“Courage, Dear Heart…”

When Chad asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I don’t think he thought I was serious when I said I wanted a new tattoo. 🙂

I got my last tattoo nearly 10 years ago in March of 2005, but I have been thinking about getting a 2nd one for the past 2 years or so.

I don’t tend to get things permanently affixed to my body unless they’re thoroughly thought out and have significant meaning to me. I spent a while trying to think of a great way to not only reflect on the growth I have experienced over the past 3 years, but to also reflect the positive change in my heart as I look ahead to the future.

I stumbled upon this quote on Pintrest by one of my favorite authors: C.S. Lewis and realized how perfect it was.
(I also used it in a blog post not too long ago!)

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This quote is from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is my favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The context is this:

Lucy and the others are on a ship heading into dark, unknown waters. Everyone is scared and worried that Aslan had led them in the wrong direction. (Oh, wow! How many times I have had this very thought!)

At one point in the midst of some turmoil, Lucy whispers, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.”

After she whispers this, C.S. Lewis so perfectly writes:

“The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little—a very, very little—better.
‘After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,’ she thought.” 

Then Lucy hears a whisper in reply: “Courage, dear heart” and she knew it was Aslan whispering to her.

I just love this part of the book so much because so often in my life, and probably in yours too, life seems dark and full of turmoil. How many times have we questioned where God was in the midst of our confusion, our fear, and our pain?

Those that don’t know the voice of God shake their fists to the heavens and cry out – demanding a reply and a rescue! What I have come to learn slowly, but surely over the past several years is that God is so very near to the broken-hearted. He is a breath away and has not abandoned us. Sometimes the darkness remains around us, but his gentle whisper calms our fears and comes to us in our pain.

The call to have courage is a steep one.

Courage is not easily grasped.
Courage means that when your circumstances don’t change at all that you still trust, you still hope, and you still believe.
Courage waits for that quiet voice to whisper and calm our hearts when our world spins out of control.
Courage knows that a brighter day is coming and that our response should just be to take our Father’s hand as he leads us through and eventually out of the darkness.

After Lucy hears Aslan whisper to her to have courage, Lewis goes on to write:

“In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.”

This is exactly the hope that I cling to…That after all this darkness has passed me, that I will find myself in a place more beautiful and more bright than I could have ever dreamed possible. I am not there yet, but I know that day is getting closer…

It takes courage for me to keep hoping.
It takes courage for me to keep dreaming and believing.
It takes courage for me to undergo a procedure or stick myself in a needle for medicine to help me ovulate.
It takes courage to try again and again.
It takes courage for me to fight the bitterness that so often threatens to rear it’s ugly head.
It takes courage for me to tune out the voices of those who speak against the hope my heart clings to.
It takes courage for me to trust that He knows why I am here and He knows where I am going even when I cannot see.

My first tattoo was meant to be a reminder to me that love is difficult, selfless, and requires sacrifice. It was a reminder not only of Christ’s loving sacrifice for me, but the loving sacrifice he calls me to show others.

In the past few years, with all that I have gone through and all that still lies before me, I want the reminder of this difficult season, the reminder of the strength I’ve found in Him, and the reminder of the hope He gives me to be permanent:

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Click here to read the full excerpt from Chap. 12 of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

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2013 sucked (Part 1)

I had a good friend ask me recently where my heart and mind towards God has been in our struggle my infertility. I don’t remember ever fully answering his question and realized that since he reads my blog I must not have addressed it here either. So here goes…

Honestly last year was a hellish year for me.
I am sure that was clear to most of you reading this.

When you are wanting something so desperately and your emotions have been through the gauntlet, you can easily forget things that came so normally to you before. Simple every day things like remembering that God is good and loves you because now He feels so far away. Remembering to reach out to others for comfort and encouragement because now reaching out itself requires so much more energy than you feel capable of. Remembering what it is like to listen to music or chat on the phone on your drive home from work because now you just start sobbing now that you’re finally alone and you were just reminded once again of the emptiness you feel inside.

Infertility makes you feel like less. Period.
Less of a woman. Less of a person. Lesser than those around you.

People make comments to me all the time like, “Oh you will understand [insert anything here] when you have kids” without realizing how painful these comments can be. I even had one friend tell me to “Hurry up and get pregnant.”
I don’t need anyone to remind me that I cannot and have not done the one thing that women are designed to do. I don’t need to be reminded of all the free time I have because I don’t have kids. I don’t need to be told constantly that I don’t understand what it is like to be a parent.

