Fertile Emptiness

It has been a looooong time since I've posted. Blog ideas have swept through my mind many times daily these past 3 months. Yet the demands of this transition have been so great that I've dropped onto my bed by 8 pm, sleep overcoming my body within minutes. My journal is littered with two sentence journal entries. None of which capture the story our Father is authoring amidst the Brockmans wild adoption ride. Due to stress, I don't retain much in my memory anymore...perhaps my God will retell me the stories when I'm with Him face to face, hand in hand. But for today, I'm feeling quite proud of myself for staying awake throughout this entire entry (it took 4 sittings to complete it).

Last week, our social worker, Debra, came to our home for our three month follow-up interview. It was 4 months ago from that day, we walked up to the little window in the DMV, I mean US Embassy in Ethiopia, finalizing our adoption. No one could have prepared us for the months to come. I spent hours and hours educating myself about bonding, attachment, cross-cultural challenges and a long list of adoption related books. Yet even the most insightful books could not prepare a family of five for what mysteries would greet them each morning as they integrate 8 and 10 year-old Ethiopian girls into their family.

Karen Purvis captures our experience to the tee in her book The Connected Child:

It’s not uncommon to find within a single harmed youngster:
the trust and bonding needs of an infant
the independence needs of a two-year-old
the shame issues of a three-year-old
the concrete thinking of a four-year-old
the reasoning skills of a five-year-old
the street smarts of a sixteen-year-old
all wrapped in the body of an eight-year-old!

For the first time in the life of our family, every member has been in stress mode, messily navigating our way through the myriad of mysteries each moment every day has brought. I’ve always battled to live fully in the present, without a preoccupation with tomorrow’s events, needs, demands, etc. Adopting Mez and Kamise has ushered me into no other option than to live in the present, for each moment requires every ounce of my capacities.

One morning in April with an entire day still ahead of me, I exhaled, “I have nothing left to pour into anyone, there's nothing left.” as I walked out of the kitchen toward my bedroom. From behind, I heard Keegan (my 14 year-old son) reply, “Then it will be a miracle…something out of nothing.”


Something out of nothing captures the deep emptiness within me and the surprising wonder of the Creator of the Universe’s supernatural power to enable springs of living water to somehow spill forth and birth life in another when all within me feels dry and empty. Years ago I became acquainted, through books and spiritual directors, with the strange yet hopeful reality that the emptiness within me can be fertile ground. St. John of the Cross encouraged,

“If however, a person chooses not to fill the hole with one more sensation, not to flit to another relationship or a different project, but to see this one through, life can transfer on to a new level. John calls it ‘spirit’. At first it can feel like starving. John tells of a ‘language’, ‘taste’, ‘texture’, a ‘freedom’, ‘peace, ‘life’ which is yet to be discovered, and which we cannot know till it is discovered. To come to what you know not, you must go by a way where you know not. Not filling the gap with another novelty can feel like starving, but it allows the genuinely new to be disclosed. It allows one to live not as a consumer among objects, but as a person among persons-- fit for communion, for the love which can hold the other, and be held on open palms. That is the level of spirit: availability as a person for communion; the space for the gift of the Other. This is more than just a rearrangement of the pieces.” --Impact of God, p.45

To “be” in the emptiness, feel the ache, allow the longing (for the only One who can fill the space with life-giving satisfaction, is always a battle. There are so many “things” that have enabled me to avoid that space throughout my life. A quick trip to TJ Maxx will bring endorphins in a matter of minutes which dull the ache. Distract the soul. So many distractions have prevented me from offering this space to my Beloved, who longs to fill it with more of Him, knowing only His presence will satisfy me.

Evenso, as I’ve journeyed through this reality the past 10 years, I’ve wrestled, I’ve surrendered, I’ve wrestled, I’ve surrendered. Through the outpouring required this past four months:

loving when I don’t “feel” like loving

connecting when I’m stinkin’ angry that my new daughter with the self-protecting hard shell (which enabled her to survive) battled me to the point of craziness and utter fatigue the previous day

being present for my biological three who long to connect with them, yet live in the angst of receiving two whose story is written all over them, sometimes inviting, and with the boys, more times repelling.

pouring out everything possible only to be snubbed, rebuffed, rarely received by one, received by another.

navigating the tumultuous waters of a family of 7 all living out of their stress mode at once (this has never happened before)

and hearing "mommy!" from two girls with the maturity of toddlers fill every waking moment (this caused even phlegmatic Dennis to enter into realms of craziness)

…to name a few of my realities.

As the current rages at times, calms at others, I remember when our Father “called” us to open our hearts and our home to Mez and Kamise. I allow Him to wrestle open my palms one more time, opening myself to the story He is writing in and through our lives. As I sit in the emptiness, I know this is where I most deeply tune into His frequency, His voice. I remember the numerous seasons of ache and emptying myself of self, loving a little more closely to how Christ has loved me. By faith I sigh “thank you”. Then some days, there’s not a lick of gratitude. I’m just an exhausted or angry woman aching to retreat, resist bonding, resist communion with another.

Many times throughout the past 4 months I’ve exclaimed to myself and a few others, “I’m going to be an amazing lover at the end of this journey!” Not because I’m an amazing lover by nature. There wasn’t a more self-centered 22 year-old than I. I will only be an amazing lover because my Creator has poured His grace into me, given me grace to surrender my self-centered passions (over and over and over), given me the most challenging opportunity to love others when there is no natural desire to love, and faithfully filled my emptiness with more of Him, WHO IS LOVE.

"Jesus answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”