Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Adoption is Love

In March 2005 Andy and I began attending a church called Eternal. The name of the church itself forces you to think about things that have eternal value. The church literature and messages stress the importance of the three things that are eternal: God, people, and scripture ( Since attending Eternal, it seemed like everywhere we turned the message was clear: it’s time that you start helping those in need around you. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love people (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28). I began feeling a deep need to branch out of my comfort zone and care for those in need in my own community.

This desire was reinforced in the summer of 2005 when the faculty at my school was asked to read a book by Ruby Payne called A Framework for Understanding Poverty. As a teacher in a school with approximately 65% of the students on free and reduced lunch, my heart was broken. You hear about kids in third world countries all the time that need food and clothing, but I knew of many within a five-mile radius of my own home that needed the same care. What was I doing to help?

I began talking to Andy about finding ways to work some charity into our budget and we began sponsoring a child through World Vision ( But I still felt that wasn’t all God meant when he told me to serve others. What about the kids right here around me?

I searched for organizations where I could volunteer and directly impact the lives of my students outside the classroom, but it seemed like everywhere I turned I ran into red tape. Many of the organizations that helped my kids wanted administrative help or physical labor, but not many of them would actually let me interact with them unless I was trained or on staff with them. I wanted to serve them food, to clothe them, to directly impact the quality of their lives. I wasn’t successful in finding opportunities to do that.

Meanwhile, once school began, it seemed that God had given me a unique kind of love and compassion for my students that I hadn’t known before. It didn’t matter the race, gender or social class, they were all becoming precious to me. Minorities in particular found a tender place in my heart. I didn’t know that I could love kids that weren’t my own like I loved these kids. I wanted nothing but the best for them and had a desire to teach them not just dance, but to love and care for each other. But I still felt a need to help outside of the classroom.

When we first contacted World Vision about sponsoring a child they sent a video about all the ways one could help through their organization. The video stated World Vision’s beliefs about the most effective ways to help. From that I learned that taking someone one meal might satisfy my need to help and their hunger for that day, but without sustained help they will still die of starvation. World Vision’s idea of helping is to train a whole village of people to be self-sustaining and provide them with the supplies to do so. I immediately identified with this truth.

While driving one day I passed a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Adoption is Love.” Could this be the way our family should answer the call of the second greatest commandment, to show love to those around us? I began to get excited as I realized that we could rescue someone in need from a desperate situation and feed him/her not just one meal, but three meals a day for at least eighteen years! Just the thought of it ended what seemed like months of searching to find the outlet God wanted for us to serve others. I smiled all the way home and couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with Andy.

Next Post: 6/7/2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


If you didn’t grow up around people who have adopted or people who were adopted, it’s not something you really think about. I didn’t know one person from my elementary, middle or high school that was adopted. To my knowledge, none of my parents’ friends or family had adopted. Until my senior year of college, I had only known of one adoption.

After two years of trying to have a baby with no results, we were faced with the question, what if we never get pregnant? We felt strongly that God wanted us to be parents. So, we began discussing adoption. It was a foreign concept to my family and me, so when I mentioned it to them their response was usually something like, “Oh, you won’t have to do that.” Nobody else we knew had problems getting pregnant. Shouldn’t everybody be able to have a biological child? It’s just natural, right?

As we began to mention adoption to others, they would say things like, “Do you plan to adopt an infant or an older child?” At that point we hadn’t thought or prayed a lot about it, so typically I’d say we were hoping to adopt an infant. The most common response was, “well, you know there’s a lot of older kids out there that need a home.” While this was a legitimate point, admittedly it annoyed me. I wanted to ask, “Do you plan to adopt one of them?” I’m not saying that was a good attitude to have, I’m just being honest.

If we had learned anything from being infertile, we learned that we’re not in control and that God already has a plan. We wanted to know what our next step should be. We had a lot of praying to do.

Next Post: 5/31/2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Day by Day

In case you were thinking that I’ve got it all figured out and don’t deal with sadness anymore, I thought I’d let you know that it’s not true. While I have an understanding that gives me peace in the midst of all this, I can’t say there aren’t hard days. This month, for example, my period came between two significant weekends, mother’s day and my birthday, a time when both our families will be together to celebrate. It’s always been my dream to reveal pregnancy to our families on one of the rare occasions when they’re together. But, there is one verse that encompasses my feelings and hope. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Despite the brief moments over the past two weeks where I let my mind wander down that pregnancy road, at the same time I have experienced what feels like the beginning of a new chapter of my life. Last Thursday morning after posting “The Gospel Revealed through Suffering,” I felt a very unique lightness, an excitement. It was as if the infertility season of my life is over, not because I’m pregnant, but because we’re looking ahead to the second part of the title of this blog, adoption.

