Category Archives: Peace

How is it possible to experience peace in the midst of infertility? What can you learn from other couples, and from scripture?

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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So That We Can Comfort….

I was taking a walk with a new friend recently when I mentioned that I write a blog for people struggling with infertlity. It’s hard to explain to my peers why I still write it — our own journey ended long ago, I no longer lead the Bible study, I’m not trying to sell books or raise my profile… and I’m getting white hair, for goodness sake!

I just feel called.

Periodically, I wonder, “Is it time to stop writing?” I’d been praying about that for a while and seeking a clear answer. I’d had several unexpected, unprompted and very encouraging affirmations, but honestly, I still wrestled with this question: “Does someone who’s this far removed from that particular journey need to keep writing?”

Then, I got this email:

Hi Susan,

I just ran across your blog today and I am so happy I did. I almost cried because I have been searching for months for something to help bring me back up. A lot of other bloggers have stopped writing as their lives get hectic once they have children. It’s just so heart-warming for me to scroll down to the bottom of the last post and see the time stamp be within this month and this year. I don’t know why I find it so comforting, but I do. I’m purchasing your book and diving into your blog. I’m so happy and so encouraged now.

Katie

I couldn’t ask for a clearer answer. Not only do I need to keep writing, but there’s the answer to “why?” Scripture puts it this way:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

Reading blog posts about other infertile couple’s fears and failures won’t reduce Katie’s worry. Just like comparing notes in the doctor’s waiting room won’t reduce her stress. Yes, “misery loves company,” but her spirit is not encouraged by reading or hearing about other people’s suffering. The details of their grief don’t inspire hope

Only those of us who have made the journey and experienced the incredible faithfulness and goodness of God can attest to it in ways that will resonate in the midst of Katie’s circumstances. We can comfort her with the same truth that comforted us. We can share our stories and bear witness. We can point out the path of peace, having taken it ourselves.

Katie’s right. Too often, infertile couples become new parents so busy with their long-awaited joy that they don’t think to offer a helping hand to those still making the journey. No judgment; it’s understandable, but it’s bittersweet for people like Katie who are still struggling and left wondering, “Why them, but not me?”

I’m honored to have been given the privilege of walking alongside Katie — and each of you as you encounter the living God in the midst of your infertility journey.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” [Ephesians 3:16]

May His truth speak through me and resonate in your spirit, and may peace — however fleeting — be compelling evidence of His presence.

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Need more cause for hope? Visit PregnantWithHope.info

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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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The Next Generation of IVF Miracles

Time Magazine just released a story on Augment, a procedure not yet approved in the U.S., which it hails as the “the next generation of IVF.” According to the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “We could be on the cusp of something incredibly important.”

What is it? A process of harvesting mitochondria from a woman’s ovarian cells to recharge her feeble eggs and energize the fertilization process. The result? It yields “a night-and-day difference in the number of strong embryos” a couple can produce compared to traditional IVF. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s starting to generate healthy embryos that are enabling formerly-desperate couples to become new parents.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news? Because the process involves mixing cutting-edge science with stem cells and conception, it’s likely to be controversial — just as IVF was in 1978, when the world met the first “test-tube baby.” So religious leaders, politicians and more than a few strangers and family members will feel compelled to weigh in on God’s behalf. To speak to you for Him, as if He cannot speak to you Himself.

That’s one of the hardest parts of infertility: the barrage of unsolicited, gratuitous advice — accompanied by the clear assumption that you cannot talk with God directly. It can be offensive, hurtful, demeaning and disheartening.

And unnecessary… because God can speak for Himself.

And He does.

That happened today when I heard Casting Crowns’ “The Voice of Truth.” The song’s verses describe situations of feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped, and of thinking, “I can’t!” — and then the chorus says…

“The voice of Truth tells me a different story. The voice of Truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’ The voice of Truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.”

It made me think, I don’t know if Augment will turn out to be all its developers’ claim. And I don’t think we should charge into a Brave New World without grappling with moral and ethical issues as they arise. But I believe God is a Creator who never stops creating. And, as my physician father used to tell his patients, “Sometimes God does His work through other people. They are the miracle.”

So, here’s what I suggest. Read the article. Find hope in the fact that God has created scientists and doctors with a desire to help you conceive. Trust that He is well able to guide you through the moral and ethical uncertainties — to where He intends you to stand on this issue. He can and will speak to your heart about whether this is right for you if you ask Him, “Lord, what would have me do?” Just as in the song I heard — the voice of Truth will say, “Do not be afraid. This is for My glory,” and you will know whether that means YES or NO.

