Do Not Be Afraid

It is a source of great joy for me to work in my yard — planting, trimming, nurturing living things. The challenge is to create something beautiful that thrives without constant maintenance, something that lifts my spirits whenever I look out the window and calls me back outdoors. Because we’ve had so much rain over the past few months, all my plants have exploded with new growth. So, I decided to spend a few hours outside shaping the bushes and pulling weeds.

In the midst of my peaceful productivity, a neighbor suddenly yanked open her blinds and screamed at me, “Get away from that bush! What are you doing cutting it now?! Don’t you know….!?!?!”

I was so shocked by the sight of her — tightly wrapped in her white robe, arms flailing, face beet red — that I didn’t process any more of what she yelled at me. All I experienced was her RAGE!! I dropped the shears and looked down at my hands; they were shaking.

What in the world…?

I walked to her door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again and waited. Still, no answer. One more time, I knocked…. and nothing.

I knew she was in there, but she was not going to engage with me. I walked back home feeling bewildered. I’d been judged — condemned, and blasted! — and I would be given no chance to appeal.

Only this morning did I make the connection between that bizarre experience and the way many young couples have described infertility and the God they don’t understand.

For much of their lives, God has seemed largely silent and invisible — like my neighbor. They trust that He exists, but they have no real relationship with Him, nor do they sense that He wants one. In their minds, He has lived behind closed blinds and a locked door for so long, they don’t expect Him to make a sudden appearance.

They would welcome His assistance with their efforts to grow something wonderful — but they don’t believe He will offer to help because, like my neighbor, He never has.

Their latent fear is that, if He suddenly does materialize, it will be to vent anger. Just as she did, He will yank open the blinds, blast them with His fury, and then refuse to engage or explain. Better, they decide, not to engage Him at all.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself avoiding a God you believe may be angry, rather than risking engagement? Have you tried to talk with Him, only to find Him unresponsive? Has He come to seem more like a cause for alarm than a source of hope? Like a condemning judge, rather than an ever-present help in times of trouble?

Then you need to claim this promise:

“… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 8:38-39

Whatever you may have done or not done, it cannot come between you and the One who loves you. Your circumstances may make you feel that His love has been withdrawn and you have been forsaken, but you do not need to be afraid. Scripture says:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” – Romans 8:1

Begin to see your circumstances as an invitation to knock on the door, initiate a conversation, accept God’s limitless grace, and experience the truth that He makes all things possible. You will NOT have the experience I had with my neighbor. Instead, you will discover the source of all love and hope. Trust me.

Ball up your courage.

Knock on the door.

“Do not be afraid” [Matthew 28:10]

=====================================================

Want more encouragement and cause for hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hope, Peace, Perspective, Uncategorized

“Our God is Truly Awesome”

A few days ago, I wrote about the minister and his wife who adopted twins after despairing that they might never become parents. They were matched within weeks of presenting their profile to the adoption agency, and they flew across the country to witness the births of their boys. What a story of God’s incredible goodness!

Some of you who are in the depths of despair over your own infertility struggles may be tempted to argue that that story sounds like a fairy tale — that things like that don’t happen to people like you, and that it’s unlikely to change your circumstances if you trust a God who seems to be failing you already.

I understand those feelings. I wrestled with anger and resentment for years as we attempted to start our family.

So, here’a another story — with a very different outcome.

Jovita Nwaugwu was unable to conceive after years of fertility treatments. She discovered this blog and, through it, the book Pregnant With Hope. She emailed me recently asking for an opportunity to share her story with you. Rather than paraphrase her testimony, I will just post it here in her own words:

“Hello Susan,

I emailed you years ago about how to pray when you are struggling to conceive. Now, I want to share my testimony…

After 7 years of fertility treatment and no success, I decided to seek God seriously. During that time, I realized God does not owe me a child. I changed my spiritual environment and started fasting and praying to know when to stop the fertility treatments. Finally, my pastor told me it was time.

I prayed for a confirmation. It was time for us to start fertility treatments again and my husband refused. He said, “God doesn’t want us to go back for any further treatment.” Even though he had wanted us to go back to treatments, he suddenly changed his mind. I said okay, and I thanked God for His confirmation by my husband’s refusal.

