Tag Archives: infertility

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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“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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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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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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The Ultimate Luxury

After a frantic start this morning, I decided to go to Whole Foods for a late breakfast. I tucked into the corner booth — as far as possible from the noise of checkout registers — and began to read my newspaper. I could feel myself starting to unwind. About 10 minutes later, an employee walked over and said, “Most of the people who come here are on their phones, on their laptops, having a meeting before work…. They all seem so stressed. It’s nice to see someone relax.”

As he walked away, I thought to myself, it’s the ultimate luxury.

I don’t know what you consider a “fair share” of life’s challenges, but I could certainly argue that I’ve had mine. Looking back over the arc of those many experiences, I have to say that each one has taught me to turn to God sooner and sooner. I guess I’ve been a slow learner — because I’ve had lots of chances to practice! — but it’s true: I’ve learned to release everything to Him and His plan, trusting that His ultimate purpose is to bless me and bless others through me. Whatever the details of the outcome, I’ve discovered I can trust Him in the midst of chaotic uncertainty. And so, I can actually relax. Maybe not completely… and maybe not for long… but even for a few minutes….

What.  A.  Gift.

Do people keep telling you to relax? That it’s easier to conceive if you’re not so stressed? Which just makes you more stressed?! Would it seem like an incredible gift to be in the midst of infertility and yet be able to relax? Able to trust that the One who loves you has things under control? Even if you don’t see how that could be possible?

Then consider a different approach. Call it an experiment in trust. How about, for just a day, letting God be vigilant and in control so you can rest. And maybe even, relax a little. Not too much, if that’s too hard. Just for a few minutes…, but long enough to realize that you can let go and He won’t.

My sister used to say to me, “Leap and the net will appear.” Wow, that sounded scary — definitely not relaxing. It was her way of telling me that I couldn’t be sure of God’s faithfulness without testing my reliance on it. To get from my circumstances to peace, I would have to take a leap of faith.

So today, think about taking your own leap. Whether it’s large or small matters less than that you let go long enough to realize that the Lord has got you in the palm of His hand.

“Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.”  – John 14:27

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Want more resources, help and hope? Visit www.pregnantwithhope,info.

 

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Bitter or Better

Two women wrote recently to tell me about their infertility experience. One is furious: “I think God is very unfair in regards to who is afflicted with infertility and who isn’t! Nothing good can ever come out of the misery we have experienced! I’m fed up with Christians giving God credit for the good but absolving him of all responsibility for the bad!”

Have you ever felt like that? Ever wanted to curse God for putting you through infertility? The stress, the grief, the loneliness, the frustration, the endless heartache…. because “nothing good can ever come out of the misery”?

Actually, scripture promises otherwise. It promise “beauty for ashes” and “that all things work together for good,” but it can be hard to believe that when you don’t see any evidence. All you see is God resisting your pleas, turning a deaf ear to your cries, and ignoring your suffering. So, you’re tempted to slam the door on Him and take charge of the situation. At least you’ll be in control! And that’s what this is really about.

When God doesn’t deliver what we want when we want it, we’re tempted to act like entitled children. We want to indulge the negative emotions we’re so sick of feeling, and take it out on the One who has the power to change things: “Why won’t you?! I hate you!!”

It may feel satisfying in the moment, but it doesn’t change things for the better. Instead, it makes us bitter.

The alternative, as another woman commented, is to see trials as a chance to choose between bitter and better. “Admittedly, losing my only sibling when he was 36 made me a little of both (bitter and better). I deal with it well now, I think, and the good Lord fills in my empty spaces, but the immense loss certainly does color my outlook. That is partly why I spent my successful pregnancy in disbelief. Why would we be parents after 12 years of infertility? But we are! We were honored to welcome our son into the world last year thanks to the generosity of another couple at our clinic who donated one of their embryos to us. God is good… even when our faith has just about run dry!”

It’s the truth. His timing is rarely ours. But it is perfect.

“For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  -Romans 8:28

What makes that verse “work” for some people, but not others? I’ve been asked that question many times by couples struggling through infertility — some of them lifelong Christians. How can it be that their suffering is an essential step in becoming parents? Will they ever have a baby? Why can’t it be now?

Their faith is facing a test: Their heart’s desire is not being satisfied by the God who doesn’t appear to care. How do they get Him to “work all things together for good?”

The answer is in the verse itself. All things work together for good when we love God, trust His purpose, and act according to our calling.

Is your calling to be a parent? To steward a soul — or more than one  — through life? To honor God by raising that child to know and trust Him as you do? If so, believe that God placed that desire in your heart, and recognize that, with Him, all things are possible.

The woman whose baby was born from a donated embryo lost her only sibling while battling infertility for a dozen years. She had every reason to be bitter as she struggled and struggled, but as she wrote later in her note, she clung to the promise that “all things work together for good…” — not because she was seeing it unfold in her life, but because she saw that possibility with eyes of faith. Even when her faith “had just about run dry,” she resisted the temptation to give up on God.

And He proved faithful.

When God’s timing isn’t your timing, and His ways aren’t your ways, it can be easy to get impatient, angry and bitter. You can choose to lean into those feelings and find yourself in a very dark place — emotionally, and spiritually. Or, you can lean into believing what you can’t yet see — that God is a promise-keeper who is glorified by our willingness to trust Him when life is hard.

He is at work in your life. Trust and believe. Wait and see.

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Need more encouragement as you make your infertility journey? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples. The stories of ten couples who chose faith over bitterness will inspire you and renew your hope.

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