Tag Archives: grace

The Need for Grace

I was driving down the road a few days ago, not aware that I was thinking about much of anything… and my eyes welled up with tears.  A minute later, they were streaming down my cheeks.  And before I knew it, mournful sobs began pouring out of a heart that had finally been overwhelmed by grief.

How could I have been so oblivious to so much sadness?

It’s taken me days to make sense of that question.  The process of wrestling with it has been painful, but invaluable.  I’ve learned a lesson – and it may help you, too.  That’s my hope.

So, here’s the story…

Years ago, the heartache of circling back to family members — who’d rejoiced at the news of a twin pregnancy – to tell them we’d lost first one, and then both babies, was almost unbearable.  We decided:  Never again.  All subsequent efforts to conceive and carry a baby to term would be in secret.

It was a choice made out of fearful self-protection, rooted in the belief that lightning had struck twice – and it could very well strike again.  We couldn’t bear the thought of an audience to more despair, and so we distanced ourselves from everyone and their expectations of “happily ever after.”

Fast forward….

We’re now in the midst of another struggle, doing our best to strike a healthier balance between disclosure and privacy.  Still, many of the people around us have no idea what we’re facing.  They aren’t riding the emotional roller coaster we are.  Their faith isn’t being tested daily.  They aren’t undergoing trial by fire.  They’re sailing along oblivious to our suffering.

And so, too often, there’s very little grace.

In a world that’s moving at a million miles an hour, there’s apparently no time for it – and no need.  No time to gently uncover the story behind the misunderstanding.  No time for a compassionate question like, “Is everything okay with you?”  No time to revisit things in any context other than the one that inconvenienced or aggravated them.

No extenuating circumstances:  No grace.

So, I’ve been faced with a choice.  I can make our struggle public knowledge and explain its consequences for my emotions, my memory, my occasionally faulty judgment, my fatigue, and my seeming disinterest in the minutia of other people’s lives.  Or, I can slap on the mask of “Everything’s great!” and do my best to meet the world’s expectations – with little or no margin for error.

You know what?  I need another option.  And I need a lot of grace.

That’s what made me cry.

I need more grace — without explanation, without resentment, without a heavy sigh that tells me I’m asking for something unreasonable.  I need it not because I deserve it, but because life is hard.

Where can I find it?

I’ve re-discovered that the world will never be able to give me all the grace and compassion I need.  But the Lord can, and He longs to.  Yesterday, I heard “Better Than a Hallelujah” for the first time.  If you haven’t heard it already, click this link.  You may hear what I did….

“Lord, I need grace” is better than a hallelujah sometimes.

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Filed under Hope, Loss, Peace, Perspective

Struggling with, ‘Is Infertility My Fault?’

Six months ago, the LORD laid on my heart the need to write this.  You’ll know when you read it if God nudged me to re-run it for you….

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In the midst of infertility, uncertainty frequently begs the question, ”Why is this happening?  Why to us?  Why now?”  There is a deeper, much more painful question that many people struggle to avoid:  “Is this my fault?  Is this happening because of what I did?”  It is a worry laced with fear – and often, long-buried guilt.  It is virtually never voiced because the one who is desperate to know the answer is also desperately afraid to hear it.

When Angela and Sean tried to start a family, they encountered a series of unexpected hurdles.  “We thought — like everyone else — you get off birth control, wait six months and ‘boom’ you get pregnant,” remembers Angela.  “But I wound up in the ER with an ectopic pregnancy, then a cyst, then surgery for a closed tube, and then a miscarriage….”

Frustrated and worried about their lack of success, they tried to make sense of things.  Sean admits, “My first thought was, ‘Crap, we were on birth control for ten years.”

Angela’s fears went deeper:  “Maybe we weren’t letting God work in His way and that was why we had infertility.”  They tried IVF and failed.  “Maybe we didn’t let it happen naturally and so this was my punishment,” she reasoned.  She began seeking answers in terms of deserved consequences.  “I was asking myself, ‘What did I do wrong before marriage, or during marriage…?  Why is this happening?’”

She didn’t know it, but Sean was also finding fault in his past.  “I grew up Catholic, but when I was 16, I stopped going to church.  Now, I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reading the Bible.  We were going to church, but just going through the motions.”  Was God angry at Sean and Angela?  Was this His punishment?  Does He withhold children from those whose crimes are unforgiveable?  They wanted to know, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask – even each other.

So, where can the answers be found?  And can they provide any peace?  Any reassurance that there is hope for those who’ve made choices or done things that might have angered God?

I have good news, and it starts with Rahab’s story….

When the Israelites headed toward the Promised Land, it was already inhabited by the Canaanites.  Scripture and archaeology reveal their culture was steeped in some of the most shocking, abominable practices imaginable – including incest, bestiality, institutionalized sexual abuse of women and child sacrifice [Leviticus 18:24-28].  In the midst of this depraved society lived a prostitute named Rahab.

