Entries here at "Jenni's Journal" are designed to be "infertility-friendly" with an intentional avoidance of many pregnancy/baby/child-related references. If you are looking for personal updates including motherhood after infertility, you are welcome to visit my InfertilityMom blog as well.
Just after we moved to Reno 11 years ago, I broke the small bone in my left foot that connects my little toe to my ankle. That break resulted in surgery and I still have two pins holding those bones together. Well, graceful woman that I am, I managed to break the exact same bone, but this time in my right foot, the beginning of this week. At this point the foot is still too swollen to cast and the jury is out about surgery or not because of the placement of the fracture. So I'm in a splint with instructions to keep the foot elevated (thus greatly limiting computer access) and to bear no weight on it for 6 weeks. On Wednesday we plan to take another set of x-rays and either cast or schedule surgery (depending on what the x-rays reveal about current healing) at that point.
This weekend about 40 beautiful ladies from Hannah's Prayer are gathered in Ohio for a retreat that will bless and encourage them in the midst of their infertility and/or loss journies. But since only these few ladies could gather, I wanted to provide an alternative for everyone else. Thus was born Virtual Spa Weekend on my InnerBeautyGirlz blog. So come on over and join the fun for a weekend of beauty tips, video clips to make you laugh and cry, and a ton of great give-aways including chocolate, books, jewelry and beauty supplies.
If you don't get to read this post until sometime after May 3, it will still be worth your while to come check out the Virtual Spa threads! Even after the contests are closed, the other encouraging posts will still remain. :) So let's kick off our Weekend with this YouTube message I recorded from my bathroom just last week. This video was created specifically for the ladies of Hannah's Prayer Ministries who are gathered in Ohio, but I pray the message of the video will give you a reason to smile, maybe even make you laugh as you see me with no makeup, unbrushed hair and sitting on the side of my tub in a bathrobe, or be an encouragement to you in whatever season of life you find yourself tonight.
The Hannah's Prayer Retreat registration deadline is the end of this week. If you are looking for a wonderful weekend of support and encouragement, you won't want to miss this May 1-3 event in Cincinnati, Ohio! Head to http://www.Hannah.org and register now. :)
Last night (evening before Valentine's Day) I had the pleasure of sharing a little bit at a women’s event. There was quite a mixture of women there: married, divorced, singles, moms, those without children, those who had lost children...
I attended wearing a red turtleneck sweater. Over the sweater I wore a beautiful, large crystal-cut heart necklace. Under my sweater, unseen by anyone, I wore a second heart necklace, one of solid metal and inscribed with the words of John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
We started by talking about thoughts that came to mind when hearing the words “consume” or “consumed". Answers varied from eating and drinking to living in a “consumer-driven” society where we practices "consumerism" of material goods. I then asked for input about what kinds of things we can be consumed by or that consumes us. The first answer was “fire,” followed by more of an understanding of what I was getting at: all-consuming goals, passions, ideas, anger, fear, etc.
I then pointed to my crystal necklace and talked about the ways we can strive to look beautiful on the outside and reflect a good image to the world around us, just like the facets on this necklace reflect beautiful colors and light. To look at most of us you might think that we “have it all together.” But if I take off my necklace (as I did while saying these words) and hold it off by itself, we can see that all that beauty is just outward and that inside there is nothing there but plain glass. Sometime what we portray to the world is simply a disguise for the fragile emptiness we are feeling inside.
We all have different heartaches. Yours may be longing for someone to love or be loved by. It may be seeking fulfillment in an unfulfilling job. It might be trying to make your body look differently than it does in order to fill that void in you heart. For me it was a combination of infertility and losses, along with chronic health issues, that lead me to the point of desperation and even contemplating suicide. No one could see that lonely emptiness inside, but I knew it was there. I was consumed by the pursuit of motherhood and my feelings of failure as a woman because I couldn't get there. The heartache and grief consumed me every day and I felt abandoned by God because it seemed that He didn't even care.
But thankfully how I may "feel" about God doesn't dictate reality. Lamentations chapter 3 is a long book of heartache about all the things this author suffered. But hidden right in the midst of his complaints, he dramatically shifts gears for a few verses and boldly proclaims, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." While I was busy feeling overlooked by Him, He had already been going out of His way to prove the opposite to me.
What is the value of something? It really is NOT the cost of an item as much as it is what someone is really willing to pay. There are many things I don't buy because the price tag is higher than I feel the value to be. But God placed the ultimate value on me when He choose to pay the price of His son's life to prove His love for me! Many of us know the verse John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." God made this verse very personal to me in the midst of infertility when I realized that "God so long to call me His daughter that He allowed the death of His only biological son to pay the price of my adoption."
If you are feeling empty and fragile and wondering about God's love for you, He has proved it better than any knight in shining armor ever could. John 15:13 is engraved on this necklace (as I pull the second necklace out of its hiding place and let it rest outside my sweater) and states that "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Just like this necklace is strong and solid and full of meaning, when I put my hope in God and trust Him at His word even when I don't "feel" Him there, He fills that empty place in my heart with hope.
” Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness… For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.“
Event: Hannah's Prayer Retreat Date: Fri, May 01, 2009 - Sun, May 03, 2009 Place: Cincinnati, OH Details: This retreat is for married women who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, or infant death. Join other sisters in Christ who know the pain these experiences bring, and be encouraged together to look to Christ for hope and healing.
Cost: $200 per person for event, hotel, and all meals. $65 per person local option for event and Friday dinner only.
Speaker: Ginger Garrett, author of several books, including Moments for Couples Who Long for Children and Beauty Secrets of the Bible.
