National Infertility Awareness Week

It’s National Infertility Awareness week.  Could you be any more aware of how hard it is to conceive?  Well then, rather than seeing this week as salt rubbing into an already gaping wound, consider these words from Jesus Calling:

“Peace is my continual gift to you.  Just as the Israelites could not store up manna for the future but had to gather it daily, so it is with My peace.  The day-by-day collecting of manna kept My people aware of their dependence on Me.  Similarly, I give you sufficient peace for the present, when you come to me by prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  If I gave you permanent peace, independent of My Presence, you might fall into the trap of self-sufficiency.”

Whoa….

I wish I’d understood that when we were we struggling through infertility.  The sense of barely having enough peace to make it through the day – or the next few minutes – is not a sign of God’s absence, but of Christ’s Presence.  He does not intend to strengthen us to the point of self-sufficiency.  That is our goal; not His.

His goal is to teach us minute-to-minute reliance on Him.  Our reliance is a constant reminder that He keeps the promise, “I am with you always.”  Our neediness is a constant reminder that He is sufficient for every need.    Our inability to find peace apart from Him is a blessing because it returns us – again and again — to the only Source of strength that can overcome all things.

So, welcome National Infertility Week as a worldly reminder that millions of infertile couples need peace, hope, and compassionate love as they make their way toward the future of parenthood.  You are not alone, and neither are they.  He has promised, “I am with you always.”

Seek Him, and find peace.

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Need more encouragement and cause for hope?  Click this link to order your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Filed under Control, Hope, Loss, Peace

“What if They Never Conceive?”

Yesterday, an aspiring grandfather contacted me to ask about groups in Oregon.  He has already given a copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples to his son and daughter-in-law, and also been reading the book himself.  What more can I do, he wanted to know, and… what if they never conceive?

That is every infertile couple’s deepest fear:  What if we never become parents?  What if this is ultimately a pointless quest – a wild goose chase that consumes time and money, and leaves us empty-handed?

I’ll tell you what I told him – and I urge you to consider it carefully.

The only couples I’ve ever seen wind up empty-handed are those who insist on dictating the terms by which they’ll become parents.  They say things like, “We’ll try IUI, but we’d never consider IVF.”  Or “We’ll do 10 cycles of IVF if we have to, but we’d never consider adoption.”

They acknowledge, “We would happily adopt a baby whose family history we know and approve of,” but they’re adamant that “We’d never consider a foreign adoption…, or an egg donor…, or a sperm donor…, or foster parenting…, or [insert line in the sand here].”  Some couples even insist, “Natural conception is the only godly way to become a parent.”

I’ve already written several posts about this mindset.  I believe it’s dangerous not because of the boundaries themselves, but because of the presumption to know the mind and will of God.  Intentionally or not, these couples are playing God, rather than inviting God to be God in the midst of their circumstances.

When couples insist on barring the door to possibilities God might lead them to, they risk closing the door on His best for them.

I realize it might sound as if I have an agenda – as if I’m trying to steer couples toward a particular path, or around the prohibitions of particular denominations or religions.  I’m not.  I have no agenda other than compassionate, attentive listening to the concerns of infertile couples, and obedient, attentive listening to the word of God.

My deep desire is to deliver hope to those who have begun to question God – both His plan and His purpose.  I would never presume to tell a couple what direction to take through the wilderness of infertility.  It is their responsibility to listen for the Lord’s voice, to discern His direction, and to follow it toward the future He has always had planned for them.

I am only here to encourage, to deliver hope, and to point toward Him as the source of all wisdom and truth.

So, what can this aspiring grandfather say to encourage his son and daughter-in-law as they struggle?

He can tell them that, in all my years of experience, I have yet to see the Lord abandon any couple that feels called to parent and remains open to the Lord’s leading on how that will happen.  If they trust and obey, sooner or later, it always happens.  Maybe not the way they imagined.  Maybe not when they expected.  Maybe not as they would have scripted at the beginning of this journey.

But always.

Every.  Single.  Time.

Scripture says that God honors those who honor Him, and He delights in blessing those whom He loves.  So, praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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Need more encouragement?  Click this link to purchase your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Filed under Bystanders, Hope, Perspective, Trust

Risk Listening to God

One of the hardest questions infertile couples face is deciding whether to give God control.  I got an email yesterday from a woman expressing a deep desire to conceive – and to have God’s help conceiving.  And yet, she admitted, a part of her resists praying for a baby, “Because what if God says, ‘No’?”

