Category Archives: Control

It is what we want, but do not have. So, now what?

When the Plan Changes

As you may have noticed, this blog went dark for a few months. The reason, and the lessons I learned, might interest you. So, here goes….

In early January, our daughter went from school to the Emergency Room to the ICU in less than 24 hours. It was a harrowing ordeal that was followed by nearly three weeks in the hospital. After 3 surgeries, she now has two new scars to join the ones from the open heart surgery she underwent when she was just 4 weeks old.

Talk about traumatic. This is not how 2016 was supposed to begin. At least, not according to my plan. Clearly, the Lord had other plans. So, I got yet another chance to learn the lesson He wants me to remember: His ways are not my ways, but I can still trust Him.

Is He trying to teach you the same lesson? How is your 2016 started? Is everything going according to plan, or has your plan been changed by His?

There was a story in today’s paper that helped me think about this from a safe emotional distance. It was about a family in Clovis, CA that had a plan, “but God had a different plan, and it’s far better.” Reading it reminded me that we may not always understand what God’s up to in real time, but He has promised that “all things work together for good for those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose” [Rom 8:28].

Here’s the story…. Bryan and Tamera had one biological daughter. At age 6, she asked her parents, “We’re gathering all these clothes and toys for orphans, but isn’t what orphans really need a family?” They prayed over her question, and it led them to adopt a baby girl from China. When they visited the orphanage, they saw countless kids with special needs.

That moment led to the adoption of 8 kids over several years — 7 of them with disabilities (4 are missing limbs, 2 have spina bifida). Bryan and Tamera say their adopted children give them “front-row seats to everyday miracles. That’s a blessing.”

My circumstances are completely different from theirs. But I share their perspective. I’ve witnessed several miracles in my daughter’s short life. She, and the many people who worked those miracles, are all a blessing. They are tangible evidence of God’s favor and grace, and of His amazing plan. I am humbled  and deeply grateful when I consider what could have happened, but did not.

All is well — maybe not forever, but for today. And I have a renewed sense of gratitude for the One from whom all blessings flow. I don’t know His plans, but I am learning — again and again — to let go and trust that He is good.

You can, too.

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Need more encouragement and cause for hope? Or a better understanding of the God who is longing to be central to your story? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

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When It’s Time to Pray…

Four years ago, I wrote a post titled, “The Infertility Prayer God Always Answers.” According to stats, thousands of people continue to seek out and read that post every year. Why is that?

I’m guessing it’s because they’re hoping to learn how to twist God’s arm or bend His will to align with their own. Truth be told, wouldn’t you like to know how to do that, too?

Infertility makes us want to compel God to solve the problem we cannot seem to solve for ourselves: “I want to be pregnant, God. For some reason, I can’t seem to make it happen… so You need to. Get busy!! Amen.”

That is not the prayer God always answers. Far from it.

That You-work-for-Me mindset (even when tactfully expressed) treats God as a means to our desired end. It attempts to trade roles — putting us in the position of control by putting God in the role of dutiful servant, fulfilling the will of the one in charge.

So, if imperative commands don’t get a response, what should you be praying?

According to Tim Keller’s book, Prayer, more than 1500 years ago, St. Augustine made clear, “You should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.”

Take that in before you read on….

Until you realize how blessed you are to know the grace of God the Father, the love of his son, Jesus, and the constant fellowship of the Holy Spirit, you should not pray for what you want.

Why? Because everything you pray will be distorted. Your prayers, Augustine writes, will simply give voice to your worries and the lust for what you’re sure you must have… now! Those prayers will bring no relief from “your melancholy burden” because God will not answer [James 4:2-31].

Why? Because when we ask for what is not good for us, or what is right but at the wrong time or for the wrong reason(s), God loves us enough to say, “No. That is not My best for you.”

When I miscarried my first pregnancy, I prayed fervently for another one. My husband and I invested all the time, effort and money we could into doing everything possible to bring another baby into being. I told myself God would be pleased that I was praying about our future while doing all I could to make it happen.

In hindsight, I can see the truth of Augustine’s words. My prayers at the time were rooted in fear and urgent longing — “What if….?” “I want….!” “What if….?!” “Please God…..!” — but never once did I pray, “You are all I need.”

Not once.

The need I felt to be a mom was too strong to be patient or still. It felt tangible and desperate. I wanted a baby! We needed to be a family! No amount of focusing on God seemed likely to reduce the intensity of that need.

