Monthly Archives: March 2011

Now What?

I’ve realized I’m entering one of those seasons when I can sense change coming, but I don’t know yet what’s going to be different.

I’ve had the feeling for a while that I should be holding everything loosely — my time, my priorities, my commitments, my family, our things, our money, our dreams… All of it.  Everything that consumes my thoughts, requires my effort, and fills my days so full, so quickly that they seem to melt into one another and move past me in waves.  I’m supposed to let go of all of it and wait for a clear sense of what’s next.

Honestly, I’m not sure what that might be.  A new book to write?  A new group to lead?  A completely new assignment from the God who’s kept me very busy for the past few years?  Or, is it simply time to rest?  To do less, and (just) be more?  I don’t know, but it’s time to find out.

The only thing that’s clear to me right now is that I need to quiet my inner voice, so that I can hear God’s more clearly.  I need to carve out some Sabbath time to listen, and try to be more patient than I am naturally as I wait for clearer understanding:  Now what?

In the meantime, I’ll re-run some of the most popular (i.e. widely-read) posts from the past year.  Even if you read them the first time I posted them, I encourage you to ask God to show you something new and to draw you deeper into a trusting, peace-giving relationship with Him.

For starters, here’s a post from last spring….

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

In a recent study of 200 women, a high correlation was found between those who said they were religious and those with low rates of anxiety/depression during fertility treatment.  Lower rates of depression and anxiety correlate to higher pregnancy rates.  So, it stands to reason that spiritual women should have more pregnancies.

In the beginning, when couples walk through the door to the infertility Bible study, the men look apprehensive, and the women, fragile to the point of tears.  But that changes.  Over the course of the study, they come to realize the wisdom of letting go of (the illusion of) control.  They learn the value of being still and listening for God.  And with that understanding comes peace in the midst of uncertainty.

I can literally see the change occur.  Body language goes from self-protective – arms crossed, gazes averted, huddled close to their spouse – to open, relaxed, and receptive.  The real change is occurring in the spirit, but it is reflected in the unspoken language of the body.  That change indicates God’s growing presence, which creates new possibilities.

So, is the study right in its prediction that these increasingly spiritual women have more pregnancies?  I’d have to say, yes.  And no.  Yes, because experience has shown me—again and again and again—that those who see infertility as an invitation to draw nearer to God, and who respond to that invitation, are likely to become parents.  But no, because sometimes the result is not a pregnancy; sometimes, it is an adoption.

Here’s the important thing:  that is no less a miracle.

I don’t say that as a Pollyanna.  I’m not advocating, “be happy about failure,” or “suck it up and compromise.”  I’m saying, make a paradigm shift.  Recognize that, sometimes, God calls couples to steward a soul who comes into their life in a different way than they might have expected.  That’s not defeat; that’s a different plan for victory.  And it is no less a gift.

Are those couples disappointed?  Truthfully?

“Alumni” couples often return to the Bible study to talk to current participants about their experiences.  One entire class is devoted to hearing from adoptive parents.  They speak with conviction about their certainty that their particular child belongs with them:  “God chose him for us,” “We knew as soon as we held her that she was meant to be our daughter.”  In some cases, they also share stories of the effect the adoption had on the birth parent(s).

With loving grace, I suggest to you:  let go of your vision of how this story will unfold, and when.  Give God as much room as possible to work in your story.  He wants to give you His very best.  He wants to create a pinwheel of blessing, and it may touch souls you don’t even know.

Will you make way for that possibility?

Leave a comment

Filed under Trust

God Always Goes First

When I tell couples what I mean by saying they are “pregnant with hope,” they want to believe God’s made them a promise. But often, they aren’t sure whether to trust Him – even if He has. Do you feel the same way? Eager to receive a promise from God, but unsure whether to believe it even if you do?

Then look again at the story of God’s people just before they crossed into the Promised Land.

God spoke directly to Moses and told him to tell the people:  “I have given you this land.” It sure didn’t look that way. The land God referred to was already inhabited. The warriors who lived there had built walled cities, and they themselves were giants. In the natural, nothing about that looked encouraging. Still, Moses assured the people, God had made a promise and He would not fail to fulfill it. They could see their future, but only by faith.

