Tag Archives: family

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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Celebration on the Horizon

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Some folks turn forty without a second thought. My husband will likely try to get away with such craziness. Not one for public acknowledgement or parties in his honor, he’d rather allow his day to pass quietly, like any other day. I learned years ago that if I want my day celebrated, I need to “manage up” and give him ideas. Which begs the question… What DO I want for my fortieth birthday? How do I want this next year to go down in my personal history?

I’ve thought about the usual suspects: a weekend getaway with my mom and sisters, a cruise with my family, maybe even a return trip to Paris. I’ve explored options outside of my comfort zone like inviting my mom and sisters on a three-day walk for breast cancer. Noble, yes, but not quite “me.” In fact, for all the fun celebrations I dreamed up, none of the ideas felt inspired.

When my oldest sister first tipped “over the hill,” we girls celebrated together with a weekend of shopping, wine, and pampering at the Ritz. It was a time to honor the coming of age for all the women in our family: the birthday girl, our sister and myself, as well as our beloved mother who raised us so gracefully. We four take every opportunity to weave our bond as tightly as possible; being together for this milestone was no exception.

My middle sister marked the occasion more solemnly. She had recently faced a health scare and was as thrilled to celebrate life itself as the four decades behind her. The four of us gathered at a friend’s vacation home for time together, a few tears, and a lot of laughter. The birthday girl then returned home and hosted a joy-filled autumn harvest party with dozens of her family’s closest friends.

Just before my 39th birthday, my mind was preoccupied with what I would do during the coming year to make it special. Something to make me feel more mature, like I found my place in this world, like I was finally a grown-up. That’s when God spoke to me, directly to my heart.

Missions. Go.

At the age of 16, I heard God ask me to serve Him through missions. I felt a tug (pull, yank) on my heart and I answered Him. Yes, I’ll go. When the time is right. But first I needed to finish high school and start college. Then I didn’t want to miss a semester, so my commitment would have to wait. After I graduated from college, I was too busy proving myself to the world to bother with God, much less missionary work. When I finally settled down and found a church home with my new husband, the topic of international missions seemed as foreign to our relationship as the languages I had never learned.

For twenty years, I watched friends go on short- and long-term trips all over the world. Surely they were better prepared than me, holier and more righteous. And perhaps I was mistaken all along. Maybe I had been a sappy, heartsick teenager who just imagined the “still, small voice.”

This time there is no mistaking. Missions. Go.

For my fortieth birthday, I will ask my family to give me the gift of the opportunity, to care for my children, to support my husband as I go. I’ll ask my friends for the gift of prayer as I seek God’s direction for the place and time (please, Lord, not much longer than a week away from my daughters). I will finally fulfill the commitment I made decades ago and admit that forty-year-old me will never feel like a grown-up, I’ll never find my place in this world until I take that first step: Go.

Employment Changes

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I’m starting a new job this week!! It’s my dream job, the one I’ve been hoping to land for years. I already have butterflies in my tummy and need to pick out my first-day outfit! Should I bring a bag lunch or plan to go out with my new office mates? This is definitely a “reach” position, one for which I am qualified, but just beyond my current ability. My background and experience make me well-suited; my willingness to learn and grow will determine the success or failure of the organization. I must hit the ground running, manage the financials, and say goodbye to daytime Facebook and blogging. And I’m going to have to work my tail off!

Starting Thursday, I’ll no longer be on maternity leave, medical leave (knee surgery), or the other medical leave (shoulder surgery). My oldest will be out of school, Bible study nurseries are closed for the summer, and my babysitters will have moved on to other positions. I will officially be a full-time, unemployed Stay At Home Mom. I have looked forward to this for years, hoping and praying for the opportunity. But with the start just hours from now, I admit I. Am. Terrified. No camps or lessons for the older, no sitters for the younger, no vacations for the mom and dad. It’s all on me … a woman who worked for the better part of the past 20+ years, is passionate about her career path, and believes working mothers add grace and power to society. How can I fully devote myself to my family, feel fulfilled and empowered, and turn this new post into a second career I can be proud of? I’ve decided to tackle this the only way I know how … like a “real job.” Because, although there’s no paycheck at the end of the day, it is a job, for real!

The past few years have taught me a lot about my working self, what motivates me, helps me be more efficient, makes me want to do hard work and then do more. The very characteristics that define me as a great employee apply easily to life at home with my Littles:
– I am most successful when I have defined goals, personal responsibility, and clear direction. [My girls and I are making lists of our goals for the summer: fun activities, household responsibilities, and areas for personal growth.]
– I work very well with others, I thrive on collaboration, but I need quiet, focused time each day to regroup and recharge. [Long days with two very chatty girls have the potential to exhaust me quickly. Nap/quiet/reading/writing time is non-negotiable, for everyone.]
– I tend to procrastinate the tasks that feel repetitive [laundry, breakfast dishes, changing the toilet paper], but completing them gives me the push to accomplish more complex projects.
– I am motivated by positive feedback, as well as much-deserved personal time. [Scheduled date nights with my best guy and time with girlfriends are also non-negotiable.]
– Flexible work hours and a happy environment encourage me to work harder and longer. [Although we need schedules to give our days structure, we promise each other to remain flexible to the joy of spontaneity.]
– Business travel is one of the great perks of working. Time to see the world, spend time with colleagues, change the routine. [Beach, pool, friends in other cities, Mom, we’ll be there soon!]
– Any day spent laughing with coworkers and colleagues is a good day! [Laugh, laugh, laugh with my little girls. Make a memory, big or little, each day.]