Until…. we failed to fulfill our dream ourselves. And no doctor could guarantee a positive outcome — no matter what service was offered or how much we paid for it. All roads led to the same clear conclusion:  Only God could make the impossible possible.

So, infertility sent me on a search for the God of the impossible. That was no accident. In the course of that long journey, I learned to trust Him in a way I had never imagined. I learned to live my life with open hands and prayerful acceptance of His will, not mine.

And, I became a mom.

Twice.

That was all part of His plan. He had always intended to bless us with children. But first, I needed to learn to trust Him, and release my claim on the future.

There is a plan for your life, too. And you don’t need to convince God of anything in order for that plan to unfold in His perfect timing. You just need to seek Him with all your heart, put Him first in your life, and let go.

It’s that hard… and that easy.

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For more inspiration, read my book Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

As we enter into the official season of gratitude, I’m coming off a week that made it hard to feel thankful. It seemed like I was pushing water uphill in virtually every aspect of my life — and I found myself increasingly discouraged and overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

While the world celebrates other people’s successes, you struggle with the secret — or worse, the very public awareness — of your repeated failure. That failure becomes a heavy burden that can seem even heavier when the calendar announces, it’s time to gather and give thanks.

What if you don’t feel thankful?

Last Thursday, exhausted by continuous efforts that failed to achieve any of my objectives, I melted into tears when my husband asked, “What’s bothering you?”

When simple questions bring tears to your eyes, gratitude is not the first emotion. Resentment, anger, despair… those are the familiar feelings that surge to the surface and belie any words to the contrary.

The truth is, it’s hard to be thankful when life is hard. Where is God? Why isn’t He helping? Why won’t He answer fervent prayers?

I told my husband that I’d been praying about several different situations while working to resolve them all. None of that had done any good. Everything was coming apart. And God’s promises didn’t seem to be translating into positive outcomes.

He told me what he sometimes tells his patients: “Let it go.”

He was right. It’s the best response when you come face-to-face with the realization that you are not in control.

Why? Because God is.

There are times when unanswered prayers are a blessing, when the struggle of the moment is setting the stage for the miracle that’s coming. Even if you can’t see it yet, it’s not defeatist to stop pushing water uphill. Nor is trusting God simply wishful thinking. It is choosing to affirm that He is who He says He is.

But, has He forgotten me? Does He care about this situation?

That’s the voice of doubt speaking. Doubt opens the door to fear and undermines faith with worry-filled fantasies that are contrary to the promises of God.

When your mind fills with doubt, worry and fear, it’s time for faith to flex its muscles. How? By exercising your freedom to choose whether to worry, or whether to trust. By definition, the more you do of one, the less you will of the other. One will weaken your faith; the other will make it stronger.

Receive that knowledge as a gift this Thanksgiving season. Recognize its incredible value, and give thanks for your freedom to choose: fear or faith.

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Need more encouragement during a challenging season? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Even Though…” Faith

In a world that celebrates success and immediate gratification, it’s not easy to feel gratitude for their absence. So, I aligned myself with Job after several years of failed attempts to bring a healthy baby into the world.

He experienced incredible suffering, which was compounded by his friends’ speculation on why God allowed it to happen. I had lost my father (age 55) and was struggling to conceive while caring for my newly-widowed mother as she battled leukemia. I, too, had friends who shivered at the tragedy of it all — and speculated on what God might be up to.

As with Job, my situation got worse before it got better. I’ve written several posts about the awfulness of that time, and about how much people’s insensitive remarks compounded my suffering.

But now, I want to write about the blessing-in-disguise — the seeds of “Even though…” faith that were planted during those painful, heartbreaking years.

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  – Job 13:15

When I first bonded with Job, it was as a fellow sufferer — and as someone who understood how painful it is to be on the receiving end of people’s thoughtless judgments and baseless speculation. I shared his confusion at God’s apparent disinterest in my agony. Like him, I cried out for God to bless me rather than ignore me or curse me. And I cried, and cried, and cried over the unfairness of it all.

Now, many years later, I would experience all that suffering again — over and over, if necessary — in order to have the children I do and the “even though…” faith that’s resulted.

Here’s what I mean…

Even though God doesn’t always bless me on my timetable, I now believe He is always for me (Jeremiah 29:11). Even though I don’t know His plans, I now trust that they will work together with my mistakes — and even my bad choices — for good (Romans 8:28). Even though I sometimes feel alone or forgotten, I now know He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). And, even though I would not have chosen the path our infertility journey took, I now know God led us — and accompanied us — every step of the way (Isaiah 41:10).

