Monday, March 08, 2010

The Infertile and the Good Samaritan

Sometimes as Christians I think we struggle with knowing how to take care of our brothers and sisters who struggle. In my experience, we know how to rejoice with fellow believers who are in a good place. We know the 'correct' response is to say we'll pray for each other when we're aware there is something wrong. We know how to throw ourselves into ministering to the lost. But when a brother or sister is really struggling I think we get lost and have a few different reactions.

The fact that I can write this post is testament to Christ's ability to get me from the deep dark hole I was in just 8 months (or so) ago. It was almost a year ago when we learned we were infertile. And in our time we've certainly faced our share of reactions. One of my favorite chapters of one of my favorite books, Hannah's Hope, is titled "Put Yourself in My Shoes, before you put your foot in your mouth...". (I just love that!!!). Although I think that infertility, like few other topics like additction, are quite taboo or at least misunderstood, I think that it's not the only thorn that we don't know how to support. One of the biggest challenges in being a Christian going through such heavy trials is trying to get other Christians to understand the depths of the situation. There are a few typical reactions...avoidance and blame are pretty key, and yet when a Christian brings these up he/she often finds that other Christians will resopnd not with apologies or support but instead with more avoidance or blame. This of course is a shame as it leaves the one originally hurting with even more hurt.

But familiar. As I processed some of the reactions I've received and the reactions I've heard others have received I remembered the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). And so I've taken the liberty to rewrite it here:

There once was a man and woman heading down the path of life. Although they had faults and fears they attempted daily to be like Christ. One day, they felt the nudging to unite in the attempt to conceive. After years and years of trying, for reasons unknown to them, the enemy was allowed to rob them of the natural ability to conceive. Their union was not allowed to be fruitful and multiply as commanded to forefathers before. Instead, the evil one was allowed to trample their bodies to prevent conception through the destruction of reproductive equipment. But this was not enough. The thief also came to steal, kill, and destroy the hearts and souls of these two, but finding he could not as they belonged to Christ, he chose instead to do all he could to break their spirits and crush their security, as he'd done to Job in years past, hoping to do as much damage as possible. They were left in tears, shambles, pain. Unbearable oppressive pain. They were left alive, and although their souls were still aware of the one true hope, their Earthly bodies, their emotions, everything they knew in Earthly life lay dying in the gutter.

They managed to pull themselves up from the gutter to the sidewalk, hoping their brothers and sisters would be able to see them in their state and help them to their feet. They were able to grab hold of the heels of their closest family and friends hoping they'd know what to do to get them help. But because they were busy and because they were unable to cope with their closest friend/family in pain, they patted their friends heads, shook their heels free, and moved on with their lives. On the way home they crossed to the other side to avoid awkward conversations or interactions. The infertile couple could see their friends and famiily as they passed by in the distance, laughing and enjoying their normal lives, unable to get up from the gutter they were pushed into once again. It was all they could do to continue facing up knowing their rescue would come soon.

The night passed and to their relief they found in the morning that it was the day of the Lord. Surely today would bring relief of some of the pain as they joined with their friends and family to celebrate their Christ, the resurrected one. Surely someone would, in remembrance of what their Lord did for them, reach down to help them to their feet to walk with their brother and sister to the foot of the cross, literally helping them carry their burden before Christ even though their present state was not "Sunday best". Instead, wanting to protect their "full of joy" state and cleanliness presented in their clothes, they crossed the street and avoided the wreck in the middle of the sidewalk. Afterall, if their friends really were Christians they'd recognize that Christ deserved to be praised in the middle of their crisis and they would have been the first at church. Surely their faith must have been suffering due to their sin and, how, after knowing Christ could they have turned away and chosen to live in sin that led them into their current state. How selfish they were to try and make their brothers and sisters late, trying to get them to stop their normal daily lives that were already full to help them pick up their pieces. Some went as far as to yell condemnations at them as they stepped right over. "You're so selfish for wanting us to stop our lives to help you". "You're so inconsiderate to ask us to help carry your burden". "You've lost your faith". "I can see by your state you are no longer walking in the way of the Lord". The friends failed to notice that their legs were no longer working, at least temporarily, and they couldn't walk anywhere though they desperately sought the comfort of their King.

