Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Ignore Us

This week, April 22nd-29th is National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sex, or the inability to carry a child to full-term.

Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples. So whether you are struggling with infertility, or just know someone who is, I challenge you to spread the word about this suffering that is often kept too silent.

My goal for this week is to educate those around me who do not know much about infertility, so that they can be better informed and hopefully more sensitive and empathetic to people they may know who are impacted by infertility.

I have previously written a blog post specifically about sensitivity, but yesterday was the Family Planning Panel in our Sunday School class and it was so refreshing to hear from another couple who struggled with infertility for 4 years, and thankfully now have two children. Her wisdom and tips for friends of infertile couples have inspired me to re-summarize some thoughts here too.

Emotional Struggles of Infertile Couples
In this section I want to shed some light on how couples who struggle with infertility may find themselves feeling or struggling - take this moment to put yourself in their shoes. The following list is comprised of emotions that infertile couples struggle with quite often, even though deep down we know we should have a joyful and hopeful heart. The enemy loves to use the following emotions to lead us into the pit of despair.
  • Forgotten - It's easy to feel forgotten and ignored. When you first learn about a couple who's struggling, you're likely to reach out to comfort them often at the beginning, but over time, as months and months pass, their struggle may slowly move to the back of your mind. Infertile couples may start to perceive that people ask them less often how they're doing or how they can be prayed for. How You Can Help: I encourage you to continue telling your infertile friend that you love them, care for them, and are praying for them. Remember that for infertile couples, this is something we struggle with monthly, weekly, daily, hourly.
  • Inadequate - Because our bodies are not producing what everyone else's are so easily able to (it's not true, but appears that way), infertile couples can struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Shame and guilt also play a role here too - as if we had made better choices, or done certain things, perhaps we wouldn't be in our infertile situation. How You Can Help: Encourage your infertile friend that he/she is NOT inadequate. That their infertility is NOT a result of past sin or a failure on their part - remind him/her that this is out of their control entirely, therefore the "blame" for infertility is certainly not their own.
  • Sadness/Depression -This may apply more so to the wife of an infertile couple, but each month the woman rides a roller coaster of emotion: begins with hope in the "fresh start" of her cycle, hoping and praying that intercourse is timed successfully (or procedure is successful) around ovulation, then waiting and hoping during the "two week wait" (but trying not to get your hopes too high or read too much into possible early pregnancy symptoms), and then when her period starts, it's a very sad time of mourning and crying because it's a big, red slap in the face that you are in fact not pregnant this month either. This cycle repeats this way month after month, year after year. How You Can Help: Ask your infertile girl-friend where she is in her cycle (so you know what stage of the roller coaster she's on), and encourage her to keep her chin up no matter what. Remind her that she won't be struggling with this forever. And tell her you're praying for her (and actually pray for her!) If she's really struggling with the onset of her period, take her out for a drink or some ice cream to help cheer her up. The best thing you can do is just be there for her and encourage her.
  • Bitter-Sweet - When friends of the infertile couple become pregnant or have children, it's a very bitter-sweet emotion for the infertile couple. On the one hand, we are SO happy for the friend because we truly recognize and appreciate the blessing that children are. But on the other hand, we feel sad that it's not our time yet to experience pregnancy and children. Others being pregnant or having children also reminds us that we do not have that blessing yet. It can very painful as we deal with those conflicting emotions. How You Can Help: Use discretion when talking about your pregnancy or children. See my tips below in the section "When Announcing Your Pregnancy to an Infertile Couple".
  • Impatience - Who likes waiting for long periods of time for something they desperately want? Not me! And certainly not other infertile couples. Although on some level we are glad that we can still go on spontaneous dates, we also really, really, really want children. Like, yesterday! With infertility there is SO MUCH WAITING! You not only wait month-to-month as each cycle proves unsuccessful in conceiving a child, but you also wait within the month's cycle for certain milestones to occur (ovulation, two week wait) - the end result is you feel almost as if each day drags slowly by. How You Can Help: Pray for your infertile friends to have more patience, and encourage them with Scripture and other words of wisdom that the waiting will not last forever and challenge them to use this time of waiting for God's glory and good, to not let this time go to waste. Do NOT say things like "Well, at least you can get a full night's sleep, have a quiet house and time to yourselves."
  • Worries/Doubts/Fears - This is the biggest struggle for me personally, which the enemy frequently and most often uses to get me to lose hope. It's so easy for me to dwell on a worrisome or fearful thought. It can be as tiny as "Am I drinking enough water everyday...maybe if I drink even more water, that will help me get pregnant." So many different thoughts can trigger these emotions. The tiniest thing can trigger a mountain of emotion. And with a person averaging about 3,000 thoughts per day, it's no wonder why this is my biggest struggle! When I start to dwell on a thought like this, it can be really hard to snap myself out of it even after praying and reading the Word. The same thought can be recurring too. How You Can Help: Speak truth to your infertile friends when they express their worries/fears/doubts. If they say something like "What if I have some terrible disease that I haven't been tested for yet, and I'm sitting here trying to get pregnant and have no idea that this disease is making it difficult to, and I could be getting treatment if I only knew about it..." Speak truth that God is bigger and greater than anything and everything. If the friend is truly worried about it, you can encourage them to see a specialist, but always remind them that God is ultimately in control and that God makes the impossible possible, as He has shown us in His Word time and time again. Also pray for your infertile friends to have strength to overcome those fears and doubts and surrender them to God.
