighborhood. BB is reading Brandon Hatmaker’s book Barefoot Church (http://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Church-Serving-Consumer-Exponential/dp/0310492262), and it’s safe to say that our Hatmaker love continues to grow. One of the topics in the book is serving local needs and not necessarily through your church or other Christian organizations. We live in a neighborhood with lots of needs. It’s a neighborhood with lots of violence, drug use, prostitution, and homelessness. The schools are under-resourced, and there is a large population of people with mental illnesses. While it sounds discouraging, in all this hurt, there are so many opportunities to show God’s love. We’ve barely scratched the surface. We are excited to see where God leads us. We’ve already formed some relationships with some of the homeless people in our neighborhood, and we have been beyond blessed by those interactions.
In the meantime, I’ll still be here blogging about the mundane things in my life, encouraging you to change the world by not purchasing mainstream chocolate (http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2012/10/the-inconvenient-truth-about-your.html), engaging in Jen Hatmaker-hero worship, talking about reducing our consumerism, and sharing my experience with pregnancy. Keep reading! I love being the center of attention!
*Not guaranteed, not easy, not always in the way you would expect.
Yep, that’s right my bloggy friends. There’s a fourth child who has yet to be identified on this blog. We’ve been keeping his identity protected for the safety of the mother and child (all those screams are hard on my hearing). The medical community is expecting Baby Bean in January. The parents are still in denial.
I found out I was pregnant in May. I had some suspicions but couldn’t bring myself to spend another $10 on a pregnancy test after losing a small fortune on them over the last six years. Luckily, I discovered an old one in a drawer on a Monday morning in May. When it was positive, I expressed my shock using some choice profanity, and BB said “is there any way you can put this out of your mind and just go to work? We can talk about it in a few weeks.” [We still haven’t talked about it.]
What the heck, God? Can I be more confused? Don’t ask me to explain it. I don’t get it. Please also don’t try to explain it to me. You don’t get it either. The only thing I can say is that you can’t put God in a box. I have learned that no matter how much I think I understand about God and his ways, it’s all a joke. His ways are so much bigger than my little baby brain can handle. I am now convinced more than ever that comparing me to God is like comparing an ant to a human. It can’t be done. No matter how much the ant tries, he will never understand the human.
We have felt every emotion possible over the past six months. We have settled into cautious joy and denial. I spent a significant time in anger and another significant period in fear.
Anger came at first because this was not my plan. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I wanted to adopt, and I was mad that God was throwing this on my plate. At the time, I thought we were going to have four kids at once, and I didn’t think I could handle that. I had spent so many years praying for a positive pregnancy test and a baby, and I thought it was cruel to give it to me after I was over it and moved on to a new plan. I felt as if God was trying to break me. I am still angry that I am another one of those stories of the person who tried to adopt and then got pregnant. I hate those stories!
I feared losing the baby. We had two previous early miscarriages. We did IVF and had 12 embryos, all of which have died. I didn’t want a thirteenth. I still battle fear that this baby will not come to be. God has not promised me a baby will be born so there is no such promise to rest on. I feared that people would think that we pulled out of the adoption because we were pregnant or that we didn’t care so much about the kids because we had our “own” baby.
Despite these strong feelings, God has given us so much mercy and grace. I have wrestled with God, and He remains faithful. [I may have a slight limp, though.] We have been overjoyed to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see him on the ultrasound. What an amazing miracle! We are striving to live in the moment and be grateful for what we have. We are so grateful to have this child right now, even though we don’t know what tomorrow holds.
A few of the details that you may be wondering. We don’t know Baby Bean’s sex, but you will see me refer to him as a him. Don’t be confused. Baby Bean is due in January 2013, which makes me about 6 months (27 weeks). I have been feeling good, and Baby Bean appears healthy and happy. No crazy morning sickness, just a little nausea at first. Starting to get uncomfortable, and I have been assured that would continue. Baby Bean moves like crazy.
The most difficult thing for me right now is that I still don’t fit in. I’m not an adoptive mom. I’m not a prospective adoptive mom. I’m no longer officially infertile. I am also not your typical expectant mother – I lack the excitement, and I have too many battle scars. I can’t handle any more anticipatory conversations and celebrations. I am once again floating somewhere in the middle of everything. I think that will always be the case, and maybe everyone feels that way to some degree.
What I don’t want is to spend anymore time wishing away the present and trying to get to the future. I want to live in the here and now because it’s all I have. Today, I am a mom to a growing baby, and it is a gloriously wonderful thing. I don’t want to worry about tomorrow because there’s enough evil to deal with today.
BB proposed to me on a Sunday afternoon in May of 2003. I reluctantly went to his apartment after being really mad at him for ditching our previously scheduled date that morning. When I arrived, he was standing in the middle of his apartment in his tuxedo. There was a chair surrounded by flowers. I could not have been more in shock had an elephant been in the room.
He told me to sit down. I started laughing in a really unattractive, uncontrollable way. He got down on one knee and said words I cannot remember. He popped the question, and I said “what?!?!” Then he whipped out a ring! I could not believe he had a ring. That was the most shocking part. I figured he had just come up with the idea to propose that morning (he’s not much of a planner). Eventually I got around to saying yes in between hysterical hyperventilating.
