How I Found Joy During Infertility

infertility

I had heard about “infertility” before I got married. But to be honest, I always kind of shrugged it off. I was sure there were people “out there” who couldn’t get pregnant–but I never imagined I would be one of them.

Why, you ask?

Because I come from a very long line of  “fertile” women. I felt sure, if anything…it would be too easy to get pregnant.

That’s why I was so adamant about taking my “pill” each night. And making sure there were no “accidents.”

But after a few years…something changed.

And I wanted to have a baby. 

I remember how excited we were, that first fragile month that I chucked the disc of pills into the garbage can, and for the first time ever, we tried. 

A few weeks later, I took a pregnancy test before work in the morning. I couldn’t wait to announce to my husband as we both got dressed for work, that we were going to have a baby!

I never expected the test to read: negative.

I never expected the next month, and the next month, and the next to be negative, too.

And I never expected those months to turn into years, years full of “negative.” But…they did.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional journey that was “infertility.”

It felt like riding a rollercoaster every month. There was the hope that, “This month could be different!” The anticipation that comes with trying, and wondering if life has formed in you? The waiting to know. And then the dissapointment when your period returns. Again.

To go through this cycle every month, never knowing when, or if, it will end can be tiring.

Infertility wears on you.

It wears on your soul.

Everyone knows that labor hurts. But no one actually tells you that infertility hurts, too.

On the inside.

In this secret place that no one else can see. Like a locked garden.

Like a mystery.

It’s not a labor of the body, it’s a labor of the soul.

You wait and wonder. You cry and pray. You long and hope. And you try…to hold it all together. You try to hold eachother together, as husband and wife.

But sometimes, you start to sort of unravel inside.

Because you desire to be a mom with all your heart. You feel ready. You wish it could just happen the normal way (as it seems to with everyone else.)

You want love-making and baby-making to go hand-in-hand. But then…sometimes it’s not so simple.

I remember it was especially hard those months when I thought I was pregnant, only to find out I wasn’t. Because some months I really did feel different. 

I was more moody, and hungry, and tired. (How many times did I Google “pregnancy symptoms”—in hopes that I was?) But, then, my period would come.

So, it was several years of this wear and tear on my soul, before I realized: I had a choice to make. 

I didn’t even know I had a choice. (Other than to feel bummed out…pretty much all the time.)

I did know that every single month when my period came back. And every single day, in between.

I had a choice between joy and despair. 

Now let me tell you, I did’t read a self-help book to come this. I didn’t even read infertility blogs (if they existed, I didn’t know about them!)

All I did was pray. And read Scripture. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit would speak to me. When I was quiet enough to hear Him.

There were a few key things the Holy Spirit showed me during that time–and these changed me. They changed the way I saw everything.

If you have read my story about my barreness, or my second miracle pregnancy, you know that I didn’t stay barren forever.

Maybe the miracles of my pregnancies drew you to this blog, but I want to tell you about an earlier miracle. Perhaps, the most amazing of all.

This miracle happened in my soul–before I ever got pregnant.

Before I have had a child.

See, when you are barren, you often don’t simply have a barren womb. You also have a barren soul.

And I was truly barren, not just in my womb, but in my soul. I saw my life as this dry, barren wasteland. I saw only what I was lacking. I was thirsty, and I didn’t know how to be quenched.

I was angry and sad. I knew God had the power to heal me–but He wasn’t healing me.

I got to a point where I could “accept” or, “tolerate” the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant. I was able to “grit and bear it.” (And, I actually thought that I was doing pretty well–but I wasn’t.)

Because God didn’t want me to simply “tolerate” the life He was giving me.

He wanted me to embrace it.

He wanted me to enjoy it.

To enjoy Him–in it.

(Because He never left. He was there all along, even in every moment of the infertility.)

For some reason I thought I couldn’t be happy or fulfilled until He gave me a baby.

But He wanted to show me that He was enough–before I ever got a baby. (And, even if He never gave me a baby.)

I was looking for a baby to satisfy what only God could. 

All that time, I was clenching my fists closed in anger at what God had allowed in my life, but He wanted me to open my hands.

He wanted me to surrender my plans to His. My desires to His. And He wanted me to embrace the life and calling He had for me–even if I didn’t understand it at the time.

When someone gives you a gift, you don’t “tolerate” it.

You thank them for it.

And I remember when I realized I needed to thank Him.  For inferitility. (I know how absolutely crazy this sounds.) But I realized that if God had chosen this for me, it must be good, and He must have a purpose in it–even if I couldn’t see it yet.

So, I literally thanked Him for everything I could think of that was “good” about not being pregnant. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to stop excercising, or go through morning sickness, or endure labor and delivery. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to put on baby wieght, or have a flabby stomach, or vericose veins. (Yes, I was vain. But honest, nonetheless.)

The more I thanked God for His plan, and His timing, the more good I saw in it. And the more I was able to truly surrender.

It’s not that I was “giving up.” It’s that I was “giving over.” I was giving it over to God. The only One who could do anything about it.

I literally did not know what God would do.

I didn’t know if I would ever have a baby.

But right there, right in that place, where my arms were empty, and my womb was barren–was the place He wanted me to lift my arms and worship Him.

To say and mean with all my heart, “Even if You don’t give me what I desperately want, You are still enough. You are still everything. And You still have all of my heart.”

And you know what?

Something changed.

