Treasures in the Dark

I might just this time, hit “post” on this entry.  It’s been brewing, and written and re-written since somewhere before the end of January.  I haven’t wanted to publish it, mostly because if I did hit publish, I would have to mean what I say.  And I wasn’t sure if I meant it or not.  Til now.  After some recent events in our life, both in seeking out new ministry opportunities and a tragedy in one of our children’s first families, I have felt this strange and growing awareness that indeed, ‘everything means something’.  Sometimes we can’t fathom what that something is in that moment, and now, almost six week since my initial epiphany about this, I honestly still don’t know.

But…

stuff is happening, most notably a change in my spirit, the heaviness lifting as day after day I look forward more and more with a sense of the old optimism, even though it feels as if we have by no stretch of the imagination been living from crisis to change to crisis.  And still…the lightheartedness remains, even in the middle of it.  Stuff like what has happened these last two months even a year ago could have really set me back in my ability to cope.  I’m not sure what it is, except I’m trusting it is God, and the power He has to make all things new.

And to help us all find “treasures in the dark”.

So onto the post…

Let me set the stage for you of that dark afternoon in January.  I’m less than three weeks post-op from my hysterectomy, really feeling the weariness of constant pain and healing.  I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m sad.
My shoulders felt like I’m carrying a backpack full of stuff of which I can’t define, but cannot throw off. My head won’t stop thinking even though my body needs to rest, but rest does not come.

I’m torn…torn about what to do  with all this. And even more, what to do with all the hope and determination I have put into my dream of having my family.  My family is here. We’re this miraculous family of strangers.  Against the odds, here we are, a family.  Dreams do come true.  They do.  Hope has gotten me there. I should be able to embrace that and let the rest go.

And then I face these moments, where all the distractions in the world don’t cover up the not-knowing of what I do with all that has happened.  Surely, no…surely, the struggle, the pain, the loss, the twistiness, the crying out, the pushing through, the learning … surely it means something.  It has to doesn’t it?

The room is dark, curtains drawn against the twilight sky outside.  I can hear my kids playing out in the living room, my mom making supper, the TV on.  I lay there in the dark, listening to a book on CD from one of my favorite series of books  by Jan Karon. (if you’ve never read her Mitford books, you are missing out… they are like soul retreat for me).

One of the central stories from A Light in the Window (the second book in the series) surrounds the attempt by Edith Mallory (picture Cruella Deville), the small town villainous, to close down the Main Street Grill, in business for over 30 years,  in order for her to put in a clothing store.  The Grill  is a local gathering place and for Father Time (the main character), it is a place of friendship and solace, especially during his fifteen years there as the Anglican priest living single in a small town.  And as happens over and over in the books, Father Tim is called on to try to solve the problem between the Grill  owner and his landlord.  And in the end, it seems that the evil landlord is going to win regardles of their efforts.  It doesn’t make sense, but there is no way around it, and to everyone involved, it seems a waste that after so many years, such a central part of main street would be gone.

It’s finally moving day.  Everyone is there to help out their friends, both in the physical move and with moral support.  Father Tim finds Percy, the grill owner, down the hatch packing and they take a break.  And the following conversation happens as they try to make sense of this big change in Percy’s life… (taken from A Light in the Window by Jan Karon, (c) 1995 Penguin books, page 322-323)

“You can do it”, says Father Tim.

“How come I have to – that the question. Where’s th’ Lord when you need ‘im is what I’d like to know.”

The hot coffee cup warmed his (Father Tim’s) cold hands. “Right here”, said Father Tim, “with us, believe it or not.”

“You’re a preacher.  That’s easy for you to say.”

“Not really.  I have time of doubt.  I stumble around…”

“All that schoolin’ you had makes a difference.”

“Schooling doesn’t count for much in the end.  What counts is our personal relationship with God.  Period.  Bottom line.”

“I prayed about this.”

“You’ll get an answer.”

“This ain’t any kind of answer.”

