Second Chance

Have you ever wished for a second chance at something?  I am sure that I have wanted chances at many things throughout life, but I trust that the Lord granted me the chances (and second ones) that were best for me and that provided the opportunity to do what He desired for me to do.

Last year, I got my second chance at thanking my former pediatrician for the care he gave me.  Dr. Hamburg had been my pediatrician ever since I was a little girl.  He happened to be gone on vacation the week that I became incredibly ill.  I lay in the hospital slowly dying while various doctors tried to figure out what was going on with me.  My mom told me that as soon as Dr. Hamburg arrived back in town, he immediately came up to the hospital, read my chart, took one look at me, and then panicked.  He quickly ordered a CT scan which revealed a mass in my abdomen.  This in turn led to exploratory surgery to find what was believed to be a mass.  The mass was actually my uterus which was extremely swollen and filled with massive infection.  Dr. Hamburg also called in a new ob/gyn surgeon with wonderful credentials to perform the life-saving surgery.

I know, or at least, firmly believe that if he would have waited just a few days to return to the “office” after his vacation, I would have never made it.  There were many hands that touched me during that time and all of them played a part in saving my life.  However, I know Dr. Hamburg did not accept not knowing what was wrong.  He hastily came to the hospital and did not stop until he found the reason why his otherwise very healthy patient lay withering away.

That is the back story of Dr. Hamburg.  I also want to share what I believe is the Lord’s gifting of a second chance for me.  Here it is….

My first chance at something I had wanted to do happened at a local grocery story about a year and a half ago.  I looked up while pushing my cart around and saw my former pediatrician, Dr. Hamburg, shopping.  I studied him closely.  He is probably close to 80-years-old now and even though I knew it was him, I just wanted to be sure.  While I was trying to get the nerve up to go talk to him, I lost sight and, like that, he was nowhere to be found.  I hastily walked from aisle to aisle looking for him but could not find him.  My chance at telling this doctor who had a huge part in saving my life was gone.

As I walked out of the store, I felt the Lord saying to me “Caroline!  I gave you the perfect opportunity and you blew it!”  Oh my…I am sure our Heavenly Father just wants to throw His hands up sometimes with frustration!  I know this is something that He wanted me to do.  I have felt so led in the past few years to reconnect with pivotal people in my life who were in the trenches with me and my family during and after my hysterectomy.

The rest of the night and several days…okay months…passed and I could not get Dr. Hamburg out of my mind.  Last summer while heading into a store I looked up and there he was carrying a bag of groceries to his car.  I walked past with my sunglasses on so that I could give him one last look just to make sure.  As I was getting closer to the door of the grocery store, I realized this was the second chance I had been hoping for.

I immediately turned around and scurried as fast as I could to his car.  Nervously, I walked up and said “Excuse me, are you Dr. Hamburg?”  He said “yes”.  I then said “I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Caroline and I was one of your patients.”  He studied my face closely, but did not seem to be quite sure of whom I was.  He then said “How are you?” I said “I’m doing really well.”  He said “You have a sister right? How is she?”  I said “Yes I do. She’s doing well.”  He then introduced me to his granddaughter.  Now at this point, I could tell it was about to get awkward as he just kept searching my face trying to recall who I was.

I took a deep breath and said to him “I don’t know if you remember this but I am the girl who had the hysterectomy when I was eleven.”  In a split second, he turned and looked at his granddaughter and then looked back at me with an expression of “aha” mixed with excitement and concern at the same time.  I said “Dr. Hamburg, I am so glad I ran into you because I want to thank you.  I know that you played a very big part in saving my life.  And, I just want to let you know how grateful I am for this.  You saved my life.”

Of course, by this time, tears were streaming down my face.  I looked at him and his eyes that were filled with wisdom from the years began to well up with tears that eventually made their way to his cheeks.  He leaned forward and hugged me saying “thank you”. As I told him about being the mother of two wonderful children adopted out of foster care, he just stood there, staring, with tears rolling down.  His granddaughter was smiling from ear to ear.  We said our goodbyes and I turned around to enter the store.  I felt like I was flying.  My heart and mind were so excited, thankful, emotional, and in awe of what just occurred.  

