Joy in the Time of Covid: We Were Born to Do This

Hey everyone! I’m back! Well, I’m back for this week, at least. I had no real intention of taking two months away from this space, but here we are, two months later. Oh well. I have had thoughts and ideas and feelings swirling around in my brain, and such a barrage of information being thrown at me, as we all have, so I couldn’t get my thoughts together enough to even write them down. I’ve heard that creativity comes often from boredom, and while I haven’t been bored in quarantine necessarily, I have had a lot of creativity that I haven’t been able to order, if that makes sense – I had (have) so many things I want to say and do and create that I didn’t even know where to start. And part of the reason for that is comparison, because I keep seeing what others are doing these days, and how they are responding to these weird and stressful times, and for several weeks I just felt like I couldn’t compete with that, like I couldn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

Yesterday though, while I was scrubbing the shower (yes, I’ve reached the level of quarantine where I can’t even put off cleaning the shower) it occured to me that what I have to say is important even if someone else says the same thing better. Does that make sense? Maybe not – I haven’t had a heck of a lot of social contact these days so my conversational and point-making skills are probably slipping. What I mean is, God gave me a voice and thoughts and ideas, just like He gave you, and if I’m feeling a tug to share those thoughts, I should probably do it already. So here we are.

I think it’s probably been somewhat difficult for most of us to see the good in the days we’re living right now. We have so many things to think about and worry about that the good things can become drowned out by all the noise. True joy is found in Christ and in knowing that we are loved by God, and those things don’t change based on our circumstances in this life. With the state of the world today, and particularly the state of our country, it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed and discouraged. It doesn’t help that for weeks we couldn’t receive the sacraments, and in these times, we need them more than ever. But in all of the suffering, and all of the fear and unrest around us, the one thing we can be absolutely sure of is that God loves us.

I know that saying we’re loved by God doesn’t always make everyone feel better. But if we could only grasp, in our humanness, what that really means, I don’t think anything else would ever bother us again. God, the creator of the universe, Who existed from all eternity, loves US. Out of all the things He created He chose to give us immortal souls and free wills and the ability to love Him back. In all the times we’ve turned our backs on Him, He’s always waited for us to come running back and we’ve always been welcomed with open arms. God loves us. And He created every single one of us and placed us on Earth at this particular moment in time because our lives are important and necessary to His plan for the world and salvation. People, we are living through these sufferings right now because it’s necessary that we be part of the world today. God needs you and me, and our own unique gifts and talents, to serve a purpose right now, in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, because we have parts to play in the way all of this plays out.

When I realized those things during my shower cleaning meditations, it was like a little light bulb flipped on in my brain and in my heart. Suddenly I stopped thinking, “Why us? Why now? Why is this happening at all?” Instead I started to think about the fact that we are important to this time in history, and our existence right now is necessary for God’s plan. That brings me a lot of peace, and a lot of joy, because it was a really important reminder to me that God does have a plan, and that His plans are always for our good. I don’t understand why bad things happen in the world but I do understand that God orders all things for good, and He will not abandon us right now. He has not abandoned us even for a moment. And that’s where my joy comes from. That’s where I find peace and comfort even in the midst of suffering.

I know these days are hard. I know that so many are suffering for so, so many reasons right now, but I also know that God never lets us suffer in vain and He can always turn our sorrows to joy. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but if we allow Him to, God will show us His joy no matter what our lives look like at this moment. We were literally born to live in these days, these hard, scary, beautiful days. Because the world needs every single one of us in it, right here, right now. I’m hoping and praying daily that our world returns to some sort of normalcy soon, and I don’t mean masks and standing six feet apart from each other forever, because that’s not how humans were created to live; but I digress. Until that time comes I hope that we can find joy in the truth that God hasn’t walked away from us, that He loves us, and we are His children. Even if our only role to play in all this going on is to offer prayers for each other, and to extend love and kindness, I’m fairly certain we will each, in our own small ways, change the world. I’m praying for y’all! ❤

Catholicism and Infertility

I recently received an email from a friend who is going through infertility. She just wanted to vent to a fellow Catholic who is in the same boat and simply have someone to talk to who knows how it feels to see those negative pregnancy tests month after grueling month. I welcome those types of messages because they make me feel less alone and because they remind me that infertility is far more prevalent than most people realize. And those messages remind me that when I started this blog last year, that is the precise reason I started it: to remind other couples struggling with infertility that they are not alone in this, and that it is possible to find joy amidst the suffering.

Being Catholic and not being able to conceive children is really hard and very lonely. It’s lonely because it always feels like every other couple of childbearing age in your church parish is either newly pregnant or just welcoming a new baby, while the ones struggling with infertility just sit back and smile and pray for it to be their turn next. It’s really hard to sit in church on Sundays and listen to readings about being fruitful and multiplying, and how honoring your father and mother will ensure that you have many children and your family will flourish. Honestly, those readings make my eyes roll so far back into my head I can almost see my brain. When you’re surrounded by couples with gobs of children hanging all over them, and you desperately want that for yourself, the simple act of getting your butt to Church on Sundays can seem almost impossible.

On top of all that, as Catholics we don’t get to take the route to growing our families that non-Catholic couples use. We can’t use IVF, we can’t do IUI, we can’t do embryo adoption, and we can’t do surrogacy. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and agree with why the Church prohibits these practices, but it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier on me. I can watch other couples find out about a diagnosis of infertility, and they still have multiple options to build their family. For Catholics, pretty much the only option we have, once we’ve gone through all the medical tests and been poked and prodded, is adoption. And while adoption is a beautiful, hard, traumatic, life-changing option, it’s basically all we can do to bring a baby into our families and still remain in good standing as Catholics, which can be a really tough pill to swallow. I know it was for us for a really long time. Even though we always wanted to adopt, once we realized it was the only way we could welcome a baby into our home, it was really overwhelming and scary.

