Thursday, August 30, 2012

Expectations vs. Desires

In our marriage, Michael is typically the optimist and I'm typically the pessimist realist. My mother raised me under the expression "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." So that's how I have always approached events in my life. For example, I was a very good student throughout my years of school. I don't mean to sound pompous, but just state the fact that I generally performed well in whatever class I took (there were certainly exceptions!). But nearly every time I would take an exam, even if the exam felt extremely easy to me, I would tell myself that I probably failed -- preparing for the worst, right? Then when the test score would be anything above passing, I'd be thrilled.

I don't necessarily like this viewpoint. In my opinion, viewing life this way causes one to sound like a negative person. Always saying things (either to others or to yourself) like, "There's no way we're pregnant this month" or "I doubt it'll happen this month" has only made me feel like I'm a Negative Nancy. And even though I tell myself those negative things, my hopeful heart cannot be contained sometimes. For instance, I'll take a pregnancy test a day before my period is supposed to start, of course it's negative, which disappoints me in the moment, but there's still this little, stubborn, hopeful part of me that thinks, maybe it's wrong. And when my period doesn't start right when I think it's supposed to, I'm convinced I must be pregnant. Then hours later or the next day when my period finally starts, it's heartbreaking, and I feel so stupid for thinking the test could be wrong when it hasn't lied to me yet.

So needless to say, I struggle a lot with how to keep my hopes high, without getting them too high so it doesn't hurt as bad when I fall down with disappointment, or when the captain of the red team, Aunt Flow, sends me hurtling back down to reality.

What's the right approach for my attitude? Should I just say the words "I'm pregnant!" just to feel what that feels like? To speak that into existence through faith?

How do you stay positive, without getting your hopes up too high? How much is too hopeful? When does hopeful become delusional and setting yourself up for depression-type disappointment?

I asked Michael about this, and as usual, I just love the wisdom he shares with me. He has a God-given and natural ability to be able to put things into words in a way that are so helpful to me. He said in my situation, it seems like what I'm doing is having expectations rather than desires. Like I'm expecting either extreme: to be pregnant or not to be pregnant. I'm either telling myself "Yes, this must be it!" or "No way, not happening!" When instead, my thoughts and attitude should be one of desires, not expectations. He said having a desire to have children is a good desire. It's biblical. It's godly. It's good. God wants us to desire children. So just stop it at that - at the point of expressing my desires - before it turns into expectations, into the two extremes.


Sometimes something can be so simple, but so difficult to figure out for yourself. This was one of those things for me. In fact, it made me realize that for my whole life, I had been viewing events with expectations, with the two extremes. I misinterpreted the the "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst" mantra. Hoping for the best is having a desire for the best. Having a desire for the thing you want. I'll come back to the second part of the mantra in a moment.

What differentiates expectations from desires? Sometimes a simple Google search is all that's needed to provide some needed perspective.

Expectation: A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.

So both attitudes are strong in their feelings. But the difference is believing something will for sure happen, and the other is stopping it at wanting or wishing for the thing to happen, not depending or relying on the certainty of that said thing happening.

In summary, it's GOOD to desire to have children, but NOT GOOD to expect to have children. Or in my case, to expect that we'll have children this month. Or next month. Or next month. So what I've been doing since Michael helped me realize this flaw in my attitude is every time I have a thought about wanting to have children or wondering if I might be pregnant at this very moment, I stop and pray the following:

God, I strongly desire to have children. Please give me strength to be patient and to wait for Your timing. If this month is not the time You have chosen to give us a child, please prepare my heart for that disappointment.

This past April, during National Infertility Awareness Week, I posted the following picture on Facebook to raise awareness about the average number of times per week that I think about my desire to have children. I actually counted, and wrote a tally mark on my arm to keep a running total.  So as you can see, this gives you an idea of how many times each day that I end up saying that prayer. A. W.H.O.L.E. L.O.T.


The "but prepare for the worst" part of the mantra was the part that I really had wrong. It doesn't have to mean "be super negative about everything", it could simply mean allowing yourself to think through what you would do if the thing you're hoping for doesn't happen. How would you handle it? What would you do? It does NOT mean you should tell yourself "It definitely won't happen."