I am so incredibly thankful for the second chance God gave me to run into Dr. Hamburg again.  I don’t even know if chance is the right word though.  I have learned through the years that nothing really happens by chance after all.  I believe that  our Heavenly Father is and always will be the creator of opportunities, and the writer of those golden moments where we can shine for Him, show love, and express thankfulness for the works He set His children to do on this Earth.

PSALM 107:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Room 452

Room 452 is where my life lay in the balance back in 1983.  The beeps of machines and buzz of nurses and doctors scurrying in and out of this room were a stark contrast to the isolating existence of being stowed away in the hospital.  In this room, prayers were said, tears were shed, lives were changed, and courage was shown.  In this room, a miracle occurred – the miracle of my life being brought back from the thin edge of death.

My mom kept every note, card, picture, and letter sent to me while in the hospital struggling to survive the ravenous bacteria that had already killed my uterus, right Fallopian tube, and right ovary before the doctors discovered it.  It was working its way to my bladder and throughout my abdomen when found….just in the nick of time.  Looking through these mementos of that fragile time makes me realize how very fortunate I am.

Of course, I am extremely blessed to be sitting here typing my story.  I am also even more encouraged by the faithful loving Father who gifted me with the adoption of my children despite the barrenness that entered my life.  But, I am not talking about these things when realizing how fortunate I am.  I am talking about the kindness, encouragement, generosity, compassion, and faith-driven prayers that were lifted up to our Father in Heaven in room 452.

The notes from my schoolmates were all very sweet and humorous.  They still show the type of innocence that made up typical eleven and twelve-year-old’s back in 1983.  Their wishes for a speedy recovery and for me to get back to school to play paled in comparison to how desperately ill I really was.  While I enjoy glancing through these scribbled and colorful letters, I find myself most moved by the cards and notes from adults.

Several of the cards and notes were from adults with-whom I had never met.  They were friends of my parents, friends of my extended family, and other adults who had become aware of a girl whose life had just been turned upside down.  These loving letters were sent to lift my spirits while they lifted me up to the Lord.

Years ago the wife of the doctor who performed my surgery disclosed that she led a small prayer vigil in her home that fateful night in 1983 when her husband had to perform one of the most difficult tasks in his medical career and adult life.  Again, there was a group of adult strangers tucked away pleading with the Lord to bring me through the surgery and for complete healing.  It blessed me immensely to hear she this.  I know the surgery greatly affected her husband as well.  He will always be one of my “angels on Earth”.

I do believe that prayer is quite simply one of the most authentic ways that Christians can express their beliefs in a loving, powerful God.  It is a mighty powerful thing, and I believe that the Lord listened to the cries of those who loved me during those days and nights while I fought to survive. It continues to make an incredible impression on me twenty-nine years later when coming across prayerful messages jotted down and sent to me during that time.

My life was forever changed in room 452.  My life was greatly impacted by my name being whispered to Heaven by the lips of adults.  As an adult now, I hope that I do not fail in lifting up children to the Lord.

In a world where it seems that children are the last things on politicians, leaders, and adults minds, we need to commit ourselves to being mindful of their futures.  We need to pray for this generation of young ones growing up in a fast pace, quick fix, and digital world.  Children need this now more than ever.

I wonder how many lives could be changed if Christians remembered to pray with purpose and passion for youth of this world.  It matters to people to know they are being prayed for.  There may not be a room 452 where a child needs prayer.  It could be in a hut, one room apartment, mansion, or even a street.  Will you commit yourself to lifting up children to the Lord?  You never know what kind of eternal impact can be made in the life of just one child in need.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Where is your treasure?

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

A friend recently told me that when she and her husband started telling people they are taking foster parent classes, they were met with responses that were both surprising and disheartening.  People have said things like “why don’t you just have your own baby?”, or “why would you do that?”  Unfortunately, the majority of these statements have come from fellow believers in Christ.

It seems this appears to be quite common even in the Christian community, or at least perhaps in our area of the country.  Thankfully, my husband and I did not deal with this as much because people knew we were infertile and that we wanted the opportunity to be parents and hopefully adopt.  But, my friend and her husband have biological children, and could have more if they chose to.  They have felt called for a while now by the Lord to minister to little ones through foster care.

