waiting out the storm

For Ridley, it’s been more than a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day. It’s been that kind of week.IMG_7022

 For starters, he had to move away from his home in Fayetteville – the one with the screened in porch where he could nap in the sun, and the front porch where he could watch for kids on their skateboards. I don’t think he quite understands yet what’s going on. He arrived to a new house, and out of the nine nights he has been here, a thunderstorm and/or fireworks have driven him to panic just about every night. Two pit bulls in the yard behind him jumped the fence one day and, whether in play or in aggression, cornered him against the back doors. They haven’t been back since, but every time he goes out into the yard, they menacingly bark at him, taunting him I’m sure.

Last night was bad. Thunder started around 3 a.m., and he just couldn’t seem to find a safe place. He fidgeted constantly under the bed, so we put him in our bathroom. He scratched at the door, so we put him in the guest bathroom. He tried jumping into the clawfoot tub, but I guess couldn’t get in, so he knocked things off the sink counter and made so much racket that I couldn’t take it any more. He has a rug in the hall that he loves, so I tried just letting him roam the house in hopes that he would settle on his rug, but he scratched and jumped at the door so much that by 5 a.m., I just got out of bed to sit with him. I wasn’t getting any sleep anyway – the owner of the pit bulls leaves the dogs in the yard even in storms, so one of them was (understandably) whining and barking.

I got out of bed, started brewing some coffee, lit a candle, and settled into the couch, assuming that Ridley would snuggle at my feet and sleep while I spent some time journaling.

No such luck.

All he wanted was to go back into the bedroom and wake up Eric. Never mind that Eric can’t stop the thunder and the rain; Ridley simply wanted to paw at him and pant in his face. So I tried everything I could think of to keep Ridley away so that at least one of us would get some sleep.

I fed Ridley breakfast, one of his favorite parts of the day (dinner being the other). He ate quickly then went back to scratching at the bedroom door.

I put kitchen chairs in front of the door so that he couldn’t scratch. He wedged himself under the chairs, finally scooting them aside.

I blocked him in the living room with me by closing the French doors to the dining room then scooting the armchair into the hallway opening. First he slipped past the chair, so I pushed it back in further till it was too wedged to move. Then he climbed on top of me (sitting in the chair) and attempted to jump over the back of the chair into the hallway.

Finally, I grabbed my mug of coffee and just sat in front of the bedroom door, knees to my chest, physically blocking his paws.

It’s been an hour, and I am still sitting here. In the past ten minutes, the storm has quieted. The sun is starting to come up. And Ridley has finally laid his head down in my lap to rest, his breathing still quick but not as anxious.

Throughout the storm, I tried to explain to him so many times that he just needed to wait it out – storms have an expiration date. They don’t last forever. We were protected and safe in the house, but there was nothing Eric nor I could do to make it stop. He’s been through so many storms before, and I tried to remind him that he had always been fine in the past. But of course, his sweet dog brain can’t understand what I am saying. Even if he could have, he was too panic-stricken to slow down and listen to my voice. He didn’t seem to understand that I got out of bed super early just to sit with him; he kept rejecting my attempts to soothe and cuddle him.

As I was sitting here, I confess that I was having my own little freak out with the Lord.

I am excited to be in Conway, and I am excited for what the future holds, but, to be honest, it hasn’t been an easy week, even beyond the lack of sleep most nights.

We moved into the sweet old house we were planning to buy, but hit a snag in the process and are no longer able to buy it. The sellers have been gracious to us, and they are allowing us to rent it while we look for another house (and while they look for another buyer). However, I am ready to start making Conway home. And having half of my life in boxes sure doesn’t help. I woke up this morning so frustrated with the Lord – frustrated that this house situation worked out the way it has. Frustrated that we haven’t seen anything else on the market that we are interested in. Frustrated that the market is so different down here, much slower and with fewer choices. Frustrated that Ridley has been daily anxious in this house. Frustrated that the pit bull behind us has been barking almost every night.

So I sat in the hall against the door frame, my butt growing numb against the hardwood floor, knees to chest to balance coffee in one hand, free arm trying to corral Ridley, and tears streaming down my face.

I told the Lord I was so over it, that I couldn’t understand why He had pulled me away from an incredible community and a dream job and an awesome house in exchange for this. I told Him I was upset. I told Him, while I know He doesn’t owe me, that surely He would reward me for all I had given up.

