The Beauty of the Ordinary: Nieces and Nephews and a Book

Since I’ve been feeling a little better, I’m trying to spend more time with my Nieces and Nephews. It’s wonderful to get to share some new adventures with them again. And since several of them are old enough to start school soon, the pressure to enjoy freedom as long as possible has been felt. These are every day, ordinary things, but to us, they’re the most fun.

Adventure 1: The Dallas World Aquarium

If you haven’t recently reminded yourself of how magnificent and sometimes funny God’s creation is, stop by the Aquarium. From a sloth, ducks, and monkeys, to sting rays, sharks, and snake eels, the Dallas World Aquarium has much to see. You can move through it quickly or interact with all the information and learn a lot about what you’re looking at.

The highlight of the trip was the sheer joy of the boys when they saw the manatee.

Adventure 2: The Christmas Store

There’s no point in having little people around if you’re not corrupting them somehow. I’ve hooked two of my nieces on Lord of the Rings. And now, me and my sister are teaching, sharing, spreading the joy of Christmas to her two daughters.

Just before Imogene was born, Liz and I went to the Christmas store for her birthday. Now, almost three years later, we took Imogene back. She was so excited to go, and we played loud Christmas music and ate ginger snaps.
She loved all the trains, lit trees, and the pumpkins in the small Thanksgiving section. We all left with a special ornament and many happy memories. I even started working with her on memorizing all of the names of Santa’s Reindeer.


A Good Book

A good book is like magic, is magic. The Last Unicorn is no exception. I’ve seen the very strange and creepy cartoon several times, usually as a snarky event with friends, but I’d never read the book. Somewhere in one of the many different artistic groups I’m part of online, the book came up. At first I just moved on. The cartoon was so odd in an uncomfortable way. But the book kept coming up.
Finally I caved to the pressure and started reading it. Where has this book been all my life? It was beautifully written, had some of the most unique descriptions I’ve ever read leading me to wonder how he came up with the comparison, and was surprisingly funny. I cried. I laughed. I longed. I felt feelings I’ve only felt reading Lord of the Rings. It had that happy sad, lost and found, home feeling. It’s so rare to find that in a fantasy.

It refreshingly broke so many rules, and still managed to have an unbelievably touching moment of heroic self-sacrifice, love, and even Eucatastrophe.

Put The Last Unicorn on your list if you love fairy tales. It is just excellent.

Ordinary, everyday adventures. Special to me. Magical.

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Bread

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“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – JRR Tolkien

For many years the Lord has taken my eyes off glitter and shine and shown me, step by step, the beauty of ordinary life: good food, good friends, conversation, wine, beer, scotch, cake, earth under your fingers, books, flowers, stories, dogs, cheese, chocolate, pipes, coffee, home—the simple life. Normal, everyday, quiet, ordinary things. There is a very real magic here. There is the ordinary magic often missed by the world but cherished by the world too, when it stops to take a breath.

Over the last month and a half, my health has taken a dramatic upswing. It seems that almost all my problems stem from an issue with my body’s ability to make Vitamin B which inhibits my ability to process protein and pretty much everything else.

Now that I feel slightly more human, I am expanding my world again beyond the couch and TV. And lo and behold, a dear friend dropped a fun idea in my lap: BREAD.

Real, simple, fermented, yummy bread.

I love bread. I love all forms of bread, and especially artesian breads, not what is on the shelf in a plastic bag, but beautiful bread. Something with a nice chewy crust and a soft center. On Netflix there is a show called Cooked. I highly recommend it. Not only does it talk about wonderful food, it teaches you to appreciate the process of fermentation.

My bread project is all about creating natural yeast from the grain and from the air, also known as sourdough starter in the grand old USA. This yeast works with the gluten in the grain to release all the nutritional benefits of wheat and rye. Then you mix the starter with unbleached white flour, rye, water, and salt. This is your bread. No sugar. No processed junk. Just good, old fashioned grain and water.

