Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In Humility

Today, I wrote a letter to my 19 year old niece (Yes, I'm old school and still write letters).  I'm very close to this particular niece who lovingly calls me her "Motherly Aunt".   She saved all her own money to serve a religious mission in Canada sharing messages of happiness, hope and peace for the next 16 months.  I'm proud of her and a portion of my letter went something like this....

This morning I woke up at 6:00am and picked up the Bible for a quick read.  30 minutes later, I was still reading which felt really nice.  This New Year I'm trying to create healthy habits and this is one that should definitely stick. Ironically, I opened the scriptures to the New Testament and started reading in Luke, Chapter 1.  I love this story for obvious reasons as it's a precursor for Luke 2, which we read every Christmas Eve.  But before we get to a pregnant Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem and the beautiful nativity that unfolds ... we learn about an angel telling Mary she will be the mother of the Son of God - and the experience of Elisabeth, her cousin.   

This was the unexpectedly part of today's reading as I've never really delved too far into Elisabeth's story. (Let's be honest - Luke 2 gets read a lot.  The rest... not so much!). In speaking about Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias, in Luke 1:6-7 it says, 

And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

Sound familiar?! Well... Elisabeth was actually 88 years old. I'm only 44. And she was also a little lot more righteous than me. But in reading this story today, it is one that I can deeply relate to. 

So the story unfolds, an angel appeared to Zacharias, who told him that Elizabeth would have a son who "will be great in the sight of the Lord" (1:15).  But Zacharias expressed doubts that such a thing could be possible, because "I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years" (1:18). I get it because a miracle was happening very late in their lives, even though that miracle was a son named John the Baptist.  Some really beautiful scriptures are in this story though, and here's a few that really stood out and spoke to me...   

24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 
25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Reproach.  I get it.  It wasn't easy being a barren women at any point in the scriptures.  This is also true for 2018.  Then there is the fact that Elisabeth wanted to keep it quite for awhile.  I totally understand that too.  Mary did a very similar thing all throughout the birth story of Jesus, as the scriptures say multiple times that she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart".

But then there is the really good verse that packed the punch...

37 For with God nothing will be impossible.

Wow. "For with God, nothing will be impossible".  This is what the angel told May when he told her that she was going to conceive the Son of God and that her barren cousin, Elisabeth, was also going to conceive a child who would be instrumental in the salvation of mankind.  

From a mortal perspective, it was impossible.  A virgin could not conceive. Nor could a barren woman who was well past child-bearing years.  But God had a plan.  So against all earthly odds, both Mary and Elisabeth became mothers.

Do you think that this also means that a 44 year old women who is semi-righteous most some of the time, can also experience a miracle? Even to the lesser degree?

I do.    

In reading the scriptures today I am reminded that I should never, never, never give up on my hopes and dreams.  For whatever reason God's timing meant that the blessing Elisabeth and Zacharias desired - to have a child -came much later than they expected.  I too find myself having to wait for a blessing.  Often it has seemed that God hasn't heard my prayers and I've been very discouraged.  But this story serves as a reminder that He hasn't forgotten me.  And he hasn't forgotten you either.

As Jeffrey R Holland reminds us, "Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven; but or those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come." 

No matter what life throws at you, my darling niece - never, never, never forget this really important truth. For with God, nothing will be impossible. 


I love writing letters and this was a good one for me to reflect and ponder upon.  March 8th is going to be a really glorious day for Mr. Thompson and Me. I'm not worthy of an angel by a long shot, but I can feel a miracle in the depths of my spirit. 

And I'll never take that feeling for granted.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reality Check

It's happening.  It's really happening...


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Faith Proceeds the Miracle (Verse 999.3)

(Sorry for the delay. I could say it's been another long disaster season - which it has... but the reality is that I just don't know how to put thoughts into words.  So here goes...)

Clifnotes version to catch up:

  • January 2018 - I had a really hard time when I received the embryo storage fee for 2018.  I ultimately couldn't face donating our embryos so I went against Mr. Thompson's directive and ended up paying the embryo storage fee for another year - kicking the ball downrange. 
  • Spring 2018 - An old collage friend created a social media page on my behalf thinking networking for adoption, foster care or surrogacy was needed - I sucked up my pride and went with it.
  • June 2018 - A good friend asked to meet for dinner...

So, my friend and I met for dinner.  I thought some other friends would join us ... but it was just the two of us.  She planned it that way as she wanted to talk to me.  The conversation went something like this...