As their friends passed by they began to hear the worship songs from the sanctuary. They could hear the music just enough to be reminded that they were not there, where they were supposed to be, leaping with joy that they were clean. And yet they weren't at the moment. Their souls were still safe and God was still on the throne but they were in a horrible state...saved but still wretched at least for the moment. As their friends and family went on with their daily lives, worshipping together in the sanctuary, they were left wondering if they still belonged. They knew their Savior would save them, somehow, but in the meantime they were left dodging the Sunday morning drivers with everything they had. One more hit might be what it would take, or so it felt, to allow the thief what he came for. Then it started raining. It didn't seem it could be much worse.

And it was then, through their tears, together in the storm they held each other tight and renewed their strength. Surprisingly, or at least it surprised them, a few strangers came by and helped them out of the side of the street. They certainly weren't what the couple had expected to save their brothers and sisters and family and friends passed them by a few people, familiar with the street themselves, had stopped to lend a hand. A few minutes spent listening, a hug or two, a cup of coffee....this was all that was needed to give these two the strength needed to get them to the cross. And an amazing thing happened. These strangers who clearly were averse to the concept of attending themselves, not only helped carry these two into the service nearby but stayed with them by their sides until the couple had regained their strength. Then, they arranged for a group of caring folks to surround them 24-hours a day until the couple returned to ok. This obviously cost the strangers much and they didn't seem to have much to spare, but they gave all they had because they knew the couple needed help. And they cared. Then they went on with their business checking in from time to time to ensure the couple had not gone back to face what they'd faced before without significant support.

Please know that although I wrote this with obviously a little bit of flavor of what we went through, it is intended to be generic and not aimed at a certain person or group of people in their lives. If you find yourself wondering if I'm aiming this at you, please try to remove yourself from the situation and consider the story in itself because again, this is not something exclusive to us or even infertility. There are plenty of thorns we are allowed to carry in life that suck but eventually are intended to lead us more to Christ. As the story of the Good Samaritan reminds us, and hopefully my version above does the same, we are to love our God with all our heart and love each other as we would ourselves. The best example of this, as indicated in the Bible, is the Good Samaritan (or the strangers in my story above). This has certainly convicted me in knowing that I must take better care of my brothers and sisters. I also challenge you...if you know of someone that is struggling with infertility, or anything really, think about your reaction...who are/were you in the story? The closest friends and family who ignored the situation because you couldn't stand to see your loved ones in pain? The brothers & sisters in Christ who failed to "remove your own log" before condemning the couple? If so, I challenge you to seek Christ for forgiveness first and then encourage you to reach out to "the couple" in your life to see if you can help them now. Chances are they might still need it. Please know that not all "strangers" will lead the hurting Christian down the right path and will provide more comfort and safety that the "couple" will choose to abandon those who abandoned them in favor of something that in the end might lead to death. We cannot own the decisions of others but certainly have a responsibility in our daily walk to ensure we are doing everything in our power to love our brothers and sisters in an active way, picking them up and carrying them when they have fallen.

If you were the figurative stranger, may you be blessed and may your active love always be rewarded. May you not grow tired in your endeavors to love others as Christ loves us, which, by the way, meant he went as far as to lay down His life for us.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Quick and Easy "Apple Cobbler"

Tonight I was craving apple cobbler but it was 9:45 and didn't have any handy.

SO...I made up a recipe for the microwave. It was great so I thought I'd share for your enjoyment too.

Peel, core, and slice 1 apple (I used pink lady). Put it in a microwaveable steamer like this one. Add 1/8-1/4 cup water. Add a 1tbsp slice of butter on top of the apples. Sprinkle on 1tsp of cinnamon (over all apples). Sprinkle on 1tbsp of sugar (over all apples). Add the lid of the steamer.

Cook for 5 minutes

Take the apples out of the steamer and into a bowl (without the cooking juice). Add ice cream (as much as you like)...then top with crushed graham crackers. Pour a little bit of the cooking juice/sauce on top and eat.

That simple. It turned out yummy!

Uh that I can make this pretty quick my figure (?) is in trouble!

(I also have frozen berries in the freezer...maybe I'll try berry cobbler next).

Or Not....for now...(related to last post)

I did end up talking to the people handling our application. (Application seems so, what's the word, understated). They told me we'd have a decision by Friday and hear back if we were licensed by then. And, then if we were licensed, we would hear from our FAD worker by the end of the next week.

Friday (5th) came and went. No word yet.

