Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thank God for These Words

These words leaped off the page at me when I read them the other day:

“Praise the Lord.  He settles the barren woman in her home as the happy mother of children” [Psalm 113:9].

How often do you hear those words spoken from a pulpit?  Never.  Read to you as part of a scripture reading?  Never.  But what an incredible message this is for infertile women!  Read it again:

“Praise the Lord.  He settles the barren woman in her home as the happy mother of children” [Psalm 113:9].

First, think about what it doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say God condemns the woman and punishes her by making her barren.  It doesn’t say, aware of her infertility, God ignores her pleas for a child; He does not care about her heartache or suffering.

It doesn’t say He intends for the woman to accept her childlessness as permanent because that is the future He has planned for her.  And, it doesn’t say, He may occasionally bless a barren woman, but He’d never do it for you.

It doesn’t say any of that.

What it does say is “He settles the barren woman….”  Not just sometimes; this is what God consistently does.  He “settles” her.  He is not a dispassionate observer of an infertile woman’s struggle, or an unresponsive witness to her deep longing.  He is present and active in her story.

In the natural, she may believe she is the one battling to stay settled in the midst of uncertainty.  Will she ever be a mother?!  But in the spiritual realm, it is God who is actively working to bring her what will settle her:  comfort, peace, hope and a future.

“He settles the barren woman in her home….”  Picture a bird making a nest, preparing to lay the eggs that will hatch at the perfect time.  God is settling the barren woman – nesting her – preparing her for the future she deeply desires.  He intends to realize her dream, and to do so  in what will be her child’s most nurturing environment:  the home.

“… as the happy mother of children.”  I love every word here!  God transforms the barren woman into a happy mother (we all know how unhappy she was when she believed children were not in her future).  Lifelong childlessness was not her dream – nor was it God’s.  His vision is for her to be a mother, and a happy one.  And not of “a child,” but “of children.”

Notice that the verse does not specify that the infertile woman will become a mother by conception.  Does that matter?  Yes, I believe it does.  God’s plan is not for every future mother to conceive.

God’s desire is that some families will be created through adoption.  Others may be created with the consenting involvement of a third party:  a surrogate, an egg donor, a sperm donor… or all three.  Some may be formed through fostering, caring for an extended family member, or a child neglected by its birth parents.

But notice:  these details, though important, will not devalue the fulfillment of the dream.  At the end of this journey, they will not reduce  the woman’s happiness, nor will they make these children any less truly hers.  In fact, these children will be uniquely and unquestionably the loves of her life — brought into it according to God’s perfect plan.

No matter how stymied we may be by our bodies’ apparent inability to conceive, God is never limited in His ability to give birth to His best for us — or for the children He intends to bring into our lives.  Never! This powerful realization is one of the greatest blessings of infertility. 

I agree with the psalmist:  Praise the Lord.

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

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A Gift of Perspective

Before he died, my father was a cancer specialist.  I grew up hearing stories about patients who had become like extended family to him.  Many of them battled terrible forms of the disease with courage and grace – which inspired him, and burdened his heart.  He did everything he could to heal their bodies.  He also took seriously the call to minister to their spirits.

One Christmas, I cross-stitched these words for him, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24].  To my surprise, he hung the framed verse in his chemotherapy room.  I wondered, wouldn’t that rub salt in patients’ wounds?  Who could possibly come for chemo and feel glad for the day?

As it turned out, that little message was a powerful witness.  It reminded patients that every day is a gift full of purpose.  Those who chose to trust God’s purposefulness could truly rejoice and be glad – even when their circumstances commanded otherwise – because they could see past the moment and lean into its greater purpose.

Patients began telling my father that the chair across from that cross-stitched verse was “the best seat in the house.”  Many told him they would rather wait for that particular chair to be available than go through chemo without the power of those inspirational words.  Patients reported feeling blessed by the time spent staring at the psalmist’s verse, even as their IV drips summoned nausea.

Some made the words a prayer, some a whispered mantra, some a silent meditation.  All took them to heart and found strength and hope in them.

And then, what happened?  Was everyone miraculously healed?

No.

Every journey took its own course – just as every infertility journey does.

Then, what really changed?  Here’s what… That little handmade message invited God into an awful place and transformed it into a sanctuary of hope.  The experience of receiving chemo became an uplifting spiritual one, rather than just a taxing physical one.  In many cases, that difference transformed the journey.

