Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting what I want vs. true joy

I am so excited to serve as a lay missioner with my husband starting this summer! This opportunity presents us with many challenges, but God is already blessing us through it. Serving our God is such an adventure. I wrote this post a few months ago, and our circumstances have altered slightly since then. However, my soul is still healing. Slowly. What I hope people understand is that going on mission is not a distraction or an escape. It is our response to a calling. Husbands and wives are called to love fruitfully. Many times, this means bearing and raising children. For us, right now, this is the fruit God wishes to grow through us. As wonderful as that is, it does not erase the pain of infertility. I still cry when I see 3 and 4 year old brothers spontaneously hug each other in Church. I might always bear this pain underneath all the amazing blessings God heaps on us.

This infertility journey has created, or perhaps highlighted, uncharted areas of my spiritual life. The one I am stumbling through right now is the idea that I need to learn to be okay when things are not okay. My circumstances must not define the status of my soul.

Throughout our struggle with infertility, many people have tried to encourage or comfort us. Sometimes this helps, sometimes not so much. Occasionally, however, their comments really get me thinking. Some people have told me, “Of course you will have a baby. God is faithful.” Or something like, “Just keep praying. I’m sure you will have a baby, and then everything will be fine.” I would certainly be ecstatic if we did have a baby, but what if we never do? I know many childless couples, and probably some of them had planned to have children and then could not. What if this turns out to be our story? Do I just grit my teeth and beg God for children my whole life? I have a habit of slipping into this mentality. “I just need to reach this next goal, and then we’ll be okay.” This leaves me wondering, “What do I do until then?”

As much as I would enjoy having this ability, I cannot hibernate until my life puts itself in order. I still have to get out of bed every day and perform the menial tasks of daily life while pain and worry buzz around my mind. I have to do this every day until…no one knows when. I could be a mother in two weeks, five years, six months, maybe even never. I cannot remain in this anxious and expectant state indefinitely. It is far too tiring, and I do not think it is how God wants me to feel. Forget feeling, I doubt this is how God wants me to act. God is faithful, always. Lately, I have had to ask myself what this means. Does it mean He will give me what I want if I just wait long enough or say all the right prayers? Not likely.

Perhaps, God wishes to use this time to teach me a bit about who He is. God’s love is unconditional. As a human being, a Christian, and especially as a wife, I am called to love as God loves. I do not get to only love Wesley when he deserves or earns it. My love must be free. I am no saintly wife, but I do try to make a conscious effort to show Wesley my love even when I do not feel like it. If he is being ridiculous, I should try to be even sweeter to him to help him through whatever battle is bringing him down (I usually fail miserably here). I need to lighten his burdens even when I get nothing in return. This is how I want to love him. This is how I want to love my God.

I am called to give my whole heart to God every day. It is not for me to say, “What will you give me in return?” God has already given me everything. Jesus Christ died a terrible death so that I may have life. What more could I ask? Anything I receive in this life is a gift. I remind myself of this not so that I feel guilty for my longings. God, loving father that He is, tells us to bring to Him all our burdens, all our needs. I must remember, however, to rejoice in all things. This is difficult when what God hands me does not look or feel like a gift. Luckily, God is not concerned so much with how we feel as how we react in times of distress. Many times, my version of rejoicing is crying and telling Jesus, “I still love you.” If what I have learned in my own marriage is true, even this tiny, unimpressive prayer fills Jesus’ heart with joy.

Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Lord, let my heart long only for you.

Because Jesus Drives the Crazy Train

My life is pretty splendid. I work a lovely day job as a social worker, helping people get food, financial, and prescription assistance. I help lead two awesomely fun Girl Scout troops. I am married to an adorable husband. He works as a shift supervisor at a drug store, and he does bar security on Saturday nights. He takes martial arts classes a few nights per week. Most of my family lives in town. I hang out with my grandparents and siblings all the time. I like to go for walks around our nifty little neighborhood. We are in training to become Natural Family Planning instructors. Someday, we hope to have a family through adoption.

Naturally, we have both given notice of our last days at work and recently sold my car. I am organizing a yard sale to get rid of most of our furniture and other belongings and using the money to buy plane tickets to a location not yet determined. I am looking at our paycheck schedule to find days when Wesley can acquire his passport and be inoculated against typhoid, polio, and hepatitis.

God willing and the creek don’t rise, we will be leaving this summer to serve as Salesian lay missioners for one or two years. The Salesians are the second largest religious order in the world with tens of thousands of priests, brothers, and nuns living in over 130 countries. They care for poor and at risk youth by running schools, orphanages, Churches, health centers, and oratories (youth centers). Lay volunteers often serve as teachers, care givers, or tutors. However, there are endless ministry opportunities based on the needs of each site and the talents of the volunteers. Boarding, food, medical care, and travel are covered. Volunteers receive a small stipend for other living expenses.

Now, I cannot read your mind. But based on popular response, your reaction may be one of the following:
1. “Wow! That’s awesome. You are going to have an amazing experience.”
2. Super wide eyes and mouth in “o” shape. Then rapid-fire questions.
3. “Oh,” then walk away.
4. “That’s really interesting. Can you bring home a baby?”
5. Look of general confusion and discomfort

In response to number four: no. That is super illegal. While we would love beyond measure to adopt oodles of babies, that must be put on hold for now.

Why disrupt our lives and make dear friends and family uncomfortable? Why put ourselves through more financial strain (We must pay for our airfare to orientation and our mission country. We are reimbursed upon return to the US. Insurance does not cover travel doctor visits or vaccinations)? Are we aware that this is completely insane? Why don’t we just stay home and do what normal people do?

Because in the deepest part of our souls, we know that God is asking us to do this.

By my math, none of this is going to work. It is completely foolish for me to quit my fantastic job. I am working on several projects that probably cannot be finished before we leave. We certainly cannot afford plane tickets. I feel extremely apprehensive about leaving my family and friends. There is no guarantee that anything will go well on mission. Why, then, do I feel the most profound sense of peace about undertaking this journey? I keep asking God if this is really what He wants for us. I tell Him my fears and inform Him that it appears that none of this is going to work. Every single time, He floods my soul with the quiet, unshakable assurance that we are doing what He has asked. I am trying to learn to trust God. That is difficult when only recently was it explained to me how to do this.

This trusting God business is scary for me. People like to tell me that God will never give me anything I cannot handle. Ha! Wrong. Unless you count screaming at bumper stickers and throwing computers as “handling it.” Perhaps, if I would stop wresting the situation out of the hands of my creator, I might see that He desires to show me His strength, not my own.

Whether you believe that going on mission is the most wonderful decision ever or that we have completely lost our minds, please pray for us. Also, you should know that at least once a day, I will agree with your assessment. Click here to learn more about the work we might be doing.