Saturday, March 18, 2017

FAQs about the Match and What's Next

Here are some common questions we've been asked since we've been matched. Please don't hesitate to ask us anything! As you'll see, there are some topics we're not sharing much about, but still ask. We love talking about adoption!

Will you get to name the baby?
Yes, we will. Although in adoption, it's a little more complicated than usual... The birthmother chooses the name that goes on the baby's birth certificate at the hospital. Once the adoption is finalized and we are the baby's legal parents, she will be issued an amended birth certificate and we can choose the name that goes on that and will be her legal name going forward. (Finalization with CA cases generally happens 6-8 months after birth.)

Also, many times with adoption the adoptive parents use some or all of a name suggested by the birthparents. We think this is a beautiful way to show the birthparents' love for their child, and to honor the child's birth family. In our case, the expectant mother did share with us a name that means a lot to her and the father, and we are taking that to prayer as we decide on a name.

What will you name the baby??
We're going to keep this a surprise! :) Although at a party Bethany's work hosted for us, many helpful suggestions were given like Dorcas, Minerva, and Hedwig....keeping those in mind, haha ;)

How long will you have to stay in California?
We don't know for sure, but likely a few weeks or more. The baby has some medical issues that will require a stay in the hospital. Once the baby is born and discharged from the hospital, ICPC starts. ICPC = Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children. During this time California and Maryland have to exchange paperwork and approve us to leave the state. If we leave California before we're approved, it's a crime and the same as kidnapping. (!!) This process tends to take between 10-14 business days, and since it starts after the baby leaves the hospital, if baby needs some extra post-birth care then we can't start the paperwork right away. That's why it's just an estimate at this point. Hey, a few more days to go to the beach! j/j :)

Are there medical issues with the baby?
We do not want to go into detail about that as that is very private. Long term the prognosis is very good and we embrace whatever medical condition there is or may come. Come what may, we love this child as our own.

Will the baby go home from the hospital with you?
That is the plan. The lawyer we're working with does what's called "direct placement" adoption so after birth, the mother signs a form making us the temporary guardians of the child and giving us the right to make medical decisions for the child. The baby is then in our care ("placed" with us), so when she is ready to leave the hospital, she will go with us. (FYI: some agencies, including our home study agency in Maryland, have what's called "cradle care" where the baby is not placed with the adoptive family right away but in a temporary foster home during the revocation period.)

What's the revocation period and how long does it last?
Even when an expectant mother makes an adoption plan before her baby's birth, she has a chance to change her mind after birth. This is called the revocation period and it is a different length in every state. In some states it is as short as 72 hours (maybe even shorter?) and in other cases it is much longer. In California, that time period is 30 days, so after birth the mother has a 30 day time period within which she can decide to parent after all. However, California, after third-party legal counsel, also grants the mother the ability to sign a waiver of this revocation period in which case the revocation period lasts 24 hours. We leave this decision completely up to the birth mother. (The rules are a bit different for fathers, and we won't attempt to spell that all out here....the lawyer will be guiding us throughout this whole process.)

Wow, that's a long time for the normal revocation period. Isn't that nerve-wracking?
We are sure there will be SO many emotions during the revocation period! It's a risk for us, and something that we knowingly accept. It will certainly be an emotional time for the birthparents, too. We believe giving this time to prospective birthparents is essential to make sure they make the very serious decision to place their child for adoption freely and with a lot of confidence. (It's interesting to debate what the "ideal" revocation period would be, but that's kind of irrelevant since the state's law is the law.) A good lawyer or agency will help adoptive parents know whether there are any noticeable "red flags" in a situation that indicate that the expectant parents might decide to parent after all. Our lawyer has been helpful in this regard. Yet, it is nerve-wracking. We will try to approach this time with faith in God's providence and also with the motto (shared by an adoptive mom friend) that no matter what happens, "Love is never wasted."

What is the story of the birthparents?
While we completely understand people's interest in the baby's parents, the only information we'll be sharing about them is that they live in California (hence where the baby will be born) and they made the heroically generous decision to place their child for adoption. Regarding everything else - we're not intending to be secretive, but rather are respecting their privacy and the fact that this is the child's story. The child needs to hear from us everything we know about her birthparents (or even from them, if that is possible), and then she can decide what to share with others. This is a principle we learned in our adoption training and we think it makes a lot of sense. We see ourselves as stewards of our child's story and will share it with her as she grows up, so that she knows where she comes from and can share that information however she wants (or not share, if she doesn't want to).

