Becoming a Better Parent (when walking singleness and infertility)

When I was a child I used to write books.... more precisely I wrote a great deal of chapter ones.  Inevitably almost every story involved a "mystery someone" (me), 10 children, and 25 animals.  It was my dream.  What I wanted when I grew up (though I never verbalized it as culturally it was not an acceptable dream).  Needless to say I definitely did not expect to end up on the other side of 25 single, infertile, and animal-less.

That first year after THE doctor's visit I could not bring myself to be around babies, children, or families.  I would last about 5 minutes before bolting out and weeping for hours.  Naturally my first job involved me working with babies, children, and families all day every day.  The first 3 months were hard.  My company's Mother's Day Event arrived and I was starting to crack.  I tried to blend into the wall as the children ran around the gym trying to find the perfect flower for their mom.  All of a sudden I see one of my toddlers running towards me.  I kneel down and he presses the flower into me then turns to his mom and says "Sorry mom she needed this!"  I look to his mom mortified that her son just gave me his Mother's Day flower instead of her.  She walks straight towards me and wraps her arms around me in a knowing embrace.  That moment bonded us.  Over the next several weeks we connected in our brokenness.  Me in a future seemingly empty of a family and her in the inability to have any more children.


I then recalled the wise words someone shared with me in college.  She told me that if I wanted to learn how to parent, family, and relationship "normally" then I should spend as much time as possible around families who excelled at those things.  In my attempt to alleviate pain by avoiding children and families I was missing out on valuable learning opportunities.  I may not be in a season of parenting now, but I believe that one day I will be so in the meantime there are things I can do to prepare.

1.  Deal with Brokenness Head-on: Chances are if you are human you have some brokenness to deal with.  In order to be emotional healthy you are going to have to deal with it one day.  Do it now! If you have the opportunity go see a counselor GO (if the first counselor you visit doesn't seem like a good fit try another!).  And of course the Holy Spirit is the best counselor of them all. 

2. Stand with Experts: I heard Jo Saxton speak about discipleship recently and she said "You need to stand at someone's shoulder to learn to navigate the world."  Find people who you want to be like and see if you can spend time with them as they live out the mundane.  I've learned more about parenting washing dishes at someone else's sink then I have anywhere else.  I work with 3 toddlers and every day I find myself (without thinking) saying and doing the things that I have seen modeled by others!

3. Read. Read. Read.  I take time now to read parenting books and blogs because I have seen (see 2) how busy life is with children in the mix (and I like to prepare).  Just today I read this post by one of my favorite blogger's Natasha Metzler.  I love what her family is doing so I filed the post away and maybe one day I will use it's wisdom.  My favorite book right now is Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live Love and Lead Well.  So much good information!

Now I know that I will never be fully prepared, but I hope that by pursuing growth in this season I will have a stronger foundation on which to build the next season.  And many days it is hard.  And many days I still question why, but I know there is hope and truth in him.


Enlarging My Tent

"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; 
do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes."  
Isaiah 54:2



I am entering into a season of enlarging my tent.  And it is s c a r y.  Isaiah 54 was spoken into my heart many years ago.  In my mind I mapped out this elaborate specific plan of what this would look like in my life.  However I am coming to find out that while I can make plans it is God who determines my steps (and the timing!).  This dream is one that I always believed I would walk out with someone else, but for now he is asking me to walk it out alone.  Have I mentioned it is scary?  This week as I sent out the first round of forms I recalled this quote from the movie Field of Dreams:

"If you build it, he will come"

In faith I am hunting for a larger apartment.  In faith I am seeking a new job.  In faith I will stretch out lengthening my cords and strengthening my stakes.

This post was written as part of the Grove over at Velvet Ashes!

The Appendix Epihpany

Community is not my strong suit.  We have a long dysfunctional love hate relationship.  Strangely enough my biggest struggle with community is when I am in America.  It is a lot easier for me to form community when I am living overseas. 

Two years ago I moved back to America for a season and have lived in my current community for a year and a half.  During this time I have made a grand total of zero friends.  I don't know anyone's story and no one knows mine.  Did I mention I am really bad at community?

