Tag Archives: words of hope

Now What?

I’ve realized I’m entering one of those seasons when I can sense change coming, but I don’t know yet what’s going to be different.

I’ve had the feeling for a while that I should be holding everything loosely — my time, my priorities, my commitments, my family, our things, our money, our dreams… All of it.  Everything that consumes my thoughts, requires my effort, and fills my days so full, so quickly that they seem to melt into one another and move past me in waves.  I’m supposed to let go of all of it and wait for a clear sense of what’s next.

Honestly, I’m not sure what that might be.  A new book to write?  A new group to lead?  A completely new assignment from the God who’s kept me very busy for the past few years?  Or, is it simply time to rest?  To do less, and (just) be more?  I don’t know, but it’s time to find out.

The only thing that’s clear to me right now is that I need to quiet my inner voice, so that I can hear God’s more clearly.  I need to carve out some Sabbath time to listen, and try to be more patient than I am naturally as I wait for clearer understanding:  Now what?

In the meantime, I’ll re-run some of the most popular (i.e. widely-read) posts from the past year.  Even if you read them the first time I posted them, I encourage you to ask God to show you something new and to draw you deeper into a trusting, peace-giving relationship with Him.

For starters, here’s a post from last spring….

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In a recent study of 200 women, a high correlation was found between those who said they were religious and those with low rates of anxiety/depression during fertility treatment.  Lower rates of depression and anxiety correlate to higher pregnancy rates.  So, it stands to reason that spiritual women should have more pregnancies.

In the beginning, when couples walk through the door to the infertility Bible study, the men look apprehensive, and the women, fragile to the point of tears.  But that changes.  Over the course of the study, they come to realize the wisdom of letting go of (the illusion of) control.  They learn the value of being still and listening for God.  And with that understanding comes peace in the midst of uncertainty.

I can literally see the change occur.  Body language goes from self-protective – arms crossed, gazes averted, huddled close to their spouse – to open, relaxed, and receptive.  The real change is occurring in the spirit, but it is reflected in the unspoken language of the body.  That change indicates God’s growing presence, which creates new possibilities.

So, is the study right in its prediction that these increasingly spiritual women have more pregnancies?  I’d have to say, yes.  And no.  Yes, because experience has shown me—again and again and again—that those who see infertility as an invitation to draw nearer to God, and who respond to that invitation, are likely to become parents.  But no, because sometimes the result is not a pregnancy; sometimes, it is an adoption.

Here’s the important thing:  that is no less a miracle.

I don’t say that as a Pollyanna.  I’m not advocating, “be happy about failure,” or “suck it up and compromise.”  I’m saying, make a paradigm shift.  Recognize that, sometimes, God calls couples to steward a soul who comes into their life in a different way than they might have expected.  That’s not defeat; that’s a different plan for victory.  And it is no less a gift.

Are those couples disappointed?  Truthfully?

“Alumni” couples often return to the Bible study to talk to current participants about their experiences.  One entire class is devoted to hearing from adoptive parents.  They speak with conviction about their certainty that their particular child belongs with them:  “God chose him for us,” “We knew as soon as we held her that she was meant to be our daughter.”  In some cases, they also share stories of the effect the adoption had on the birth parent(s).

With loving grace, I suggest to you:  let go of your vision of how this story will unfold, and when.  Give God as much room as possible to work in your story.  He wants to give you His very best.  He wants to create a pinwheel of blessing, and it may touch souls you don’t even know.

Will you make way for that possibility?

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Surviving a “Tsunami”

Sometimes, it’s hard for self-reliant women to admit their limitations — especially if they think they’re addressing them successfully. It can take a true tsunami event to knock them off their feet and force them to cry out for the help they need.

That’s what happened to Cindy.

Five and a half years ago, she and her husband began trying to conceive. The only sign of hope was a single chemical pregnancy. At 35, Cindy knew they couldn’t wait indefinitely. They needed to find a fertility specialist. So, they got a referral and met with their new doctor right away.

Meanwhile, Cindy realized she was going to need support. Her escalating stress level would not help their relationship or contribute to their success conceiving. She found three sources of support:  one clinical, one peer/social, and one spiritual.

Her clinical support came from a therapist recommended by her RE. In the therapist’s office, Cindy noticed a RESOLVE newsletter; a few months later, she sought out their local support group. And through RESOLVE, she heard about a prayer group for infertile women and began participating. She thought her proactive response to her circumstances would be more than enough to counter the ups and downs of the infertility journey.

But, she was wrong.

At lunch with a friend, hoping to confirm a pregnancy very soon, she suddenly began bleeding. “I wanted to crawl under the covers and cry all afternoon,” she recalls. She rushed home. Instead of finding quiet and privacy, she got more bad news from her husband, “Your cousin Casey just died from an overdose.”

That’s when the tsunami hit. It was a tidal wave of grief beyond anything she’d ever experienced. She lost it completely. Frightened by her reaction and unsure how to help, Scott called the therapist in a panic. What could he say to help her? What should he do?

