Day 5: five months later

A few months ago, my friend and I started a series. We hope to finish with a few additional posts. Starting today…

What if you were a recovering alcoholic called to work as a bartender? An unsatisfied single man called to do pre-marital counseling? An infertile pastor asked to do a memorial service for aborted children?

Yeah. It’s gonna be that kind of raw. The kind of raw that surprises you, mid-slicing limes and cilantro, that ends up spilling these words out over the sound of gut wrenching tears, “Doesn’t it say somewhere, ‘he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up’?”

I handled the torn down okay, I thought. Gut wrenching sobs? Check! I made it through that first stage. In the initial months of becoming pastors, we decided that it would not be wise to tackle the what-to-do-next of the infertility diagnosis until at least 1 year in. And that was a good idea! Until the nursery workers start asking, “When will we have yours in the nursery?” And the unsuspecting grandmother says, “You wouldn’t be able to understand what my daughter’s going through. You’ve chosen not to have kids.”So leaving that frightening word, infertile, on the shelf for a year wasn’t possible. Friends got pregnant. I was torn down.

But after tears, I honestly felt healed. “Thank you, Father, that you gave me the diagnosis infertile. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are in control. I know I did not make a wrong decision about whether to have or to prevent kids for the last 6 years. Because you have been in control, and you said no. Thank you. I can trust you.” That was 2 weeks ago.

Today, during a reflection on Psalm 103, I said to a fellow staff member, “I have experienced that God heals our afflictions. But I wish I knew that he forgives our iniquity deeper.” Full sincerity. Totally calm.

Cue the strike down.

That was pre-meeting with courageous women who walk with fellow sisters in Christ who have undergone abortions. They walk through their anger, forgiveness, grief, saying “hello” to their unborn child, and then saying good-bye. And now they would like to have a memorial service. They want me to lead a memorial service. I say what we always say, “We don’t have funerals here. We have services of the resurrection. For we are a people of the empty tomb, and we live in the hope of eternity.” I remain calm. Pastoral. Tears well up when one of the women acknowledges the coming pain for one of the women in the group who isn’t yet ready to say good-bye to the child she only just learned to say hello to. That must be so painful. “Should we sing ‘Amazing Grace’? How about ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’?” We pray. Hug. See the administrator to schedule the service. Continue on with the day.

Then I come home and lose it. “I’m supposed to be speaking the forgiveness of the Father over these women! How could they do it? I can’t even make one. How could they kill theirs?!”

Sob.

“He has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”

Never have I been so convinced that I am not strong enough on my own to do the work that I’ve been called to do. Never have I needed God so much. Never have I needed God’s forgiveness so much. I need his forgiveness to be able to say in 2 weeks words of assurance, “Your sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus.” I really need to forgive them. They are, I am, the lost sheep that Jesus has picked up, bound up, and returned with.

Hosea continues,

After 2 days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;

his going out is sure as the dawn;

he will come to us as the showers,

as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Here’s the summary of what I hope to share:

This series is intended to bring the anonymous struggle of infertility into the light.

To those unaware of infertility, I hope to make it personal and known, rather than generalized and unnoticed.

To those struggling with infertility, I hope to bring comfort and empathy.

To those within the Church, I hope to bring a theological framework for engaging the questions and ministry that arise with infertility.

I am a married Christian whose medical chart reads infertile. This is my angle, and I hope it serves you.

a one-another life

“Keeping company with Jesus is not just a private spiritual act, it is the way we share the trinitarian life of God with others. We are meant to live in community in the same way God does. In  the company of others, we make our journey and learn to tell the truth about ourselves.

Sharing our lives with others is always a risk. Authenticity, interdependence, and being known come with a cost. But the alternative to paying the cost of living a one-another life is to live cut off from God.”

~ Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines

Walk with me quiet, walk with me slow
with watered down coffee and words of gold
I can feel the edges of these things
when I hear you speak to me, so walk with me.

Walk with me empty, walk with me strong
the hush of our voices, when the day seems so long
It is like a balm, it is like a jewel
It unravels all I thought I knew.

Tell me the story, where old is made new,
the promise of ages, and all things that are true
When the shadows fall and the wrecking ball
swings and tears me through the heart.

Will you lead me, beside the still waters
where the oil, it runs over,
and my cup overflows.
You restore my soul.

* Thankful for friends who walk with me and remind me of His promises when the shadows fall.

astonished by timing

About 28 hours ago, I broke down. Scratch that – because it reads as if I had a choice. I didn’t. The tears didn’t ask for permission. The mask of contentment in my singleness was handed across the table to a dear friend, who stayed in the deafening silence with me and allowed me to be heartbroken, and confused, and unapologetically angry at God.

About 4 hours ago, another friend, unaware of yesterday’s liberation, invited me to read this blog post. Perhaps never have words so mirrored my own journey…

“I wake slowly, facedown, stretching my legs, cupping my toes over the end of the bed, feeling my calf muscles pull and retract. My head is lying flat, on 400 thread count white sheets. I am facing left, the breeze from my open window setting across my face, the window’s linen blind pulsing steadily in the same breeze.

I spread my right arm out feeling the empty space in my bed.

My heart sinks.

