Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part Two
Our pile of ashes nearly smothered us in the months after losing our four month old adopted daughter, Quinn. The month of July seems like a hazy memory as we muddled through our new normal. In early August, we were presented with another adoption opportunity that met all of our criteria so we walked through the open door still bruised. Unbelievably, this door, like so many others, slammed shut. We are so accustomed to loss and pain, that our reaction was one of acute numbness. After dinner that night, I told my husband, Josiah, “I quit. I do not want to continue this journey. It’s over for us so please can we just stop this madness.” Josiah, though with sympathy, lovingly said, “No.”
Frustrated with his answer, I pressed him and told him that I was fresh out of perseverance. He then reminded me of how far, and how invested we’ve become. He challenged me to think about what quitting would look like and feel like. I knew he was right despite my weariness. I didn’t love the idea of pressing on, and all of the scriptures instructing me to press on with joy, seemed unattainable. In early August, we pursued another adoption with an older child and thought we had finally arrived. We heard from God so clearly, and again, everything aligned with what we were praying in light of scripture. Again, God closed the door through an unexpected series of events. We were left wondering, “God, where in the world are you?” We had just chosen to press on in faith; yet, you allowed more difficulty. We were left puzzled, but burdened to keep going despite all human logic.
As my birthday approached in mid-August, we decided to go to the mountains for a long weekend. While we went to celebrate and take time for ourselves, we also went to specifically pray Psalm 4:1, which says, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” As we prayed and focused on having fun and relaxing, I kept repeating this verse over and over in my mind. In the mountains, I told God how weak, how tired and how desperate I felt. I remember having an odd peace while we were there. It was as if my mind, body and heart took a big breath of fresh air. I felt light and easy. Just 24 hours into our adoption reprieve, my sister-in-law called with a different sound in her voice. Then, we heard an unbelievable story that involved many people being in the right place at the right time.
Let me preface the story by saying that when you’ve endured the amount of trauma we’ve endured, you’re skeptical about everything. In this case, however, when Josiah and I hung up the phone while sitting in a parking lot, we said, “Well, this is random, and I wonder what God is telling us.” In true Josiah form, he went over the pros and cons, while I marveled at how God had seemingly responded to our mountain prayers. We tried to discern the Holy Spirit, and we were both concerned that our bleeding hearts couldn’t endure another path of brokenness. Time was not on our side, and decisions had to be made quickly.
Unbeknownst to us, God had been working behind the scenes as we cried out to Him in the mountains. God used several people to weave a story so completely from His hand that we’re all left saying, “Surely this is our God Isaiah 25:9.” In this story, there are hospital workers, an artist, unknowingly mutual friends, an attorney, and the Holy Spirit who wove Himself into the fabric of all of these lives on our behalf and in response to our cries. For us to reach our son, countless things had to fall perfectly into place. Only God could orchestrate and align events and people in such a way to bring beauty from ashes and joy from mourning. The Church, as you will later read, have navigated our sails in recent days. If I told you every single detail, every twist and turn of this story, you would get lost in its coincidental complexity, but ultimately, it comes down to this: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above James 1:17.” As a proud West Tennessean who has traveled across the county countless times pursuing adoption, God floored me when a healthy baby boy was born on August 23 in West Tennessee. I remember walking in the parking lot of this West Tennessee hospital laughing to myself at the sheer irony of being home in West Tennessee instead of far away. God was present in the details.
God had us right where He wanted us. He wanted us broken, bleeding, weak, and depleted. We began our journey on September 15, 2015, and have since endured six failed adoptions, including the devastating and legally unprecedented loss of Quinn, countless times of being not chosen, enormous adoption financial losses, emotional distress, physical exhaustion, and spiritual warfare. We had a choice to make. We had to decide whether to walk through this door that had opened so randomly or to let fear and the pain of the past dictate our future. Needless to say, we walked through the open door wondering what in world God was doing.
