A Special Place….

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I get that. Expressed that way, it sounds much more negative than it feels to me. But I understand the sense of imperative command. We are here to help one another, especially if we’ve made a journey that others are now undertaking.

Sometimes, I think of it as “paying forward” a blessing. Other times, it feels like a moral obligation. On more than one occasion, an internal nudge has led me to speak words I don’t remember having decided to say — like, “All of you are pregnant with hope.” Those words leaped out of my mouth the first time I sat in on a support group meeting for infertile couples. And suddenly, the room was silent.

“What did you say?” one woman asked. There was a note of urgency in her voice.

“I said, all of you are pregnant with hope.” A dozen women looked at me, question marks hovering over their heads.

What did that mean? Why did I say it? Did I know something they didn’t? If so, what was it?

The explanation came out of my mouth without my anticipating a word of it. The Holy Spirit delivered the message they needed to hear:  God is a promise-keeper, the author of hope, the source of all good things, and the One who makes all things possible.

Would I teach a class, they wanted to know? Help them learn more about what God thinks about infertility? Why it happens? Whether it’s punishment? Help them find a path through the spiritual wilderness that made them all feel so frightened and alone?

How could I? I was no Scripture expert. How could I lead a class without a curriculum? And how could I possibly create one?

I promised to pray about it but doubted I’d ever return. I didn’t realize I had anything to offer.

But my prayer was answered with a deluge of insight and instruction. I was overwhelmed with information and — amazingly — led to discover scriptures that were incredibly relevant and tremendously helpful. I was given all I needed to teach a class… and then another… and another. Couples came from across the city to receive a kind of help no one else was offering.

And they became parents.

All of them.

At one participant’s request, I wrote down the lessons and ten of the couples’ stories, and published a book. I created a website with instructions on how to start a group, where to find help and hope, and much more. And then, I began this blog. And now, I spend time writing blog posts to deliver hope to people like you who I may never meet, but who need someone to speak the truth into their spirit.

Here it is: You are not lost to God. He knows where you are on the journey. His Son has promised you will never be alone; the Holy Spirit will be with you every moment of every day. He is already.

Madeleine Albright understood that our life experiences equip us to help one another. My faith tells me that is more than an opportunity; it is a calling. So please, let me know what’s confusing you, worrying you, causing you to doubt God or wonder whether He cares. Tell me how I can help you, and I will do my very best — by the power of the Holy Spirit. And to God be the glory.

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Want to learn more about Scripture as it relates to infertility? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Who Can You Trust?

A few days ago, I wrote about prayer journaling and neglected to mention that, if you try it, you are likely to hear a voice that can’t be trusted. Before you can hear the Lord speak to you, you must silence it:

“Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. Learn to recognize his deceptive intrusions into your thoughts. One of his favorite deceptions is to undermine your confidence in My unconditional love. Fight back against these lies! Do not let them go unchallenged. Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you. Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”  – Jesus Calling

Don’t believe there’s a battle for your mind? Then whose voice is it that whispers, “You’re not meant to have a baby. You never will. This treatment isn’t going to work. Everyone else conceives, but not you. You are defective, flawed, irreparably damaged. No birth mother would choose you, and no baby would love you. It’s not meant to be — ever — so give up, and get on with your life.”

Have you ever heard those words whispered in your spirit? Even now, years after giving birth to two children, they still unsettle me — taking me back to a time when I felt hopeless and alone. Have you ever heard similar words  and thought, what if it’s true?

Those are not the words of the God who loves you, who knows your heart aches, and who answers every prayer with love and wisdom. Those are the words of the evil one, who wants very much for you to turn your back on God. He will speak to you any time you’re willing to listen — and make this journey much harder for you to bear. He may even be able to convince you that it’s hopeless.

Unless, you choose to trust God.

If you do, rather than limp through this marathon toting a growing burden of despair, you will find the hope you need to keep going — and the strength you need to reach the day God intends: the day when you become a parent to the child who’s coming.

“Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”

Claim this promise! Let God the Father comfort you, his beloved child, and whisper words that will give you hope.

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Learn more about God’s promises and the battle for your mind in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Talking With God

Years ago, I read about a woman missionary who was frustrated by her inability to connect with people. A fellow missionary came to visit and encourage her, and within a week, he had won over many of the locals. Embarrassed that her own efforts suffered by contrast, she humbled herself enough to ask him, “How did you do it?!”

