Monthly Archives: May 2010

Giving Voice to Infertility

Conceiving and carrying a baby to term is difficult for some of us—but not all.  So, what does it mean to be singled-out for suffering?  The church is oddly silent when it comes to addressing this question.  Not just my church.  All churches.  They are all failing to provide insight… compassionate support… even just overt grace to those struggling to build a family.  Instead, they offer silence.


In her review of Pregnant with Hope, E.W. Carter of the Regional Council of Churches writes, “Clergy don’t even know how to talk about infertility in the 21st century, [so] many of our faith communities are silent when confronted with the unfulfilled longing for a child.”  Essentially, she’s saying the church is silent because the clergy are clueless.

Harsh?  No offense intended, but she says it quite clearly, “They don’t even know how to talk about infertility….”  Why would that be?  There are few, if any, other topics on which the church—and those who speak for God through it—have nothing to say.  What’s the problem?

Old habits die hard.

That’s part of the problem.  For centuries, the church has been run by men.  And, for just as long, infertility has been considered a woman’s failure.  Only recently has medical research discovered that infertility is just as often caused by an issue with the prospective father’s health as with the prospective mother’s.

Now, women are in the pulpit and infertile men are in the pews.  But the church hasn’t metabolized this new reality.  No one’s teaching “How to Talk About Infertility” in divinity school.  What’s stopping that change from coming?

Supply meets demand.

That’s the other part of the problem.  No noise.  No clamor for change.  Until the silent give voice to their suffering, inertia will maintain the status quo.  So, if we want messages of hope for those struggling with infertility to make their way to the pulpit, and from the pulpit into the hearts and minds of all those who don’t yet understand the good news of God’s faithfulness—even in the midst of infertility—we’ve got to speak up.

Are you with me?


Find more resources and cause for hope at

Leave a comment

Filed under Bystanders, Speaking Up

Infertility vs. Optimism

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams”

– Henry David Thoreau

This is how every infertility journey starts, isn’t it?  Full of confidence, we set off in the direction of the perfect pregnancy.  It will happen effortlessly.  At most, within a few weeks of trying.  We’ll tell everyone the good news, buy lots of maternity clothes, enjoy baby showers with friends and family, have an easy delivery, and poof… have the perfect baby.  What a plan!

Sort of like the perfect wedding, we’ve unconsciously come to desire — and expect — the perfect path to parenthood.  Unrealistic?  Infertility makes that pretty clear.  Unreasonable?  That’s harder to answer.

Clearly, some women do sail through pregnancy and delivery.  Too often, we see them on the cover of People magazine, smiling blissfully as they enjoy their moment in the spotlight.  It’s hard to look at them without wondering, “Why her and not me?  Why is she blessed and I’m…”  What?  Cursed?

Not so fast.  Maybe this detour is for a purpose.

Consider these words from Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church:  “Optimism is psychological; hope is theological.”  This one sentence from his recent sermon got me thinking….

Optimism is what Thoreau advocates:  choose to be confident, and set out.  It’s the favorite advice of all Type A’s:  Go for it!  You can do it!  But that you-can-do-it confidence is rooted in the belief that you can do it.  Infertility teaches each one of us:  No, you can’t.

But God can.  That’s why hope—real theological hope that is God-centered and God-focused—is more than optimism.  It’s more than believing you can if you just try hard enough.  It’s admitting that you can’t, but trusting that God still can.  It’s acknowledging that your limitations are not His, but your dream of becoming a parent… is.

Ground yourself in this kind of confident hope, and wait expectantly.  Trust that this detour is for a purpose—part of which may be teaching you humble God-reliance.  God will honor your trust in His perfect timing with His very best.

Wait and see.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Hope, Trust

Infertility & the Great Physician

(Nov. 30, 2009) BioNews, London – The World Health Organization (WHO), in conjunction with the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), has formally recognized infertility as a disease in its new international glossary of Assistive Reproductive Technologies (ART) terminology.

Why does it matter if experts label infertility “a disease”?  What does that change for those of us who are struggling with it?