Will this be an open adoption?
We hope so! To clarify, open adoption is when there is ongoing contact between the adoptive parents and birthparents. Every situation is different. This could mean simply exchanging pictures and letters, or talking on the phone, or even meeting in person from time to time. We have spoken with the expectant mom on the phone, which was an amazing experience, and we really hope to meet her in California (and the father, and extended family - whoever wants to meet with us). We know that the expectant parents are interested in having some kind of ongoing contact, although we'll have to talk (guided by the lawyer) about what that exactly will look like. On our part, we believe that open adoption benefits everyone. Our child could have a chance to know more fully her biological background and heritage, and the birthparents can have greater confidence that their child is loved and cared for. As the child grows, we would get ongoing guidance from our Maryland home study agency about how to navigate this unique relationship (they have a full-time person who deals solely with post-adoption care).

Are you just so, so excited?!?!?!
The answer to that is a resounding YES!!! We can't wait!!

If you have another question please let us know! Either in the comments or by email: adoptionpilgrimage@blogspot.com.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Novena to St. Joseph for our adoption

St. Joseph's feast day is coming up - March 19.* St. Joseph is an amazing intercessor for adoptive families, being the foster father of Jesus. (There are good reasons we could call him Jesus' adoptive father too, but that would take another post!)



We're going to be praying this novena to St. Joseph provided by the USCCB Respect Life office. It's really beautiful!! There are prayers each day for the different people involved in any adoption. We are going to be praying for the people involved in our adoption. If you'd like to join us, here is the link (opens a PDF): http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2016/upload/16-rlp-novena-to-st-joseph-secured.pdf

St. Joseph, pray for us!!

*this year it's technically March 20 because March 19 is a Sunday...but close enough!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

We Are Matched - Long Story!!!

Here is the much, much longer version of our "match." Part of the reason we're writing it up is to remember these extremely special moments. Be aware that we are not including all the information we have about the baby and the expectant parents, partly to protect their privacy and partly because as we have learned in our adoption training, fundamentally this story is the child's story. We won't be sharing medical information, diagnoses, parents' background, etc., that we would want the child to hear second-hand.

But that still leaves a LOT to say!!

Back-up to Monday, February 6. Right after we got home from work, we realized we had a phone message from the director of St. Joseph's Adoption Ministry (the original agency we had signed up with over a year ago). It was about a little girl in California, due April 1, with some information about her and the situation, and were we interested?

We needed a little more information, and after we got that from the attorney in California who was working with the expectant parents, then we said yes the following day (Feb 7) to showing our profile.

Then came some looooooong and somewhat torturous days of waiting (per usual). We knew that the parents were given our profile on Thursday, February 9, and initially we thought that if they liked us, we might be setting up a phone call with them that night or shortly thereafter. But no. The next week started, and when we checked back in with the attorney's office (he and his staff were always very gracious) we were told the parents hadn't yet decided but that they were looking at our profile and others. The attorney was also helping the parents with some crisis-level problems, which was understandably occupying everyone's time.

So we waited some more, and mid-week that week, the attorney's assistant let us know that the parents were now considering our profile and ONE other family's. (!!!!) It felt like we were *this close* to winning the lottery and yet something even better because c'mon, what compares with the great gift of a child?! The tension just kept increasing....

Then they told us on Friday, February 17th that the expectant mother would make her decision by the afternoon. ...But no call came. One more day passed and we were both at a family event on Saturday. Dan, in particular, thought all hope was lost on this case. He was very sad; we both thought this would end like other cases, with a "no". Another day came and went, and it was Monday, February 20th. Dan emailed the lawyer's office and asked politely what the answer was, even it was a "no" so we could grieve and move on. He got what seemed like an ominous email, "Dan, could you please share with me the best number to reach you and Bethany today, in case the lawyer has to call you?" We thought it was just a formal call to say we were not chosen. Instead, the lawyer called and said that the mother wanted to talk with you!!! At the time, we were sitting on our porch enjoying the unseasonably warm February weather, enjoying our day off (President's Day); the call came during the 3 o'clock hour, which in our Catholic tradition is the hour of mercy.

