Monday, September 24

Here I raise my Ebenezar

I began putting this post together in January/February, and I can tell from what I originally wrote, I was in a brighter place back then. The difficulty and sadness that I've been experiencing lately makes no less potent the following emails, blog posts and notes from my friends.

Lately on this journey,  I've been made very aware of the support and friendship that I have been given - a gift from the Lord.  I walk through the valley of the shadow, but my friends have their arms about me.

"I pray for you a lot on Sundays, when I glance over to the back few rows on the east side of the sanctuary. I imagine you and Adam there, and I am reminded to lift up your body and your spirit before our gracious God. Jesus was fully capable of changing the hearts and minds of everyone around her [the woman who bled for 12 years] so that she wouldn't be seen as an outsider, but instead He healed her body. What I'm saying is, as much as we may pray for God to transform attitudes and desires, I'm also still praying -- with deep conviction and fervency -- for Him to honor the promises that are bound up in the Incarnation and to have mercy on your body, too."

"Oh Hannah...(deep sigh). I don't really have enough words, but I do have tears.  I'm sorry to hear this news.  I do pray that your surgery results will be more positive than negative, that God would provide a miracle.  He can.  I know this. Love you and miss you terribly."

"But I'm glad that you still have a place for me. Despite the miles and years and experiences that may separate us, I am still that friend who stayed up all night with you talking about everything, and I am only a phone call away."

"Thank you for sharing your heart - being able to walk with you on this in any sort of meaningful way, much less a way that has been helpful, encouraging, or made you laugh, feels like such a privilege. Being an instrument of grace always awes me, mostly because I'm very VERY aware of how much I swear!"

I didn't have the chance yet to respond to your post about helping someone through infertility, but I so appreciated what you had to say. When you wrote earlier you mentioned that people are uncomfortable around suffering -- what to do with the normally upbeat girl who bursts into tears when you say 'hello'? Obviously there's no better teacher than experience for how to walk with people through suffering, but there's a lot to be said for telling people flat out: no, it's not helpful to offer advice about taking your temperatures every month or your cousin who just adopted. Yes, a wordless hug is adequate and welcome. 

(from a blog about our journey of friendship) But my love for her wouldn’t let me be someone who faded into the background, so I had to do something. In the end, I decided to write her a letter. A handwritten one, because she's worth it. In it, I said that I didn’t know what to say to her...other than how deeply sad I was for her. I didn’t know how to react...other than to pray. Basically, I didn’t know what to do...other than be available. In short, all I had to give was myself." 

Hannah, I wanted to tell you that C and I prayed for you last night with tears. love you so much,

Oh, Hannah. Oh, Hannah. I'm so very sorry. What difficult news and statistics to hear. I'm torn between being optimistic and saying "F*** the numbers," and being realistic and mourning with you. Maybe I'll do both. We serve a great God who is so difficult to understand, because rather than protect you from this, He has somehow prepared you for it. And He will take your hand and walk you through it. And on the other side, somehow, there will be children. I'm just confident of that. You will know His abundance, and it will look differently than you expected, imagined, and hoped for. You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

I'd already planned to email you about a time to get together next week, but after reading your blog just now, I feel even more intent on seeing you. My heart aches for you, Hannah, that you have to go through such a difficult time! I wish there were something I could do to ease the emotional, psychological, spiritual, & physical ache of this journey of infertility. I'm praying for you, and petitioning God on your behalf, and I know that's probably one of the best ways to help.

 It was hard and very painful for a long time - sometimes it still is. This area right here was the hardest for me and it took the longest to come back out into the light. I had to lay my heart open before the Lord over and over and over. It was actually a moment of real awakening when I realized for the first time that I was truly unable to be what I was supposed to be for others - happy and joyful for them. I came to the very end of myself and had to cry out to God for the strength to give myself over to Him and to let His righteousness fill me. That was the only way. Little by little He has done just that. 

Praying as always for success! I remember how it feels pointless to pray after a while: "Lord, you already know this. You've heard it from me a million times already." Mom sent me this quote from Charles Spurgeon the other day, "Prayer pulls the rope blow and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly. Others give but an occasional pluck at the rope. But he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might." I am trying to be that person of prayer for you. Besides the pregnancy you so long for I am also praying that you will be like the righteous man in psalm 112 who "is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm trusting in the Lord."

So here I raise my ebenezer. Samuel raised his ebenezer when the Lord gave complete victory over their enemies. May he do the same for me - giving me complete victory. But if not, my friends are each a rock to me, supporting me, as does the Rock of Ages. 

Friday, September 21

A Silent Grief

I read this article a while back, and it is just as good today as it was a few months ago. The title is a little ironic, because I seem to be anything but silent on this matter, but I know my readers love me and wish to be on this journey with me.

A Silent Grief - Pastoral Reflections on Infertility

Tuesday, September 18

Manipulating God

I feel myself trying to manipulate God: If I just push myself into submission, push myself into acceptance of my infertility situation, then I will get the balm I want. If I finally realize how deeply I need the cross, how sinful I am and acknowledge my sins, Jesus will give me my desires.

This is a hard place. How does one truly want Kingdom work when you do not care about Kingdom work? How does one love Christ for his sacrifice, when you feel that you've sacrificed a lot, too? Indeed, even feel as though you've sacrificed enough?

 I ponder Corrie Ten Boom's story about forgiving the guard at Ravensbruck. ( If she prays for the love to forgive, why should I not pray for the ability to love Christ more than myself? To pursue God more than my own desires? Yes, I want a good gift from the Lord, but I want it for my own personal kingdom. I do not doubt this is the spiritual weed the Lord is pulling from the garden of my heart.

