My Journey to Joy

April 26, 2014

Just Adopt

It seems that I tend to write most when I hurt most.  That’s when thoughts swirl in my head, demanding release.  And so I click away at the keyboard.

I’ve been talking about infertility this week, in a larger venue than I ever have before.  It’s been intimidating.  Scary.  I’ve felt vulnerable, and revisited old feelings and hurts.  It’s been worth it.  I’ve had messages, connections…and I hope and pray someone has been helped to know that they are not alone.

And now it’s the middle of the night.  My husband is snoring, and a thunderstorm is rumbling outside, washing away the flower seeds I planted a few hours ago.  And I’m going to “pull back the curtain” on our adoption journey…

This is our second, and let me immediately say it has been easier.  We started at such a different place emotionally; happy, not wrecked by years of disappointment.  We have our son, who is a near-constant delight and joy.  Easier.  Not easy.

We were sure that the homestudy process would go more quickly this time.  Our application for our first adoption was received February 15th, 2011.  We were approved August 26th, and received our first birthmother profile on August 31st!  (6 months for homestudy)  After that, we were shown more than 15 times.  For our second adoption, our application was received on August 19th, 2013.   By November, we had completed everything… and we were approved February 7th, 2014.  (6 months, again!)  We received our first birthmother profile 45 minutes later.  That was the start of being constantly shown/about to be shown/waiting to hear, that lasted April 2nd.  I don’t know how to describe how that feels; I would if I could.  Tense.  Alert.  Tense.  Of the five possibilities, three of the babies had already been born (a set of twins and a single birth), one birthmother was in labor, and two others were due in the very near future.  Sometimes our social worker asked for our answer by the next week…or the next day…or in one case, in the next two hours!

And we’ve been riding an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions.  Imagine how it feels, waiting…  Knowing we could be parents tomorrow, today, right now… or not.  We’ve sat poised to buy plane tickets or embark on a road trip to go and get our baby.  We made lists for last minute purchases.  We checked our schedules, noting the arrangements we’d need to make if chosen.  We began to imagine our family with a precious new member.  (He/she will be here by Easter/Mother’s Day/Camp Meeting.)  And then, jarringly, abruptly, it’s over.  And it wasn’t our baby after all.  And we try to gather our hopes and dreams, repacking them until the next round.

Sometimes a placement seems so perfect, the fulfillment of dreams I’ve hardly admitted to having– then receiving the dreaded e-mail: “I’m sorry.  She chose another family.”  As decisions stretched out, sometimes for weeks, I began to check my mailbox again and again, just so it will be over.  And I carried my phone everywhere, so I wouldn’t miss “the call.”

And then, everything stopped.  Silence.  No new e-mails.  And there is relief, a respite.  But it’s so quiet.  And now I’m checking my e-mail again, hoping to see a profile, a chance, a hope.  This may go on for years.

And God is in control.  And we are powerless.  Time passes, life continues, and we wait.

And a friend sends a message that reads: “…we seem to have been chosen to walk parallel paths of uncertainty. While I lay no claim on understanding the pain of infertility, I can relate to waiting for the phone to ring, to checking email almost minutely for news….any news. We all know that Gods time is perfect, that His plan is best….but that doesn’t mean that questions don’t arise, that doubts don’t stay a little longer than they should. In the darkness, remember the verse that was brought to my mind tonight by someone also walking this path, several years ago Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  And tears fill my eyes as God once again takes something painful and makes something good.

I couldn’t tell you how many people told us we could “just adopt.”  Some of those same people have since walked this journey with us, and would now be the first to defend and educate.  There is no such thing as “just adopting.”  Not every family is meant to adopt.  Some are unable, for a myriad of very personal reasons.  (I won’t even begin a list; those are their stories to tell, if they wish.)  And for those who do, the process is more often than not grueling, requiring everything you’ve got, then more.

So here we are again.  God obviously has more to teach us through this process.  Our hearts are open, and broken.  And we wait.


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.    

April 23, 2013

Songs for the Journey- Thought You’d Be Here

Filed under: Songs for the Journey — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Praying for friends with infertility who are waiting…and adoptive parents who are waiting…and children around the world who are waiting.


January 16, 2013

The Junkins on Waiting

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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John Junkin and his wife Jennifer know the joy and pain of waiting for a child.  As pioneers for Lifeline’s Ethiopia program, they…began their adoption process in January of 2011.  During the course of their twenty-month journey, the family’s experience included immense difficulty, as well as overwhelming triumph…   “We prayed.  We cried.  We longed for Micah before we know who he was.”