The fear of hearing God speak words we don’t want to hear keeps many of us separated from the very One who can alter our path’s course.  The only One who always knows what (or who) to bring into our lives to transform our journey from endless wandering to forward progress.  The only One who always knows how to transform our heart’s desire from unsatisfied longing to joy.

Sooner or later, each of us must decide whether to maintain the (illusion of) control that enables us to believe we can will a heartbeat into the womb, or the alternative:  humbly acknowledging that we already would have if we could.

The truth is, we need help.

Who can we trust?

Too often, we conclude:  That depends….

What is God’s plan?  How can we know?  If we knew, it would be SO much easier to trust Him.  Will He tell us anything encouraging if we risk entrusting Him with our hopes and fears?  And what if He does say, “No”?  Does that mean we will never realize our dream?  If so, will refusing to hear Him speak prevent the dream from dying?  This is the crazy-making loop we get caught in – and it prevents us from being still and listening to the voice of the only One who has the answers.

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of God Guides.  This small book reveals the extraordinary peace and power that are available to those who learn to be still and listen to the God who longs to be known, revealed, and trusted.

Mary Geegh, the author, was a missionary to India.  She discovered that, despite enormous effort on her part, she had very little impact on those she meant to be helping.  Then, another missionary came to the same village.  Within a week, the lives of the villagers were transformed.  She humbled herself enough to ask, “How do you do it?”

Her fellow missionary responded, “The first step is to ‘wait’… ‘be still’… and ‘listen.’  Then… write down the things the Holy Spirit speaks to your mind, [and] determine to obey.”

Motivated to succeed, she took the advice.  Her ministry became one of patiently waiting on God’s word alongside those who were struggling.  “He has the answer for every problem,” she promised.  Her fellow listeners discovered it was the truth.  Her book is filled with stories of incredible outcomes for those who listened and obeyed.

At one point, Mary writes, “We were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen in prayer  twice as much as we speak.”  As we listen, we must be ready to hear the truth — because the Lord cannot be other than completely truthful.  If we are unwilling to hear the truth, and yet we pretend to “listen” for Him, we will hear a resounding silence.  Why?  Because we have hardened our hearts to His message.  We have turned away from Him – choosing autonomy and (the illusion of) control over trust.  Although we will always be permitted to choose this path, it will never lead to His best for us.

So, must we risk listening with open minds and hearts?

It is not as fear-inducing as it sounds.  Scripture is full of promises of God’s love for His people, His faithfulness, and His deep desire to bless.  Wouldn’t you like to be on the receiving end of unlimited grace and power?  Wouldn’t you like to experience the incredibly abundant goodness of God?

If so… be still.  Rest in the knowledge that He is for you.  Trust that He intends to make you a victor, not a victim.  Listen for His reassurances.  Wait patiently for His guidance.  Write down and follow His instructions.  This is the path to abundant joy.

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Want more inspiration and cause for hope?  Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  Here’s a link to order your copy now.

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Worth the Journey

My husband pointed out something interesting in scripture yesterday, and I realized there’s a parallel in the infertility journey.

As the Israelites were heading toward the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, Moses reminded them that there would be specific geographic boundaries for this new homeland.  It would be bordered by certain rivers, seas, gorges and hill country.  It wouldn’t be just anywhere — someplace they’d call good enough.  “Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon,” he told them, “and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. “

What’s so interesting about that?

God’s people were being led to a specific destination, a particular future chosen for them by the God who’d planned and overseen every step of their journey.

How is that like the infertility journey?

You may not feel as if you’re headed anywhere specific.  You may not sense yourself making forward progress at all.  But there is a precise destination, already seen clearly by the God who guides your steps, out there on your life’s horizon.  Of course, you can choose to quit traveling any time.  You can choose to pitch a tent at any point on your journey and announce, “I’ve had it.  This is it for me.  I’m stopping here.”

But, that’s not where God’s leading you.  And His very best won’t be waiting there.

In fact, if you choose a stopping point outside the parameters of His perfect will for you, you may end up settling somewhere that was never meant to be your future.  Of couse, God won’t stop you from making a life for yourself there.  Some of the Israelites chose not to cross the Jordan – even though they were a stone’s throw from their promised future.  Just like them, you have free will.  So, it’s your choice.  But, He’s definitely leading you to a very specific destination.  A very best future.

Moses told God’s people, “… the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.”  It was their destination.  He wanted to remind the weary travelers that their journey would end in abundant blessings – but only if they followed God’s lead and made a life for themselves within the boundaries of His perfect plan.