  • Anger/Frustration - Infertile couples often struggle with anger and frustration. Sometimes these emotions are directed inwardly at themselves because they're just plain angry that they're stuck in the infertility situation that they're in and want answers. Now! But anger and frustration can also be directed at others who either knowingly or unknowingly say/do something to offend them. How You Can Help: Encourage them that it's okay to be angry. But don't let that anger become a stumbling block in their walk with the Lord. Remind them that the Lord is not ignoring their prayers, and to not give up. And remind them that when offended by other people, it's a wonderful opportunity to express grace and forgiveness even when an apology is not given. Also refer to the section below called "Do's and Don'ts of Comfort- and Advice-Giving" to hopefully avoid being the target of offense.
Do's and Don'ts of Comfort- and Advice-Giving
  • DO tell your infertile friend you're praying for them
  • DO pray for your infertile friend (it's easy to say you'll be praying, but don't just speak empty words - actually follow through!)
  • DO encourage your friend through Scripture and wisdom
  • DON'T tell your friend that it's all in their head, they need to relax, or to stop thinking about it
  • DON'T tell the infertile couple that they should adopt or ask if they have considered adopting. Though adoption can be a beautiful journey on its own, it is NOT the same as having biological children.
  • DO ask the infertile couple how they're doing and how you can help (if at all)
  • DON'T ask the couple "Are you sure you really want kids?"
  • DON'T say careless things like "We'll enjoy marriage for 2 years and then we'll have 3 kids" or even just "When we have kids...." - Hopefully you won't learn the hard way, but there are no certainties, and with God, sometimes your plans mean squat.
  • DO empathize with the infertile couple - tell them "I'm so sorry you're going through this, that must be so incredibly hard."
  • DON'T pretend to empathize by saying something like "Oh my goodness, I totally understand how you took me three whole months to get pregnant with my second child."
  • DO hug your infertile friend
  • DO reassure and complement your infertile friend
  • DON'T "show off" your pregnancy or baby to your infertile friend (either in person or social media - consider how often you draw attention to yourself)
  • DON'T complain about your pregnancy or new-found parenthood
  • DON'T be offended if your infertile friend avoids going to your baby shower or meeting your baby
When Announcing Your Pregnancy to an Infertile Couple
  • Tell your infertile friends in private so that they can process the news in a private setting. The BEST way to tell your infertile friends you're expecting is via email/letter because when the friend receives your joyous news, he/she can process it on their own in the moment. The next best method would be via telephone. Your LAST RESORT should be telling them in person in private. And you should NEVER tell them in person, in a public setting.
  • If you plan to announce your pregnancy in a group/social setting (Sunday School, work, Facebook, Bible Study, even an email announcement sent to a group of people), you should always strive to tell the infertile friends privately beforehand via the method above. That doesn't mean you have to tell them before your family, but you should strive to avoid the "surprise" announcements in social settings by telling the infertile friends before you announce publicly in their presence or where they may quickly hear the news.
  • Never avoid telling the infertile friend you're pregnant, thinking you're hiding something or sparing the pain from them (after all, seeing you with a huge belly kind of gives it away). The chances are great that they will find out through mutual friends, and it would be way more hurtful if you left them out of the loop entirely instead of being sensitive, direct, and upfront in considering their feelings.
  • Try to avoid complaining about your pregnancy (or newborns/children) around your infertile friends. Here's a relevant example: Let's say you love chocolate. Really love it. But suddenly you found out that you are deathly allergic to chocolate. It would be really rude and inconsiderate of me to stand in front of you and talk and talk about the chocolate brownie I'm holding, and how good it tastes, and how gooey and warm and delicious it is. And it would be even more rude and thoughtless of me to hold said chocolate fudge brownie and complain about how it's not the right kind of chocolate, it's too warm or gooey, not enough sugar, makes me feel sick, etc.  Apply that same analogy to your pregnancy. Most infertiles, me included, would gladly throw up every day if it meant that we were carrying a child. So be careful that you do not come across as ungrateful or obnoxiously "showy". In fact, as tough as it may be, it may be most considerate for you to behave in such as way as if you were not pregnant around your infertile friends. If she wants to know how you're feeling, how your pants fit, if you've felt the baby move, know the gender, have an ultrasound picture etc. - she'll ask you. There's no need to throw any of those comments/pictures in her face.
  • Ask the infertile friend privately if they even want to receive a baby shower invitation. Each couple may feel differently. For us, I like to receive the invitation, but I'm most likely going to decline and just give you a gift in private some other time. Don't be offended if your infertile friend chooses not to come. It's not that she doesn't love you or isn't happy for you, but it's because baby showers are just too painful because the focus is 100% baby. It can feel very suffocating for infertile couples.
Remember my challenge for you this week to help spread the word about Infertility Awareness. Teach others around you about this painful struggle!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