This was in 2014. Then my husband said, “Let’s see what God has for us this year.” This was in April/May.

In August, I found out I was pregnant. Usually, when I’m pregnant, my progesterone level is low and my pregnancy ends up in miscarriage, but this time my progesterone level was perfect. I started thanking, trusting and believing God.

My daughter was born on March 17th and her name is Grace Ogechi. “Ogechi” means “in God’s time.”

Please, I want you to continue encouraging your readers. Your book, Pregnant With Hope, gave me all the hope I needed to go through the wilderness of infertility — and God saw me through. My pregnancy wasn’t an easy journey, but God was with me from start to finish. Our God is truly Awesome and doesn’t share His glory.”

And all God’s people said, Amen.

=================================================

For more help and hope, visit PregnantWithHope.info and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blessings, Loss, Speaking Up, Trust, Uncategorized

“He Lifted Me….”

Several years ago, when I was leading a group of infertile couples through the Pregnant With Hope bible study, a minister’s wife shared her story. She and her husband had tried to conceive for years, but she’d never been able to carry a baby to term. Meanwhile, her husband was climbing into the pulpit every Sunday morning to preach the goodness of God. It felt like living a lie, and it became an impossibly difficult situation.

As a dark cloud of despair and resentment began to settle on both of them, he took a leave of absence from the church, and they sought comfort away from their inquisitive congregation.

Like all of us who have struggled with infertility, they wrestled with self-pity. It is, as Jesus Calling affirms:

“…a slimy, bottomless pit. Once you fall in, you tend to go deeper and deeper into the mire. As you slide down those slippery walls, you are well on your way to depression, and the darkness is profound.”

When they arrived at our group’s first meeting, they were hoping for little more than commiserating community. But over the course of ten weeks, they opened their minds and hearts to the messages of the lessons. They came to see that they had fallen into a “pit” of self-pity by ceasing to trust a God who wasn’t responding on their timetable, who didn’t seem to share their vision, and who failed to explain His reasoning — in other words, a God they could not control.

They came to a fork in the spiritual road: They could choose to trust God’s plan rather than their own, or they could reject Him and continue to struggle on without Him.

Jesus Calling says:

“Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My presence shining down on you. Though the Light looks dim from your perspective deep in the pit, those rays of hope can reach you at any depth. While you focus on Me in trust, you rise ever so slowly out of the abyss of despair. Finally, you can reach up and grasp My hand. I will pull you out into the Light again.”

They came to the realization that God was their only hope. With or without children, He was the source of every good thing in their lives. They would trust Him, even if they did not understand why He would not enable them to conceive.

They surprised themselves by deciding to try adoption. The bible study had led them to the realization that God creates families in many ways, and they saw their decision as an exercise in obedience. Despite being told that they were unlikely to match — “Birth mothers may be put off by the fact that you’re in ministry, and they may not like that you’re older than most new parents” — they believed they were honoring God with this unexpected leap of faith.

A few weeks after submitting their profile, they got a phone call. Would they consider adopting newborn twins?

I still get chills when I tell this story because — as she told me when she called with the news — “no one but God knew we’d always been praying for twins.”

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”  – Psalm 40:2-3

He lifted….

They trusted, and He lifted.

They stopped resenting and started releasing. They let go and let God. And He did what He’d always planned to do. He blessed them — in His way, on His timetable, according to His plan.

Are you tired of trying to force God’s hand? Of begging and pleading for your dream to come true? Before you slide any further down into the pit of self-pity, lift your eyes up off your circumstances and focus on the only One with the power to change your story.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”  – Psalm 147:11

=================================================

Want to hear more stories of couples whose despair turned to hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and visit PregnantWithHope.info

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Hope, Trust

Exceedingly, Abundantly, Above & Beyond….

When they opted for IUI  after a miscarriage in January 2013, Julianne and Matthew hoped to conceive and carry a baby to term. The doctors had figured their chances of having a baby as “rather slim.” Then came the news. “When I went in for my pre-insemination ultrasound, the nurse saw two good-looking eggs.” Not encouraged, but not ready to concede defeat, they prayed that one would take.

