Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Long Explore

We're big fans of A.A. Milne around here, at least as far as his portrayal of Winnie-the-Pooh. No Disney books for us, thank you very much, not about Pooh Corner, anyway. They can't touch Milne's humor and dialogue. One of my favorite phrases that he uses in the book is when the characters go on "a long explore." There's something about that phrase that encompasses the whole experience of wandering- the new discoveries, the excitement of the unknown, the totality of the experience, not just the act of tromping around in the woods, but a long walk with purpose.

When my husband decided to go back to school at the age of 30, I knew this is what we were in for. A long explore. While many of my friends were settling down into the homes they'd be in for the long haul, thinking about the next ten years of schooling for their kids, committing to things past a year at a time, we have continued on with the art of transitioning into our 30's. These last three and a half years in NC have been amazing, but we knew when we got here they were just the first leg of the long explore. That somewhere on the horizon would be another move, most likely to a place with which we were unfamiliar. So, like good explorers, we set up camp, ate, drank and were merry, but always in the back of our minds wondering when it would be time to break camp and move on.

That time is now.

Just a few weeks ago my husband received an offer for a postdoctoral position in Wisconsin. The Midwest. This woman has never lived further than 2 hours west of the Atlantic ocean.  I have never lived in a land-locked state. I have never seen a Great Lake. My husband has never really experienced below-freezing temps and doesn't know the joys of ice-skating. My son thinks a big snowfall is when you can't see the grass anymore. Oh, he has no idea.

So, we are busy around here. Busy getting our house ready for the market, sifting through possible living scenarios out in Wisconsin, harassing colleagues out there to give me the 411 on life in Madison, living life as much as usual while we're still here and praying hard for our adoption to go through before we move so we don't have to start over with our paperwork. Basically, all the preparations one needs for the next leg of the journey, besides the goodbyes. They can wait a few more months. 

And if it's one thing this leg has taught me it's that no time is too short a time to be worth it, as long as you're willing to live in the now. I can be confident in moving to this next place because I've seen how good we can have it in such a short span of time. We are moving on having made lasting friendships, having found things we loved to do that we never expected and stronger as a family for the time we've spent here.

So, as much as it'll be hard to say goodbye this summer (and I have had the Boyz II Men song on said subject repeating in my head for days now), this place has left it's mark on us. A mark so clear that we're hoping that when the final leg of the long explore comes, it'll lead us right back here for the permanent settlement.

Until we know though, we're going to live each day here with just as much buy-in as we did a month ago even as we prepare to get back on the road. And we'll do the same in Wisconsin until it's time to pick up camp that one, likely, final time for a while.

After all, there's still much to be discovered in this life and a long explore has been just what we needed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Overwhelmed...In a Good Way

Just a few weeks ago I had the chance to do two much needed things.

One, I went on a hike with a dear friend. The hike was not for exercise, it wasn't for exploration. It was for the sole purpose of yelling. She and I walked for about a 1/2 hour to a secluded location on the Eno River here in NC. We spent a minute or two feeling awkward and making sure no one else was around and wondering who might go first. Then, we yelled. Sometimes we yelled thoughts, sometimes questions for God. Other times, we just let out the tension inside.

And friends, it was so good. The foolishness of being out in the middle of the woods screaming became nothing compared to the miraculously cathartic moment we both experienced. It was obvious that God was listening and that he was not afraid of what we had to say.

Second, I went on a day of retreat. I packed up my backpack, put on one of my favorite books on cd and drove two hours. Two hours away from all the stress of waiting for a baby, all the responsibilities of hearth and home and job. I turned my cell phone off and didn't even bring my computer. And for 8 hours I didn't talk to anyone but God. I hiked, sang, napped, listened, sipped way too many cups of coffee, sat on ice cold benches in the woods and dark, warm, meditative rooms inside. I ate a good lunch that I didn't have to prepare. And I wrote. After two full months of no writing, I filled my notebook with 28 pages. Pages filled with emotions (which we all know are hard to identify sometimes), questions, anger, sadness and yes, even hopes and joys for the first time in a long time.  My most recent blog post was the result of that day.

And leading up to that day I had asked a few people to be praying for me. To help me want to actually spend that day away with God. To be willing to be honest with Him about how I was feeling. To give me hope that He is there in the midst of what felt like abandonment.

The freedom of having people in your life with whom you can be totally honest and then also trust to be totally honest back even if it's hard is sort of indescribable. But people like this are in my life and, man, have I felt overwhelmed after inviting them into this. In a really good way.

