Friday, March 30, 2012

How Am I Really

"Hey! How are you?"

Such a commonly asked question, from strangers and close friends alike. What's your reflex response? Mine is always "Good!" usually followed by repeating the question back to the person.

I respond this way without even thinking. In fact, I've been the initiator and stated the first question without much care of getting a response, it's more of a social courtesy as opposed to ignoring my co-worker as we pass in the hallway. Have you noticed how people don't seem to wait for a response before continuing to walk by? I'm guilty of it too.

It doesn't matter if I've had a good or bad day, my reflex response is "Good!". But there are moments when I'm asked that question, where even though I respond "Good!", my heart screams something different.

So what is the right way to respond? I toil with this thought sometimes. Is it better to just put on a fake smile and reply "Good!" even though my true state of feelings reflect something quite other than "Good!"? Or does that make me a liar? Should I dodge the question with something like, " are you?" Or do I let the truth of my feelings come out, however they may? "I'm struggling a lot right now because I really want to be a mother, but it's just not God's plan yet." (And because I sometimes have sin in my heart, my thoughts and feelings are not stated quite that nicely.)

I'm sure the right way to respond may depend on the audience. I would not feel comfortable divulging such personal detail to a co-worker or stranger, but when it's an acquaintance maybe the line starts to blur a bit. Maybe the best response is simply that "I'm hanging in there."

I'm so thankful for our friends and family who support us through prayer and love. I feel comfortable being honest with them when I'm asked that question, and trust them enough to share my deeper struggles.

So here's to honesty and truth. How am I? No, Really?

I am not okay. I am weak, sad, and tired of waiting. I struggle with thoughts of envy and bitterness sometimes when I think of friends who have already had children. I feel paranoid that every time I log onto Facebook or attend church that I'm about to find out yet another friend is pregnant. I feel angry when I hear parents complaining about their children. I feel angry when I hear a pregnant woman complaining about her pregnancy. I feel guilty for thinking such sinful thoughts. I feel scared that I'm being left behind while the world is allowed to move on without me. I feel scared at the dark thoughts and What If's like, what if I never bear my own child? What if something is seriously wrong with my body? I feel alone.

But the GOOD NEWS is that I'm not alone. I may feel alone and left behind, but that feeling is a lie that springs from either the enemy or my own sinful nature. The truth is that even though I gave up hope a long time ago, God was there for me and took over when I needed Him to. I am weak, but He is forever strong. I am sad, but He is pure joy. I fell to my knees, broken-hearted, long ago, and God was there, catching every tear I shed, and picked me up, and has carried me ever since. My hope is in Him. My joy is in Him. I am never alone.

It hasn't been easy in the least. To be where I am today, being carried through this trial by my Savior, required me to relinquish control and surrender my all to Him. There was such freedom from that moment on. The dark thoughts still try to creep in daily, but He is right there, willing and ready to chase those thoughts away, as long as I make the decision to surrender them to Him and ask Him to help me. He is so beautifully faithful. Rest all your worries, fears, and your deepest heart's desires in Him, and He will never fail you, never let you go.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Glory to God

When something good happens in your life, do you remember to give God the glory? How about when something bad happens, do you turn to God and ask "Why did you let that happen?!"

I used to view life's events in this hot and cold sort of manner, or worse, when something good would happen in my life, it would be days or weeks later that I would remember to give the credit to God. I think as your typical over-achiever, I had a certain amount of pride that wanted to take all the credit for myself in my accomplishments. "Well, I'm the one who studied so hard for that test, so I'm the one who earned the high grade." It's admittedly a very selfish and naive point-of-view.

It felt awkward for me at first to give the glory of my accomplishments to God in the moment. For some reason I felt almost silly or childish expressing the words "Praise God for [fill in the blank]!" But eventually it became easier for me to make that my first response.

Now, in the midst of infertility, I have learned all the more reason to give all glory to God. After all, it is only He who has the ability to create life.

This is hard for me when friends or family make unsolicited suggestions. I know they mean well, and perhaps really do feel led by the Lord to pass along the said advice. But what always alarms me when I'm told a specific suggestion is when the person says, "You should try [insert advised medical procedure or alternative practice] because it worked for my [insert relational descriptor like friend, cousin, sister, etc.]" You see, the practice or procedure is not what was successful in the conception of a life - God allowed that procedure to work and He chose for the life to be conceived.

It all comes down to: What are you placing your faith and hope in? The procedure or the one and only Holy God?

