Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Suscipe Prayer – St. Ignatius
I was in Mass a few weeks ago, on my knees in prayer after receiving the Holy Eucharist, as the notes of the organ rang out and the cantor began singing a familiar song based upon the Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius. The words of the song flowed effortlessly throughout the church, expressing the soul’s deepest desire to offer to God all that it has, holding nothing back, and receiving only love and grace as a recompense. As I sat listening to this song, with Jesus physically present within me, it dawned on me how much this song encapsulated my journey through infertility, adoption, and foster care.
It was very early in my marriage that I realized that infertility would be part of our story. I distinctly remember looking at yet another negative pregnancy test and thinking, “this is just never going to happen for me.” After years of diligent charting, many doctors’ appointments, invasive tests, a miscarriage, and even surgery to excise endometriosis, I felt utterly at the end of the road. However, I knew absolutely that God had called me to motherhood because as we discerned our vocations both my husband and I felt called to the married life precisely because we felt called to be parents. So, how could these two realities – my persistent infertility and my call to be a mother – coexist? What I would discover it is that it would take a radical surrender, the likes of which I could never have imagined, to make these two seeming incongruities line up.
It was several weeks after my miscarriage, when I was at my lowest point of utter questioning of God’s will, that I broke down into a sobbing mess of tears and lay everything before the Lord. I certainly did not realize it at the time, but the words of the Suspice were silently working in my life. Stripped from all that I wanted, all that I knew, all that I understood and desired, I came before the Lord and said, “here I am…I have nothing! Make of me what you will!” Please do not get some glorified version of what happened; this was a very angry surrender. I was not graciously handing to God my struggles and lovingly accepting the good that flowed from His hand. No, I was very begrudgingly accepting my weakness and hoping against all empirical data that something good might come of the struggle.
Blessedly, as that anger subsided, I realized that maybe if I stepped back in surrender and let God work, some good could come out of my infertility. During this same time, my husband and I wrestled with what the next step in our journey should be, and we began to feel the call to pursue adoption. We had discussed adoption while we were dating, but always assumed that we would not adopt until after we were finished having biological children (and God laughed!) So began our adoption journey. Here again I found that my desire for control, for that which was familiar and understood, was taken from me and I had to surrender to God what I thought my life would look like and accept that He loved me more lavishly that I could ever imagine and would provide in a way that I could not expect. True to form, God is always faithful, and not only did He provide me with His love, but literally He provided me with His grace in the form of a little girl whom we adopted and named, you guessed it, Grace.
Years passed, life went on, and I began to plan my little plan. In my ideal world, we would adopt again, and all would be rosy. But God was again asking me to surrender, to realize that I must rely solely on His love and His grace. As I began the process of finding a new adoption agency (we had moved states since the first adoption), I began to hear the whispered call to be a foster family. If you knew me at this time, this would have come as a huge surprise as I had adamantly stated years prior that, “I would NEVER foster.” Well, never say never because this is exactly what God was calling our family to do!
So, for the past six years, we have surrendered what we thought our life would look like, our freedom, our own will and given it to God, asking only that He give us Himself in abundance. These years have not been easy, as we have had children come and go from our home, spent countless hours in specialists’ appointments, sat in courtrooms all day, allowed a parade of visitors to come in and inspect our home, and fought for the best interests of our foster children. But I would not trade these years for anything because God has taught me the lesson that I suspect He taught St. Ignatius, to surrender all that you hold dear, and He will return to you all that you need and more in the proper time. May God Bless you and bring you His love and His grace in full abundance!
Danielle Dyann Abril is a wife and stay-at-home, home-schooling mother to six. Before motherhood, she studied Theology and Catechetics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and worked in diocesan ministry. In becoming a mother, she navigated the struggles of infertility and more. Now she serves through by working with the Office of Natural Family Planning in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. She blogs at Unrepeatable Blessings.