I guess I should begin by apologizing for not writing more often. The truth is, It’s so hard to provide updates when so little forward motion can be seen on the adoption front. We feel as if our whole lives are lived in the waiting room, a holy place where refinement and rest live. But it is a hard place too. On the outside, it probably looks as if nothing is happening. But on the inside, we feel the friction of honing. We feel ourselves being molded into the kind of people we want to be.
And so that’s what I’ll write about. What’s happening, you ask? We are growing up.
During Lent this year, I spent a lot of time in prayer. Like, a lot. I practiced praying the Hours, on my knees with my homemade Anglican prayer beads, trying to be present for the poor, the widow, the oppressed, the lonely, the objectified, the fearful, the trafficked, the wounded, the jaded, the blind. And I wore the shine off the beads and clutched the cross so tight that it literally fell off.
I prayed for these, and I prayed for us. I prayed for the kids we don’t yet have. I prayed for your kids, too. I prayed for my friends who are sick — whose cancer is warring with their bodies. I prayed for the Church, who is so often at war when it is called to be an instrument of peace. I prayed for help to live a nonviolent life. I prayed for forgiveness and the courage to forgive.
And I know that all of this praying matters. One day, my kids will see me pray. They will know my faith, and they will know that peace on earth, goodwill toward men begins here in our hearts. That’s my hope, anyway.
I also used the Lenten season to focus on my own consumption. (I don’t mean that old-timey way of saying I’m an alcoholic. Don’t worry.) I mean, I am a consumer. I consume people, resources, stuff as if there was a limitless supply of it all. As if people are things and things are life. I have wasted the earth, wasted so much time, and wasted opportunity. So, together, Matt and I are taking a stand against it. For the good of the earth, we recycle so much more and use so much less. We are down to a less than single bag of trash a week — a huge, sad improvement. The vast majority of our purchases have been from local sources, including baby shower gifts, groceries, face moisturizer, cleaning supplies and restaurant food. When we can’t purchase from locals, we have purchased good-for-the-earth products, like recyclable toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups. We are even working on a real, grownup compost system. (Disclosure: Matt is not a fan of what he calls “hippie toilet paper.” And the facial cream has caused my makeup to run off my face like I’m in an ’80s Saturday Night Live Tammy Faye skit.)
Please do not misunderstand my intention here. I’m not bragging. I’m confessing. I feel sick about our own consumerism and the way we have mistreated people and things for years. These are things we should have been doing all along. I have never prayed with such intention and intensity unless something was really, really wrong. And I have been a terribly wasteful human. God built this gorgeous planet and I’ve treated it like a piñata for 35 years. Glass is a pain to recycle in Albuquerque — and by that I mean that I have to take it with me when I go anywhere near a Smith’s. Not exactly a hardship. My convenience has been my guiding light, instead of the reality that nothing is really mine. It’s all borrowed treasure.
God breathes life into existence, and I treat human beings like commodities and issues. I preach about defending the poor and the widow and the orphan, but I categorize people in my own circles based on their issues. I don’t love them as creation, people made in the very image of God. Instead, I move them around like furniture: Republicans go in this box, Dems in that one. The disaffected and the jaded get this box, next to the hipster Christians whose favorite hymns are written by Sufjan Stevens. You think your very specific parenting style is the only non-idiotic choice out there? There’s your box. Folks who like to fight me on Facebook every time I write about poverty? Here’s the old shoebox I prepared just for you! Oh, you think the LGBTQ community is the biggest threat to this nation and your faith? You think the poor don’t deserve steak or that immigrants are fleeing their homes in the tens of thousands because it’s fun for them? Let me usher you to that box just near the back door. Any “progressives” over here? I think you’ll like this posh little space I made you. It’s totally non-threatening, and we all get along, and all we do is talk about how great Tom Hanks is. Oh, you think like me and make my life easier? You get the biggest box of all! The roomiest one I have! I’ll send in a fleet of people to give you manicures and make you dinner. Fun, right?
WWJD? Shoebox his friends, of course! He’d organize them neatly and stack them on shelves so he’d know where to find them, just like that sweet lady’s collection in “Everything is Illuminated.”
It’s so pitiful. I am sorry for the way I’ve categorized you. All of you.
The final thing Matt and I did together was to find our “off” switches. On Sundays, we put away our laptops and Pinterest boards and games on our phones. We found each other. We played games, we went to the zoo, we walked and dreamed. We sat with people. Like, really, sat and listened. We heard. We grieved. We were present.
It’s disgusting, frankly. Our Lenten practices this year are things I will keep in some shape or form for the rest of my days. Why on earth have I not been living? I turned 35 during Lent. It’s a milestone for us, because that means it’s been five very long, somewhat painful, very full years of working toward our adoption. It was on my 30th birthday that we said out loud for the very first time that this is something we wanted and felt called to.
And the best way I can respond to questions about our waiting room is to give a glimpse of what’s been going on inside it.
At church, we are studying 1 John in a series my pastor is calling “Manifesto.” It’s about what John wants us to believe about Jesus and what that belief means for our lives. So here’s mine: I believe that Jesus is peace. He is love. He told me to give strangers my clothes, to walk more miles than necessary, to be a punching bag rather than throw a fist, to avoid the bare minimum, to wash feet, to love my enemies and give my life for my friends. He tells me the kingdom of God is both now and not yet.
Just like our parenthood journey. It’s very now, and it’s very not yet.
Matt and I realize that our kids will be better off for this season of waiting. We have no fantasies about what adoption will be like. We know it’s a hard road, and this waiting business is the easy part.
So we will continue to wait. To learn. To grow up so that we can raise kids who will be good grownups.
All quote photos come from one of the books I used for my Lenten reading, “Seven Sacred Pauses” by Macrina Wiederkehr.