No Greater Gift (Isaiah’s Story – Part 5)

Tyler and I followed the nurses who were wheeling Isaiah in his bassinet to the Special Care Nursery. He wailed with abandon, the audible emotion silently raging in my own heart.

We were introduced to the nurses on duty there and then shown to a large room with several rocking chairs, some sinks and equipment, and – in the far corner – a festively-decorated desk.

We set down our bags and went to Isaiah’s bassinet to re-swaddle him and hold him close. It was an odd feeling to be without his birthmom. To be snuggling this baby as if we had any entitlement to him. We had signed lots of documents, but none of it made this moment feel any less dream-like. What had minutes ago been a tumultuous good-bye now settled into a beautiful, quiet moment of awe and wonder.

As I stroked his soft black hair, I imagined how Mary and Joseph must have felt. Everything in me was so powerfully drawn to him; yet now the reality that I had been chosen for him was a gift so beyond comparison…

…a sacrifice so beyond comprehension.

If we’re honest with ourselves, not one of us is deserving of the gift of parenthood. The intrinsic value of a child’s life is worth far more than even the enormous cost of adoption. In fact, there is nothing more valuable in this world than the life of a child.

As simple as it is to read those words, their truth was never more evident to us than in that moment.

It struck me that God is intimately acquainted with adoption. Even more so than we typically think.

Often in the Bible, God is portrayed as “Father” — adopting us and giving us His name and eternal inheritance of life with Him in heaven. Though we chose to sever ourselves from Him with our sin, He pursues us to adopt us with His steadfast, unconditional love. No paperwork necessary.

But there’s more to His experience of adoption. God is also a birth-parent. Except… whereas Isaiah’s mom gave up her son because she wanted  a better life for him, God gave up His son because he wanted a better life for US.

For us.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given.

– Isaiah 9:6

Do you realize how ridiculous it is to imagine that any good parent would choose to give up their child out of love for the adoptive parents? To value the adoptive parents as much as they value their own baby?

In sending His Son, this is the very message God was sending to us. His love for us is equal to the love He has for His own Son.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son. That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world through him might be saved.”

– John 3:16-17

Wow… stand back and try to unpack that.

It’s a funny thing how we forget the value and sacrifice of gifts we’ve received — children included. Yet, as our blue eyes gazed into the big brown eyes of our son, we had never been more aware of this undeserved gift that had been placed in our lap.

IMG_20151203_213919750 (1)

(For more reading about the virgin birth and the significance of the incarnation, check out this article:


The Hospital Stay [continued] (Isaiah’s Story – Part 4)

November 30, 2015

I approached the ringing phone, knowing it could be Isaiah’s birthmom saying to come down to her hospital room to see him or — 

— or it could be someone else calling on her behalf to say that she had realized over the course of the night that she couldn’t give him up. We were on the precipice of something. Like the sun rising on the horizon, answering this call would soon reveal the landscape before us.

I picked up the receiver and did my best to utter a calm, “Hello?”

It was her!

I breathed a sigh of relief and replied with a cheery, “good morning.” The peace I had felt the day before returned. This was the it! The day we brought our son home. If her night alone with him had not reversed her decision, I felt fairly confident that she was planning to follow through on her plan. Not that I could blame her one bit for changing her mind after seeing his sweet face and kissing his soft hair and holding his tiny hand. I had mentally prepared myself for that possibility; but I knew the reality of it would have been crushing.

We hurried to pack up our belongings and headed to her room to see them both. I fed him a bottle and we stared at each other, deep emotions mulling in both our hearts, I think.

Soon, a nurse and doctor came in to take his birthmom’s vitals and give her some meds. I had mostly tried to tune them out when they would come in. She said she didn’t mind, but I still didn’t want to be nosy. I was quite distracted by the lump of baby in my arms anyway.


It took me a second to realize that this time, they wanted to talk to us too.

It was about Isaiah. He was showing signs of a condition that — though not critical — would require him to stay in the hospital nursery for at least two more days…

…And up to a month. Or more even.

We were stunned at first. But the doctor assured us the important thing was that he would be okay, and they would do everything they could to get him home soon.