So again, thanks to my husband's encouragement and wisdom yesterday, he suggested that I allow myself time each month to be sad for a moment. Because my desire to have children is a desire God wants me to have, it's okay, it's a good thing even, to feel sad when that desire is not answered or given. He suggested I take some time, actually plan some time and be intentional about it, to be sad. And then move on, let it go for that month, and then strive to be hopeful the rest of the time.

Again, it sounds simple, but it's something I had never done before. Sure, I usually ended up by myself in a closet, curled up in a fetal position on the floor, sobbing, but that wasn't planned or intended. So my new plan of action for this is to set aside time every month, when my monthly disappointment arrives, to be sad. I plan to sit somewhere by myself, with a Bible and Kleenex nearby, and a journal and pen ready to write my feelings out. I may even try to write letters to my future children, or simply write my desires for my children out on paper. To celebrate the beautiful fact that God has given me this desire, that perhaps doesn't come naturally to others. To be sad. To be allowed to be sad. For a moment. For a specific, planned, intentional moment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Who am I?

If you think about it, really stop and think about it, this question can be difficult to answer about yourself. At the most basic, you have your name. But beyond that, the answer could be anything.

I don't recall ever struggling with my identity while growing up. Maybe I knew, maybe I didn't. But what I do know is that in college I allowed myself to start identifying myself by my circumstances. Before I met Michael, I was Single. After I met Michael, I was Girlfriend.

Then I identified myself as Wife. It stayed this way for a long time, and I was content focusing fully on being that identity, Wife. I didn't feel a need or desire to find another identity. I didn't even know that I was only identifying myself as Wife, and nothing else.

But then, we made a decision. A decision that caused a switch to flip in my mind, instantly changing my identity from Wife to Mother. Or better yet, Wife AND Mother. There. It was done. Decided.

But this was where the first crack started in my identity. Nearly two years ago, this hairline crack was started. From that point on, it did only what cracks do, what cracks are best at: getting bigger, getting longer, getting wider. Until my identity looked like this:


What happened?! But God, I don't think you understand who I am. I'm Wife AND Mother. Why hasn't the Mother part of that identity happened yet? ("Where's your baby!?", LOL)

I wish I had been intuitive enough to pick up on this a while ago. To have actually realized that I was placing my identity in things out of my control. Even Wife. Wife can be stripped from me at any moment. So what should I call myself?

Child. Chosen. Redeemed.

I found this wonderful article that lists all the things God calls us, with Scripture references.

I am Child. This will never change. Even after my earthly parents pass away, I will always remain the Chosen, Redeemed, Child of God.

And here I am, Child, longing for a child of my own. Longing to be a loving, respectful wife. Longing to be a kind, loving person to others. But in the end, from physical birth, to spiritual birth, to physical death, I have and will always be Child. Chosen Child. Redeemed Child. Beloved Child. The fact that I am Child of God is my constant identity.

And this is only possible because of Christ. Christ allowed us all to have only one true eternal identity. When the world around us crumbles to pieces, our identity as Child of God will remain forever.

Believe it or not, I have arm wrestling to thank for this realization of my identity. Yes, arm wrestling.

Michael has always been a man of variety. He has many interests and hobbies. It's a natural personality trait of his that I've always admired. Because after we met, dated, and got married, I stopped pursuing hobbies. I now know that happened because I was calling myself Wife instead of Child. So as time went on, he kept pursuing various hobbies, while I would focus on being Wife or doing relaxing activities to pass the time. But as Michael was spending a lot of time recently pursuing his latest hobby of arm wrestling (he's building an arm wrestling table to practice for tournaments and train), I found myself starting to feel lost. I wasn't Mother yet. I was losing motivation to be Good Wife. I was basing my identity on my circumstances. So Michael was persistent in asking me what hobbies I enjoy.

I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me to answer his question - the result of years of misplacing my true identity. Finally a little mortar was placed on those cracks. I love riding horses. Always have, ever since I could remember. I started taking horse lessons at 4 years old.