As tough as that was, John and Jennifer committed to seeing the beauty in their wait. We realized that we were doing something for him that had never been done before.”  The reality was that Micah never had someone grieve his absence, approach the Father on his behalf, and be desperate to hold him.  “That is the glory of the waiting…”

Taken from Birmingham Christian Family, December 2012

Italics mine

January 9, 2013

Stasi Eldredge on Joy & Sorrow

Filed under: Notable Quotables,Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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“Living in true beauty can require much waiting, much time, much tenacity of spirit.  We must constantly direct our gazes toward the face of God, even in the presence of longing and sorrow.  It is in the waiting that our hearts are enlarged…

God does not always rescue us out of a painful season.  You know that He does not always give us what we so desperately want when we want it.  He is after something much more valuable than our happiness…He is restoring and growing in us an eternal weight of glory.  And sometimes…it hurts.

But the experience of sorrow in no way diminishes the joy of living.  Rather, it enhances it…

…A heart awakened to its sorrow…is more aware, more present, and more alive, to all of the facets of life.”

~Stasi Eldredge

August 9, 2012

Walking Towards the Miracle…Our Story, Continued

Filed under: Contemplations,Uncategorized — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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After the phone call that rocked our world (a baby boy!), there was a brief flurry of activity.  Our social worker sent us a message entitled “Baby Boy” with his date of birth, height and weight, ethnicity, and other brief information.  I believe we memorized it, hungry for every detail!  More paperwork ensued: birthmother background, hospital records & etc.  Waivers and legal documents to print, read, sign, scan and return.  I don’t know what else I was doing that week, but we completed each step as quickly as possible.  We certainly didn’t want to cause any additional wait!

Then, things slowed down.  Days of no new information.  It took tremendous willpower not to call our social worker constantly, asking if she had any new information.  A week went by.  An uncommonly loooooooong week!  Our baby was stuck in “the system,” and there was nothing we could do.  I wanted to drive to Mississippi, and just sleep on the floor beside his crib.  We still had never seen our boy, not even one picture.

Finally on Friday, May 4th, we were instructed to sign a petition for the MS courts, and send it back as quickly as possible.  I’ll be honest, it was a lot of trouble to track down a notary public on a Friday night, drive downtown to the only open UPS store, and pay $35 to send a package.  I’ve never been happier to do something!  They could have charged whatever they liked.  We watched online for confirmation of the documents’ arrival.  We knew our lawyer would be presenting it to the judge on Wednesday.  Praying without ceasing became almost a literal habit.

Wednesday (May 9th) we were eating with my family, when my sister had a vicious abdominal attack.  I whisked her children to my house, so they wouldn’t see their mommy in pain.  I turned on a movie and cranked up the volume so they wouldn’t hear the ambulance.  There was a message on my phone.  From my social worker.

“Call me on my cell….  There are some new developments…Nothing to worry about.  Okay, I’ll just say it right out, it’d good news, so call me…”  I stood at my window, watching the ambulance pull away with my best friend inside, as I listened to our social worker tell me that the judge had granted our petition.  We could go get our son…on Friday!  Such mixed emotions!  I didn’t know if I should tell anyone in the middle of everything else, but I couldn’t keep it in. 

My mom told my sister, who was lying on a gurney in the ER.  “Oh, good,” she said.  “Let’s talk about that instead!”  See why I love her?!  Thankfully, Krista was fine, just a freakish combination of circumstances made her so ill.  The next day she limped to a baby boutique and went shopping for her long-awaited nephew.  You can believe those gifts are incredibly special to me!

And so we packed up everything we thought we might need, checking and re-checking lists.  We borrowed a video camera, charged the Nikon, lay out our clothes, and waited for Friday…