The theme is "Beautiful in His Sight." Through worship, prayer, encouraging messages, various workshops, and fun & fellowship, we hope to strengthen our relationship with Christ and one another and be reminded that even though our bodies don't work the way they're "supposed to" and our lives are not turning out as we'd planned, we are precious and beautiful and loved by the Lord, and He has a great plan for our lives, whether He sends us children or not.
As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birthday of our Lord, with all the focus on a pregnant young woman and a tiny newborn Baby, may our Risen Lord comfort each hurting heart and allow us true joy in the wonder of God-become-man for our redemption. Christmas, while yes about a Baby, is also about a Father's first step toward heartbreak at the death of His only Son, all because He understands the longing to grow His family - the death of His Son was the cost of my adoption as His daughter.
The rumors circulated about how Anna had been barren for the seven years her husband lived (see Luke 2:22-38). Others speculated about children that she might have buried along-side her beloved groom. Whatever her true story, they all shook their heads at the shame of her lonely state, without any living male relative to care for her in her advancing years.
Anna commeted little on the gossip of the crowd, striving to live gracefully, not giving in to the anger and bitterness that could so easily have ruled her heart. Yes, a lifetime later, she still missed the man who was to have been her life-partner, provider, and protector. While her womb had dried up long ago, some days her arms still longed to be filled by the weight of an infant.
Like Hannah had nearly 1,000 years earlier, Anna took her heartache to the temple. As the years passed by, Anna devoted more and more of her time to prayer and fasting. The life she had envisioned for herself was replaced with a lifestyle of ongoing worship. Those who had once pitied Anna, now sought out the prophetess for her wisdom.
Over the past 400 years since He had last added to His written Word, it sometimes seemed as if God had forgotten His promise to redeem Israel. But Anna's heart was stirred by strange things happening in recent months - Zachariah struck mute while performing his highest yearly duty, Elizabeth a mother in her old age, that young girl from Nazareth the center of scandal as she claimed to be a virgin, yet with child.
This day seemed to Anna like every other, until Simeon (who seemed to be at the temple almost as often as Anna) rushed to the young couple and took in his arms the infant they had brought for circumcision. At that moment Anna realized that all the heartache of her lifetime had been worth this one moment she now witnessed. Had it not been for her life taking so many seemingly "wrong" turns, she would not be in this right place at this perfect time. As the weight of this tiny One filled the ache of her arms, the last remnatnts of grief were erased grom her heart as well. What joy that, as a direct result of years of grief and loneliness, she was now privileged to proclaim the Consolation of Israel!
Earlier this week I posted about about The Scrifice of Thanksgiving and concluded with the thought that, "Scripture seems clear that praise and thanksgiving bring about peace in the midst of pain and heartache. Not easy, but certainly a worthwhile sacrifice!" I know there was a lot to process in that article, so today I would like to share simply some resons we can have for thanksgiving, even in the midst of heartache (verses taken from NIV):
- God responds to our pain – “For he has not despised or distained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Psalm 22:24).
- He puts an end to pain – “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his, praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).
- He helps us – “Praise be to the LORD< for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song” (Psalm 28:6-7).
- He carries the load – “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19)
- He is our comforter – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
- He is faithful – “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:3-5).
- It is within His character to bless those without hope – “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 113:9).
Please leave a comment to share what you are thankful for in the character of God this week as well!
“We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. And we offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving…”
How often do we take the time to truly think about the words we sing in church each Sunday? What are sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise? “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is please” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
We see “sacrifice” used throughout the Old Testament. God said that without the shedding of blood there could be no removal of sin, so animal sacrifice was ordained from the day sin entered the world through Adam, and was to continue until the day that God the Father experienced the grief of watching His own Son Jesus, the “Second Adam,” die in our places to clean our guilt and make a way for us to be adopted into His Heavenly family.
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs” (Psalm 69:30-31). Webster’s dictionary includes several definitions of “sacrifice,” many along the lines of bloodshed on an altar, but here are some alternate definitions that I think are more applicable to the idea of offering sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. “An act of offering to a deity something precious” or the “surrender of something for the sake of something else.”
We are introduced to Hannah in the context of her family’s journey to the temple to offer a yearly sacrifice (1 Samuel 1:3). Hannah was abiding by the law of the land in making the blood sacrifice demanded of her, but her heart was willing to sacrifice more. “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…’” (1 Sam. 1:10-11).
That was some sacrifice! No, Hannah didn’t offer false thanksgiving by denying her pain or trying to pretend to God that everything was fine, but in the same breath that she asked Him to grant her heart’s desire, she turned around and promised that the child would belong to God for his entire life. What an act of reverence for the God who created her and held the power to breathe life into her empty womb!
We see that from this point on, even before God allowed her to conceive, that Hannah worshipped the Lord (1 Sam. 1:19). That change from a bitter soul to an attitude of praise, was the willingness to sacrifice her will to God. The words of Jonah reflect what Hannah probably felt: “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).
Let’s take a look at another family in the Bible – the first family that ever existed. Adam and Eve’s first two sons were named Cain and Able. Because sin had already entered the world before these sons were born, they grew up under the sacrificial system and worshipped the Lord from the time they were tiny. Cain and Able both knew God’s rules by heart. God was worthy of their obedience, respect, and honor, if for no other reason than simply because His is God! “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:25).
The problem came as they grew up and started their own careers. Able raised sheep while Cain pursued farming – both professions were honorable. These men knew that God required blood atonement in repentance for sin. While Able could readily offer the sacrifices God required by giving from his own flock, Cain had to exchange his produce to buy lambs foe each sacrifice. (Kind of gives new meaning to the figure of speech, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip!”)
