Whew! At last we are home for awhile and might have the opportunity to catch our breath for a bit as we look forward to the beginning of school on Wednesday, with Josh having his first day on Thursday. With our Retreat so close on the heels of the Chicago trip you can imagine what my house looks like with the "drop and run", "empty and repack" mode we were in. With the addition of new school clothes to wash I think I am in for a very busy week on the home front.
Our Retreat went well, and since I was in charge of it I was happy there were no major problems. We had a wonderful location at an inter-denominational group camp which I had just learned about that is only 15 minutes from town but feels like you are quite far away. It had one of the best views of our city that I have ever seen, and with the full moon this weekend it was simply spectacular to walk around at night.
This Retreat was an interesting one for me. I was really forced out of my box and had to try new things, I led an afternoon session which was totally new and uncomfortable for me. I have never put together something this big and although I had a lot of help the outcome still rested upon my shoulders and I felt the responsibility of making sure everyone had a good time...but more importantly for me the top priority was that people walked away carrying a nugget or morsel that would help them grow in their faith. Being uneducated and probably the least likely person to try and lead someone in their Christian growth, this was a huge challenge for me.
As busy as I was though, I had a little time alone with God myself, and it is so funny that I have had a few of these moments in my life where I kind of "go" someplace else in my head, and I feel that my relationship with God is very, very real. I had one of those moments at 15 when I sat beside the Rogue River in Oregon as I was helping my family clear out my Grandmother's home to move her after my Grandfather died. I had just had my first date with Dominick a week before and had to leave town, and I was utterly confused and conflicted by my emotions. I felt so strongly that I had met my future husband and yet I was so young that this discovery was quite startling and a bit scary. Having never been to church before but despite that somehow still having a certain faith, I remember sitting on a huge boulder as the river rushed by, the sounds of the water as it trickled through and around the smaller rocks, and my deep and heartfelt prayers as I asked God to explain all of this to me, and to give me the courage to trust him that what I was feeling was indeed real and that for whatever reason He had seen fit to present me with my life partner much earlier in life than I had ever expected.
While there have been several other such prayerful and powerful moments in my life, the most recent was as I walked the streets in Kazakhstan, my chest hurting so badly from my broken heart as I angrily asked Him why in the world He had laid certain burdens on me when I was powerless to change anything...and I think for the very first time I truly and totally let go and turned something all over to Him. I couldn't understand my own emotions at the time, but later I learned that He had laid not a burden on my heart but was preparing me for an unexpected greater joy and journey that would lay ahead...He had a plan and He needed me to just give up all control and let Him go to work. He had to show me the power of Christians pulling together and pooling their respective resources of finances, endurance, energy and love and hopefully He will continue to use that to show others aside from me as well. He had to teach me to trust him 100%, which I am working on daily. Now, because of all of this, 2 precious girls will become our daughters. Because of all of this, I have a faith that has grown by leaps and bounds and a far better understanding of the Power of God...no one will EVER be able to tell me he is not as Big as I imagine Him to be. We are truly walking around inside of a miracle of huge proportions right now.
Sunday morning I found myself awake at 4:30 AM, and I decided to take some time that I never manage to take for myself, so I quietly slipped out of my sleeping bag and headed for the shower (I can't ever start the day without one!), then in the still of the pre-dawn morning I went for a long walk and had time to really reflect on my life right now. Time alone is an almost unheard of luxury at the moment, and the cloudy sky filled with the muted light of the barely rising sun provided the perfect opportunity for me to walk the gravel pathways and give thanks for so much, to ask questions, to just simply "be" for a moment without having to "be something", if that makes any sense at all. As I continued to walk among the high growth of the scrub oak, one thought kept turning over and over again in my mind. Gratitude and Growth. Even a mere 5 years ago I was so far away from God it was almost inconceivable to me. I was angry, hurting, filled with negative thoughts of others, pessimistic, and thoughtless. I was a very different person, not one I am proud to admit being. I had gone through some experiences with people close to me that had left me feeling empty inside, and I couldn't grab hold of the joy that always seemed just beyond reach. I had few friends, and those I did have walked through life bearing the same chip on their shoulder that I bore. Misery loves company, doesn't it?
Gradually, God drew me in.
