Today is just between two very important milestones on This Cross I Embrace.
April 25th, 2012 marked my 4 Year Anniversary.
And this post is #499. Just shy of 500.
Can that be right? FOUR years? And 500 posts?? And I haven't learned to shut up, yet?? ;)
With this milestone comes a heavy post to celebrate. There has been too much fluff on this blog for a while, now, and I do finally have some real, raw, emotion-ridden thoughts to share.
And about humility.
And about God.
I've made the statement on several occasions that I know God has given me the opportunity to suffer through infertility because He knew it would be the very best form of suffering for me. As a young girl who wanted to be nothing other than to be 'a good mother,' allowing me to grow closer to Him through this cross was exactly what my soul needed.
But more than anything else, it has taught me humility in a way I never knew possible.
Here are some little-known facts about TCIE:
From Kindergarten up through 12th grade, I was the top-ranking student of my class. (No, I'm not kidding.) Graduated Valedictorian with a final average of 96.1%
I entered a college that, at the time I was accepted, was ranked the #4 liberal arts school in the nation by the annual Pr.inceton Review. (I didn't get in to the #1 or #2 school, but another of our beloved IF bloggers did ;) )
(Unfortunately for my parents and me, the school has consistently ranked #1 most expensive tuition. It's a sad state of affairs when you realize you would have to work 2 years to be able to afford to send yourself to your own alma mater for 1.)
I started school in February, with a handful of other selected students (students that admissions felt had the ability to come in midway through the scholastic year and adjust well, and add some flair to the class) - and ended up graduating in 3 1/2 years. While in school, I lived and studied in Italy, speaking only Italian and fully immersing myself in the culture (for 6 months). I graduated cum laude.
I went into teaching, got my certificate to teach K-5, via an alternate route that did not require me to have majored in education. I began two different Master's programs, both of which didn't pan out into something I was passionate about, so I stopped both (one in special needs education and the other in education administration).
The reason I'm telling you all of this now is because I have learned that none of that matters. When it comes down to it, the accomplishment in my life that makes me the most proud is my marriage and how we have suffered through infertility, inadoption, and the plethora of other issues thrown at us over the past 6 years.
For many women, growth occurs in motherhood. There have been several articles and blog posts revolving around this idea, which we have all seen, how motherhood strips you of 'self' and requires from you so much more than you ever thought imaginable.
And I don't debate that. I see how beautifully motherhood has shaped so many of my dear friends, particularly those who struggled with infertility first.
But what I have noticed is that in my own life, the crosses that have been entrusted to me have been serving the same purpose.
Through these continuing crosses, I have practiced humility in my daily work and interactions with patients and clients. I have been better able to counsel others who are mothers, or who are struggling to become mothers. I have put others' needs ahead of my own, day-in and day-out. And I adore it. I adore sitting in an ultrasound room after someone's ultrasound and discussing the spiritual battle involved in desiring pregnancy, with women in all stages of life, with adoptive mothers, with biological mothers, with mothers who have miscarried, and with those who have never been mothers. I have gained insight that I know never would have been possible if my crosses had already been lifted.
On Catholic Radio last night, I heard an interview with an ex-football star whose wife battled breast cancer and eventually lost. They wrote a book together before she passed, in which they discuss the oh-so-human need to find the "next big blessing." I thought this was very reminiscent of the Old Testament Israelites being led out of Egypt (which I've talked about before), being pacified by a gigantic miracle one minute, back to complaining the next. We tend to forget all of our past and present blessings in the midst of suffering or in the midst of trauma. But more than that... we tend to not realize that the suffering IS part of a very big blessing in our lives.
All of those things I talked about from my past, as wonderful as they are, they are nothing because I was nothing when I accomplished them. I am still nothing. Without God, there is no "TCIE." Just fluff.
"For my power is made perfect in weakness." - St Paul
My weakness is my many crosses. And so I triumph that I am able to continue suffering to be made more and more weak... that in the end, I will be made strong through it.
This past weekend, I had a huge shock.
I was at my friend's wedding, a beautiful young lady I have the pleasure of working with at one of the NaPro Centers. While at the church before the Mass, I saw tons of familiar faces (it was like a Who's Who of the AAFCP). Shortly before the processional began, I heard someone call my name in a sharp whisper. When I turned around, I saw my old college best friend and ex-Maid of Honor, sitting directly two rows behind me. Shock of a lifetime, considering I have not seen this woman in 6 years since my wedding day.
I won't bore you with details. Suffice to say, we had a falling out, some very hurtful things were said that took me a long time to forgive, but I was not able to re-open that friendship. I did not continue correspondence, but did receive several letters and Christmas cards. The last I knew she had 2 kids, 1 that was born right around the time my honeymoon baby should have been born... and another about 1.5yrs later.
Well here she was, with another year-old baby in her arms, both of us with looks of "What the...!" written all over our faces.
As it turns out, she had been a charting client of my friend who was getting married.
I can't even begin to tell you how coincidental that is.
God created this encounter for a reason. If only for this:
After "catching up" with my old friend and her husband, and inevitably sharing the oh-so delicate information that every infertile woman just can't wait to tell their ex-best friend, I received not much more than this as a response: "Well, what does that even really mean? I mean, it's not like a permanent thing, right?"
I realized, after discussing the topic a little more, and Mr TCIE singing my praises of how many couples I have helped all because of my cross (I love him!), that motherhood has not done for her what unwanted childlessness has done for me. I did notice a softness to her that was lacking in college and afterwards... a softness no doubt brought through mothering 3 children under 5, along with some other personal crosses she did share with me in a means of reaching out and identifying with us (which was actually quite nice). But Mr TCIE probably put words to it best, as he talked to me on our way home from the wedding. He said that it's amazing how God works - because He gave us exactly the cross we needed, and he gave them the cross they needed. He was able to identify in my old friend a sense of longing, a sense of envy over all that I was doing in my career. He reminded me of how she had often said she felt her college degree was being "wasted" and that she just didn't feel like she was putting her education and experience to use. Meanwhile, all I ever used to talk about was motherhood :) I didn't care if my college degree hung in a dusty picture frame in a closet the rest of my years, as long as I got to be a stay-at-home Mom.
But, as Mr TCIE concluded, God knew better.
He allowed me to not get what I wanted so much, in order to get what I needed so much. Humility.
And I believe he's doing the same thing through my friend.
While we may look at each other and long for certain aspects of the other's life, I know in my heart I am where He wants me to be. And truly, nothing could bring me more joy, more obedience, more selflessness than knowing that and living that, every day of my life.
Becoming a mother would have brought me too much happiness to truly feel the sufferings that many mothers feel - not being able to breastfeed, losing sleep and personal hygiene, not being able to have MORE children, etc. I'm not saying it would have been all rainbows and roses all the time, but I know it wouldn't have made me the person I am today.
Of course, should God choose to lift the cross of childlessness anytime soon, I would not protest :) If He wills it, I will be obedient. No matter what.
For those of you still struggling with childlessness, please take this to heart. Please stop what you're doing and take this moment to thank God for THIS blessing. Thank Him for allowing YOU to be the vehicle He works through to be a spiritual mother to others. Thank Him for allowing you more time to become weak, more time to be humbled. This is YOUR TIME. Use it. And use it wisely.
Each and every one of you was prayed for at the St Gianna Feast Day Mass. God will provide you with what you need - trust in Him.