Category Archives: Humility

What does humility set in motion, and why is it essential to the infertility journey? What do gain when we acknowledge our limitations and admit we need help?

Suffering: The Shield

Yesterday, the Holy Spirit called my attention to a particular passage in Tim Keller’s book, Prayer. It referred to the story of a woman who was widowed in her early 30’s, and then forced to flee her home country.

St. Augustine told the woman she should embrace her “bereaved and desolate condition” because…

“Her sufferings were her ‘shield’ — they defended her from the illusions of self-sufficiency and blindness that harden the heart, and they opened the way for the rich, passionate prayer life that could bring peace in any circumstance.”

So many times, readers of this blog have contacted me directly to ask: How…?

How do I let go of (the illusion of) control? How do I find strength when my dream is dying? How do I communicate with a God I don’t know or understand? How do I trust Him without knowing His plan? How do I find peace in all this uncertainty?

In that one sentence, Augustine captures the blessed paradox of infertility.

He explains that the same suffering that upends us also rescues us. It knocks us loose from our moorings, shakes us out of our sleepwalking, and frightens us into fearful attention. It compels us to cry out, “Where are you, God?!”

In the process, it protects us — from the illusion of self-sufficiency that urges us to turn our backs on God, and the semi-slumber of a comfortable life that leads us to presume we don’t need Him or His help.

Essentially, Augustine tells us…

Lucky you! Your suffering has the potential to catapult you to a new level of spiritual power and peace. How? By protecting you from the arrogant delusion that you are the god of your life. And, by inviting you to acknowledge the real God on the throne.

You’re already suffering. The question now is whether you will continue to fight for control, or acknowledge the fact that you cannot achieve it — and begin to yield.

The choice is completely yours — so, to that extent, you are in control.

Resist facing your limitations and the truth of your ongoing suffering, and it is likely to continue. Again and again, you will find yourself facing the same choice. Embrace the truth, and Augustine says your suffering “will open the way for the rich, passionate prayer life that could bring peace in any circumstance.”

I will tell you from experience, a rich, passionate prayer life can change everything — not only your perspective on your present circumstances, but also who you will become and what will occur in the life of your family. It can completely alter the trajectory of your story by making it part of God’s story, played out in your life.

See your current circumstances not as punishment, but as the Lord’s  invitation to come closer. To go deeper. To seek not just His presence, but His perfect will in all areas of your life. As Keller concludes, “There is every reason… to accept his invitation.”

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Want more help and hope? Visit www.PregnantWithHope.info and 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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Risk Listening to God

One of the hardest questions infertile couples face is deciding whether to give God control.  I got an email yesterday from a woman expressing a deep desire to conceive – and to have God’s help conceiving.  And yet, she admitted, a part of her resists praying for a baby, “Because what if God says, ‘No’?”

The fear of hearing God speak words we don’t want to hear keeps many of us separated from the very One who can alter our path’s course.  The only One who always knows what (or who) to bring into our lives to transform our journey from endless wandering to forward progress.  The only One who always knows how to transform our heart’s desire from unsatisfied longing to joy.

Sooner or later, each of us must decide whether to maintain the (illusion of) control that enables us to believe we can will a heartbeat into the womb, or the alternative:  humbly acknowledging that we already would have if we could.

The truth is, we need help.

Who can we trust?

Too often, we conclude:  That depends….

What is God’s plan?  How can we know?  If we knew, it would be SO much easier to trust Him.  Will He tell us anything encouraging if we risk entrusting Him with our hopes and fears?  And what if He does say, “No”?  Does that mean we will never realize our dream?  If so, will refusing to hear Him speak prevent the dream from dying?  This is the crazy-making loop we get caught in – and it prevents us from being still and listening to the voice of the only One who has the answers.

Recently, a friend gave me a copy of God Guides.  This small book reveals the extraordinary peace and power that are available to those who learn to be still and listen to the God who longs to be known, revealed, and trusted.

Mary Geegh, the author, was a missionary to India.  She discovered that, despite enormous effort on her part, she had very little impact on those she meant to be helping.  Then, another missionary came to the same village.  Within a week, the lives of the villagers were transformed.  She humbled herself enough to ask, “How do you do it?”