Joy came RUSHING back into my life.

My eyes began to stop seeing all the “lack” in my life. And I started to see all the beauty in it.

I began to realize what God had already given me.

And I began to cherish my husband, and my friends. My students, and family. All the ones He had already placed before me, to love. 

I started to stand in the roles He had already placed me in. I embraced my role as a wife, and at my job, and other opportunities I had to serve people. And I started to enjoy them. 

I no longer saw myself as a victim of infertility. But instead, as a daughter of God who was chosen and set-apart for His unique purpose for me. Maybe God has some wild plan for us, I could never even imagine? Maybe He will send us oversees? Maybe there is some child waiting in an orphanage that is our baby to adopt? Maybe something is coming around the corner–we never expected?

I didn’t know what it was. But I clung to the Scripture, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

One day, as I was about to leave work, I felt God speak to me, in the form of a song. (I know, it sounds strange.) I didn’t hear the music, just the lyrics. But I remember writing them down on pink sticky notes that were on my desk. And this is what I heard,

“There’s Someone living inside you,

Though not a child tucked inside your womb,

But it’s my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,

Hear Him roar?

And you’re alive, you’re alive,

More than ever before.”

My heart burned, and I went home and crashed down at my piano and stuck all the sticky notes to it. But as I began to play and sing, all I could hear, was Him singing them to me. And I say this with tears,

Something broke in me. 

In that moment, hot tears rolled down my cheeks, and I was undone.

He was living in me. 

I was no longer barren.

He was alive in me, so I was alive. 

Sure, nothing changed in my womb–but my spirit came to life that day. His Spirit came to life in me.

And the presence of God surrounded me there. And He showed me that He was living in me. 

Therefore, I was alive. 

That was the day, I literally crossed from “barren to beautiful.”

I no longer saw the barreness in my life, all I could see was His beauty. And the beauty He had filled my life with.

God came, and took away my barreness.

And I had joy again. I could breathe again. And laugh again.

But most of all, live again.

Yes, I was still infertile.

But I was His. And He would not let me go.

Yes, I was still not pregnant. 

But I was exactly where He wanted me to be. And He would fulfill His beautiful purpose for me.

Yes, I still wanted to have a baby. 

But I knew He would satisfy me. Whether or not, I had a baby. And if He wanted to give me a baby, He would do it, in His time, and in His way.

Dear Barren or Infertile One,

If God has led you here, He wants to take your barreness away.

I don’t know what He will do in your physical womb. But I know what He will do in your soul, if you ask Him. 

And I believe He is about to birth something in you, more beautiful than you could ever, possibly imagine.

Maybe it’s not that you need to “pull up your bootstraps” and have more faith that you will get pregnant. 

Dear One, He already sees you and knows you. He already hears your cries. He sees your faith, and He sees where you lack faith, too. But He will fulfill His purpose for you.

He will. 

And instead of pulling up your bootstraps of faith…maybe it’s time to take off your boots. Kick them off.

And run barefoot with Him for a while.

Surrender. 

Knowing, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

Because He has an adventure waiting for you on the other side of your fears. And it’s wild, and free, and full of Him.

Chase Him, and He will take you where you never dared to go. And show you things you didn’t dream possible.

And one day, you will be running with Him, and suddenly realize you have crossed, from barren to beautiful.

And you will never go back. 

When God Surprises You, Big Time

gender reveal boyI had no idea what was coming. I had no idea I would be feeling baby kicks while I write this. I thought I knew the plan–and I thought it was different. Than this.

Last January, we were experiencing our second round of infertility. We had been “trying” since my daughter turned one and I stopped breast-feeding. So we were going on another two years of trying–without success.

As I prayed about the year ahead, seeing only thick fog before me, I heard God speak to my spirit. “Open your arms.” That’s all I heard.

Okay, I thought. I will open my arms. It became my mantra for the year 2016.

I didn’t know what it meant.

I was in a season of darkness. Not bad, spooky, or sinful darkness.

Just the kind of darkness that night brings–the darkness that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Just dark in the sense that you can’t see the path nicely lit ahead of you.

But you keep walking, trusting God is leading you. Trusting He knows the way, even when you don’t.

Open arms. It became the cry inside me. And the more I opened my arms, in the season of darkness, the more I realized what “open arms” meant.

To have open arms is the posture of surrender.

And the posture of worship.

And the posture of receiving.

All at the same time.

In February, my husband and I felt God was moving our hearts to get certified as foster parents. So we started the process. (Which is only a 90-day process in our county. Crazy! Right?)

I kept praying that God would break my heart for foster children if He wanted us to do it. And He did.

He broke it into a hundred pieces.

Soon, I could not wait to take in these children that desperately needed love. That needed a mama to kiss their faces. That needed a dad, whose arms they felt safe in. Even just for a time.

You know how every ministry is always asking that you give a donation or offering? I always feel torn because, while the causes are always great causes, I am a stay-at-home-mom. I don’t have money that I am making to give. (We do tithe, and I think it’s important to tithe obediently. But for me, tithing is something my husband does, because he makes our families income. I don’t even see it.)

I never feel like I can give out of something that is mine to give.

So when the opportunity to foster came up, I finally felt like there was something I could give. Out of my heart. It wasn’t part of my paycheck. (Because, I don’t have one.) Instead, I could give my most precious treasure–my family. I could share my family, my home, my time. Those were things I did abundantly have right now, that I could share.

