Faith, Momming

Twelve

Today was the day. Today contained a milestone I had hoped I wouldn’t have to see. At first, I was confident I wouldn’t see it, and then, as time passed, my confidence faded. Today marks twelve months of negatives.

Twelve months of not being pregnant. Twelve months of hope ending in disappointment. Twelve months of praying. Twelve months of waiting. Twelve months of dreaming.

Infertility is defined as twelve months of failing to conceive, and we are there. We’ve had a male factor infertility diagnosis for a couple of months now (considerably worse than it was in 2017), and I have an appointment scheduled with my OB/GYN next month. Hopefully we’ll get some answers.

When we first started trying for a third, I was confident it would happen quickly. When I got pregnant the first time, it was the week after we were prayed for and I surrendered to God. I got a positive pregnancy test when my son was only six months old, and the odds of conceiving had been extremely, extremely low. Because we’d gotten pregnant easily after being prayed for and we’d had a surprise pregnancy, I thought we were done with difficulty getting pregnant.

I was wrong.

While this time around has been a little easier because I do have two incredible little blessings, it has still been hard.

I’ve struggled.

I’ve struggled because so many of the people around me get pregnant right away. I envy their ease and the fact that they don’t have to walk through this valley.

I’ve struggled because it doesn’t match what I’d dreamed of. I’d wanted four kids, but I may only have two, and if God blesses us, three. The thought of a third being too much younger than the first two makes me sad because I was three years older than my brother who was less than two years older than our sister, and I felt alone. I don’t want that for my kids.

Mostly, I struggle because I know God is good and that He is able—I’ve seen it. Walking through this, it doesn’t feel like God is good or loving. I sometimes feel unseen, unloved, and unheard. I know that I’ve done all that I can do (at least until my doctor appointment), and that He is the only one who can do anything, but He hasn’t blessed us with another baby yet. If I’m honest, knowing He is the only one who can do anything, makes me reluctant to really pursue the relationship with Him that I want. My perspective needs to shift because this situation is not evidence of His lack of affection, nor is it proof that He has stopped being good.

What does this situation say?

He sees the big picture. He sees things I can’t see. He knows what is best for me and for my family. His heart is for me and my family, for our growth and for our good, because good and loving are literally descriptions of who He is. He knows exactly what my family and I need and when we need it, and because He and His character do not change, He can be trusted.

His timing is better than mine (as much as it pains me to say it). The wait doesn’t mean He has forgotten me, and it doesn’t mean He says “no”. We went to my parents’ house for Christmas this year, and because I knew there’s a bit of a letdown after Christmas, I decided we’d save our family gifts until we got back, so that we had something to look forward to. It was torture for me! I was tempted to give my husband and kids their gifts before we left. I was so anxious for them to have the gifts underneath the tree, even without their asking to open them! I had to say “no: when they asked because it wasn’t the right time yet. I was so excited for the day to come when I could finally let them open their gifts.

He is growing me, teaching me, shaping me, and deepening me through this time. Growth hurts. But you know what would be worse? Being stuck the way I am. As a mom, I want my kids to be capable. I want them to be able to solve problems and to do things for themselves. I don’t always rush to help them when they ask—instead, I will walk them through how they can accomplish whatever it is they’re needing help with. Can you imagine what life would be like if I rushed in to save the day every time they complained or faced something unpleasant? They would have never learned how to hold their heads up or how to roll over, how to crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, or jump. I’m so thankful God does not leave me as I am, but rather He continues to grow and shape me.

What are you learning from the season you’re in? What aspects of God’s character are you clinging in this season? What truths are you holding on to even when they don’t feel true in this moment?

Faith

Peace

I had a blog post nearly completed, and I accidentally deleted everything. So, let’s try this again!