Sometimes when I am being extremely mature and productive (*note sarcasm*) I argue with the word of God.  The past couple of years it has been about the body of Christ, specifically 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. When I am struggling finding or fitting into community I always shoot back with "Well the body doesn't need the appendix.  It serves no purpose.  It is not needed."  This past Friday night I volunteered for an event at church and just barely made it through without dissolving into a puddle of tears on the floor.  That night and into the next day I gave God my usual argument when he gave me an epiphany.

The body can survive without the appendix. 

BUT 

The appendix can NOT survive without the body. 

The body of Christ will adjust if I am not there.  It can keep moving, but I will die.  I am not meant to live alone.  No one is.  Even people who do not believe in God know this.  Just look at the recent rise of Sunday Assemblies (church without God).  We need one another.  Whether I like it or not I need other people.  I can keep trying to do it all myself, but eventually I will fail.  For without the body there is no life.

Maybe the issue is less about the body of Christ needing me and more about me needing the body of Christ.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  
Hebrews 10:24-25

1436 Days

I stared at the pages in front of me and with the grandest of intentions I wrote:

1. that the girls call me Lera

It was December of 2011.  The fog of the past 3 months had slowly started to lift, though I wasn't sure my soul would ever recover.  During this time I heard about a blogger, Ann Voskamp, who was encouraging people to write down 1000 things for which they were thankful.  

I thought it would take me a year... 

1,436 days later I wrote: 1000.  1000 gifts

4 years.  4 years of rewriting my soul.  As I get older I am beginning to realize that deep long lasting change often happens with slow consistency. 


"Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed and permanent quality. An occasional burst of praise, in the midst of years of complaining, is not what is required. Songs on rare, sunshiny days; and no songs when skies are cloudy—will not make a life of gratitude. The heart must learn to sing always. This lesson is learned only when it becomes a habit which nothing can weaken. We must persist in being thankful. When we can see no reason for praise—we must believe in the divine love and goodness, and sing in the darkness."
J.R. Miller, 1912 

This quote by J.R. Miller is on the first page of my journal.  Many days I have struggled to find something to write down.  Each time I am struggling inevitably I flip back to that first page and read this quote over and over allowing the words to seep into my soul.  Discovering that there is power in writing and in reading. 

"We have a natural tendency to remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember."
Mark Batterson

The rewriting of my soul is not over yet.  My heart is still learning to sing.  Each time my pen touches the paper thanksgiving is being etched into my soul.  So what does one do when they have reached 1000 gifts?

1001. ....


Armor of God Study: Truth

Recently I was invited to attend a new class at church.  I immediately started crying and jumping up and down while shouting yes at the top of my lungs.  Well that's what I was doing on the inside anyways.  Can you tell I have been starved for adult interaction of late?

As soon as the initial excitement wore off I began to wonder what this class would be about.  I soon learned that we would be doing Priscilla Shirer's The Armor of God study.  Immediately I groaned thinking "not Ephesians 6 again...I wanted to learn something new!" Cue God snickering.

I am just starting week 2 and already this study has rocked my world.  I have notes and markings on every single page so far.  This week the study brought to light a huge disconnect in my life that I had never seen before. 

Read this excerpt from Ephesians 6:14-18a:

"Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication."
  
Priscilla (I am doing her study so now we are on a first name basis obviously) asked us to note the order in which the armor is listed.  It is the order in which a soldier would have dressed.  It was important that a soldier first fasten his belt to stabilize his core before adding the rest of the armor.  

What does this mean for me? It means I need truth as my foundation to support righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the spirit.  My life has spent chasing peace and faith thinking that if I obtained them then truth would fall into place, but I need truth first.

It's like a pyramid.  Each level needs to be stable in order to support the next layer.  Truth is the base of my pyramid.  If I don't have truth nothing else will stand.  I tend to look at what's ahead and what's behind, but now I am looking at what is in front of me.  I am going to focus on building this foundation of truth so that all these other things can be added to it.  What's your favorite way to build truth?

