The undeserved abundance

Grace.

It’s both of my bosses telling me it’s ok that I may miss some work without much notice next month.  One said she received such grace when she was going through this as a young working woman, and she is passing it on to me.

Grace.

What my friend gave me when I texted her, asking her to pray as I sat waiting and willing myself not to cry.  She has a baby in the NICU and has had plenty of days worthy of tears.   Though my struggle isn’t life/death as hers has been, she didn’t compare our pain.  She gave me the encouragement and wisdom she had.

Grace.

It’s one of my best friends always asking about us, listening to treatment options and prayer requests even though big transitions are happening for her right now too.  It’s her not mentioning when I forget to ask about the kids, knowing I love them but that some days my mind is one-tracked.

Grace.

It’s my mentor from Auburn telling me that just because we’re hurting doesn’t mean we stop ministering to others.  As she sat there with her family walking through fire, she asked me how things were going as a young wife.  How could she help me?  “No, it’s ok that we’re here,” she said.  “If I waited for the right time to give myself to others, I’d never give at all.”

Grace.

It’s the things we don’t deserve.  It’s the above-and-beyond we didn’t expect.  For me right now, it’s the surprise each time I learn someone we’ve loved or someone we just met has walked in these shoes and we never knew.  God crossed our paths in other ways and now we have even more people to stand by our side.

If grace is the abudance we don’t deserve and can’t imagine, I can only dream of what that means for the rest of our story.  Even as we move forward with new plans, we can let go of our expectations and, instead, hold our hands out to accept His grace.

 

One purpose of our trial

Even though we’ve been on this road for awhile, today is the first day I feel like a  card-carrying member of the infertility club.  Once you move up to the level of specialists and traveling three hours for tests, I think it’s safe to say it’s official.

I’ve recently started following some infertility organizations online.  It’s helpful to have access to others’ experiences and be able to ask them questions.  I’ve also realized that God can use me in these virtual communities to be a witness to the hope and joy He offers couples traveling this road.

When I’m on one of these Facebook pages or in a forum, I have felt compelled to answer questions in a way that brings the focus to God.  When an organization asked its followers for some good news anyone had received recently, I found myself responding how God has given us fresh peace about His goodness and His plan for our family — that no matter what the outcome of this road, He is good and we are loved by our Creator.  Hundreds of women see these comment threads.  What an opportunity to testify to God’s goodness to those who may be angry at Him or confused about how He fits into their lives right now.

It’s something I can do.  If we’re going to be members of this “club,” then I am grateful He’s shown us we can be His light in dark places.  We can hopefully be an encouragement to others to turn to Jesus on their own paths.

I don’t know all the reasons He’s given us this challenge.  But I’m choosing to believe that one purpose may be to strategically place two of His children in a community that is often sad and isolating.  This is a closed community that, frankly, you just can’t truly know how to minister in unless you’ve experienced the unique grief and uncertainty.

What if He put us on this path to give us access to and empathy for others who need to be reminded of His eternal goodness?  What if He gave us membership in this “club” so that we could let Him in the door too?

I know on our hardest days, we needed to be reminded of His goodness and mercy regarding His plans for our family.  I’m so grateful for the people who reach out to us with their own encouragement born from the same experience.

You can do this too.  We all face things in life that are difficult, and we all have communities we can impact.  It begins with being willing to share your story and shine His light.  It may be hard to talk about.  Trust me, it is hard sometimes for us to open up.  But when everything else feels out of our control, we know sharing what God is doing through our journey is something we can do.

After all, what if God gives us trials in order to give us access to others in similar situations that need His love?  What if our trials breed empathy and love for others we wouldn’t know how to reach otherwise?

We believe sometimes our trials are God’s opportunities to create testimonies we’d gain no other way.  It’s up to us to complete that purpose by sharing our stories.

Quick to Receive

When I was leaving home after lunch yesterday, I felt this heavy cloud start to fall over me.  All of a sudden, it was a terriblehorriblenogoodverybad day.  I was suddenly frustrated, angry, weepy, irritable and exhausted.

Nothing had happened, unless you count a year’s worth of hormone therapy.

Charlie was encouraging, compassionate, and kind.  He listened to how I felt, pointing me to the Lord’s peace and love.  He’s been wonderful at staying steady and strong over this past year when I’m often on a yo-yo.

However, I always resist him for the first 10 or 15 minutes.  I don’t want to be encouraged.  I don’t want to see that this will pass and everything is really fine.

I want to hold on to this negativity and wallow for a few minutes before I can let his encouragement seep in.  It’s silly, but it’s always how it goes.

