Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Yeses the Nos and everything in Between

I just wanted to give brief update on what's been going on around here. With regards to our foster to adopt journey we have not had a placement yet. We have gotten 5 calls from our agency though. Three of the calls we said yes to but they did not happen for circumstances that are out of our control. Technically we are still waiting to hear back about the last call we said yes to but it has been weeks so we are pretty sure that is not going to happen. Two of the calls we had to say no to due to the fact that the circumstances were way out of our comfort zone. It is an awful feeling to say no to taking a child in, I think it is the hardest part of this journey for me.

Another difficult part of this journey has been hearing the stories of trauma that these children are coming from and then to make a decision in that moment whether to say "yes" or "no". This has definitely made me grow in intercessory prayer for these children and their bio families. This journey is not for the faint of heart by any means! So, we await the call that will bring us a placement. We entrust ourselves to Divine Providence and rest in Christ's peace. Every time our phone rings and the number matches our agencies area code I tense and then answer. If JJ and I are together we look at each other like "Here we go! Ready! Ahhh!" and then he calmly answers the phone. I have to give huge credit to JJ for being so steadfast and peaceful when I am a ball of nerves at times. For the most part we are both pretty calm but I can get frazzled more easily than he can.

In other news we are making great progress with our NaPro Dr. and her treatment for my LUFS. I have ovulated 4 cycles in a row! Woohoo! The first cycle I ovulated I almost cried because that was the first real chance we had at conceiving in years. We definitely celebrated with some Chick-Fil-A when we found out. We wanted to do a fallopian tube study since my last two surgeries revealed that my tubes had been partially blocked so we have a hunch this could be the case again. We did the tube study this week and she was able to unblock one tube pretty easily but the other is completely blocked. So, we are starting the new cycle plan right away to take advantage of the having at least one properly functioning tube. Both ovaries are looking good though and we have had confirmed ovulations on both sides. So, things are looking up!

JJ and I have been working on our communication skills with one another, we thought we had this communication thing down after being married for 9 years and using NFP the whole time. I know you are rolling your eyes and shaking your head at me right now. Well, no matter how great you think you are at something you can always learn to be better. We still take an active role in Ma Crow's care and Pa Crow as well. I make dinner for them about 3 nights a week, I schedule their appointments, JJ handles the insurance stuff and medical bills, JJ checks in on them almost daily over the phone or in person and I go to most medical appointments with them. They keep us very busy! Hence the need for better communication as a couple.

It does feel like we are in a bit of a desert again as far as growing our family but then again it is appropriate to feel this way during this liturgical season. I am learning to let go of more control because there is nothing I can do to speed this process along. So it is just a bunch of waiting and preparing around here.

For Lent I decided to start eating the candida cleanse way again which means I cut out sugar. Very appropriate for Lent huh?! God will give me the grace necessary. I am allowing myself fruit so I did not cut that out and I did allow myself a couple pieces of yummy gluten free lemon raspberry cake I made for my mom's birthday and the Solemnity of St. Joseph. I also gave up FB and television for Lent. I have been pretty committed to my daily prayer time which was another Lent goal of mine so Lent has been going well.  Happy Lent y'all, I pray it is a fruitful time for you!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

So, How'd We Get Here?...Foster-Adopt

   If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know that I have not been open to foster-adopt in the past. In fact, when it was suggested to me by another blogger, I shut the possibility out of my heart and mind. Now here we are pursuing the very thing I was closed to. There is a crib set up in our room. I am buying baby clothes and looking into baby carriers. Our medicines, supplements and knives are all locked up and our house is baby proofed.

   We got the official call this week that we are certified so, we are done with our classes, interviews, home study,  CPR/First-Aid certification and all of the paperwork! We are officially a waiting family with our agency. We will hopefully get a call from the adoptions department this week to set up a meeting to talk about our matching options and preferences. In the midst of all this, I find myself thinking, "Is this real? Can this really be happening?" Yes, it is real and it is happening. We are moving forward with growing our family through foster-adopt! It is all very exciting and nerve racking!

JJ and I before a pep talk.

JJ and I after a pep talk. 

