Monday, August 14, 2017

4th Grade

My sweet Eli,

Tomorrow you start fourth grade. I can't believe how quickly the years are passing. You only have two more years of elementary school and  I can't even begin to think about beyond that. But before I get ahead of myself I want to share some pivotal things with you that have marked this summer. 

This summer has been wonderful! The stressful moments have been few and far between in comparison and it's only proven to me how much you're growing and maturing. We've come a long way from the tumultuous struggles last year and struck a delicate balance of relaxation and fun mixed with just enough structure from part-time summer camp and it worked out beautifully for everyone! Your camp counselors would often tell me how creative you are, how they would never think about things the way you do. You challenge people around you to think differently and it causes people to understand more deeply. 

Last week you were having a tough time. You were upset and crying, telling me things get jumbled up in your head. You said the words to me, "I hate my brain! I hate what my brain tells me to do." It saddened me so deeply and my heart grieved for you. I held you as you cried and I prayed for God to give me wisdom and to know how to be what you needed in that moment. You recovered quickly, you always do, and even as I offered continued comfort, you were determined to press on and push through. Somehow you always find a way to make it work. I often wonder how your mind works and in these moments I worry for you and the battle you must face. 

And yet I can't stop there because just today while we were out a bo about your age approached me and asked if I was your mom. I affirmed to him I was indeed and he proceeded to share he knew you from camp. "Eli is really creative! The things he builds and makes are awesome!" I beamed with pride and thanked him for such a wonderful compliment and in that moment my heart swelled beyond what I knew it could feel. All the times I watch you off to yourself avoiding a crowd or busily creating when the rest of the group is engaged in conversation were now painted in a different light. The admiration was all over this boy's words and expressions and he was admiring my boy! You inspire people, Eli! With the way you think and the way you create and how you are - you instill intrigue in those who watch you in wonder as they attempt to enter your world. 

My sweet Eli, as you approach fourth grade tomorrow I know you're nervous about all the things that come with a new year. We already know God answered your prayer and gave you the teacher you wanted. We continue to pray over you and ask for God to further develop you into the person He uniquely and wonderfully created you to be. We watch in wonder as that unfolds each year. 

I'm so proud of you. Even as I tucked you into bed and we talked about our day, you made sure to share what I always say that tomorrow is brand new. A brand new day, a brand new year, a brand new grade, a brand new teacher. A brand new opportunity for you to continue to be the uniquely amazing person God created you to be. 

Welcome to fourth grade!

Love, 

Mom

Friday, August 11, 2017

What a Test

Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. So he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test Philip. He already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6 (emphasis mine)

I don't know how I've never caught it. Maybe I've read it before but today the words leapt off the page. We know the story. Thousands had gathered to hear, see, meet Jesus and the miracle of the two fish and five loaves unfolded to feed the masses. But I'm certain I've only focused on the miracle itself and not necessarily the preamble.

There's so many ways this is speaking to me today. So many new ideas and lessons in a story that seems so familiar.

1. Jesus allowed Philip to be a part of the plan.

Jesus was very specific in his question to Philip. "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" It wasn't a matter of if the people would eat but a matter of how to get the food. The wording is so intriguing because it allows me to understand that Jesus had a plan, which we'll soon see, but He was allowing Philip to enter into the miracle that was about to unfold.

As I dissect this passage I'm not convinced that Jesus needed to hear from Philip (see point 3) but He was inviting, including, and asking him to be involved. I think too often we perceive Jesus, whether in the flesh or on His throne, as too lofty for us to reach. Too separated from us to be a part of our everyday situations. And yet, right here in this text, we see just the opposite! The black and white proof that He wants to be in our midst - that He invites us into His. He's at work, often with a plan already in mind, yet He wants to include us in what He's doing.

2. Jesus tested Philip.

This stopped me. Because at first it didn't sit well to think that Jesus intentionally tested Philip. I dug deeper. The Hebrew word for "test" is peirazó. It means to try, tempt, test, to make proof of. I found another translation that read "This was said to prove him." I admit it made me feel better to believe Jesus was trying to prove something in and of Philip rather than just test him. I believe this directly correlates with Jesus wanting his disciples to see Him at work but to help them understand what He was about to do.

