Monday, August 25, 2014

Alabama Re-Cap, Finally!

Wow it seems like we were just in good ol' Alabama but it was two months ago that we went there! Time has been flying by this year! I am glad we got to go back to The Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament on pilgrimage/vacation. God did so many wonderful things for us there! I miss that place every time we leave there it is such an oasis, a humid one, but an oasis none the less. We so needed to go at the exact time we did. It was in the middle of a very busy time and the trip was sandwiched perfectly in between it all. We forgot our camera and didn't take any pictures at all so you will have to be satisfied w/ the ones from our last trip.

When we got there the 1st couple of days were a rough start. It was a travel day and we got in later than expected plus there was a crazy situation with the rental cars. We still had to try to go to the who.le foods to do our grocery shopping but decided to do the 1hr drive back to Birmingham the next day, we were just to exhausted and starving. Then when we got there the group we went with had already done the room assignments and we were sharing a house with about 12 other people. Sounds like fun, right? Well we needed our own kitchen or refrigerator to put about a week's worth of food for us because of our gluten and nut allergies. Well when we got back with our groceries there was not an ounce of room for any of our food! Long story short we ended up switching rooms/houses with my mom and her roommate because they had their own little studio apt. with a fully equipped kitchen and didn't need a whole fridge for their food. After that things got a lot better and we were able to settle in and not have to worry about our food situation.

It was perfect that we were more secluded and on our own for the trip, just like we like it. We should have been hermits I tell ya! We knew that this trip needed to be restful, reflective and communicative between JJ and I. We would not have been able to do that if we had been sharing a house with 12 people where the walls were kind of thin. There was a lot we needed to reflect and discuss so it was great we had our own little place. To be honest we are not community life type of people so we would want to go back if we got to stay in the same place or same type of set up as we did this time. Anyway back to the trip...

It was hot and humid no doubt but, thank the good Lord for air conditioning! I was still broken hearted from the failed adoption a couple weeks prior so I definitely brought that intention on this trip. I really enjoyed just going to daily Mass, praying, hanging out with friends, getting to know new people and spending lots of time with JJ. We got to know a woman P who is older than us, probably in her 60s. She came on the trip w/out her husband. She was the sweetest woman and kept telling everyone that she adopted us :) She said she would be praying for us, that God would bless us with children. She was so encouraging, joyful and a little bit of a mischief maker. She was a big highlight of our trip! Another woman C who is a widow was so sweet and said that when she looks at me and JJ she is reminded of her hubby that she lost and she thinks we are a beautiful couple. We felt very bonded and affirmed in our marriage on this trip!

 There were actually 3 of us couples that have been dealing with both infertility and miscarriage with JJ and I being the veteran couple. I thought it was interesting but I think it is too high of a number! So I am going to break this up into physical highlights and spiritual highlights so that I don't just keep writing nonsense, ok.

Physical Highlights:  

1. Cracker Barrel! People Cracker Barrel is the best and I wish we had one here in L.A. Yes, we can't eat a lot of their yummy biscuits and such but there is a lot we can have there and I bring my own biscuits, they are better anyway! I also love how reasonable the prices for meals are in AL, it made me really dislike L.A and our expensive hipster style here.

2. The new Saint JP2 Eucharistic center/museum that opened up this year at the Shrine. It was breathtakingly beautiful inside and they did a great job with explaining the Eucharist. I know, I know where are the pictures right? We are so lame! Go on the website and look at all their gorgeous pictures, much better than we could have taken.

3. Summer rain! It was amazing to hear the rain and feel it while trying to get into the car. The thunder and lightning was a little more unnerving but it was still beautiful. The humidity afterward was awful but the rain was fun.

4. The Corpus Christi feast day procession! It was gorgeous and majestic to see all of the rose pedals on the ground of the courtyard, the children were frolicking in them and playing after the procession. The inside of the Shrine is also a big highlight because it is just takes your breath away.