I get it.

I don’t have kids.

I think about this every single day.

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All of last year was a constant struggle. I was being constantly poked & prodded, adjusting to new meds, dealing with a grapefruit-sized cyst on my right ovary, and cycling through chronic disappointment every single freaking 30 days after another failed attempt to conceive. We spent roughly $8,000 in out of pocket expenses for fertility treatments and have nothing to show for it. On top of all of this, I was adjusting to a new job and a dose of work place harassment on top of all of this. (what fun that was!)

2013 sucked.

So where was my heart and mind towards God in all of this?
Well, it was all over the place.

I started out in the beginning of 2013 feeling ready to tackle whatever God brought before me only to quickly dissolve into a heaping pile of painfully raw emotions. It is hard to feel like God is your Healer when your body is riddled with brokenness. It is hard to maintain a strong faith when you build it up every cycle only to have it come crashing down with the negative results of your efforts. I soon began a negotiating process without even realizing it – worshiping God in my pain and subconsciously thinking, “See! See, God! I am worshiping you! My heart must be in a good place. Now, please grant me my heart’s desires!” and feeling incredibly let down when nothing changed.

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Denial and negotiation led quickly into cynicism and a deeply underlying numbness.
I felt like everything was hard. Having fun became hard. Talking on the phone was a chore. I didn’t want to be on Facebook seeing everyone so happy with their families and announcing a bazillion pregnancies and living the life I have wanted for so long. I didn’t want to answer emails from friends or text them or even cook a decent dinner for Chad and I. I lost my appetite most of the time and felt like nothing could pull me out of the pit I had been slowly sinking into.
I was unhappy and exhausted.I believe fully that I had become clinically depressed. Nothing made me happy anymore and every single moment I was alone I was wiping tears from my eyes and clenching my teeth to prevent the too-common onslaught of tears. I kept telling myself I was okay and I wasn’t, but I pasted on a smile.

I also wasn’t a good friend, wife, daughter, sister, co-worker or anything in 2013. I already know this because I’ve lost touch with some people and have already been “gently chastised” by another good friend of mine for not keeping her the loop. If I wasn’t myself with you or if I seemed distant, I am so sorry…

I tried my best to keep myself glued together while I was shattering in a million pieces every day and I didn’t have any energy left for anything or anyone else.

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Stayed tuned for Part 2…

How Many Times?

You know how they say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? It makes sense to assume that trying something over and over and getting absolutely no where would drive someone insane, right?

I sometimes feel like I a losing my mind.

Today I took a test that would either 1.) determine a new role for me for the rest of my life or 2.) would just be the same old results I always get. It was a pregnancy test and it was the latter.

God, this hurts.

Can you even fathom waiting and hoping and dreaming for something not only for 2.5 years, but every 30 days or so as well? Imagine that every single cycle you recover from the grief of another negative pregnancy test only to begin trying again and allowing yourself to hope and dream again – only to cycle back around into the darkness of hopelessness and loss. Even the “trying for a baby” part begins to lose its fairy tale appeal because while the rest of the world gets to just have sex all the time and magically turn up pregnant, your journey becomes more of a horror story involving multiple invasive vaginal ultrasounds, medication you have to inject yourself with in the abdomen every single day, the side effects of swollen enlarged ovaries, having to perfectly and intricately time when you have sex rather than being able to just do it when you actually want to, and add to that having many of the symptoms of pregnancy that only continue to falsely fuel your hopes and dreams because you had to give yourself a HCG shot to trigger ovulation resulting in the actual pregnancy hormone coursing through your body for 12 days.

It royally sucks.
I have never experienced such a traumatic roller coasters of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain.
Couple that with the fact that you’re now in your 30’s, so every single woman you seem to encounter is pregnant or already have 3-4 kids of her own. It not only will make you feel insane, but you’ll start to be jealous of the most ridiculous things.

How many times have I driven by someone’s house and been jealous of the toys laying in their yard?
How many times have I seen someone exhausted from being up all night with their newborn and wish I even had such a glorious reason to lose sleep?
Oh if I could tell you how many times have I even been jealous that someone had to deal with spit up, poopy diaper explosions, colicky babies, and even toddler tantrums because even in those difficult and not fun moments of parenting it still means that they are, in fact, a mother. Something I feel is so far out of my reach.

I know I am venting and complaining, but wouldn’t you?