Although I never owned my own horse, my parents continued to bless me with paying for horse lessons throughout high school.

And then in college God blessed me by allowing me to be on the equestrian team. It's actually an interesting story how that happened. It shows that it was really God's effort, not just my own. When I was spending the summer before my college freshman year with my aunt in North Carolina, she helped me put together an application for the equestrian team. But I had already missed the tryout period. So during my freshman year, I participated in an intramural type club that occasionally allowed us to go horseback riding with school-owned horses. I enjoyed it so much! Then a fellow club member, who was on the equestrian team herself, told me about the upcoming tryouts for the team. So I tried out, but received an email at the end of my freshman year that they would not be able to accept me on the team.

But then at the end of the summer, just before my sophomore year, I received a random email offering a second congratulations for being chosen to be on the team. It had information about when and where to report for the first meeting. I was in shock. Was it a mistake? Did they mean to email this to me? I don't remember if I ever questioned it, but the point is that I showed up and they were prepared for me to join (had forms and items with my name ready, etc.) I was so shocked how God re-opened a door I thought had permanently closed. Even though I wasn't ever chosen to compete in a show, I still had the pleasure of being on the team for two years. Essentially, I got to take free riding lessons for two years, got free stuff, had a physical trainer who designed our workouts, and had the honor of being on an NCAA team. I decided to quit my senior year to focus on my academics and planning our wedding, already calling myself Wife!

So now my plan is to try to pursue this hobby. I would love to get back into horseback riding again, just for fun this time (not interested in competing in shows). So I'm looking into the possibility of leasing a horse that I can go and ride once or twice a week. It's funny how quickly I got excited about this hobby, after spending years never thinking about my own hobbies. I'm so glad God helped me find my proper identity again!

Love & Hope,
Christine, a.k.a. Child of God

Friday, August 24, 2012

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up, People!


Last night Michael and I attended a double-retirement reception in honor of two fellow co-workers. The reception took place in a hotel banquet room, with light appetizer foods and alcoholic beverages for purchase. Lots and lots of employees from our work were there: young, old, middle aged, male, female, new, been around forever...get the idea? Your standard mix of people. Normal people.

But what happens to me?

As I'm standing just behind Michael between a wall and a table, very much out of the way of the highly trafficked middle, I sense that there's someone behind me, so I turn around. It's a middle-aged to older woman, who I later find out also works for our company even though I had never met her before, whose first spoken words to me are: "So, where's the baby???"

*Crickets allow the similar moment of shock to hit you like it did me...*

Me: "What baby?"
Crazy Lady: "Your baby!"
Me: "...I don't have a baby..."
Crazy Lady: "You don't have a baby?!"
Me: .....
Crazy Lady: "I'm looking for John's other son..."
Me: "Okay..."
Crazy Lady: "They have a baby."
Me: (Pointing across the room to a young woman holding a baby) "There's a baby..."
Crazy Lady: "Oh, I've already met her, she's John's other son's wife, that I've already met."
Me: "I'm sorry, I cannot help you..."
Crazy Lady: "Oh okay, well I'm [Name Withheld, even though she deserves to have it slandered here], and I work in Administration."

I finish the introduction of myself and Michael, who turned around about the time I pointed to the woman holding the baby, and then turn my back to her.

You just can't make this stuff up.

After again asking Michael if I look pregnant, or like I have a baby attached to the side of my body, I asked him, "Why does this keep happening to me? Seriously, why me? That could have happened to any other young looking woman in the room, why did that happen to me?"

His answer sparked my thinking to remember the truth of Ephesians 6:11-13 "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."

His answer was "Because you're struggling."

He is completely right. It's not a simple coincidence that events like above, or like this, or like THIS keep happening to me. Or that similar events happen to my fellow infertile friends. The enemy is using every opportunity he can scrounge up to steal my hope, faith, and joy - to get me to doubt my all-powerful God, and what's most challenging is that all of the enemy's efforts are unseen physically. The enemy is working actively behind the scenes, under the radar, in secret, in disguise, in the darkness, undetected and unrelenting.

