The fruit that grew when I was barren

 

flower

This is probably going to read like a summary of this whole blog, but it is what it is. My baby boy turns 12 weeks on Monday, and every.single.day. I still look at him and can’t believe he is here and he is my baby. I can’t believe that happened to us — which is ironic, because in our years of infertility I would so often think, I can’t believe this is happening to us. But he’s here. A living and breathing testament of the hardest season in our life so far, and of the faithfulness of God in mercifully bringing us through it.

I once thought after all of this was over, I would just put it behind me and finally move forward with our life. I’ll get over it and move on. Surprisingly (or not), I can’t really get over it. I mean, I’m not obsessed with it. I’m not always talking about it. I’m not about to become the Infertility Awareness spokeswoman. But there’s no denying that it’s a part of me. How can it not be? I’ve written over and over about how this is a sanctifying work. If it changed me so much (and boy, did it!), how could I ever just forget about it? It’s so clear to me now how much this trial reshaped me.

If for nothing else than my own reflection, I’d like to share with you some of the biggest lessons I learned in my infertility. 

1. This isn’t my baby. When I was about 9 weeks pregnant, my husband and I were casually preparing to go out to dinner with some friends. Out of nowhere, I discovered I was bleeding pretty heavily. Panic washed over me like never in my life. I screamed for my husband and broke down sobbing. We prayed hard, pleading with God not to take this baby yet. I remembered calling out, Father, you may ask a miscarriage of me some day with some baby, but please don’t make it today or this baby. I ended up on bed rest for a month, and, obviously, God was merciful and our baby was fine.Quote1

Now that he’s here, like all mothers, I spend a silly amount of time sneaking in to check on him while he sleeps. Our first few nights home, he slept like a rock, but we lost tons of sleep jumping up every 10 minutes to make sure he was ok. I still pop up a few times a night just to peek over and see his chest moving. The scary thought has crossed my mind a few times: What if I come in one day and he’s not breathing? 

The lesson from both of these stories, and every other worry my new-mom mind conjures up about his life, is the same lesson I learned when I was waiting for him. This is not my baby. We are daily Abraham standing with his long-awaited Isaac, ready to give him back to the Lord whenever He may require it. Of course we could stand here close-fisted, in constant terror that we could lose this dear treasure at any moment. But instead we’ve learned (and continue to learn) to hold him up, hands open and arms lifted, an offering to the Lord. There is so much more peace in this. This is the Lord’s baby, and we trust Him to do with him as he wishes.

2. Compassion. I’m a little embarrassed to say I used to be a pretty compassionless person. I think I had compassion on the really poor and needy, but with the everyday person like me, I just didn’t care that much about their problems. I probably cared about my friends’ troubles, but if I was honest, I didn’t care that deeply. But now that I’ve had true troubles of my own, He has transformed the way I think about what others may be going through. I’m less quick to judge. I cry more easily at their pain. I’m more patient with their struggles. I’ve stopped gauging how serious I think someone’s trial is — if it’s really that bad. If it’s that bad to them, then it’s that bad. It was that bad to me. I regret that this wasn’t my heart sooner, but I’m grateful the Lord has brought me here.

3. God is trustworthy. This is one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when we saw that surprise positive pregnancy test. Wow, He actually did it! All that time I was hoping He would — I was trusting He would — but there was no way to be sure He would. Having that confirmation has totally changed the way I pray and how I see Him. I thought I had faith in prayer before, but now it is no longer blind faith — I know that He can do it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I remember thinking that morning that, even if He took the baby the very next day, this would change everything. It was no longer praying and getting back silence. He had heard and acted for us. And now I know He could do that again, about anything else we ask of Him. This has changed our relationship with Him so much.

Quote24. Nothing is hopeless & impossible things can happen. Like many of you, l bet, last summer we sat in a fertility clinic across from a doctor who calculated the percent likelihood we had of conceiving a child on our own. I kind of forget now (it’s not the kind of thing you store up in your heart), but I think it was something like 9%. Now, my husband is in economics, so he’s a little more knowledgable about statistics — in fact, him not liking the way the doctor “tweaked” his math to come up with that number was a big reason we changed clinics. Nevertheless, we knew our odds were looking grim. It only looked worse when our treatments later failed. But then one day, we were pregnant. It happened. By all calculations, it wasn’t likely. But it did. Since then whenever we’re asked to pray for seemingly impossible things, I am so much more optimistic (read: faith-filled) — I was there when it wasn’t supposed to happen, and I was there when it did. So why couldn’t it happen again?

