Posted in infertility, thankfulness, trusting God

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow…

Sometimes life gets so loud and painful that we miss recognizing blessings.  Our vision gets blurry because we are just trying to survive.  We start the journey with clear eyes, but life and all of its subtle and not so subtle issues help us to forget the goal for which we were striving.

This story started almost 8 years ago.  Two and a half years ago, God brought 4 miraculous blessings into our lives—eggs and sperms together to form embryos against some stringent odds.  Two were implanted September of 2010 in my uterus and a little miracle named John Benjamin “Jack” Pinkner entered the world in June of 2011.

Greg and I began praying about these next two embryos almost immediately after having Jack.  We had made a commitment to implant them or put them up and available to be adopted when we began the whole IVF process.  We took this decision very seriously as Greg and I know now the reality of his RA in parenting brings.  We had to be prepared to parent twins…which would be a big challenge with one parent with a chronic illness.  With trepidation (we are both realists–no romantic notions of parenthood here), we decided to trust God and go through a Frozen Embryo Transfer in January of 2013.

I was not prepared in my heart to walk back into the throws of infertility drugs and infertility thoughts and fears.  It. was.  hard.  The drugs seemed more intense in my body and in my head.  I had a toddler to tend to, as well.  Our journey with infertility was the richest time of growth in the Lord I had ever experienced, but it was so so so painful.  True growth comes, many times, through pain.  It is the kind of thing you want to look back on and not walk back through.  The process is long and you hold to hope and yet guard your heart for what reality might bring.  We had to know that this could be it…no more children and the answer would come definitive and soon.  All the while we were laying our hearts on the altar trusting God’s sovereignty and being re-baptized into the faith that grew the first time around–is God good when He acts differently than we expect?  When we gives what we hoped would not come?  Is He good and does He do us good when we hurt and are disappointed?

Three and a half months after this process began, fertility drugs, heartbeat scares, daily shots, shingles, colds, intense sickness and many many many prayers from the saints…we got a good report from the doc today.  A doctor who knew he was an instrument and not the answer to our problems…he acknowledged that God’s hand brought this life (single life) growing in my womb.  For the first time today, I have let some joy wash over me…thankfulness as my self-protection begins to fade and yet heaviness for those who have gotten devastating news in the last days and weeks about their hopeful ones.  I am so thankful –so undeserving of this blessing.  As my sickness wanes on, I pray that each day grow in joy.  These last 10 weeks have been filled with many things physically and mentally to cloud my vision and help me forget the reason we started this journey.  We having a baby that is due October 10, 2013.  Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.  He is our hope…our strong tower…our defender…our redeemer…our all.

Posted in authenticity, discipline, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Remember

Life is hard. We forget the good at times. We forget where and how we have grown. We forget friends who were faithful along the way. We can major on our feelings of the crisis or the mundane we are in.
This is the human condition. That is why God reminded the children of Israel over and over and over in his word of their story and His faithfulness in their story.
When I was in the deep throws of infertility the first time(…thinking we would have no children and wrestling with all my emotions of that fact), I took time to write my life story in my journal. I was at the beach in January by myself. For hours I poured through the pages of my mind remembering joy and sorrow and God’s faithfulness. Many times I would say out loud “OH YEAH–I totally forgot that fruit or that growth or that miracle!”
This morning, as I was praying, I remembered that journal. I need to find it and reread it–TODAY. We are forgetful and are often driven by our feelings of pain in the moment.
We each have huge miracles and pictures of grace in our lives that we easily dismiss when the next pain comes along–just like Israel when they got hungry and tired right after God had parted the Red Sea.
Let’s take time to remember so that we may run this race with endurance.

Posted in discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, discernment, eternal things, God's word, idols, infertility, self-absorption, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Where does my hope come from?

Jack turned one a few Sundays ago.  My heart was full with thanks, memories, relief that that first month was not to be relived:).  What a beautiful, fun-loving, joyful, strong, funny, determined little one we are blessed with.  In the time of postpartum depression, I could never have imagined the beauty of his life and liveliness.

Sleepless nights, deferred goals, multiplied chores, inconvenient days…all of those are included in parenthood.  I stand today thankful.  I am thankful for this opportunity and humbled by it.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed and forget the miracle and not stop to experience the joy of moments that are racing by.  The giggles, the new milestones and funny tricks, the little mumbles and squeals…all can be easily missed.

You know what I hate, though?  These nagging thoughts that pull on my joy.  I am still trying to figure out balance–time in the word, time to keep house, time to cook, time to minister, time to do business, time to invest in my relationship with Greg, time to teach Jack, time to play with Jack, time to invest in family, time to invest in friendships, time to exercise.  I seriously do not know how to do it.  The thoughts that play in my head include the word “fail” a lot.