The optimist in me bounced back into planning-mode. It would be tricky, but we could figure this out. Tyler’s dad was coming later that afternoon with our daughter, Elise. He could bring more clothes for me, so that I could stay an additional two nights. Tyler could take Elise back home and go back to work until Wednesday, when I could bring Isaiah home too.

After making a few phone calls, everything was in order. Now it was time to focus on the present. And our time with his birthmom was dwindling, as her noon discharge-time quickly approached.

I asked her if I could take a few pictures of him with her, and she obliged. Our conversation started back up, and I tried to take a mental picture of these last moments together. As if by habit, she tugged his little yellow knit hat down over his ears over and over, talking to me all the while.

After a pause in conversation, the mood got more serious… more emotional. “I get why birthmoms change their mind,” she told me. “I thought it would be easier to just not have a relationship with him, but now I know I couldn’t have done that. I’m so glad you guys wanted to stay in touch.”

I couldn’t hold back the tears. She had no idea how much her words meant to me. Somehow over these past 24 hours, we had bonded as what I call, “sister-moms.” She knew the sincerity with which we offered a relationship, and now we knew the sincerity with which she offered her son to us. Though her role in his life would not be traditional, her meaning to all of us would be even more significant than she knew.

When her ride called, the next few minutes became a blur of activity over which I had no control. I wanted to slow time down, to cherish these final moments and make them memorable and meaningful. Instead, I watched her kiss his nose, then touch it to hers, kiss it, and touch it to hers, before being instructed by the nurses to place him in the crib. With one final kiss she laid him down. She grabbed her bag of belongings, gave us both a quick hug, and then quickly vacated the safe den where we had all four become a family.

No sooner did she leave the room than Isaiah’s cries began. It was like he knew that a part of him was being severed. Tears ran down my face, but I was given no time to grieve over the trauma I’d just witnessed… the trauma I felt I’d been a part of. Instead, we were instructed to grab our stuff and follow the nurse to the “Special Care Nursery” where they were wheeling Isaiah in his crib.

I had pictured this moment so differently. I imagined holding him and comforting him and whispering assurance of his mother’s love for him. Of all of our love for him. My feet followed the nurse, but my heart strained against the current trying to sweep me down-river as though I hadn’t just witnessed another heart battered by rock-ribbed rapids.


The Hospital Stay (Isaiah’s Story – Part 3)

During our adoption training and home visits, we were repeatedly told that the hospital-time with the birth-mom can be tense and awkward. It’s really not surprising that this would be the case. Adoption is no Facebook-garage-sale-goods-swap. This is a mother making a decision to forego parenting her infant and place it in the care of another. Every birth-mom has a different reason for her decision. The hospital brings the decision to reality for her. Then add in post-partum hormones and exhaustion. Plus the warm little lump of snuggly baby with soft, fuzzy, irresistibly-kissable hair… Nothing about her decision is easy.

In fact, if a birthmom is going to change her mind about choosing adoption for her baby, it usually happens at the hospital.

When we first walked through those hospital doors, I couldn’t wait to get in-and-out and on our way home. The security and relief of carrying him to our car was 24 hours away, and after watching our best friends endure an adoption reversal (though theirs was after 4 weeks with her), every milestone towards legal adoption was another drop in statistics for reversal and another hedge of protection around my heart. Though hedges can  still be plowed down…

Yet our hospital-stay with Isaiah’s birthmom was not tense at all. That night, we all three sat next to each other, taking turns holding him and feeding him and kissing him and gushing over him. Lights dimmed, watching Ben Affleck in “Surviving Christmas” on TV, I thought about what an odd sight we must be.

During commercials, she talked about her family life growing up and the challenges she faced when she left. She wouldn’t be living on the streets, but she was home-less nonetheless.  It dawned on me that not a single friend or family member came to be with her during her delivery or afterwards. She was completely alone.

And the one person that loved her more than anything in the world —

he was lying in my arms…

Isaiah sleeping

That night, Tyler and I stayed in a hospital room at the Women’s Health wing across the long hall from the Birthing Center. The staff at the hospital were so accommodating to us… it was overwhelming. All of it — every moment of that day had been so very overwhelming.

