Our fundraising is also coming along- slowly, but painfully surely. It's hard not to get discouraged at how hard we've worked, and how far we still have yet to go. But when I think of what more we could have done, or could be doing, I know there is absolutely nothing more that we could be doing- physically or emotionally. We have exhausted ourselves in every way. This little girl will have been brought home- literally- with blood, sweat, and tears.
This past weekend, Dennis and I went up to the Owyhee mountains to harvest juniper firewood to sell as one of our many fundraisers. Juniper wood is on high demand and sells at a higher price because it burns hotter and longer, but also because of the difficulty of the harvest. The trees have to be cut down several months in advance to give them time to dry out over the summer. The branches are prickly and close together, and limbing the trees is grueling work. Dennis always come home with several bruises and gashes all over his body after limbing. The trees must then be hauled out, stacked, cut, delivered, and re-stacked at the customer's home. All in all, it is exhausting labor- probably the most difficult physical labor I've ever done. Dennis loves it though, and this was the third load of lumber that he has harvested for the adoption. Every time I work with him, I'm amazed at his stamina and strength. I have never met, and doubt will ever meet, anyone who can work as hard or as long as he does without needing rest. It's like watching Speedy Gonzalez, the Hulk, Spiderman, and MacGyver all working simultaneously within the same body.
If someone asked me a year ago, when was the hardest time in my life, the answer would have been simple. It was ten years ago, and I was 13 weeks pregnant. The doctor confirmed my suspicions that something wasn't right. There was no heartbeat, and my own heart seemed to break as I heard the silence. That night in the middle of the night, I miscarried the baby. It was painful, awful, and heart-wrenching. By 9am the next morning, I was boarding a plane to Chile where I had previously planned to rendezvous with my sisters and mom, feeling exhausted and weak. Camden was a 18 months old, and clingy; crying and fussing most of the flight. During the overnight flight from Dallas to Santiago, as I listened to my baby screaming in the darkened plane, wiggling and writhing on my cramping, exhausted body- I watched the irritated passengers shaking their heads and muttering as they tried to sleep. Tears of anguish slipped down my cheeks and I clearly remember thinking to myself, "Hell itself can't be worse than this."
But now if someone asked me what the hardest time in my life has been, I don't know if my answer would be so quick. This has been the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life... bar none. I've heard adoptive families talk about the challenges of adoption, and I knew to expect trials, but I never expected the stretching to be so uncomfortable and ugly. The ugliness, unfortunately, has come from how I've handled a lot of the challenges. It has magnified my flaws and highlighted every corner of my selfish, impatient, and short-sighted personality. The other day, our bishop mentioned how we could overcome any hurdle with the Lord's help. I told him, that when you think of hurdlers, you think of a person gracefully sailing over each hurdle, one right after another. But in my case, any hurdle jumping as been more like clawing over the top, falling onto my face on the other side, and then having the hurdle whack me on the head on its way down. And then I crawl, bruised and cussing under my breath, to the next one.
I long to be that graceful hurdler, who hikes up her petticoats and does whatever the Lord asks of her with a smile on her face and unwavering faith. But my faith has wavered, and most nights I go to bed despairing how I can possibly get through another day of this insanity.
Ironically though, no matter the level of discouragement or doubt, I can honestly say that I have never second-guessed whether or not this is what we should be doing. The clarity of feelings and events that led up to us committing to an adoption have been an anchor in getting me through the hardest of days.
The other day, a friend encouraged me to pray for my daily manna. She reminded me that manna was not given to the Israelites for the month, year, or even for the week- but for the day. And when manna wasn't enough, he sent them quail.
If anything, I have gained a testimony of the enabling power of the Atonement. The Lord has strengthened me to do things that I never thought possible. Here are a few:
- After fasting and pleading prayer to help me find the hours in the day to take care of myself physically and spiritually, He helped me gain the strength to wake up at 4:45 every morning to exercise, pray, and read my scriptures. I had tried this several times in years past, but had never been successful. With the Lord's help, I have been given the stamina to wake up, usually before my alarm, and have the energy to make it through the day.
- My back, which had given me unrelenting grief for the past two years, has miraculously healed, allowing me to get through each day without pain, and even allowed me to help Dennis harvest the juniper wood- something that even just 3 months ago, I would have never thought possible. Leading up to this point, I had tried physical therapy, chiropractors, and everything else I could think of up to that point, with no success.
- People, who I never would have expected, have come out of the wood work, expressing and showing their love and support for us. This has helped counter-balance some of the negativity we've encountered, and has been a source of much comfort and encouragement.
- I was led to find a part-time job that seems to be a match made in heaven for me and my growing adoptive family. More on that later.
- My children and husband have been blessed with a triple dose of patience and forgiveness with me. Not a day goes by when I don't have to apologize to someone for a thoughtless word or action, and yet they still shower me with love, hugs, and forgiveness that I certainly don't deserve.
I'm sure that even as I write this, Heavenly Father is shaking His head, saying, "If she only knew all the other unseen ways in which she's been strengthened- the people that I've sent her way from both sides of the veil."
Yes, we have been strengthened on a daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute basis. God has been good to us.