   So, what has changed? Me. I have changed, or rather God has changed me. Let me explain why I was against foster-adopt in the first place. It can really be boiled down to fear, pride, and control. I wanted my baby on my terms whether that was through biological means or taking home a newborn from the hospital via a private adoption.* I did not want to let go of control; and quite frankly I was afraid of suffering in this way. I was keeping a part of my heart locked up so that I would not be hurt. I wanted control of how our children came into our lives because, of course I know better, right? Wrong. God knows better. He knows what I need and how our children will come into our lives.

   So the first part of giving up control was to let JJ lead in how and when we would grow our family. This took the pressure off me so God could just work on my heart in areas He wanted me to grow. It also allowed me to have trust in God and my husband; knowing that they would protect my heart. I was in this waiting period for about a year and a half. I was waiting on word from God and word from JJ on where to move and when, if ever. At first it was frustrating, but I really prayed for docility. As I waited, I worked on my prayer life and made sure I went to Confession with my SD every couple weeks if I could, but at least every month for sure.

   Little by little, I noticed that I was OK with the time of waiting; I was even enjoying it. I was just trying to be the best wife I could. Then, when we took care of Ma Crow, I had no time to think about growing our family.  Taking care of Ma Crow was a time of growth for our marriage. We were challenged in ways we had never been challenged before both individually and as a couple. Once I had more time after she transitioned to my SIL's and then back home, my heart ached again. It ached for children and that self giving love in service to another. My heart ached for that family time of welcoming another human being into our home to share our faith and traditions.

   That is when JJ and I had a serious conversation, and lo and behold he was feeling the same ache as I was. I asked him if he had sought some direction for our discernment. Since he had not, I suggested he should, because often times God's answer is not as clear as a yes or no. Plus, I knew neither of us would move unless told to by someone in authority that we highly respect. We both are naturally cautious and slow. So, the organized mind that I am, I gave JJ a deadline on when to seek out advice. I also gave him three priests to choose from; since he is phlegmatic. This helped him to not feel overwhelmed in this huge life changing decision. The priest he went to knows us both very well and his advice was to pray one novena to St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, and then make a decision. After that, we were to not look back, whatever our answer was! This was key advice, since JJ and I tend to over analyze our decisions.

   So, we prayed the St. Joseph novena in March and made the decision on his feast day; which also happens to be my mother's birthday. On the feast day, came to the decision to pursue adoption and even more to pursue it through the foster care system. I was shocked that my heart was no longer set on private adoption. God had been doing something in that time of waiting and exercising docility.  He had opened my heart and gave me courage. JJ and I also felt that it was important for us to continue to save our money for a home and not spend a ton of money on a private adoption. Yes there has been some costs to us to become certified foster parents, but it has not been nearly as much as private adoption costs.

   There were three major things that held me back from foster to adopt, and I still struggle with them:

   1) Not being able to name our child from birth. Names are so important to us and as parents, it gives us an authority over our children. Well, with foster to adopt you do not have that authority; not at the beginning anyway. I really had to give this to God and keep in my heart all the baby names I have loved over the years and hopefully, if it be God's will, I will get to use them some day. If not, there they will remain in my heart.

   2) Not being able to baptize the child until they are legally adopted. Again this is an authority issue. You can always ask the bio family, but if they say no we have to respect that. I had to give this issue to God as well and I still complain about it to Him every now and again; okay, maybe more often than that.

   3) Not being able to breastfeed. I know that there are other ways to bond, but I really had a struggle to get over this hurdle. I know there are mamas who have not breastfed, yet have a wonderful bond with their children, as well as have their children be healthy in body and mind. Hey, I was not breastfed! So, there you go.

   With all three of these internal obstacles, I had to admit that I had no control and that God is ultimately in control. All I can do is be a conduit of His love. This is how God wants to sanctify me: by giving up control and just trusting Him. There is so much unknown with foster to adopt. We have no idea if our 1st or 10th placement will join our family forever. It is hard for others to wrap their minds around why we would do this. The simple answer is that it is a calling. God has opened my heart to accept this calling. He has given me peace about what we are stepping into. I am so grateful and humbled to parent the children that will come into our lives. We want to be Christ's hands, feet and shoulder to the children that we will parent. We want them to know that God loves them and they have so much dignity, no matter what their background is. We are opening ourselves up to heart break, and in that we find Christ. God, give us strength! St. Joseph, pray for us!