About ten minutes later, we are talking with the expectant mother! What do you say in such situations? Come Holy Spirit! (And we needed a lot of the Holy Spirit, too, because there was a bad phone connection! Ugh! Thankfully, we don't *think* we missed any important details.) We ended up talking for over an hour and it was one of the most amazing and unforgettable conversations.  We can't go into those private and intimate details of the conversation, but we were really blown away by the beauty of her desire to do what is right for her daughter. We assured her that she would always be viewed as a hero by her daughter for this heroic act. We really enjoyed talking with her and we look forward to getting to know her and the father if they want to get to know us. We also wanted to affirm her that no matter her choice with who she chose for the adoption, that she was courageous for what she is doing and she is giving a great gift to her daughter.

In short - it was truly a holy hour, and no matter what was a chance for us to encourage a woman facing a difficult situation. What a blessing.

The call ended around 4:45....and we had friends coming over for dinner at 5! We had done nothing to prepare but they were so gracious when they arrived and found us scrambling around, giddy and kind of spacey after such an intense time!

Then more waiting came... Would she choose us? Did she like us from our conversation? We prayed a lot that evening for her, the father, and the child. As providence would have it, we had a Eucharistic holy hour to go to that evening and we were able to go to this holy hour with two really great and holy sisters from the religious order Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina's order) who work with Dan. All of us prayed and prayed that evening for a successful match, for the mother and father, and just tried to rest in Christ's love during this anxious period of waiting.

Tuesday, Feb 20

The morning was uneventful, which we expected because of the time zone difference between MD and CA. At Mass - wow - the Gospel included this line: "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." That word....receive! Chills!

Around 3:30 p.m. (again the hour of mercy) Dan received a phone call from the lawyer! He had his supervisor in his office for a meeting and had to quickly ask him to leave! How embarrassing, but his supervisor was gracious and understood the importance because Dan mentioned it was an adoption lawyer. Would it be good news or bad news? Another rejection or the miracle we had been waiting for, waiting for almost six years?

Dan's experience:

The lawyer said, "We have an adoption plan." Dan, confused by this language, asked bluntly, "Wait does this mean...we are matched?" Lawyer: "Oh sorry, yes!" Dan: "Wow, this is incredible..." (stumbles for words and thoughts) as the lawyer continues to talk about all the details of what happens next. Dan quickly waking up to his senses then shot off a quick email to Bethany. Lawyer went over a few more details about paperwork and the situation and then the phone conversation was over. It was about 4:00 p.m.

Bethany's experience:

At about 3:30, Dan emailed Bethany saying "might be running late - talking with the lawyer." Bethany responded "And???????" Oh boy - what suspense! Dan emailed back "can't talk"; Bethany said "I am literally dying over here" [using "literally" improperly in a fit of emotion]; and finally Dan emailed "it is good!" Bethany left her desk and went down to the chapel on the first floor - so filled with emotion, thanking God, feeling just overcome with gratitude, relief, joy, so much... Dan called a few minutes later: "Are you sitting down? ....We're matched!"

Bethany then left work and began walking up the street to the Shrine where Dan works! She stopped in Mary's Garden (where Dan had first asked her to date) to pray and cry - and then on to the reliquary chapel at the Shrine. She lit a candle to John Paul II for the baby, parents, and everyone involved.

This is how she felt! (Elinor)



We met in the chapel with one of the happiest of smiles and biggest hugs we have ever had in our marriage. Tears rolling down our faces, we said a quick joyful prayer together to the Lord in front of a first-class relic of Saint John Paul II and prayed for his intercession (and thanked him too since we know he was working with Christ on this one!).

We felt like this too:



Then we were off to fill out paperwork, but we had to first buy a printer and set it up. We had been putting off that purchase for some time! So it took some time to set up the printer and finish the paper work (a big long contract and other forms). It was about 9:30 p.m. when we were finished and all we wanted to do was shout from the mountaintops with joy. Should we call someone to tell them the news or wait until tomorrow? How could we wait with such joyful news?! So we called friends and family! The last call was at 10:40 p.m.! Yup, we woke up more than one friend that evening :-) But it was so amazing to share and to hear the joy in their voices and the tears that were heard through the phone! We are blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends and so much love...

Yes, our future little daughter (with chills of humility we write those words), whom we barely knew, was already beginning to have a huge impact on the world, sending a ripple of joy through the hearts of so many throughout the country she has yet to meet. Isn't it amazing the joy one child in the womb can bring to hundreds of people, but especially to these two hearts of ours?! We're overcome by the beauty of it all.

We are so excited to be parents and to shower this child with much love. For close to six years throughout the suffering of infertility, we have prayed and waited patiently to be a father and a mother and we know that all the waiting is not in vain, but just served to strengthen our love for this little one. And so many already have shown immense love to our child, especially the ones reading this blog. We feel the prayers and support of each person.

