Tag Archives: why me

When the Plan Changes

As you may have noticed, this blog went dark for a few months. The reason, and the lessons I learned, might interest you. So, here goes….

In early January, our daughter went from school to the Emergency Room to the ICU in less than 24 hours. It was a harrowing ordeal that was followed by nearly three weeks in the hospital. After 3 surgeries, she now has two new scars to join the ones from the open heart surgery she underwent when she was just 4 weeks old.

Talk about traumatic. This is not how 2016 was supposed to begin. At least, not according to my plan. Clearly, the Lord had other plans. So, I got yet another chance to learn the lesson He wants me to remember: His ways are not my ways, but I can still trust Him.

Is He trying to teach you the same lesson? How is your 2016 started? Is everything going according to plan, or has your plan been changed by His?

There was a story in today’s paper that helped me think about this from a safe emotional distance. It was about a family in Clovis, CA that had a plan, “but God had a different plan, and it’s far better.” Reading it reminded me that we may not always understand what God’s up to in real time, but He has promised that “all things work together for good for those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose” [Rom 8:28].

Here’s the story…. Bryan and Tamera had one biological daughter. At age 6, she asked her parents, “We’re gathering all these clothes and toys for orphans, but isn’t what orphans really need a family?” They prayed over her question, and it led them to adopt a baby girl from China. When they visited the orphanage, they saw countless kids with special needs.

That moment led to the adoption of 8 kids over several years — 7 of them with disabilities (4 are missing limbs, 2 have spina bifida). Bryan and Tamera say their adopted children give them “front-row seats to everyday miracles. That’s a blessing.”

My circumstances are completely different from theirs. But I share their perspective. I’ve witnessed several miracles in my daughter’s short life. She, and the many people who worked those miracles, are all a blessing. They are tangible evidence of God’s favor and grace, and of His amazing plan. I am humbled  and deeply grateful when I consider what could have happened, but did not.

All is well — maybe not forever, but for today. And I have a renewed sense of gratitude for the One from whom all blessings flow. I don’t know His plans, but I am learning — again and again — to let go and trust that He is good.

You can, too.

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Need more encouragement and cause for hope? Or a better understanding of the God who is longing to be central to your story? Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

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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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Rather Than Self-Pity…

A few days ago, I woke up to a torrential downpour.  My throat was sore, and I’d had a terrible night of sleep.  The alarm clock blared and my first thought was, “This is not going to be a good day.”  Before my feet touched the floor, I convinced myself I could see the future, and it didn’t look good.

In less than an hour, I was in a completely different place – psychologically and spiritually.  How did that happen?  What changed?  Instead of acting on my feelings, I acted on my better impulses.

First, I did a good deed I’d planned last night, even though I wasn’t feeling it – at all. I gift-wrapped a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread, put on a raincoat, and drove across town to deliver it to someone who was awful to my family last week.  When I gave it to her, I thanked her for having acknowledged that she’d behaved horribly, and I told her we value her friendship.

I got back in my car and… guess what?  I felt a little better.  I’d done it for her – schlepping around in the downpour while blowing my nose sure wasn’t for me! – but, it turned out to be good for me, too.

On the way home, I stopped for a bagel.  Seated at the table next to me was a woman coughing loudly.  When I turned to give her a “could you quiet down?” look, I noticed her soaking wet pants and windbreaker.  She realized she’d called too much attention to herself, and got up to leave.  Several minutes later, as I headed for the highway, I saw her slogging through the downpour.  Apparently heading nowhere.

I felt a nudge to help and thought, ‘She’s over there and I’m over here, and the light’s about to change.’  I felt another nudge and thought, ‘I’d have to drive past the exit to catch her.’  Another nudge.  I looked down and saw two meal coupons in my cup holder.  They were for her.

So, I crossed three lanes of traffic and pulled over to wait for her.  She crossed the street.  Frustrated, I pulled out into traffic and crossed the street to meet her.  She saw my car and made a detour.  Determined now to accomplish my mission, I pulled up next to her and rolled down the window.

“Are you hungry and wanting to go somewhere warm and dry?” I shouted over the rain.

“I sure am,” she answered dejectedly.  I realized she didn’t expect me to offer any help.  Had I pulled over just to harass her?  To tell her to leave the neighborhood?

