Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Springtime memories

As we move further into March---and as the days seem progressively brighter and greener---as wind and warmth promise Spring---I can already feel the memories of last year's spring tugging at my sleeves.

It would feel wrong and unnatural not to acknowledge them in some way---and also---because looking back I can clearly see God's hand in ways that weren't apparent to me then---in a way it would be even sinful to dismiss them perfunctorily. It is so easy to forget the good things God has done for me----in the moment of their appearance---I am exceedingly grateful  to God----but as time passes;  the memories of His obvious faithfulness become fainter---and it takes a concerted effort to retrieve them.

And then the painful things that God has walked through with me in order to eventually bless me---if I don't take the time to look back with the benefit of hindsight---I could easily miss yet another opportunity to acknowledge the absolute goodness of God.  Miriam wouldn't be here with us without a number of painful experiences: struggling with infertility, a broken ankle which prompted me to learn to knit (one of the first things that drew C to us as she searched through prospective adoptive parents), and two failed adoptions (ie--biological mother changes her mind and the adoption plan does not occur.)

I think it's important to remind myself of these things.  Because when I get busy---or just in a routine so much that I can't see anything beyond it---I do forget.  I forget to be thankful---I forget that having this baby isn't something that I made happen or that Stu made happen, but rather something that God made happen (as is the case, I imagine, with any child in any family).  God wove every thread---no matter how inconsequential, or annoying, or painful, or commonplace it seemed---into a very specific pattern.  He gave us this child, this blessing.  And we don't deserve it.

The fact that God is not transactional with us is a common theme in the services at our church.  One of our pastors said once that it's one of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around---because we are so transactional in our relationships with others.  You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, right?  Another of our pastors put it this way---(and I'm paraphrasing as I can never remember complete quotes)---"You put in your time, you go to church, you read the Bible, do your good deeds, as if you're putting coins in this big cosmic vending machine---and at the end of the day if things don't work out the way you want them to---you're mad at God---because God owes you.  You're trying to turn your relationship with God into the same kind of relationship you have with everyone else.  But you know, you better hope God doesn't get transactional with you.

Amen, right?  I'm so guilty of this---kind of in a backwards way.  I don't do a ton of good deeds;  I miss church, I pretty much stink at relationships (my foot lives in my mouth)---I have perpetual tunnel vision where I see only my own little I've never thought I had any coins to stick in the cosmic vending machine....but I remember when we were struggling with infertility thinking--Ok God, I know I'm not the best person around, but surely I'm not the worst right?  I mean there are people walking around with babies right now---and they've done things a lot worse than me.  I don't deserve to be punished like this......And even then, I knew better, I knew that God doesn't rank sins in the same way that we humans do----I knew I deserved way worse than the absence of a biological child---I deserve an eternity of separation from God in hell.  But still---somewhere beneath the folds of how I knew I should feel----at the most basic level--- I felt betrayed.

And then God began to whisper adoption.  And I did not want to do it.  I wanted having a child to be something that happened between Stuart and me.  Already we'd added the doctors into the mix---I didn't want to add social workers and the faceless pregnant women who I couldn't even begin to imagine.  I knew God was saying "adopt"---I very clearly heard him say "no" to a biological child at this time--but I didn't want to do it.

So let's back up and review--I was ungrateful, disobedient, and selfish. What do I deserve?  Squat.  Actually---less than squat---punishment would be the more fitting response to this kind of attitude.  What do I get?  A beautiful, loving, silly, laughing baby girl whom I can't fathom not being a part of our family--Miriam.  And not only that, but those faceless women I couldn't imagine ---I was privileged to meet three of them.  Two of them chose to parent---and that is as it should be.  A child should be parented by his/her biological parents if it is possible---and if the situation is a healthy and safe one.

Which brings us to past Spring.  We met M on April 14.  Here was my first impression of her and her daughter:

 M is a really beautiful woman.  She has long hair and dark brown eyes.  Her complexion is the color of coffee with cream---and she definitely had the whole pregnancy glow thing working for her.  M brought her daughter, C, with her to the meeting.  C is five years old---bubbly, sweet-natured, polite, and altogether adorable with her sparkly shoes and meticulously braided hair.

I can remember Stu saying the night after we met her:  "Part of me is sad that the baby can't stay with her." And this thought troubled me as well, though a bigger part of me was excited to meet this child and to bring him into our family.  When M chose to parent---yes it was extraordinarily difficult--even though we knew it was best---it was still very very hard.  I won't pretend that it wasn't.  I broke down numerous times and in some embarrassing fashions.  But God did grant us a peace---despite the fact that we apparently didn't trust Him enough not to be upset.  We were given a peace that we didn't deserve.  And M is someone I'll never forget.  And I am not at all sorry to have met her---rather it is a memory that I will hold carefully to.  I will take it out and polish it when it becomes unclear ---because it has become something precious to me---something I wish to keep vivid and sharp in my mind's eye.  Because meeting M and subsequently finding out that M chose to parent the child herself--it was the beginning of learning to trust God---and to finally feel---that no matter what happens---no matter if we never become parents in any fashion---God is all we really need.  God gave us a peace we couldn't have attained on our own (and it wouldn't be the last time He would do it for us either)---He gave us the strength to get through something that we weren't sure we could get through---God brought us closer together when it would have been easy to drift apart.  I think that this time starkly brought out the realization that God is who is carrying us---completely.  He gave us a love for M----one that hasn't died---though sometimes when I am absentminded--it goes untended.  He reminded us---there are hurting people all around us---they need our prayers, our compassion, our action----they do not need judgment from anyone but God.  And one part of my heart which had remained cold and hard---began to soften upon meeting M.

