Tag Archives: miscarriage

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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Face-to-Face with the Hardest Question

This morning, I caught a glimpse of a newborn in the obituaries. In his photo, tiny George’s eyes were closed and he held his head in his hands. He was naked and peaceful.

I could not look away.

Years ago, I miscarried twins, one at a time. Their lifeless bodies remained inside mine for a short but surreal period of time as we waited to see if they would “leave” on their own or require surgical removal. To say that I sleepwalked through those days does not begin to capture the feeling of that time.

Our hope for a family of our own, for a future that extended beyond my husband and me, was concentrated in those babies. We loved the idea of them. And once they were conceived, we loved the knowledge of their presence. Our joy was beyond words. Our exuberance, boundless! We were having twins!!

And then… we were having just one baby. A surviving twin. Welcome and loved, but forever a reminder of loss.

And then… none. As it turned out, we were having only loss. And deep despair.

That was a dark and hopeless time. We told very few people, and none of them knew what to say. There were no words to answer our question: “Why?!” Why breathe life into them only to let them die? Why give us hope and then snatch it away? Why force us to circle back and share bad news so soon after we’ve shared joy?

“Why, God?!”

He was silent. And we were left to struggle through dark days of heartbreak, anger, resentment, and grief. God knew what had happened. He had allowed it. Or maybe, He’d willed it. He’d foreseen our celebration of good news… knowing death would follow. He’d given life to our dream… and then, watched as it died.

How were we supposed to make sense of that? of Him? And how could we ever trust such a capricious God?

That was the beginning of our journey. It was the crossroads moment that forced my husband and me to face the hardest question, “What kind of God are you?!” It would be many years before each of us found the peace that transcends circumstances and came to trust God in all things. There would be many, many more tears. More days of confusion, fear and loss.

Now, I can see in hindsight that the Lord truly has been “Emmanuel,” God with us. He has kept His promise never to leave or forsake us. He has given us joy in place of grief, and hope in lieu of fear. He has taught us the truth of who He is and of His great faithfulness.

Yes, that first loss took our breath away. It revealed our powerlessness to us. It also focused our attention and shook us out of a spiritual complacency. It compelled us to seek the God who wants to be known, and who promises…

I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.”  [Proverbs 8:17]

Would we have wished for that experience at the time? Not a chance. But now, are we grateful for what it brought about in our lives? Absolutely.

Are you face-to-face with the question, “Why God?! What kind of God are you?!” My heart goes out to you — but I also have great hope for what’s in store. Seek Him diligently and you will find all that you need.

Welcome to the journey.

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Need wisdom and insight as you make your journey? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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“Even Though…” Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I mean…

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

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

That’s “even though…” faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Let Nothing Be Wasted II

I love when I’m focused on a particular piece of Scripture and everywhere I turn, I encounter it. That tells me I’m onto something — something the Lord wants me to understand.

It happened today when I got an email devotional from a friend that said,

“When Jesus fed the 5,000, he broke the bread and gave it to the disciples to distribute. When we, like the disciples, embrace the broken pieces that are handed to us, those pieces can be used to nourish other people. In our times of brokenness, the most comforting thing to remember is that the bread was in Jesus’ hands when it was broken. His hands are more than capable of holding us in our brokenness and charting a path for us through which his glory can be revealed.”

Wow! I never looked at the feeding of the 5,000 that way before. I’d always read it as a story of abundant generosity, of provision that meets worry and says, “Don’t worry. There’s more than enough for you.” More than enough hope… time… strength… options…. And more than enough grace. The Lord, our provider, is well able to meet every need. That perspective has been a great comfort to me — and to other couples as they’ve struggled with infertility.

But this new perspective makes each of us more than passive witnesses to a long ago, historical event. From this vantage point, we are part of the story. In our insufficiency, we are the fish and bread — taken into Jesus’ hands, blessed, and broken so that He can use us to bless others. In our confusion, uncertainty and disbelief, we are the disciples — handing Jesus a problem, then gratefully receiving abundance miraculously created out of brokenness.