“Take these coupons,” I said as I extended my arm out the window.  “They’re good for food at that restaurant right there.  They’ll let you use them for whatever you need.”  The woman’s self-pity gave way to gratitude and a smile crept over her face.

“God bless you,” she said as she took the coupons from my hand.

As I watched her enter the restaurant, the words ‘It is a blessing to be a blessing’ came to mind, and I realized:  that’s literally true.  The rain was still falling.  My throat still hurt.  I was just as sniffly and tired.  But, I wasn’t feeling self-pity any more.  Instead, I felt purposeful and thankful.  I’d brought a moment of light into two dark situations, setting aside self-pity long enough to do it.  Now, I felt the quiet joy that comes with being obedient and acting out of a servant’s heart.

What a blessing.

Self-pity is a tricky thing.  We tell ourselves we are responding reasonably to what feels crummy and unfair.  It seems like a small enough indulgence, given the fact that we’re suffering (to some degree).  But underneath the veneer of justifiability, it is a toxic thing.

It’s not grief.  It’s not part of a healthy healing process.  Self-pity is a choice to turn our backs on the God we say we trust, so we can focus our attention on ourselves and the awfulness of this moment.  It is a rejection of God’s promise to be faithful  – because we’re not feeling it.  We’re not sensing victory and blessing.  Instead, we’re feeling cursed and defeated.  And frankly, that stinks.

The next time infertility invites you to a pity party, make the effort to bless someone.  It will change your mood, your outlook, and your trajectory.  And it will remind you that God blesses all of us through one another.

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

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Filed under Control, Peace

Infertility, Starring….

“I am the star in my own drama.”

Say it out loud, and it sounds self-absorbed.  Narcissistic.  Entitled.  And it is.

Truth be told, it’s also our default setting.

It is human nature to care about others’ impressions of us.  To imagine ourselves as interesting and worth noticing, even fascinating enough to be talked about frequently.  Marketers exploit this tendency to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others.  They use it against us — and we fall for it, all because we think everyone’s looking.

How does this affect the infertility journey?

It fuels our “need” for secrecy.  It reinforces the irrational fear of exposure.  If infertility is evidence we are failures, then we’ve got to hide it.  If infertility means we are defective, unworthy, and destined for a future no one wants, then we’ve got to change this script — and live a life of denial in the meantime.  We’ve got to invest energy in pretense, so that the truth will never be known — until we reach Happily Ever After.

So, we lie:  “We’re not really trying.”

“We’re not sure we want a family.”

“We ‘re focused on our careers right now.”

“We don’t want to give up our freedom yet.”

We think the only way to end this awful charade is to have a baby.  To make our reality match what we want everyone else to see.  Our desperate urgency, at least in part, is rooted in our deep desire to be who and what (we believe) others think we are:  happy, fortunate, successful, blessed.

Consider this… That may not be God’s priority.  Before you become a parent, He may want you to learn that it’s not all about you.  You’re not the star in life’s most important drama.  He may want you to realize that most people are so fully absorbed in their own stories, they’re not paying much attention to yours.  If they are, it’s likely to be out of People magazine curiosity, rather than a deep desire to judge or reject you.

Maybe one of the reasons you are on this infertility journey is because God wants to show you a better way to live.  He wants to give you an opportunity – and an incentive – to set aside constant thoughts of Self, and replace them with more frequents thoughts of Him.  Why would you make that choice?  Because it’s the path to peace and hope, despite any circumstances.

Look at the other women waiting anxiously at the doctor’s office.  They’re all stars in their own drama.  Everyone’s hiding behind a magazine or an IPhone.  Everyone’s stressing.  Everyone would rather be anywhere but here.  No one wants to talk – except about how worried they are.  And no one wants to listen – unless your story is worse than theirs.

But look to God, and you won’t sense anxiety.  Or fear.  Or desperation.  You won’t feel competitive.  Or threatened.  Or jealous.  You’ll find someone who’s been waiting to listen.  Who hoped you would want to talk.  And who knows how to give comfort that reaches deeper and lasts longer than anything the world can offer.

