Monday, April 15, 2013

Jealousy - Green Is Not My Best Color

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I have struggled with jealousy for all my life. Blame it on being an only child, or simply the fact that I'm a regular, sinful, selfish human being...often times my first response to someone who has something that I want but don't have is a response of jealousy. This especially became a foothold for me when we first began struggling with infertility. It took every ounce of strength I possessed to not dwell on thoughts like this (and I often failed, allowing myself to stew in jealousy):

Why does she deserve a baby and I don't?
She's so ungrateful for being pregnant by complaining so often, it just makes me sick.
I bet I would handle that so much better than her.
It's so unfair that teenagers get pregnant all the time after "just once", yet I can't get pregnant at all!

And on and on...turning greener and greener by the minute.

As I learned to depend on the Lord, and give everything about this journey to Him, submitting to His and only His plan, it became easier for me to reject thoughts of jealousy. I still face many temptations to be jealous about others' pregnancies and children, but the more I focus my attention heavenward, the easier it gets to move past the narrow-focused thought of jealousy.

I still intentionally protect myself by setting boundaries that aid my ability to reject jealousy, such as refusing to attend all baby showers or visit newborns and new parents. I do this in the same way that a man who struggles with sexual purity might set a boundary by installing protective computer software or avoid seeing a movie with sexual content. It's only prudent to set yourself up for success rather than willingly entering a situation you know will lead you into temptation and struggle. But the greatest recipe for success is keeping your gaze focused on the Lord, pursuing Him actively.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Sarah's Laughter devotional below is a wonderful example of how jealousy, especially in the midst of infertility, can lead you away from the dream you so desperately long for. We infertile women must be extra cautious about the condition of our hearts. We must make every effort to not set ourselves against our husbands and begin a trend of instilling jealousy in our children. It does not mean you are not allowed to feel sadness and grief, but always viewing the world from the perspective of "what I'm not getting" is a selfish and narrow perspective to have. We must fix our eyes on the hope and plan God has for us.

Profile: Rachel

April 15, 2013
Rachel was definitely one of us.  She wanted a baby so badly, and it seemed that nothing she tried worked.  There is much we can learn as we examine Rachel’s life.  Just as Hannah gave us examples of how we should strive to handle the heartache of infertility, Rachel gives us a crystal clear look at what pitfalls we need to avoid as best we can.
Jealousy was a major chapter in Rachel’s infertility story.  Undoubtedly, the most painful reminder of her infertility was her sister.  Her sister who lived in her own house.  Her sister who lived in her own house and was pregnant.  Her sister who lived in her own house and was pregnant by Rachel’s husband.  I know it’s tough to be infertile in 2013, but most of us don’t have pregnant siblings living with us who are carrying our spouse’s child!  Ugh!
Jealousy was such a factor in Rachel’s heart that it is one of the themes that Scripture shares with us about her life.  She was so jealous of her sister that it tainted everything she did, everything she said, and even played a role in the naming of her children that God did eventually grant her.  Rachel’s jealousy didn’t go away when her children were born.  It colored her parenting and even affected her children throughout their adult lives.
All of us feel a twinge of jealousy when we see a pregnant woman or hear someone our age announce their third pregnancy.  Sometimes it’s more than a twinge!  Ask God to help you with this hurtful emotion when jealousy begins to rear its ugly head.  Don’t let your infertility story be written by jealousy’s hand.
There is no doubt that Rachel was consumed by baby hunger.  She was also consumed by rage.  She was so angry that she couldn’t conceive and her anger spilled over into her relationships.  In Genesis 30:1, we see her snipping at her husband.  Chances are, it wasn’t the first argument they’d ever had regarding her inability to conceive.  “Give me children, or else I die!”  What was her husband, Jacob’s response?  Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel...(Genesis 30:2).  No wiping her tears.  No strong shoulder to lean on.  Rachel’s accusations lit a fire in her husband’s heart. (Remember Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”)  How many times could she lash out at Jacob without expecting him to reciprocate?  Chance are, he was doing everything he could possibly do to help her get pregnant.  
Learn from Rachel’s mistakes.  How different would her life have been if she had found a way to harness jealousy and rage?  How much lighter would the burden of infertility have been had she not had to simultaneously struggle with broken relationships and hurt feelings?
No one says it’s easy.  No one expects you to get through this season of your life with the total absence of anger or jealousy.  After all, you are a human being, you know.  But keep an honest eye on yourself and on your heart.  Don’t let Satan get a stronghold in your life as he tries to wrap your heart in anger and jealousy.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Living in the Now

Philippians 4:11-13
11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Take a moment to meditate on the verses above.