Is there any place in your life that needs transforming?  A physical place that represents your suffering and sadness?  Or a psychological place that harbors fears, worries, anxieties and dread?  If so, I urge you to give yourself the gift of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Claim God’s promises to be with you always, to make all things work together for good, to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.  And then, put the words of the psalmist before your eyes:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

See God’s goodness with eyes of faith.  Trust His purposefulness.  And realize that there is so much to be thankful for, even as you make the difficult journey of infertility.

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Need more reasons to be thankful?  More hope for the journey?  If so, visit PregnantWithHope.com or read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Infertility, Meet Thanksgiving

My nasty cold has morphed into a wicked case of bronchitis.  My froggy voice is sooooo deep – except when I have no voice at all.  I’m alternately freezing and melting.  The trashcans are overflowing with Kleenex, and I don’t think I’ve got the energy to empty them.  What a perfect time to write a Misery Loves Company post… just in time for Thanksgiving!

Don’t worry.

I won’t.

But it’s tempting.

Lots of internet writers seem to think it’s a great idea.  A quick online search found loads of misery waiting to be shared on blogs and in tweets posted in the last 24 hours.  There’s something about the holidays approaching that tips people over emotionally, making difficult struggles suddenly feel impossibly unmanageable.  And sharing some misery with the world is so cathartic:  Come bond with me!  We’ll be miserable together!

It’s a trap.  Don’t fall in.

The temptation to wallow in self-pity is a powerful one for infertile couples.  We tell ourselves it doesn’t hurt anyone – and believe it can actually help.  But really, it doesn’t.

Dwelling on despair makes hope feel much further away than it actually is.  It makes God’s purposefulness seem veiled and impenetrable.  It gives us an ever-expanding laundry list of reasons to grieve, resent, and give up.  None of which makes this journey any easier.

“Our lives are the expression of the thoughts that lie behind them, and of the thoughts that inspire them.”  – Marjorie Jackson

Especially now, as the holiday season approaches, it matters what you “feed” your mind and spirit.  A steady diet of hopeless messages may seem to satisfy your hunger, but it will actually starve you of the strength you need for the journey.

Unless you’ve chosen to give up on the dream of parenthood – deciding it’s too arduous a journey and no longer worth the effort – you need to FOCUS:

On why you are doing this:  God planted a seed of hope in your heart.  And He did it for a reason.

On why you have hope:  “All things work together for good for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose” {Romans 8:28].

On where you find your strength:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” [Ephesians 4:13].

On how you resist self-pity:  “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” [I Corinthians 10:13].

On how your story will end:  “I (God) will pour out My spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants” [Isaiah 44:34].

God has given you the power to alter the course of your journey with your thoughts.  They will express themselves in the life that unfolds before you.  You are certainly justified in thinking thoughts of failure and defeat.  But, you are also justified in thinking thoughts of strength, sufficiency and victory.  Which will it be?

Use your power wisely.

And let’s be thankful for the gift.

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For inspiration, cause for hope, and useful resources, click this link.

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Infertile? You Are Not Alone

You’re not alone.

I discovered that truth in a whole new way when I went to Sitemeter yesterday.  Sitemeter tells me where blog readers come from.  Not who they are (don’t worry, your privacy’s protected), but where in the world they are. And guess what?

There are infertile couples all around you.

Yesterday, readers came to this site from all over the U.S.  They also came from Canada, Australia, Germany, Singapore, India, England, and countries throughout South America.

Why does that matter?  Because infertility can be so profoundly isolating, it’s easy to believe you’ve been singled-out for suffering and no else has.  Or, that there are a small number of couples going to your particular clinic for help, but few others anywhere else.

That’s a lie.  It’s one of many that will fill your mind with doubt about God’s goodness as you struggle to maintain some equilibrium during infertility.

What can you do in response?

Raise Your Hand – Speak up.  Self-identify.  You won’t face the judgment you fear.  You may face some  ignorance, or insensitivity – but you’re also much more likely to find comfort, support, and company.  Of course, you should choose wisely when deciding whom to tell.  But trust me, it’s definitely a risk worth taking.

Find Community – Once you’ve shared your secret, find some community.  Not because misery loves company, but because “where two or more are gathered, I will be in the midst of them.”  Experiencing the presence of God is the first step toward experiencing the peace that comes with knowing and trusting Him.  Find (or create) a community of people who know what you’re facing, and you will have found a powerful source of strength.