I started to find solace as an infertile Catholic in the stories of women in the Bible who wanted children more than anything. Sarah, Elizabeth, Hannah, and I’m sure there were others. I’ve been so struck by their faithfulness and their hope. Did God answer their prayers immediately? Nope. Did they always believe He would? Eh, probably not. I mean, Sarah laughed when she was told she’d have a son, as if the very idea of it was completely ludicrous and impossible. Hannah prayed in the temple constantly for a son, while she watched her husband’s other wife bear child after child with no difficulty. Elizabeth was barren her whole life until she finally had John the Baptist at a pretty advanced maternal age. So all throughout history, infertility has been there, and those couples likely felt as isolated as infertile couples do now. This isn’t new, and we have never been alone in this! It just feels lonely because so few people know what to say or how to respond when their friend/coworker/fellow church-goer opens up about their struggle to have children. And when people do respond, they typically respond with well-meaning but extremely hurtful comments about how we need to relax, have a few drinks, and then watch how quickly we’ll get pregnant. News flash: if it were that easy we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Infertility is a cross that some people/couples have to bear. It is what will ultimately help us get to Heaven when we die. That being said, it is much easier to bear your cross when you realize that everyone else in the world has a cross, too. It might look different, and it might even not seem like a cross at all, but it’s there. Once I realized that those families in church with kids hanging all over them might not always view their fertility and ease of having children in a positive light, my outlook changed a little bit. Those couples with hyper-fertility probably have to work really hard at NFP every month. They might suffer from financial strain or health issues due to the size of their families. Heck, someone out there might even view our cross with envy and wish it wasn’t so easy for them to get pregnant. My point is, we all have a different cross, and we can never, ever know the sufferings and heartaches other people are experiencing.

I do know what infertility feels like, though. I know what it feels like to strain your eyes squinting while hoping and praying that you are just missing the second line on a pregnancy test and maybe if you hold it up to the light or bring it to the window that second little line will magically appear. I know how it feels to be late starting your cycle and getting your hopes up, only to find out that your body just screwed up and you ovulated later than normal so everything got thrown off. I know how it feels to get your period every month and all but curse it out because you hate that your body isn’t growing life, for the umpteenth month in a row. I know exactly how it feels to hope and pray and cry and beg for FIVE YEARS that you will have a fruitful womb. And I know that it is okay to have very negative feelings about your infertility. Nothing has taught me more about the Crucifixion than our struggle to conceive. The feeling of helplessness and abandonment is very real, but so is God and His love for me. And God has a plan for our future family that I know nothing about.

I hope that none of you know the heartache of infertility, but I know some of you do. And I want you to know that I’m praying for you. You are not alone in this. You never have to suffer through this alone. 1 in 8 couples has fertility issues, and we are one of them. If you are too, I’m here for you. I know how it feels and I know that there is hope. Your babies might not come to you how you thought they would but God does have a beautiful plan in mind for your life and it isn’t to leave you abandoned and your prayers unanswered. Know that whatever cross you have to carry in life will eventually help you get to Heaven. Our sufferings can be fruitful, and even infertility can be life-giving, if we offer them up for the good of our souls and the souls of others. We don’t ever have to suffer in vain. Please keep praying for us, and know that I’m praying for y’all! ❤

Jezu Ufam Tobie: Jesus, I Trust in You

Hey hey! I hope y’all are doing well. Life has been fairly uneventful for our little family lately, and I’m not mad about it one bit. I love the quiet life we lead and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Getting to stay home with our girl every day is such a blessing and I’m so thankful I can do that. Some days, when it’s just the two of us home while Chris is at work, I wonder what it would be like to have other children in the house. Honestly, I can only imagine the extra work that would require, and it’s very intimidating! But at the same time, I realize that our infertility journey is not over in the least bit, and that I still mourn the loss of being able to carry children.

Adoption doesn’t take away infertility. It doesn’t take away the ache in a woman’s heart to carry her children within her. I have grieved the fact that we can’t grow our family in the traditional ways, and I would not change how Amelia came to us for anything in the world. I don’t wish she was biologically ours because then she wouldn’t be who she is, and she is complete perfection. But the desire to welcome children into our family by giving birth to them is something that will not go away.

I’ve prayed that if God doesn’t have it in mind for me and Chris to have biological children, He will take that desire away. I don’t want it if He doesn’t want it for us. And yet, here I am, that desire still burning away in my heart, brightly as ever. I don’t want this to come off as me not being grateful for the gift of our sweet Amelia. I will never cease to be amazed at our story and how she came to be ours. I used to think I couldn’t be grateful and still hope for more at the same time, but I’ve since learned that’s simply not true. I am incredibly thankful and so happy in our life right now. But I can’t help but feel that desire for more: more children, more faith, more hope.

I believe that God grants the desires of our hearts, when He placed those desires there in the first place. It may not be how we thought our prayers would be answered, but they are always answered. This Lenten season I’m focusing on trust. I want to trust God so fully and completely that I’m no longer worried about how our family will grow again, or if it will. I want to be so trusting of God’s plans that I don’t try to force my own plans to work. That’s a tall order, because, in case y’all didn’t know, I’m choleric/melancholic and I like having my way and get a little down when things don’t work out like I’d planned. I’m definitely a work in progress, as are we all. But this Lent, I’m trying to be much more intentional with my desire for trust. I can’t just say, “Okay, I’m going to trust now,” because I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. But I can replace the anxieties with reminders to myself that God is in control. I can let go of things that I have no control over and remind myself that God has my best interests in mind. I can repeat my favorite prayer, “Jesus, I trust in You,” over and over until it’s really and truly true. I know that prayer in Polish and English so there really is no reason to not have it on a loop in my mind, in place of any anxious thoughts or worries for the future.