The same holds true for you.

This journey may be nothing like what you expected.  It may seem as if you’ve been wandering in the wilderness, searching for the future you thought God had planned for you, forever.  It may seem as if you’re further and further from the dream that your heart has clung to — as if it’s past time to take charge of this endless journey and bring it to a close.  You can… but I hope you won’t.

You are not lost to God.  He has been guiding your steps all along, leading you toward the future He planned for you.  Don’t insist on following your preconceived ideas about how long this should take, or which route will get you where you want to go.  Trust that God knows what He’s doing – and why – and that He’s working in and through your circumstances, even now.

Don’t let impatience keep you from His very best for you.  The Promised Land of parenthood is not as far off as you think.  More importantly, the Lord knows exactly where it is — and exactly when you’ll get there.   Trust Him enough to keep pressing on, anticipating the joy of reaching the destination He’s always had in mind for you.

When you reach your Promised Land — when years’ worth of effort, and countless hours worth of worry, finally come to an end — you will know it was worth trusting God’s perfect plan.

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For more encouragement and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  Click this link to order a copy today.

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The Best Defense…

It doesn’t happen often, but when someone willfully violates my boundaries and I am struggling to respond constructively (or just to hold my ground), it takes a heavy toll on me – and my body pays the price.

I’ve learned recently that many of us absorb our feelings deep into our bodies.  Rather than resolving issues that may require us to confront people we’d love to avoid, we push the hurt down, away from our thoughts to a place deep in our spirits, and we tell ourselves that we’re handling it well.

But we’re not.

A book I’m reading now makes clear that our health (and fertility) is profoundly affected by our thoughts and feelings.  When we feel helpless and hopeless – or when we push our emotions so far from our consciousness, we can’t even say what we feel – negative physical consequences often result.

How?  Research has shown that anxious, worried, stressed, frustrated, anguished, hostile thoughts and feelings have the power to alter our immune systems, making it hard to fight off sickness.  They can undermine our sleep, making it harder to recover through rest.  They can affect our concentration, making it difficult to think clearly and make good choices.  And much, much more.

Bottom line, they can become the enemy within.

Literally.

That was the epiphany for me.

I’ve realized that when I allow negative thoughts and feelings to dwell in my spirit, I open the door to all sorts of bad consequences.  The chain reaction starts off simply enough.  My skin breaks out, or my shoulders ache.  I narrowly avoid an accident or somehow provoke an argument because I’m tired and distracted.  I’m not hungry, so I don’t eat.  Without the energy to exercise, I skimp on that, too.  Soon, good self-care falls by the wayside.  And before you know it, I look bad and I feel worse.

Without realizing it, my dark mood – and all the negative thoughts and feelings it procreates — propels me toward poor choices that reinforce my sense that everything’s coming against me.  It becomes self-fulfilling:  Bad leads to worse, and worse, and even worse….  Then, someone says, “Are you sick?  You don’t look good.”  The vicious cycle accelerates and within hours – or even minutes — my perception is altered without my realizing it and it affects my ability to see things clearly.

An emotional death spiral begins – and soon, it becomes a spiritual one, too.  God feels very far away.

Sound at all familiar?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The enemy is always seeking a stronghold in our spirits – a place of anger, fear or self-pity that will enable him to set up camp and attack us from within.  It is an opportunistic assault launched when we feel vulnerable (helpless, hopeless) and alone.

We opened the door.  And we can close it.

How?  By asking God to fight our battles.

That’s what I did recently.  I affirmed my right to healthy boundaries, backed away from the person who set off my downward spiral, and asked the Lord to work in his spirit – to convinct him, show him the damage he’d done, and free me from the burden of either defending myself or engaging in an unwelcome “battle” over whether he did me wrong.

I’m confident my body will thank me… as soon as my hands stop shaking.

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Filed under Battles, Peace, Perspective, Speaking Up

Sisters in the Struggle — Sharing Hope

It’s so easy to feel isolated and alone when you’re struggling through infertility.  Somehow, it helps to know that other women (and men) are struggling, too.  The community that’s built through sharing stories is invaluable — which is why I consistently urge you to set aside secrecy in favor of finding others who understand.

Of course, understanding doesn’t always translate into the kind of support or sympathy you need in the moment (that’s what inspired my last post), but it’s worth the risk.  As one reader commented,

“As one who has been through many trials, it is so much better doing it transparently. There will always be those who look at you with pity, but there will also be those who LOVE you and know you just need a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold.”