March 28, 2012

Contentment: On Endurance

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I was recently reminded about the difficulty of maintaining contentment while enduring trials.
Two years ago I was reading my bible while doing research for a devotional on spiritual deserts. Tears slowly dripped down my cheeks as I read…
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
~ Romans 5:3-5 (NLV)
Our life was full of stress and worry. Winter weather caused endless problems and the winter blues were hitting me hard. The economy caused my husband’s job to grow ever more challenging, and our finances soon followed. I experienced a number of health issues that caused me stress.
I was pretty much hanging on by a thread. I was angry and uninterested in my life. My habit was to get home from work and just sit on my couch and wallow in a funk. I was not myself and there did not seem to be an end in sight.
So I cried as I read that trials develop endurance and thought, “I’ve had enough of endurance. Enough. I don’t know how much more I can take. Surely some day there will be a reprieve. Enough, God, enough!
In my wiser moments, I could acknowledge that God had brought me joy in spite of – and even because of – my trials. I needed only to remember the past to see how God had used each problem.
Even when I’m armed with that knowledge, it can still be difficult to see past the junk that clutters and distracts me from God’s peace and contentment. Suffering tries its best to be a contentment stealer and it will succeed if I am not careful. Contentment is not an easy thing to attain and hold on to. It’s difficult and challenging. And being content doesn’t mean that life is perfect and problem free. Remember Paul, he had contentment in every situation – good and bad.
I notice in this passage in Romans that confident hope comes after trials, endurance, and character. This isn’t my favorite journey to take and I have experienced plenty of sorrow and failure, but it does have a purpose. Suffering does not have to be empty. It does not have to be in vain. If I endure, if I keep my focus on God and what he has done for me, I will not be disappointed.
Salvation allows us to have hope. Confident hope. A hope that does not disappoint. I’m not talking about a fleeting hope that focuses on the temporary, but about a hope found solely in God. Hope based on God’s love and sacrifice for us.
There is no room for discontent in that kind of hope!
I have a measure of contentment now that I did not have two years ago. My circumstances haven’t changed much since then, so what is different? The answer is a hard-fought change in my attitude with much prayer and correction from God. My ability to endure has grown. My character has matured. And most importantly, my relationship with God has deepened.
I can have confident hope while my husband’s job continues to be unstable year after year, and while dealing with long term infertility and the likelihood of being childless forever. Yes, I can have the confident hope of salvation in spite of all this (and more) because of God’s love and mercy.

March 21, 2012

Myth: God cannot be loving if I cannot conceive

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Infertility is a part of our family. Our family of two. We talk about it like we talk about the weather. Sometimes so much that we are so sick of having to talk about it. It’s become our familiar friend. Month after month we’re reminded that something we long for just wasn’t meant to be. And we wait. We are getting good at waiting.

 It has always been a battle of the mind. Fighting against the thoughts that it creep in muddling our sanity. It must be our fault. I must have done something to be this way. Maybe if I do this, we’ll get pregnant and we won’t have to walk this road anymore. It has become a cyclical road: hope followed by the silent reminder that things are not as we hoped.

 Our journey has been recorded through words on the page. Emotional words, words filled with sadness, but mostly words filled with hope and faith. Because we’ve learned we are not that different from you. And we want you to know that you are not that different than we are, even if you have children…

…Infertility is a funny thing really. Women and men have battled infertility for centuries. The Bible tells us so. Ninety years of barrenness Sarah waited. I’ve waited 2. Seems silly really. But somehow that doesn’t always change the hurt inside. Did you know that 1 in 8 couples suffers from infertility? In our 2 years I’ve met 8 couples that are walking this road.

Do you know someone who’s battling infertility? If you do, they need you to remind them, God is good. So many think if we don’t get what we want when we want it then God must not be good. If I’ve learned anything through the waiting it’s that my God is INCREDIBLY good. God being good is not equated with getting what we want. Seeing infertility as good might sound a little sideways; you may want to stop reading. Please don’t. Infertility isn’t good in and of itself. It’s a product of the fall. But through this waiting I’m learning more about who He is. And for that, I’m grateful.

How we view adversity can affect our entire being. You may not believe in my God. You may not call Him by name. He may not be your best friend. But He’s mine. Creator of the Universe, Jehovah Jireh (Provider), all-powerful, all-sufficient, loving. He’s my God. And in this trial the words of the Book of Life have become my strength. In the tears, when no one can truly feel my emotions. He can. When I feel alone, my soul finds comfort. He’s always with me. If I ask why, he whispers in my ear. My ways are not your ways. When my heart cries, Are you there? He answers, Always. If I ask how long Lord? He gently answers, I’ll carry you.

I’m thankful He takes me in His arms. He wraps me in His love. He promises me that He will never leave me or forsake me. He bottles my tears in His book and gently wipes them away. He is familiar with my pain. He has waited. He has hurt. He has wanted. He has asked for the cup to be taken from Him. He’s good. All the time. And because of Him, I can walk through the fire and not be burned. I can hope that He will hear my cries and answer me. And I can be content because His best is better than anything I can imagine.

 It hurts. It is painful. It is a battle. There are days I have questioned His goodness. There have been plenty of times I’ve acted like a 2 year old, spitting angry, stomping my feet in imperfect selfishness. And I’ve felt empty every time. But I’m always brought back to the truth. He’s good. There is no evil in Him. I am not being punished and neither are you. We are being made holy by way of life’s trials. And He’s been there. And He’s with us. And by the road of infertility, or cancer, or MS, or by any adversity, we’ll be made to be women who Hope with great faith and are Content in Him. We’ll have great joy even in the midst. That’s a strong woman. I want to be a strong woman. Believe He’s good. It changes everything. I promise because He promised me.  ~Andrea

March 17, 2012

Psalm 33:16-22

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save. 
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, 
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield. 
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name. 
May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:16-22

February 28, 2012

Songs for the Journey- I Wait

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