Then there was B.  We met B on May 6, 2011.  This was the day after M's baby boy was born---the day after we learned that she had found a way to parent the baby.   Of B, I wrote:

We met a woman with a broken heart yesterday.

     "I feel as though I can't breathe."
     "My child will always wonder, 'if my mom kept my two brothers, why couldn't she keep me?'  "
     "Am I doing the right thing?"
      "I called the church and told them I just needed someone to talk to.  I don't know anyone here."
    Her head was bowed most of the time, she rarely met our eyes, and she cried throughout much of the meeting......

God gave us a love for her, as well.  And the ability to have a happy heart when we were told that B would find a way to parent her child.  Because how could we not be?  When I think of her now---I like to think that she is happy and smiling---at peace with her three sweet boys.  

I don't know---the joy I find in being Miriam's mother---it's all tied up with these other women somehow.  I'm not completely sure why---but when I think of C---Miriam's biological mother---I also think of M and B.  Maybe because I met them on the path to Miriam---maybe because though they didn't add a third physical person to our family---they somehow added to us---became a part of us---nonetheless.  Meeting them changed us, I think.  

And then there's C.  Here was my first impression of her---we met her mid-August.

Our first meeting with C was much more comfortable than any of our other meetings.  C is easy to talk to, full of laughter, and she truly seems to be a person who lives in the delight of fellowship/relationship with God. 

We still meet with C---we met with her when Miriam was 1 week old, two weeks old, 1 month old, two months old, four months old---and most recently, when Miriam turned 6 months old.  Our next meeting is scheduled when Miriam turns one year old---though I imagine we may meet before that time.  The relationship we have with C is a learning process.  With M and B---we met them once---we passed by them and they passed by us---only briefly---though the meetings impacted Stuart and I permanently.  Etched in my mind forever will be M's quiet, sad smile---and B's tear-filled, downward cast eyes. But they are memories only---we have no real relationship with them, though if I ever chanced across either of them again---I would recognize them instantly. With C---the relationship is ongoing---real---and because it's real---it's difficult.  I've always been the kind of person who doesn't hold on to people when I feel like things get too hard.  If my feelings are hurt once too often--if someone hurts or wrongs someone I love----if I feel like someone isn't meeting me halfway (can you say transactional?)---I walk.  And usually--I don't look back.  I do it carelessly---with no qualms---and then, years later---the regrets surface.  

It's scary to admit this about myself---but honestly---I've done this numerous times.  And I'm only just now beginning to realize what a terrible trait this is.

So, our relationship with C can be hard.  I was telling a friend the other day---it's almost like being in a love triangle.  Stu and I love Miriam---C loves Miriam---but we're still working on the relationship between us:  C and Stu and I.  Complexities abound on both sides---and they are difficult to navigate.  This is usually where I bolt--and I tell myself---I don't have time for this.  I know, I am so wrong for this---and I guess, tenuously forming this relationship with C, even though it isn't easy---has made it even more clear how wrong I've been in the past to live as if relationships cease to matter when they become too imperfect.  I just want to smack my past self---sometimes present self as well, (cause I still struggle with this)---and say:  "Hey idiot, it isn't supposed to be easy."

I don't know---I read a lot of rainbows and ponies stories about open adoption situations before we adopted---much of it is required reading if you adopt.  And I think, on one hand, I'm glad I read these books---because they do negate some of the stereotypes you might be holding onto---and plant in their place a more compassionate, loving view of these women who make adoption plans for their children.  But---on the other hand----it makes it seem easy.  Maybe, for some people it is.  I don't know.  For us, it isn't.  Misplaced fears and an overly developed sensitivity that raises its hackles at the slightest offense can wreak havoc on a tenuous relationship.  And in the delicate situation we're in---it's extremely easy to misplace fears and remain overly sensitive----for all parties involved.  But I know I can't bail.  It would be wrong, yes-----and extra incentive to hold on:  Miriam will one day have questions that I can't really answer.  C can though---C is the only one with those answers.  And for Miriam to know C---to have a connection with her biological mother----I just imagine that might be important to her someday----and I don't want to rob her of that just because I'm insecure.  That would be selfish---selfish in a way which would ultimately be hurtful to Miriam as well as to C.  So we're working on it---and we pray that God is working on us---all of us in this love triangle.  Because there's still a rebellious little voice in my head---well, sometimes it's bigger than little---that says:  "Why can't Miriam just be our child?  Mine and Stu's?  Why do we have to share her?"  My main objection to adoption from so long ago----it still lives and breathes--and I know how ungrateful and selfish it is---yet I haven't completely managed to squash it.  Blurg---who am I kidding---I can't do away with it on my own.  I have to pray and struggle and work---and trust God to mold my heart into place.  It shouldn't just be about Stu and me.  Somebody make me a flashing, blinking, neon sign, would ya: "It isn't all about you, genius."

I really hope---that as I learn to lean less upon my own understanding---and more on God---and remember how He isn't transactional with me---and how "I better hope he never gets transactional with me"------I'll be less transactional in my relationships---with C, in particular, yes----but really with everyone.  I'll accept that people are messy---I'll remember that I'm pretty durn messy myself---and I'll love others regardless.  This is my prayer.