Either way, thank God for the hope He continues to give you as you make this journey.

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

 

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Reading the Tea Leaves

I have a smart and successful friend who has been a Christian all her life. Most people would say Gail is confident and capable, but she struggles with uncertainty. When her desire for control becomes too strong to resist, she has a secret:  She sees a psychic — and, together, they attempt to read the tea leaves to discern what the future holds.

It’s a struggle for me to hold my tongue. Not because she’s wasting her money or because she’s desperate for answers (who hasn’t been?), but because I’m convinced it’s a false security that she gains. And I believe it moves her further from, rather than closer to, the only one who truly knows what’s coming. The Lord says, “Trust me” and “Do not be afraid.” But, it’s too hard for her to resist peeking behind the curtain. Or trying to anyway.

I want to help you make a better choice.

First, let me say I totally understand the desire to know what’s coming. So does anyone who’s every wrestled with the many unknowns of infertility:  Is the doctor right about what’s wrong? Are we wasting time? Are we wasting money? Whose fault is it? If we knew, would that change anything? Is all this failure a sign? If we can’t know, should we keep trying — or should we give up?

And just as urgent are the even-bigger questions:  Will we always be the ones who never had a family? And if we are, will we walk away from God?

The answer is not in the tea leaves. Or in the cards. Or in today’s horoscope. Or wherever it is you turn hoping for a view of the future you are not meant to see. I say that with a high degree of certainty….

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.   – Isaiah 55:8

So, where does that leave you?

Maybe…. reassured. God’s thoughts are not your thoughts? That means He’s not worried, or desperate, or afraid. He’s not thinking about who to blame, or how to answer questions people have no right to ask. He’s not thinking about failure or biological clocks or limited budgets or imperfect doctors. His thoughts are not your thoughts.

Instead, His thoughts flow out of who He is and what He has promised. He is faithful. He is unchanging. He is Almighty. He is abundant sufficiency. And He loves you.

His ways are not your ways? So then, He’s not biting His nails, waiting for the test results, staying busy to avoid thinking about what’s not happening. Instead, He is drawing near to those who draw near to Him. He is seeking the hearts of those who are suffering and struggling, and He is offering help and hope — through his Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

He is not avoiding what’s hard and heartbreaking. He is in the midst of it — with you.

When your mind is full of urgent questions, it is easy to turn away from God and turn to anyone or anything you believe might give you the answers you crave. But I can tell you from experience:  Infertility is an extended invitation to get to know God better. Deeper. More intimately than you’ve ever imagined possible. Not because He needs it; because you do.

It will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better ambassador for His Kingdom.

And when your baby comes, you will realize that a time you thought was all about suffering was actually all about growing in faith — in anticipation of the blessing that was destined to come.

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

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Watch Your Words

This morning, I was reading Jesus Calling, and I came across this imperative:  “Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound.” I think it’s fair to say that I am painfully aware of words’ power to wound.

When I miscarried twins — shortly after a maternity clothes shopping spree with my mom — I felt compelled to return everything we’d bought. Somehow, it seemed like it would bring closure.

But then, I reached the counter at Macy’s and held out my pile of unused clothing. The saleswoman asked, with a mixture of surprise and resentment, “You want to return ALL of this? Why?!”

I froze. The women behind me in line stared. Really? I was going to make them wait while returning ALL of this? The looks on their faces spoke their thoughts: We resent you wasting our time. I looked back at the saleswoman and said tearfully, “Because I just miscarried twins — and if I’m not pregnant any more, I don’t need these any more.” There was dead silence as the weight of my words sank in. I started to cry, she began scanning the tags, and the women behind me stared at the floor.

Was it the words she said? Yes, but also the ones she didn’t say. She indulged herself in resentment at my expense — without knowing the whole story. The arrogance was staggering, and belittling. And I was hurting so much already. Was she an awful person? No. She was a busy, insensitive one who lost sight of the fact that her job was to serve me… graciously. Instead, she left a wound that took a very long time to heal.

The same sort of thing happened when we called my brother-in-law to tell him about the miscarriage. My husband and I sadly shared the news, and he responded with a whoop and, “Now WE’LL have the first grandchild!” We were shocked by the realization that his competitive streak extended to bringing a baby into the world. Oblivious to our feelings, he let the words fly out of his mouth unfiltered. Like the saleswoman, he indulged his baser instincts at our expense. And it hurt our hearts.