God has complete and total control over every aspect of our fertility. And honestly, that’s how it’s supposed to be! That’s why Catholics practice Natural Family Planning: because it keeps our hearts focused on God’s plans for our families, and less focused on what we think needs to happen. Infertility is one of the heaviest crosses we have had to carry and yet if it weren’t for my inability to conceive and carry a baby to term, Amelia would not be here with us now. I trusted God’s plan then and I will trust it now. If He wants us to have more babies, He will make a way. If He wants us to be a family of 4 and that’s all, then I am so happy with that plan, too. In the meantime, while the desire for pregnancy is still looming, I’m praying the Litany of Trust, and doing my best to actually put that trust into practice.

I know it’s hard to trust God’s plans when they often seem so contrary to what we want. But God’s plans have the potential to lead us to Heaven if we follow them and we allow Him to work in our hearts. Our plans might bring us closer to Heaven, but God’s are guaranteed to help us reach eternal joy. And isn’t that more important than this temporary life on Earth? I think it is. I’ll be including all of you in my prayer intentions when I pray the Litany of Trust over the next 40 days. I really do appreciate that y’all read this little blog and I hope that I can give y’all some measure of encouragement when you need it. Please keep our family in your prayers, and know that I’m praying for y’all! ❤

You Are Loved

Hey y’all! Happy Friday and happy Valentine’s Day! I’m so glad you’re back here this week, reading these rambling thought, after two weeks of me being absent. Last week I’d started a post, got distracted, Amelia needed attention, and laundry needed to be done, so my intended post never got completely written. But that’s okay because I’ve just been over here living the good life and sometimes that good life takes over and goals get put aside for a few days, and I’m okay with that.

So, Valentine’s Day. ❤ I’ve always enjoyed this holiday, but I have to say, last year and this year definitely take the cake as the best Valentine’s Days to date. Exactly one year ago today, on a Thursday, I made Chris several hand-written and decorated cards, and stuck them in the cooler with his lunch so he could find them when he got to work. What can I say? I’m extra like that when it comes to cutesy holidays and any opportunity to get creative. 🙂 And I love to celebrate any holiday, so I went all out on the cards and had a great time doing it. On one of the cards I told him how much I hoped that our next Valentine’s Day could be spent loving on a new little baby. We were still discussing adoption at that point and while we both knew we were going to start the process eventually, Chris wasn’t ready to go all in yet. Or so I thought.

That night when Chris got home from work, he had brought me a card and some little gifts – the new journals inserts I’d been searching for that fit the beautiful leather cover I have, and a new pack of ink pens in exactly the thickness and brand I like best. I’m very picky about those things, and Chris knows I’ll search for weeks to find the Pilot gel 1.0 ink pens. And he brought me a whole pack of them. What a man. Chris seemed very antsy and as soon as I looked at the gifts he quickly told me to read the card. I only made it halfway through before I started crying: Chris was ready to start the adoption process. What we’d prayed about for so long was finally going to really happen and it was terrifying and overwhelming and the best Valentine’s Day I could think of.

It’s so incredible how much can change in a year’s time. Last Valentine’s Day we had yet to even hire a social worker or start our home study. This year we are spending Valentine’s Day with our -month-old baby girl and God could not be more faithful. It’s really amazing.

Today’s holiday is one that I think often leaves lots of people feeling unworthy because they don’t have someone to share it with. And that’s just really sad to me, even though I was one of those people once upon a time, because we forget that our worth has nothing to do with whether or not we are in a relationship. It has nothing to do with our social status, the jobs we hold, how much money we make, or how many friends we have. Our worth is based on the fact that we are children of God and loved by Him. That’s it.

Since I have a daughter now, it’s really important to me that she knows how valuable she is. It breaks my heart to know that one day she will likely stand in front of a mirror and critique every aspect of her body because the world tells her she should look a certain way. It makes me really sad to know that one day she may not have a boyfriend as soon as her friends do, or she may not have a husband in the timeframe she sets for herself, and that it may cause her to feel less worthy than her peers. I know firsthand how hard it can be to be a girl with a plan that appears to fall through.

I spent so much time growing up thinking that I wasn’t pretty enough and that’s why I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school when all of my friends did. Then in college I thought I still wasn’t pretty enough, and I was too shy, and I definitely wasn’t interesting enough, and that’s why I still didn’t have a boyfriend in college. And I felt unworthy of love because of those lies I listened to, and it brought a lot of heartache. I considered becoming a nun. But I didn’t want to. I considered becoming a consecrated lay woman and even went on a discernment retreat to try to decide if I thought it was something I should pursue. I hated it. No kidding, I actually hated it. And that’s okay! Because God was showing me that I was meant for marriage and that it just wasn’t my time yet.

I wish I had voiced those feelings of unworthiness to someone who could tell me they were lies. I wish I had spent more time thanking God for the years I was single and less time telling Him how my life should be. I felt worthless because I misplaced my worth and believed it was found in human relationships, even though I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. I thank God now that He made me wait for Chris, that no other dates ever worked out, and that Chris shows me day in and day out the kind of love that God had in store for me for all those years, the kind of love that I am worthy of receiving.

