Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lending Library?

I'm trying to think through the logistics, but would anyone be interested in an honor-system lending-library of IF books and resources. I've invested in quite a few and want to keep them, but wouldn't mind loaning them out. The glitch comes in making sure the books get back to me safely. What about loaning books with a a small, refundable deposit (through paypal or whatever). Is anyone interested in that?

Also, would anyone be interested in loaning out their books, too?

I'd love to talk through this with anyone interested and if I can figure out the logistics, I can post a list of what I have available.

Please respond in the comments or email me using the link on the right!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Not shortchanged?

I've mentioned my friend C here a few times before. She is a dear friend and mentor from church who lost her wonderful, godly husband just over a year ago.

Shortly after her husband's death, we were having a baby dedication in church. I'm usually actually ok through those because in our church, they're short and sweet. This particular day it felt like we were dedicating 200 children (impossible because we don't even have 200 people in our church!) and I couldn't handle it. I ran out of the church with tears in my eyes and broke down outside. C, who had led our women's Bible Study and had mentored me some before her husband's illness and thus knew some of what we were going through from what I had shared, ran out after me and threw her arms around me and said "I'm sorry. I know what it's like to want something so bad and not get it." We just wept and wept together. What she said was simple, but it has stayed with me as the single most precious thing anyone has done for or said to me specifically regarding infertility. I was humbled that this woman I loved and respected so much would reach out of her own rightful grief and sorrow to comfort me. She legitimized my pain by referencing a loss that the world treats as much more "grievable."

I reflect on that moment a lot. It was so simple, yet so meaningful to me. I can't even adequately describe why it was meaningful and I'm sure someone reading this account could easily go "So? Big deal?" But it remains significant just the same.

I was thinking about that moment the weekend after we received our latest diagnoses and I happened to run in to C at church in such a way that I could actually visit with her privately (she's a popular lady and always has half a dozen folks wanting to chat with her). I shared with her how much I'd been reflecting on that day and how comforting it had been to me. I also told her of our new developments and again she hugged and wept and prayed with me. She asked if we could go to coffee. My heart soared. I've missed C so much but in her own grief I didn't really feel comfortable in asking her for anything.

We met for coffee on the anniversary of my grandma's death, which I shared here was a tough day for me. I think I talked her ear off for almost 4 hours and she listened, encouraged, admonished, advised, and walked with me every moment. We did talk about how she is doing too, (though I admit I hogged the air time). One thing she shared was that she has come to realize that because Scripture tells us that our number of days on this earth is already known and predetermined by God, God did not short change P one single breath. I listened to that and filed it away in my mental drawer of "insightful things when contemplating death" but it didn't really resonate with me, which is ok, because it wasn't designed to--C was sharing her own heart about her own journey and I'm privileged to have been admitted entry.

However, this week I was mulling over our conversation and I considered it in light of Jeremiah 29:11, which says
`For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, `plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Lots of people have recited that to me, especially in recent months. But for some reason it always felt empty, hollow and minimizing, like "get over it-God has something better."

But this week I thought about C's words and I thought about this passage and a still small voice whispered to me, "I [the Lord God] have not shortchanged myself any plans or dreams for you." This plan for infertility is not His "second best" for me. That was a hard pill to swallow because truthfully, it's easier to think that I've been cheated out of something than to consider that this really could be the Ultimate plan and not just a bump in the road or a delay that will one day still turn out the way I hope. Am I ok with this as a final destination? Honestly? I'm trying to be but I don't think I can say that I am. I won't say "no" because I don't reject God's sovereignty and I am much better than I was.

Considering our journey in this light hasn't been a fix-all, but it's definitely been surgery on my broken heart. It's still broken, but the brokenness feels more purposeful now and I am filled with hope and peace. I'll repost something that stuck out to me about Lewis' book again here:

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness...Suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.
If I'm honest, I'll say that right now I really can't envision a "best" that doesn't include children. That kind of surgery doesn't make sense to me. I can see us having children one day and testifying about God's miracles and about His faithfulness to us in this time. And if we never have children, I can still see testifying to His faithfulness, but beyond that I really can't see how anything could be better. And I'll admit that I can only pray for the wisdom and courage to one day appreciate and embrace its richness with my whole heart. I'll be honest and even say that I hope that His best for us doesn't include permanent barrenness. But if it does, I am at least encouraged cerebrally that in God's cosmology, it will be best, whether I feel it or not in my heart. Whatever His best is, He has not shortchanged Himself of His dreams and plans for His glory in our lives, and thereby we are not shortchanged either, and have cause to rejoice.

I don't have any false piety here. I'm still broken hearted and I'm terrified in my heart of hearts that maybe He will say "no, forever" and I'll have to be ok with that. But right now I'm choosing to believe what my heart has more trouble accepting, that I am ready for "His Best," whatever it may be. I know I'll still have my days, weeks or months of grief and I think that's still ok. But may it never be that my grief robs me of the Joy of the Lord. I want to begin this New Year with a better understanding of His joy and His peace that passes understanding. I pray that for all of us! Today is a day of Hope and Peace for me. My heart is full in a new way. I'm still human and full of my own selfish desires but today Peace comforts all of that.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I wasn't doin anything, Mom...HONEST!

Another off-topic post but thought you all might like to see our "baby."

Meet Lewis. He's generally an obedient momma's boy but he has a new best friend--my brother's 100 pound puppy, Batman.

Batman has taught Lewis to dig. Lewis never dug before... he couldn't be bothered to do dog things. Now he digs all the time! He's constantly coming in with muddy paws and face but tonight was the worst. He trotted in all proud of himself and looking innocent, completely oblivious to the fact that he's wearing the evidence. I'd discipline him (DH hates it when he digs!) if I wasn't laughing so hard!

Click to enlarge for full effect. This really is mud, not anything else.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

7 Random Things about Me

I've been tagged by KC so I thought I'd complete this because it sounded like fun! This isn't about IF but since most of us are strangers to each other (rather, new friends!) I thought it might be fun if we all did it to get to know each other a little bit.

I'm supposed to post 7 random things about myself, so here goes, in no particular order.

1. I speak 4 languages, including English. At one time I was fluent in French and conversational in Spanish and Sign Language. I can still write business correspondence in French (oddly enough I have a lot of French customers--so neener neener neener to those who said I'd never use it ;) ) but it usually takes several moments and a good dictionary. I love to learn languages. One day when I have more discretionary time and money, I'd like to pick it up again.

2. I'm an olympic bargain hunter. I hate shopping, but I love to hunt for good deals. I coupon, price match, price watch, rebate and sale hunt--it's all in the thrill! Sometimes my pleasure with a purchase is as much with the story behind it as it is the item itself.

3. Jane Eyre is my favorite book and has been for all of my life in which I can remember having a favorite book. I read it in third grade and have loved it since. I try to reread it once a year. As I've gotten older I've come to love Jane as my own dear sister and role model so to speak and the book has changed my life, literally. At times it has encouraged me in my faith and at other times when my heart was broken and cold to the scriptures, God reached through that book to reach my heart again and whisper "I am still here." I also collect it in other languages, but I can't read any of the languages I have, save for the French one. I guess that's what I get with friends whose travel experiences are more exotic than my latin-based-language love. My other literary love is CS Lewis.

4. I am a horrible housekeeper but I love to homemake and entertain. It takes me a week to get my house company-ready, and for that matter, I don't have people other than our best friends over very often, but I have dreams of keeping a perfect, always ready home. Maybe some day. The chore I particularly hate is putting away laundry. I don't mind doing the laundry, but I hate to sort, fold, iron and hang it.

5. I'm the most passionate person I know. It's taken me a while to learn how to navigate this part of me, especially in Christendom where it's sometimes frowned upon. It's my biggest vice and my biggest virtue. I love that part of me and I hate it. God has spent the better part of the last 10 years of my life really teaching me about this gift He's given me and I think this particular journey is one I shall be on til I die.

6. I am fiercely opinionated but I'm hugely anti-confrontational (those of you who knew me in my high school and college years may find this hard to believe ;) ). I can debate til the cows come home on any intellectual subject but the second the conversation enters the realm of interpersonal relationships, I'm a big, fat chicken. I think it stems from being a people-pleaser to a fault.

