Embracing Your Longest Wait

There is no doubt about it, once you decide you’re ready to start your family, your patience will immediately begin to be tested. What should be the happiest time in our lives can sometimes be the most disappointing. Starting a family seems so easy for some, yet very complicated for many of us. Whether you end up on the road of infertility and decide to pursue adoption or fertility treatments (or both), the wait is a very real and a very stressful part of the process. Waiting on the phone to ring can seem like torture.  It doesn't matter whether you’re waiting for an adoption agency with news of a match or for test results to come back from the doctor, time feels like it stands still. Add in a few good doses of some disappointment and it can be tough – painfully so. We both survived it and not only survived it, but learned to thrive in it – to the fullest extent possible! We learned to be patient and look to God for strength in those moments where you could almost hear the second hand on the clock... tick, tock, tick tock.  God yearns for us to praise Him even among our biggest storms. He sends these storms to draw us closer to Him. So do just that – draw close to Him and praise Him in your storm! If you have found yourself in this storm as we have, then follow along for some ways that helped us get through our difficult, complicated times. 

The Personal Matters

Let Go of Your Attempt to Control the Uncontrollable

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
— Proverbs 16:9

There is nothing wrong with wanting to have children.  We believe God puts that desire in our hearts for a reason.  He specifically designed us that way from the beginning.  So once we recognize the desire is there, we begin to plan for that day; however, we do not know what God’s timing will look like, or how long that road will be.  That is out of our control.  Nevertheless, we continue to try to fight to hang on to feeling in control with our hearts.  It’s a useless battle and the outcome is simply more unnecessary stress and anxiety, both for us personally and for our relationships. So how do you plan the course and let God establish the steps?  It can be very helpful at times when struggling with this to actually make a list of things within our control (i.e. taking medication, going to doctor appointments, overall health) and things that were out of our control (i.e. my body’s response to the medication). Then we can focus our energy and thoughts on doing those things within our control to the best of our ability and turn the rest over to Him. God will allow us to be tested, and we may feel like things are completely out of our control, but God is always in control of our circumstances and wants us to live life abundantly, faithfully, and with hope.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’.
— Jeremiah 29:11

Seek a Mentor and Supportive Friends

‘To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’.
— 1 Peter 5:1-5

The Bible is full of mentoring relationships, like Ruth and Naomi, and 1 Peter 5:1-5 describes this mentoring as a process of showing humility and bringing glory to Him. God knows we need guidance through the difficult phases of life and shows us the proper way. If possible, find a mentor who has been through a similar experience to call on as you go through this process.  Whether you’re going through fertility treatments or adoption, there are a lot of decisions to be made and having someone who has walked this road to refer to is immensely helpful.  To have a Godly mentor will help you find God’s purpose for this wait and can change your whole perspective. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In addition to a mentor, find a few trusted, encouraging friends who don’t mind a few late night phone calls when you’re having a rough day.  A friendship or two that can keep your spirits lifted, your thoughts positive and keep you focused on God as you travel this road is a blessing like no other. 

Find Your Prayer Warriors

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

This is possibly one of the most important and comforting things you can do while in your wait.  They don’t have to know all the details of your journey, but finding people that will truly commit to praying for you is an amazing experience.  Knowing these prayer warriors are out there on your good and bad days is so comforting and you will definitely feel the impact of their prayers.  In addition to asking them to pray for your one-day child, ask them to pray for your spiritual growth during this trial.  Ask them to pray for protection and strength for your marriage while you walk through difficult days.  Ask them to pray that God will show you His purpose for your wait and show you the blessing(s) that will come from it.  Ask them to pray for your humility, perseverance, and decision making.  God will not let you down and that alone will keep you going and keep your eyes on Him!  The Bible is full of references to prayer warriors, because it’s important! 

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join my in my struggle by praying to God for me.
— Romans 15:30
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this , that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:4-6

Be Still and Listen

Be still, and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10

God allows us seasons of waiting so that we will have to actually “stop” and pay attention to Him.  If we always got exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it, then we, as selfish humans, wouldn't have much need to seek His will and purpose.  We wouldn't have much of an opportunity to recognize the “everyday miracles” that God performs – like the right person saying the right thing at the right time to help you in a decision or to comfort you when your heart is broken.  Sometimes, He just needs to get our attention so He can teach us a few things, shower us with His amazing grace, and give us the desire to bring Him the glory from the miraculous outcome of our situation.  And in that wait, it gives us the chance to learn to cast our anxiety on Him and be thankful – yes thankful – for the wait and the struggle. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7

I read this verse countless times while on my journey and it became my prayerful goal to learn to give God my anxiety, to just sit and LISTEN for His voice and direction, and to thank Him while I waited.  It was a hard thing to do and took a lot of diligent practice, but oh the blessings that came from it.  The peace that comes truly does surpass all understanding.  Even though your desire for a baby does not diminish at all, the wait becomes a peaceful, blessed and comforted one.  God will, if you allow Him, use our biggest pains to become the greatest opportunities for ministry.  We are living proof of that!

