Category Archives: Family

That Time I Said No to God

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My heart resides in an orphanage in Honduras. Lush green forests, smooth rich coffee, insufferable poverty, broken homes, happy children. I went, I fell in love, I returned to my family, forever changed. And now everyday, I seek ways to better the lives of the children in Honduras or others like them.

The opportunity was handed to me like a jewel on a silver platter. A team was ready to go to Honduras this summer, but they needed a leader. The church offered to pay all my costs. Will you go, they asked? Would I ever! It’s perfect. God must want me to go, I believed.

Everything called me to the trip. Everything, except my extended family. The trip was scheduled in the middle of our family vacation, a trip to celebrate my father’s pending retirement. If I missed half of the family time for a mission trip back to Honduras, surely my dad would understand. He knows my heart. My husband and I prayed, believing it was obvious God wanted me there. We worked the schedule this way and that, juggled flight times and childcare, and finally came up with an agenda that made sense. Only, to my parents, it didn’t.

Every so respectfully, they tried to explain why No, they didn’t think I should go. This was a time for our family to be together at the beach. Oh how I argued, in my mind, if not directly to them. How would I be able to sit in the sand, play in the ocean, and relax while my heart and soul were with a hundred rescued orphans? And so I prayed some more. My heart was screaming “Say yes to the trip!” but my family was quietly asking me to stay home.

Eventually, probably out of exhaustion, I relented and listened to that still small voice. Instead of insisting on “Missions or Bust!”, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the other calling to “Respect thy father and mother.” In my selfishness to fill my own heart at the orphanage, I was neglecting the love that raised me, taught me about Jesus, and fostered my heart for others. In my bitterness at their disapproval, I had lost sight of the incredible gift my parents are to me. My supportive, adoring, wise parents.

And so I said No to God. No to the call and opportunity to return to Honduras (this time, at least). My heartache was replaced with an abundance of gratitude, healing, and forgiveness as God responded to my faithfulness.

Three months later, I sit on the porch overlooking the beautiful Carolina beaches. My children laugh with their pack of cousins. My sister sits, quietly reading the Bible in the warmth of the sun. My mother takes a few of her beloved grandchildren for a sparkling sunrise walk along the coast. My family and I sang and danced the night away to the music of our childhood. And my dad? I steal glances at him, soaking it all in. Three grown daughters, three sons who treasure his girls, and nine grandchildren to fill every corner of his bottomless heart. Yes, God, this place of unstoppable love is exactly where You wanted me to be. Thank You for waiting for me to say No.

To the team who traveled to Honduras without me, I am praying for you, for your precious hearts of love, and for your safety. Come home and tell me all about the children who changed your life! 

To learn more about the Worldwide Heart 2 Heart ministry, please reach out to me or visit http://www.h2hcv.org. The children’s village is an unforgettable slice of heaven!

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That’s Not Fair

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“That’s not fair!”

“Well, life isn’t fair.”

As a child, how I hated this conversation between my parents and me. Probably as much as my daughter hates the exchange these days. I usually respond with “Life isn’t fair, but things work out in the end.”

I don’t think she believes me. Who am I to blame her? Life isn’t fair.

Our days are full of unfairness. Sometimes slight – like when a colleague takes another’s lunch from the office refrigerator. Sometimes heart wrenching – like when a leg is broken, a tumor is discovered, and a wedding is postponed.

Life. Isn’t. Fair.

My mom and I were at the church, meeting with the wedding coordinator one last time before the big day, when my cell phone rang. It was his best friend calling, the one who took him skiing for the weekend. The last thing I had said as they piled into the car was “Whatever you do, don’t let Frank break a leg!”

“Hey Brian,” I answered. “Having fun?”

The hesitation on the line spoke before he did. “Frank broke his leg.”

In the quiet sanctuary where a bell choir was soon to perform our processional, my disbelief rang out loud and sharp. My fiancé was broken, in pain, and separated from me by 300 miles of mountain road and a winter snow storm. Life isn’t fair.

Back at home, my father put on his fighter pilot bravado and confidently announced the wedding would go on as planned. Still reeling from a death-defying fall my sister had taken on her own honeymoon three months earlier, my parents were too shaken to face another wedding tragedy. My brave dad opened the box of wedding invitations and carefully began adding the stamps. He prayed for Frank and laid his trust before God. All would work out, this we knew.