Yesterday morning I saw things from a position that was filled with peace, hope, comfort and joy. I no longer have a yearning for material things as I once did, I no longer feel alone as I once did, I no longer wish I was walking in someone else's life at moments. Somewhere along the way, as I became more enveloped in the loving arms of our church family, I came to love myself in a new way...to accept life on it's terms and not worry about the things that really have no meaning. I am sure that becoming a mother helped in this regard, but really just giving up the illusion that I am in control and letting Him have it has been the key for me.
I know this entire post sounds so much like proselytizing, and I hope it is not taken as such. I guess it is just profound gratitude that somewhere along the line, I "got it" before it was too late, and my soul feels much more at peace because of it...the day to day anger and bitterness is gone and it has been replaced by something much more fulfilling. I was so glad to have that epiphany yesterday, to see as I walked along in the cool morning hours that life is good, really, really good. I was glad to take a moment and have a glimpse of the old Cindy and the Cindy who is today and see some improvement, and to wonder where I will be in a few years.
I also took the time to make some commitments to Him, ones I have been running from for awhile out of fear but will no longer do as I heed my own exhortation to others yesterday and I "step out of the boat" in new and scary ways. There was a tremendous sense of peace that came from that as well, as running leaves you tired, doesn't it? These are areas sort of unrelated to adoption but which I will share on the blog eventually as I move forward. But I am tired of Him yelling at me about it, and will do what I should have done a long time ago and bow down to His will, even if I can't see myself doing these things at all. He'll help me figure it out and if He is telling me to do something, then He knows more than I do.
I was surprised at one moment during our Retreat when Matthew, my quiet, unassuming Matthew stepped forward and wanted to lead prayer for the entire group before dinner. He started everyone singing a prayer that all the kids learn at church camp, and for him, this was a huge "step out of the boat" and I was proud of him and saw another way in which Kenny has had an influence in all of our lives with his leadership in areas one never would have expected. Kenny's lack of fear of approaching others has made a lasting impact on Matthew, as he has helped Matt in the ways he can while Matthew teaches him the ways of being in a family.
So the Retreat behind us, I now look forward to dossier preparation this week as we received word that our homestudy is essentially completed with background checks finally returned. We continue to move forward in lurches down our adoption path, gathering documents and mentally preparing. I tried to explain to someone recently what it feels like. This was another adoptive parent who I doubt I conveyed the full meaning to. Sure, there are the practical things such as painting rooms, gathering clothes and GIRL toys, doing paperwork, etc. But to me, each time we have adopted, the most important part of the preparation is preparing myself emotionally for what we will face, as best I can. Another part of that is relaying everything to Dominick and interpreting what I have learned over the years to him, reminding him of things gleaned from adoption internet lists that might be applicable, etc. It is also very carefully preparing the boys for the addition of our newest children...emphasizing their roles, reminding them of what they girls will and won't know or understand, letting them ask questions as need be, talking about what our life might "look like" when they are home. It is how I have handled it each and every time but it might be overboard for some people. For us though, it works.
I had that reinforced for me today when around the breakfast table the boys were talking and asked when the girls might be coming home. I said maybe before or after Christmas. Kenny asked if they could still get the girls some presents even if they were not home yet, and Matthew asked if we would stick to tradition and include them in getting an ornament for them as we do all of them or our family each year. I said of course we could!! I then decided the time was right to share a few things, and I explained that many people feel we are not making a good decision in bringing the girls home, that they think we will cause the boys problems and that if the girls start acting out it will harm them. I also explained that many people think the boys will have a lot of jealousy and will be looking to see if our family starts to have problems...that many people prefer to see the negative rather than the positive (Gee...couldn't be talking about me a few years ago, could we?). I wanted them to be prepared in case they enounter people who question what we are doing or make comments in front of them as often happens. I have never understood why some adults are so clueless and think it is their right to say anything they want right in front of our children.
Once again, my dear, sweet, courageous "water walkers" set me straight. Matthew just got the biggest grin on his face and laughed as he said "They don't know us very well then, do they? I made it through Joshie...I can make it through ANYTHING!!" as we all laughed with him then. Kenny then quietly added his own very profound comment "Mommy, other people don't have God, we do.".
Hmmmm...so explain to me again why I have let the opinions of others speak more loudly than the opinions of the very people whose lives will be affected? Because I am an idiot, that's why. I forgot who I live with, a house filled to the brim with "Peter's" who daily have taken risks and shown great trust in God despite the naysaying of others.
If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat.
Maybe I need to take lessons from the LaJoy Boys on that one.