I think I will start a pool....whoever gets closest to the date we hear back will win something. And then whoever gets closest to the date we hear from our FAD worker will win something. And then whoever gets closest to the date of our gotcha day will win something too.

Might as well have a little fun in the wait.

Of course, I don't actually have any prizes lined up or anything, but the concept would be fun.

Someday I'll write two blogs. One on how adoption compares to pregnancy in its phases. The other, quite ironically (maybe), will compare infertility with death and my thoughts on why the Bible puts them in the same category.

Someday. But today I'm going to go get my awesome son some string cheese, finish some SEM homework (structural equation modeling...), and then finish watching sleeping beauty.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Adoption Progress - or...not...maybe soon?

Hello dear friends! I wanted to take a minute to sit down and capture my thoughts on the progress thus far on the adoption front before I proceed with today.

A little history...we started the adoption process in July 2009 by committing to each other that we were going to pursue adoption to increase our family after learning we were essentially sterile. (so funny...I started off reluctant to say we were infertile, now I usually use the word sterile...which is a slight exaggeration considering we do have one living biological son and theoretically have a 1 bombillionth of a chance of having more). Anyway...we officially started the process by attending an informational meeting in August followed by attending the first PRIDE class we could in October. That finished mid-November, as did most of our paperwork. Waiting for recommendation forms pushed our paperwork completion into December, which then pushed off our homestudy until January due to the holidays (and, lost paperwork as we found out later). So, January 16th, two days after my grandmother died and the day my son and I were set to travel back to LA for her funeral, we had our homestudy.

The homestudy itself was actually pretty innocuous. She showed up slightly late, which usually isn't a big deal to me (everyone knows I can't be on time to save my life...ok, maybe to save my life but not for much else), except when you've already been waiting for this day to come for 2 months it causes you a little bit of a concern when things aren't going as scheduled as it puts in the fear that it will be postponed. Indefinitely. Or that's how it feels. But no worries, I think she called right around the time she was supposed to be at our house to let us know she was running late. So, we relaxed (and maybe cleaned) for a few minutes more before she arrived and the process began. She asked us lots of questions, tried asking the little guy a bit but since she started out with "What is your name?" followed by "What is your birthday"...and couldn't get a good answer to that one, she decided she wouldn't be able to get much more out of him and moved onto questions from us. But, we insisted she ask him his address, since he's known that since he was 15-18 months or so, and so she did. And I don't remember if he played along or not.

The whole homestudy lasted about 3 PRIDE they prepared us for 6-16. They also prepared us to share EVERYTHING, from our past relationships, to our concerns about children with different types of challenges, race relations type information, and even how often we're intimate as a couple. But, really, I guess we were over prepared to share (I'm pretty open as it is) because we left feeling like we really didn't feel like we had gotten into that level of detail. She thanked us and wished us well as she left. We were left feeling like we did all we could do, we were honest and now it was in God's hands, but couldn't help shake the feeling...maybe it was so short because something we said or something she saw scared her off? I dunno...but she did say she'd turn in her report by the end of the month.

We knew that they had 30 days to make a decision after receiving the homstudy...I don't know why we knew that, but maybe it was something they told us in class or maybe something we made up. I don't know. In any case we made the decision early in the month to not worry about it and just go with the flow. If we didn't hear back from them by the end of February we'd call them in March. We didn't hear back. Today is March 1st. After a meeting in a few minutes I'll stop and call them and check in.

I'm super nervous to do that. There was a super sense of peace in February knowing that we were waiting for them to take the next step, at least in part because although waiting for movement is tough, revealing the unknown can be least the fear of revealing the unknown can be tougher! So, right now I'm nervous. I'm nervous that I'll call and they'll say that they lost our paperwork and we'd have to start the waiting again. I'm nervous I won't get a hold of someone. I'm nervous they'll tell us we're not approved for some reason. I'm nervous they'll tell us we're approved and the ball will start rolling fast again. Maybe it's excitement and not nerves. But we have a whole lot in the air right now and we've kind of gotten used to this holding pattern.

Maybe this is what they talk about in terms of waiting gracefully. I don't know. But I think we've come to enjoy just waiting to see what will happen...even if nothing has happened yet. We've certainly learned at least in part that our plans are wonderful, but they don't add up to a hill of beans when it comes to what God has in store. And so, we've waited but now believe it's time for us to make a move in obedience.

Help pray for us today and over time as we continue to move down this path.