We know that between the next few weeks hold uncertainty - after birth in California, there is a 30-day revocation period within which parents can decide to parent and not place their child for adoption. We realize this is a risk. But more than anything, we see this time as an opportunity to LOVE this precious little girl and her parents - to prepare our hearts and home to welcome this little one and to pray every single day for her and her parents. No matter what happens in the weeks to come, this is an incredible gift. We move forward with cautious optimism and hopeful JOY!

However, despite our immense joy, the last words of this post have to be love and admiration toward the heroic expectant mother and father for choosing to place their child for adoption in difficult circumstances and suffering. While we cannot fathom to know what it is like for them and how difficult it may be, we pray that our joy will become their joy in some mysterious way, a joy of knowing that their child will be safe, loved greatly, have a wonderful home, and think the world of them for this heroic choice. We pray God sends them peace, health, strength, perseverance, comfort, love and whatever they need through this situation. We look forward to being there for them - if they would like us to have contact with them - because our hearts are full of love for them too, especially the mother who makes such a difficult sacrifice here.

Thank you for choosing us; we are so deeply humbled. We will not let you down, we will love your daughter as our own with a love that is greater than mere human love, a love that reflects Christ's own love who sees in every person at every point of their lives a precious son or daughter of God's from their toes to the depths of their souls. Thank you God for mysteriously working through this situation to bring this greater love of yours to the world.












Thursday, February 23, 2017

We're Matched - Short Story!!!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy or should we say oh girl oh girl oh girl - this is the news we have been waiting for...before we give allllll the details, here is the cliff note version:

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, an expectant mom chose us to adopt her baby. The baby is a girl and is due on April 1 in California.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekkk!!!

Really, really long story to follow...stay tuned...

WE. ARE. SO. OVERJOYED!!!! PRAISE GOD!!! HE IS SO GOOD!!!

Please pray for us, our future daughter (wow - can't believe we just wrote that), and the incredible and heroic birth parents.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

While We Wait: January 2017 (Month #13)

Happy New Year!

Adoption stuff:

In January, we were presented with one possible situation, but after a week's wait, we found out we weren't chosen. More about that here.  It was a roller-coaster experience as usual. Another chance to trust in the Lord's providence for us, and his plan for our family. And another opportunity to have several concrete, real people to pray for: the child and his parents. We wish that this "lucky month 13" would have ended with exciting news, a trip to Georgia, jumping into the adventure of parenthood....but we continue in the "waiting" phase of our pilgrimage.

We attended a "waiting parents" meeting at our Maryland agency this month. The topic was "cradle care" and it was really informative. Cradle care is when a vetted foster family takes care of a child after birth but before the revocation period passes. As a reminder, every state has a different revocation period - this is the time after the birthmother (and possibly the birthfather) sign papers to have the child adopted, but before those consents are final. During the revocation period, the birthparents can change their minds and decide to parent, no questions asked. It's a sensitive but hugely important time period for such a big decision. In Maryland this period is 30 days; in Georgia it's 10; other states are as short as 72 hours. Cradle care families provide a safe, loving home for the child to be while his/her birthparents confirm their decision for adoption - and it also helps provide some emotional distance for the prospective adoptive parents, in case the placement does not happen.

At the meeting, we met some of the cradle care families who work with our Barker agency. They were wonderful! Even though we wouldn't be working with them, since we are 99% likely going to adopt out-of-state (Open Door has its own cradle care program), it was reassuring to see how warm-hearted these families were. They provide SUCH a beautiful service, to take in a child in need, knowing that it is going to be temporary - to give a little one a good start of love knowing that he or she will be leaving in a week or month. The families talked about how much they enjoyed being with the babies, even for just a short time. It was really inspiring.

Other stuff we did:

  • Family time around New Year's! Bethany's parents and Dan's mom visited for New Year's and it was really fun all being together. We taught them a new board game (Puerto Rico) that Dan's mom won twice in a row! And we made cookies together and ate a LOT - balanced out with taking the dog for a walk.

