Tag Archives: Trust

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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The Battle for Peace

“Praise and thanksgiving in all things is a powerful spiritual weapon.”  Those words leaped off my calendar yesterday.  As always, God’s timing was perfect.

Let me explain…

I am currently making my way through the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face.  Like many of the challenges that have come before it, this journey involves living into what I’ve written – both in this blog, and in my book:  trusting God, letting go, patiently enduring suffering, nurturing hope despite discouraging statistics, and more.

It has been a joy to discover that I have grown spiritually since I last covered this ground.  Don’t get me wrong.  Fear and doubt have their moments.  They rush at me like tidal waves and threaten to drag me under a turbulent sea of uncertainty.  But then, I remember what I’ve learned – and what I’ve tried to teach you:  give up the illusion of control, take fearful thoughts captive, claim God’s promises, and speak words of confident hope over your circumstances.

When I do these things, I find myself strengthened and encouraged.  I discover that I’m able to swim to the surface of the anxiety and gain a new perspective – one that sees things very differently and recognizes there is more to reality than what I feel.

Those feelings are deceptive.  I know.  I remember.  They mislead me into sensing God’s absence, or worse, a lack of concern for my struggles.  Of course, that is a lie whispered to me by the one who hopes to deceive me into despair – and ultimately, into a sense of separation from the God who loves me.

That’s why words of praise and thanksgiving are a powerful spiritual weapon.

Jesus’  last words before leaving this earth were, “I am with you always.”  Always.  In fear.  In darkness.  In uncertainty.  In despair.  In confusion.  In grief.  In a sense of separation from the love of the Father that is only an illusion, an attempt by God’s enemy to trick me into grieving something that can NEVER be lost.

God has not abandoned me!  Christ has not forgotten me.  The Holy Spirit has not left me.  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”  That is the Truth.  That is the life raft I cling to whenever waves of fear wash over me.

Last week, I made my own journey to the cross.  I brought my hope for the outcome I want and laid it at the feet of the God I trust.  I poured my heart out, along with my tears, and confessed my deep desire to control things I cannot control and force an outcome I cannot force.  And then, I let go.

I acknowledged the very real possibility that this will end differently than I would have scripted.  I grieved that possibility – and then I opened my hands and said, “Your will, not mine.”  My whole heart has chosen trust and obedience.  I accept whatever is coming with praise and thanksgiving.

I genuinely believe that, even if I can’t see it, God’s will will be His best for me.  And I choose to claim that now.  Confident that He will not fail me.  He will not leave me or forsake me.  He will not forget me or neglect to bless me.  Despite the fear that uncertainty evokes, I believe.  And therein lies peace.  The ultimate spiritual weapon.

Whatever the outcome of this particular medical battle, I have won in the way that matters most.  Thanks be to God.

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There is Nothing Wrong with Hope

In his book, Love, Medicine & Miracles, Dr. Bernie Siegel writes, “In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope.”  How often has your infertility specialist said that to you?  How about your family or friends?  There is something in Siegel’s unconditional assertion – “there is nothing wrong with hope” – that implies a confidence infertile couples often crave, but do not feel.

Dr. Siegel, a cancer surgeon, discovered years ago that a subset of those patients who came to him for help were able to live lives of meaning and purpose in the midst of uncertainty.  These “exceptional patients,” as he called them, experienced something during their journey that they shared repeatedly with him:  attitude is everything.  As they explained, the belief(s) that guide your thoughts will determine the quality of the life you live.

The same is true of the infertility journey.

Couples who learn to trust God’s plan, release their grip on (the illusion of) control, and lean into believing that there is a purpose in their struggle, invariably go on to become parents.  Some by conception.  Some by adoption.  A few by foster parenthood.  But all of them get there.  I have yet to see a couple give their dream to God and forever remain a twosome.  It’s a matter of how – not If.  A question of when – not Whether.

“… There is nothing wrong with hope.”  Siegel’s words are a great reminder that there is no great risk in hoping that God is faithful.  Hoping that His promises hold true for ALL believers.  Hoping that He will elect to bless those who trust Him – His purpose, His plan, His timing.  There is nothing wrong with hope!  It is not irrational. It is not delusional.  It is not unfounded.