“God answered our prayers for one… and raised us three!” Their quads were born last Saturday night via c-section, not far from where I live. They ranged in size from a tiny 2 lbs 11 oz to a strapping 3 lbs 11 oz — and all were healthy. Julianne posted on her Facebook page: “Oh my QUAD!”

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us….”

What does this verse mean for couples struggling with infertility? As Julianne and Matthew’s incredible story demonstrates, it means that God is well able to answer our prayers with more than we would dare to imagine. He took a couple who prayerfully decided to try IUI once (and only once) — because they could not imagine the heartache of several more miscarriages — and doubled their chances with two eggs. And then, He doubled them again.

He made the impossible possible. One attempt… two eggs… four babies.

It is truly above and beyond what any infertile couple could ever imagine. But it happened — “according to His power that is at work within us….”

You may have tried IUI many times, and then gone on to try IVF and more. Maybe nothing has succeeded. Or, like Julianne, you’ve miscarried and begun to believe you may not be able to carry a baby to term. Let this story remind you that God has the final word. He can make anything possible. And when the time is right, He does.

==================================================

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

1 Comment

Filed under Blessings, Hope

The Ultimate Luxury

After a frantic start this morning, I decided to go to Whole Foods for a late breakfast. I tucked into the corner booth — as far as possible from the noise of checkout registers — and began to read my newspaper. I could feel myself starting to unwind. About 10 minutes later, an employee walked over and said, “Most of the people who come here are on their phones, on their laptops, having a meeting before work…. They all seem so stressed. It’s nice to see someone relax.”

As he walked away, I thought to myself, it’s the ultimate luxury.

I don’t know what you consider a “fair share” of life’s challenges, but I could certainly argue that I’ve had mine. Looking back over the arc of those many experiences, I have to say that each one has taught me to turn to God sooner and sooner. I guess I’ve been a slow learner — because I’ve had lots of chances to practice! — but it’s true: I’ve learned to release everything to Him and His plan, trusting that His ultimate purpose is to bless me and bless others through me. Whatever the details of the outcome, I’ve discovered I can trust Him in the midst of chaotic uncertainty. And so, I can actually relax. Maybe not completely… and maybe not for long… but even for a few minutes….

What.  A.  Gift.

Do people keep telling you to relax? That it’s easier to conceive if you’re not so stressed? Which just makes you more stressed?! Would it seem like an incredible gift to be in the midst of infertility and yet be able to relax? Able to trust that the One who loves you has things under control? Even if you don’t see how that could be possible?

Then consider a different approach. Call it an experiment in trust. How about, for just a day, letting God be vigilant and in control so you can rest. And maybe even, relax a little. Not too much, if that’s too hard. Just for a few minutes…, but long enough to realize that you can let go and He won’t.

My sister used to say to me, “Leap and the net will appear.” Wow, that sounded scary — definitely not relaxing. It was her way of telling me that I couldn’t be sure of God’s faithfulness without testing my reliance on it. To get from my circumstances to peace, I would have to take a leap of faith.

So today, think about taking your own leap. Whether it’s large or small matters less than that you let go long enough to realize that the Lord has got you in the palm of His hand.

“Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.”  – John 14:27

=================================================

Want more resources, help and hope? Visit www.pregnantwithhope,info.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Peace, Trust

Comfort One Another

Andy Stanley, my all-time favorite pastor and a terrific counselor (despite his claims to the contrary), frequently reminds us to “one another one another.” By that he means we should love one another, help one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another, support one another… seek ways to “one another one another” as an expression of our love for each other and the embodiment of Christ’s love for us.

But how do you find the strength to do all that “one another-ing” when you’re struggling yourself?

That’s Melissa’s challenge.

She wrote to me a few days ago asking for prayer. She’s incredibly grateful to have given birth two weeks ago: “We had only one embryo, only one chance. But God! …miraculously we conceived.”  Her joy is tempered by her father’s sudden death 7 months into the pregnancy. Overwhelmed by grief, her mother cannot fully enjoy the new life in the family. And, before the baby was two weeks old,  Melissa’s husband learned he may have cancer. How does she triage the needs of all the people she loves most in the world, and keep her own emotions in balance?