If you are feeling left out of today’s festivities and lovey-doveyness because you aren’t in a romantic relationship, please don’t let that make you feel less worthy of love. Please don’t forget that your worth and mine is based on the fact that we are God’s beloved children and that’s the only thing that matters in this life. We are more than any worldly relationships, even those with our spouses. If we don’t place our worth in the knowledge that we are God’s own most beautiful and loved creations, nothing else will ever make us feel like we’ve measured up. I hope you all have a beautiful Valentine’s Day no matter how you spend it. I’m going to spend the day running errands and loving on my little family and I honestly can’t think of any way I’d rather pass the day. Please pray for us and know that I’m praying for y’all, and that you are loved! ❤

3 Years Post-Miscarriage: How My Miscarriage Made Me a Stronger Pro-Life Advocate

This week marks 3 years since my miscarriage and honestly it has not gotten a whole lot easier for me. It still feels like yesterday. The trauma, the heartbreak, the brokenness and loneliness I felt during those days is still fresh in my mind. I will never be able to forget the moment I saw that second line on a pregnancy test, and I will likewise never be able to forget the moment I had to tell my husband I was starting to miscarry. And most of all I will never, ever forget the moment my miscarriage was confirmed in a cold, hard, sterile exam room, with the lights out and tears streaming down my face as the doctor told me what I already knew: our baby was gone.

I’ve thought over and over again of all the milestones Madeleine would be hitting these days. With each passing day I imagine what it would be like to spend my days with her. Our first baby. The baby we prayed and hoped for and celebrated and mourned. The baby we still miss every single day. This week Amelia started eating baby food. She sits in a high chair now, she can roll around on the floor and play by herself, and she’s obsessed with the water in the bathtub, as well as trying to get her hands on our little dog Zoe. And every time Amelia learns something new I wonder what it would be like if Madeleine were here to experience her little sister’s milestones. I wonder how it would feel to have both of my girls in my arms to snuggle every night, and cover with kisses. I wonder how Madeleine would behave around Amelia, if she would be a little momma to her sister, or if she would just be jealous. I know she would be the sweetest big sister.

So many things go through my mind as Amelia hits new milestones. But the one thing that never crosses my mind is that Amelia is a replacement for Madeleine, because she absolutely isn’t. I will never fully understand why we couldn’t have Madeleine on Earth with us too, but I do know that she is a powerful intercessor for us. She is living in the fullness of God’s eternal glory, and my goodness if that’s not exactly what every parent should want for their child, I don’t know what is! I can’t pretend to know the heartbreak that T went through, and I’m sure continues to experience since she placed Amelia with us, but I do know exactly how it feels to desperately want your child in your arms and to not be able to hold them. It’s excruciating. It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced, and I will be forever grateful to T for the gift she’s given us in our sweet girl. I’m thankful every single day that she chose life for her baby, and not just because it gave us the opportunity to welcome a baby into our family. I’m grateful she chose life because every child deserves a chance to live, nomatter their circumstances.

It always struck me as particularly cruel that I would miscarry during the month that we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The very month when the unborn are being even more spoken of and prayed for, when people around the world are begging for the rights of unborn children to be upheld, our baby was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. It seemed so wrong and so cruel. And it was. It is. People sent their condolences to us, and prayed for us, and asked what they could do, and they suffered with us. And ever since my miscarriage I’ve just been so much more aware of how differently babies are treated by the majority of society when they are miscarried versus when they are aborted.

In our current society, when a mother wants her baby but experiences a miscarriage, she is pitied and the baby is mourned. But if a mother has no desire to have children and has her own selfish reasons for wanting to remain childless, she is applauded for having an abortion and taking care of herself before anyone else, and the baby is suddenly no longer someone to be mourned, but something to be disposed of quickly. I realize there are situations in which women feel they have no other option because their families and friends offer no support. I realize that there are cases of rape, where pregnancy occurs and the thought of delivering the child of a violent attacker seems horrible and impossible. But an innocent child should NEVER suffer because of someone else’s actions. No matter the circumstances of their conception, every child deserves the right to be born, and every child deserves to be loved. Regardless of their social status, their race, their health, they are unique and important, and they are necessary to God’s plan.

Since Roe versus Wade in 1973, roughly 61 MILLION lives have been taken in utero. 61 million brothers, sisters, friends, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, scientists, astronauts, priests, nuns, writers, historians, world leaders, presidents, popes, PEOPLE have been snuffed out before they ever had a chance to become what they were meant to be. Gone in an instant. I wish we could see what the world would be like if all those people had been given a chance. If all those souls had been born, would our world be more peaceful? Would we have less violence and corruption and more harmony in our world? I think so. Because if abortion was never made legal, if abortions never happened (because they were taking place well before Roe v. Wade made them legal) I do believe that our world would look drastically different. If there was respect for the dignity of human life, people would treat each other differently. We would treat each other as the children of God that we are, which is the only way our world will ever see peace.

I wish I’d had a chance to know all those babies lost to abortion. But my daughter knows them. She’s glorifying God alongside them for every moment of eternity and I am so grateful for that truth. If nothing else, my miscarriage has given me more of a sense of the work we have to do as pro-life Christians. From the second I found out about Madeleine, I loved her. From the very first moment I knew of her existence, I wanted to do everything in my power to protect her and help her grow. And seeing women with no one to support them, so that they feel they have no other choice than abortion, absolutely breaks my heart. We have to be there for them. It’s our job as Christians to offer whatever support we can to women and couples we know are experiencing unplanned and crisis pregnancies. And if nothing else, we need to pray for the sanctity of life to be upheld. We can’t all go out and march in the streets or give lots of money for pro-life organizations, but we can pray. And we can love. We can love the women who are considering abortion, the women who have had abortions, and the women who have walked away from the abortion clinics. They are hurting, I can guarantee it. Abortion doesn’t just take the life of an unborn child, it also makes a victim out of the child’s mother. And it has to stop. We can’t be truly pro-woman without being pro-life. It’s impossible. Abortion makes it possible for men to exploit and take advantage of women because abortions will take care of the effects of their actions. Abortion holds women back because rather than being told that they have support from society, society tells women that they can’t have both children and careers. That they aren’t strong enough or capable enough to do both. Abortion is 100% anti-woman. The future of our world and our society and our children depends on an end to abortion. If the family falls, everything else falls too. Pray for life. Choose life. ❤