Her fellow missionary responded, “The first step is to ‘wait’… ‘be still’… and ‘listen.’  Then… write down the things the Holy Spirit speaks to your mind, [and] determine to obey.”

Motivated to succeed, she took the advice.  Her ministry became one of patiently waiting on God’s word alongside those who were struggling.  “He has the answer for every problem,” she promised.  Her fellow listeners discovered it was the truth.  Her book is filled with stories of incredible outcomes for those who listened and obeyed.

At one point, Mary writes, “We were given two ears and one mouth because we should listen in prayer  twice as much as we speak.”  As we listen, we must be ready to hear the truth — because the Lord cannot be other than completely truthful.  If we are unwilling to hear the truth, and yet we pretend to “listen” for Him, we will hear a resounding silence.  Why?  Because we have hardened our hearts to His message.  We have turned away from Him – choosing autonomy and (the illusion of) control over trust.  Although we will always be permitted to choose this path, it will never lead to His best for us.

So, must we risk listening with open minds and hearts?

It is not as fear-inducing as it sounds.  Scripture is full of promises of God’s love for His people, His faithfulness, and His deep desire to bless.  Wouldn’t you like to be on the receiving end of unlimited grace and power?  Wouldn’t you like to experience the incredibly abundant goodness of God?

If so… be still.  Rest in the knowledge that He is for you.  Trust that He intends to make you a victor, not a victim.  Listen for His reassurances.  Wait patiently for His guidance.  Write down and follow His instructions.  This is the path to abundant joy.

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Want more inspiration and cause for hope?  Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  Here’s a link to order your copy now.

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Predicting the Future

Raise your hand if you’d like to be able to predict the future.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how the story’s going to unfold?  Whether you’re going to conceive – and when?  Or whether you’re not?  Whether you’re going to adopt a healthy, beautiful baby?  Or whether, at some point, you’ll move on to live life without children?

What will happen?

Wouldn’t you give anything to know?

You’re not alone.

A friend confessed to me that she’s begun seeing a psychic.  Her need-to-know overcame her initial unease, and she made an appointment.  Reassured by the predictions she was given, she quickly became addicted.  She’s now a regular, allocating portions of each week’s budget to psychic predictions.

The “need” to know can make us all do crazy things.

This morning, I read about a king turning to his captive for dream interpretation. It seemed crazy to his royal counselors, but threatened by a dream he could not understand, Pharaoh called on Joseph to tell him what it meant for the future.  Generations later, Nebuchadnezzar asked the same of Daniel.

These rulers were used to absolute power.  But, they knew they were at the mercy of an unseen, unknown future.  They needed to know what was coming — and God’s followers knew Someone with the answers.

When Pharaoh called for Joseph to explain his dream’s meaning, Joseph responded, “I cannot do it, but God will….”  Daniel had a similar exchange with Nebuchadnezzar.  He said, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who can….”

The prideful arrogance of both kings made them want to resist God, but their urgent need to know caused them to humble themselves – briefly – and admit, “I need to know what God has to say to me.”

There have been times – especially recently – when sobering statistics have made me want to know the future with certainty.  The doctor has told me the odds of a particular outcome and I’ve felt a surge of fear.  And a need to know.  In the moment, I’m tempted to attribute god-like powers to the doctor so that he can tell me what will happenBut he can’t really.

He can speculate, based on the available test results and those who’ve covered this same ground before us.  He can make an educated guess.  He can even pretend to know (like my friend’s psychic).  But the truth is, he doesn’t know.  Only God knows.

And only God can tell me, if He so chooses.

If He doesn’t?  Then, like my friend, I can create false gods.  I can resort to substitute sources of information — people who believe in their ability to predict my future (especially if I’m paying them).  I can tell myself to trust them, and project onto them a level of knowledge and understanding that they don’t actually have.  I can choose to believe, “now, I know” and put my energy into proving them right.

But experience has taught me, none of that will bring peace.

Or, I can follow the kings’ example.  I can recognize my limitations – and those of the people I typically consult as I try to anticipate what’s coming.  And then, I can give God my undivided attention:  “What do you have to say to me, Lord?  What do you want me to hear?  You’re the only One who knows what’s coming… and I’m listening.”

