The most dreaded thing

“What we judge to be ‘tragic – the most dreaded thing that could happen,’ I expect we’ll one day see as the awesome reason for the beauty and uniqueness of our life as a family.” [page 30]

I appreciate this thought so much. It was written to Elisabeth Elliot from a woman who was born disabled. She was offering some wisdom to a third woman who had a disabled baby. I have found we need to understand this wisdom before “the most dreaded thing” happens. When those thoughts of “What if…” and “I couldn’t handle it if that happened to me” pop up, as they are bound to do, we need to remind ourselves of the truth: If it happens, God would use it. If it happens, God will have ordained it. What great quietness of heart there is in that truth, if only we believed it fully!

This quote is from the book Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot.

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On Surrendering: Letting go of the lines

Something we greatly struggled with in our walk through infertility was the feeling that the trial kept pushing on past these sort of “lines” that we prayed diligently not to cross. You may have similar lines in the potential timeline ahead of you that, when you think of them, send your heart into a panic and send you to your knees begging not to get there.

To be candid, some of the big “lines” for us were:

-getting to a year of trying to conceive and having to do tests

-having to do treatments

-a big one for me was having to give myself shots; it was just an unbearable thought

-treatments that failed

-having to return overseas still childless after a hiatus and go back to life and work without a baby

Spoiler alert: we walked right through every one of these lines, and every one of them felt more painful than the one before. There were several other small “cringe” milestones, but these were the big ones we prayed about over and over. It was hard for us to understand why God would make us go through these things when we so desperately asked Him not to.trust

Midway through the above bullet points we happened to go to some counseling as a way to debrief and pre-brief (is that a thing?) our coming stint back overseas. There actually wasn’t much on our agenda to discuss; it was just something we decided to do to strengthen ourselves for our coming return to a rather stressful lifestyle.

Anyway, it was during one of these counseling sessions that we had an “a-ha moment” (to go all Oprah on you) that altered the rest of the course of our trial.

We were sharing about the struggle of having to cross each of these “lines” – one of us was openly sharing our hearts, and said something like this: “We totally trust the Lord in this situation and have a lot of peace. We feel we’ve totally given it to Him. I guess the hardest thing for us is that we feel there are these lines that we have in our hearts that we just beg Him to spare us from, and so far He hasn’t.”

After elaborating more on this pain, our counselor said the most obvious thing:

            “It sounds to me like you haven’t fully surrendered.”

We were taken aback at first. Are you kidding, lady? Of course we’ve surrendered! We’d already been going through this for a very long time. We were long past handing it over to the Lord.

But the more we discussed it, the more we realized she was right. In holding onto to these “anything-but-that” points of prayer, we were holding back some trust in God. And the worst thing was, it was kind of killing us. We were denying ourselves the full peace we desired in this valley of pain, because we kept holding on to these things we just “couldn’t” do.

Perhaps this can be a challenge to you now to take those “Please, Lord, just don’t make us ______________” lines and finally erase them. I can personally testify to the freedom and peace you are likely forfeiting by gripping on to your lines.

Throwback Thursday: Keep Your Eyes on Me

Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Infertility can be a lot like this.Think of the times when you get that big negative. Your mind starts to swirl — days earlier you were standing strong, ready to receive whatever the Lord hands you and give Him great glory with your strength — then suddenly you’re getting washed away by a million What ifs and thoughts of next steps and steps after that. You’re just like Peter, getting out of the boat and walking towards the Lord, then getting distracted by the wind and starting to sink.

heb12Or maybe you’re not, but I definitely am. And in these moments I think I literally (and yes, I know what literally means) hear the voice of Jesus say, “Keep your eyes on Me.” I think back to Hebrews 12, the chapter right after Hebrews 11, which is all about having real faith, when we are urged, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [i.e. those people in chapter 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

And I hear Him again and again: Keep your eyes on Me.

…But what if we have to find money to do another round of this?

Keep your eyes on Me.

…But what if we have to save for adoption? 

Keep your eyes on Me.

…But what if we have fewer kids than we wanted?

Keep your eyes on Me.

 …But what if there is no cure for this?

Keep your eyes on Me.

Keep your eyes on Me.