You can’t tell me to “relax and it will happen” and you better not tell me to “rejoice in the Lord and He will give me the desires of my heart” because none of that negates the pain and sorrow I have to cycle through on a constant basis. I do trust God. I do rejoice in Him. I am waiting on His timing. But He has given me the freedom to grieve and cry out and beg for understanding even if it is beyond me.

I’ve actually been loving this song on the radio by Plumb called “Need You Now” because the lyrics resonate with exactly what my heart has been feeling. The sense that you can reach a point of heartache so deep that you cry out to God to “please take this” from you. The point of heartache where you’re so tired from having to hold on for so long and you just need His strength to keep breathing…. It is beautifully powerful.

The Answer to Why: When We Cannot See Clearly

One of my absolute favorite moments in the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is found in the book “The Horse and His Boy.” The voice of Aslan is having a conversation with Shasta about who He is and some circumstances that had transpired:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.”
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

It may seem strange that this is one of my favorite moments in the series, but it so beautifully captures the multi-faceted nature of God and how little our understanding is of the bigger picture of our lives. God is the God who binds and heals and we love that side of God. Yet, on the other side of the coin, God is the God who wounds and “tears to pieces” so that He may heal us. Not just the God who “allows bad things” but a fierce and passionate God who actually wounds us in order than He may heal us to become more like Him.

Oh, how I am learning this right now!

I don’t know about you, but when you’re going through the very middle of a hard time all you can think about is your pain and start grasping at ways to make it stop. Did I do something to bring this on myself? Is this a punishment? Why is this happening to me? What sequential steps should I take to make it stop? How long will this pain last? 

It is easy to lose hope when the circumstances of your life seem to become a perfect storm that threatens to drown you forever. I am convinced that the absolute hardest thing to do is to face your difficult circumstances head on with a heart that is aching from exhaustion and tears streaming down your face and remember that God is good.

We don’t know why life can get so painful for us sometimes and not ever seem that way for others, but this is your story – not someone else’s. Whether you’ve always struggled with things people seem to manage so easily, or whether you have always struggled financially no matter how hard you’ve tried, or whether you’ve been single for so long and feel so lonely when you’re a great catch who just wants someone to share life with, or whether you suffer from a physical sickness and don’t feel like you did anything to deserve it, or whether you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one and losing them seemed and felt so utterly pointless, or whether – like me – you long for a child of your own when it seems like every drunken teenager and drug addict you encounter is getting pregnant these days. But there is a bigger picture. You don’t know someone else’s story and neither do I.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as God sees us, knowing him directly just as He knows us!” – 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

Isn’t that the ultimate prize? More than the financially stability we wish for, more than the spouse we long for, more than the baby we ache for – to know God and have a deeper, more committed personal relationship with Him is the answer to everything we’re searching for and the ultimate goal of this life. This life and all it’s blessings are temporary and just a shadow of the One who made us and calls us to know Him.

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I spoke recently in Florida with a friend who said that looking back she was grateful for their struggle with infertility. She said she never would have even pictured herself saying such a thing when she was going through it. She always just wished it away and yearned for a pregnancy/baby to take away her sorrow and struggle. Yet, during that time, she explained that she grew closer to God than she ever was before. Her struggle with infertility deepened her faith and has become part of her testimony. Now that she has come through it and is out on the other side, she said she wouldn’t go back and change anything because knowing God and trusting Him more was worth every tear, every dark night of the soul, and every disappointed hope.

I’ve never heard something more beautiful and more encouraging.

In contrast, the countless people who have told me to just “Stay positive,” “Don’t stress,” or “Believe you’re healed and you will be” – that advice, although laced with good intentions, fell short of doing anything more than isolating me further. How can you paste on a smile while you’re choking down tears? Is that even normal? How do you not stress when every single deviation from normal in your body makes you wonder if you’re pregnant? And despite my unwavering and solid faith that God is The Healer, it doesn’t mean that 24 cycles of wishing and hoping with no resulting pregnancy have simply been a result of me just. not. believing. enough. That’s ridiculous.

How much more beautiful is it to simply respond to God from the reality of exactly where we are…. our anger, our pain, our bitterness, our weeping, and my poly-cystic ridden, hormonally-jacked-up body that betrays my greatest longing every single month. The invitation to cry out to God in our pain and confusion, confess our despair and faltering faith, and beg for peace and a greater faith despite circumstances is what drives us closer to Him and brings Him the most glory.

We only have our story to live and we won’t always understand it or know the answers to our biggest question: “WHY?!” – but God is still good. He sees the bigger picture and invites us to wait, to hope, and to trust.

