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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Standing in Hope...When There is None.

So after finding out the bmom chose to try and parent a couple weeks ago JJ and I hit a low point with adoption and trying to grow our family. It was a huge smack in the face reminder that this is still going to be an up hill battle. It has not been easy for us thus far and it's not going to suddenly start getting easy for us to bring our children into our life. Thank you for all your kind words and prayers, they really helped us! Our facilitators told us about another bmom right after due in September but we haven't heard anything back about that situation. We are kind of glad because we just needed to slow down from the whirlwind. We will be going back to Alabama this month and we just want to focus on that blessing right now and then tackle the adoption stuff when we get back. Adoption is no easy road at all! There is so much you have to do and the process makes you feel a little like a criminal at times with the fingerprinting, scrutinization and home invasion inspection. We are willing to do it because we know that in the end it will be worth it. When we hold our child for the first time we will know that it was all worth it.

The thing is we can't see that end yet, it's like a blurry vision that is slowly becoming clearer. That hope that our childless life will come to an end someday is like an oasis that you see in the midst of a desert or a hazy dream that when you wake up you can't quite remember the details. Which brings me to the concept of hope. Oh hope, that thing that makes you feel excitement for things to come even though you logically know that it might turn out bad. Hope makes you feel naive and childlike, as if everything is going to work out in your favor. We know that we can't afford adoption, we have checked the numbers and gone over our budget and there really isn't a hope that we can afford it. Unless someone drops a big fat check on our doorstep (any takers? Anybody?) we can not do this on our own. Especially as our facilitators mentioned another potential situation that we have to say no to because it's way above our best effort price range. So the dream of adoption has been feeling further away...

Enter our pastor Fr. P who has been praying for us and helping us with discernment. We met with him recently to discuss the whole adoption process and costs. He is still shocked that it costs so much but he patiently listened to us as we told him the events that have unfolded in the last month or so. He probably saw the weariness in our eyes as we felt like we brought our burdens to the meeting. Praise God for our priests who hear so many people's burdens and sins! He asked if we had looked into loans and we said yes. It didn't take him long to figure out that we wouldn't be able to afford paying back a loan with having the added expense of a new baby. Plus the fact that we will probably need a new car sometime in the next year or two because of the many miles JJ travels for work everyday. He asked if there were scholarships and grants and I said yes but they won't even consider you unless your home study is done which a homestudy in CA is a little over $3,000. We told him that some people have expressed a desire to donate to our adoption costs but we would want them to have it be tax deductible. 

Right then a light bulb in Fr.'s eyes lit up and he said "I didn't know adoption costed this much until you two told me all that it entails but, why don't we start a pro-life adoption grant here at the parish? So that families and young couples such as yourselves can get help with adoption. Adoption is so pro-life and I think it would be great to help you out but not just you, other couples as well." Our ears perked up as we told Fr. we would love that because we don't want it to be all about helping us, we want other couples who would like to adopt a baby, especially those in danger of abortion to get help to do so. Imagine if we can save more babies from abortion by promoting adoption for those little ones! It was a thought we all had. At the end of the meeting Fr. P had a huge smile on his face and said he was so excited to start this and he can't wait to see how the parish responds. I love how Fr. P is a go getter because we naturally are not, so he gave us some homework to work w/ our respect life coordinator at our parish to get something started. I briefly mentioned it to our respect life coordinator and her eyes lit up and she said "oh my gosh yes,this is perfect! We just helped to raise some money for two babies saved by adoption from abortion!" So we set a meeting with her for the end of this week to iron out the details and get a fundraiser going. 

On the other front JJ and I were challenged to pray that God would bless us with children but more specifically that I would become pregnant. Now some of you may think that after more than 5 years of trying and all that we've done to try to get pregnant that having some semblance of hope of pregnancy would be preposterous. Well I thought that too until about a week ago. It was the gospel reading at Mass, you know the famous one about "ask the Father anything in my name and it will be given to you" (John 16:23-30). Now I've heard this scripture before and I cringe when I hear it because I think "Jesus I know you mean well but umm, it doesn't work!" JJ and I had a great conversation about this gospel and we both discovered that we may not have been asking the right question or we may have been holding back our desire when we have asked God or may not have been addressing God the Father. 

We left the conversation at that and both pondered this on our own. It's not a question of whether or not I have enough faith or need to pray more fervently, it's a question of whether or not I have hope. I locked hope tightly away so that I would not be disappointed every month but it turns out I still am disappointed even when I know I can't be pregnant. I have been bringing my pre-conceived notions and cynicism to our adoption situations and to every cycle end that our situation will remain the same. I have assumed that God does not want to work in this area of our life. This realization convicted me and I knew that I needed to change my attitude because hope is an essential part of the Christian life.

So as I was showering, where all deep prayer and thinking happens, I asked God the Father for children but more specifically to allow me to become pregnant. I was surprised that I didn't ask for an adoption to happen soon, I asked to become pregnant. How foolish, right? After all these years? I felt totally embarrassed and foolish afterward and brushed it off like it didn't matter but, it did matter. God convicted me again of my bad attitude when I laughed at JJ who told me he thought I could be pregnant, I laughed out loud and then realized JJ was serious. I told him that it was not possible for me to be pregnant. JJ then proceeded to tell me that he had asked God the Father to allow me to become pregnant and I told him I had asked the same thing.

 I felt so awful for laughing at JJ's hope I felt like an old testament wife who I internally judge for not trusting their husband's word and yet I was doing the exact same thing! I apologized to God and to JJ and I told JJ if he had hope that I was pregnant then I would to. I would force myself to battle my pessimism and I would stand in hope with him. Realistically there would not be a shred of hope left after so long, especially knowing about the statistics of long term infertility and we aren't even doing medical treatment or charting but, I need to learn to be obedient and supportive of my husband. It is so much better to live with hope instead of the jadedness that comes with infertility and failed adoption. I need to hope and my husband is asking me to hope with him. JJ is not asking me to wish it is true but to hope it is true. He is not someone who "lays down the law" or asks me to do something specific very often, he is a very even keeled man so if he is asking me to do something I need to listen and do it. I need to put away my fear and doomesday mentality about my broken body and our finances and I need to see the hope that God is putting before me. Having hope does not mean that it will happen right away or exactly how we want but it means that you wait with anticipation for good things! Don't we all need a little more hope in our lives?

So here I am at the tail end of my cycle not knowing what is going to happen. Will aunt flow show up? Will I take a pregnancy test? Will we get funding for our adoption? I have no clue but, I.have.hope. Lord God, help me to wait with expectant hope! 

"We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we are saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance." -Romans 8:22-25*

"...we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5*

* Emphasis mine.