Creation of our Family- May 24, 2014

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Our first set of twins would have been due on January 9. Last April, we believed that by Christmas our first children would have been born. Since Thanksgiving, I have faced a daily battle with sorrow as I think of those little babies we never got to snuggle or rock to sleep.

            We have been struggling to discern what is next. A number of people have asked for an update, and writing this blog post has been weighing on my heart. Friends, we still sit with many questions lingering. Are there steps we should take to grieve our losses? Should we plan for one last IVF attempt with the last two embryos? Or is the next step to pursue adoption locally? In the midst of pain, we have seen glimmers of hope and light moving us along. Adoption is such a beautiful possibility, one that has grabbed our hearts. I resonate so deeply with God's heart on adoption. He longs to "set the lonely in families." (Psalm 68:6) 

“It’s not over until God says so. So I count it all joy. You make all things new. It’s not over.” (It's not over, by Isreal and New Breed) Strength. Faith. Courage. As I remember God’s faithfulness to me through my life, I will find the strength to stand upon his promises. I will believe and hope for what I have not yet seen. I will face each moment with courage as we decide what is next.

In making these decisions, there is a constant sadness and a gnawing sense that we actually must continue to wait. We cannot move forward until we have sorted out some concrete things: income through fulfilling work, benefits to take care of ourselves and our future family, and housing big enough for a house study!

And so we wait. How fitting to be in a season of waiting during advent. Advent is the season in which we remember the long wait for the birth of the Savior so many years ago. We celebrate the peace, hope, joy, and love that Jesus’s birth brought into a very dark world. As I think back, I see that Jesus was born into messiness, waiting, and confusion. The parallels are striking: Joseph and Mary were waiting for their baby’s birth when they were homeless, away from family, and confused about what life would look like for them once they became parents. They, and a whole nation of people, waited for what was to come.    

O Come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

Back then, the times were dark as they waited. The times seem dark as we wait for God to move in our lives.

             “A change is coming for me, if I stay strong and believe.” (Israel and New Breed) Yes. I truly do believe that. Although I do not know what is next, and I have no idea when or how we will become parents, I choose to believe. Just as we wait during advent, we will choose to rest in this season of waiting for our children.

God's confirmation. Romans 12:12
Why do I keep on believing that we will be parents someday, when the diagnosis of infertility looms large? God has confirmed it so many times. Even a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a women’s Christmas dinner at Freedom in Christ Church, the message was about waiting and the speaker talked about adoption and orphans in Mozambique. I wept. And then I won a door prize: a Willowtree figurine of a mother holding a toddler-aged child in a loving embrace. My heart whispered, thank you, God, for that confirmation.

            In Romans 12:12, God says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” The other night, Josh and I had a time of devotions together and he brought this verse. In the midst of infertility these three commands have been hard to live out at times. But our strength is being renewed day by day, as we continue to trust in God and take him at his Word. I met with the speaker from that women’s event this week. God has woven into our hearts so many of the same passions and the sweet time of prayer lifted my eyes back to Jesus, reminding me that He is in control even now. She encouraged me to REMEMBER God’s faithfulness in the past.

Moments passed through my heart. God healing my concussion in Mexico in 1997. The Holy Spirit’s amazing gift of the ability to speak Portuguese upon my arrival in Sao Paulo in 2004. The calling to be a voice for voiceless human trafficking survivors back in Maputo in 2009. God’s provision for my every need while in the mission fields of Honduras, Trinidad, Brazil, Liberia, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, and Bolivia. The family that God has given me in every single place I have ever lived. Meeting and marrying my loving, supportive husband. And now, this time. The faithful, prayerful friends and family who have stuck with us during this season of working with human trafficking survivors, losing our babies, and transitioning to a new chapter. Praise God for all of them, and for all of you. 

My heart is full as I reflect on those times of God’s faithfulness, and so many more. God truly is good. We will right now choose to be JOYFUL in hope, knowing that what is not yet seen will one day come to pass. We will choose to be PATIENT in this present affliction, resting in God’s comfort and peace. And we will choose to be FAITHFUL in prayer, praying until something happens in one or more of our areas of need. I encourage you to do the same thing: REMEMBER God’s faithfulness to you. And then choose to live our Romans 12:12 where you are at right now. 

And so I will end where I started. We are grieving the loss of our babies, who would have been born now. We struggle. We weep. But we know that “it’s not over until God says so.” And so we rejoice in that hope. And we wait to see that hope fulfilled. 