Praise Him – The Storms Bring the Greatest Showers of Blessings

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
— James 1:2-4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5

This seems so counter-intuitive to our human nature, and it is.  But that’s the point.  Just like the chunk of coal that under immense pressure and time becomes a beautiful diamond, we cannot grow spiritually, or otherwise, without a little hardship and trial.  Our faith becomes stagnant without being tested.  And God gets a chance to show off his incredible power, love and grace through our weakness.  As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness.  So we should boast about our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may be seen through us. 

The obvious blessing is the long-awaited child; however, we have both found that there are countless other blessings that have come from our trials.  We are both completely changed people since going through the struggles to start our families.  Our marriages are stronger, we are better parents for our precious children than we would have been prior to the long wait, and more importantly, we know what pain and comfort is first hand so we can now pass on the comforting to others.  Those are just a few of the blessings that we never would have experienced, had it not been for our storms.  So yes, we’re incredibly thankful for the wait, for the heart breaks, for the struggle.  We’re incredibly thankful that God was always in control and always had us in the palm of His hand.  It’s hard to see that when you are in the middle of the journey, but you have to just keep telling yourself that, keep reading those verses, and keep praying that God will reveal bits of His purpose and blessings to you along the way.  But without a struggle, there’s no need for a miracle and without the miracles, God doesn’t get to show us just how incredible He is!

Trust!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

We've already discussed how God is in control, has a purpose and a future for you, is working in us to complete us and bless us and wants us to give him our anxiety and worry.  So now what... now we simply trust.  Cling to these verses, or one that God gives you for your particular journey, and anytime you start feeling that anxiety rise up or start to question God’s presence in your life, read the verses again and TRUST.  Banish all the other thoughts from your mind and lean on your mentor, friend and prayer warriors to help you do that!  When I got to this point in my journey, God showed me a verse that became the one I clung to.  “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24. At that point, it became clear that it was all about faith.  That trust and faith will not return empty.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:13
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.
— Psalm 62:8
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The Practical Stuff

Be Honest – With Yourself and Your Spouse

Infertility is a difficult process to go through and you may find at times that you're just tired. Though it applies to either option, this is especially true if you are undergoing fertility treatments. It's hard on your body, your mind, your marriage and you may find that you just need to take a break. Do it! Take a cycle off and refresh yourself. Focus on your spouse, do something fun together, put the baby making on the back burner for a few weeks until you feel rejuvenated and excited to try again. There is enough outside pressure put on you during this process that you don't need to add to it by putting yourself through another cycle of medicines and procedures when you aren't completely ready. If you are awaiting that special phone call from an adoption agency, the same principles apply. Breaks may be needed, especially if you have been waiting a while. Remove your names from a list if you have to and begin again. The "not knowing" can be much more stressful than you admit to yourselves. When your name is on a list, in the back of your mind, you are constantly wondering if someone is looking at your profile and asking yourself why am I not being chosen. So be honest - with yourself and your spouse - about how you're feeling, how he's feeling, and make the decisions together.

Stay Busy and Keep Your Mind Active

When you’re waiting on a phone call or are in the dreaded “two week wait” between the time when you could have gotten pregnant and when you get the test results back, the worst thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time with nothing to do but think and stare at the phone!  During these times, call up those friends we discussed above and go do something!  Have a couple special date nights with your husband (who by the way is waiting just as patiently or impatiently as you).  And when you do find yourself quiet and thinking, then practice listening for God’s voice and stay in the scriptures.  As we all learned as children on Christmas Eve, the big surprises come quicker when you’re busy!

Save Money

Both adoption and fertility treatment options can be quite expensive, so as soon as you start your wait for a child, start saving money where you can.  It will take a lot of pressure off if you can afford to have more options, and hey... if your wait ends sooner than later and you've been saving, then hooray – you get to buy that much more adorable little baby stuff, treat yourself to a massage or take a vacation with hubby!  Also, if you are adopting, check into tax credits and also many companies offer reimbursement programs for adoption related expenses.

Do Your Research**

I’m going to put an asterisk by this one because this one partially depends on your personality.  For us, we are both engineers who are married to engineers.  We love science, we love facts, and we love knowing everything about everything.  So research was not only very comforting to us when we were trying to stay busy and keep our minds active, but also helped us feel more prepared as we approached decision points.  However, we recognize that not everyone thinks this way.  You may be someone who quickly becomes overwhelmed by technical or legal information.  If this is the case, then limit your research to finding a great medical staff or lawyers whom you can trust to guide you through the future decisions. 