Oh and if it is not abundantly clear already I highly highly highly recommend The Armor of God Study! It is deep.  It is serious.  And it is good.  #ArmorOfGodStudy

When You're Not Called to the Monastary

 From the title of this post you may come to the conclusion that I am Catholic.  I'm not.  I grew up in a new age community and became a part of the protestant community as a teenager (that's another story).  My entire life I have been intrigued by monasteries (even before I really knew what they were).  Captivated by these people who live their lives set apart.  People who live intentional simple lives.  People who live in quiet community.  People who serve.  People who give their whole life to a relationship with God.  In short it's this introverts idea of happily ever after.

As a small child I used to think "too bad I'm not Catholic I'd be a great nun." When I was a teenager I read about Sister Madonna Buder a nun who completes in triathlons.  How cool is that?! As a young adult I came across articles about monasteries, such as Our Lady of the Rock, that are working dairy farms.  (I'm obsessed with dairy farms).  Recently I have been obsessed with the nuns of Nonnatus House from the tv series Call the Midwife.  Nuns who serve their communities as midwives? Yes please!

Inevitably I always come back to the fact that I am NOT called to be a nun.  I am NOT called to live in a monastery... at least not currently ;) .

I AM however called and set apart by God.  But I struggle with what this life is suppose to look like.  What MY life is suppose to look like.  And you know what I don't have the answers right now, which makes the title of this post slightly misleading... sorry (especially to those of you brought here by google).

This past week I returned from the IF Gathering's Local Leader conference (which was fabulous and I may or may not get around to writing about).  A big IF phrase is "IF God is real, then..." Currently I am seeking the second clause to the sentence "IF I'm not called to the monastery, then..."  I currently have no idea what is going to be written in that second clause.  That's scary and exciting.

Have you ever been captivated by something good instead of the best thing for you?

Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” 
-Charles Spurgeon

Joy & Pain and Inbetween

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with a friend I have not talked to in months.  We caught up on jobs and moves and the little things of life.  I could tell there was something she wanted to say to me, but she seemed to be holding back.  There was a long pause and she said "Well ... I have been following your blog and well..." My first thought was "someone reads my blog!?" And then it hit me, she must be expecting!  I jumped off my couch and started running through my apartment squealing something along the lines of "GAHHHHH YOU'RE KIDDING ME!!!!!  She went onto share with me about her pregnancy and how nervous she had been to share with me since reading about my "I may never have children" blog posts.

Truthfully it is painful for me to hear about other people's pregnancies.  Often I end up bursting into tears and refusing to leave my couch for hours.  But at the same time I am genuinely happy for these people.  Early on in my journey I came across this quote by Jo Anne Nelson that sums up my heart's desire perfectly:



And this is something that I am working out as I go.  Some days are better than others.  As I tried to put into words to share with my friend what I was feeling she said something along the lines of "I know it must be hard for you, but I also knew that you would want know."  She nailed it!

Every time I thought of her over the next few days I would jump up and down because I was so excited for her.  It made me pause because this is not how I have reacted to other pregnancy announcements.  I quickly realized that I was responding so well to this announcement as she made sure to acknowledge my pain.  Acknowledging that it was hard for me made me feel known (one of the deepest desired of my heart).  It may seem strange but that simple acknowledgment made me even more excited for her. 

If you are close to someone who struggles with infertility and want to be mindful of the pain they may feel when you announce a potential pregnancy the first thing to do (if you're comfortable and able) is to ask them in the event of a future pregnancy how they would like to be notified.

For me that's a phone call or quick message (text, not a picture or video).  I want to celebrate with you.  I am excited for you!  But I also need space and time to process my grief.  While I try to keep tears contained to my bed sometimes they may bubble out around you.  Please know that I can sad cry and be excited all at the same time.  

To close I will leave you with this awesome video a friend (Thanks JS!) sent me of women sharing their experience of "What It Feels Like To Be Told You Can’t Have Kids."

Anything

Why is anything so tough? 

Because you said yes to anything once before and it turned into a Grimm's Brother story and you decided that God wasn't good and you spent the last 4 years wrestling with that...

Oh yeah... 