At first, it was easy to bask in the mindset of, “Wow, God answered our prayer!” But, as our entire journey has shown, God wanted more from us. How could God possibly want more from us? We had nothing left. Had we not endured enough? Why couldn’t He just allow us to enjoy the answered prayer with finality? Due to circumstances beyond our control, this placement involved multiple delays so we had to agree to take home our potential son in the interim. The thought of this made us both uneasy. While we had so much love and attention to give, we were nervous about letting him into our heart without having security. We lived this for over two months when Quinn’s uncertainty began so a few days didn’t seem too much to ask. But, it was too much to ask. We very quickly realized that within our own strength, we couldn’t travel this familiar road again. Luckily, when we are weak, His strength is made perfect 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we came home, it became clear just how raw we still were from Quinn’s loss because we had such little time to grieve. Attachment began quickly with our son, so with each delay, Satan had his way with fear. We learned that just because Satan had a doorway to our vulnerability, didn’t mean God’s people couldn’t push their fellow brother and sister in Christ through the fearful fight.
Josiah and I have been surrounded by about fifteen Kingdom Warriors, both friends and family alike, who have pushed us through the days of doubt. Only these faithful few knew about our son because we were trying to maintain privacy to ensure we would have a successful placement. We have been covered in prayer since August 23 when our son was played in our arms the morning he was born. There have been Kingdom Warriors who have prayed and fasted faithfully on our behalf. We have literally seen the Church function as a moving Body. We made it to this point because these Warriors prayed us through it, loved us through it, and encouraged us that victory was near. When our prayers were but a whisper, theirs were shouts.
Though it has been a whirlwind since August 23, I am so glad God wanted more from us even when we didn’t think we had more to give. We questioned why He wasn’t allowing it to be easy after having endured so much, but we can both say we’re thankful that God wanted more. I was reminded of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom I have in one of my journals that says, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Though we’ve spent two years in a pit, His love has been deeper still. We’re grateful that God is a jealous God that wants no one and nothing, including a tumultuous journey, to pull us away from His arms. He loves us just that much. He wants all of you. He wants all of me. He doesn’t want one inch of us to not be wholly His. When you allow yourself to be wholly His, He will transform your life allowing you to have joy unspeakable in the midst of inevitable suffering. When you are wholly His, you realize that He wants to be wholly yours.
At this point, we feel like the survivors from the front line of war duty. We have opened wounds, bandages, scars, holes and bruises. This journey has been frustrating, maddening, ridiculous, unfair, grief-filled, devastating, and emotional…but God. But God promises to restore us. He promises to bring beauty from our ashes. His Word says that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning Psalms 30:5.” Our weeping has lasted two long years, and I am sure there will be more weeping ahead since all Christ followers will walk through suffering, but we’re glad that we are made like Him in our suffering. Though weeping lies ahead, we need not be afraid. He’s already there. I remember thinking awhile back that if this road ever ended that there would be no way I could still love and trust God like I have tried to in the past. I felt that there had been too much hurt for me to still have Him as the love of my life. I had seen so many unanswered prayers and moments when His protection seemed nonexistent that loving Him like I always had seemed unlikely. I proved to be right, but not in the way I expected. I love Him more now than I ever have. He has broken my heart, but His heart has broken too as He has watched our suffering. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him Job 13:15.”
We would like to introduce you to our forever son, Paladin Shepherd Britton. Paladin is a name from the fifteenth century meaning, “someone who fights for a cause.” We feel like our journey to Paladin has been nothing but a fight. As his parents, we vow to turn that fight into a fight of ensuring He knows and understands the transformative power of the Gospel. The kind of Gospel that brought us hope and healing when all seemed lost. We have committed ourselves to being Godly parents to Paladin, while still believing that God will use Quinn’s life for His glory and His good. We believe that Paladin will learn a lot about prayer through learning to pray for his heart sister. We look forward to what God will do by joining our family to Paladin’s birth family. Praying with his birth family at the hospital will forever be one of my most cherished moments in this life. You can never convince me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell among us. He not only dwells, He engulfs and consumes. When that hospital prayer was uttered, every bone in my body felt His presence. We know that God never breaks our heart to bring us back the same.
