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.