This is part of the conversation I had with myself the other night as I was rereading Jennie Allen's book Anything

You see 4 years ago I told God I was abandoning my plans and that his will be done.  It was a scary and exciting time.  God moved in ways I could never imagined.  It was fun to watch him show up and to see his creative side.  But in one fateful week that excitement turned to pain as my greatest fears came to pass.  They were more painful then I could ever have imagined.  It was a dark season that lead to 4 years of dark wrestling with God.  

When I said yes to Jesus I was very well aware that it was not going to be easy.  That it was going to be hard and that difficult things would not just magically disappear.  But I was not prepared for the isolation and abandonment I felt when some of my worst fears materialized themselves overnight.  The pivotal moment for me was disembarking that plane in my home town where I had no Christian community.  I grabbed a hold of the reigns effectively saying "if you can't handle this, I will."

"Every sin at its root, is based in something we do not fully believe about God."  
-Jennie Allen

For me the root of this battle was that I did not believe that God was good.  Finally this June God came in and removed all the bad roots replacing them with roots of truth.  Shortly afterwards God called me once again to anything.  And I said yes.  And it's scary because I know that he could send me into some dark dark places.  
 
If he does... he is good and not. 
If he does... I will wait and not run.
If he does... I will say anything and not take back the reigns.
If he does... I will read this letter that I wrote to my past self.

"The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is riske... To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through.  He starts to get real when you live like that."
-Jennie Allen
 


Lesson at the Pump

I am notoriously introverted independent. Before Amazon I rarely bought anything, because well that would involve interacting with *gasp* people.  This often results in me pretending that I know how to do things.  Well the past few weeks I have been driving around with my window precariously placed sideways in my door.  With the weather report forecasting 3 days of rain and me being tired of fastening a poncho over my door every time I exit my vehicle I decided something needed to be done.

According to my Google research if I could get my window up into place I could use suction cups along the bottom to hold the window in an upright position and prevent it from sliding back down into my door.  So early one morning I grabbed my tool kit, pulled up a Wikipedia article on removing door panels, and headed to my car in my maxi dress.  Before I knew it the panel lay in pieces on the ground and I had a collection of screws of various sizes.  The window had popped out of its grooves during the process, but finally an hour and lots of oil later it finally slid into place.  At this point I started to panic as I had a lunch that I needed to leave for stat.  Knowing that I had a time limit I had neglected to label or organize the screws as I removed them.  I threw the panel into place and started screwing screws into any opening I could find until I had no screw lefts and a very wobbly door panel attached. 

As I drove off I hoped that my temporary fix was enough to hold the window in place for at least a couple months.  My lunch was in the next state over and I was thrilled as this state allows you to pump your own gas (my current state does not and I miss pumping my own gas terribly!).  I merged onto the highway when my gas light began to ding.  Being set on pumping my own gas I flew down the road pray-hoping that I wouldn't run out of gas before arriving in the next state.  Not to mention I was late for my lunch!  

Finally I coasted on fumes into the gas station.  I rushed to exit my car but before I could even get one foot out the owner of the gas station came running over grabbed my car and said "here I'll do it for you!"  And my eyes immediately filled with tears (a combination of the stress of the last week and the disappointment of not being able to pump my own gas).  As we waited for the gas the owner poured truth and encouragement into my life.

As I drove away I laughed as this disappointment was an answer to prayer.  My current life season has a serious lack of community to put it lightly.  Inevitably my conversations with God always circle back to God I have to do everything myself can I get a hand once in a while... please?  And I realized that in this season that hand is the men that pump my gas every week.  And as much as I complain about not being able to pump my own gas I appreciate these men and our conversations each week.  Often times its the deepest adult conversation I have all week (critical to the soul of this INFJ).  Not to mention I am often the talk of the station as my car sometimes rolls away by itself.  My window is always broken.  And I am sure they love to tell the story of the one time I pulled up with blood spewing all over my car and the only cash I had...  

You see I want help... but I also want to be in control.  I want to be independent with all the benefits of dependency.  But I can't have both.  It won't work.  They are two separate masters.  I've been trying to play both sides for a long time and the time has come for me to choose.  And it boils down to this... will I serve myself or will I serve God?

