So---I had a rather uncanny dream a few days ago. And I suppose you could dismiss it as just my subconscious rising to the surface in an effort to comfort me in a time of stress. But then again--I don't really believe in the subconscious in that particular context. Because what is it really---other than the quiet, supernatural voice of calm beneath a roar of insanity---usually manufactured by large quantities of stress. I'm not calm under pressure---it isn't in my personality to be so----anyone who really knows me well can attest to this unfortunate fact. But in stressful situations----especially in the kind of stressful situations where I've just completely lost control of myself---there is normally this quiet reasonable voice that actually seems capable of self reassurance----capable of counting my blessings (as my grandmother would have said)---under duress----even as the majority of my brain is occupied in just perpetuating whatever insanity it wishes to cling to when things begin to spin out of control. The thing is---that calm, quiet voice----I don't think it's really mine. It just isn't in line with my personality---and it isn't Jiminy Cricket whispering into my ear---and although I'd like to take some kind of credit for its existence---when I think about it critically---I cannot. I think that calm, reassuring voice is the Holy Spirit---the counselor that Christ promised to send to us after He returned to heaven. And I think that we---as Christians---don't always recognize the Holy Spirit as what He is---we dismiss Him as our conscious---or our sub-conscious--or instinct------our own good sense---anything of our own devising---and not as the Holy Spirit of God sent to dwell within us---and among us. But if we did stop and recognize this gift as what it is---this gift which comes on the tail of so many other undeserved gifts---if we reflected on the true significance of this gift---I think we would be frozen in our tracks in awe of it.
I was frozen in my tracks this past week---completely awed---as I feel that the Holy Spirit sought me out---and He gave me comfort and counsel---when I was absolutely at my wit's end.
Saturday night (September 3) I had a dream. I went to bed agitated and uneasy---uncertain of what the coming days would bring. Would this child be the child we've been waiting for? Or would this play out with us leaving the hospital with empty arms---and a heavy heart. A verse I constructed early on in our struggles with infertility came to mind yet again---but this time within the context of our experiences with adoption:
Arms that are heavy
Still feel the weight
How absence is heavy
I can't contemplate
I fell asleep mid-prayer---not really even knowing how to pray---but trying to have faith that God would know what I was trying to communicate---even if it were garbled---and uneloquent. I think that there comes a point in any potentially life changing situation where there are no more words----only a sense of hope which battles with a sense of fear---each gaining headway or losing hold over the other in unpredictable patterns.....In the midst of all that---I dreamed. It was nothing spectacular---just an old woman sitting across from me, saying "You can do this. The Holy Spirit will be with you---and among you. You can do this...." It was like a spiritual pep talk----and I woke the next morning uneasy----with her wrinkled face still vivid in my mind. Now don't get me wrong---I'm not like Kenneth from 30 rock (I love 30 rock)--whispering frantically about his dream journal---"They've all come true so far." I'm not a complete nutter---but then, it was a difficult dream to dismiss. I told Stuart I was worried---and shared the dream with him---he told me he thought that I should be comforted by the dream. But I still felt as though something bad was about to happen. I hadn't been promised a happy ending---only that I wouldn't be alone throughout whatever was coming---and though it comforted me to hear that I wouldn't be alone---I remained anxious about what was coming nonetheless.
We were in the middle of Target when we got the call. C's in labor. Come to the hospital. I remember excitement and panic--and not much else. We rushed home to pick up our hospital bag and a change of clothes---thinking we'd likely be at the hospital all night. Some time during all this rushing around, we received another phonecall---the baby had already been born. As far as everyone knew, all was well with C and baby.
We met an agent from Bethany at the hospital---and she walked us to C's room---where C was holding this tiny, dark-haired little bundle. Miriam. C offered to let me hold her---and while I know that there was conversation around me---I couldn't focus on the words---or on anything but this tiny, little face. Miriam. The nurse sent us out to the hallway----where Stu and I paced and tried to process everything---which proved to be quite impossible. So---we took a few deep breaths and smiled at each other.
