Seeking Stillness: Trying to live in the present when your heart aches for the future

hourglass tilted on the side
Today, watching the lake lap the shore, I am reminded that all things pass. My son and I leave the beach as we arrived, masked and hand-sanitized. A sense of repose has found me. I wrote this Godisbig reflection in 2014 as I waited through the unknown. May it speak to you in this moment too. Praying that you are staying healthy and safe.

“I’m jealous,” a colleague said to me after dinner. Her belly was rounded into the fifth month. Everyone at our table had been busy one-upping one another with labor and delivery stories. I wasn’t quite sure how my story about traveling to Haiti to meet my son would fit in, but I told it anyway. I never imagined jealousy as a possible outcome.

“You’re adopting,” she explained. “I really wanted to adopt. This baby is a compromise.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to sound empathetic.

I was lost thinking about the group I lead for men and women struggling with infertility and how much they hunger to be in her position. The more I listened to her inner struggle, the more I tried to drop down inside of myself and hear my own jealousy. But there wasn’t any.

The hardest part of my adoption journey is the in-betweenness of it all. It’s been fourteen months since I said yes. After my first week in Haiti, witnessing how well loved my son is and watching him sleep in my lap, I had to get on a plane and come home. I had to step out of one world and back into another—without him.

I’ve done it twice now, waiting for our paperwork to work its way through the Haitian and the U.S. governments. For better or for worse, this is the process. This is my walk. How to be here, in the present, is the challenge.

It’s tempting to imagine perfect outcomes, to control the process in my mind. But thus far, none of the projected time frames have born out, and I’ve grown weary of them all. I’ve also tried the “obsess about everything” approach, and it didn’t go so well either.

In the weeks leading up to my first trip, a huge work project was barreling down on me. I was hosting my brother and his family in my home. I had donations to buy, others to pick up, and a collection of toys I secretly worried weren’t good enough: Maybe the plastic neon ball with the red and purple lights was too flashy. The Go Car too young. Would the crayons actually melt in the heat of the mid-day Haitian sun?

I had a send-off party to plan (my idea) and a pair of closed-toe sandals to find. I had vaccination shots and malaria pills and a book I was trying to make for my son that used my newly-learned Kreyol. Never mind that I called him a “beautiful little girl” by mistake. I could no longer see the humor in anything. Everything was either on my to-do list or it was off.

When my sister-in-law arrived in her natural exuberance, she offered to help in any way possible. “I’ll even mop your floors,” she declared standing over my kitchen sink. “My floors are mopped,” I said flatly as her smile fell. Floors were off my list.

A friend of mine took to calling me “Literal Larry.” It would be weeks before I found that funny. I knew I needed to be still, to quiet my mind for a moment or two. But I could no more stop to pray than I could fall asleep at night. I tried centering myself in prayer one morning, but in less than five minutes, I had a new menu planned for the party, a series of work emails drafted, and another list for my brother and sister-in-law that included everything I forgot the last time they ran to Target.

I remember thinking that I should be grateful. My friends and family were being so gracious and kind. But praying in thanksgiving was not on my list.

The morning I left for Haiti, I was up at 1:30 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. I knelt down on the floor beside my bed and pleaded: “God, I am a mess. Can you please help?”

Once we arrived and I held my 18-month old son for the first time, I felt nothing but peace. I still worried about which toy to give him, and if he’d like it. I triple-checked my paperwork for the U.S. Embassy on a daily basis. But a deeper part of me trusted in all the love that I saw surrounding him, and us, and in my instinct that brought me to Haiti in the first place.

I smiled in delight as he crawled into my lap and wrapped his fingers around my thumbs, coming to accept that the bond we were slowly forming is mutual: I am adopting him, and he is adopting me. Remembering to trust my own inner knowing helps me to embrace this time without him.

I wonder if that is the real power of prayer. It’s not all about the outcomes, or expedited paperwork, although that is certainly welcome and appreciated. Prayer seems to be more about stillness and opening our hearts to the truth of who we are at any given moment, trusting God to touch the deepest parts of ourselves—the good and the not so good, the desperate and fearful and lonely parts too.

Somehow in the stillness of prayer, I feel accepted and loved. A greater goodness takes root and begins flowing through me. It’s the same goodness that flows through each and every one of us, bringing us back to ourselves and back to the here and now.