Random thoughts from the valley

Ten days ago we found out that our babies had died. I’m not even close to being ready to write a nice, neat blog post outlining all that God has taught me through this and how I’m going to move forward from this. Honestly, other than a few little glimmers of insight, I have absolutely no idea what God is doing or why He chose to act in this way, and functioning is still difficult as I walk in deep, deep sadness, so I really don’t know how I’m going to move forward, either.

I do know this: I do not want to walk forward unchanged. And I do not want to miss the work God intended for this to do in my heart. The wounds that are still so fresh on my heart will one day turn to scars, but I do not want their mark to ever disappear, go on with my life like nothing ever happened, walk forward the same person I was before I ever heard of embryo adoption. The only way I know to make sure this is not wasted in my life is to feel every feeling as deeply as possible, let the sadness do its work to give me more compassion, make me long for Heaven, and whatever else the sadness is intended to do in me. To dig through the pain and rubble in my heart and find Jesus there. To wrestle with the glaringly apparent contradiction between a God who loves life and cares for the unborn and the God who chose to let my babies die in my womb, and not stop wrestling until I rest in Him. To be honest about my confusion and anger and hurt, but to fight to keep my hand open and not let a defiant fist form.  And to not stop this fight until I can move forward changed, but at peace in Christ.

As I have barely begun this fight, I don’t have much progress to show yet. But, over the past ten days there have been some random thoughts that have formed and taken shape, random insights from the Lord, random mercies I have seen. 

A RANDOM MERCY, one that came in the timing of the phone call itself. Every other time I’ve had blood work done on a Monday, the call with the results came either while we were in the van on the way to Paducah, or while I was in the waiting room at dance class. I was already aware of this timing issue, and wondering how I would keep such a happy secret from my kids if the test was positive, or such a sad one if it was negative, since we wanted to tell them all together. However, this time the call came early. We were still at home, and Clay had for some reason come home a little early, so he was there. A random early call, a husband home randomly early. These mercies were not random at all, and I was able to weather the initial storm of grief in privacy at home with my husband’s arms around me. Sounds minor, but I clung to the mercy in the timing of that phone call over and over again those first couple days. I was questioning God’s goodness, to be honest, and at that time, that was the only immediate mercy I could see in this whole thing, and I played it over and over in my mind to preach to myself that here was a sign of His goodness. 

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS, during my initial processing. First of all, a miscarriage is such a strange, lonely grief to bear. Many people won’t fully understand that an actual human being was living and then lost. We’ve had several people say to us in the last 10 days, “Sorry it didn’t work out.” But this wasn’t something that “didn’t work out.” It was two babies who were already human, alive and growing, and then they died. It’s an invisible kind of grief. Looking in from the outside, nothing looks different. No one can see a hole, a person who was once there and is now gone. It’s a very private grief but a very real one. We had already embraced those babies into our hearts and lives, ordered our future around them being here, and now it’s a constant mental readjustment. We knew our embryos. We chose them. We had pictures of their genetic parents, family history, details about their grandparents. They were already ours. No one else can see the change, but to me, everything has changed. This time is actually much harder for me than my other two miscarriages because of the two years of planning and the weeks of preparation and anticipation before we even had the transfer. So much time that I already loved them. We worked hard to prepare my womb for those babies, to make a safe and welcoming place for them. Every shot, every pill, every dose of medication that confused my body and threw me into an emotional roller coaster was an act of preparation and love for them, much like decorating the room for when a baby is expected. And this one has the interesting twist of being a failed adoption along with a miscarriage.  This wasn’t just an adoption plan that had to be scrapped. Imagine an adoptive family being matched with a child, having pictures of the child, knowing where he lives, filling out all the paperwork, paying all the thousands of dollars in fees, traveling overseas, and then finding out in country—but before they got to hold him in their arms—that he had just died. Throw in the physical effects this is still having on my body, the moment-by-moment reminder of death that I’m experiencing as my body miscarries these babies, and you may come close to being able to imagine what this feels like.