7. I'm hugely old fashioned. I love old church hymns and contemporary songs modeled after hymns and I like very, very few modern worship and contemporary Christian music songs. The only time I'll be in jeans at church is on work day, and I have lots of notions about social propriety and manners (which I know is a huge contradiction because I do lots of traditionally "improper" things like watch movies, bare my soul to strangers on the internet, and keep a messy house ;). But my constant arguments with myself are a whole 'nother story! ;)

I'd love to read 7 random things about y'all so I'm tagging all my IF ladies on my blogroll --->

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, dear friends and readers!

To everyone, I hope that you are blessed by the knowledge that God was compelled by His love for us and for His own glory to come to earth as a babe and shortly thereafter, pay the ransom for our sins. Those of us who have been Christians a long time know the meaning of Christmas, but I pray that it was made new to you in some way this year.

To my sweet IF sisters, I pray that God revealed some treasure to you beyond the painful manger scenes and songs that ministered to you in a certain way. I haven't found a special symbol but one song has been special on my heart this season and I received such a special gift in being able to spend Christmas in our own home. Being in our own home, establishing our own traditions and activities and sharing them made me feel like we were a "real" family instead of a tag along to someone else's Christmas. Don't get me wrong--I love both of our families and love spending holidays with them, but it was a special ministry to my spirit to have that tangible reality of our own family to establish with my DH this year.

Anyway, the song that was special to me this season was a song I'd never heard before this year. I'm one of those who loves the generic old Amy Grant Christmas CDs but this year I finally grew tired of them and went on a hunt and found the Avalon CD. On it is a song called "Born on this Day." You can listen to it here. That link takes you to a youtube of a Christmas lights display--I haven't really watched it but it's the only decent recording of the song I can find online so if you don't want to watch, just play it in the background to listen ;) anyway...I'd never heard it before this year. I live under a rock in the Contemporary Christian Music world, I know. Man, am I long winded tonight. Back to the topic at hand... usual favorite Christmas song is "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant, but this year the song from a pregnant mom's perspective was too much for me so I played it once or twice and then put it away. "Born on this Day" has the title words in the song, but that's about all in the song that is actually about Jesus as a baby. Instead the song glorifies Christ in the totality of His being--for everything He is and who He was and why He came here. I found it much easier to celebrate the totality of Christ and His existence, and not just His birth. I played the song over and over again, and sang my heart out. During church services when "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" became too much for me, I meditated on this song quietly instead.

This has been an interesting week.

My parents arrived on Saturday and we went to the movies and out to dinner and then due to some circumstances, we couldn't get to one of the activities I had planned. So instead, we walked around the Christmas lights display of a local housing community. While there, we witnessed a woman beating her child (this was clearly *not* disciplining-it was closed fisted hitting/punching on the face while she pinned him to the ground). We intervened and called the police and the long and short of it is that from what we observed, they did pretty much nothing, but maybe it got this child on their radar. If you think of it, pray for this little boy. DH and I wrestled a lot with thoughts about why this woman was even allowed to have a child (she was lamenting how she'd had to "put up with him" for 10 years) but mostly we tried to focus on being thankful that we and my family were there to intervene for this little boy. Hopefully he knew, at least that night, that there are people who care for him. Please intercede when you think of him.

The next day we went to a Danish Museum. We were in the door not two seconds when we were pounced on by an overzealous curator who proceeded to tell us about the family who built the house and its history. She said that a man built the house for his wife. The woman said that the wife "was a spinster-she never had any kids. So instead, her husband built her a nice house." I hated that word spinster. I realize she didn't use it properly but I still hated hearing it.

In the next room there was a Christmas Tree adorned with Danish ornaments. I was admiring it when the same curator interrupted my thoughts by taking me around to one side and pointing out the stork and the little baby in its mouth.

Then we went to the St. John's Bible Exhibit at the Art Museum. I was really appreciating the beauty of a particular page when my eye fell to the text. It was the story of Rachel and Leah.

Last night we went to church and the sermon was about Jesus as a Baby. It wasn't your typical Nativity story--it emphasized how even in His birth and infancy, Christ was perfect. He had to communicate wet clothes, hunger, displeasure, etc, perfectly and without sinning. He had to respond to discipline perfectly, and to his parents' mistakes perfectly. The pastor brought his grand baby up on stage and all around me there were families of children. I made it about 5 minutes in to the sermon and excused myself. It was wonderful to be at church but I'm trying to take a lot of the advice I've heard and recognize my own limits.

I've been pondering on all these things. Am I just hypersensitive so I noticed an abnormally high amount of references to pregnancies, children, etc, or did I encounter these things specifically so that I might be challenged? I would wish that I could take them as "signs" (especially the stork! ;) ) but I'm not sure I believe God works that way. So, I have a lot to think about. I haven't come to any conclusions and I've considered a host of possibilities so I'm just filing them in my "maybe this will make more sense later" file.

I've been reading The Infertility Companion: Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility (Christian Medical Association). While I won't officially recommend it yet because I haven't finished it, I have found it to be immensely helpful and even my DH is enjoying reading it. I'll post a full review soon. It's been a good catalyst for working through some of these thoughts and emotions.

We celebrated Christmas with my family yesterday because they got on the road today. My DH gave me the sweetest, most generous gifts for Christmas and my Birthday. He upgraded my camera, gave me 2 new lenses and bought me a fancy schmancy speedlight (flash). He said that he really wanted me to have something to distract me as we started this new year that is bound to be filled with appointments, procedures, exams and waiting. He also said that with the things we'll likely have to do in the coming year in the way of medical expenses, it will be a while til we can splurge again so he wanted to do something special. He squirreled away money for months and did a ton of research. I'm so overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness. As I've shared before, my love language is time and there is evidence of so much time invested in his choice of gifts and the specific models and vendors he chose.

My heart is full. Elkanah once said to Hannah, "Why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" How precious is my DH to me, more than all the children in the world! Thank you, Sweet Jesus for this reminder of what a gift I've already been given in walking this life with him as my beloved.

My family has thankfully, safely arrived home back in California now. We'll celebrate with Todd's parents and brother and his family tomorrow night after work which we're looking forward to. We'll hopefully get to see grandpa and grandma and his sister in the New Year (hopefully not too far in to it!).

If you think of it, remember my friend Jessica in your thoughts and prayers. She's carrying precious twins, Kate and Jane, but they are monoamniotic, which leads to a high risk of cord accidents, and other birth complications. She has to go in for daily monitoring and then after the new year, will be checked in until their birth. Please keep her, her twins, as well as her husband and other two children in your prayers. Pray that the girls would be kept safely in utero until the proper time for a full term delivery. I know my IF prayer sisters have hearts for unborn babies like no one else so please make room for these little girls and their momma!

Please also remember us on Thursday when we have our first visit to the new doctor. This will be just a test and questionnaire administered to us by his nurse and we won't actually see him til January 17 but hopefully we'll at least get a good feel for the office and it feels good to be starting something new.

I pray that you all have had a blessed Merry Christmas. And my IF sisters, know that you and your DHs are especially on my heart today. I've been thinking about all of us. I have nothing profound to offer but know you are in our thoughts and prayers.

ETA: I just re-read this again. I was all over the place tonight! Guess I've wanted to write for several days and all my thoughts came jumbled out . Thanks for wading through it all! :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Le Sigh: Doctor Update

Happy Birthday to me <*eyeroll*>

My doctor just called me with the results of my Ultrasound. I have another cyst, as big as the previous one that was surgically removed. <*sigh*>

I'm not stressed about the cyst itself. I was the last time but having been through the surgery once before, I know how easy it was so I am a lot better off than I was this time of year (almost exactly), 2 years ago.

What stresses me out it that it's my left side. This stresses me out for two reasons. First, I continue to experience regular pain on my right side which is now unexplained. I've never had even a twinge on my left side. Second, all of my other problems with cysts, scar tissue, adhesions and blockages have all been on my right side. I was really taking comfort in the fact that I had one working side, especially if we are able to get the other problems fixed or improved. So, it scares me that I now have problems on both sides.

The doctor did say that this is a simple cyst and he told me that my other one was a complex cyst. I'm not sure what that difference means but he said it with the intent to encourage so I guess that whatever it means is good (rather, better) news. He told me they'll repeat the ultrasound in 3 months to see if it has gone away on its own. He had hope that the first one would go away on its own, too and it didn't so I do confess I'm not as optimistic as he is, but I don't mind waiting and giving it a try. At least it's not causing me pain, and it won't grow much more in 3 months so there's nothing to lose.