And I could welcome the child who needed these things– with open arms, and an open door.

But God surprised me, big time. And He surprised me just one week before we finished our foster certification.

Sometimes you are walking that path in the dark, just trying to faithfully plot along, not knowing where you are going, when suddenly you run right into Him. God. You literally trip over Him. You didn’t even see Him waiting there for you. And He says, “Okay, come with Me. I have something else to show you.”

“I’m going to take you somewhere else, now.”

Well, I ran smack into Him when my husband brought home a pregnancy test, and told me to pee on it.

“What? Why?!” (When you take so many negative tests.. it’s not that fun to keep taking them. It’s not that fun to have 2 minutes where your heart is going to beat out of your chest, then feel it sink like a rock when you read: negative.)

But I did it any way.

And in two minutes, my world changed. I found out: I was pregnant.

My hand shook with the test. And I collapsed to my knees on my bathroom floor. And cried.

I could not believe it.

The thing about surprises is, you never see them coming.

But God always does.

Because He plans them.

(If you want to read more about this story read it my post called, “God Did It Again:Our Second Miracle On the Way.” And if you want to read about the first time God opened my womb out of a long season of barreness and infertility, read, “About My Barrenness.“)

After we found out I was pregnant, our plans changed a little bit. We finished our foster certification–but said we didn’t know when we could accept placements. (Our foster agency is awesome, and they said we could take all the time we needed. Even though, the need in our county is urgent. It was hard because they are literally running out of families who will take in these babies.)

For the first 15 weeks I was feeling pretty sick. But around week 20 I really started to feel better. So we opened our arms again, and got to do some respite care (which is babysitting for foster families.)

So, we got to break in the nursery a little early, as we took in a little 3 month old baby boy for a few weekends. We all fell in love with him. There’s something about having a baby sleep over, and getting to soothe them through the night, that just bonds you. Even if it is only for a weekend.

I didn’t know at the time–what God was preparing us for.

Now, I am a mother of 3-year-old daughter. And I know how to do girls. I know how to love on girls. I know how to play with girls. I know how to change the diapers of girls.

Changing a boy’s diaper kind of scares me.

(And when I changed our foster baby boy’s first poopy diaper, I think I used about 37 baby wipes. Then I got peed on.)

Little did I know, what God’s next surprise was going to be.

The week after we had our foster buddy with us, we had our anatomy scan. We didn’t want to find out the gender in the office, so, the tech put it in an envelope for us. We had planned a gender reveal party for the next day, and invited our families, so we could all find out together.

Now let me tell you, I felt 99% sure I was having a girl.

Selah, my daughter, was 200% sure we were having a girl.

My husband, said he hoped we were having a girl–because Selah was dying for a sister. And praying every night for one. She was hardcore “naming and claiming” a sister.

I even felt like God had given me a girl name for this baby. I couldn’t even think of a boy name. Not one.

So, we were all thinking: girl.

To do the “reveal” we made the same powder they use for the Color Run. We made two batches, one pink and one blue. Although, I kept joking to my husband that we don’t really even need to the blue–because we wouldn’t be needing it.

So, I had NO idea.

That as we tossed the powder in the air–it would be….

gender reveal

BLUE.

This picture completely captures everyone’s true feelings.

My husband is crazy (TOUCHDOWN!!) happy.

I am in shock. (I think my jaw dropped so far it touched our lawn.)

And my 3-year-old girls is in disbelief.

(We are still coaching her to say “brother”, not “sister” when she talks to the baby.)

I know that everyone has a 50/50 chance about the whole gender thing. But, for some reason, when I saw that blue powder falling–I just could not believe it.

I just thought, I was cut out for girls. I am all about girls. And I feel called to minister to girls, and women. Not, boys.

But in that moment, when blue powder covered me: I was surprised again.

By God.

A God who knew all along.

He had a son for me. Not, at least for now, another daughter.

But that’s the thing about God, He is full of surprises.

But the surprise isn’t so much about the change of course in the path, it’s about the One leading you on the path.

He is the surprise. He is the One waiting for you.

It’s not just about opening these little unexpected packages.

He is the One that was unexpected.

And His ways are higher than ours.

When you are walking in a season of “darkness” it’s not about just where you are going. It’s about who is leading you through it. And you just keep walking until you run right into Him.

He is the best surprise.

So, friends, I don’t know what is ahead.

I hope that my son is full term, and healthy, and perfect.

But I don’t know what it will be like. 

I hope we get to love on foster babies, or even adopt at some point.

But I don’t know what God has planned for us. 

I hope I can learn some wrestling moves, and how to to wrangle with boys, and how to enter the world of trucks, and dirt, and crazy boy impulses I can’t even begin to comprehend.

But I don’t know what it will be like. 

I hope we get to love on foster babies, or even adopt at some point.

But I don’t know what God has planned for us.

As much as I want to confidently act like some sort of prophetess.

I am not a prophetess. I am just a person. 

Surprised again, and again, by a loving God.

And isn’t that what we all are?

We are all just people, who don’t really know what is ahead.

All I do know is that God is calling me to have open arms.

And to be honest, it scares me at times. To keep these arms open. Not knowing what it means. Not knowing what I will have to surrender. Or what I will receive.

How I hope it’s full of peace, and joy, and ease.

But I’m not promised that.