A disease connotes diagnose-ability.  Treat-ability.  Even, cure-ability.  What if you fall in the 10-20% of couples whose infertility can’t be explained?  For whom treatment doesn’t work?  For whom there is no apparent cure?  Does calling it a disease just rub salt in the wound?

Too often, infertility settles into a couple’s life and spirits like a cancer — with an unnerving sense of permanence.  The misery brings with it a profound sense of isolation. There may be millions of others battling the same “disease,” but they are nowhere to be found. Rarely do they choose to self-identify; the social stigma is too powerful. So, even as our spirits crave companionship, we feel increasingly apart, chosen for suffering we do not understand.

Separated from everything “normal,” we seem to be drifting further and further away from anything familiar. Where to? And why is God allowing this to happen?

When life is unfolding according to plan, most of us prefer to side-step the broad philosophical question of why people suffer, as if suffering—like a disease—could be contagious. But infertility propels the question to the forefront with desperate urgency.

The question becomes much more personal—“why me?”—and insistent when the suffering is our own.

In the beginning, all thoughts and feelings about infertility spring from the big, central question: “WHY?” With time, and without conceiving, the “why?” multiplies and metastasizes. Its offshoots begin to spring up everywhere. Why us? Why me? Why now? Why not? Why them?

Anxiety feeds the questions. Doubt does, too. Jealousy poisons many thoughts with toxic envy. The “why?” spreads to cover all aspects of the struggle to get pregnant, sinking its roots deep into the spirit: Why does everyone else…? Why haven’t we…? Why did they…? Why, if we…? Why, if they…? Why not us?!

This state of constant emotional turbulence is a disease.  A “dis-ease” that makes it impossible to recover a sense of equilibrium.  And this “dis-ease” seems even harder to treat than infertility itself.  What can possibly cure it but having our heart’s desire?


What doctor will take this case?

Only the great physician.  He alone can diagnose, treat, cure… and bless.  He alone.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

Leave a comment

Filed under Peace, Trust

Obsessing During Infertility

AP news release (11/09) – Doctors have long worried about a link between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer.  But, Danish researchers recently analyzed medical records of 54,362 women and found that, over a 13-year follow-up period, those who took fertility drugs faced no greater risk of ovarian cancer – even if they’d undergone 10 or more treatment cycles.

Why is it that obsessing over when we’ll get pregnant isn’t enough?  We have to compound our suffering by worrying over other things we can’t control—like whether the fertility drugs we take now will bring on some new kind of suffering later.

“Fear and faith seem like opposites,” writes Joel Osteen, “but both ask us to believe something we cannot see.  Fear says, ‘believe the negative.’ Faith says, ‘believe the positive.’”  Why is so much easier for us to embrace fear?  And if we hate feeling fearful, why do we choose fear as our response to uncertainty?

The truth is, it doesn’t feel like a choice.  Loss of control flips a panic switch somewhere deep inside us.  Our instinctive fight-or-flight response takes over:   Hurry!  Fix this!  Solve it!  Now!  We don’t want to feel afraid.  We hate it.  So, in response to fear, we fight for control—struggling to maintain a steady course down an unfamiliar road toward a destination we hope we can find.

Parenthood.  Is it just up ahead?  We want to believe we’re on the right road… but something tells us we’re lost.  And alone.  In growing darkness.  Uncertainty compounds our panic and, before we know it, we’re careening down a dark road at top speed – scared to death, and hoping to make it in one piece.

Is there any other way to make this journey?  Yes…, but it requires us to do the unthinkable:  relinquish control.

Letting go in the midst of infertility is completely counterintuitive.  It feels like giving up.  But it’s not.  It is simply a humble admission that we are not in control.  We desperately want to be, but we’re not.  Unconsciously, we’ve resisted facing this obvious truth.  Why?  Out of fear that we’ll be overwhelmed by despair.  We’ll see how small and helpless we truly are in the face of intractable infertility, and heartbreak will become defeat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we admit we are not in control, we make room for God to enter the story.  Will He help us?  Will He care?

“Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Those were Jesus’ words to a panicked father when he heard his daughter had died.  Jesus understood the man’s instinctive response was fear and grief.  But Jesus told him:  don’t choose fear… choose faith.  Trust me… not what they tell you, or what you see.

What is your visceral response to bad news?  Do you rush to embrace grief and fear?  Or do you believe (“walk by faith…”), despite what you see (“…not by sight”)?

It’s your journey.  And it’s your choice.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Perspective

Infertility and the Reason for Hope

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” [I Peter 3:15].

For most of my life, I wouldn’t have been able to give a good answer to the question, “what makes you so hopeful?”

Prior to infertility, I probably would’ve said:  because I’m an optimist, because my life has always been good, because things work out like they should.  Those shallow answers would’ve been honest — but they would’ve mirrored a life with very few challenges, and very little spiritual insight.  A sleepwalking life.

God wanted more for my children.  He wanted a spiritual role model with a servant’s heart and a sense of stewardship.  So, He used infertility (and a host of other heartbreaking challenges) to capture my undivided attention.  Once He had it, He pulled the rug out from under me.

Over and over and over.

My father died.  My mother died.  I miscarried twins — one at a time.  Our baby might have Down’s Syndrome.  Our baby had a hole in the heart.  Our baby needed open heart surgery.  More miscarriages.  No money; no rest; no time with my medical resident husband.  Five months of bedrest  (stressed & stir crazy) following another miscarriage.  Premature delivery.  A cardiac emergency in the delivery room.  Massive transfusions.  Cancer and chemo with a newborn.

On and on and on it went….

But, we survived.  And to our great joy, so did two babies.  Through it all, I learned to cling to the only One who had the power to bless us, protect us and sustain us through the constant onslaught of tragedy and trauma.  I learned where to find shelter in the storm.

“… like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built” [Luke 6:48].

The storm finally passed.  I realized I could stop holding my breath, stop anticipating the next crisis.  Slowly, I recovered a sense of Normal and emerged from my hiding place with a new appreciation for God’s faithfulness.

What is the reason for hope that is unshakeable?  The goodness of God.  It is completely reliable.

One day, you, too, will have a compelling answer when  people ask, “How were you able to sustain your hope?  How did you keep believing a baby would come until yours finally did?”  Lean into believing there is a reason to hope.  Honor God with your trust.  He will reward you with blessings you can only imagine.


For more resources and cause for hope, visit


*Please note: Summer reruns begin next week.  Look for your favorite blogposts and share them with someone who needs to support your journey, or to find hope for their own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hope, Speaking Up

Infertility and Acts of God

The power of the infertility Bible study group, and the infertile women’s prayer group, is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced infertility.  What about it is so life-changing?  So awe-inspiring?  So hope-renewing?

A few days ago, I saw a print ad in a magazine that captured the essence of what we’re doing – and why it matters.

In the ad, a woman is walking down a dirt road looking at the devastation wreaked by a tornado.  There is nothing identifiable around her; everything has been destroyed.  The copy reads, “We combat natural disasters with acts of God.”  As soon as I saw that ad, something deep inside me resonated.  I thought to myself:  that’s what we do… we combat heartbreak with acts of God.

We share stories that give hope.  But more than that, we draw on the power of God to drive away the darkness that accompanies loss and grief.  We combat experiences that look like disasters with the news that God is hard at work.  He is the light that will end the darkness.

What makes that claim believable?  Couple after couple after couple affirming the truth of this promise:

“He gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother” [Psalm 113:9]

All through scripture, God turns negative situations into blessings-in-disguise, impossibly long odds into certainties, and unimagined possibilities into reality.  He makes woman after infertile woman the mother of a child of destiny.  He is the God who makes the impossible possible – and we are the people who are called to testify to the truth of what He has done.

For the past six months, I have poured my heart and soul into testifying on behalf of God’s goodness, faithfulness and purposefulness.  I have done my best to affirm His deep desire to bless those who seek Him, trust Him, and turn their future as parents over to Him.  I hope that this blog has been helpful and inspiring.  I hope that it has glorified the God who can do anything.  And I hope that it has given you hope.