While Sitting in the Waiting Room

This post's title can also be taken figuratively, but for today I mean it literally. This morning Michael and I both had dentist appointments, where mine was first and his following. The first thing the office assistants always hand us is a medical insurance and history update form.

On this form is a portion that asks if I am:
Pregnant/Trying to get pregnant
Taking oral contraceptives

A few months after we first began trying, we went to a dentist appointment, where I decided to select the Pregnant/Trying to get pregnant option.

But today marked my third time to continue selecting this option (18 months later). It's always strange because when they hand me the form, they've already pre-blackened the check box next to this option, so there's this momentary flutter in my stomach that the office may think I'm actually pregnant, but then I continue reading to the right of that word and quickly recall that this word is coupled with Trying to get pregnant. You may think it's silly, but it just makes me sad to keep selecting that. As if the office assistants actually read the forms and are anxiously waiting for me to get pregnant. Or that they're aware of how many times I've been selecting that option and are thinking, "Geez, lady, get pregnant already." Silly and most assuredly not true, I know. But it's hard to not think that in the moment. I think next time I will ask them to remove that selected option from my record (if in six months I'm not pregnant, but only still trying), to hopefully avoid this awkward thought.

After my appointment, while I was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for Michael's appointment to finish, I decided it was a good time to catch up on my Bible-reading plan that I missed over the weekend.

A young woman walked in and was speaking to the office assistants through the window (which was right next to where I was seated), filling out her forms and telling them which changes/updates need to be made. Maybe you've already guessed what's about to happen, but the last update she stated was, "Oh, and I'm pregnant."

It's silly. I don't know this woman in the least. A complete stranger. Not ill-intentioned. Just the wrong place, wrong time for me to be seated right there next to where she was announcing this update for her form. Immediately upon hearing this, my heart dropped. I really can't help it anymore - anytime I hear any form of the words "I'm pregnant", my heart drops and my spirit feels dejected. It's a reflex, pure and simple.

