Monthly Archives: July 2011

What’s the Worst Thing?

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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Rather Than Self-Pity…

A few days ago, I woke up 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 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 having acknowledged that she’d behaved horribly, and I 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 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.

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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The Unexpected Gift

“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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