My Journey to Joy

November 20, 2013

The Gap: On the Courage to Choose by Thelma

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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This post is the sixth in a series called The Gap. Please click here to read from the beginning. I know I haven’t touched on this series for awhile, but this post has been a cautious work in progress.Something about grief we don’t often talk about: I choose when and how I step out of it.

I write a lot about grief here. I do what I can to validate and illustrate because when I was fifteen and my mom died there weren’t too many that wanted to talk honestly about grief. There was no one to tell me what I was feeling was okay or normal or temporary. That experience shaped me; that grief carved an empathy from my heart that carries forward motion: as long as it remains within my power to do so, I will speak honestly about it because you never know who needs to hear it. Maybe a fifteen year old, maybe a fifty year old.

My fifteen and sixteen year old self did the only thing that made sense: I got mad. Good and mad. I didn’t understand how a God who claimed to be good and faithful and merciful could snap a teenage girl’s life in half and rob her of her mother. All the platitudes that rained down on me during those first six months fueled my anger.

“She’s in a better place now.” – Great. I’m in hell.
“God needed her in heaven.” – Say what now?
“Her job on earth was done.” – No. No, it wasn’t. Sixteen!

And so, for a year and a half, I went to bed each night asking God to let me die and when I woke in the morning (still alive, obviously) I pulled my cloak of anger tightly around me and carried my way through another pointless day. When, in the summer of 1996, my brother broke his neck in a brutal car accident, I sat under a large tree in the back forty of the family home and God and I had a long talk about the rage that fueled me. I left my cloak there that day, though I had more learning to do, but He helped me step out of grief and allow healing to begin.

In retrospect, my brother’s accident should have left me furious. It should have been the jerry can of evidence that made my anger explode to a new level of hot rage. Instead, it broke me. It broke me enough to allow God to open my eyes to see a new perspective: gratitude. Deep, soul-shaking gratitude that my brother was still alive.

I look back on those years with regret. Those years informed (though not perfectly) the grief of walking through infertility. I didn’t make all the right choices. I still pulled away, sunk into anger and fiddled with the fringes of bitterness but my heart never forgot the mind-numbing grip of a grief that made no sense.

What’s all this got to do with infertility? With choosing to live a childless life if God is calling you there?

We can talk about calling and miracles and healing as things ethereal and unquantifiable. We can bandy them about and wait for that moment we feel something special that tells us we’re where we need to be. But ultimately? The thing about grief that we rarely talk about it is that I must choose when and how I step free of it.

Grief is real. Brutal. Raw. It carves deep wells of memory into our very being and leaves us changed. Sometimes we allow it the power to move in. We put on anger or bitterness or denial or bargaining on like a cloak each morning and we allow it to envelope not just our hearts but our lives.

At some point, however, we must trust that God gives us the courage to choose.

A few months ago, my father sent me this beautiful quote from Mike Mason’s book Champagne for the Soul:

Do you have a favourite chair, a place you feel most at home and comfortable? So does joy.

Joy’s favourite chair is your sadness, your weakness, your grief. Wherever your wounds are most tender, joy finds a soft place to settle. A lighthearted person may rejoice, but no one has greater capacity for joy than one who is like our Saviour, ‘a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering’. Joy loves our brokenness best.

Finally I saw that if joy does not arise out of the midst of tragedy, it will not arise at all. Christian joy is rooted in darkness, chaos, meaninglessness, sorrow.

Joy loves our brokenness best. Chew on that for a bit and remember this: joy is a choice. Stepping out of grief is a choice. The courage to make that choice comes from a God whose very character is goodness, faithfulness and mercy; a God whose grace is soul-shaking and gratitude-shaping.

I’ve written this series to shed light on the process of moving from the grief of infertility to the deep joy we have in living this life as a family of two. It’s not a guide book, it’s a story: our story. There may be similarities and shared sorrows to work through, but in the end, you must choose when and how you will step out of grief into life.

It’s not easy. Sometimes you need to make that choice many times in the space of a week, day or hour. It requires a personal honesty and a courage that, in the end, isn’t even your own. But God’s not in the business of leaving people buried in grief when their desire is to break free.