My first batch of starter I named Fred. Fred and I got off to a rocky start due to my extra Dad’s week in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feed Fred twice a day and he developed a very strong alcohol smell which indicated he was starving. Sorry Fred.

Once the hospital stay was over, I returned to feeding Fred twice a day and he fattened up quickly, developing a nutty yeast smell and losing the alcohol scent. After about a week and a half of developing Fred, I was able to bake my first two loaves of bread. Boy, I was nervous. I worried I’d over work the bread, or it wouldn’t look right, or something. I searched YouTube for videos about kneading and baking sourdough bread.

Wednesday morning, bright and early I started my bread. This is an all-day project with lots of long breaks while your bread rises and fermentation reacts with the flour. Following the directions to the letter, I slipped my two loaves in the oven on a very hot day and waited.

Out they came, beautiful and smelling so wonderful. Success?

Well, we consumed the ¾ of the first loaf in one day. I think that speaks pretty highly to how it turned out.

Fred made great bread. But, I did run into an issue. Despite my dear friend Rachel’s help and the use of my calculator and double checking, making the two loaves took all my starter. Fred was gone. I had nothing left. Thankfully, Rachel had more starter to share with me.

George is now happily sitting on my counter waiting to be fed. I hope to make more bread next week. As I get more familiar with the process, I will start diverting from the recipes and making up my own stuff. I’m really excited to be making bread and can’t wait to start sharing it with my friends and family!

Happy eating! Here’s to enjoying the ordinary gifts of this life!

Links:

Starting a Starter: http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=58

Pain au Levain:(Baking Sourdough Bread)  http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=71

Videos:

The Beauty of the Ordinary: Thankfulness

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“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– JRR Tolkien

View from first room.

Recently, I spent six days in the hospital with my father-in-law. The first day started with a call at 530 in the morning saying he was in the emergency room because he fainted. We left the house without showers, me with no makeup, no plants watered, no dishes done, the curtains not even open. We got home around 700pm and were so tired, I only watered my elephant ears and fed my sourdough starter.

The next morning started slower and I was able to do everything that didn’t get done the day before including shower and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. Standing at the sink doing dishes, I was struck by how often I either complain about dirty dishes, or don’t really think about them at all. I never get up and realize that doing dishes in the morning is a good sign that things are normal in my home and in my family in general.

Everyday chores get a bad rap.

You know, one should never be that boring suburban family who never does anything artistic, adventurous, or amazing. Who could possible want to spend their life mowing lawns or rising kids, right? Travel the world, explore other cultures, and find yourself.

Attitude change: how about being thankful for a morning that starts off with simple things? Take the quite as a sign that your family is well, fed, and off to face the day. You never know when you might wake up and spend your whole day, or several days, in a hospital watching the people you love face major health issues.

Get your hands good and soapy, get out in the heat to water plants, make the bed, take a shower, and be thankful for the small things in life, the little things the Lord provides every day.

Like father, like son.

As another morning started with chores left undone and coffee in a freezing hospital, my heart went out to all the people I know who’ve had to spend so many more hours in one of these little uncomfortable rooms. My heart went out to those who didn’t have a family member feeling well enough to give every nurse and doctor a hard time. My heart when out to those who had to go through the soul-tearing struggle of coming home one family member short.

It was sooooo cold!

I’m generally good a empathizing with others, but sometimes that empathy needs to be reinforced with a shared experience. I imagined how tired those friends must have been, how worried they were to even go home to take a shower, how confusing all the doctors and nurses and information was. I sat in that cold room and remembered how many other dear saints that I know have sat here before.
Spending a week in a hospital makes you thankful for quiet days and it makes you pity others as they face the same thing.

