When sheep are wandering out in a meadow, passing by prickly bushes and rubbing up against trees, they leave bits of their wool caught on the branches and fence posts. Back when farmers had to keep track of every little thing someone would be sent out to catch those little lost tufts of wool and that was called woolgathering. It was a mindless task and on a nice day it must have been a pleasant one with room to let your mind wander. But the other thing about woolgathering is that you were, of course, gathering lots of little pieces to pull into something large enough to spin so mindless it may be but you were going to end up with something at the end of your walk. The task becomes a lot less pleasant if you’re stuck on the goal — the skein of yarn you’re hoping to spin or the sweater you’re planning to knit — and you’re out there in a meadow where it’s maybe raining and muddy or hot with the sun beating down looking for these hidden pieces of wool all so you can get back to the project you have your eye on. Put it that way and woolgathering sounds frustrating.
I was thinking on this because at the start of most projects you have to do some (or a lot of) woolgathering. Right now I’m working on a big piece of writing and all this wandering I’m doing is driving me a little crazy. I keep thinking I have all of the pieces I need then I sit down to write and partway through I realize I need more wool so back out to the metaphorical field I go. Fortunately I’ve done enough writing now that I know this feeling of frustration and I know it ends so I have faith in all of the preperation. I won’t say that I’m exactly enjoying the time I spend gathering wool but I do know that when I’m sick to death of thinking on this topic that it means I’m nearly at the point where the writing will get smoother.
But it wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t know my writing process very well and so I would think, “Oh it’s not supposed to be this hard! Maybe I’m supposed to give up!” And sometimes I would. I have a folder on my computer labeled Frozen and it’s all the articles and essays I tried to write but couldn’t.
It’s difficult to know when to keep going and when to stop but the best teacher is experience. We have to keep heading out into the field until we know the best places to look, the best places to gather those caught ideas, the best time for wandering and the best time for down-on-your-knees searching under things even when it’s cold or rainy or muddy or too hot to think. It takes practice not just to discover that some hard things get easier but to learn that some hard things really are hard and there’s just no way around it.
At the end, hopefully you’ll have something to show for all the frustration.
I will end with a quote from Dorothy Parker who, of course, says it better than I could: “I hate writing, I love having written.”
You gotta gather your wool to make your sweater. Right? Right. Back to the field I go.
Heather, whose continued commitment to connecting the open adoption blogosphere inspires me, arranged this blog-wide interview project a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping for a blog that would be new to me and happily I was introduced to the beautiful Heart Cries, by Rebekah who is mom to 9-month old Ty. It was a treat to read and get to know Rebekah whoses values and experiences are in some ways very different from mine but whose love for and commitment to her son and his story certainly resonate with me in many, many ways. I left my first visit feeling like we had a lot more in common than you might think at first glance! I hope that you enjoy meeting her as much as I have and that you go and check out her wonderful blog!
1. How did your struggles with infertility impact your relationship with God? I know you’ve written a lot about this (beautifully, I might add) but I’m wondering if you can look back in hindsight and see how it illuminated some aspect of your personal relationship that you carry with you now in your present day?
Infertility rocked my world. When it came to God, everything I thought I believed was stripped down and challenged. Every emotion I thought I had experienced was intensified. Every unasked question I was, previously, too respectful to ask, I screamed. I pounded the door of heaven and shouted why a million times over. I begged God to remove the desire to mother from my heart. I did everything the church had taught me to do. I wept, I prayed, I repented. Yet, God remained silent.
It was the silence that overhauled my heart to unrecognizable.
Now looking back I see what God was doing. He took me through the process of removal. I had filled my life with pretenses and had inaccurate absolutes about how God functioned in the lives of those that called him Lord. My faith was peeled back to naked and re-cloaked with truth. An intimate understanding of who my Father is emerged and one ringing truth birthed from my months of war-worthy, inner turmoil – God is faithful…even when I lack all faith. It’s such a simple, no-nonsense claim, but it resonates deep in my heart.