"J - thanks for sharing your really intimate story about Colton with us during dinner.  I know that you think you're really open about the details of your life... but you aren't.  You're actually a very private person. As one of your friends, I've been watching this unfold over the last several years. I've been watching you go through infertility treatments for years and my heart would hurt for you after the disappointments.  When you got the cancer diagnosis, I was devastated for you.  But one thing that I haven't told you about is that about three years ago, I had a really strong impression that I was supposed to help you.  You're probably going to think that I'm totally crazy... and maybe I am... but I know that I'm supposed to be your surrogate. Trust me, I thought it was crazy too, I put it aside... but over the last three years that impression didn't go away - while it wasn't a constant, there were points over the years were that impression has come back and it's come back strong.  I didn't ever tell you because I thought you'd think I was crazy.  Heck - I thought I was crazy. 

In January, I had the thought again.  You made a FB post about receiving your embryo storage bill and said you were struggling with the decision of whether you were going to discard or donate the embryos.  Again, I had an impression but I didn't do anything about it because I didn't know what you chose.  When we had dinner as a group a few months later and I asked you about Colton's story - I had it again, really strong.  And then your friend created that special FB group to rally friends to find a way.  So... I finally couldn't ignore it because I knew what you decided.  You didn't donate those embryos.  You still have them.  And what you don't understand is that I get pregnant really easy - my body is just made for it.

So here I am.

A few nights ago as I was at my bathroom sink with my husband.  I just looked at him and blurted out, "I think I'm supposed to be J's surrogate".  It came totally out of the blue because he didn't know anything about my experiences or feelings... and totally took him by total surprise... but then I explained all of my feelings.  And he listened.  And he didn't think I was crazy.

So I've been praying about it and here I am.  What do you think?"

{Then she leaned forward and smiled.}

What did I think?  What did I think?!  My mouth dropped open and I have no idea what I said because to say that I was absolutely floored is the greatest understatement of my life.

First of all, to have a friend love me enough to even entertain this conversation and broach the subject... is a feeling and a friendship that I can't even describe.  Seriously.  It's indescribable.

Second of all, it's been six months and I still can't explain it...  I don't have words. (thus, you haven't gotten posts.)

For twelve years I've waited for my miracle.  I'm a spiritual person and through it all, I've constantly raised my hand and said, "Here I am God.  Please don't forget about me."  I've patiently waited for my time and I've experienced every emotion along the way - hope, shock, denial, madness, depression, fear, sadness, anger, bewilderment, acceptance, disengagement, moving on.  I've watched Every. Single. Person. I. Know. - many of you - and all the others that I've met through the last twelve years of blogging and support groups, move on to find their rainbow.  But I haven't. Yes, I've channeled the energy into other things - an outstanding career, a wonderful marriage, mothering other people's children in other ways through family, volunteerism, and even foster care. None of it has been easy.

So when my friend spoke those words it was a flood of emotions that I didn't expect - and still don't understand.

We talked.  I explained to her that I had lied to my husband - he didn't even know that I didn't donate those embryos. I also confessed that I knew nothing about surrogacy beyond that it cost a lot of money - money we didn't have... and when my friend asked, "but why does it have to cost so much?"... we went to work investigating, planning and most especially - praying.

And what has resulted has been an amazing journey with two amazing friends.

About a week after that initial conversation with my friend, I invited her and her husband to our home to have dinner.  I hadn't said anything to Mr. Thompson because I still didn't know what to say.  So I let her do the talking.  She initiated the conversation and told Mr. Thompson about her feelings and how she knows that she is supposed to help us - how she can help us - and he listened. 

After she had repeated the same story she told me, she asked how he felt after she said spoke her peace.  Mr. Thompson was quiet and then he explained that his concern was actually for the two of them and their family (she has two kids).  He spoke from his heart and that's when I felt something indescribable. We all did.  Their concern is for us, and our concern is for them.

That night laying in bed my husband was very quiet. I asked if he was mad at me because I had paid the embryo storage fee for another year despite no hope and no way. He smiled and said that he knew I was going to pay it the minute I got out of the car at the end of the conversation. And then two tears leaked out of his eyes as he stared at the ceiling as he squeezed my hand.

So in the last six months we've been busy with the medical and legal necessities (so much to tell there!).  I haven't wanted to speak about it because overall, it feels incredibly special and different.  I'm still speechless, so I'm going to use the only two words I know to describe how I feel (and they feel really cheap so bear with me..).  This feels incredibly sacred and right. 