With those words, I fling open the door, welcoming Him into my story and the future that only He knows.

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Transition Time

I’ve spent the last several weeks — maybe longer — trying to get a clear answer from God about whether to keep investing the time and effort required to write posts for this blog three times a week.  I realize it takes only a minute or two to read a post of mine.  But typically, it takes 2-3 hours to write one that will be worth reading.  That’s because I take this commitment very seriously.  If I’m going to talk to you in the midst of a journey as emotionally-charged and completely exhausting as infertility, I don’t want to waste your time.

You may be tempted to laugh when I tell you I haven’t been able to get an answer.  Sound familiar?  I’ve written quite a few posts on the silence of God.  Now, I guess, it’s time to remember my own advice.

I tried waiting.  That didn’t get a response.  Then, I waited some more.  Still nothing.  I tried asking for a sign.  No sign came.  I tried consulting people I think of as spiritual mentors.  Conflicting advice left me running in circles.  Finally, I consulted my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist (aka my husband).  His wise words did me a lot of good.  He said simply, “Maybe God’s letting you decide.”

Wow.  God trusts me to make a good decision?

All right then.  Here goes….

I’ve decided that writing 3x/week if I have nothing to say is pointless.  Forcing a message is the equivalent of expecting you listen to ME — because if I’m working hard to come up with something new to say, the Holy Spirit isn’t speaking through me (Trust me, I can tell my voice from His).

It may be that I’ve told you everything I’ve ever understood about how God works through infertility.  Or, maybe it’s time for me to spend a season at the feet of the One who loves to reveal Himself, so that I can bring you something new when I understand it more fully.

In any case, I’m making no promises about when or how often I’ll post from now on.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find help or hope!  There are literally hundreds of posts here for you to read.  Search them by categories or tags to meet a specific need, or just start reading and work your way forwards or backwards.  Print out whatever’s helpful — be it an entire post or a particular phrase — and keep that on your bedside table, share it with your doctor, or pass it on to a friend who’s making the same journey.

This blog is for you.  This library of promises and insights is a gift of the Spirit, who is with you always.  Use it to give you strength, courage, and cause for hope.

blessings always,

Susan

p.s.  If you haven’t already read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, it will walk you through ten stages of the infertility journey — from hopeless despair to peace-full anticipation.   It will also allow you to hear ten couples’ first-hand narratives about their own passage through heartache to joy.  Read it, and find the inspiration to keep believing in the God who never fails those who trust Him.

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Infertility, Starring….

“I am the star in my own drama.”

Say it out loud, and it sounds self-absorbed.  Narcissistic.  Entitled.  And it is.

Truth be told, it’s also our default setting.

It is human nature to care about others’ impressions of us.  To imagine ourselves as interesting and worth noticing, even fascinating enough to be talked about frequently.  Marketers exploit this tendency to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others.  They use it against us — and we fall for it, all because we think everyone’s looking.

How does this affect the infertility journey?

It fuels our “need” for secrecy.  It reinforces the irrational fear of exposure.  If infertility is evidence we are failures, then we’ve got to hide it.  If infertility means we are defective, unworthy, and destined for a future no one wants, then we’ve got to change this script — and live a life of denial in the meantime.  We’ve got to invest energy in pretense, so that the truth will never be known — until we reach Happily Ever After.

So, we lie:  “We’re not really trying.”

“We’re not sure we want a family.”

“We ‘re focused on our careers right now.”

“We don’t want to give up our freedom yet.”

We think the only way to end this awful charade is to have a baby.  To make our reality match what we want everyone else to see.  Our desperate urgency, at least in part, is rooted in our deep desire to be who and what (we believe) others think we are:  happy, fortunate, successful, blessed.

Consider this… That may not be God’s priority.  Before you become a parent, He may want you to learn that it’s not all about you.  You’re not the star in life’s most important drama.  He may want you to realize that most people are so fully absorbed in their own stories, they’re not paying much attention to yours.  If they are, it’s likely to be out of People magazine curiosity, rather than a deep desire to judge or reject you.

Maybe one of the reasons you are on this infertility journey is because God wants to show you a better way to live.  He wants to give you an opportunity – and an incentive – to set aside constant thoughts of Self, and replace them with more frequents thoughts of Him.  Why would you make that choice?  Because it’s the path to peace and hope, despite any circumstances.