At some point Cain tired of the system God set up. I don’t know if he just didn’t like the hassle of selling crops and buying sheep each day, or if his pride got in the way and decided that since Able could offer the product he produced in shepherding, the he should be able to offer the work of his own hands as well. Whatever the reason, Cain decided to bring a sacrifice of his produce rather than offer a blood sacrifice to the Lord (Genesis 4:1-5). When his offering displeased the Lord, Cain pouted. God gave him a second chance to make his attitude and actions right, saying, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must mater it” (Gen. 4:6-7).
Unlike Hannah’s story of obedience and willingness to sacrificially offer her one true desire to the Lord, Cain’s story took a tragic turn when he hardened his heart in rebellion. In the end, Cain murdered Able out of jealousy, and Eve, the world’s first mother, lost two sons in one day – one to death, and one to banishment by the Lord!
God’s displeasure with Cain had nothing to do with a preference of meat over fruit. It had everything to do with Cain’s heart attitude and unwillingness to submit to God’s perfect plan. When Hannah did have a son, Samuel put it well: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).
I’m afraid I often tend to be much more like Cain than Hannah. I don’t like to bend when God calls me to something outside my comfort zone. While we live in an age of grace and are no longer bound by the Old Testament code of blood sacrifice, God still desires my heart to be soft to him and offer praise and thanksgiving even when it hurts – no, especially when it hurts – for this is where the sacrifice begins. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifices, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:15-17).
We are instructed, in view of God’s mercy, to offer our “bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” and this is seen as an act of worship. How can we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
Even when we allow God to renew us, at times it is still hard to understand His perfect will for us in light of fertility challenges. “To do what’s right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3). God told Cain that he must “Do what is right,” but how can I know what is right for me in fertility or in Noel’s death? I often felt, especially in the earlier days of our struggle, that the withholding of children was a sign that, like Cain, God was not looking on us with favor. I have struggled with anger towards God, and my face has definitely been downcast! I cannot go exchange my fruit for flock to make an acceptable burnt offering, so what can I do?
I have finally realized that doing what is right in infertility is simply allowing God to make the rules! He is asking me to make a change in the sacrifice I am willing to bring, and it is up to me if I will trade my bitterness for praise as Hannah did, or if I will use my pain to feed a jealous rage like Cain. I want to offer myself to God as a great parent, to raise the children He gives us, and train them to follow after Him. My desire is a good one. There is nothing wrong with this desire, just as there was nothing wrong with Cain choosing to farm the land. In fact, my desire is God-given!
But perhaps one thing I have in common with Cain is pride. After all, God had apparently always showered Cain with blessings in the past, as He has me, so it is easy to expect Him to continue His blessings on my terms, without waiting to see what His will or His master plan will be. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river…” (Isaiah 48:17b-18a).
For Cain it would have been as simple as letting go of his pride and continuing to buy his sheep from his brother, as an act of obedience to God. For me it is letting God teach me to surrender my plans to His will. He knows that I still desire to raise a family. But I am learning to exchange the sacrifice I want to give for the One He asks me to offer, in obedience to His perfect will for my life.
He does not want just my parenting skills, but He wants all of me! “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). I am learning, slowly, but learning none the less, that to give my whole self- body, mind, heart, spirit, soul, wants, dreams, desires, goals – over to Him, is the only acceptable sacrifice in His sight. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). When we pray in an attitude of true thanksgiving, being honest with God about our pain, yet making the effort to sacrifice our attitudes to Him, we are rewarded with a peace that defies earthly reason. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Scripture seems clear that praise and thanksgiving bring about peace in the midst of pain and heartache. Not easy, but certainly a worthwhile sacrifice!
“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (Psalm 103:2-6).
As this post publishes, I am heading out the door to the hospital for my hysterectomy. But the news is too exciting not to share! The month of November is National Adoption Awareness Month with today (Nov. 15) specifically being National Adoption Day where courts across the country will finalise thousands of adoptions! Praying for, and rejoicing with, all the new forever families who are legally created today!!!
I was told in my early 20s that I would probably need a hysterecotmy by the time I was 30. I am 36, so I've been given several years of unexpected grace in this area. I'm actually doing surprisingly well with the news that the time has finally come. I'm in so much pain and so tired from ongoing bleeding that I'm strangly looking forward to getting it done! This peace can only be attributed to God as I can remember in the early days of our infertility journey that my mom had her hysterectomy and I was so upset over hers that I couldn't even go down and help her. I couldn't imagine ever having this kind of peace over my own need for one, but here it is and God is providing such clear assurance that He is here in the midst of this.
So amazingly, while I am grieving a bit over this final loss of reproductive ability, the grief is minimal and instead I feel a profound sence of relief as God brings this chapter to a close. All I can do is praise the Lord for His overwhelming grace and peace in all of this because I know my reaction is well outside my normal human experiences.
My one long-term prayer is that this will be effective in managing my endo for the long haul. I know several women who have had hysterectomies and still deal with endo pain. My doctor says this is rare, but I seem to prove the rare cases. We are planning to let me keep one ovary at this point so that I don't have to go on hormone replacement (Since I tolerate outside hormones so poorly!) and I am praying this will turn out to be a good decision and not one that causes ongoing endo growth. If you could pray with me specifically along these lines, I would be greatful!
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. - 1 Samuel 1:12 (NIV)
I was born with a defect of my uterus causing conception difficulties as well as contributing to recurrent miscarriage. When I was being knit together in my own mother's womb, did God drop a stitch? How could I consider my broken reproductive organs to be wonderfully made? Jesus' interaction with a man born blind is enlightening:
His disciples aske him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayedd in his life." (John 9:2-3)
While it was a struggle to come to grips with God's hand in my sufering, there was also great freedom in realizing that my faith wasn't invalidated when prayers seemed to go unanswered. Of the many names listed in the Hebrews "Hall of Faith," Scripture states, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40).
