Today I am sharing our story of infertility and loss on Wendi Kitsteiner's blog. Thank you, Wendi, for putting a face to the world of IF!
Yesterday began National Infertility Awareness Week - something that affects one in eight couples, but not always who you think.
It includes those with a specific medical diagnosis and those who are labeled "unexplained".
It includes those who are trying every medical intervention possible and those who aren't.
It includes those who have one or more biological children and those who have none.
It includes those who have become parents through adoption or other means, and those who have not.
It includes those who are still trying to conceive and those who have stopped.
It includes those who have experienced loss in pregnancy and those who have never been pregnant.
It includes those who have been trying for a year and those who have been trying twenty years.
It includes those in their twenties and those in their forties...and those in their sixties and eighties.
It includes me.
We have two children in our home now, but our journey has included three years of unexplained infertility before conceiving our daughter, and three years of both pregnancy loss (three babies in Heaven) and secondary infertility before our son was conceived. It is a painful, lonesome, faith-testing road, but along the way, I have met some of the strongest women I have ever known and have grown in my understanding of what it means to trust God.
If you are also on this journey, I want you to hear this: you are not alone! I did not know that in our first three years of our journey, and it made me feel isolated and so misunderstood. Finding others who had been through the same experiences did me a world of good. It showed me that I was normal, and it helped me see how to walk this road as a woman of faith, how to still focus on building up my marriage, and how to pray for myself and others.
Below are some websites I have found to be helpful. I hope they are an encouragement to you, too.
Resolve (www.resolve.org) - national organization for infertility
Hannah's Prayer (www.hannah.org) - international forums for Christian women dealing with fertility issues
Life as Two (lifeastwo.blogspot.ca) - an excellent blog by a Christian woman who gets the journey of infertility and expresses it well to others.
Mommies with Hope (Waiting with Hope blog) - a new ongoing set of articles specifically about infertility
You also might find some encouragement in an article I wrote here:
What other resources have you found to be helpful for the journey of infertility?
If you have an interest in homeschooling in general, classical schooling specifically, and Classical Conversations even more specifically, check out the Columbia SC Moms Blog today where I share about "Homeschooling with Classical Conversations":
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked...Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”....Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20: 19, 21
Easter - a time of hope, of joy, of new clothes and new life and celebrations of faith and family. A wonderful, joyful time of year.
Unless your heart is broken and your emotions are tumbled inside out and upside down.
Unless God feels very far away and promises of new life ring hollow in the chasm that used to be your life.
Easter Sunday five years ago was a blur for me. We had buried our daughter Naomi two days before, on Good Friday. We were still anticipating and planning her memorial service. I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery and looking toward a second by the end of the month. And I would be returning to work soon, another moment to dread.
When Easter dawned, I went through the motions of dressing up, returning to church for the first time since Naomi's death. I worshiped externally, but my soul was in turmoil. I was grief-stricken, confused, and anxious about the future.
That's why Jesus' words on the first Resurrection Sunday resonate with me. The disciples were also grief-stricken, confused, and anxious. Yes, they had seen the empty tomb that morning, but they didn't understand. Why had Jesus died? Where was He now? What was happening? And what would happen to them?
When Jesus finally appeared to them, His first word spoke to all of their fears and sorrows and anxious thoughts...and to mine.
Peace...because Jesus was with them again.
Peace...because God's power was greater than anything on earth, including death.
Peace...because their lives now had new purpose.
Are you in turmoil? Is the promise of life and resurrection ringing hollow to you today? My friend, I want you to have the hope of peace today, resurrection peace.
Peace...because Jesus is alive and present with us everyday, to strengthen and comfort and guide us.
Peace...because in spite of what your circumstances may be screaming about life being chaotic and meaningless, Jesus' resurrection shows that God is in control, His power is greater, and His plan will prevail.
Peace...because your life, even in the pain, has purpose. You may not be able to see it yet - neither could the disciples - but God will make it clear in time.
Easter is ever so much more than spring and new life and colored eggs. It is about an empty cross and an empty tomb. It is about God's power, and Jesus' presence, and our purpose.
And this year, even if your life has been turned upside down, it can be a time of peace.