We all choose ways to try to make life work.   I have found myself struggling with two things…seeking peace where it is not to be found and comparing my family situation with others.  Everyone needs breaks to regroup.  The Lord has convicted me that I think that breaks and a vacation and date night and quiet times is where I will find my peace…where I will finally rest.  The only problem is I have not been getting any of these regularly or at all.  So, as with every expectation that is blocked, I get frustrated.  I think “if I could just…if they would just…I need more of…”  Until the last two weeks, I have not been diving into the Word consistently.  I have been expecting little breaks and laziness to be my solace.

This backward thinking has been designed in the sinfulness of my heart.  I have been seeking my idols of comfort and ease.  See, I have always sought after them before God.  He has been teaching me for a long time about this, and I always forget and forsake Him to try to be comfortable again.  I then begin to prop up my idols by comparing (coveting) my situation with other parents who are leaving their kids with grandparents a lot or going on vacations alone or even with their family.  See, I have not been joyful for them…I have just been thinking that they have it made…poor old me.

The Lord woke me up to the grossness of my thoughts.  He reminded me that peace is only found in Him.  No vacation or quiet or pampering or girl’s night or date night will give me the peace that passes understanding…only Him.  I have found solace and true joy in His Truth again.  He has allowed me to see where I have allowed these thoughts to take control–the more I have spent time in Him, the more I see the battle for these thoughts of covetousness.

Weirdly enough, I have entertained them much more as a mom than as a woman who struggled with infertility.  In infertility, I spent a lot of time in the word and in trying to guard my heart against sin. I spent a lot of time then reminding myself that the purpose of life on earth is not to be fulfilled with marriage and children and vacations and stuff.  I remembered daily that my hope is found in Christ and in eternity where we will see fully and experience fully His joy.   Since I have less extended time to spend in the word and I have not guarded my heart against sin in this area, it has been covetouspalooza in my mind and heart.  I have experienced amnesia of where my hope is to come from.

I am so thankful that the Lord has graciously awakened me to this sin pattern and the truth of His grace and hope in the midst of this season of my life. I do not come to you today with seven steps to get “cured,” but I come reminded of His grace in the Gospel, the power and efficiency of His Word, the joy that is experienced in Him.  Instead of having a free for all of jealous thoughts, I have been working toward remembering truth, rejoicing with those who rejoice and choosing to be thankful for so many blessings in my life.  It is still a struggle but one that I see the lie in now.

I want to be faithful…I want Greg and Jack to be spurred on in that…to see the richness of Christ.  That is more important that any momentary comfort on this earth.  I also remember that there is an eternity to travel and rest on the new earth.  Following Christ I lack nothing.

Posted in authenticity, gifts and talents, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, thankfulness, trusting God

What If?

What if we got what we wanted when we wanted it?  That’s what we demand…

 

What if I had gotten pregnant in the first months we tried and we never went through the years of infertility?  How would my life be different?  How would the world be different?

If that…then I would not have been able to spend concentrated time with my Dad in his last year of life.  I would not have been able to help my mom when he was in his last stages of Parkinson’s where his brain and body were greatly hurt.  I would not have been there to spend the last two weeks of life with him in the hospital.  I would have missed some really rich time.

If that….then I would not have had time and energy available to begin discipling girls.  Then, I would not have gone on the journey to start Women’s Discipleship Concepts.  I would have missed out on some beautiful opportunities to know and walk with many young women.  Retreats and trips and lunches would have been much more difficult.  I would have never undertaken this as a new mom…I know myself.

If that…then I would have missed out on the opportunity to grow as a writer–I probably would have a mom blog instead of a blog like this.  With the time to sit with my pain and to learn to trust God, I have grown to trust Him and to share that journey with others through writing and speaking.  I also would have missed out on the opportunity to write curriculum and Bible studies for Women’s Discipleship Concepts.  Big gaps of time were needed to concentrate that kids do not create:).

If that…then I would have missed out on growing as an artist.  I would not have had the time or exact pain that creates that opportunity and risk for creativity.  In that time, I have learned to share my work and be a bit more confident.  He has birthed many paintings from the things I have learned in the whole process of pain.  I would NEVER have made an Etsy page and sold paintings.

If that…then I would have missed out knowing some pretty special women who have gone through the journey before me and behind me.  Depth and maturity come through pain that is filtered through God’s truth.  It is a privilege to call these women friends.