Isaiah stayed with his birthmom that night. That was the only time that I felt scared about what the next day held. She needed that time; deserved that time. As hard as it would be to leave the hospital with empty arms, it had to be her or us… and right now, her leaving with empty arms was going to be infinitely harder. We wanted her to be sure of her decision, no matter what the cost was to us.

Still, I awoke that morning in our room feeling caged, waiting anxiously for a call that she was awake and ready for us to come back to see them both. Even watching The Food Network couldn’t distract me from my anxious thoughts. I zoned out, eyes glued to the TV, but thinking and praying incessantly, “God please be with her… Please be with us.”

Finally, the phone rang.


Ours (Isaiah’s story – Part 2)

November 29, 2015

After “The Call,” Tyler and I embarked on the 2.5 hour drive to the other side of the state to meet this newborn stranger. It felt like a movie… We had gone to bed the night before with plans to bring home a Christmas tree the following day.  We awoke to plans to bring home a baby.

When we finally arrived at the hospital, our hearts were beating wildly. Over the course of our trip we had decided on his name: Isaiah Levi. “Levi” meaning “joined or attached.”

The social worker from the adoption agency met us in the hospital lobby. We (ok, I) tried to play it cool, as if we (I) were any regular-ol’ hospital visitor. We went up the elevator and took a handful of turns before walking the hall that would soon become very familiar to me. A nurse buzzed open the automatic doors and we made what felt like a very grand entrance to the birthing center.

We approached the room where our birth-mom was recovering with the baby. As much as I knew it was “our” baby, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how I’d earned the right to use that possessive pronoun quite yet. Not now that it was all so real. Not in the presence of the mother that carried him for 9 months and felt his kicks in her tummy and went through the excruciating pain of giving birth.

The social worker knocked on the door before ushering us into the room.

You’ve seen pictures of those moms who look stunning just after birth, right? That was not at all me when I gave birth to Elise. I think somewhere in the mix of people that bug you during labor/deliver/post-delivery there must be a makeup artist, and I was asleep unconscious when she popped in for my makeover after 23 hours of labor.

Anyway, when I saw her there, sitting up in bed, cradling a tiny swaddled bundle with a yellow-knit hat, I was in awe. No greeting seemed worthy for interrupting this sacred moment between mother and son. She adjusted his hat, pulling it down over his ears and then offered us a shy smile and “hello.”

It was obvious this was not a woman eager to pass off her baby for someone else to take care of it. This was a woman who had fallen in love, despite her attempts not to do so. I watched her touch her nose to his nose and then give it a sweet kiss before gingerly placing him in my arms for the very first time.

This… this was beauty — staggering and heart-shattering beauty. No makeup artist, no camera could have enhanced the beauty of this scene.

I tucked his body against mine and studied his sweet sleeping face: his flat baby-nose and his teeny little chin framed by round, chubby cheeks. Was he okay about having us for parents? Would we be all that he needed? Would he resent us for taking him from her? How could we take him from her? The questions kept racing.

My mind felt like a pinball machine – flipping and spinning and bumping with worries and thoughts until suddenly the ball was lost, because the baby in my arms opened his eyes and looked at me —

–and every towering doubt instantly evaporated into a still and gentle mist. Tears trailed down my face, and I knew it was my turn to kiss him. Somehow in this foreign version of “family,” there was room for more than just one or two parents. I didn’t know what any of that would look like over the next hours or months or years,

but I knew that






The Call (Isaiah’s Story – Part 1)

My phone rang at 8:00 that Sunday morning. I shot straight up excitedly — hands shaking — trying to muster the coordination and mental acuity to answer the call before it was too late.

But in my sleepy fog, I had mistaken my alarm for The Call.

I looked over at Tyler, sound asleep with the bedspread neatly covering him up to his nose. On my side of the bed, the pile of supplemental blankets – messy as they looked – called to me to settle back down into their warm den. I obliged, burrowing into the embrace of covers that comforted my disappointment.

I closed my eyes and tried to re-orient my emotions. Patience had never been a strength of mine. We had hoped and waited for three years before finally getting pregnant with our daughter Elise. Now we were waiting for our second child. A boy. Due any day now. And instead of eagerly longing for my water to break, we were waiting for The Call.