Long story short, she knew the Israelites planned to invade Canaan, destroying everyone and everything, under strict instructions from God.  She agreed to help them take the city – in exchange for her life, and the lives of her parents and siblings.

Timeout. Look at Rahab.  She existed on the lowest rung of a sick society.  She had a family that could have provided for her; but apparently, she chose to pursue her profession with all its inherent risks.  Did her constant sexual activity produce children?  She never mentioned any when she negotiated for her life and that of her family.  So, either she disposed of whatever she conceived (abandonment? abortion? child sacrifice?), or she didn’t care enough to protect the lives she’d brought into the world; the invaders could slaughter them.

Does anything in that profile strike you as potentially offensive to God?  Inexcusable?  Unforgiveable?  Then you might want to hear the rest of her story….

She lied to protect the spies sent by the approaching invaders.  It was a traitorous act, committed to help people whose law called for a prostitute to be stoned.  But she chose to entrust herself to the God who had given that law, and to His people.  What became of her?

The whole city was invaded and burned, but she and her family were saved.  She accepted God’s offer of forgiveness for everything in her past.  Then, she married an Israelite who saw beyond that past – and together, they had a son.  Many years later, their great-great grandson, King David, was born.  And many generations after that, her descendant Jesus came into the world.

Does that sound like the story of a woman who got what she deserved?  Who suffered mightily because God was angry at the choices she’d made?  Not to me.  I see Rahab’s story as evidence of God’s incredible mercy.  He knows what’s in all hearts, He understands all motivations, and He stands ready to forgive all pasts – if we are willing to trust Him, act out of that trust, and receive the future He longs to give us.

Does that sound too good to be true?  Not to Sean and Angela, the proud parents of a boy and a girl.  It’s not too good for you, either. Receive God’s grace, and may the blessings begin to flow. 

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Filed under Hope, Trust

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.

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

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 Hardest Question: “Is Infertility My Punishment?”

Several days ago, the LORD laid on my heart the need to write this.  I’m not sure who it’s for – but you’ll know when you read it if God meant it for you….

In the midst of infertility, uncertainty frequently begs the question, ”Why is this happening?  Why to us?  Why now?”  There is a deeper, much more painful question that many people struggle to avoid:  “Is this my fault?  Is this happening because of what I did?”  It is a worry laced with fear – and often, long-buried guilt.  It is virtually never voiced because the one who is desperate to know the answer is also desperately afraid to hear it.

When Angela and Sean tried to start a family, they encountered a series of unexpected hurdles.  “We thought — like everyone else — you get off birth control, wait six months and ‘boom’ you get pregnant,” remembers Angela.  “But I wound up in the ER with an ectopic pregnancy, then a cyst, then surgery for a closed tube, and then a miscarriage….”

Frustrated and worried about their lack of success, they tried to make sense of things.  Sean admits, “My first thought was, ‘Crap, we were on birth control for ten years.”

Angela’s fears went deeper:  “Maybe we weren’t letting God work in His way and that was why we had infertility.”  They tried IVF and failed.  “Maybe we didn’t let it happen naturally and so this was my punishment,” she reasoned.  She began seeking answers in terms of deserved consequences.  “I was asking myself, ‘What did I do wrong before marriage, or during marriage…?  Why is this happening?’”

She didn’t know it, but Sean was also finding fault in his past.  “I grew up Catholic, but when I was 16, I stopped going to church.  Now, I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reading the Bible.  We were going to church, but just going through the motions.”  Was God angry at Sean and Angela?  Was this His punishment?  Does He withhold children from those whose crimes are unforgiveable?  They wanted to know, but they couldn’t bring themselves to ask – even each other.

So, where can the answers be found?  And can they provide any peace?  Any reassurance that there is hope for those who’ve made choices or done things that might have angered God?

I have good news, and it starts with Rahab’s story….

When the Israelites headed toward the Promised Land, it was already inhabited by the Canaanites.  Scripture and archaeology reveal their culture was steeped in some of the most shocking, abominable practices imaginable – including incest, bestiality, institutionalized sexual abuse of women and child sacrifice [Leviticus 18:24-28].  In the midst of this depraved society lived a prostitute named Rahab.

Long story short, she knew the Israelites planned to invade Canaan, destroying everyone and everything, under strict instructions from God.  She agreed to help them take the city – in exchange for her life, and the lives of her parents and siblings.

Timeout. Look at Rahab.  She existed on the lowest rung of a sick society.  She had a family that could have provided for her; but apparently, she chose to pursue her profession with all its inherent risks.  Did her constant sexual activity produce children?  She never mentioned any when she negotiated for her life and that of her family.  So, either she disposed of whatever she conceived (abandonment? abortion? child sacrifice?), or she didn’t care enough to protect the lives she’d brought into the world; the invaders could slaughter them.

