Learning to Run

“I’m not at my limit yet; I can take more.”

That’s what I found myself thinking when I learned I need a new medicine to resolve a small issue before I can get back to the medicine I need for another procedure.  18 months of hormone “uppers” and now a few weeks of “downers.”  I’m turning into a junkie!  Honestly, it’s been hard.  Hard on my body with side effects like headaches, fatigue, nausea and hot flashes.  And hard on my heart when a wonderful date night is interrupted by crazy mood swings.

But I’m not done.  We’re not done.

I have no idea how long this will last or if we will reach the point where we choose to stop without having a child.  But I do know that as fragile as my body feels on some days, I have been blown away by how strong my heart is.

I used to love running and strength training because it felt so good to push my body to its limit and see it respond.  I can’t do that anymore during this process, but I’m on a similar journey with my heart.  It’s being pushed all the time, and I’m constantly amazed at how it’s responding.

Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh, sometimes I get frustrated and scream (this never seems to happen to Charlie, of course!)  But our hearts haven’t quit.  Our God hasn’t quit.  Charlie and I can take more because He will give us more strength.  He will give us more grace.  He will give us more of what we need at each turn.

When I was learning to run, I would break up the distance by minutes.  If I could just run the next minute, I’d be fine.  Then if I could just focus on breathing through that next minute, I’d be halfway there.  It helped me go longer each time until I actually became a runner.  I couldn’t think about the whole 4 miles at the start because I’d want to quit.

That’s how we feel right now.  If we can be patient through the two weeks of this medicine, we’ll get to the next step.  We can’t think about how long or short a road we might have from there.  We will run each little part, strengthened by the Lord and giving each other grace, then look back later and celebrate how far we’ve come.

Abiding in 2015

I’ve never been one to make big New Years resolutions.  I know I’d forget about it and it would be more frustrating than helpful.  However, I do like the idea of choosing a focus word for the next year.  Something to keep coming back to, to prioritize, to be inspired by as the months go on.

I was reading John 15 last week and felt God put a focus word in my heart:  Abide

 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”  John 15:4

Abide. I looked up its original meaning and found “to remain, to continue to be present, to last, to endure.” That is what Charlie and I want this year.

We want to continue to be present with Jesus.  We want our life with Him to last beyond whatever this year holds for us.  We want to endure past our current struggle.

I’m going to abide in Him this year by being more aware of making my home with Jesus.  I want to be mindful of waking up each day with Him, talking to Him as often as if He lived in my home, going over my day with Him before I sleep.  I’m going to abide by not losing hope if He has us wait longer.  I’m going to abide by not turning down paths of worry and numbness, but remaining in His peace and continuing to be present in His hope.

He says in John that if I abide in Him, I will bear fruit.  If His words abide in me, He will answer my prayers.  If I keep His commandments, I will abide in His love.

That’s our focus this year.  It won’t be easy at times.  Last week, I had the feeling that we were gearing up for a long, hard journey in 2015.  And that may be so (or not! We can’t even plan a month in advance at this point).

When Jesus spoke these words in John 15 to His disciples, it was after the Last Supper where He talked at length about leaving them.  These 12 men had had such close contact with God and now the story was changing.  When He left so unexpectedly, they would surely have doubts.  They would wonder what His “good” plan was now.  They would have to stand on their faith that He is real and He is still here. 

Jesus knew this.  That’s why the first words after this discussion instructed them to stay connected to Him.  When things got scary, when doubt crept in, Jesus’ answer for them was to abide.

As I think about whatever comes next for us, I can easily get worried and lost in the unknown.  How sweet that the Lord showed us exactly what to focus on: remaining actively present with Him.

 

“When the time is right”

“My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears—through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.”

That is from yesterday’s Jesus Calling devotional.  Of course I read most things through an infertility lens these days, and so my thoughts went immediately there when I read “the road you are traveling seems blocked…it opens up so painfully slowly…”

But how amazing to be reminded that, when God’s timing is right, our way suddenly clears.  What we long for is suddenly ours through no effort of our own — a gift meant to renew our faith and understanding that He is powerful and good.

It’s easy to apply this devotion to where Charlie and I are right now.  But it’s also easy to apply it to Christmas.

Surely those living in the days leading up to Christ’s birth thought the road to a Savior must be blocked.  It certainly must have seemed to be opening at a painfully slow pace.  They were oppressed by godless people.  They were hungry for relief and peace.  They were waiting.  And I’m sure they were tired of it.

