Category Archives: Community

Fields Party of 5: It’s a girl! (And another girl!)

Party of…

IMG_1587 (1)          IMG_1583          IMG_1625

After months of waiting, we have some HUGE news to share.  Our little party of 3 is becoming a party of 5! (I have so many Matthew Fox jokes to insert here since he is my husband’s man crush, but I will stay on task.) We have been matched with TWO (yes, TWO) precious little girls who we adore.  The details of how and when and why are private for now, but here is what I will say: God’s plans are better than our plans, and we are so grateful to have been chosen to parent these precious souls.

Things are about to get crazy in the Fields house!  Our 7-year-old son will be a big brother times two, and we will move from parents of an only child (a fairly self-sufficient one at that!) to parents of THREE kids of different ages with varying degrees of need and diverse interests and unique personalities.  On top of that, we are transitioning from an adoptive family to a transracial adoptive family.  This is both humbling and overwhelming as we think about navigating this world and raising our children in the cultural context in which we live.  We feel painfully ill-equipped, and we are reaching out, in and around for support, guidance and feedback.  My perspective on adoption has evolved significantly throughout this process, and I hope to share more of that in the coming months.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is my deep gratitude to our family and friends and various communities for embracing our family and loving our children. (Even before meeting them!)

Prior to our own experience with adoption 3 years ago, I must admit, I was pretty naïve about many things.  Our learning curve felt very steep, and many of our closest people learned right along with us.  There are tons of amazing resources available to facilitate deeper understanding about the adoption triad (birth parents-adoptee-adoptive parents), as well as specific areas of adoption, like international adoption, transracial adoption, adoption through the foster care system, single-parent and LGBT adoption, legal issues related to the adoption process, and services available for the various stakeholders involved in adoption.  My hope in the coming year is to devote more space on this blog to facilitate discussions, answer questions and invite other voices to share experiences related to adoption.

Surprisingly, despite a positive shift in perceptions of adoption, the number of adoptions in this country has remained about the same for the last 50 years.  The reasons for this are not simple, and I don’t believe that adoption is something everyone should do, but if adoption is something you are thinking about or want to understand more deeply, I hope this blog can link you to the resources, information and support you will need.  In my experience, the most poignant education I have received about adoption and adoptive parenting has come from the lived experiences of others.  So this is mine. Ours.

The girls (the most common reference in our household for our new family members) are not with us permanently yet, but they are very much in our lives and hearts more and more every day.  In the meantime, my family humbly asks for your prayers and positive thoughts as we transition to becoming a family of 5! It will be a huge change for all involved, but a change that we welcome and anticipate with excitement and hope.  Thank you for your care for my family.  It means the world!

Here we go…

 

 

To all the kids I don’t adopt

The process of adopting is full of intense and sudden emotions. On our journey to find the next child that will come into our family, there are countless children who need homes that won’t become mine. Some I may see on a website. Others I hear about locally. Still others I will never see a picture of or know their names, but they are still there. Waiting, like me.

This is hard. Devastating. Confusing. It could be a passing conversation with a friend or acquaintance about a child who needs a home. It may be a call from a case worker saying “maybe”, but there is no guarantee. The circumstances may not fit for one reason or another. And then there are times when you just need to slow it down a step to catch your breath, and then the door closes. Thoughtful inaction can lead to missed opportunity. Sometimes, the inaction may not be on my part. I may be waiting for someone else to do their job, to fulfill their role. And then a deadline is missed. An opportunity is lost. A child becomes someone else’s. There are also variables we have to consider as parents to our son. Adding a new family member is a life-altering process for everyone involved, and it requires a layer of sensitivity and care when other children are present. For these reasons and others, there are many children who cross my path (and thousands who don’t) that are not and will not be mine.

How do I make sense of this? How do I go “all-in” and deal with these continual disappointments? How can I keep envisioning possible children in our family only to be let down and skeptical of the whole process? I am sure people in my position have different ways of coping with this aspect of adoption. For me, it comes down to an anchor that I have to lean into if I am going to put myself through this.

I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

There is nothing groundbreaking about this notion, but it is comforting and relieving in the midst of so much uncertainty. I have to trust that life is not arbitrary and random. That if all of life really boiled down to luck or chance or even hard work, then I would be obsessed with doing everything just right and filled with fear and doubt and pressure to make the best move all the time. “If only I had called that case worker back an hour before” or “What if we missed our child because we went out of town and delayed our home study paperwork by a week?” That’s enough to make a person (me) crazy.