6. Really terrible things can happen to me. I guess this is kind of a strange thing to call “fruit,” but I see it as part of a sober mindset. Knowing how to “number my days” and have an accurate estimation of my life as a vapor. We always think it won’t be us. God wouldn’t do that to us. I wouldn’t be the one whose baby dies from SIDS. My husband wouldn’t be the one who becomes a paraplegic. My mom wouldn’t be the one who gets horrible cancer. “God forbid,” we say. But God may not forbid, if it’s for our better. For the sake of making me more like Christ, nothing is off limits. The first step in handling it well is not living in denial of its likelihood.

7. My treasure is in Christ. Oh, the blog posts I could write about this! I wrestled so much with the desire to have children as my inheritance from the Lord. There were many days when there was nothing else I desired. How much I needed to learn that Christ is my inheritance. Christ is my treasure. In Christ we have everything we could ever want or need. I used to claim I believed that, but it wasn’t until I wasn’t going to have children — an idol I didn’t know I had; the thing deep down I really wanted and needed — that I learned it was really true. It wasn’t until Christ was all I had, that I truly knew He is all I need. I’ve been wanting a post about this image I always see on Pinterest, which I have come to, well, kind of despise:

first
I hate this.

NO! We have long had everything, because we had Christ.

First we had nothing.

Then we had everything in Christ.

Then everything else was undeserved mercy.

Including you.  

…But I guess that doesn’t look as cute in a nursery.

Psalm 36 – Your faithfulness stretches to the skies

Please read and reflect on these beautiful truths from Psalm 36:5-8, then enjoy the worship song the follows.

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;

your judgments are like the great deep;

man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light do we see light.

Sermon – How have You loved us? (Mark Driscoll)

My husband and I watched this sermon today and it was SO perfect! It’s not really supposed to be about infertility, though he mentions it. I could go on forever (ask my husband — I went on forever after we finished it) about all the applications in my life right now. A need for a legacy (blog post to follow!); a need to hear that God HAS been gracious and loving to us, even without a baby (What a line! “God is greater than you feel, you are worse than you fear.”); having a right attitude for circumstances, even if they don’t change.

Anyway, please take the time to listen to or watch it soon! Click the link below!

http://marshill.com/media/malachi-living-for-a-legacy/how-have-you-loved-us

God genuinely cares about you (it’s not just a cliche)

This post is more personal than I usually prefer to be, but I have no better real-life way to explain what I mean. Since this past summer one of many big lessons God has been drilling into me is about how much He personally cares about me. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast your cares upon God, for He cares about you.” This has been a special verse to my heart during our infertility. Lately God keeps showing me over and over (without just handing me a baby) that He genuinely cares about me. He cares about what I care about. He is thoughtful and cares about my sorrow. The world doesn’t revolve around me, and I don’t deserve these affections, but He does care.

1ptrJust some background… I’ve mentioned that we’re Christian workers living abroad, which means we have a very low income. We’ve been in America for several months, and will be returning to our country soon [when I wrote this we were in the States… we’ve since moved back overseas]. So there have been a number of expenses, many of which are just wants and not needs, that have been floating around. For example, my husband’s birthday was in August. In our normal life I don’t have a lot of independence, so it’s hard for me to get him nice gifts for his birthday without him knowing about it. I really wanted to give him something special while I had the freedom of America (and access to gifts he’ll actually like). I prayed that God would make a way and room in the budget. I got him one gift, but I really wanted to get him a watch — he’d wanted one last year, but we never found one he really liked in our budget. But this year, it was still just out of the budget. The day before his birthday, we spoke to a group of senior citizens. Afterwards, as we were walking out the door, out of nowhere, an old lady walked up to me, gave me a hug, handed me some cash and said, “Use this to buy your husband something special.” Then she walked away. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately ran to the mall to get him his dream watch, which he now wears every day. I like to tell him, “Every time you look at that watch, remember that God really cares about you and even the little things you care about.” And it’s a reminder that He cares about me, too.