Will you let me know if it’s made a difference?

Blessings always,



Filed under Battles, Hope, Perspective

Infertility’s Place in History

A local pastor, Jentezen Franklin, likes to ask people:  “Are you racing ahead or being led?”  That question captures the inherent tension in the choice between pursuing our own plans and waiting for God’s.

When you’re ready to start a family, racing ahead sounds fabulous.  It implies conceiving quickly and effortlessly, being the first to have baby showers, and the first to buy maternity clothes.  It means life is on track, and your dreams are becoming reality.  Right spouse.  Great wedding.  Good job(s).  And now, perfect family.

Go, go, go!

But something’s missing.

Where’s God in that story?

For some people, it’s tempting to say, “Who cares?”  If the dream is unfolding the way they want, why change anything?  Or, some might say, “He’s with us” – meaning, He’s obviously blessing us because we’re getting what we want.  So, it’s all good!

But what if God wants more – for us, or for our children?  And what if infertility is the path that leads to “more”?  Are we willing to be led rather than racing ahead?

Peel back the veneer of The Seemingly Perfect Life and you will often find a story with self at the center.  Self-gratification is the goal of this life – and the more instant the gratification, the better.  Effortless success is the Holy Grail:  succeed at everything and make it look easy.  It’s a Type-A-for-Achiever life lived at “race ahead” speed… with very little time for silence, submission or sacrifice.

So what happens when “race ahead” types are not the star of the story?  When it’s not all about us?  What happens when we are intended to fulfill a supporting role in the lives of our children?  Or, when there is a place in history for our child?

Laura voiced this thought when I interviewed her for Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.   She said, “Mainly, what I think I carried away from this  [infertility] experience is that God has a timeline for your child, too.  There’s a place in history for that child.  And just because we want something right now and can’t wait doesn’t mean it should happen that way.”

The subtext of Laura’s point is that it’s not all about us.  It’s not about fulfilling our wishes or meeting our need for instant gratification.  It’s not about ending the suffering we experience when everyone else conceives effortlessly and we can’t.  If God has a timeline for our children, then forcing a “solution” to our problem just creates more problems.

Think of Sarah’s story from Genesis.  She wanted a child so desperately, she pushed her husband into a semi-surrogacy with her servant [Genesis 16:2].  Her helplessness and impatience wouldn’t let her wait.  The servant conceived – and resentment was born.  Racing ahead did nothing to solve her problem; it only gave birth to new tensions and bigger problems.  Only when Sarah let go, stopped pushing, and waited for God did the child He had promised become her reality.

God sometimes allows infertility to enter our stories in order to slow things down.  Slowing us down makes time for silence – so we can listen, submission – so we can follow His lead, and sacrifice – so we can/will put someone else first.  When we realize we can’t race ahead, we are often more open to being led.  This makes room for God in our stories.

And, it enables Him to slowly shift our focus from the obsessive, race ahead self-centeredness of “when will You…?!” to a God-centered, God-led: “when You….”  With that shift in focus comes peace.  And with peace, patience.  And with patience, endurance.  And with endurance, hope.  And with hope, joy.


Find more resources and cause for hope at

Leave a comment

Filed under Humility, Peace

The Yoga of Infertility

For much of my life, I was a runner – but then, spine surgery sidelined me.  In my quest for a new individual sport, I discovered yoga.  As it turns out, it’s a great metaphor for infertility.  The benefits of yoga include greater flexibility & strength, less stress/more calm, better concentration, improved mood, lower blood pressure & slower heart rate, more ideal posture, and heightened spiritual awareness.

Does that describe your infertility experience?

Let me guess….  No.

So, why is it a great metaphor?

Because it describes what is possible.

Some couples go through infertility fighting for control.  They acknowledge God’s presence, but resent His (apparent) unwillingness to do things their way, on their timetable.  In their effort to manage the process, they confuse determination with inflexibility.  Over time, their lack of success generates a growing sense of hopelessness and failure.  They don’t feel strong, nor do they look it.  The stress and turmoil they’re experiencing – both emotionally and spiritually – makes them tired, moody and distracted.  They have trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, and definite trouble feeling peace, joy or gratitude.