After our conversation, my heart was a little unsettled.  The Lord kept saying to me “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”-Luke 12:34.  After pondering on this, the thought entered my mind that while we are truly blessed in America, where is our heart?  In my opinion, it seems that it is in worldly things.  We treasure our actors and celebrities. We lift them up on pedestals and award them.  Yet, do they reflect our hearts?

We fight so hard with each other over our political opinions and opponents.  Our different views in policies and our abilities to express them are an integral part of our freedoms, but do they really reflect where our hearts should be?  We strive for big cars, bigger houses, and small waistlines, but still, are these the things that we treasure?

It would be a lie to say that I don’t enjoy going to movies, voting, or admiring nice cars or homes.  It would also be not truthful if I never worried about what the scale said.  But, I hope these things never reflect where my treasures really are.

It breaks my heart that in this country of opportunity where fellow Christians can walk freely without persecution, we overlook what is truly important.  The Lord has called us to minister to ALL people.  This includes the politicians we don’t agree with.  This includes the actors or actresses that we may find “weird”.  This especially includes children who have fallen into the foster care system.

I have worked in child welfare for eleven years now and have seen so many horrible and vile acts against children.  I have witnessed foster families get their hearts broken time and time again.  I have watched birth parents lose their battles with addictions, and ultimately lose their children.  Sadly, I have seen social workers become hardened to their hopes that they can change the world.

I still believe that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of children.  I choose to believe that people can change, but they need willing participants to walk along them in their battles.  Sometimes, it seems that we want children to grow up in safe homes, or want adults to change, but fail to recognize our responsibilities in these things.

We might say “I believe in Christ and love Him mightily”; yet, we turn our backs on the things that take us out of our comfortable “God bubble”.  Christ surely was taken out of His comfort zone.  He could have decided not to follow His Father’s calling.  He could have walked away, but He chose not to.

If we want the staggering statistics of abuse and neglect of children to end, we too must not walk away.  Foster care and being involved in child welfare issues will certainly take us out of our comfort zones.  It will definitely break our hearts at times.  However, our involvement in children’s lives and doing what God has called us to do is a reflection of where our treasure should be.

I saw a poster one time that said this “You have never looked into the eyes of anyone who does not matter to God”.  I have decided to recite this to myself daily as a reminder of the incredible responsibility and calling as a Christian to love people, especially those that can be overlooked by society.  My hope is that my treasure and my heart will always be focused on the One who is worth treasuring, and on the children He desperately loves.

He Chose Love

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary this weekend, and I am so thankful for him. We have been married for eleven years. As an adolescent and young adult, I once believed that marriage is something I would never get to have due to my barrenness. I am very lucky to have found someone who has accepted everything about me; the good, the bad, and the infertility.

I do not know what it would be like to be married to someone who is infertile. My husband does though. He knew before we were married that if he decided to take this ride of life with me then he would never have biological children. He has assured me that it did not matter to him when we were first got engaged and it does not matter to him now.

He has had to learn by nature of experience and witness that infertility is not just about babies, or actually NOT having babies. It is an emotional and spiritual challenge as well. He has spent an equal amount of time assuring me that I am just as much female than I have spent doubting myself or comparing myself to others. He has also been silent about the topic when I needed him to be.

He never wanted to fix my situation. He and I know he could not do that anyway. Instead, he wanted to understand it and allow whatever was meant to happen in our lives to happen. My husband has seen my grief. He has heard my cries and watched as I have wiped away tears. Still yet, he never once made me feel as though he has regretted our marriage, or the fact that he would never have a biological child.

Instead, he has embraced my barrenness while holding on to me. Trust me; there has been a lot of baggage left over from the years of strife. Even now as adoptive parents, we know we face issues that our friends who have biological children do not deal with. Yet again, there he is just going along with the flow. He chose this.

I have typically thought that infertility, foster care, and adoption were written for MY life. However, my life experiences have helped shape my husband’s journey. God wrote this for his life just as much as He did for mine. I have often said that when I lay sickly in the hospital as a child God knew the plans He had for me. The whole truth though is that the Lord also knew the plans He had for my husband.

This story is not just mine. It is his as well. Fatherhood is special to him and I am thankful that adoption has given him the chance to be a daddy. My husband’s Heavenly Father has greatly enriched his life, filled in the gaps, and placed him exactly where he needs to be in order to be the best dad he can. He has also blessed my husband with a genuine sense of empathy and compassion for others.