A week later, Frank and I sat in his hospital room as the orthopedic oncologist explained the details of a “giant cell tumor.” It had been sending warning signals for several weeks. In fact, Frank had planned to see a doctor after the ski trip to complain of pain in his right knee. But the fall made that appointment unnecessary. The tumor had grown outward from inside his femur, reducing the bone strength to that of an eggshell. It didn’t take much to crack, so the speed and force of his fall on the ski slope crushed that section of his leg bone. It would have to be rebuilt. And it would take months.

With the doctor’s news pounding in our heads, we talked over our options. February 28, the wedding date we had so carefully chosen, was only weeks away. Frank was still in the hospital, awaiting his first of several surgeries. To secure the leg bones from moving while the femur began to heal, an “external fixator” would be installed. You’ve seen the barbaric contraptions; sometimes called “rods and pins,” this would jut out of his leg, extend from upper thigh to lower calf, and keep his leg perfectly straight. For six weeks. Pants wouldn’t be able to cover it. Walking with crutches would prove too painful to cross the room, let alone walk down the aisle. There was no question. Our wedding would be postponed. We held hands and cried for all that was broken, all that was unfair.

On the weekend of our intended ceremony, Frank went under anesthesia again, this time to remove that wretched contraption and all traces of the tumor that caused so much damage. For twelve hours, I paced the halls, kept our families informed on the phone, and prayed for the man I had already committed to love through sickness and health.  Finally, the OR nurse said he was ready for a visitor in the recovery room. But, we weren’t yet married; I wasn’t his wife. And so his mother went to see him.

Life isn’t fair.

Over the next several months, Frank fought his way through more surgeries, pain killers, and physical therapy to strengthen his leg and give his knee range of motion. We rescheduled our wedding date to late summer and looked forward to celebrating under the bright August sun. One sunny summer afternoon, he asked me to join him at PT. He went about his usual exercises for a bit, then asked me to wait just across the room. Ever so carefully, he took a step, then another, and another, each with a perfect gait. Since the early spring my fiancé had kept a secret from me. His goal through all of the painful physical therapy was to walk, unassisted and without a limp, down the aisle with his bride.

Life isn’t fair, that much we know. But when you try to make the most of it, it really does work out in the end.

Husband and Wife

A memory that will be with me always. Frank took my hand, escorted me from the church, and exclaimed, “We did it!” August 2004

 

 

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More than a Number

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I wanted it to be more than a statistic. More than the ugly number that states 1 out of every 3 ends this way. The odds surrounding the survival of my baby were dizzying. Every third known pregnancy ends in miscarriage. Half of all pregnancies don’t survive, even though most women never even know they are expecting. At age 40, my chances for a live birth are even lower. We knew the odds going in, yet we tried anyway. We prayed, talked, and sought answers for months before even attempting.

Four years ago, my husband and I walked out of the silence and shame of infertility into the hope-filled world of reproductive therapy. Our first child had come to us so easily, we never expected to face several years of “trying,” only to have the doctors confirm the heartbreak: we were unable to conceive again naturally. In fact, the doctors aren’t sure how I was ever able to conceive our first child. Together with this husband of mine, whom God gave to me in perfect union, this man who in every way completes my heart, we were unable of creating life in my womb. Medically flawed. The knowledge that our union could not produce that which it was designed to created compatibility insecurities and stress. Yet, no amount of “you just need to relax” suggestions were going to fix this problem. Weekend get-aways weren’t quite the same for us. Sex is a wonderful thing in a marriage, a really wonderful gift. But prescripted sex every other day for months on end – even with a spouse who keeps you coming back for more – can begin to lose its luster.

With the new truth facing us, we could have counted our daughter as our miracle and moved on to raising an only child. But we felt pulled to try anyway. We prayed over the controversies surrounding In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the process of introducing a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm in a dish, waiting for it to develop into a live embryo, then transferring it into her womb. As Christians, this science-driven method of creating life can raise questions. Yet we believe that God’s desire for us is life and relationships. If our family was to be blessed with another child, God would still be in control of the conception, no matter what method we used. And so we pursued. To be honest, I was terrified and ready to quit before we began. If it weren’t for my husband’s bravery, my first visit to the reproductive endocrinologist would have been my last.