Day after day spent hurrying up and waiting, gave me the wonderful joy of watching a real life example of love. I’m old enough now to have old parents and extra parents. Now, they aren’t old old, but we are starting down the path of old age. How terrifying is it as an adult child to watch your parents start down that path? Very Terrifying. The strongest become the weakest, the together come undone. Roles reverse. But, by God’s grace, there is beauty here too! For almost a full week, I got to see real love. Not silly Hallmark love, (my extra Mom loves Hallmark movies) but love that is there in sickness, frailties, grumpiness, confusion, exhaustion, surgery, and post-surgery. I got to see self-sacrificing love that didn’t run away, but chose to be there every day. I saw real vow keeping visible in stolen blankets, bathroom issues, tidying, carting, worrying, fixing, and fussing. And it wasn’t just my extra Dad that my extra Mom took care of. It was all of us. She made sure everyone else was taken care of before herself. Love expressed through action, day in and day out, in the most ordinary way.

My own love for my husband grew as he prayed over his father, worried, took care of his mother, and encouraged me to stay with them each day, while the dishes and laundry piled up. Self-sacrifice and love in action.

View from the second room, post heart procedure.

Six days in a hospital lead to fresh thanksgiving for the quiet ordinary things, fresh pity for others who have had to be here too, and a fresh idea of what true love really looks like, unfiltered and earthy.
My extra Dad is home, and we’re all happy not to have to spend another day in the hospital, but God gently uses everything to make us more like Him, and for that I’m thankful.

Waiting for him to come out of surgery, and trying to stay out of trouble.

He always makes faces when I take his picture.

Racing the elevator.

They weren’t alone in playing on the stairs and elevator, Wanda joined them. It’s amazing they didn’t kick us out! 😉

How I define a Good Story

Art can be a bit subjective. What we each consider beautiful is much a part of who we are. I recently finished a YA Fantasy Series and an adult Urban Fantasy novel back to back. I was surprised at how much I loved the YA Series and how uninterested I was in the Adult Urban Fantasy even though I considered it pretty well written with an interesting Magical World. I brought it up with my husband and this was my conclusion… written poetically.


It was in the middle of our discussion

that I realized it wasn’t romance that I longed for

in stories dark and grim,

but friendship and family burning bright,

united in love and striving against the shadows crowding in.

Romance fades. Passions shift. They turn to gossamer mist in the hot fires of life.

But friendship stays.

Friendship grows the stronger in the flames.

Family stands.

Together, bound, braced back to back against the encroaching night.

This echoes my own story. It wasn’t romance, all tingles of the skin and turning of the stomach, that remained during the dirt and grime of this pilgrimage, but friendship and family. It wasn’t melting, gooey world-defined-love, but strong, self-sacrificing, choice-making love that stayed when the pain passed.

That is what resonates with me.

That is what I seek in stories of every form.

That is the magic of the soul, one to the other.

Friendship. Family. Love.

I see it in a dwarf and elf, in cousins be they ever so small, in mighty warriors, and humble kings. I see this in three friends year after year, time after time, facing the worst of their kind. I see this in a group searching for home and finding it together. I see this in three siblings learning they are more than they think, bound by their love. I see this in a crew facing the darkness of space, in a band of brothers, in a father and son learning to love each other as they add a wife/daughter to their family. Over and over, the stories I love, have more friendship and family than romance.

They reach beyond that fleeting passion to grasp something enduring.

Friendship. Family. Love.

 

Job’s Hope in My Infertility

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A friend of mine recently shared on her blog her difficult journey through secondary infertility, how the Lord used that in her life along with lessons from the book of Job, and the happy conclusion to this specific trial.

I’m so thankful for RJ’s open honesty about her battles during this trial and the goodness of the Lord that she experience. Her testimony got my own wheels turning and, as us writers do, I decided to share my own thoughts on the hope found in Job as someone else struggling with infertility minus the happy earthly ending.

How do I process watching someone struggle, find a place of contentment, and then have their desires fulfilled, when I have had many of the same struggles, come to a similar place of contentment, but haven’t had my desires fulfilled?

Funny enough, I do the same thing that helped me find a place of contentment first. I go to the Scripture.

Here is Job enduring great suffering, enduring bad advice from his friends and his wife, coming face to face with God, realizing God is the creator and he is the creature, that God is in control and God is good, repenting in dust, and having all he lost restored above and beyond.

Is there hope for me there? Of course.

