Mercy is a child named Jaden

From left, Brian, Jaden and Barbara

"When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her" (Luke 1:57-58).

I sang at their wedding. My husband, Brian, played the piano. I sat in the choir week after week, and watched them loving each other. I was happy for them. Then her belly began to grow and a pain that is indescribable infected every part of my being.

"Dear God, I beg you. Please let me be at peace. All those stories about women getting pregnant in the Bible, can't I be one? I beg you. Let me truly be happy and not envious as her belly grows ... as her baby is born, cries, nurses, is baptized, and clings to her ... please."

I cried.

How could I have such a deep desire to have a child and face the reality of infertility?

So Brian and I began the journey of seeking a child through adoption. Resentment for the process crept in like a rat in the corner of my consciousness; as introverted as I am, why did I have to divulge so much information about my life to strangers and then wait for them to approve me as a parent?

"Oh, my God, help me. Help me. Help me. Help me! Where are you? I beg you. Please just take the desire to have children away. Please, give me peace!"

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Garland,

Due to the fact that no one is coming to us seeking parents for their children, you will have to find a child on your own.

Sincerely,
Your local Catholic adoption agency

More resentment. Disappointment. Grief.

Then a miracle happened.

An act of mercy revealed as an idea.

God was answering my prayers with a direction that was always in front of us but that we never discerned. Brian and I knew, just knew, with an absolute peace in our hearts that only God can give, that we should foster to adopt.

"His name is Jaden. He's 5. Do you want to meet him? Be careful not to fall in love too quickly. Take it slowly."

We met him in a parking lot of a local farmer's market, halfway between his current foster parents and us. It was biting cold. He had no gloves or hat and wore a hoodie. He held on for a moment to the foster mother with whom he had so quickly been placed when his former foster father of three years was in a serious accident. She was doing the best she could.

"Jaden, these friends of mine are going to watch you for a while today."

I had never met her in my life. She was my friend. I hugged her.

After a minute of shyness, Jaden talked nonstop for the 40-minute car ride, about his foster families; his favorite color, green (which quickly became blue when he learned that was our favorite color); his biological brothers; his favorite TV show, "Little Einsteins"; and anything else that sprung into his mind. He expressed pleasure that that we were going to McDonald's, his favorite fast food restaurant.

But even in all that talking, he asked us for nothing. He trusted us with everything -- this little being who didn't even know that he should wonder who these people were.

When we got out of the car, I squatted down in front of him to be at his level to talk and found myself gazing into big, grayish-blue eyes that, like mine, wanted only the assurance of peace.

"What do you want to eat?" I asked him.

It happened so quickly, he startled me. He reached up with his little 5-year-old hands, touched my hair, leaned over and kissed my cheek. I was flooded with a love I never knew, a love that healed my envy, dissolved resentment, answered every question. My heart was his.

Two weeks later, Jaden moved in with us.

Four weeks later, I cradled him in my arms, his body tucked close to mine, and he asked: "Barbara, can I call you Mommy, and Brian Daddy?"

"Yes, Jaden, you can."

"And you can call me Baby."

The Lord had shown great mercy to her.

Yes, in that sweet, tiny voice, God showed mercy and, like Elizabeth, I rejoiced.

It's been two years now and God continues to shower us with mercy through Jaden: in his crying because he felt so special at his baptism; in wanting to sing in the choir with us at Sunday mornings; in his excitement to put up the song numbers at church; in playing with a classmate at school who is shy; in his evening prayers every night "for everyone in the world and for everyone in heaven"; in the thrill he showed after his first reconciliation; in his peaceful grayish-blue eyes as we tuck him into bed each night.

God's time is not our time. In all of these things, and countless others, I thank God for the mercy that is birthing every moment, whether we know it at the time or not.

[Barbara Danko Garland is an educator at Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend, Ind., where she married to her best friend Brian and is mama to her baby llama, Jaden. You can read all of the Soul Seeing columns online at NCRonline.org/blogs/soul-seeing.]

This story appeared in the April 8-21, 2016 print issue under the headline: Mercy is a child named Jaden .

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