I do believe that God has granted the human race with wisdom and knowledge to develop these medical practices that are used to promote conception of a life, but their efforts are completely futile without God being in the picture. They do not work by themselves. God allows those procedures, at certain times, according to His perfect timing and will, to become the avenue through which He creates life.

Don't limit yourself into thinking that you needed the procedure in order to conceive. God has the infinite power to conceive a child in your womb at any time, without the help from modern or alternative medicine. Give Him the credit He is due. If or when the procedure leads to a successful pregnancy, give ALL the glory to God - for allowing the creation of the procedure, and for using that procedure as the mechanism through which He created life according to His plan. As the Bible so frequently says, "To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Meeting

First and foremost, thank you so much to all those who prayed for this new ministry. Your support means so much to me.

The first meeting of Hope Does Not Disappoint was this past Friday. Overall, it went really well. It was a smaller group, which I thought was perfect for the first meeting - intimate enough so everyone could share their story and struggles. It was a time for uplifting and encouraging one another. I don't know if there is interest in meeting monthly or not, but I may set another date in about a month and go from there. In the meantime, I'd like to share what I took away from the meeting...

I think the biggest lesson I learned was a great reminder about truth. And even though it's a hard truth to accept, it is the truth no less.

The truth is that we, as believers in Christ, will inevitably endure suffering and face obstacles in our mortal lives. As I've mentioned in a previous blog post, it is not so much why you suffer, but rather how you suffer -- how do you handle yourself through suffering? This is what sets us believers apart from the world.

Philippians 1:29
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake

The pastors present at the meeting reminded me that there is no such milestone a person reaches where things will finally be perfect, except of course passing away and entering the kingdom of God. In this mortal life, it is a lie to believe all the "If only's". Single people who desperately want to get married will not attain a life of perfect happiness by finally getting married. Married couples who desperately want children will not attain a life of perfect happiness by finally bearing children. And so on, and so on...

It's easy for me to get caught up in the milestone of achieving pregnancy, like once that happens, all will be right with the world. But the wisdom shared Friday night reminded me that that is not the truth, and not at all the perspective God wants me to have about this or any other issue in my life. Only He can truly satisfy and only after I'm reunited with Him for all eternity will my life become perfect. Until then, I will face trials and tribulations. I will face heartache and pain. I will suffer because Christ also suffered. Thankfully, mortal life also contains moments of pure joy, and if I am blessed to become pregnant, that will be such a moment. But I should strive to never forget that at any moment, any one of us could be called home, so I should not base my happiness in pregnancy, having children, my husband, my job - anything but God.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, March 23, 2012


How does being embarrassed about something affect you? For me, my cheeks turn red, little beads of sweat start to form, and I keep analyzing the situation over and over in my head, trying to convince myself that either A) No one saw it, or I will never see those people again in my life, so stop worrying about it; or B) Everyone is clumsy sometimes, so stop worrying about it. Easier said (or thought) than done! I tell myself those things, but my ego still feels embarrassed for a little while.

Since it's Friday, I'll throw in some humor by sharing a personal example. We have started to ride our bikes and take our dogs with us to get a bit more energy out. Since they are quite energetic, we have to take them in separate directions so they don't feed off of one another or compete to see who can go the fastest. You see the sweet, angelic looking German Shepherd to the right? That's Abby, and she's a Mama's girl, so Abby and I usually pair up for these aforementioned bike rides. If we were smart, we'd invest in something like this:

But we haven't. (And by the way, if we did buy such a thing, I don't want to even think of the bike disaster awaiting me. It would probably end up on the evening news for worst bike crash ever!)

So my strategy was (note the past tense, ha ha) to hold the leash loosely with one hand while holding onto the handlebars. We have done this several times successfully, without incident. I guess that's why they say it only takes one time...

Abby and I had just turned around to head back home (I've ridden horses all my life, I should have known better than to let my guard down when heading in the direction of home!) when Abby started to speed up. A lot. Imagine this, with one dog:

With that speed-thirsty look on her face too. Needless to say I, well, became unstable. But instead of just letting go of the leash to regain my balance, for some reason I had it in my mind that the leash was breakable or something because that was the only thing I held onto. (Until I hit the ground and it broke my hold on the leash!) Abby knew immediately when I started to get unstable that she shouldn't have sped up, so when I finally let go of the leash, she sulked back to me and sat down with an "Oops, my bad..." look on her face. Luckily, I was not seriously hurt, just a minor scrape on my shoulder and knee, but the worst injury was my ego. I was really embarrassed at my clumsiness (yet again). Fortunately for my pride, no one saw it. Score!

