Happiest of birthdays to my nephew Jude! I love you so much and think you are one of the cutest kids ever. I’m so glad M&Ms helped us become better friends since I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with you as your brother and cousins. I look forward to many walks, laughs, shared food, and happy times together. Love you!!!
The Lord, in his wisdom and goodness, gives each and every one of us tailor made struggles to help us grown in holiness. Infertility is one of those struggles for me and several women I know. Even women who are able to have children struggle with not getting to have as many as they like, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies. Our goal is not happiness, it’s holiness in our individual circumstances.
One of the other ladies in my church who struggles with infertility approached me with the idea of writing down lessons she’d learned through this very personal and private trial. I offered to share what she had to say on my blog in the hopes of encouraging others. From that sprang the idea of adding my own lessons and that of another woman I know in another church who also deals with this.
Here are 15 things that the Lord has taught us:
1. I am not in control. I know this seems obvious but I have friends who are teachers and can plan to have all their children in the summer time when they are already off. I get frustrated when I can’t do the same and I have to remind myself of who is in control. I know I’m ultimately mad at God for the situation I’m in and I don’t like that. I think my plans are the best when in fact God knows what is best for me. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
I know God’s plan for my life is better because “… all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
2. Our ultimate call to life is not to get married, get a 3 bedroom 2 bath home, and have kids. You can be blessed with those things in this life but Psalm 1 describes a blessed man in this way, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Our ultimate calling is to love and serve God in this life. We are to strive to be more Christ-like and to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” Colossians 3:2.
It might feel as though you aren’t as blessed when you don’t have a spouse or kids. It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. Some people make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t married or don’t have kids and they try make things “right” for you. I feel sorry for Hannah because she was provoked by Peninnah for years.
The Bible doesn’t talk less about women who were barren nor does it say that they are being punished in some way. When these feelings come about or people say things that make me feel like there’s something wrong with me, I remind myself of the truth.
3. My sin and discontentment not only affects me but also my husband and vice versa. We both want kids so it’s a struggle for both of us to not have any. We don’t like seeing each other sad or disappointed and sometimes we feel like we failed each other. We have to remind ourselves of number 1 and 2 and realize that discontentment can sneak up in any season of your life.
4. A blessing of not having kids is that my husband and I can serve our church in ways we couldn’t if we had kids. We are trying to use this time to serve our church more.
5. Finally, God uses the trials of this life to bring us to our knees. He wants us to pray. I pray that God will be merciful to me and forgive me of my unbelief. James says it well, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8
1. Idol Factory: I can make an idol out of anything, even something good like having children. It’s easy to look at others who have what you’ve always dreamed of having, and create a scenario in your mind of ultimate happiness: I’d just be happy if I had kids.
You build up this chief goal and the next thing you know, it’s your god. This leads to bitterness and discontentedness because your god isn’t meeting your desires.
Infertility has caused me to wrestle with worshiping other gods and put me on my guard. Even good and right blessings can be turned into idols if we don’t protect ourselves with truth.
2. God’s Goodness: Infertility has forced me to deal with the issue of God’s goodness. Do I trust God is good? Do I trust God is good when I don’t have children? Do I trust God is good when others have multiple children and seem so fertile and I don’t and I’m not? Do I trust God when I get asked again about having children both by people I know and perfect strangers? Do I believe God is good when empirical data suggests otherwise? See 8.
3. Hope: Does my salvation and standing before God depend on having children? No. Am I outside the Kingdom in my childlessness? No. In heaven we won’t even be married! Am I outside God’s will for my life? No.
See, God never promised me anything but to make me more like Christ and all the blessings that entails. Has God used infertility to bring me closer to him? Yes. Has he used it to loosen my death-grip on this earth? Yes. My hope isn’t in having children. It’s in Christ’s death and resurrection. Even if I was to have children, they wouldn’t be my hope.
The Lord helped me push past that dream and cling ever more to him: my true hope. He kept his promise to use everything for my good.
4. Contentment: Infertility could breed bitterness, or by God’s grace contentment. After many tears, many prayers, and much thought, God gave me a certain amount of contentedness in this area. This was a hard, long battle.