I'd appreciate your prayers that this one dissolves, that the pain on my right side would be relieved, that I would be protected from pain on my left side from this cyst, and that my left side would be protected from future complications.

Thank you!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Birthday

My birthday is tomorrow (which is technically an hour from now).
Edit: My birthday is today (Friday, December 21)

I've been dreading it because it's a reminder that I'm another year older and still don't have a little one in my arms. I've also been dreading it because both of my parents and my brother's birthdays are this week, plus Christmas (what can I say, generations of my family have apparently liked to get busy in March ;) ) anyway, as my and DH's parents get older, it gets harder for me because I just think of the lost years our kids are losing with their grandparents. Plus all the family celebrations are just a reminder of the "hole" in our family (thanks C for the great phraseology and articulation).

And on top of that my birthday is so royally inconvenient (in its proximity to Christmas) for everyone that I usually end up feeling like more of a nuisance than a celebrant.

So suffice it to say I haven't actually been looking forward to my birthday.

Tonight we went out to dinner with our best friends. They're leaving tomorrow for out of town so we couldn't celebrate then. I mentioned the other day that I felt a distance between us and them. Tonight was the first night in a long time that everything felt "normal" between us. And it was so much fun. It reminded me of what we've been missing. And we talked briefly about the distance and discovered what we think is the cause and fixed it. That was it. No fighting, no weirdness, no drama. I can't even tell you what a huge relief that is for this anti confrontational person. So already I feel refreshed in that relationship and I am grateful for that answer to prayer.

The lightheartedness of the evening really lifted my spirits and I'm not longer dreading tomorrow...almost because it feels like my birthday is over anyway and it went off without a hitch, without a breakdown, without any tears--huzzah! One day down, lots more to go.

But most of all it was a reminder that there is more to my life, more to my relationships, more to the source of my "mood" than this beast of IF. I felt normal. I felt human. I didn't feel like I was branded with this Scarlet "I" on my chest.

So I'm thankful for the encouragement of sweet friends and fellowship. I'm thankful for the conversations of prayer I've been able to have with God this week and the ways He has ministered to me.

I'm also thankful for all of your comments, emails and phone calls. Sometimes emails are hard for me to answer right now so if I don't write back, please know it's not because I'm ignoring you or distressed about what you wrote--everything I've received has been so sweet. I just don't have it in me to write back right now. Blogging in to cyberspace is different because I feel like I'm not burdening anyone. I can talk as freely and for as long as I want and people don't have to read if they don't want to. In direct interpersonal communication I'm still a little more intimidated. I hope you understand and forgive my silence. Please know it's not out of a lack of appreciation or gratitude.

One thing you should know about me--I process things deeply, but quickly. Sometimes that scares me because I hate that. The tears and grief of a couple days ago already feel but a shadow and I'm back to an "ok" point. I was feeling guilty about that but a dear friend (thanks again C) encouraged me that there is no "right" way to do this or "correct" time line of when to process or how long to take doing it so I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and appreciate the heights and depths for what they are. Patsy Claremont shared at the Women of Faith Conference this year that the Mountain tops are beautiful, but most of life is lived in the Valley. That just makes us appreciate the Mountains more. So I'm trying to appreciate this Valley. I'm not doing justice to her words because she didn't mean it in a depressing, condemning way and I feel like that's how I'm representing it. She just meant that life is tough but that doesn't make the path God has us on any less beautiful. So I've been meditating on that lately, trying to maintain a virtuous longing for the mountain tops, but also appreciating the beauty of the valley.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grief: 1, Jen: 0

Grief won one over on me today.

Let me provide a background. My love language is time. Uninterrupted time with my husband is fiercely important to me. We've had a pretty rocky last quarter. My husband was sick several times, my brother (who lived with us at the time) was in a fire that left him hospitalized for almost a month and it just happened to be at my husband's place of employment and he is the insurance liaison so we had the personal AND professional stress, I had that wretched horrible HSG, and we got our awful IF news, all since October 1.

The newest infertility diagnoses just about set me over the edge. One thing that kept me going was the knowledge that DH (dear husband) and I would have a week of uninterrupted time together. It's our first Christmas at home where we're not traveling (an opportunity I've prayed for for years but we never wanted to disappoint family expectations--whose year do you take off first--your own parents or your in-laws? Either one carries emotional consequences that we just didn't want to deal with.) Anyway, I was really really relishing that. For the first time Christmas wasn't going to be exhausting. It wasn't going to be spent following someone else's routine and traditions and getting exhausted from broken sleep and lengthy travel... we were going to have it in our home, together. Then after the festivities died down, we would a few days to decompress and recoup, together. Rest, together.

I just can't even tell you how much that prospect has kept me motivated and encouraged these recent weeks. When we got our most recent news, it was like we got the news of a death and then DH went back to work the next day, never having time to process or grieve. And in truth, I've felt like he's shut everything off and out because he hasn't had the time to spend on really muddling through things. He's shut off to the point that it worries me. Anyway, I could cope with that because I knew it was short term. I knew that I just had to make it a couple of weeks and then we'd have time to really do this together because I've felt so alone thus far.

We sat down together in May and budgeted the rest of his days off (which are few!) I emailed him the dates (as is our custom) and he then promised to take those dates and get them on the calendar. I've asked him several times since then if he got the dates off and he said yes. He just told me 3 weeks ago that he didn't think that he'd requested them after all. So he requested at that time and his boss said no. DH asked him to reconsider and he said no again.

I'm crushed. I just can't even describe how much I need this time to process with DH. To connect with him. He's so exhausted in the evenings that we can't do it then and he's had some sort of work obligation every weekend since our doctor's appointment. I feel like I'm stuck in some suspended animation. The only way I was getting through this particular aspect was the knowledge that a reprieve was coming soon. That there was at least a temporary end to my endless loneliness. Plus, DH is a Controller and does the accounting for his company. Auditing season is in February, and in preparation of it, he'll be working ridiculously long hours making my time with him even shorter.

I'm angry. I'm resentful of DH for forgetting something so important. He forgets really big things, often. And to a detail oriented person like me, that's really hard to cope with because I take it personally. And I resent his boss for not giving him the time off. I know that that's unreasonable because his boss can only deal with the time and information that's given to him and I don't want his boss to know all the particulars of why this season has been so dang hard but still. I can't help but think that if I were the boss, I wouldn't make that same decision, and it's hard for me to not be upset with his boss accordingly. I know that's unfair and I'm trying to subdue that emotion but I'm just crushed all around.

Why am I sharing all this? It's not to put down my DH. If forgetfulness is the worst of his flaws, I can deal with that and I know I have it pretty good. Lord (and DH) forgive me if there is any hint of attack in this. I don't mean it that way. I'm just so brokenhearted. I just don't know how to navigate this horrible loneliness that had surrounded me and now is back with no reprieve in sight. I hate infertility. I hate the loneliness. I hate that I feel abandoned. I hate that gulf that seems ever increasing between me and my pregnant best friend. I hate that I feel like anyone I share these thoughts with is judging me, thinking that I'm feeling the wrong thing, or too much or too little of a thing. I hate that I don't know what my DH is feeling and I hate that we can't just lock ourselves inside a little room and deal with this! And I hate that I can't will myself to stop feeling these things because my head knows that they're full of lies and half truths.

Other IF ladies, have you struggled with this overwhelming loneliness? I try to pray and read and that doesn't make this ache stop. I busy myself with tasks which helps suspend the emotion, but it resurges the second I'm alone again and I'm fearful of just "busying" myself instead of learning to cope with this.

I'm so discouraged and frustrated with myself. I felt like I was making some real progress in dealing with grief. If I'm honest I confess that I was afraid that maybe things were moving too quickly or too easily but I really truly did feel at peace and every positive thing I've thought, believed and felt has been sincere. Then this happens and my heart is smashed to bits again, even though I want to will that this particular incident wouldn't be so shattering. In the grand scheme of things I know that it's just a few days. I know that his boss is absolutely not at fault. I know that it's easy to forget things when you work as hard as my DH does. I know that DH should not be who I lean on so heavily anyway. But all that head knowledge doesn't make the tears stop flowing. I have such contempt for emotions sometime. They're so unreasonable. Bah.

I feel stupid for even writing all of this because now that I've verbally regurgitated up all the emotion, I am tired and I can look with bemused indifference at how silly and stupid it is in the grand scheme of things. But that doesn't make it one whit easier. In fact it makes it harder because on top of all this other nonsense, I'm trying to tame the demon of guilt that I so easily fall slave to.