3. Jesus already knew what He was going to do.

As mentioned, Jesus allowed Philip to be included even though He already knew what He was going to do. There's another truth to be taken from this. What we can imply is the idea that He wants us to seek Him, to ask of Him, and He will answer. I believe that gives us the reality of knowing He not only listens to our prayers but He wants us to approach Him and ask. By no means do I think this strips Him of any Sovereignty but I believe in His infinite wisdom He allows us the opportunities, at times, to bend His ear with our prayers and petitions.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

He gives us the opportunity to present our requests to Him. Even though He may already be working things out and have a plan in mind, let's not miss the fact that we're invited to approach Him and be a part of what He's doing. And when we don't seek Him, He often seeks us out.

What about the test? When I read the word I didn't like it but just this week I faced a massive testing of my faith. The thing about this test was I can tell you most assuredly the Lord already knew what He was going to do. I just had to wait and see. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands, and the only role I played was to be tested, waiting for God to reveal His answer and will.

Do I need to tell you how I responded?

Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" John 6:7

I'm ashamed to admit the likeness I bear to Philip. Riddled with doubt, essentially pointing in Jesus' face the improbability of how to work things out. There's a certain practicality in Philip's response, much like my own. As if to say, "But Lord, this just doesn't seem humanly possible. I imagine He must have laughed to Himself, maybe even out loud. In my mind He must have wanted to remark, "You're right, silly human, it's not humanly possible. But it is God-possible." Maybe that's my own mind's eye of how this conversation might go but I know with certainty He's inviting us to be a part of His mighty plan. In the same way He demonstrated His Almighty power feeding the thousands on that hillside, He revealed Himself to me in this test. I don't always respond in faith, something I know I am continually learning, but He pursues me and allows me to be a part of His miracles. I know I don't always pass the test but I am so thankful He grades with grace!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Still Learning

I don't know how it happened but it's already August. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating school being out and the freedom of long summer days. Somehow I blinked and now we're bracing for the back-to-school madness.

I rejected the idea of school supply shopping for awhile because I thought that would somehow mean it wasn't a reality. I just couldn't bring myself to it. I didn't want to acknowledge this passing of summer with the finality of packing a backpack and saying goodbye to lazy pool days.

But we did it. Eli and I made a date of it. We got some popcorn and a slushy and went searching for painted rocks before loading up on the mandatory list. We made a fun outing of the ordeal even if it was going to feel like they were stripping us of our summer-time freedom.

In the middle of our rock hunt my nature-loving boy started to veer off. His compulsion to pick up every stick and leaf started to get the better of him (and me). I started to feel my own anxiety welling up as I wanted to regain control and get us back on track but he wouldn't listen. Now we were in deep waters of disobedience and non-compliance and I started to lose my cool. And there it was. In the middle of the sidewalk of Wards Crossing we both encountered a meltdown. Him crying, me yelling, people staring. And then I stopped.

Deep breath.

What was I doing? Was this about him not listening or was this about my own frustration that he wasn't doing what I wanted? This was supposed to be about him and special time together. I didn't want it to be a takeover of emotions and reactions that would later lead to regrets.

So we worked through it. Mostly I worked through my own immaturity and fit and changed my attitude. We managed to strike a compromise without completely losing it. And we successfully ended up with all our school supplies. WIN!

I can't say it always happens like that. There are way too many times when it doesn't. It's been a long road of discovery, research, trial and error, and lots of tears and prayers to get to a point where we can even have this kind of "success." I'm so proud of my boy and how hard he's worked and how far he's come. I'm reminded this isn't as much about HIM as is about me and my growth process. How can I teach him obedience when I can't keep my cool? The internal conflict becomes a reality check of myself and my weaknesses.

Friends, I know how hard this parenting thing is. I assure you that anyone who witnessed the scene in front of Barnes & Noble most certainly thought some crazy lady had lost her mind trying to get a child to comply while said child kicked and flailed for his own way.

