Our spiritual dad and pastor gently spoke these words into our spirits a few years ago. At the time, I really didn't get it.
It was 2009. Charles and I were in the midst of yet another fertility treatment, trying to conceive. It's an expensive process, not just financially but also emotionally and physically. Hormones are blazing. Anticipation is high. I was popping pills and injecting myself with drugs, which in and of itself was quite a feat! Needles make me queasy. And of course, there's never a guarantee of success... just the prayer, the hope that maybe -- just maybe -- it will work. Maybe this time God will give us the desires of our hearts.
This time. Time creeps as the wait begins. It started with waiting in a softly lit room, resting face up on the procedure table with my knees bent. The nurse just left. My husband is holding my hand and we're praying. We exit the doctor's office, passing parenting magazines and pictures of success stories -- happy babies, multiples, cards and letters of thanks. We go home to live "normally," and wait for the miracle to manifest. I think I feel flutters inside, and of course it could just be my imagination or too much ice cream... but maybe it's not! Days go by as we wait for the call. My cell phone is basically glued to my hand.
When the call finally comes, my heart leaps into the air, suspended and motionless. I'm listening intently, hoping to hear threads of excitement in the doctor's voice preceding a boisterous "Congratulations!" But each time I get the call and hear the cordial greeting followed by the barely audible sigh, I know what's coming next and my heart drops back into my gut. For some reason, I always got the call while I was at work, which meant the rest of work day was going to be...just sad. Keep it professional for four more hours, and then you can cry.
After three cycles of this, we just couldn't do it anymore.
In other news... the world is still spinning on its axis and life continues. It's funny how you notice pregnancies a lot more often when you're trying to get pregnant (guess this is true whenever you want something -- marriage, a new car, long natural hair). People are having babies like they just went on clearance at Costco. Friends, family members, coworkers, married people, single people, young people, older people. People who were going through similar treatments were getting pregnant, and people who definitely weren't trying at all were getting pregnant, too. There came a time when I could barely walk through the kid's clothing section in Target without my cheeks getting hot and my eyes watering.
In the midst of all this, I'm supposed to be excited beyond disappointment?
Okay, so this means I should pick myself up, dust myself off and assume the happy stance, right? So I did. I put on my imaginary cape and super-Christian-fairy dust sprinkles, but I didn't feel excited. I felt disappointed. Crushing disappointment. Heartbreak. It was hard. Sometimes I was strong, but my spiritual knees were trembling under the weight of all this emotion, and the why, and the wondering.
Thankfully, yes, I (we) were standing on a sure foundation. We were given a measure of faith, and somewhere deep down on the inside I remembered His promises. I remembered times before when I thought He wouldn't pull through, but He did, and often in ways I never would have guessed. God is in control. God is still on the throne. After all, that's what the wife on Facing the Giants said just before she found out she was pregnant. But few things could ease that ache deep down in places where no one, not even my husband sometimes, could go.
I felt alone and I felt lonely. It's one of those subjects people don't talk about very often over dinner. Perhaps for this same reason, people don't know what to say. At the time, people who knew we were trying to have a baby made attempts to encourage us or make us feel better. I often heard, "It's going to happen one day. Don't give up!" Others said, " I know someone who went through the same thing, and they have five kids now." That's great, but you wouldn't believe how often I heard that... sorry, it just got old.
Some even essentially prophesied (?) when we would get pregnant (this happened several times, in fact). I don't take for granted that people cared. It's just that sometimes people say stuff they shouldn't say, because they don't know what to say. Sometimes, it's better to just pray.
One day, faith kicked in. It started kind of like an old-school gas-powered, eco-angry lawn mower. I pulled the thingy the first time and it huffed a little bit. On the second pull, my biceps got a little stronger and I fixed my face. On the third try, it cranked and revved full-throttle. Okay, enough with the lawnmower reference, but in all seriousness, rather than waxing cold my faith increased. This is more than just thinking positive. This is bigger than just bucking up and holding my little chin up high. God's faithfulness abounded and touched me where all the encouragement in the world could not. I'm still here. I still love Him. More importantly, He still loves me. He created me for a purpose. There is a call on my life to mother, and I'm going to operate in that call even with children who are not my own... I realize how that could sound stalker-ish, but it's really not. Our lives are full of kids who need encouragement, wisdom and love, and I today I am fully-excited about being Miss Shoni and Aunt Shoni. In the end, no one's kids are really "theirs" anyway. They belong to God. We should treat them as precious, and raise them up according to His standards, because He created them and they are His.
The next steps for us are foster care and adoption. This doesn't mean we've given up on God or on the miracle of natural childbirth taking place in our marriage, but I do know something about the spirit of adoption from having been adopted by God Himself. We believe our kids are already here and we will foster and adopt for them, not for ourselves. It's a huge commitment and we've learned SO MUCH about... too much for this post. I'll write about it at some point later.
There's so much more I could say right now, but I don't want the post to be 10 pages long, so I'll stop here. I'm writing this post because I personally have found it challenging to find people like me -- young-ish, black, Christian, who've been through this. I'm not discounting other ages, races or people of other faiths who've been through the same thing, but my God... sometimes you just want to know that someone understands. My husband and I know that God gets us, even when no one else does (even the people closest to us). Maybe you're reading this, realizing on some level, "She understands what it's like. I'm really not alone in feeling this way." At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I say, "This post is for you, dear sister."
To anyone reading, I just thank you for taking the time to read it. I'm so grateful for how God has moved in my life, for all He's done, and for His great and wondrous plans which are perfect.
For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
- Jeremiah 29:11
Faith takes me where God wants me to go, and it leads me, rather than me leading it.
Crises are faith journeys. Be still. Hush. Wait on the Lord.
- excerpts from Apostle JH, spiritual dad, June 1, 2012