I’ve come to a place in my spiritual life where I can paraphrase Job: “Even though He does what I don’t want more often that I would ever choose, I trust Him.”

That’s “even though…” faith.

It’s easy to trust God when all is well; it doesn’t take much spiritual strength. Infertility exposes our spiritual weakness and threatens to undermine our trust in the God who seems to be failing us. What’s really failing is our feeble faith. Will we trust a God we cannot always understand?

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.”  – Isaiah 55:8-9

It’s hard to trust a plan we don’t know in advance. It’s hard to trust a God we don’t hear in the midst of the clamoring voices of friends, doctors and other “experts.” Most of all, it’s hard to let go of our illusion of control.

The seeds of “even though…” faith are planted in our hearts during these seasons of suffering and uncertainty. They grow in response to God’s grace and the tender mercies that enable us to struggle on as we cling to the hope that He will be faithful — and discover that He actually is.

“Even though…” faith learns through experience to rise above the struggles and challenges of the moment to seek the God who is above it all, in control of it all, and using it all — to bless us, to teach us, to strengthen and equip us.

It’s true, “even though…” faith becomes stronger only by being tested; and of course, we don’t welcome the tests. We do everything possible to bring them to an end! But our loving Father has a better plan. Our willingness to trust that plan — even though it takes us down a path we would never choose — prepares us to be amazing parents with incredible “even though…” faith.

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Need more encouragement on your infertility journey? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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From Heartache to Hope

After writing about my friend, Gayle’s, recent heartbreak, I came across these words in Jesus Calling:

“Sometimes, My blessings come to you in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble. At such times, you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me. Understanding will fail you, but trust will keep you close to Me.”

That’s the briefest and most accurate description I’ve ever encountered of the path that leads from heartache to hope.

The steps are clear….

  1. “…you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me.” — Life is hard…, but God is good. To recognize and experience that goodness in the midst of suffering, you must trust the One who is in control. That means letting go — of your need for control, of your right to what seems fair, of your timetable and of your plan. It means responding to disappointment, grief, and the fear that comes soon after with hope rooted in the belief that all is not lost. In fact, all is well! Despite how it may look or feel, God is still in the midst of your circumstances. If you acknowledge His presence by faith, you will experience a deepened sense of it. Trust is the only way to find His goodness in the midst of your suffering.
  2. “Understanding will fail you….” — When a miscarriage occurs or a procedure fails, you will be tempted to demand answers to the questions that will not stop: “Why?! Why me? Why us? Why now? Why this time? Why, when we’ve tried for so long? Why, when we’ve believed for a good outcome? Why, when the doctor said…?” You will rarely, if ever, find satisfying answers. Instead, you will face the choice of clinging to the questions and cycling through them again and again, or releasing them to the only One who knows why — and who answers, “for My good purpose.”
  3. “…but trust will keep you close to Me.” — Trust opens the door to peace, to calm, to patience… all things that would comfort you, except that they seem to elude you. Trust enables you to move through the emotional turmoil that suffering brings, and to step into the reassurance of hope that is deeply rooted in the Truth. It is not foolish to trust God; He is faithful. It is not naive to believe His word; He cannot be other than who and how He is. It is wise to relinquish control and trust in His goodness and purposefulness.

Does that path sound impossible for you to follow? Does God’s caring about your circumstances seem unlikely — or even, patently untrue? In the weeks ahead, I will dig deeper into the ways He proves His faithfulness. My hope is that you will discover, as I have, that in every heartache, there is an invitation to hope in Him.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”  – Psalm 34:8

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Want to learn more about the path to peace? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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“It is He….”

A couple weeks ago, I was standing in line at the grocery store when the woman behind me asked, “Did you write a book?” If you could watch the next thirty seconds on a slow-motion replay, you’d laugh at how long it took me to respond. It was so out of context, and I was so surprised that a stranger would ask me, that it took me a minute to process the question.

“Yes,” I told her, “I did.” In the video replay, cartoon question marks would appear above my head. Who is this person? How does she know me?

“Was it about getting pregnant?”

I nodded, and she leaned in to confide, “I tried for so long to get pregnant. We did IVF. It was so discouraging. Then, I heard about your book from someone at church. It changed everything. We had our baby. And now, look….” she pointed to a bulging belly. “Another one! Natural!”