Grief may leave you broken, but joy must arise there. And grace? Well, grace cannot – will not – leave you there.

“For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

~ Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

October 10, 2013


Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Those familiar with adoption realize that it comes with much loss.  A child loses his/her original family.  Bio-parents may die, have their children forcefully removed, or surrender them for the hope of a better future.  Adoptive parents may have lost their dream of biological parenthood, feeling a baby grow for 9 months, and being there to hear their baby’s first cries.  We live in a fallen world, and there is loss.

So often people talk to me with stars in their eyes about adoption.  And believe me, I love adoption!  I want people to be excited about the possibilities.  But it is real, and it is hard.  It involves sacrifice.  And there is always loss.

My husband and I tried to prepare ourselves for the pain that a second adoption would inevitably bring.  We worked to steel our emotions.  But there is always something unexpected…

In the midst of our early grief and trauma over my grandmother’s murder, my father was taken to the hospital with heart attack symptoms.  A procedure was scheduled.  Just routine, but there is always a chance of something going horribly wrong; I knew I wanted to be there.  That morning, as I bathed my little man, I got a phone call.  A friend knew of a birthmother looking to place her sweet, 4-month-old daughter; could she tell her about us?  That set into motion a day of frantic phone calls to our social worker and lawyer, all while getting to the hospital and waiting through my dad’s procedure.  (Which mercifully turned out fine!)  Everything was moving forward at a breathless pace…until I got the text: “She only wants someone in our family.”  And it was over.  I know now that I wasn’t meant to be her mommy- but, oh, I wanted to be!  I wanted her, to love her.  An adoptive mommy can fall in love awfully quickly, without even trying.  And I did.  And now there’s loss…

A few weeks ago I met a precious woman who asked me to parent her baby.  We totally “clicked,” and she said she knew God had sent her to me.  (And I believe He did.)  I tried to tell myself that these things often fall through.  I told my social worker “just in case she called and asked about us.”  And lo and behold, she did.  She followed through.  She set up a meeting.  And six days later she had a miscarriage.  And there is loss.  I ache for her, and for myself.  And my heart cries, “Why?!”

We haven’t even completed our homestudy.  We weren’t prepared (not that you can, really) for the emotional roller coaster that is adoption.  I don’t know the “why’s.”  And I hurt, so much.  But I know the Who.  My faith is in Him.  I cling to the promise that my God is working things for my good.  I cling to hope in His perfect plan.  I mourn the loss…and await the redemption of this pain.

September 18, 2013

Songs from Granny’s Funeral

Filed under: Songs for the Journey — aunthoddy @ 6:08 PM
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My Granny always loved to hear us sing.  As children, she made us sing for her friends, bribing us with a nickel per performance!  My dad asked if we would sing at her funeral.  We didn’t see how we (her three grandchildren) could, but wanted to try.  God blessed us, and we were able to sing without tears.  We sang to the glory of God, for her and our dad.  We know she would have loved it.




September 4, 2013

Why the Worst Thing that Happens to You Could Wind Up Being the Best Thing

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Is it possible that the worst thing that happens to you this coming year could turn out to be the best thing that happens to you this year?

In 1939, J.R.R. Tolkien prepared an essay to be delivered as a lecture at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It was titled “On Fairy-Stories,” and in the piece he explained and defended the use of fantasy as a literary form.

The entire work is worth reading, but one part in particular speaks to our current state of affairs—and in a most hopeful way.

According to Tolkien, we’re naturally drawn to stories, of course, but we’re especially drawn to drama and tales with a sudden, happy ending. In the reflection, though, Tolkien coined an interesting term:

eucatastrophe—the joyful (eu) catastrophe.

I find his insights fascinating and share in his own words the deeply theological motivation behind eucatastrophe:

I coined the word “eucatastrophe”: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back.

The Resurrection was the greatest “eucatastrophe” possible in the greatest Fairy Story—and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.

In his inimitable way, Tolkien assures us that in the end, despite every appearance to the contrary, all is well. Why else would we call even the worst day in all of time and space, the day Jesus of Nazareth died, “Good Friday”? Because in the end, the God of the universe has promised to make all things new.