The apostle Paul pleaded repeatedly with the Lord to remove his "thorn in the flesh." Rather than relief from pain, God's answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus asked of His Father that He not be called to face the cross "if it is possible" (Matthew 26:39). Was it impossible for God to prevent the crucifixion? No! He is God and can do whatever He pleases. Was it imperative that God allow it for my sake, even when it was possible for Him to prevent it? Yes!
So Jesus, through pervect prayer with holy motives, through a direct audience with the Father, asked for God to do the possible, yet even Christ did not receive what He asked. His burden was not removed. His painful trial and execution were yet to be endured. If all is possible with God, yet He chose to say no even to the request of His beloved Son, can I not rest assured that trials that seem unbearable in my life fit much better in His perfect plan than anything I can imagine from my limited viewpoint?
We are twice told that God closed Hannah's womb. While we can look with clarity of hindsight and see that He was preparing Hannah's heart so that her cherished son would be raised in a temple and bring a nation back to Himself, Hannah knew none of this then. In the same way, when I was in the middle of my deepest infertility heartache, I could not see how God was refining me and preparing my heart to better serve Him - both as a mother and through ministry. I did not know that my seemingly unanswered prayers were, in fact, being answered in a way I couldn't seen then. Had I known, perhaps it would have been easier to keep my faith strong. But then it wouldn't have really been "faith" - would it?
...One day, as I wrestled with God, He comforted me with the realization that struggling through disappointment with Him is not a sign of doubt, but rather proof of my faith. Hebrews affirms that God-honoring faith is as simple as coming to Him believeing simply that He exists (see Hebrews 11:1, 6). If I believe He exists, it is reasonable that I might come to Him with preconceived notions of how He will answer. It is easy to trust when God's ways mesh perfectly with my plans. But it is only when reality collides with my preconceptions that my faith is tried and proved...
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. - Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)
Christian Organization Unites the Millions Who Live with Invisible Illness
Contact: Lisa Copen, Rest Ministries, 858-486-4685, firstname.lastname@example.org
MEDIA ADVISORY, Sept. 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- Nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA live with a chronic illness and about 96% of the illnesses are invisible.* Rest Ministries, Inc., the largest Christian organization that serves the chronically ill, an affiliate of Joni Eareckson Tada's International Disability Ministry, is encouraging those with illness, as well and family, caregivers, and churches through their annual outreach event, National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, September 8-14, 2008.
This year the week features 20 workshops with well-known guest speakers who will be presenting and answering questions via Blog Talk Radio, September 8-12.
Lisa Copen, 39, founder of Rest Ministries says, "Since we began in 1997 we've found that despite the strong foundation Christians may have, illness can rock it. Feeling like no one understands how much your life has changed since a diagnosis can be more spiritually detrimental than the illness itself. It can make one feel isolated, misunderstood and even bitter."
Copen, who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since the age of twenty-four explains why Invisible Illness week matters. "Those with illness do have to accept that other people aren't going to 'get it.' Only God understands. But it's nice to encourage peers and find strength in validating the mixed emotions. You don't have to explain why walking twenty feet may be impossible some days."
Rest Ministries extends their outreach about illness awareness to churches, providing materials to start up HopeKeepers groups, books, cards, tracts, etc. About 96% of those with illness may appear perfectly healthy on Sunday mornings, but may struggle to get out of bed the remainder of the week.
Ken Chambers, Director of Church Relations at Joni and Friends International Disability Center, says, "It is vital that Christians understand the emotional and spiritual trials of those with invisible disabilities, as well as those with visible disabilities. Rest Ministries is dedicated to educating churches to not only serve the chronically ill, but to involve them in the church body. I encourage church leaders to take advantage of the wealth of resources at Rest Ministries and to participate in the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week."
Get involved by joining the hundreds of people who will blog about invisible illness on September 8th, attend a seminar, or tell someone who has an illness about the event. Typically, people with illness are unable to attend a traditional conference, so a "virtual conference" is widely anticipated. All seminars will also be recorded and archived.
See www.invisibleillness.com. Rest Ministries is at www.restministries.org.
*Source: Chronic Care in America, U.S. Census Bureau
------------------------- Press Release written by: Lisa Copen Rest Ministries, Director HopeKeepers Magazine, Editor
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week Founder & Coordinator
“HOPE CAN GROW FROM THE SOIL OF ILLNESS!” This is the theme of 2008’s National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week in September. Drop by and find out ways to encourage a friend, be encouraged yourself, and spread the word. http://www.InvisibleIllness.com and our blog http://www.InvisibleIllness.Wordpress.com
On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here is “part two” on thoughts from chapter ten, tackling the specific question of manipulating God. Part one, focusing on grace in supporting one another as God uniquely leads each of us through the plans He has for our lives, is posted here.
I wrote the bulk of this chapter addressing 10 “filter questions” and their accompanying scriptural support. The questions are designed to help you in making decisions concerning treatment options, adoption plans or other choices related to the infertility journey. Today we will look at just one of these questions, realizing that we are pulling it out of context from the rest of the chapter so it won’t be quite as clear on its own as it would be in the big picture. To get a better feel for my heart, I would encourage you to read chapter 10 entirely for more background.
And she made a vow saying, “Oh LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, the I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” - 1 Samuel 1:11 (NIV)
What Hannah might have prayed: “King of Kings, who am I that I should even dare to approach your throne? But I am beyond desperate. Great Physician, I need your healing hand upon both my defective body and my splintered heart. I would give anything to hear the name ‘Mommy’ called to my ears. I’ll be a godly mother and see that this child puts You first in everything...” Almost before she realized what she was saying, she had committed her future child to the life of a Nazirite (see Numbers 6). What had she done, letting her emotions carry her to such a vow? This burden was voluntarily taken by only a few, and typically for just a short season, not for life. But there was no going back now. If the Lord’s grace ever brought her the joy of labor pains, her son would live set apart, much like Samson, who had delivered her people from the Philistines after God placed him in the womb of his sterile mother (see Judges 13)…
When children don’t come along as planned, we face emotionally taxing, financially draining, and ethically complex choices. “Lord, I’ll do anything for a baby!” can be the soul’s gripping cry. But the moral and spiritual questions quickly arise: Is anything really okay? How far is “too far”? Do ends always justify means? Can I bargain with God or manipulate my way to motherhood?