We Are Made for Joy

Hey hey! Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful, holy Christmas and are off to a great start so far in 2020. The last 2 weeks have been absolutely perfect for my little family. Chris was home for 2 whole weeks, which was the longest he’s been able to be home without working since Amelia was born, and we just got to spend all our time together. It was really special to finally get some down time and lots of uninterrupted family time. And of course over the break II did a lot of reflecting on 2019, and I’ve decided that it was my favorite year of life to date. I just don’t know how any other years from here on out will compete with the year that brought us sweet Amelia, but 2020 is off to a great start, so I think we can only go up from here.

Are any of you familiar with Jen Fulwiler’s random word generator? Go look it up if not because it’s fun. I love her saint’s name generator, which is to help choose a saint to learn more about every few months or so. So this year I decided to pray for God to send me some words for things I needed to focus on throughout the year, and to use the fun random word generator to get them. I know, it sounds so silly, but it was fun and actually pretty interesting. I got three words and decided that I would focus on all of them because as soon as I saw them I knew they were things I needed to work on, and in fact have been needing to work on for quite some time.

The first word I got was KNOW. And immediately what came to mind was “Be still and know that I am God,” because that phrase has been running through my mind a heck of a lot lately. It was always there throughout our adoption journey and whenever I felt overwhelmed, or like we were in over our heads (which we were, haha) that verse always helped me to refocus on God. It helped remind me of the things that I know without a doubt: God is with us, He is for us, and He will equip us for every single task He wants us to undertake. For someone who is scrupulous and occasionally still struggles with the feelings of helplessness and ugliness that come with scrupulosity, just knowing that God knows my heart is the one thing that calms those anxieties. I know that God loves me and I know that He is never far away from me.

The second word I got was INDULGE. Which is fun because the first thing I envisioned was brownies. 🙂 No seriously, I have a bad habit of throwing myself into busy work and all the tasks I need to take care of on a daily basis, and not taking the time I need to sit and just be. I struggle a lot with feelings of guilt when I take time for myself when I have so many things that need doing, and what I so often fail to realize is that I am a better wife and a better mother when I do take time to take care of myself. Thankfully I have a husband who is so good about encouraging me to get out of the house on my own sometimes, and who appreciates having a wife who is well-rested (haha, that’ll never happen again!) and feels good about herself. This year I plan to spend more time doing things that bring me comfort and enjoyment, even if it’s only doing my nails while Chris plays with Amelia. Those little things are so important.

But more importantly, I’m going to try to spend more time indulging in prayer. I usually don’t think of prayer time as an indulgence, but it really is. Especially if it’s quiet. The time we spend speaking to our Heavenly Father directly reflects how we will behave to our earthly family and friends. If we spend minimal amounts of time in prayer each day, or only pray before meals or at church, we are doing ourselves a disservice. God is waiting for us daily, to shower graces on our souls, if we just take the time to spend with Him. So that’s what I’m going to do. Rosaries will hopefully be happening much more often in 2020 than they did in 2019. 🙂

The third word I got, and my favorite one because it’s so appropriate, is JOY. Goodness. Joy in Christ has been my goal for the past many months, and I can’t think of a word that better describes my daily state. I can’t describe to y’all the joy I have in my heart for the life God has given me and for the love He continues to wrap me in even when I don’t deserve it. Heck, I never deserve it. None of us does. But He gives His love freely and without conditions, He waits for us to return it, and the joy our love brings God is incredible. Just think, we are measly little humans, who constantly bicker and screw up, and our love brings joy to the Creator of the entire universe. That’s definitely cause for joy in our hearts, my friends.

When I started this little project one year ago, and called it Little Way of Joy, my intention was to hopefully bring joy to others. I’m not so self-centered that I believed hundreds of people would read my words every time I published a new post, but it was important to me that even one person would read them and know that no matter what their circumstances in life at the present moment, joy is possible. Joy will always be the result of doing God’s Will. Encouraging others will always bring joy. Living out our Faith will never bring us anything but the greatest JOY. I hope y’all realize that your very existence is pleasing to God. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here. I hope you find joy and peace in that knowledge. I’m praying for y’all! ❤

A Wonderful Christmastime

Happy Friday people! These last couple weeks have been such a whirlwind around here. Amelia caught a little cold last week and needed all the snuggles she could get, and I was happy to oblige. She turned 3 months old, which I’m still struggling to wrap my head around. She rolled over for the first time, met Santa and wasn’t a fan, and she laughs out loud now! She also coos all the time, especially to get our attention and in response to us talking to her. She and Chris have the most adorable conversations in the evenings and I just melt watching them together. All the things she’s constantly learning just amaze me. I guess somehow I thought that maybe for us time wouldn’t go quite so fast, but I was wrong. Time is flying, Amelia is growing bigger every day, and I am loving every second of it.

I suppose the good thing about time flying is that it’s almost Christmas and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED!! I love Christmas, always have, always will. I love the lights, I love the decorations, I love the gatherings, I love the Christmas movies, I love the excuse to wear matching pajamas, I love all of it. But the thing I think I love most about Christmas (besides Jesus, of course) is the traditions that go with it. I love the traditions we have as Christians surrounding Christmas and I also love the more secular traditions that we include in our preparations. I’m beyond excited that Amelia gets to experience those traditions with us this year.

