Stephanie’s Testimony: When God Grows Your Family His Own Way

It had been two and half years of trying. Praying. Hoping. Testing. And nothing to show for it.

We made an appointment, and found ourselves in the fertility specialist’s office, eager for answers. It was there we learned of the obstacles standing in our way. Endometriosis, and multiple cysts in each ovary. I immediately began crying, upset at this first revelation that my body was not as healthy as I had always imagined it to be. The doctor kindly scolded me, telling me that our situation was completely workable.

A few months later, I left his office after our first IUI. I should’ve felt excited at the possibility that this might bring about our first child, but I didn’t. I knew it wouldn’t work. It wasn’t that I felt hopeless about the treatments. But, I felt peaceless. This wasn’t the route God was calling us to.  A few weeks later, the negative test confirmed it.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were supposed to build our family a different way. On a cold December night, my husband and I were on a date, and somewhere between the appetizer and main course I mustered up the courage to tell him what had been crowding my thoughts for the past three days.

“I know you wanna keep trying the treatments, but… I wanna adopt.”

I expected him to be my cheerleader, telling me that maybe one or two treatments would be all it would take. After all, I knew he wanted “one of our own,” as people like to say.

But he didn’t. He put down his fork, looked me in the eye, and said, “Let’s do it.”

***

A month later we were sitting in a foster care meeting, feeling led by the Lord to take that risky route (where adoptions are possible only 40% of the time) rather than go through an agency where we’d be guaranteed a newborn.

Four months, several home inspections, and multiple interviews later, we received news that we passed the review board, and we were approved foster parents. We also learned right then that there was a seven-week old girl that needed a new home by Friday.

Of course, we said yes.

We brought that 8-pound bundle home two days later, called her Sweet Pea, and immediately began to pray that she’d become our forever daughter. We asked our friends to pray the same.

Thirteen months later, she did.

***

A month after the adoption, I had an afternoon of excruciating pain.  An appointment with the fertility specialist was booked for the following week.

After his examination, he took off his gloves, defeated.

I hesitated to ask the question, but needed to hear the answer.

“Last time we were here, you seemed so hopeful, so positive that you could help us… now it seems like you can’t?”

He looked me in the eye. “Look, I believe in miracles, but… no. I don’t think you’ll be able to get pregnant. There is just too much scarring. I wouldn’t even recommend in vitro at this point. The odds are just not there… if I were you, I’d think about having your ovaries removed sooner rather than later.”

***

The rest of the year was a mess of emotions, both extreme bliss that we had reached forever with Sweet Pea, and yet also a deep sadness as I struggled to accept the doctor’s diagnosis. Even though I didn’t feel confident in the treatments before, it hurt my heart to think I’d never carry a child inside of me.

Six months later, I began feeling terrible. I scolded myself, wondering how on earth I could ignore his advice when it had gotten so much worse in just a year and a half. How could I not believe it would continue to get worse? Maybe I should’ve had the surgery.

Christmas was coming, and with it, a trip to my parents house in California, 700 miles away. I felt very off, and on the car ride out, I let my husband know how I’d been feeling. Weak, tired, losing weight unintentionally, yet somehow, more bloated than ever.

Christmas Eve, I was watching my mom play with Sweet Pea on the floor, and my husband announced he was going to the store. I motioned him close so no one else would hear, then whispered, “Get a pregnancy test. I know it will be a waste of money, but…”

He smiled sympathetically, and an hour later he handed me the box. I went into the bathroom with not even a hint of enthusiasm, knowing it’d say negative as had all the dozens that came before it.

After testing, I stuck the cap back on and walked to the sink to lay it on the counter where I planned to give it the recommended two minutes. Instead, as I watched the little line work its way across the screen to show that it was working, immediately there was the darkest, clearest, most non-vague plus sign staring me down.

Was this really happening??

It was.

What a Christmas gift.

Seven and a half months later, I delivered a miracle.

That miracle just turned two, and big sister is now four. They are my daily reminders of God’s faithfulness and that He does not work on our timetable. Had we gotten pregnant when we originally planned, we would have never gone the foster route and we wouldn’t have our Sweet Pea. God orchestrated our approval on the exact day she became available, not by chance, but by His divine plan. We were meant to be her parents.