I'm tired. All that to say--please just pray for me. I am so hesitant to post this because I feel so foolish but in the name of authenticity and accountability, I'm going to. And like I said, I'd love any advice from other IF ladies. Please tell me I'm not totally off my rocker and that these feelings aren't foreign or unexpected. Help me navigate, please!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Review: Water from the Rock

I've just finished reading Water From The Rock: Finding God's Comfort in the Midst of Infertility and I am quite impressed.

The best way to succinctly describe this book is as a "How-To" manual for dealing with the grief of infertility. Each of the three authors have walked this journey and they combine their experiences and expertise (they are professional ministers and a professional counselor) to walk along side the reader through the ins and outs of grief.

The book is divided into 2 sections. The first section deals with identifying the stages of grief and how it manifests specifically in infertility grief. Each chapter identifies a new stage and offers constructive, biblically sound suggestions on navigating it.

The second section focuses more specifically on overall coping and healing, rather than stage specific exercises. It concentrates on the wounded woman's possible necessity to reconcile with herself and her identity in Christ, with God, with her spouse, her family and/or her friends. The authors challenge the reader to reach beyond her grief out to others around her and encourage the reader to really internalize that God's plan for her life is not limited by infertility. My favorite line in the book is at the very end and states in a prayer,

[God,] help me to realize that the purpose of my suffering far exceeds the pain of my suffering.

I know it's not grammatically correct to put that in a block quote but it was so important to me, I wanted to set it apart. While I don't agree with the authors that infertility is a "special calling" (a minor part of the book so don't dismay if you also disagree), I do know that God can redeem any pain by making His glory known through it. There is great purpose in evidencing God's glory throughout the earth, and this specific challenge from the authors stirred my heart to search beyond, rather than dwell in my pain.

At the end of each chapter, the authors offer challenging questions designed to nudge the reader to introspection. These questions would make excellent prompts for journaling, or, with some modifications for privacy, a spring board for a small group discussion. The authors also offer a specific action challenge at the end of each chapter.

What I love the most about this book is how constructive and tangible the tools are. They are very prescriptive with "do this," and "think about that." As I said, it's almost like a "How-To" manual and at this stage in my grief, I found that very helpful because I find myself almost being afraid that I'm doing things out of order, or too quickly or too slowly, and it's helpful for me to just have an outside reference as sort of a guide of what to expect, what to be on my guard for, etc. Of course, it goes without saying that everyone's process is different, but even in my limited interactions with other IF women, there are lots of commonalities too, and this book draws on that. The solutions they offer are physical, emotional and spiritual changes. I appreciated this holistic approach and at this point in my journey, it's just so helpful to have someone say "Do this." "Expect that." "Guard your heart from this."

This book is very brief. They offer scriptural support for their claims, especially any about the nature and character of God and His will for one's life. However they are very matter-of-fact and do not dwell long on their point or on the exegesis of any scriptural support. The book is very simplistically written, making it easy to read and process.

My reason for pointing this out is that I think it is important that any potential reader identify where she is at and what she is ready to handle before picking up this book. The frank, matter of fact approach can come across as "rushing" you through the grief process if you're not ready to move on. It can almost come across as judgmental because an issue is so black and white and already resolved to these women, while you may be fresh and wrestling in your grief.

However, on the other hand, this might serve to equip you as sort of a road map of what to expect in the future, or as a good review of where God has already taken you. In my particular case, I was wishing that I had read it earlier so that I could have the book to accompany me through the various stages, but I can see easily how someone of another temperament might want to read this with a little more emotional distance from the situation.

I will say that I personally detected no hint of insensitivity or judgment from the authors, but I've also already digested and processed a lot of my emotions to date. If I were still reeling, I might respond differently. On the other hand again, this might have been doubly "useful" were I still reeling.

All of that to say, search your heart for the kind of tool that you need right now. If you need an empathetic, heartfelt, gentle encouragement, try something like Hannah's Hope. If you need something a little more clinical, or more of a kick in the bloomers, this is an excellent resource. The two books are not at all similar or interchangeable but are appropriate for different places in someone's IF journey.

I will say that I did not do the written exercises. I may find the book even more challenging if I go back and do them, but I also recognize what is realistic for my lifestyle and know that it is unlikely that I will prioritize time to complete them. However, I appreciate that I was able to learn from and be challenged by the book without the exercises. I can only imagine how much more I would be challenged if I were to complete the written questions.

This book is unlike any other IF book I've read or have in my ever-growing pile to read. I appreciate the fresh approach and the practical tools. Now knowing what to expect from the book, and preparing your heart accordingly for where you are at in your grief process, I would encourage you to trust the authors' virtuous intentions and their submission to God's leading as they wrote this and when you are ready, pick up this book and read it. Whether this will serve as a GPS for your yet to be arrived at destination or a chronicle of where God has already faithfully taken you, I assure you that you will be edified, equipped and challenged by this book.

Recommended: Enthusiastically

Note: This book is not available on Amazon, nor was I able to find it on the shelves of any of my local bookstores. I'm not sure if it's out of print or just widely unknown. Clicking here will take you to Amazon's marketplace, where you can purchase the book from an individual seller, though you complete the process through Amazon, ensuring billing information safety. Alternately, I found a few listings for it on ebay. Lastly, Stepping Stones also offers it through their bookstore. Download their bookstore form here (pdf reader required). It includes instructions to fax or phone in your order.

A word of caution: there are a few other Christian books entitled "Water from the Rock" and even another on grief. When you're shopping, look for the complete title, which is "Water from the Rock: Finding God's Comfort in the Midst of Infertility" and it is written by Donna Gibbs, Becky Garrett, and Phyllis Rabon. The ISBN number is 0-8024-2931-9.

Are you in a stable?

My apologies for the silence--we had a busy weekend and I'm struggling with feeling really tired all the time so any free time I have had the last few days, I've spent sleeping! I have a book that I've almost finished and want to review, but I make it a policy to not post until I've finished reading so hopefully that is forthcoming, soon.

In the mean time, I wanted to point you in the direction of this entry, by a woman I know nothing about, save for what she shared in her post. The post is entitled Great Expectations and I hope that you will find it encouraging. I will warn you that pregnancy is mentioned and the post is written by a woman with 4 children, but her tender heart has been burdened by the struggles of her friends, and from thence she writes. I pray that her post encourages your spirit today!

I'll try to write more later, but in the mean time, venture on over there!

Hat Tip: Trish

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Article Review: Blessed are the Barren

After much anticipation, I found last night that Christianity Today had finally uploaded the cover article of its December 2007 Print edition, entitled Blessed are the Barren. Straight away I set down to read it.

I was so disappointed!

The article is perhaps one of the most disorganized, poorly supported articles I've read on any topic.

The author makes a very strong case for adoption by Christians. She offers solid biblical support for our identity as adopted sons and daughters of God and for the gift adoption can be for both parent and child.

But she perpetuates the same myth that so many others do: that adoption is for the biologically childless and that is a logical substitute for natural childbirth. Her basic thesis (I think) is that though the blessing of barrenness is "apocalyptic," the barren are blessed now because they adopt and understand the richness of God's adoption of us. I think she would even argue that there ought not be a distinction between adopted and natural, especially since the adoptive families more closely resemble the family of God anyway. As noble a goal as this might be, I don't know anyone who is cured of the pain of infertility because they can "just adopt." Sometimes I even felt like she was saying "get over it." I don't think God intends for our hearts to be healed by treating adoption as a substitute for the natural desires He has placed in us. Adoption is not a substitute for anything or a lesser good.

The reality of it is that adoption should have very little to do with barrenness. The scriptures do not command "ye who are barren care for the widows and orphans." Additionally, Jesus does not say "Blessed are the barren because they adopt the orphans." Barrenness has little to do with the truth of the author's conclusions about adoption and I think that constantly associating the two only perpetuates the problem of indifference on the part of so many who are able to have (or think they are able to have) biological children.

I could go on, but that is the most significant of my objections to this article.

This is a very excellent article on why adoption should be practiced in the church. But I have very little appreciation for it as an article that appropriately handles barrenness.

Book Review: Empty Womb, Aching Heart

Empty Womb, Aching Heart: Hope and Help for Those Struggling With Infertility is not what I expected it to be and is unlike any of the other books I've read or perused on this topic.