He used my infertility to crush idols, challenge my trust in his goodness, turned my eyes to heaven, and in all that he has given me peace. This in turn has produced:
5. Tenderness: I know what it is to want something with an inexpressible desire. I know what it is to have to set a good dream at Jesus’ feet and trust that its lack of fulfillment is good for me. I know what it is to go to another baby shower, or congratulate another woman on her pregnancy, while trying to hold back the tears. I know the “bitter watches of the night”, the discouragement, sense of failure, and even disgrace. All of this makes me gentler with the struggles of others. You never know the fight someone is engaged in, so you go gently. You talk softly. You watch your words. Infertility has taught me tenderness.
1. Christ is My All in All. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is My All in All. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is all I need. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is my only hope, my only strength, my only joy. He is the giver of life, the opener and closer of the womb. Apart from Him, there is nothing. Before infertility, I knew this in my mind but through infertility, God has continually brought me back to Himself. I’m learning He is all I need. His grace is sufficient. When I suffer, I know that Jesus suffered more intensely than I ever will. When I’m lonely, I know that He, the incarnate God, has experienced loneliness greater than I will ever know. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that Christ sympathizes with our every weakness and we can call on Him in our time of need. I’m so thankful for that truth, because infertility has taught me that I am completely reliant on Him for everything.
2. I Need the Church. Infertility is teaching me that I need the local church. Where would I be without the body of Christ? Throughout this infertility journey, Christ is teaching me to truly love His bride. I have been overwhelmed by the love of others who have come alongside me with encouragement, fervent prayer, help, and exhortation. I’ve had people who I don’t know that well tell me that they are praying for us regularly. I’ve even been surprised to find out that dear brothers and sisters in other churches in other states are also remembering us in their prayers. What a blessing this has been! The church has comforted me as they have been comforted. The church has mourned with me as I mourn, with literal tears and weeping, and they have also rejoiced with me as I have rejoiced. My friendships have deepened, my love for Christ has been strengthened, and God has used me to encourage others as I have been encouraged.
3. It’s Not About Me. Infertility is teaching me that it’s not about me. Growing up, I dreamed only of two things: getting married and being a mother. Like many children do, my sister and I used to love to play house. As the older sister, I was always the mother, of course; my sister was the father, much to her chagrin. And we always had lots of children. As a high school student on career “dress up” day, I dressed up like a mother. (Well actually I dressed up like Santa Clause to be funny, but I reasoned that Santa and a mother were pretty much the same thing!) The plan seemed simple. Find a spouse. Have kids. Easy. David and I met in high school and were married in our earlier twenties. The plan was coming together nicely. But God. He had other plans. It wasn’t long into our marriage until we realized things were not going quite as planned. I literally thought we would get pregnant the first month we officially “tried.” But the months turned into years, and our plans, we felt, were crumbling before us. Through this time we are learning over and over again that it is not about us. We have celebrated many new babies over these years, but never our own. And we are learning, it’s not about us. We are learning to die to self, to rejoice with others, to seek Christ above all. His ways are higher than our ways and the secret things belong to Him. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.
4. Gratitude. Infertility is teaching me to be grateful for what God has given me. We so often focus on the things God is withholding, rather than on the good gifts God has already given. Infertility is teaching me to count my blessings. I am thankful God called me at a young age to follow Him, sparing me years of heartache and searching. I am thankful for God’s gift of a godly husband and a beautiful 10+ year marriage. I am thankful for a wonderful church with a plurality of elders who seek to follow God’s Word. I am thankful for many friends and family members who are in Christ and stand beside me in joy and in pain. I am learning to be grateful, even for the seemingly small gifts God has given. He is showing me that everything I have is because of Him and nothing I have is my own.