*I just want to say that I am speaking from my experience. I am not against private (domestic or international) adoption. I am very much for it. I think it is as needed as foster to adopt. I know there are different crosses and sufferings with private adoption. At this point, that is just not what we are being called to. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Illumination of Dark Hearts and Shadowed Minds

     Weird title huh? What could I possibly write in this post?

     I know it has been a while since I have written. There are times where I feel I have so much to say and times where I can not fully express what I am trying to say. If I could describe the past 6 months-1 year of my life, it would be boiled down to the following two words: growing pains. You know when you would get those aches as a kid because your body was growing and your parents said, "Oh, it's just growing pains."? Well, that is what I feel has been going on with me, not physically, but on the emotional and spiritual level as well as in my marriage. I have been reflecting a lot lately since Ma Crow left our home.  As I have been reflecting on my time of “hands on” service to her, JJ and I discovered a lot about the state of my soul, psyche and our marriage. The experience in care giving has taken my mind out of the shadows about what it is to be a mother, my perfectionism and the state of my soul.

     Let's start on the "Dark Hearts" part of this post. I realized in a deeper way the fleeting emotions of the heart. I realized my concupiscence and how I easily fall into sin because of it. It brought me to my knees begging God for mercy. Appropriate for this year of mercy huh? While taking care of Ma Crow 24/7 with JJ, I found myself so tired that I would snap at him and even at Ma Crow. I wanted to drive a wedge between JJ and I so that I could have an excuse to leave him to deal with caring for Ma Crow alone. Not that I would leave him for good, but I wanted to go stay with my family so it would be easier on me. I am ashamed to even type those words, but they are true and that is how I felt at the time. I realized how weak I am when it comes to giving of myself and not getting much back in return. At the end of long days, JJ and I could barely hold a conversation as we were both so tired; yet we yearned to spend more time together. I recognized the way in which the enemy was trying to use this situation to get us off guard. I would hear lies echoed in my heart like, "You will lose him." or, "He cares more about his mother than he does you." and, "Your dad left, so you will be just like him." These fears started to consume my heart and I would pick fights with JJ for random things. For the record, there were legitimate things that JJ needed to address while we were caring for Ma Crow, as well as after she left.

     I do not want to give the impression that I am all bad and JJ is all good. If I think about it in this way, that is when the enemy wreaks havoc on me. We must confront the lies we hear and light them with truths... more on that later. Meanwhile, my emotions were trying to run the ship and, with the grace of the sacraments, God was able to reveal this fact to me. Confession and spiritual direction from two different priests helped me to see the bigger picture and look beyond myself. I realized how selfish I was being and that up until then JJ had been my rock; now it was my turn to be his. It was when I confronted this darkness in my heart and asked Jesus for mercy and help that I was better able to serve JJ and Ma Crow. Even the times where I was done and did not want to do a single thing for anyone else, God gave me the grace to keep going. He not only gave me the grace to keep going, He gave me the grace to do it with joy! By the end of our time taking care of Ma Crow in our home I was sad that we could not do it anymore and I was going to miss her.

     Shadowed minds. This can happen when you are naturally exhausted and sleep deprived. Things start to seem hazy and your path looks so unclear. There were so many times where I had no idea what to do or how to handle a situation. Grant it, we needed to give ourselves a learning curve because we had not taken care of a stroke patient before and we had no idea what to expect. We had no clue she got up so many times at night to use the restroom, that we would not be able to just take her wherever we wanted to go or the emotional baggage that comes with a fully grown elderly human being. We had to change our way of thinking from, "Ma Crow is here for rapid recovery." and, "We run the show." to, "What is best for us all as a family." In the spiritual life, your path to God can seem like a shadow or like you are looking at the road through a veil. We will never see clearly until the day we meet Him face to face. There will always be some sort of haze because of our concupiscence. The wonderful gifts that help us clear the haze a bit are Confession, Mass and mental prayer. I have to say, when I can’t get to daily Mass or confession as often as I'd like, mental prayer is such a saving grace for me. The constant dialogue of, “Help me Jesus!”, “What do you want from me?!”, and, “Have mercy on me!”, keeps me coming back to Him over and over.