Every year for Christmas we build gingerbread houses. We use graham crackers because that’s just how we roll, but we call them gingerbread houses anyway. We also bake Christmas cookies and cookies for Santa. I still can’t believe Amelia gets to put out cookies for Santa this year. As we’re preparing for our Christmas traditions and all the hustle and bustle that surrounds this holiday, my mind has been nearly constantly on Amelia’s birth mom. We get to experience all of Amelia’s firsts, because of her, and this first Christmas with our baby is really hitting me harder than I expected it would. To know that we will wake up on Christmas morning with a beautiful baby and get to start traditions with her, as a family, is so beautiful and yet so hard because miles away another woman wanted that with the same baby. And that wrecks me. All our joy comes at the cost of T’s sorrow.

I could go on and on about our love for and gratefulness to Amelia’s first momma. I could sing her praises from the rooftops. But those things won’t ever be enough thanks to her. I am learning that the best thing I can do to show how much we love T and how grateful we are to her for allowing us to love and raise Amelia, is to make sure that we honor her by having Amelia know as much as possible about her story and how she came to be part of our family. The most beautiful way I can think of to love Amelia well is to love her birth mom well and keep our promises to her. And honestly, that’s so easy to do.

Two Christmases ago we were heartbroken because our little Madeleine was not with us to celebrate. And now we have the most perfect baby, who incidentally is pretty much exactly the same age as Madeleine would’ve been on her first Christmas. It amazes me how God works things out so perfectly. I hope and pray that we are raising Amelia in a way that makes her birth mom proud and confident in her decision. I hope we are doing the right things to help her still feel included in Amelia’s life.

This year Christmas feels much more low-key than it has in the past. We’re still trying to do the gifts for everyone and we’re over the moon excited for Amelia’s first Christmas, but for me, I’m so content and peaceful even though we have about 27483574734 things that need to be done before Christmas. I don’t even really care about all those things. I care about taking our baby girl to Christmas Eve Mass for the first time. I care about Father walking into church carrying her because he asked if she could play Baby Jesus and I’m honestly so excited about it! I care about spending this best holiday with our families and friends, and celebrating the Christ Child on His birthday.

I’m just so thankful and my heart feels like it could burst this Christmas. It’s truly the best Christmas season we’ve ever had so far. We made Christmas cards for the first time since our first married Christmas, and they contain my most favorite pictures to date. We are fully taking advantage of the time Chris will have off of work to spend together as a family, since he’s really had almost no time off since Amelia was born. And we’re just being thankful and joyful in the fact that Amelia is here with us this Christmas.

Please keep Amelia’s birth family in your prayers this Christmas, and keep in your prayers also every birth family out there experiencing the holidays without their children, especially those experiencing that for the first time. I hope you all have a holy and peaceful Christmas Day next week, and that this entire Advent and Christmas season has been joyful. I’m praying for y’all! Merry Christmas! ❤

Advent and Saint Joseph

Happy Advent everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week! I was definitely taken by surprise when Advent showed up immediately after Thanksgiving, but I’m totally okay with it because I love this time of year (and not just because we finally got to put our Christmas tree up and start listening to Christmas music, although I am really excited for both of those things). I love the anticipation of Advent. The joy and expectancy that Christians have for the coming of Baby Jesus. I love to imagine the Holy Family traveling to Bethlehem and Mary waiting anxiously to give birth to her Son, while Joseph takes care of them both, doing his best to care for his very pregnant wife while also handling all the business and chores that come up while traveling.

This year Saint Joseph has been more relatable for me than he probably ever was before. I’ve always loved Saint Joseph and looked to him as a model of gentleness and obedience to God’s Will. But this year, with Amelia joining our family through adoption, I feel so much closer to Joseph. The fears I had about attachment with a child I did not have a hand in creating were likely the same fears Joseph had while on that journey to Bethlehem. The thoughts about how other people would see our family, and how they would accept Amelia were probably the same types of thoughts Joseph had about Jesus.

Here was a man, a good, holy, righteous man, who loved the woman he was betrothed to and wanted to build a life and a family with her, when all of a sudden, his plans were turned upside down. He lived according to the laws of God, he practiced virtue, he did everything in the proper order, and yet God did not allow him to become a father in any kind of way that made sense to him at the time. God called him to become the father to a child Joseph was not related to in any way. Of course Mary was related biologically to Jesus, so maybe that helped calm Joseph’s fears a little bit, but I can’t even imagine the anguish he felt when he found out his gentle, holy, kind fiance was pregnant out of wedlock. And pregnant with the Son of God no less. All of Joseph’s hopes and dreams about how his family would look changed in an instant.

I know that we normally refer to Saint Joseph as the foster father of Jesus, but I’ve always thought of him as Jesus’ adopted father. Not in the traditional sense of adoption, but in that Jesus chose Joseph to parent him. The Son of God came as a tiny baby to be born into a humble family and He chose Joseph to raise Him, to be His dad, to teach him how to be a good and righteous man, and to raise Him up in the laws of God. None of the plans Joseph had made happened like he’d hoped, and yet with his simple ‘yes’ to God’s will, Saint Joseph became Jesus’ father.

It’s so crazy to me to think that Joseph could’ve just walked away. Heck, Mary could’ve said no to the angel herself, but of course she wouldn’t because she was perfect and always obeyed God’s Will. But Saint Joseph was so unequipped for the task God called him to. He was just a guy trying to make ends meet and build a life for himself and for Mary. He didn’t aspire to huge things, he just wanted to live a simple, quiet life with his family. He could’ve left when he found out Mary was expecting. He could’ve just walked away, saved himself a lot of shame, and saved Mary from being ridiculed. But he didn’t. He listened to what God was asking of him and he gave his whole life to raise the Son of God.