I’m only promised, that no matter what happens, God will be there.

God will be here, okay? Right here, in the midst of it.

I need to keep my arms open to Him. To all that He has for me.

And even when I am walking blind, He will surprise me with Himself.

With His very presence.

With the fact that: He’s been waiting for me the whole time.

 

So, to the one walking in the dark. Keep walking.

You will eventually walk straight into Him.

And you might be surprised when you do.

Right now, you might not know where you are going–but God does. You might not know where the path leads–but God does. And whatever surprises that may await you–nothing compares with the One who creates them.

He is the best surprise.

And He is full of surprises.

Because He is God.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So..

Keep your arms open.

Keep your heart open.

Keep your door open.

You don’t know when He may just show up–unexpectedly.

and surprise you.

Big time.

God Did It Again: Our Second Miracle On the Way

miracle baby

Dear Friends, this is a post I never intended to write. But here I am writing it, with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. And my hands feel shaky at these keys:

I’m pregnant again.

God did it.

This will be our second miracle. And I had no idea, it was even coming. But all of a sudden, it’s here. Seemingly, out of no where. The only way a miracle can come–when you know full well that you have offered nothing. When you have brought nothing to the table, and God has brought everything. God brings a feast.

And He asks you to dine with Him. And you do, because your soul is starving. 

If you don’t already know it, I encourage you to read my story of infertility. In it, you will find a very broken woman, angry and confused and barely tolerating God’s “plan.” You will find a woman who is so very barren, not only in her womb, but in her soul. And you will find how God rescues her out of that barrenness–by showing her Himself, His very beauty, and that He satisfies.

My daughter Selah is three now. She is beautiful, like music. Like her name. And she was worth every tear I cried for her. Every minute I waited for her.

The last few years have been so full–of her–just learning this other person, this other creature God has placed in my care. I’ve got to see her grow out of her tiny newborn clothes into a lengthy three year old girl that looks older every minute. She won’t hold still, or slow down enough to let me just hold her and breathe her in. Sometimes it seems like she is sprinting through childhood, and I’m chasing her, always a few steps back, yelling, “Slow down!”

I remember how I cried when we took down her crib. I cried into my husbands shirt, and sobbed, “I’m just afraid we’ll never get to put it up again.” I felt like I was saying good-bye to this baby part of her, that I wasn’t ready to part with. Or put into storage.

And I didn’t know if God would give us any more children.

We prayed God would give us more, if He wanted us to have more. Even though, we were already beyond blessed to have even one beautiful child. Many don’t even get that.

For the last few years we’ve “tried” to conceive again. (But what is “trying” when you already have a child?) Interrupting cries during the “moment”, and a BBT thermometer that keeps disappearing from your nightstand and reappearing in your daughter’s toy box, and “charting” which was once graphed lines and fluids and temperatures, was now simply figuring out which cycle day I was on–which I was usually totally off on. Or we missed “the window” completely. Oops.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt the Lord gave me a theme for the year. Which was simply to have Open Arms.  I drew a stick figure of myself, with my arms out wide. And wrote: Open Arms: Because the posture of surrender, and the posture of worship, and the posture of receiving, is the same.

All I knew, is that God wanted me to keep my arms open. Wide open. Surrendering. Worshiping. And receiving from Him.

So in February, my husband and I felt like we needed to open our arms to fostering. This was something we talked about for a long time–and had many conversations about. My biggest hang up was, “I just don’t know if I could give the baby back.” I think most people struggle with that part of fostering, (the part that you have no control, and that your heart will probably be crushed in the process.) But, I clearly remember one day as we drove down I-79, as I told my husband all the reasons why it would be so “emotionally difficult” to foster, he gently reminded me, “It’s not about you. This is one thing in your life you get to do, that’s not about you.” Tears began to run down my face. It was that moment that it clicked for me. It’s not about me. It’s about helping someone else. At the most fragile state in their life.

The more we thought and prayed about it, the more we felt led to get certified to be foster parents. In our state, it’s only a 90 day process, and is actually very simple to do. We decided we would foster babies anywhere from newborn to under a year old, and we were really excited about it.

So in mid-April, we were nearing the end of all of our paperwork, training, and inspections. I felt so excited to lavish this baby with love. I was going to love this baby with everything, just as if he, or she was my own child. I knew my heart would probably get ripped out, but I felt that this baby deserved to be treated like they were the most long awaited, and long anticipated baby ever to be born.

So, we took down the guest room and made it into a full-blown nursery. I was happy to see the pretty white crib up again. Along with the glider and changing table. Everything looked crisp and white against the gray walls. I would walk past and wonder who the baby was that we would receive. And as I prayed, I kept seeing the words, “Precious One,” over the crib. So I ordered a pretty custom-made wall-sticker from Etsy to place over the crib. “Precious One,” is something I wanted to speak over and over this child.

And it was that week, that everything was set up in the nursery. The car seat was ready to go. And I had washed all the baby blankets in sweet-smelling Dreft–since that is what I would do for my own child–that our world would change: again.

My husband had picked up a pregnancy test on his way home from work, and I rolled my eyes when he handed it to me. “Why take a test?” I asked, “It just makes it harder!” I didn’t like taking pregnancy tests because they just played with emotions, I’d rather keep stuffed down.

And so, as he was tightening up the baby gates for the final home-inspection the next day, I went and took the test. I locked the door so that no one disturbed me. And that’s when I saw a very faint blue line cross the other: pregnant.