Praise the Lord that He has conquered ALL! He has provided each and every person the opportunity to readily prepare for those battles. He freely gave His Son to allow us to have an eternal relationship with Him, to allow His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts to win the final battle no matter how you get there. Furthermore, He has freely given us His everlasting Word, the source of 100% truth, and that has the ability to train us, and teach us to put on the full armor of God. Amen to that!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hope in Mud


This was a picture I took while Michael and I were driving to work. Can you tell what it is? I bet it's difficult to place the context of this picture due to my mad-photo-cropping skills.

Here's the original picture:


That's right, a mud flap. My inspirational word of choice. On a mud flap.

Without getting too poetic, this is kind of what life is like, right? You're trucking along (couldn't help the pun) in life, and then bam, you find yourself stuck in the mud, weighed and pulled down by your problems.

But HOPE can exist in the darkest, smallest, dirtiest, and most unlikely of places, even in the mud of your life.

You won't be stuck forever. Surely, there is an end in sight. Hopefully, one day you will rise up out of the mud and look back at that mud pit with thankfulness and relief.

There is no situation or place you could ever end up where hope is the wrong thing to have. God loves it when we have hope. He wants us to always have hope.

Romans 8:24-25
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Those Stinkin' Spaghetti Noodles

Have you ever heard of or read the book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel? In case you haven't, it's a Christian book about the differences between men and women. Men, in general, are like waffles with little "boxes" for everything (they typically compartmentalize their thoughts). Women are typically like spaghetti "noodles", where thoughts connect and intertwine into a seemingly chaotic and confusing way (if you're a man, lol). You could be talking about dinner last night, go to the topic of traffic on the way home from the grocery store, and then be talking about your favorite part of the movie you saw last week.

For Michael and me, we definitely fit into the stereotype depicted in this book. My brain is made up of nothing but noodles. I can change topics from 0 to 60 mph in a second. Oh, and we need to get our oil changed soon...

(See what I did there? You just had your first ride on one of my brain's spaghetti noodles. Welcome to Michael's world.)

Well, this thought process is usually not a problem for me. I don't mind thinking the way I do. And usually I don't mind having to explain and re-explain how I got from topic A to B when Michael gives me that look of confusion because I switched topics too fast. But in terms of our infertility journey, this way of thinking has come back to bite me in the spaghetti noodle. Now I'm hungry. We're making turkey burgers tonight. Mmm, I love sweet potato fries.

Okay, back to my main topic.

Yesterday Michael was cleaning up the garage, and one of the items that was in the garage was a small side table that his mom gave to us. It's has a piece that's loose and needs to be glued (hence why it was stored in the garage), but to help save room in the garage, I offered to carry it inside and put it in one of the bedrooms until we're ready to glue it.

So I carried it inside into the front/office bedroom and set it by the wall.

Then I got slapped by a wet noodle.

My thoughts switched over to how perfect this table would be for a nursery. It would easily sit next to a nursery glider, hold a lamp on top, and baby books on the bottom shelf. And I realized I'm sitting in the room we planned to be a nursery, Lord willing. Sitting on the floor, staring at this table, and the stained glass horse night-light plugged into the wall (also set aside, waiting for this room to become a nursery), crying and overcome with grief.

I just sat there and cried, and prayed. How long will we have to wait, Lord? Please give us direction about what to do in the meantime. Please give me strength to be patient and wait.

The moment ended after about 5 minutes, but the heaviness in my heart lasted the rest of the evening. A simple thing, such as a table, can set my emotions off. I know from speaking to other women who struggle with infertility that I'm not the only one who has moments like this.

When you struggle with infertility, or anything that causes a deeply emotional response, there can be so many things that connect to that one spaghetti noodle. There are any number of ways to trigger that noodle. For me, that's what makes it so hard. I cannot predict or control when or how that noodle will be set off. There are some situations that are obvious and predictable - like baby showers or children's birthday celebrations. I have stopped attending those types of events. But many moments are started in random places and situations. Unpredictable. Unexpected. Unprepared. Unable to stop to sudden uprising of emotions.