Part 1 - "A Broken Hallelujah"
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part One
If you aren’t prepared for a raw and vulnerable look at brokenness, do not proceed. If you aren’t ready to navigate your faith within the mess of life, do not proceed. Leaving church on a warm September Sunday morning in 2015, my husband, Josiah, and I knew the message of having radical faith was just for us. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. As many of you know, from 2015 to 2017, brought immense difficulty. During those years, we experienced three failed adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after time was spent in the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Then, in February of 2017, on one last leap of faith, we flew across the country to get our fourth miracle. Surely, this one would be forever. Now, four months later, our arms are empty, our hearts are bleeding, and our home is stricken with the pain of silence.
Here is where you need to stop reading if you cannot refrain from shaking your fist at God. I already know what you are thinking. Stop, take a moment, and choose to find Him in this story. We met our beloved Quinn in the wee morning hours of February 18, 2017 when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have.
Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that would persist. When fears arose, Josiah and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Even to the unbeliever, Quinn’s story seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that Quinn’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. Our agency and the agency’s attorney had proof that her birth father knew of Quinn’s birth and chose to do nothing.
For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent Quinn with a heavy cloud looming above. When we think of those months of parenting with the looming cloud overhead, we can take no credit. We’d always known that God gives grace, but only until recently have we really understood just how extensive His grace is. By His grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we never thought she’d be taken so we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. After all, she was God’s fulfilled promise to us. We felt confident so we only shared the legal battle with my brother and sister-in-law who have always been mentors to Josiah and I.
When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country for the fifth time, which includes previous adoptions, to stand before a judge and plead our case. On June 20, we walked into a crowded waiting room at a courthouse far from home. In a last attempt to reach an agreement before standing in front of a judge, we sat down and talked with the birth father and his family along with our attorney and agency. Pleasantries were exchanged, and then the tough talk began. We saw a young man with three of his relatives, including his own mother. As much as we communicated, shared, poured our hearts out, the birth father wanted more. As I looked up and saw Quinn’s birth grandmother cry into tissues, I knew this was something bigger than Josiah and I. When it became clear the birth family was firm, the court session began.
As we waited in a small, stuffy room for what seemed like eternity, Josiah and I said nothing to each other. I closed my eyes and prayed claiming every promise in God’s Word that was applicable to the situation we were in. Later, our agency worker and attorney returned to the room looking ashen pale. The judge had ruled that Quinn be returned to her birth family immediately. It seemed like you could knock our attorney over with a feather. In his twenty-some years of practice, he had never witnessed a judge make such a hasty decision especially given all the evidence that was reviewed. Through tears, our agency worker, whom we’ve grown to love, explained to us again what this verdict meant. In denial, I asked, “Ok, so how long will Quinn be gone?” Both she and the attorney replied, “indefinitely.” At this moment, I was confident that death would surely be soon for me. It was too much to endure.
As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly Quinn back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to Nashville to pick up Quinn the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. Josiah and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. Josiah, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “Sarah Beth, at least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Calling my brother and sister-in-law who had been keeping Quinn during our trip was nearly impossible. They were given the impossible task of explaining to their own two children that Quinn would be going away. They were also given the impossible task of bringing Quinn to the airport. My brother, mustering all the strength he had, told his two children, who adored Quinn, and prepared for the airport the next day. After that phone call, Josiah and I met Quinn’s birth mother for the first time and met her birth grandmother for the second time. Upon seeing Quinn’s birth mom, I opened my arms and we embraced. I saw a confused and torn young person. This meeting included the agency workers and the attorney. Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic of the birth father.
The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With Josiah beside me, I explained the prayers Josiah and I had prayed all these months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. After some silence, the meeting essentially ended with our attorney speaking to us privately about the little chance of fighting this successfully we had. This was especially true after hearing both sides of the birth family.
Little sleep came to Josiah and I that night as we prepared to say goodbye to Quinn the next day at the Nashville airport. What are you supposed to say to each other on a long flight home knowing your life is about to be turned upside down…again. We really said nothing other than an occasional, “Are you ok?” With the answer already known, we just stared straight ahead preparing to say goodbye to that sweet face we’d loved from the day she was born. Upon landing, we notified the agency worker where to meet us at the airport for the hand-off. When we approached my brother and sister-in-law sitting with Quinn in the waiting area, we could barely breathe. As tears hit like bullets, Josiah took Quinn from my sister-in-law’s arms and we took her into a private family bathroom and locked the door. We kissed Quinn, told her how much we loved her, and how much we would pray for her. Josiah lifted her up to play “airplane” one more time. Laughing and grinning, Quinn looked at us both. In that bathroom, agony, grief and pain were palpable. Josiah handed her to me, and I embraced her and placed her close to my chest where she laid for so many months. I wanted her to feel my heartbeat one more time.
