Will You Be Brave Enough

I had the honor of speaking at our local MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group recently and wanted to share with you what we talked about. I pray as you read these words, God will speak to you; to bring you healing, encouragement, courage... to help you be you, bravely.

I was sitting in a coffee shop in one of those rare moments to myself without my favorite little helper at my feet. I went there to get my thoughts together, to prepare a speech to give a precious group of women. I thought I knew what I wanted to say. 

But as I sat with my thoughts, sipping my hot coffee, and hearing the busyness happening around me, my story began to change.  

I took my fingers off the keys and just listened. The coffee shop was full of friendships, connections. Little tables of two or three people, many whom obviously make this a regular start to their mornings. There were the sweet old gentlemen in the corner that kept jumping from real life issues to rehashing the play by play of the recent Iron Bowl game. In another corner, was a table of two business women and a lady who was pitching an idea for a new accessory. Frankly, I was a little horrified by the crazy wig headband thing she was showing, but hope that she finds her passion and success in it. There was the table of two friends who were whispering against the wall. One was obviously upset and the other providing much needed comfort. Little groups were scattered throughout and they were all enjoying each other's company.

As I listened, not to the general noise of the shop, but tuned into each conversation, I began to see that no matter who was grouped together, there was something in common between each of these conversations. Each one was made up of someone searching for either validation of their dreams or comfort for the ones that were breaking, and by the other someone providing that excitement to keep fighting for a dream or supplying the comfort that was so desperately needed. Dreams and companionship...  At first glance, it may look like just coffee with a friend, but it's so much more than that. Each of these connections is based on everyone in the room having a story to tell and someone who needs to hear it.

Isn't that why we join groups like MOPS? We come in search of friendships, people who have something in common with us. Someone to celebrate life's victories with and someone to promise us the bad days aren't going to last forever. But to really make these connections, we have to be a little bit brave. 

We have to be brave enough to tell our stories. We have to admit that we have some vulnerability. We have to step out from behind the facade of this perfect life and admit that we are far from perfect. We have to trust that this imperfection may just be the stepping stone God is looking for to do some amazing things with us, through us, and through the story He is writing for each of us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so you also share in our comfort.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

This verse changed my life. It changed the perspective of my circumstances, rescued me from a season of heartbreak, and gave me a purpose for life going forward. This verse has become my story and has given me the courage to be brave enough to tell my story. This verse taught me that my story, the one God is crafting for me, isn't about me at all. It's about a chance to redeem me and to make connections with others, for Him. 

Several years ago, my husband and I were two career driven engineers living our lives thinking everything was coming together perfectly. We were good people, good enough Christians, but were chasing after our dreams according to our plans. It took God shattering one of those biggest dreams in order to realize that this life we're given was never about us.

Four years into our marriage and according to our "five year plan," we decided it was time for us to start trying for our family but soon realized our plan wasn't going to work. What started off as a little bump in the road and a little stress, turned into a five year heartbreaking journey. Month after month resulted in disappointment, confusion, frustration. A year or so into trying to get pregnant, our doctor ran some tests and gave us the heart breaking news. I wasn't going to get pregnant without some help. 

Infertility

That big, scary, ugly word was now what we were facing. That diagnosis began the whirlwind that would consume us for the next few years. We started on the regular medicines given to people like us, but had no response. Another year into this dream, turned nightmare and we were told "I'm so sorry, but I've done all I can do for you. It's time to refer you to the specialists." We were referred to the ART Fertility Program, which by the way is made up of the most wonderful group of doctors I could ever imagine. Unfortunately to see them, we, I, had to drive - a lot - 9000 miles in one single year for seemingly endless doctor appointments, tests, procedures and medications.

With a lot of prayer and consideration, we followed their recommendation and started in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Four years into our plan, and I was at my breaking point. Our first round of IVF resulted in my very first positive pregnancy test ever, followed weeks later by a miscarriage that brought me to my knees and completely shook my faith to the core. 

A couple of days after the necessary D&C procedure, my husband had returned to work. I was sitting on my couch, left alone with my grief and tears when God allowed me to completely shatter. But in that instant when I broke, I felt His presence like I had never felt before. I literally felt the power of the Holy Spirit wrap me up and whisper His promises of love and grace and purpose. That moment was where my story really began to take shape and I realized that I was being allowed to go through something so heartbreaking so my faith could grow and I could reach out to others that would come after me. There was a purpose for God allowing my pain. In that moment, He whispered that verse in Corinthians to me. I love the way the Message Bible puts it.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hardtimes, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort - we get a full measure of that, too. When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 {Message Bible}

That heartbreak allowed me to experience God's comforting love, first hand, so that I can provide comfort to those in any trouble. If He allows burdens and difficult seasons in our life, there is a reason for it. 

Two more rounds of IVF later and we were blessed with our beautiful little miracle baby and even got to bring her home on Christmas Day. Since that heart shattering moment, my heart has been completely transformed. Those silly plans we had... they're gone and have been replaced with a hunger to encourage women and couples that are now struggling with their own stories of infertility. My life plan now no longer revolves around an "engineered" 5, 10 or 20 year plan. It is now simply to be totally surrendered and to live intentionally for Him in everything I do. I'm now a co-writer of a blog devoted to telling our story to encourage others looking for hope and purpose in their struggles. Never in a million years would I have guessed that a onetime Mechanical Engineer that loved working at a nuclear plant would now be a stay at home mom and writer, go to blogging conferences where I hang out with artists, lead small groups and counsel with hurting women. The unknown, unplanned future now excites me because none of this is about me at all. It never was. He wants me here, outside of my comfort zone. He wants me trusting Him every day so I can be brave enough to be used.

That scary diagnosis with its heartbreaking miscarriage was the event that changed our lives and set us on a different course. One with meaning, purpose, and specifically designed by God to bring Him the glory and allow others to see Him more. In the ashes of our broken dreams, we see and experience God in a powerful way. Only there can we really feel His complete power, hope and provision and begin to understand His love.

Everyone experiences pain and hurt throughout their lives. My breaking moment came through infertility. Yours may come through financial despair, broken friendships, a diagnosis, moving and finding yourself alone in a new city. No matter the circumstances of your event, there is always hope in the heartbreak and purpose for the pain. But when that moment happens to each of us, we have a choice... are we going to surrender our control and put our complete faith and trust in the hands of an amazing God who loves us? Or are we going to continue to try to control the uncontrollable and fix things that may be unfixable from our perspectives?

Are we going to be brave enough to be vulnerable, completely exposed and telling our stories? 

I hope so, because only then can God fully use us and our events for their intended purpose. Only through choosing to be you, bravely, can you be fully used for His eternal purposes. Be brave enough to tell the story God is writing for you. He's writing it specifically and uniquely for you because someone will be placed in your life that will need to hear it. They will need to be encouraged by your story. There is someone sitting in a coffee shop that will hang on to every word you say because they are they exact words they need in their moment of pain.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7