To the Woman Who Offered Me Her Womb

Everything remembers something. The rock, its fiery bed,
cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub
of watery fingers along its edge.

The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,
remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,
gathering itself together for the fall.

The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under
its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down
the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

The tree remembers the story of each ring, the years
of drought, the floods, the way things came
walking slowly towards it long ago.

And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
and the arms remember lifting up the child.

The heart remembers everything it loved and gave away,
everything it lost and found again, and everyone
it loved, the heart cannot forget.

“What the Heart Cannot Forget” by Joyce Sutphen

I remember you: meek, friendly, heart dripping stars. We were friends, but not close friends. We were the kind that said “hey” in the halls and wrote “you’re a sweetheart” and “call me this summer” in that year’s yearbook, but never called.

I hadn’t heard from you in over 20 years when we became friends on social media. And we were “friends” in the way it often dictates: the one where you don’t necessarily talk or share, but have access to another’s life, just in case you really want it.

I’d thought of you off and on, especially when I’d see photos or updates roll past my feed, and then one day you reached out.

I remembered thinking it was likely a message sprinkled with nostalgia and perhaps a bit of regret–the kind that comes from losing touch–but what I found was this:

I am not sure where you are in life but I just wanted to reach out to you with an offer. I have thought a lot about this in the past 2 1/2 years since my family has been complete. I am looking into the process of being a surrogate/ gestational carrier for someone. I have done research on several agencies but I am somewhat reluctant to go through an agency because often times they charge the hopeful family a large amount of money for the service. I am not interested in profiting at all from this, I only want to help out. God has blessed me with smooth, uncomplicated pregnancies and I have never suffered a loss. I carried twins until 36 weeks, 4 days and they had no NICU time. I would be willing to carry multiples again. I have followed your blog and I cannot seem to get you or your struggle and pain out of my head. Having a family was a number one priority for me and I cannot imagine what you have gone through. I am very sorry if this offer is coming at a bad time and I completely understand if you are not interested but I just thought I would offer since I will most likely continue to search for a hopeful family in need of help if you are not interested. I feel like we have one chance in this life to make a difference and help others and this is one way I could help someone.
God Bless.

There was nothing to do but cry.

There have been moments when, in blistering heat, I haven’t been offered a sip of water. There have been moments when, in complete and utter despair, an embrace has been withheld. There have been moments when those I love have asked that I never consider them a bodily ally against infertility and pregnancy loss. That I never consider them surrogates of body or spirit.

And then there’s you, offering nearly a complete stranger your womb. And what is it you ask in return??


My heart still hangs on the moon of that evening, grateful that people like you exist…grateful to know people like you exist. And tiny words like Thank you? They’re insufficient.

I know that.

So what do you say to a woman who offered to place your heart in hers?

What can you say?

What can I say?

I can tell you that I will be honoring you, and all those with like hearts, this Mother’s Day and everyday.

It’s women like you–whether through surrogacy or adoption–who give the gift of motherhood to those who would otherwise remain childless.

It’s women like you who give us hope.

It’s women like you who remind us that a child doesn’t have to pass through us to be born of us.

It’s women like you who embody Grace and prove that we are each other’s keepers.

It’s women like you who allow us a chance to cloak ourselves in midnight and miracles and step onto the magically tragic, heartrendingly surreal, life-altering ride that is parenthood.

It’s women like you.

The T Word: Transgender

You don’t get to decide the truth. Other people have their own experiences, just as valid. This is easy to forget. Your slice of life seems so large and unmistakable, like a mirage of wholeness from where you stand. But it is your job to know better and not confuse your small piece for the whole, even if you sometimes forget. Life is big—much bigger than just yours. This is the only note to self: other people are real. That’s all there is to learn. 

— Frank Chimero – The Only Note To Self

At an event earlier this month, I sat reading over the only flyer available: an advertisement for The New Three Tenors.  As I glanced over the neon page, I saw two sandled feet standing inches from where I sat.  I found the feet peculiar, noting that the toes weren’t bare but layered with seamed stockings, and followed them until they took a lengthy pause outside the men’s room.

The figure, dressed in a black ill-fitting suit, had broad shoulders and legs as thin as jump rope.  I looked further and saw a black purse, worn at the edges; brown hair, thin like gossamer; and glasses, square-rimmed and smart.

While I gathered my things, the figure crossed my path once again, this time walking around me to hold open the ladies’ room door.  I said “thank you” and saw her weathered hands, then heard her deep voice in reply.  As I walked through the door, I looked at her…cobbling together her frame, her hands, her voice and the way she looked away when I Saw her.  Suddenly, her long pause in front of the men’s room made sense:  she was transgender.

