Archive | infertility

The Season of Singing

The news of my pregnancy with my third child initiated an avalanche of fear within me. Pregnancy in the past had not always guaranteed a baby in my arms. Those early days were spent leaning on precious prayers from others who stood in the gap for me. During that summer, God spoke this phrase again and again to my timid heart.

This is the season of singing.

The words are from a beautiful passage in Song of Solomon, and they served as the perfect reminder that God was in control, that He had been with me in my season of grieving, and that this was a brand-new season, one I had never experienced before. By His grace, God ushered in a season of singing, one that would replace mourning with a new song of joy.

He placed a new song in my mouth—not a new melody with new lyrics, but a fresh response to a newfound understanding of the depth of His love for me. Jesus interceded and named my season when I struggled to even mouth the words.

Once we could feel our girl move, we noticed this pattern. Every Sunday morning during worship, this tiny growing baby would go crazy. I’m not just talking kicks; this was excessive dancing and flipping. We would just look at each other and shrug with silly grins on our faces, tickled at God’s goodness.

I dared to hum along as I practiced trusting His promise.

The movements in my belly mirrored flutters in my heart. Each served as hard evidence of the power of intercessory prayer. We named this sweet baby Anna Joy. Anna after the woman in the bible who dedicated her life to worshipping Jesus in spite of her grief, and Joy because that just seemed obvious. Her brother, sister, and cousins nicknamed her Joy-Joy when she was a baby, as if one Joy wouldn’t suffice.

Photo by A & A Newborn Photography

Photo by A & A Newborn Photography

This little firecracker turned three this week, and she has made it her mission in life to extend this season of singing indefinitely, it seems. Anna Joy doesn’t sing “Jesus Loves Me” at a sweet lullaby volume; she only knows to belt out her song with enthusiastic dance moves. She has one volume: all the way up.

I have no idea what this child will do one day or how God will use her. She’s a toddler and oblivious at this age to God’s purpose for her life, but as her parents, you can bet we’re paying attention. We see all the potential, all the possibilities, all the ways God might use her. All the ways He already has.

If we can recognize this small glimpse of beauty far beyond a single child, then imagine what God sees in you, His precious son or daughter.

God sees all the beauty we cannot.

We hope and dream and pray, but we can still only imagine what God has in store. But He knows. He has scripted a remarkable plan. He sings over us when a song is about the farthest thing from our lips. He delights in who we are: His children.

On the night that Simon Peter would betray Him, Jesus spoke these words: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)

Peter was appalled at the thought. He denied it could ever happen, but then hours later, He denied knowing Jesus, just as predicted. I wonder if Peter thought back to Jesus’ words that night and during the days that followed Jesus’ death. I wonder if he found a similar peace in knowing Jesus had prayed for him, that He saw beauty beyond Peter’s fears and failures.

God sent Jesus to intercede and become the beauty in Peter’s story. Jesus revived Peter’s faith on the shores of Galilee, and Peter became a mouthpiece for the good news. Peter leaned into the melody of God’s love and dared to let it change him.

Peter’s song still resonates today.

When I pray for my Joy, I’m reminded of God’s prayers for me. I remember how even in my struggle to trust Him, He interceded in love. He held my hand and led me into a beautiful season of singing. And He’ll do it again and again and again until the day He ushers me into His presence where my singing will never ever end.

Happy birthday, Anna Joy!

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The Most Helpful Way to Encourage Someone Through the Pain of Miscarriage

Under a crisp, periwinkle sky, she flings both arms into the air with her head tilted way back so that her curls dangle in the breeze. She loses herself in unhindered abandon, lifting ear-splitting squeals and small chunky arms and every bit of childlike wonder to feel the movement of the wind.

With everything in her, she yells, “Wwoooooooooooooowwwww!”

Beaming, she gazes up at the towering pear tree, lost in her own toddler world. Leaves dance on thin, clustered branches. Their vibration creates a melody that takes me back in time.