If you can relate to this, I just want to encourage you (and myself) to do everything you can to build up some armor. You will be assaulted, there's no changing or avoiding that. So be ready to fight back.

Ephesians 6:11
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:13-16
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 4:8
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Be ready. Stay in God's Word. Continue to pray. Never cease praying. Be on guard. And fight.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Life of Uncertainty

A life of uncertainty. That's what I'm facing.

I suppose that's what we're all facing. No one knows what the future holds, except for God. Your life could end at any moment. Your loved ones could be taken from this earth at any moment. We, as human beings, may have control over some things, but there will always remain parts of our lives that we simply cannot control.

If you're a planner, like me, you may find this extremely challenging to accept. It's so incredibly easy to delude yourself into thinking that you maintain more control over your life and future than you actually do. It can be difficult to swallow that moment when you realize this essential truth of life. When you are faced with the choice: to accept it or fight it.

I've been attempting to accept it lately. It's not easy. (Then again, this whole journey has been the furthest thing from easy.) But I'm working on it. Slowly, I'm starting to accept that this is the situation we are in. We are childless. We want children. We pray for children. We hope for children. We hope the Lord will answer our prayers. But we do not know the future. We do not know how long this will last. We do not know what lies ahead, or how this painful journey will end. We simply do not know.

But God does.

This is where hope is conceived. This is where faith is truly tested. This is where I'm daily facing that choice, to accept or fight that God is the One in control of this instead of me.

Some days I fail and choose to fight it. Those days usually end with tears and fits of depression. But on the days I choose to accept it, and better yet, choose to move closer to the One who IS in control, because who better to get close to than the one holding the key to my future, the one who can see the end already, the one who saw the end from the beginning of time? Those days my heart is at peace. My heart and mind are at peace, and I'm okay relinquishing that compulsive need to know everything that is going to happen. That need to have a plan. That need to have an answer. There is freedom in this acceptance.

Music has always been important to me. I would connect so strongly with certain songs based on my emotions and how it related to my life. When I was single, I struggled with singleness. I struggled with depression and hopelessness at my uncertain future. I was terrified that I would never marry. It frightened me to read the Scripture about the gift of singleness, that for some people, it's better to remain single than to marry. At that time of singleness in my life, I was not turning to uplifting music to encourage me through that painful journey. I would listen to whiny, depressing songs. It's no wonder I struggled with depression! You know the saying "you are what you eat"? Well, I say "you are what you listen to".

This time around, throughout my present painful journey, I've been clinging to certain Christian-artist songs. My heart fills so quickly with hope every time I listen to one on my "Encouraging Songs List". I'd like to share my absolute favorite with you right now: Josh Wilson "Before the Morning".

I absolutely love this song. The lyrics speak so deeply into my heart. I hope that if you're reading this and you're facing a future of uncertainty and struggling with that, maybe this song will uplift your heart as well. I've copied and pasted the song lyrics below.

Hope & Peace,

Josh Wilson - "Before the Morning"

Do you wonder why you have to,
feel the things that hurt you,
if there's a God who loves you,
where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can't see
and all those things are happening
to bring a better ending
some day, some how, you'll see, you'll see

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain that you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

so hold on, you got to wait for the light
press on, and just fight the good fight
because the pain that you've been feeling,
it's just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
and you know where you're going,
you just don't know how you get there
so say a prayer.
and hold on, cause there's good for those who love God,
life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time,
but you'll see the bigger picture

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain that you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

so hold on, you got to wait for the light
press on, and just fight the good fight
'cause the pain that you've been feeling,
it's just the dark before the morning
yeah, yeah,
before the morning,
yeah, yeah

Once you feel the way of glory,
all your pain will fade to memory
once you feel the way of glory,
all your pain will fade to memory
memory, memory, yeah

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain that you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain that you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

Come on, you got to wait for the light
press on, and just fight the good fight
because the pain that you've been feeling,
it's just the hurt before the healing
the pain you've been feeling,
it's just the dark before the morning
before the morning, yeah, yeah
before the morning