It is faith.

And we have been called to walk by faith, and not by sight.  We have been taught to trust a God we cannot see, but who hears our prayers, knows our thoughts, and shares in our suffering.  It is this God who alone is able to realize our deep desire to become parents.  It is His will that makes it possible.  And when we are in the flow of His will, “there is nothing wrong with hope.”

I know several couples who will be finding out in the next few days whether their recent IVF’s have resulted in Christmas conceptions.  I hope that they have.  But even more, I hope that the God who knows their hearts, feels their longing, and intends to bless the seed of hope He has already planted will give these couples nothing less than His very best.  ‘

I know from experience — it’s worth waiting for.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  There is cause for hope.

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When the Longed-for Blessing Brings Bad News

Many of this blog’s posts have focused on the longing for a pregnancy that brings a baby safely into the world.  But what happens when that longed-for blessing no longer feels like one?

I got an incredibly honest, heartrending request for prayer today.  It came in an email forwarded by a woman whose friend conceived on her 6th IUI (hurray!), and just discovered the baby has Down’s Syndrome.  You might be tempted to stop reading, since the thought of such a possibility threatens to  undermine your shaky confidence in a joyful future.  I hope you won’t, because the note I wrote in response to that prayer request made me realize the importance of affirming God’s faithfulness in all circumstances

That’s easy to claim when you’ve experienced effortless conception, an uneventful pregnancy, a straightforwarded delivery, and what looks to the world like happily-ever-after.  But what about when it isn’t so easy, and — by the world’s standards — it doesn’t go well?  Where is God in that?  Where is hope?  What good is faith if it suddenly seems flimsy and feeble?  And where can you go for strength?

My husband and I had to face these questions.  And at the time, there was no one to help us find answers.

We’d scheduled a vacation before our baby was conceived.  As it turned out, it was the week we needed to do an amnio if we wanted to be sure the baby was healthy.  We scheduled an appointment with a high-risk pregnancy specialist found through a friend of a friend.  The doctor started the appointment with an ultrasound.  We’d had several already, and we happily anticipated the chance to see our baby again.

But the doctor took an unusually long time with the ultrasound.  I lay on the table watching lines appear in his forehead as he scanned one area over and over and over.  My husband and I sent each other increasingly anxious looks, but no one spoke.  Then, the doctor said, “Your baby has a large hole in her heart.”  The jolt of adrenaline made me nauseous.  “Usually, that means the baby has Down’s Syndrome.  Has anyone talked to you about this before?”

I wanted to scream, and my mind was racing.  Who is this man?  What does he know?  Why wouldn’t anyone have told us?  It can’t be true….  We’d already lost several pregnancies to miscarriage, but this baby was thriving.  She was meant to come into the world!  Why would God say “yes” to a baby, but “no” to all we wanted that baby to be?

When I received Elizabeth’s prayer request today, the memories of that day flooded my mind.  And I knew God had given me an opportunity to speak the truth of His faithfulness out of my own experience.  I wrote to her:

When I was pregnant with my daughter, they found a HUGE hole in her heart during the amniocentesis.  They told us that, if she survived the pregnancy, she would almost surely have Down’s Syndrome.  We waited several agonizing days for results of the amnio.  In the interim, a couple we knew delivered a baby with unexpected Down’s Sydrome.  It was an extraordinarily stressful time.

Ultimately, our daughter’s test results indicated she did not have Down’s, but she did have the largest hole they’d ever seen in a baby’s heart at this stage of development.  It was hard to know how to pray about this.  Still, God was — and is — faithful.  Our daughter underwent open heart surgery when she was only four weeks old, and despite the odds they gave us as they took her into the OR, she survived and she’s thriving.

I realize the details of this story are different from yours.  At the same time, I feel as if I have some understanding of what you’re facing, based on our experience and the experience of our friends whose son has Down’s.  Neither we nor they would trade the children we have for any other.  We consider all that we’ve struggled through with and for them to be a small price to pay for the extraordinary blessing they have been in our lives.  The challenges we’ve faced as their parents have made us that much more passionate about being the best possible stewards of their incredible souls.  And I believe that was part of God’s purpose.