Seven years ago, I sat in the same spot I’m sitting today, while my husband and my dad moved fresh earth with shovels. I watched as deep holes emerged, overwhelmed with all the grief I couldn’t figure out how to bury.

Back to back miscarriages had ripped my heart open and my world apart.

The two worked quietly, and I was thankful no one could read my thoughts. When each hole was deep enough, they dropped a tiny, frail pear tree low into the ground and filled in each of the three holes with the same dirt they had removed.

The trees were memorials, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to remember this pain. More than anything, I wanted to erase this part of my story, pretend I was living someone else’s. I wasn’t sure my faith was strong enough to keep trusting in a good God.

I named the babies we never got to meet. Only God and me know their names. I can’t even be sure whether the babies we lost were girls or boys, so I just went with my mother instinct on that.

I picked a girl’s name for the first. The second miscarriage was a double loss, and though I can’t know for sure, I imagined in my heart a girl and a boy. I assigned each tree with its respective name very matter-of-factly. I started with the first tree and went on down the line. A girl was first, then another girl, and next to her on the far end, the boy who would have shared the same birthday with his sister.

Today, as I watch my tiniest daughter fling her arms up into the breeze, amazed by those singing heart-shaped leaves, my heart is overcome by the silent version of the word she is yelling. Wow.

The Most Helpful Way to Encourage Someone Through the Pain of Miscarriage

Those trees have endured a hurricane and a drought, and whenever the wind blows, they sing.

Though they represent all we’ve lost, I can’t get over how much they resemble the family God’s blessed us with all these years later. I wonder why I haven’t ever noticed this before.

The two trees closest to the street are nearly identical in size and shape. The other, unprotected by the side of the house, is much smaller in comparison. I couldn’t have predicted this when I assigned names to each one. Back then they all looked alike.

But in His time, God gave us a boy and a girl. My Jake and Lillian share more than a July birthday; both have their daddy’s long and lean genes.

Many more years skated along before He gave us our third, a girl we named Anna Joy. It took seven years for me to see it this clearly—His goodness, His blessing, His complete reversal of all I lost.

Like a mirror I momentarily glance into, I see my deepest pain producing a reflection of profound joy.

A friend told me last week that seven is the number of completion. I have my own wow-moment right there in the same place I cried a million tears all those years ago, and a thought crescendos in my mind: God’s story is one of reversal.

Eternal life instead of the death I deserve. The Prince of Peace taking my place to make peace with God on my behalf. An upside-down kingdom where the weak are strong and the poor are called blessed. A kingdom where we’re all invited to be small and things like character and hope are born out of impossible suffering.

Today I think about the woman who could plant a forest in her backyard, and sometimes I hesitate to tell this part of my story.

Chances are, you have a friend or loved one who’s lost a baby, too.

Right now she may be flinging her arms in the air with a different three letter word on her lips, because God doesn’t let us fast forward through the years to see the rest. Instead of wow, she might be yelling, How? Or Why? She might be silently mouthing, Huh? Or praying one word over and over and over: God, God, God?

Watching someone close to you endure a miscarriage feels incredibly helpless sometimes. Look up the word miscarriage, and the very first synonym you’ll find is failure. When babies die before they’re born, it’s cold, hard evidence that we live in a broken world with broken bodies that fail.

I remember failure tightening around my neck like a noose, choking hopes and dreams, squeezing out life until Jesus reached down and rescued me. His word became my place to stand and His promise my only hope. God used the stories of others to remind me of His faithfulness.

The most helpful way to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage is to tell your story.

Tell your story—not in an attempt to relate and make yourself feel less uncomfortable; tell your story, because your story reveals the heart of God.

Even if your story doesn’t include miscarriage, you’ve probably at some point in your life had to come to terms with the fact that you need God. We’ve all struggled, experienced loss, felt hopeless and alone. Listening to stories of God’s faithfulness helps us remember that He is good and trustworthy, and that He grieves with us.

When I was four months pregnant with our third child, a friend asked me to meet with a girl who longed for a baby. There was no way to know for sure if she’d ever conceive.