Infertility had once chained me in a cell of despair. Though I’d desperately strained against its bonds, it seemed that nothing could set me free.

But I was wrong. Months after finally getting pregnant, God taught me that infertility was not a curse, but a commission. It was not a chain to hold me back, but a rein to guide me forward. Before our own flesh-and-blood baby girl was even born, God stirred our hearts for a child that was not “our own.”

Huddled in my bed, I began praying for this baby boy we now waited on. I prayed for his mother, who had chosen us to be his parents. I prayed for a safe and healthy delivery. For God to comfort her as she gave a piece of herself up to us. I prayed for both of their futures. This brave woman who selflessly chose life and adoption and this baby boy who deserved all the love of a family.

I fell back asleep praying for them both.

At 8:20, my phone rang again. I reached for it to swipe off the “snooze,” but soon realized that it was not my alarm. It was the social worker from the adoption agency calling!

I fumbled to answer it, shaking even more this time than before. Her words made me gasp and sob:

“Are you ready to come meet your baby boy?”

Without knowing it, at the very moment of his birth, I had been praying for him. God had woken me up, prompted me to pray for him. The Father who cares so deeply for the fatherless, wanted to make sure our son’s life began with a reminder that he has never been unloved or unknown by God.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

– Psalm 139:13-14

Still in awe, we hurriedly packed our bags and headed to the east side of the state to meet

our son.





Another Hot Date in the Books – “Lion”

Dinner and a movie. Might be “standard fare” for most, but for us it’s a hot date.

Go out? Hold hands in the dark? Only share our food if we want to? Not have to do dishes?

That’s the type of wild night I anticipated when we sat down in the movie theater.

I had no idea that “Lion” would leave me with hot, wet tears soaking my scarf like a baby bib. Why did Tyler do this to me??!!

I’m pretty sure I would have cried through it no matter what, but as adoptive parents, this true story did more than just tug at heart strings.

Unlike Disney orphans, “Lion’s” protagonist Saroo — an adorable and brave Indian boy who gets lost from his family at the age of five – does not have his “happily ever after” once he is adopted and given a good home with a loving family.

Because at the age of five, he was lost. He was alone and missing his family. He was terrified. Terrorized. Taken from place to place by people whose language he didn’t speak and whose intentions were unimaginably sickening.

Often we glorify adoption as this beautiful event where a child magically finds their forever-family and lives happily ever after. It makes for a great feel-good Hollywood storyline.

But in a perfect world… children wouldn’t need to be adopted. No child would be lost, unwanted, unaffordable… On the contrary, each child would know their value and their belonging and never question the love of his or her parents. Never wonder if his or her parents are also grieving their separation.

Adoption comes because of heartbreak.

And the grown Saroo made it through most of his life showing no signs of trauma, his world was jolted when his college friends probed about his childhood and family of origin. The pain he’d suppressed broke through and his fresh experience of loss compelled him to search for them. This began a downward spiral of obsession and isolation as he (quite literally) navigated his past in hopes of reunion.

His depression is crushing to his adoptive mother, who doesn’t know why he has pushed everyone away. But I held back sobs when [spoiler alert], in a deeply emotional scene, the grown Saroo tells his mother, “I’m sorry you couldn’t have your own children. I’m sorry we aren’t blank pages for you.” To which she replies, “We could have had children, but we wanted you. We chose you.”

I’ve said it before, but it becomes real to me the more and more: children are worth our heartbreak.

Any of our children could be traumatized at any day, and we would urgently get help and seek restoration. Sure, it’s much less likely that they’d be traumatized here in the U.S., versus in India where 80,000 children are lost from their parents , 11 million children live on the streets, and countless are forced into prostitution. And it feels different to sign up to bear such a heavy load — parenting a child who has undoubtedly experienced trauma.  Adoption – especially of an older child is not for the faint of heart, right?

But tell me, then who is really strong enough to carry a child’s heavy burden? To persevere with a child who has emotional scars that cannot be erased? To openly offer support to a child needing answers or resolution with their family of origin?

Very few I think.