We were married exactly 5 months later in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony at my grandparents’ house and had our first fight as a married couple on our way back down the aisle and our second on the dance floor. It’s been marital bliss ever since. (You buyin’ it?)
Oh my. It’s been a road. It’s still a road. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. He is the love of my life. I love him for who he is and who he will be. I literally cannot wait for him to come through the door every day. I need to tell him every moment of my day (he loves that!!). Nine years ago I barely knew him, and today I’m still excited to learn more. He is endlessly interesting to me and makes me laugh constantly (not always with him, of course). I feel pity for all other people who are not married to me.
Happy anniversary to my knight, my hero, my lover, my friend.
So how did we move from flirtatious friends into officially being a couple? Like any red-blooded American couple in the pre-9/11 world, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Not really (remember I said we were not that cool). More like an inappropriate amount of making out, Old Style Light and the music of Philip Glass. [For any future children reading this, neither of us have ever toyed with drugs, unless you count caffeine and nicotine. And contrary to BB’s claims, taking two sleeping pills in Congo after getting the worst news of your life does not make me addicted to sleeping pills.]
But let’s go back before the making out began a little bit for a story I forgot to share in the Before Dating Post Another huge part of what brought us together was good old-fashioned deception, mostly on my part. Because our Bible study drives were not quite enough to satisfy my desire to spend time with BB, I came up with another way for us to spend one on one time together. BB studied engineering in undergrad and fancies himself to be pretty smart. I had to take a general education math class as a freshman and chose Calculus. I asked BB to tutor me. What BB didn’t know was that I had already taken AP Calculus in high school and only took Calculus in college because I didn’t want to have to work hard. So, I faked my need for a tutor. He was such a good tutor though. Took it really seriously and was so cute. The good part was that I could just focus on his adorableness since I already knew the Calculus. I don’t think I told him this story until after we were married.
Did I mention anything about the leather pants yet? These stories just keep coming! The spring opera was called The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five by Philip Glass. It was the American premiere. Impressed because you love that opera? That’s what I thought. Not exactly La Boheme. BB played the Groom, I think, (I still have no clue what this opera was about). All that matters is he had to wear leather pants and a tight black shirt. God was really making this easy for me to be attracted to him. Again, why are there no pictures of this??
Back to dating. The aforementioned make out session happened on the last night of my freshman year. Apparently BB had committed to not making any real “moves” until I was no longer a freshman. Always the gentleman. The next day I moved back home for the summer. Thinking that I wouldn’t hear anything from BB again until the fall, I tried to put him out my mind. I underestimated BB’s determination. He managed to use the yellow pages to find a number for my grandfather and then track down my home phone number (this was before cell phones). He ended up visiting on his way home to Cincinnati. He then managed to call me almost every day all summer long, but I was rarely home. Because he was traveling all summer, I could never call him back. My poor mother must have thought I had some weird stalker. I know I did. He also wrote me long letters about Jesus, and I wrote him back. By the time I returned to school that fall, they were official – my relationship with BB and my relationship with Jesus.
From the moment we started dating, we were serious. That was the fall of 9/11, and I think everyone started to take life a little more seriously. We spent all our time together. We fought about politics. We picnicked in Lincoln Park. He cooked me dinner [hard to believe that now, but it did happen]. That Christmas, we went to Cincinnati, and I met his family. [I hyperventilated for about 20 minutes on I74 on the way.] While we were there, his grandmother Dorothy passed away, so I ended up riding with his cousins all the way to Reading, Pennsylvania for the funeral, and then I met his WHOLE family.
Meanwhile, we were both still singing and doing relatively well in our small music school pool. That following summer I went to Italy for five weeks to study Italian and music. That was not an easy couple of months. I missed so much that I would actually run through town to the only pay phone in town every night to call him, so disappointed if he wasn’t there. BB was not a fan of me being there. He was a little worried about all those gorgeous Italian male temptations [never met them, if they exist] and was probably a little jealous that I was in this summer music program. Little did he know, it wasn’t exactly La Scala. Nisky and I drank a fair amount of red wine before the shows and then proceeded to try to get away with not going on stage at least one scene a night just to be funny. When I returned home, things were a bit rocky.
We were still in love, but we were not on the right track. For one, I came home having decided to quit singing and wanted to change my direction in life. We also had different views about our relationship – unspoken at the time. I wanted freedom. I was a college junior with her whole life ahead of her. I wanted to move across the world and do amazing things and hang out with interesting people. Marriage was the farthest thing from my mind. BB wanted a devoted wife. We started fighting a lot.
I had previously gone to counseling when I was younger, so I suggested we start going to couples’ counseling. Because we were students, we could go to the counseling center and see a real therapist for only $5 a session. These sessions saved our relationship for sure. We met with Bob every week for about five months. It wasn’t rocket science, but it got us back on the same track and gave us opportunities to work out the kinks. By the time we finished with Bob, BB was ready to propose [little did I know – I still was too young and dumb to see that marriage was coming].