Because you’ve nearly been caught up to what is currently happening in our lives and because my summer is beginning after this week, posts will be on Thursdays only beginning next week. I hope you will keep reading because I feel God has shown us some pretty special things regarding adoption and I’m excited to share that with you as well. We thank you for your encouragement during our struggles through infertility and look forward to experiencing the adoption process with you too.

Next Post: 5/24/2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Gospel Revealed Through Suffering

A couple of months ago I read an article that confirmed my decision not to pursue fertility treatment. The authors, a couple who had struggled through infertility themselves, spoke about infertility as a mystery. Just as when disease strikes a child, we can’t understand why some people can’t conceive. The article describes the human fear of mystery and pain. It goes on to say that we have come to fear pain so much that we attempt to master it at all costs. “We have little patience for the process, even less tolerance for the unknown, and certainly no love for mystery, particularly the dark mysteries of suffering.” *

Modern medicine is a good example of our quest to master our pain. Fertility treatment falls into that category as well. “Infertility is a stark, monthly reminder of mortality and weakness. Infertile couples come to live with an issue that is beyond their control, and their situation is a vivid reminder to us all of the stubborn truth our culture would rather conveniently forget: that we do not control our lives or the world.” I wasn’t really sure why I felt so strongly that I didn’t want to have treatment at the time, but when I read this my feelings all made sense. “When we do this we live out a theology of suffering which does not deny the pain, but puts it in the broader story of redemption.”

We’ve got to change our attitude towards pain and suffering. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go to the doctor or take Advil for a headache. But, in general, pain is not something to be afraid of. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)

Over the last twenty posts, we’ve attempted to share with you the pain of infertility. If we stopped there though, you wouldn’t get to see the beauty in the pain that we’ve experienced. The gospel has been revealed through our suffering. We were broken humans, separated from God, thinking selfishly about what we wanted. Jesus has redeemed us and given us peace and joy at a time when there would otherwise be despair.

When we have children, I’m sure I’ll want to protect them from pain in any way possible. But, I pray that I won’t get in the way of God trying to grow them in Him. People who experience pain know God in a way that others don’t. Through our suffering, He reveals His character. He uses every ounce of our pain to grow and mature us. Then, we can go out and comfort others who are struggling in the same way that He comforted us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

If I had a quote that represented my life it would be, “pain only lasts a little while and it is never in vain.” Every ounce of pain I have experienced in my life has been used to grow and bless me. The blessings that have come out of my pain exceed anything I could have dreamed up for myself. God is sovereign! When I experience pain I can rest assured that he has my best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11).

* “Infertility: Mastery or Mystery” by Michael and Shareen Kelly
December 2006 issue of By Faith Magazine

Next Post: 5/22/2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Wasteland and Children of Men

By Andy.

In my last post I discussed how easy it was for me to be emotionally disengaged from the process of trying to conceive. For a good while, I was simply cruising along with life while Michelle was, largely unbeknownst to me, experiencing some pretty intense pain. To some degree, this has been an ongoing issue for me. Even after my initial realization that I had been living with my head in the sand for quite some time, it was still a challenge to identify with the pain my wife was feeling on a daily basis. As Michelle has already pointed out, it wasn’t my body telling me each month that I wasn’t pregnant, and for that reason (at least in part) it was nearly impossible for me to feel—I mean really feel—sadness on the scale that my wife did.

For some reason, things began to change for me when I started to view the problem of infertility on a universal scale. It started when I was reading T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, The Wasteland. Any English major who’s completed at least a few semesters can tell you that this poem is one of the most important pieces of American literature. What they could also tell you (could, but probably wouldn’t, since it would betray some lack of genius on their part) is that it is a brutally difficult poem to decipher. I usually get the itch once a year or so to pull out my volume of Eliot and give the poem a reading just to see if there’s some new part of its mystery I can uncover. It was about two years into our struggle with infertility and I was studying Eliot and suddenly things started to connect. It was really so simple. Here the poet was attempting to communicate the torment and spiritual bankruptcy of an era, and he’s turning to imagery from ancient fertility and vegetation myth and ritual. This is one of the first things you learn about The Wasteland when you study it in school, but I was just now really getting it. Suddenly I sensed on a deeper level not only the spirit of the poem but also the weight of what my wife was going through. In my mind, not being able to have a baby was now linked in some way to other forms of barrenness we experience in this life—things like a famine that destroys the food supply or the decay of a civilization ravaged by a war that claims the lives of most of a generation.

Maybe this sounds a bit over the top—I’m willing to admit that I have a personality inclined to make these sorts of far reaching connections. It likely comes from spending large quantities of time trying to make art. But still, I don’t think this line of thinking is completely off the mark. When we experience infertility, famine, or war, we are experiencing the results of the Fall—things as they were not originally intended to be. We sense this on a very fundamental level. Seeds are supposed to produce fruit. Eighteen-year-old boys aren’t supposed to die by the sword. And when a husband and wife make love, it should be a life-bringing act.