Second, just as it is God who opens and closes the womb, it is God who determines who can adopt. There are three ladies, all very dear to me, whose words of sympathy and shared grief meant the most to me last week. One is a friend who was never able to get pregnant, finally adopted after years of infertility, longed to adopt a second child, and was never able to get matched with a baby. She finally stopped renewing her home studies after a long time of waiting. She has one child, and longed for more, but that wasn’t the plan God had for her. Another is a friend who had a healthy first pregnancy, a healthy delivery and now has a healthy preschooler but has had two miscarriages since then and isn’t sure if she will be able to have more children. She has one child, and longed for more, but so far that hasn’t been God’s plan for her. The third is a friend who had a healthy son, then had a difficult miscarriage, turned to adoption, and had two failed adoptions. She has one child and longed for more, but that wasn’t God’s plan for her. The obvious difference here is that I do indeed have more than one child already. But last week I couldn’t help but notice that all the longings and best intentions in the world add up to nothing if God does not open the womb or complete the adoption. It’s so easy to ask someone who has an only child when they’re going to have more. It’s so easy to make comments and assumptions about one-child families. It’s so easy to look at a family of any size that isn’t adding children currently and assume they stopped on purpose. And it’s so easy to promote adoption and encourage adoptive families without ever realizing that there may be any number of families around you who wanted more than anything to adopt and were prevented for reasons they can’t explain other than it must not have been God’s plan. I guess the moral of the story is: don’t make careless comments about family size to anyone, because parents of an only child may have desperately wanted a houseful, and parents of a large family may look at their six and think what a small number that suddenly seems. We don’t always know what is behind the smiles. In evangelical circles today, families with lots of children are often praised and admired, and adoption is rightly encouraged and also praised and admired. This is fine, except that it can lead to some smugness or self-righteousness on the part of those who have lots of kids or who have adopted. If you were ever tempted to make judgments or assumptions based on family size, or on whether someone has adopted or not, let these stories remind you that compassion is in order toward all families, and it is God who determines family size. There is no room for smugness here. 

FINALLY, ONE RANDOM INSIGHT from the Lord. The biggest question I have right now is why? Why would God do this? Why would He put this dream in our hearts, lead us down the road of following Him in embryo adoption for 22 months, go through all the financial struggles and expense, go through all the physical struggles and pain, go through the excitement of having them placed in my womb, seeing them on the screen, knowing they were inside me, only to let it all die and never get to hold them in our arms? And like I said last week, I still have no idea why. But through some wise counsel from my shepherding husband, one really helpful sermon from Ligon Duncan, and several tear-stained passages in my Bible, I do know this: God is my greatest treasure. And in His perfect wisdom and love, He will take His followers and strip everything away from them until they see the truth that He is the greatest treasure. This seems so harsh and unloving and anything but good right now on the surface, and last week rocked my faith more than anything ever has. But in those darkest moments, when I was questioning everything I’ve ever believed and written and taught, I finally realized the most important truth: “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life, and I have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) God has laid an affliction on me that feels like it will crush me, but where else can I turn? There truly is nowhere else to find life and hope. This doesn’t feel good, but I will cling to the truth that He is good. This makes no sense to me, but I will rest in the One who does everything right. I still have much to figure out, much to learn, much to fight through. But my first battle was to wrestle down the very core of my heart: Will I still believe that God is who He says He is and trust Him with my life and with my family? By His grace, I can say yes to that even now, even when I still hurt so badly, even as death is working in my body, even when I still can’t see why He chose to do this. He alone has the words of eternal life. I will rest in that.

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Our journey to embryo adoption: Their days were in His hands

Well, this is the post I had hoped and prayed would never materialize. The post where I tell you that despite all the shots, all the pills, all the tests and all the procedures, all the statistics, and all the prayers, neither one of our babies lived more than a few days after being placed in their Mommy’s womb.

Our journey has come to an abrupt end, a painful, heartbreaking end.