I fell to my knees right there on the bathroom floor.  And the lines blurred with my tears. And I thanked God, and gasped.

My husband came up, and I showed him the test, “Bekah!!” he exclaimed, hugging me, and we laughed. We could not believe it.

I was pregnant.

And in shock.

And in awe, of our very great God.

Today I am 9 weeks pregnant. So, it’s still early. I know we’re not guaranteed anything. I am not guaranteed even one more breath. But with all the breath in me, I will thank God for this miracle. And I will tell of His works.

And I will celebrate this life within me every day I have him, or her. For God knows this son or daughter. And He has already breathed out their name. His eyes see their unformed body, being knit together in the secret places of my womb. And all the days ordained for them have been written in His book, before one of them will come to be.

Dear friends, I had no idea that the child I was preparing for, was one in my womb. I had no idea the “Precious One” I had been praying for, would be living inside me. Can you fathom what God has done?

Surely, He is God. There is no one like Him. He alone can do wonders and miracles. He can even open the womb.

Lately, I am so tired. Can you pray for me, that I can keep my arms open? My heart open? I want to stay in the posture of surrender, and worship, and receiving as I carry this child. I haven’t  felt physically well, so we have decided to wait to take in a foster baby until sometime after our baby is born. However, this is something we pray we get to do in the future, because the need is so very great and urgent.

I want you to know, I will pray for you as well.

If you are barren, and even if you are not, my prayer is that you can open your arms. Wide. Ready to embrace whatever and whoever God has for you. I don’t know where it will lead. But it will be wild, and free, and full of God.

If you are still waiting and praying to get pregnant, please don’t let the news of my miracle discourage you. I know, it can feel defeating when you hear of other people’s pregnancies. Especially when they seem to come so easily.

But this miracle God has done in me should give you hope. Not despair.

Because if God can do a miracle in me, who has not even the faith, but rolls her eyes at the pregnancy test, He can surely do one in you as well.

I don’t know what it will look like. Or when. Or how.

But that’s what a miracle is. It’s a mystery. 

It’s a gift. It’s something of God. 

When you find yourself with nothing to offer. 

You are in the perfect place. 

Open your empty arms. To Him.

And say,

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:25-26

For surely He will satisfy. Surely, He will be your portion.

That Moment You Decide You Want to be a Mom

That moment mom

I was terrified of getting pregnant too soon. I heard horror stories of honeymoon babies. And I made sure we would not let that happen. We needed a few years to build our relationship. To grow as a couple. Just. As. A. Couple. Plus, I wanted my body to be remotely attractive for a couple more years. From the sounds of it…pregnancy was the beginning of the end. Of your body. Of your sanity. Of yourself.
But you know that moment, when you decide you want to be a mom? Maybe it happens slowly, or all at once. Either way, it just happens.

You don’t always see it coming.

I remember when it happened for me. It was after a ten-day-long babysitting stint for our three nieces while their mom and dad were on an out-of-the-country trip.

“Are they sure they want us to watch them?” I asked my husband before the girls arrived. We lived in a tiny upstairs apartment, full of breakable glass things that only newly-weds would decorate with. Nothing was for kids. Our kitchen table was one of those tall ones with metal swivel stools. We had not one plastic cup in the whole house. And the closest thing to a “toy” we owned, was a big exercise ball. Poor girls. 

I remember stashing our freezer with dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and Popsicles, and furiously taking down notes as I drilled their mother with questions over the phone about how much formula, and what baby food went with what, and allergies, and car seats, and any “worst-case-scenario” I could come up with.

Our friends kept joking that this would be good “birth control” for us. “Yeah, after this, you guys won’t want kids for years!” They said.

But somehow, a week full of car seats, and bed time stories, and outings to the zoo…actually did the opposite.
Our house was wrecked, we were in high-gear-stress-mode just making sure we kept everyone alive, and we all went to bed dog-tired every night. And…

We loved it.

During our ride home from the zoo, I remember suddenly hearing a sound I hadn’t heard all week: silence. I peered back and found all three girls conked out in their car seats in the backseat. And then my husband and I broke out into this crazy spontaneous “silent cheer” like we just won “The Price is Right.” (As if we actually did something to make them all nap at the same time.) But as we drove we couldn’t help peeking back at them sleeping sweetly. And we couldn’t help smiling at each other. As we rode in the warm breezy silence, our hands found each other and clasped.

It happened so subtly, this knot loosening in my heart. Beginning to come undone in the quiet moments, as I held their toddler hands, and rocked their little, sleepy bodies, and opened up bedtime stories, and covered their bare summer skin with the softest blankets I could find. Sometimes, in those moments, I’d catch my husbands gaze on me. His smiling eyes, that would say without any words at all, “You’d be good at this.”

You were made for this.

This moment suddenly comes when you just know you want to be a mom. You want to start the adventure. You want to take care of, and think about, and love someone else beyond yourself. You want to have a child. To love a child.

I want to be a mom. 

It’s not often spoken out loud. It’s more a whisper of the heart. A daydream. A wooing. Calling you somewhere wild you have never been. A place you’ve always been afraid of, but now you want to go.

Just like when you were a kid and that big roller coaster you were always terrified of riding, begins calling you. You suddenly see it in a way you never have. What once looked like terror, now looks like a wild adventure. Like the best thing you could ever think of doing. To get on. To let go. Not knowing what it will feel like…

Just knowing it’s right. 