Thankfully, when this news was announced, my head was already down and my eyes were already reading in Psalms 34. Trying not to let this moment shake my hope or steal my joy, I forced myself to continue reading. Seconds later, I read Psalms 34:18-19:
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

The living Word brings comfort and peace to my soul when it's needed most. Hopefully I won't be sitting in this waiting room (meant figuratively now) for much longer. But while I'm waiting, I will take solace in the fact that the Lord is near my broken heart, he puts all my tears in a bottle, counting each one that is shed (Psalms 56:8). And most importantly, the Lord will deliver me from this pain one day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Life's Goliaths

No matter what trial you're facing right now in your life, I'm sure you can relate to a time when you felt so stuck in the valley of struggle that you wondered if you'd ever make it out. For me, that time is now.

So what's a person to do? Give up? Hopefully not. Despair, grumble, and complain? It may make you feel better for a brief moment, but it's not long-lasting. Pray? Often.

Sometimes you can be so deep in a valley of struggle that you feel maybe even God can't get you out. Of course, we all know that is a lie, but as one who is deep in a valley, it's hard to believe the Truth at times.

One thing that has been greatly helping me walk in this valley has been my self-discipline in sticking to my Bible-reading plan. As you've seen, there have been lots of examples of infertility in the Bible, which has helped encourage and inspire me after reading each and every unique, beautiful story. Isn't it amazing how you can read a story you've known since childhood that can speak differently to you each time?

Little side note here: I admit that I have never actually read the entire Bible in my lifetime. I've started many times before, but would often fail to stick with the plan once I reached the "law books" and would jump back to the New Testament because I felt it to be more inspiring. But this Bible-reading plan app on my phone has been quite the handy gadget telling me exactly which chapters to read each day. I also admit that I had some self-esteem issues as a child - I never enjoyed going to Sunday school as a child, and begged and begged my parents to not make me go, until finally they gave in and allowed me to always attend "big church" with them. (My dislike for Sunday school had much to do with feeling unaccepted and unliked by my peers.) So as a result of not attending childhood Sunday school, attending public school, and failing to stick with a reading plan in the past to read through the Old Testament entirely, here I am today, a grown, 27-year old woman who has never read for herself the classic stories such as David & Goliath. Sure, I had heard the story lots of times before, but never read it myself, in context with the other stories before that eventful day.

Back to my blog post topic...Today I was continuing to read in 1 Samuel, and I reached the chapters about David. Perhaps since I haven't read this story before, or perhaps it's just always amazing to read, I greatly enjoyed reading about the story of David & Goliath.

In 1 Samuel 16, the same Samuel mentioned in my previous post about Hannah, is grown and is a wise prophet in Israel, who helped appoint the first king, Saul. After Saul was disobedient to the Lord, God told Samuel to appoint a new king of God's choosing, so Samuel traveled to the city of Bethlehem (which is where Ruth and Naomi returned to, if you recall, so Ruth & Boaz's generations of children are from there).

In Bethlehem, Samuel inspects each of Jesse's sons (Jesse is the grandchild of Ruth & Boaz). Samuel suspected (wrongfully so) that the oldest of Jesse's sons would be chosen by God to be king, but the Lord replied to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

I love that part about how God sees not as man sees. It's true about life's struggles too isn't it? I know I have the tendency to look at my struggle and see it as a HUGE deal, like, "I can't believe God would let something SO difficult come upon me." But I have to remember that God sees my life completely different than I do. While I'm focusing on the outward appearances (no pregnancy yet, envying all the pregnant women and new moms around me), God is looking at the heart - not only at my heart, but the heart of my life's perspective. He sees how much He has already given me, and likely wonders why I'm so bent out of shape on not having this one thing.

So for the sake of feeling convicted about that, I'm taking this moment to give thanks to God for ALL that He has given me: eternal life, my husband, my family, my friends, my job, our home, our pets, providing above and beyond for our needs, for keeping us safe, healthy, for teaching us so many lessons through this struggle, for uniting my husband and me even more during this struggle, for hearing my prayers, seeing every drop of tears that's shed, for planning and caring for my future, for preparing me for that future, and for loving me enough to allow His Son to die for me.

1 Samuel 16 continues with David, the youngest, smallest, and least significant (from the world's standards) of Jesse's sons being chosen by God to be the next king (and to be part of Jesus' genealogy). Then in 1 Samuel 17, the Philistine, Goliath challenges Israel to choose a champion brave enough to fight him to the death. None step up, except David. The Israelites - the same people who were too cowardly to accept Goliath's challenge themselves - ridiculed David for his "foolish" claim that he could defeat Goliath. Goliath himself teased David when David approached him on the battlefield with nothing but a stick and stones.