Look at the other women waiting anxiously at the doctor’s office.  They’re all stars in their own drama.  Everyone’s hiding behind a magazine or an IPhone.  Everyone’s stressing.  Everyone would rather be anywhere but here.  No one wants to talk – except about how worried they are.  And no one wants to listen – unless your story is worse than theirs.

But look to God, and you won’t sense anxiety.  Or fear.  Or desperation.  You won’t feel competitive.  Or threatened.  Or jealous.  You’ll find someone who’s been waiting to listen.  Who hoped you would want to talk.  And who knows how to give comfort that reaches deeper and lasts longer than anything the world can offer.

I say this from experience, and with loving compassion:  putting yourself at the center of the story is the reason for your suffering.  Set your Self aside, put God at the center of the story, trust His purposefulness, and expect this blessing to be fulfilled in your life…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]

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

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The Story Most People Never Share

Have you ever lost a pregnancy?  How did you ever recover?  Did you ever feel hope again?”

Sadly, despite the frequency of miscarriages, there is virtually no public discussion about them.  When you lose a baby, there is so much you want to know… but who can you ask?  Who is willing to be that open and honest?  That patient with deeply painful questions?  And who cares enough about you to see past the fact of your loss to all the fears and feelings behind it – and your need for help and hope?

Meet Amy & Trey.  They tell the story of their infertility journey in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  Here, they answer a few of the questions a miscarriage makes you wish you could ask:

Q:  Have you ever lost a pregnancy?

Amy:  “I had three miscarriages and two failed IVF cycles before conceiving triplets. Then, I started bleeding and we found out I’d lost two of the three.  But we still had “Baby B” holding on tightly.  It was a very rough pregnancy with lots of scares and bleeding along the way.  At 19½ weeks, my water broke and we were forced to deliver the baby, knowing that it would not survive.  We went to the hospital and delivered a little baby boy.”

Q:  How did you ever recover?

Amy:  “We didn’t have any friends who had gone through anything like this, but the [Pregnant With Hope] class introduced us to people going through similar circumstances.  You want to compare stories and almost – as bad as it sounds – sometimes misery loves company, you know?  Instead of being at a baby shower with all my friends who were experiencing blissful happiness while I had a fake smile, I could talk to people who understood what I was going through.  It was a room full of unconditional love and support.”

Trey:  “When we went to the first class, we went around the room and everyone told their story.  Amy and I were craving other people’s stories.  I didn’t have any friends who’d ever opened up about infertility, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to.  It was so refreshing to be led by someone who had been through it.  We immediately knew that this was genuine.  And it was encouraging to talk to someone who had gotten to the other side of it.”

Q:  Did you ever feel hope again?

Amy:  “We did, but it would have been a lot easier if God had told me, ‘Hold on tight for three years, because the baby’s coming!’  It was the not knowing that was crushing – the starting over with no idea when it would happen.  I needed to know that God had a plan and that a baby was supposed to be ours.  To be able to hold on to that hope, we needed to focus on God’s faithfulness and on scripture.  That’s where the messages of the class really helped.”

T:  “It was helpful to talk about ‘Where is God?  Why is this happening?’  I didn’t understand.  Were we doing it wrong?  Was it not God’s will?  We were at a complete loss.  One thing that resonated with me was hearing, ‘You are pregnant with hope.’  That really helped me.”

Amy and Trey went on to conceive and deliver a healthy baby boy.  A year later, he had a brother.  Now, they lead a Pregnant with Hope group – welcoming infertile couples into a community of support, sharing their inspiring story, and delivering messages of hope rooted in God’s truth.

The Bible says that God walks with us through difficulties – and then, He brings us alongside people facing similar challenges so that we can be there for them, just as He was there for us.  That is the ministry of Pregnant With Hope.

If you have lost a baby and need the kind of love and support Amy & Trey sought — and found, read the inspiring stories in Pregnant With Hope, visit the website, and keep reading this blog.  You will find the help and hope you need.

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Want to hear more inspiring stories from formerly infertile couples, all of whom are now parents?  Click this link….

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