How easy to begin to wonder, “Where are you God?  Is there something more I should be doing to persuade You to act for us now?  Do you see us struggling here?”

Then, when the time was right, the way suddenly cleared.  The veil was suddenly torn.  Through no effort of man’s own, what we longed for was presented to us purely as a gift.  And we glimpsed His power and His glory.

Nothing had changed.  No one had prayed a magic prayer or done a magical good deed.  The time had simply come.

How grateful I am that He promises to strengthen us while we wait for His time to come!

Unexpected help for the silent stress

Charlie and I have been working through an Advent reading plan on our Bible app.  I love this time of year as we anticipate celebrating Christ’s arrival in human form and remember again that He is Emmanuel “God with us.”

This time of year is all about celebrating as we decorate our home, make more time for friends and family and find ways to enjoy the festive spirit.  Our devotions each night have helped us stay focused on preparing our hearts as well.

I’ve been surprised to realize, though, that I can’t read Scripture these days without the lens of our infertility.  Everything I read somehow speaks to that part of my heart.  Maybe it’s because it’s hard to contain those emotions in a nice small corner at this point.  We don’t think about it ALL the time, but we do think about it in some form several times a day.

God used two ideas in our devotions this week to encourage me to keep His perspective on our journey.:

“The question is not what God can do, but what He wills to do.”

When something doesn’t happen (a treatment doesn’t work, etc.), it’s not reason to question God’s ability.  It’s a cause to remember to submit to His good will.  I’ve realized that I have been wanting God to desire the same things I do.  I want His will to match our own desires so we can get what we want.  This reminds me to pray each day that my desires will bend to match His will, so that I’m not disappointed in anything He does.  His will is best, and if I can let go of my desired outcome, I can better see the beauty of whatever He gives us.

“Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that He seeks with all His heart. And to that end, He rules the world.”

We want to obtain something — a child in our family.  We want to prosper in that way.  We long for something to be added to us.   Yet I also have to remember that I shouldn’t focus more on gaining what I hope for than I do on gaining holiness, becoming more Christ-like.  God’s ultimate desire for me is to resemble His righteousness.  The things He blesses us with here on earth, even children, are an added bonus to that.  He rules the world, controls our circumstances, withholds and gives, in a divine plan to bring us into the fullness of righteousness.  Whatever He does or does not give us, it is part of a design to make us holy.  That’s almost impossible for me to grasp as I think of how badly we want a child.  But I know I must work to be most focused on what He is most focused on — transforming us into His likeness.  Whatever I gain or lose in that process is well lost or gained for His desired outcome.  (Ouch — that one hurt to write!)

I’ve been surprised that, even in this Advent season, most of what I read is filtering through my infertility lens.  Yet I’m also extremely grateful.  I think the Lord knows that even when we’re not thinking of it, even when we’re taking a break, we carry the stress with us in some form every day.  I think He gives us these little encouragements in random places because He knows the pain and worry can silently grow until it suddenly overwhelms us.  He is giving us tools to fight it back before it overcomes us.

Once again, He knows just what we need before we ask.  And why shouldn’t He?  He is literally “God with us.”

Love is where we’ll live

We are disappointed.  We are frustrated.  We are wondering what it’s going to take.

But we do not live there.  We are not rooted there.

This morning, I read a passage we’ve read several times lately.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19

The Holy Spirit gives our souls strength to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith.  Faith takes strength.  It takes strength to resist the creeping doubt and choose to believe.

In order to understand how high and deep the Lord’s love for us is, we must be rooted in love.  In order to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and be filled to the fullness of God, we must be grounded in love.

We keep encountering “No’s” that tempt us to be scared and to believe that God is failing us.  We want to get through this in a way that brings God glory and allows us to fully experience whatever purpose He has for this.  And that will take us being completely rooted in love for Him.  This means our feet can’t also be grounded in fear, despair or doubt.

If we are to truly know God’s deep love for us in the midst of the greatest pain in our lives, our souls have to be rooted in love for God.  When we experience the odds against us, we long to somehow know the love of Christ that surpasses those odds.  To do that, we must be rooted in our love for Him.

Whatever happens — however disappointing — we are choosing not to be moved.  Our feet are firmly planted and will not be tempted to wander over to fear and doubt.  If we do, we will miss the only Love that will keep us from falling apart.

We are standing where we are, hoping everyday to experience the fullness of God’s love.  We know it is He who names every family in heaven and on Earth, even ours.