But David, who fully knew and understood that he was as small as everyone teased, didn't let his size stop him - because he knew it wasn't his own efforts that would win this battle. He accepted Goliath's challenge so "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" - because think about it, what more proof would all those present that day need than to see a small man defeat a giant against all logical odds?

So while you're stuck deep down in your valley, where all logic and statistical odds tell you that you'll continue being stuck for a long time, remember that it's not your efforts that will get you out of that valley. It's the One who created all and is in all. Surrender to Him, ask for the help of His Holy Spirit, and allow Him to carry you out of the valley.

Today I'd like to leave you with some words of encouragement, sent to me by my dear friend.

When The Journey Gets Tough
By: Our Daily Bread
April 13, 2012

We should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. —2 Corinthians 1:9

In August 2009, Blair and Ronna Martin lost their energetic 9-year-old son Matti when he was dragged to his death by a family cow. I had a chance to meet this Kenai, Alaska, family and share in their grief. And I know how tough this tragedy has been for them.

I also know that they are seeking God’s care and comfort for their pain. An observation made by Matti’s mom is valuable for anyone walking through one of life’s valleys. During one of her down times, Ronna was reading 2 Corinthians 1:9, which says that “we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” She felt as if Jesus were telling her, “Ronna, I know the journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.”

When the journey gets too tough to navigate, 2 Corinthians 1:9 is a reminder to us that we don’t travel alone. We have the help of the One who showed us His power in the resurrection, and who will demonstrate His power again when He raises believing loved ones of all generations to eternal life. “My strength and my hope have to be in Christ alone,” Ronna said. That’s a truth we all need as we travel the journey God has for us. —Dave Branon

When life’s journey gets so difficult That it feels too much to bear, Just remember, we don’t walk alone— Our almighty God is there. —Sper

The storms of life remind us to take shelter in the loving arms of our Savior.

Monday, April 9, 2012


1 Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah. A man named Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not have children. Every year Elkanah would go worship and sacrifice to the Lord, and he would offer a double portion on behalf of Hannah:

1 Samuel 1:5-8
5 but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had closed her womb. 6 Her rival [Peninnah], however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

Take a moment to imagine yourself walking in her shoes.

Do you have a "rival" in your life - someone who consistently seems to say careless things that bring unwanted attention and reminders to your struggle with infertility? "It happened year after year." How malicious of a heart must Peninnah have had to provoke Hannah over and over again, knowing how deeply pained she was to have no children.

How do you deal with your rival? In Hannah's case, it seems she didn't have much choice other than to weep bitterly and face the pain of her situation. Perhaps that's your situation too - maybe there's a family member who plays the part of your rival. It's not like you can just disown your family. So how do you deal with a situation like that - where you're stuck, and have to face this person "year after year"?