     After Ma Crow left our home, we knew God was calling us to a time of heavy discernment. There were things we realized that we wanted in our life, and taking care of Ma Crow helped us to realize that. Times of discernment seem especially shadowy though, don't they? The waters always seem murky when trying to find a clear answer, and as you try and push away the shadowy reflection, it just becomes more distorted. The questions arise of what to do, for how long, in what way and how do we get there? I am already a very methodical person and plan a journey meticulously before stepping out the door (can you say Bilbo Baggins?) But, with the things of God you can not do that. It really is an adventure and I do not like adventure because of my natural tendency toward fear. I love how God wants to release me from my fears, though there are many.

     I should have known that this is THE reason God wanted me to marry JJ! Since from the start of our marriage it has been an adventure. For our honeymoon, JJ and I went on a road trip up north. We had no map to get us there. We just knew we could take PCH and get to our destination eventually. A simple 4 1/2 hour drive turned into a 7 hour excursion with wrong turns, gas station directions, sightseeing, back roads and Hershey Kisses raining in our car (literally!). It was an adventure, but there was a safety and security there. I was not worried when we would get to check into our hotel; I was a joy filled beaming new bride. I am guessing the grace of the sacrament had a lot to do with that. The point is that I trusted and did not have fear; even though the way was not certain.

     Now, God is asking me trust Him in the same way I did then. Through much discussion, prayer and discernment, JJ and I have decided to pursue adoption through foster care. There are so many things I have to say about this decision. There has been so much peace given us about this decision, even though we know what heart ache could and will await us. We are ready. We are ready to open our lives up to a child who needs us, whether that be for a limited time or their whole life. We are not saints; we are simply answering a call. We know that we will have struggles and believe me, there are so many things about this process that are illogical and quite frankly, stupid. But, I am willing to submit to the call that God has laid out before us. We have gone to our initial classes, done finger printing, finished our application and will have our initial home inspection this upcoming week! We are so excited and are trying to enjoy the process and journey as much as possible before the real work of parenting starts.

     So, big news huh?! WAIT, there's more!

     We are also picking up where we left off with our NaPro Dr., in hopes of trying to conceive again. I underwent some initial testing to get a baseline of where I am at. I had an u/s that indicated LUFS was still an issue. This time she saw it on my right ovary, but my left ovary looked as if it could have ovulated, though she could not confirm. So, we now have a plan from our NaPro Dr. that we will follow in hopes of trying to conceive. Again, there was so much discussion and prayer between JJ, myself and our spiritual director that went into this decision. God has given me so much peace about this process. I do not feel like I am beating a dead horse with going back to NaPro. I actually feel hope and determination; no matter what happens. As our NaPro Dr. was laying out the cycle plan to me with ultrasounds and blood tests, I chuckled and said, “Oh, I remember this.” She replied, “Are you ready for this?” My answer was simply, “Yes, with God’s peace, I am ready.” If my NaPro Dr. is not ready to give up on us and she has hope, then I am not ready to give up. I trust her judgement and I know she would tell me if she didn’t think it was possible. So our new cycle plan will start next cycle!   

     We are ready. Ready to submit to the call that God has laid out before us. We are, "Opening wide the doors to Christ.” There is a peace and fortitude that is pushing me along that I did not feel was there beforehand. I felt like I had peace, but I was still afraid of God’s answer. I am no longer afraid of what will or won’t be His plan. I just want what is His plan. As we move forward on this journey of two huge and time consuming ways to grow our family, we would appreciate any prayers on our behalf. We are already praying for our children and how they will come to us. We are especially praying for those children and families we will encounter in the foster care system. As Mother Luisita* would say, “Adelante (onward)!” We keep moving forward trusting in God and knowing His will for us is better than our own.

     *Venerable Mother Luisita was the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart here in Los Angeles. You can find out more about her here.