As they approached the land God had promised, Moses gave battle instructions direct from God:  “I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. I have begun to deliver him and his country over to you. Now, [you] begin to conquer….”

Notice something. God went first. Before the people entered the promise, He had already prepared the way. From His perspective, the battle was already underway and nearly won. God didn’t say, ‘I will fulfill My promise’ – He said, ‘I have begun to.’ In other words, ‘I have preceded you in thought and action.’ God went before His people – into the future He had planned for them – and set in motion all He had promised before they ever began their battle.

That’s what God still does today.

He makes promises to those whom He loves, and He sets the fulfillment of those promises in motion. Then, He expects us to step out boldly, into a future we can see only by faith, and do our part in making it so. He doesn’t do it all for us. If we choose to sit back, hedge our bets, indulge our fears, and wait and see, the promise may not be fulfilled. He has given us a role to play.

As in scripture, our faith determines our future.

Does that worry you? It doesn’t need to. I believe it’s cause for hope. Why? Because notice this: only after ‘God has’ are we expected to ‘begin to.’ Only after He has promised us a future filled with hope and blessings [Jeremiah 29:11], only after He has demonstrated His love for us through Christ who died for us, only after He has proven His faithfulness in a thousand ways – many of which we take for granted or ignore, only then are we expected to begin to trust His purposefulness, to believe that His plan is His very best for us, and to step out in faith.

God always goes first.

Do you believe He’s made you a promise since you are “pregnant with hope”? Do you want to see His promise fulfilled? Then act on the belief that He is a promise-keeper. Lean into trusting that He is part of your infertility story.  Count on Him to use every aspect of this journey to bless you, strengthen you, and prepare you for the future He has planned for you.

Claim His promise and step out in faith. The Promised Land is not nearly as far off as you may think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Perspective

Lessons from an Ultramarathon

My husband ran a 50-mile ultramarathon two weeks ago. It was the second time he’d raced this distance – but one thing about this race was an eye-opening first.

In his previous ultra, the course had wound through a large city – past neighborhoods, through parks, up and down city streets, into a business district… There’d been an endless array of visual diversions and the question, ‘I wonder what’s around the next turn?’ to keep things interesting. But this race was different. It was 50 laps around a 1-mile loop.

So, he went around… and around… and around… and around…. As I watched him, encouraged him, and did my best to support him while he ran (and ran and ran), I thought about the parallels to the infertility “ultramarathon.” You might be interested in some of what God showed me:

At the start, everyone’s optimistic. Before the race to parenthood begins, everyone’s expecting success. No one anticipates failure, heartache, or tragedy. But, that doesn’t mean problems won’t arise. If/when they do, remember:  Unexpected challenges don’t determine the race outcome – only the runner’s response to them does.

Those who start fast don’t always finish well. When you see others breeze past you with apparent effortlessness, it’s easy to get psyched out. Don’t.  Everyone looks strong initially, but fastest isn’t necessarily best. Speed doesn’t guarantee successful-ever-after. Success in an ultra means focusing on the quality of the race, not just the outcome.

Don’t set your pace to beat others; run your own race. An ultra- marathon is too far to go at someone else’s speed. In the same way, years of infertility treatments are too challenging to undergo on someone else’s terms. Take your eyes off the world (and all the people you think are watching you) and focus on running your own race at a pace you can handle.

This is virtually guaranteed to be harder than you think. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Expect challenges and they won’t seem so intimidating. Cling to the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and trust that when your strength fails, God’s won’t.

What you think about matters, so choose wisely. During a race, your thoughts send signals to your body that affect your strength & energy. Your body, in turn, sends signals back which affect your outlook and determination. Fill your mind with thoughts that will help you get where you want to go – hopeful, confident, positive, God-trusting thoughts.

Rest when you’re tired and “fill the well. The smartest runners listen to their bodies. They understand the need to take breaks periodically, and to fuel their efforts with the right kind of sustenance. So, don’t push beyond your limits when rest will do you good. And don’t fill your Self with junk (thoughts, behaviors, choices) that won’t fuel your efforts. Take the long view, pace yourself, and be a good steward of your mind and body.