I have not experienced this type of "I'm stuck" situation yet with someone that I could not escape from. I cannot imagine how painful it must be to face someone time after time who seems to be out to hurt me intentionally. But here is some brief advice if that is your situation:
  • Time Out or Apart - If possible, I strongly recommend taking a serious hiatus from spending any time with the rival person. If the rival just cannot learn to be sensitive to your pain (assuming they have been fully informed of your struggle), then time apart may be the best thing to protect your heart and offer a chance to salvage the relationship in the distant future (hopefully after your struggle has ended).
  • Needle Prick - This could be applied in virtually any situation where someone offends you, full-blown rival or good-intentioned stranger alike. When someone says something hurtful once, maybe it's best to let it go - give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Strike Two? Ok, just a little prick (you prick them, don't call them a prick, lol). Using your proper social upbringing tactics, make it clear that your feelings are hurt and that comment was what did it. The result is usually a change in subject, a sincere apology, or at the very least you have the satisfaction of seeing the open-mouth-insert-foot expression on their face. Examples? A) Respond with silence, no smile; B) "Um, we've actually been trying to have children for quite some time now and it's a very painful struggle."; C) "Thank you for your advice, but we both feel led to continue hoping and waiting on the Lord for children"; D) "I really appreciate you inviting me to your shower (or showing me a new picture of your baby), but I hope you can understand how painful my struggle with infertility is, and that it's just best for me to avoid those types of situations at this time."
  • Bring Out the Big Guns - If time apart is not an option (perhaps a co-worker or other relative you cannot avoid) and the Needle Prick didn't work, then let's get something straight: if the rival person does not have the "respect for person" character quality, then I think it's time for you to shoot right back - at least at first. Hear me out here, I know there are social manners to keep in mind, but sometimes there are people who flagrantly ignore those manners. When you have already attempted common social maneuvers to communicate that your feelings are hurt, and the message might as well have been spoken to a bamboo shoot, then it's time to be a little more blunt - or a lot more blunt, depending on the person. Know your audience. I have not had to use this tactic yet (thankfully), but I've sure thought of several zingers in my head (hey, it can't hurt to be prepared, can it? lol) Examples -- A) "Wow, that was incredibly rude of you to say that."; B) "You really hurt my feelings with what you just said..."; C) [To a chronic-complainer] "I'm certainly not perfect in this area, but I think it's worth pointing out how often I hear you complain about your baby [or pregnancy] -- I'm sure deep down you're grateful for your child, but as an outside listener, all I'm hearing is moaning and groaning, and from someone who is currently struggling with infertility, it's very hard for me listen to your complaints because I find it making me angry a lot of the time. I just think it's important for you to remember how much of a blessing children are, and that there are lots of women, me included, who would give anything to be in your shoes and have a baby."

The above advice is how I feel rivals should be dealt with: kindness and subtlety at first, but more blunt until it's effective. Do what works best for YOU and what you feel is still within your moral conduct. It never hurts to pray about a situation before trying any of the above.

Let's continue the story and see how the story of Hannah ends. One day Hannah went to the temple and poured out her soul before the Lord:

1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20
10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." ... 19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked him of the LORD."

Now, Hannah meant her vow literally - once she had weaned Samuel, she took him to the temple and gave him to the priest.

1 Samuel 1:27-28
27 "For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD."

That is a beautiful picture, is it not? To dedicate her son to the Lord. I'm guessing this is where the tradition of baby dedications comes from.

Lately I've been feeling like Hannah in the first part of the chapter. I don't have a rival that provokes me, per say, but I have been feeling attacked a lot more by the ultimate rival - Satan. I've found myself getting very discouraged easily (Is God ignoring my prayers? Does He even hear them?) and even with prayer and turning to the Word, I've been having a hard time getting back to a heart of joy and hope. I hope this is just a temporary low period, or better yet, I hope the reason I'm experiencing this attack is because the Lord has really been using me more in His kingdom, so I'm more "appealing" to Satan to try to take down and crush. It's a good thing God has my back. And Michael has been quite the encourager too, speaking truth to me when it's hard for me to tell what's truth and what are lies.

If you're in this struggle with me, stay encouraged my friend! Pray that the Lord will give you wisdom to discern which thoughts in your mind are truth and which are lies (I've been praying for this specifically lately). Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you with strength to reject the lies and focus your heart on God. These are certainly my prayer requests now. :)


If you have never read the book of Ruth, I encourage you to do so. It's a short book - four chapters - but it contains a wonderful story.

The story begins with tragedy: An Israelite man, woman (Naomi), and their two sons travel to Moab. After a time, Naomi's husband dies. Her two sons marry Moabite women and they live there together for about 10 years. Then her two sons die. Naomi decides to sojourn back to her hometown, giving permission for her two widowed daughter-in-laws to remain in Moab (their home land) to start a new life with new husbands. One of the daughter-in-laws, Ruth, refuses to leave Naomi's side. Ruth promises to go with Naomi, make Naomi's people her people, and Naomi's God her God. And so they return to Bethlehem.

In that time, widows were in danger of taking care of themselves, because they did not have a husband to provide for and protect them. So Ruth goes out to a field to gather scraps from a harvest to feed them both, but the field she happened upon belonged to a relative of Naomi's family, Boaz. Boaz took kindly to Ruth, and gave her more than she could have collected for herself from the scraps. Eventually Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son. It "just so happens" to be that Boaz and Ruth are the great-grandparents of David, as in THE David.