I bet it would have been quite the sight though. :)

But what about shame? How is shame the same/different than embarrassment? After a quick Google search (Webster who?), embarrassment is defined as a feeling of self-consciousness whereas shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress. Shame sounds a bit more serious to me.

So now I'll ask, how does feeling shame affect you? For me, I want to hide. Maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally.

I have learned that there is a lot of shame through infertility. Not that experiencing infertility is a shameful thing, but rather that those in the midst of it tend to feel shame. Why? I think the root of it is the feeling that my body isn't working properly, and so I am tempted to feel ashamed, inadequate, and unworthy. It's a painful feeling, as opposed to feeling embarrassed. After all, weren't women created to bear children?

Yes and no. Yes, our bodies were created with the physical capability to bear children and propagate the earth. But that is not WHY women were created. I know, it's very easy to forget the truth when Satan is pouring buckets of lies into your thought pathway. But here's the truth:

Genesis 2:18
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."

First, women were created to become a helper to their husband. That means the top priority (after loving and serving the Lord) is to love and help your husband. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, in the moment you decide you want to have children, it's so easy to lose track of your other roles in life. But God does not want you to forsake your husband for your children or future children. Take joy in loving the man God has given you to be your earthly protector, provider, and leader. Even if he is not the best at expressing his feelings about the infertility journey you're on, remember that he's in the midst of this with you. He's struggling with feelings of shame and doubt as well. He just may express or show it in different ways than you (i.e., I doubt you'd find him sobbing on your closet floor in a fetal position...not that I would know what that's like either *wink*)

And don't give into the thoughts of feeling shame about your body and how it does or does not function. We are all fallen creatures, with broken bodies while we are mortal. But take comfort that it will not always be this way.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Psalm 139:13-14
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

God is all-powerful. He made your earthly body and will make your heavenly body. He has the power to heal if He chooses to. On Tuesday nights, we attend a Bible study that has been studying the miracles of Christ, many of which are healings. Michael put the thought out there last Tuesday that he wonders if there were lots of people who were present near Christ who were not healed. Because Christ chose not to. Does that make Christ unfair?

I don't think it's a matter of fairness. Fairness is a result of our sinful nature feeling entitled to receive certain things. It's tough for me to swallow, but I am not entitled to receive my own biological child. No matter how a child enters the world, it's 100% a gift from God. I may never experience pregnancy for myself. We may end up adopting our child and growing our family in that way instead. It's all uncertain, but don't be tempted to think of it in terms of what's fair.

I know it's hard, but you have a choice to make. If God chooses to never heal your physical body to allow for conception and birth of your biological child, will you still love and follow Him? There is no shame in what you're going through. It doesn't make you incomplete or any less of a woman. Believing otherwise is believing in lies. I may never understand why some people go through infertility and never get to experience the joy of having biological children, but it's up to me to choose my attitude about that end result. So what do you choose to believe?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Art of Waiting

Everyone at some point in their lives has to wait for something. For a bus or a plane. For a holiday or vacation to arrive. To grow up. To finish school. To fall in love. To get married. To hear back about a potential job. To have children. We've all experienced different degrees of waiting (short-term, long-term).

How do you handle yourself while you wait? Do you obsess about time and how slowly it appears to be passing? Do you try to take your mind off of the waiting? What if the thing you're waiting for does not have a set day or time that it will arrive?

For me, waiting is really, really hard. It's like the ending scene of When Harry Met Sally, when Harry professes his love to Sally and says "And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

As soon as I realized that I wanted to be a mom, I was ready for that chapter of my life to begin immediately. Obviously it did not work out that way. I have spent 17 months hoping, praying that I would finally be able to begin that chapter, but the Lord's answer has consistently been "Wait."

Why is waiting so hard? Is it only as hard as your lack of patience? If I were more of a patient person, would this trial be easier to bear? I'm guessing the answer would be no, it wouldn't be any easier. Waiting is mentioned frequently in the Bible. I think God uses the uncertainty associated with waiting to build faith in His children.

Job 6:11
What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should endure?

Psalm 69:3
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.

But God is with His children, always and forever, even while we wait. It may feel like God has forgotten about you, or does not see your suffering, but He does - it's just not yet time for the waiting to end. But He is ever-present to give you the strength you need to get through it. And the reward for your faithfulness is great and honoring to Him.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Psalm 33:20
Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.

Psalm 39:7
And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.

Psalm 62:5
My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.