I say this from experience, and with loving compassion:  putting yourself at the center of the story is the reason for your suffering.  Set your Self aside, put God at the center of the story, trust His purposefulness, and expect this blessing to be fulfilled in your life…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]

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

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Moving on After an Unbearable Loss

There is a low point that some couples reach during the infertility journey.  It is a place of despair so deep and dark they wonder if they can survive it.

What they assumed at the time would be the worst of the journey is already behind them, rapidly receding in a past that pales in comparison to the deeply painful present.  Disappointment, discouragement, bad results… it seemed so challenging at the time.  Now, it would be a gift to return to difficulties no worse than what was faced back then.

This is a valley of darkness.

“Kirsten was 18 weeks pregnant and she started having a lot of bleeding,” Mike remembers.  “The trip to the hospital is a blur.  I remember the nurse tried to find a heartbeat in utero, and she couldn’t find one.  We both thought, ‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing’ because we were in such denial.  We thought, ‘The doctor will get here and it’ll be okay.’  He got there and it wasn’t okay.

“He left the room and a minute later, the baby came.  I had to run out of the room to get him.  He ran in and four nurses ran in after him.  I remember just standing out there in the hallway and feeling very dizzy.  One of the nurses got a chair for me and said, ‘It’s okay.  Just sit here.’”

The baby was coming too soon.  His first day outside the womb would be his last.

Where is God when our dreams are dying?  When the joy we’ve longed for and struggled for is slipping from our grasp?  Where is He when our hearts cry out for help?  For comfort?  For hope?

Where is God in such darkness?

He is with us.

“I didn’t think I was going to recover,” Mike remembers.  “When a nurse grabs you and puts you in a chair, it’s because she doesn’t think you can stand.  I don’t think I was capable of doing what I needed to do for Kirsten.  But I was only sitting for about five seconds, and then somehow, a feeling of calm came over me and I heard a voice in my head saying, ‘Go to Kirsten.’  Somehow I went from not being able to stand up to being able to be with her.

“I tell you, that’ll make you believe in divine grace.  I don’t think there’s a psychological ability of the brain to reboot during a crisis – you’re more likely to shut down – but this was truly instantaneous.  It went from one second, ‘I’m nauseous and I can’t feel my legs’ to ‘It all went away.’  I’m very grateful for that.”

Despite feeling completely overwhelmed by heartache, as we struggle through the very worst of infertility, we are not alone.  When our spirits cry out, God hears us.  And He responds.  “I am with you always.”

There are moments… days… seemingly endless stretches of time when we feel no hope.  When it seems as if our greatest fear will be realized: we will never have a child.  Never have another chance at joy.  But scripture says that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him….”

Mike and Kirsten withstood numerous failed IVFs and the gloomy predictions of doctors, clinging to their belief that God had planted a seed of hope in their hearts because He intended for them to become parents.

With the help of a new IVF protocol they finally conceived again.  Their twins arrived safely.  And two years later, a younger sibling – conceived naturally and unexpectedly – arrived safely, too.

If you are struggling mightily to find cause for hope in the darkness, cling to these words from the author of Lamentations:  “I remember my afflictions… and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”

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If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy, click this link for support and resources.  If you are looking for help, hope and inspiration,  please visit PregnantWithHope.com.

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The Story Most People Never Share

Have you ever lost a pregnancy?  How did you ever recover?  Did you ever feel hope again?”

Sadly, despite the frequency of miscarriages, there is virtually no public discussion about them.  When you lose a baby, there is so much you want to know… but who can you ask?  Who is willing to be that open and honest?  That patient with deeply painful questions?  And who cares enough about you to see past the fact of your loss to all the fears and feelings behind it – and your need for help and hope?

Meet Amy & Trey.  They tell the story of their infertility journey in Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  Here, they answer a few of the questions a miscarriage makes you wish you could ask:

Q:  Have you ever lost a pregnancy?

Amy:  “I had three miscarriages and two failed IVF cycles before conceiving triplets. Then, I started bleeding and we found out I’d lost two of the three.  But we still had “Baby B” holding on tightly.  It was a very rough pregnancy with lots of scares and bleeding along the way.  At 19½ weeks, my water broke and we were forced to deliver the baby, knowing that it would not survive.  We went to the hospital and delivered a little baby boy.”

Q:  How did you ever recover?