The part I want to focus on in this story is Ruth's faithfulness and the apparent reward she received because of her faithfulness. Ruth could have easily left Naomi like the other daughter-in-law and started fresh in her home land. But she didn't. She chose to give up the comfort and security of her home, and go with a woman who wasn't even her true family. She chose to give up her culture and beliefs for an entirely new one. She is a remarkable example of faith - and keeping that faith in the midst of tragedy and hardship. God rewarded her faith by watching over her path every step of the way. She "happened" to seek food from the field that belonged to the only man in the area who could redeem her (in that time, only a relative could redeem a family inheritance). And that man was willing and able to marry her and restore that family lineage. This foreign woman, Ruth, was so faithful that she became a part of the genealogy of Christ.

When Ruth and Boaz were married, Ruth 4:13 says:
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

I don't know why it says that the Lord enabled her to conceive, unless it meant that she was barren or perhaps past the natural childbearing age (which is possible if she had been married 10 years before she first lost her husband). Whatever the reason, it's beautiful to see that the Lord rewarded her faith with a child. It encourages me to not give up faith, no matter what hardships come my way.

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend celebrating the death and resurrection of our Savior!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I've still been following my Bible reading plan, and I'm a little more than 25% through - currently I'm in the book of Judges.

There is a very interesting story in Judges 13. It's about a man named Manoah and his wife, who is barren. But an angel appears to his wife and tells her that she will conceive and bear a son and that she should avoid strong drink while pregnant and that no razor shall come upon his head. She runs to tell her husband this joyous news, and Manoah asks the Lord to speak to the angel to ask more questions. The Lord sends the same angel a second time - but the angel appears to his wife instead of Manoah himself. But his wife runs to get Manoah, and then Manoah asks the angel for more information about what this son should do for a living. The angel provides no new information other than what he already stated to the wife. Manoah offers to serve a meal to the angel, but the angel says to give an offering to the Lord instead. When they give the burnt offering, the angel ascends to heaven through the flame, which frightens Manoah, who responds with fear that the Lord must want to kill them. But the wife reassures her husband that the Lord would not want to kill them if he went to the trouble of sending His angel to tell of their future child. The wife then conceives and bears a son, Samson.

I find several things interesting about this story:
  • The wife's name is never revealed to the reader. Because her name is never mentioned, it implies that this woman is insignificant, but she clearly is important because the angel always appeared to her instead of Manoah himself.
  • Manoah wasn't satisfied with the prophecy the angel told to his wife. It was as if he needed to hear the words directly from the angel to believe it. But even then Manoah asked for more instruction about what occupation the son should do for a living.
  • Manoah wanted to give all the credit to the angel instead of the Lord. Thankfully the angel spoke with wisdom and redirected the credit back to the One most deserving.
  • Manoah became afraid of the Lord when the angel disappeared, believing that the Lord would surely kill them. He did not exhibit much trust in his reactions to all of these strange and miraculous events. It was his nameless wife who had the confidence and assurance of hope in the Lord in believing the Lord's promise of a child.

Sometimes when I pray, I'll think that I hear the Lord speak to me. Not out loud, but in my head. It hasn't happened often in my life, but when it does it always makes me stop, become silent in my thoughts, and then I question if I was just making it up or if God really spoke to me. Or maybe it was Satan trying to throw me off? There was one month while praying that I heard the Lord tell me that I will have a child. This was about 5 months ago. I admit I got my hopes up during that month's cycle, and then felt embarrassed and disappointed that I was not pregnant that month. But does that mean that I should doubt what I heard? Does that mean that it wasn't the Lord who spoke to me? I guess I feel convicted about Manoah's response to the prophecy of the angel - doubting what the angel said. I have since doubted if it was really the Lord, or if it was, why would the Lord tell me that and not deliver what he said?

God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. When I pray about this doubt I feel, a sense of peace overcomes me and I feel confident in the Lord's provision. I think God uses these moments of an uncertain future to test our faith in Him. Well, I DO believe that He will provide me with a child someday. It may not be in the way that I first thought He meant it, but I believe He will be true to His word. This story in Judges 13 reminded me to think more like the nameless wife in confidence and unshakeable hope. It reminded me that I am not insignificant to the Lord.