It’s like the opening of a door. A door that has never been opened before. A door in your heart. It’s opening wide your arms to the undoing, to the surrender of love, the laying down of self, to love someone smaller, and weaker, and a thousand times more needy, than you.
It’s the beginning of losing yourself.

And the beginning of finding yourself.

All at once.

I used to fear it so much. The undoing. The undoing of my dreams, of my plans, of our marriage. I feared the surrender of my mind, my body, my appearance. I wanted to fiercely guard it all. I wanted us to live on our little island for two for a very long time, where we could talk late into the night, and sleep in on Saturdays, and make love freely. Without interrupting cries. Without interrupting chaos.

I wanted to keep us frozen in time like those two people in our wedding photos. Tanned, and toned, and smooth. And, I wanted it to stay warm, and easy, like in the picture, there on the beach, with our hands clasped forever. No little ones prying them apart.

But I said “yes” to the undoing.

I didn’t know what it meant, or where it would lead. I just knew it was right. I didn’t know it would mean infertility, and waiting, and wrestling with God.
I just knew it was right.

To try.

And you can’t always know what will happen next. It’s just reaching a trembling hand on a door you have never tried before, and seeing where it will lead. Seeing where God will lead.

It may mean joyful celebration of a life in your womb, and new baby in nine months. It may mean doctor visits, and questions you thought you’d never have to ask. It may mean miscarriage. It may mean long nights in the NICU, roaming the hospital halls. It may mean a rescue mission of adoption for kids from an orphanage across the ocean. It may mean a rescue mission for kids across your state. You can’t know what it will mean, but it’s still the beginning of something. 

I believe Motherhood begins, not only in your womb. But long before, in your heart. In that first fragile moment you realize you want to be a mom. The moment that door, that was bolted shut for so long, quietly creaks open. And the wind blows in and a whisper, you hear from the Spirit, echo the words of Jesus,
“Let 
       the 
            little 
                  children 
                          come.”
For the opening of that door…is opening of your heart. To the possibility of life. To the surrender. To the beauty. To the undoing.

And in the undoing of your life, your plans, and your dreams—is also the undoing of your heart. And the undoing of your chains. And in the undoing, you are set free. From yourself. And in the undoing, you find Him doing more than you ever asked, or dreamed, or imagined He could.

Because sometimes it turns out, that the thing you feared the most, is the thing that you love the most. And the thing that you were made to do. 

It’s becoming wild. Not wild as in rebellious, but wild as in untamed, and natural like a wild flower. Not seeking attention, and yet blooming with beauty, before the eyes of God and no one else in secret and remote places. Motherhood is like this.

Because there are different kinds of beauty. There’s the beauty you tried to achieve when you got ready for the high school prom, when you wore your hair in this giant intricate up-do. All pinned up and perfect. With lots of hairspray. And all your friends kept telling you how beautiful you looked. And you kept checking your compact mirror to see if it was true.

And then there’s the kind of beauty you just know is true, and you don’t need a mirror to prove it. This beauty you just kind of surrender to in motherhood.  Where these gentle hands begin to slowly pull out all the bobby pins, pin by pin. And you feel the soft tendrils of of hair start to fall, slowly across your back. Piece by piece. And you just stand there, like you did on your wedding night, when you are finally out of your dress, all undone, and wild, and beautiful.

And free.

This is the undoing.The place this other kind of beauty begins to awake for the first time.

And it all begins that first fragile moment you decide: I want to be a mom.

And then it keeps happening. It happens the first time you hear a heartbeat. And you cry. It happens when your belly starts to take shape. It happens when you meet your adoptive child for the first time, and know at once they are yours. It happens the moment you first touch your baby, and an avalanche of love gives way in your heart. It happens in the first moments of just gazing at their beauty while they sleep. It happens as you slow dance to lullabies in the dark each night. It happens as you collapse into your bed exhausted. It happens as you fill your days with Play-dough and tea-parties, and your big, important agenda gets scribbled over in Crayola crayons. And somehow, you wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Somehow you cry harder than before, but you also laugh harder than before. Because you see, the best moments in life are not the ones of pinned up perfection, but the ones where all you can say is, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5

Infertility: Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?

Where-is-God-when-you-cant-get-pregnant

We all know that labor hurts. But what most people don’t know is: infertility hurts too. It’s not the loud, screaming kind of pain. It’s long, and slow, and quiet. It’s a different kind of labor altogether. A labor of the soul.

It happens when you toss another negative pregnancy test in the trash can and sit on your bathroom floor and cry.

It happens when you lay in your bed at night, and your husband holds you as you stare into the darkness, while silent tears fall into your pillow.

It happens when you sit at a baby shower and hear all the “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” over every little, tiny gift, and wonder if you will ever have any little, tiny gifts of your own to open?

It happens when you look in the mirror at your flat stomach, and put your hand over it, and pray for life to grow. And try to imagine what it would look like, what it would feel like, if it did?

It happens when you see teenagers pushing strollers past your house. And when the minivan full of children opens it’s doors. And when a friend says they had another “oopsies” pregnancy. And you wonder: Why is this so easy for everyone else? Except us?

