Tag Archives: Pregnant with Hope

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.

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

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

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Hope, Loss, Perspective

“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.

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Loss, Perspective, Trust

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.

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

Need more cause for hope? Visit PregnantWithHope.info

3 Comments

Filed under Peace, Speaking Up

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.

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

Need more encouragement? More insight? More reason to hope? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, and visit PregnantWithHope.info.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hope, Loss, Trust

Who Can You Trust?

A few days ago, I wrote about prayer journaling and neglected to mention that, if you try it, you are likely to hear a voice that can’t be trusted. Before you can hear the Lord speak to you, you must silence it:

“Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. Learn to recognize his deceptive intrusions into your thoughts. One of his favorite deceptions is to undermine your confidence in My unconditional love. Fight back against these lies! Do not let them go unchallenged. Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you. Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”  – Jesus Calling

Don’t believe there’s a battle for your mind? Then whose voice is it that whispers, “You’re not meant to have a baby. You never will. This treatment isn’t going to work. Everyone else conceives, but not you. You are defective, flawed, irreparably damaged. No birth mother would choose you, and no baby would love you. It’s not meant to be — ever — so give up, and get on with your life.”

Have you ever heard those words whispered in your spirit? Even now, years after giving birth to two children, they still unsettle me — taking me back to a time when I felt hopeless and alone. Have you ever heard similar words  and thought, what if it’s true?

Those are not the words of the God who loves you, who knows your heart aches, and who answers every prayer with love and wisdom. Those are the words of the evil one, who wants very much for you to turn your back on God. He will speak to you any time you’re willing to listen — and make this journey much harder for you to bear. He may even be able to convince you that it’s hopeless.

Unless, you choose to trust God.

If you do, rather than limp through this marathon toting a growing burden of despair, you will find the hope you need to keep going — and the strength you need to reach the day God intends: the day when you become a parent to the child who’s coming.

“Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.”

Claim this promise! Let God the Father comfort you, his beloved child, and whisper words that will give you hope.

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

Learn more about God’s promises and the battle for your mind in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Hope, Trust

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.

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

Want more encouragement? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

Leave a comment

Filed under Control, Loss, Perspective

Doubt vs. the Voice of Truth

Andy Stanley gave a great talk on doubt last Sunday (here’s a link), and what resonated most with me was what he DIDN’T say.

He didn’t say, “Real Christians never doubt God.” He didn’t say, “Doubt is evidence of weak faith — and it explains why things aren’t going well in your life.” He didn’t condemn. He didn’t judge. In fact, just the opposite.

He said: “Everyone doubts.”

Everyone.

Here’s why that’s important. Lots of couples struggling with infertility are secretly afraid that their doubt-filled faith has alienated God, and that infertility may be the direct result. Now, the question is whether to commit wholeheartedly to doubt, abandon God and embrace science in the hope that it can do what He hasn’t — or, try to keep trusting a God who can’t be seen to do something that (seemingly) can’t be done.

That’s not an easy choice. And, I’ve come to believe, that’s the point.

When life is not going according to plan, doubt gains a foothold. When you realize you are not in control of things you desperately want to control, it’s human nature to wonder whether God is working with you… or against you. That gives doubt a chance to gain ground.

When things go from bad to worse, the voice of fear starts to whisper.  Negative thoughts begin to circle like vultures, “I doubt God’s listening. I doubt He cares. I doubt this means anything to Him. I doubt He’s going to help. I doubt He’s even there.” Those thoughts can be frighteningly persuasive.

What do you do in when fear invites doubt and threatens your faith? Do you listen?

The band Casting Crowns sings,

“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.”

Did you catch those words? “I will choose….”

Not, “I will think of myself as a victim — passive, helpless, broken, forgotten.” But, “I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”

It was a challenge for us when we were trying to conceive. Doctors made (positive) predictions that didn’t come to pass. There were multiple miscarriages, failed IUIs, harrowing trips to the hospital. We felt so alone! It seemed as if we were the only ones who couldn’t conceive at will — except when we crossed paths with other worried souls in waiting rooms and hospital corridors. It was an awful, painful, where-is-God-in-all-this time in our lives.

And doubt made a run at me more than once.

I instinctively did what Andy Stanley and Casting Crowns advise: I clung to the truth. I couldn’t will the doubt away, but I held faith and doubt in two hands, and I kept them open and uplifted, believing that God somehow knew I was doing the best I could, given the circumstances.

I see now that that my willingness to hold things in two hands — rather than drop faith entirely while embracing doubt — brought Him glory. My willingness to trust Him demonstrated my faith — not just to Him, but to every person who asked me, “How do you keep hoping?” That had power. It had value. It was a witness and a testimony to the faithfulness of the God I chose to trust.

Don’t get me wrong: I was afraid. I was full of doubt. I cried more often than I can remember. But, as soon as I could muster the strength, the courage, the will to choose to believe that God was still good and still in control, I would lift my hope to Him and pray, “Please, Lord. Show me that my faith is not misguided. Help me not to be afraid. Help me trust You.”

Don’t endure a season of struggle and grief without meaning. Make it a season of spiritual growth for you and glory for God. Despite your doubts about the future, choose to believe...

“All things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”  -Romans 8:28

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

For more messages of hope in the midst of infertility, read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Hope, Trust