Don’t Wish Away the Life You Do Have

This is a very important one that can make a huge difference on the impact this wait has on both you personally and on your marriage.  When you’re so focused on having a baby and by the nature of the option you choose, so much of life becomes dictated and centered around trying to have this baby, it can be easy to forget that the life you currently have is still pretty great.  You want to grow your family because you've got a happy family and a happy marriage now.  So don’t lose sight of that.  A friend told me once, “Look... we all know how this story is going to end.  One way or another, you will have a baby at the end of this road.  But the catch is we don’t know just how long this road is.  So don’t forget to stop at some romantic scenic overlooks along the way and hold hands with your husband.”  She was absolutely right! We've been married for a while now, Courtney for 10 years and Jenny for almost 12 years, and we both spent five of those years trying to have a baby.  We are so glad that those five years weren't solely defined by our journey to start a family.  Though that did make up a big part of our lives then, we found time to just live too – we threw parties, went on trips, had date nights, laughed, talked, worked, and lived – and tried to start a family.  As a result, our marriages are much stronger, our families much more solid, and we have no regrets!

Remember: 

Someone Else Having a Baby Doesn't Take Away Your Chance

This can be a tough area for many people going through their waiting period.  While you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting... it seems that everyone else around you is getting pregnant.  And if your wait is long enough, you get lapped! While you’re still trying for baby #1, your best friend or sister has her 1st, 2nd and 3rd babies.  It can be tough and though you are happy for your friends and happy that they do not have to experience the same kind of struggle as you, it’s hard because it’s such a stark reminder of what you’re longing for so badly.  However, the good news is that there is no quota on the number of babies that can be born.  Just because the Duggars have had enough babies to populate a small country of their own, does not have any impact whatsoever on the likelihood that you will have a baby yourself.  Remember that God has a plan for everyone.  Only He knows just how long our road is and how many stops we’ll make along the way.  So try hard to just be happy for your friends and focus on staying positive for your own journey.  It will be worth the wait!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3

Though it feels anything but normal, this wait what you find yourself in is a normal season of life. That does not make it any easier... we know. However, you don't have to try to hide or deny your emotions because as Ecclesiastes says, there's a time to mourn and weep, but there's also a time to dance and laugh. So be honest with yourselves, with your spouse, with your friends and pray warriors, and most importantly with God. You can be frustrated and excited, heartbroken and hopeful. And you can experience all of those emotions without losing your faith! You can go through this wait and come out a stronger person, better spouse and more equipped parent. But you have to be willing to let God lead you through the journey. He will never forsake you, never leave you and will bring you to the place that He has already prepared. We just have to hang on for the ride and keep our heads up to see what He wants to show us along the way. And we have to remember that this is a season of our lives - it is not forever. God will redirect our paths when His time is right.

We truly pray that you find some or all of these tips helpful as you endure your wait. It's tough, but is worth every second of it at the end. Just use your time while you wait to really focus on becoming a better you, a better wife, a better friend and that will make you a better mom when your time comes. God really does have you in the palm of His hand and will guide you through every step of the journey if you let Him. He will show you incredible things along the way and will teach you invaluable lessons. He will comfort you with a comfort that reaches the deepest, darkest corners of your soul and will fill you to the brim with His joy. So prayerfully, try hard to focus on that, get your friends and mentors to help you along the way, and remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in what can feel like the longest wait.

When You Want To Give Up

I know what it feels like to hurt so badly for that dream that seems unobtainable.  To question if you're strong enough to face yet another round of poking and prodding and potentially frightening test results.  To have sleepless nights because you just can't shut off your mind no matter how hard you try to quiet the endless string of "what ifs" that have taken up residence there.  To wonder if you're brave enough to make it through another shattering of an already broken heart.  I know what it feels like to be blindsided with a diagnosis of infertility and subsequently doubt yourself and your worth as a wife and woman because you can't have a baby the way you planned.  To feel embarrassed and ashamed through all of the medical procedures and monitoring.  To struggle with feelings of hopelessness and uncertainty as you look towards the future.  I know what it's like to feel lonely and isolated as you are forced to grieve a loss every time you try to celebrate the good news of a friend or family member.  To feel angry that your life is suddenly on hold, but to simultaneously struggle to not be completely overtaken by this dream that can feel so overwhelming.  I know what it's like to fight to not lose your identity, your marriage and your friendships while you pour all of yourself into trying to be a mom.  I know what it's like.

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Exhale... You Don't Have To Be So Strong

Your dream seems just out of reach and you have to fight and claw every step of the way just to try to reach it.

You thought you had it all and then the heartbreak hit, hard, leaving you crumbling and trying to pick up the pieces.

Some days the dark cloud of depression seems so overwhelming that it's hard to even inhale. The weight is just too heavy.

Then someone close to you says it... "you're so strong to get through this."

A friend wrote the other day telling me how she is wading through the unknown, trying to pick up the pieces of a messy divorce and starting a new life for her and her children. She wrote because people keep telling her how strong she is and she doesn't know how to respond. She doesn't feel strong; she feels overwhelmed, broken and alone.