If that…then I would have missed out on knowing God the way I do now…He plunged me to the depths and  He became my only hope.  I would like to say that I would chose this on my own, but I like comfort too much.  I have truly seen the “joy of the Lord” as my strength.  I have tasted and seen the Lord is good.  I also have seen that the Truth is really true.

If that…then I would have missed out on coming together with Greg in the same way.  God used this to strengthen our marriage–to sharpen both of us–to mature us as followers of Christ–to prepare us for disappointments in parenting.  He became my partner.

If that…then I would have missed out on doing Precepts Bible study with some special women.  In this, I learned how to study God’s word inductively.  This has changed how I read and study the Bible.  I also have written several inductive studies to help others learn to study God’s word.  So rich to know His word more.

If that…then I would have missed the opportunity to serve in the same way by leading worship.  This created time for me to grow in that and serve weekly for several years.  After leading with a child and without, I see the time commitment it takes when you are parenting as well.

God has done many things that I wanted to be in different timing…but I am reminded, when I stop and think, that He works ALL things for the good…even and especially pain.  He knows better than me….period.

In the last few weeks my mind has been buzzing with all these expectations (see previous blog).  I think I have been wanting to continue in all of these things above that I could create and know before children.  I realize that I cannot produce at the same rate as before.  God sovereignly set aside the time for me to grow in so many areas, and he has called me to focus in a couple of areas now.  In this season, I do not have the time to paint and write as I had before.  Both of those things take longer periods of time with a clear heart and mind.  That is just not available as I have this precious boy to parent and love.  There will probably be another season where I can continue to grow in those areas.  I am called to pour into and love young women that God has given me to lead.   I want to do that well–to love well and speak the Truth with grace.  I have less unscheduled time to sit with the Lord and be taught and filled so that I may then pour out into others.  However, I cannot let things that are not priorities in the now become part of my expectations for myself.  I have to be realistic.  I cannot keep producing art to sell on Etsy the way I want.  I do not have time to write Bible studies.  I cannot participate in extracurricular Bible studies in this season.  In order to love my husband and child and ministry girls well, I have to say goodbye to the beautiful growth of last season and to look to what God has for me in this season.  I love Him so much…may I trust Him in the letting go right now to embrace how He calls me in faithfulness right now.  I do not want my mind to be clouded with unrealistic expectations that blind me from the opportunities to serve and grow in front of me.

My mind has been so filled that I have been ineffective.  I want to pair down what is important…Loving Him with everything and loving my neighbor as myself.  If I seemed frazzled next time you see me…remind me of this!

 

Posted in discipleship, discipline, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings…

In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky.  We have feelings for a reason.  They help us express joy and enjoy life.  They can be exhilirating.  They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships.  Feelings are not bad in themselves.  The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.

Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying.  Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships.  So fun.  But then, what happens when they go away?  Some panic thinking their love is not true.  Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent.  Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again.  Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings.  Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time.  They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all.  There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.

A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur.  Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy.  This can be likened to our relationship with God.

At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating.  We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love.  We see God so many places.  We want others to know Him.  We hear Him.  Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn.  We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”

I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it.  Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me.  I made a judgement on them.  I discounted their faith.  Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then).  I understand a little more.

Think about adulthood.  Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope).  The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world.  I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?”  They easily get depressed.  It is hard.  They feel lost.  I remember those exact feelings.  There’s the F word–feelings.

Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth.  As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you.  This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations.  I could go on and on.

In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings.  Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him.  He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him.  He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness.  We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God.  A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all.  We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol.  He will not stand for that.

God is so much wiser than we make Him to be.  His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved.  This life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.

God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path.  He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage.  As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust.  To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin.  This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him.  If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery).  We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.

The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility.  In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word.  Was this easy? No.  I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else.  However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty.  Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way.  Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings.  Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him.  We make this decision everyday.  I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment.  Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul.  I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.

Posted in community, doctrine, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, suffering in joy, thankfulness, The body of Christ, trusting God

Lots of Thoughts…

      It has been a long while since I have posted a blog.  Many times I have thought of topics to write about that are swirling in my head and heart–I just have not. 

        Life is full of different seasons.  My thirties, to this point, have been about pain, struggle and immense growth in knowing Christ.  An overarching sadness has plagued circumstances (see the history of this blog).  Now, I am in a season of the joy of pregnancy–preparing to let go and preparing to embrace a huge new role and responsibility in life.  Soon, (3 months and coming faster) I will be a Momma and Greg a Daddy. 

        God has been unbelievably gracious to me in the last few years to lead me through heartache and struggle while providing friends around me who have prayed deeply on my behalf.  Even aquaintances and strangers have taken up the mantle of prayer.  He now has me in a season of having the privilege of doing that for others.