There has never been anyone in this space, but I still feel the void all the same. My bed has never been shared; I have never been cuddled too tightly, or felt the aching space of an evening argument that keeps two hearts and bodies apart. I have never had to fight anyone for the covers and when I am cold, I am cold alone…”  Continue reading

presence

The Lord has given me a deep bench of friends. Friends who are wise. Who don’t tell me easy answers. Who consistently speak Truth regardless of its sharp edges. Who love me, mess and all. Today, this dear one wrecks my too-often only-in-hindsight belief system and challenges me deeply with her recent email….

it has been an incredible struggle.  

the news of one of my worst fears hitting my ears: not one, but three kidney stones – in both kidneys – and all this coming after we have sold our car, moved out of our house, sold our furniture, stored our boxes to be shipped to Asia and traveled back home with our two babies (a 2 yr old and a 4-month old) and are living out of six duffle bags – displaced and in limbo, scheduled to move across. the. world. in just a week.  this has now all be put on hold as we will probably be here another 2 to 3 months for me to undergo at least two surgeries and then have to pass these stones.  but while everything rages around me, i have moments where my heart feels strangely quiet.  i think it must be that the overwhelming magnitude of it has left me with no other place to go than to cling to Jesus.  I’ve been thinking a lot about when some disciples abandoned Jesus and Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave too. Peter’s response has been sitting on my lips recently as he responded to Jesus, “To whom else would we go?  You have the words of life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

those words ring in my heart.  as the powers of darkness press in on me from every side right now – the pressure continuing to build, i feel the questions looming: “Have you had enough? do you give up? is it too much for you to go? will you choose to stay here for comfort? will you run?”  and peter’s answer is on the edge of my lips – i want to scream – “to whom else would i go, Lord? you have the words of life…  i can’t run; i can’t give up ; i’ve literally sold all to follow You – i have no other Rock to which i can turn.  i’ve put all my eggs in Your basket, so You’ve got to come through for me.”  and as john sat in prison facing the dark night of his soul, he sent a messenger to Jesus to ask, “are you the Christ or should we look for another?” and Jesus went on healing others and sent word back to john essentially saying, “look around at what you see – i am healing and the Gospel is being preached … blessed is he who does not fall away because of me … i’m healing and freeing all these, john, but i’m not going to free you … it’s not what i have chosen for you.”  the absence of suffering, and even death, was not what it meant for Jesus to come through for john.

so what will it mean for jesus to come through for me? absence of kidney stones?  freedom from pain? ease of life?  uncanceled plane tickets and unfoiled plans? if that’s the case, then there is no hope for me in these circumstances.

a five-day hospital stay with kidney stone pain when i was pregnant with jude awakened in me a lifelong battle with fear.  i have lived most of my life battling fear of some sort: fear of the dark, of being kidnapped, of my parents dying … fear of sickness, pain and suffering … fear of losing my husband, children, loved ones.  long have i lived with fear’s gripping hand rising up to choke me, strangling the life out of me, paralyzing me – leaving me unable to live freely.

in the fall of 2010, feeling stagnant in my walk with God, i began to ask Him to increase my faith and grow me in grace.  since that time, several of my greatest fears began to surface.  i’d pray for relief and instead of relief, God would bring another … and another – the pressure began to build – as if God himself had His thumb on me – pressing down, harder and harder.  for the past year and a half, everything around me that could possibly give me a sense of security began to go – one after another – culminating a few weeks ago as we were carless, homeless, furniture-less, largely possession-less, my infant son spitting up blood, fever, ER visits and tests, my own health faltering, and traveling with everything we owned to texas – same day the news comes that i have kidney stones again – too large to pass.  i break down in sobs.  it’s more than i can bear.

i asked the Lord to grow me in faith and grace …  i long to be free from the grip of fear and my grasping for earthly things … is this how God is answering my prayer?  is this how He is coming through for me?

there’s a hymn that john newton wrote in 1779.   the words feel as if my heart could have written them last week. this hymn has been the song of my heart since this past september:

i asked the Lord that i might grow in faith, and love, and every grace;

might more of His salvation know, and seek, more earnestly, his face.

’twas He who taught me thus to pray and He, i trust, has answered prayer!

but it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.

i hoped that in some favored hour, at once He’d answer my request,

and by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins, and give me rest.

instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart.

and let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.

yea, more with His own hand He seemed intent to aggravate my woe,

crossed all the fair designs i schemed, blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried. “wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”

“tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith,”

“these inward trials i employ, from self and pride to set thee free.

and break thy schemes of earthly joy that thou mayest find thy all in Me.”

i know what He is doing … He is setting me free.

He has taken away my comforts, my securities, my things to hope in – and He has given me Himself.  He has calmed my heart in the midst of anxiety and fear and taught me to trust Him in a new way – a way that feels at peace without fear even if He does not come through for me in the way i expect or desire.  i trust Him because He is with me – He will not leave or forsake me and He will provide all i need in the moments i need it.  His presence is the provision.

i am writing this, not from a problem-free place looking back on my suffering with forgetful nostalgia as i most often do … but in the midst of pain, another looming surgery, a baby still spitting up blood, still displaced, delayed from moving to our new home and a toddler daily telling me “back home, mama.”

i want to go back home too; i want these kidney stones to disappear; i want my baby to stop spitting up blood; i want to unpack and have a home and stability.  but this is not how God is coming through for me at this moment.  He is giving me something greater than all these things – Himself.  and for the first time, i think i am truly starting to believe that He is enough for me.  i would be so grateful if you would join me in praying for that – i go back and forth between belief and unbelief, peace and fear, gratitude and frustration.

but i am utterly thankful that He is growing all these things into my heart.