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!