Two Kingdom theology is so helpful here. It teaches that Job was in the time of the Old Testament when promises and blessings were very earthly. I live in the age of the New Testament, the New Covenant, when the Kingdom is no longer a physical nation, but a heavenly nation. That means that my life, from birth to death, is the time of Job’s suffering. My restoration, my blessing, comes after death in the next life. My blessing is something of faith and not sight. I don’t look around for earthly physical blessings as something to be expected, though God is materially very kind to me and others. I look to the future and at the church by faith.

The Lord has seen fit not to give me children. At every point of moving into adopting, He has shut the door. Instead of despair, instead of heartache, instead of bitterness, I have hope.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3/ 33-35)

The church. The church is where I find familial comfort here on earth. The older believers are my mother and father, others are my brothers and sisters, and younger are sons and daughters. We may not be tied by blood, but we are tied stronger and more deeply by the baptismal waters of Christ.

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”

(Galatians 4/26-27)

The story of Job teaches me that I can’t see all that God is doing in my suffering. It shows me how I’m to view others in their suffering, and how not to view them. It shows me the creature/creator difference so that I can have hope in God’s goodness and God’s glory. It teaches me to repent of the ways I don’t cling to and trust Him. It reminds me to be faithful in the midst of sufferings and trials. And last, oh hope of my heart, it shows that God will restore my fortune to me. He is worth waiting on. He’s worth suffering for. He has given me a hope, not in this life, not in this physical earth, but in heaven to come. And while here, he has given me pilgrims to walk beside me, young and old, as the truest parents, siblings, and children a woman could have.

So, while God chooses to bless one sister with an end to her infertility and chooses to leave another in that particular difficulty, He has not changed. He is still in control. He will use this to bless His church and glorify Himself. He is still Good!

Quick Health Update and Happy Mother’s Day!

I am having trouble processing protien which is causing my left arm and wrist to hurt. This means no typing right now. I can use the ‘hunt and peck’ method, but that’s exhausting. Lord willing, my doctor will be able to get me sorted out soon. In the meantime,  I’m focusing on my YA Faerie Story with a bit of pen and paper. This is going surprisingly well. Last week, I pretty much finished Jonah’s plot line which will be the ending of Book 2. I still have Adele’ s and Sparrow’s to write.

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I wanted to say a short Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom. I love you more than all these trite little words can ever express. You are a dear friend made even dearer by the fact that you are my mother. Sitting somewhere with you, wine or beer or coffee in hand, talking about books or being a wife or just life is one of my favorite things.  Or as Imogene says, “It’s my favorite.” Thank you for always expressing your love of the Lord to us everyday. Thank you for educating us. Thank you for loving us in all our differences. Thank you for arming us with cynicism and a ready sarcastic remark. Thank you for raising strong Southern girls. Thank you for always modeling strength made beautiful in sacrificial submission! Thank you for worlds of advice, giggles, tears, and yes, even Rock Parties. I love you!

To my extra Mom: thank you for welcoming me into your home and heart so many years ago. Since then, we’ve had adventures, long talks, become neighbors, discussed homemaking on so many levels, sat in hospitals together, gone to weddings and funerals,  lived life. I’m so glad my life included you. Thank you for raising Price and continuing to support him every step of the way. You’ve been a wonderful example of a faithful wife to a Jones man. I love you so much!

Accepting Critiques of your Work: Sanctification

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Courtesy of bing.

 

The rough draft is done. The rewrite is done. The first round of alpha readers is in. (You know who you are: thank you!) Adjustments are made, notes are taken, and the story is ready to simmer while the rough draft of Book 2 is written. Rinse and Repeat.

This is my general cyclical habit when I’m writing a novel.

Last year, I added in a new step via Scribophile. As I read, critique, and learn from other writers at various stages in their craft, I share my chapters to be critiqued in their turn.

What a different world. I get the email notice that my work has been critiqued and I’m instantly nauseous. This is not my writing group of gentle suggestions. This isn’t fellow believers who see the beauty of the gospel in my work. This isn’t friends who’ve been reading my work for years. This isn’t even acquaintances of friends who wanted to see what I write. These are people who don’t know me and are willing to take any given chapter apart word by word. (I’m now crawling into a corner.)