Hello Victorious One

Hello Victorious One,

You've been waiting for God to move in a big way, to come in and change your life in a mighty and glorious way.  Guess what.  He's going to!  

But... it is not going to look at all like you are expecting.  In fact it's going to look like the total opposite of what you have been waiting for.  A dark night of the soul.  A dark dark dark dark dark night of the soul.

Don't fight it.  Embrace it.  Dig into the word.  When you don't feel like reading the word... read it.  When you get so mad you no longer believe... tell people. 

Yes you are in the middle of the dessert, but look there behind you is a flower.  Fix your eyes on that flower.  Hold onto truth.

Lamentations 3:25 says "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him."  

Memorize this verse.  Write it on your mirror.  Put it on your walls.  Carry it in your pocket.  

The Lord IS good.  It's who he is. (You are going to hate this song the first time you hear it, but the truth will seep in and soon you won't be able to stop singing it).

Wait for him.  "Not passive, listless sitting, but faithful serving until God acts." 
-ESV Study Bible

Seek him.  Not seek his blessings.  Not seek his gifts.  Not seek your dreams.  Seek him.

At the exact right time he's going to come in and do a complete renovation of your heart and mind.  He will weed out the bad roots and nourish the good roots.  A river will flow through the desert.  And he will give you a freedom unlike anything you've ever experienced.  Remember him in ALL you do.  And you will be given new life and a new song to sing.

Love,

Your Future Self 

I recently came out of a four year dark night of the soul.  This is the letter I would send to my past self.

Dolphins and Infertility Awareness Week

This week was Infertility Awareness Week.  I spent most of the week out of the country which was perfect for me this year!  As I have mentioned ad nauseaum, emotions have been high recently.  One question I often hear or see from people who do not deal with infertility is "what should I say if someone tells me they're infertile?"  Truth is I don't know what to say (I do however have lots of thoughts on what NOT to say).  For me personally my favorite response was last year when I told a brand new friend.  We were in my room when I all of a sudden blurted it out.  She looked at me for second then sat down and cried with me.  When we were all out of tears we got up and went out for ice cream.  It was such a comforting experience for me.

This week I had another slightly different comforting experience.  I had an opportunity to spend some one on one time with a dolphin.  I knew going in that dolphins were extremely intelligent both cognitively and emotionally; however, that did not prepare me for my experience.  As I faced the dolphin I stared into his eyes and saw an immense sadness.  (Which caused me to immediately regret my decision to pay a fortune for this experience worried that the animals were mistreated and unhappy.)  After several minutes of petting and a quick ride I came face to face once again with him and became transfixed on the sadness that I saw.  All of a sudden the dolphin snapped its head forward smashing its mouth into my face.  Everyone around me started laughing and before I knew it I was laughing too.  I looked one more time at the dolphin and this time I saw delight and it was in that moment I realized that he had been mirroring my emotions.  Gently leading me out of the darkness into the light.  He had sat with me in my pain.  Made me feel known.  And only then after acknowledging my darkness did he point out the light.

As a single person I think its often hard to figure out if and who to share our pain with.  I am coming to realize though that sharing is imperative.  The longer I try to carry the pain alone the darker and heavier the pain becomes.  When I allow others (God, humans, or animals) to share in my pain its power over me weakens and everything is lighter.



I am Sarai

This week I have been reflecting on Sarai's actions in Gensis 16.  She is unhappy with her bareness and attempts to change her situation through her own power.  Oh how I relate! When I am unhappy with a situation my first reaction is to do something to change the situation.  Its an overarching theme in my life.

You know what else is an overarching theme in my life?  That every time I try to change a situation in my own power it never works out for the long term.  It's like putting a band aid over a cut that needs stitches.  Sometimes it contains the bleeding for a while but eventually the blood seeps out and the band aid is no longer effective.  Yet I repeat this faulty response system over and over again.