A couple of months ago, my husband and I went on our first getaway since our kids were born. It was much needed. Our first stop was for a bike ride on an old railroad track turned into a trail. It was my first bike ride on an unpaved surface, and…it was also cold and windy. When my fingers and ears started getting cold within the first five minutes, I was ready to turn around, but we kept going. We road for about 13 miles total. The first couple of intersections we road through were highways, then there was a gravel road, and then there was a path with two worn out ruts. The farther we got away from the highways, the quieter it got. I’ll be the the first to admit, I’m not the most in shape person, and I had to stop a couple of times. One of the first times we stopped, we were stunned by the silence. It was almost palpable. Coming from living in a small/midsized city and in a house with two active and talkative toddlers, silence is rare. It was so peaceful.

This week’s Advent theme is: Peace.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “peace”?

Tie dye wearing hippies? Being out in the country? Your children’s nap time? Five minutes to yourself to enjoy a chocolate or a cup of coffee?

Peace is something we all dream of, and it’s something than can seem so…impossible.

Luke 2 tells us the story of Jesus’ birth and the angel’s announcement of His birth. Luke 2: 10-14 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I don’t know about where you live, but from my perspective, the world is not a peaceful place. I’m even more convinced of the lack of peace on earth since I got married and moved to my husband’s hometown. I’ve heard more gunshots in the past (almost) five years than I had my whole life. Some of them have sounded too close for comfort.

If you don’t hear gunshots in your town, you’ve probably concluded the earth is not peaceful after a year like 2020. So what on earth were the angels talking about then?

Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and His resurrection, we can have peace with God.

Way back in the beginning of time, a man and a woman, named Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. When they disobeyed, sin and death entered the world, and all humanity has felt the consequences. Romans 5:10 tells us before Jesus, we were enemies of God, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, we were reconciled with God. It says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Following Jesus also brings us peace with others.

Jesus teaches us to love each other, live in humility, to forgive, and to be peacemakers. We’re not responsible for the responses others may have, but we are told to do our best to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18).

Trusting Jesus gives us peace in life.

In John 16:33, Jesus acknowledges that the earth is not peaceful. He says we will have trouble, but in Him we can have peace. He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

While the world is chaotic, we can have peace with God and others and in life because of Jesus.

Faith

Hope

My son looked out our living room window on Thanksgiving, after the sun had set. Our neighbors have started putting up Christmas lights, and when he saw them, he said, “I think it looks like Christmastime!”

The next day, he insisted we needed to wear Christmas hats while we decorated, and both of my kids wore Christmas hats as we went to one store on Black Friday. We all donned Christmas hats as we went to see a light display that evening. I think my toddler may be starting a new tradition, and I love it.

There is something so comforting, grounding, and nostalgic about traditions, especially for Christmas. My mom’s family has playing Bingo for prizes on Christmas Eve as a tradition that began generations ago and has continued on through the years. The prizes range from random snack foods to fun gadgets to bottled coffees to the always wished for gift cards. We all envy the one person who seems to win every game, despite the Bingo cards changing each round, and we feel sorry for the one person who inevitably loses more than anyone else.

When I was around 6 or 7, my mom started another Christmas Eve tradition: gingerbread house building. My houses were not very structurally sound for the first few years, and my siblings decided I was a garage builder. It’s only recently that I’ve escaped from their mockery and have proven my gingerbread house building abilities.

Another Christmas tradition my mom started was observing Advent. Starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving and continuing to Christmas Eve, my parents and all six of us kids would gather around the dining room table with a Christmas cookie or some other treat, maybe some hot chocolate, and sometimes a game or craft, and we’d take turns lighting the candle(s) and reading that week’s Bible passages. This is one tradition that I’ve already continued with my toddlers, and this year, I’d like to share it with you!

The first Sunday of Advent focuses on hope.

Right after the first man and woman sinned against God, He began to reveal His plan to redeem the people who had just broken His law. In Genesis 3:15, God spoke of one of Eve’s offspring who would strike the head of the Serpent. He said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”” For centuries all of creation lived in expectant hope for that day.

Two thousand years ago, the One who was promised to strike the head of the Serpent was born, and now we live in hope for His return and eternity spent with Him. One day He will wipe away every tear, He, the Prince of Peace will reign over us, and we will be with Him forever.