"You're a daddy, Stu."
"And you're a mommy."
The first few hours at the hospital were truly a gift from God. While C rested, my family and I were permitted to hold Miriam in the hospital nursery. My parents---my brother and sister-in-law (sister-in-heart as well by the way)---and Stu's parents as well---were all present. It was a beautiful, precious time that I wasn't expecting to be blessed with. And I am still extremely grateful that God blessed us with that special time. It somewhat fortified me through the less pleasant hours that passed at the hospital later that night---and the day after.
I'm not going to get into too much about what exactly was unpleasant---that really isn't my story to share---but you can imagine how tension might run rampant in this delicate situation----where two mothers----one biological and one adoptive----both love a child very much---but have vastly different ideas of what's best for that child. I hadn't forseen these difficulties at all---I was extremely naive---and was sorely unprepared for them when they cropped up relentlessly throughout our stay in the hospital. I did not sleep at all Sunday night----but rather paced the floors of the fourth floor of the hospital----often standing on the other side of the nursery's glass windows---keeping my eyes glued protectively on the child I already considered to be wholly mine.
The tension reached its boiling point Monday morning---when I excused myself from the hospital room (C had asked that we be with her during this time) sat in the waiting room and cried. I left my husband alone in the room with C---where he told me later that he held on to his own self-control by just a thread. My hands shook---and I was more frightened than I can ever remember being. And there was no calm, reassuring voice beneath this sadness----no reasonable words resonated beneath the complete and utter fear that began to consume me. And I did feel alone, completely so. And on top of that---I had left my husband alone as well.
And then my family came---Nikki and my mother visited with C----C wanted to meet them. They---thankfully---joined Stu in the room with C. Stu related to me what happened there. This visit was a good tension breaker---and a nice distraction for C. Nikki is the daughter of a pastor---and as such---she learned from a very early age how to successfully interact with people in all kinds of circumstances (a skill that I am still sometimes sadly deficient in). Stuart and I were totally impressed and somewhat envious of the ease in which she employed her ample humor ("Not everyone can understand baby talk---but I can---and she's saying she needs to see her Aunt Nikki for a moment)---and good natured banter to diffuse a very uncomfortable situation. My mother expressed to C her love and her thanks---telling her that she had been praying for C--and this child---long before she'd ever met either of them---and promising that this child would be loved unconditionally throughout her life. My mother has the grace of her mother---while I remain awkward in comparison---often attempting to express my feelings verbally---but usually failing rather miserably. Nikki and my mother were strong where I was weak. The Holy Spirit will be with you---among you.
In the meantime---Jacob, my brother, immediately drew my attention to a small park across from the hospital. When Nikki, Stuart, and my mother came back to the waiting area---Jacob drove Nikki and I over to take a walk. The birch tree lined path with its patches of sunlight and shadow revived my spirits considerably. In the comforting presence of my brother and Nikki---I enjoyed the mild outdoor exercise on a remarkably beautiful day---and began to feel like a human being again. Thank you Jacob---for recognizing the need to get out of that hospital for a while when I was too frazzled to even consider such a thing. I was lacking in wisdom---Jacob was not. The Holy Spirit will be with you---among you.
While I was walking at the park---Stuart's mother, my father, and my mother were all with Stuart. Stu has type 1 diabetes---and this whole stressful situation had taken its toll on him physically----but family stayed with him, surrounded him---making sure that he ate and was safe while I was away. I was too weak to be strong for him as I wished I could have been---our families were not. The Holy Spirit will be with you---among you.