Amy:  “We didn’t have any friends who had gone through anything like this, but the [Pregnant With Hope] class introduced us to people going through similar circumstances.  You want to compare stories and almost – as bad as it sounds – sometimes misery loves company, you know?  Instead of being at a baby shower with all my friends who were experiencing blissful happiness while I had a fake smile, I could talk to people who understood what I was going through.  It was a room full of unconditional love and support.”

Trey:  “When we went to the first class, we went around the room and everyone told their story.  Amy and I were craving other people’s stories.  I didn’t have any friends who’d ever opened up about infertility, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to.  It was so refreshing to be led by someone who had been through it.  We immediately knew that this was genuine.  And it was encouraging to talk to someone who had gotten to the other side of it.”

Q:  Did you ever feel hope again?

Amy:  “We did, but it would have been a lot easier if God had told me, ‘Hold on tight for three years, because the baby’s coming!’  It was the not knowing that was crushing – the starting over with no idea when it would happen.  I needed to know that God had a plan and that a baby was supposed to be ours.  To be able to hold on to that hope, we needed to focus on God’s faithfulness and on scripture.  That’s where the messages of the class really helped.”

T:  “It was helpful to talk about ‘Where is God?  Why is this happening?’  I didn’t understand.  Were we doing it wrong?  Was it not God’s will?  We were at a complete loss.  One thing that resonated with me was hearing, ‘You are pregnant with hope.’  That really helped me.”

Amy and Trey went on to conceive and deliver a healthy baby boy.  A year later, he had a brother.  Now, they lead a Pregnant with Hope group – welcoming infertile couples into a community of support, sharing their inspiring story, and delivering messages of hope rooted in God’s truth.

The Bible says that God walks with us through difficulties – and then, He brings us alongside people facing similar challenges so that we can be there for them, just as He was there for us.  That is the ministry of Pregnant With Hope.

If you have lost a baby and need the kind of love and support Amy & Trey sought — and found, read the inspiring stories in Pregnant With Hope, visit the website, and keep reading this blog.  You will find the help and hope you need.

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Want to hear more inspiring stories from formerly infertile couples, all of whom are now parents?  Click this link….

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Filed under Humility, Loss, Speaking Up

Are You at Rock Bottom?

My friend emailed me yesterday saying he is shocked by how abandoned he feels as he makes his way through infertility (and a host of other challenges).

He and his wife are struggling through a time that seems so dark and lonely, it is hard for them to remember what joy feels like.  Or rest.  Or peace.  Or comfort.  They are trying to keep their heads above water while drowning in despair.  For him, coping has become a battle between sarcasm and detachment.  For her, it is body surfing a tidal wave of grief.

He left me a voicemail later in the day saying he’s tired of being told to trust God.  The implication was, he no longer does.

What can I offer couples whose infertility – especially when compounded by other hardships – makes them feel helpless and hopeless?  What can I say to someone who is tired of hearing that God cares?

Nothing.

When someone hits the wall like this and falls in a heap on the ground, it’s not time to talk.  It’s time to listen.  It’s time to sit quietly, patiently, compassionately — and offer comfort simply by acknowledging their suffering and choosing to remain with them in it.

It is a very hard place to be:  feeling angry at God and invisible to Him.  Massively resentful and utterly ignored.  A psychological death spiral can begin when these feelings become confused with the Truth.

Despite how it feels, the truth is God has not turned His back on my friends’ struggles or hardened His heart to their pleas.  In fact, as a loving Father, it breaks His heart to watch them suffer.  But, He knows what they don’t see and can’t imagine:  this is for a purpose, and it shall pass.  The journey isn’t over and this is not the end of their story.

Despite what they feel, He will not give them more burden than they can bear.  He’s promised.  And He’s also promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  His character will not let Him be other than who He is: a covenant-maker and a promise-keeper.

So, no matter how dark, how lonely, how angry, how bitter, how devastated, or how hopeless they feel, He has promised He will never leave them.  They can reject Him, but He will not abandon them.  No matter what they say in frustration, or what they do in despair, He promises, “I am with you always.”

My own journey is testimony to His faithfulness — as are the journeys of so many couples I’ve taught, met with, comforted and encouraged.  We are all witnesses to the truth that God is faithful, and He is with them.  One day, they will be witnesses, too.

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For more inspiration, resources and cause for hope, click this link

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