Sunday, May 31, 2015

Consolation in the Crowd

The rare Cumberland Red Azalea...
...seen by few but known by God.
A few days ago, a friend sent me an email with the subject line: "Thought of You." Attached was a short note saying, "I felt led to share this with you," and a photocopy of a meditation she'd been reading that day that was based upon the following Bible verse:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

The meditation was a short story about a woman who was waiting to adopt a little girl from the Congo. The woman had no idea when she and her family would be able to bring her little girl home as they waited for the international adoption process to be concluded. She went on to write, "I don't know what is on the other side of this waiting season, but God Who is faithful and good does. I am finding peace in that."

I sent my friend a reply email thanking her for the note and assuring her that while the waiting is hard, God has been sending me signs that I have not been forgotten. However, had her email arrived a few weeks earlier, I would not have been able to say that.

At the end of April, perhaps because I'd recently celebrated another birthday, my heart was heavy with the sinking feeling that my chances of ever conceiving and carrying a child to term again are long gone (and realistically, they probably are) and that our decision to adopt again will be fruitless. I really try not to think about babies and having another child anymore. It's been three years since we started trying for another child, and all we have to show for it are two more graves and two (very time-consuming, expensive, and stressful) adoption home studies. There seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel and as time continues to tick away, I find it easier and easier to believe that my prayers just aren't loud enough anymore. I often wonder if God and I have gotten our wires crossed.

When this month began, Tom and I took our family to the mountains east of us for a weekend camping trip. We wanted to enjoy the spring warbler migration in the hills, but more importantly, we wanted to touch base with the wonderful priest who married us, and he was assigned to a parish near where we planned to camp. He had not yet met our boys, and it had been over a decade since we'd seen him. As he and our family shared a dinner under the stars that weekend, we spoke of the changes in all our lives. While talking, I commented to him how excited we were for him to be nominated for an award by the Catholic Extension Service, but I lamented to him that he was not receiving many votes on fac.ebook and probably would not win the award. He chuckled and proudly exclaimed that he is "computer illiterate" and therefore, avoids all forms of social media. The fact that he was in a social media popularity contest, vying for "likes" and votes, was comical to him. He admitted that he was very honored by the nomination and then added, "but as long as God knows my name, I have all that I want."  He knew that only one vote really mattered.

Two days after our visit with this wonderful priest, I had the opportunity to attend the ordination of our diocese's new bishop.  I had been very tentative about attending the ordination, given that we'd only returned home from our weekend get-away the day before, and the ordination was a good two-hour drive from my home. But a friend had tickets and nobody else from our parish wanted to go with her so, I reluctantly agreed. Tom commented that it might be good for me to go, perhaps because he'd noticed the funk I'd been fighting in the past few weeks, and offered to babysit the boys so I could have a "girls day out."

The morning of the ordination, I thought of all the reasons I should be staying home. In the back of my mind, I'd been struggling with those words said by our priest, and I found myself asking, "Does God know my name?" Since hearing those words, my mind had been filled with doubts.  As a result, spending a day in prayerful celebration wasn't exactly something I felt compelled to participate in.

We arrived at the cathedral with an hour to spare before the ordination began, but when we walked inside, every pew was nearly full.  As my friend and I walked slowly along the wall, I spotted a space just barely big enough for the two of us at the end of a pew about half-way back from the sanctuary. The view was not great, but all the prime seats were taken, and we were happy just to have found a place to sit.  I asked the middle-aged lady sitting near the end of the pew if we may sit there, and she smiled and slid over a bit to make as much room for us as possible, and I sat down next to her.

As we settled into our seat, the lady next to me leaned forward and whispered something to the lady in front of her. I heard none of the conversation except for these words, "My mother had me when she was forty-seven and a half." I perked up and as she leaned back, I asked her, "Did you just say your mother was forty-seven when you were born?" She told me that was true, and I told her that I was so glad to hear that because I am forty-six and that my husband and I had been praying for another child for years, either biologically or by adoption.  She looked at me thoughtfully and explained to me that her mother had longed for a child and had made frequent pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation.  Now, decades later, she was a parishioner at the shrine, which happened to be where our new bishop had been previously assigned and where she had met him. She said that many couples make pilgrimages to that shrine, praying specifically for conception, and that her mother had been one of them. Then, she reached into her purse and said, "I want to give you something," and pulled out a bottle of holy water from the shrine. I was dumbfounded. Of the hundreds of people I could've sat next to in that crowd, God had put me next to her.  I thanked her profusely, and she assured me of her prayers when she returned to the shrine.

Does God know my name?  I found myself seriously doubting the answer to that question one day, only to be reassured by Him the next that He most certainly does. In a church pew, while sitting next to a stranger who shared her mother's miraculous story, God proved to me that He knows not only my name but also all of my desires. And in a conversation with a special priest, He also reminded me that because He knows my name and all my desires, there is really nothing else that I shall want.

Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.


  1. Wow, what an amazing story. Yes, God knows your name! And this meeting at the Shrine sure seems like Divine Providence at work. Thank you for sharing this as an encouragement to everyone. By the way, I love your blog's new look, and the top photo is beautiful!

    1. I do hope others find this encouraging. It is so easy to feel forgotten on these long prayer-filled journeys. And thank you for the compliment on the blog look. I wondered if anyone liked it. That photo was taken long ago, before I had a blog. I just really like it and am glad you do too!

  2. Wow!! What an amazing encounter! So glad you got to come to the ordination and installation. I watched it on TV and it was beautiful.

    1. I was very blessed to be there, but you definitely got the better view if you saw it on TV. :o)