The next day---Stu and I took a basic baby care class at the hospital with C. The nurse who taught the class---Sherri---asked us to remain after the class was over. She shared with us that she was an adoptive mother herself---she got a few of the details of our situation---and then quickly endeavored to make things better (although of course neither she nor any of the hospital staff were the cause of the unfortunate state of affairs)---enlisting other nurses working on the floor to aid her---and us. She checked on us numerous times after that---stopping by with information and encouragement---in equal amounts. I thanked her repeatedly---and my mother told her, "I think we prayed you here." She shared that she hadn't even been planning on working today---but that a strange series of "coincidences" had resulted in her much needed presence at the hospital that particular day. The Holy Spirit will be with you---among you.
And then there was Estella---the floor nurse who was tending to C. Estella knew of our difficulties and made it a point to reassure us that we weren't doing anything wrong. As first time parents, Stu and I were already terrified plenty---and when the tension of the situation exacerbated that fear to an unmanageable degree--Estella appeared---seemingly out of nowhere---with a calm, kind, no-nonsense attitude that was like a balm to our shattered confidence. She went over and above the call of duty to ease the discomfort that had arisen. We had been paralyzed by fear---but she was strong and she mobilized us through her unwavering support.
Of Sherri and Estella both---Nikki said: "I wouldn't be surprised if these women didn't really exist. We might come back tomorrow and ask for them---and no one will know who they are." I agreed---they were angels in my estimation. The Holy Spirit will be with you---among you.
Indeed, I was expecting the Holy Spirit to be within me---and I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit wasn't in me--I'm sure He was---but my ability to connect to Him had been worn down from stress and fatigue. I was in desperate need of restoration. Don Piper describes this need for revival of spirits in his "Desiring God"--- p. 143
Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before. We know it from experience and we know it from Scripture. For David says in Psalm 19:7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." If every day with Jesus were sweeter than the day before, if life were a steady ascent with no dips in our affection for God, we wouldn't need to be re-vived.
In another place, David extolls the Lord with similar words: "He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:2-3). This means David must have had bad days.
There were days when his soul needed to be restored. It's the same phrase used in Psalm 19-:7: "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." Normal Christian life is a repeated process of restoration and renewal. Our joy is not static. It fluctuates with real life.......
I needed this revival of spirits---this restoration-----and I couldn't do it for myself----I was completely inept. And I think I even quenched the God-given gift of the Holy Spirit within myself as I let my faith wither as everything seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket around me.
1 Thesallonians 5:17-19 : Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
Ummm yeah---kind of missed the boat there with the whole giving thanks in all circumstances. A little bit of adversity--and I fell apart. Absolutely quenched the Spirit. And wouldn't you think that God would then throw up His hands and say---ok sister---you're on your own. Because that's what I deserved. But God is not about giving people what they deserve. God is about grace---God is about giving us far better than we deserve---and far more than we can even imagine. When I quenched the Spirit within myself---God just had Him manifest through the people around me. Over and over and over again--- through family, friends, hospital staff......I mean He bombarded me with the Spirit I had essentially rejected. And He revived me anyhow. How great is our God. And Oh how He loves us.
And after two and a half long days at the hospital---finally---Miriam was discharged into our care. Sweet, precious Miriam. I sat in the back seat of the car with her while Stuart drove-----Miriam snored softly---I sat in awed silence---and Stuart just grinned at me through the rearview mirror. We came home to a house decorated with pink streamers and balloons (thank you Jacob and Nikki)---and overflowing with family. And it was truly a perfect homecoming. Oh yeah---and the day Miriam ended up coming home was exactly one day before my birthday. Best birthday present----ever.
Miriam is beautiful---she is a treasure---she is a blessing beyond what we could have imagined. And God is good to send her to us----we still walk a rocky road at this point---as C has the right to change her mind----she has signed the papers indicating that she wishes to terminate her parental rights---but there is a revocation period which will not end until Monday, September 26. In the meantime, I am trying really hard not to quench the Spirit---but rather to do as God commands---and give thanks----which isn't too hard to do when you look into this sweet little face that loves to peer at me with eyes as big as saucers (especially at 3 in the morning)----and whose fingers wrap around mine and Stuart's with a surprising amount of strength. We will love her for as long as we have her---and we hope that will be for a very long time.