Keep your eyes on Me.

chronI actually find myself, sometimes several times a day, listening to that command and redirecting my thoughts, sometimes physically correcting my gaze to look straight ahead. I often hear Him add, “Don’t look to the right or to the left,” and it’s reminiscent of God’s leading Joshua after Moses died, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-9).

I hope the next time the winds start to overwhelm and distract you, you can hear and obey the voice of Jesus saying,

Keep your eyes on Me.

Keep your eyes on Me.

Keep your eyes on Me.

——————————————

Reposted from October 8, 2013

Throwback Thursday: What if God never says “Yes”?

As days turn into months and then years, it’s the question that starts lurking in the back of your mind but you’re afraid to really ask out loud. What if God never says “yes”? The Psalmist asked it, in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again?” It’s a fair question, but one with tough answers. On the one hand, you hear people say statistics about how high of a percentage (67?) of people who get help for infertility eventually get a baby. And a friend read in a book that a man who has worked in the adoption field for decades said he has never seen a couple who is praying for a child eventually not somehow get a child. Even Psalm 77 answers its own question by citing all the miraculous and faithful things God has done in the past, presumably awarding trust that God will surely do them again.

And these things may be true. But I’m a realist, and do you know what else is true? There are surely people in the world and in all of history that have waited and tried everything and waited more, and they never became parents. And I could be one of them. If we’re honest, deep down every fertility-challenged woman is, somewhere inside, freaking out at least a little that she could be one of those women. And then what?

Then this is what: God is still good and faithful and trustworthy. He does not disappoint. He is still loving and almighty and worthy of all praise. We have still been blessed from the first day to the last. His grace upon grace is overwhelming and sufficient, and He has never failed. We will still serve and worship Him until our dying day and forevermore. As we’ve said in the valley and will say on the mountain, God’s goodness is not dependent on the things we get; moreover, our hope for joy in life and our greatest treasure is not found in children, or money, or things, or safety, or whatever else we are seeking. Our hope is in Christ, and when we have Him, all other things are but a dim shadow compared to knowing and serving and loving Him. So praise be to God, even if He never says “yes” to this one thing. And praise be to God that we knew this truth in the valley, so we did not waste our lives working and waiting and putting everything into this one thing that never came to be. Instead we put our everything into eternal things that will never be destroyed. If God says “no” forever — and He might — praise be to God, forever and ever.

I would like to invite you to read one of my all-time favorite Bible stories, in Daniel 3. This is a true story of three noble servants of God who were going to be thrown into an oven for refusing to worship other gods. When given a chance to change their minds, they proudly proclaimed that they know God can save them and believe He will, “but even if He does not, we still won’t worship your gods” — and the BUT IF NOT is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in your faith. May God daily give you and me a heart like those men.

daniel 3

Reposted from September 13, 2013

Decision making – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series on Decision Making in God’s Will. I invite you to visit Part 1 first! 

We left off on praying for God to open and close doors within a certain time. I prefer to use this wording rather than looking for special “signs” from Him… this isn’t a game of chance or a dealing of tarot cards. It’s a walk on path led by the Spirit. A journey.

prv3So, how does God open and close these doors? Sometimes it’s just through our “gut” — which I’d say is really the Holy Spirit. Some great advice I’ve always held on to is when a friend once told me to “just follow the peace” — if you just don’t have peace about a decision, you may want to consider if that is the Spirit holding you back. It likely is. In the months leading up to when we finally got pregnant, we had been praying earnestly in this way — Should we do a different treatment? Should we pursue adoption? More invasive testing? Just keep waiting? While some doors were obviously closed, the biggest factor for both of us was the peace. We both still remember fondly just a week before that BFP, sitting in our living room one night at the end of our period of prayer, and sharing that neither of us felt peace with anything but continuing to wait on the Lord. Closed doors for other options, scripture given in that time, and just leading of the Spirit had led us to that painful but peaceful point.