Today I want to speak directly to those reading this who are currently in the midst of infertility. Usually my posts are generic enough to apply to other life issues, and perhaps you'll still be interested in reading this, but I just feel compelled to level with my fellow infertile-sisters today.

My sweet sister, do not take the present for granted.

I know how easy it is and how often you dwell on your future hopes, and that's certainly not a bad thing. But you must be careful not to get so overly-focused on the future that you neglect the present.

Some "state-of-your-heart" questions to ask yourself are:
  • Have I been an active participant in my other relationships besides my spouse, or have I pulled away?
  • Are my husband and I focusing on our marriage well, or is there tension and strife?
  • Am I over-consumed with the potential of being pregnant that I'm neglecting having fun? (Have a drink occasionally! Don't fret about eating sushi...bleh, if you like that sort of thing.)
  • Do I become distraught over "wasting" another month when the timing of intercourse doesn't work out?
  • Am I allowing time to become a master over my attitude? (Fretting about my age, timing intercourse, the timing of fertility treatments/decisions, etc.)
  • Am I actually enjoying sex, or is my primary thought about the potential of conceiving?
  • Have I been putting off any life-goals or activities for the hopeful possibility that this will be "the" month? 
  • Am I angry with God for not answering my prayers?

Sisters, the present is full of wonderful adventures and beauty, you just have to allow yourself to live in it. And I get a free pass to say this next statement, because I'm still a member of the "infertile club": please enjoy the quiet house, the full night's sleep, and the spontaneity you have with your husband. Seriously ladies, enjoy it! Your house will one day have children in it, but not today. So don't let this time slip away without its proper appreciation. You are blessed today, and you will be blessed tomorrow. Be thankful for the present and learn to be content in your present circumstances, even if they are not the circumstances that align with your plans and desires.

Here's the latest update on us...

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We are loving life. We are filled with the Lord's perfect peace and feel completely sure we are doing what God wants us to be doing right now with regard to growing our family: patiently waiting.

A few months ago, as my mental health improved and I finally overcame my depression about infertility (thanks to the Lord and better physical health!), I can honestly say that I have learned to be content about our family situation now. My baby room is still empty, but my heart is full of peace.

I've truly been thankful for the ability to have so much quality time together, just the two of us. Free of interruptions, dirty diapers and spit up. Quiet serenity at home (except for the occasional dog bark of course). Getting to sleep in a little on Saturdays. The ability to keep a (relatively) clean house. Even though I desire to be a stay-at-home Mom, we have a lot more "fun money" at our disposal because we both currently work full-time. That also means we'll pay off our house much sooner than if we had gotten pregnant according to our plan.

I really do want God's plan over my own. Many months ago, I had to recite that to myself, hoping I would actually believe and feel it one day. But that day has finally come. However God plans to bring children into our life, that's what I want. And I'm totally at peace about that. I'm just dedicated to soak up as much of the present as I can before God reveals His plan to us.

I can relate this feeling to the time when we were living in a one bedroom apartment and saving up for a house down payment. It was all I could do not to get worked up with desires and dreams about one day living in a house. It was an eventual certainty - we would be living in a house someday, just not quite yet. A real house! With a yard for the dogs, and more than one bedroom. More than one bathroom! But I also knew that I would likely never be in that present situation again - living meagerly to save as much as possible. Having crazy stories about how cramped we were living with 2 humans and 5 pets in a one bedroom apartment. Making up nicknames for all our neighbors. Walking to church. I knew that I better take good mental pictures, because one day I would look back on those "tough" times with fondness and nostalgia.

The same applies to your life in the midst of infertility. It's fun, good, and exciting to look ahead and dream. But you should make as much effort as possible to enjoy the present, while you still can. Don't be in such a hurry to rush this process. God has His plan already laid out, so try your best to sit back and live it out. Your precious time of "just the two of you" is running out quickly. You may not feel like it's quick, but trust me, one day you'll look back at this time and realize just how quick it was. So don't miss out on today's opportunities to enjoy your time together. This time is truly precious.