There are certainly things I can do and need to do in this process, so I focus on those things.  I make phone calls, send emails, research things online, seek wisdom and counsel from others, continue working on being a good parent to my son and a thoughtful wife to my husband.  I pray. I do what I can do, then I let go of the rest.

I have to remind myself constantly that there is something bigger at work than my own agendas and plans. Sometimes, I feel called to be diligent and relentless and, other times, I feel the need to slow down and trust. It’s hard to discern the difference, which is where community is paramount for me. I need those who know and love me to anchor me, too.  I need people to remind me that my child is out there; that I am not forgotten and neither is she. That I am not waiting alone.

And when I feel my Savior Complex kick in when I think about all of the children who need permanent families in this country, I hold on to my anchor once again. I AM NOT IN CONTROL.  I cannot right all the wrongs in this world, and adopting children is not the only way to seek out justice and show love.  Instead, I can be faithful to fulfill my own life purpose, which I strongly believe involves adopting more kids.  But not 20. Not 200.  Not 100,000.

In order to make peace with the children out there that don’t become mine, I have to hold on to this. I want a family. And for now, my husband and I have made peace with some parameters for what it needs to look like to bring more children into our family. We try to be open to what falls into those parameters, and we push the parameters a little here and there.  We continually check in with ourselves and each other to make sure the parameters are not too tight because of fear or too loose out of desperation.  We want to be thoughtful, hopeful and wise.

In the meantime, as I scroll through pictures on websites or hear stories of children needing homes, I will whisper each name in a breath prayer up to God, and I will honor their story even for just a moment. Because they are valuable and worthy of love. And eventually, it will be my child I whisper a breath prayer for… And the next chapter will begin.

 

My Octobers: How pain and uncertainty can lead to connection and growth

When I used to think of October, the first thoughts that would come to mind were pumpkins, spiced everything, football, and the beginning of fall.  I love fall.  As a child, it was just what I longed for after the start of the school year.  It meant that the holidays were coming and there was a lot to look forward to.

For the past few years, October has been my most eventful and intense month of the year.  Three Octobers ago, my husband and I picked up our son Joshua for the final time and spent almost half the month in South Carolina waiting for paperwork to go through.  I remember feeling both intense joy and perpetual helplessness.  We adjusted to our “new normal” by enrolling Josh in preschool, introducing him to family and friends, and celebrating our first Halloween together.  We also attended my grandfather’s 102nd birthday.  I remember being in a constant state of awareness and disbelief.  It was one of the best months of my life, and one of the most exhausting.

josh and gramps meeting     100_2286

Two Octobers ago, my “not so new” family reunited in the mountains with some of our closest friends.  We experienced nature and rest and fun together.  Upon returning home,  two other dear friends were undergoing  an immense trial of having their baby, Ari, rushed to the NICU where she teetered between life and death for weeks.  Walking through such intense pain and heartache with friends created a  heightened emotional state that our entire community lived in throughout the month. I don’t think I have ever prayed harder in my life.  Everything seemed fragile. Alongside this intensity, my family was also experiencing our first round of “repeats”: Josh’s second year of preschool, my grandfather’s 103rd birthday, and the beginning of our second holiday season.

Ari 2          gramps and josh   josh superman

This year, as October approached, I had much to be thankful for and look forward to.  Sweet Ari was thriving and doing great as we were all getting ready to celebrate her 1st birthday, for which we had fervently prayed.  I was busy preparing for the wedding of my cousin Molly who has been like a little sister to me throughout my life.  And in the midst of all the excitement, I expected one more thing to remain consistent- we would celebrate my grandfather’s birthday at the end of October like we always have.

Then I got the call from my brother that changed things.  My grandfather was in the hospital again, and this time, there was talk of “the end”. I spent the rest of the month of October going back and forth from Orlando to Gainesville visiting him in the hospital, then in his home with hospice care, and making his funeral arrangements with my family. When his 104th birthday finally came the day after his funeral, I felt depleted.  This October, with all of its extreme highs and lows,  took everything out of me.  By God’s grace, I mustered up enough energy from my reserve tank on the very last day of the month to enjoy a great Halloween with my family.

10563080_10105517083152951_3044614371198159223_n    gramps hands    halloween 2014

The last three years, my Octobers have been roller coasters of emotions.  I have agonized and waited. I have anticipated and celebrated. I have prayed desperately for life and I have made peace with death. I have spent time with my dearest loved ones and I have been reminded of the pain of separation and loss.  And I have walked away from each October feeling utterly exhausted, yet more connected and grateful.  In the midst of all the uncertainty and change, each October I am drawn more intimately to God and knitted more closely together with others.