Walking back to where we would hand her off to the agency worker was torture. I was unable to speak so my sister-in-law explained Quinn’s schedule to her, gave her enough supplies to make the trip, and packed her up. After one last kiss, we walked away. As my sister-in-law pushed an empty stroller beside me, we walked away in silence in the midst of sickening grief.
What now? Yes, we can fight this legal issue. However, we are not fighting it for two primary reasons. First, the judge reviewed most of our evidence in court on June 20. The judge was certainly unmoved by any of it. Secondly and most importantly, when Quinn grew older and began asking questions like any healthy adopted child would, we would have to explain to her that her birth father wanted her and came for her, but we wanted her too so we fought and took her away from him. As parents, Josiah and I could not do that and did not think it would be healthy for Quinn. This reason is similar to the story of King Solomon in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3 where he threatens to cut the baby in half to settle a dispute between two women arguing who the real mother was. The real mother wanted no harm to the baby. We want Quinn’s best interest to prevail.
At this point, you may have burning questions as to why the legal system did this or that, or why we did not do this or that, or why the agency did or did not do something. But, the more important burning questions to ask are those of what God is doing. All of us will experience suffering in our life. For us, it feels like suffering is unbalanced. We see others become parents so easily. We see adoptions unfold perfectly. We see others advance, gain, or receive, while we’re left picking up our shattered pieces. It is so easy to want to look up, shake your fist at heaven and question the goodness of God. We must guard our grief. We’re able to guard our grief when we remember that we have a High Priest who makes intercession for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been through more than we’ve been through, and who can format mercy to fit our needs. Hebrews 4: 14-16 The day after losing Quinn my devotional said, “It is impossible to thank Him and curse Him at the same time.” Although difficult, we choose to thank Him.
Why this? Every night before putting Quinn to sleep, Josiah and I would lay her down on our bed as we kneeled with our hands on her and asked God to intervene on our behalf. We claimed His promises, we quoted scripture, and we refused to doubt or to fear. In fact, before walking into court on June 20, Josiah and I prayed asking the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and to intervene. Each time I kissed Quinn goodnight in her sweet slumber and uttered, “In Jesus name, allow us to parent this child,” God heard me. But, he didn’t allow us to parent her forever. We prayed all things in Jesus’ name knowing His Word tells us that if we do so, He’ll grant our request. But, He didn’t grant our request. He didn’t give us the outcome we wanted. The notebook of scriptures I read that morning out loud to the both of us in the hotel room didn’t work the way we thought they would or should. Why? Why has God removed Quinn from a home whose primary goal was to raise her to know the transformative power of the Gospel? She will have her needs met in her new home, and she will be loved. However, we don’t know if she will be exposed to the Gospel. Why has God allowed us to go through the absolutely painful period of suffering that we’ve endured since 2015 on our journey to adopt? Why did he allow years of infertility prior to 2015? Why has He allowed our financial resources for adoption to be totally depleted?
Where from? All believers know their help comes from the Lord. It is basic doctrinal knowledge. Until you are in the midst of pain and suffering, it doesn’t register completely. There is absolutely no way we could have journeyed this far without a supernatural strength from above. Although we do have a High Priest who knows our plight, we are still faced with the task to endure. All believers know God gives grace. Again, it is basic doctrinal knowledge. It is only by God’s magnificent grace that we were able to parent in such uncertainty. It was grace that allowed us to handle a courtroom. It was grace that allowed us to scoop up our child and tell her goodbye in a bathroom just to walk away and see strangers scolding or carrying a child they have no idea how fortunate they are to have. We loved Quinn with all we had. She was the joy, light and love of our lives. Walking that airport hallway to give her away was just an ounce of the pain that God experienced when His son, innocent and holy, walked up the hill of Golgotha to be crucified for you and me. Jesus lived 33 years, and Quinn lived with us for exactly four months.