Am I trying to force God’s hand? Sometimes God gives us less than the best He desires for us because we beg Him to do so, just as He conceded to the demands of Israel (see 1 Samuel 8:6-22). Am I trying to manipulate my way to a baby? Am I trying to bargain with God? Am I willing to accept God’s best for my life, or do I want to be in the driver’s seat and demand what I perceive to be best? One of our adoption losses was especially painful. I had invested my heart in the life of a young birth mother and watched in awe as “our son” performed on the stage of his first ultrasound. I fell head-over-heals in love, only to be asked to support this woman as she chose a different family. I ask, “Lord, how could you ask such a thing of me? Might a few well-spoken words swing the pendulum of parenthood back in our favor?” He answered clearly through the pages of His Word that morning in the hospital. Genesis 16 reminded me that while Sarah’s plan did bring about the birth of Ishmael, everyone suffered as a result of her manipulation. I was strongly convicted that, as much as I craved this child, I had to let go.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
------------ Dear Lord, Sometimes this path can be so confusing! You say children are a blessing, so how could fulfilling my longing for a baby be anything less than Your best for me? Sometimes it seems like I need to "help" You along, to push open door and blaze trails when You seem to be forgetting to act on my behalf. Please help me to remember that Your plan is truly best. Thank You that Your thoughts are so much higher than my limited understanding! Help me not to shove ahead of Your best plan, pushing for Your "second best" for my life rather than waiting for You to fulfill what You most want for me. Please teach me to trust that You really do have me on the straightest path to my heart's desires, to be fulfilled in Your perfect timing, as I learn what it means to fully acknowledge You in everything.
No, time doesn't heal all heartache. But the pain does ease, soften, change, grow with you, become a part of who you are over time. A Mommy's heart never forgets. I'm not in the staggering pain of the early years nor even the meloncoly "could-a-would-a-should-a" been grief of a handfull of years ago.
With happy-sorrow (happy that she is part of my life, sorrow that we have been apart so many years and I must continue waiting for Heaven to meet her) I am quietly remembering my beautiful first baby girl who was due this weekend, 13 years ago. Hard to believe I'm the Mommy of a teenager in Heaven now.
Happy Birthday, Sweet Noel! You are forever loved and really being missed today.
On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I started posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope last year. After several months of not consistantly posting, I am picking up with “part one” on thoughts from chapter ten, focusing on grace in supporting one another as God uniquely leads each of us through the plans He has for our lives. I will continue with “part two” from chapter 10 next month, tackling the specific question of manipulating God.
Of all the chapters I have adapted for devotionals, this one has been the hardest to change into this format because I wrote this chapter differently from the others, with the bulk of the chapter addressing 10 “filter questions” and their accompanying scriptural support to help you in making decisions concerning treatment options, adoption plans or other choices related to the infertility journey. The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "Anything for a Child?" chapter ten of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.
And she made a vow saying, “Oh LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, the I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” - 1 Samuel 1:11 (NIV)
For some, the inability to conceive is simply a closed door, and they have peace to move on to other life goals. For the rest of us, when children don’t come along as planned, we face emotionally taxing, financially draining, and ethically complex choices. “Lord, I’ll do anything for a baby!” can be the soul’s gripping cry.
Hannah too, felt this anguish. In desperation, she called out to the Lord, committing her yet-to-be conceived son to the life of a Nazirite (Numbers 6), a vow to hold him to a highly restrictive lifestyle that was normally entered into only for a short season, yet she was making this promise on his behalf, for life!
Is “anything” for a baby really okay? As Rick and I prayerfully considered what we could or should attempt in efforts to add children to our family we faced questions such as these: Is medical aid acceptable? If so, how far is too far? What longing would (and would not) adoption resolve for us? Can I bargain with God or manipulate my way to motherhood? If my friends or family are pushing me toward treatment or adoption and we don’t feel God leading us there, is there anything wrong with not taking these paths?
The authoritative source to answer all these questions is the Word of God. But even though we’re all reading the same Bible, Christians often reach significantly differing opinions about acceptable options. I believe this can be attributed, at least in part, to the Holy Spirit’s unique leading in each family. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
While there are some “black-and-white” scriptural constants, I must remember that the convictions God lays on my heart in “gray” areas, may or may not be applicable to others. Just as I don’t want you to judge the choices I make with a clear conscience before the Lord, I cannot fault you for the paths He chooses for you, even when I would not personally have peace in the same decisions.
It all goes back to each person’s need to listen for that still, small voice whispering to our hearts, “This is the way, walk in it.” Then we must WALK where He directs, as He prompts. Not RUN in our own directions ahead of His will or stubbornly dig in our heels, refusing to move forward…
If any of your lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5 (NIV)
------------ Dear Lord, Thank You that You do have a special plan for my life. I may not like where You have me right now, but I thank You that I don’t have to walk this path alone, without Your guidance for each decision and step. And I thank You for friends who have walked/are walking this journey to support and cheer me along the way. We may not always see eye to eye nor come to the same conclusions about Your directions for our lives, but we can still lean on and learn from one another as we each follow the paths You have laid for our individual journeys. I thank You that You are the final authority my husband and I answer to in the moral and ethical decisions this journey can bring. And I thank You for the guidance of Your written Word and of Your Spirit to give us the wisdom we so desperately need.
