Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"    Romans 8:28

    My brother once remarked that he was annoyed when people quote this verse---because we like to think that when God says he works for "good"---He really means that He will work for our good----He'll work towards achieving our human goals---our personal vendettas and agendas---look out for our favorite sports teams and the like.  And of course, that isn't what this verse is saying at all.  God works for the good of those who love him.  What is our human conception of "good"---having a nice home, a loving family, food on the table, being comfortable financially, enjoying good health.......and what is God's conception of "good."  That second one is harder to fathom----I imagine it's more far-sighted---more selfless---more benevolent than I am capable of---less about being comfortable than about being true to God's teachings.   If Jesus is our ultimate example of what is good---well, he didn't lead a comfortable life---he led a meaningful one.  What kind of "good" does God expect from us---and what kind of "good" are we to expect from God---a human "good" or a Godly "good."  I have a feeling it's the latter---and sometimes that scares me.  I'm not a selfless person----my life doesn't look like the life of Christ.  In Matthew 8:20 Jesus says: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."  I have no idea what that kind of life would be like---nor how anyone who lived such a life could do so while harboring the joyful heart that Christ had.  "God works for the good of those who love Him." I suppose that the hope I find in this verse is in that last part---for those who love him.  It doesn't say---for those who are closest to perfection;  it doesn't say---for those who have no unkind words or thoughts---or for those who do the most good in this hurting world.  It says:  "for those who love him."  Is it possible that God can work good---His kind of good (which I suppose technically would be the only kind of good if you think about it)---even through someone as imperfect and selfish as me?  Because I do love God---and I do wish that I were the person He wants me to be.  Is that what the gift of Christ really means---that if we accept Jesus---and we love God---that something truly good can come from our lives---in spite of the sinfulness in which we perpetually dwell?   Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing---to lead a life that means something---not because of anything that we are capable of on our own---but because Christ lives in us---and He continues the meaningful life that began in a manger---through the people who love Him---by changing hearts, directing our paths, and enabling us to be servants of the Lord in spite of ourselves.  As the old year ends---and the new year begins---I am contemplating these things.  I hope that I love God enough for Him to work good through me---and I hope that I am wise enough to recognize the good which is Godly---and to value that above all---not to get pulled into the false comforts of this world---but to strive to be the servant that God calls all believers to be.
     What does this have to do with my adoption blog?  Well, I know what it is to set up idols in your heart---to want something for yourself so badly that you don't want God in control of your life if He has other plans than those you've made yourself.  I know how it feels to get so carried away with one's own pursuit of self-fulfillment---that you almost miss the better (not easier, not less painful, not least complicated---but better nonetheless) plan that God has in mind.  The "good" plan Stuart and I imagined for ourselves was that we would fall pregnant, have a biological child in the usual manner, and form a traditional family that would, hopefully, live---well, happily ever after.   Well, God had other plans.  And when God has plans---and if you belong to Him---it's really best to just get on board because otherwise you end up living in the belly of a whale----or you know--staring at the X-ray of some strange woman's uterus which is always inexplicably on display (see November post for backstory) until you see fit to cooperate. In the end---you  have to recognize---God's plans are the only plans that matter---acceptance of that truth brings peace---and joy---and sometimes---if you're lucky---the realization that He is so much better than are we when it comes to preparing for the future. I mean, come on, he's got the whole omniscient thing going for Him, right?  How does that even compare to my yearly planner and its pages scrawled with nearly illegible notes, uncertainly jotted times and dates?
     I don't know what our life is going to be like once we meet this child that we already love---I imagine---that like any child---this one will turn our lives completely upside down.  And I also understand that no matter how fiercely we love this child---and no matter how much we long to be united as a family---God's will determines when, and even if, Stu and I are to become parents.  
     "God works for the good of those who love him."  The thing is---a lot of the time---I don't have the wisdom to recognize that truth.  But, that doesn't stop God from working His plans out in our lives---one way or another.  I am continually amazed to find that He comes to us---even when we don't go to Him;  He came to us first as a human baby---born in Bethlehem---to die on the cross for our sins.  He comes to us again each day---through the words of our friends who love him, through the deeply rooted desire to be better than what we are capable of alone, and through the kindness of his followers.....And accepting Jesus into your heart isn't just a "get out of hell free" card---it's a choice that allows you to walk with God---which is why we were created in the first place......  Our sinful nature keeps us from that purpose--and separates us from the God we were made for---but Jesus died to cover our sins---to allow us to be what we were made to be---companions of God.