I can't stop summer from coming to a close, but I can prevent my fuse from blowing. I can't prolong the start of school, but I can work through my expectations and emotions to help teach AND LEARN valuable life lessons. For him and for me.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Love Isn't Enough

We weren't really seeing eye-to-eye. It wasn't one of those "in-your-face-not-going-down-until-I-prove-I'm-right" fights. It was more like the "passive-aggressive-visible-frustration-over-nothing-big" kind of scuffles. I took my passive-aggressiveness out on the house. It was a silent motivator to get things done. Loads of laundry getting washed, dried, and folded, clean sheets, straightening up flop piles. I made sure to empty the dishwasher EXTRA LOUD. And that's when it hit me. I was being so dumb. What was wrong with me? Did I somehow expect the clanging of bowls and tossing of silverware to justify my pride? The scuffle wasn't over chores or housework. It wasn't over roles or responsibilities. It wasn't about who was right. It was just a simple thing we didn't seem to agree on. A difference of opinions due to differing personalities. I wasn't wrong but I wasn't right either. Neither of us could claim it. In this little conundrum, I realized it was as if I was putting the puzzle together by choosing the edge pieces first but he seemed to be focused on working from the inside out. 

The reality is we don't always agree. We don't always see eye to eye. We don't always approach things the same way. And sometimes that causes tension and friction and a clashing of ideas. The reality is we aren't perfect. The reason is we're made up of two imperfect people. Thank God for His amazing grace and redeeming love. 

Just this week I had two people contact me asking about divorce and contemplating their marriages and pondering their own decisions. It's difficult to know what to say but unfortunately because it happens more often than I wish, I have my patented response. The steps toward wholeness and healing of one's own heart and soul start with a deep look inward. I will never EVER tell someone they should or shouldn't get a divorce. I will never provide justification for someone to decide one way or another what they should do. It is a truly personal and deeply emotional and spiritual decision and varies from couple to couple. No two situations are the same. But in both cases I was just grieved all over again knowing the road that lies ahead. Sympathizing with the heartache they're in the midst of. All of this has come after the devastating announcement from a popular Christian women's speaker and author announcing her own failed marriage and it's caused us to stop and evaluate each and every situation, each and every circumstance, each and every little tiff that could cause us to throw up our hands in frustration or wrap them around the waist of the one we're frustrated with instead. 

So today we didn't see eye to eye. It wasn't the first time and it certainly won't be the last. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share that life isn't perfect despite the picture perfect ideals we post and share. Please accept this as my plea to you today to hug the one you love. To decide, whatever the argument and whatever feelings may be justified, that love and grace are worth much more. There's an internal price to "pay" to lay down our pride, but the price is even greater when we don't.  Love isn't enough on its own. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to be the strand of three cords that cannot be easily broken. It requires His divine strength and grace when our hearts are failing and weak. It requires perspective that goes beyond what we can humanly comprehend especially when our hurt feelings overtake any rational thoughts. 

There is no greater love than the one who lays down their life for another. It may in fact be one of the toughest things to do but thank God we have Christ as our example and help. His grace is sufficient for every weakness and His love knows no limits even when we've come to the end of ourselves. Love by our own might will never be enough but the supernatural Love of a perfect God will always be. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Faith

"During difficult times, your natural tendency is to rely heavily on your own understanding. However, your human understanding is not up to this task; it will fail you time and again. You have every reason to be confident in Me. I am the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and I am in charge of every aspect of your life." - Jesus Today

Do I believe that? One thing I've learned about faith without works is that it is in fact dead. Sure, my head knows that it's true but my actions (and let's be honest, most of the time it's my knee-jerk reactions) say something different. Can I say with full faith that even in the difficult times, I am willing to let God be God and rest in knowing He's in control of every aspect of my life? 

If I'm being honest I have to admit this is an ongoing struggle for me. It's at the core of what I wrestle with in my humanity. The battle to release my inhibitions, fears, anxieties, and allow Him complete control. Truthfully, there's a better chance of Him having to pry it from my clinched-fist rather than my willing surrender. Too often I try to run interference thinking He somehow needs my help. If only I would recognize the interference I am to the plan He has. 