In a year of unknowns, change, anxiety, isolation, division, loss, and so much more, I am so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus. Unlike the ten months (and counting) I have hoped for a positive pregnancy test only to be disappointed, hoping in Jesus will not leave us disappoint. One day, we will not be plagued with sickness, infertility, cancer, or death. One day the Body of Christ will be with our Bridegroom, and we will be of one heart and mind. My heart yearns for that day.

Knowing that what we are now facing pales in comparison to the joy that day will bring makes my trials and sorrows seem more bearable. Knowing I have hope brings light to the dark days because they are temporary.

How does this hope change your present? How does this hope change you?

Faith, Life, Momming

Is It Well?

Fun fact about me: I’m an Air Force brat. My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16. I’ve moved a total of 11 times, and lived in 5 states (6 if you count college) and two countries. Nine out of the first 13 years of my life were spent living in base housing (two of the houses we lived in were either condemned or torn down right after we moved out). So we never really settled in, and we knew those houses weren’t truly going to be home.

The year after we got married, we moved out of the house my husband bought when he was 24 (by putting the down payment on his credit card via a cash advance……..) and we bought our first house together. It’s a split level with four floors, and after finishing the basement, we’re sitting at about 2,200 square feet. We’ve done a lot to this house. We’ve refinished the kitchen, replaced the flooring on the main level, refinished the fireplace with shiplap, replaced the windows, replaced the hall bathtub and surround, replaced the vanity in our tiny master bath, finish about half of the basement, replaced the back door, relocated the door to the garage back to its original location, and replaced or refinished a few lights. The projects seem endless, and so many places in the house don’t quite feel finished or fully decorated.

Our master bedroom had been untouched until last year. We had the mismatched chest of drawers we had each brought into the marriages, and hand-me-down decorations on our walls. After I refinished our headboard and a matching set of dressers we found on Marketplace, our room felt so much more cohesive. The newly refinished furniture necessitated a new wall color, which meant new wall decorations were required. I found a couple of pieces I loved at Hobby Lobby for our room, and one that was perfect for our bathroom (did I mention how tiny our bathroom is?). It wasn’t until last month that I realized just how perfect the artwork was for our bathroom.

If you know my story, you may remember it took us a lot longer to conceive our firstborn than I had expected it would. We received a male factor infertility diagnosis the month of our first anniversary. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but it was good to have some clarity. On our anniversary, we made a stop at IKEA. As soon as we got off of the escalator, my husband pointed out a family not too far from us and asked if that was the associate pastor of the church I had attended and worked at before getting married. It was. We were an hour from home, and they were two hours from home, and some how we were in the same place, at the same huge store, at the same time. They had been a blessing to me while my husband and I were dating, and knowing they had dealt with infertility, I confided in the pastor’s wife. Before we said goodbye, they prayed for us (specifically that we’d have 100 babies). Later that week, I spent time praying and surrendering to God, knowing that I needed Him to do something—whether that was healing me/my husband, taking away my desire for children, or at the very least assuring me that He was with me through the desert of infertility. I heard from God, and I knew He had either healed us or that He was least with us.

Two weeks later, I cried my eyes out when I saw the second line that I had prayed to see for so many months. When my son was six months old, I was shocked to see another positive pregnancy test. I love my two little ones! I think they’re pretty cute and special.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve experienced the exhausting roller coaster of hope and disappoint, the frustration, the jealousy, the questions, and the waiting that infertility brings. I’ve experienced the surprise, fear, and bittersweetness that an unexpected pregnancy brings. Both experiences solidified my conviction that God is the author of life, and whether I’m trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, He is the giver of life, and it comes in His timing.

A little over two years after our surprise positive pregnancy, we’re back to dealing with infertility. I’m back to seeing one line, when I have hoped and prayed to see two lines. Today we received a test result that shows our fertility has decreased since we were trying to conceive the first time. The doctor suggested we see a reproductive endocrinologist, which seems to say IUI or IVF are the next steps to take medically.