Yesterday was a hard, terrible day. After I got the phone call, after my own first wild storm of grief and shock had subsided, we had to tell our precious children. These were their babies, too. They loved them fiercely already. Finding out that they would never get to see them or hold them was devastating. Their own grief was raw, and it shattered my heart into even smaller pieces.

Later in the night, a line from a song started running through my head: “To live and to love will always be dangerous, but it’s better than playing it safe.” (Kendall Payne)

I’d been singing that song a few months ago when I began wondering whether God was asking too much of me to go through with this. It just seemed so big and scary, people didn’t understand, weren’t supportive, the prospect of enlarging our family was producing some logistical issues that we weren’t sure how we would address. God used those lyrics, and lots of wisdom from my husband, to remind me that following Him is always right, even when it doesn’t feel safe. However, I pictured holding my babies at the end of the dangerous road, the reward for following Him when it was risky.

Last night as that line ran through my head, I’m not going to lie–I wasn’t sure if it was still true. How could this still be better than playing it safe? How were any of us better off for having begun this journey? Why, why did God call us down this path, let us walk it for 22 months, experience the ups and downs that we experienced, if it was just going to end like this? Why did He dangle the dream in front of me, tell me to go after it, and then take it away?

Do you want the truth? 

I have no idea why God is doing what He’s doing, and the biggest part of me right now wishes that He had chosen to do something else, namely, let my babies live.

But…

When my heart is broken I must cling to the truth I believe when my heart is whole. When my thoughts are muddled and foggy and confused and affected by loads of hormones, I must cling to the truth I know when my head is clear. The truth of light doesn’t change just because it’s dark at the moment. The sun doesn’t cease to exist during the night. 

The God I trust when it’s easy is just as trustworthy when it’s hard. 

And He is good. And He does all things for good purposes. I believe that, even when it hurts very very badly. Though He slay me, still I will trust Him. 

Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

This verse is true for my two babies who were basically still unformed, only a few cells yet still completely human in dignity and value and substance. Their days were written in His book and they are with Him now, fully alive and giving glory to Him. 

It’s true for our other two babies who went to Heaven straight from the womb, before I even got to feel them growing, one in 2004 and one in 2011.

And it’s true for me, and my husband, and my children. And it’s true for you, if you are a child of God. No matter what painful turn your path has taken, He is still good, still trustworthy, still knows what He’s doing, and is still working for your good.

Let me leave you with one more line from a song that has become very precious to me over the past several months, as we have been walking through another, unrelated trial:

“Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go, and at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne. May this journey bring a blessing. May I rise on wings of faith. And at the end of my heart’s testing, with your likeness let me wake.” (Keith and Kristyn Getty)

This is my prayer. If I must walk down this road, then let me yield to His will, surrender to the process, and look more like Jesus at the end of it.

Again, thank you so much to all who have prayed for us, supported us, and given financially on this journey. Please don’t stop praying, we’re going to need it in the days ahead that will be hard emotionally for all of us, and physically for me. 

But through it all, we will trust in His goodness.

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Too deep for words

I am completely aware that it has been a very sparse blogging season for me. Not a day has passed during the past few months that I have not looked at my ipad and felt the weight of the lack of writing. My fingers have longed to type. But my heart has said no.

Continue reading

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Our journey toward embryo adoption: We’re getting close!

It’s been a very long while since I have updated, but much has been happening behind the scenes. We are moving forward, and the actual embryo transfer is scheduled on the calendar!

Medically speaking, my body has been responding to the meds and procedures exactly the way it’s supposed to and we have every reason to hope that our babies will survive and thrive. Emotionally speaking, this has been a faith journey like no other for me. I have been stretched in every direction, and I am depending completely on the Lord to sustain these babies, provide for the remaining financial costs, and do a work in me throughout the rest of this process.

Financially speaking, God showed us an avenue for provision that should eventually cover most of the cost, but that provision is neither here yet nor 100% guranteed. So while we have no plans for any more official “fundraisers” we are still deeply grateful for additional financial gifts and donations. Those can be made through http://www.paypal.me/hallembryoadoption or by mail with checks made out to Clay or Monica Hall at Hall Embryo Adoption, PO Box 92, Grand Rivers, KY 42045.