I have a bigger story to share, but you have to promise not to judge me. Promise? Okay. [Note: In hindsight, I removed this story. Don’t judge me for that either!]

Continue reading “God genuinely cares about you (it’s not just a cliche)”

Sovereignty + Love = Hope

“Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”
-Charles Spurgeon

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few days. At first it sounds like just a nice thought, but the longer I think about it, the more truth springs from it. I believe this quote hits on probably the biggest difference between the Christian view of God and basically every other view of God.

love
Click the picture to read some verses about God’s love for you.

To fatalistic religions, God is an all-powerful, impersonal being in the sky who makes arbitrary decisions about your life like a game of chess. When things happen, you know He did them, but you don’t know why, and you don’t ask. While it’s true that Christians also believe God is all-powerful and makes the decisions for our life, we have one added factor that I think changes everything: love.

The fact that this all-powerful Maker of the universe genuinely loves you — He cares about you — means that there is a reason behind the shots He calls for your life. And not only that, but they are personally made for you, and will never be too hard for you.hope2

How does this affect your outlook? Let me give an example. Think of the last time you thought, “I could never do that” or, “If that happened, it would be the worst.” Let’s use cancer as a real-life example. “If I were told I had cancer, it would just kill me. I couldn’t do that.” Now let’s say a few years down the line, your fears come true and you are diagnosed with cancer. One of two things are true: 1.) God doesn’t care if you’re afraid of cancer and can’t handle it. You get cancer and that’s the end of the conversation. Or 2.) You were wrong, and God knows you can handle cancer. Christianity teaches #2 would be true. If you know God loves you, it changes everything about those heart-stopping, stomach-dropping moments in your life, as Spurgeon reminds us in the quote above.

hopeNow many people believe this and use this truth to convince themselves of an extreme interpretation of this belief: God loves them more than Himself,  they are the center of everything, they deserve certain things in life, and/or they can only expect to prosper. If you believe that lie, you will be disappointed. But if you stick to the truth, hope will not disappoint.

And that’s what this all comes down to: hope. If you subscribe to the truth that God is sovereign over your life and He loves you, you will always have hope in every situation. Why would you choose to face any situation with any other thinking?

Half an answer to “Why?”

I am currently l.o.v.i.n.g. Tim Keller’s new bookWalking with God through Pain and Suffering. I will be recommending it in an upcoming post featuring some books on suffering. I’m only in the middle of it, and I already have tons of quotes I’m just dying to share. Here’s one I read last night that really touched my heart. It addresses the question of “why” in trial.

“Yes, we do not know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason is not. It cannot be that He does not love us. It cannot be that He does not care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that He was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering Himself. He understands us, He has been there, and He assures us that He has a plan to eventually wipe away every tear. Someone might say, ‘But that’s only half an answer to the question, ‘Why?” Yes, but it is the half we need.”

Amen and amen!

The Silence of God

I’m not sure if this will be an encouraging song for everyone, but the first time we heard it, my husband and I fell silent in the car and then both reached for the “replay” button when it was over. It really resonated with us, as we waited in the valley for the Lord to move. How many times I’ve cried out in prayer, wondering where God is and why I don’t feel or hear or see Him. I can’t even tell you how often I’ve wearily and tearfully cried out, “What are You??” It’s part of the trial, of course, and we know He’s always there, even when it’s not the most evident, but it’s still just as painful.

I also tear up sometimes at the end, when Jesus is referred to as “the man of all sorrows,” and I remember that He understands real pain. This name comes from Isaiah, a book written hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth. It says of Him in verse 3,

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”

What a comfort to know our God is not distant and compassionless. He knows human pain firsthand. Here is a radio talk (and transcript) about this idea: https://woh.org/word/radio/1996/02/25, if you feel inclined to meditate on it more.

This is “The Silence of God,” by Andrew Peterson. The lyrics are in the video.