It seems impossible but it has truly been 8 months since that Fateful Friday night. I waited up for Anna that night as I did every time she was out. Usually around 11:30 I started texting her, just to make sure she was on target for curfew. She was always patient and pleasant with her answers but I knew she wanted more trust and independence. And since turning 18 in January we had tried to give her exactly that. The thought that very soon she would be out of our house and out of our grasp entirely gave us courage to start letting go. So 8 months ago I waited up until midnight and then made the decision not to contact her. I knew she would be on her way very shortly. I said goodnight in my heart and left her where I constantly leave my children when their welfare is out of my hands, in God’s very capable and loving ones. No sooner was I sound asleep than the phone was ringing us awake and the horror of the moments that followed has not faded since. Not at all. And yet in those moments before comprehension completely dawned Heaven intervened. I may never be able to properly describe it, but God was at work in those moments, powerfully, keeping the horror at bay until it could be borne.
All the events of this past year have been on my mind and heart very strongly of late: The good, the bad, the tragic, the miraculous, swirling in my mind, present and real. I’m not a big fan of dwelling on the past, preferring instead to look ahead with Hope. Still the thoughts surface, coaxing me. To what? I’m not sure. It’s as if this past year isn’t finished with me yet. There is still much to learn perhaps so I’ve been pondering.
And then I heard a speaker the other day remind us that remembering can be useful and good. Looking at where we are versus where we have been can really highlight how God is always at work. He quoted the scripture “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
One year ago we were working diligently to bring Sergei home from an institution in Russia. Those chubby cheeks and blue eyes beckoned across land and sea and barriers I never thought we could dare to cross but our hearts were full and sure. We had gotten through the homestudy process and all the initial paperwork and 50 hours of parent training and of course paid the necessary fees along the way. I was starting online Russian language lessons in the hopes that I could navigate more easily on our trips there. It was all a great distraction from the torturous thoughts about where and how our sweet Sergei, and thousands of orphans, are living.
At the Vatican waiting for the Pope to arrive
One year ago we were getting ready to take our older girls on a trip of a lifetime to Italy, courtesy of Grandma. The promise and excitement of new adventures was high! We all took a few Italian lessons and were looking forward to experiencing places we had only seen on television or in books, not the least of which was the Vatican. I remember getting the confirmation invitation to the audience with the Pope and feeling overwhelmed with excitement. Pope Benedict XVI had just opened the year of Faith and spending a week in Rome felt like a great way to spiritually get involved. Our Holy Father’s intent was for the year to be a time for the faithful to learn more about their faith through reading papal documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It struck me that we can also learn so much about our faith by hearing witness of others who are living it and so I had planned on this blog to gather faith stories to share throughout the year.
In general, at this time last year, we were filled with the holiest desire to follow God’s will for the building of the kingdom and fulfilling our heart’s desires.
We had an amazing trip to Italy and enjoyed a very special time with our girls. Experiencing the Joy and awe and wonder through their eyes was such a gift. I can see Anna so clearly walking the streets of Capri, and in open-mouthed wonder with her camera in the Basilica’s and churches, at Trevi fountain lit up at night,
What did you wish for Anna?
and then dressed and radiant for the Papal audience simply because she knew how special it was for me. She was in her Glory, or at least as close to it as I ever witnessed. The memories are painful and bittersweet. She was so alive and so vibrant. I am so thankful that we had that time on that trip for many reasons but mostly because I had a glimpse of what she must feel like now in Heaven, her true Glory. I can picture her Joy and awe and wonder and that is a gift of untold worth.
God is always at work.
Only a few weeks later we found out we were expecting our little Olivia. We were a little amazed and certainly overjoyed and I love to gross our kids out and tell them we brought home a lifelong souvenir from Italy! HAHA. And then came a bombshell for the adoption world. No sooner had we re-committed ourselves to bringing Sergei home and updated our homestudy and obtained the necessary approvals, that news of a Russian adoption ban broke. The days turned into weeks and then weeks into months before the reality of that sank in for us. We are still coming to terms with the fact that we will only ever be able to love and pray for him from afar. And on March 1st, instead of being halfway around the world, we were home when our phone rang that Friday night. I am thankful for that great mercy.
God is always at work.
I’m remembering New Year’s Day 2013. The Holiday celebrations were over and our household was busy getting ready to head back to school and work. We all went to mass after dinner and I had the overwhelming sense that there was no place more important for our family to be, at that moment and in the year to come. It was an incredibly peaceful interlude, like the calm before the storm. I obviously had no idea what was to come but knew in my soul that our family would be facing challenges and that we would need Jesus to do it.
God was at work preparing me I guess. I left that mass to face the new year with courage and faith and hope.
Jesus we trust in you… Lord, wherever you lead we will follow.
The months following Anna’s death were a time of extreme closeness with the Lord. It was a time that ‘oneness with God’ held new and profound meaning, a time when all of this life seemed to fade away and Eternal Life was brought to the fore. I remember this exact phenomena from the months after Michael died, of being here but not really being here. Of going through the motions here but truly residing in the heart of Christ. It wasn’t a challenge or something I was striving for, it was simply survival. I wrote a bit of my experience during those first months here and here though no words were ever adequate enough. Slowly the world around me crept back in and continues to do so. We are called to be here for a divine purpose but it feels cold and cruel after such intimacy, as if I’m being ripped out of Jesus’ embrace and thrust back into the world. Of course the spiritual unity remains but simply put, duty calls. The unity is shifting though the relationship is stronger for having been tested. The race of Life marches on and seasons change but I can say with certainty that God has walked every minute of it by my side.
The Life He started in my womb almost a year ago has come to fruition and is a living, breathing crying!) reminder of how real God’s work is in our lives. Our little Olivia is like a healing balm to this family. She brings Joy, day in and day out. As we mark 8 months of this earthly process of grieving and healing, it is easy to see how far we have come and yet the road ahead stretches endlessly on. How will we navigate 8 more months without her and then another 8 after that?
If I’ve learned anything from pondering the events of this past year it’s this: Through trials and joy, through life and death, God is present and at work.
In a few weeks, the year of faith will come to a close. As I reflect back and ask myself what I did with my year of faith, I realize the answer is simple.
I did the same thing I will continue to do in all my years of faith to come.
I simply walked the road with God.