5. Vulnerability. Infertility is teaching me vulnerability. I have always had a difficult time developing deeper connections with others and had attributed this to “shyness” or my lack of conversational skills. My circle of friends was very small and I rarely took the time to develop significant relationships outside of this circle, not because I didn’t want to get to know others but because I didn’t want others to get to know me. My insecurities, thoughts, and feelings would be too exposed with too many. However, infertility is teaching me that I’m not the only one with insecurities, heartache, despair, loneliness, joys, and struggles. As I am learning to be more open with others, to share details about my life and what God is doing in these details, I am getting to know many others who experience the same things I experience and who enjoy talking to someone who can relate. Infertility is teaching me to let down my defenses, to show others who I really am, and in turn to develop deeper, meaningful relationships in Christ.
Infertility is a pain you carry around for many years. It affects both spouses. It can make you feel on the outside of life looking in. But, God has used it mightily to bless and sanctify me and these two dear sisters. We hope that by sharing basically the same things in so many different words, we can be an encouragement to other couples, to those who are single, to those who are lonely. God is good. He can be trusted. He keeps his word.
“Christian take heed what books you read, if you would have a sound and steadfast ground of hope, peace, and comfort, nay not only have the joy of God’s salvation, but salvation itself.” – A quote from the Marrow of True Justification by Benjamin Keach found in By Common Confession edited by Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, and James P. Butler
(Sound doctrine is so important!)
Grammie straightened up from her garden, stretching her back.
“I’m getting too old for this and miss my helpers,” she said to the sky.
Grandpa hefted out a load of old cardboard boxes to use as mulch. “It’s a lot quieter without the kids, for sure, but maybe it’s time to work with the new generation.” Before Grammie could decide if that was a good idea or not, Grandpa whipped out his phone and summoned two of his grandsons: Bruce and Jude.
In a few minutes, their mommy dropped them off.
The clear spring sun shone down on the early rising flowers. The cold wind nodded their yellow and pink heads. Bruce and Jude looked at the fresh dirt, the compost, and the garden hoes, rakes, and shovels.
“What are we doing?” Bruce hurried up and pulled a shovel out of the pile.
Grammie rested her hands on her rake’s handle. “We’re going to lay all that cardboard out, soak it, and cover it with compost. Wanna help?”
“Sure!” Bruce said.
Jude took his thumb out of his mouth, smiled, and babbled excitedly.
Gardening is an adventure when you’re five and almost two!
Following Grandpa’s instructions, Bruce carted out a big cardboard box while Jude dragged one behind him. Grammie took it and placed it just right.
Back and forth, back and forth, Bruce and Jude tromped with the boxes.
“Enough!” Grammie shouted.
Grandpa uncoiled the house and sprayed.
Water, water, water everywhere! Bruce and Jude splashed. They skipped through the puddles. They hopped from one to one to one as the cardboard wilted. Grandpa held the hose up like a fountain. Squealing, Jude ran through the sprinkles.
“Compost!” Grammie grabbed up a shovel and handed it to Bruce. Grandpa got a rake for Jude.
Working up a sweat, Grammie, Grandpa, Bruce, and Jude scooped, scraped, hoed, harrowed, dug, and threw fresh new dirt still littered with egg shells, vegetable ends, and rotting leaves over the cardboard.
“Look!” Bruce pointed. A small tan gecko raced up out of Grammie’s compost pile. Bruce dropped his shovel and jumped after the swift lizard. Jude watched, wide-eyed, dirty finger in his mouth.
“I caught it!”
Bruce held out his hand to Grandpa. The gecko leapt off into the bushes.
“Oh…” On Bruce’s palm rested a small, wiggling brown tail.
Bruce flinched, dropping it.
Jude bent down. Bruce bent down. They studied the tail.
They both stepped back.
“Did it lose its tail?” Grandpa asked.
“Yes! Why did it lose its tail?”
Jude grunted and pointed. Gingerly, Bruce picked the tail back up.
“Lizards drop their tails so they can distract you and make their escapes,” Grammie explained.
“And it worked.” Grandpa smiled. “Now back to work.”
Many hours later, Grammie, Grandpa, Bruce, and Jude sat on the porch enjoying a cold cup of water while they waited for the boys’ mommy.
“Bruce?” Grandpa asked. “You didn’t put that lizard tail in your pocket did you?”