Get help when you need it. Whether you need advice, encouragement, sustenance, or cause for hope, ask for what you need. There are people constellated around you for the sole purpose of helping you succeed. If they can’t provide what you need, take your requests to the One who always can.

Pray God’s words back to Him. This race is long and it can be lonely, but you are never alone. If you’re tired of struggling, pray for help. If you’re too tired, angry or stressed to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to pray for you. Claim God’s promises and remember that, because He is faithful, He must fulfill His word. He cannot do otherwise. Ask Him to confirm His presence and His determination to see His will done. Then, thank Him and press on.

Don’t let endless repetition dishearten and defeat you. As you run through cycle after cycle after cycle, trying treatment after treatment, remind yourself that you are making progress. It may look as if you’re wandering in circles, but God always has a purpose. Sometimes, forward progress just looks like a circle. Don’t let appearances deceive you. Trust God’s perspective on your progress.

Wherever you are in your race, know that the finish line is waiting. If God placed this dream in your heart, He will see you through. He will equip you. He will strengthen you. He will go with you. He always does. However long it takes, trust that He will help you get there. With God, all things are possible.

Press on.

Finish strong.

And give Him the glory.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles

Stepping Out In Faith

Recently, a reporter asked if she could interview me about the story behind Pregnant with Hope. She wanted to hear about our infertility journey, and  about how that led to a growing outreach ministry that delivers help and hope to infertile couples around the world.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch the video — and then, forward it to someone you know who might need a word of encouragement or a change of perspective on infertility.

Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll have a chance to share your own story of God’s goodness and faithfulness. If so, jump at the opportunity! I’m convinced that’s part of how we say, ‘thank you, Lord.’

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blessings, Speaking Up

Fasting from Fear

My experiences with fasting from something during Lent never quite seemed to fulfill the objective.  Giving up Diet Coke gave me caffeine withdrawl headaches, but that didn’t make me more faith-full.  Putting aside sweets made me think about them, not about God’s presence in my life.  Turning off the TV gave me more time to read books on faith-related topics, and that was good… but I still felt like something was missing.

Then yesterday, for the first time, someone showed me a whole new perspective that changed everything.

Lisa, who’s been reading this blog for about a year as she and her husband struggle with infertility, told me that she is fasting from FEAR.  Immediately, I thought, ‘That’s it!  That’s how fasting draws you closer to Christ.  That’s how this season can be worshipful and a great blessing.’  It was a complete epiphany moment for me – and I think it has huge implications for you.

Here’s what I mean….

1) Fasting from fear breaks your addiction and frees you from constant anxiety.  Fear is addictive.  It reinforces the craving for information and control.  And, because you can never get enough, that just reinforces your fear, which makes you want more information and control.  When you can’t get it, that reinforces the desperate urgency that makes you feel so afraid.  Now, look at you – you’re caught in a death spiral that’s undermining your faith and confident hope.  Fasting from fear can help you break out of this addictive cycle and free yourself from constant anxiety.

2) Fasting from fear starves your stress habit and feeds your hunger for spiritual sustenance . Like most people struggling with infertility, you’ve unconsciously developed the habit of monitoring those around you.  Who’s getting pregnant?  Who’s flaunting their fertility and adding to your stress?  Who’s supporting you, and who’s making your life harder?  Who’s become a parent, and who’s still TTC?  Aren’t you tired of filling your mind with this useless data?  It doesn’t matter to your journey, and it won’t change your outcome.  What could make a difference, though, is feeding your spirit something that strengthens you for this journey.

3) Fasting from fear draws you nearer to God, rather than driving you away from Him.  Initially, you may have felt inclined to pull back from the God you thought was refusing to answer your prayers for a baby.  Over time, you may have felt confused, hurt, angry… and resentful.  If you look deeper, you’re likely to see that fear has slowly driven a wedge between you and the only One with the power to insure you will become a parent.  Fear of what?  That God is withholding, that He is punishing you, that you deserve this.  How do you change that perspective?  Fast from fear and refuse to feed those worries.  God is not punishing you, He will not refuse to forgive anything you’ve ever done, and He is not delighting in your suffering.  Set aside those fears, draw nearer to Him, and – scripture promises – He will draw near to you.