You can also expect Him to lead you through actual events — when we started seriously praying about adoption, agency after agency turned down our initial inquiries because we live overseas. It was clear to us at that time that God was closing the doors and leading another way. On the other hand, when we first went for infertility treatments and were feeling unsure of the decision, a dozen “random” things happened that we saw as God’s confirmation that we were making the right choice — the nurse giving us all of our meds for free, the clinic offering us a huge discount because of our financial situation, and a friend handing us an envelope with a huge chunk of cash to use in any way we needed (these are all financial, but that’s not always the case). Even after the treatment failed, we had confidence and not regret, because we had sought the Lord and He had guided.

We also always pray to be united in our leading. The Lord has always been faithful to answer this request as well — even if we started off being staunchly opposed to each other’s leaning. And if it comes time to make a decision and we still aren’t in agreement, we will either decide to keep waiting (if time allows), or I will defer to my husband’s leadership as the head of our home. So yes, I always have one extra thing to pray about — that when the time comes God will guide my husband well, and I will have a submissive heart if I have to. And my husband always has the burden of the responsibility of the final decision (which honestly sounds harder to me than my burden of just submitting to his decision).

Finally — we make a decision. This sounds like an obvious “step,” but for indecisive people, it can be terrifying. However, if you did what you could to seek the Lord’s leading, have an open heart, and make godly choices (perhaps by following my advice above), you can have the peace to make a decision without worry or regret. We make a decision and move forward confidently, trusting the Lord together and never blaming ourselves or each other if it doesn’t go how we expected. If we made the choice believing it was what God wanted, then we can trust that it is what God wanted when it doesn’t go well by our estimation.

So that’s how we face decisions in our home. I’d love to know if you have anything to add (or subtract!). 

Decision making in God’s will – Part 1

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time, but I always hesitate because I’m not sure how it’ll come across. I don’t want it to sound like we have it all figured out, because we definitely don’t. However, I recall feeling like the “trying to conceive” game was a lot of one decision after another. (I guess life is, really.) Actually, it seems in our first several years of marriage and adult life, my husband and I have already had a lot of major (and minor) decisions to overcome. That being said, with a lot of prayer and discernment, we’ve sort of arrived at a system for making decisions.

I think this is important because there are a lot of considerations the Christian faces when making decisions, particularly in this arena. For one, I have to say it would be a dire error for a Christian couple to tackle infertility merely by following the medical protocol point-blank. If all of your decisions so far and to come are made solely based on the fact that your doctor says that’s what’s next, you may want to reconsider how open you’re being to the will of God. That sounds judgey, I know… but let’s just agree for the rest of this post that I’m not trying to be judgey, because there’s basically no way to write it without sounding that way.

ancientpathLikewise, the longer we’ve walked this journey the more convinced I am that there is not one set best route for everyone — except for the route that continually and sincerely seeks the Lord’s will and chooses against sin. A major part of God’s leading in our life involved foregoing or delaying medical intervention and waiting on Him. This was a big deal for us and a big work He did in our hearts. However, I wouldn’t say this is the ultimate right path for all Christians facing infertility. And I wouldn’t say following the set medical protocol is the definite wrong path for everyone. I would say you need to be sincerely seeking the Lord’s will for you — being willing to stop or go as you feel He is leading, even if it differs from what you want.

How do you do this? How do you make a decision you feel confident is God’s will when, say, you have a few days in between a failed IUI and the next cycle, and need to decide if you’re going to do another one or not? Or when you reach the one-year point of trying to conceive and are totally distressed but don’t want to (and shouldn’t!) make a decision based solely on that? I don’t have all the answers to this, but I can tell you what we do (and you call tell me what you think!).

First, we always pray. We pray sincerely, constantly, and openly. We talk to the Lord about our situation, feelings, hopes, and our options. We confess our unconfessed sins in order to have hearts ready to be spoken to by the Spirit.

Second, we talk to wise people. The Bible speaks so highly of consulting with others and seeking wisdom. We would be fools to think we can face a new situation and succeed without any help from people God has given as resources. Depending on the situation, this could include church leaders, parents, trusted Christian friends, and/or people who have been in a similar situation. This doesn’t mean we do whatever they say. We simply allow the Lord to speak to us through their experience and advice, and factor it into our decision.

Additionally, we ask others to pray for and with us. We would ask many of the people listed above to be praying with us for wisdom in making a decision. Trusting them to be wise and godly, we’d be open to any leading they may feel from God as well.