Although I can look back on my Octobers with tremendous gratitude and fondness, I can’t help but also feel relieved to see November come.  While my Octobers have been filled with change and uncertainty, my Novembers seem to bring a familiar comfort.  The start of the holiday season is accompanied by traditions and history and collective experiences that feel warm and inviting.  The change in weather (even in Florida) seems to bring a change in energy that I welcome. I look forward to November.

But I do not dread October.  I have learned more about myself these past 3 Octobers than any other season in my life. I can push through the pain and heartbreak for the intimacy and depth of relationships.  And because of my Octobers, I have a clearer picture of redemption and faith.  When I find myself questioning if God really has a plan for me as we wait eagerly for more children, I can reflect on the October when my longing to be a parent was met with the sweetest face I have ever seen.  When I doubt that God answers prayer, I can scroll through Instagram and see a picture of precious Ari playing and laughing, and I remember how desperately so many people prayed for her.  When I find myself fearing pain and death, I can remember my grandfather’s dream about the never-ending road and the legacy of his life that lives on in his family.

And when I feel alone, I can think back on my Octobers and picture the moments of true connection I have experienced- watching my family and my husband’s family embrace our son in South Carolina; staying up late responding to group texts from my community of friends as we waited for updates on Ari; dancing to the Brady Bunch with all my extended family at my cousin’s wedding and reminiscing about our childhood.  Standing around my grandfather’s bed after he died with my brother and sister feeling fully known and understood and loved.

We can’t perpetually exist in a heightened emotional state without some pretty significant consequences, but there are seasons in life where we have to.  And in those seasons, I feel more deeply and acutely aware of my surroundings, my relationships, and my need for God and others.  Those seasons are my Octobers.  And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

The call that changed my life and broke my heart

grief pic 1

I will never forget where I was when I got the call.  My breath was labored and I held on to my stomach tightly as if it were going to escape out of my body, my hand serving as the last line of defense.  The voice on the phone, a female police officer, filled me in on procedural matters since I was the one who made the initial report.  As she talked, I searched for hope in her voice. I yearned for her to use the word “attempt” or “false alarm”.  I didn’t know if it actually happened, only that it could have. I prayed it didn’t, but deep down, I knew.  The officer was talking with such sterility and dispassion, even annoyance.  Just another day at the office, I thought.  I needed to hear her say the words.

I mustered up the courage to interrupt her detached protocol and interject the question I never wanted to ask.  “Wait. I just… Are you saying she’s dead?” My voice was filled with a desperation I could not mask despite my efforts at remaining professional. “Oh, I’m sorry.” she replied in an embarrassed tone.  “I should have… Yes, her attempt was successful.  She’s dead.” I doubled over in pain, my hand once again trying to push my insides back in my stomach.  I wanted to fall down.  I wanted to throw up.  I wanted to disappear.  This can’t be a real, I repeated to myself over and over again.

Wake me from this nightmare.

But I wasn’t sleeping.  It was real.  And it was excruciating.  Everything felt like a fog, but one thought rang out through the haze.  I will never be the same again.  I never wanted to be the same.

 


 

There are moments in life- frozen seconds of time- that define and change us.  Experiences that cause life to be divided into two parts: before and after.  The day my client committed suicide was one of those days for me.  As the three-year anniversary came and went a few weeks ago, my body remembered the feelings I felt that day.  So much has changed since the day when everything changed. The memory of it feels like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while, but once reunited, we fall right back in step with each other.  Familiar, but aged and weathered. Comforting and excruciating simultaneously. Grief is like that. Unwelcome and painful, yet sacred and intimate. I long to forget, but I fear forgetting because I need to remember. To feel.  To honor.

I imagine the person I knew. I picture her standing on the cement wall by my old counseling office, looking into the stream below and swaying slightly to the music blaring through her headphones.  No more.  I hear her voice greeting everyone in the waiting area as she enters, eager to connect. Desperate to be heard.  No more.  I see the other side of this person, the darker side, sitting on my couch unable to pretend any longer.  Broken.  No more.