My heart is heavy. This is month ten, and I’m weary in this wait. This feels hopeless, medically speaking. My heart and arms long for another baby. While I was still pregnant with my second, I believe God gave me a vision of a third, a little boy in a blue and white striped romper. It sounds crazy, but I saw my older two sitting in front of me and the tiny little boy I held, and while I never pictured myself having a blonde baby and am still surprised that I have a blonde, my daughter had light hair.

I know nothing is too difficult for God. I know God is the giver of life. I know if the vision truly was from Him, He is able to give me a third. I know He has a good plan. I know He has perfect timing.

And yet, I’m still heavy hearted. I still feel like crying. I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself for feeling this was despite my faith and knowledge. I remember that Jesus cried at Lazarus’s tomb, despite His power and plan to raise him back to life.

Infertility is like exercise for my faith. It isn’t fun. It hurts. I don’t enjoy it. But I know that it’s good for my faith. I know that when my faith is put to the test, I get to see God’s hand at work.

And so, the artwork hanging in my bathroom is unintentionally perfect. As I wait for the tests to show one line or two, I see the words, “It is well with my soul.”

After I read the test and my hope turns to disappointment or to joy, I read the words, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not it feels good, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not I feel it in that moment, “It is well with my soul.”

This is one of those times it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel like “it is well”. But I know the truth is that God is faithful, able, sovereign, and so good. Despite my feelings, it truly is well.

Faith, Life

A Drive Through the Flint Hills

Currently we are driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas on our way to visit my grandparents. I’ve been a lot of places—the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Grant Canyon, the Ozarks, the Azores, and a flight over the Alps—and yet the Flint Hills are still an area I find breathtaking. They stretch as far as I can see, in every direction. The varying heights adds to the interest, and on top of that, my stomach isn’t in knots while we drive through the Flint Hills, unlike while driving through mountains. And then, there’s the lush green. Gorgeous.

You know why the Flint Hills are so green? Because they are burned and because they are rained on. These two things, things that can be devastating, produce lush, green, gorgeous hillsides. 

While I was growing up, rainy days were always disappointing. I couldn’t play in my backyard or in my neighborhood with my friends, I couldn’t go swimming—basically my plans were ruined. As an adult, rainy days mean my kids are confined to the house, my patio furniture will be all wet, any outdoor play dates or zoo visits get cancelled, and if we go anywhere, I have to stand outside getting soaked while putting kids in car seats. Bleh! Rainy days can be disappointing and they can be dreary. 

I’ve had a few rainy days the past month and a half. From conflicts, to sickness, to an unexpected surgical tooth extraction, to yet another negative pregnancy test, I’ve been feeling like the rain just keeps coming. It’s wearisome. I’m ready for sunshine. 

As we drive through the beautiful Flint Hills, I’m reminded that rain is needed. Without rain, my backyard turns brown, and without rain, my garden would die (because let’s be real, when the temperature hit the upper 90s and mosquitoes declared war on me, I started making my trips out to the garden as short as possible, and dragging the hose out and watering my garden didn’t fit in the time span I was willing to spend in my backyard). Yes, there is such a thing as too much rain; it’s called a flood, and no one needs one of those. But rain is needed to help things to grow and to thrive. 

Without rain in my life, I grow complacent, I get comfortable, I’m not challenged. When I’m not challenged, I don’t grow. 

Over the past month, I’ve been challenged. I’ve felt my strength tested, and I’ve had to depend on God. I’ve had my patience tested, and I’ve had to surrender and trust God (this one still trips me up sometimes). I’ve had my actions, my character, and my faith questioned, and I’ve had to walk in obedience to resolve it instead of walking away. It’s been a rough month. But I know I’ve grown. I know my endurance has increased. I know my faith has increased. Not because it’s been sunny and beautiful, but because it’s been rainy.

I’m still ready for at least a few sunny days! 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