If you’ve never opened yourself up for a sound critiquing, you need to know there is little in the world as painful. I had to build a tiny network of friends/fans/readers just to talk me down off the rough every time I got a critique.

I will admit much of the negativity and harshness is in my head. The critiquers have, over all, been very encouraging, kind, positive, and helpful. But, God is a master at using every element of our lives to point out our remaining sin and make us more like Christ. Getting critiques of my beloved story was the perfect opportunity for God to help me see my pride.

Sigh. There was a lot of it.

Paragraph breaks, commas, dialogue, telling, info drops, confusion, descriptions. Each time someone pointed out something that needed another polish with the old rag, a little voice of anger rose up in me: “Can’t they see that this is the greatest work ever???? What’s wrong with them?” Whoa. Hold up there, Betsy. Greatest work ever? Really? Come on.

Someone’s struggling with pride. Me.

Lesson 1: Getting Critiqued Requires Humility. If you want to survive any type of criticism and come out better on the other side, you must willingly admit that you are in need of improvement. You do not have it all down. You aren’t perfect. And you can’t see everything. It’s a scary and vulnerable position to put yourself in even when you have a computer between you and a critiquer. But! It’s also very healthy. I’ve done my greatest growing under strong criticism. (Generally, after some pity-partying, but I’m working on that.) Thinking you have it all together, that you have no room to learn, grow, or improve is not a good place to be. It’s a place of pride and a place of stagnation. We all have ways we can be better. Better writers, wives, mothers, church members, and just all around human beings. If we don’t accept criticism, we’re probably in danger of also deciding we don’t need to listen to the preaching of the Word, or our spouses, or our parents. This leads us right into rebellion.

God used an online critique group to really poke at my pride. It wasn’t fun. But, I’m thankful he didn’t leave me thinking I was all that, and didn’t need to keep growing.

Lesson 2: Getting Critiqued Requires Confidence. Having other readers and writers tell you a name doesn’t work, or a sentence doesn’t fit, or they don’t like the description here, or a character isn’t making sense to them is very important for the storyteller to hear. But, the storyteller can’t blindly apply every suggestion given. Why? First, constantly contradictory advice is given. What works for one reader doesn’t work for another. One person loves a description and someone else hates it. You must decide what works in your book. Second, only you the storyteller sees the end. You know that the description is important, or the character, or the name. They haven’t read the whole book yet.

So while you humbly listen to their advice, you also sometimes have to confidently reject it. They don’t know your story as well as you do. You can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes a critique is wrong.

I’m the kind of person who hates conflict. (ISFJ, here.) I’d rather sacrifice what I want in the name of peace and quiet, then stand up for something. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to ignore critiques, advice, suggestions, and outright demands. I don’t have to do what someone says just cause they really hated something. It’s my story.

This flows out into the rest of my life as a warning about who I listen to. I need to be very careful who I allow to critique my life. My pastors, my husband, close, wise friends. These are the people I need to listen to and I can confidently trust. I don’t need to accept every criticism the world or people level at me. I don’t need to listen to people who tell me how they think I should manage my health, my life, my home, my schedule, if what they say doesn’t line up with the truth of the Word, or what my husband has laid out. I can confidently ignore them. They aren’t my authority. Sometimes this means preaching to yourself when you read a blog article, watch TV, read magazines, or even talk to friends. Sometimes it means talking to your husband when you get home about what a supposed authority said.

 

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Courtesy of bing.

 

From having my work critiqued by strangers, I’ve learned that you must hold in one hand great humility, and in the other great confidence. You must be willing to admit you need work, while at the same time know what’s best for your story.

Life is the same. You must humbly listen when others point out faults or make suggestions. You must confidently stand strong so you don’t try to be everything to everyone and forget who and what’s important in your life.

God is good and uses everything, even a harsh critique of a chapter you love, to show us our sins and to make us more like Christ!