2. How did being witness to your son’s first mom’s loss change you as a mother and as a Christian? (If it did?)
There aren’t enough words to express the bleeding my heart has felt through this process. I thought I knew what Rebekah would feel the day she handed me her son. I thought I had prepared myself for the pain. I had bathed our relationship in prayer and knew that God had woven our lives together for a unique purpose, but that was not bulwark enough. Rebekah and I were both ill prepared for what we experienced. Those first few days were horrendously difficult. My arms held another woman’s baby; another woman’s son. His eyes searched for hers, not mine. I could not separate my heart from hers and when I looked at Tyrus, I could only see Rebekah’s pain. I was not prepared for the crimes I felt. I was a fake and a thief. Knowing that my dream came at the expense of Rebekah was almost too much to bear. I remember asking her at one point, “Are you sure this is what you want?”
Our wide-open relationship made the transition harder, but I would never change it. Looking back, I know how important it was for me to see, hear, and read Rebekah’s loss. I needed to experience the reality of adoption for me and for Tyrus. In the coming years, I will be able to answer many of his questions with heartfelt conviction.
Those early days of ache have taught me two lasting principles: Rebekah and I equally share the blessing of being Ty’s mother and our children truly do not belong to us, they are the Lord’s.
3. What has surprised you most about mothering?
The ease of it. For me, motherhood has not been forced or fabricated in an unnatural fashion. It came with a gentle confidence I did not know I possessed.
4. What has surprised you most about adoption?
I can’t think of any surprises when it comes to Ty, specifically, but the process of adopting Ty was horribly unpredictable. Just when we thought we were approved or “all set,” another shocker was thrown our way. From agency to insurance issues, we have had many obstacles to tackle. It feels good to have the process behind us.
5. What has surprised you most about open adoption?
We originally embraced open adoption out of duty. We felt we owed it to our baby and his mother. What I have discovered in the process, however, is that Rebekah is not just an extension of Ty…she’s an extension of me…and our family. I didn’t realize how deeply I would fall in love with her, while falling in love with my son. There is something so uniquely incredible about two mothers loving the same boy. Apart from Ben, there is no one else on this planet that would sit through hours of boring video in effort to catch a small smile or faint hiccup. She revels in Ty’s new discoveries and phases of change. I love that we laugh, cry, and dream of Ty’s future, together.
6. How has writing your blog shaped your perception of your experiences? (This is something I’m interested in — how writing our stories helps us make sense of them.)
I’m a writer. Pounding out my thoughts, fears, and frustrations during this process has helped me navigate the highs and lows of adoption. Blogging kept me accountable to the rawness of what I was feeling. If I simply kept a bed-side journal, I wouldn’t have explored the depths of darkness that I walked or questioned the hidden stirrings. Knowing that my inner wrestling was public, made me dig past the surface and really illuminate the fullness of what I was experiencing. Working through the questions and concerns in a methodical manner gave me an inner, real life, confidence. I only wish I had started writing sooner, it would have made my infertility struggle more bearable.
7. How has reading other people’s blogs changed you or inspired you?
I stumbled across my first adoption blog when I did a web search of agencies. I’ll never forget the experience. My heart wept as I read one barren blog after another. For the first time in my life, I felt completely understood. I had found a community of women just like me. It was exhilarating and liberating at the same time. So many of the bloggers here have become my sisters; my friends. They challenge me to look outside my box of understanding and encourage me to love more. I find great value in reading through every facet of adoption. I drink in other perspectives and covet input from adoptees and first moms. My world view has expanded in so many ways. From Kenyan orphanages to faithful foster families, God is using fellow bloggers to stir my heart.
8. Can you share more of your writing goals with us?
Earlier this year, our pastor was talking about vision and he said something that hasn’t left my memory. He said, “If the goals you have laid out for yourself are easily accomplished on your own, your vision isn’t large enough.” That day, I began praying for God to widen my view and set dreams afire in my heart. When I dream, I dream big. More than anything, I want God to use me for his kingdom, in whatever way he deems best. I hope his best includes writing. I am first interested in writing Ty’s story, but would also like to write Rebekah’s. My interests are not exclusive to adoption. One of my lifetime dreams has always been to write children’s books. When I look at interracial families, like my sister’s, I know there’s a place for the stories I want to tell.