Claim God’s Promises – The Bible is full of words of hope and inspiration.  They’re not outdated or theoretical, but powerful and real.  They can and will speak to your experience, if you ask God to bring His word alive in your story.  Set doubts aside long enough to discover God’s promises, invite Him to make them central to your journey, and watch how that changes everything.

Find Hope – Not sure where or how to find God’s promises in scripture?  Not sure whether to find a group or protect your privacy?  Whatever you decide, make it your goal to find hope for the journey.   Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples can help you discover hope in ways that are meaningful and relevant to you and your partner as you make your way.

There are millions of couples around the world making the same journey you are.  Some of them are crossing (virtual) paths with you when you come to this site; like you, they come seeking words of inspiration and hope.  Millions more have already made the journey; some of them – like me – want to share the good news that the journey won’t last forever, and God is good.

So, remember:  No matter how it feels, you are not alone.

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Find more words of encouragement and hope in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and at PregnantWithHope.com

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The Worst Thing About Infertility

What’s the worst thing about infertility?  That’s a great conversation starter in a room full of infertile couples.

For many women – and men – it is often the realization that our self-images are tied up in the notion that we can achieve what we want to, when we want to.  It’s worked in the workplace.  Now, we want to switch gears and apply the same success formula to starting a family:  Effort + Intent = Results.

When we can’t succeed on our terms and our timetable, we wonder:  Why not?  What am I doing wrong?  We start to feel anxiety and resentment about the lack of control we have over this situation.  We want something desperately – we’re clear on the goal – but we can’t seem to get there.  It’s stress-inducing.  And crazy-making!

There’s another piece to this, too.

We’re not just successful people who are ready to succeed at baby-making and parenthood.  We’re also part of a culture that celebrates instant gratification and effortless success.  Without even realizing it, we’ve bought into an attitude of entitlement:  If I want it, I should have it.  Like everyone around us, we believe we should be able to chart our own course… set our own timetable… control our own little world….

So, where does God fit into that?

That’s a great conversation stopper in a room full of infertile couples.

If we think we’re planning it all and doing it all, then what’s God doing?  Watching us?  Thwarting us?  Focusing on people He cares about more than He does us?  Is He waiting for something?  For us to apologize, or redeem ourselves, or give Him an assignment?  What’s His role in all this – or does He even have one?

Struggling to answer these question leads couples to the realization that infertility brings us face-to-face with unconscious expectations.  What is it that we expect of God when we want something desperately?  How do we think our relationship with Him works – or should work?  And how might our expectations be affecting the trajectory of our journey?

I’m convinced one of the purposes of a season of infertility is to focus our attention on these important questions, and to find answers – from deep in our hearts, from scripture, and from God Himself.

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and trying to force a solution to your infertility problem, maybe you should take time to step back and consider these difficult questions.  The answers may give you some very good clues about the best Next Steps to take on this journey.

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For more insight into the infertility journey — and cause for real hope — read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Instead of Self-Pity….

I woke up this morning (Monday) to a torrential downpour.  My throat was sore, and I’d had a terrible night of sleep.  The alarm clock blared and my first thought was, “This is not going to be a good day.”  Before my feet touched the floor, I convinced myself I could see the future, and it didn’t look good.

In less than an hour, I was in a completely different place – psychologically and spiritually.  How did that happen?  What changed?  Instead of acting on my feelings, I acted on my better impulses.

First, I did a good deed I’d planned last night, even though I wasn’t feeling it – at all. I gift wrapped a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread, put on sweats and a raincoat, and drove across town to deliver it to someone who was awful to my family last week.  When I gave it to her, I thanked her for admitting she’d behaved horribly and told her we value her friendship.

I got back in my car and… guess what?  I felt a little better.  I’d done it for her – schlepping around in the downpour while blowing my nose sure wasn’t for me! – but, it turned out to be good for me, too.

On the way home, I stopped for a bagel.  Seated at the table next to me was a woman coughing loudly.  When I turned to give her a “could you quiet down?” look, I noticed her soaking wet sweat pants and windbreaker.  She realized she’d called too much attention to herself, and got up to leave.  Several minutes later, as I headed for the highway, I saw her slogging through the downpour.  Apparently heading nowhere.

I felt a nudge to help and thought “She’s over there and I’m over here, and the light’s about to change.”  I felt another nudge and thought, “I’d have to drive past the exit to catch her.”  Another nudge.  I looked down and saw two meal coupons in my cup holder.  They were for her, I realized.