I don’t in any way mean to minimize what you’re going through.  But I can say with tremendous confidence, God is good and He blesses us in all sorts of unexpected ways.  I truly believe this is one of those well-disguised blessings — and some day, you will say so yourself with complete conviction and JOY.”

If “God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special” [1 Thes 1:4], take heart in the knowledge that He will not abandon you to make your journey alone.  He has already begun equipping you.  That was part of the purpose of the infertility journey.  And He will not fail to comfort, strengthen or guide you.  Ever.

He never fails.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, click this link to order your copy of Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

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Transition Time

I’ve spent the last several weeks — maybe longer — trying to get a clear answer from God about whether to keep investing the time and effort required to write posts for this blog three times a week.  I realize it takes only a minute or two to read a post of mine.  But typically, it takes 2-3 hours to write one that will be worth reading.  That’s because I take this commitment very seriously.  If I’m going to talk to you in the midst of a journey as emotionally-charged and completely exhausting as infertility, I don’t want to waste your time.

You may be tempted to laugh when I tell you I haven’t been able to get an answer.  Sound familiar?  I’ve written quite a few posts on the silence of God.  Now, I guess, it’s time to remember my own advice.

I tried waiting.  That didn’t get a response.  Then, I waited some more.  Still nothing.  I tried asking for a sign.  No sign came.  I tried consulting people I think of as spiritual mentors.  Conflicting advice left me running in circles.  Finally, I consulted my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist (aka my husband).  His wise words did me a lot of good.  He said simply, “Maybe God’s letting you decide.”

Wow.  God trusts me to make a good decision?

All right then.  Here goes….

I’ve decided that writing 3x/week if I have nothing to say is pointless.  Forcing a message is the equivalent of expecting you listen to ME — because if I’m working hard to come up with something new to say, the Holy Spirit isn’t speaking through me (Trust me, I can tell my voice from His).

It may be that I’ve told you everything I’ve ever understood about how God works through infertility.  Or, maybe it’s time for me to spend a season at the feet of the One who loves to reveal Himself, so that I can bring you something new when I understand it more fully.

In any case, I’m making no promises about when or how often I’ll post from now on.  But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find help or hope!  There are literally hundreds of posts here for you to read.  Search them by categories or tags to meet a specific need, or just start reading and work your way forwards or backwards.  Print out whatever’s helpful — be it an entire post or a particular phrase — and keep that on your bedside table, share it with your doctor, or pass it on to a friend who’s making the same journey.

This blog is for you.  This library of promises and insights is a gift of the Spirit, who is with you always.  Use it to give you strength, courage, and cause for hope.

blessings always,

Susan

p.s.  If you haven’t already read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples, it will walk you through ten stages of the infertility journey — from hopeless despair to peace-full anticipation.   It will also allow you to hear ten couples’ first-hand narratives about their own passage through heartache to joy.  Read it, and find the inspiration to keep believing in the God who never fails those who trust Him.

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What That Bible Promise Really Means…

When infertile couples talk about what the Bible has to say about their situation, there is usually more confusion than clarity.  Take this verse, for example:

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

It sounds simple enough, at least on the surface.  It seems to say that if you like God a lot, He’ll give you what you want.  Sort of like a spiritual Santa.  You friend Him; He blesses you.

Couples frequently cite this verse to one another early in the journey, as if reassuring each other of a momentarily-forgotten sure thing.  God may be moving slowly, they’ll agree, but He’s going to come through in the end.  If you really want something and He knows it, it’s just a matter of time.

But with time, confidence wanes.  They’ve claimed the promise they thought they understood, but they’re still childless – and now, increasingly confused and resentful.   What’s the deal?  Why didn’t God keep His promise?  We told Him we loved Him, but still no baby.  What’s the trick to getting God to “give you the desires of your heart”?

Ask that out loud, and it sounds selfish.  Even manipulative.  But, truth be told, this is the question every couple longs to ask: How do we get God to give us what we want?