5. A couple of stolen kisses with JJ as the fire flies were lighting up the fields at dusk. I am blushing as I write this but it was really a picturesque setting.

If you want to know what it looks like on the inside of the main church of the shrine click here. We personally like the lower church which is found here.

Spiritual Highlights/Challenges:

Okay so there were a lot of little things here and there that God did for me but I am really going to talk about the crazy wonderful things that happened. I think I have partly put off writing this post so that I can keep the amazing things that happened to myself as long as possible. Also partly due to fear that they would not come true but God is calling me on that fear and saying to A big theme of the pilgrimage was children more specifically babies. Not just with us but a lot of other people. So I mentioned there were 3 of us infertile couples who have also experienced miscarriage(s). Well other people, mostly older parents were praying for their grandbabies in utero or sick babies just born. I especially took the intention and prayed for this lovely blogger and her baby in utero as well as our friends who have been married 8 years, dealt with infertility and miscarried last year and now are in their almost 7th month of pregnancy. It was weird that babies were just coming up left and right when we prayed together as a group.

I tried to ignore the scriptures and words I was getting about adoption and biological children because well I was hurt and tired. The more I tried to ignore the stronger the messages became. One day as we were praying as a group together they started to sing some praise and worship songs. I get easily distracted when songs are sung and then people lead worship by talking in between songs, quite frankly its annoying to me but, hey to each their own. So that I could focus better I left to go get my missal back at our casita and JJ came with me because he had to use the restroom. I grabbed my missal and went outside to sit on the bench to wait for him. Well it was dusk and the fireflies started to come out like crazy so I just sat and marveled at the beauty. Well I knew God was just whispering His love for me in that moment and I whispered, more like exhaled back "I love you too." Then it was as if He just wanted me to be loved by Him not for what I can do or produce from my body but, just because I am me I am loved. Yes a basic principle but, one that an infertile gal needs to hear over and over because so much of the worth we put on ourselves is in doing or producing something or someone. It was a magical moment.

It got even more real as we got so many scriptures and verbal confirmations about children that I just can't share because it was too big and I want to keep all these things that happened close to my heart for as long as possible. I have shared with friends in person some but I just want to hold this so close to my heart until God wants me to share these beautiful revelations and God-incidences. In short our hope for children both biological and adoptive was enlivened in a HUGE way!

There was some healing that took place between JJ and I as we broke down some communication barriers we had. Tears flowed and healing happened, for that I am truly grateful to the Lord. There were definitely some challenges that the Lord prompted in me. One was that I need to start going back to daily Mass. Apparently God was very clear in letting me know that I needed it, I needed Him! I have been going almost every day since the trip. I am not too strict about it but I do go at least 3 or 4 times out of the week besides Sunday which is a huge improvement from just going on Sunday. Another challenge was for JJ and I to pray a daily rosary together. You guys, I don't like praying the rosary very much. There I said it, I am terrible I know! God has been calling me to pray a daily rosary for years and JJ has been wanting to do it since we got married. So I caved and I said fine I'll do it! There are days we don't get to pray it together but for the most part we have been. I know I need the rosary too because just in this short time I have seen a transformation in me.

 So the rosary and daily Mass have been so good for me to just pray and gather strength for this journey. I don't know how much longer we will be childless but I do know that God will provide the fortitude we need. Right now we are still in the trenches of infertility and the only person keeping me from becoming an angry bitter woman is Jesus. He is holding me together with every pregnancy/adoption announcement, baby shower and cycle day 1. He continues to give me peace despite our challenges and I am so grateful for that. A grateful heart is also something I struggle with and God is working on that in me. 

When we left Alabama I wanted to cry because that place feels so much like home. It was nice to come home and sleep in my own bed and cook in my own kitchen though. We await the day we get to go back there and see what God has for us because we know it will be nothing short of amazing. Deo Gratias!   