This morning, I realized this need to wallow before accepting help is a human tendency that bleeds over into our relationship with God.

The scripture I read this morning talked of God turning our mourning into dancing and exchanging our sorrow for joy.  I thanked Him for taking our afflictions from us and giving us their opposite instead — His peace, His love, His strength, etc.

Then He said, “I want you to be quick to accept the good things I give you!  Don’t be defensive of your wounds — let me near to them so I can help.”

When a child scrapes her knee, her parent sits her down to clean and bandage it.  But doesn’t the child often pull away, knowing what is meant to help will overwhelm the wound at first and maybe hurt as the dirt is removed?  She pulls back, defensive of her hurting place, not yet ready to expose it.

I think we do the same with God.  There are areas of our hearts that hurt, but sometimes we hold on to them for a little while before letting Him help.  We’re not quite ready for Him to overwhelm us, cleaning out our affliction and bringing His relief.  We’re afraid of exposing the wound, even if it means healing.

There are many ways God is blessing us right now.  Yet, my emotions often feel like they’re on a runaway train.  My prayer is to be more immediately willing to expose the chaos to God’s peace.  I don’t want to wallow as I try to grin and bear it.  I want to immediately say, “I don’t know what’s happening today, but it hurts and I can’t manage it!  Please come wash it away!”

“The Storm” Nine Years Later

Tonight Charlie and I will sleep in my family’s home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  It hit me this morning what a blessing that is, considering nine years ago today, Hurricane Katrina tore through our state, our town, our neighborhood.

It was the first weekend of my senior year at Lee University.  We were so busy with hall chaplain training that I didn’t even know a hurricane was in the gulf.  My dad called Saturday to say he was going surfing in Gulf Shores because a storm named Katrina was churning up the biggest waves we’d had in years.  He told us later that he left the water when he saw a guy wipe out and get washed over the road.

My 82-year-old grandmother had just had knee replacement surgery in Biloxi.  She was still in the hospital a few blocks from the beach when evacuation orders were issued.

We didn’t have cable in our dorm, so I went to a friend’s house to watch the live coverage as the storm came ashore.  I drifted in and out of sleep all night on her couch, making it all seem like a bad dream.  When I really woke up the next morning, I screamed when I saw a live shot of places I knew like the back of my hand.  Only now I didn’t see them — I just knew that empty space was were they used to be.

The cell towers were jammed and I couldn’t call anyone with a 228 area code.  I knew my parents were in north Mississippi, but I couldn’t reach them.  My brother was just as helpless in Costa Rica.  I finally got a hold of my dad’s mom on Wednesday after the storm.  Then I wrote this scary entry in my journal:

Will and I just found out that we can’t be sure where my parents are. They last talked to my grandmother after their car got stuck trying to get around a downed tree. They abandoned it and were walking the highway trying to hitch a ride to shelter. We thought we knew for sure where they were…we don’t.

The storm had caught up to them by then and they were walking in it.  We heard from them the next day.

Neighbors who rode out the storm broke into our house (not difficult with the windows gone) and tore out all our carpet before more mold could set in.  One of them sent me a message online to let me know the extent of the damage.

I somehow learned my uncle Timmy was picking up my dad with a gun, $5,000 and barrells of clean water to make the drive back to the Coast.  They figured they could get through any road block with the cash and water, and the gun was there because they knew they were walking into a desperate situation.

My mom joined my dad sometime that week.  I learned that they went to our local hospital to ask to buy their leftover dinner rolls.  I cried like a baby hearing that.

I flew into Mobile two weeks after the storm and my Mom drove me home.   When we reached Pascagoula, I remember the air started to reek.  All the salt and mud was decaying everything it touched.

The first thing I saw was a pile of our belongings on the corner of the street before we pulled into the driveway.  My dad had spent all morning clearing everything out and sweeping the foundation so the house would look as clean and orderly as possible for me.  That sums up my father — doing anything he can to make any experience easier for his family.

We lived the next few months in an alternate world.  I was in a fog all semester at school and took the spring semester off to be at home.  Although not really home, since we lived in a one bedroom apartment in a retirement community until February and I slept on an air mattress on the floor in the living room next to our dog.

My parents and I navigated the devastated streets of Gulfport on Christmas morning, looking for people in FEMA trailers who might like a hot Christmas dinner.  One woman gave us her jade plant.  She explained it was a symbol of friendship, and that all of us who were living in Katrina’s aftermath were surely friends.   We kept that jade plant, a symbol of friendship, for almost 6 years.