Does anything in that profile strike you as potentially offensive to God?  Inexcusable?  Unforgiveable?  Then you might want to hear the rest of her story….

She lied to protect the spies sent by the approaching invaders.  It was a traitorous act, committed to help people whose law called for a prostitute to be stoned.  But she chose to entrust herself to the God who had given that law, and to His people.  What became of her?

The whole city was invaded and burned, but she and her family were saved.  She accepted God’s offer of forgiveness for everything in her past.  Then, she married an Israelite who saw beyond that past – and together, they had a son.  Many years later, their great-great grandson, King David, was born.  And many generations after that, her descendant Jesus came into the world.

Does that sound like the story of a woman who got what she deserved?  Who suffered mightily because God was angry at the choices she’d made?  Not to me.  I see Rahab’s story as evidence of God’s incredible mercy.  He knows what’s in all hearts, He understands all motivations, and He stands ready to forgive all pasts – if we are willing to trust Him, act out of that trust, and receive the future He longs to give us.

Does that sound too good to be true?  Not to Sean and Angela, the proud parents of a boy and a girl.  It’s not too good for you, either. Receive God’s grace, and may the blessings begin to flow. 

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Instead of Self-Pity….

I woke up this morning (Monday) 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 sweats and 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 admitting she’d behaved horribly and 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 sweat 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, I realized.

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.

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Peace

Thoughtless Remarks Meet Infertility

For infertile couples, part of the frustration – and a major source of heartache – is other people’s cluelessness.  It may be rooted in ignorance, inexperience, a lack of social skills, or pure self-absorption.  Whatever the reason, the words of others can cause deep, lasting pain to hearts that are already fragile.

Just after I miscarried twins, we called my husband’s brother to share our heartbreaking news.  We had no idea that he and his wife were also planning to start a family.  His reaction?  “That’s too bad… but now we’ll have the first grandchild!!”

I was speechless.  It took everything I had to get to the end of the phone call.

Thankfully, it’s not always that bad.  But people can be incredibly insensitive.  Has that been your experience?  People you think of as loving family or supportive friends suddenly seem incapable of saying anything helpful?  Instead, their words slice right through your spirit and take your breath away?

It’s a common problem for couples going through infertility.

People you trust and care about will be thoughtless enough to ask, “why haven’t you two started a family?”  Or, they’ll hand out gratuitous, unsolicited advice like, “just adopt – you’ll get pregnant right away” or, “go on vacation – that’s how we got pregnant” or, “stop worrying about it – it’ll happen sooner or later” – as if tossing these tidbits is all it takes to help you.

Surely, they don’t mean to be heartless.  Or patronizing.  Or dismissive of the challenge you face.  But, all too often, they pour salt in your wound.  When the tears threaten to pour down your cheeks, you may wonder, am I being oversensitive?  Too defensive?

I don’t think so.

It is hard to explain this journey to someone who hasn’t made it – the stress… the fear… the tension… the uncertainty… the worry… the anger… the grief… the sense of being far removed from everyone and everything “normal”… the inability to get on with your life because you’ve put everything on hold.

How do you say all of that in the middle of a phone call?  Or a church hallway?  Or a restaurant?

You can’t.

But, here’s what you can do:

Set some boundaries – Recognize that you know better than anyone else what helps you now – and what doesn’t.  Set firm, healthy boundaries that will protect your vulnerable heart.  Make choices that fill your spirit with hope and surround you with people who truly understand how to help.  Say “no” to people and events that leave you empty, discouraged, or afraid.  Remember, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power….” [II Tim 1:7].  Use that power to enforce good boundaries.

Give some grace – It’s hard to imagine trying to muster compassion for someone whose remark has just reduced you to tears.  The temptation is to focus on the pain they’ve caused.  Don’t do it.  Release it, reclaim your hope, and let God heal your wound.  As Jesus prayed, “…forgive them, they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34].

Find some community – You may be looking to the wrong community for encouragement and hope.  If family and friends have failed to offer meaningful support, seek out other couples who understand this journey.  Meet with a counselor or clergy member who is not afraid to confront your feelings.  And claim this promise, “…hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” [Romans 5:5].  When no one else stands with you, God delivers His hope to you through the Holy Spirit.

Make some progress – There is no greater satisfaction in this journey than sensing forward progress.  Instead of measuring it just by test results or egg harvests, learn to measure progress this way:  “… let us throw off everything that hinders us… and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” [Heb 12:1-2].  Hurtful remarks hinder us.  So does dwelling on them.  If we are to run with perseverance, then this isn’t likely to be a sprint.  We must pace ourselves – and applaud every bit of progress we make.

The Finish Line is waiting.  Don’t be distracted by the voices of the crowd.

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Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com

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Filed under Bystanders, Speaking Up