For those who still can’t sing

I guess I hadn’t heard the song in a long time.  More than 28 weeks to be exact.  But when they played the opening chords this morning, the usual tears came for an entirely different reason.

“Lay down your burdens, lay down your shame;

All who are broken, lift up your face.

Oh wanderer, come home; You’re not too far.

So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart

Come as you are.

There’s rest for the weary, rest that endures,

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure”

I used to be unable to sing this beautiful song.  I would stand there with my empty arms and flat stomach, feeling afresh the pain of our broken hearts and the sometimes fragile hope in God answering our prayers.  It touched me so deeply – the idea that our greatest sorrow on Earth was still no match for heaven — that I couldn’t even bring it to my lips.

Hearing it today, with my hands resting over our sweet little girl as she kicked me from within, I cried tears of joy that God brought us to the other side of this sorrow.  Singing of the brokenhearted no longer feels like singing about us.

He chose to cure our sorrow by giving us a child.  We laid down our hearts over and over for two years, and now we rest our heads against the doorframe of our nursery and just stare at her crib, her tiny little clothes, and think of her filling this space with joy.

But this morning, I also knew that His “cure” doesn’t always come like this, and my heart ached for those who still can’t sing this song thru their tears.  I thought of women in churches just like ours trying to keep it together as they sing of God’s faithfulness — willing themselves to believe He hasn’t forgotten them.  I pray that the Lord will “cure” their sorrow by answering their prayers in the physical way He did ours.  But I also know that some answers will only come in His presence when we reach Heaven.

There are many things I don’t understand about the Lord.  I don’t understand why He sometimes gives physical answers and makes us wait our whole lives to learn others.  But I pray that however each of us sang that song this morning, we will have the faith to truly believe that He is just as good either way.  It’s not for us to understand His ways.  It’s for us to come as we are, laying down our tender burdens and receiving the peace He offers (even when it doesn’t seem possible).

To My Husband on Father’s Day

Let me just start by saying you are the best.

You are simply the best person I know.  You are the best at making me laugh.  You are the best at making me feel beautiful.  You are the best at making me feel capable.  And you are the best at making me feel loved.

These last two years have brought some unbelievably difficult moments.  You astounded me in how you loved me during that time.  When I was losing it in a hormonal-overload tension attack, you held my arms against my side and soothed me.  You got home from work early to plug in the lavender oil, lay out a blanket and get my book ready so I could feel relaxed the minute I walked in the door.  When I felt like I was breaking, you told me I was a superhero.

You are also the most playful person I know.  You celebrate the small things and find joy in the hard things.  Your silliness is a constant blessing to me!

You are the hardest worker I know.  You constantly look for ways to be helpful, even when it’s not your responsibility.  You are so generous in making yourself available to others.  I know you would do anything to provide for our family, and I can’t tell you the peace that gives me as your wife.

You refuse to fight with me ever.  Even when something’s my fault, you set the tone in bringing us back to peace.

When I think of the kind of husband every girl deserves — the kind of man I hope every girl waits for — I think of you. You make it your priority to actively celebrate and champion me.

There are so many reasons you are the best husband.  And it’s those same qualities that are going to make you the best father.  What a lucky baby to score a dad who will be strong and playful, kind and firm, helpful and hardworking.

I am so blessed to anticipate seeing you in your new role.  You’re going to be the best.

We’ve been keeping a secret…

It’s been quiet on the blog, and it’s because we’ve been (sort of) keeping a secret.

We’re expecting a baby in December!

(…I’m back.  Sorry, I just blissed out for a minute staring at that sentence!)

I am 13 weeks and we have known for the last seven.  It’s been an incredible month and a half as we’ve been to fun doctor’s appointments, heard the heartbeat, seen our little one on an ultrasound, etc.

The best part is that it was a total surprise.  It may sound strange that after two years of infertility treatments we could end up being pregnant by surprise.  But that’s how the Lord chose to work. We would have loved our child any way it came to us, but God chose to expand our family with the coolest story ever.

In mid-March we met with our specialist from Florida to regroup after the increasing difficulty we’d had over the previous several months.  Without going into a lot of detail, he basically told us that our only real shot at conceiving was with IVF.  Without it, we had less than a 2% chance.  We were devastated.  We personally never felt God give us peace about pursuing IVF, so we knew that this was the abrupt end of the road toward a biological child.

It was a shock to say the least.

Our infertility journey sometimes seemed never-ending.  It was painful and frustrating, made even more so during those last months when things that had worked before suddenly got us nowhere.  But the idea that it was over was difficult to accept.  With each month, we had had some hope.  But now that chapter was closed, removing hope in the process.

We decided to take as long as we needed to grieve the idea of a biological child before we pursued other ways of growing our family.  I bought some clothes I’d been needing now that I knew I was staying the same size for the foreseeable future.  I relished drinking as much coffee as I wanted.  Slowly, we let go and asked God to give us peace about how to move forward.

Little did we know that He was way ahead of us.  He had given us a child just days after the last meeting with our doctor — no meds, no procedures, just His power and grace.

In April, I started to not feel well.  I suddenly didn’t want to eat anything but bread and cheese, and I definitely did not want vegetables (weird for me).  I mentioned to Charlie off and on that my abdomen felt tight or sore.