 

What Infertility has Taught Us

 

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:

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Leslie Stice

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

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Abby Jones

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.

 

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Paige Giarrizzo

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.

2 cor 4.16-18

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.


Being a Childless Wife

Happy Mother’s Day (A Happy and Sad Article)


 

Aging

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Me and my Mom about 3.5 years ago.

 

I’d always knew I would get old.

I always promised myself I’d age gracefully.

Working in retail, I saw my fair share of women willingly augmenting their physical bodies in a vain effort to stay young-ish. I saw plenty of examples of plastic surgery gone wrong. I really didn’t have any interest in going that route, nor do I now, but I understand the fear that drives women to want facelifts, tummy tucks, boob jobs, and such. I do understand.

Getting old is . . . interesting.

It’s odd to realize I’m middle aged. It’s odd to realize there are lots of people younger than me, not in the nursery, but in my workplace. (Be that out in the world, or at home.) I’m no longer the new generation full of hope and promise. I’m the generation thought of as strange and boring by the new generation. It’s odd how much I still feel eighteen in my head. And it’s odd how much I deny, subconsciously, that I’m middle aged until something makes me realize it like telling a story about myself from twenty years ago, or talking about my favorite movies or music, or when my celebrities start dying off.

Fashion becomes an even bigger challenge. I see other women who work to keep up with the trends and it makes them appear as‘current’ older woman. I like that. They look awesome. Then I pick up a fashion magazine and it makes me feel tired. I just don’t want to fight to stay trendy anymore. I see something that says “such and such is right out” and I think, “but I like my such and such.” Oh. I see why there are so many people who aren’t trendy. They liked ponchos. They liked flared jeans. They just don’t feel like keeping up with what is the newest and greatest anymore.

Not to mention, as I get older and seek to age graciously, covering up becomes the better part of valor. The realization that older women like pearls and sweater sets makes sense. Sigh. Getting old is . . . interesting.

Have you ever laughed at your parents’ complaints about technology? Or maybe you complained about your grandparents not keeping up with texting? I’m here to tell you that it’s hard to keep up. You want to see what all the young people in your life are up to, but that means learning something new. Learning something new, with it’s own lingo, it’s own rules, isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be. It’s seems much nicer to just stay where you’re comfortable and confident. I had my first experience asking a young person how to make something work on my phone the other day. See, old age is setting in. lol.

Life gets scary as I get older. My skin isn’t what it was. I’ve twice now looked in the mirror early in the morning and wondered why my Mom is over. Even my phone mistakes my mother for me.

There are health problems to face. If I’m this tired at 35, what is 65 going to be like?

I know more and have seen more and that only frightens me more. I’ve read history and can see what happens to a country on the path we’re on. Teens are just crazy. This generation’s music is bad.

Many rainbows have been polished off this life by sin and suffering. Dreams have been set aside. And on top of all of that, comes the realization that it won’t get easier only harder.

For the first time in my life, I considered coloring my hair for age reasons. I’ve thought about coloring my hair blue for fun, but the other day I thought about it due to gray hair. Passing on that idea, I felt a sudden pity for all those plastic surgery women.

I understood.

As a woman seeking Christ, it’s very intimidating to realize visually that yes, physical beauty is fleeting. If you have done nothing to build your character you have nothing to stand on. Growing old gracefully isn’t about accepting your gray hairs and wrinkles. It’s about developing a godly character that continues to grow in spiritual beauty as your body continues to sag towards death. And trust me, that’s a much more taxing challenge than keeping up with a proper beauty regiment. No wonder women would rather just get a facelift and pretend they’re young. Without character, old age is only scary and ugly.

So what do I do? As a woman who realizes she’s no longer a young lady, but is now a middle-aged, what do I do? The same thing I did as a young lady! I look to older women. I watch my Moms. I watch the older women in my church. I see how they dress, carry themselves, tend to their older relatives, love their husbands, and keep their homes. I ask questions. I get help.

This makes me thankful for Christ’s work, for prayer, and for all the wonderful women in my church that are walking this road ahead of me. What would I do without them?