We live in a broken world. Our hearts and flesh fail. Period. We can't get around it. People hurt us. Life happens. Disappointments come. Plans change and hopes fail. There are different seasons for everything. Life, love, friendship, jobs, desires... But only ONE remains constant and never faltering and that is the Sovereign God and Creator of us all. He planned each of our days and set us as living stones exactly where He purposes us to be. My response to His will has to be that of genuine faith. Not the kind that requires action but the kind that believes without reservation or inhibition that God is God and that He is working in each and every single aspect of my life. 

Can I do it... Can I have that kind of faith... Even when my heart is aching and the emotional tug of war causes me to be gripped with fears and anxiety... Even when nothing makes sense and things just don't add up... Even when life throws a curveball that takes me out of the game... 

Jesus asks me to lay down my life for His sake (John 13:38). What that tangibly looks like is walking with Him in the day-to-day, moment-by-moment instances that seek to steal my joy and strip me of my faith. Crawling back on the altar over and over again, each and every time I get off. It's choosing to rest in Him even when things around me are completely out of control. It's being confident of the good work He began and trusting He will see it through to completion. Even when it's hard. Even when what is right before me doesn't seem or feel good at all. Even when my human understanding can't make sense of it. 

My faith needs feet firmly planted in the truth that He is in fact in control of every aspect of my life even when the ground beneath me is quaking and crumbling. This is the kind of faith I want, the kind of faith I haven't yet achieved. But when my feet do give way and my faith falls short, I rest on His infallible grace that holds me even still. 

Increase my faith, Lord. Help my unbelief. Help me not be blinded by my circumstances. Give me eyes to see You. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Super Mom

Seven days. That's all that's left of the school year. Two of which are early dismissals and the long-awaited, well-earned summer break will be here. At this point we are nearly crawling toward the finish line but we ARE going to get there. 

I wish my son would just buy lunch but instead he requests one packed. We've resorted to the store-bought lunchables and pre-packaged snacks. Not the healthy kind either. We're talking chips and cookies. The elaborate napkin drawings have turned into smiley faces and stick figures (at best) with a "Love you." 

We stopped doing homework 2 weeks ago. It was SOL season so it was what I felt was my due diligence to ensure my child saved up his brain power for school. (Yes, this is the story I'm sticking with because it is how I've convinced myself that we all get a homework pass.) But seriously, if it wasn't already learned previously, why do we think there's going to be anything of grand importance shared the last seven days of school? Shouldn't we just be done with it already?

I admit this regrettable attitude has spilled over into other areas. Home cooked meals? What's that? We've eaten out for 2 solid weeks. We've had birthday's and celebrations and work and an unusually busy season. There's not been time to meal prep and cook but we are all eating. 

Don't worry, though, the house is clean. Oh it's spotless. That's because I'm paying someone to come clean and we're living outside now that it's finally warm. Don't judge me. I'll give you her number if you want. She's life-changing.

I know we should have limits on how much "screen time" the kids get but let's be realistic. If I don't have the energy to pack a lunch or cook a meal, do you really think I'm coming up with creative ideas to keep the kids entertained? Besides, I already told you it's warm outside and that should be all the entertainment we need. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to be right there in the middle of bubbles and sidewalk chalk and pulling them on walks in the wagon. But there are no Pinterest crafts or science experiements happening here. It's outdoors or in front of a screen and that goes for me too. Shameful, I know. 

Seven days. I haven't even thought about the summer goals and projects, let alone sat down to plan our activities and calendar. I'm not quite sure what's happening to me other than I'm just running on fumes at this point. 

In an effort to regroup, I sat down to meal plan for the first time in 3 weeks (right alongside my grocery clicklist order because I'm far too busy/lazy to actually GO grocery shopping). I exclaimed to my husband, "I'm going to be Super Mom this week!"

He didn't miss a beat. "What do you mean, you're GOING to be Super Mom?"

"I'm going to meal plan and prep and cook homemade meals AND desserts!"

Once again right on cue he rebuttled, "That's not what makes a super mom. You're already super." 

He walked out the door before I could argue or ask for more. But the statement left me pondering. 