Charlie went out of town to a wedding one weekend, and I woke up feeling nauseated each night.  That Sunday I woke up and saw the last pregnancy test we had left over from treatments.  Something clicked and I took it on a whim, fully expecting it to be negative like so many others. It was immediately positive!  I managed to scream, laugh and cry all in one confused, overwhelmed moment.  Then I called Charlie at 6am, and he thought something was wrong until I could finally spit it out.  Being apart wasn’t at all how we imagined finding out, but it was still wonderful!

The sweetest thought I remember from that morning is that God remembered me.  Add my name to the list of Hannah, Rachel, and so many others.  Our God sees us and remembers us.

We went down to Jacksonville later that week for an ultrasound with our doctor.  He walked in with the biggest smile and just said,”Well, I’m so proud of you two!”  We couldn’t believe we had said goodbye to him for good just six weeks ago, and now here he was showing us our child.  It was a precious moment when we hugged him goodbye and closed that office door for the last time.

So this is the story God chose to write for our family, and it’s much more beautiful than any we could have imagined.  We feel so honored that He chose to not only give us a child, but an undeniable testimony of His power.  We felt from the beginning that He did it this way so that we would have a story to tell — a story that proves Him kind, faithful and unhindered by any difficulty.  And we will definitely love telling it!

As normal life stressors arise, my heart is already so encouraged to remember that we serve a God who gives babies to the barren, so that He can certainly handle anything else I entrust to His loving arms.

I can’t wait to look into our sweet child’s face for the rest of my life and be reminded that we serve a God who loves us beautifully.  He sees us and knows us like no other.  What a Father!


Our two choices

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Alright then, have it your way.'” – C.S. Lewis

I misread this quote the first time I came across it.  I read it as there are two choices: telling God “Thy will be done” and telling God “Alright then, have it Your way.”

Even though it’s not true to the original quote, my version is much more reflective of my heart.  I have prayed honest prayers for the Lord to do His will, whatever that may be.  And yet, when His will is heartbreakingly the exact opposite of what I hoped for, I have cried out to Him in frustration, “Fine! Have it Your way!”

It’s forcing me to take an honest look at my heart and ask if I really want His will more than anything.  When He’s clearly leading us, even in a direction we don’t want to go, will we go joyfully?  Or will we go kicking and screaming?

I’m trying to find the balance of grieving a dream, yet not to the point that I’m grieving over what God has planned for me.  At some point I have to gently let go of my idea for our future and choose to believe that His promise is true and His plans are good.

Only part of the story

Our blog has been quiet for a few weeks, and it’s mainly because I feel like we’re in a waiting period.

Our most recent doctor appointments were pretty disappointing, and we’re waiting to have a conversation about what to do now.  I don’t know what our doctor will say or what path we’ll be on when we leave the office.  My mind cycles through the few options I can imagine and then begins to anxiously wonder about the options I can’t imagine.

So I’ve been trying to keep my heart quiet.  With nothing but a conversation on the horizon, I’ve tried to engage in the moment and not anticipate the next.  And wow, I realized I haven’t truly done this in two years.  There’s always been something fertility related to anticipate.  Even when we took a small break, we knew what was happening that next month.  I still had something to focus on.

But for these two weeks between appointments, I can’t anticipate anything fertility-wise.  There’s nothing known to focus on, so my mind has felt freed up.

I didn’t realize how much of my focus has been consumed by infertility in the last two years until now when I don’t have anything to focus on.  For a few days after our last appointment, I felt empty.  I felt like nothing was happening in my life that gave it any value.  But as my eyes widened and turned to the other people and stories in my life, I realized that there are important, worthwhile things happening.  I just hadn’t been tuning in as much to them.

I felt the Lord say, “Don’t give infertility 100% of your focus, because it’s not 100% of the story I’m writing for you, even now.”

Infertility has felt like the whole story of my life lately.  Don’t think I’m being hard on myself.  In the beginning when we were new to treatment and the drugs, doing research, and riding the rollercoaster of hope and disappointment, it required most of our hearts and could be overwhelming.  But now that we’re not making progress and don’t know how long we’ll be on this road, I see that I need to get on with other things in the midst of this.  If we can’t even glimpse the end, then I can’t just keep getting by in the other areas of my life.  Who knows how long that could go on.

So I’m learning to shift my focus.  I’ve put my mind to adapting small group lessons on dating for our high school girls.  It requires a couple of hours each week, but that time flies by.  I love organizing the thoughts and teachings that will help our girls date well with less hurt and more purpose.  I’ve been praying hard that they will listen better than I did and not have to end up learning these same things the hard way.

I was able to go home and spend a very short weekend with my parents and my brother.  What an awesome gift from the Lord — a wonderful reminder that we are deeply loved and connected, and also that we need to give our love just as much as we receive it.  We are not alone in stress, and the Lord wants to use us as ministers to our loved ones even though we struggle ourselves.

I don’t know what’s next on a lot of levels.  I keep wanting to “make progress” and feel like something is happening.  The whole waiting aspect of infertility has been really difficult.  But in this period where we literally can’t do anything on that front, there are other things to do.  Infertility is part of our lives, but it’s not the whole story.  Therefore, it doesn’t deserve the whole focus.

There are people I want to love better, things I want to be more purposefully engaged in, and a life I want to continue to build.  I can, and should, do those things regardless of our infertility.  As much as I’m scared to let go of this overwhelming focus on a baby (What if we don’t try hard enough?) I want to look around and see what else God wants to do in me and through me.

Because this isn’t His whole story for us, so it doesn’t deserve our whole focus.

100% of our focus should go only to the One who is writing 100% of our story.  And thank you, God, that infertility is only part of our story!