My sister is dealing with a life altering and degenerative disease while trying her absolute best to be be a wonderful wife and mother to her adorable boys. There are days she can't even get out of bed because her pain is too intense. There are days her hands and body swell so much that making dinner for her family isn't achievable. People tell her just how strong she is. She doesn't feel strong; she feels frustrated and broken.

During our years of fighting through infertility, we were constantly faced with so many conflicting emotions and experiences. For years, we cycled through hope in the latest treatment, only to follow that with disappointment and failures. Throughout the process and especially in the days and weeks that followed our heart shattering miscarriage and the next failed round of IVF, I heard how strong we were to get through the pain. I didn't feel strong; I felt shattered and empty, like a shell of who I used to be.

"You're so strong to get through this."

How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times has it left you feeling bewildered and confused?

The words feel so empty. Trying to respond back often leaves you feeling even emptier and weaker, or like you're trying to be someone you can no longer be. When we find ourselves in those really dark times, we keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep paying the bills, going to work, taking care of our children or responsibilities because we have to. Maybe we even find some comfort in doing something that feels "normal," but it feels more like a fight for survival than a show of strength.

So why then, if we feel so broken and empty, do others repeatedly tell us "you are so strong?" Perhaps the strength they are seeing in us is a reflection of the Spirit carrying us through. Perhaps what they are seeing is a reflection of God Himself. Perhaps that phrase that leaves us feeling like a shell is the perfect reminder that we are solely dependent on His glory, power and purpose. Our empty shell is the perfect place to house His endless grace and comfort.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
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We don't have to be strong when we're dealing with the really tough stuff that sometimes comes our way. All we have to do is keep looking to God to get us through each step. He will give us the strength to keep fighting, the will power to keep getting out of bed, the healing to reach the lives He has planned for us, the energy to deal with the pain. He will be our source of strength. 

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope i the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
— Isaiah 40:29-31
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
— Psalm 119:28
God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.
— Psalm 46:1
  photo credit:   Floyd W. Tomkins   via  photopin    (license)

photo credit: Floyd W. Tomkins via photopin (license)

Next time someone says to you "you are so strong," look at it as a chance to stop and praise God for giving you the strength you are needing to walk through the dark times. Look at it as an opportunity to remember how much we need Him and to give Him the glory for being there for us. Be encouraged that though we may feel so broken and empty, we are actually being filled to the brim with God's grace and comfort and power.

When we are weak, He is strong. He will carry us through and along the way of our journey, He is healing us, giving us comfort and rebuilding our strength.  We don't have to be so strong, because He is. We only have to remain faithful to Him and be obedient to His Spirit.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
— Ephesians 3:16

It Takes More Than Luck

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
— Psalm 139:14

In the wee hours of the morning, when all is quiet, I stare down into the eyes of my newborn child and gently hum a lullaby to get her back to sleep... and I think of that verse. You, my child, are fearfully and wonderfully made... 

Years later as she wakes with a rare bad dream and comes to my bedside, I take her by the hand and guide her back to her bed. I tuck her in and smooth her hair and pull the covers up to her chin and watch as peaceful sleep settles back over her, and I think of that verse. You, my child are fearfully and wonderfully made...

Nothing in the world quite compares to the innocence and amazing creation of a tiny babe. But when it takes months, even years, of heartache and a torturous path on our own souls and bodies to conceive or adopt this perfect little creature, can we look into the mirror and say the same thing? That verse that we long to whisper into the depths of our children's hearts we need to continue to whisper into our own hearts as well. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Can we look past the hurt and grief and our own engineered plans for our lives that have been tossed out with the trash and see that we, too, are wonderfully made? When I look at myself, can I think of that verse and whisper... I am fearfully and wonderfully made? 

We are, you know. We don't "outgrow" that verse. Our mothers looked at us in our infancy, just as we will look at our own children, and they saw the beauty of God's plans for our lives. They saw a lifetime of potential. As we grow, our potential turns into plans - that we, with our limited view of time and world, craft. When those plans don't quite match up with God's plans, we often chalk it up to a run of bad luck. But dear friends... life, children, family... those aspects of our paths aren't left up to luck.

While many are blessed to have children with few fertility complications, some of us aren't quite as "lucky." Whether our stories are seamless transitions into parenthood, bumpy shifts through a variety of fertility treatments, or are formed by the wonderful blessing of adoption, none of us are any more or less "lucky" than another.

We are simply living out a life, specifically designed, by God's sovereign hand. We are living a life that is designed to bring us, and those around us, closer to Him and grow our faith and make us stronger - as couples, parents, friends, disciples.