Though my pain is incredibly incomparable to His, we have a new appreciation of what God did for us by giving us His son. When we arrived home, we felt a pain that I wish on no one. I went straight to her nursery and grabbed her favorite pacifier. Then, I grabbed the pajamas she had just been wearing and inhaled her sweet smell. She is gone. We are broken and shattered, but not without hope and grace. It’s grace that helped us walk into our home full of Quinn’s things. Her nursery, her clothes in the laundry room, her pictures on the wall. Though our home is empty, our hearts are not.
I know you’re thinking why would a good, loving God do this to people? God didn’t want this to happen, but we live in a fallen, broken world. He didn’t take joy in watching us walk away from our baby in an airport. He doesn’t take joy in the tears flowing as I type this. He did allow it, but we can rest assured that what He does is always for our good and for His glory. Quinn’s story is horribly painful, but her story will reach many lives. As my brother told me, “Quinn’s story will point others to the Gospel.” My human side is tired of losing so others can learn. However, it is not my place to know why or to understand. It’s just our job to trust. God doesn’t break our hearts to bring them back the same. Josiah and I are far from perfect. We’re a mess each day, but I can tell you this experience has changed our hearts, and we hope our hearts look more like His.
What we need?
First, use our story to evaluate your own life. Do you have enough grasp on God and His Word to weather the storm you will inevitably face? Let our story motivate you to be ever ready to praise Him, thank Him, and worship Him when you really want to shake your fist at heaven.
Secondly, don’t interact with us as if Quinn never existed. She isn’t a taboo topic. She has part of our heart forever and ever.
Third, share our story to whomever, whenever, or however. This is your permission to do so. We’ve vowed to speak out on all God has and will continue to do through this journey.
Fourth, please filter your questions and assumptions. Please try not to assume that a person or an agency dropped the ball. Though we’ll always speak of Quinn with love and fondness, please don’t ask questions that you really do not have to know the answer to. Some of you might think that this is the exact reason we shouldn’t have posted pictures of Quinn on social media. We disagree. We felt that by not doing so we were limiting God. We embraced her as ours for forever from moment one. We trusted Him to bring her to us, and we trusted Him to keep her with us.
Fifth, use our story to encourage you to take risks. Be willing to take risks and to be hurt. If you want great things in your life, you have to be willing to get hurt.
Lastly, pray for us as we try to determine what is next for us. We know that God has called us to be parents, but at this point, we are depleted of all resources to make adoption possible. It is uncomfortable to discuss how much we’ve lost since 2015, but just know it is enormous. Pray that God will make a way. He is good and faithful.
Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and prayers. The prayers of those who have known this story before now have given us so much strength. God’s presence has been so evident and the prayers of His people have been so palpable in our lives. They have carried us, and will continue to carry us. Though Quinn isn’t near, she is part of us. Because we are children of the most high King, He is near to us in this hour of darkness and for all eternity.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Part 2 - Beauty From Ashes
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
This is the song I had been singing as a lullaby to my 18 month old for weeks. The Lord was preparing my heart and I didn’t even know he was doing it.
On January 12, 2015, only a few weeks after finding out I was pregnant with Baby #2, I had a miscarriage. My husband and I had been so excited. And even though he was too young to understand, we told Carter he was going to be a big brother. I wondered why God would let this happen, and yet at the same time, in my desperation, I asked God to help me not grow bitter towards Him. I remember singing to Carter Great is Thy Faithfulness that night through tears. I knew His word said He was faithful, but I was so hurt. And I didn’t know how I could rest in His faithfulness when I felt so hopeless.
I have not been a consistent journaler throughout my life, but I have had seasons of habitual journaling. This happened to be a time in my life where I was journaling every day. I am so glad that I have that to look back on. I can see my struggles and I can see where God rescued me from my sorrow. This is my journal entry 6 days after we lost our baby:
"I am so happy we went to church this morning. I was reminded of something very true: God is worthy to be praised no matter my situation. I will praise His name when he has delivered me from despair, but also when I am in the midst of it. I went into church expecting something to be said or sung to help me in the midst of my sadness. But, I learned to praise God for being God. And, in return, that paradigm shift helped to start heal my broken heart. I think God and I will go to deeper places together this year."