The National Center for Transgender Equality defines transgender as “a term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.”  In other words, being biologically male, but self-identifying as female and vice versa.

We have the tendency to catalog the people we see, often by gender followed by any number of sub-catalogs:  attractiveness, body type, level of friendliness, assumed personality type, etc. As those who identify as transgender may not fit our internal catalog system, we may be left feeling stymied and thus catalog them in the following way: Other.

Whenever I look at a person I remember that she or he is an iceberg.

Only one-tenth of an iceberg’s volume is above water; as with us, its true form and balance of content lie beneath its surface.  If all we see when we look at a person is the layer of skin stretched over muscle and bone, then we don’t really See.  Our True shape is only visible beneath our blue veil, but most don’t go to those depths.

Perhaps they don’t want to.

Perhaps they’re afraid to.

I recently went to those depths with a dear friend.  She is tried and true, remarkable and resilient.  She is what everyone hopes for in a confidant:  open-hearted, clear-minded and stalwart in soul.  She has been happily married for 33 years and through that union has been blessed with four living children.  She is a giver of kindness, a doer of good, and a lover of people.  She is also transgender.

Because of her desire to walk in her truth, she has lost friends, been ostracized, vilified, and more recently, fired from a job where she put in three plus decades of service.  All of this because they choose to see the skin stretched over muscle and bone, nothing more.

On October 17, a pastor and fellow blogger, John Pavlovitz, published a post titled “The Lost Christian Art of Giving a Damn”.  In it he wrote:

We’ve stopped seeing people, (especially those we disagree with or who disagree with us), with the kind of softness and compassion that should mark us as followers of Jesus; the deep empathy that comprises a clear calling upon our lives.

I would like to extend his words even further, past Christianity, to our master status: that of human beings.  It should not matter if someone is black or white, gay or straight, trans or gender conforming, Jew or Muslim.  People are people.  We all deserve to be Seen, where we are, as we are.

Often we are touched only by what touches us.  I am a prime example of this: I only understood the horrors of rape once I experienced them, I only understood the heartache of pregnancy loss once I had my first, and I only understood the injustices and discrimination the trans community faces once I befriended a transgender woman.

It is easy to let our hearts break for ourselves and for our own suffering.  But the true test of our humanity is letting our hearts break for others and letting our empathy and gifts make a difference in their lives.  It is not enough to be a friend in the dark.  You and I have been called to be friends, advocates and Seers in the light of day.

The next time you see someone transgender, look at them and truly See. Perhaps dare to smile or even say, “hello”.  They are not the bogeymen they’ve been made out to be.  They are not “its”, “abominations”, “freaks”, or “mistakes”.  And they are certainly not “Other”.

They are human beings. So here’s some heartfelt advice:

Treat them as such.

P.S.  To the woman I crossed paths with in the ladies’ room:  I find you brave.  I find you lovely.  And I See you.

Additional information can be found at:

A friend’s return

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Schafer Stutzman

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Schafer Stutzman

Over the years−whether by accident or by design−I have lost touch with multiple friends.  For years it bothered me.  Knowing that these people held slivers of my heart in their possession bothered me.  Knowing that perhaps those pieces of me meant nothing to them bothered me.  Knowing that perhaps I meant nothing to them bothered me.

As a teenager and into my early twenties, I fought against it.  People moved on or away and I wrote and called and persisted.  They showed less interest and I continued on−possibly being annoying, probably being pathetic−because I just didn’t get it.  How does someone who means so much suddenly mean nothing?  The rub was that it wasn’t sudden; it just felt that way.  In reality, it was a slow fading away like watching a tree shed its foliage one precious leaf at a time.

Not until I lost touch with one of my most treasured friends did I finally learn to accept.  Hers was the house I ran to when I found out my family was no longer a family.  She was the one I cried to the countless times my high school boyfriend dishonored me and I, in turn, dishonored myself by staying with him.  She was the one who guarded my secrets and stood watch at the gates to my heart.  She was the real thing.  And then she slipped away, slowly like the leaves, until she was gone.

Just days ago, after 15 years of emotional and physical distance, we reconnected.

A beautiful thing.

I don’t pretend to know who she is now or the many roads she’s taken to get where she is.  I don’t pretend to know who has cheered her triumphs or sat in silence with her when there simply were no words.  I don’t pretend to know her heart or her dreams like I once did.  And somehow.  That’s okay.

The only thing that I do know is that I’m thankful.  And perhaps that the foliage is full and I am seeing her, for the first time, once again.