Because the IF world, especially the Christian, online IF world is such a small, tight knit community, I find it difficult to be critical of anyone's love offering, for fear of hurting feelings. However, I don't think empty reviews, or false positive reviews really help anyone, and don't accomplish my goal of broadening conversation on and knowledge of the resources available. So with that in mind, I will attempt to tread lightly.

Empty Womb, Aching Heart can best be described as "Chicken Soup for the Infertile." It is a collection of stories gathered from women (and a few men) in their thirties and forties, detailing their personal experiences with various points in their infertility. This is not a teaching book.

I will say that it is an invaluable resource for anyone wanting to get a broad exposure to an "insider's view" of various IF related heartaches. This would be great for a pastor or a friend who wanted to glean a smattering of different reactions and experiences, many of which are very typical of many IF journeys.

However, because the book is just a collection of other people's stories, I found little helpful in it on a cosmic, capital T Truth level.

My first critique is that only two passages in the entire book came from anyone in their twenties. Most passages were from people in their upper thirties and in to their forties, with a few from people in their young thirties. This made me, a late twenty something, feel particularly isolated. So many times in this journey people say "oh you're still young!" as though the only people allowed to truly wrestle with this issue are those who are nearing the end of their childbearing years. In truth, my youth makes this harder because if my body doesn't function right now with time on its side, I have little hope as time marches on. It also made me feel that I am years and years away from being able to really identify with a lot of things shared in the book, or that it will take me that long to come to the same kind of peace that some of the authors exude. So I found that element of the book to be particularly discouraging, especially because in one or two stories was the author's age even relevant, so this isolating factor could have been avoided altogether by the omission of ages.

Second because this is just a collection of stories, the only significant value is the comfort of the knowledge that others have been there too. But because God works in every life differently, there is no universality to any of the lessons. While I can marvel at God's work in another for the sake of His goodness and power, that does little to teach me about His plan for my life. Perhaps that was never the point of the book but I have to hope that if it was published for worldwide consumption, there was some goal of enhancing the reader's own picture of God.

Also, it was hard for me to really accept any of the assorted "truths" that were offered because we know absolutely nothing about the various authors, save for their name (real or pen) and an age, and in some cases, a location. This is not always relevant, but when someone is making assertions about God, I know it's at least easier for me to process when I know the bias of the person making the assertion. No scripture referenced was exegeted nor was the article author's interpretation substantiated. I realize that criticizing anonymity is an ironic statement coming from anyone in the world of the internet blogosphere, and I all realize that everyone has something offer, regardless of their "credentials" but for that very reason, I try to be very upfront with my biases and convictions and with the fact that anything I offer is opinion.

I try to be careful for not faulting something for not being what it was never intended to be. I realize this book was never intended to be a treatise on God's truth for infertile couples. But in recognizing that, I found a lack of a convincing purpose for the book, again aside from the end result of getting exposure to other people's emotion and knowing that one is not alone.

I can never fault anyone for trying to address this issue. I feel like a broken record when I say again that I appreciate that Ms. Schalesky (I think a better title for her is editor, not author) was willing to break the silence. And I am confident that her vision for this book was borne out of a sincere desire to equip, encourage and validate. All of those things are noble and good and as I said, this book is very good for exposing someone to a lot of feelings and experiences with IF. And if someone is at the point in their IF journey that they're just looking to hear from other people who have "been there, done that" this book is perfect. I will applaud Ms. Schalesky for her wisdom in including many stories that do not have "happy" endings of successful pregnancy or adoption, which would lead I think to a lot of false hope. The point of all the stories is that God's goodness is not confined to fixing biological problems. This is a very significant Truth that this book does tackle well. So for all of those things, I appreciate Ms. Schalesky and all those who submitted their stories.

The question of whether or not I would recommend this book I guess depends on what your intended purpose in reading it is. If it's to glean exposure to "our" world, such as would be appropriate for a pastor or friend of an IF couple, this is an excellent book. However, if you're an IF person at the point in your journey where you're hungering for solid, biblical teaching and encouragement, this may not be the tool for you at this time. I can't say that I would refuse to recommend it because there is nothing "wrong" with this book, morally or spiritually and I don't think it does any harm or disrespect. However, it has a very specific purpose and I think intended audience, so falling outside those bounds may make this book little more than a time passer for you.

Blessed are the Barren II

Last week I mentioned that the title of the new Christianity Today's cover issue was "Blessed are the Barren" and that such a title challenged me. I was thinking about it last night and wondered why the article's title caught me by surprise, when the same words in scripture never have. And I realized something. In my head, I've always translated the passage in scripture to read

Blessed will be the barren.

Blessed will the barren be at some unspecified future time when we are all restored to glory and can fully see the will and power of God. Not right now.

After all, the New Testament passage reads

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ “Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US.’ “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:26-31 [emphasis mine]

But if I read that carefully, it says that what is in the future is our acceptance or proclamation of the blessing, not the blessing itself. Perhaps when our eyes our opened with the fullness of Christ's presence, we will then be able to see and appreciate as he does. But Blessed are the barren.

I've been doing a lot of reading on infertility lately and one thing I've seen repeated more than once is the notion that infertility is a gift or blessing from God. I don't think I believe that. I think that God challenges us and allows suffering, but I don't think that I can say that it is God's will for our bodies to function imperfectly. I think that infertility is the result of a sinful world and it's one of the many consequences that abound. (Important distinction: infertility is a consequence levied on the world, much like disease, crime, etc, and not a specific punishment for the individuals who suffer from it). In His perfection He cannot thwart the cause and effect relationship of sin in this world so there is no fault in not "saving us" from it, but I cannot concede that He wills this on any of us. Perhaps I shall be proven wrong one day.

But, I do not think that means that He cannot redeem brokenness by working in it. His ability to glorify Himself and lavish His blessings is not limited by our malfunctioning bodies. As we know, His power is perfected in our weakness. Though we've walked this journey of infertility almost 4 years, the new developments in the last couple of weeks have really turned my world upside down and lead to a lot of soul-searching. And I have been surprised to discover that God has blessed us in this. My husband is the most wonderful man in the world and while I didn't think it was possible for me to love him more than I did, we've learned so much about each other through this. I've also learned so much about the character of God that I never would have learned had He not broken me of my "good girl" rules and the safe piety I always assumed in the name of "respect." How marvelous is it that in His withholding of parenthood from us, I learn how to be daughter!

Our pastor is one of the dearest men in the world. God has given him a tender, shepherd's heart. We saw him two days after our dreadful doctor's appointment and shared a lot of the ugly depths of our emotion with him and received no judgment at all. That Sunday at church, he just offered a hug and his prayers. I thanked him for not trying to "fix us" and he said "that's not what you need right now. There will be time for that, but not right now" and he encouraged us to just be honest with God in our feelings. I can't tell you how freeing that was for us! Exploring the depths of my emotion with God has been such a gift for my relationship with Him. I thank God for using PJ to help open that door.

PJ (my nickname for him, short for Pastor J____) has been preaching through Luke during this advent season, which has naturally included the tale of Elisabeth. At the beginning he also taught on Hannah, following another sermon earlier in the fall on her too. I was speaking to him after church last week, razzing him that I think he's on a mission to bring up all the barren women in the Bible. His response was not one I expected or intended. He confessed a nervousness that what he was teaching might be hurtful or make us uncomfortable. My first response to this is a praise to God that our pastor is not afraid to preach the truth, even if it's "offensive." The reality of it is that scripture is scripture, regardless of my personal experience. (However he never uses this truth as an excuse for insensitivity). I was also grateful for his compassion and sensitivity. He may never know how much those few moments of compassion he's given us in the last couple weeks mean to us. But lastly, I marveled at God as I considered PJs words that the scriptures he's been teaching through have NOT been traumatic or devastating for me. Somehow I feel a certain kinship with these women, though I know I have no promises (yet?) like they did and my story may not turn out the same. Even just a few weeks ago, I resented Rachel and Hannah and Elisabeth, for having their prayers answered with a "yes!" when we still hear "no" or maybe, "not yet." But how much God has worked in our hearts in just a short time! Suddenly I find myself devouring passages of scripture that not too long ago, hung heavy around my neck like a painful reminder of what God would not do for me. I take comfort in the fact that these women were dear to God's own heart, and their pain was not unknown to Him. Nor so is mine, even when my heartache tells me otherwise!

Lest the reader be deceived--I still have my (many!) moments of despair and brokenness. But they no longer feel purposeless. I no longer feel like my heart is broken just so all the little pieces can lie there.