Could I somehow embody something super without providing for my family in these ways? How am I actually providing for them if not cleaning and cooking and elaborately planning on their behalf? 

The Lord spoke to my heart as clearly as my husband's words had been. 

"Pray for them. Be present. Love. Share Me with them."

It was just last week when I had been riveted by a book that led me to draw up new prayer cards, one for each of my children and my husband. Those prayers and scriptures sparked an inspiration of family guidelines that I believe are to be the guideposts of our home. I don't care if my kids grow up recalling their favorite homemade dish that I made. I'd much rather them talk about the mother who prayed for them daily and covered them in God's Word. Here's the thing. My efforts could all be in vain but His word will never return void so as long as I'm serving them with His Truths, I don't have to worry about what's on the dinner table. 

Just last week we lost power for several hours and ended up receiving the biggest blessing as a family while we gathered around candles and flashlights playing games and reading bible stories. It literally took my breath away to hear my son recount the story by heart and share that he had just read it on his own. Who cares about math when my son is memorizing scripture?! 

I know I could give a little more effort to the cause of homemaking but in my world I preach stick to your strengths so for now I'm going to stick to mine and not pretend to be the super hero of the kitchen and home. Rather I'm going to give my heart and soul to serving my family  with my time and affection. I'm going to pray over them and seek to have God's Presence covering our home. I'd rather focus what little energy I have right now on cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in my life so I can better serve my family. 

So here's to you, Super Mom. Just trying to get through the last few days of school, pulling together last minute meals, spot-cleaning clothes, and making your house a home. Wrap your arms around their necks and cover them in your prayers. Don't be afraid to let your cape fly high as long as you're willing to bend your knees on their behalf. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Breaking the Silence - Infertility

I first shared this on 5/12/12. I'm updating and modifying this story but still feeling it's relevant to share, especially as we approach Mother's Day this weekend. 

We'll honor mothers everywhere this weekend. If you're at church like me, you'll be asked to stand and be recognized as the congregation will applaud moms. But I'm mindful that a few years ago I was not able to stand, and while I was seated and blending in with the crowd, I was silently dying inside.

Please don't take offense, but when you're dealing with/diagnosed with any type of infertility, it's not usually the kind of thing that makes the prayer list. Over and over on our prayer requests from church we see requests for surgery, illness, cancer, accidents, sometimes even emotional health. But I have yet to see one prayer request come through that calls for the prayer chain to lift up a couple who are struggling with infertility and the desire to get pregnant. (Maybe this is happening elsewhere, and if it is I'm grateful!) But that wasn't a part of my story. Infertility is a lonely, painful struggle. I've walked through it twice with both support and the opposite. I'll share some of that below. 

It's a very private and personal struggle. And when you're in the midst of it, you feel like you have no one - LITERALLY NO ONE - to turn to.

My Story
All I know to do is share my story.

Somehow this idea of becoming a mother pricks the heart of a woman at some point. I wasn't the girl who grew up with this innate desire. In fact, I was rather worried because I didn't share my mom and sister's love and nurturing qualities for children. Even so, after a couple of years the desire came for me too. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have a baby. I wanted to raise a child. And so it began...

Even as a teenager I had this "fear" that I wouldn't be able to get pregnant. There were reasons and some medical issues involved that seemed to back this up, so it wasn't completely ungrounded. It started casually. A few months went by, and then I became more intent. Month after month turned up no results so I started to do some reading and research. I charted, I took my temperature everyday before my feet touched the ground, I took over the counter tests, ovulations kits and other predictors, vitamins, exercise and a host of other "natural" things that I will not go into detail here.

What happened as each month turned into another disappointment, was that each day turned into a "number" - I was constantly counting days. It wasn't about what the calendar said the date was, it was about what day of the month it was for me. Every. Single. Month. This would go on for nearly 2 years.

I am going to try to describe this for you. As the days creeped along and approached a "month" cycle, I would wait. I was scouring the internet researching "signs of pregnancy" and I would try to sense any little signal my body might give to indicate that I was pregnant. (Again, not going into detail because you can google this yourself, but suffice to say I had a heightened, maybe even overly stimulated, sense in a desperate attempt to see if I could tell whether or not this would be the time...)