Why?  It all boils down to the fact that deep down I do not trust God or his word.  I have this deep rooted fear that he will not show up.  A fear that I will be left alone.  So I attempt to protect myself with plans and busyness.  I am Sarai.  I attempted to solve my bareness through my own power.  The band-aid didn't last long and now I am facing the consequences.

This time; however, instead of running towards a new plan I am stopping.  I will learn to be still.  Learn to wait.  Learn to look for God in the moment.  And learn to trust that he will be there.

"For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:12b-14


The God Who Sees Yet Still Shows Up

I’m almost 5 years into this infertility journey.  You would think I would have figured this struggle out by now, but I haven’t.  In fact the past few months have been some of the darkest.  The I haven’t made it out of my bed some days dark. The grief of infertility is never ending and always evolving.  While miracles do happen and people who have been labeled infertile do give birth that will not cancel out the grief.  But that is a topic for another day.  Today we are going to talk about El Roi… “God who sees.” 

When I am going through a tough time I often remind myself that God is El Roi, a God who sees.  The past few weeks I have found myself doing this over and over as a quick glance at Facebook results in me producing enough tears to water all of New Zealand.  This week as I found myself once again saying “El Roi, the God who sees” it occurred to me that I was murky on the details of this story.  I knew that Hagar was involved and at one point she was in the desert, but the rest escaped me.  That night I sat down and opened up to Genesis 16.  I was surprised at what I had forgotten about this story. 

*Spoiler Alert* 

Sarai was INFERTILE.
Sarai wanted children.
Sarai told her husband (Abram) to conceive with her servant (Hagar).
Hagar became pregnant.
Hagar was mean to Sarai.
Sarai was offended.
Sarai was mean to Hagar.
Hagar was offended.
Hagar ran away to the desert and encountered an angel.

What a mess.  Over the course of the week as I thought about this story I began to see God in a way I had never been able to see him before.  I began to see him as a God of grace.

Hagar messed up.  She looked down upon Sarai and treated her with contempt. God sees this and still sent an angel to find see her and promised her descendants too numerous to count.

Sarai messed up.  She tried to control her circumstances without God and treated Hagar harshly.  God sees this and still gave Sarai a child (see Gensis 21).

I mess up.  I have been (and often still are)  jealous of women with babies*.  I have screamed at God while tearing pregnancy announcements, baby shower invitations, etc. to pieces on my kitchen floor. Yet… God sees this and still can show up in my life?

Normally after I have been angry or jealous or in debilitating pain I feel massive guilt.  The kind of guilt that causes me to question if God is still going to be a part of my life after I have messed up. What I love about Genesis 16 is that God shows up in the lives of both women even after they messed up.  It’s a broken world and I am going to mess up and sometimes those around me are going to mess up but it's important to remember that God can still show up. 

Is there anyone in this story you can relate to?  If so take some time to think about how, when, and why God showed up in their story.  


Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a deeper look on how infertility effected the story of Genesis 16.  

*If you’ve ever thought “But Why Does She Get Babies?” you should check out this blog post.  It's one of my favorites!


What I almost Missed

In college it seemed all young adults in the Christian community talked about “life verses.” This was a new concept for me. My understanding was that a life verse was a bible verse from God that spoke over a person’s entire life. One that no matter what they could come back to over and over again. The concept intrigued me (even though I clearly did not understand it) so a year before my diagnosis I asked God for a life verse. I picked up my bible and began to flip through until my hand rested on a particular verse…

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear…” 
Isaiah 54:1a ESV

I have never shut a bible so fast in my life. There was no way that verse was for me. There was no way I was barren. My entire life I had dreamed of having children. No way was he crushing another dream of mine. I grabbed another bible off the shelf and began flipping through...
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child…”
Isaiah 54:1a NIV

In that moment I knew that he was speaking to me, but I was not going to listen. I shut the bible and busied my self with other tasks. Over the next year I would randomly flip through my bible and over and over again I came back to Isaiah 54, never reading any further than the first line.

So when I went to the doctor’s office that May I knew what she was going to say, but deep down I was still hanging onto this hope that I was wrong.