When my dad started traveling for work again, it was nice to be home with my mom and slowly switch from “recovery” mode to “redecorating” mode as we picked out new paint colors and redesigned our home.  My parents were rocks, caring for my grandmother in her surgery recovery as well as caring for us.

I don’t know when conversations finally stopped including at least some discussion of the storm, but it took a long time.  For the next year, everything revolved around some aspect of Katrina.

When I walk through our front door now, it always smells like a new home.  I feel so grateful that we still gather in a place where we have so many memories.  I feel blessed that I walked through that same door as a fourth grader on my way to school and now I walk through it with my husband.

Our family didn’t suffer Katrina like some.  We were blessed that our home flooded but still stood.  The word I remember hearing over and over in my heart during that time is “faithful.”

God is so faithful.  He walked our family down a very hard road.  A road that we are blessed continues to arrive at a front door on Portree Place again and again, nine years later.


Sidenote:  As I finished writing these memories, I thought of one more that made me laugh.  My parent’s good friend, John Pittman from the Delta, called my dad a few days after the storm.  His first words, in his classic Delta drawl, were “Mark, it’s John.  Kathryn and I thought we’d come down for a visit ,” as if they were planning a relaxing vacation to the Coast to stay with their friends.  It cracked my dad up at a time when there wasn’t much to laugh about.  John was at our house that same week, sweating in the heat and sorting through what to save and what to toss.

Therefore, I have hope

Last night, as Charlie and I watched a movie, worry and frustration floated through my mind. After a rough two weeks, we’re not closer to figuring out why I have constant headaches and nausea. That afternoon, we learned that something we felt sure was causing it isn’t even a factor.  We are back to the drawing board.

So I was tired. Tired and frustrated that we seemed to be making progress and now everything was completely changing.  Frustrated that we’re not even sure this is related to the infertility or is a completely new issue.

That very second, my mom texted me several verses out of Lamentations 3.

“I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”

Every time my head pounds or the nausea swells, I remember this issue and my heart gets downcast. Though I certainly don’t feel totally deprived of peace or all I’d hoped for from the Lord (huge progress from a month ago!), I completely sympathize with what Jeremiah is saying — remembering my difficulties pulls down my heart.

Luckily, Jeremiah wrote the next verses:

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.”

My heart gets weighed down until I call to mind that I am not consumed.   I am not defeated because God loves me and is compassionate to me.  His faithfulness toward me is great, even in the prescence of sickness and frustration.  I have to remind my heart that God is my portion — the answer to my symptoms, the relief of our worry — and I will wait for Him in quietness and trust.

“I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
 You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”

Trust Without Borders

I stood with my arms folded, mouth shut.  The songs were swelling around me, but I refused to be moved out of my anger and into worship.  As others sang about God’s faithfulness, my heart wasn’t so sure that was true.  How could I sing to Him when I didn’t even want to talk to Him?

Two weeks ago, I spent several days angry with God for the first time in my life.  I had real doubts about Him.  The things I knew to be true — that He is faithful, good, and able — suddenly didn’t feel true for me.  Instead, it felt like He was withholding goodness for no reason.  What is the point of not giving us the good thing we’re begging Him for?

I was so fed up with Him that I gave Him the silent treatment for a few days.  I wasn’t going to continue feeling like an idiot praying every morning for something He was clearly ignoring.

I was scared.  I’d never truly doubted Him before.  I’d never had my faith shaken like this.  This isn’t how I wanted to handle our struggle.  After a couple of days, I started talking to Him again.  I was still angry, but I figured I might as well fight it out with Him than be miserable without Him.

There’s a song called “Oceans” that I’ve loved the past few months.  It’s easy to get swept up in the melody, which I found myself doing once in the car during that week.

Then, the Lord showed me that these words were how He wants me to see our situation.  These words were what I should say to Him.  This is the right perspective.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

I had sung for Him to take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.  I certainly would have never wandered into the area of infertility.  It’s not a place I would have willingly walked near, much less rambled around in.  I realize He had to take us here.

When I sing for Him to lead me where my trust is without borders, I have to recognize that for a few days I said that this struggle was my border.  I wouldn’t trust Him past this point.  I wasn’t sure about Him at this point.  A baby became my border.

But oh the last part of that verse: “And my faith would be made stronger in the presence of My Savior.”

As I let Him in despite the anger,  He’s giving me the increased faith I need to move past the doubt.  I wouldn’t have chosen this place, but I can be here because of Him.  He can expand my borders of trust until I am free of anger and doubt.

