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.