A month or two after my doctor's visit I opened to Isaiah 54 once again, but for the first time I saw the promises contained in this chapter:

“…For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife…”

“...your offspring will possess the nations and make the desolate cities to be inhabited…”

“...Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed…”

“…with age-enduring love and kindness I will have compassion and mercy on you…”

“… I will not be angry with you…”

“ …My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed…”

“…all your [spiritual] children shall be disciples [taught by the Lord and obedient to His will], and great shall be the peace and undisturbed composure of your children…”

“…you shall be far from even the thought of oppression or destruction, for you shall not fear, and from terror, for it shall not come near you...”

“…no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper…” 

Excerpts from Isaiah 54 AMP

I had been so angry and upset that my life was not turning out like I had planned. My focus had been on the ashes of my dreams and bitterness was creeping into my heart. If I had continued on this path I would have completely hardened my heart and missed the beauty and hope he was offering.

Don’t get so focused on what you can’t have that you miss what is being offered.


As time passed I began to realize that my emotions, feelings, and reactions to my diagnosis were all warning flags indicating problems in my relationship with God.




 

When a Secret is No Longer a Secret

Over the past few years I have sat down a thousand times to write the opening to this post.  And I just can not seem to find the words.  Questions run through my mind.  Am I really going to share my private life with the world?  Is this really what I am suppose to do?  Where do I start?  How is my life going to look once I do this? 

I do not know the answer to many of these questions, but I do know that there is someone out there that needs to read this series.  To that person this is for you.  He loves you more than you can ever imagine and your life will never be the same, but you do not have to go through this alone.

It was the May after my last semester on campus.  I sat silently in the doctors office waiting for her to speak.  She rolled her chair across the floor until she was right in front of me.  She looked me straight in the eyes and broke the news that it was very unlikely that I would ever be able to have children.  The pain was indescribable.  I felt crushed and paralyzed and wondered if I would ever recover. 

Somehow I made it back to my car with a stack of pamphlets on infertility. I numbingly began to flip through and soon realized that every single one was for couples.  And I finally lost it.  I was completely alone and I had no idea what to do.  At first I told no one.  Nights were spent scouring the internet desperate for anything written for women who were both *infertile and single.  There was nothing.  My journey thus far has been a roller coaster and I imagine it will continue to be one. 

Over and over again I have cried out to God about the lack of resources for women who are single and infertile.  I never expected that I would end up being a small voice for this crowd.  Today is my first day as that voice.

I am going to start a series writing (hopefully much better than this mess of a post) about my journey of faith, infertility, and singleness.  Hopefully you will come back and check it out.  For those of you that don’t struggle with this particular combination I think you will find there is something there for you as well!


*Technically to be labeled infertile you have to have tried to have a child for at least one year.  I have chosen to still use the word infertile in my posts in hopes that others (especially singles) who have been told that they can not have children are able to find this blog.  Please let me know if you think there is a better word to use.

A Bibliophile’s Sabbatical

Confession: I have not read a single book from start to finish in over a year.  Just to give you some background I have read or been read to since the day I was born.  A quarter of a century.   My loss of interest in reading happened rather suddenly.  At first I thought it was the books; however, as time went on I realized that it was me.  I had lost all interest and desire to read. 

This was a secret I kept in the dark for a year.  Bringing it before God and silently wrestling.  Various scenarios of what could be wrong with me ran through my head.  Recently I met a new friend.  She asked what I enjoyed doing.  I said reading.  (It is what I have always said... at one time it was true.)  This lead to the dreaded “what are you currently reading?” question.  Not being able to lie I shared my secret… and she laughed. 

I froze in shock.  She smiled and shared that perhaps I had entered into a season of going out… and connecting.  Seeing that I wasn’t quite following she followed with “What happened when you read as a child?”  Slowly I started to catch on to what she was getting at.  Reading transported me far away.  We had just talked earlier about how I desperately needed to figure out community.  Is it not amazing the perspective others can give us!

This has lead me to the decision that I am taking a sabbatical from books for an undetermined amount of time (I hope to read again someday!).  Instead I am choosing two things:
  1.  To community (insert scream of terror and yes community is a verb).  
  2. To write (to take some of what is in my head and practice it being OUT).

