Seizing your childless days

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12

Whether it’s easy to admit of not, if you’re struggling with infertility, it means you are facing days in your life plans that are freer than you were expecting. We often don’t know how long these days will last — it may be a few extra months, it may be a couple more years, or it could very well be a totally different life from now on than we’d planned. By now we were hoping to be morning sick or chasing a toddler around the house. Some of us were already saving for school tuition and extra mouths to feed. We thought we’d be on our way to quitting our so-so (or very beloved) job and cutting back on other commitments. But here we are. Waiting. Free, but not so “footloose and fancy.”

Psalm 90 beckons us to be wise when we look at our days. Likewise, Ephesians 5:15-16 warn:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

While this blog has often talked of the need to seize these days in a spiritual sense, we would be remiss if we didn’t also consider how to use these unexpectedly free hours in a practical sense. I’d like to make some suggestions to pray about as you (and your spouse!) ask yourselves: How can we best use this time?

  • Invest in the children and families already in your life. It takes a lot of maturity to look past the desire for your own children and look more widely at those God has already put in your life. Perhaps you might consider investing more fully in nieces and nephews, younger siblings, kids of church friends or neighbors, etc. Besides the personal benefits of gaining more experience with kids, you’ll be using time you have now (that you likely won’t have as much of later) to bless others. You may even find a way to relieve some of the burden of loving your own children. How can you do this?
    • Babysit – I know, it’s not usually a fun thing! It will be sanctifying to you and a blessing to others. Consider it an investment in the marriage of another — you and your husband likely have regular date nights, don’t you think your neighbors would love one, too?
    • Be involved – Go to sports games and recitals, hand-pick personal birthday gifts, and spend time getting to know these kids a little more. Parents really appreciate someone who shows genuine care for their kids (and kids do, too!).
    • Love a mom – Moms need a ton of support. Moms of very young kids are especially in need of an extra hand. Look around at the moms in your life or consider asking your Pastor or his wife if they know a young mom who might need a little help. This might be tagging along on a shopping trip to reign in runaway kids, helping fold laundry while she’s cleaning the bathroom, or just coming over for a  visit to give her some adult conversation every now and then.
  • Grow in knowledge. Take the time and money you have and learn a new skill or develop ones you already have. Maybe you’ll want to take a course or higher a tutor, or maybe you’ll want to buy some extra materials or just spend more time practicing. It could be years before you’re free to invest in yourself again.
  • Grow spiritually. This is the main focus of this blog, but it’s worth reminding you, oh reader, that the Lord is shouting to you in your pain (to paraphrase CS Lewis). Use your freedom (however unwelcome it may be) to memorize scripture, grow your prayer list, read more theology, and take some classes at church. One day you may be thirsting for the chance! The Bible speaks so much of investing in things that cannot be destroyed — no matter what your future holds, you’ll never regret investing in your soul.
  • Invest in your marriage. Someday it may seem impossible to work in a date night for months or years. It may be all you can do to say “hey” to your spouse in between a morning feeding and eventually crawling into bed at night. Consider using your days now to build an even stronger foundation for your relationship. Look into a marriage retreat or conference (I recommend this one), read some books together or by yourself (here’s a good list), take up a hobby together or start taking date night more seriously. Your future kids will definitely thank you for having a strong marriage!
  • Focus more on your work. When I say “focus on work,” I don’t mean become obsessed with work, distract yourself with overtime, or make your career your idol. But if you’re in a job, why not do it with excellence? Do your duties to the fullest. Improve your credentials or position. Consider making changes if you’re in something you were hoping to leave by now (I know this can be hard to face — like admitting defeat — but I’d encourage you to to see it as good stewardship of your hours and energy).
  • ps9012Serve your church. Look into more ways you can be blessing your church with your time and energy. It may be teaching a class or serving behind the scenes, or signing up for one-time events. Talk to your pastor or other leaders to explore options you may not even know about.
  • Consider missions work. Your church or a para-church organization (like this one or this one) may have some short-term (from weeks, to months, to even a year or two) opportunities that are a good fit for you. Investing your time in the global cause for the gospel is priceless.
  • Consider being a foster parent. Even if you aren’t sure adoption is in your future, if your heart is to love and parent children, there’s no reason you can’t start now. There are thousands of children in the foster system today who would benefit from even a temporary stay with a loving family. Every state has a different process for this, usually requiring some informational classes and parenting classes, and an application and interview process. You can google your state or go here for more info.
  • Prepare for parenthood. I hesitate to mention this because I personally don’t feel the best way to use infertile months is to obsess over having kids. It’s for you to choose healthy boundaries. You can certainly gauge which investments of time and money might be regrettable in the future. If there’s a chance you’ll be a parent one day, it might be wise to think ahead. Does your church offer a parenting class? Have you heard any book recommendations from friends?

Continue reading “Seizing your childless days”

TBT: 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 “justfollow 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!).

This is a repost from October 2014

Growth is in the suffering, not the joy

“Jesus learned obedience from the things which He suffered, not by the things which he enjoyed.” [p.78]

I have been learning that our spiritual maturity is more likely to come from times of difficulty (momentary things like disagreements with coworkers, as well as big things like grieving a death) than times of ease. I’ve come to see there is a biblical truth to thinking that times of peace and “all is well” are more to be seen as the exception, and times of trial and suffering and needing to believe “all is well” are to be expected as the norm for the Christian life. I need a healthy mind and heart that is ready and expecting bumps in the road and not dreading and cursing them. They are welcomed catalysts for my growth. I need them. My faith is weak without them.

I’ve been sharing quotes from Elisabeth Elliot’s book Keep a Quiet Heart. Please share your thoughts! 