“Write this down,” John wrote in Revelation, “for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Do you find this as reassuring as I do?

In a generation in which hype has become habit and there is no shortage of bad news, the message of the gospel is “good news” indeed. For those who believe and place their trust in the Lord, they need not grow anxious or cower in fear about this coming age. Yes, we must prepare and brace ourselves for any host of troubles that infiltrate a broken world—but preparation is not the same thing as worry.

Dr. D. Martin-Lloyd Jones, a former physician familiar with the ways in which anxiety can ravage a person’s health, offered a practical fix for this bad habit:

Why do you allow yourself to be worried thus about the future? … Worry about the future is so utterly futile and useless; it achieves nothing at all. We are very slow to see that; yet how true it is. Indeed we can go further and say that worry is never of any value at all. This is seen with particular clarity as you come to face the future. Apart from anything else, it is a pure waste of energy because however much you worry you cannot do anything about it. In any case its threatened catastrophes are imaginary; they are not certain, they may never happen at all …

We must not go forward and tack tomorrow’s quota on to today’s, otherwise it may be too much for us.

We have to take it day by day …

If you want to go through life without crippling yourself and burdening yourself and perhaps losing your health and the control of your nerves, these are the cardinal rules.

Do not carry yesterday or tomorrow with you; live for today and for the twelve hours you are in.

~Jim Daly

August 7, 2013

A Peace that Cometh After Sorrow- Jessie Rose Gates

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,

Of hope surrendered, not hope fulfilled.

A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,

But calmly on a tempest that is stilled.

A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,

Nor in the happy life of love secure;

But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,

Of conflicts won while learning to endure.

A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,

A life subdued from will and passion free

‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,

But that which triumphed in Gethsemene.

July 25, 2013


Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I’ve been mulling something over in my mind recently.  I’ve come to a few personal conclusions, but I still have more questions than answers.

I love a good joke.  I love to laugh until tears stream down my face and I accidentally snort (which embarrasses me, so I laugh even harder!).  I’ve pulled pranks by disguising meatloaf as chocolate cake, arranging for all of my co-workers to call in sick, and etc.  I’ve laughed when my students pulled a silly prank on me, but I shared with them my criteria for a “good” prank: it must not damage property, and the recipient must find it funny as well.  Pretty simple.  But how many times have you seen everyone laughing, while one person ducks away, embarrassed, to hide their tears?  I don’t find that funny.

A few weeks ago, Ann Voskamp wrote an amazing post on mental health.  (*You really must read it; so good!)  She told about her family’s dark time when her mother was admitted for psychiatric help, and she was instructed to tell no one.  Then this: “I once heard a pastor tell the whole congregation that he had lived next to the loonie bin and I looked at the floor when everyone laughed and they didn’t know how I loved my mama. I looked to the floor when they laughed…”

All my life I’ve heard and shared jokes about different races and people groups.  Some are innocent and truly funny.  I believe a mixed group of people could stand around laughing about them.  Others weren’t.  If that person had been standing there, the joke would have fallen flat, or never been said.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

I was laughing the other day about a woman who came to an event sky-high on something.  Later God showed me my lack of compassion for her.  Her situation was to be pitied, not giggled about.  Sometimes laughter is how we deal with awkward situations, things that make us nervous or are traumatic.  I understand that.  I don’t know where my own line needs to be, much less someone else’s!  I just know that I was wrong to laugh at her condition, ludicrous though it was.

Daniel & I tried for many years to grow our family, first through pregnancy, then adoption.  It was a long, grueling process.  Our hearts were ripped right open.  And women frustrated with their children have laughingly offered, “Do you want mine?”  A woman with an unplanned pregnancy recently joked, “Maybe I’ll just give the baby to you!”  I automatically smiled and gave a soft laugh, but there was nothing funny about it.

I’ve sometimes been horrified when I’m teasing a friend to see a flash of pain or anger in their eyes.  Then I know I’ve gone too far, or hit a sensitive spot.  I’ll usually apologize and make a mental note to avoid that subject when joking.  Causing pain isn’t funny.