More Than Luck is a variety of stories from others who at one time might have viewed themselves as the "unlucky." Like Jenny and myself, they didn't have the seamless transition into parenthood they once hoped for. But hindsight has afforded them the opportunity to see that the luck they once thought they were missing, was really the hand of God intervening in their life so that the timing and method in which their family started would be perfect for them. Instead of luck, we found God's presence in our lives, providing for us, comforting us, changing us, preparing the way for something that would redefine our definition of blessings. 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:26-28

Growing a family takes much more than luck... it takes God's hand, His will and His perfect timing for you. It takes faith and patience and surrender. If you are waiting on your family now, I pray these stories encourage you. As you read them, take a step back and try to glance at your circumstances from an eternal perspective. What if what you see as bad luck, is really God's eternal purpose taking form in your life?

Click here to read More Than Luck.

XO,

 
 

We started this More Than Luck series to share a variety of stories from others who at one time might have viewed themselves as the "unlucky." Like Jenny and myself, they didn't have the seamless transition they once hoped for into parenthood. But hindsight has afforded them the opportunity to see that the luck they once thought they were missing, was really the hand of God intervening in their life so that the timing and method in which their family started would be perfect for them. Instead of luck, we found God's presence in our lives, providing for us, comforting us, changing us, preparing the way for something that would redefine our definition of blessings.

Are you giving up?

My friends, over the last few weeks I have been a bit overwhelmed by the number of posts I've seen on social media from many of you, my infertility sisters, who seem to be completely giving up. Another cycle was cancelled. Your last transfer didn't take. The adoption process is too burdensome and the wait list is too long. The medical bills are too high. The placement fell through. The uphill battle seems to be even more daunting than ever right now, so I want to encourage you. YOU... this post is for you... the one who is about to throw in the towel and say to heck with it. The one who is saying, I've tried everything and nothing is working. To the one who says I've been praying, but where's God in all of this? This message is for you.

I was doing a devotional with my daughter the other night. She's reading well enough now that she's able to start reading her own Bible, mostly on her own and she is full of questions. As I sat her in my lap to listen to her read she started with this verse found in Psalm 20:7.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
— Psalm 20:7

Breaking down this verse into bite sized nuggets for a six year old to understand, a lump began to form in my throat and the full weight of this verse landed heavy in my gut as I realized this is the battle we fight every single day that we're affected by infertility. 

When our biggest desire goes unfulfilled for another month, another cycle, another year, can we still honestly say that we put our trust in the Lord our God? With each disappointment and seemingly unanswered prayer, do we not often start a subtle shift into placing our trust in the hands of a good doctor or a new breakthrough technology? Each injection we give ourselves or prescription that comes via special mail order to our door step is at least a tangible something we can do to overcome this injustice we've been given. Each interview we face and homestudy we've completed seems to bring us one big step closer to bringing home that bundle of joy. At least we're doing something and checking off a list that will result in what we want... right? Not quite...

As I pondered this verse with my little answered prayer on my lap, I couldn't help but remember the years when I don't think I could honestly say my trust was in God. There was a period of time during our infertility, when I had all but given up on Him. I was angry with Him. I was hurt. I was confused and I clung a bit too tightly to the hope I thought I could find in fertility treatments, surgeries, medicines, doctors. Being a full-fledged type A, I often put my trust in the to-do list that is in my control to complete. I forgot that these were merely tools given to us by that same God that loved me so much and just wanted me to put my trust back in His hands.

Scroll up a few verses and look at what the Psalmist says before he talks about where our trust should be anchored.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
— Psalm 20:4-5

My friends, don't give up. If the Lord our God has placed these desires in your heart and confirmed the path you're on, the trust Him. He is so much greater than any technology. He is so much more capable than the most pedigreed doctor in the country. He alone is the creator of life. He alone knows the purpose and plans for our lives. He alone knows the path our child(ren) will one day walk. And He knows how much we will grow in Him when we learn to put the to-do list away and just wait with Him. So keep your chin up. The treatments and doctors, the lawyers offices and paperwork, the holding your breath every time the phone rings is all part of the process. It's hard... so hard, but the process is not where our trust needs to lie. We trust in the name of the Lord our God and in His infinite wisdom and power.

I've been where you are right now. I wanted to give up so many times. I hurt deeper than I knew was possible when we lost our first pregnancy. But I can tell you, six years into raising the gift that God had planned for us all along, some answers to why we had to wait so long are very clear now. Of this I am convinced... God never forgot me, never let my prayers and cries go unheard, and never wavered on His plan. He knew all along exactly what was best for us, for our story, and for our daughter. 

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If you're questioning what your next step is right now, take a break if you need it. Spend some time with your spouse. Spend a lot of time in prayer with God. He'll make your next step really clear when you are ready for it. But if He continues to put that desire for a child in your heart, then He will answer it in His time. 

Stick with with the process. You have to forge your way through every step of it. But trust in the Lord our God. 