O Come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

            God will come. He will act. We know that. May you consider the waiting and the darkness as you celebrate the joy of hopes fulfilled. Merry Christmas. Thank you, again, for all of the love, prayers, and support this year. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

No longer slaves to fear

            The next stage of our journey has begun, in more ways than one. This morning starts our first day in this next chapter. This chapter is one that, so far, is mostly characterized by trusting our Father and relying on the love of our family and friends. Our hearts are saddened when we think of all we left behind in Ohio, but quietly hopeful toward what lies ahead. Knowing that I am a child of God, I will not be afraid of walking into the unknown.

                                   I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.
       Prayer is a powerful weapon. Prayer is communication with our God, and resting in His presence. Prayer is what has held me up over the past nine months. Truly, prayer side by side with my sisters and brothers in Christ has been the anchor God blessed me with over the last couple of years of ups and downs.

            Last Friday was my last day working as a staff attorney and coordinator of the Legal Aid of Western Ohio Human Trafficking Protection Project. This morning, as I reflect through prayer, worship, and journaling, I am filled with gratitude. I think back to August 23, 2009. That was the day that the seeds of the Human Trafficking Protection Project were planted in my heart. That is the day that I learned that “Hope is to the heart what seeds are to the soil.” If my heart has a strong hope in it, my heart will endure the difficulties to realize that hope. Hope is the starting point. Hope is the anchor of the soul. (Hebrews 6:19).

            On August 23, 2009, I went out for lunch with some of the other missionaries working in Maputo, Mozambique. We were eating “lulas” on the patio of the Catembe Grand Hotel on Catembe Island, in Maputo Bay. At that time, I was in the process of healing and recovering from a very difficult season. Mozambique had become my Psalm 40 place, the high rock on which he set my feet when he heard my cry and rescued me from the mud and mire. (Psalm 40:1-2). On August 23, 2009, he “put a new song in my mouth.” (Psalm 40:3). This new song started with worship, prayer and two words: human trafficking. God spoke the words to my heart that day at the Catembe Grand Hotel, and confirmed many times over that he was calling me to “be a voice for voiceless” survivors of human trafficking in the coming years.

            I took the LSAT, applied for law school, was awarded a full tuition scholarship, and began studying at Michigan State University College of Law with a single goal: to protect and speak up for survivors of human trafficking. Times were sometimes difficult (as anyone who has attended law school and sat for the bar exam would agree!!). I immediately became active in the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and applied for a summer legal internship with International Justice Mission. Through being a member of the task force and working in Bolivia with IJM, the calling that God put in my heart in 2009 sprang to life. At the end of my first year of law school, I brought together a group my classmates and we laid the groundwork to found the Modern Abolitionist Legal Society, and my years of raising awareness about human trafficking among professionals began with a bang.

            In law school, there is a lot of uncertainty about what kinds of jobs will be available when you graduate and pass the bar. With my singular purpose, I decided there was only one option: apply for a Skadden Fellowship to start a project that would provide representation to human trafficking survivors. It was a long shot. No graduate of my law school had ever been awarded a fellowship, and, in fact, the majority of fellows proposed projects in big cities and with known public interest legal organizations as partners. I chose internships and clinics to grow in the areas of immigration law, representation of vulnerable individuals, and human trafficking laws and policies.

The Family Justice Center- Defiance, OH
In August 2012, I attended a single session at the American Bar Association conference in Chicago: Witness Intimidation. I saw that a number of victim advocates and victim attorneys would be presenting, so I felt compelled to go.  That day was pivotal because I learned about the Family Justice Center model. A couple of weeks later, I decided to research the closest Family Justice Center to MSU Law, so I could visit and, hopefully, discuss partnering with me to seek a Skadden Fellowship. On the website, I found that the Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio was the closest one, so I called the number listed. A week later, my new boyfriend (now my husband!) and I drove down to Defiance, Ohio, and I met Pam Hayman Weaner for the fist time. She convinced me that Defiance was the place to launch this project and put my vision into action. And so we did! Three years later, through the Skadden Fellowship and Legal Aid of Western Ohio, the project I started has trained over 3,700 professionals, responded to over 150 referrals of potential human trafficking, and represented more than 50 survivors. Not only that, but the Human Trafficking Protection Project is continuing at Legal Aid with new grant funding, very dedicated volunteers, an amazing supervisor, and a flourishing new chapter of a regional human trafficking coalition.  
You spread the sea so I could walk right through it.
My fears are drowned by perfect love.
          God was so incredibly faithful to the calling he put on my life. He fulfilled his promises to me and completed this chapter of the purpose for my life. There were some terrifying moments, and some moments of great uncertainty. But God came through every single time. Indeed, he parted the seas, moved the mountains, and drowned out my fears with his love. I am extremely grateful, not only to God but to each and every person who supported me and strengthened the project.
You might be reading this asking What does this all have to do with infertility, after all, this is a blog called Faith, Love, and Babies?  Good question, friends. At the risk of making this my longest blog post yet (I am already beginning page three on the word document I am typing in!), I will explain.