As a counselor, I witness the desperation and grief of others often. I find myself asking, “How could this happen?  Why would a good God allow people to suffer to the point that death feels like the only relief?  Is there anything anyone can really do to help in the presence of such hopelessness?”  I don’t know the answers, but I do know this.  There is no time when I feel more dependent on God and more desperate for a Savior than in the face of grief and tragedy.  I don’t want to avoid pain because that would mean I am avoiding connection and relationship. And it would mean missing out on an opportunity to participate in the most powerful collective experience that exists- human suffering.

In light of our nation’s recent collective grief experience as we mourn the death of Robin Williams, I hold my own grief tightly and remember.  Suicide impacts so many, and this very public grief of a legend and dear friend from afar connects millions to the grief of losing someone to suicide and dealing with the aftermath and the questions and the confusion.  I pray for his family, his friends, his fans, his counselor if he had one, and all those who feel hopeless and trapped.  There is a psalm (34:18) that says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit.”  I can’t understand why things happen the way they do, but I take comfort in believing that in our darkest moments, the Lord is close.  And there are people who care and want to walk beside you.

Thanks for letting me walk beside you, C.  It was an honor.

Why I cry at weddings

neely wedding

Dave and I attended the wedding of dear friends this weekend. Weddings are very present in my life right now. My sister got married a few months ago and my sweet cousin who is like a sister to me is getting married soon. There is something about weddings that fills me with energy and life. Maybe it’s the symbolism of new beginnings and the formal act of commitment, but whatever it is, it gets me every time.

Inevitably, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I cry.

I am a fairly emotive person (notice choice of words here- displaying emotions and being labeled “emotional” have different connotations), and it is really no surprise that I cry at weddings. But as the tears formed in my eyes at the wedding this weekend, I thought to myself, “What is it about this moment that is producing this emotional response?”

So I have come up with some reasons why I cry unapologetically at weddings.

1) There is a force that is present at weddings that is bigger than any person or relationship or scenic backdrop.
From my experience of attending probably 50 weddings in my life, there is a tone of reverence that I have felt at pretty much all of them. Regardless of religious or spiritual affiliations, I feel a sense of awe and an acknowledgment that something special is happening here; something powerful. Something magical and miraculous.
Because of this, the weight of what is happening seems to descend on not just the couple, but on every witness. Some people take a breath. Others shift slightly in their seats, feeling uncomfortable with the weight of what is occurring. And many of us cry. The heaviness of the moment becomes overpowering, and I give in to it freely. After all, I love a good cry about as much as I love a good wedding.
2) Weddings are a reminder of all that is good and pure about love.
Before I was married, weddings were a reminder of all that I hoped and prayed for one day. Now they are a reminder of what love can be. There is a naivety about love that exists at weddings, not based on avoidance of the reality of love and how hard relationships can be, but with a focus on how beautiful it can be when we can put aside our jadedness and hurt and insecurities. “Perfect love casts out fear.” That is what weddings feel like to me. An act of reckless abandonment that is risky and even unwise in some ways, but courageous and inspiring.
The reality is that marriage is hard. There are many days when the simplicity of the love I felt on my wedding day feels miles away. For some people, relationships may be crumbling and it is hard to believe there is anything good and pure about love or marriage. But I think that’s why we need that day. We need that moment. And we need reminders of that moment to sustain us.
3) Weddings represent a culminating moment in a journey of experiences.
If I attend a wedding, it usually means I have some history with one or both people getting married. I have likely seen them grow and mature, sometimes since childhood and other times only a few months, and I have played some role in their journey.  This category is what usually defines how intense my crying is at a wedding. The more emotionally invested, the more I cry. I experience a flood of memories and feelings about this person or couple as I sit in front of them or stand next to them. (That’s the hard part. I am usually standing next to the people who I am closest to, which means the entire guest list witnesses my extreme emotional response and the retrieval of the Kleenex tucked discretely into my dress or bouquet.)
Although some people have a tendency to make things about them that are not about them, I don’t think that is the case here. I think it IS about them. It is about everyone. All of these people assembled in the same place at the same time because this couple drew them together. And for the rest of their lives, the relationship the couple has with each wedding attendee will be impacted by this shared experience.

And finally, here’s the clincher for me…

4) Guys cry at weddings.
I try to be someone who avoids perpetuating stereotypes about women being emotional and men being logical, but I have to be honest- men crying impacts me differently than women crying. I have seen my share of crying in my counseling office and have worked hard to master the “welled eyes” moment (the “I really feel like crying because you have touched me sincerely with your story, but if I cry, I may make this more about me and take the focus off of you, so I will hold it in, but if you look closely, there is moisture in my eyeballs” moment). But when a man who typically tries to present as strong and logical and composed sheds a few tears, my self-control leaves the room with my mascara.
This is another example of the overwhelming force and weight of the act of marriage. Even people that typically control their emotional responses (dare I say avoid them at times) succumb to the moment. Not all guys and not all the time. But if, by some miracle, I have managed not to cry at a wedding and then I notice the groom’s cheeks are wet or the father of the bride gets choked up or the sweet uncle doing a reading takes a long pause to regain composure, I’m done.