I know. It shouldn’t have taken some pretentious piece of poetry to show me all this, but it did. I’m thankful that God used it in that way.

Here’s an indication of how things have changed over the past few years: A few months ago I went with my brother to see a movie called Children of Men. It’s set at some point in the future, in a time where no woman has been able to have a baby in about 20 years due to some unexplained reason. Most of civilization has collapsed into chaos, and the only country with a government still intact is essentially a police state. It’s a pretty sick situation, and then, miraculously, this young girl turns up pregnant. The effects that her pregnancy and the birth of her baby have on this ruinous scene are pretty astounding (I’ll keep it vague in case you haven’t seen the film yet). Anyway, the movie killed me to watch. I felt like I was seeing on a macro level what we had been experiencing on a smaller scale for the past five years. It didn’t seem too far-fetched to think that if the whole world was infertile and barren that the result would be close to what the film portrayed.

In subsequent years, I have taken an interest in the various ways barrenness and infertility shows up literally and figuratively in scripture. It’s pretty amazing. But I’ve gone on pretty long, so I’ll save that for another post.

Next Post: 5/17/07

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Alpha & Omega

Our finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite God. What does it mean to know everything from the beginning of time to the end…everything, including the number of hairs on our heads at any given moment? Matthew 10:30 & Luke 12:7

In our own world (and mind), we are big and important. We think about ourselves more than we think about anybody or anything else. Now, think about the whole earth (and the billions of other people that live here). Consider that it is a part of a larger solar system with other planets. If you draw back and see yourself in comparison to not just an entire planet but also an entire solar system and galaxy, it’s hard to think of yourself so big anymore.

What makes me think my desires are paramount compared to everyone else’s?

Now consider eternity. Several times in Revelation it says that God is the "Alpha & Omega". I picture black space with a timeline drawn that stretches so far that I can't see either end. The timeline contains all eternity. I would assume that at the far left of the timeline is written the creation of the world. At the far right would be...well, I guess the events written in Revelation. Then I zoom into the timeline a little more and see all of the events written on the timeline happening at the same time. I can actually visualize tiny little scenes with people carrying out the events of the times. Moses is leading the children of Israel from Egypt while our soldiers are fighting the war in Iraq, and at the same time, on the right end of the timeline Jesus is coming back! Then I look behind me and imagine God is there. He's so enormous that he can see the whole timeline without even turning his head to the left or right. I look back to the timeline and zoom in further to the dot of time where my life is. Wow! That gives me a pretty realistic picture of how tiny I am!

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I'm not important to God or can't do BIG things for God in the short time I'm here, but when you consider eternity this way, how significant is it to God’s kingdom whether we have a baby or not? Of course, if he wants us to have a baby, he'll have a purpose for that child greater than we can even imagine. But, if he doesn't, why should it destroy me? What's our purpose in being here in this dot in time anyway? We are commanded to love God and love people. What else matters?

Some people are put on earth to birth a child that will change the world. Take Mary for example. If God gives me that job, I'll take it. If not, I'll accept whatever other job he has for me that will make a difference. Meanwhile, I'll pray that he'll continue to give me an eternal perspective on life. In that way, not having a child doesn't seem as big of a deal. Besides, life on earth will be over before I know it and then REAL life with Christ begins! At that point “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Sitting around thinking about ourselves and what we want is a waste of time in eternity. I need to stop thinking about what could be and focus on what IS. We owe our lives to Christ in whatever way he asks. After all, He gave His life for us!

Next Post, by Andy: 5/15/2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I was so thankful for this new perspective on things, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled since. Last year I was expecting my period around Mother’s day. It was a day or two late, but that had happened enough times in the past that I knew it would be a waste to take a pregnancy test. But, of course that didn’t stop me from getting my hopes up. I thought, how great would it be of God to give me a child—not on someone else’s birthday or a holiday, but on a day just for me! I thought I had figured Him out again!

When I woke up on Mother’s day, I had started my period. I felt that was a cruel joke. My heart was heavy.

I went to church and served donuts and orange juice to all the mothers of the church. I was doing a glorious job of hiding my sorrow. But, during worship I decided not to hide it from God, so I cried, I prayed and I sang. My spirits were lifted and my hope restored.

That night as we were getting ready for our week, we put the TV show “Scrubs” on in the background. I guess because it was Mother’s day, the whole episode was about one of the lead characters finding out she was pregnant after having tried for a long time. I stopped what I was doing, sat down and watched. It was like I was watching to see how things would turn out for me! It’s crazy how our minds work, isn’t it? At the end of the episode there was a party. Everyone she loved was there. She walked in and revealed to everyone the good news, and NO kidding, the show went to slow motion for the last five minutes as people cheered and cried, and she hugged every single person in the room. They doted over her and everyone was so happy for her and her husband.