I’ve seen people look like this during yoga class.  The whole hour is a battle.  Their mind is in opposition to their body – and it’s a miserable experience.  There are no apparent benefits to this exercise.  But, they continue to gut it out, thinking that somehow it will be worth it.

Sound familiar?

There is another way.

Yoga teaches you to work with (your heart, your muscles, your body), rather than fight against.  When we apply the same principle to the infertility journey, we learn to stop resisting God.  We stop trying to force our will – and instead, submit to the will of One more knowledgeable and patient than we are.

Before we begin, the Teacher knows what to expect from this “exercise.”  He can anticipate the aspects that will challenge us:  the ones that require us to be patient, to stay in a difficult position and listen for His instructions, to recognize discomfort without fearing it, to release our hold on a position (or mindset) when it becomes too painful.  He can see when we have reached our limits and are trying too hard.  If we listen, He will tell us when it’s best to work deeper, and when to let go and rest.

How do we make the transition from being what scripture calls “stiff-necked people” to flexible, spiritually limber souls?  I think the answer is nestled in Proverbs 3:5,6 –

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”

Trust lets us release tension.  We can stop pouring energy into worrying; instead, we work at actively trusting.  That’s where we put our energy – not into control, but into faith.  How much energy?  “With all your heart.”  Put everything you have into it.  “And don’t lean on your own understanding.”  Think of yourself as a beginner, a novice, an inexperienced student does not necessarily know what’s best.  Rather than risking serious self-injury, rely on the wisdom of One who knows what you do not.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him.”  Greet God, listen to Him, respect Him, thank Him, value His expertise and praise Him for His patience with you.  “He will direct your path.”  If you’ll listen, He’ll get you through this class – and you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned in the future.  You’ll be stronger, more flexible, able to do things you previously believed were impossible.

If you want to go through infertility with inner peace, a sense of strength that is visible to others, a quiet mind, a calm feeling of purpose, and an ability to lean into the challenge of a moment – confident that you will pass safely through it under the watchful gaze of your Instructor, begin practicing the yoga of infertility with Proverbs 3:5,6.

You’ll be amazed by how quickly you are transformed.


For more resources and cause for hope, go to

1 Comment

Filed under Control, Humility, Trust

Infertility & God’s Promises

In the midst of the infertility journey, how can you be assured of what you hope for when it’s not happening?  How can you find peace in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety?  How can you trust a God you’re struggling to understand?


Is it possible to hear God speak to you?  Maybe in the Old Testament… but these days?  It would be wonderful to have dreams or visions, like the prophets did.  Or better yet, real-time appearances by God – like Abraham.  Even overhearing God telling His plans for you to someone else – like Sarah did – would definitely help.  But, most likely, that hasn’t happened to you.  And truthfully, you don’t expect it to.

So, how can you hear God speak to you?

When I voiced this series of questions in Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, I had no idea how much it would resonate with people.  Everyone experiencing infertility wants to know what’s happening and why… but very few people have any idea about how to get answers.

In the infertility Bible study group, we work on dissecting and examining a verse to unveil the specific promises relevant to the infertility journey.  We read aloud, giving the words on the page time to seep into our spirits.  Then, we dig deep beneath the surface of the words to the life-giving truths that underlie them.  In Pregnant with Hope, I walked readers through that exercise with Jeremiah 29:11.

Let’s do the same thing with Psalm 84:11.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” [Psalm 84:11].

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield….”  The words “sun” and “shield” define God’s vital role in our well-being.  He ends the darkness of infertility; He brings light.  He is a life-giving power; His presence affects the fertility of living things.  He is both protector and defender – rock, fortress, refuge and high tower [Psalm 18:1].  He deflects threats to our well-being and our future.  He is always fighting for us, never against us.