And then it would happen. Every single time. Every single month. I would get the sign. NOT the sign I wanted. The sign that proved yet again I wasn't pregnant.

I can't try to explain the emotions. It consumed me. Literally. NO ONE KNEW. I was always thinking about it. And every time I would think about it, it would turn into anxiety, and then I would try to calm myself because I knew the more I stressed, the less likely it was for me to conceive. I would go from anxiety and stress to excitement and wonder to devastation and heartbreak. And this vicious cycle of emotions accompanied the monthly counting and charting and testing. Over and over.

It was finally time for medical intervention. Testing. Fertility medication. More testing. Uncertainty. And more emotions that usually resulted in more heartache.

All the while, no one knew. Despite living a very public life, this was something I couldn't openly share.

And then it came. The test results and diagnosis that confirmed there was no natural way to conceive in that present situation. Please understand that I choose for this part of the story to remain intentionally vague due to confidential reasons and the fact that it doesn't involve me. I was on the receiving end of the news, yes, but I was not directly impacted physically, only emotionally. The doctor delivered the news as if she was telling me the weather report. It was just she and I in the room, yet again I was feeling all alone, and as matter-of-factly as if it had no impact whatsoever on anyone's future, let alone my entire hopes and dreams. I sat across from her speechless and motionless, waiting for her to give me the "but"... but it never came. So I walked myself out of the office and got in my car...and wept. Yes, this was the ugly cry and rightly so. I couldn't even begin to process what I was feeling and how this changed everything. 

For me in this situation, it took on a whole new meaning of feeling alone and helpless because I felt the need to take on the burden of making it "my" problem. It seemed more "natural" that it would be the female's "fault" but make no mistake, there was no one to blame, it was just certain reality. I had to first get "comfortable" with the news - which was never comfortable. Then I had to get to a point of acceptance of this devastating reality. It had already been a tumultuous two years of loneliness with not much support for my desire coming from my marriage. Now I was trying to triumph a new cause to still see to it that I could become a mother. Just because the doctor's tests said "no" didn't mean my heart heard or accepted that as final. Was there a possibility or surgery, procedures or something else? There was so much to consider. There were no guarantees and no predictions. Just a whole lot of uncertainty and emotional whirlwinds that I was certain I couldn't handle.

Well-Meaning People
As time passed, the questions became more superfluous - when would we be having children? I cringed at the question for a long time, silently hiding any effort of trying to conceive without success. But after the diagnosis it became clear I couldn't hide this anymore. So ... I had to figure out how to tell people. It was like a knife stabbing my heart each and every time some well-meaning person would ask...

"We can't." This answer brought an onslaught of questions I wasn't prepared to handle or answer. So I tried other responses like "We can't have our own children so we're looking at other options." It became apparent people wouldn't be satisfied without details, but it wasn't really their business. And again I felt even more pressure to offer "protection" of those details. Even now it's something I don't and won't share. 

It seemed appalling to me that godly, well-meaning Christian people would say things like "You're just not trusting God, that's why you're not pregnant" or "You must have unconfessed sin in your life". This wasn't some sort of punishment, nor was it a matter of my faith in God. 

Then there were the experts - everyone had a "story to share" and an opinion to add. So and so who adopted and then got pregnant, or so and so who tried infertility and had triplets. Listen, people. Let me get on my soapbox for a minute (it's my blog and I'm allowed). JUST STOP. Be still. Be Silent. Listen. But don't feel like you have to do anything other than pray. STOP THE RIDICULOUS ADVICE!!!! Oh how this has taught me to just be silent and listen. To not offer advice. To just let the person share their heart and their hurt and offer my prayers and nothing more. Please heed this. You don't have to say anything!!! And for goodness sake, PLEASE don't say something STUPID!

I knew all the statistics and stories. I did all the research. I poured over it. I devoured it. I wept. I read. I researched some more. I understood every option and the implications of each. It wasn't for anyone else to decide. AND everyone's story and situation is different.