I know I’m not that strong. Not on my own.

But I know a God who IS. Who can take every ounce of rage and grief and despair and offer Hope and Peace and Strength and Love.  Who gives value to our past by redeeming it with our future.

And who implores us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Not just cheer each other on. But to help take some of the weight of another’s crushing load.

Friends, could you choose heartbreak, for the sake of a child? Could you choose to have your family’s life trajectory disrupted so that a child’s life trajectory could have hope of restoration?

Maybe it’s through adoption or foster care. Or maybe through child sponsorship or supporting overseas orphanages or even just supporting another adoptive or foster family.

I highly recommend the movie “Lion” (though there is non-graphic, but mature thematic material implied). It’s a true story, and it feels incredibly vulnerable and genuine and eye-opening. And though it’s a tough story, it does have a good ending. If you are considering international adoption, it’s a must-see.

Though maybe from the privacy of your own living room where your tears can shamelessly soak through a box of tissues.

Just don’t expect it to kindle any flames of romance. At least not in the typical sense of the phrase.

One Year Ago

We’d put our names in to be considered for twenty different babies. And twenty different birth-moms had chosen someone else. We knew it would take time – that there were plenty of very worthy and equally eager families waiting to be chosen. Average wait time was a year to year and a half. We’d only been waiting 6 months. But the misleading mantra, “you never know” still played in my head… played with my heart. I was inebriated by a cocktail of hope, insecurity, and rejection.

On top of it, work had been hectic – to say the least. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but never before was it so bad that I dreaded having people in my office for the corresponding panic it evoked in me. Every interruption felt traumatic, because it either distracted from or added to my workload. I felt physically sick, mentally over-loaded, and emotionally drained. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I began to long for this adoption to happen, just so I could go on maternity leave and escape the stress of work. But instead of escaping, I (needlessly) wallowed in shame as I called my doctor to ask for anti-anxiety medicine.

Finally, after three months of working 50+ hours/week under immense pressure to perfectly execute my job duties, I passed a rigorous inspection – the culmination of the past quarter – with flying colors.  Tyler and I celebrated with a weekend getaway to Traverse City.

It was a disappointment to come home, but a relief to return to a much easier work situation. It was a Monday – and a fresh start. I felt revived, like I could breathe again.

That is, until the phone rang just as I was getting ready to go home for the day. My heart raced when I heard our adoption worker utter the words, “You guys have been picked.” Her calm voice made it nearly impossible to believe I had heard right. I started to shake uncontrollably and couldn’t quite catch my breath well enough to form proper responses for the remainder of the conversation.

As soon as I hung up with her, I tried to call Tyler.

He didn’t answer. So I tried again. And again.

Of all the times I needed to talk… why couldn’t he sense the urgency of this ringtone?

I had to wait half an hour before he called back. I don’t know how I made it that long without spilling. And I honestly don’t remember how the conversation went, but I’m sure I was in hysterics.

We were going to have a baby! Elise was going to be a big sister! And God had delayed it all for just the right time.

We still knew very little about our birthmom or her baby. Her first name and her mid-December due date were all we had to go on.  But in three days we would meet her face to face.

Anxiety returned to consume my every thought. But this time it was matched with excitement. No, it was undermined by excitement. We had been praying for her since we first decided to adopt. But now, she was real to me. My prayers for her and her baby gained urgency as I pleaded for God to give her peace with her decision, connection with us both, health for her and the baby, and most of all that God would somehow use this very intimate, very vulnerable and emotional experience to show her His love.



For Keeps

It was a Monday afternoon and I was just grabbing my purse to head home from work. Tyler and I had been gone to Traverse City all weekend, at a bed and breakfast/winery. It had been so beautiful and relaxing. I felt rested, but also restless. My body was at work, but my mind was elsewhere.


Suddenly my phone rang, and I tensed and then scrambled. I don’t typically get calls while I’m at work. Could it be…? When I saw the caller name, I could barely feign a “Hello?” as if I didn’t know who was on the other end.

“Hi, Cheyenne?” our adoption worker asked.

I confirmed that it was me and she went straight to the point.

“A birthmom has asked to meet you and Tyler this week, if you are interested.”

