The Shalom of the City

I had a super great phone conversation with Natalie yesterday. It was the first time we had talked since her initial request. It was a bit awkward–neither of us are great at the phone, especially her because she’s mostly deaf (but has great hearing aids apparently?). But it was also wonderful. We were able to talk about the surrogacy but also about normal people stuff–she told me about seeing Patrick Stewart in The TempestĀ when she was in England, and about how she met her best friend. There were gaps in each of our understanding, I’m sure, but we felt closer.

One thing she said was, “Could we come visit you before all of this really gets going? I want to meet these amazing people who are so important to you.” And it was just what I had been wishing we could do. Just hang out and spend time together and be present with each other for a few days. So they’re coming! The week of November 1, Logan has a break from med school and Natalie’s taking vacation from the hospital and they’ll be here with us. I’m going to have a dinner with my closest friends and take them to the American Shakespeare Center and out for a hike at Hone Quarry and just all over. She said especially that she’d like to meet my pastor and go to my church, and I would very much like that, too.

At our church, we have what is officially called “Prayers and Sharing,” but what everyone really calls “Microphone Time.” I was imagining getting up at Microphone Time to introduce them, and here’s what I imagined saying. I’m writing it down because I want to remember it. Maybe I’ll use it.

I’m happy to introduce my step-brother Logan and his wife, Natalie, who are visiting us from Arizona this week. I also want to tell you why they are visiting with us, because I want to request your prayers.

They’ve asked me to be a gestational surrogate for them, and after a long process of discernment, I’ve agreed. The surrogacy itself is a long process–there won’t be a pregnancy until May or June, at least, and of course, the baby takes longer than that. This fall, we’ve been walking together through this idea. I never thought I would say yes to this, let alone be actually excited to do it, but I am. I’m excited and scared. I feel confident about everything up until five minutes after the birth–I had okay pregnancies, and my birth experiences were wonderful. But I know, because I have my own children, that it will be hard to have a baby from my body who is my niece or nephew and who will go away to Arizona while I stay here. And as I was praying about that piece of it, about my fears of the pain of that moment, God gave me a gift; or rather, God pointed out to me a gift that God had already given me.

As I prayed, God placed before my eyes so many people. My best friends who I know would do anything for me, as I would for them. The circle of people just a bit further out, who I adore, who I think about daily and try to connect with weekly and pray for and love. My former colleagues whom I respect and admire and I delight in seeing around town. This church, which has been such a place of refuge for me. The people I met in Birth Circle and now see at the playground with our big six-year-olds. The whole Friendly City with its open arms for people from all over our world. God showed me my friend Zac’s window that is installed at the Church of the Incarnation, down the road, with the Harrisonburg city skyline and the Dove of the Holy Spirit spreading its wings over it. God said, These people, this city, will sustain you. No matter how this goes, you will have the shalom of this city, and in it, you will find your shalom.

And when I told Natalie this, she said, “We want to meet this amazing community. Can we come visit?”

So here they are.

If you came to my baby shower or brought us a meal after Petra and Silas were born, if you have thanked me for playing my violin in the service, if you have served alongside me on a committee, if you wrote us a note after JC was laid off, if you are one of the wonderful people who held my baby so I could eat at potluck, if you were part of the “Listening for God’s Call” Sunday school experience, if you’ve gone out of your way to see one of my shows, if you’re involved with the leadership development group, if you’ve been in a small group with us, if you throw a yellow card when people crowd the coffee station, if you taught my kids in Sunday school, if you sent your dream up in a balloon, and especially if you helped me set that whole balloon thing up, if you emailed me with words of encouragement after I was invited to be on Council, if your vote contributed to what Jacob Jost called my “Stalinesque margin of victory,” if you are someone like Jacob who always has a great one-liner to undercut my tendencies toward panic and self-doubt, please, come introduce yourself to Logan and Natalie after the service. they traveled 2000 miles to meet you. And know that I thank God daily for your presence in my life.

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