About a year and half ago I wrote about the first grandchild that Sarah and I had the privilege of loving.  A Baby Changes Everything was inspired by our grandson Braden.  Brian and Ashley had Tenley in November of last year and she is equally precious.  It was fun to be with them last week in Savannah.

A couple of weeks ago we headed to Houston, Texas.  Reston Adams Johnson had been born into the home of our eldest son, Chad, and his wife, Amy, just a few weeks shy of their eighth anniversary.

Chad and Amy had long wanted to be parents, but certain physical complications made it inadvisable for Amy to carry a child.  Adoption was studied for a time – even to the point of initial paperwork and a brief foster-care experience.  Over the space of two years or more, the subject of surrogacy began to surface in conversations.  A cousin’s wife had been a gestational carrier for a couple so the idea was not foreign to our family.

So, without any idea about the special someone that might carry their baby, Chad and Amy began to pray and think and plan… They’re really good at all three of those!

Extra jobs were taken on.  Money was saved.  Lots of research about the science of in vitro fertilization (IVF) was internalized.  It was clear that the possibility was there.  If a viable embryo could be formed perhaps there would be a kind lady who could serve as the carrier.

My brother and I are very close.  It’s been well over 20 years since we lived in the same town, but we and our families have maintained a special relationship in spite of the physical distance.  Our sons and their daughters have been the best of cousin-friends, too. 

When Jeffrey and Julie moved to Houston, Texas in 2001 their daughters, Jenae and Jana, began making friends almost immediately.  Jana met Lareigh Francione when they were 12 years old.  They’ve been “besties” ever since.  And our family, by extension, felt like we were somehow related to Lareigh and her family because of that friendship.

Twelve years can make a lot of difference in the kind of conversations girlfriends end up having.  Lareigh and Jana had both obtained degrees from college.  They had jobs.  Jana had a husband and Lareigh had a precious three-year-old boy when one of their conversations turned to Chad and Amy.

It sounded something like this. 

Jana: Yeah, so you know Chad and Amy were looking at adoption but now they’re not so sure.  Knowing what Randa (another cousin) did for that family a couple of years ago, they’re thinking it might be worth trying to find a surrogate to carry a baby for them.

Lareigh:  I love Chad and Amy.  I’d totally think about carrying a baby for them.

Jana:  Are you serious??

Lareigh:  Absolutely.

Now, I wasn’t there and the girls didn’t have a tape recorder running, but the conversation was just about that simple.  And so the process commenced that ultimately led to May 29, 2014.

There’s too much detail and too little time to share all that went into the final results, but when Lareigh called Amy in the late afternoon on May 28, all the plans and preparations became a reality. 

Chad’s new job had him up in Pennsylvania.  Amy and her mom were in Salisbury, Maryland and they all needed to get to Houston as quickly as possible.  A Southwest Airlines flight was leaving Baltimore-Washinton (BWI) around 8:30 p.m.   They made the flight with little time to spare and spent a nervous three hours in a plane and almost another hour in the rental car before arriving at the Kingwood Medical Center, just north of Houston.

Already exhausted from the travel, they realized that Lareigh would not deliver during the night.  Sleep was next to impossible.  Excitement and fatigue were flailing away at each other.

But then at 11:42 a.m. (CDT), Reston showed up: just over eight pounds and 21 inches long.  He was a beautiful child and a beautiful gift! 

I know every family thinks their children are the greatest… And they’re right!  But little Reston seems so perfect and pleasant.  We are deeply grateful that he’s here now!

There is so much that could be said about how this child came to be, but one thing is clear.  This child was loved and prayed for long before that moment of his actual arrival. 

It will be our joy as a family, for years to come, to see our grandchildren grow up. But we’ll also be watching Lareigh’s family as the years unfold.  She has a child of her own and will soon be marrying a wonderful young man who obviously cares so much for her and Brinn.

The layers of grace, love and kindness that enfold the story of Reston’s birth are unmistakable reminders that God cares about us in ways that often exceed our understanding.

Among the many wonderful things shared via social media shortly after Reston’s birth, two stood out to me.

The first came from Brian’s wife, Ashley.  Underneath a photo Ashley wrote about Chad and Amy, “The baby in their hearts is now the baby in their arms.”

And in another thread where family and friends were sharing with Lareigh, her mom, Bridgette, said, “God, the maker, Lareigh, the pathway, and Chad and Amy, the blessed receivers. God is great!”

God is great, Bridgette! 

We are grateful for God’s provision, protection and providence throughout this entire process.  The joy of holding Reston was overwhelming in many ways.  The joy of seeing Chad and Amy holding Reston was greater still.

God blessed the meeting of two 12-year-old girls back in 2001 that resulted in a conversation 12 years later, and that conversation changed the trajectory of an entire family’s story.

Lareigh showed a love so deep in carrying Reston for Chad and Amy that…   It’s a love that only God could inspire.  The river of gratitude flowing from our hearts is deep as well and will never run dry!Image