“I have to tell you that he always answers. And he always shoots straight.”

“Well, he’s done shot and missed, if you ask me.”

The rector looked around at the dark dismal basement.  “Somebody said the brightest diamonds grow in the darkest cavities of the earth…”

“Meanin’?”

“In Isaiah, God said, ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord…’ Times of darkness can be some of the best times.”

I stopped listening to the story at that point, as tears flowed.  It seemed to me in that moment in the darkness, both in my darkened, quiet bedroom and in my sad, tired heart, there it was…

There it was, the possibility that maybe in the darkness that has been a part of this whole journey, there are riches stored somewhere in the middle of it.  It’s for me to dig out the diamonds, and then to trust God that I’ll know what to do with the gems ~ of what I have learned, how I have allowed God to change my heart and perspective, the friendships, relationships from which I have benefitted for being on this journey… all of it…

Was it treasure?  Even the dark stuff in the bottom parts of my heart?  Was God storing up riches in places I could not yet see?  Was the next leg of this journey all about digging those treasures out, dusting them off, and sharing them with others so that they (AND I) could see that God is God and He is Good, and everything means something, and it’s alright.  

I lay there for several minutes in the dark and quiet as the CD shut off.  Tears dried up.  And I knew that somehow that with the closure of the actual experiencing this journey through infertility, and loss, and all that it has brought to my life, both wonderful and hard, maybe the next step of the journey was in the search for…

Treasure in the dark.

Am I up to that task?  Do I really want to do this, to share more of this journey, to actually find what others might glean and speak to it in order to make a difference?  This all can’t just be about the heartache of it.  And I know for certain it is not about God, the Villain, trying to do an evil thing in my life.

So maybe it’s my time to make the best of times out of the darkness.  I hope so.  I hope I’m up to the task of getting on with it, of plowing through whatever grief is left and settling into reconciliation with it all, and then finding a way to share the hope that I find.  I hope I’m up to it.  I trust that I am, with the help of God.

Isaiah 45 says:
This is what the LORD says:
“I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains.
I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
“And why have I called you for this work?
Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?
It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one.
I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me,
so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.
Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness.
Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.
I, the LORD, created them.
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,’How clumsy can you be?’
How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?'”
This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
“Do you question what I do for my children?
Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?
I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it.
With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.
I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions.
He will restore my city and free my captive people—without seeking a reward!
I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

There is so much more to unpack from this passage, things I have discovered in the days since this moment in the darkness where I felt God revealing his new purpose (as vague as it is for now) for me.  And I hope I’ll get the chance to do a bit more of that as time allows in the days to come.

But for now, I DO hit post, and begin again on this journey to find… treasures in the dark.

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Maybe It’s Better to Have Known and Lost…

I wonder this.

Is it?  I hope so.

I’ve agonized over how to write about this.  Or whether I should at all.  But how can I not speak to this, the latest and steepest turn in the relationships with Emme’s other family.  Part of my need to write is to help me remember, and put into words the things that are hard to tell now, will be hard to tell later to a girl I love more than words can say.  But the other side is the part of me that wonders, in the “why did this happen” sort of way, that ultimately, our stories as much as we can say without saying too much (or nothing at all which is what I’ve done so far!!!) need to be told.

Because this is open adoption.

This is open adoption, the way ours is anyway.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, we received the tragic news that Emme’s oldest sister died suddenly and tragically at the age of 17.  It’s two weeks out and still fresh, this news.  I hardly know how to speak to this.  My thoughts are still quite jumbled, mostly because how in the world does anyone make sense of such a loss, that of a young woman, and new mother herself, really just starting life?  And it was not only untimely, but unnecessary.  Her death is tragic in so many ways, but more than anything, it is tragic because finally we thought that she might have been getting life together, moving forward.  I had hoped anyway.