4) Fasting from fear claims God’s promise, “I am with you always,” and fights off the enemy.  Fear is an open door to God’s enemy.  It invites him to whisper worries into your thoughts, to plant seeds of doubt in your mind, and to generate a harvest of anxiety, self-pity, isolation and despair.  How can you fight stealth tactics like those when you are already exhausted?  Claim God’s promise to be with you always, put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and fight off the one who hopes to talk you into choices that lead to a faith-destroying defeat.

5) Fasting from fear is a choice to be obedient (“Do not be afraid”), which always leads to blessings.  God’s commands to us are part of His plan for us.  Telling us not to be afraid is another way of saying, “Trust Me.”  Why is that important?  Because harboring fear causes you to focus more on your feelings than your faith.  Fear tells you to trust your worries over God’s promises, and that makes it impossible to trust the God who longs to bless you with His very best in His perfect timing.  Scripture makes clear: those willing to believe God’s promises receive them.  Fasting from fear is a choice to be obedient to the command “Do not be afraid,” and to trust that what is impossible with man is possible with God.

6) Fasting from fear glorifies God because it affirms that the worries of this world are not all there is. Confident hope is an expression of genuine faith.  It is a choice to look away from everything around you that says, ‘You could fail,’ and toward the promise, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Yes, this journey is difficult, heartbreaking, faith-challenging and, at times, relationship-threatening.  But God has promised never to give you more burden than you can bear.  Keep your eyes on Him and you will find a place of peace in the midst of this chaotic, disheartening, maddening journey.  You will find comfort and strength, and in the process, you will honor the One who has promised, “He who honors me, him will I honor.”

7) Most importantly, fasting from fear lets you get in agreement with God that there is always cause for hope.  The season of Lent is about endurance and obedience as a path to God’s best.  What a great focus for the infertility journey!  Yes, it can seem like a marathon that requires more endurance than you think you can muster.  And yes, sometimes obedience conflicts with your original plan.  But, if you continue to follow the path God lays out for you, there is always cause for great hope.

So many reasons to fast from fear… and this isn’t even a complete list!  Do you want to renew your faith, strengthen your hope, and anticipate good news with calm confidence?  Follow Lisa’s amazing example.  Fast from FEAR.  It could change everything.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Peace

Be Still and Know

A reader wrote me a long email recently detailing her infertility history and describing the fork in the road that she and her husband have reached.  And then, she put a question to me:  “Would you mind me asking what you would do?”

I told her that I sympathized with her desire to have someone tell her “the answer,” but that I would not presume to step in between her and God – or to play God by saying I know the right answer for her and her particular circumstances.

I’m sure that wasn’t the response she was hoping for.  And in some ways, I wish I could have said something different.  But, this is her journey. God has a purpose in it — something He intends to birth into her life — and He hasn’t directed me to do anything more than help her see and understand that.

I was able to offer her one valuable piece of advice, though.  Do you want to hear it, too?  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Is that too simple to be useful?  Not if you dig deep into the powerful promise the verse contains.

“Be still…” means:  recognize that it is human nature to let stress cause you to go a million miles an hour, both physically and deep in your spirit, and that is not a good thing.  Without intending to, you’ve probably allowed infertility to become a frantic race to the finish line – a finish line that seems to keep moving further and further into the distance.  Will you ever reach it?!  Rather than responding with desperation and redoubling your effort to get there faster – only to find yourself increasingly exhausted – this verse says, slow down enough to recognize that faster isn’t always better.

There are so many reasons God could be delaying you and extending your journey.  Are you willing to trust that they are good reasons?  Whether they have to do with your health or the health of your baby, with your circumstances or the demands on you, with the path that will ultimately take you where you want to go, or simply the timing of getting there… embrace the perspective that the best outcome may not be reached by the shortest route.