“He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us”

There are things that I know are common among a large percentage of the female population, but I always end up feeling so isolated and alone in these things.
No one talks about it, or at least no one likes to talk about it.
It’s not the happiest of topics and most people would rather have every interaction in their day be positive and happy.

I’d like to be bold and say that so much of what happens in this broken life we live is negative, painful, and difficult. Maybe even more than 50% depending on the life/person.
Being a kid is joyful, but so very hard.
Being a teenager can be exciting, but awkward and painful and emotional.
Being a friend has so many rewards, but it is risky and hard and comes with occasional heartache.
Being married of blissful, but challenging and sometimes so very painful – it changes who you thought you were.
Being a parent is fulfilling and wonderful, but also challenging, painful, difficult, and risky.

and so on.

Having kids? Or rather, TRYING to have kids and finding out that you can’t without some serious medical help when every single one of the friends in your life are either pregnant, just had a baby, or are working on their 2nd or 3rd baby?

Now that’s hard.

After an extensive, heartbreaking 67 day anovulatory cycle, I found out today that I am, once again, having an anovulatory cycle.
We can’t even try to have a baby because my body will not cooperate.

Trials

There is something to be said for becoming depressed over the amount of prescriptions and the number of doctor’s visits one person can be subjected to.

I am currently taking one prescription 3x a day for my PCOS.
I am taking 3 other separate prescriptions at any given point in my monthly cycle to try to help me become pregnant, or at the least help my cycle be somewhat regular.

I am also taking 2 prescriptions for my post root canal treatment recovery – once of them is 3x a day and the other is 5-6x a day.
I am also taking high dose Percocet for pain, and OTC pain meds to reduce inflammation.

In addition to this, I am seeing a Chiropractor 3x a week to treat my pinched nerve, as well as acupressure for helping fertility.

I also see my Reproductive Endocrinologist 2-3x a month to monitor my cycle.
Each time I am subjected to invasive procedures.

This is all in addition to school and 2 part-time jobs.

Wednesday night I was in intense pain and dizzy from my root canal in addition to an overly swollen left side of my face.
Yesterday, I was home all day – alone for the most part – crying and feeling very depressed. I was also extremely dizzy and nauseous (I vomited) and that left me bed ridden for the most part.
Today, my pain is less so, but the swelling is just as bad. I can hardly eat because I can barely open my mouth. I can’t lay on my left side because the slightest pressure to my left cheek hurts so much.
My dentist’s office is not returning my calls because they’re closed and I am not considered an emergency.

I had one friend offer to visit me, but I was feeling too nauseous to receive her visit.

I am not trying to complain.
I understand His grace is sufficient for me.
But if we’re being honest, sometimes it takes a concentrated effort to remember that.

I am just tired of doctors and medication I have to remember to take and feeling sick or nauseous and dizzy and otherwise not myself.

I don’t need speeches about greens smoothies or Paleo diets or any other natural things.
I believe in their efficiency, but I haven’t found them to be cures as much as preventive healthy therapy.

I don’t need monologues about “faith-based healing” because I have faith that God can heal me and relieve me of my symptoms.
I have prayer for this and God has chosen to allow me to endure these trials so that I might draw closer to Him and rely on Him for my help.

I just need to feel His arms around me.
I need to feel hope.
I need it sooner than later.

Okay, I am done venting now.

– – –


Writing Again.

Wow.
This may turn into a very long catching-you-all-up post – FYI.
It has been over 2 months since I last wrote.

For that, I am sorry.
But I honestly needed the break.
There has just been so much going on in my heart emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually –  I just didn’t have the words to make sense of much of it.
I wrote a lot in my journal.
I prayed a lot.
I cried a lot.
Eventually things got a little easier.
I’ve come to understand a little more.
And I’m beginning to see a purpose in pain and a light at the end of the tunnel.

The last post I wrote kind of left everything hanging on a despairing note.
So let me catch everyone up for the sake of clarity and closure.

The cycle I wrote about in the previous post ended up lasting 51 days.
That is 19 days late with tons of “pregnancy symtpoms” that eventually abated.
I went to my OBGYN who did not find any ovarian cysts and she referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. (R.E. or Fertility DR)

I put off going because I was approaching my last few weeks of what had become a very busy semester due primarily to my procrastination and partially due to one Professor in particular.
The next cycle lasted even longer – a whopping 56 day long cycle, but this time there were not any pregnancy symptoms except the missed period.
I am wondering now if I skipped a period altogether, since cycles are normally 28 days on average and 28 + 28 = 56.
Still with me?