My hands shook with adrenaline, and I cleared my throat to try to control the excitement in my voice.

Three days later, we sat in the parking lot, waiting for our appointment to meet the woman who was considering us to be parents to her baby. We were equal parts excited and nervous.

Talk about an important interview. I tried to coach myself:

“Don’t look at Tyler when you talk; make eye contact with her.”

“Don’t mention how far behind you are on laundry or that you love to cook but work too much to make home-cooked meals AND keep a spotless kitchen.”

“Don’t bite your lip or touch your face or cross your arms or ramble on and on…”

I was a hot mess.

She, however, was cool and calm. Friendly, yet distant. But when we got to telling her our story, I could see tears in her eyes. Sometime during our conversation, she told us she was having a boy. I couldn’t help it – I turned to Tyler and squeezed his knee “It’s a boy!” I barely choked out. He laughed at me breaking the wall of formality with my emotional and intimate exclamation of what I knew was our shared excitement.

She laughed too, and I could be wrong, but I think that sealed the deal for her.

On November 29, after 3 hours of torturous, un-medicated labor, she gave birth to Isaiah. We were out the door and on our way to the hospital as soon as we could get a grandparent to stay home with Elise.

He was sleeping soundly when we got there, beautiful and bundled in his mama’s arms. She passed him to me and I stared, searching his face for a sign that he consented to me being his Mama too. When he opened his eyes, I knew I was in love and would do whatever it took to win him over.

Isaiah's first pic 12669615_10153471888947399_4039548192985855182_n

The next 24 hours were spent as a proud, doting family. Three parents feeding, snuggling, and swaddling. Three parents cooing and aww-ing over his toes and his hair and his pouty milk-drunk lip.

Her good-bye the next day broke my heart.

Our emotions were high as in the next instant were asked to wheel our crying baby into the special care nursery. They had warned us that his newborn scores were high. He needed to be watched and treated until he was healthy enough to go home.

We were cautiously optimistic that he would improve over the next couple days. Meanwhile, the grandparents all came to visit and brought Elise to see her new baby brother.


But his symptoms worsened and the next two weeks would be spent separated – Tyler and Elise at home and Isaiah and I across the state at the hospital.

It was agony to be separated, but Isaiah and I bonded during our time as just us. We had a lot to learn about each other and not a lot else to do with our time. My heart broke over his piercing cries and his stiff, curled body. And it melted over his sleeping smiles, happy sighs, and dark eyes that commanded me to hold him tight and never let go.

Isaiah sleeping


On December 13 we were finally discharged and came home to begin life as a family.  Even though legally we had only “temporary custody” of him, we were over-the-moon with excitement.


On February 9th, Isaiah’s birthmom called me to say she had made her decision official and signed the paperwork that would make us able to apply to adopt Isaiah. She didn’t need to do that, but we had bonded during our time together in the hospital. This woman is something else… her call meant so much to us.


And on May 19th, Isaiah Levi became ours.

DSC_0535 DSC_0835 DSC_0854 (2)

Not, “We ‘are’ adopting him.”

Not, “He’s pretty much ours.”

Not, “We’re just waiting for it to be official.”

He’s ours. We’re his.


For Keeps.

The Club

Are you in The Club?

the club

If nothing else, you at least know someone in The Club. They hold gatherings in houses, coffee shops, churches, and schools. They exchange advice, share stories, and swap resources. They shop at exclusive stores, receive exclusive magazines and memberships, and benefit from frequent exclusive promotional materials that are hung on refrigerators across the country. Members of The Club are recognized daily, though they may sometimes still feel under-appreciated for their contributions.

And it’s true — they sacrifice body, mind, and soul. They put in long hours without pay. They worry about their performance and lose sleep over the effects it might have on The Club’s beneficiaries. And while eventually members’ responsibilities lessen with seniority, membership is a life-long commitment.

It’s stressful to be in The Club. And there are some members who even got drafted to it without ever volunteering their participation.

If you haven’t caught on by now, “The Club” I’m referring to is Motherhood.

In spite of it’s requirements, five years ago all I wanted was to be in The Club. We had settled down in a house in our ideal community and school district. We’d been married for 3 years and were ready to introduce a new tiny member to our family.