There are no "red letter words" today, because on Saturday, Jesus was in the tomb. He said nothing. And I am sure the silence was deafening for those who loved Him. With that in mind, I am sharing an article I wrote several years ago, hoping that it will continue to encourage others, especially those "stuck in Saturday".
"The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment." Luke 23:55-56
No one talks about Saturday.
Plenty has been said about Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. A day of anguish and accusations, darkness and defeat. Friday was the worst, darkest day in the disciples’ lives. All of their hopes were dashed, nailed to a cross, buried in a tomb.
And Easter Sunday – we know a lot about that. Jesus alive! The grave empty! A day of joy, hope, and miracles!
But no one talks about Saturday.
Two gospels skip it entirely, as if anxious to leave the darkness behind in exchange for the glory of Easter. But Jesus’ followers did not have that luxury. They had to live through Saturday, with no idea that Sunday would hold a miracle. Luke tells us what they did.
That’s it. They awoke Saturday morning, if they slept at all, possibly angry that the sun dared to rise when their world had ended. They probably spent time together – the women making plans to anoint Jesus’ body. The men slowly finding one another, still hiding in fear, perhaps voicing their regret for the past. “If only I hadn’t run away…I wish I hadn’t denied him…”
But mostly, they rested.
That’s what Saturday was made of. Rest. Reflection. Remembering. Regret. Remorse. And the realization that Friday had changed them forever.
Most of us have experienced a Good Friday moment, when the world as we knew it ended. What was it for you? Was it the end of a marriage? A cancer diagnosis? The loss of your job? A phone call from your child’s school? The death of a loved one? Or maybe a season of financial troubles, or a season of abuse by a parent or a spouse?
My “Good Friday” was March 9, 2009, when I realized that the baby I’d carried for 18 weeks had died. In that moment, my world ended, and I was plunged into the darkest place emotionally that I had ever been. I clung to God, desperate for His comfort and peace.
Then one day it was “Saturday.” The rest of the world went on as normal. Friends were pregnant with babies who lived. Co-workers laughed and joked. But I was stuck in my Saturday of remembering, of wondering if I could have changed things “if only.” Of resenting those who wanted me back to “normal” when I was forever changed, and those who tried to tell me God was still in charge. Of railing at God, my source of comfort, for not protecting me from hurt in the first place. Of reflecting on Scripture, trying to understand how God’s love and power co-exist with tragedy in the lives of His children.
Saturday begins when the worst pain is behind you, but a throbbing ache has taken its place. When the sun dares to shine, but your world is still dark. When the abuse is in the past, but not the hurt and shame. When you are no longer hemorrhaging, but neither are you healed. When the rest of the world expects you to be “over it”, but you’re not.
Where are you? Have you experienced the darkness of Good Friday? Do you feel stuck in your Saturday, not really sure where God is and why it seems he withheld his hand of protection from your life? We, too, can follow the example of Jesus’ followers.
Rest. Reflect. Retreat from the frenzy of the world. Talk with others. Don’t be afraid to ask God the hard questions. And do all of this with an element that the disciples didn’t have.
They didn’t know what Sunday would hold. They weren’t waiting for a miracle. They were just waiting.
But we know that Jesus rose, and just as He did on that first Easter, God longs to move us from Good Friday to Resurrection Day.
When that resurrection comes, it will not erase the past. Easter Sunday did not change the fact that the crucifixion, in all of its ugliness, had happened. His followers would never forget that day. And there was no “getting back to normal” either. They didn’t return to their former lives of following an itinerant teacher and healer around Judea. No, they went forward into their “new normal” characterized by God’s power and presence in a way they had never dreamed possible.
But first, you have to get through Saturday.
I've spent much longer in my Saturday than I wanted to, but I’m also learning to embrace it – the time to rest, to reflect, to remember, even to rail against my Maker. In the process, I’ve learned to trust Him again, and every now and again I get a glimpse of the resurrection power that awaits, when I also experience God’s power and purposes and presence in a new way. Maybe you are there, too, living between the bookends of Good Friday grief and Easter Sunday glory. May you, too, find the rest you need in preparation for his resurrection power in your life.