I will be one of four authors participating in a book signing on Saturday, June 14, from 1-4 at His Word Christian bookstore (7689 S Virginia St.) in Reno, NV. Two of us are from right here in Reno, the other two are driving over from the Sacramento area. Please come support and encourage your local authors!
Diana Symons has written two Children's fairy tales with a Christian influence called "Tales From the Thone" - DianaSymons.com
Jeanette Hanscome (leader of the Reno Christian Writers critique group) has written several pre-teen and young-adult bookes including "Want More? Joy" Brio Devotional #3 and two books in Focus on the Family's Brio Girls fiction series. - JeanetteHanscome.com
Jan Kern will be sharing her recent teen and young adult releases, "Scars That Wound, Scars That Heal--A Journey Out of Self-Injury" and "Seduced by Sex, Saved by Love? A Journey Out of False Intimacy". - JanKern.com
And I will be signing Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss - Read the first chapter and find out more at http://www.HannahsHopeBook.com
I would love to see your smiling faces on the 14th! Please feel free to pass this news along to your local church, teen group, youth group, women's group, book club, or anyone you know who may be interested in any of the topics we are touching on. Or if you know anyone who simply might like to meet local "real, live authors," we would love to meet them too.
I have had ongoing email issues ever since "upgrading" my computer to Vista last February. If you are trying to reach me and cannot get ahold of me at jennifer AT saake DOT biz, please try contacting me at InnerBeauty AT AffordableMineralMakeup DOT com (removing spaces and replacing at with @ and DOT with .) instead. I am sorry this has become so frustrating. We are working to find a solution.
Being nearly 24 hours old, I know this is "old news" by internet standards. But I also believe there are many who many not yet have heard. And so with very heavy heart I share with you that Maria Sue Chapman, youngest adopted daughter of adoption advocates and champions Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman, was killed in an accident in their family's driveway yesterday afternoon. Maria was 5 years old.
A memorial fund to benefit the Shaohannah's Hope has been set up "in lieu of flowers" at Maria's Miracle Fund or donations by mail amy be sent to Shaohannah's Hope, c/o Maria's Miracle Fund, PO Box 647, Franklin TN, 37065. You may learn more about Maria and express your condolences to the Chapman family on Maria's Memorial Blog.
Funeral Arrangements for Maria Sue Chapman. These times are open to the public if anyone would like to be a part of celebrating the life of Maria.
FRI May 23rd Visitation 5-8pm
SAT May 24th Memorial service 11am
At Christ Presbyterian Church 2323 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN (615) 373-2311
Christian singer Todd Smith, of the group Selah, and his family have just welcomed and said goodbye to their youngest daughter, Audrey this week. Here is Angie's beautiful, heatbreaking, deeply-touching letter to their daughter. Anyone who has said goodbye "too soon" will be moved by these words that will capture your heart.
(As a forwarning for those with no living children, there are beautiful pictures of the Smith's three living daughers and the girls' experiences in their sister's brief earthly life pictured and mentioned on this page. There are also beautiful pictures of Audrey.)
A lady I have had the joy of just starting to get to know through Hannah's Prayer posted a touching message on our message boards this week. Heather and her husband have been striving to grow their family since 2000 and lost their only children (IVF twins) to miscarriage this past December. I've been praying about what I could share with hurting hurts this Easter, and Heather has graciously allowed me to share her Good Friday post with you today:
Today is Good Friday and my husband and I have just been wandering around running errands. We are both feeling unsettled... partly because of the weather though...it's a dreary day.
I find for myself a part of it is that here I am buying chocolate easter eggs for my nephew, and my niece's first easter teddy bear. I just felt so empty. It makes the aching of missing our babies so strong. I think of how far along I would have been today...and that I would have been one of the proud pregnant women walking around the mall.
I am finding that I'm hiding my feelings more and more. I'm trying so hard to allow myself to heal, but to still allow myself my moments of tears. I know that will go on for a long time. I don't know what it is this week...but I've seen TWO sets of identical twins...and I found myself just staring at them wondering what our identical twins would have looked like. I've just never seen two sets of I.T's, let alone within the span of one week! And everywhere I look there are adverts "Baby Days On Now", "Big Baby Event"...like everywhere I turn I'm slapped in the face. I try to just keep my head high and think of where our babies are. I know that they are wrapped in God's loving arms. One day I will know why our babies had to leave us so soon. One day we will hold them ALL in our arms!
Anyhow, I just wanted to share a couple of verses that have become very important to me since losing our twins. It was difficult to get back in to God's word, but I'm feeling refreshed once again by His voice.
Romans 8:24-28 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Psalms 50:15 "I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you, and you can give me glory."
I just wanted to share these verses with all of you, and hope that these words touch you as much as they are helping to guide me through each day.
I feel so happy to have found this site, to have a place where I can express my sadness, but also have the opportunity to share some encouragement too!
Hugs and Prayers, Heather
If you would like to contact Heather directly, her email address is heather_johnson AT shaw DOT ca (remove spaces and replace AT and DOT with @ and .)
On past Easter's I've just had to keep going back to the heartache of the Father as He watched His only biological Son die to pay the price for my eternal adoption. I pray for each and every griving mom-at-heart who is also struggling to get through this weekend.
I had the blessing of sharing with a group of about 30 women from our church this past weekend. God put on my heart the topic of "Harvesting Hope from Heartache" based on Psalm 126:5-6 that says, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."