A New Year and New Outlook

All the Christmas chaos is over. The tree and decorations are packed away. The house feels almost empty with the space previously filled with garland and presents returned to its clean state. The fridge is slowly emptying of holiday treats and leftover decadence. It will be refilled soon enough with the stuff salads and healthy entrees are made of. A Christmas Story and Elf have been replaced with football and parades. Today is New Year's Day and though I am an absolute nut over Christmas, today is one of my favorite days of the year. It's calm and quiet and restful.

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After staying up to celebrate the ball drop with the Eastern Time Zone (yes that was an hour early), we slept in this morning. Like a large part of the country, we've been hit hard with an unusually cold bit of weather and us Alabama folk will be taking no part in the 16 degree weather outside our door. So we've enjoyed the morning with cups of coffee, a fire in the fireplace, completing a puzzle and watching an endless carousel of birds, all puffed up to protect themselves from the cold eat at the feeder. We're watching for deer at our backyard feeders and are enjoying the last of the days when no one rushes off to work or school. Our pup is spoiled rotten and snuggled up by the fire or buried under the blankets on our bed. It's a cold, cozy day of just being together. It's a perfect day to be still.

Be still and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10

My husband asked me the other day what resolutions I had for this year, and in truth, I really don't have any this year. I have, however, spent quite a bit of time in the last few days thinking back over all that 2017 had to offer. Last year was an adventurous, chaotic, exciting rebuilding year for us. We started fresh in so many ways... new job, new city, starting kindergarten, new ways to volunteer in the community, new church, new friends. It was an emotional year of goodbyes and of working hard to stay connected to friends that are now just out of arms length. It was a hope filled year of new relationships and new opportunities as we settled in to our new home. It was a truly wonderful year of trusting in God through some big changes and being rewarded with seeing His incredible provision. But it was also a year that brought a lot of distractions that often come with big changes. So today, Day 1 of 2018 just seems like the quintessential day to start off a year that I pray will bring calmness, rest and a renewed focus on God and where He is leading our family to serve. 

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2018 will be a year of serving others in our community, in our schools and place of work, in our neighborhood. I pray this year will be one where we focus on remaining unhurried and get comfortable leaving empty spaces on the calendar so that there is plenty of time to love and encourage each other and those God places in our paths. May this be a year that is life giving to all those around us and one that leaves us catching our breath this time next year, not because of the busy rat race we run, but because of all the goodness and mercy and grace we take the time to notice, experience and soak up. May 2018 be a year of blessing for us all and one that puts God first and foremost above every dream, schedule and to do list we have. May this be a year we learn to turn over every anxiety and prayer to Him and trust in His eternal goodness as we wait on His answers, comfort, peace and guidance. 

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My sweet ONSEL friends, that is my prayer over each of you as we begin this new year together. As always, if there is anything I can pray specifically for with you, please jump over to our prayer page and let me know! 

Happy New Year my friends! May God bless each and every one of you!

With Love and Laughter,

courtney signature.png
 

Making the Silent Nights Holy

If you're returning home from Christmas parties and family gatherings to a house that's a bit too silent, you're not alone. Even the happiest, most celebrated time of year can be less than joyful when facing loss or unfulfilled dreams. 

I've told y'all before about how hard it was for us to balance the mix of emotions tugging at our hearts in the years we were trying to have a baby. I've given you a survival guide to get you through some of the awkwardness and Christmas blues that may come your way.  You are not alone in your struggle this year. It's such a joyous time of year, but one that often brings a tidal wave of conflicting emotions. 

As always, I try my best to be an open book for y'all... my ONSEL family, so I'll be honest when I tell you this year has been a sobering holiday season again. While we have our sweet, long awaited, almost 6 year old (queue the why is time flying by so fast tears) and our house is finally full of the huge blessing of giggles and wish lists to Santa and early morning readings of the Advent verses, we've had several harsh blows lately to remind us that Christmas is far from a happy magical season for many around us. In just the past month alone, we have heard the shocking news of a good friend's wife suddenly pass away leaving behind our friend to raise several children alone; we've had another good friend relapse with leukemia and have to deal with spending Christmas facing that frightening disease and harsh treatment from a hospital room hundreds of miles away from home; we've send messages of condolences for family friends who passed away too young and will leave a seat empty at next week's tables. We've spent an afternoon feeding the homeless in our inner city and prayed with our child at night that they would find food and warmth and know that Jesus loves them. We've celebrated with news of adoption placements and positive pregnancy tests in the same week that we've heard of failing adoptions and miscarriages that wrecked the hearts of friends. Just the other day, my mom and I were talking about some of this and how it's a good reminder that this is indeed a special, beautiful, magical time of year, but it's one that is hard on so many. So if you find yourself reading this and relating to some of the struggle of emotions here, please know my friend, you are not alone. 