I understand that we can’t avoid all offence; we’re human, and we will accidentally hurt someone’s feelings sometimes.  There are complexities of situation, motivation, relationship…  But what if we really thought?  What if we filtered each joke by how we’d feel if we fit the stereotype being needled?  What if we decided that people aren’t a joke?  That everyone deserves respect, whether we like their religion, race, politics, sexual orientation, handicap, or whatever-it-is-about-them-that-is-different-from-us?  There’s plenty to laugh about, plenty of silly, innocent things.  I’m editing my own humor.

*Here is a link to Ann’s post:

July 20, 2013

Becky on God’s Goodness

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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“Why is it that we sometimes equate God’s goodness with the absence of personal pain?  Is not suffering God’s good gift to us too?  Isn’t it through pain that He reveals Himself in ways He could not in life’s joyful moments?”  Becky Keep, Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark

June 20, 2013

A Letter from Dad

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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June 12, 2013

Esther on Being Real

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Being Real

Remember that post I wrote last year called The Ugly Truth?  The one where I shared how hard it is to be infertile year after year after year?  This is a similarly truthful post — although hopefully not quite as ugly — about how hard it is to be “pregnant,” but not really, month after month after month.
The truth is this:  I feel like a fraud.  For months I’ve been putting on a happy face trying to be strong, but in doing so I feel like I’m not being honest.  Most people see the smile on my face and think that I’m bouncing off the walls, overflowing with joy and excitement that we’re finally expecting a baby, when in reality I haven’t enjoyed much about this journey since it started.
Let me be clear.  
I am excited…  but it is not overflowing.  I am filled with joy…  but only because joy is a choice.  And I am thankful to be expecting this amazing, undeserved gift.  I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that I’m happy.  Why?
Because surrogacy is HARD.
Try to imagine for just a moment what it would be like to  know you’re “pregnant” but not get to feel or see any evidence of that.  Not a kick, not a flip, not a hiccup.
Now try to  imagine that you’re not only unable to experience anything yourself, but you  have very, very limited access to the person who is carrying your baby  because she lives over 300 miles away (which might as well be the moon since gas prices are so high!).  You can’t even touch the belly where your child is growing or even have the chance to feel a kick from the outside.
Next try imagining what it would be like if, due to the difficulty of coordinating busy schedules, your primary method of  communication with the woman carrying your child was text messaging  (where one’s “tone” can be so easily misread and misinterpreted).  You  rarely hear her voice on the phone, and seeing her in person is even  rarer still, which only accentuates how disconnected, isolated and uninvolved you feel.
Now imagine living like that day after day… week after week… and month after excruciating month.
Trust me.  It’s brutal.
I am emotionally exhausted, so forgive me if I don’t have any energy left for excitement.  I often feel as though everyone around me is more excited  than I am.  Which of course is ridiculous since I’m the one who will  have a baby in my arms at the end, Lord willing.  
The problem is that I’m on a road that doesn’t feel like it has an end.  Time doesn’t go fast.  It doesn’t fly by.  It’s not going to be here “before I know it” because Every. Single. Day. up to this point has been agonizing and there’s no reason for me to think that the next 80-something days will be any different.
Every surrogacy story is going to be unique and different because every surrogacy story has unique and different people in it.  The one thing every story has in common is hormones and emotions, and throwing those into the mix can make things oh-so-complex — especially when dealing with a first-time mom and a first-time surrogate at the same time.
Needless to say, our story is turning out way different than how I imagined it would.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into this with any expectations at all, but how could I not?  It’s human nature to paint a picture in our head of how a situation is “supposed” to play out.

The beginning was full of hopeful excitement,  and I know the ending will be amazing…  but this stuff in the middle?  Messy.  Uncomfortable.  Torture.
In the end all that will matter is the baby in my arms.  All the crazy emotions…  the anxiety attacks…  the sobbing meltdowns in the shower… they will all be a distant memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely forget the hell I’ve lived through these past several months, but the bad stuff will fade with time as all bad stuff does.
In the meantime I’ll just keep moving forward, making it through each day as best as I can.  And remember that even though time feels like it’s dragging, now is not forever.  

I will see the goodness of the Lord.  

Joy is coming.    

June 11, 2013

Songs for the Journey- Nothing Is Wasted

Filed under: Songs for the Journey — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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