I went to Andy and just cried. I might have even screamed and punched some things too. Then, when I realized what was happening, I got angry. I screamed at Satan, “Oh NO! You can’t do this to me anymore! God has freed me from this and you will not keep me down!”

I felt better.

“When the devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The Bible tells us it’s going to happen. Just wait for it, and don’t let it destroy you.

Next Post: 5/10/2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007


As we grow, we look towards to the next stage in life with excitement. When you’re a teenager you can’t wait to get your driver's license, then later find that perfect person to marry, the perfect job, buy a home, have a family…things will be perfect when...

Back when we first decided to have a baby, I wasn’t thinking about how difficult it would be. Sickness during pregnancy, unwanted weight gain, complications during pregnancy and delivery, budgeting to fit in a little one, trying to satisfy a crying baby in the middle of the night...these were not part of my visions of being a mom. I wasn’t thinking about the intense responsibility of caring for another human being and the possibility that our child might not be healthy. I was thinking about how cute I hoped to look when pregnant, what a great dad Andy would be, how I could cherish the excitement everyone felt when they found out I was pregnant, and snuggling with my cute little baby. Life is always perfect in my visions of the future.

As time passed and I watched my friends and family with their new babies, I saw just how hard pregnancy and parenthood is. I saw their insecurities grow with their bellies, the medical complications that come with pregnancy and delivery, exhaustion from lack of sleep, tension placed on marriages as the family grows, and the stress of a young couple trying to make ends meet. I realized I had romanticized the whole thing. I realized I had romanticized a lot of things in my life. I began to sympathize when young friends and family expressed frustration about an unplanned pregnancy or the difficulties of parenthood. Before that, hearing these “negative” comments upset me. in my mind I thought, "What? I'd give anything to be sick if I knew it meant I was pregnant!" Now I could see they were very REAL and valid feelings. I have the utmost respect for parents. It must be the most courageous job on the earth, to raise another human being! (Thank you mom & dad!)

I’m just thankful that God was beginning to break down my romantic view of pregnancy and parenthood and replace it with reality. In this way, I could be grateful to God for our “misfortune.” I've learned that no one ever really feels equipped to be a parent. That's good to know.

Next Post: 5/8/2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back on Birthcontrol?

In my first year of teaching in the public schools I remember hearing some terrible stories about what the students in my schools had to deal with at home. Some of those kids lived in horrific situations, worse than I could ever imagine. I remember coming to the realization that in our lives we get to choose who we spend our time with. We are used to the quirks of our families because we grew up with them. We pick our friends based on how they act, look, smell, how much money they make, or whatever other quality may be important to us. But, when you work with the public, you interact with all kinds of people. You don’t get to pick and choose who you teach. You are taken out of your safe comfort zone and reminded that there is a whole world of different people out there that you might never choose to hang out with.

One day, in my sixth year of teaching, I was watching the Kindergartners playing at recess right outside my classroom window. I was smiling as they were chasing each other around the playground, thinking about having one of my own one day. Then, one boy went over and shoved another boy down on the ground and started pounding him with his fist. A little while later two other little boys were gesturing guns with their fingers and pretending to shoot each other. Around the corner a boy pushed a little girl up against a brick wall and made a very sexual gesture to her with his pelvis. I sank.

What was I thinking? Could I bring a child into a world like this? This was a five year-old’s concept of playing! Would it be possible to raise a child that would reject these ways of thinking? How could we be responsible for the spiritual well being of a child in this cruel, fallen world? Should I go back on birth control and just forget the whole thing?

It was like my eyes had been opened to a whole new way of thinking. I thought; we’re so young! Thank God He didn’t give us a child back when we first started trying! We could have never handled it way back then, heck we can’t handle it now! How do teenagers manage when they get pregnant?!

I began to understand the couple that waits to have children because they’re not ready and they have so many other things they want to do first. I started thinking about graduate school, mission trips, moving somewhere exotic, vacations, etc. I started working out again. I looked back on the past three years and realized I had been living bound to this dream of having a child, and every plan I had made was in consideration of this child we didn’t even have yet! Wow, I had missed out on a lot of living!

I was confused. Was it good for me to think I didn’t want a child, or was it selfish?

I’ve since wondered if my reaction was a defense mechanism. No one can go on for years on end enduring the emotional torture I had put myself through, and I know that children are a tremendous blessing from the Lord. But, thinking of having children in this light made me feel better about not having any. I found myself paying close attention to how difficult it was to be a parent and taking comfort in that. I began at that point to feel thankful that God had not given us children.

Next Post: 5/3/07