I remember the person who said to me that I wasn't trusting God...to which I responded, "This has everything to do with my faith in God, but nothing to do with me not trusting Him. Are we so foolish to put God in a box and think He can bless us with a child through only one natural way? I can't wait to see what HIS plan is!"

Here's where I need to speak to those who are NOT going through this. If you know someone who is or has, offer your prayers. Be supportive and encouraging. A listener. But don't ask every month. Don't ask specifics. Don't worry about offering advice. Just pray. We try so hard to fix it and take the pain away from another - I am the biggest offender! But just like the person who can't control their cancer diagnosis, someone dealing with infertility needs to be reminded that God has a plan and He is faithful ... and even more, His plan is not their plan. 

I'm having to unfortunately add that even after experiencing a loss, I dealt with well-meaning but stupid people. Yet again I heard comments of it wasn't God's will. The baby was better off. We were better off because it probably had something wrong with it. It obviously wasn't meant to be so I just needed to move on. How could I grieve something/someone I'd never met? It wasn't like it was a baby I held. People. FOR THE LOVE. Once again I implore you to SHUT YOUR MOUTHS. No one can tell ANYONE how long or how to go through grief. You just can't. I don't care who you are or what you're facing, we will all deal with it differently. SO PRETTY PLEASE JUST STOP! 

I got slammed for sharing our pregnancy news so early. The rationale, of course, that had I just kept it private then I wouldn't have had to go through such a public loss. As I stand before you I can tell you I have absolutely NO regrets. I don't care if you've been pregnant for one day or one year, you were still pregnant. Having now gone through this, I know there is something about knowing there is LIFE inside you that you will grieve as if you had held that life in your arms. I hold to the belief that life begins at conception so the loss for me was still a loss. No matter how "early" I was. 

Grief
This portion has had to change in the past 5 years to reflect the second half of this journey. I'll share the first part then add to it. 

Part 1. Much like a death, I had to let myself experience the emotions of grief. I wasn't grieving the loss of life. I was grieving the death of a dream. My desire was to be pregnant and to give birth to a child that would bear my resemblance and shared DNA. Grief is a process so there were moments of denial where I knew surely if God wanted to do a miracle and prove the doctors wrong, HE COULD! There were emotions of anger and frustration and questions of why and how...none of which I could answer or explain. And just like grieving a death, there are moments you think you're "just fine" and moments when the slightest little thing can trigger the emotions all over again.

Part 2. My miscarriage wasn't just a loss of life. It was also the resurfacing of ALL those emotions and the painstaking journey that had come years before. It was a painful time of wondering where was God and why He would even let me get pregnant in the first place if the baby wasn't going to make it. I wrestled with guilt over what I could have done differently. I struggled with outbursts of tears and torment that I couldn't control. I grieved my baby. The life of my child that would never be. I became nearly obsessed wondering if I would get pregnant again then gripped with fear that I would but couldn't handle another loss. It was tormenting. 

Infertility involves a whirlwind of emotions and it comes in waves. For the person walking through it right now, you have to let yourself feel. Everyone grieves differently. Let them. 

On The Other Side
There was a long conversation I had with another adoptive mom who said to me "When you get on the other side, you'll see how God worked all of this out." Her words were true and I can now say - on the other side - that I do see how God has worked through all of it. But at that time, in that moment, I wasn't on the other side. These words still ring in my ears no matter what someone is going through. I feel strongly that anyone who is or has dealt with infertility, loss, or any piece of it could share her own journey but if she isn't on "the other side" then she is still walking through it. Just like we can't rush the grieving process, we also cannot force someone to get to the other side. Here's why. The other side is ONLY the arrival of one part of the journey that God is continually orchestrating together. Just because I have held two newborn babies in my arms doesn't mean I even have yet to know the full stories of their lives or my role as their mother. It's still being written. 

Just recently I had a conversation with a dear friend who lost her grown son. We talked of the grief that still comes and the wave of emotions that resurface. I shared about the other side with my own addition..."When you get on the other side, you'll see God's plan...but right now you're on THIS SIDE so you have to let yourself feel these emotions and go through this process."

