To the girl that I saw in the Target bathroom.

Dear stranger,

I don’t know your name, or your age. I don’t know anything about your family, or where you come from or where you go to school, or even if you go to school. I don’t know if you have a boyfriend, or whether or not you drink, or if you’re in a sorority. I don’t know your thoughts, your passions, your fears, or your life.

I do not know you.

But there are some things that I do know.

I know it was a Friday, because I didn’t have to be at work until 10am.

I know that I needed to go to Target.

I don’t know what I needed there. I can’t remember. But I do remember you.

I know that you’re pregnant (I hope that you still are). I know this because you were in front of me at the checkout. You only had one item. It was the test. Probably the scariest test you will ever have to take. You walked straight to the bathroom, which was where I needed to go too. I sat in the stall next to you. You were on the phone. I heard you talking, maybe to a best friend, or your boyfriend, or your mom. Then I heard silence.

I knew that silence.

I heard you say, “This one is saying the same thing, it’s positive too.” And I knew you’d probably taken six tests already, praying that one of them was negative.

You didn’t look much older than I am now. Maybe you’re younger. I don’t know.

I knew the dead-pan tone in your voice. It was the same tone that I had when I told my best friend in high school, “I think I’m pregnant.”

I will be honest. I stood there in the bathroom for a good two minutes, hoping that maybe you would come out and I could say something to you. Maybe tell you that your life is not over, and give you contacts for people who would help you. I wanted to tell you it would all be okay, and to tell you that I know where you are right now. It really doesn’t seem like a great place to be, and I know that. It’s scary, and it seems so awful, and I know that too. And maybe I could just hug you if that’s what you needed.

But you didn’t come out, and I realized that maybe all of that would be a little creepy and a little overwhelming coming from a total stranger. I know…

But there are some things that I would also like you to know.

I want you to know that I got to my car and I cried. I bawled. I couldn’t stop the tears. I kept wiping them away so I wouldn’t go into work with red, puffy eyes. I cried because I know the feeling of sitting in a bathroom stall, holding that stick and watching the plus-sign appear. I know the paralyzing fear and the doubt and the anxiety. I know the feeling of suddenly not knowing where your life is going now, not knowing your options, and not knowing where to turn or who can help you.

I want you to know that I cried because I knew that you had (have?) two options. I cried because those two options are life and death. And I know that 4,000 mothers per day do not choose life.

I want you to know that while I cried in my car before going to work, I also prayed. I prayed that you would keep your baby. I prayed that fear would not drive you to something you didn’t really want. I prayed that you had supportive and encouraging friends in your life who would build you up and stand by you when you needed those kinds of friends the most (I had a couple of those, and they were life savers). I prayed that you would find comfort and peace, and even joy.

I prayed that you would hear your baby’s heartbeat. Did you know that a baby’s heart is beating at 180 beats per minute when the baby is just 10 weeks old? Did you know that your baby may have already had fingers?

But mostly, I prayed that no matter what you chose, that God would use this event the way he used mine for me. I prayed that he would use any decision that you made to bring you closer to him. Because he can do that. He can literally use anything. He promises that he will work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I prayed that he would use anything and everything going on in your life at that moment to push you into him in a way that you’d never experienced before, and that you would feel his love, and feel that he wants you and loves you and cherishes you, and cherishes the baby that he placed in your care. I prayed that you would be pushed into him so hard, that there would be no way for you not to know these things.

And I still pray for you. I want you to know that I care, and that I love you, even if I don’t know you. I want you to know that, in a way, I do know you because I have been where you are. And I love and care about you. Every time I think about you, I also pray for you. Because that’s what I wished people were doing for me when I was in your shoes, but too often I was met with ridicule and derision where there should have been love. And I want you to be met with love. But I know that too many people will look at the ring finger on your left hand, and they will judge you for the lack of a ring. And so I want to be one of the people who meets you with love, even if I never actually meet you. Because Jesus would meet you with love, and that’s the lead I’m following.

Sincerely,

A Stranger

Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).

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No one sends you flowers when your child didn’t die.

References to grief usually center around a death. It had to be someone close to you, and it had to be a death. Only that kind of loss warrants flowers, cards, and consolation. But what if nobody died? What about the pain from a broken relationship, or a lost opportunity or job? What if you recently had to make the decision to just not have a person in your life anymore who was previously very close to you? Is that not loss that warrants a time of a grieving? We call it sadness without calling it grief, almost like we believe that it doesn’t deserve such a name, right along side of tragedies like sickness and death.