I asked if she had mentioned the fact that I was pregnant… and showing. She told me she had and that she was convinced my story would communicate hope. I wasn’t so sure.

Growing bellies were sometimes overwhelming back when I was waiting. I questioned whether this girl I’d never met before would be more hurt than encouraged. I almost said no, but something made me go.

It was easy to share what God had done in my life. Heart-breaking pain seemed to unite us somehow in that quiet corner of the coffee shop. Later in the parking lot, when we said goodbye, I awkwardly crossed my arms over my belly.

I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“Don’t you dare cover up your miracle,” she implored, with hopeful eyes and a gentle smile.

I hadn’t even realized that’s what I was doing. Too concerned I’d cause her pain, I missed how my story had done exactly what my friend felt it would: communicate hope.

No one benefits from hiding God’s goodness. Stories can’t be photocopied and mass produced, because they are uniquely personal.  Every story tells a greater story; it doesn’t end with us.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed, but Love guarantees to heal hearts and write wow-endings that are uniquely beautiful and personal. We all get the wow-ending, because in the very end, Jesus is coming back.

Our stories are powerful—and often, all we really have to give—so don’t hold back because you don’t know where someone else’s story is going. God knows.

Your story lets God tell His.

Yes, miscarriage has made its mark on my story, but even in the pain—especially in the heartbreak and sorrow—God spoke His truth over my life: Love never fails. My body failed more than once to carry a precious life into this world, but God’s love has never failed to carry me through difficult times and times of joy.

Our stories are all so different, but every story is authored by Love. And Love will remain long after this world and everything in it fades away.

Kelly

 

For those who grieve…

I wrote this post for those who wonder how to encourage someone through the pain of miscarriage, yet I know there’s a chance that you are grieving your own loss today.

You are not alone.

No words can adequately explain or even ease the pain you’re experiencing. My prayer is that you find comfort and hope in the following words. 

What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

Allow grief to do its deep heart work. Don’t be tempted to say you’re ok when you’re not. Find a friend you trust, and be honest with her about your pain, your anger, your struggles and questions. Invite her to just sit with you and not say anything.

Find ways to experience closure. Planting trees, naming babies, or setting up some other kind of memorial acknowledges something was lost. It is such an important part of the grieving process.

Seek out a Christian counselor or a support group, like Hannah’s Hope.  Many churches offer a counseling and support classes. Hannah’s Prayer Ministries offers an online support community.

Start a thankful journal. Nothing produces joy quite like a thankful heart. Someone I love suggested this to me just days after we planted those trees.  I didn’t quite understand the power of gratitude back then, but time has a way of making hazy things beautifully clear.

I’ve written a bunch about my own journey through infertility and miscarriage. You can read more of my story here. Most of  all, I hope you know today that Jesus loves you dearly.

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The Miracle I Almost Missed

“I never wanted to walk that road again.” Tears well up in my eyes as I listen to my own shaky voice recount the story about the struggle and the miracle. It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched this four-minute version of my story. I close my eyes and remember the waiting parts, the longing parts, the heart-wrenching grieving parts.

“But, we trusted Him and took a step of faith.” My own words transport me back to a time when two people, hand in hand, took scared steps because He said so.

Watching yourself tell your own story helps you realize what you left out. I love that my story includes an unexpected miracle. But today, I want to talk about the part I’ve never shared.

I want to tell you about the other miracle I almost missed.

When God whispered to me, “I’m not finished here,” I never thought He would ask me to walk the same path I swore I’d never set foot on again. I couldn’t understand why He would ask me to return to a place that had been so painful and devastating.  He could have grown our family another way.

I never, ever wanted to be pregnant again.

It was too risky. I never wanted to experience the grief again. I didn’t think I could endure the weight of the fear caused by all the what-ifs. My husband felt the exact same way. But, God asked us to trust Him. So we went.

Something happened as we went, and I knew I’d never be the same again.