As the therapist was advising Scott, Cindy had realized she couldn’t take any more. “That’s when I knew I had to give it to God. I told Him, ‘I can’t do this on my own. I need you to take over!”

Cindy looks back on that moment as a critical turning point.

Now the mother of a little girl and pregnant with twins, she says, “IVF worked for us, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone. The thing I’ve realized is that, even though it can last for years, infertility is ultimately a temporary situation. It’s not the final word. I know people who are using donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogates…. I know people who are adopting. There are so many ways to become a family.”

How did Cindy’s tsunami moment change her perspective? “My faith in God was renewed. I asked Him to take the wheel and be the pilot, and He did. I promised that, at some point, I’d help other people through the emotional aspects of this. I’ve kept that promise and led a peer group through RESOLVE for two years now. I preach to everybody. I tell them, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There will be a happy ending for you!’ And I believe it.”

What did infertility teach her about relating to other women struggling through infertility? “First of all, we have an instant bond because even though no two stories are alike, the struggle to become a parent is the same. Infertility has also taught me to hold my tongue when I can’t relate to someone else’s struggle. I just say, ‘I’m sorry you’re going through that.’ And, it’s helped me find a voice I didn’t know I had.  I’m not political by any means, but I was asked to speak about IVF rights at the state capitol. That’s an important legacy for my children. One day, I’ll tell them, “I fought for you twins to be born, and (to my oldest) for your right to be a big sister.”

Having survived her own “tsunami,” what advice does Cindy have to offer? “Remember that God is at the wheel and you are in good hands. And remember that you are not alone as long as you seek support from others going through the journey.”

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For more information about RESOLVE and peer-led support groups, please visit www.resolve.org.

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To the Ones Who Can Change Things….

Have you ever sat through a church service wondering why nothing you’re hearing speaks to your infertility journey? Or struggled through a baptism wondering if you’ll be able to hold back the tears? Have you ever left a couples’ Sunday school class because you don’t fit in with effortlessly fertile people? Or hustled up the side aisle of the sanctuary because you cannot hear one more word about a ‘family church’ where are all welcome, and everyone finds a place?

Welcome to the club.

The bad news is that you can’t help but be a member of this club if you’re in the midst of the infertility journey. Every church of every denomination seems unable to find a way to acknowledge your struggle, much less meet your needs.

Is that impossible to change? I don’t think so. Will it take a herculean effort on someone else’s part? Nope; just a little-bitty one on yours.

Here’s my idea.

I’ve written an open letter to Faith Leaders, and I’m asking you to deliver it. Email it directly to your ministry team and sign your name, or tuck it anonymously into an offering plate. It doesn’t matter which. Just do it at least once (more than once isn’t a bad idea). Get it in the hands of the right people – and give them what they need to help you make your way to parenthood.

Not sure it’ll change anything? Think of it this way:  the worst that can happen is status quo. But maybe, they’ll listen and learn. And wouldn’t that be a blessing?

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Dear Faith Leader,

In the midst of your congregation are infertile couples longing for help and hope. I am reaching out to you as one of them.

We come here searching for the God who put the dream of parenting in our hearts. As His representative, we look to you for inspiration, wisdom and guidance. Sadly, more often than not, we come away from worship feeling invisible, discouraged, and as if we don’t belong here.  We know that is not God’s desire, and it is not your intention. So, here’s what we ask of you:

1)      See Us – Recognize that 1-in-every-6 couples struggles with infertility issues. Not just women; men, too.  Because of social stigma, we are hesitant to self-identify… but we are here.

2)      Acknowledge Us – It is painful to sit in the pew and hear messages that presume we are not present or not emotionally vulnerable. We are in your midst during baptisms, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, children’s choir performances… all the reminders of what we desperately want but do not have. Please don’t ignore our suffering. Speak a word of hope to those of us who would give anything to be part of these special events.

3)      Inspire Us – Scripture is full of hope-giving words. Speak them over us! Are you not sure how they apply to our circumstances?Read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples. According to Columbia Seminary President Dr. Stephen Hayner, “It invites couples on a journey of hope and healing of the kind only God can give. It is a book for struggling couples, and for those of us who love them and often don’t know what to say or do. I’m so thankful for this resource! May God use it mightily.”

4)      Walk With Us – Do more than talk the talk. Make this journey alongside us, offering the comfort of your steady presence. Pray for us, reach out to us, listen to us, connect us with other infertile couples… show us you are not afraid to be fully present with us in this. Face each challenge next to us, ready to show by example how we can live into God’s promises as we make our way toward parenthood.

5)      Support Us – Statistically speaking, we are not the only infertile couple in this congregation. There are others who need the same kind of help and hope we long to receive. Please consider launching a support group for infertile couples. All the resources you need can be found on the PregnantWithHope.com website. And if you choose to lead us, there are hundreds of blog posts on PregnantWithHope.wordpress.com that can help you better understand our struggles – and the kind of messages that can renew our faith and restore our joy.

Please give this serious consideration.

Your grateful congregant

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