“No, I left it in the dirt. I’ll go get it. Then I can show Mommy.”
“How about you just tell her about it,” Grandpa suggested. “She’ll like to hear about it better.”
Bruce nodded. “I can tell her the story, for sure. Mommy doesn’t like bugs and lizards in the house.”
Jude smiled, reached in his pocket and said, “TAIL!” Out came the brown stump.
“Mommy won’t be happy with gardening day,” Bruce said.
“That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.” – Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks
(If you haven’t seen this movie, drop what you’re doing and go see it now. Not only does it stir up happy childhood memories, it let’s you see them as an adult: a tired, worn out adult who needs to be reminded of the magic of forgiveness, who needs hope. Beautiful film!)
Back in January, author Bethany Jennings created a fun hashtag challenge for writers, with a different prompt about your WIP (work-in-progress) every day. She’s done it again for the month of March. I’m so excited. This exercise not only allows me to share my story with you, but it prompts me to twist my brain around for different perspectives on the story.
If you want to join in visit Bethany’s Twitter profile (@simmeringmind) to see the pinned list of daily prompts!
In January I used my WIP The Cost of Two Hands (Book1). This month I’m using The Sparrow and The Star (unfinished Book 2). I will try to refrain from huge spoilers.
Intro Week: Tell us about your Work in Progress: The Sparrow and the Star:
1. What WIP are you sharing about this time? Name, genre, blurb?
This month I’m going to share about The Sparrow and the Star, the sequel to The Cost of Two Hands which I shared about in the #JanuaryWIPjoy. It’s a Literary YA fantasy. I don’t have an official blurb for it yet so here’s a start:
When everything went wrong, hope blossomed. The Artists have returned and Pain’s power slipped between his fingers. But, on the horizon Purity and her Clowns loom. What happens to the lost children when they turn 18?
2. How long have you been at this labor of love? What stage are you at?
I started working on TSATS in 2014, but had to set it aside as Book 1, The Cost of Two Hands, required a major rewrite. Then my health went south slowing the rewrite down. I was able to restart working on TSATS late last year, so I’ve really only been working on it about four months. I’m totally in the rough draft stage. This story is developing as I write it. It’s supposed to cover 3.5 days and I’m on the .5 day. I haven’t even started Day 1 yet. And I’m at 44,000 words. Lol.
3. Describe the book’s atmosphere or mood in 5 words.
Cold darkness laced with hope.
4. You might enjoy my book if you like ___________.
I’m really not sure how to answer this question. It’s like a literarily written Hunger Games minus the anti-hero of Katniss. It may be similar to The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Any of my readers want to comment on this??? (Two comments on this: one suggested it was like The Horse and His Boy set in Dickens’ London, the other that it was like Quintessence by David Walton. These are much closer to the mark than the Wingfeather Saga.)
5. Name a song that reminds you of your WIP.
There are two songs that remind me the most of my WIP. The Call by Regina Spektor and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns.
Protagonist vs. Antagonist Week: Jonah vs. Purity:
6. Show a line that showcases you protagonist’s personality.
This isn’t a line…cause hey, I’m a writer. So here’s a paragraph of Jonah’s dialogue. And um…SPOILER ALERT:
“You want to know what’s wrong with the Streets?” Jonah stepped towards him, towering over the boy who he once wanted to be just like. “No one values life. Life is cheap. Life doesn’t matter. Not yours. Not mine. Unborn come up with skills and no one cares. Kids starve and no one cares. You want to change that? Then you start respecting those who died with you, for you. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is without value. The little girls who you abuse. The smaller boys you beat up. The ones who sing and draw and dance that you terrorize and even kill. You’re just like him.” Jonah pointed to Fear’s body. “You’re just like Cagen and Pain. You don’t care about anything but what you can get out of it.”
7. When is your protagonist maddening to you?
When we both forget his body is a machine and he tries to sigh, or smile, or breath, or cry or even glare at anyone…and then we both remember he can’t.