Facing middle-age when I’ve been a young woman for the last 15+ years is a bit terrifying. The hard work of growing my godly character to stand strong, by God’s grace alone, as my physical body crumbles feels overwhelming. Where do I find hope? God is good and generous. He feeds us, chastises us, and guides us. He will never leave us or forsake us. And this life isn’t my goal. Staying young and fit and trendy and up-to-date isn’t the path God has set me on. He has promised to resurrect my body after death and promised that I may dwell with Him forever in heaven. That’s my goal. Not staying physically attractive.

(I feel I should put a disclaimer here: I know plenty of godly women who color their hair, keep up with trends, and maybe even get some work done on their faces and bodies. I don’t think those things are inherently sinful. I believe they fall under Christian Liberty and if you enjoy them to God’s glory and with a clear conscience, I have no problem with them. I’m more looking at it personally. I may color my hair someday, but I want it to be because I think it’ll be fun, not because I’m trying to make up for a lack of character or out of fear.)

Anton the Brave and Grandmother

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This has been an absolutely perfect Christmas! I’ve had help from my Mom, extra Mom, and all my sisters to get everything done without wearing myself out or stressing out. I feel so much better post-Christmas this year than I did last year. Last year the 26th was the start of my downward spiral. This year I took it slow and don’t feel too bad at all. I’m ready to tackle the New Year, get back on my diet, and maybe start working on some of the projects that have been on hold for over a year now. Don’t worry. I’ll go slow and get lots of help!

God is good.

This Christmas saw the passing away of two people who are very dear to me. I think their passing, and the sadness I know it produced in their families, sweetened the holiday for me. It made everything and everyone more precious.

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Aton the Brave, as I will forever call him, passed away in early December. The witness of his family touched so many people. Their last Christmas together, our opportunity to serve their church so their pastor could be with them, the gathering of the saints both there and around the world, both physically and spiritually in prayer, trusting God all the way was a bright light shining in this dark world.

Anton the Brave’s funeral is today. With all my heart, I wish I could be there. My prayers are with his family today as they bury their son.

God is Good.

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Me, my husband, his father, and Grandmother just after she turned 101. This was taken about four weeks before she passed.

I won’t be able to attend Anton’s Funeral because on Wednesday my husband’s Grandmother went to be with the Lord. Tomorrow, we’ll be driving out to Palestine to bury her next to Grandfather. For years now she’s been talking about how all she wanted to do was go home to heaven. She’s lived for 20+ years after her husband passed away. She’s seen one of her sons die. At 101, just before Christmas, the Lord took her to be with him. She died in her sleep.

God is Good.

The world may not understand this, but I have struggled very little with sorrow over Grandmother’s passing. She slipped from this world into Heaven. She got her greatest wish. I was blessed to know her. I was blessed by her witness, her testimony, her sweetness. She welcomed everyone with an open loving smile. I only wish I’d known her better, but I have confidence that that wish will come true. I know where she is and so I’m filled with hope, a little envy, and great joy. She has gone home!

God is Good.

As I face two funerals so quickly after Christmas, I preach the truth to myself. Death is the ultimate price of sin. Death in this world, even of saints, is because of sin. God promised that sin would lead to death. It has. We can vividly see that. Death is proof that God keeps His promises. God is faithful.

How dreadful! Yes. It is dreadful and frightening. God keeps His promises and He said we would die because of sin.

But God! But God is good. That is not the only promise He has made and kept!

As I face two funerals so quickly after Christmas, I preach the truth to myself. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, but, what is the birth of Christ? The birth of Christ is proof that God keeps His promises. He promised a Seed. He promised salvation to sinners. Christmas is proof that God keeps His promises. God is faithful.

Christ came. He vanquished over death so it has no sting and I see that in the death of my Grandmother. God has used even that to bolster my faith. I see it in the death of Anton the Brave. His family’s witness is one of faith to the very end because God keeps His promises. We face death, but God has provided a sure salvation.

God is Good.