So today I'm thanking God for the blessings he's given me today, while barren. His blessings and lessons for this trial in our lives are not withheld til some ambiguous future time. Even now, He redeems our brokenness. Yet just like Jesus wept for Lazarus, whose own broken body He knew he would shortly redeem, I know our pain is not far from the heart of God and even in the vast cosmos, we are not forgotten.

Complete List of Infertility Media Reviews

I'm posting a list here of all of my media reviews because the originally intended list is now much longer than I thought and will eventually be too long for the sidebar. So I'll post some in the sidebar with a link to this post for the complete list.

When I was searching for media on the subject, I was surprised at how little was known about the small selection of ambiguous titles. I couldn't really find much to guide me in the way of what the various titles offered me, how one was different than another, and how reliable they were as a source of solid, scriptural truth.

So my goal is to at least offer one perspective on the various resources out there, in the hopes that it might be at least a little helpful for others looking to enhance their own understanding, whether for their own benefit and comfort or to equip themselves to minister to others.

I try to be honest and constructive with all of my reviews, both positive and critical. These are just my opinions and I am no authority on the subject. But in any case, I offer my thoughts and insights--I hope you enjoy reading. And I also welcome healthy discussion and disagreement with any of my thoughts! Anyone can leave a comment to any post. Let us hope that we are all enriched by the experience!

So without further ado, my ever growing list.

Adoption as a Ministry, Adoption as a Blessing by Michelle Gardner
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
Embryo Donation and Embryo Adoption: Loving Choices for Christians by John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter
Empty Womb, Aching Heart by Marlo Schalesky
Hannah's Hope by Jennifer Saake
Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility by Shannon Woodward
Infertility: Finding God's Peace in the Journey by Lois Flowers
The Infertility Companion by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer
Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize
Water from the Rock by Gibbs, Garret and Rabon

Newspaper, Newsletter and Magazine Articles
Coping With the Holidays, RESOLVE December 2007
Blessed are the Barren, Christianity Today December 2007

Facing the Giants

I Would Die for That by Kellie Coffey

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Newsletter: Coping with the Holidays

RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) has published a newsletter entitled "Coping with the Holidays" wherein various authors offer their musings on practical solutions for making it through this time of year with as few breakdowns as possible. The general gist is to explore yourself, figure out what your limits are and then operate accordingly, which I think is generally good advice. Where I part ways with most of the authors is the general attitude that we should just wallow in our misery and check out of life. I don't think that checking out of all things family is really a very practical solution, but I appreciate the concept of setting limits and there are some very useful, practical suggestions in the articles. It should be noted that the articles are very repetitive of each other which I don't quite understand but that's not really important.

However, what makes this newsletter worth downloading and reading is the article on page 3 entitled Looking Beyond Madonna and Child. The author challenges us to look beyond the pain that this icon and the similar manger can instill and seek out the scriptures for other symbols and gestures of God's grace and love. It's a beautiful, challenging article and is less than 1 page long so when you have a minute, I think you might appreciate reading it.

Hat Tip: Trish

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Review: Hannah's Hope

Since we began this new leg in our journey, I've been reading everything infertility related that I can get my hands on. The first full length book I've read dedicated exclusively to this subject is Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart In The Midst Of Infertility.

Hannah's Hope is written by Jennifer Saake, previously mentioned on this blog and mother to two living children. She and her husband have walked the road of infertility for 15 years and they have had their hearts broken by several miscarriages and even more failed adoptions. The book is appropriate for women at any stage of infertility, though she writes mostly for a general audience and less for specific problems within infertility.

The structure of each chapter of Ms. Saake's book is a passage (usually a single verse) of scripture, a historical fiction retelling of Hannah's story (the mother of Samuel), Ms. Saake's writings on the subject of the chapter, probing questions on the subject at hand, a list of scriptures for meditation, and a passage (never more than a page) written to the loved ones of people struggling with infertility, designed to give the loved ones special insights and ways to support their friend or family member.

One thing I appreciate about Ms. Saake's book is her conversational tone. The book is a very easy read, and Ms. Saake's pen flows as easily and comfortably as I imagine her tongue would if she were sitting with you having a cup of coffee. Throughout the reading, I felt as if I were sitting across the table from a friend as she shared some of her innermost thoughts. This put me at ease to explore my own thoughts, agreeing with her in most cases, disagreeing with her in others, and overall deepening my intentional thoughts on our own journey.

The historical fiction retelling of Hannah's story from I Samuel 1 is designed to explore the thoughts Hannah (and occasionally some of the other main characters) may have had as she grieved her way through her own infertility journey. Through the process, the reader develops a kinship with the biblical heroine, taking comfort in the fact that though she lived thousands of years ago, her struggle was largely the same as that of a woman today and is not unknown to the heart of God.

As Ms. Saake divulges her own history and feelings, the reader is taken on a journey through exploring anger, jealousy, fear, bitterness, grief, disappointment, stress, hope, and intimacy with the Almighty. She tackles issues from fear, to bioethics, to the strength of the marital relationship, and most importantly, the infertile couple's walk with God. She is sensitive and gentle while still bold with her convictions.

There is no false piety at all in Ms. Saake. Everything is brutally honest yet still respectful of the sovereignty of God. On more than one occasion, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts simply penned by Ms. Saake's hand. There was comfort and validation in "aha! someone else has felt this way too!"

Ms. Saake does not dwell in the depths of her feelings. She provides thoughtful scriptural encouragement while at the same time refraining from giving pat answers and comfort cliches. She adds her own thoughts and insights as revealed to her through meditation and experience.

My favorite passage in the book reads:

She [the woman at the well] sought happiness in the arms of men. Jesus provides peace that could be found in none other than Himself.

I sought joy in the new life of a baby. Jesus offers New life in Himself.

I wanted to know the feeling of carrying another soul inside my body. He provides the Holy Spirit to indwell me.

I longed to nurse a child. Paul wrote, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

I dreamed of watching my baby grow and mature. But am I ever-growing in Christ? "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

I bemoaned the "bread of adversity" I felt unfairly called to taste. The Lord answers with the cross: "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19).

I pleaded for a child to enrich my days on earth. He commands, "But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:20-21).

p 95

Ms. Saake does not promise anyone a happy ending. She admits that even though she now has two living, biological children, the scars of infertility will always leave an ache in her heart. The journey God has taken her on through this process has not been completed or nullified by the successful conception and birth of children. I would guess that this would be of special comfort to those either struggling with secondary infertility or who still feel a loss that their family is not what they imagined or hoped it would be.

She exhorts the reader,

While Satan imprisons some with bondage to past sins, he can entangle others in what seems to be a good and righteous goal, causing them to lose sight of God in the midst of self-evaluation.
p 49

That hit me as especially poignant because I've been stewing so much about this lately that I need to guard my own heart against making motherhood my idol. That is an important challenge for every mother, mother to be, or mother at heart.

I found some of the "Burden Bearer" passages (written to friends and family members of infertile couples) to be helpful, and others were not of particular significance to me. I appreciated her frankness with her advice of how to support, and in some cases, how to refrain from causing more hurt, on infertile loved ones. One thing that should be noted is that the passages are to be read in conjunction with the rest of the book and are not intended to be read independently.

My primary critique of the book is that each chapter is very brief. Just when I thought "ok, we're tackling something I'm really struggling with," Ms. Saake moves on to another subject. I longed for her to exegete the scriptural passages she offered and share more details on the HOWS of her journey and the conclusions she's made. I don't think that this is a flaw, per say, because I don't think it was ever the author's intent to give an exhaustive chronicle of infertility and so I cannot blame her for not writing as if it were. This was simply was more of a disappointment--I longed to delve deeper with my new found friend in to emotions that are for me, still raw and in need of exploration. The approach is just a matter of personal preference and I'm sure for as many as there are of women like me who longed for more depth, there are equally many women who appreciated the brevity.

However, the ease of the flow of the book makes this a very excellent, easily accessible and processed resource for pastors, ministerial staff and anyone else truly interested in learning an "insider's perspective" on infertility. One of my very favorite chapters in the book was on how the church could help break its own silence on this matter and offer comfort to those in their congregations who are burdened with this grief. I only wish it were longer!

Overall, my impression of the book is very positive. I would heartily recommend it to anyone at any stage in their infertility journey. I also recommend it as a must-have resource for any pastor. I do recommend it for loved ones of the infertile, with the disclaimer that this book is not written specifically to give you (the loved one) advice, and reading it should be done with the intention of understanding the heart of your infertile friend or family member, and not specifically equipping with you with the "how tos" of what to do as the friend (though there is some).