But this pain we have to deal with on this earth is exactly the reason for Christmas in the first place, isn't it? We are a sinful people. Five minutes of the news or reflecting back on how kind we were in all our conversations during this last week will prove that. This world is hurting and we're going to continue to struggle with the consequences of our sinful ways until Christ Jesus comes back. But that is precisely the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is exactly why Jesus, born of a virgin birth, came to earth as fully God and fully man in the most humble and vulnerable of ways imaginable. It's exactly why He grew up living through the hard times and watching friends and family struggle. It's exactly why He cried when his best friend died too young, knowing He would days later raise him from the dead. He knows exactly what it's like to not feel so overcome with happiness that we burst out in carols at a moments notice, but rather struggle to bury the tears until we can find a moment of solitude to let them out. This pain that is tugging at our souls is exactly why He came. He came to give us hope and life in Him!

Our most silent, isolated and lonely nights, were made holy when a little baby entered our world and shattered everything. No longer are we slaves to our circumstances. No longer do we have to question if we're good enough or trying hard enough. We no longer have to put on a brave face when we're alone with our thoughts and no one to hear them but God, because He already knows them. It's exactly why He came. Our silents nights are now holy nights because of His infinite grace and mercy.

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So this Christmas, if you're grieving the loss of a loved one, a failed adoption, a miscarriage or are painfully waiting on that phone call that will change your world and will make your dream a reality, take a few moments and read these verses below. Spend an honest night thanking God for making your silent nights holy ones. Perhaps this year, our great gift of all is the gift of hope that we always have in Christ Jesus.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:3-7
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Timothy 1:15-17
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:13
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’
— Luke 2:10
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
— 1 John 5:11

No matter where you are in your journeys this year, I want you to know that I love each of you dearly, I pray for and think of you in this ONSEL community often and I wish you a truly Merry Christmas.

With much love,
Courtney

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
— 2 Corinthians 9:15

It Only Takes a Second...

Sometimes it only takes a second to change someone's whole day. Think back with me to a time recently that you were a bit down or stressed. Maybe you weren't feeling well. Maybe life had thrown you one too many blows that day. Maybe your toddler was having one of those special days where nothing can be said unless it comes out as a whine or with tears. And you get a text or phone call from a friend that was just thinking about you and wanted to say hello. That little bit of sunshine can go a long way to changing your mood, your perspective, your attitude. It can go a long way towards strengthening your faith. 

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All I Want For Christmas, Is You...

Dear Santa,
For Christmas this year, I think we have a problem. The only thing I really want can’t be wrapped and left under the tree. It can’t be bought in a store or delivered from Amazon with 2 days shipping. All I want for Christmas this year Santa... is a baby.
— With Love

We all know the struggle to have a child, no matter how that child arrives, is tough. But when we find ourselves facing a season of family gatherings, gift giving, Christmas parties and a laughing child sitting on Santa's lap in every mall, the daily reminder of what you're waiting on can be even more difficult. Hanging stockings on the mantel comes with a tug on the heart that there is a stocking missing for the decorations to truly be complete. And to add to the stress, your Christmas season may be full of doctors appointments or gift giving may be difficult as you are scraping together pennies to save up for the next round of fertility treatments.

Likewise for biological families who may be facing tough decisions, have recently placed a child for adoption, or even placed a child for adoption in years past, it can also be a difficult time of the year.  And even though you or they are very happy and unregretful of those decisions, a child never leaves your heart.  They are always a part of you.

We have to be sensitive to all situations and realize not everyone has the cookie cutter family that is often portrayed on television or in movies.  Each of us is in some way connected either as a friend or family member of someone who is struggling with infertility or someone who may be a birth family.  And this season can sometimes be painful for both.

We feel that if you are a waiting parent or a biological parent who is placing or has placed in adoption you will gain a lot of understanding of what the other feels and goes through especially during the holiday season.  Our goals and dreams are the same…to ensure a child has a loving, nurturing home.  For one side it is painful to wait for and for the other side it is painful to let go. Ultimately, God can create a beautiful story where you can each open your hearts and homes to the other and give a child more love than they could ever imagine which is what happened for Jenny.

So how do you enjoy the holidays and have a Christmas that is truly merry when you feel like you’re missing a part of you?

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In general, this is definitely a season to intentionally focus on some of the waiting survival tips we discussed in our post, Embracing Your Longest Wait.  If you’ haven’t read that one yet, you might find it helpful.  But specifically, let’s look at a few of the awkward and difficult scenarios you may encounter this time of year. 

Scenario #1: The loving but inappropriate family members

You know how this one goes... long lost aunt so-and-so or your crazy cousin (we all have them) or even your parents or in-laws, if you’ve managed to keep your struggle close to the chest, want to know why you aren’t buying presents for your little ones yet.  Or if you are pregnant and are a biological parent facing a tough decision, they ask questions about your pregnancy.  And then if you are a biological parent who has placed a child through adoption then some may feel the need to ask questions about them and the situation.  It goes on and on….