This being said, you may see me a little more often in this tiny nook of the web!

They Love Me, They Love Me Not

As a child did you ever play the game where you take a flower and pick off the petals one by one alternating with “they love me” or “they love me not?”  I did, always wondering if they cared for me too. 

Fast forward several years and you find college me no longer playing children’s games, but still wondering “do they love me?”  January of 2010 I wrote in my journal:  

“…if I am healthy I won’t worry about whether or not people love me, or whether or not I am a part of their life, or whether or not they hate me…” 

I recognized that this thought loop was not healthy, but did not know how to change it.  At this time there was a family in my life who I was beginning to care about deeply.  In February of 2010 two of us sat in a library when I blurted out something along the lines of “I was wondering if you love me?” She reassured me that they did in fact love me and then informed me that this was a question I should not ask again.  Instead every time I found myself wondering about that very question I needed to remind myself that they loved me.

As a born people pleaser (My new friend this week says no one is born a people pleaser) As a person who developed a desire to please people I did not ask again and every time I started wondering I told myself “no they love me.”  Now did I believe in these steps? Absolutely not.  I felt ridiculous and saw no change in my thoughts and feelings, but time after time I told myself “no they love me.”  Thousands of times I did this.  Thousands.  What I did not see was that the time between my wonderings slowly began to lengthen and the truth began to seep into my heart.  

Sometimes change takes a long time and it happens so slowly that you will not even realize it is taking place.  I realized this when I saw them recently and realized I wasn’t spending my time wondering if they loved me.  (May I add that it is so much more fun to hang out with people when you are not wondering if they love you!)  There was even a “new me” in their life and I was just so excited that this individual had the opportunity to be a part of their lives. Freedom.  It doesn’t always happen overnight, but it’s worth the process!

As I reflected on this I realized I have wasted valuable time by not believing that the little things can add up to make a huge difference.  Over and over again I have heard “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  My God concepts are often inaccurate, something I think that many of you can relate to.  What if every time we recognized an inaccurate thought about God we replaced it with the truth from his word?  Our minds and heart might not change overnight, but over time I think this truth would seep into us and create a deep change in our relationship with God.


Disclaimer: You might never be completely cured of the “they love me, they love me not” syndrome.  You might need tune-ups for the rest of your life.  Like after getting your car stuck and being completely embarrassed, but do not be discouraged tune-ups only take 30 seconds.  You can still live in freedom!  Sometimes I think we always expect to be cured but in the fallen world this side of heaven we may only reach remission.

God Stories

Stories are an integral part of cultures all over the world.  I have been thinking about stories recently as my news feed on Facebook has been filled with God stories: 

*“God hears! My wallet was returned and nothing is missing!”

“Your prayers have been answered I was officially declared cancer free today”

“I’m engaged! You were worth waiting for!!!”

“He opened the doors to my dream job!”*

*these are generalized and not actual quotes* 

These statuses are wonderful and we should be rejoicing with these people.  Unfortunately more often than I would care to admit my mind entertains the comparison monster. Things such as “I have been praying for that for 20 years and he answered her prayer in 3” or “God promised me something that night too and he hasn’t even begun to answer it. What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong?”  The problem is all of these things are based on circumstances, not God.

I recently attended an event where men in a Teen Challenge program spoke. These men took turns sharing amazing testimonies of redemption.  Finally, a man got up and began to speak about his life.  He talked about the first time he was rescued from his drug addiction.  After he was rescued he was diagnosed with cancer and his wife and family left him.  This was years ago.  The audience sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the redemptive turn in his story. He then shared that he still has cancer, he is still estranged from his family, and that God is still the same. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 
 Hebrews 13:8

Regardless of whether or not our prayers are answered or whether or not we see redemption this side of heaven God is still the same.   God performs miracles and we need stories of those miracles; however, as someone who spends more of their life in the desert than the promise land I also need more stories about God being God (not just God doing xyz).  A God that is worth worshiping and loving forever regardless of my life circumstances.  

Do I still hope that I will see redemption this side of heaven? Every. single. day.  But that cannot be my focus and that is hard for me.