 

So yeah, I cry at weddings. I’m okay with it. I feel no shame in expressing my emotions, especially when witnessing the formal act of love and commitment by people I am invested in. I encourage you to give yourself permission to cry at weddings, too. Don’t hold back. It’s like an altar call at a Baptist church. Don’t sit in your seat with sweat dripping off your forehead as your heart tries to run out of your chest. Just let the spirit move. But I’m warning you: Once you go up to that altar, you never go back.

wedding toast 1

 

Embracing my love-hate relationship with Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards.  I love the thoughtfulness.  I love the deliberateness.  I love the creativity.

I hate Christmas cards.  I hate the pressure.  I hate the expectation.  I hate the reminder that so many people I know, even those much busier or more overwhelmed than I, find the time to send a meaningful card. 

I received a Christmas card from my husband’s grandmother who has been in the hospital the entire of month of December.  If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is.

The truth is I want to be a Christmas card sender.  I really do.  I have done it twice.  The first time was 2009- the year I got married.  Our wedding was in July, and by the end of November, I still hadn’t sent thank you notes yet.  (For the same reasons that I struggle to send Christmas cards obviously.)  At that point, I had three choices: 1) Send regular thank you notes at the same time others are sending Christmas cards, 2) send a Christmas card that can double as a thank you note, or 3) climb into a hole to further avoid the pressure of both and slowly alienate myself from all meaningful relationships. So I sent Christmas thank you cards. (A serious etiquette violation, I am sure.)

Fast-forward to 2012.  My family underwent significant changes, culminating in the adoption of our son.  Our year had been so rich and full of blessings, and we received so much support and encouragement during that time from our family and friends.  It only seemed right to send Christmas cards.  I wanted to.  I had a second motive for that card, too.  (You notice a theme here?  I really like to “kill two birds with one stone” if I can).  Although my husband and I tried to be open about our process of becoming parents, we hadn’t had the opportunity to really share our story with a lot of people in our extended support networks.  I was concerned that some of our older relatives without Facebook might see our Christmas card and be extremely perplexed at the sudden presence of an adorable 4-year-old boy.  I also felt ready to share more of the story, and this seemed like the perfect time and venue.  I included an insert in the Christmas cards about our journey toward parenthood that culminated in the finalization of Josh’s adoption on December 12.  It was a year worth celebrating.  It was most certainly Christmas card-worthy.

I thought this would be the start of the new me.  The Christmas card-sending version of Karin.  I knew it would take energy and time, but it felt worth it.  So as the holiday season approached again, the plan was in motion.  We had scheduled to take family pictures with a photographer friend of mine, Linda Bainter, on December 12th-the first anniversary of our adoption finalization.  It was a beautiful day filled with love and cute poses.  I couldn’t wait to put the pictures on our Christmas card.  I knew I would be cutting it close since we decided to wait until our adoption day to do the photo shoot, but I felt ready for it.  I was embracing my identity as a Christmas card sender.

Well, here I am.  2014 has begun, and no Christmas card.  We just completed a whirlwind 12-day extended family and friends holiday tour, and now I am sitting down on my couch, heavy with the realization that I didn’t do it and contemplating how late one can send out Happy New Year cards.

Since the start of a new year is a good time to make changes, I thought about making it my New Year’s Resolution: Become someone who sends Christmas cards.  In fact, let’s throw in birthday cards and thank you cards, too.  But as  I thought more about it, I realized I had already told myself that before and it didn’t seem to work.  I realized I was missing something in this resolution.  I needed to dig deeper.  So instead, I decided I want 2014 to be the year of thoughtfulness.  Maybe that means thanking someone (in writing) for a sweet gift.  Maybe it means sending more letters (by hand) to dear friends who are far away.  Maybe it means calling someone instead of texting to say hi.  Hopefully, it means sending Christmas cards next year.  Not because I have to or feel obligated to, but because I want to be someone who can slow down and be thoughtful enough to remember and honor people in my life.  I truly do want to Wish them a Merry Christmas and send Love, Joy and Peace and say Happy Holidays.  I also enjoy the opportunity to celebrate my own family and invite others to celebrate with us.