And we did. On April 12, exactly 3-months after my miscarriage, we surprisingly found out that I was pregnant again! Fear came in like a rushing wave, but God was steady. I was so afraid that I would lose that baby too, but I constantly heard the gentle whisper of the Lord…”Peace, be still.”
We had a baby boy due on December 20. But in the Lord’s perfect timing, Mason David Smith was born 8 days early, on December 12. I had my miscarriage on January 12, I found out I was pregnant again on April 12, and I delivered a healthy baby boy on December 12. I love symbolism and the meaning behind numbers. When I looked up the Hebrew meaning behind the number 12, I learned that it meant “completion.” Sometimes we joke and say that must mean we are not supposed to have any more children…but I think the Lord was teaching me something else.
The Lord always redeems and restores His people. He gave me the number 12 to show me that He brought “completion” or “restoration” into my life and He did it through a new life. He ultimately restores all of us through new life...the new life that is found in His Son. That is the greatest redemption story of all time. When it comes to our personal situations, restoration may come in different ways. But, He does restore, because that is WHO HE IS. In the Old Testament we read about the Temple being destroyed and the Israelites going into captivity. It was 70 years before they were released and able to build the temple once again. There were probably few left who even remembered the destruction. God brought restoration and he did it on His perfect timeline. When the Fall came in the Garden of Eden, it was centuries before the Messiah came to redeem not only his people, the Israelites, but the whole world.
God sees the bigger picture of our lives. We can’t see past our present circumstance. God showed me that He is a God who restores. He brings fulfillment. He brings completion. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. If you are a daughter of God, then you HAVE been called according to His purpose, and He WILL RESTORE whatever hard circumstance you are in.
I felt the Lord give me the name “Selah” for the baby we lost. Selah means to “stop and reflect.” There are days that I still cry over the pain caused by losing a baby. If you have had a miscarriage, you know the pain. But, when my heart and mind are thinking about the baby, I always feel the Lord, every steady, ever sure. And I stop and reflect on the beauty of His restoration.
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
2 Corinthians 13:9
Molly Smith is the Worship Arts Academy Director at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson, TN. She has two fun-loving and active boys ages 2 (Mason) and 4 (Carter). She and her husband Chance, the master coder, will be married for 7 years this May. She is passionate about teaching kids about the Lord through music and developing in them a heart of worship.
My friend Cheryl is my "Friend Friday" today on the blog. I have known Cheryl for a long time…from back in our high school days, so I won't say how long that is! Cheryl and I also went to church together when we were in Kentucky. I have watched her walk through a very long, tough, hard valley with such beauty and grace. Her redemption story will bless you so much today!
Every little girl dreams. Most of the time these dreams are pretty similar. Being a princess or perhaps a ballerina. What our wedding will be like. Our knight in shining armor that will become our husband, whisking us away to live by the sea. What we will name our 2.5 children. I think we have all had those dreams as children. It doesn’t take very many years of adulthood to realize those fantasies are not quite reality. Our careers are not full of tinkerbells and seashells. Our husbands did not come and pick us up on a white horse. Life is just....hard.
A very wise friend once told me that sometimes God has to let our dreams die, so His dream for us can come alive. Those are not easy words to live by in the face of disappointment or adversity. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. During a season in my life, I sure didn’t feel like God had my best interests at heart.
After being married for a couple years, we found out that we had some reproductive issues. Several rounds of fertility drugs, three IUIs, and four IVFs left me with empty arms, a broken heart, and some pretty intense anger at God. It was after our third IVF that I really hit my low point.
It was toward the end of my two-week waiting period that follows an in vitro fertilization. It was the dreaded wait to find out whether or not the embryos actually attached. It’s horrible. Any little twinge makes you nervous. I remember this like it was yesterday. We were having a family meal after my husband’s grandmother passed away, and I got really sick. I thought it was my nerves until it dawned on me that nausea is totally a sign of pregnancy.
I rushed home and took a pregnancy test. For the first time EVER, I saw two pink lines!! They were very faint but definitely there. I was ecstatic! It worked! It finally worked! My husband, Kevin, was already talking about starting a college fund, because well...he’s just dorky like that. It was the most amazing feeling ever. God had finally heard my pleas. Fast forward to the next morning. I took another pregnancy test, knowing those pink lines should be getting darker. Well, that wasn’t the case. If anything, the lines were fainter. The following day the lines were not even visible. I called the clinic and the nurse told me that I had experienced what’s called a chemical pregnancy.