In the months that followed, I obeyed the doctor’s instructions perfectly, injecting myself daily on schedule, sitting for repeated blood tests and sonograms, and generally feeling like a science experiment. My body helpfully produced a large number of high quality eggs which resulted in a fair number of living embryos. Babies. After our process was complete, and several weeks later we learned I was indeed pregnant, we were able to cryopreserve just two remaining embryos. Two future babies. Frozen in time.

Fast forward a few years to our now family of four. Two beautiful daughters fill our lives and hearts with joy. Is it selfish to desire another child? With two healthy children, each a miracle in her own right, how much more can we ask of God and science to produce for us? Yet we do so greatly desire a larger family. We spent months debating the pros and cons of “trying again,” something that can provide fun recreational intimacy for most couples. For us, we knew it meant it different level of intimacy – weeks of intramuscular shots, more tests, and this time, the anxiety of thawing our embryo with hopes it would survive long enough to be implanted in my womb. After many conversations and tears, we embraced the idea together and set out for a new round of IVF, completely committed to the life we were going to bring into the world.

And yet we didn’t. My pregnancy, the embryo we fell in love with, the idea of another child in our family, failed. Only a couple weeks into it, I suppose I could count myself among the millions of women who never realize a life is growing within and just move on. Except with me, with anyone facing infertility, it’s different. If I was going to subject myself to the pain and raw exposure of the process, I had needed to fully wrap my mind and heart around this child, to be prepared long before it could grow in my womb. As much as I loved my first two babies in utero, this child was mine. Then it was gone. My pregnancy and I are nothing more than a statistic, 1 in 3 women who suffer miscarriage.

I have joined a sisterhood, a sad sorority no woman wants to pledge. Our song is hope.


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The Grandparent Legacy

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My husband’s grandmother passed away recently. Our last grandparent. My husband and I have been together for many years, yet we never knew any of one another’s grandfathers. Who we did know quite well, were each other’s grandmothers, the matriarchs of our families. During our engagement, we lost both of my grandmothers and one of Frank’s. The absence of these women we loved and looked to for comfort was sudden, empty, and painful. His maternal grandmother, Babcia, a stout Polish woman whose eyes were bright like the light of heaven, remained our only grandparent for a decade. Oh, how we loved her.

Each of these four women (Nana, Babcia, Gamu, and Gramma) were so different from one another, but brought to us the same unconditional love. Without them, we now look to the new family matriarchs … our own mothers, the grandmothers to our children. In them, MomMom and Grammy, and in our fathers, Boppa and Grampy, we see that same love, acceptance, adoration.

What a joy to observe our parents pouring over our children with endless, boundless, unassuming love! We can glean so much from the relationships they maintain with our kids. They teach us how to be better parents, how to let go of the little things and just enjoy the sweet laughter of our children, how to think about the bigger picture and forget daily “mom-petition” even exists.

Going forward without any grandparents of my own makes me feel a little lost. But I look forward to absorbing all the grandparent love through the eyes, arms, and hearts of our parents.

With love, we will always remember you, Babcia.
Halina Krauze-Jaworska (1920 – 2014)

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New Years Day found our little family hiking along the Potomac River. Just a few miles from our home, dozens of trails offer us opportunities to escape the urban and suburban life we lead and witness nature up close and personal.

As we four trekked through the hills and our cheeks reddened with exertion, our little family worked so well together. Meredith, age 6, climbed the rocks and fallen leaves with ease. She scurried up the hillsides and zipped around corners like she was born into this. At not quite 2, Audrey ambled along – sometimes walking, other times riding in the jogging stroller, and often taking the best route – on her daddy’s shoulders.

After a great climb, picnic lunch, and decent down a slippery path, we paused for breath and a family photo. In the woods alone, we settled for a group selfie. I stretched my arm to its length, but Frank’s is longer. So we squeezed tighter as I handed him my phone. Huddled tight, we smiled for the shot. We fit, just barely.

Back at home, I posted the family profile photo on Facebook, tagged Frank, and smiled at our little family of four. Sitting on the couch together, with his arm around me, we couldn’t help but swallow back something bittersweet in that shot. We still fit. Our hearts cry out to outgrow that profile picture frame, but right now we still fit.

When, Lord? And how?