Messages of Tears

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”                              -Washington Irving

Gosh, I love this quote.  I L.O.V.E. it.  Each time my eyes skim over it and I soak it in, it  causes me to stop whatever I am doing.  I think about the tears shed worldwide on a daily basis.  I think about the tears that have been poured out of the deepest sorrow and joy throughout generations upon generations of humans.

I think about myself curling up in a fetal position sobbing from every pore of my being while mourning the loss of not being able to have a biological child.  I truly mourned this.  Those tears held within them my secrets, my grief, and my pain.  Those tears shed were not in vain.  I earned each one.  I deserved to let go of each one.  Those tears were for the girl I once was, and the mother I thought I would never be.

I also think about the tears of joy that have navigated their way down the landscape of my face. They too spoke volumes of resilience, thankfulness, and complete understanding.  Those tears released the power of love held within.  They too held their place of importance in the history of my life.  They too were for the little girl I once was, and the mother I was discovering myself to be.

I remember hearing the “sniffles” behind me at our adoption hearings.  I quickly looked around and saw family, friends, and even some child welfare professionals with tears rolling down their cheeks.  Each tear was a message of hope and hard work.  Each one represented the efforts made to keep my children safe, to help their birth parents, and to give them the permanent family they deserved.  The Judge stopped the court proceedings during my son’s adoption and gave me a moment to gather my tears back up.  He told me that he had seen many tears of sadness throughout his court room experience, and it was good to see tears of joy.

On a vastly more important level…the most important of all, I think about the tears that flowed down the faces of those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Christ.  I think about those who must have had tears of awe-filled joy at realizing His resurrection.  The message of unspeakable love, unselfish love, and saving love that those tears gave is still heard and felt today.  At times, I am caught off guard during worship at church.  I find myself singing a song, staring at the Cross, and wiping away the droplets that resemble the overwhelming magnitude of my Savior’s grace and love for me.

I think I love this quote so much because it reminds me of the purpose and the purity behind each tear that falls from our eyes.  The voice held within our tears speaks so much more compared to the words that may or may not leave our mouths.  There is a sacredness there, and it should never be underestimated.

Don’t hold your tears hostage.  Don’t stifle their meaning.  Your tears may be speaking for you.  Allow them to.  Your tears may be speaking to you.  Listen to them.

Well With My Soul

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”  

These lyrics are part of a classic Christian hymn by Horatio G. Spafford (1873). Mr. Spafford wrote this following a series of tragic events in his life that included losing his entire investments in the Great Chicago fire, and the sudden deaths of his four young daughters in an accident at sea.  His despair put into words has brought comfort to generations of Christians.  Out of one man’s tragedy, a song was written that continues to this day to bless people and bless the Lord.

This song has been on my mind for a several weeks.  We typically sing contemporary songs at church; however last Sunday, the worship minister closed the service out with It Is Well with My Soul.  I stood there and smiled at the Lord’s perfect timing in everything.

Years ago when singing this song, I did not always believe, find solace, or live out the words coming out of my mouth.  I was “well” with my job, education, husband, parents, friendships, etc; but I was not “well” with infertility.  The sorrow I felt was deep as if it came from the inside of my bones out to the rest of my body; the kind of sorrow that literally aches.  There is a line in the song Absence of Fear by singer/songwriter Jewel that goes “This vessel is haunted, it creaks and moans.”  That is how I felt.  I was living in a haunted vessel.  My body creaked from the hardship that it had endured, and it moaned for what could have been.

Since my foster parenting experience and the adoption of my children, I have been completely overwhelmed with the sense of peace with all that has happened.  It is difficult sometimes to put into words as there are not enough to describe how nothing else can replace the peace-maker that He is.  His peace does surpass all understanding.

It is an experience that begins with the full acknowledgement of who He is in our lives and what we choose to believe about Him.  Is He a father?  Is He a maker?  Does He offer His love freely to us or do we have to earn it?  Does He truly plan our lives with purpose far beyond our imaginations or understanding? I once questioned these things and wondered how a father, maker, love-giver, and planner could, or better yet would allow pain and loss in His children’s lives.  My earthly human instinct is to protect my children and prevent pain in their lives, so the vision of God allowing tragedy to happen has been a struggle for me to wrap my head  and my heart around.

