Hi friend! My name is Jen Carlson and I am loving life with my boys in our sleepy mountain town by the sea in northern California. Both Joe and I grew up here and have known each other since the fourth grade. We met at Sunday school, the only two tall kids in the room, and we’ve been best friends ever since. We married halfway through college and what a grace and a glory of 15 years it has been!
After a stint in Russian language and lit, and 7 years in the coffee world, Joe is at last doing what he was made for – pastoring and teaching at the church we grew up in, and it is our heart’s joy. He leads bible studies and a book club (CS Lewis) and preaches on the UCSC campus and reads like a bullet train. I happily support him in all the ministries, cooking and hospitality and beautifying the home and mentoring and counseling, as well as teaching piano and cello, and running a thriving business with Young Living.
We spent 11 of our wonderful married years asking the Lord for children and using every good means available to us to conceive. There were many many hard days and nights, but in the kindness of God, year 7 was a turning point in my heart. I suddenly saw two paths before me: one of bitterness and one of joy. God kindly gave me this vision, and He gave me the courage and conviction to cry out “Lord, make me the most joyful childless woman You can!” I released my grasp on the sadness and He began to fill me with purpose, joy, and fruitfulness. It was like a switch was flipped and a fire was lit again, ready to be useful to Him in any capacity.
A few years after this, I underwent a round of fertility treatments at our local research hospital. We knew the Lord had opened the doors for this, but for very different purposes than we thought. We expected a pregnancy but instead received a severe mercy. My body collapsed under the weight of drugs and I became bed-ridden, ignorant of the damage the chemicals had done to my liver, gut, and brain. It was a very scary time. But it was such an important one: it was on that low road in that dark valley that we began to really know our God, taste His goodness and faithfulness, live on His word, and hope in His promises. He was shaping us, and we were surrounded by our loving family, who served us night and day, prayed for us with tears, and kept our hope afloat. (I have many precious and beautiful memories from this time, proof of the Lord’s ability to walk closely and carry the burden. He never forsook us in it!). After months of not knowing what was happing to me, He kindly led us to a holistic chiropractor who became the life raft in the raging sea of malfunctions, and I began at last to heal. To dare even to live again! Father, we praise you for your kindness!
Shortly after I was back on my feet, God began a most wonderful work in our hearts regarding children. Until this point, every year Joe and I would revisit the subject of adoption, praying over it and considering it carefully, and every year we felt no leading in that direction. But while I had been busy recovering my health, God had been busy behind the scenes. Our mom happened to bring home from her job at the NICU a business card for a private local agency. She handed it to me saying, “I don’t know where you guys are at with the idea of adoption, but here you go.” I had had no idea there was an adoption agency literally in our neighborhood!! I didn’t throw it away, though any other time I would have. I tucked it in my wallet. A few months later, a friend handed me the same business card! A month after that, a third person!! God was knocking on my heart. And on Joe’s heart too. We laid in bed one night, our hearts racing, praying “God, are you in this? Could this be what you’ve been asking us to wait for? A local baby who needs a home?” Tears rolled down in excitement and trepidation, and we said “If this is you, Lord, then here we go!”
Two years later, we brought home a 3-day-old baby boy and named him Joseph Benaiah. Joseph for the mantle of his daddy given to him with full love and abandon, and Benaiah for the fearless and faithful warrior in faithless times. The moment we got the call, and the moment we picked him up (and the waiting time in between!) was epic…far beyond what words can tell or what hearts can hold. But we know that God intended this son for us through all those years of waiting and trial. He prepared us well for this day. And this joy was worth the wait.
Our journey through infertility is one we will forever thank and worship God for because in the 13 years of “not yet” He created for us a path of patience, character, wisdom endurance, faith in the promises, and clear vision of who we are, what we stand for, and why we even wanted children at all. Our prayer and hope is to adopt more and see Hysa House full of little souls laughing around our table, growing in wonder, and reaching tall toward Christ the Sun of gladness. And we hope to be an encouragement to those who are walking a similar road of infertility, health crisis, or suffering.