So, I crossed three lanes of traffic and pulled over to wait for her.  She crossed the street.  Frustrated, I pulled out into traffic and crossed the street to meet her.  She saw my car and made a detour.  Determined now to accomplish my mission, I pulled up next to her and rolled down the window.

“Are you hungry and wanting to go somewhere warm and dry?” I shouted over the rain.

“I sure am,” she answered dejectedly.  I realized she didn’t expect me to offer any help.  Had I pulled over just to harass her?  To tell her to leave the neighborhood?

“Take these coupons,” I said as I extended my arm out the window.  “They’re good for food at that restaurant right there.  They’ll let you use them for whatever you need.”  The woman’s self-pity gave way to gratitude and a smile crept over her face.

“God bless you,” she said as she took the coupons from my hand.

As I watched her enter the restaurant, the words “It is a blessing to be a blessing” came to mind, and I realized:  that’s literally true.  The rain was still falling.  My throat still hurt.  I was just as sniffly and tired.  But, I wasn’t feeling self-pity any more.  Instead, I felt purposeful and thankful.  I’d brought a moment of light into two dark situations, setting aside self-pity long enough to do it.  Now, I felt the quiet joy that comes with being obedient and acting out of a servant’s heart.

What a blessing.

Self-pity is a tricky thing.  We tell ourselves we are responding reasonably to what feels crummy and unfair.  It seems like a small enough indulgence, given the fact that we’re suffering (to some degree).  But underneath the veneer of justifiability, it is a toxic thing.

It’s not grief.  It’s not part of a healthy healing process.  Self-pity is a choice to turn our backs on the God we say we trust, so we can focus our attention on ourselves and the awfulness of this moment.  It is a rejection of God’s promise to be faithful  – because we’re not feeling it.  We’re not sensing victory and blessing.  Instead, we’re feeling cursed and defeated.  And frankly, that stinks.

The next time infertility invites you to a pity party, make the effort to bless someone.  It will change your mood, your outlook, and your trajectory.  And it will remind you that God blesses all of us through one another.

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

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Why This is Happening

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” [I Peter 4:10]

When I was going through infertility, nothing about it felt like a gift.  It was more like a curse that had sought and found me for reasons I couldn’t explain.  If someone had asked me, “How might this experience be a gift to you?” I would have felt patronized, defensive and angry.  No one was helping me find wisdom or insight, and I didn’t think I had the time.  I was busy trying to rush a heartbeat into an empty womb.

But, several years after our infertility journey ended, I was ready to ask some questions.  Why had we had to suffer so much to bring our children into the world?  Why had so many other forms of suffering been piled on during that same season?  What had been the purpose of all that pain and grief?  Why had it happened?

I wasn’t asking in anger (as I might have been years before).  I wasn’t picking a fight with God.  I just wondered if there had ever been a reason.  Truthfully, I didn’t expect to get an answer.

But I did.

“This happened so you would know you were never alone.”

I didn’t hear a voice.  It was more like I suddenly knew the answer with certainty, down deep in my spirit.

I wondered, What am I supposed to do with that information?

Again, there was no sound.  But my spirit received the answer very clearly: “Find those who feel lost and tell them they are not alone.”

In that moment, God showed me there had been a purpose for all we’d been through.  Throughout our infertility journey, He’d demonstrated His faithfulness – over and over – in unforgettable, life-changing ways.  He’d done it, in part, so that I could tell others with absolute certainty that He would do the same for them, too.

That moment signaled the end of one journey, and the beginning of another.

I never set out to create or lead a Bible study for infertile couples.  Or to write a book.  Or to help churches and hospitals launch groups.  Or to spend hours every week writing blog posts.  But that’s what God had planned all along.

He wanted me to tell infertile couples, “you are not alone” every way possible.  He wanted me to tell you that He has promised to be with you always, and He will be.  That He walks every step of this journey beside you – to comfort, to strengthen, to guide you.  That He has a plan and purpose, and that He intends to bless you beyond what you can ask or imagine.

I hope this blog gives you insight I never had on my journey.  I hope it gives you peace when you’re anxious, comfort when you’re grieving, and inspiration that urges you to look past each day’s struggle to the joy that awaits you.

That joy includes a child God has always intended for you.  If you’re willing, it also includes the joy of paying forward God’s goodness and faithfulness by using whatever gift you receive through this experience to serve others, “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

May it be so.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples or visit PregnantWithHope.com

 

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