These can be some of the toughest questions to face because they’re coming from people who love you, but can still unintentionally be hurtful and sometimes downright inappropriate.  If you are a parent in waiting, they’re excited about the idea of having little grandchildren or nieces and nephews to shop for and sometimes that excitement can override their sensitivity to the fact that there is a good reason why you’re not out Santa shopping this year.  If you are a biological parent, frankly they just can’t comprehend what you are going through or have gone through in the past.  Many are still very uneducated about the subject.  And because they’re family, they can sometimes feel entitled to ask more than personal questions without regard to the sensitive nature of the subject.  When you’re faced with these questions, try hard to remember they are usually coming from a place of love.  And be prepared for the awkward questions so that you can answer with honesty – whatever level you are comfortable with.

We were pretty open with most of our family so when someone would ask something awkward, we tried to find a way to honestly, and lovingly say, “We’re really looking forward to celebrating with our kids one day too and are trying, but God has a different plan for us so we’re just not sure when that day will be here.”  Then change the subject!!!  Or if you feel that family gatherings are going to bring up difficult questions, you may lovingly turn down the invitations with as much explanation as you feel comfortable with to avoid something that may bring you more pain. 

Scenario #2: When Christmas Magic turns to Christmas Blues

My husband and I got married on December 22 because the Christmas season is my favorite magical time of the year. I am a Christmas nerd! I thought it would be so wonderful for us to celebrate our Savior’s birth, fun family gatherings and our anniversary all in one week. I also think I had temporary insanity for thinking that too! But for a while it was just as fun and magical as I envisioned as that young bride. We were able to travel many times on our anniversary to some great places and sometimes would extend our stay through Christmas. There was nothing like it to us – the food, lounging around, and seeing the world! Well all of that was great for the first few years and then we decided it was time to settle down and we wanted to spend our remaining young adult years with children in tow. We were ready for the Santa shopping, shredded wrapping paper all over the living room floor, and continuing the tradition of watching every Christmas cartoon known to man. Not to mention watching them in the cutest of all Christmas programs! We met our first Christmas after trying to conceive with no results, then our second, then our third, and so on. And each year it got more and more painful. We went from being excited, hopeful parents to eventually realizing we may never have that traditional Christmas morning filled with squeals and laughter. Or my husband wouldn’t be able to carry them from their beds to see what Santa left under the tree the way that my own father had for so many years. And as painful as all of that was, it made Christmas all the more special and sentimental when we were finally able do all of those things with our son. One thing we never lost sight of though was our love for one another and the love we would come to share with not only our son, but his biological family as well. We gained far more than we could have ever imagined.
— Jenny
A couple of years into us trying to have children, I specifically remember having a wonderful Christmas planned for me and my husband. It was going to be just the two of us celebrating on Christmas Eve before we left the next morning to travel to see family, including young nieces and nephews that we adore. We were looking forward to having a “sophisticated” kind of celebration – you know the kind with a crackling fire, fancy dinner, glass of wine, perfectly wrapped presents to open in a beautifully decorated and neat house. But as we were halfway into what was supposed to be our magical Christmas night together, my husband just looked at me and said “This is nice I guess... but I’m tired of the “nice Christmas.” I want wrapping paper everywhere, Christmas mornings that come too early because the kids just can’t sleep anymore, a house scattered with new toys to play with and a fireplace that is practically unusable because someone might get too close to it.” And there it was... the magic instantly turned to Christmas blues. We still enjoyed the rest of our night, even though it was a little more somber. But we decided to look at it simply as confirmation that we were on the right road for us. That all the expense, emotions, medications, waiting lists, etc were worth it because we wanted the crazy, chaotic Christmas mornings filled with children’s laughter. That Christmas marked a whole new chapter in our determination to keep fighting – as long as it would take – to make that dream come true for us. Make the most of your romantic, quiet Christmas’ while you have them and enjoy that quiet time with just you and your spouse, and let your Christmas magic be centered on the love you have between you and the hope for a child that you share together.
— Courtney

Scenario #3: While everyone else is waiting in line for Santa

Preparing for Christmas without children does give you the gift of a little more time... You aren’t standing in long lines to get a picture and 90 seconds with the mall Santa and you aren’t having to start pricing and shopping for little Johnny or Susie’s “absolutely have to have or I’ll die” wish list items.  So with all that extra time, be generous!  Don’t spend it wishing for something that you won’t have this Christmas.  Spend it blessing others – adopt some kids from the Angel Tree, visit the elderly in a local nursing home, do some volunteer work at your local soup kitchen or food bank – just focus on giving what you do have!  That in itself is the true heart of the Christmas spirit anyway and will bless you tremendously in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Most importantly, remember what Christmas is about. It’s not about children, Santa, giving and receiving gifts, or trying to outdo your neighbors on yard decorations. It is about a baby though. It's about a baby that was sent to this earth to be our Savior. It's about a baby that would grow up to die for us so we could have eternal life. It's about a baby names Jesus. So celebrate Him and focus on what He has and can give each of us is we just let Him love us. 

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
— Luke 2:6-14