But in spite of our frequent *ahem* “application“, The Club just kept rejecting us.

It was a painful roller coaster of hope and disappointment. And while my greatest desire was to be in The Club, I couldn’t help resenting their exclusivity and the painful reminder it was of the experience I thought we might never have.

“Just wait till you have children,” and “When you’re a mom, you’ll understand,” were among the biting phrases members of The Club frequently offered me.

Nowhere was it more prominent of a reminder than at church.

Being fairly new to the community, we were visiting different churches, hoping to find one that had a similar style and feel as the church we grew up in. After visiting a few, it became apparent that the easiest way to connect with church-people… is to have kids. 

Them: “Good morning, I’m Chad and this is my wife Andrea. What are your names?”

Us: “I’m Cheyenne and this is Tyler.”

Them: “Welcome! So do you guys have kids?”

Us: “No…”

*insert awkward pause*

Them: “Well, we’re glad to have you here!”

In my insecurity, I imagined their drive home going something like this:

Andrea: “You know those new people today? What were their names?”

Chad: “I think it was Cheyler and Tyanne.”

Andrea: “Oh, right. Did you notice how awkward it got when you asked if they had kids?”

Chad: “Yeah, I noticed that too.”

Andrea: “Do you think they don’t like kids? Do you think they were annoyed by our kids?”

Chad: “Who knows. And if that is the case, they will just have to deal with it. They’ll understand someday when they become parents.”

I’m sure that’s not what really happened. And I truly believe people had the best intentions and were sincerely trying to create a hospitable place for us to worship. But when the parenthood-connection couldn’t be established, it felt difficult to connect at all. Even the ministries and events offered were mostly for moms, children, and families. And the conversations around us always seemed to be centered on other people’s kids. Infertility is just not a good opening-liner to explain childlessness. We knew we would just have to get past the initial awkwardness of being “three-to-five-years-married-without-children” and focus on the point of church – worship.

It was five years ago – on Mother’s Day – that I got another negative pregnancy test. I was tired and frustrated and crushed with disappointment again. Why did I do that to myself? I should have waited one more day.

Not pregnant

The last thing I wanted to do was go to church and get by-passed for a Mother’s-Day-daisy. But we went anyway.

I put on a skirt and feebly attempted a happy face as we found our seats in the row. But when we closed our eyes and bowed our heads in prayer, the pastor’s words wrung my heart like it was nothing but a soggy sponge. I couldn’t hold back the tears that flowed down my face.

“Father God, on this day we recognize all the mothers who have cared for us and who care for our children. For them, we are so grateful. And be near to the mothers who are still waiting for children. Help them to see Your goodness and love for them, even as they wait.”

I am in “The Club” now. But that pastor’s words made a lasting an impact on me – to feel included. Remembered. Honored for the important role I would someday play in my children’s lives. I know don’t want my “membership” to alienate anyone – at least as far as I can control.

So for those hurting today on Mother’s Day: Please know you are cared for more than you realize. I may not see your pain or know which of you is struggling, but I stand with you as one who cannot forget my own struggle. And although I am on the other side of infertility, I will always remember that I am entitled to nothing on Mother’s Day. The greatest gift I could have is my children.

Hang in there, dear friends. And when your time finally comes, don’t forget the journey it took to get there and the ones still struggling down the long, hard road.

Lamentations 3

Reckless Love

It’s been over four months since we first met this tiny stranger we now call our son. Except, he’s not so tiny anymore, and he’s still not technically our son. But he sure has made a himself at home in our hearts. He is the sweetest, happiest baby– so quick to return your smile with a squinty-eyed, scrunched-nose, toothless, ear-to-ear grin.Isaiah four months

Isaiah’s birthmom signed her parental rights over on February 9, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for the court to pick up the file and sign the paperwork to make us his legal parents. It’s annoying to still have this hanging, but there is really no chance he’s going anywhere. This chubby little man is here to stay.