 I cannot do it on my own. He must give me his saving grace. He must change my heart.

Monday, September 17

James 1

English Standard Version 
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The Message 
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

New International Version
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Saturday, September 15

A little tiny voice

Three months into infertility treatments, there are few things so difficult to bear as hope.

This tiny little voice, pointing out the strange feelings your reproductive system creates three days before your period. Because so many hallmarks of a period are also hallmarks of implantation and early conception. That people do get pregnant from fertility treatments. Otherwise, well, they wouldn't be offered as a treatment. That God can do anything he pleases. And Maybe - just maybe - this time he will be pleased to give us a baby.

So, this tiny voice brings hopeful dreams: what would it be like to look at my husband with tears of happiness, instead of sadness, numbness and disappointment? To tell people who have prayed for so long with us that we're finally pregnant? To have hope fulfilled? To, for a momentary second, feel the relief of success?

Then remembering the crushing pain of the last month: "not pregnant" in indisputable digital display. On our fourth anniversary. When we were so hopeful, so positive this month would be the best shot. The knowledge that the ultrasound this time showed I ovulated on the side that is most damaged from endometriosis. Knowing that side is unlikely to move an egg properly, fertilized or not. Thinking about the fever from illness that came for two days after the last fertility treatment.

With all that proof, wouldn't you think I would rest in the knowledge that I'm not pregnant?

But there it is. The tiny little voice of hope.

Monday, September 10

Is a Lie I've been Told

So, when I first heard this song, I told Adam I thought it sounded like a Christian song (it's not). But the way he holds each note until the next is familiar and - well - a little typical of Christian songs.

I listened to the words, and the song, well, it endeared itself to me. Not just the imagery of feeling alone, not listened to, and depressed, but also the hope in the lyrics, "Never fear, No never fear," "to believe I walk alone is a lie that I've been told," and "This too shall pass."

It seems like a Psalm - both crying out and the remembering that it will pass. Remembering we do not walk alone - God and others inevitably walk with us.  We walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We don't stop (even when it feels we've been camped out there for a long time), and another hill is just around the bend. The mountaintop comes, even if it doesn't look like the mountains we've climbed before.

Anyway. Here it is:

(Updated for the google people out there: It's by Fort Atlantic, and below is a link to a youtube posting of the son with a photo montage of HIMYM. My music loving husband would say, "buy the song!" And I say: welcome! Hope you stick around :) ) 

All my days are spent
All my cards are dealt
Oh the desolation grows
Every inch revealed
As my heart is pierced
Oh my soul is now exposed

In the ocean deep
In the canyons steep
Walls of granite here I stand
All my desperate calls
Echo off the walls
Back and forth
Then back again

To believe I walk alone
Is a lie that I’ve been told

So let your heart hold fast
For this soon shall pass
Like the high tide takes the sand

At the bitter end
Salt and liquid blend
From the corner of my eye
All the miles wrecked
Every broken step
Always searching always blind

Never fear, No Never fear

So let your heart hold fast
For this soon shall pass
There’s another hill ahead

Sunday, September 9

Gifts III

More in my little series, "Gifts from Friends"  - A quote from Michael Card, by way of my very good, very faithful friend:  

"Our failure to lament also cuts us off from each other. If you and I are to know one another in a deep way, we must not only share our hurts, anger, and disappointments with each other (which we often do), we must also lament them together before the God who hears and is moved by our tears. Only then does our sharing become truly redemptive in character. The degree to which I am willing to enter into the suffering of another person reveals the level of my commitment and love for them. If I am not interested in your hurts, I am not really interested in you. Neither am I willing to suffer to know you nor be known by you. Jesus' example makes these truths come alive in our hearts. He is the One who suffered to know us, who then suffered for us on the cross. In all this, He revealed the hesed of His Father." 

~A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament

(I love that hesed means "loving-kindness." That in Jesus' deep suffering and grief, the loving-kindness of the Father is revealed. Maybe in mine, too. ) 

Thursday, September 6

Gifts From Friends II

During the last 3 weeks, my friends have been amazing. So amazing, I'm going to share their wisdom with you.

"And neither of [those difficult events] take God by surprise, and He'll love you hard enough to see you through, even if you're mad at Him in the midst of it. Happiness isn't a zero sum game, or a pie that you have to fight for the biggest piece, but it sure can feel that way sometimes, as though the happiness of others just makes your pain more pronounced. And I don't know what to say to help that, but I wish I did. I wish I could salve your heart in a way that satisfied and left you feeling calm or at least content. I'm glad we serve a God that can."

Tuesday, September 4

Gifts from Friends

Sometimes, gifts from friends aren't physical items. Sometimes they are poems:

It must be, God, Thou hast a strength to give
To him that fain would do what Thou dost say;
Else how shall any soul repentant live,
Old griefs and new fears hurrying on dismay?
Let pain be what Thou wilt, kind and degree,
Only in pain calm Thou my heart with Thee.

But Thou art making me, I thank Thee, Sire.
What Thou hast done and doest Thou knowest well.
And I will help Thee: gently in Thy fire
I will lie burning; on Thy potter's wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel.
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

~George McDonald

Monday, September 3

For everyone wondering

For those who would like to really know what it's like for an infertile couple, this series is pretty darn accurate - and pokes fun at the places that really are ridiculous!  Perhaps the reason I laughed so hard is because these situations are so universal to those with unexplained infertility.

With octaves of a mystic depth and height