8. What is most loveable to you lately about your protagonist?
I think it’s watching him spread hope in the dark place he once lived. I just finished reading an autobiography of Earnest Gordon who was a WW2 POW forced to help build the Bridge over the River Kwai. He was saved along with many other men in that camp and it spread a beauty and light over all their suffering. That has greatly influenced my protagonist and his actions in Book 2.
9. Share a line that shows off your antagonist, Purity.
Purity grabbed her face. “Does a mother explain herself to her sons?” She shook Sparrow’s head. “What did you do to them, you vile girl?”
10. Could you ever be friends with your antagonist?
Absolutely not. I do have villains that are less villainous, like sub-villains that I could be friends with, but the great antagonist of the story? Absolutely not. That’d be like being friends with Sauron. And yes, I know this puts me in the ever shrinking camp of those who like purely evil villains. In my defense, I have both the understandable villains and the unimaginable.
11. What makes your antagonist so formidable?
My antagonist is the ruler of one of the few remaining cities and she commands a group of boys called the Clowns who kidnap children to use as slave labor. But what makes her truly formidable is the ignorance she encourages in her people. She wants them to not know and not care. They are to enjoy life and not think about the children running around doing their bidding, or the fact that they no long have children of their own. Her true power comes from ignorance.
12. What’s put the two at odds?
My antagonist uses children as slave labor in her city. She sends out the Clowns to kidnap those children and this puts her in Jonah’s path. Jonah has no intention of letting her take more children and as the story unfolds, he works with the Dragons to get the ones she has taken back.
I hope you enjoyed this set of thoughts about my WIP. Maybe it even sparked your interest in my story! 🙂
I will continue to post sections of these as the month moves along.
Thanks for reading!
“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert
(Well, that about sums me up. )
My dear friend, Rachel Atterholt, graduated from High School and I was honored to be asked by her parents to say a few words at her Graduation Party. I just thought I’d share them here:
I want to start by saying Congratulations on Graduating from High School and getting your GED! That’s one of the first milestones of life with many more to come! You stand at the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood with adventures, battles, sufferings, and great joy ahead of you.
One of your favorite quotes is the well-known line from Robert Frost: I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood an I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
So, what do I say as a woman with a few more milestones under her belt, to you a woman about to face them? What do I say about the ‘road less traveled’?
Here’s the advice I wished I had heard…or in reality, what I wished I listened to:
The true road less traveled, and more important than any career, friends, dreams, aspirations, life goals or your family is your church. All around you the world is screaming to at you to pursue happiness, pursue your dreams, live life, get out there and be a roaring woman.
What you need to do is invest yourself in your church. Look, listen, pay attention, and figure out how you can serve your body. Value the preaching of the Word. Make this your life’s priority and you will be on the narrow, less traveled road.
This is more important than a boyfriend, romance, true love, getting married, having kids, your sisters and your parents. Your church is your first thing. Not second. Not third. First.
After that and only after that comes everything else.
This is the best advice I can give you as you graduate from high school and face adulthood.
Your favorite Bible verse is, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.
You have faced trials already—health issues, relationship issues, life issues—and, I hate to tell you, you will face many more. Life here on earth is a constant battle, constant hand-to-hand combat between our remaining sin, the sinful world, and following Christ. But God, who is rich in mercy, is working all things for our good. Each trial, each bit of stress, each battle is working to make us more like Christ. More battles are coming in your life. Cling to Christ and his word.
Rachel, I’m privileged and honored to be your friend, to read your writing, to share movies and music with you! More than that, I’m thankful to watch you seek the Lord, attend church regularly, host teas, help in the kitchen, and be involved.
I hope and pray that as you end one stage of your life and sort through what you want the next stage to be that you’ll be a faithful church member, feed on the preaching of the word, and grow in wisdom and grace.
” . . . a civilization spiraling into an abyss often finds the spiral thrilling, and sometimes loves the promise of the depths below. People often see the romance of darkness but cannot seethe ultimate terror that waits at the bottom, in the deepest blackness. Consequently, they resist the hand of truth extended, regardless of the goodwill with which it’s offered, and have been known to kill their would-be benefactors.” – One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz
(What a perfect summation of the idiocy of political correctness and equality.)