Father, my Good Friday experience wiped me out. I’ve never hurt so badly in my life. Now it’s “Saturday” and I feel stuck and sad and full of questions that may never be answered. Help me, please. Hold me through Saturday, even when I rail against you. Use my Saturday for your glory. And give me the perseverance and hope to wait for "Sunday" and to trust you to resurrect my buried dreams into something that speaks of your power and presence in my life. Amen.
Jesus' last words before he died were, "it is finished." In Greek, that phrase is "tetelestai", a commonly used phrase of the time, and it had a slightly different meaning depending on the context.
Servants who had completed a task would say, "It is finished! I'm done with the work."
Jesus had done everything the Father had given him to do.
Priests and shepherds who found a lamb without blemish would declare, "It is finished! I've found the right sacrificial lamb."
Jesus was the perfect lamb of God, the Messiah that Israel had been waiting and looking for. There was no need to look further. He was it!
Merchants would stamp "tetelestai" on a bill to show, "It is finished! Paid in full"
Jesus' sacrifice erased the debt of sin that was held against us.
Jesus' cry was not one of defeat just before death would claim Him. It was one of victory over the enemy.
Five years ago, I had my own Good Friday "it is finished" moment when we buried our daughter Naomi, who had died in my second trimester of pregnancy. It was a gloomy, rainy day. We drove to the hospital to pick up her body and had some precious moments with her in the hospital chapel where we dressed her in a gown made by a friend from a satin slip and wrapped her in a blanket i had crocheted for her. Along with our one-year-old, my parents, and a good friend, we drove three hours to the natural cemetery we had chosen.
In the chapel there, we took one last look at her before we placed her in a box - a treasure box - made by my husband and an older gentleman in a church where we used to serve. Then, to the strains of Amazing Grace played on a recorder by the woman who runs the cemetery, we took the longest and shortest walk of our lives down the path to the burial place we had chosen. Placing that box in the ground was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We did, though, and read some Scripture, and prayed, and covered the box and planted some flowers.
And we were done. Finished. There was nothing left to do for our daughter.
People talk about moving on. How do you move on from a too-small mound of earth heaped up over a treasure box that holds the body of your child? That was the question I pondered in my heart on the three-hour journey home. I had no answer, at least not that day. My Good Friday was coming to a close. Resurrection Day seemed an impossibly long way away. My Saturday Between was about to begin.
The one thing that was soothing to my raw and bleeding heart was the knowledge that I would see my daughter again. Because of the first "it is finished", because Jesus paid the debt of sin, because He was the perfect sacrifice, because He completed the work the Father gave Him to do...because of that, life doesn't end in a hole in the ground. And although my heart was still broken, and I would miss her with every breath I took, I took hope in the knowledge that death in all its ugliness was a defeated enemy.
It is finished!
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
I love the apostle Peter. He is just so real. Brash, full of life, always putting his foot in his mouth, but then saying just the right thing to show Jesus how much he loves him. And he did love him, as much as his human heart could.
So when Jesus made this statement to him in the upper room, on the night he would be arrested, I'm sure Peter was taken aback. First to be told that he was in the crosshairs of the Evil One, and then to be told that he would make the wrong choice. Just a tad overwhelming to Peter . . . and to me.
But when I take a closer look at what Jesus told him, I am wonderously reassured of some amazing truths.
Are you going through a time of sifting right now, when it feels like Satan has you around the neck? Take comfort in knowing that God is still sovereign, and that Jesus is interceding for you, that your faith will not fail. You may falter, but in His grip you will not fail, and when you turn back, use what He has done in your life to strengthen others.
How has your time of sifting enabled you to help someone else?
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:23-32 NIV
Heaven is a popular topic these days. In fact, a movie called Heaven is for Real is set to open this weekend, based on a true story of a young boy who died, clinically, before being revived and later told his parents about things and people he saw in Heaven. The book has been a comfort to many who want the reassurance that they will see their loved ones again.