God's hand seemed to be upon the entire afternoon and I felt His peace and guidance as I spoke. For the first time ever when doing public speaking, I got up to start without any feelings of of even mild panic nor shaking hands or anything! I had been a bit nervous before hand, but just really felt a great sence of peace all the way around when the time to talk actually came. It was so encouraging to have my Mom there. I also have a fairly new friend from church that came and she went through a few years of infertility before the birth of her daughter. They are just getting ready to start trying to conceive again after their little miracle, so she's nervous about that journey. Also a lady I met on another message board was there, just a week after her 12-week miscarriage. Another friend there had a daughter who died in infancy about 10 years ago. I don't know everyone else's stories, but several ladies came up to talk afterwards and said that they were blessed, so I'm just praising the Lord right now!
Here's a brief outline of the talk:
Harvest Cycle (After each phase of the cycle are the emotions a grain of wheat might experience as it prepares for its final purpose.)
Planting – darkness, suffocation, loneliness
No one is immune from heartache. Even when I can’t feel Him, God is always there.
I shared the opening portion of Hannah's Hope chapter one, Hannah's loss of innocence and my story of attending a party as an infertile woman, to illustrate the isolation and darkness of the planting season.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? …If I make my bed in the depths, you are there… Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. – From Psalm 139:7-12
God’s “protection” may leave me bewildered, but He always has a plan for my good.
Read "Wait", the poem I posted in my previous blog entry.
“…For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
Sprouting – new, fragile, reaching out
God wants my honesty. Where am I placing my hope?
Shared personal experience of being angry with God, yet being unwilling to admit my anger, followed by the freedom of "letting Him have it" and being truly honest. Also the realization that I was placing my hope in a child rather than in God and the attitude changes He needed to bring about in me.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13
Growing – stretching, exposed to the elements - hot sun, pounding ran, buffeting wind
God is personal. He cares about every need. He wants me to rely on Him.
Personal stories of God meeting me in places of need both in chronic health challenges and in infertility and other desires of my heart like the longing for a piano.
I pray that out of his glorious riches [God, the Father] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19
Reaping – cut, dry, gather, bundle
God does not intend for me to “do life” alone.
The beauty of fellowship, belonging and finding others who understand by personal experience. Contrast to the lonilness of "planting".
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Threshing – separating chaff from good grain, sometimes by stomping or throwing
Sometimes it gets harder before it gets better. God will help me persevere!
Struggle with fears during pregnancy and adjustments in parenthood. Sometimes "having just what I want" isn't quite what I pictured.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4
Refining – grinding, mixing and baking lead to nourishment and pleasure
When seasons of heartache are over, I should celebrate what God has done!
Sometimes rejoicing is obvious, such as celebration over the long-awaited gift of children. Other times it is less obvious, like learning to rejoice in 17 years of ongoing pain and illness. God is good, all the time!
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. – Psalm 126:5-6
I'm skipping ahead a bit in my monthly devotionals based on Hannah's Hope because God has really put it on my heart that someone needs to read this tonight. I pray it will be an encouragment:
The following is copyrighted material taken from Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage & Adoption Loss, chapter 15:
As Russell Kelfer so well expressed in one of my all-time favorite peoms, "Wait" below, I often wished I could see enough of God's plan at least to know if the battle was even worth such grief. If only God would tell me, "Yes, someday you will have a baby," or even "No, my plans for you do not include a child," then I would have either been able to rest in the peace of knowing or grieve my losses and move on. Living in the ongoing unknown made worship a true sacrifice. Blind faith was sometimes fearful, painful faith, especially whenever I tried to exercise it in my own strength. Fortunately, each time I made even the meekest attempt to reach out to the Lord, my Father was there to hold my hand and guide me along the way.
WAIT (Taken from "Follow Me!" by Russell Kelfer, copyright 1995. Published by Discipleship Tape Ministries, Inc., and Into His Likeness Publications. Used by permission.)
Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried. Quietly, patiently, lovingly, He replied. I pleaded, and I wept for a clue to my fate, And the Master so gently said, "Child, you must wait."
"Wait? You say wait?" my indignant reply. "Lord, I need answers, I need to know why. Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard? By faith I have asked, and I'm claiming your Word.
"My future, and all to which I can relate Hangs in the balance, and you tell me 'wait'? I'm needing a 'yes,' or a go-ahead sign, Or even a 'no,' to which I can resign.
"And Lord, you have promised that if we believe, We need but to ask, and we shall receiv. And Lord I've been asking, and this in my cry: I'm weary of asking: I need a reply!"
Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate As my Master replied once again, "You must wait." So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut And grumbled to God; "So I'm waiting, for what?"
He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine And He tenderly said, "I could give you a sign. I could shake the heavens, darken the sun, Raise the dead, cause the mountains to run.
"All you see I could give, and pleased you would be. You would have what you want, but you wouldn't know Me. You'd not know the depth of My love for each saint; You'd not know the power that I give to the faint.
"You'd not learn to see through clouds of despair; You'd not learn to trust, just by knowing I'm there. You'd not know the joy of resting in Me, When darkness and silence was all you could see.
"You would never experience that fullness of love As the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove. You would know that I give, and I save, for a start, But you'd not know the depth and the beat of my heart.
"The glow of My comfort late in the night' The faith that I give when you walk without sight; The depth that's beyond getting just what you ask From an infinate God who makes what you have last.
"And you never would know, should your pain quickly flee, What it means that 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' Yes, your dreams for that loved one o'ernight could come true, But the loss! if you lost what I'm doing in you.
"So be silent, my child, and in time you will see That the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me. And though oft' may My answers seem terribly late, My most precious answer of all...is still...wait."