It’s the start of a new year, and I want to start this year off on the right foot.  I resolve to be more thoughtful and deliberate this year.  I resolve to value relationships over expectations and performance.  And I resolve to continue to use this blog as a way to share my heart and connect with others.  Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me through this vessel.  It means more than I could say.  Whether you are family, a friend or an internet stranger, you are blessing to me.

So to all of you who take the time to read my posts, here is my Christmas card.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and I wish you love, joy and peace in 2014.  I pray that each one of us will continue to grow more fully into the person we were meant to be this year and every year of our lives. God bless.

Fields Family Web Sz-5592 Fields Family Web Sz-5904 Fields Family Web Sz-5947  Fields Family Web Sz-5316Fields Family Web Sz-5518 Fields Family Web Sz-5299

A very special thanks to Linda Bainter at Lovin’ the Light for capturing the spirit of our adoption day.  My son keeps asking when we can play with you again. 🙂

Love hurts and heals

Ari 3

Love really is such a complex word to define.  It’s a verb and a noun.  It’s a value; it’s a command.  It makes the world go round and it never fails.  Love is all you need.

If these sentiments are all true, why does it seem so hard to obtain this kind of pure and exhaustive love?  What does it mean to love fully? Can we humans ever really do it?  From a spiritual perspective, I would say no.  Not apart from God anyway.   But that doesn’t let us off the hook for trying.  As flawed as our human view on love may be, I believe there are moments when we can experience true, authentic love and connection.  These are glimpses of what real love is supposed to look and feel like, and they are often missed because our own fear, shame, pride, and insecurity get in the way from really being able to experience it.  When these moments happen and we actually notice them, it’s like we transcend our humanity and tap into the supernatural. A heartfelt and joyful laugh over childhood memories with my siblings; a tight hug from my son when he is scared; crying with dear friends when someone is going through intense heartbreak.  In those moments, if I am attuned enough to notice, I thank God, and I think to myself, “This is love.”  It’s real and vulnerable and divine.

These past few weeks, I feel like I have been living in that place of real, raw, deep love.  Some dear friends of ours have been undergoing unimaginable heartache and adversity.  Their newborn daughter, Ari, is only 2 weeks old, and she has been battling for her life every day of it.  When I think about what my friends are going through, I can’t imagine how they are functioning.  But every day, they reach out to their loved ones by writing texts and blog updates about their little girl, along with their own fears and struggles and prayers.  By the end of these correspondences, I find myself encouraged and spurred on by their hope and their love.  They have chosen to love their daughter and those around them boldly and genuinely, even through fear and uncertainty.  I have seen such an outpouring of love toward them, for them, from them, and around them that just being near to the situation makes me feel more whole and connected.

It seems that in our most painful and despairing moments, we can experience the most love.  As I think back on how deeply loved I felt when we went through the process of adoption, I remember all of the raw emotions and intense vulnerability I displayed to those around me during that season out of sheer necessity.  And because of that genuineness, I allowed people to truly love me and be loved by me in return.  I don’t know which one comes first.  I imagine it changes depending on the circumstances.  By choosing to take the risk and be vulnerable, I experienced such deep and intimate connection in my relationships during that overwhelming and emotionally exhausting time in my life.  I am not sure how I would have gotten through it without that.

As I watch my dear friends choose to be vulnerable, choose to be real and raw and connected, it has inspired me to do the same.  That’s the amazing thing about being unguarded and choosing to love even when the world may tell us to pull in and shut down.  It inspires people.

After two weeks of intensive medical interventions and thousands of prayers, baby Ari is taking some huge steps forward.  Some of the big, scary machines are gone, and my friends are finally able to hold their daughter.  She is not out of the woods, but the relief and gratitude for her progress is palpable to all who are invested in this baby girl’s life.  Because my friends chose to be vulnerable and let us in to their very personal and painful battle, they have provided their child with an enormous network of love.  I know that for the rest of Ari’s life, she will hold a special place in my heart because I feel so invested in her life already.

Ari 1                    Ari 2

I would never wish for my loved ones to undergo hardship.  And I can’t begin to understand why things happen the way they do.  So maybe the question isn’t “Why do bad things happen?” Maybe the real question is, “Will you choose to love and hope no matter what?”  My friends have. They have taught me not to be afraid to love fully.  Even when it really hurts.  “This is love.”