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Penny wins the festive attire award
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Making "bellybuttons" - yum
  • Bethany supported friends of ours who are adopting from Colombia by attending a "painting party." It was really fun, and we both thought the painting turned out well!
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some serious art is happening here
  • We marched for life! It was cold, cold, cold but really wonderful to show our support for life at all stages. There was a great turnout and it was fun (as always) running into friends from near and far. If you can't read them, our signs say: "Adoption is a Loving Choice" and "Birthmoms are Heroes for Choosing Life." We wanted to send a message of support for adoption. It actually was mentioned a lot in speeches at the rally, which was great. And we had a few people who wanted to take pictures of our signs. Dan even met a birthmother who shared with him a website - http://www.talkaboutadoption.org/ - which is by birthparents, for birthparents, with information about adoption, dispelling misconceptions and that sort of thing. Really great to see!
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before the rally
  • We celebrated Dan's birthday! This year we took a little two-day trip to the Eastern Shore (the part of Maryland on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay, for you non-locals). It was really relaxing. January is the off-season but the weather cooperated for some nice walks. We enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at Limoncello in St. Michaels.
we both had our first limoncello martinis - wow is all we have to say

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on Kent Island, in the Chesapeake Bay - the Bay Bridge is in the background

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about to enjoy a flight of beer
  • Finally, we had some nice surprise visits from out-of-town friends this month: one from a couple Bethany knew in college who now live in Kansas and were in town for a wedding - we had brunch together one Sunday; and one from a college roommate of Dan's who is now a Dominican priest, in town for the March for Life.
We hope 2017 is off to a good start for you! Please continue to keep us in your prayers - we are SO grateful!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On not being chosen (again)

Roller coaster time again - buckle up. We were contacted by Open Door (our agency in Georgia) a few days ago about a babe who had already been born and was in need of a home. We said YES to showing our profile book (more like YESSSSSSSS) but this was not "the one" - the birthmother chose another family.

We've been down this road before (or, sticking with the metaphor of choice, been on this crazy ride before) but it still is rough and disappointing to hear "no" - and the wait in-between is pretty brutal. When you know your life MIGHT change forever by one phone call....and that the little one you've been given basic info about MIGHT become your child forever....suffice to say it is nearly impossible to focus on anything at all. Put another way, it is nearly impossible not to check email every few minutes, to jump at every phone call, to wonder every waking second what the outcome might be....it's pretty exhausting.

We were so glad to have another opportunity to say YES, to take a step forward in faith and open our arms wide for a child who needs a home through the generous love of his/her first parents. That's why we're doing this, to say yes, even if the answer in response is "no" for now. And we learned some things that will be worthwhile as we continue on this journey (and note that some of these are more serious than others, which should be obvious; humor is good medicine):

1) Cancel subscriptions to junk emails!! It was beyond annoying to see a new email pop up and think maybe this is it only to receive the latest coupon from Michael's or Mixbook or Groupon or whatever - the worst is Buy Buy Baby (thanks for the reminder). Same goes for junk telemarketer phone calls. UGH.

2) Healthy distractions are good! We finished watching all six early Star Wars movies over Christmas and then in the midst of waiting on this situation watched The Force Awakens. Nothing like intergalactic warfare to take your mind off stresses. Music is good, visiting friends is good, playing with godchildren is very good, basically things that pass the time and lift the spirits.

3) We did a serious evaluation of the baby stuff we own and made a list of things we need to buy in case we get the call and have to go pick up our baby STAT (which would have been the case with this situation). It was good to face the reality of travelling to meet a baby to realize that we could use some wipes and washcloths, for example. Shopping spree in the near future.

4) We are in this TOGETHER. It was hard - but good - to be asking each other "heard anything?" and checking in about how we were feeling. This is the kind of journey you don't ever wish your spouse had to be on (we wish we were on the journey of getting our children ready for bed and for preschool, but that's not our call) but how wonderful it is to have each other to walk with. And that includes all the dear friends & family who pray for us - even if you didn't know about this recent roller coaster, your prayers helped!

image from Catholic Box

5.) The need to COMPLETELY trust in God. As our prayer this week, we decided to delve more deeply into the reality of divine mercy according to St. Faustina and her writings. So we watched a DVD called "Divine Mercy 101" with Fr. Chris Alar, MIC 15 minutes a night followed by discussion and praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Among other things, the video challenged us to trust completely in God. It is so hard to trust, especially when you are told "no" to one of your great and good desires. And it is a "no" who so many get to experience as a "yes" so frequently, so easily. Yet we are trying to trust completely because in the depth of our hearts we know this is the path to peace and happiness; and all of this suffering is but a means to a greater trust. We are certain that this is the gift God wants to give us through all of this, but please pray for us because it is so tempting to do the opposite. Our culture of self-seeking feel-good entitlement whispers to us, "You have a right to be angry and to doubt God. Think only of your wounds. How awful your wounds!" No! We will not dwell on our wounds except to drive us into the love of God. Our wounds are points of intimacy with God. We give them to you Lord.