When we are in the midst of the storm, sometimes it’s so hard to see God, to hear His voice. Satan fills our minds with lies. I went into a dark place for a very long time and my heart was full of anger. How could He do this to me? How could He be so cruel to give me all that joy just to turn around and take it all away? During this time of darkness, we went on to transfer our final two embryos. In the words of Anne Frank…”I [was] ready for the end to come, whatever that may be.” It was yet another failure. I really hit rock bottom after that. I was angry. Bitter. It was hard to celebrate when friends found out they were expecting. I couldn’t bring myself to go to baby showers. I wasn’t angry at my friends for being pregnant - I was angry at God.
I cried out to Him many times to take away my desire to be a mother if He had no intention of granting it. I was miserable. Several of my friends and family begged me to consider adoption. I didn’t want to do it. I knew that I could never truly love a child that wasn’t my own. Over the period of a few months, God nudged me ever so gently that direction. Sometimes God has put us on our back, so we have a better vantage point of Him.
We completed the training to become foster parents. I had that anxious excitement again. I remember getting our first call for a placement. When the voice on the other end told me it was for a teenage girl, I was very disappointed. I explained how this wasn’t what we were looking for. The next call was for a sibling set ages three to seven, then a call for another teenager. I specifically wrote on all the papers that we wanted a baby. This went on for months. We never got a call for a newborn. It was frustrating to say the least, so frustrating that we decided to close our home. It was obvious that children were just not part of God’s plan for our life. That bitterness started to set in again. On our tenth wedding anniversary, I bought my husband a new ring with the words “Just Us Two” engraved inside. I was done...so done that I engraved it in metal. I had to move on. As much as I tried, I couldn’t, because HE wasn’t done.
After about a year, those feelings came back again. That intense desire to be a mother resurfaced. I tried so hard to ignore it, to just push it out of my mind. I tried to busy myself with this and that, but God kept telling me that this wasn’t the end. He would wake me up at night. I would have such vivid dreams of holding a baby. He put so many signs in front of me that I couldn’t ignore Him anymore. I told Kevin that we had to reopen our home.
A week before Thanksgiving, we got a call for a seven-week-old baby boy. The social worker said this was the baby I had been waiting for. They were unable to find any suitable relatives. The poor thing had a broken rib and a suspected broken clavicle. Kevin and I talked it over for a few minutes on the phone and decided to do it. We raced to Walmart and filled our cart to overflowing with everything a baby would need.
A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. Two social workers came in with the baby sleeping in the carrier and set him on my kitchen table. It was a chilly evening, so there was a blanket over a carrier. I walked over to the table and with trembling hands, I pulled back the blanket and saw Eli for the first time. He looked like an angel sleeping there. I felt the presence of the Lord so strongly in that room. The bond was instant. I leaned over and kissed his little bruised face as tears streamed down mine. This was my baby.
The rollercoaster ride of IVF was nothing compared to the following months. We survived from one court hearing to the next, never knowing what the following week would hold. It was agony. Would they find a relative? Would we be losing him soon? As the weeks passed, Kevin and I fell more in love with Eli. The social workers all told us not to get too attached. How is that possible? My cold, bitter heart was finally starting to beat again, and I need to tell it not to love this baby? I knew in the deepest part of my soul that God sent this angel into my life for a reason. I needed him just as much as he needed me. He was broken and hurt - but so was I.
When I look back on that time in my life, it was so evident that Jesus was carrying me. I could not have made it. Jesus never promised that we would be spared from storms. He promised that He would carry us through them. One sunny afternoon in May, we stood in front of the judge, and Eli became our son.
There are so many truths I have learned during this journey:
God is so good.
I mentioned in the About Me section, I had a lot of anxiety and fear as a young mom. I think it all started the first time I became pregnant. I surprised Jordan with the news when he came home from work one day. We could not have been happier! And for a couple of weeks we got to live in the joy that we would soon become parents. But at the end of a long week as a school teacher, I ended up in the ER. That night after many uncomfortable tests and exams, all they could tell me was that they were sorry, but I was no longer pregnant.