      I have NEVER experienced a season where so many around me are so heavy in pain and struggle–NEVER.  He has traded my personal struggles with struggling with the body.  My heart breaks for many around me who seem to be in the sadness and wrestling phase I had been in for so long.  No, it is not about infertility for most of them, but it is the same concept.  We, at one or many times in our lives, will find ourselves in situations and circumstances where we have NO CONTROL.  We are hurt by others and ourselves.  We see people moving toward utter destruction, and nothing we say can pull them back or change their hearts.  Like infertility, we cannot make new life happen.  We find ourselves at a crossroad of trusting ourselves and what we can make work of this life (good luck with that one!) or choosing to know and trust God in the midst. 

       I thank God that He is using everything I have struggled and learned in the midst of the last years to pour out to others (2 Corinthians 1).  This is not that I can give people answers–cause I cannot.  This is so that I might journey and struggle with others pointing them to the ONLY hope–Christ.  Pointing others to Him that they might taste and see that He is good no matter what the circumstantial outcome. 

         He has given me opportunity to pray and hurt with others just as friends prayed for and hurt with me.  There is nothing more comforting when you are in deep heartache than to know someone is faithfully praying for you.  Many times when we hurt, we are exhausted and do not even know how to pray (let alone feel like we have the energy to pray).  God is so gracious to give us opportunities to serve in the gracious ways we have been served.

       We do not know when times of heartache and struggle will come into our lives–we just know they will.  Though we war in every way against struggle, especially in our culture, without it, we wallow in shallow existence.  We choose the lesser things every time.  We choose to trust ourselves.  We choose to try to control our lives.  We choose worshipping the idols around us over the ONE true, beautiful, gracious, loving, just God.  When we are broken, we finally can see Him  and our need for Him clearly.  Though my heart is breaking and my knees are bruised from prayer for those around me, I do not want to take the pain away.  I know that pain and struggle are purposeful to bring us to deeper life in Him (Hebrews 12).  My prayer is that that life in Him be embraced fully–that they learn and grow in waiting on Him for their strength to be renewed. 

         I also think about this little boy growing in me.  So many times in the last month, I have already felt tugs in my heart to surrender him fully.  I do not know what his personality will be like or what struggles he will have or what decisions he will make.  I only know that he will struggle and I will not be able to protect him and heal him and shield him.  But, I know the One who has his best interest at heart every time.  My prayer is that I let the little one face struggle and adversity and know the ONE who is the only hope.  I pray that I can let go and let him wrestle with hard questions and circumstances and know God in ways that a “safe,” “disinfected life” does not bring.  It is not easy to say and pray now as I cannot imagine how hard it will be to follow through with. 

           I have to remember what has brought me true life and teach that to my child.   Greg and I want to be truthful and point to where true life comes from.    It’s a joke for me to think “I’ll deal with that when it comes.”   May I prepare to speak the same truth to Jack that I do to my friends who are hurting and girls that I disciple.  It all comes down to–do I really trust Him?  May I remember that He is trustworthy now and He will be then.  He calls me not to fear and to remember that ” He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not grow faint or weary; His understanding is unsearchable.”   Isaiah 40:28

      Greg often says that the time to begin to  talk about the Sovereignty of God in all things is not at the casket…it is now.  I have been in a study of Isaiah in Precepts, and you cannot deny the complete Sovereignty of God studying that book or the Bible in general.  What comfort there is in His character!  I am wrestling with this truth over and over again as I pray for friends.  I am resting in Him over and over again as I pray for friends and think about the future when troubles come my way.  I do not have this life figured out, but I know the only place to go for Shelter and Refuge.  My prayer is that I teach that to Jack and model that for Jack.  John Benjamin is his name–meaning “God is gracious” and “son of my right hand (favor).” He is a gift that we did not earn or deserve and favor that we certainly did not deserve.  May we be faithful to preach the word to Him in and out of season–to love Him and disciple Him and let Him go.  I know I am going to royally screw up at times–may I continue to rely on God’s grace.  When I do screw up, may I go to God and model trusting Jesus to Jack. 

       In all things, even in the pain of my friends, God is teaching me about His beautiful character and His redemptive hand and HOPE.  I am blessed beyond measure, and I know this is not the end.  It is certainly not the end of my learning of our Gracious Father in all circumstances–soon to be parenthood.  I know it is not the end for my friends and family who are in pain.  We have no control over His timing, but we are called to know Him in the midst.  I cannot wait to rejoice in things He does that we have no clue about that will come from the midst of this pain now in their/our lives.  Thanks be to God for who He is.