My heart’s response was “I trust you, Jesus.” It made no sense. I knew that I had little to do with what was happening on the inside. Whatever this was about, it had to be bigger than a baby. It had to be about more than just our family.

An entire year later, after many setbacks and failures, we found out that God really wasn’t finished yet. He reached down and handed us an unexpected gift that caught our entire family by surprise: a baby no one thought was possible. Not even me.

The road to pregnancy wasn’t paved with certainty. God didn’t remove all the hurt, but He guarded my heart and used each and every step to change my heart in miraculous ways. He wasn’t asking me to take a step to test my faith; He was asking me to take a step to grow my faith.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

Our sweet baby girl is eighteen months old now. She’s the miracle everybody sees. She’s the miracle we photograph and measure each month as she grows right in front of our eyes. Every child is a miracle that points us to the Giver.

But a subtle, hidden miracle was taking place simultaneously. This miracle grew out of my absolute and undivided trust in the One who was leading us. It’s the miracle every single one of us who have trusted in Jesus will experience over and over again throughout our lifetime.

Jesus saves us once and for all, but He is never finished rescuing our hearts.

These miracles are so easy to miss. They aren’t measurable, and they’re often complicated, yet they happen every single day in the hearts of believers. These miracles happen as we walk towards Jesus.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

There is a story about a missed miracle in the seventeenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. Ten lepers met Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. They stood at a distance and cried out to Him by name.

Leprosy was an incurable disease and was regarded as an awful punishment from God. The disease would gradually spread, taking over the entire body little by little. These ten men were begging for a miracle.

Maybe they had heard about all Jesus had done. Maybe someone had told them about another man whose leprosy immediately left when Jesus touched him. (See Luke 5:12-14)

I would have been expecting the exact same miracle that Jesus performed on that guy. For Him to touch me and heal me exactly like He had done before. My request would’ve involved something predictable and controllable.

I would’ve wanted a miracle I could measure.

When Jesus saw them, He spoke words that must have made their hearts sink. I can tell you I would not have known what to do with these six words: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

The priest’s role was to inspect the leper in order to determine if he was clean or unclean. If he was unclean, he had to live outside the city. A leper couldn’t communicate with anyone inside the city, and he couldn’t be touched. To be pronounced unclean was a horrible thing. (See Leviticus 13 and 14)

Jesus told these ten men to go back and stand where they once stood when a priest had pronounced an impossible verdict. He asked them to return to the same place where their reputations were painfully marred. He asked them to return to the origin of their isolation, the place where shame and hopelessness intersected.

Jesus said, “Go there.”

I wonder if they felt like I did when God asked me to return to the place I vowed I’d never again go. Did they weigh the risks involved with putting feet to that path? Did they rehearse their past heartbreak or relive the devastation?

I wonder what made them decide that this Jesus could be trusted.

These ten men went where Jesus told them to go. We don’t when or how or where exactly on that road it happened, but Scripture tells it beautifully: “And as they went, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:14-16 (emphasis added) 

Cleansed. Healed. Two different words that might seem like synonyms, but to the Greek ear, they would have sounded very different. These words were chosen carefully to communicate a bigger story.

The Greek word for cleansed is katharizō. It means “cure, purify,” indicating that the man’s skin was no longer covered with leprosy. The word translated as healed is the Greek word iaomai, which means “made whole.”

Somewhere on that path, one man recognized that his skin as well as his heart had been transformed.

Jesus said to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (emphasis added) He could have used the word cleansed or the word healed, but Jesus used a completely different word, sōzō, which means “saved.” Jesus was saying, “Faith in me is your salvation.”

The fact that this man was a Samaritan was a big deal. Jesus was declaring that salvation was not only for the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Jesus came to save the entire world.

Many Jewish people in Jesus’ day were obsessed with asking for a sign. They were wrapped up with what God could do for them. Like me, they wanted miracles they could measure. The people in Jesus’ day missed that God had given them the greatest miracle of all time. They didn’t understand that nothing else could ever compare to all we’ve been given in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we act just like them.