Three weeks before our biological daughter was born, God allowed us to move back to California, something we’d be praying and hoping for years. We lived with my parents that summer, which ended up being the biggest blessing as I had an emergency c-section followed by a really rough recovery. My mom was newly retired and available to take care of Sweet Pea 24/7 so I could focus on healing and our newborn. Looking back, it’s so evident all the ways God took care of us.

His timing really is perfect.  


God is so mysterious sometimes, espcially when He doesn’t answer the way we want Him to. But so often, that “mystery” we felt at the beginning is later replaced by God’s deep wisdom, as He had a plan all along. God is not anxious, and He always knows exactly what He’s doing, and why. To read more about Stephanie’s story, you can check out her blog, Thank You Infertility.

If you would like to share your testimony of how God has healed your womb, or how He has healed, or is healing your soul (whether or not you have a baby) please email me at [email protected] and check out the writer’s guidelines at “Want To Share Your Testimony?” You can also subscribe with your email address, or follow along on my Facebook Page.

Don’t Forget To Add Love

I have a confession. My husband makes better chocolate chip cookies than I do. “It’s the dough,” he tells me. My cookie dough is always over worked, and my cookies are flat as pancakes. “You shouldn’t use that “thing,” he says. By that “thing,” he means my Kitchen Aid mixer. He calls it the “machine.” And gives me a look when I turn it on.

He turns it off.

“Cookies need love,” he tells me. “You need to get your hands in the dough.” He takes the metal bowl from the mixer, and takes an old-school wooden spoon and mixes the dough. “It’s too hard for me to mix that way,” I tell him. He looks up with his green eyes, sets the spoon down, puts his bare hands into the dough to make sure it’s mixed well. But not over worked.

He pops some into his mouth, “Perfect,” he says with a smile.

I sit at the counter and watch, like a student.

“See Bekah,” he says, “You need to add love,” he tells me. I push my Pampered Chef cookie dough scooper across the counter towards him. He purposefully ignores it. Instead, he takes two metal spoons from the drawer. “Why don’t you just use my scooper?” I ask. He gives me a look, shakes his head. Continues gently scooping with his two metal spoons. Until each one is carefully set on the tray.

And somehow, eight minutes later…his cookies turn out perfect. Every time.

“It’s because I add love,” he tells me. I can’t help but laugh. “Okay,” I say.

But I’ve been thinking about my husband’s cookies lately. I think about them when I’m making chili, adding in the spices, or cutting the tops off the strawberries. I think about them when I’m making the cookie dough. I hear his tender voice in my mind, “Don’t forget to add love.”

So, I do. I shut off the “machine” mode my mind automatically kicks into. And I add love. It’s those moments I stir just a little softer. I put my hands in the dough. I remember who I’m cutting the strawberries for. My daughter who squeals with delight like it’s Christmas morning when I hand her a bowl of them. My husband who will enjoy this dinner tonight, and needs a wife who will laugh across the table from him–and not frown, because she’s so busy doing all the “things.” And I think of my own mama body, that needs this food, these nutrients–to make milk for my baby boy, and energy, to care for this family, and myself–with joy.  And to do these things, finding pleasure in them. Because there is this secret, hidden pleasure you feel…when you add love.

And there’s a lump in my throat. Because I know he’s right.

You need to add love. It makes it taste better. 

It’s so easy to do it. To get caught in the routine, in the machine.

And sometimes you just get lost in it. The hustle. Like the dough whirling around in the Kitchen Aid mixer, beating hard against it’s metal sides. Because there’s always meals to plan, and food to buy, and cook, and clean off plates, and clothes, that need washed. Going round and round and round–in the machine. Like a carousel you can’t jump off of.

And sometimes you need a strong hand to reach over, and shut the machine off. And remind you to set all your gadgets down. And stick your bare hands in the dough. And…

Remember to add love. 

When you are cutting up the apples, and cheese, and turkey for lunch,

don’t forget to add love. 

When you are cooking dinner, and stirring the sauce, adding the spices,

don’t forget to add love. 

When you are filling the washer with dirty clothes, and pouring in the detergent and softener,

 don’t forget to add love. 

It’s the smallest thing, and yet the biggest thing. It is the most subtle and the most powerful thing you can do. And it somehow changes the world–their world, and yours.