My husband was a fantastic foster dad. He attended meetings when he could, went to court hearings, supported case workers, and loved on the children. He got up in the middle of the night to feed them when they were newborns. He changed diapers, prepared bottles, and played with them before tucking them in at night.

I know fostering was hard on him as it was on me, but I also believe that his desire to be a dad was strong enough to keep him going through all of the ups and downs that fostering brings. There were many times when he would tear up at the thought of losing the children – although, we both knew going into it that the goal was reunification. He approached it all with an open heart and mind.

My husband was so compassionate to my son’s birth mother. He embraced her. He engaged her in supportive conversations, and never once made her feel less than human. This, of course, is one the many things that I found to be so wonderful about him. My son’s birth mother told me one time that she was so glad he was an involved dad because she wanted her son to have a daddy who would do things with him.  It was just awesome to witness him ministering in his own way to her. It reminded me over and over how truly blessed I am, and how blessed our children are.

When my husband chose to ask for my hand in marriage, he knowingly walked into it with the realization that our lives would be different from most people that we know. He truly did not know if he would ever be a dad.  He chose love over infertility, and I am so grateful that he did.  I am also grateful for the Lord choosing my husband for me.

Dance before His Throne

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the girl I was before my hysterectomy. My surgery was not just another one chalked up in the history of who I am. It was a life-changing event. It was something that tarnished my rose-colored glasses view of the world.

I had not been a stranger to the hospital or illnesses before. At age two, I underwent an emergency appendectomy. At age seven, intestinal adhesions caused a blockage calling for another emergency surgery. But, the hysterectomy was a far more intense and dire experience.

This surgery affected everyone around me. It was not just about recovery. It was more than that. It was a game changer. My parent’s lives were instantly changed by it. My life, of course, was too.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed life. There was still laughter, new experiences, and friendships. But, after the surgery, sadness stowed itself away in me unbeknownst to many people.

Prior to this surgery, I was a dancer. By the time I was eleven, I had danced for eight years.  I danced competitively and dreamt of performing on Broadway. My ultimate goal was to be a choreographer. However, something changed in me following the surgery. My body did not move the same way. It took more effort. My muscles had been emaciated from the infection and, to be honest, my spirit had been dampened by it as well.

Within a few years after my recovery, I quit dancing. I don’t know why really. My dance teacher told me many years later that she believed if the surgery would have never happened, I could have been a professional dancer. She too thought that it changed my body’s ability to move and nearly wiped me clean of the strength I once had.

So, here I am now at age forty still thinking of the days I danced. I’ve decided to write a poem to the little girl I once was whose dreams of dancing went to the wayside. I know that when my walk on this Earth has ended, I will be dancing before the Lord.

Dance away, little dancer. Dance before His throne. Dance for all the pain you have once known.

No longer taste the salt in your tears. Feel the movement taking away all of your fears.

Dance your life into a story, and let it be all for His glory.

Point your toes with every ounce of grace. See the expression of love on His face.

Dance away, little dancer. The one who longed to know the answer.

The answer to why that fateful time came.  The longing for a life that would never be the same.

Your life interrupted with no fault of your own. In a single moment, your life’s tapestry was sewn.

Welcome home, little dancer. For now, you know the answer.

His love is your melody. Dance your praise for eternity.

You’ve danced your life into a story. And, it all has been for His glory.

Dear Infertility

Dear Infertility,

Hello, it’s me again. You know…the little girl you once made to feel inadequate, the teenager you once strived to isolate, and the adult you almost accomplished stealing joy from. Well, I’m here to tell you what you cannot do.

You cannot diminish moments of laughter that echo in my mind for days following. You won’t determine my capacity to love other people and children. You no longer make me feel less of a female or parent or anything else you once tried to convince me of.

You don’t stalk me like you used to. I don’t think of you when I see babies anymore. I actually enjoy going to baby showers now. You used to tag along uninvited just to make me feel uncomfortable.  You are not invited, anymore.

You no longer cause a wedge between me and the loving Father I believe in. You used to do that, you know. I used you as an excuse to not listen to Him. He is bigger than you will ever be.  He reminds me what His plans are for my life, not yours.

You cannot take away forgiveness. You do not replace hope. You obviously offer very little grace, but I do not look to you for it anyway.