Yesterday, I discovered that hundreds of SingaporeMotherhood.com readers made their way to this blog in search of community and understanding.  They were following a link in a chatroom post that read, in part…

“Dear sisters, I am touched by the care which you have rendered to support one another.  I have been married for 12 years and am dying to have a baby of my own.  I have been praying to God to answer my prayer, and in the midst of searching for God’s voice, I chanced upon this blog last night. As I was reading it, my emotions were greatly stirred! I felt a strong urge to share this blog with sisters who have been through a tough, roller coaster ride in their hope of becoming parents.”

It is both thrilling and humbling to know that my blog posts can inspire people struggling through infertility half a world away.  The Lord knows the glory is His.  But here’s what was most exciting to me….

In 2010, the fertility rate in Singapore was the third-lowest in the world.  That makes for lots of community if you want a baby but can’t seem to conceive and bring one to term.  The problem is not quality of care.  Singapore has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world.  So, what’s the problem?

And, at least as important, when those statistics define your experience, where do you turn for help and hope?

In a country where the predominant religion is Buddhism, one woman had the courage to say to others, “I found hope.  There is hope in Christ.  And you can read more about it at PregnantWithHope….”

That is God’s incredible grace.  He plants a seed of hope, meeting one need, and it generates a great harvest.  One woman in Singapore found hope – and she risked sharing it with others hungry for the same kind of hope.  One online forum post led to almost 200 new readers for this blog.  That’s the awesome goodness of God in action.

So, are you feeling alone?  Can’t find community?  Don’t worry.  God can.  He’ll lead you to it, and then use you to guide others there.  All so He can give you the love, compassion, mercy and grace you need to make the journey through infertility to parenthood – and the future He’d always planned for you.

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The Need for Grace

I was driving down the road a few days ago, not aware that I was thinking about much of anything… and my eyes welled up with tears.  A minute later, they were streaming down my cheeks.  And before I knew it, mournful sobs began pouring out of a heart that had finally been overwhelmed by grief.

How could I have been so oblivious to so much sadness?

It’s taken me days to make sense of that question.  The process of wrestling with it has been painful, but invaluable.  I’ve learned a lesson – and it may help you, too.  That’s my hope.

So, here’s the story…

Years ago, the heartache of circling back to family members — who’d rejoiced at the news of a twin pregnancy – to tell them we’d lost first one, and then both babies, was almost unbearable.  We decided:  Never again.  All subsequent efforts to conceive and carry a baby to term would be in secret.

It was a choice made out of fearful self-protection, rooted in the belief that lightning had struck twice – and it could very well strike again.  We couldn’t bear the thought of an audience to more despair, and so we distanced ourselves from everyone and their expectations of “happily ever after.”

Fast forward….

We’re now in the midst of another struggle, doing our best to strike a healthier balance between disclosure and privacy.  Still, many of the people around us have no idea what we’re facing.  They aren’t riding the emotional roller coaster we are.  Their faith isn’t being tested daily.  They aren’t undergoing trial by fire.  They’re sailing along oblivious to our suffering.

And so, too often, there’s very little grace.

In a world that’s moving at a million miles an hour, there’s apparently no time for it – and no need.  No time to gently uncover the story behind the misunderstanding.  No time for a compassionate question like, “Is everything okay with you?”  No time to revisit things in any context other than the one that inconvenienced or aggravated them.

No extenuating circumstances:  No grace.

So, I’ve been faced with a choice.  I can make our struggle public knowledge and explain its consequences for my emotions, my memory, my occasionally faulty judgment, my fatigue, and my seeming disinterest in the minutia of other people’s lives.  Or, I can slap on the mask of “Everything’s great!” and do my best to meet the world’s expectations – with little or no margin for error.

You know what?  I need another option.  And I need a lot of grace.

That’s what made me cry.

I need more grace — without explanation, without resentment, without a heavy sigh that tells me I’m asking for something unreasonable.  I need it not because I deserve it, but because life is hard.

Where can I find it?

I’ve re-discovered that the world will never be able to give me all the grace and compassion I need.  But the Lord can, and He longs to.  Yesterday, I heard “Better Than a Hallelujah” for the first time.  If you haven’t heard it already, click this link.  You may hear what I did….

“Lord, I need grace” is better than a hallelujah sometimes.

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Filed under Hope, Loss, Peace, Perspective