We went in for our follow up consultation with our fertility doctor in mid-September. It looks unlikely, friends. We were filled with sadness and fear that day, as the doctor said words like “genetic testing” and “surrogacy.” What?! He encouraged us to get genetic testing done on both of us, and to consider another full IVF cycle with genetic testing on each embryo before attempting to transfer them into me for implantation.

It was all too much. We felt no peace about moving forward. We did not do the genetic testing. We continue to pray for our two still-frozen embryos, and continue to wait for God to give us peace about the when to begin another frozen IVF cycle to give those two embryos a chance to grow and be born. But the chances don’t look very good. We will wait for God to lead us. 

A beautiful reminder (painted by Jane DeKorne)
Around that same time, we started to feel God moving us out of Ohio and to Minnesota. The week that I was sworn in as an attorney in Minnesota, Josh and I had some very positive meetings and interviews there. We felt God giving us the green and telling us “it’s time to move.” Neither of us had full time job offers. We had no place to live. But we began preparing to move, choosing to trust God. That is still basically where we are at today, as we sit in my parents’ basement in Luxemburg, Wisconsin.

And then a beautiful thing happened. We learned about the Waiting Kids list in Minnesota. God began to deeply stir our hearts and souls for children waiting for families in that state. We began to research, pray, and talk through the possibilities. We learned that, in Hennepin County alone (where Minneapolis is), there are 77 kids on the waiting list for families. We grow more and more certain each day that we are being called to create our family through adoption. God wants us to be parents to children who are alone and feeling unwanted. We desperately want to be their parents (no, not all 77!!). 
Godparents to our niece, Maya (10/18/15)
Even as I write this, my heart soars. I surrender to the beauty that God is making out of the ashes of loosing four babies this year. I surrender to the mystery of God’s plans for our lives. My heart still feel sadness for our children we never got to meet. I still may never fully understand. But I now feel excitement in this season of waiting, as the puzzle pieces begin to come together for us. God has brought us through another difficult season, and He has given me the firm anchor of hope to cling to as we peer into the unknown.

You rescued me so I could stand and sing: 
I am a child of God. 

            Friends, that is what I leave you with today. God has rescued me so I can stand and sing: “I am a child of God!” (Lyrics in italics throughout blog are from the song “No Longer Slaves.”) I see his fingerprints and his faithfulness so evidently. He has a plan for our lives, and he will fulfill those plans and purposes of us. Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as we continue on this journey and start a new chapter in so many areas of our lives. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and love. We appreciate you more than you know!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Unfailing love in the midst of sadness

On Monday at 3:15 my phone rang. The nurse from the Toledo Fertility Clinic used (eerily) the exact same words as last April: “Unfortunately, I am not calling with good news. The test was negative. Your HCG level was less than one. You are not pregnant. I am sorry.” Our worst fear was realized: again. With that phone call, the reality of the situation came rushing in. We had now lost four children. Four of our babies, conceived through our bodies, had been transferred into my body and died there. Out of the six babies conceived in April, now two remain.

Sadness. I need God’s word to center my heart and calm my spirit today. The weight of sadness is so heavy. I need these verses to reflect my heart, with God’s help.

Psalm 27:13-14- I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 33:4- For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Signs of God's goodness in desolate places
Psalm 33:20-22- 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 rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

            That is our prayer: “May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”

            Until tonight I really have not been strong enough to write this blog post. I praise God and am so grateful for the outpouring of love, support, hugs, and even laughter from friends and family since Monday afternoon. You kindness has helped us start the journey of healing from this sad loss. I sigh as I think about this season of waiting we are in. It feels desolate. So far, our season of waiting has really been a season of heartache and closed doors. Closed doors to starting a family. Closed doors to all of the jobs we have applied for. This is where I come back to the verses about the goodness and love of the LORD. Hard to understand right now, but so very true, even now as we feel his love surround us.