     May the new year bring us the courage to live a life that is led by Christ---that works for the good---and that rejoices in the countless blessings God has given us.
     I want to end by posting a lullaby that I wrote a long time ago.  When I wrote it---I loved a baby---I assumed that baby would be my biological child---and now---when I read over this old lullaby---I realize that the baby I loved then is the baby I love now. The song isn't anything original really---it talks about wanting the baby to be safe, loved, watched over by God---the same things any parent would want for their child.  Since we aren't together right now the way I used to imagine that we would be---it means more to me now than when I wrote it---because the idea of God "keeping counsel" with my child even when we are apart gives me comfort.  And the lullabies mentioned in the song are mostly composed of the sounds of nature---rustling leaves, wind, water....I don't know----perhaps it's silly---but I think it might be significant that these lullabies aren't ones that are sung---they're there whether I'm there to sing them or not.  And although I'll sing to my child when we are together---right now I can't---but my hope is that God is with that baby---that the baby feels loved---by the birthmother, by Stuart and I, by God---so that he really can be "cradled in peaceful sleep."

All the stars, the bright moon too
They keep their watch over you
They wait for you to close your eyes
They sing you gentle lullabies
Lullaby, o lullaby
They sing you gentle lullabies
The breeze in the trees
Sighs through all the darkened leaves
The waves on the sea
Croon their weary melodies
And this song of wind and light
This song of quiet night
Will cradle you in peaceful sleep
As God above your counsel keeps
So rest your head and close your eyes
The angels sing you lullabies.

Within this room the light is pale
It leaves a faint and golden trail
Shapes are blurred, lines unclear
Edges soften now that you are here
Lullaby, o lullaby
This room is filled with lullabies.
Beyond these walls a sleepy sun must rest its eyes
Clouds in muted colors drift across the shadowed skies
And this song of love's delight
This song, this joyful night
Will cradle you in peaceful sleep
As God above your counsel keeps
And nature's voice will harmonize
With heaven in sweet lullabies
Rest your head, close your eyes
And listen to the lullabies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why do you want to adopt?

Stuart and I are working on our formal adoption application. The question that took the longest to answer was this: "Why do you want to adopt?" The answer to that question is layered somewhere between love and faith---and it is more difficult to put into words than I'd anticipated. I think about that question a lot---and for now, the following is our answer:
We struggled with infertility for four years; the first time we went to an infertility specialists about two years ago---we both had the feeling that God might have a different plan for us than the one we'd expected---at least when it came to the way we were going to form a family. Still---we spent two years running back and forth from the doctor's offices---trying different medications and procedures---and hoping that we could form our family in the way we'd always envisioned. However, there was always a feeling---which persisted most prevalently when we prayed about our wish for a child---that our family might be an adoptive one. The feeling was so strong that it became difficult to pray----I suppose because we were so stubborn that we didn't want to accept a plan that wasn't of our own making. I can't exactly pinpoint the moment or the reason behind the change of heart which seemed to come about so suddenly---i remember moments of complete sadness and helplessness in which we both keenly felt the loss of the biological child which we gradually began to believe that we would never have. But I don't believe that the desire to adopt was something that was born completely from that sadness. In a way---it is something different entirely. It's more to do with accepting God's plan for our family, rather than rebelling against it. It's more to do with building up the faith to embrace the truth that our plans are not God's plans---and that His plans are infinitely better than our own. We never questioned the idea that we could love a child which wasn't our biological child----we questioned whether we really wanted to go through the adoption process. We'd been on the medical route to a child for so long---it was a process with which we were well acquainted---and switching paths was a big step for us; it was a shift from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Yet, as soon as we opened our hearts to adoption---we felt a great burden lift---and we were both surprised at how quickly we began to love this child that we've never met or can even completely imagine. And we feel at peace. We want to adopt because we love this child already---and we look forward to the day that we can be together.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I love to knit.  I love to knit because what starts out as one unremarkable knot on a stick eventually---with diligence and patience---becomes something useful---a dishrag, a scarf, a hat, a shawl, a blanket.....but really--the most satisfying part of knitting isn't completing a project---as the many half-finished projects languishing around my house can firmly attest to---it is the transformation.  It is watching order emerge from what usually begins as something incomprehensible.  Two rows of a lace pattern---when you stop and look at your work-- all you can think is---how did I fumble this up?  It doesn't make any sense---it isn't nearly as pretty as the pictures I've's more like a tangled mess than anything else.  But then you continue, you trust the pattern---and after some time...if you haven't in fact fumbled something up....order emerges....sometimes even something beautiful begins to take shape.  It's that moment that I love.  That little epiphany.  I find that moment often in my profession as a music teacher as well.  That moment between the first rehearsal and the final performance.  The final performance---with the audience, the costumes, the set fully in place, the excitement of the children----some might think that's where I'd find the most satisfaction.  But it's not---the satisfaction I find in my job lies in the moments between that first awful rehearsal when everything goes wrong and that final performance where everything has come together: watching relationships form between the children, being privy to the times when they discover that what they once thought was impossible is possible---that they are capable of more than they realize.  That's really where I find my happiness--my peace.