That day He met the lepers, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. He would ride into the city on a donkey and crowds of people would hail Him King. Many of those same people would cry, “Crucify Him,” by the end of the week. He was on the way to the cross to make an impossible situation right. He was on His way to restore broken hearts and pave the way for us to be made new.

The miracle begins when a heart plagued with mistrust makes the choice to trust Him.

If a leper’s condition improved and he was pronounced clean by the priest, a sacrifice was needed to restore him to the community. When Jesus spoke to the man who returned, He was revealing His authority. Jesus is the Great High Priest as well as the sacrifice. His blood is the only thing that can cure our leprous soul.

But Jesus doesn’t stop with cleansing us. He walks along the muddy path with us. He never, ever stops miraculously healing us from the inside out.

Only one out of ten recognized the miracle. Nine missed it entirely. I don’t want to be part of this statistic. I love to share how God grew our family and did the impossible, but what I cherish most about that path He led us down is how it changed me.

Trusting Jesus changed me and will continue to change me until the day I meet Him face to face.

When I think back to those words God whispered to me more than three years ago, I sense a whole new message. “I’m not finished here,” meant He would grow our family, and He has been so faithful.  But as I stare at the words on my screen today, I realize that He also meant He wasn’t finished with me.

Let it be said of all us: They trusted Jesus, and a miracle happened as they went.

Jesus loves you,
Kelly

 

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What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was the only one.  My husband thought the social gathering would be good for my soul.  I knew better, but agreed to go anyway.  In a crowded, boisterous circle of acquaintances and strangers, I listened from a distance, unable to contribute to the conversation.

Infertility and heartbreaking loss had taken its toll on my heart.

Two women shared their personal experiences with moldy sippy cup lids while a third offered her fool-proof solution for barring off this kind of unwanted fungal growth. All I heard was that familiar lie:

You will never belong here.

What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

I didn’t know if my kitchen cabinets would ever hold sippy cups, and I didn’t know if my body would ever carry a baby like it was supposed to.  It had been years and hope was slipping out of my empty arms. The scars from my most recent loss were anything but healed, and there was nothing tidy about the emotions spilling out of me. I made eye contact with the hostess as I quickly mapped out my exit plan. My eyes pleaded with her, Please understand.

“Take me home,” I whispered to my husband when I found him outside with the rest of the guys. Confusion settled into the space between us.  He was still unaware that we were the only childless people at the party, and I was surprised that this made me jealous. When he realized my request was more of a plea, we said our goodbyes and left.

I needed to be heard.

On the car ride home, I tried to explain.  I expected him of all people to understand. He had experienced the same devastating loss, yet instead of uniting us, it was pulling us in opposite directions. I was terrified that the strain of it all would rip us right apart.

I quit speaking to God that week- just picked up silence and wore it like a cloak. Months passed before I realized that my anger couldn’t run Him off or push Him away.

One day in desperation, I picked up His Word, and the ground of my heart shifted as love and grace and truth seeped deep into the cracks of my dry and parched faith. It was that same day I realized what I wish I had known years before.

God is the only One who will ever truly understand.

Hannah was a girl just like me.  Her story begins in 1 Samuel chapter 1. Her husband took another wife when it became clear that she was barren.  Her name was Peninnah. This one short verse sums up the circumstances Hannah found herself in:

Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 1 Samuel 1:2b

Year after year, Hannah watched this other woman give birth while she secretly wondered if she was somehow disqualified. Our culture today unknowingly isolates women struggling with infertility, but in Hannah’s day, it was seen as divine judgment.

Tension began to grow in Hannah’s marriage. Elkanah, her husband, didn’t think Hannah’s childlessness was that big of a deal.  He didn’t understand why she was so miserable.  He provided for her and he loved her more than Peninnah, the mother of his children.  But all of his efforts couldn’t change the fact that Hannah’s heart was splitting in two.

Hannah took her broken heart and laid it bare before God. But this very private prayer made in a public place brought more painful misunderstanding. Eli, the priest, witnessed her lips moving silently as she poured out her pain to God and mistakenly thought she was drunk.  As if her anguish was not enough, Eli’s accusation was piercing and misguided.

