A Picture of Infertility

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the depth of meaning is always in the backstory, the one no single image can ever convey.

An image tempts the viewer to fill in the narrative with all of their assumptions, and most often they are wrong.

It is National Infertility Awareness Week. We are among the 1 in 8 who have journeyed through the devastating diagnosis. Yes, devastating. There are so many moments seared in our flesh that originally felt like a slow acting poisonous arrow straight to the heart. It isn’t fair. I was certain at 22 when we first heard the news that it was the single most crushing pain I could ever experience. Now here I am, almost two decades after our infertility journey began, to offer a few words for those on the journey and those who aren’t.

Stop making assumptions about another person’s journey.  Instead, show up for those you love, be curious, be compassionate, and know two things are almost totally universal: it is a complicated-messy journey and there is always room for hope.

As I reflect on our journey to and through parenthood I am filled with exactly every emotion God has bestowed upon the human race. I grieve over all the loss and marvel over all the beauty.

I am a mom of 8 daughters. What? You can’t tell that by looking at the picture I am posting? Yeah, that is my point. You can’t assume anything accurately from this one image except, quite obviously, that these three girls are gorgeous…you would be accurate on that.

Not pictured:

The twins that died or the miscarriage less than 30 weeks ago,

All the infertility probing and needles and spread-eagling for the chance of a child,

The incredible moments of being present as another woman gave birth to a child I would raise,

The questions about stories and birth families and am I worthy of love at all?, are you sure?

The incredible depth of love that beats in my chest for the birth parents of my children,

The sorrow over having chosen children not chose you in return,

The joy over watching all the first moments, the kisses and hugs and cries of “Mommy!”

The head pounding of all the cries of “MOMMY!”

The begging and pleading and praying to God that he would just do things my way,

The humility in realizing you got a yes,

The toll it takes on your emotions, your finances, your marriage,

The realization that the story is more incredible and difficult than I could have ever imagined, or the two adult children not present at all, or all the loss that has come as they have had children and 1 million other moments that have led to this one picture.

Messy, hard, beautiful, broken, complicated journey–absolutely.

But also NEVER without hope in a God who is able to carry us through it all.

Are there chapters I wish didn’t exist? Yes.

However, it has been in the chapters I would never have chosen that God has done some of the most incredible things. The best has been in Him drawing us deeply in and inviting us into an intimacy with Him that I would not trade for anything in all the world.  And somewhere along the way He turned us into warriors, not just fighting for the daughters he has given us, but for their birth families, for their kids, for an entire group of people I would never have known.

Easy? No.

Worth it? Yes.

There is a priceless gift in the hard spaces. It is a shedding of the belief that you were ever in control and an invitation to surrender to the One who is. Holding onto the Hope that is found solely in Him, you learn you have been given the greatest gift of all: an extraordinary Savior who dreams far bigger dreams than you do.

 

The Furnace

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I turned down the radio. The song seemed trite, and I have no space or grace for trite right now. The cool fall air had been hijacked by a warm front that left me feeling robbed of the one mercy I felt my postpartum body deserved: the wonderful, crisp, cool air of fall.  My annoyance over this detail beat in rhythm to the random hot flashes I had been experiencing, subject to a body that still hasn’t fully realized there is no baby left to serve. The tears that silently fell down my cheeks actually felt cool, almost refreshing. Grief and brokenness make for a garment not easily cast off; the only way out is through.

“Focus. Focus on your driving. Don’t let your mind wander.” I find myself repeating that often right now as I taxi about. The music playing softly in the background seemed to register again, just for a moment, one stanza, God being with them in the furnace or something…

Everything stilled as I sat at the stop sign and thought of Jesus standing with me in this fire.

I heard that sweet, small voice of the Holy Spirit melodiously beat through my mind with a reminder of an incredible promise.

He is with me. In every fire, in every trial, He promises I am not alone.  It can’t consume me; it won’t destroy me. Instead He will draw me ever more deeply into His presence.  I will walk out of this fire, and no smoke will hold fast to me. Instead, only his sweetness will remain.

The gift is not in seeing God say yes to all we ask. The gift is in getting Him.

The most incredible gifts aren’t on the mountain tops.

The most incredible gifts of God are found in the valleys, in the hard spaces and places that threaten to destroy us.

It is in those seasons that we are invited to press into our Creator, where we stand most aware of our weakness and our desperate need for a Savior.

And it is only then, in that sacred space, that we begin to taste and see just how incredible He truly is.

It is then that we begin to learn to trust Him.

When the fiery furnaces come, the enemy wants us to believe the lie that we won’t be ok. It is the same lie that marks the birth place of every fear.  Yet, the God who made us, invites us, provides the very breath in our lungs right now, promises He has us–He will carry us, and He can be trusted. Sometimes the miracle is watching God create and sustain life, and sometimes the miracle is experiencing Him carry you through the fire and then use it in ways unfathomable.

May I echo the words of Paul, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And like Job, may I finally be able to say, “Even though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Of this I am certain: the words of Paul and Job are birthed out of an intimacy with God so deep and sweet that one must journey through the valley to understand their weight and their truth.

I have only just begun to learn of a trust so ruthless, so profoundly rapturous, that I will forever be able to say, “I am His.”  And I will rest right now in the sweetest of promises that this life is but a breath, and it is not the end of the story.