For the foreseeable future, my business card will read Leslie Vorndran, SAHM and I could not be more excited. Wish me luck!!

Visiting My Sunroom

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I hate meeting new people. There, I said it. Meeting people terrifies me. Networking is my husband’s idea of a good time; the very mention of it gives me a headache! He actually signs up for this stuff, gets all giddy at the opportunity to meet-n-greet. (Shudder) Sometimes, he takes me along to meet his connections and friends. Just the idea of going is usually enough to start me whining, complaining (loudly), and bickering (louder). It’s rather embarrassing, really, the level of discord I create when my inner self is screaming “I don’t wanna go!” Grow up, Leslie.

Ironically, I actually love getting to know people. I thrive on finding connections and building relationships. It just takes me a while. But when I do, watch out! If I make a friend at any given event, I can chat with that one person – and not have to meet anyone else, hooray! – all evening. I’m looking for Real. Someone who is willing to set aside their plastic networking smile, squint their eyes just so, and crack the door to their soul, where Real lives.

One of my favorite rooms in a person’s Real self is the space they reserve for church. In most of us, church usually isn’t front and center. More like a sunroom, a pretty little room tucked in the back. Guests don’t get to see it upon arrival, but only after visiting other spaces: the family room, the homey kitchen, perhaps even the messy playroom. Then they see Church. What a delightful addition to an already beautiful space.

Where the fun lies isn’t just in discovering we both attend church, and where, and how long. Real gets real when we open the cabinet and display WHY we go to church. No, I don’t actually ask that of anyone. Honestly, I’ve not really asked it of myself much, until a recent hiatus from my own church left me feeling down, isolated, and without direction. Several weeks passed before I recognized my feelings and, subsequently, the source. To be honest, I rather enjoyed those first few weekends of productivity and long, luxurious mornings with my family. But as I began longing to return to our Sunday morning routine, I examined my motivation for attending church.

God: The most obvious. If I am going to follow His commands, I cannot pick and choose which I will follow. I will share His message of love, I will raise my children to know and respect Him, I will offer Him my gifts, I will keep His day holy by reserving time for worship.

Community: Christ said where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be present with us. He prayed for all future believers, that we would be unified in His name. In other words, God gave us to each other. Time and again, I am blessed and encouraged after spending time in fellowship with other believers.

Free childcare: Nursery, Sunday School, other adults guiding our children to think about others, to be quiet and respectful, to love one another. My oldest daughter cried when children’s choir ended for the year. “It’s my favorite activity all week,” she lamented. Not because she socializes and eats dinner with her friends, but because she loves singing about God. Her soul has found freedom and joy in learning words to praise her creator. I pray our children always have such a strong desire to be embraced by the church.

Quiet: If we allow it, a peaceful sanctuary can be just that to our bodies, our souls. Like Jesus calming the storm, His house can quiet the everpresent noises of our lives and calm even the busiest hamster-on-the-wheel. Sometimes, I sit in the pew, look at the pastel-colored windows, and simply breathe in His presence. It is in that space He restores my soul.

Family: For better or worse, we are assigned our biological families. We have a little more choice in our church family, but the members often serve similar roles, for better or worse. And, like with our relations, we can choose to grow in love despite our imperfections. We can also bless one another abundantly in that love. The ties that bind us together are strengthened when a fellow church member voluntarily steps into a supportive role typically reserved for related-family. A meal when we are ill, a ride when we cannot drive, a baby shower when no family lives close, a simple hug when our mother is not near. Family cannot be replaced, but the holes can be filled to overflowing by the love of a church family.

Service: I love to be needed; I need it. To that end, the world has needs! One of Christ’s last commands while He walked the earth was to go out into all the world, sharing His love. No simple task for an individual. But standing side by side with our church family, we are able to further His kingdom here on earth. Make meals for the homeless, teach the children, provide supplies for the needy, build homes for orphans. What blessing we receive when we give of ourselves to bless others!

So, why do I go to church? Sure, my husband gets to meet new people and I get to build relationships. But that isn’t what gets us out the door Sunday morning or to committee meetings and events throughout the week. Initially, my husband and I wanted to be with God, to walk with Him in our lives and our marriage. We sought a place of quiet refuge from our busy lives. We had children who we chose to raise in the Christian faith. We became part of a family who never lets us go. We started to serve and found joy came from the work of it. We discovered that the more we learned of God, the more real He became in our lives. The more we gave of ourselves, the more freedom we had to truly live. The more we spoke of His love, the more we loved all of those around us.

Church. That small room kept off to the side of our Real, visiting only on Sundays, at best. Perhaps it’s time to renovate, to rearrange it, or even move it to the front room of our Real selves.