And maybe that’s why God reminded us to “love” in 1 Corinthians 13…because He knew we’d forget. And He said…it’s not about how “spiritual” you are, it’s not about how much you can “accomplish,” or “do,” it’s not even about how much of your “self” you can give away–to your home, to your kids, or to other people. It’s about doing it with love.

“Love is patient and kind…it is not irritable or resentful…Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things…”

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

It’s a small thing. But it’s the biggest thing.

The smile, the gentle touch, the laugh at their joke.

The way you stroke their hair.

They won’t ask for it,

But they will taste it when it’s there.

And so will you.

So roll your sleeves up, mama. Stick your bare hands in the dough. Let the flour fly like confetti. Sweep it up with a smile. Because this is your life, and theirs.

And it all tastes so much better when you,

remember to add love.

When Did We Stop Taking Kissing Pictures?

when did we stop taking kissing pictures?I was walking on our treadmill last night, or rather waddling, at 20 weeks pregnant. And since I had no music or book to occupy me, as I usually do, I just stared at the wall.

And on that wall, was a shelf. And on that shelf, were three framed pictures. And one of them caught my eye, and I couldn’t help staring at it for those 20 minutes of cardio. It’s a picture of my husband and I…kissing.

I mean, really smooching.

He wasn’t my husband at the time the picture was taken, he was my boyfriend. And I remember when we took the picture, with my digital camera (yes, it was before cell phone selfies), that we were celebrating our one-year dating anniversary. (For us, it was a big deal.)

He had surprised me and took me on a private sail-boat ride on the lake. It was just the two of us, and a man who introduced himself as “Captain Dan,” who sailed us around for hours after he scarfed down a can of sun-dried tomato tuna and Snack Pack in front of us. He was nice enough to be our captain.

He sailed us around for hours, as we sat in the back of the boat,  so close, we looked like one person. The sky was orange and pink and the lake looked like glass.

And we kissed.

As I stared at the picture, above my treadmill, with no where else to look, I couldn’t help but wonder, “When did we stop taking kissing pictures?”

It must have been at least 7 years ago, when we got married. I think those were the last kissing pictures we have–on the beach, at our wedding ceremony. That our photographer took.

Hmm. I started to think. What made us stop?

Did we lose our wonder…of a simple kiss?

Now, he sleeps inches away from me. Every night. And sometimes I forget the wonder, that I once felt when he would brush against me. When he would lean in for a kiss. When his Jeep’s ignition would shut off, and we’d sit there in the dark.

And kiss.

We’ve been married seven years. And…

We still kiss. And he still tells me, with my pregnant body, and hormonal break-outs, that I’m beautiful–even though I don’t believe him. And I still think he’s so cute. Even though he just rolls his eyes when I tell him that.

I guess we both feel not-as-beautiful as we once did…

But I want to remember–what we felt then. I don’t want to let those two kids on the sail boat drift away as a memory. I would like to keep them right here, in front of me, kissing.

Kissing not just like he is leaving for work,

but kissing like he is leaving for war.

Because we’re not guaranteed one more day together. You know? And why do we treat each other like we are?

We don’t know when our last day together will be. We don’t.

And I don’t want to waste it, on stupid arguments that don’t matter. I don’t want to waste it rushing around, rushing past each other.

I want to remember the boy on the boat.

And not let him drift away. 

And kiss him again. Simply kiss him.

Like he’s just killed the ignition in his Jeep.

And we’re sitting in the dark.

Feeling our way through.

To each other.

4 Lies The Barren Woman Believes–Part 2

Lie 2 Not a woman

Today, I am sharing Lie#2 of the “4 Lies The Barren Woman Believes” mini-series. See my last post, for Lie #1 if you missed it. And may the Truth set you free!

Lie #2:  You are not a woman. You won’t know the fullness of “womanhood” until you birth a child. And your husband won’t see you as a woman until you bear his children.

Truth: This is a BIG UGLY lie. And yet it is pervasive. It’s quiet. It’s (hopefully) not something anyone has ever said out loud to you—but it’s something that’s felt in your heart of hearts. Maybe during those sappy Mother’s Day commercials, or Ads for diapers. But it’s false.

You are a woman. First of all, your womanhood was determined by God, before you were born. (I know this is something our culture is slowly losing touch with.) But our genders are chosen, and breathed out, and spoken by the Living God. The Living God who says, “When I act, who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13b NIV)

And God didn’t just speak “XX chromosome” over you.