You can be confident that there is a purpose for this journey that extends beyond reaching the destination.  God has allowed disappointments, losses and grief to come into your life as part of this purpose-full journey.  Why?  What has it shown you – about yourself, your spouse, your priorities, and your commitment to this goal?  Has it shown you anything about God?  It takes periods of quiet solitude to separate the tornado of emotions about what’s happening from the calm, constant Truth.  So, slow down.  Be still.  Quiet your thoughts enough to listen.

And what will happen?

This verse says, “… and know that I am God.”  If you choose to redirect your thoughts – away from your frustrations and impatience, toward the true source of peace – you will be able to return to the knowledge that God is who scripture says He is.  He is constant, even when your circumstances are wildly fluctuating.  He is in control, even when your thoughts and emotions are careening out of control.  He is with you, even when you feel devastatingly lost and alone.  He knows every detail of your story, and He walks with you every minute of this journey.

“… and know…” means:  move past feelings and Self-pitying thoughts to the truth that does not change.  Know it with conviction.  Know it with certainty.  Know it with confident hope. “… know that I am God.”  The only One with control over your circumstances and the outcome of your journey has not ceased to be who He is.  Your faithful, loving Father has not abandoned or forgotten you.  He never will.

Be still and know.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Control, Peace

Getting to the Promised Land

When the words “Every one of you is already pregnant with hope” first slipped out of my mouth at a Bible study for infertile couples, every woman in the room turned to stare at me.  What did I mean?  What did I know that they didn’t know?  Was there cause for hope?   Was “pregnant with hope” a step toward becoming a parent?

As they waited for me to say more, I begged God for help:  ‘They want answers.  What do I say now?!’

Any time I’ve reflected back on that moment, I’ve remembered the mild panic I felt when I realized I had voiced what I’d been thinking.  I’d resisted saying anything aloud because, as a guest at the Bible study, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.  But, God wanted me to draw attention to Him.  He wanted me to confidently proclaim His faithfulness.  So, He nudged me until the words leaped from my lips:  “You are already pregnant with hope.”  And then, He delivered.

Within a year, 100% of the couples in that group conceived or adopted  – and Pregnant with Hope was born.

I thought about that moment again this morning – of knowing deep in my spirit that God had made a promise He intended to keep, and telling that to people who were hungry for good news – but saw it from an entirely different perspective.  I was reading about Moses sending twelve scouts to explore the Promised Land, and I was struck by the parallel to this particular moment in the infertility journey.

God instructed Moses to send the men to explore the land “which I am giving….”  In other words, God made clear that the land would be theirs.  Even so, when the men returned, ten of the twelve delivered negative reports.  Yes, it looked desirable and yes, they’d love to live there – BUT….  It wouldn’t be easy, they predicted.  There would be opposition, they feared.  They were intimidated, they admitted.  And this wasn’t a sure thing, they concluded.  Bottom line:  Their desire and God’s promise weren’t enough to overcome their lack of faith.  They predicted failure.

But, two of the ten scouts disagreed.  They were unconditionally enthused.  They wanted God’s best, they knew it had been promised, and they were ready to march into their future confident that it held victory.

Guess who made it to the Promised Land?  Only those two scouts.  The ones who followed God’s leading, trusted His promise, and believed “which I am giving” meant “It will be so.”  They did not choose to focus on fear, but on faith.  And it made all the difference.  God rewarded those who chose to believe in His faithfulness.  And those who did not?  They got what they expected:  disappointment.

I firmly believe there is a moment in every infertility journey when God makes a promise and plants it as a seed of hope in our hearts.  What determines whether that seed will grow into a promise fulfilled?  Whether our hearts are fertile soil.  Whether we are ready to believe His word over what we imagine could defeat us.  Whether we are willing to trust Him over what we see and know others fear.

As with the Promised Land scouts, our faith plays a decisive role in deciding our journey’s destination.  That’s not a message of blame; it’s a word of hope.  You can trust the One who knows exactly where your Promised Land is — and how to get there.  It has always been His intention to lead you there, and to delight In your arrival.

Are you ready to move forward with confident hope?

1 Comment

Filed under Trust