My time in Steubenville was incredible (as it always is). Even though we weren't there for long, it was just great to see old friends. Because the FertilityCare Conference was in Weirton, WV, my friend and I stayed with the Franciscan Sisters, TOR in their mission house in downtown Steubenville. I had met several of them during my time working for the FUS Study Abroad Program in Gaming, Austria (where I met Dave) and it is always such a blessing to spend time with them. And to sleep in the same house as the Eucharist was awesome. Just to know that I could toddle down the stairs in my jammies to spend time with our Lord was amazing. To rise at o'dark thirty for morning prayer with the sisters was equally wonderful. And to have a holy hour in the presence of Our Lord...ah, I love some aspects of religious life! The Holy Spirit took that time to lead me to a beautiful scripture that has continued to inspire me.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:15
This really had been my focus through Lent. I had finally had enough with the sorrow and sadness. I just couldn't take it anymore and had told God, "Look, I'll carry this cross [of infertility] for as long as you want me to, but I'm sick of being sad about it. Please give me a spirit of joy." Now as I look back I can see how He was faithful in bringing this about in my spirit since then. In the midst of Lent, a season of penance, my heart was filled with joy (even in the midst of human sorrow at times)...but filled with true joy and peace in believing. This had been a long time coming. It was such a relief and welcome experience. And this scripture from the Holy Spirit was like a kiss on my head from God the Father. Thank you.
Equally inspiring was a conversation that I had with a wonderful Franciscan, TOR priest who used to be Dave's spiritual director at FUS. Even though I have only recently gotten to know him, he has been such a blessing to us. (He was actually the priest that blessed my engagement ring as we traveled to Steubenville the day after our engagement to share the news with our friends). Anyway, each time I've met with Fr he has spoken words of prophecy into our lives. It's really kind of crazy. This time, we met for coffee in the student center on campus (keep in mind this man is a Vice President at FUS and thus perhaps the first miracle was that he even had time to meet!). Anyway, we talked for awhile and he point-blank asked me, "so are you happy?" Wow, talk about a loaded question. I thought for awhile and then said "yes." I explained that while life was not easy, God was faithful and I was experiencing a joy in the midst of human sorrow that I didn't know could exist. He then reached into the pocket of his habit and pulled out a holy card. He said he didn't know what, but he felt that he needed to give this to me. It was a holy card of St. Francis with the Prayer of St. Francis on the back. He told me that Dave and I were to pray this prayer together and unite ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of St. Francis. Not really feeling an immediate draw to do this, I just smiled and said okay. But little did I know how much that holy card would change me. Even as the weekend went on, and before I was back home with Dave, I began praying the prayer. And when I saw praying, I mean PRAYING...not just reading. Really PRAYING and meditating on what the words say.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
My jaw dropped as the meaning in my life sunk in. Adoption and foster care. This was a call to adoption and foster care. Bringing love where there might have been hatred. Bringing forgiveness where an injury had occurred. Bringing faith where doubt and uncertainty resided. Bringing hope where one had despaired. Being a light in the darkness. Helping bring joy to a situation where sadness existed. As I moved to the next portion of the prayer, I felt the call grow stronger. In opening myself up to foster care and adoption, I would be seeking to console more than to be consoled myself. I would work to be understanding of another's situation more than hoping people would understand mine. I would put myself out there to love another being more than worrying about being loved in return. And certainly in giving of ourselves we would receive, we would learn to forgive and one would hope that through the experience we would grow into holier individuals and be born into eternal life. The meaning of the prayer that I had heard SO MANY times before, seemed to jump off of the prayer card and smack me in the face. I couldn't wait to get home to tell Dave.
Imagine my surprise then, when I got home Sunday and this same prayer just started popping up everywhere. My sponsored God-daughter in Columbia sent me a card with a picture of St. Francis and the prayer...in cleaning my office, I found two small stained glass windows with the prayer of St. Francis on them...and my devotion to the prayer just kept growing. By Monday morning, I found myself wishing aloud that I had some way that I could take the prayer with me because I wanted it nearby to pray throughout the day and felt it might be a bit strange carrying around a holy card in front me all day (d'ya think?). Imagine my utter shock when that very night, a friend of mine came up to me after Women of Grace and handed me a bracelet saying, "Here, I feel that I'm supposed to loan you this for the next month while I'm gone." Yes, you guessed it, it is the prayer of St. Francis on a Mobius bracelet. I couldn't believe it. I just looked up to heaven and wanted to say to God, "Okay, look, I get it. You can call off the hounds now!". :) But inside my heart was rejoicing. Whereas the thought of adoption and foster care and previously only filled me with angst and concern, there was now joy at the thought of either and I felt that God would sustain and honor us in this path.
But wait...there's more. That same day, Monday, March 15th, God provided us our first opportunity to see if we really had experienced a true conversion of heart and were ready to be channels of His peace. That morning, I received an email from a friend with the title "Are you ready for a baby yet?" I couldn't believe how fast Our Lord was working. It had been 72 hours since I had given my fiat (Luke 1:38), and opened my heart to the idea of adoption. And now here we were with a concrete offer. A young mother, wanting a Catholic/Christian family for her baby due in September...oh, and the nurse/mid-wife thought she had heard two heartbeats. Dave and I were ecstatic!!! A possible double blessing....twins!!! In the blink of an eye, our lives changed. We were on the phone with adoption lawyers, getting information about home studies, consulting with our accountant regarding the financial side, and verifying insurance coverage with our carrier. It was a whirlwind, and our hearts rejoiced! Oh....and the birthmother's name? Yeah...it is Francis. Go figure. :)
(stayed tuned for more tomorrow)