That's what I learned. Yes, there is a plan. Yes, there will be the "other side" ... but for now you have to grow where you're planted. So if you're still on "this side" and not yet privy to the details of the plan and how it all works out, you've got to stay put. You've got to feel to heal. Work through the process and all the emotions. And don't try to rush ahead or jump the fence to the other side. So to say we've arrived "on the other side" is merely a matter of perspective of having walked through a specific part of the journey. 

I will also add that on the other side of divorce and remarriage, with portions of my story revealed, people have also criticized me for wanting to pursue adoption. If I knew my marriage was in trouble why would I have allowed a child to be brought into the situation? I understand. I get the doubts and questions. The only thing I can offer is the reality that even this week as I recounted the story of Elijah's birth and adoption, I cannot for one second think he was placed in the wrong family. I know without a doubt that God chose me to be his advocate, his warrior, the one to cultivate his heart and who God created Him to be. So doubt if you must but please don't question my story just as I won't question yours. 

Hope
Five years ago I wrote this blog because I believe the Lord has not allowed me to walk through this journey without the opportunity to share some piece of hope. The fact that I titled this section "HOPE" and now 5 years later my 1.5 year old daughter bears this as her middle name should tell you about the journey God has had me on. I cannot tell you that I've always held onto well-meaning hope. I cannot tell you that I've counted it all joy. I can tell you, though, that I am here to share this with you so you know there is in fact hope. 

"May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

That verse hangs in Violet Hope's room. It is the very verse from where her middle name came. The word "HOPE" is etched on a tiny piece of rice hanging from my rearview mirror. The day I started miscarrying I had that piece of rice inscribed and clung to it as I waited the tormenting days and weeks hoping and praying for a miracle, only to experience the devastating loss. I didn't lose HOPE because my HOPE is in the Lord. I can tell you that at times the desire of my heart seemed so excruciating that I prayed for God to take it away if it wasn't His will. There were times when I felt hopeless. I cannot and will not sugar coat it. 

Here's the other thing I need to say. What if God hadn't given me a baby? What if I had never gotten pregnant? What if I hadn't experienced a loss? Or pregnancy? What if I'd never become a mother? Would I still have hope? Would I still be able to raise my hands in praise to a good, good Father? I can't answer the what if's. I can only tell you that what I did's. When I was barren, when I was alone, when I was broken, when I was empty-armed, when I was even abandoned as a wife, when I was unloved and unwanted, when I was truly hopeless and helpless, I can honestly tell you I had no one else BUT God. I had no where to turn except toward Him. No one held me in my loneliness except the Lord. That's all I know. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility, I can only offer simple words from a heart that understands. I'm not going to tell you what to do or choose. I'm not going to tell you to just relax or have more faith or trust God's timing. I won't tell you how to respond or how to get through yet another Mother's Day. 

What I have to say is this: First, you're not alone. For anyone who doesn't have someone to talk to or share with, please message me and know I will offer whatever support and prayers I can. Second, if you're able, find a prayer partner or support group whom you can call on as you're dealing with these feelings and the ups and downs. You feel alone but when you can get to a point where you can share, I promise God's people will also receive a blessing in praying with you and believing with you on this journey. I can't tell you how many people count Elijah and Violet as part of their own miracle knowing they played a pivotal praying part in these stories. Third, understand that it is a journey. It's a process. You will experience the emotions in waves. You know the cycle. It comes and goes. Mother's Day will most assuredly be a heart-wrenching day. I know. I've been there. I can now proudly stand and be recognized as a mom but I don't do it without remembering the years when I ached as I sat childless. Feel. It's okay to feel. To hurt and cry. To be upset. (If you're on any kind of fertility treatment, you have an heightened emotional and hormonal state already.) Just don't put it in "park" in any one emotion.

I will say this hoping you hear my heart: turn to the Lord. Because of this private, painful struggle you face, there aren't a lot of people you can turn to. But I can most assuredly tell you it was in this times of desperation and solitude when I truly sought God's face - not His hand - and where I found Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

I know this post is LONG and won't apply to everyone. But someone needs to read this and if you need me, just know I'm here and I understand.