Psalm 130:5
I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Lamentations 3:25
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

I know for me, this time of waiting for the hope of future blessings of children makes me feel a conflicting emotion towards time. Time feels like it's c.r.a.w.l.i.n.g. ever so slowly. I feel like, "Enough already! I've waited plenty long enough..." But when I think about how much time has already passed, it's kind of scary. I pretty much wasted most of 2011 focusing on a heart of despair. I was unhappy at my job because all I really wanted to do with my life is be a mom, like that was my one and only purpose that could possibly define who I am. The year 2011 flew by because I let it go to waste. So that's the conflict, it feels like time passes slowly, but when I look back, it's crazy how much time is already behind me. It's hard for me to believe that I've been waiting for children for 17 months.

Thankfully, nearing the end of 2011, I began to climb out of my pit of despair. I realized that being a mom is not what defines me. I am me. I am first and foremost God's daughter. I am a wife. I am a daughter, grand daughter, niece, cousin, sister-in-law, and friend. My heart's desire is to be a mom someday, but even when that happens, just like now before I'm a mom, my purpose is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul. So that renewal of my spirit helped me to re-focus my heart and mind on things above. To stop looking at time as the enemy and obsess about my age and whatnot. To stop wasting the precious time given to me today. I made it my mission to grow as a wife, grow in my God-led ministries, and stop looking at everything in my life through a negative, depressing filter of "If only I had a child, I would [fill in the blank]..."

Time is a gift from God. He created it, He allowed Himself to be bound by it for a time during Jesus' life, and He designed us to be bound by it until we are reunited with Him in heaven. Make the most of the time you have, even if your heart's desires are not yet realized. Don't believe the lies Satan tries to sell you that time matters so much more than it really does, putting undue pressure and stress on yourself. Time is not the enemy. Age is only a number, nothing more. Instead focus on the age of your heart, the maturity of your character. Are you making the most of your time by your thoughts and actions? Are you fulfilling your true purpose in this life - loving the Lord and obeying His will in the present time?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lucky Number 8.5

I have a praise to share!

On March 2nd I had my blood tested for the second time to see what my progesterone level is (it was my cycle day 22). Dr. H. herself called me this past Friday to tell me the result, that my progesterone looked normal, at 8.5. (The first time I had it tested in summer 2011 with my former OB/GYN it was 7. Then I went to Dr. S. who put me on daily progesterone cream to help supplement my low level.) According to the medical profession, a mid-luteal progesterone level for non-pregnant women is about 8-10, so I'm in the normal range now.

This result was encouraging to hear. However, this also means that there is still no medical explanation for our lack of conceiving children.

But I'm okay with that. I'm thankful that everything in our bodies appears to be healthy and working properly. So perhaps there is only a spiritual explanation for our situation - that the Lord is still wanting to grow us during this time, and that He is still using us as pre-parents to serve His kingdom, so our time of waiting isn't "done yet". We still feel at peace with waiting, and not pursuing any medical options (IUI, etc.).

Our prayer requests:
*Endurance through waiting
*Patience for God's plan, whenever it will unfold
*Be open to God's will, whatever it may be and however it unfolds
*Inextinguishable hope and joy, especially when tempted with doubts, fears, and worries
*Purposefulness during this time of waiting

Thank you all for your love and support!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

Prior to the start of our journey, I vaguely knew that infertility existed. I was aware, but not truly aware. It's like you sort of know what cancer is like, but until you or a close friend or family member have gone through it all and you've seen up close all that it entails, you don't really "get it." At least that's how it is for me. And that's exactly how infertility was too.

Thinking back, I knew of several women who struggled with infertility. I knew them while they were still waiting, still hurting, still hoping for a child. I was in Sunday school with them. I was in Bible studies with them. I worked with them. And I never. said. anything.

I don't recall offering any encouragement, or telling them I'd be praying for them. Worse yet, I don't recall actually praying for them. I was completely insensitive to it. Not maliciously so, just naive and failing to understand the depth of the pain.

In essence, I was blind. I failed to truly see how each and every day that passed in their lives was spent battling between hope and hopelessness. Between a heart's desire and a lost dream. I was blind to the reality of how slowly time must have felt like to them. While it flew by from my perspective, it likely felt like it was crawling to them.

I carelessly asked people, "So...when are you guys planning to have kids?" Michael and I would make our plans and say things like, "He'll graduate and then we'll have kids." As if it's all a choice you make for yourself.