Friday, July 25, 2014

Adoption Update

We are still here folks, I can't believe I haven't written in almost a month! It has been a busy time and there is a lot going on right now that we are trying to figure out. I am taking this time in between follow ups in the nice air conditioning of the office to update y'all because I know when I get home I will have to start dinner, then go to another follow up and by the time that is done I will be d-o-n-e for the day. 

In regards to adoption we are at the same place of not having the money and trying to figure out how this will all work. It has been a difficult thing to know we have the desire to adopt and know which avenue to go through but we can't because of finances. I feel like my hands are tied and all I can do is ask God to untie the knot of finances for us. We have had to turn down adoption opportunities from our facilitators and friends who have let us know about children/birth mothers. It has been the hardest thing to have to say no because we can't scrape the money together for it, especially because a lot of them have been last minute.

 Adoption is not easy. We are talking about needing at least $15,000 to start off with and that does not come by easily, at least not for us. So please don't tell us about any adoption opportunities until further notice so we don't have to say no unless it's of little to no cost, which doesn't really happen. Oh and please don't tell us to just do foster care because it's free. We have discerned that for right now foster care is not for us. The financial part, having to say no and knowing the baby girl's due date who we almost adopted passed at the beginning of July has made this aspect of our lives a little bit of a crap fest lately. 

As a melancholic I get discouraged easily and can tend to give up on things. I am trying to fight that tendency that says "just give up, it's too hard!" We are figuring out what kinds of fundraisers we can do and grants we can apply for. We can not do loans because to pay back a loan would be more than we can financially handle at this time. Isn't there a rich family who would like to help a working class family adopt out there somewhere? At first we wanted to pay for the adoption all on our own because of pride and because we thought well it's our child we should pay the cost. We also thought it would be weird to ask people for money to help us bring our child/children home. Adoption is way different financially than being able to have biological children because your up front cost is $20,000-$30,000 plus the cost of raising the child(ren). My perspective has changed now, I am not above begging or asking for financial help ;) Once we have a fundraiser and date to start we will let y'all know!

We did get to go to our infant cpr class which was fun. All the couples there were pregnant of course and we were starting to feel out of place but the instructor was so welcoming and encouraging to us. She gave us the discount price they usually give to couples who deliver at the hospital, she kept telling me about mommy resources and emphasizing to me that I am just as much a mother as the other women there. They went around the room to ask everyone when they are due and JJ said with a grin on his face, "we actually don't know when we are due, it's a surprise because we are adopting!" Then the instructor said "congratulations that's is great news!" All in all it was a good class and I highly recommend expectant parents take the class.  

Even though it's been hard lately because we are stuck in this unknowing, adoption is very much still in our hearts and around us a lot. We went to a film festival where we saw a movie called "40" about abortion in our country. Part of it talked about how abortion clinics demonize adoption and push women toward abortion rather than adoption. There was a lot of encouragement for pro-lifers to become more knowledgable about adoption so they can council women that it is a great option if they can not parent. I am so glad it was dark in that theater because I was balling my eyes out during that whole part of the film. I also got some good resources from the film so we can get more versed in the adoption process. 

So that is where we are at, just giving it to God and asking Him to direct our path. At daily Mass yesterday I just cried, told God how hard this all is and to please give me fortitude and grace for this journey. It has been such a long road that sometimes I think we are in the same place we were years ago. I know we are not! I know we have grown so much and healed in so many ways, we are so very grateful for that! I still need to do a wrap-up post about our trip to Alabama and some spiritual challenges and growth that has happened. I just need to sit down and do it, even in the midst of this busy time. The next couple weeks aren't suppose to be as busy so I will try and collect my thoughts then. Happy feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim coming up on the 26th and happy anniversary of Humane Vitae tomorrow! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Living in the Virtue of Hope

Aunt flow came two days after I published my last post so I guess that settled that for that cycle. Sorry it has taken me so long to post about it if some of you were on pins and needles waiting to hear if there was any news. We were on vacation/pilgrimage last week in Alabama and I had no time to write up a post before we left, it was a crazy busy time.