I can save you some searching; there is no answer to that question anywhere in scripture.  Why?  Because it’s the wrong question to be asking.  It’s a question rooted in a desire for control, made urgent by uncertainty and fear.  I’m convinced that part of the purpose of this journey is to move us away from that question, toward a deeper, richer faith life.

How do we make that move – away from a fearful, consuming desire for control?

Start with “Delight yourself in the Lord….”  Delighting our Selves in the Lord means shifting our focus away from Self.  Away from what we want, what we lack, what we don’t know and can’t control.  It means choosing our thoughts rather than being at the mercy of them, and making them God-centered rather than Self-centered.

This is the kind of relationship God wants us to have with Him – one where we find joy in everything that connects us to Him, and everything that reveals Him to us.  When we make the shift to this perspective, “perfect love casts out fear” and we begin to experience peace despite uncertainty.

If and when you delight your Self in God, “He will give you the desires of your heart.”  That is the promise of the verse.  This does not mean He’ll hand you whatever you want.  It means, He will place in your heart desires for what He knows is best for you.  He will give you the desire to see His will for you become your present and your future.

If you know God’s perfect will takes all things into consideration and plans for the best possible outcome, why would you want anything less?

Begin to shift your focus away from getting God to do what you want, and toward wanting what God intends to do — in you, through you, and for you.  It’s the path to peace… to joy… and ultimately, to parenthood.

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Renewing Hope After a Loss

Nick, a man who bravely shared his feelings about loss, kindly allowed me to quote him months ago when this post first ran.  He and his wife Anna have come a long way since then….

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Dear Abby recently published a letter from a woman whose daughter died:

“I am writing this not only for myself, but for all parents who have lost a child….  I know people mean well when they encourage me to get on with my life, but this is my life.”  Abby responded, “…the death of a child is the most devastating loss parents can suffer and the experience is life-changing.”

Abby’s right.  And that’s true whether the child you lose is twenty years old, as the letter writer’s daughter was, or just a few weeks in utero.  Sadly, Abby stopped there.  She offered compassion — but no words of hope — for the parent who is convinced her life can never know the kind of joy it did before her daughter died.

Can you ever find hope when the one who embodied your hope for the future dies?  Is there anything but grief to be felt when the highly-prized idea of life with a much-beloved child comes to a tragic end?

It depends on what you choose to believe.

Here’s what I mean….

After four years of infertility, Anna and Nick had finally conceived through IVF.  Then, Anna began bleeding a few weeks ago.  They lost the baby.  In a painfully honest blog post, Nick wrote, “What if I want to sink? What if I want just for a minute to revel in my grief, to wonder if I deserve it, to claim I saw it coming because nothing good should happen to me?”

Like the mother who wrote to Abby, Nick was tempted to believe that darkness had a claim on his spirit that was justifiable.  He felt the pull of that darkness and wondered if he deserved it.  Was this the future he should plan on, despite all they had hoped for?  Was this his destiny:  loss, grief, hopelessness?

He wrote, “Like Peter, I know that sooner or later I must stop looking at the waves and call out to Jesus – and Matthew 14:31 tells me His response:  ‘Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.’  I may not know why [we lost our baby], but I do know my Savior.”

That’s what Abby missed completely.

Sinking is never the end of your story if God is the author of that story.  Loss may be the beginning of the story, and grief may be the middle.  Despair may be the end of a particular chapter, but it is never the end of the story.  There is always hope because God always redeems.  That is who He is: our Redeemer.

He is also our Source of strength and our Comforter: “He will lead them to springs of living water; And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  He is full of compassion for the losses that take our breath away and leave us staggering.  Losses He knew were coming.  Losses that plunge us into a darkness that seems impenetrable, and in which we see no cause for hope.

Thankfully, God can see what and when we can’t. “Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.  He will bring me out in the light; and I will see his righteousness.”

Nick knows there is cause for hope even if he doesn’t feel hopeful.  His hope is not embodied in the baby they just miscarried, but in the God who creates and sustains life according to His purpose.

That same God tells us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

When we are sinking – overwhelmed by grief and unable to save ourselves – He will reach out to save us.  Jesus did it for Peter.  And I promise, God will do it for you.  When He does, don’t let go.

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