            Yesterday, right before the phone call, I had been reading Psalm 138:8- The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands. I read that as a promise- the LORD WILL. I believe that he has a purpose for me, even though I do not know the details of what that purpose is. I believe that he will fulfill it, even though I don’t know how. And so I echo the words of the psalmist: “your love endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.” 

            And so, here we are, friends. We wait on the purposes of the Lord to be fulfilled in the life of our family. We trust that God will not abandon us. And we look forward with both tears and joy to the day when we will become parents to our children. Thanks for your love and support as we anticipate that great day. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Season of waiting

It has been a long season of waiting. And now the waiting is the most acute: waiting for the babies to implant; waiting for the pregnancy test; waiting for God to open the doors to the right job opportunities; waiting to know where we will move next. Waiting is a lot like winter. There is very little movement. No signs of life.

I am thinking about new life today. Yesterday at 12:45, our two little tiny embryos were transferred into my body. Seeing the little picture of them, already visibly three distinct types of cells (which would soon form into placenta, amniotic fluid, and baby), was such an amazing experience. Even better, these little creatures (which my friend Kara suggested are roughly the size of chia seeds, and rapidly expanding!) already were both “hatching” out of their outer membranes as they grow. Within 24-48 of yesterday at 12:45, the doctor told us they would hatch and implant into my uterine lining. As the doctor left the room, he said, “keep praying. These lives are in God’s hands. There is nothing more we can do.”  

Relaxing after the day after the transfer, hoping and praying

            We learned this truth the hard way in the past few months. We had a 77% chance of having a baby the last time around. Yet, four months later, instead of being 18 weeks pregnant and finding out the gender of our babies, we have just begun again. I now have two 7-day-old embryos in my tummy.

            This week God brought me to an amazing verse that I believe is a promise for us. I don’t know how or when it will come to pass. But I have this sense that it is a promise for us.

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” – Song of Songs 2:11-13.

            I don’t know if I have already mentioned this story in here, but this is what I think of when new life from dead ground comes to mind. Last Valentine’s Day (the first one of our marriage) Josh gave me a beautiful white and fuchsia Phaleanopsis Orchid. Valentine’s Day there was a blizzard in Michigan, where we were for my 10-year Calvin College reunion. This kind of plant cannot ever be in temperatures below 60 degrees. So, needless to say, it was looking very droopy by the end of the day. We had to transport it back to Ohio, too. Within a few weeks, all of the flowers had fallen off and the branches were barren. There were no signs of life at all through the long, cold, dark days of winter. Months went by. I read a little, watched some YouTube videos from Brad’s Greenhouse, and decided to clean it up a bit. In early May, after we lost the babies, I decided to give some TLC to that little dead-looking plant. I rimmed off dead roots, sprayed down the leaves with a special cleaning solution, and polished all of the branches. I consistently stuck with the meticulous placement of three ice cubes on the moss each weekend.

The Hope Orchid
            And then it happened. Buds started to appear. As the days grew longer and the sun streamed in, the first flower opened. Within two weeks, we had 14 brand new orchid blossoms! New life from dead branches.
My back patio- early June... 

            I have been thinking the same thing lately as I watch my garden grow. The morning glories especially have me marveling… from such little tiny seeds, such a prolific mass of leaves, vines, and a glorious burst of pinks, purples, lilacs and blues every single morning. And not just where I planted, but trailing and climbing all over the rest of the patio garden bed, chairs, siding, grass, pots, and everything else they can get to. These beautiful morning flowers represent life coming from latent ground that had not been sown in quite a long time.
My back patio- last week

                I guess I am somewhat philosophical now as we abide in our waiting period. My greatest comforts are in knowing the Presence of my God with me, and the constant love of my husband. In the love of my husband I can sense the love of my God. What a beautiful place to be. Even in the waiting, I am content. We wait and we hope. In fact, we join the sentiment of Abraham from the Bible: “In hope against hope, he believed.” (Romans 4:18) The book The Power of Hope explains what he was expressing, “when there was absolutely no hope, he hoped anyway.”

            That is where I am today. Whether or not we become pregnant, whether a child (or twin children!) is born to us come next May, is only in our Father’s hands. What I mean is that, at this point, our only role is to pray and to hope against hope, waiting on our God. We know we can trust our God, no matter what happens. 

As always, thank you for keeping us in your prayers, and for joining us on our journey of faith toward becoming parents.