Brava, Jennifer! A valiant, sincere, and godly effort that is very much appreciated.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Meditations on "Undeserved" or "Unwanted" Pregnancies

A full book review is coming soon (though here's a hint, it's positive) as I have almost completed my reading, but I wanted to share a passage from Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart In The Midst Of Infertility. The author is Jennifer Saake, founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries, which I've already shared with you. Most infertile women I know (myself included, and often!) struggle with feelings of a cosmic unfairness that there are so many abused, abandoned, neglected and otherwise unwanted children in this country, born to parents unfit or unwanting of them, while so many of those who would give the world to have and love a child are called to wait. Jennifer writes,

While childlessness is a trial for infertile couples and we consider parenthood a great blessing, for others pregnancy might indeed be the trial that God uses to change their hearts...Just as God may want to use my empty arms to bring me closer to Himself, God may challenge another woman I don't feel "deserves" a baby with such a gift so that He can ultimately reminder her that He is still God." (pp 38-39)

I have been meditating on that a lot, especially in light of the Christmas season. In the early weeks of Christmas, I was dreading hearing songs about the infant Christ and seeing a manger brought pain instead of joy. But as I thought about Jennifer's words, I was challenged to think of Mary. By the world's standards, she was "undeserving" of any motherhood, much less that of the Christ child! She was a terrified, unwed, poor teen aged mother. And yet God chose her out of His own mercy and grace to be the mother of our Lord and Savior.

How the hushed whispers and the sideways glances of her once friends must have wounded her. How much must her heart have ached at the thought that her beloved Joseph might suspect her of infidelity and put her away? How much she must have worried at the prospect of returning to her parents home with an pregnancy with an unbelievable explanation! She must have spent a least a little time wondering how she and Joseph would provide and care for a child when she was but a child herself! And I can imagine how her heart must have been squeezed a little tighter with each refusal of lodging that fateful Christmas eve!

And yet, how much did God do in her heart.

Mary said unto the Lord,

"My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
"For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
"He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
"He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
"He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever."
Luke 1:46-56

I learn so much for her ability to praise so sincerely in the midst of her adversity. I'm sure the arrival of an unexpected pregnancy turned her world upside down as much as the withholding of pregnancy has mine. And yet she revered God for the "Great things" He had done. How small my faith is in comparison.

I am glad God's economy does not work like mine does. Only God would choose a penniless child to be the mother of our Lord. And yet His choice was intentional and Mary was humble to His plan for her. Would that I could follow in her footsteps!

I have a long way to go and I still do pray that one day God will see fit to give us a biological child of our own, but in the mean time, would that I had even a fraction of Mary's faith in the midst of my adversity. I am so thankful for God's example of her faith and His mercy. Thanks be to God!

And thanks, Jennifer, for your challenging words.

General Update

Hi everyone!

Well I sure got off to a rip-roaring start, only to peter out quickly! It's my goal to be a regular IF blogger but I just let time get away from me this weekend.

We have a small update. I spoke to the new specialist's real scheduler today (last week was a sub). She did confirm that we have the earliest possible appointments. It's turning out to not be such a disappointment because the holidays are keeping us busy. The planning logistic woman in me wants to race ahead for all the practical reasons, but I'm trying to wait on the Lord's timing. I have to start somewhere right? I'm not ready to wait for forever, but I can try another month. And then another, if He asks. And I'll just try to do day by day henceforth. I can't think about the what ifs and the nevers because I just work myself in to a tizzy. One day at a time...just like the sparrows and the flowers.

I called insurance and they said IF treatments are not covered, specifically conception assistance. Diagnostic exams and procedures are covered, as is the correction of any true biological problems. It's funny because just last month there was a discussion on a message board I'm a member of about whether or not insurance should cover IF. I thought about it and my response was that insurance should cover the diagnosis and treatment of any actual medical problem or malfunction, but not conception assistance, for the specific reason of the cost passed on to the majority of policy holders that will never ever need or use the coverage. I realize this opens a can of worms about other coverages that a lot of the rest of us pay for but will never use like some contraceptions, s*xual enhancements (censored so I don't get dirty google hits, not because I'm prude!), substance abuse related ailments, etc, etc, but that's all for another discussion. Now I certainly wouldn't refuse medical insurance that offered IF coverage and I think it's a huge blessing for anyone who has it and needs it. My only point was I think that medical treatment coverage but not conception assistance is a reasonable, logical, fair compromise, even if it's not perfect.

And what do you know? That's exactly what our insurance does. My very initial reaction was a tinge of disappointment. But then I considered further and realized that I still think the same way I did when speaking in a vacuum just a month ago, and I am glad for the way God used some silly message board discussion to prepare my heart for this news. I won't lie. The cost of IF treatments or adoption or whatever seems insurmountable. Thinking about it does stress me out if I dwell on it too much. But overall, I'm very much at peace. I grateful that if there is a way to fix our biological malfunction(s), that they will be covered. And I'm specifically praying that if they can be fixed, we won't even need conception assistance. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm also grateful for a referral to this IF specialist, who with gobs of experience in this area specifically, undoubtedly knows his way around insurance codes and how to classify everything properly.

I also read the specialist's website today and it gave me a lot more hope. It didn't give me unrealistic hope but I certainly don't feel like the situation is quite as desolate as I thought it was after speaking to my own doctor. We'll see. His actual exams of us may change that, but at least right now I know there is the potential for hope, when before I was all but told that there was none.

So anyway, those are some things you can be praying for if you think of us.

Thanks also for your prayers last week. I spent most of last Thursday with one of my very favorite people in the world, a dear lady from my church whom I cherish. She has had her own very recent walk with grief and she reached out and wrapped her arms around us in prayer and friendship. She was so generous with her time and experience and comfort, helping me navigate these waters and answering some of my very practical and not so practical questions. I'm so grateful for her! My time with her, along with the knowledge of all of your prayers really made that day much more bearable than it originally started out to be. So, thank you, friends!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Difficult Day Today

10 years ago today, I lost one of the most important people in my life. My grandma passed away and her death devastated me. I continue to feel the ache in my heart, even to this day. 9 months later, my heart broke again when my grandpa, her husband of 50 years, followed her in death.

I miss them a lot. Sometimes so much that I can hardly breath.

This is particularly hard in the light of our infertility because I'd always dreamed of giving our first daughter my grandma's middle name, and I'd even hoped that she might even have Grandma's smile. I dreamed of telling my daughter all about her great grandma and passing on our family recipes that I remember making with my grandparents as a child. Now it's very possible that I will never have that, and I feel like I'm losing my grandma all over again. I feel that both my grandma and my hope of my daughter are slipping away from my grasp and I want to cling so tightly.

I'd appreciate your prayers today. I'm trying to not indulge my grief too much because I don't have the emotional currency to spend. Too much dwelling on my sadness will send me back over the edge and to be honest, I'm afraid of that place. I'm doing ok right now, but only because I refuse to think about it for too long. So, if you think of me today, I'd appreciate your prayers.

Wasn't she beautiful?

And this is the last picture we ever have of them. It was taken at the party for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Grandma was in the hospital so they let us have the party in the rehab room. Grandma died exactly 2 weeks later.

I wish you all could have known them. I think the only one of you, dear readers, who could have met them is Angie and I'm not sure if you would remember them or not. But somehow, knowing I still have a friend today who I knew then is comforting to me--almost like a connection to that time when I had them. So hi Angie. Thanks for being my friend. Would that we were back in Newbury Park 10 years and 1 day ago, even for a moment!

I hope you all are well today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bawling my fool head off (Or: Song Review: I Would Die for That)

Ok fellow IF ladies I'm apparently late to the party on this. I've never heard this song though from what I can gather, it came out this past summer.

Country Singer Kellie Coffey has boldly gone where I have never seen a contemporary, mainstream artist go before, with her song "I Would Die for That."

Wow! What a song! Brava to Ms. Coffey for bringing attention to this issue, though for her heart I am sorry that she has to.

I found this song to be cathartic of my own emotions, and empowering insofar as she is taking this issue out in to the open and raising awareness.

I do raise objection to the apparent criticism of those who have given their child up for adoption but I do understand her point that she would die to even have a child to at all, much less consider giving it up. I do hope that that element of the song will not be perceived as condemnation. However, as an expression of her own emotion and grief, I cannot fault her.