Instinctively, she reached out to someone who has also experienced infertility, the joy of new life, the early death of a father, the grief of a widowed mother, the fearful waiting for news of cancer and all that that may foreshadow. In doing so, she offered me a chance to live into a powerful promise from scripture:

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4

“He comforts us….” There is no question whether God will comfort us; He will and He does. When? “… in all our troubles.” Not some of the time. Not only when He decides our troubles are someone else’s fault and we are innocent victims. He comforts us all of the time in all of our troubles.

How does He do that? Through scripture. Through the indwelling comfort of the Holy Spirit. Through those who love us. And sometimes, through those who hardly know us — those who are completely unaware of the ways in which their words or actions help us or give us hope.

Why does God do that? Not because He owes us something. Not because we’ve been guaranteed an easy life or a quick rescue from heartache. He does it “…so that we can comfort others.” He comforts us in a whole host of ways that are designed to meet our needs so that we can pay it forward. So that we can embody His love for us and extend it to someone else. So that we can “one another one another.”

The verse goes on, “When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” I’m claiming that promise! Melissa is troubled, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to give her the same comfort God has given me as I have struggled through each of the difficult challenges she’s now facing. By the grace of God and according to His promise, I will be able to give her the comfort that gave me peace in the midst of loss and uncertainty.

I will be able. Not because I’m me, but because God is faithful. And because He equips us to “one another one another.”

====================================================

Find more cause for hope in Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

1 Comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Hope, Loss, Perspective

Your Body, God’s Temple

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” – Psalm 48:9

When my husband and I were struggling with infertility, I was also grieving my father’s death and my mother’s new role as a widow. My job was stressful and demanding, as was my boss, and I had very little time — or emotional energy — to spend meditating… particularly on God’s unfailing love. The truth was, it felt like God was failing me pretty spectacularly. My stress expressed itself through my body as frequent headaches, sleeplessness, exhaustion, and bouts of tears that were provoked by things as random as sad commercials or turning my ankle on an uneven sidewalk. I was barely keeping it together.

I’d go to church on Sundays and wonder why God seemed so far away. Wasn’t this where I was supposed to encounter Him? But, I didn’t hear His voice or sense His presence. None of His followers ever asked how I was doing, what burdens I was bearing, or whether I could use their help. They all seemed to be absorbed in their own lives, their own prayers, and their own conversations with the God who appeared to have forgotten all about me.

Little did I know, He was with me, even so.

That church that seemed so devoid of God’s presence was not where I should have been looking for Him. True, in the Old Testament, there was a physical place in which worshipers could encounter the living God — “within your temple, we meditate….” God didn’t move; they came to Him. And plenty of modern-day churches still seem to follow that “temple model.” But God doesn’t.

Jesus/Immanuel, “God with us,” changed that forever. We no longer need to go to a physical place to encounter God. Jesus promised, “I am with you always,” and that promise is delivered — in part — by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, your body is now the temple in which to encounter God.

What would I have thought if someone had shared that with me back when we were struggling with infertility? When my body seemed to ignore every instruction I willed it to obey:  Ovulate! Conceive! Nourish! Grow! Sustain!

What if I had thought of infertility as an invitation to seek the help of the Holy Spirit within His dwelling place/my body? What if I had sought to engage the Holy Spirit there — to pour my heart out to Him, to share my thoughts and fears, to praise and thank God for His promises, and to restore peace to my spirit? What might that have changed?

In hindsight, I believe it would have changed almost everything about my experience. It would have freed me from a sense of profound loneliness and isolation. It would have given me a safe place to grieve, be confused, ask questions, and even express my anger. It would have let me stop worrying about how the world might judge my infertility, and start focusing on how God intended to use it to bless me.

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Even when I was sure that God was failing me, the Holy Spirit was with me — in me — patiently waiting for me to acknowledge His presence and engage in meaningful dialogue.

I wish I’d known then what I know now:  the Lord is always with me, and His love never fails.

=====================================================

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

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bystanders, Peace, Perspective