James 4:13-16
13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

For me, this thought did not truly sink in before our journey began. Sure, I would mumble something along the lines of "If He wills..." but my heart was not speaking it. I was still on the Pill, making it my plan that no, at this time we will NOT have children. And then the moment we decided to stop using protection, that is now the moment we will have children. So much pride! Clueless, naive, silly pride.

But then...

Acts 9:18
And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight

My eyes were opened. I experienced first-hand the shock, disappointment, and pain of that first negative pregnancy test. And the next one. And the next one. And so on for 16 times so far. I've watched friends announce their pregnancies and then welcome their newborns - all within the time frame of our journey. Each day I battle with thoughts of hope and joy versus despair and gloom. Every time I encounter one of those unexpected moments, I have to work really hard (rather, God is working hard in me) to conquer the negative thoughts that strive to take over. It's literally every day of my life, several times within each day, that I go to battle.

But the truth is that I'm so thankful to finally be able to see. I despise the fact that I used to be so clueless about it. I would not go back and trade this experience if I could. I love all that I've learned from this. I love that I can truly relate to other women going through this. It's a sisterly bond that cannot be topped by much else that life throws our way. This journey reminds me to pray so much more often than I ever did before. Praise the Lord for giving me the ability to see this all clearly now!

Of course, if He asked me today if I'm ready to be done with this journey, I would say yes of course! But only if His will is accomplished through me already. I want to wait for the exact child He desires me to have. Not a moment sooner. No matter how hard it is each and every day to wait, I will wait. And I will praise Him as I wait. Just like one of my favorite songs. There may be a few tears shed along the way, but I will continue to praise Him through this, in awe of all that He is working out for good.

For those reading this going through a trial - whether infertility or something different - are you able to praise God in the midst of it? Can you see clearly what He is teaching you through it?

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Little Friday Humor

I've seen these types of photo collections circulating around the internet about various professions, so I decided to make this one for all my fellow infertile friends out there. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Always Be Ready For The Unexpected

This morning served as a fine example and reminder that I should always be on guard, in protecting my heart, that is.

Proverbs 4:23
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.

I was sitting at my desk at work, and all of a sudden I hear a baby crying (an odd sound to hear in my office building). It turned out that a co-worker of mine brought her newborn for a visit.

"Ya Gotta See Tha Baby!" (Seinfeld reference in case you were wondering. Watch a short video clip of it here.)

It wasn't really that exaggerated, but there is always a certain amount of pressure to oogle over a baby. Selfishly, I wanted to sit at my desk and ignore their presence, but I didn't. I chose to pray instead, for strength to get through that moment. I think something that also helped me get through it was the fact that this co-worker had previously struggled with infertility, so I know she has been in my situation before. I appreciated her not "throwing her baby in my face," but instead was talking with other co-workers down the hall, so the choice was mine to come out and visit or not. Thankfully, the Lord gave me strength to get through seeing and holding the baby.

But it got me thinking how often "the unexpected" crosses my daily path. Maybe I'm just now noticing anything and everything baby-related since I've begun to struggle with infertility, but I also think maybe some of the unexpected is a spiritual battle in a sense.

Other examples that I'm often (if not daily) faced with:
  • On our route to work there is a billboard for a local hospital, advertising that they "deliver", and it shows a picture of a baby
  • While watching Hulu, there have been several baby-related commercials even though I repetitively click the "No, not relevant to me" button
  • I've been asked if I'm pregnant 3 times in the past, I'm not just fishing for a compliment, but do I really look pregnant?? I don't think so! But it has caused me to stop wearing the said shirt I was wearing, just in case...
  • Random sightings - like my example from this morning, or while at the store, it never fails that I'll cross paths with someone who's pregnant or who has a baby (or more)
  • Social media - Pinterest is the worst in that respect. There's nothing you can do to avoid seeing baby-related things except to Unfollow the person (which can stink if you like some of the other things they often pin). Facebook is a close runner-up on the worst too. Some friends love to post a zillion pictures of their baby, or worse, all their status updates are negative/complaints about how hard it is to be pregnant, or to take care of a newborn. When did Facebook become the virtual complaint department of the world??
I've had to learn that it's okay to protect my heart. You shouldn't feel guilty about doing so! It's OK to decline going to a baby shower (or going and visiting "tha baby"). It's OK to hide certain friends on Facebook from your News Feed so that you aren't subjected to their constant complaining about pregnancy or infant "woes" or dozens of pictures of their babies. It's OK to spend less time with friends who you struggle to be around if your heart is at stake. It's OK!

Remember that when you are tempted, God always provides a way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

In those moments when you are faced with "the unexpected," take action to protect your heart. And PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! God will get you through it.