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Mom, Interrupted

mom interrupted photo

Sometimes I try to find some privacy in the bathroom. But then the door bursts open like a saloon and my daughter stands there like the Texas Outlaw about to put the rectal thermometer in her mouth. “Noooooo!!!” I leap off the commode.

I get interrupted. A lot. It’s the reason my hair is never quite straightened in the back. And why the laundry sits around the house in baskets. And why I have far more drafted posts than published ones. (I can’t finish a post, let alone a TEXT message without getting interrupted!)

No one told me about this before I became a mom. That your life will be full of interruptions from now to forever. I had this crazy notion that “staying home” meant my house could look like the pages of an Ikea catalogue and I’d be structured and disciplined and have these great routines for cleaning, and cooking, and writing and working out. But as it turns out: I’m a mess.

This sweet and fiesty almost-2-year-old is able to completely disarm me. Disarm my agenda. With whining, and crying, and throwing her food on the floor, and taking all the Kleenexes out of the box…and coloring on the leather couch with a permanent Sharpie. (Seriously?!)

I try to wake up early…but then she gets up earlier that day. I try to make dinner…but she wants to “help.” I try to write…but there she is…on my lap again, pushing buttons, touching the screen, and making me: the slowest blogger in history. She needs playtime and stories, and kisses, and cuddles, and me. All of me. So dinner is late again, the grocery trip gets postponed, the workout gets shortened or nixed, the post goes unpublished another day. And I get frustrated because: I want to do more. I want to be more.

Sometimes I marvel as I scroll through Pinterest and click on the pretty ideals that could only ever happen in a galaxy, far, far away. Who has time to make this? I read blogs so much better than mine, and cringe that it’s been..16?..Really? 16 days since I last posted? There go all my followers.

I feel the crumbs under my feet on the kitchen floor, and see the diaper pail overflowing, and that there are still dishes in the sink, and there will probably always be.

I look around and see that my life…is not a high-resolution photo. It is a blur. Because nothing holds still enough. Or comes into focus. Everything just seems to be slipping, falling through my hands. And spilling onto the already sticky floor.

And just when that voice starts to tell me that I need to, “Do more. Be more,” and I’m determined to really buckle down and start being more militant about my time and schedule and accomplishments—I stop and remember:

Jesus was interrupted.

Constantly.

He could not walk through a town without beggars calling out to him, women tugging on his coat, crowds pressing in on Him, and even…little kids climbing onto his lap.

But what did He do? Did He brush off their hands? Give them something to go occupy themselves with? Lock Himself in the bathroom saying, “I just need a break!”

No. Because Jesus never saw interruptions as “interruptions.” He just saw moments. He just saw God-directed opportunities. And He just saw people. In need of love.

And it seems, the moments of “interruption,” were Jesus’ deepest moments of ministry, the moment God came through. “Let the little children come,” He said. And when he looked at them, and pulled them close, I wonder if He might have whispered in their ears, so quiet that no one else could hear, “You. You are the reason I’m here.”

They were not keeping Jesus (the King of the World) from accomplishing some superior goal: they were the goal. They were the mission.

He gave himself—freely. Not begrudgingly. Consider the interruption of the woman who wept at His feet and dried them with her hair, and the father that plead that his daughter was going to die, and the centurion whose servant was sick, and the blind man who so desperately wanted to see. They all “interrupted.” And they all found grace.

Do I respond to interruptions with…grace?

Real hearts were healed. Real tears were dried. Real skin was touched. The moment of interruption…became the moment for ministry.

Is it any different as a mom?

What if I saw the biggest accomplishment as my time interacting with her while she is awake? And not as the psycho cleaning lady, while she is asleep? What if I lived embracing the “interruptions?” Instead of despising them? What if I saw the interruptions as an opportunity to show love? To show God? A God who is not too busy to be interrupted.

Because that’s what Jesus did.

Is this not the reason I was sent? Is this not the mission? My ambition?

This morning, there’s a little girl in pink monkey pajamas, with wild blonde bed head, and oatmeal on her cheeks just waiting to burst onto the scene with all her interruptions.

And maybe, just maybe, the “interruptions,” aren’t really interruptions.

Maybe the interruptions are the most important moments of all.

The moments God comes through.

The moment I pull her onto my lap and whisper in her ear, “You. You are the reason I’m home. The reason I’m here.”

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Is There Ebola On My Shopping Cart?

P1010542Whose sweaty hands might have pushed this shopping cart before me? Someone with Ebola?  This was me: the face of normal suburban woman. With the mind of a panic-stricken psycho. That’s why I passed up the shopping carts that day, with my child on my hip, determined to carry all my groceries in my arms.

Hello. I’m one of “those” people with what’s been called “fear-bola.” And this is the very reason I was at the grocery store. I was  preparing for what my husband likes to call “the Zombie Apocalypse.” And by preparing I mean storing away some non-perishables and bottled water. Shampoo. Supplies. Etc. And by “Zombie Apocalypse,” I mean…well, use your imagination.

I’ve seen the movies people! I’ve seen Outbreak, and Contagion, and World War Z.  And if Ebola catches fire in America, the next thing you know is that everyone will start freaking out and looting grocery stores, and there won’t be anything left on the shelf, but a bottle of ketchup. My family can’t live on a bottle of ketchup.