However, full acknowledgement of who I am in Him has led to further understanding of the dark times.  The revelation of God in my life and how He has planned it has only brought me closer to Him.  I look at my situation now and see His Hand working in all of it.  Total acceptance of my infertility has been possible because of Him, not me.

I wonder sometimes if peace amongst each other could be a possibility if everyone were able to truly say “it is well”.  It is usually not the violent act, illness, or ruined relationship that lingers on in our hearts and minds.  It is the bitterness and resentment caused by these things that stain us.  It is our expression of whatever is ailing us that can cause great strife.

I am so thankful to be able to live life without resentment about infertility.  I am so thankful to know that I am His.  The song It Is Well with My Soul has a deeper meaning for me now.  My singing it is an act of saying to the Lord “whatever Your will is, I accept it and trust you”. 

My writing and speaking about infertility is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness.  Whenever I am able to share just a bit of my testimony, it affirms me that the Lord can take tragic situations and turn them into ones that will bless others.  Thank you Lord for carrying me along the path where I can not only sing, but shout, it is truly well with my soul.

Dance before His Throne

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the girl I was before my hysterectomy. My surgery was not just another one chalked up in the history of who I am. It was a life-changing event. It was something that tarnished my rose-colored glasses view of the world.

I had not been a stranger to the hospital or illnesses before. At age two, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. At age seven, intestinal adhesions caused a blockage calling for another emergency surgery. But, the hysterectomy was a far more intense and dire experience.

This surgery affected everyone around me. It was not just about recovery. It was more than that. It was a game changer. My parent’s lives were instantly changed by it. My life, of course, was too.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed life. There was still laughter, new experiences, and friendships. But, after the surgery, sadness stowed itself away in me unbeknownst to many people.

Prior to this surgery, I was a dancer. By the time I was eleven, I had danced for eight years.  I danced competitively and dreamt of performing on Broadway. My ultimate goal was to be a choreographer. However, something changed in me following the surgery. My body did not move the same way. It took more effort. My muscles had been emaciated from the infection and, to be honest, my spirit had been dampened by it as well.

Within a few years after my recovery, I quit dancing. I don’t know why really. My dance teacher told me many years later that she believed if the surgery would have never happened, I could have been a professional dancer. She too thought that it changed my body’s ability to move and nearly wiped me clean of the strength I once had.

So, here I am now at age forty still thinking of the days I danced. I’ve decided to write a poem to the little girl I once was whose dreams of dancing went to the wayside. I know that when my walk on this Earth has ended, I will be dancing before the Lord.

Dance away, little dancer. Dance before His throne. Dance for all the pain you have once known.

No longer taste the salt in your tears. Feel the movement taking away all of your fears.

Dance your life into a story, and let it be all for His glory.

Point your toes with every ounce of grace. See the expression of love on His face.

Dance away, little dancer. The one who longed to know the answer.

The answer to why that fateful time came.  The longing for a life that would never be the same.

Your life interrupted with no fault of your own. In a single moment, your life’s tapestry was sewn.

Welcome home, little dancer. For now, you know the answer.

His love is your melody. Dance your praise for eternity.

You’ve danced your life into a story. And, it all has been for His glory.

Dear Infertility

Dear Infertility,

Hello, it’s me again. You know…the little girl you once made to feel inadequate, the teenager you once strived to isolate, and the adult you almost accomplished stealing joy from. Well, I’m here to tell you what you cannot do.

You cannot diminish moments of laughter that echo in my mind for days following. You won’t determine my capacity to love other people and children. You no longer make me feel less of a female or parent or anything else you once tried to convince me of.

You don’t stalk me like you used to. I don’t think of you when I see babies anymore. I actually enjoy going to baby showers now. You used to tag along uninvited just to make me feel uncomfortable.  You are not invited, anymore.

You no longer cause a wedge between me and the loving Father I believe in. You used to do that, you know. I used you as an excuse to not listen to Him. He is bigger than you will ever be.  He reminds me what His plans are for my life, not yours.

You cannot take away forgiveness. You do not replace hope. You obviously offer very little grace, but I do not look to you for it anyway.

For the most part, you were one of my darkest secrets. I hid you away for so long.  Funny thing now is that I’m exposing you to the world. You have become my motivation to write, to reach out, and to love.