My biggest frustration was simply not knowing why all this was happening.
Not in a “Why, GOD?!?!?” kind of way as much as a the-science-behind-it kind of way.
This may be hard for some men to grasp. I know it was for Chad. What’s the big deal?
As a woman you just become accustomed to being able to count on very few things.
Life is always changing, shifting, and surprising us.
So when you have consistently had the same thing happen to your body every 28-29 days since you were 12 years old like clockwork, it goes without saying that a major interruption in that comforting predictability creates a lot of unease, anxiety, and fear.

I recently saw my R.E. and finally got the answers I was craving.
He said he was 90% sure I had developed PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and did an ultrasound that confirmed his suspicions.
The good news is that now we finally knew what was causing my cycles to be so off!
The bad news is that PCOS causes infertility if untreated.
The other good news is that it is HIGHLY treatable!

He started me on some medications right away and gave me a lot of hope that things would only get better from here! 🙂

– –

Now for what God has been teaching me the past 2 months I struggled to understand the purpose and plan behind the pain I was feeling throughout all of this…

My issue with all of this has simply been learning that I really suck at waiting on God.
I learned that I don’t even know how.
I wanted answers. I wanted healing. I wanted the fulfillment of God’s promises in my life.
When they didn’t come initially, I threw a very toddler-like tantrum with God.
I didn’t understand why He this was happening to me. I mean, who really understands why anything bad happens to them until it becomes hindsight, but looking back I am ashamed with how I was acting. Like God owed me anything. Psft.

So there I was acting like God owed me something and every week that went by my anxiety increased.
I wanted to get pregnant so badly, but did I want to bring God glory more?
Was there a point to my sudden struggle with my cycles and fertility that I couldn’t see?
Did I love God more than I loved the idea of being a Mom?
All these questions ran through my head on a fairly constant basis while I plastered a smile on my face in public.
I was seriously struggling with my faith in God to fulfill His promises in my life and my commitment to Him and my trust in Him.

You see…. I’ve been burned before.
I won’t go into detail, but I heard God tell me to move forward on something very specific and that eventually resulted in massive amounts of hurt and pain.
The typical American attitude towards the Gospel is that God greatly desires our happiness, but this couldn’t be further from the Truth.
God desires our Joy, sure… but Joy is chosen despite of circumstances.
God desires our peace, but peace is found in Him alone – not circumstances.
God ultimately desires His glory to be displayed through his Creation, so it goes without saying that if painful circumstances and hard times are what is necessary to refine us into the image of Jesus then God will most definitely allow those seasons of pain to bring about His greater purpose.
The comfort we have is knowing that throughout the pain He will never leave us – we can still find peace and comfort in Him and He will always lead us out of those valleys and deserts for times of rest and restoration.

So these past few months have been just that – God challenging me with this lack of control and uncertainty about myself and the future.
God wanted to remind me that my heart is supposed to be His.
The desires I have to be a mother are God-given and not wrong in themselves, but they are not “God” and should never become the most important thing in my life.
Funny…. that other hard lesson I just mentioned?? That was because I placed my desire to find a husband above my desire to serve God. Ugh, when will I learn?!

Needless to say, God gently kept tugging on my heart reminding me to lean on Him during the hard times and reminding me that He is all I REALLY need. When I look at my life and everything I love and am amazingly blessed with, none of it would be in my life if it were not for God. I did nothing to deserve such a wonderful husband, community, family, friends….and I will do nothing to deserve becoming a mother one day.
If anything, God continually forgives my depravity and the countless times I forget His goodness and mercy and blesses me despite of myself.

I am still working on it, but my heart is in such a better place now.
I still want to be a mother REALLY badly, but if God chose to delay that further or not allow me to have it at all (as hard as that would be!) I feel at this moment that I could trust Him that He knows what is best for me and that He has a plan and purpose to everything that happens in my life.
For now, I will just continue to try my best to wait on Him, hope in Him, believe His promises for my life will come to fruition in His timing, and to find comfort and peace in His presence alone. ❤

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p.s. – Thank you to everyone who messaged me or commented your encouragement and support. You weren’t here to see the tears of gratitude as your words of love began the healing process in my heart. I am still working on responding to all of those messages, but just know your words meant the world to me during that time and now. I love you all. 🙂