And of course, as a mother, my first concern was for my child..her reaction, her grief, her questions. How much do I tell about the tragedy?  How much do we expose her to the grief of others?  Her loss was future loss in so many ways since at her age, and because she hadn’t seen her sister in several months, she didn’t have any real, big girl memories of her.  Her loss is mostly in the future relationship, and this breaks my heart even more.  I had a dream, of one day there would be this moment… three sisters, with three moms. It was this very vague image, of a park and picnic, of conversation, of lightness…something tangible to hope for I guess, to help me keep my focus in the tougher, quieter times of our relationships.  This simple image has helped me deal with the complexities of it all.  But that future won’t happen because now, one will be missing from the picnic.  And that makes me so very sad for my daughter, and her whole family.

Now we have to share her sister with her, the few but so precious memories we have of times together. We will keep telling her about the day they met, when Emme was just a couple hours old… how her big sister held her and cried because she loved her already.  How her big sister wanted to tell her about her life so far, how she tried to make this wee little sister smile, and how we all unwrapped her together on the bed right there in the hospital, and how we all counted her fingers and toes, and checked out her ear lobes and realized they were  not attached, just like big sister’s are. We will keep telling our Emme  of how they said ‘hi’ that day and in so many ways, how they said ‘goodbye for now’ as well.

And a month later, we visited her First Mom and sisters in their home and we dyed eggs together while Hubs held Emme close by.

Or several months later when Big Sister introduced the near toddling Emme to GrammaB’s dogs, who were bigger than her but so huggable, and about the game of hide and seek the sisters played together under the tissue paper from gifts received and given.

And the next…just a big sister sitting with her little sister on her lap, reading the Ladybug counting book as the rest of us visited over a Christmas dinner.

And still more, Big Sister playing chase through GrammaB’s house, as we laughed at their silly girl screams.

The last time we saw her, Middle Sister read to Emme and Big Sister as their Moms looked on. Sister was quiet, sad that time…I knew life was not as it should be and wondered, but didn’t asked.  I just hugged her long and hard and hoped she was okay.  Maybe I should have asked, but who am I in her life?  No one.  Emme is someone.  Not me.  Little did I know the hard things that were happening just below the stoic, teenage exterior, and how the last of her two years would unfold.

It’s been a week almost to the hour  since we were sitting in the gathering room at the funeral home with Emme’s immediate first family.   It was surreal, being there, with them all, and so many more… birth family members we had never met… biological grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and on and on.  Here it was, my prayer answered that somehow we’d have contact again, and my heart broken for the losses that we all suffered in differing degrees.

And then… we prayed together, as Hubby and I were honored to have the privilege of leading the funeral.  What a honor to walk through this with these people who are our people, as not only family, but as pastors.  It’s not every day that adoptive parents get such a precious moment with our child’s first family, to touch them in grief and loss, and hope and pray that somehow they will understand the grace that undersweeps it all.  In that moment, as Hubby was on one side of ~K~ holding her hand, me on the other side, and Bug holding my other hand, the tangible reality of how this loss had bonded us yet again overwhelmed me, and all I could pray is “God save us all”.  I want so much for this family, these people we are eternally bonded with but hardly know.  And I pray that in their grief they know our love, and God’s love, and the power of hope among it all.

It was a sacred moment, that prayer, as were the moments to follow during the funeral and fellowship.  We had some beautiful conversations with people who are our people because of our Bug, and we now have a wider circles to pray for, to hope for, maybe even to know.  They truly come from a different world in so many ways, but as we are invited to share life even in the hard things, you can see and realize how very much we could have in common.

I sure don’t want to idealize this at all, because the full story is NOT at all idyllic.  But I just want to speak to the reality that, in opening ourselves up to being known, and to knowing them, we have lost.  In the short term, if we didn’t have an open adoption, we wouldn’t have known of this loss that has affected our lives so much these last two weeks, and could change our future for that matter.  But the loss would still be there, even if we didn’t know about it.  So here I sit, once again knowing that the heartache and hard work of trying to build these relationships have reaped the benefit of walking together through this hard thing.

And for that, today, I know…

It IS better to have known and lost…