I haven’t had much time to blog since he came along, but I’ve had so many thoughts mulling in my heart. While in the hospital with Isaiah, I witnessed an adoption-reversal happen right before my eyes. And in just the past 2 months I’ve had two friends lose their babies: one in a tragic car accident that took the lives of baby, mom, and grandma; another in surgery on his tiny little heart.

That baby was born on the same day as Isaiah.

Both babies spent a majority of their lives in the hospital with illness. Both mothers – whether they knew it or not – were a great encouragement to me while I was with Isaiah in the hospital for two weeks.

It just doesn’t seem right… how do you reconcile something like this?

For 10 weeks we loved Isaiah as our own, knowing full well he was not our own and could be taken from us at any moment.


He won’t be taken away from us now. But going through those 10 weeks and then witnessing these families’ losses… it’s stayed with me that we could just as unexpectedly lose either child at any point…

I suppose such a realization could cripple me with fear. And sometimes it starts to.

But besides making me a sappy basket-case, it’s challenged me to cherish every moment and show grace, even when I’m frustrated.

My children NOT napping, in spite of the tranquility it looks like.

My children NOT napping, in spite of the tranquility it looks like.

Ok, not every moment. I’m still human. And don’t forget we are on the undies-side of potty-training a toddler (which, trust me, is much worse than the pull-ups-side of potty training).

The words of another friend has added to my conviction.

Two months back, when we were waiting to get the call that Isaiah’s birthmom had signed off her rights, I was talking to another adoptive mom about how the call really would change nothing about how we felt about Isaiah. No paperwork or phone call could make us love him any more than we already did. She told me in essence that,

“What I’ve come to realize is that each child I have is an amazing gift from God. But I’m not promised any more days with my biological children than I am with my other children. I just need to love them all unconditionally for however long I have them.”

Whether you realize it or not going into it, parenthood requires reckless love. When you love a child, there are no guarantees against heartbreak.

My natural personality is to keep everything the same. I am happy to read books about risk-taking protagonists. But I myself would rather stay in the safety of what I know – the same job, the same community, the same morning routine.

Please don’t ask me to change my morning routine.

Can I get an “Amen”? Surely I’m not the only one.

Risks are not attractive to me. Change is never a welcome event. Hardship, even less so.

Remember the emotional basket-case thing? Yeah, that’s me. I cry even when the team I can’t stand gets eliminated on Amazing Race. I’m fairly confident that no one has ever said of me, “She’s so strong.”

In fact, I am so confident in my weakness that I’ve already decided to home-school both kids all the way through college. I’ve made Elise promise never to date because she’s not leaving home nor is she ever even riding in a car with a boy. And I’ve even designed the “Mom” tattoo that Isaiah will be permitted to get when he turns 16, just so the ladies know he is not available.


But my instinct to shelter them is really mostly about sheltering me.

Children are worth the risks. Worth the heart-ache. Worth the heartbreak.

So when the time comes that we can consider growing our family again, I inwardly tremble at the thought of fostering. So much about it hits at the very core of my fears. Getting attached, giving them back to a bad situation, having no control, the possible impact on my kids…

But ultimately, I also want my children to learn radical, reckless love themselves over cozy entitlement and constant leisure.

Growing up, my parents demonstrated this for me. They didn’t “foster” per-say… But for several years, we lived with my grandparents while my mom helped with their care. Then years later my uncle moved in with my family for 4-5 years until he passed in 2007. They’ve also opened their home up for months at a time to my paternal grandpa and an intern at my mom’s PT clinic.


My mom and my Uncle “Grand-brother” Greg

 Although I didn’t always love sharing my house, but I am so thankful that it gave me such a close relationship with these family members. I also witnessed such extreme compassion and hospitality and saw the impact it had. I honestly don’t know that my grandparents or my uncle would ever have come to know the Lord if it weren’t for my parents. That, in itself, is… huge.

And really, having long-term “guests” actually made the time we had as a nuclear family something we looked forward to. Not typical of families with teenagers.


Obviously these are just words right now. But it stands what I said earlier:

Children are worth the risks. Worth the heart-ache. Worth the heartbreak…

Whether that means unconditionally loving on your own children through potty-training, threenager-hood, junior-high, and some season of rebellion or despondency; or loving on another child that’s never known unconditional love.