Curiosity about Heaven is not restricted to our day and age. During Jesus' time on earth, there were two groups of Jewish religious leaders who had their own opinions about Heaven and whether or not there would be a resurrection at the end of the age. The passage above recounts how the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, tried to catch Jesus in this theological debate. They laid out a hypothetical question, asking if a man died and his wife remarried, and this happened over and over again, whose wife she would she be in the resurrection. Since they believe there was a resurrection, any answer he gave would suit their purposes in drawing him into a fruitless argument.
The Scriptures, though, say that Jesus' answer stopped them cold. He side-stepped the debate part of the question and then addressed their main concern, telling them pointblank that God was the God of the living. Resurrection? Absolutely. Don't even question it.
Thank God for that reassurance.
I have said good-bye to too many people I love. Three of my children, born to Heaven directly from my womb. Professors from my seminary days. Relatives who I miss. Young people who had years left to live and to give.
But Jesus' words give me hope - there will be a resurrection! Those who belong to God are not lost. Though dead to this world, they are gloriously alive with Him. And because by God's grace I belong to Him as well, I will see them again. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living!
Heaven is for real - and you don't need to see the movie to know it.
Do you have the assurance that you will be with God in Heaven someday? These two links can tell you more.
“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:15-21
Tax day! April 15 is so not my favorite day of the year. Even if we end up getting a refund, it still is a reminder of how much of our income is not really ours, and there is always the stress of making sure we have kept the right paperwork, filled out the right forms, and done our math right, lest the government come back at us with charges, fees, and penalties.
Funny how some things just don't change. The people of Jesus' time weren't fans of taxes and the government either, and some of Jesus' enemies figured out a way to use the topic of taxes to trap him. By asking him if they should pay tribute to Caesar, they would either make him look like a rebel, or they would make him look bad to his followers. I'm sure his answer frustrated them, but I wonder how many of them were able to see the challenge behind it as well.
Jesus' reasoning was that if Caesar's image was on the coin, then ultimately it belonged in the realm of the earthly government and should be rendered as the law demanded, "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." What Jesus leaves out is the parallel thought of what bears God's image in the same way that the coin bore Caesar's image. And what is that? You and me. We who are made in God's image. We are to render ourselves to God.
But in what way? When we pay taxes, that money is gone. We cannot get it back or tell the government what to do with it. It is out of our control. In the same way, when we truly surrender ourselves to God, it needs to be with an attitude of total submission, allowing God to be God.
Never is this harder than when we are going through a fiery trial of loss or other kind of testing. But unlike the government, our God is pure and loving and righteous - and absolutely trustworthy. Recognizing that even when our circumstances tempt us to believe otherwise is the truest expression of faith, and it is times like that when God's image in us shines forth the most clearly.
When has it been difficult to surrender to God?
Each day this week, I am going to share some thoughts about something Jesus said during this week leading up to Easter. I hope it encourages your heart!
"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise'?" Matthew 21:16
The words that come from my daughter's mouth are amazing. I find myself amused, humbled, concerned, astonished, and baffled on a regular basis. One minute, she'll be saying something amazingly sweet, then I'll hear her say something sarcastic that sounds (ahem) very too familiar, and the next she'll use a phrase that makes her sound like a wise old woman in a six-year-old body. I never know what I'm going to hear.
One thing that I am realizing, though, is how much of what she says is because of what she hears. That cute cliche came from one of her grandparents, that sarcastic "whatever" came out of my mouth last night (oops!), and the sweetness was probably modeled by her Sunday School teacher all this year.
When the religious elders took Jesus to task for what the children were proclaiming as they ran around waving palm branches, he reminded them of the Psalm that declared, "from the mouths of babes and nursing infants you have ordained praise." But where do the children get the words to praise god? From the adults around them. Those children had been part of the crowd on Palm Sunday and had heard their parents and the other adults shouting, "Hosanna!"
If I want my daughter's tongue to sing the praises of God, I need to be modeling that for her at home. She needs to hear words of praise and love and worship for our God, not complaining and worry and bitterness. And for those words to come from my mouth, my heart needs to be filled with treasures from the Word of God, for "from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."
As I go through Holy Week this year, I want to be aware of what I am modeling to my children, as well as to everyone else around me. May we all be ordained to praise!