So yeah, we are trusting yet disappointed and such is the paradox of our life. Some TLC is needed - maybe a glass of red wine (Bethany) and a milkshake from Chick-fil-a (Dan). We were ready to hightail it to Georgia and embark on the next leg of our adoption pilgrimage. But we'll have to wait some more.

Thanks everybody for your ongoing prayers and support, and hopefully next update we'll have happier news. Jesus, we trust in you!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Word of the Year: Receive

(by Bethany)

A few years' back, a friend shared with me the idea to choose a word in January to be your word of the year. It can be a kind of touchstone, something to reflect on for the year, something to strive for, a quality to emulate, and so on. I thought it was a great idea but haven't done it until this year. For some reason, in prayer the word "receive" keeps coming to mind. So I'll just go ahead and claim that word!

Three thoughts come to mind with this word: receiving a child, receiving life moment by moment, and offering back to God all I have received from him.

Receive...not gonna lie, the first thought I had about "receive" was receiving a child. That this would be the year that we at last, at last receive a child into our arms, our home, our hearts. As we know so painfully well, a child isn't something that can be grasped or grabbed or demanded or forced - a child must be received. When I picture "receiving a child," I picture us with arms open and extended, palms up, a soft and welcoming landing pad for a little one who has already been through a lot - saying goodbye to his or her first mom, dealing with all the new scents and sounds and unfamiliarity not only of being born but being away from the person who was his whole environment for the last nine months. A little one in great need of care and warmth and closeness. We will receive our child with tenderness and with our breath held in awe of the amazing gift of new life present in a never-before-seen treasure, a treasure that will grow to call us mom and dad...(this is one of those daydreams so close to the heart that it's almost impossible to look at directly.) We will receive our son or daughter with tears of joy and with a poignant sense of what has led up to this point in our baby's life and that of his first parents. We wait and pray with open arms and open hearts, to receive a little one in God's perfect timing.

Receive...this also brought to mind a quote that has meant a lot to me, from a book that has meant a lot to me: "Interior Freedom" by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. I am overdue to read it again! It has been such a wealth of wisdom, guidance, comfort, and challenge. Anyway - the quote comes a section called "The Present Moment" and here he says:

We have very little hold on the future. Despite all our foresight, plans, and promises, it takes very little to change everything completely. We can't program life in advance, but can only receive it moment by moment.

#micdrop

We can only receive life moment by moment. (One of those "duh" statements that nonetheless is so hard to truly remember!!) We cannot program the future, cannot smooth out all the rough edges of our lives and create the life we want by our own sheer determination. We can only receive life as it comes, the good and the bad together. This is both a challenging and a comforting word for me. Challenging because throughout this 5-year-plus struggle with infertility, I have wanted nothing more than to "program life in advance" and at least have the assurance, somehow, that yes I will be mother. Or - better - just become one already! It is a hard truth that no, actually I do not have control over the future.

But I also find this comforting because it lets me relax, and with the help of God loosen my grip on all of my plans for life and worries about the future. Receiving life moment by moment is more active, I think, then just letting it all wash over you without a thought. I can make a conscious effort - this is at the heart of Fr. Phillipe's book - to say "yes" to what is given me in life, right now, even if it's not exactly what I want, and in doing so I know (from experience) that my teeth get a little less clenched and my hands relax out of their combative fists...and to get back to the business of loving those around me and finding ways to be fruitful.

Finally, receive brings to mind words from the Mass, specifically during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This hit me fresh just the other day. Lifting up the host, the priest says:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you...

I've been taught that during Mass when the bread and wine are brought to the altar, we should unite our own offering - ourselves, our prayers, our sufferings - with the bread and wine, to be given to God. I love love love this practice and find it a powerful way to unite my little life and the sufferings the Lord has asked me to bear with Jesus's ultimate sacrifice of love. The words of this prayer remind me that everything is received from the Lord - and everything can be offered back to him. He gives us the very bread that we offer, the wine too is his gift... I'm still thinking through what exactly this means, but I think it is something profound! Something to do with redemptive suffering, and receiving-in-order-to-offer, and receiving life as a gift and other thoughts it is getting too late to put together!

So that's my word. I hope I remember it throughout the year! I'm starting to see/hear it everywhere. If anyone else has chosen a word for the year, I'd love to hear it!