Over these past weeks, after my breaking point, I have felt surrounded. After my last post, my explanation of where I've been for two months, the comments, emails, texts and phone calls were such physical, tangible evidence of the gifts I've been given in the people around me. And on top of that, that day I took away and the days since then have been full. Full of peace, full of hope, full of desire to spend time with God, full of the knowledge that God is with us in this and that He, too, is waiting and sad and hopeful all in one. That he's not withholding some huge gift from us out of vindictiveness or to teach us some elusive lesson, but that He's here beside us, just like these friends, waiting, offering comfort, steering us towards hope. I can't describe what a freeing lesson that has been. To trust again that he's not causing us this pain but that He is here in the pain...well, it's a relief, is what it is.

So thanks. Thanks to those of you who read this blog faithfully and encourage me to keep writing. Thanks to those of you who send me little emails or notes reminding me that you, too, are waiting eagerly for the next chapter of our story. Thanks for sharing your stories and prayers with me so that I can pray for you- it's a privilege. Thanks for your honesty, when it's hard and when it's sweet. Both are welcome. Thanks for being God's presence around us when we weren't sure where He was.  I have found hope again and I have been reminded of how good I've got it. I'm overwhelmed.

And sometimes being overwhelmed is exactly what you need. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Asking for Spaghetti

They call it "transition". That point in labor when a woman's body goes through its final, most agonizing changes before she is ready to push. It's that moment when you think it will never end, when you think it virtually impossible that your body can survive what you are going through. And it's the point where even the most stubborn of us women, the ones most committed to going natural, consider the drugs.

That's why for many people who choose this route, there's a code word. As Reed and I prepared for a labor that we hoped would go natural, we were told to find a word that had no relation at all to the process. A word I'd have to specifially use to ask for drug intervention, rather than just saying "yes" to the offer of an epidural or screaming out "give me the drugs!" in the midst of an interminable contraction.

We chose "spaghetti." I don't know why. Maybe we assumed that Italian food would be the furthest thing from my mind while I labored. (For the record, we were wrong. I don't remember a lot about labor but I do remember asking how soon after it I could eat. I was pretty darn freakin' hungry.)

Then came the big day. Or, should I say, the big "middle of the night." And like most women who have gone natural, I hit that point where I thought there was no possible way I could continue without the likely result of my body splitting into two. I can remember just a few specific things about that moment: the helpless look on my husband's face and how hard it was to catch my breath. I remember wanting the drugs and asking for them and my husband dutifully, if hesitantly, telling me I had to use the right word. And I knew he was right. I had to ask for spaghetti.

When it came down to it, I didn't ask for it. That moment of getting outside the pain to make the decision gave me what I needed to push past it and wait it out. And let me be clear- I'm not saying there was anything noble or heroic in my choice- if anything, my refusal was probably yet another shining example of my twin vices of stubbornness and pride. But, refuse I did. And I was glad of it - we turned the corner shortly after and had our son in our arms less than an hour later.

In about two weeks we'll have been on the waiting list with our adoption agency for 12 months. Add to that the months and years of waiting and asking and it's been over four years that we have been waiting for this baby. Four years.

And these last few months? The months during which I haven't blogged, not even once? They have been some of the hardest months of my life. I have felt angry, exhausted, frustrated, sad and hopeless. I have felt distant from and abandoned by a God I have loved and served for almost 30 years. I have felt cynical when people speak of Him as faithful and loving.  He has seemed silent and I have felt alone. I have sat in my alone-ness and not told anyone. Not friends, not my husband, not my God.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments. A moment of "transition". When I felt I couldn't breathe, when I didn't know how I could go on waiting on this adoption, how I could continue to mourn the loss of our baby and deal with the lack of closure on our infertility. The pain was too acute. And I told someone. Actually, I told a few someones. People I knew wouldn't just offer trite words of encouragement. People who would let me be angry and confused and who would enter into that pain with me.

And in the opening up to others, I felt the first stirring of God in this. And I sensed him saying "Will you just say the word, already?"

Just as in labor, I had two choices. I could push through or I could ask for spaghetti.

In my stubbornness in my first labor, I think it was ultimately good that I didn't say the words. But this "labor" is different. This whole "pregnancy" has been different. I feel like I've been pregnant for years and that my labor has lasted for months. So this time, I'm asking for some spaghetti. With meatballs, thank you very much. There is only so much pain the human body can take without labor progressing, you know.

And any stubbornness and pride I have right now, any reliance on my own strength, is just plain foolish. I need God to help me, to sustain my hope and strength during "transition". I cannot do this alone. I have tried the last few months and I am damn near exhausted. I need to be told that it's almost time to push. In the meantime, maybe I'll let the spaghetti kick in a little so I can relax. Maybe I'll actually push into God's presence and continue to let my friends in on what's been going on.

Call it carbo-loading. But I'm planning on getting as much help as I can now, fueling up for that last final stage of pushing, whenever it comes. And yes, like any rational laboring woman, I am hoping and praying that it comes soon. No one wants to be pregnant forever.