We and our infertility stories become an essential part of the greater story. Our insufficiency sets the stage for the miracle that is to come. It leads us to put ourselves in Jesus’ hands, to offer ourselves up to be blessed. In that process, we relinquish (the illusion of) control to the One who has the perfect plan — not just to bless us, but also to bless those who witness the transformative power of His blessing on us. And then, the miraculous blessing ripples out to touch those gathered around us who see firsthand “His glory revealed.”

Here’s what that looked like in my own life….

We struggled silently in our battle with infertility. The stress, the heartache, the losses went unnoticed by those around us because we grieved in secret. We felt utterly isolated and alone. Then finally, a pregnancy neared the end of the first trimester. No sooner did we share the news… than I miscarried — first one twin, and then the other. We were devastated. When we told my brother-in-law, he whooped, “Now we’ll have the first grandchild!” His words poured salt in open wounds.

Fast forward…. we had a little girl, born with a huge hole in her heart. She survived open heart surgery. Then, we had a little boy, born after 5+ months of bedrest. We were told he’d need brain surgery (which later proved to be wrong). I started chemo when he was a newborn. Everything in life seemed simultaneously blessed and fragile. Then, both of my parents died. I had back surgery when the kids were toddlers. My husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. And that’s only some of what happened.

Brokenness? No doubt. Broken bodies, broken hearts, broken spirits. But in hindsight, I can say that nothing was wasted. If we learned nothing else, we learned through experience to put our brokenness in God’s hands, to trust that He is faithful, and to believe that He is glorified when we do not understand His ways… and yet, we walk by faith.

Without those experiences, I could not write the things I do with such conviction. I could not offer my brokenness — and the miracles that came in the midst of it — to you for sustenance. Apparently, that was always part of the plan! So, I offer my story to you in the hope that it will inspire you to trust God’s faithfulness.

Are you struggling? Suffering? Doubting whether the Lord even cares? Give your brokenness to Him and let Him work miracles. He will bless you, and that blessing will offer spiritual nourishment to those around you. And to Him be the glory.

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Need more encouragement? More insight? More reason to hope? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, and 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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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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Peace Despite Negative Outcomes

I got a bittersweet email from a reader. She had written to me last month asking for prayer as she and her husband tried IVF after five failed IUI’s and a miscarriage. She told me she’d already read Pregnant with Hope once, and she would be re-reading it as they made their way toward Transfer Day because it filled her with confident hope.

Her note this morning said, “None of our embryos made it to Day 3, but I’ve had peace throughout the process.”

How did she do that? How did she sustain a sense of peace despite all the uncertainty? How did she step into the moment of disappointment when she heard none of the embryos made it… and through it?

She chose to trust that God’s best sometimes begins with “No.”

Years ago, Garth Brooks released a country song about unanswered prayer. I heard it so many times that, despite my limited affection for country music, I knew the words by heart – among them: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” It took me years to realize that song was popular, in part, because it’s so true.

For much of my life, I prayed for specific requests to be fulfilled and equated that with answered prayer.  When I didn’t get what I wanted, I took it as an indication that God either didn’t care much about me, or that He wasn’t listening very carefully.

I was wrong.

In hindsight, I can see that the prayers I thought were not being answered were actually answered very clearly:  “No, because I have something better planned.”  “No, because there are things you don’t understand.” “No, because I can see what you cannot see, and I know what you cannot know about the future.” “No, because I love you too much to say ‘yes.’”

The early part of my life was a cake walk. It was easy to love God and trust Him – because I was perpetually blessed. Only when everything possible began to go wrong did I realize that trusting God meant thanking Him for what I didn’t think I wanted. It meant finding peace in the midst of complete chaos and total uncer- tainty, by faith.

When I found that peace and learned how to live into it – despite the stressful circumstances that threatened to hijack every aspect of my life – I stepped into a new relationship with God.  And I started becoming the person He wanted me to be as a parent.

Now, I know better than to tell God what to do. I recognize and respect the fact that His wisdom far surpasses my own. And, equally important, I trust His love for me. I trust that He wants the very best for me – and all those whom I love. So, I pray for His best — whatever, and whenever that may be.

The woman who wrote to me this morning has chosen that same perspective. She trusts this “no” is one step on the journey to the child who’s waiting in her future. The one who is nothing less than God’s best. Imagine God’s delight when it will finally be time to tell her, “Yes.”

 

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