However, as a cathartic, guteral expression of emotion, this song is exquisite. Ms. Coffey is so intimate and unashamed with her honesty, her struggles, her dreams. We can cry with her because we know her pain and we ourselves have thought those same things. There is no "beautifying" here--just raw emotion and raw honesty of what is.

I recommend to anyone it helps to watch it as many times as is needed. However I also challenge us as women to not linger too long in our pain, lest it overtake us. When the season of mourning comes to an end, even for a brief while, move on from this because it will only take you back to the pain. And I pray that Ms. Coffey herself is moved on at least from the acute pain. But how dear and brave of her for sharing this way!

Recommended: Yes

Movie Review: Facing the Giants

Facing the Giants is a valiant, noble effort with a lot of potential. However, it misses the mark in some key areas for me.

Facing the Giants is the labor of love of Sherwood Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. It is the brain child of brothers in the congregation, and the fruit of the labor of countless parishoners who volunteered their time and talents.

Spoilers ahead. Please do not read if you do not want the plot and end of the movie spoiled.

That basic premise is a high school football coach takes a ragamuffin team from underdogs to Champions. The pivotal point in their journey through the season is when the coach realizes that his purpose is to glorify God, even on the football field. He teaches his students to pray and to seek to honor God in all that they do, regardless of the outcome. The sub-plot is that the coach and his wife have tried unsuccessfully for years to have children. As you can imagine the end of the movie brings a football title and a quiver full of children for the once-barren couple.

Artistically, the movie is average. The script, acting and filming are all mediocre and indicative of an amateur effort. I struggle with our call to do everything with excellence--this movie is not at all competitive with professional Hollywood productions--and the idea that these kind-hearted people probably did give their best and that is all we can ask.

But what troubled me more was the fact that throughout the story, once the main characters adopted a method of praying, everything thence forth was granted according to their wishes. Though I appreciate the earnestness of faith portrayed, I would have found the film to be more instrumental were there examples of faith persisting even when the answer was still "no."

There is a powerful line in the film where in the coach's wife cries out, "Even if you never give me children, I will still love you." What a challenge! This is never demonstrated however because a few moments later, she is given the news that she is pregnant. Perhaps it is true that in some cases, all that is left for us to do is surrender our hearts completely before He will grant our earnest dreams, but in other cases, complete surrender still yields different results than what we would like.

In the Christian context, there is nothing wrong with the film. I did not find anything to be anti biblical persay. I just thought it was all packaged a little too nicely and I fear that a non Christian might walk away either scoffing at the cheesyness of it, or thinking that God is a genie, ready to grant a man's wish if that man would only say the magic prayer.

All that being said, I do love the amount of love and sacrifice that was so clearly poured in to this movie by its creators, from the directing, to the acting, to the potluck style catering for the cast and crew. No one can ever accuse this company of being less than 100% earnest in their sincere desire to tell a lovely story of God's mercy. It is a very sweet film. And I applaud them enthusiastically for daring to take on a subject in the public eye where the church is normally painfully silent.

Infertile couples who have yet or never to receive an answer of "yes" may find this film painful to watch. Couples who have received a "yes" answer from God may find this affirming and encouraging of their own testimony. I urge anyone who watches it to take it as entertainment, not doctrine or a prescription. I wouldn't avoid it, but I also don't embrace it completely.

Recommended: With reservation

Book Review: Supernatural Childbirth

Supernatural Childbirth is a book I really struggled with.

I struggle with the book because I want so badly to believe the author's conclusions. However, I can find no confirmation in scripture that the author's conclusions are correct.

Let me start by saying that I do not presume to question the truth of the author's own personal experiences with conceiving and child bearing. Nor do I doubt the testimonies of the women included. I do not doubt her sincerity in her belief. I will even go so far as to say that I believe it's possible that God worked the way He did in the author's life for exactly the reasons she thinks He did. However, I draw the line at the author's use of her personal story as a prescription for all Godly child bearing. She boldly claims "If it will work for us, it will work for you." Later in the same passage she claims that she won't even argue about it, and that she's right because her claims are supported by scripture. I do not believe that any interpreter has the monopoly on understanding the meaning in purpose in Holy scripture.

The author, Jackie Mize, is the mother of 4 living children and 1 miscarried child. After her first miscarriage, she sought comfort in the Word and came to the conclusion that it was God's will for her to have children and she could triumph over any physical failures in conceiving or carrying a baby by claiming various passages in scripture as promises for her life and fertility and commanding her body to obey. She went on to have 4 successful pregnancies and 3 pain-free deliveries.

She uses the term "Supernatural" in this way:

When I refer to supernatural childbirth, I’m talking strictly about being able to conceive and to have babies with a pregnancy free from nausea, morning sickness, pain, moodiness, depression and without fear of any kind; then going through the entire labor without pain, and through the delivery without stitches and anesthetic. I’m talking about using the Word of God to overcome, change and make things better.

I will confess my own bias and say that I am not a charismatic believer. The spirit has never moved me in that way and the walk He has called me to is different in mode than the walk of those He has gifted more charismatically. As it is with anything unknown, I was initially leery of the author's assertions based on ignorance alone.

However, it is my sincere belief after lengthy consideration that my objections are founded on spiritual truths and not on prejudices.

The fundamental problem with Ms. Mize's basic thesis is the underlying assumption that it is God's will that every woman who wants a child would have one. Translated: it is God's will that we should have whatever we want. In one support of her claim, the author writes,

...Every barren woman in the Bible who was godly and believed Your Word became pregnant; You opened her womb and blessed her.

This begs the question: what then of the woman who wants children but has none?

The hermeneutic problem with the author's proof-text approach is that it is based on the logical fallacy of an argument from silence. It assumes that Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Hannah, Manoah's Wife, the Sunammite Woman, and Elisabeth are an exhaustive list of every barren woman in Israel when there is absolutely no text to support that, nor does assuming so make any logical sense. If one assumed that, one would also have to assume that every person, miracle and teaching in the Bible was exhaustive. Else, how would the distinction between what is exhaustive and what is selective be made? I am positive that in the whole of the spans of time covered by the scripture there were more godly citizens, miracles, encounters with God, testimonies, and teachings that we will ever know. God's power throughout history is not limited to what is contained in 1500 pages of text.

The notion that God exacts his favor on man based on the man's works is clearly contradicted in scripture. In the author's context, a man's very faith is a work that he improves and builds of his own will and capacity. She writes, "The reason it worked for us is we found it in God's word and kept reading, studying and talking it until it was part of us. And that's what will make it work for you." Essentially, they willed it so. She even assigns value judgments to women, dividing them as "average," "above average" and "below average" in God's kingdom. There is no scriptural evidence that God's economy works this way.

She also claims "by His stripes we are healed" as a proclamation of power over cancer, migraines, stomach aches and childbearing. She even goes so far as to say "If we're redeemed, we're redeemed; either we are or we're not!" The logical extension of this is that any measure of pain in a person's life is either a failure of Christ's redemptive power, or an indication of an incomplete faith in the believer. Were pain proportionate to faith, Paul, John, Stephen and Christ himself would have ascended to glory pain-free.

Additionally, the author's basic premise would have to extend to the conclusion that a childless couple is not manifesting God's will, or is following it less well than the couple with children. By this conclusion God's ability to exact His will on earth is limited by the power and faith of mortals. God's performance in the midst of pain and suffering is less perfect than His work in lives where there is no pain.

If it is genuinely true that there is no place in God's kingdom for pain and suffering, then what of the suffering of Job, David, Christ and the apostles? How beautiful is Job's faith in God in the midst of his struggles! How precious are David's psalms of heartfelt honesty! How urgent are the Apostles' pleadings that we persevere for sake of Christ!

God's glory is vast, and His power to redeem is unending. God can manifest His glory through pain, through jubilation, and through everything in between. He can redeem any broken body, but it does not follow that redemption is always earthly healing. How arrogant of us to limit God in such a way. If it is the case that His glory will be made manifest more in brokenness than in health, may it never be so that we attempt to stand in His way! We are told that God's ways are not our ways. Therefore how can we claim to know the exhaustive list of the manners, modes and circumstances in which He might choose to make His glory known?

While I appreciate the author's courage in addressing the issue at all, and the sincerity of her beliefs, there is little in this book to recommend it to anyone looking to read it for any other purpose than mere curiosity and exposure to alternate ideas.

Recommended: No