He answered, “By teaching them how to hear the Lord speak.”

“Teach me!” she begged, because she had never heard God speak to her directly. So, he did. It changed her life… and her ministry.

What he taught her is what I call prayer journaling. It has been life changing for me, and I believe it can be for you, too.

In essence, it is three simple steps: 1) Find a quiet place to be alone, 2) Write down what you want to ask God or talk to Him about, and 3) Wait patiently and quietly until you sense a response in your spirit that is not your own; when you do, write it down.

This morning, I wanted to talk with God about a crushing disappointment. We had invested time, effort, money and hope in a deeply-desired outcome… and then received the news that what we had hoped for was not to be. The implications were many — and all discouraging.

Why? I wanted to know. Why, if we believed for the best, did everything we could do to bring about a good outcome, and saw all the ways in which it could be a blessing? Why, if we were convinced that this was God’s best for us? Why, if the outcome we experienced seemed full of harm and not good? Why did this happen? Why this bad news?

I took my questions straight to God, pouring my heart out on the pages of my journal as tears coursed down my cheeks.

When I finally paused to listen to Him, I sensed this answer in my spirit, “Trust me. All will be well. Do not be afraid. I AM in control.”

Can I tell you exactly what that means about our situation? Unfortunately, no. So, now I have a choice: 1) Dwell on where things are and give in to despair, or 2) Believe that all things are possible, and that this is not the end of the story. I choose believing.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  – Psalm 5:3

God sees. He knows. He cares. And, He loves me.

That will tide me over until He acts — or speaks again.

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Want more encouragement? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Doubt vs. the Voice of Truth

Andy Stanley gave a great talk on doubt last Sunday (here’s a link), and what resonated most with me was what he DIDN’T say.

He didn’t say, “Real Christians never doubt God.” He didn’t say, “Doubt is evidence of weak faith — and it explains why things aren’t going well in your life.” He didn’t condemn. He didn’t judge. In fact, just the opposite.

He said: “Everyone doubts.”

Everyone.

Here’s why that’s important. Lots of couples struggling with infertility are secretly afraid that their doubt-filled faith has alienated God, and that infertility may be the direct result. Now, the question is whether to commit wholeheartedly to doubt, abandon God and embrace science in the hope that it can do what He hasn’t — or, try to keep trusting a God who can’t be seen to do something that (seemingly) can’t be done.

That’s not an easy choice. And, I’ve come to believe, that’s the point.

When life is not going according to plan, doubt gains a foothold. When you realize you are not in control of things you desperately want to control, it’s human nature to wonder whether God is working with you… or against you. That gives doubt a chance to gain ground.

When things go from bad to worse, the voice of fear starts to whisper.  Negative thoughts begin to circle like vultures, “I doubt God’s listening. I doubt He cares. I doubt this means anything to Him. I doubt He’s going to help. I doubt He’s even there.” Those thoughts can be frighteningly persuasive.

What do you do in when fear invites doubt and threatens your faith? Do you listen?

The band Casting Crowns sings,

“The voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

Did you catch those words? “I will choose….”

Not, “I will think of myself as a victim — passive, helpless, broken, forgotten.” But, “I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

It was a challenge for us when we were trying to conceive. Doctors made (positive) predictions that didn’t come to pass. There were multiple miscarriages, failed IUIs, harrowing trips to the hospital. We felt so alone! It seemed as if we were the only ones who couldn’t conceive at will — except when we crossed paths with other worried souls in waiting rooms and hospital corridors. It was an awful, painful, where-is-God-in-all-this time in our lives.

And doubt made a run at me more than once.

I instinctively did what Andy Stanley and Casting Crowns advise: I clung to the truth. I couldn’t will the doubt away, but I held faith and doubt in two hands, and I kept them open and uplifted, believing that God somehow knew I was doing the best I could, given the circumstances.

I see now that that my willingness to hold things in two hands — rather than drop faith entirely while embracing doubt — brought Him glory. My willingness to trust Him demonstrated my faith — not just to Him, but to every person who asked me, “How do you keep hoping?” That had power. It had value. It was a witness and a testimony to the faithfulness of the God I chose to trust.