“…the Lord bestows favor and honor.”  “Bestow” means to give something valuable, often something that is undeserved.  Everything God gives us is a valuable, undeserved gift; it cannot – and need not – be earned.

The favor He bestows on us is help in time of need [Hebrews 4:16], and grace that is sufficient for the challenges we face [II Corinthians 12:9].  The honor is that He loves us even when we reject Him – out of fear, pride, resentment, or the desire to control.  And, He continues to listen to us, even when we refuse to listen to Him.

“No good thing does He withhold…”  All good things are in His hands, and it is in His power to give them.  He doesn’t refuse to give us any good thing that would be His best for us.  His intention and His deep desire is to bless us.

“…from those who walk uprightly.”  This is the qualifier.  Is it also the reason for infertility?

Dr. David L. Cooper writes, “Whenever the people of God fail to walk uprightly, their conduct makes it impossible for the Lord, who does all things for the best of His children, to bestow many good things upon them that He would like to.”  Meaning?  “So long as we follow Him afar off and crowd Him out of our lives, He is unable to bestow [what we desire] upon us.”

Are you following from afar?  Or not at all?  Have you crowded God out of your life as you struggle to control your infertility and force your solution on your timetable?  If so, you have an opportunity to make changes that will invite God back into your story.  That is the key that will unlock His promise to give you His very best in His perfect timing.


For more resources and cause for hope, visit


Filed under Blessings, Control

Infertility & the Unexpected Detour

Pam and Aaron joined the infertility Bible study looking for community and support, and hoping to be among those who conceived quickly.  Instead, their journey took them far from their desired destination.

As they struggled through infertility tests, treatments and repeated heartache – they found the slope of their climb getting steeper and steeper.  When Pam was laid off, they lost one household income.  Then Aaron lost his job.  Suddenly, there was no income at all.  They would have to sell their condominium to avoid foreclosure.  Unfortunately, they were entering a glutted, sellers-only market.  Worse, a nearby condo building was about to slash prices to spur sales.

The money they needed for future procedures – or adoption costs – seemed to be evaporating before their eyes.  They talked, half-jokingly, about selling Pam’s engagement ring to subsidize IVF.  They would have to move in with her parents, leaving behind the community of infertile couples that had encouraged and sustained them.

At this point, it would not have been unreasonable for them to ask, like the psalmist:

“Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever?  Has his promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” [Psalm 77:7-9].

They could not see cause for hope, but they chose to believe that God would help them find a way through their challenges and back to the path leading to parenthood.

It didn’t take long for God to show up.

First, they sold their condo – in four days, and just prior to the announcement of a $60,000 price cut next door.  “That was amazing,” said Aaron.  “That $60,000 was money we couldn’t afford to lose.”  They moved to Pam’s parents’ house.  But, within a few weeks, Pam had a job offer – in the city they’d just left.  Soon after, Aaron had an interview for a director’s position – in the same city.

The tide was starting to turn.

A week ago, they spent several days in town for Aaron’s interview, and came to worship.  Several of the couples from the infertility Bible study happened to be in the lobby talking.  Instantly, they were drawn back into the network of love and support they’d thought they would have to forfeit.

It was as if God rebooted their entire story.  First, He removed everything they relied on:  their jobs, their incomes, their housing investment, their network of friends, their church home…  leaving them, it seemed, with next-to-nothing.

Then, He awaited their response.

They stayed in faith and trusted that He would guide their steps and make a way where there seemed to be no way.  And He did.  He restored their jobs, their incomes, their support network and their church home.  Within weeks!

What was the purpose of this dramatic detour?

I believe it was a test designed to show them how much power there is in trusting God, and how faithful He is to those He loves.  And, I believe they passed with flying colors – by which I mean, they made God-honoring choices, “walking by faith, and not by sight” [II Corinthians 5:7].

Now, they’re re-focused on the original destination… transformed by the detour they would never have chosen, and won’t soon forget.  Free of the financial burden of a mortgage.  And ready for whatever’s next on this journey.


For more resources and cause for hope, visit

1 Comment

Filed under Battles, Trust