I like to think that as Mary got further along in her pregnancy Joseph became more and more excited to meet Jesus. I think he probably felt like any expectant parent and wondered what Jesus would look like and what kinds of things they would do together. I think Joseph probably felt like most adoptive parents feel: anxious, nervous, cautiously excited, and hopeful. That’s why I’ve felt so drawn to Saint Joseph these last few months. Since we first learned about Amelia and that T had chosen us, I’ve felt like Saint Joseph has been with us, like he was watching out for us and helping our hearts to soften to be open to the story God was writing for us. I always invoked Saint Therese throughout our adoption journey, but Joseph was constantly the saint in the back of my mind, and I think it’s because I knew that if anyone knows about the confusion and anxiety and fear of adoption, it’s Saint Joseph. But he also knows the beauty and the joy that comes from it too, and I think that’s really cool.

I’m glad we have so many saints in the Catholic Church that we can relate to as human beings and not just these perfect, holy-all-the-time superhumans who never messed up. The saints were once living, breathing people just like us, with struggles and fears and worries like everyone else. The difference was that they followed God’s Will for their lives, they worked hard to become more like Christ every day, and they never gave up on their desire to make it to Heaven. I’m especially thankful these days that God chose a normal man like Saint Joseph to be His Son’s father during His time in this world. It gives me a lot of hope that we can carry out God’s plans in our lives too. Joseph didn’t start out as anything special, but by simply saying yes to God, he became one of the greatest saints in human history. And if Saint Joseph could do it, we can all do it, right? I’m praying for y’all! ❤

This Ordinary Life

Hey friends! So, if you noticed, last week I did not have a post up in this little space. Or maybe you didn’t notice because your world doesn’t revolve around these scattered thoughts of mine that come out on this page. Either way, I didn’t write a post last week because I literally forgot what day it was. For real. I forgot that it was the end of the week and that’s when I prepare new blog posts. Every Thursday afternoon I normally sit down and write something, then I set it to automatically publish on Friday mornings. That way I can sleep in on Fridays…haha. Seriously though, last Thursday I totally forgot what day it was. I was entirely too busy snuggling my baby, taking care of our home, and getting things done to even remember what day of the week it was.

I tell you what, if that’s not the most accurate representation of my life these days, I don’t know what is. And I would not change this crazy, busy, full, happy, normal, not-super-exciting-all-the-time life for anything in the whole world. I waited my whole life to live this exact life I have now. I prayed and hoped for a husband and children and a quiet, ordinary life so average, with days so similar and uneventful that I forget what day it is. My goodness God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

Maybe it’s the fact that Thanksgiving is next week, but I’ve been feeling just extra grateful lately. I’m grateful for this little family I have and the life we’ve built together. But more than that I’m grateful for the fact that God doesn’t listen to what I have planned, but gives me more than I ever thought possible. Being a mom has been the greatest blessing, but not just because of Amelia. God has been teaching me so much about giving Him total control and it’s been the best thing for me.

Y’all know I like my plans and I like my routines and I need things to go the way I planned them. For most of my life, when things went off plan, or plans changed suddenly, or I was taken out of my normal routine, it would completely throw me off. But now we have a baby. And that baby could not care less about my schedule or routines. She could not care less about my compulsive and absolutely ridiculous need for control of any given situation that comes up. If she’s hungry, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to feed her. If she needs to be changed, I change her. If she decides that 2 in the morning is the perfect time for snuggles, then she gets snuggles at 2 in the morning. And friends, it has been unbelievably freeing for me.

If I am too tired in the morning to wake up early and workout, my world doesn’t end. If I can’t get all the laundry done because my girl needs extra time being held, it’s okay. If I have to pull leftovers out of the freezer for supper because I just couldn’t get it together to cook something new, we are still fed and happy. My point is, God has used the most beautiful baby girl to point my heart towards Him in ways I never even knew He could.

I’ve experienced a reliance on Him like I never have before. Learning to lean on God and His plans rather than my own abilities and plans started a long time ago, but it’s been so beautifully obvious to me lately how very important that is. We can’t make all our own plans and leave God’s will out and expect everything to be smooth sailing. We can’t possibly dream up anything as wonderful as what God has in store of us, if we just stop being the controlling humans we are and allow Him to guide us to what’s best for us. All those days and months and years I spent in tears, praying and longing for a baby to join our family, were absolutely worth it in the end. Because I finally realized that God had something perfect in mind for us. I still don’t understand how my miscarriage fit into that plan, and I probably never will, but I have learned to trust that God does not allow us to suffer in vain, and that one day I will meet my little Madeleine in Heaven. I know that she helped us to reach her little sister Amelia, and that even though they never met each other here on Earth, they know each other in so many ways already. And I am thankful for the peace that knowledge gives me.

So now I sit here, with my baby squirming and wriggling on my lap, fussing because she needs attention, a bottle, and a nap, and I’m beyond grateful for this ordinary life. I’m so glad my plans didn’t work out like I hoped they would, because there is no place I’d rather be than where I am in this life right this moment. I hope you all know that God has wonderful, beautiful things in store for you. And I hope you know that He loves you beyond your wildest imaginings. I’m thankful for y’all, and I’m praying for you! ❤

Adoption Awareness Month and this Adoptive Mom’s 2 Cents

Hey hey! I hope you all had a wonderful week! We definitely did. This past Sunday we were finally able to baptize little Amelia! It was such a beautiful morning. Amelia was so good, and she even smiled when the deacon anointed her! I was so proud! I’ll be really honest with y’all and say that for quite a long time I believed we would never have children, and so I would get really emotional over the thought that we’d never have baptism pictures or first Christmas pictures or wedding pictures of our children. And then on Sunday I felt extremely emotional just knowing that our beautiful baby, the baby I prayed for so long to join our family, was finally in my arms and we were able to have her baptized. It sounds a little silly typing it out but that was truly a dream come true for me. But that dream would obviously never have come true were it not for adoption.