Happy to share in a small celebration, I congratulated her and thanked her for telling me her story. As I picked up my bag of groceries, she urged, “Keep writing your blog.”

Since then, I’ve crossed paths with two other women who’ve told me the same thing:  “Keep writing. I know someone who needs to hear the message.” One is a woman raising twins who were conceived after she’d given up hope. The other has a daughter who’s struggling to conceive and is too stoic to admit how much she’s hurting.

What can I offer them — and you? I prayed about it this morning and a Bible verse came to mind:

“It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”   – Psalm 100:3

My first-grade class memorized this Psalm for a Thanksgiving assembly many years ago. We dutifully learned the words and practiced them every day for weeks. Little did I know, that would be one of many ways in which God would plant the seeds of His truth in my heart.

Decades later, I realize the powerful message contained in that verse.

“It is He that hath made us….” My biological parents went through the motions, but God brought me into being according to His plan and purpose. Although my conception as a (very!) unplanned honeymoon baby surprised my parents, it was no surprise to God. He intended me to come into the world as the person I am and at the moment I came.

He had a very specific plan for you, too. And your spouse. And the moment you met. And the life you chose to share. And, He has a plan for the next generation of your family.

You may try to manufacture life in the womb using the most advanced techniques you can afford. You may eat the right foods, swallow the right pills, give up all the wrong habits, and follow all the weirdest advice…. But the truth of the matter is, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”

You don’t have the power to control when a baby will be conceived… or whether a pregnancy will last… or whether the money you spend and tests you endure will result in joy or heartache. And no honest fertility specialist can guarantee success. Nothing you do — or don’t do — can make certain what you hope for.

That privilege is God’s alone.

Embracing that knowledge — rather than resenting it, fighting it, or running from it — is an important step of humility that can make all the difference in how long, or short, the infertility journey will be.

Have you ever heard the verse:

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  – James 4:6

It is now one of my favorites — but it wasn’t always. I used to read it focused on the first half — “God opposes….” — imagining God standing in opposition to me and my plans to become an incredible mom. It took me a long time to realize that God didn’t oppose my heart’s desire. But, He opposed my believing that I had the power to be god in my own life. He opposed me leaving Him out of a process that He alone could control.

Now, I’ve learned to lean into the second half of the verse. God gives grace, favor and blessings to those who humbly acknowledge: We are not the gods of our own lives. We do not control much of anything — but thankfully, He does. And scary though it may be at times, we choose to trust Him. His plan is perfect.

He who made us… gives grace to the humble. It’s that simple. And that challenging.

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Want to learn more about the God who helps those who humbly rely on Him? Read  Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Talking With God

Years ago, I read about a woman missionary who was frustrated by her inability to connect with people. A fellow missionary came to visit and encourage her, and within a week, he had won over many of the locals. Embarrassed that her own efforts suffered by contrast, she humbled herself enough to ask him, “How did you do it?!”

He answered, “By teaching them how to hear the Lord speak.”

“Teach me!” she begged, because she had never heard God speak to her directly. So, he did. It changed her life… and her ministry.

What he taught her is what I call prayer journaling. It has been life changing for me, and I believe it can be for you, too.

In essence, it is three simple steps: 1) Find a quiet place to be alone, 2) Write down what you want to ask God or talk to Him about, and 3) Wait patiently and quietly until you sense a response in your spirit that is not your own; when you do, write it down.

This morning, I wanted to talk with God about a crushing disappointment. We had invested time, effort, money and hope in a deeply-desired outcome… and then received the news that what we had hoped for was not to be. The implications were many — and all discouraging.

Why? I wanted to know. Why, if we believed for the best, did everything we could do to bring about a good outcome, and saw all the ways in which it could be a blessing? Why, if we were convinced that this was God’s best for us? Why, if the outcome we experienced seemed full of harm and not good? Why did this happen? Why this bad news?

I took my questions straight to God, pouring my heart out on the pages of my journal as tears coursed down my cheeks.

When I finally paused to listen to Him, I sensed this answer in my spirit, “Trust me. All will be well. Do not be afraid. I AM in control.”

Can I tell you exactly what that means about our situation? Unfortunately, no. So, now I have a choice: 1) Dwell on where things are and give in to despair, or 2) Believe that all things are possible, and that this is not the end of the story. I choose believing.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”  – Psalm 5:3

God sees. He knows. He cares. And, He loves me.

That will tide me over until He acts — or speaks again.

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

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