This is why I was at the store: in case we have to bunker down. But because I was too freaked out about Ebola to even use a shopping cart this is what happened: I was carrying Selah on my hip, and stockpiling containers of oatmeal in my arms, like a real lunatic. But as she squirmed in my one arm, and I tried to load the oatmeal in the other—one by one, the oatmeal containers kept slipping out of my arms, and dropping onto the floor, and rolling down the aisle, picking up [I’m sure] even more viruses. Ugh!!

That’s when I realized: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold both my daughter and my fear—without dropping something.

So…I abandoned my “plan” and marched to the front of the store. And I should have left right then, but I didn’t. I stopped at the front of the store and stared at the carts. This is crazy. You are acting like a crazy person, I told myself. But in my jumbled reasoning, I kept quoting from Proverb’s, “Look to the ant.” I needed to be smart. I needed to be ready. I needed to get food for my family. So, after a giant leap of faith, and a fist full of sanitary wipes, I wiped down a cart, snapped Selah in and reverted to my mission with more Mama Bear zeal than ever. ROAR!

Now with a cart, I could carry more. So, instead of going back to the oatmeal, I went for the “dog food” size bag of rice instead. More efficient, I told myself. Then I went to the water aisle. But as I’m plopping jug after jug of water into my cart, I see that Selah is licking the cart handle. Licking it, ya’ll! 

Ahh!!!??? “What are you thinking???!!!  

“Selah!” I looked in her eyes. Blue and wild with wonder. “Selah, don’t do that! Okay!?”

And at this point, I’m mad. I’m mad because I can’t control it. I can’t control her. I can’t protect her from anything..really. And there is no sanitizer for tongues. Yet.

When I got to the register, all that filled my cart was: rice and water. I awkwardly loaded my giant bag of rice and tried not to make eye contact with the cashier, or anyone around us.

Once we arrived home, I carried Selah’s tired little body in my arms and laid her down in her crib for her nap. And, just like that, she fell asleep. So peaceful. Without a care in the world.

And the memory came back then, of them both slipping out of my arms. Her and the oatmeal. And the oatmeal dropping on the floor and rolling. And of not physically being able to do it. Of not being what I wanted to be for her. As her protector. As her mom.

And I felt angry and sad and helpless. Because she licks shopping carts. And because I can’t protect her. And if it’s not Ebola, it’s terrorists, or school shootings, or a rare disease, or a car accident, or bacteria in baby wipes.

And I’m wrestling with all these fears, and all these emotions, and all these questions. And I feel pushed down by them all.  I just want her to be safe. I just want her fragile little girl life to be beautiful and safe and not interrupted or broken by the evil in this world. Is that so much to ask?

And suddenly I’m not just wrestling with fear. I’m wrestling with God.

Himself.

I’m wrestling, and wrangling, and sweating. God, I hate it here. Why is it like this? Why is it so dangerous and ugly and risky?

And why can’t I just be her savior? 

And I’m pushing all my force, and all my anger, and all my questions into Him. Where? Where God? Where can I go to get a life that is just…safe? And without pain? Or heartache? Just give me that life God! Just give her that life! Because I don’t want her to bruise, or bleed, or die..

And after too many words, and tears, I hear Him say in a voice so still and quiet, that it hushes me completely:

“Who do you say that I am?”

And it’s moments like these where I feel like Christ comes and presses my squirming, fighting body up against the wall, like a lover would, and whispers gently in my ear.

“Who do you say that I am?”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Do you know Me?”

And I’m held like this, in breathless stillness. No longer wrangling. But still. And small. And I feel His strength locking my weak frame in his arms and all I can do is weep…because I want to be held like this forever. 

And here in the weakest place, He wants the places of my heart that I most fiercely protect. And I just…let Him hold me. And I let Him hold her. My sweet girl. For her life is in His hands. For she was always His first, and mine second. And I can entrust her to Him, the very One who made her, and calls her His own, to watch over her soul. The part of her that will live forever.

Our world is full of risk at every turn. John Piper says, “We cannot avoid risk even if we want to..whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways. You don’t know if your heart will stop before you finish reading this page. You don’t know if some oncoming driver will swerve out of his lane and hit you head-on in the next week, or if the food in the restaurant may have some deadly virus in it, or if some man with a rifle will shoot you at the shopping center. We are not God. We do not know about tomorrow.” —Don’t Waste Your Life, pg. 80-81

I do not say this trouble you, but to give you hope. To help you see that God holds the power of life and death. And He may not always do what is best for our physical bodies (which are temporary), but He will always do what is best for our souls (which are eternal). Whether by life, or by death. He will care for us…forever. With perfect love. In this life and the life to come.

So we don’t have to be afraid, and we can say, “Even if the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea; I shall not fear. (Psalm 46) And if an army besiege me, even then I shall be confident. (Psalm 27) And I will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness. (Psalm 91) And if I perish, I perish with hope…in the Lord.”

But no matter what happens, nothing, I say this with tears, nothing shall separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Not angels or demons. Not the present or the future. Not hunger or famine. Not ISIS or Ebola. Not fatal car accidents or cancer. Not heart failure or anthrax. Not bombs or bullets. (Romans 8) Nothing shall separate us from His love.

And whether by living, or dying, I want to know Christ. I want to proclaim Christ, for He is the treasure in this life, and the life to come. I want to say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

For soon, and very soon,

I will stand before Him. Face to face. My own eyes will see Him. I and not another.

And He shall ask me one simple question:

 

Who do you say that I am?