He spoke your real name. And He spoke, “Daughter.”

He saw you as precious.

You are a Daughter. Maybe it’s been a long time since you have heard Him speak, “Daughter” over you, or felt His smile over you. But I pray, you hear it again, you feel it again, or for the very first time.

Daughter. Beloved of God. Beautiful one. Precious girl. In whom My soul delights.

You are “Daughter.” No matter what you do, or don’t “produce” in this life. Becoming a “Mom” is an incredible gift—but it doesn’t make you any more female. You are wholly a daughter before becoming a Mom, and wholly a daughter after.

Bearing Children Does Not Make You More Of A Woman. And p.s. (Spoiler Alert!) Having become a mother myself, I’m just going to say: going through childbirth doesn’t make you feel more “feminine.” As beautiful and miraculous as child-bearing is…it is a STRUGGLE to find your “womanhood” again after “motherhood.” Carrying a baby for 9 months, going through labor, and nursing a baby, and having to get stitched up “down there,” and wear big ugly nursing bras—don’t actually make you feel pretty, or feminine. And as for your dear husband—let him in enjoy your pre-baby body now. And post-baby body later, too. Remember, he married you for you, and he loves you for you.

Know that you don’t need to go through childbirth to be a “real woman.” Stretch marks on your body do not prove anything. It’s the stretch marks on your soul that matter. Those times in your life when you love so big, and so hard—your heart can’t go back to its original size. This, I believe is the essence of womanhood. These are the stretch marks that matter—the ones on your soul formed in those moments when heaven met earth.

You are a woman to the fullest extent. You are beautiful. You are daughter.

And you are so very loved.

Only God Can Give Children. As much as you want to “give” your husband the child you feel he deserves, the pressure is not on you sweet girl. It is not your burden to carry. Only God can “give” you children—and oh, I pray He does. In His time, and in His way. Remember He is the Giver, and He makes everything beautiful in His time.

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Lover

crowd

We were in New York City when I lost sight of him. My husband–the fast walker. The only one who knew the way through the crowded streets. The only who knew how to get where we were going. He was only my boyfriend at the time–and you’d think as in crazy love as I was–I would have kept an eye on him.

But I didn’t.

I looked around at all the glowing billboards, and stores, and people. I could see him ahead of me. I was keeping track of him from a distance. He was just a couple people ahead of me.
And then, he was gone.

I didn’t see him anywhere. His friends, who were also following him, caught up to me, and asked where he was. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t see him.”

This was before cell phones–and we searched for him. We moved awkwardly through the crowd, me and five others. Until we finally found him, waiting for us underground, in the subway. “Where did you go?” he asked, clearly waiting for us to come stumbling in.

And it’s like that with Jesus, too.

We think we can follow at a distance. We think if we keep an eye on Him–we can get to wherever it is we want to go.
But then we look up, and He’s gone.

And we have no idea where to go.

We get callous and and all we care about is the “plan.” When all along, it’s the relationship that mattered. It’s the relationship that would have kept us in the plan.

My friend Adam Frano says, “We have to come to a place where we trust God’s character, more than His plan.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of trying to follow Jesus at a distance. Because these streets are crowded. And loud.
And I’m lost. Without Him.

I want to follow Jesus so closely, I am walking right in His steps. I want to walk so close, that when the wind blows, the mantle of His robe gently hits me in the face. I want to be so close I feel His breath on my cheek. That I can hear His voice when He is softly speaking. And not only when He is shouting. Or rescueing me from peril.

Jesus wants to be my Lover, not my tour guide.

My heart is pierced today over this. Because I’ve tried to make Him a tour guide–and I’m lost.

If you too have lost sight of Him…

Maybe today He is waiting for you in the subway.

Maybe when you find Him, He will say, “Where did you go?”
But when you do find Him–slip your hand into His.

And do not let go.

Let your pulse beat with His. Let your feet move with His.
Jesus is on the move. Move with Him. He’s going somewhere today.

Go with Him.

It’s all I want. I pray, it’s all you want, too.
There is nothing better you could do today–then to lock hands with Jesus. To lock your eyes on Jesus. The Lover of your soul.

The streets are crowded today.

Stay with Him.