Don’t get me wrong: I was afraid. I was full of doubt. I cried more often than I can remember. But, as soon as I could muster the strength, the courage, the will to choose to believe that God was still good and still in control, I would lift my hope to Him and pray, “Please, Lord. Show me that my faith is not misguided. Help me not to be afraid. Help me trust You.”

Don’t endure a season of struggle and grief without meaning. Make it a season of spiritual growth for you and glory for God. Despite your doubts about the future, choose to believe...

“All things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  -Romans 8:28

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For more messages of hope in the midst of infertility, read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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The Next Generation of IVF Miracles

Time Magazine just released a story on Augment, a procedure not yet approved in the U.S., which it hails as the “the next generation of IVF.” According to the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “We could be on the cusp of something incredibly important.”

What is it? A process of harvesting mitochondria from a woman’s ovarian cells to recharge her feeble eggs and energize the fertilization process. The result? It yields “a night-and-day difference in the number of strong embryos” a couple can produce compared to traditional IVF. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s starting to generate healthy embryos that are enabling formerly-desperate couples to become new parents.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news? Because the process involves mixing cutting-edge science with stem cells and conception, it’s likely to be controversial — just as IVF was in 1978, when the world met the first “test-tube baby.” So religious leaders, politicians and more than a few strangers and family members will feel compelled to weigh in on God’s behalf. To speak to you for Him, as if He cannot speak to you Himself.

That’s one of the hardest parts of infertility: the barrage of unsolicited, gratuitous advice — accompanied by the clear assumption that you cannot talk with God directly. It can be offensive, hurtful, demeaning and disheartening.

And unnecessary… because God can speak for Himself.

And He does.

That happened today when I heard Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.” The song’s verses describe situations of feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped, and of thinking, “I can’t!” — and then the chorus says…

“The voice of Truth tells me a different story. The voice of Truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of Truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.”

It made me think, I don’t know if Augment will turn out to be all its developers’ claim. And I don’t think we should charge into a Brave New World without grappling with moral and ethical issues as they arise. But I believe God is a Creator who never stops creating. And, as my physician father used to tell his patients, “Sometimes God does His work through other people. They are the miracle.”

So, here’s what I suggest. Read the article. Find hope in the fact that God has created scientists and doctors with a desire to help you conceive. Trust that He is well able to guide you through the moral and ethical uncertainties — to where He intends you to stand on this issue. He can and will speak to your heart about whether this is right for you if you ask Him, “Lord, what would have me do?” Just as in the song I heard — the voice of Truth will say, “Do not be afraid. This is for My glory,” and you will know whether that means YES or NO.

Either way, thank God for the hope He continues to give you as you make this journey.

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For more inspiration, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Reading the Tea Leaves

I have a smart and successful friend who has been a Christian all her life. Most people would say Gail is confident and capable, but she struggles with uncertainty. When her desire for control becomes too strong to resist, she has a secret:  She sees a psychic — and, together, they attempt to read the tea leaves to discern what the future holds.

It’s a struggle for me to hold my tongue. Not because she’s wasting her money or because she’s desperate for answers (who hasn’t been?), but because I’m convinced it’s a false security that she gains. And I believe it moves her further from, rather than closer to, the only one who truly knows what’s coming. The Lord says, “Trust me” and “Do not be afraid.” But, it’s too hard for her to resist peeking behind the curtain. Or trying to anyway.

I want to help you make a better choice.

First, let me say I totally understand the desire to know what’s coming. So does anyone who’s every wrestled with the many unknowns of infertility:  Is the doctor right about what’s wrong? Are we wasting time? Are we wasting money? Whose fault is it? If we knew, would that change anything? Is all this failure a sign? If we can’t know, should we keep trying — or should we give up?

And just as urgent are the even-bigger questions:  Will we always be the ones who never had a family? And if we are, will we walk away from God?

The answer is not in the tea leaves. Or in the cards. Or in today’s horoscope. Or wherever it is you turn hoping for a view of the future you are not meant to see. I say that with a high degree of certainty….

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.   – Isaiah 55:8

So, where does that leave you?

Maybe…. reassured. God’s thoughts are not your thoughts? That means He’s not worried, or desperate, or afraid. He’s not thinking about who to blame, or how to answer questions people have no right to ask. He’s not thinking about failure or biological clocks or limited budgets or imperfect doctors. His thoughts are not your thoughts.