This is the great unknown for Charlie and me.  When I sing that our feet may fail, I certainly know that mine did for a few days.  Fear surrounded me as I kept my eyes on the waves of disappointment, awful side effects from medicine after medicine, and anger.  But now I am remembering to keep my eyes above the waves, and let them rest on Jesus.

He has “never failed and He won’t start now.

In this ocean deep, His sovereign hand will be our guide.  He has called us here for whatever reason — a mystery to us — but He will let us walk upon the water and not be taken under.

 


We are sharing our faith journey through infertility because we know how much hearing others’ experiences has helped us.  While we leave out a lot of specific details, we feel God leading us to share what He’s teaching us.  On the worst days, knowing that others may be encouraged in Him through our willingness to share gives this experience value when we can’t see any otherwise.

Lost?

FMF | Lost

I can’t see where we’re going right now. We keep taking the next steps forward, but the destination — even the length of the road — is shrouded in fog.

Yet, I don’t think we’re lost.  Nope, I don’t feel lost at all.

I don’t know why the road we’re on is so long and slow.  I wish my life’s GPS would tell me how long until our destination.  I wish I could know for sure that disappointments are temporary and not full stops.

Even so, we’re not really lost.

We’re on the road He’s planned for us.  We’re making the progress as He allows.  We can’t see the whole map, but we’re not really the ones in charge of the directions.

We’d only be lost without a Leader.

If I’m lost in anything, it’s trust.  I’m so deep in trusting my heavenly Father that I can’t see out of it.  I can’t see beyond it because it stretches too far.  I wouldn’t even know how to choose another road.  Charlie, more so than me, is lost in hope, I think.  I can still sometimes glimpse the exit for hopelessness, but he seems firm.  Thankfully, we’re on this road together.

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.”  Psalm 139:5

You surround us, so if we’re ever lost in anything, it’s only You.

 

Almost already done

Time isn’t very logical.

Days feel long. It makes sense that months of long days would feel long too. Yet months always feel a little shorter. Years — they fly. Fast.

It washed over me the other day that our travel nursing time is over. It’s been more than a year, but sometimes I still freshly remember that we won’t do that anymore. No more waking on Tuesday to head to the ocean without a plan. We’ve already ridden over the bridge, surprised the moose, picked the fall apples, and fallen asleep next to the fire in Maine. We’ve already done it. We waited and waited to get started and we’re already done.

I remember days when Charlie was at the hospital and I didn’t have anywhere to volunteer for whatever reason. Those days felt so slow sometimes. Yet all together, they flew by so fast.

We’re waiting again for the next chapter in our family. The days feel long as our hearts stay full to the brim with love that’s longing for a new place to grow. But I know in time (whenever that is), I’ll find myself saying, “I can’t believe the waiting’s already done.”

The waiting days feel long, but I’m hoping their season will somehow feel short.

It seems to work like that.

Not Nothing

FMF | Nothing

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!

Nothing can mean emptiness or it can mean resolve. I’m going to choose resolve.

As in, “Nothing can separate me from You.”

Nothing can convince me You don’t hear us. Nothing can persuade me that You won’t be good to us. Nothing can make me believe You aren’t here.

My body feels empty some days. There’s nothing in that place where we long for something.

But my heart is not empty because You live there.  There is not nothing because there is always You.  And You are everything.

This week, You reminded us that You hear our cry and are moving us forward.  You proved to me that there is not nothing at the end of our prayers.  There is You.  Because You are with us and because You love us, our hearts and our souls will always be alive with hope.

The things I don’t want to admit

There are things about God that I believe are true, just as I believe that the sun will rise.

I believe His timing is perfect. I believe His will is best.

Sometimes though, I don’t want to admit those two things. They’re easy to affirm when we’re not waiting in tears and frustration. But when we’re sitting on the side of our bed sobbing on what sometimes feels like a dead end road, I don’t want to admit that His timing is perfect. I don’t want to admit that His will is best.

To my fragile heart, affirming those things lets in the painful possibilities that His timing will have us waiting even longer and that His will may be very different from what is in our hearts. If I believe those things, then I have to open myself to the possibility that we are on a long road.

It feels like accepting those truths about God might leave the door open to more heartache, more frustration, more disappointment and more tears.

Yet, my tired heart also believes God is good. It also believes He loves us.

His goodness and love are the hope that push us forward each day. When we don’t want to acknowledge that His road looks so different from ours, we’re able to keep walking it because we trust Him more than ourselves.

Some days we fall apart. I’ve done that enough to know there’s a sweetness in letting Him hold you together. Some intimacies with Him are only experienced sobbing on the side of the bed.