On the way home from the hospital I was devastated. How could this have happened to me? Wasn’t God watching? Didn’t He have control of the situation? I had been praying since it all started that God would save my baby, and here I was going home without. Although I didn’t get my wish that night, what I do remember and hope I never forget, is the unexplainable peace that flooded me. I had never experienced any trauma or loss like this before. I had heard of God’s peace that surpasses all understanding. Now in my own life, it was true, a reality. I was so sad and in pain from the process. But through it all was a crazy, unexplainable peace. I didn’t know it at the time but God was taking me on a journey to know Him better and to learn to trust Him.
Although I was unaware of it, at the same time, Satan was stepping up to the plate as well. He was ready to up his game. And that night, a seed of fear was planted in me. One that would take root and be a booger to try to dig up in the future…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
In time the Lord did answer my plea for children. A beautiful, girly little girl and a handsome little guy who is still 100% boy! We are truly so very blessed to be their parents.
When my babies were little, most days were good days. It was a marvel for me to watch them grow, watch them learn, and watch them change. On any normal weekday you would find the three of us playing at home. They loved racing down the little hill in our side yard and throwing the ball against the garage door to see who would get it first. Our favorite activity came only in the summer. We would spend entire afternoons at the neighborhood pool. Our waking hours were filled with happiness and adventure!
But, I was so tired. Our daughter was only 5 months old when I found out I was pregnant with our son. So with only 13 months between the two of them, they kept me on my toes! And our son was one active little man. In order to keep up with his big sister he was on the move at a very early age. You might say that being tired would be normal, it would even be expected. But there was more… the brain fog that I had started to experience in pregnancy, what many people called baby brain, still hadn’t gone away. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse. And now it was accompanied by dizziness and very bad depth perception.
On many occasions when my kids were doing normal kid stuff I would become overwhelmed with anxiety for their well-being. Anxiety so strong it was a physical pain I could feel throughout my body. Sometimes my heart would skip beats and I would become out of breath just laying in bed or sitting in a chair. I had major stomach pain that almost sent me to the ER the first couple of times I experienced it. And some days if I did anything out of the ordinary, anything that took more energy than normal I would soon begin experiencing flu like symptoms that cleared up only after I slept. Although I was sure I was very sick, every doctor told me that what I was experiencing was pretty normal. “Of course you’re tired,” they would say. “You have two babies!” Or, “It takes your body a while to get back to normal. Give it some time.” They ran tests. They did X-Rays of my stomach. They even prescribed medicines including anti-depressants, which I gladly took hoping to fix the problem. None of the tests found anything wrong and none of the medicines cleared up any symptoms.
The overwhelming responsibility of not only keeping my children alive, but teaching them everything they needed to know, paired with these physical disabling symptoms quickly drove me to prayer. Many days the prayers would be as simple as “God, please let them sleep so I can, too,” as I was falling into bed for a nap. As I continued to understand my desperate need for the Lord, I began to search the Bible. I had been in church forever and heard what the preacher had to say about God. I had given my life to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me for all of my sins. I had even read my Bible often. Every decision I made was made with prayer and much consideration of doing things the way the Bible directed. But this was different. I needed answers. I needed help!
In my next post I will share with you how this time of struggle led me to a strengthened faith in the God I had decided to follow many years before but had never known in such a real and intimate way.
If your searching for answers in your own life today, I recommend starting at the beginning just like I did! This is the Chronological Bible with commentary that I like to use. It will help walk you through the entire Bible in one year. Or, if you don't have a very strong understanding of the Bible and would like something more simple, Angie Smith's six week overview of the Bible is a great way to get started. It's called Seamless. Either way, I encourage you to find some time each day for just you and Jesus. Dig in to His Word. Pray your heart out! And let Him take you on the journey of your life.
Audra and her husband Jordan are called to ministry and he is the senior pastor at their church. They have two beautiful children who bring them tons of joy, lots of laughs, and on occasion new grey hair. She is a former teacher who still loves to teach, enjoys gluten free cooking and baking, and has a passion to lead other women to know Jesus and live out their faith in Him.