I know this is a vague update, but we are keeping some details purposely vague to protect my privacy and my fragile emotions during the weeks surrounding the actual transfer. Remember, once the embryos are transferred, we still have quite a wait before we know if they will continue growing and developing and actually have a healthy pregnancy. We are trusting the Lord and completely surrendering this to Him. 

Your prayers, encouragement, and financial support means more to us than we can say. Please keep praying for us and for these babies. And hopefully soon, we’ll be sharing the joyous announcement of the fruit of your investment in our family and in the lives of these tiny ones.

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Our journey toward embryo adoption: Where we stand and how you can help

It’s been awhile since we posted an update on our journey.

If you are just finding out about our embryo adoption, you might want to read about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why we’re doing it this way to catch up. Here’s where we stand right now: we are at just under 20% in our funding, leaving a little more than $12,000 left to raise.

One reality about embryo adoption that is different than traditional adoption is that we do not qualify for any of the typical adoption grants that you may have heard of people receiving to help with their adoption costs. There are a few grants out there for embryo adoption, but they are given to infertile couples using this as their route to first-time parenthood. Also, embryo adoption is not eligible for the Adoption Tax Credit. So those are two big avenues of financial help typical in traditional adoptions that are not open to us. So even though our costs are significantly lower than traditional adoption, we have fewer resources available for help. We are relying solely on the provision of the Lord through individuals and groups who choose to partner with us directly by helping us raise the $15,000 total medical costs for us to adopt two embryos.

We have been in constant prayer, seeking the Lord for His plan for us and for these embryos, and we believe He is continuing to lead us down this road. Because of that, we are going out on faith and asking Him for big things during the month of August. We are asking Him to provide most if not all of the remaining $12,000 this month, so that by our appointment at the clinic on September 11, we will be able to tell them we’re ready to start the process for embryo transfer by the end of this year. That’s a huge goal, we know, but we serve a huge God.

Many of you have already partnered with us and we are grateful. If you haven’t, here are some ways you can help:

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  • You can sponsor a puzzle piece–we have a blank puzzle that we are filling in with the names of those who give to make this adoption possible. If you give a gift of $35 or more, your name will be added to the puzzle as a permanent reminder to us of your generosity and investment in these babies’ lives.
  • You can give as a group–maybe you’d like to help but $35 is a stretch or you would just like to get your friends involved. Consider giving as a Sunday school class, small group, etc, and we’ll include your group on our family puzzle.
  • Donate through your business–If you are an independent consultant for a direct sales company, consider allowing me to host an online or in-person party for your product, with a percentage of the proceeds going to the adoption. Or donate a percentage of the proceeds from one specific product or one specific time frame.
  • Local friends, hire us–our children are as excited about this as we are, and they are eager to help. Catherine and Elisabeth can turn out goodies from the oven that are both delicious and good-looking. Cupcakes, cookies, pies, breads, and basic cakes–consider placing an order or watching for our posts when we have a baking day and have some to sell. They would also be willing to make pillows like they sold last summer if you had a special request. Abigail loves children and has gone through baby-sitting training and would love to care for your children. All of them are willing to do tasks like helping outdoors, helping with animals while you’re out of town, or helping with odd jobs here and there.
  • Spread the word–maybe there’s no way for you to help financially. Believe me, we understand. We haven’t always been able to help when our friends were raising money, either. But maybe you know someone with a heart for adoption or pro-life causes that might be in a position to help financially. Consider sharing our story with someone who might be interested in investing in life this way.

Financial gifts can be given via PayPal at www.paypal.me/hallembryoadoption, or by mail (checks made out to Clay or Monica Hall) at Hall Embryo Adoption, PO Box 92, Grand Rivers, KY 42045, or given in person.

There are no words to express our gratitude for those who are partnering with us, either financially or by praying with us through this process. We will likely never be able to repay you in this life,  but we trust our Lord to grant you an eternal reward on your investment. May God bless you as you join us on this journey.

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