I know it’s happened to you, too. Someone has spoken thoughtlessly and broken your heart.  Brought you to tears with a careless remark that cost them nothing but feels like it costs you everything: your composure, your dignity, your hope. Isn’t infertility hard enough already?

It killed me to be on the receiving end of the words slung at me by the saleswoman and my brother-in-law. And yes, there were many others: the boss who responded to office grapevine news of my miscarriage with the question, “Were you TRYING to get pregnant?,” the gynecologist who blithely reassured me, “You can always try again,” the high-risk Ob who saw the ultrasound and muttered, “hmmm… probably Down’s Syndrome,” the people at church who asked again and again, “When are  you two going to start a family?”

And on, and on, and on….

Their words left wounds, and some left permanent scars.

But, there’s good news: 1) their words did not determine our future; that power is God’s alone. And, 2) those experiences taught me the truth of these words from scripture:

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” [Prov 12:18].

Research has shown that we always imprint an experience more deeply if there is an emotion attached to it. Infertility — and the careless remarks people make — prove quickly that it’s true. But, so do your responses to this blog.

These are words that the Holy Spirit has willed into being by whispering into my spirit, nudging me to come to the computer to share what I see and understand. I am a stranger to you! And my only tools to help you are the promises of scripture and the healing power of words. But, I use those — one-on-one, with small groups, in my book and in this blog — to do all I can to deliver help and hope as you make your way through this painful journey to the amazing future the Lord has planned for you.

There’s nothing special about me or what I say 0ther than that the Holy Spirit works through me to guide you, encourage you, reassure and inspire you, and help you keep the faith.

So, the next time someone says something callous, heartless or just plain clueless…. come back here for words that will soothe your spirit and renew your hope. I’ll do what I can to bring healing.

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For more encouragement, help and hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Do Not Be Afraid

It is a source of great joy for me to work in my yard — planting, trimming, nurturing living things. The challenge is to create something beautiful that thrives without constant maintenance, something that lifts my spirits whenever I look out the window and calls me back outdoors. Because we’ve had so much rain over the past few months, all my plants have exploded with new growth. So, I decided to spend a few hours outside shaping the bushes and pulling weeds.

In the midst of my peaceful productivity, a neighbor suddenly yanked open her blinds and screamed at me, “Get away from that bush! What are you doing cutting it now?! Don’t you know….!?!?!”

I was so shocked by the sight of her — tightly wrapped in her white robe, arms flailing, face beet red — that I didn’t process any more of what she yelled at me. All I experienced was her RAGE!! I dropped the shears and looked down at my hands; they were shaking.

What in the world…?

I walked to her door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again and waited. Still, no answer. One more time, I knocked…. and nothing.

I knew she was in there, but she was not going to engage with me. I walked back home feeling bewildered. I’d been judged — condemned, and blasted! — and I would be given no chance to appeal.

Only this morning did I make the connection between that bizarre experience and the way many young couples have described infertility and the God they don’t understand.

For much of their lives, God has seemed largely silent and invisible — like my neighbor. They trust that He exists, but they have no real relationship with Him, nor do they sense that He wants one. In their minds, He has lived behind closed blinds and a locked door for so long, they don’t expect Him to make a sudden appearance.

They would welcome His assistance with their efforts to grow something wonderful — but they don’t believe He will offer to help because, like my neighbor, He never has.

Their latent fear is that, if He suddenly does materialize, it will be to vent anger. Just as she did, He will yank open the blinds, blast them with His fury, and then refuse to engage or explain. Better, they decide, not to engage Him at all.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself avoiding a God you believe may be angry, rather than risking engagement? Have you tried to talk with Him, only to find Him unresponsive? Has He come to seem more like a cause for alarm than a source of hope? Like a condemning judge, rather than an ever-present help in times of trouble?

Then you need to claim this promise:

“… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 8:38-39

Whatever you may have done or not done, it cannot come between you and the One who loves you. Your circumstances may make you feel that His love has been withdrawn and you have been forsaken, but you do not need to be afraid. Scripture says:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” – Romans 8:1

Begin to see your circumstances as an invitation to knock on the door, initiate a conversation, accept God’s limitless grace, and experience the truth that He makes all things possible. You will NOT have the experience I had with my neighbor. Instead, you will discover the source of all love and hope. Trust me.

Ball up your courage.

Knock on the door.

“Do not be afraid” [Matthew 28:10]

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Want more encouragement and cause for hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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