Hannah’s reaction that day in the temple grabs me every time.

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16

She didn’t use harsh words when Eli misunderstood her pain.  She didn’t shut down, and she didn’t retreat.  She simply told the truth. She knew her grief was misunderstood, and she also knew she could never expect anyone to truly hear her and she didn’t expect anyone to understand. Peninnah couldn’t, and neither could Elkanah or Eli. God is the only One who understood Hannah’s pain and longing, and she wasted none of her effort trying to pour out her pain anywhere else.

It causes more pain when we take our broken hearts to anyone other than God.

It causes more pain when we take our broken hearts to anyone other than God.

In my own struggle, I was a slave to the expectations I created for everyone around me.  I wanted others to understand how I spent sleepless nights wondering if I was being punished. I wanted them to realize that I prayed daily for God to remove my longing if He was not planning to fulfill it. I wanted them to see the guilt that plagued me when my grief prevented me from celebrating with those whose families were growing with ease. I wanted people to understand the loneliness that settled in between my husband and me as we walked the same path but experienced two very different journeys.

Over the years, God has strengthened our marriage through the struggle. After four years, two losses, and too many failed procedures to count, God gave us a son and a daughter, born just twenty minutes apart.  Four years after that, when we thought the door had closed completely, He reminded us that nothing is outside His reach. Our third child, another daughter, is a constant reminder that He is able.

But even here in this current season, I still find myself holding others to my unrealistic expectations. I want people to respect our decisions regarding medical intervention. I want others to recognize how certain dates will forever remind me of all I’ve lost. I want them to know that even though I have children, infertility is still very much a part of my life. I want people to understand that being overwhelmed some days by motherhood doesn’t imply ungratefulness.

Expectations have only harmed me and strained my relationships. But with every misunderstanding, God draws me to His heart.  He is teaching me that He is the only One who can truly hear my innermost cry. His love alone holds the power to silence all the lies that have held me captive.

We are never misunderstood in God’s embrace.

Hannah eventually conceived and gave birth to a son, Samuel, whose name means “heard by God.” Hannah could not keep her joy to herself.  She prayed silently in her sorrow, but her prayer of praise was a bold and beautiful song to the God who understands. She began by praising God for deliverance from her enemies:

My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 1 Samuel 2:1

I have always considered Hannah’s enemies all those who misunderstood her.  But her enemy wasn’t Peninnah, and it certainly wasn’t the priest who made a bad judgment call.  Her true enemy was God’s enemy, and he is our enemy, too.  He devotes every waking moment to isolating us so we walk through life painfully alone.

Our enemy wants more than anything to destroy our relationships with each other and with God.

As Hannah continued her song, she noted the reversals only possible through the power of the Mighty One. The weak become strong and the strong become weak; the full find themselves hungry and the hungry find their full; the rich become poor and the poor become rich; and the one who was barren is barren no more! Her song ends with these powerful words:

The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed. 1 Samuel 2:10

“Anointed” is translated Messiah. This is the very first place in scripture that this word is used. It’s how God chose to reveal the beginning of His beautiful redemption plan. Hannah’s joyful prayer gives us a glimpse of the hope found in Jesus. He came to restore our broken bodies and heal our broken hearts and mend our broken relationships. He has already defeated our enemy.

If you are walking the road that’s often misunderstood, find peace in knowing that Jesus hears you, Jesus sees you, and Jesus understands you completely. Take all of your questions and your fears and your hurt to the One who can turn your weakness into strength, your longing into satisfaction, your pain into purpose, and your tears into beautiful songs of joy.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

My Story

A dear friend created this video the summer we found out we were expecting our third child. I was terrified to shoot it, because I struggled my entire pregnancy with the fear of losing this precious gift. I’m sharing it today in case you (or someone you love) need to be reminded that our God can do anything. He is limitless, and so is His love.  Over the course of those nine months, I learned that we can never lose His love.

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