For Further Thought: (From "Fear of the Unknown" by Ginger Garrett, Moments for Couples Who Long for Children, Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003, pages 39-40) Our suffering can increase through the agony of not knowing when it will end and why God has allowed it. We want answers to questions that God does not seem eager to explain.... We imagine that if only God would tell us the day and time that our wait will end, we could relax and pace ourselves during our waiting. But the idea that this suffering could stretch on indefinitely haunts us and makes the present much more difficult. We can stand short bursts of pain, such as in the dentist's chair or when we get a flu shot, because we kno the pain will end quickly and because we feel confident the suffering will produce a greater good. We don't seem to need or ask for God's strength in those moments... Lack of control, however, with no sense of when the suffering will end or why God allows it, nudges us to an all-knowing, all-powerful Lord. God can best demonstrate who He is when we are paying careful attention. Perhaps that is one reason why He does not reveal to us His exact times and dates and reasons. We want Him to reveal the future - He wants to reveal His character.
Join Kris and Jim on their journey toward the adoption of Kira, starting near the beginning of a pregnancy and following step-by-step through all the joy and excitement, right up until the day of their would-be daughter's birth. The final post shares shining grace and a strength only God could provide at the news that this newborn child would not become their daughter after all. Path to Kira
On the Proverbs 31 Ministires blog (heads-up, the author is a mother of 5, 2 through adoption, so there will be occasional references to motherhood but not the theme of this post) there is a writing challenge this week. God pulled me from bed 2 hours early this morning, prompting me to write my article for this contest. But when I took a quick visit to the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums (message boards) before coming here, He quickly made it clear that what I had planned to write was not what He wanted me to say this morning. She I'm tossing my notes aside and giving a heart answer to a grieving friend instead.
After sharing of the deaths of two grandmothers and her unborn (six-years-awaited) child all within a two month time span, she writes: "How do I trust Him and what am I trusting? I want to trust that this will never happen again and I know that isn't possible. I have been such a faithful Christian, I go to church every week, I [serve om multiple] ministries, what else do I need to do to be blessed with biologically carrying a child? "I just don't understand and I am so confused right now. I am scared of how mad at God I am!"
Precious Friend, my heart hurts for all the trials you have endured. I'm sure you have heard that grief has stages. You are facing two very distinct kinds of grief right now - the profound and specific losses of three precious to you (all in a very compact timeframe), and the ongoing, less definable but every bit as real, ongoing grief of loss upon loss, month upon month, hope upon hope, dream upon dream. Anger is one very valid stage of grief, as is "bargaining" (as reflected by your questions above).
I struggled with these same questions. Not just struggled, but wrestled and fought under their weight as you do! In the end God reminded me that just as I cannot earn His grace, a child is also a gift, not a right, and that He alone is the giver of good gifts. He gives them to whom He chooses, in the timing that He deems most perfect. He does not give according to "merit" for all my works are still broken offerings and worthless rags. He gives according to His goodness and best plan.
As much as I long to give you a "formula" I can only speak from having survived those depths where you now find yourself and encourage you to remember that you cannot earn a baby. The Psalm "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." had me convinced otherwise for a time, that if I could just show God how much I was doing for His service, that surly He would honor that. And then one day, in as close to any "audible voice from God" experience I've ever know, He impressed so clearly on my heart that I had the totally wrong idea of what it meant to "delight" in Him with, "My child, you cannot treat me according to the gifts I choose to give or to withhold. I am Worthy of your praise, with or without a baby!" It was then that I realized that a baby had become an idol to me, taking my focus and God's rightful place of longing in my heart.
This realization wasn't an immediate fix, didn't make me "all better" over night, and certainly didn't instantly cause my womb to become fertile. But it was a significant turning point in my heart, the start on a pathway toward healing and freedom from anger's bitter grasp, the first glimmer of hope that there truly was light on the other side of that deep, dark, senseless valley of grief.
As for anger, I know that the anger itself can be a fearful thing. May I encourage you that your anger does not take God by surprise and that He is big enough to handle it? Death makes Him angry too. This fallen world is not as He designed it and death is an evil, vile thief. If we believe that God has the power to prevent such evil and yet chooses not to take action, why wouldn't we be angry with him? What God wants from you the most right now is your honesty, with yourself and with Him. Let Him know exactly how angry you are, why you are angry, how you feel betrayed... Hold nothing back. Yell it out to Him if you need to. Start a journal and get it all out there in black and white.
And then, once you have laid yourself bare before Him, ask Him to take all that brokenness, bitterness, disappointment, grief, and more, and replace it with heart healing and peace. He is the author of hope and we are promised that when our hope is in Him (not elsewhere, like in a baby) that He does not disappoint. I am not saying this to crush your dreams that God may yet have motherhood in His plans for you. In fact, it is my earnest prayer that He does, and from a human standpoint I pray that this answer to prayer comes much sooner than later. I am simply saying that when we get to this stage of grief, our needs are far bigger than simply that of conception. While there is nothing you can do to "earn" a baby (and you will only make yourself more miserable in the attempt), please allow God to start bringing Life in a new way as He is the only one who can meet this terrible heartache.
I recently started a fun new blog called Let Your Inner Beauty Shine as part of my Inner Beauty Girlz outreach. The blog features Affordable Mineral Makeup and offers a ton of great beauty tricks, makeup tips, devotional reflections on beauty that delights the Lord, book and product reviews and of course give-aways! I would love to invite you to come join me for a little light-hearted fun to lift your heart and Let Your Inner Beauty Shine today!
I have to take a moment and highlight a relatively new resource in the world of infertility encouragement, a blog that has caught my attention with the author's thoughtful reviews of several popular infertility books. Of course it didn't hurt that her review of Hannah's Hope was an encouraging one, but I love Jen's candor and the tone of many posts I took the time to savor today. Her reviews of books, movies and music and detailed, insightful and not afraid of honest criticism. While Blessed Are the Barren is obviously only one viewpoint (and the name might be a hard pill for some to swallow), I believe Jen's blog does a great job of representing infertility from the 20-something Christian woman's perspective!