But it is. It is grief that we’re feeling. And while it might not be the same, it still leaves an impact that you can’t ignore; that you don’t move on from more quickly simply because it wasn’t the same as another type of sadness, or another kind of loss.

My son turned 5 years old on December 24th, just a few days ago. Five years ago, I was in the hospital for Christmas. Five years ago, I was up all night with a new baby boy who needed to be fed. Five years ago, I had to call a nurse in for help because I was struggling to feed him. Five years ago, I had friends and family gathered around to see this new little boy. Five years ago, I had a family picked for him to go home with. It wasn’t my own. He was mine. But he wasn’t. I went home without a new car seat, without blankets, without bottles or binkies, without a crib waiting at home in a blue-painted nursery. And without a child.

But he didn’t die. There was no tragic loss. At least not in the way that most people would describe the tragic loss of a child.

He just went home with someone else.

He’s still alive. I still see him. I’m friends with his parents. I know his siblings. I see pictures of him all the time. For some reason, that’s always the first thing people ask me. “Do you get to see him?” And then I say yes, and they say, “Oh, okay,” as if to say, “Well, that settles that.”

Shouldn’t that be enough? Isn’t that good?

Well, yes. It’s an incredible blessing for him to have adoptive parents who are so amazing, and who are willing to let me be a part of their lives.

And no.

While I still get to see his face, see him grow, learn his likes and dislikes, and see his beautiful little face light up when he opens his birthday gifts, there is still a painful hole where I feel like he should be. Where I feel that should be. Would that be “enough” for you, or anybody? No. It never is, it never will be, but it’s what some of us have. And it’s incredible, but also sad at the same time.

It’s like looking into his life, and seeing that it is full and complete. But without me. Like there’s a hole in his life that he doesn’t feel, but I do. Hopefully, he never will. He has a wonderful family who loves him very dearly, and they’d do anything for him. He’s theirs. But he’s also mine. And that’s difficult to reconcile.

I don’t want to compete with his mother, or father, or sister, or brothers. They’re his, and he’s theirs. They’re a family. It’s what I chose for him. And it’s exactly what I wanted. I just didn’t know about the hole. The hole manifests itself in ways that I don’t expect. Like the feeling that I should have been the one planning his birthday party instead of attending as a guest. Or the feeling I got when I heard that he has stage fright, and didn’t want to go up on stage for his Christmas recital. I just wanted to hug him and tell him that it’s okay to not want to perform in front of people. I wanted to tell him he didn’t have to do it if he didn’t want to. That was exactly what his parents told him, which made me happy and relieved, and reassured. But there was still that nagging feeling that I should have been the one to tell him those things.

I’m not there when he needs someone to hug. I’m not there when he needs help tying his shoes. I’m not there when he argues about what to wear, or doesn’t like the movie he’s watching, or has nightmares, or when he learned his first words, or learned to crawl, or took his first steps.

And that’s the hole.

It’s me not being in his life, rather than him not being a big enough part of mine. Because he is a huge part of my life. I love him, and I always will. The sadness doesn’t come from the fact that I gave him to another family. They’re wonderful. I love them all dearly. This amazing little boy brought two families of strangers together, and made them one even bigger family. I do not regret him, and I do not regret them, and I never will. Nobody can make me feel guilty about any of it. That’s not where the sadness comes from. It’s from that hole. It’s the brokenness of the entire situation that led to him having to go home with someone else. The imperfection of the relationship that brought him here. The imperfect timing of the whole thing, that led to hard decisions.

But most people will dismiss it because he didn’t pass away. He has no defects, or physical ailments. He’s a perfect little baby boy who simply went home with someone else. Nobody sends you flowers for that. It’s not recognized as grief. Just sadness. And being sad is, for some reason, different than grief. It’s a fleeting emotion, something that you should be able to move on from.

And yet every year, on his birthday, I go back to that feeling. And I wonder if, because I never recognized it as grief, I never actually grieved. I assumed it was “just” sadness, that it would go away. It’s been five years. I should be okay. And I am okay. I’m married, and happy, and he’s happy and with his family. We’re all okay, contrary to what some people tried to tell me would happen if I placed him for adoption. But there’s still that lingering sadness, and I’m not sure if it will ever really be gone. Maybe some grief stays with you for a lifetime. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that time doesn’t heal all wounds. It can’t. Time is just that. It passes. It moves on. That doesn’t mean that we do. Maybe we can’t.