For the most part, you were one of my darkest secrets. I hid you away for so long.  Funny thing now is that I’m exposing you to the world. You have become my motivation to write, to reach out, and to love.

At one time, I was incomplete. You filled an ever-growing void with even more sorrow, but not anymore. I will never use you again as a way to justify my lack of purpose or meaning in this life.

Dear infertility…this is not goodbye. I can still use you to be a more passionate person. I can still reminisce of you as a reminder to try and love my children more each day than I did the day before. I see you trying to pull others down and I recognize you right away. I use this as motivation for being a more genuine and empathetic listener. The tears I cry now are not for me, but for those of whom you are trying to take over.

Dear infertility…you have not stolen my ability to have a bountiful life. I have a full, rich life that involves children despite your attempt at taking that away. My life is no longer barren. You did not create a wasteland in me. Oh, I won’t forget you. How can I really? You have traveled with me the vast majority of my life, but you are not my life. Ironically, you have caused me to view life as being precious.

Dear infertility…this is not goodbye. This is me saying hello to all the things that you will never be.

Words of My Heart

Wow.  I can’t believe that I started this blog one month ago.  I also can’t believe I waited so long to start blogging.  This month has been a phenomenal time of discovery, writing, thinking, writing, praying, writing, connecting, and of course writing.  Throughout this month I have been able to share a bit of my journey here on Earth, as well as, learn about others.  I sort of think of myself now as part of a community of women and families who have been challenged by infertility and/or ones who are in the process of stepping outside of themselves so that they can be families for foster children.

I have found myself wondering if my experience growing up would have been totally different had I been given the opportunity to share my feelings about infertility with others who could relate.  Just knowing that there were others out there experiencing a small portion of what I was dealing with would have made a huge impact in my life.  Of course, I was a young girl so the level of relatability would have been different from adults going through it.  I don’t know for sure if I would have taken the opportunity due to being an adolescent, but still, I really wished there would have been blogs around, or the Internet for that matter.

I kept my “story” inside my heart and mind for the past 29 years since my hysterectomy.  I really did not speak the words of my heart very often.  Sure, I have shared parts with close friends, family, and my husband.  I have even been asked to give my testimony to various groups, but, writing pieces of it out has brought life to my thoughts kept buried for so many years.  It has also given me a sense of gratitude for where I am now.

I read other women’s blogs about their struggles and what they are currently going through with trying to have a family.  They are discovering the road to becoming parents has taken sharp turns or completely come to a dead end.  I hear their pain in their words.  I feel it in my heart.  I wish I could assure them that some aspects of infertility may affect them for the rest of their lives, but it does not make up their whole lives.

I had to learn growing up that there was more to me than not having children, and there was more to being a woman than having children.  My children do not define me.  Pregnancy would not make me anymore female.  This was a battle I struggled with for so long that my heart aches for women going through it.  Infertility, although it has felt like it at times, is not my whole life.

I won’t lie.  I’m so thankful for my pain of barrenness being something in the past.  I’m incredibly blessed to be at this place of peace and contentment.  Yet, I never want to forget the molding, sharpening, and refining that my experience has done for me.  I remember what it was like to walk around wondering if I would ever feel normal.  There were times I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders or that I had to figure out what I was going to do about what happened to me.  I found though that the more I tried to figure it all out, the worse I felt about my circumstance.

I could not control what happened.  I could not even control what was going to happen in the future.  I could choose to grasp onto the hope that something good was bound to come from all of this.  I also began to realize that I needed to rely more on my faith in a loving Heavenly Father than the persuasions and suggestions of the world.  No one could ever really tell me how to manage it even if they tried.  So, I kept it all in.  I spoke very little of it.

Realizing that I am exactly who God created me to be is the most profound feeling of love and contentment.  I think back when I was a young girl who had been dealt a very difficult hand in life, and am amazed now at the sense of purpose I have found in it.  I am not an expert in the entire experience of infertility, but I am an expert in my own.  All of us going through the heartache of trying to have a family to call our own have varying stories of loss, hope, despair, and joy that intertwine through out our walks.  Even though the set of details might differ, the ability to relate and empathize with others has been wonderful and so needed in my life.  Bless you for the encouraging words several of you have said to me, and especially for taking the time to read the words of my heart.