At one time, I was incomplete. You filled an ever-growing void with even more sorrow, but not anymore. I will never use you again as a way to justify my lack of purpose or meaning in this life.

Dear infertility…this is not goodbye. I can still use you to be a more passionate person. I can still reminisce of you as a reminder to try and love my children more each day than I did the day before. I see you trying to pull others down and I recognize you right away. I use this as motivation for being a more genuine and empathetic listener. The tears I cry now are not for me, but for those of whom you are trying to take over.

Dear infertility…you have not stolen my ability to have a bountiful life. I have a full, rich life that involves children despite your attempt at taking that away. My life is no longer barren. You did not create a wasteland in me. Oh, I won’t forget you. How can I really? You have traveled with me the vast majority of my life, but you are not my life. Ironically, you have caused me to view life as being precious.

Dear infertility…this is not goodbye. This is me saying hello to all the things that you will never be.

Glass door

Growing up I felt there was this glass door between me and the other girls.  I could get right up close to it, but never go through.  My surgery, being barren, not having a period…all of these things separated me from being  just like them.  This is something I kept to myself though.  It was hard enough being an adolescent.  As an adult, it has been hard work to remind myself that while I may be different, I’m still just as much a woman as any other female out there.

I think hysterectomies are difficult for women to undergo.  Mine happened at such a young age that I grew into womanhood already feeling as if I was not wholly female.  Women of any age might not feel completely whole after a hysterectomy.  If the surgery happens at a younger age, then it is more than just losing some organs.  It’s losing the ones that are vital to a women’s experience in this life.

As I have developed through the years, the recognition of the impact on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health became clearer with each milestone or emotional age.  I could tell that infertility was not going to get easier, but harder, much harder.  I stood by and watched my friends’ life cycle continue on.  From the announcements of their pregnancies, to the first baby bumps appearing, the baby showers, flushed cheeks, and swollen feet…  I was on the side-lines watching.  I often heard them talk about their pregnancies and tried to act like I knew what they were talking about.  But the truth is, I did not know and honestly did not care to know.  It would never happen for me.

Infertility creates such a distinct type of isolation.  People just don’t know how to react when one says “I can’t have children”.  Instantly, there is an awkward silence usually followed by some words of wisdom that may or may not be too wise.  It is sadly refreshing sometimes to be around other women who cannot have children.  The conversations tend to be more driven by genuine empathy and understanding for each other.  We don’t have to “be strong” and hide our emotions about it.

There are also those universal themes that tend to come out while discussing infertility with fellow women who are struggling.  First, baby showers are the worst things to attend when you cannot have children.  They can create a raw and digging pain that is usually held in until after the shower is over.  I venture to guess that a lot of infertile women cry themselves home after baby showers.  I know I did before I adopted.  I actually dreaded going to them.  I would “fake” my way through them, drive home as quickly as I could,  and then curl up on my bed in a sobbing mess.  The rest of the day following a baby shower was usually filled with emotions and apathy.

Second, it really hurts when people say to you “if it’s God’s will, then it will happen”.  Most believers agree that things happen in our lives that are within God’s will, but it does not take away the pain.  It may not be within the Lord’s will for any of us to children – biological or adopted.  Unbeknownst to people who say this, an infertile woman might start thinking “if I can’t have children then God must not want me to be a mom”.  This is an awful place to be at.  I’ve been there.  I’ve thought “perhaps God doesn’t think I will be a good mom”, or “God must not want us to be parents”.

Third, pregnancy and birth announcements are wonderful and sweet unless you will never be the one sending them out.  That may sound selfish.  I’m a little embarassed to admit this, but sometimes I would think “why does she get to have another baby when I can’t even have one?”  This does not mean that those of us who cannot have biological children aren’t happy for our family members or friends.  Sometimes, the announcements and the excitement that follows reminds us of what we cannot have.

Growing up, I always felt that maybe I was the only one out there like me.  In some way, this may have been true since I was so young when my hysterectomy happened.  But, now as an adult, I know my experience, though somewhat different, is one that is shared by many.  Being an infertile woman in a world of baby-bearing bliss is difficult.  It can be socially isolating.  It can cause tension between spouses, friends, and family members.  For those of you who may be struggling with handling your journey of infertility or adoption, don’t be too hard on yourself.   Just know that there are others out there on your side of the glass door.