Sovereign, Wise, and Good

A long time ago I took a small group leader’s class at my church. One of the sessions focused on leading people through difficult times in life. There was a “takeaway” from that night that has always stuck with me, especially through trials in my life. It is simple, but perfect for those times when things happen that are out of your control and you don’t know how to respond. It is this truth:

God is sovereign, wise, and good, so I can trust Him.

God is sovereign: He is in control of everything.

God is wise: He knows what is best and doesn’t make mistakes.

God is good: He will not do evil things.

These three truths together give us peace and trust in God when He makes choices for our life that are hard to understand or agree with. I encourage you to repeat that truth to yourself as much as needed so that you can remind yourself to trust Him when it’s the hardest.

I thought this would be a fitting song to go with this thought today…

If Elisabeth Elliot were writing this blog…

Wise words from a wise woman.
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ee3

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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!). 

A little wisdom with your coffee

I appreciated this section from (and all of) Psalm 39 this morning.

psalm39

On Jealousy

love

“I can’t go to her shower. I can’t bear to watch that right now.”

“My sister got pregnant before me. I cried for days. I’m so furious.”

“Ugh, I hate them. They got pregnant just thinking about trying to have another one. And it’s twins!”

This isn’t going to be a popular post. I’ve been thinking about this subject for a while, writing and rewriting my thoughts, changing my mind. But I feel obligated, seeing such a lack of truth-based teaching and encouragement on the web, and people reading this blog for some. I’m sure I’m not your only source for that, but if you’re reading, I feel compelled to speak truth, even if it hurts a little.

You have to know that jealousy is a sin. Coveting (longing for) what your “neighbor” has was condemned way back in the 10 Commandments. It’s still warned about in the New Testament, as a sin that eats away at you, controlling and destroying you. Galatians 5 lists it twice [as jealousy and envy] in the sins that separate us instantly from God: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy […] Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Everyone’s favorite passage, 1 Corinthians 13, reminds us that “…love is not jealous…” — and we are commanded to love each other, over and over again. It’s true that jealousy is not loving. When we express frustration over someone getting pregnant before or more easily than us, we are really just saying, “No one deserves to be happy if I’m not/until I’m happy.” That’s so unloving. If you are to love your neighbor as yourself, shouldn’t you be wanting for her the things you want for yourself? Let me answer: yes, you should. And if this doesn’t come naturally, that’s not an excuse not to do it. It’s a reason to cultivate that within yourself.

In our life goals as Christians, we look to God’s ultimate command“Be holy just as I am holy.” This should be the end aim of all we do. We want to be holy [ie, sinless]. I don’t think there are conditional clauses to this. It’s not “Be holy, unless it hurts really badly,” or “Be holy, unless this keeps going on forever,” or “Be holy with the first three women, but after that you can just give up,” or “Be holy as long as someone else’s situation is the same as yours.” No, you guys, we don’t have an excuse for why we “get to” or “deserve to” be jealous.

Paul talks of his attitude during struggle, in another great verse everyone over-quotes out of context.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

He says he learned to be content — he wasn’t naturally content. He learned to face these circumstances. He worked at it, learning from his situation and learning to be holy. Paul had some tough situations, too, so don’t pull the old “Well he didn’t have it as hard as me.” We can learn a lot from Paul’s attitude and aim of holiness, by letting go of our sinful inclinations and excuses, and controlling our hearts and minds to choose holiness over sinful envy.

On Wisdom

[Note: This post has been edited down from its original version.]

[…] Likewise, several months back, my husband received a call from a friend who out of nowhere burst into asking him when we’re going to finally get around to having kids. My husband eventually interrupted him, forced to confide our struggles. Later he told me how at first he wanted to lash out at the friend for being so inconsiderate, but then he confessed, “I know I used to be like that. I would ask my sister and her husband the same kind of thing, and I didn’t know if they had a problem.” And I related that I’ve also lacked the wisdom to be sensitive to where people can be struggling in life, such as ragging on single friends for needing to hurry up and find a spouse. The only reason we now have the consideration not to mindlessly hound people on insensitive subjects is because now we’ve actually been victims of it, and we know how deep it cuts. This is wisdom.

Here’s something to consider: what if you needed some serious advice? You must choose to ask one of two people: they are both committed Christians with good education, and they are the same age. One easily had so-many kids and has encountered no health or financial distress, her family has been perfectly intact and without struggle, and she has never had reason to question anything about her faith. The other lost a child, walked with her husband through a lay-off, watched her parents suffer through an affair, and at one point had a teenager walk away from his faith and led him back over time. The choice is obvious: you would ask the second woman for advice. Why? Because she’s the one with wisdom. Contrary to the old adage, wisdom is not necessarily granted with age – it comes with experience, with struggle, and with an open heart that walks with the Lord through that struggle, thriving instead of just surviving.

Click to begin reading the book of Proverbs. It talks at length about wisdom and contains a lot of Solomon's teachings.
Click to begin reading the book of Proverbs. It talks at length about wisdom and contains a lot of Solomon’s teachings.

Imagine this: an angel, or even Jesus Himself, comes to you in the middle of the night and offers you two choices: you can have everything you want for the rest of your life (marriage, children, work, finances, health, etc.) without struggle, but you will lack the wisdom that would come with otherwise working for, waiting for, or sacrificing those things. Or, you can do without, or wait for, or give up some of those things, but be all the more wise and experienced. What would you choose? Continue reading “On Wisdom”

Wise Words from Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon is a famous godly preacher from the 1800’s. Here are some biblical and encouraging quotes by him. Click any of them to see it closer. You can read more about him and find more quotes and devotionals at http://www.spurgeon.us/ or http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm

spurg1 spur8 spur7 spur6 spur5 spur3 spur2 spurg4