Instead, His thoughts flow out of who He is and what He has promised. He is faithful. He is unchanging. He is Almighty. He is abundant sufficiency. And He loves you.

His ways are not your ways? So then, He’s not biting His nails, waiting for the test results, staying busy to avoid thinking about what’s not happening. Instead, He is drawing near to those who draw near to Him. He is seeking the hearts of those who are suffering and struggling, and He is offering help and hope — through his Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

He is not avoiding what’s hard and heartbreaking. He is in the midst of it — with you.

When your mind is full of urgent questions, it is easy to turn away from God and turn to anyone or anything you believe might give you the answers you crave. But I can tell you from experience:  Infertility is an extended invitation to get to know God better. Deeper. More intimately than you’ve ever imagined possible. Not because He needs it; because you do.

It will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better ambassador for His Kingdom.

And when your baby comes, you will realize that a time you thought was all about suffering was actually all about growing in faith — in anticipation of the blessing that was destined to come.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Watch Your Words

This morning, I was reading Jesus Calling, and I came across this imperative:  “Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound.” I think it’s fair to say that I am painfully aware of words’ power to wound.

When I miscarried twins — shortly after a maternity clothes shopping spree with my mom — I felt compelled to return everything we’d bought. Somehow, it seemed like it would bring closure.

But then, I reached the counter at Macy’s and held out my pile of unused clothing. The saleswoman asked, with a mixture of surprise and resentment, “You want to return ALL of this? Why?!”

I froze. The women behind me in line stared. Really? I was going to make them wait while returning ALL of this? The looks on their faces spoke their thoughts: We resent you wasting our time. I looked back at the saleswoman and said tearfully, “Because I just miscarried twins — and if I’m not pregnant any more, I don’t need these any more.” There was dead silence as the weight of my words sank in. I started to cry, she began scanning the tags, and the women behind me stared at the floor.

Was it the words she said? Yes, but also the ones she didn’t say. She indulged herself in resentment at my expense — without knowing the whole story. The arrogance was staggering, and belittling. And I was hurting so much already. Was she an awful person? No. She was a busy, insensitive one who lost sight of the fact that her job was to serve me… graciously. Instead, she left a wound that took a very long time to heal.

The same sort of thing happened when we called my brother-in-law to tell him about the miscarriage. My husband and I sadly shared the news, and he responded with a whoop and, “Now WE’LL have the first grandchild!” We were shocked by the realization that his competitive streak extended to bringing a baby into the world. Oblivious to our feelings, he let the words fly out of his mouth unfiltered. Like the saleswoman, he indulged his baser instincts at our expense. And it hurt our hearts.

I know it’s happened to you, too. Someone has spoken thoughtlessly and broken your heart.  Brought you to tears with a careless remark that cost them nothing but feels like it costs you everything: your composure, your dignity, your hope. Isn’t infertility hard enough already?

It killed me to be on the receiving end of the words slung at me by the saleswoman and my brother-in-law. And yes, there were many others: the boss who responded to office grapevine news of my miscarriage with the question, “Were you TRYING to get pregnant?,” the gynecologist who blithely reassured me, “You can always try again,” the high-risk Ob who saw the ultrasound and muttered, “hmmm… probably Down’s Syndrome,” the people at church who asked again and again, “When are  you two going to start a family?”

And on, and on, and on….

Their words left wounds, and some left permanent scars.

But, there’s good news: 1) their words did not determine our future; that power is God’s alone. And, 2) those experiences taught me the truth of these words from scripture:

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” [Prov 12:18].

Research has shown that we always imprint an experience more deeply if there is an emotion attached to it. Infertility — and the careless remarks people make — prove quickly that it’s true. But, so do your responses to this blog.

These are words that the Holy Spirit has willed into being by whispering into my spirit, nudging me to come to the computer to share what I see and understand. I am a stranger to you! And my only tools to help you are the promises of scripture and the healing power of words. But, I use those — one-on-one, with small groups, in my book and in this blog — to do all I can to deliver help and hope as you make your way through this painful journey to the amazing future the Lord has planned for you.

There’s nothing special about me or what I say 0ther than that the Holy Spirit works through me to guide you, encourage you, reassure and inspire you, and help you keep the faith.

So, the next time someone says something callous, heartless or just plain clueless…. come back here for words that will soothe your spirit and renew your hope. I’ll do what I can to bring healing.

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For more encouragement, help and hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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