Some of you may know that November is Adoption Awareness Month, and tomorrow, November 9, is actually World Adoption Day! I’ve followed the posts on social media in years past from families who had adopted or were in the process of adopting but this is the first year I can count Chris and myself in with those families. Initially I wasn’t going to share my thoughts because I didn’t feel qualified to talk about adoption in depth yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel qualified to do that. But after thinking about it a little more and reading some beautiful and vulnerable posts from all parts of the adoption world, I decided to share a little bit after all, especially since tomorrow is meant to be a day to celebrate the gift of adoption, as well as a day to remind us to not overlook all those who suffer because of adoption.

Something that really stood out to me while learning about adoption and the trauma involved in it, is that there are people who feel that you can’t really have peace in adoption. Their argument is how can you be at peace about something that you know is going to cause so much pain for someone else. Here’s my take: when God plants a seed in your heart, and you follow His lead as He guides you to what He has planned for you to do, you will have peace. Sure, it won’t be a peace that totally cancels out all your worries and fears. We’re human, therefore we have human emotions. But I learned through our adoption process, and I’m still learning now, that I will only have true peace if I do God’s will. And I firmly believe that us pursuing adoption was His will.

My heart truly breaks when I think about T, Amelia’s birth mom. I am filled with so much pain knowing that she is more than likely experiencing the most difficult days of her life right now. I’m not blind to those things. I have so much guilt on a daily basis because of the joy and excitement I feel every day since becoming Amelia’s momma. But I also know the conversations I had with T. I know the things she told me, that I will cherish in my heart and share only with Amelia, the baby we both love with everything we have. And I know that she trusts me and Chris to love and raise Amelia.

I’ve had people tell me that a loving God would never let biological families be separated, that we are tearing a family apart because we adopted Amelia. I’ve been told that we are ripping Amelia away from her real mother and her heritage, and that we will never be her real family. I’ve had people tell me that we were coercive because we were excited that T chose us to love and raise her baby. I’ve even had people tell me that I have no idea of the trauma that birth mothers experience, that God privileged us more since we didn’t have any struggles (ha!) and that adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem…and two minutes later the same person boasted of her involvement with Catholics for Choice. Talk about a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but I digress. 🙂

My point is, nobody knows our whole story except for us. I don’t share everything. I shouldn’t share everything, that would not be right. But I share what I can to help other people know they aren’t alone. I felt so alone for such a long time, and it wasn’t until I opened up about our infertility and our miscarriage that I started to realize how many people there are who are in the same boat. I finally connected with people who weren’t afraid to share the difficult, messy parts of their stories, with the sole intent of helping other people feel like they belong. I am absolutely certain that I am in no way, shape, or form an expert on adoption topics. Far from it. But I am also absolutely certain that I will do everything in my power to learn what I need to learn and accept that I can’t know it all and I will inevitably make mistakes.

I have had so many doubts throughout our adoption journey, doubts about my ability to be a good mom, doubts about whether or not an expectant mom would choose us to parent her child, doubts about every bit of contact we had with T, whether or not we were giving her the support she needed, even though we were doing our best, doubts about how we would feel about openness in our adoption, and the list goes on. But what I never doubted was that God was there. I never doubted that we were walking the path He had set us on, and for that reason, even in the middle of lots of emotional turmoil, I had peace. I am not perfect, but I can do God’s will. That’s the only way any of us can truly be at peace.

So I will continue to learn, and listen to other adoptive parents, listen to birth mothers and birth fathers, and listen to adoptees, so that I can be as well-informed as possible, and raise our daughter as well as we possibly can. But I will never not speak up when someone says that peace can’t be found in the adoption process. I will never not speak up when people speak uncharitably and/or judgmentally about birth mothers. I will never sit back and keep my mouth shut when people talk down about adoptive parents. I will never keep Amelia’s story from her. She will always know how much T loves her. She will always be given all the information I have to share with her.

Adoption is chock-full of more emotions, messiness, and beauty than you would possibly believe. I can only share what I know. I can only be a voice for one side of the story. But I will always do my best to educate myself on how to walk through life with a child who was adopted, and how to make sure that her birth mom is always aware of how loved she is. I know that us having Amelia in our family is the reason her birth mom’s heart breaks. But I believe, because of so many things that I will not be sharing with y’all, that God brought Amelia and T into our family. And for that I am forever grateful.

Please, if you are touched in any way by adoption, learn more about it. Learn how to speak about adoption, and more specifically birth mothers, with charity and gentleness. But if you only learn one thing, learn this: birth mothers love their babies. They don’t “give them away,” as we are so used to hearing. The decision to place a baby for adoption is the most painful, soul-wrenching decision a woman will ever make. She will live with that decision forever, and with the trauma that goes with it. It is not something done hastily or lightly. So be charitable and kind in how you speak about birth mothers.

Well, this turned into a more emotionally-charged post than I originally intended. Oh well. It’s important stuff, I think. I’m so thankful that I can share a little bit of what we’ve learned. I’m not an expert by a stretch, and I have a lot to learn, but hey, I’ll get there one day. Please pray for everyone in the adoption triad (child, birth family, and adoptive family) that we can navigate this path with love, compassion, and openness. Adoption is hard. But it’s also beautiful, because it comes straight from God. And that’s why it can also come with a certain amount of peace, for everyone involved. Pray for us as we continue to learn about adoption and prepare our hearts for difficult conversations in the future. I’m praying for y’all! ❤