But this is my story. It’s what makes me who I am, and it’s what has led me to where I am. It’s part of me, and so I refuse to regret it, no matter how much sadness there is to go through.

Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).

My thoughts on marriage and what I’ve learned about it.

First, I’d like to say: please don’t think you can’t read this if you’re single or something. I love you, too! That said, recently, I’ve been binging (bingeing? Oh, well) on marriage stuff, ever since Revolution Church kicked off our relatively short marriage series, Man vs. Wife. You can listen to what a woman is called to be here, and what a man is called to be here.

Not only am I listening to the sermons at my own church, but I am also listening to Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage series. As with 60% of the population, I come from a broken home, because my parents had a broken marriage. Literally, it split them up. So, suffice to say that I have never really had biblical roles in marriage played out for me. I never realized how much that affected my view of God until my pastor, Josh, began preaching about what we are called to be as men and women who are following Christ. And then it was this amazing, “Aha!” moment of, “That’s what that is supposed to look like! That’s what God’s love for me looks like! That’s what I’m supposed to be! That’s who I am in Jesus!” and much more.

So here goes a bullet list of my thoughts and what I’ve learned from all of this (some of it will be my notes on it):

  • First of all, married people are broken people. They are not sinless. Marriage does not fix all of your problems. In fact, it may (actually it will) make them worse. When two broken people enter into a marriage covenant, their brokenness is infinitely multiplied. A marriage is made up of two really good  forgivers. Not two people who always get it right and “just go together.”
  • Something that I did not realize until recently (and even once I did realize it, I had no clue what it looked like) is that marriage is a picture of the gospel.
  • This is why Satan attacks marriages. He does not want to the world to see Christ through us, he wants the world to see a broken image of broken homes and broken people, and never get to seeing the redemptive power of Jesus through that brokenness. Because when people see Jesus’ redemptive power, they get saved.
  • Satan knows that if he can destroy a marriage, especially a Christian marriage, he can affect entire generations. He can have your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren.
  • Most of us have personal pain caused by a broken marriage. Either our own marriage, or our parents’ marriage, maybe even our grandparents’ marriage, or someone else who’s close to us.
  • Satan is going to attack your marriage. We need to be prepared, not just theologically or biblically, but practically. We can have the best theological knowledge about marriage in the entire world, but if we never prepare practically, we are doomed to fall.
  • “The deepest intimacy of all is spiritual intimacy. And if you don’t build your relationship on spiritual intimacy, invariably, it will fail.” -Mark Driscoll
  • Something else I didn’t fully realize until recently: leaving your father and mother when you get married means leave your father and mother. You detach. You’re on your own. Do not involve your extended family in the issues of your immediate family (i.e. your spouse and children). Their schedule, their finances, do not become entangled in yours.
  • The order of these four things will make or break your marriage. The order is: 1) Your friendship with Jesus Christ, 2) your friendship with your spouse, 3) your friendship with your kids, and 4) your job (both as a provider and as a father, or your job as a mother to your children). When you get an inversion in these things, you will fall, or already have fallen.
  • Want to defeat Satan in your marriage? You do it with the blood of the Lamb.
  • There is a difference between a testimony and a biography. In a biography, we’re the hero. It’s all about, “I did this and this, and now I’m happy.” A testimony means that Jesus Christ is the hero. It’s all about, “I was lost, but now I’m found, and Jesus is amazing for redeeming me, regardless of whether or not I’m happier now than I was before.”
  • Our marriage should be a testimony, not a biography.
  • Our testimonies can never be, “Jesus went to the cross and died for sinners.”
  • Our testimony has to be: “Jesus went to the cross and died for my sins, and here they are, and the blood of the Lamb was literally shed in my place, for my transgressions, to remove my shame, to cleanse my sin, and remove my filth, so that I would have a testimony.”
  • This is because if we say that Jesus died for sins, but we never talk about our sin, then it’s because, deep down, we don’t believe Jesus died for US. And we don’t really believe that his resurrection is the hope for our life (either our own, or our life with our spouse).
  • If Jesus changes you, and Jesus changes your spouse, you can  have a new marriage with the old spouse. You do not need a new spouse, you need to be a new spouse. Judge yourself first, not just your spouse.

There’s a lot more I’ve learned, and I may post more later. But that pretty much sums up what I think are some of the major points.