A Charles Dickens Kind of Year

Originally written on December 31, 2016. Held for contemplation and revisited on January 7, 2017.

These days my Goodreads list looks more like celebrity memoirs and less like a high school summer reading list, however, I'm thankful for having read some Charles Dickens in my day. Sometimes, authors give us words that make so much sense when we don't really know how to describe something in our own words. As much as I love Lauren Graham and her latest book is a such a delight, she just doesn't quite paint the picture of 2016. Charles Dickens on the other hand...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

If that doesn't describe 2016, at least for the Morales Family, I'm not quite sure what does. But I don't want to spend my last blog post of the year focusing on the the despair, the darkness, incredulity, the foolishness, or the worst (for that, you can read "When you don't know what to say," "Ugh, I hate waiting!" and "Dear Judah, You made me a mom"). Instead, I'd rather focus on what I learned by one of the hardest, and best, and worst years of my life. 

Always Say Something

We walked through several hard situations this year that really could have felt completely isolating. When we found out about Dove closing at the end of 2015, I was completely devastated. We thought we were so close to getting a referral (read "Last November") and we were so blind sighted when the agency closed. We were sick over the fact that we would go from #12 to #81 on a new waiting list, have to redo a ton of paperwork, and it felt like we'd wasted 15 months. During this time, we had our community really rally around us. I didn't hide the fact that we were grieving this, and our people could not have been more supportive. We had folks make us thing, write little things to us so we knew we were remembered, give us gifts for Judah in the meantime, and so much more. 

Later in 2016, we walked through an almost adoption of a baby boy that we had the honor of getting to meet in the hospital. When we were not chosen to adopt him, I was so so sad. It felt like it was the first glimpse of hope we'd had all year, and I just couldn't bear the thought of letting that hope go. Again, when this happened, our people showed up. Flowers brought to our doorstep, tears shed on our behalf while offering words of comfort, and just an overall sense of love was bestowed upon our family. 

What I've learned through all of this is that it's always best to say something when someone is going through a hard time. Sometimes that's saying that you're not sure what to say, but you're praying for them, or sending them flowers or a Starbucks gift card - it all is so comforting. I'm not a very private person (hello, blog), but even for those who are more private, I know that isolation is a place where fear creeps, lies abound, and the enemy is so happy about it. Letting people know that you're thinking of them and praying for them helps dispel these lies, cast out fear, and remind us all that God is on the throne. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
— Romans 12:15

In the same way that our people showed up in the hard times this year, they showed up in a big way when we were celebrating being chosen to adopt Brighten. When we were preparing to go to Texas, boxes upon boxes showed up on our doorstep from close friends, family members, people we went to high school with, co-workers, and we couldn't have been more thankful (read "Brighten's Storie: Part Two")! It was a true picture of rejoicing with those who rejoice. 

People Matter

In 2016 we have watched social media campaigns from #BlackLivesMatter to #BlueLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. We watched two successful individuals stoop well beneath necessary levels to duke it out in front of a world audience for the highest political power in the land. We have witnessed acts of terror in the most innocent of places and mourned with the forgotten war-torn nations that have lived under these acts of terror for years. Our culture has been emotionally charged to the highest voltage, and at some points and in some places, we've seen the electrical fire erupt. I try not to ever be too political on social media, although at times I want to. But this is my blog and I can say what I want to, so I will. Presidents will come and go, people of power will rise and fall, and so will empires, but you know what doesn't change? The fact that PEOPLE MATTER. 

There is a lot of gray area in our world. Things aren't black and white like we might want them to be. Wouldn't it be nice if things were so much more cut and dry? Yeah, but that's not life. What we do know without a shadow of a doubt is that God created humans in His image. Whether you are a believer in Christ or not, you were created in the image of God. 

We cannot know what we cannot know

I've spent a good deal of my life worrying, fearing, planning, and worrying some more because of plans. I distinctly remember getting into an argument with my mom while we were on vacation one summer when I was in college because I refused to be spontaneous. Imagine 19-year-old Jessica compelled almost to tears because plans had changed yelling at my 45-year-old mom begging me to be spontaneous. It's a bit backwards, right? I was such a brat. But that's been me for basically my whole life (not the brat thing, the planned and calculated thing). 

When we started the adoption process three years ago, I recognized that I was relinquishing control, but I really thought that within a couple of years, I'd get it back. I thought that we'd have a decently smooth sailing adoption process, bring Judah home, and then I'd get to go back to being in control of things and planning out every move. I'd be able to evaluate our risks and say no to things that were too scary. I'd be able to protect myself and my family from hard things, and that was a comfortable thought for me. 

Even so, 2016 proved to me that comfortable control and well thought out plans are not my reality, or at least, not always my reality. I've always battled with, at times, debilitating fear, and this year I really had to look fear and the face and speak truth to myself about where that has come from. I have had to learn to be brave and open my heart up in places where it feels much more natural to close it off. I've had to learn to pray for people who it's hard to pray for. I've had to learn that my way isn't the way, in fact it's quite the opposite. 

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
— John 14:6

I've always thought that my natural tendency to plan and my organizational abilities would make me a good mom someday. I would plan playdates, outfits, meals, playtimes, etc. I would make sure that my child(ren)'s rooms were organized and easy to find clothes, toys, etc. But 2016 looked me in the face and said, "No!" to that. I had three weeks to prepare for the arrival of our daughter. Our guest room is still covered in clothes and toys three and a half months later, her closet looks like a bomb went off, and half of the time I don't know what I'm going to do 15 minutes from now.

I've learned that my planning and need to know what comes next is a derivative of the fear that I have harbored for so many years. I've had to examine that part of my heart and ask myself if I truly do trust God for my every moment, my every breath. I could have never planned the way this year turned out - with Judah, with Brighten, with our little family. God's plans are better. And fear is not of the Lord. We cannot know what we don't know, only God can. We must, and I truly mean MUST, trust Him with out everything. In our fear, in our life, in our plans, in our children, in our families, He is able. 

2016 included some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows. I pray that in 2017 God continues to grow and mold me to be more like Him. I pray that He sustains me through motherhood, becoming a more caring and servant-hearted wife, and ultimately seeking to serve our community and people in a deeper way. And maybe, just maybe, we'll find out who Judah is this year!