 When I told JJ AF came he profusely apologized for getting my hopes up but I cut him off mid-sentence (one of the few times I though it was ok to) because I loved getting my hopes up. It actually felt less disappointing and less sad to me to have had hope than to have been my usual cynical self. I think this is because like the scripture says "hope does not disappoint," situations disappoint us not hope. I have been at this infertility thing for over 5 years and something I've learned is that hope is required for the long haul. Seeing that we have been married for 6 1/2 years without children here on earth can definitely be discouraging at times but we are called to live in hope. 

Hope is a theological virtue it takes the act of the will and grace to have it. Hope is not just a feeling like love is not just a feeling it is an action because it engages our entire self of intellect, will and emotion. It is an active virtue and I am learning how to excercise it slowly like a muscle. It is painful and sore at times but it's a good kind of pain that comes with growth. 

A friend commented on my last post that she had a hard time with hope, faith was easier* for her to grasp than hope. I couldn't agree more! Hope is harder to grasp for me, faith is easier* because I know how powerful God is so I have faith. Love is easier* because we have the highest example of sacrificial love in Jesus. Now hope on the other hand is mysterious. Some people think it is just like faith but it is not, it's tied in with faith a lot but, they are not the same. I know I've also gotten hope confused with wishful thinking but again, they are not the same. I have a feeling that the virtue of hope is tied in with the Holy Spirit because the HS is such a mystery. Although because of Jesus' death and resurrection we have a reason for hope. Ahh, don't you just love the mysteries of the Church and the Trinity?! 

"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit."** Hmmm but what about hoping for things here on earth, is that part of the virtue? Is it more virtue or wishful thinking when we have humanly desires such as relationships or children? If it takes the act of the will to actively hope how does that work when those things we desire may never be fulfilled? Great questions, huh?! 

These questions have sent me into some reflection and meditation especially since I have been recently challenged in this area. When you suffer in some way or another it becomes very difficult to hope that the particular suffering will ever be removed especially if you have been dealing with it for years. There sometimes would seem to be no end in sight and daring to hope feels like it isn't an option anymore. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it's not just about having faith or praying harder. There is something more to this hope business...

Well this is what the Church says: "hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity." **

While I was on vacation at the Shirne, which feels so much like home when I am there, I had the privilege of sharing the car JJ and I rented with the two priests that went with us. We shuttled them around from place to place and it was such a blessing to be in the presence of these holy men. I asked one of them who had recently given a homily on the theological virtues and their correlation to the Holy Trinity. I had my opportunity to ask him which member of the Holy Trinity would be most correlated with  hope. He proceeded to tell me that Jesus Christ, God the Son would be most closely linked with hope because of the redemption He brings through His death and resurrection. Love or Charity would be most associated with the Holy Spirit because of the grace and action it takes to live out our faith and hope. Jesus' sacrifice opened the gates of heaven for us so our hope or our main goal is heaven. This may be common sense to some but this was a new way for me to go deeper into the mystery of hope. 

My hope is not dependent on having things my way or in my time, my hope is for good things and the ultimate Good is God. Now whether or not I get the good things I desire like biological and adoptive children (oh yes because I want both!) I can have confidence that I will have good things whether that be here on earth or heaven, which I hope I get to some day. The desire and hope for biological and adoptive children is ultimately increasing my desire and hope for God and heaven. It takes work though because I can easily become selfish in this yearning and turn toward self pity instead of charity. The more I put my hope in Jesus the more He purifies my desires which in turn works on the virtue of charity in me.

There have been so many scenarios recently that give us hope for children, especially what happened to us while we were in Alabama which I will explain in another post. For now I pray we will all excercise our virtue of hope by the grace of God.  

*By easier I don't mean that it is actively easier to do I just mean the concept is more easily grasped. 

**CCC 1817 and 1818