We give it time. Obviously, every situation allows for its own amount of time. When deciding whether to move overseas, you may have months or years. When deciding whether to implant an extra embryo, you have a day or two, tops. I must add, we would never make a decision based solely on short time — we did delay our first fertility treatment, for example, because we didn’t feel sure by the time we had to decide. Being rushed doesn’t seem like it should be considered direction from God; it falls more into the category of emotions and fears. That being said, we’ll agree on what feels like a reasonable amount of time to keep praying and thinking about it. During this time we keep open hearts and minds, being sensitive to how God may be leading us.

We choose a time to decide. So this is the “step” that is most specific to our little “system.” We think it’s wise, and it’s best for indecisive people like us who struggle to be confident with our decisions. But it’s not exactly taken from any Bible passage or command. It’s just a way we feel comfortable seeking guidance from the Lord. After, for instance, a few days of initial prayer and thought, we will agree together on a time that seems right to make a decision. Oftentimes, we have also agreed on the decision we will make by that time, unless the Lord leads otherwise. Then during the period in between, we will be praying and seeking any direction God is giving — we will be sensitive to the Spirit and honest with what we think He’s telling us.

What this sounds like is: we may approach the Lord and say something like, Lord, unless you lead us otherwise, we will be signing the lease for this house on the first of next month. In between now and then, we ask that you will be giving us confidence in this decision or closing the door. For us, this is the best way not to be frozen in decision making (which is often a decision in itself), while sincerely staying open to God’s will and leading. And can I tell you something? The reason I’m writing about this is that God has always been faithful to answer this prayer. I could write for you story after story of times in our life — and even just in our infertility — when we approached God in this way, and He closed or opened doors to give us confidence in our decision.

…To be continued! In Part 2 of this post, I’ll attempt to answer the question of how God opens and closes doors. I’ll also share one of the most significant things we pray for, and the most important step in decision making. 

Keep choosing joy

A great quote on joy this morning:

joyquote

And I just liked this little encouragement, especially in light of the definition above. Maybe you’ll want to print it out and stick it somewhere as a little reminder.

choosejoy

More on peace

I thought it would be nice to share a song to compliment my last post on peace. Unfortunately, this was the best version I could find, so I apologize for the very corny pictures. But it has the song (“Perfect Peace” by Laura Story) with lyrics, so hopefully you can overlook the corniness to let it bless your heart today.

Also, I appreciated this list of verses, if you were wanting more: 25 Encouraging Bible Verses to Give you Peace

Peace

In addition to rest, God has given us so many promises for peace. Peace seems to be an undervalued gift for many Christians, possibly because the word has become a bit cliche or even somehow outdated, so it doesn’t hold much weight. When I think peace, I think of a deep, down-to-the-soul quietness, in the midst of non-quietness. I imagine someone standing in the middle of a bustling nonstop city, loud and chaotic, but he or she stands there with a calm spirit and closed eyes.

Not to be cheesy, but here is the googled definition of peace:

peacedef

 

I like the use of the word freedom in the definition. I don’t think we always think of peace like that, but it is a freedom from or within a situation that would otherwise enslave us to fear, chaos, worry, anxiety, and/or turmoil.

One of my favorite go-to verses, which you are surely familiar with by now, speaks of God giving us a peace “which surpasses understanding” — the perfect peace in a time when others would look and say, “Peace is impossible in that situation.” The Bible says we gain this much sought-after peace by choosing not to be anxious, but instead tell the Father our concerns. 

Today I would like to share this and some other verses about peace. I invite you to meditate on them and claim them in this otherwise peace-less situation. Please feel free to add some — there are many more! 

phil4

 

peace

 

eph4

 

john16

 

ps29

Rest

One difference between Christ and all other alternative beliefs and religions is that He offers rest. Other beliefs call you to work — they provide a list of things you must do to be one of their followers. But when Jesus called people to follow Him, He declared:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

…Come and rest. Find rest from your work for salvation. Find rest from your burdens and weariness. This afternoon this song reminded me of this beautiful, peaceful, truth. In Christ we find rest from our burdens.