     Infertility sucks.  I'll make no bones about it.  It's a long, hard road littered with tears, disappointment, fear, and more unpleasant emotions swirling together than you could ever hope to name.  The treatments one undergoes when combatting infertility are always expensive, sometimes painful, usually humiliating---and in our case---ultimately ineffective.  The disappointment one feels at the end of each unsuccessful cycle is by far the worst part---worse than the injections and side effects, worse than the embarrassment of personal questions and dreadful procedures and tests.....the disappointment is devastating.  There are people who will say, "Why don't you just adopt?"  The truth is no one "just" adopts.  Adoption is a long, rigorous, heart-wrenching, expensive process itself.  There is no "just" about it.  And when one pursues adoption after battling infertility---I believe that one's heart has to experience its own transformation.  A couple must grieve for the biological children that they will probably never have.  A couple must decide if adoption is right for them----and making that decision forces one to honestly confront the expectations that couple will have of being adoptive parents.   It's not simple---in theory, in practice, or on paper.
     After two years of fertility treatments---Stuart and I have decided that God is calling us to adopt.  I think that God has been telling us this for a long time---but that we didn't want to hear it.  I suppose we could have saved ourselves a lot of money and sorrow had we listened to Him in the first place----but I don't know....looking back on the road that lies between battling infertility with modern medicine and opening one's heart to adoption---I don't think I'd trade the past two years for a smoother passage.  Flashes of images often cross my mind when it is idle: Stuart, holding my hand  when I'm vulnerable;  Stuart cracking jokes about the uterus x-ray which was ALWAYS on display in the doctor's office (and it wasn't even my uterus by the way, mine was never quite that famous)  We never could fathom why it was always there since my uterus was fine and dandy thank you very much.  Stuart liked to recall an episode of 30 rock where Dr. Spaceman (pronounced Spa-cheh-man---for any non 30 rockers out there) posed thoughtfully in front of an x-ray before pondering aloud: "Now where did I leave my car keys?"  Stuart---being kind and strong---despite the fact that everything we went through was just as hard for him as it was for me.  I wouldn't trade that time---though if one judges an experience from its outcome---that time was spent in vain.   But I like knitting---and I like teaching music to elementary school kids----and I like those things because I value transformation---whether it be transforming yarn into scarves, or sour notes and disjointed rhythms into song----or hearts which are stubborn and hard into hearts which can accept the beautiful plan that God has for our lives---even if it isn't what we expected.
  Yesterday, Stuart and I filled out the preliminary adoption papers.  I feel as if this is one knot on the stick.  I wonder what kind of beauty will emerge.   The nice thing is that I have no pattern to fumble; I am not dependent on my clumsy fingers; I am dependent only on God---the one who wrote the pattern to begin with.  That realization can sometimes be scary (teachers like to be in control)----but when I have my head on straight---and when I allow my heart to be fashioned in its rightful shape----I understand that the plans of God are not the plans of men---and that is an exceedingly good thing.