Suffice it to say that for twelve years I've been raising my hand to God...

And it finally feels like He actually saw me. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Next Installment (Verse 999.2)

Continuing the story...

Yes, I paid the 2018 frozen embryo storage fee.  Against my husband's wishes.  And then I put it aside.

In early February I came home from my three-month deployment to Houston and went about life.  The first thing we did was meet with the foster care folks for our final home inspection. We sailed through it and although they said we have room for 10 kids... we told them we'd place three, unless there was a sibling group that we felt right about. Our licensing caseworker apologized that it had taken a year and a half of bureaucratic stalls between state agencies to get to this point (again, a frustrating story for another day) and reminded us that there were a lot of kids in need.  She said she'd have all the licensing paperwork wrapped up by February 15th, which would push us through to placement.  Satisfied that we were finally getting somewhere, we marched forward.

In early March, I had dinner with some friends.  I have a few friend groups but one is special.  I hadn't seen these friends since before my surgery so when I came home from Houston it promised to be a long night.

These women are amazing. They’ve been my lifeline through the years so when we met in March, I filled them in about my breakdown in the hospital parking lot, right before my surgery (which sounded oh-so funny in the playback).  After the story, one friend stopped me and said, "J - you have danced around the story of Colton for years.  If you feel comfortable sharing it with us... what exactly happened?"

Oh. Wow. I didn’t realize that I kept that so private. So I told them.

All of it.

Even the shameful parts, like not knowing I was in labor and having a baby in the middle of the night at home in the bathroom.  More specifically, in the toilet... which has literally taken me 10+ years to say out loud. I've honestly had to work up a lot of bravery for that detail and I don't think I've ever been so vulnerable in a conversation in my life.  But I'm glad someone finally asked, and I'm especially glad it was my friends. By the end of it, we were all crying in our food and these women loved me even more through it.

I also told them all about foster care, which I still hadn't heard back from despite the February 15th licensing commitment.  They shared in my frustration and kept me focused and moving forward with their support. Once again, it was a much-needed dinner.

By May, we still didn't have any movement with foster care so another old friend from college decided that she was going to become my "Baby Manger".  Licensing still hadn't come through and despite multiple attempts to reach out via email and phone... this friend (unbeknownst to me) decided to start a private Facebook group on my behalf.  Her idea was that adoption and foster care sometimes require a network of friends keeping their eyes and ears out. I'm a private person by nature so this was really hard for me (funny, I know since I have this blog!) but I said okay to the FB group.  What the heck - it couldn't hurt, right?!

In June, I still hadn't heard anything from foster care despite upwards to 15 attempts to get in contact and find out where we were.  February 15th came and went. As did March, April, May and the first part of June.  Through the five months, I had left voicemails and email with no result.  Nothing.  Not even a return phone call or email saying, "thanks - got it.  Be patient.".  Nothing.  So on Friday, June 8th I left a message that went something like this...

"Amanda - this is [Mrs] Thompson. Again. I've left you about 15 emails and voicemail messages since we didn't hear back from you in mid February.  As you may recall, we met on February 6th when you came to our home for the final home inspection . It's now June 6th and although we've been really understanding of high caseloads and busy schedules... at this point it's been a two year process for us and we haven't even received any reply communication from your office. That leaves us with two impressions:  1)  We didn't qualify.  If that's the case, we understand and thank you for your time.  ... or.... 2) there really isn't the urgency or need for foster care parents, despite what we heard in training and from DCFS.  Regardless, if we don't hear back from you by next Friday, June 15th, we'd like to withdraw our volunteer application to become foster care parents and we'll go in a different direction.  Thank you."  

I'd like to feel bad for that stern message because if anyone understands bureaucracy and red tape - it's me.  I live with it every day in my line of work with the federal and state governments.  But at this point, not even a return phone call or email was inexcusable and I was incredibly frustrated.  But wouldn't you know - in my inbox the next Monday morning, I had a copy of our foster care license (backdated to May) with a message saying that we were now being referred to the third state agency that oversees foster care placement in my state. (Oy vey! If this is hard on foster care parents - imagine what the poor kids have to go through!).  

About that same time I receive a call from one of my friends from dinner, asking to talk. Expecting it to be another group dinner, I was very excited. 

But when I showed up, it was just the two of us.  And she had something she really wanted to talk to me about...