And suddenly, He showed up. And, as it goes when He reveals truth to your heart, I felt like a child being both scolded and comforted at the same time.

Just as Ridley was anxiously pawing at the bedroom door, I was pawing at the Lord. I was freaking out at the storm raging outside, and all I wanted was a new house in hopes that everything would be better. I wasn’t appreciating His presence as He tried to comfort me. My only lens for relief was short-sighted, and I was panicking without regard to reason or to truth.

That’s the way it normally goes when we encounter storms, isn’t it?

The thunder rolls in to warn of what’s coming. The rain starts to beat on the roof, and even though we are protected and dry thanks to our security in Christ and our hope in His power, we think the world is ending. Irrationally, we begin clawing at anything and everything. Even when God attempts to hold us close in comfort, we start clawing at Him.

Too often we pray for peace, we pray for rest, but we reject it when the Lord provides it. We assume that peace means resolution, that everything is okay. Often, though, peace has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our heart.

God came down in flesh as Jesus to sit on the hardwood floor with us, to be that peace for us, even though He didn’t have to. He suffered more than the numbness and soreness I will feel when I am able to get back up. I am sure He would rather have stayed in heaven’s perfection (just as I would rather have been snuggled under the covers to enjoy the rain). Yet, because of His love for us, He experienced life as a man so that He could provide peace for us with God once for all.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

He didn’t come so that we would never experience hardship again. He came so that, as we walk through the storms that are sure to come (both as a result of a broken world and as a tool for our growth), we could experience a relationship with Him to carry us through the storms and ultimately make His Name great.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 14:27, 16:33)

So as I still sit here on the floor, Ridley’s head nestled in that little space behind my back, I, too, will slow my breathing, stop my clawing, rest my spirit in my God as I wait out the storm.

I’m thankful He’s more patient with me than I have been with Ridley, and I’m thankful that He is able to calm the storm – but He is also able to let the storm rage and calm me as we wait through it together.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)

I’m praying that the truth of His love and peace invades your own storms and that you are also able to wait it out, finding that His presence is enough.

God, in a southern summer and a bittersweet life

These days, Arkansas humidity lies thick all around.

The first metaphor that came to mind when I was trying to think about how to describe it was adding too much flour to your gravy. How appropriately Southern, right?

And while I can – and will – complain about the heat and the humidity and the stickiness that develops behind my knees just moments after I walk out the door, the truth is, I appreciate the humidity. My definition of “summer” is inseparable from the dampness of my shirt clinging to my lower back, the way it can be only 75 degrees in the morning but require a tank top due to the stifle of the warm air, and the scent of the bushes lingering in the midst of it all.

Summer’s humidity is imperfect. I’m not saying I enjoy basking in sweat. I can tell a (happy) difference if I travel outside of the South, and I can sit outside just a little longer in places where the air thins out. But, when it comes down to it, humidity feels like home to me. I can’t imagine not having the feeling of walking out from our air-conditioned kitchen to the force of dense air on the front porch.

A couple of weeks ago at church, the definition of the word “blessed” was given, and it stuck with me: “God’s gracious favor to give one a happy and content (satisfied/fulfilled) soul that is not rooted in external or changing circumstances.”

It took me back to the difference between happiness and joy – where joy is also not dependent on your circumstances but an understanding of the truth of God despite your circumstances.

If you think about when you most often see those words used, though, it’s in connection with something good happening in someone’s life. To their credit, the person is usually trying to give the glory to God because of the happy thing or fortunate circumstance – they are stating that their life is good because of God’s hand of providence on them. And, if I am being honest, I do this a lot myself. I talk about the joy of something to recognize that God is the One Who has given me that friendship or the blessing of my relationship with Eric because He is the One Who makes my marriage strong.

But do we use those words when life isn’t going well? Can we recognize joy and blessing when there is confusion and even sorrow?

How do we experience a satisfied soul when life itself leaves much to be desired?

The older I get, the more I have opportunities both to celebrate and to grieve. And in the midst of the juxtaposition of the bitter and the sweet, I start to understand a little more that the satisfaction of the Christian life is never dependent on your circumstances.

David understood this. How often the Psalms portray the devastation of life but the constancy of God! How often David proclaims that his good is found in the Lord!

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? …But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. –Psalm 13:1, 5

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” –Psalm 16:2

Paul understood this. Despite how many times he had been jailed and beaten and taunted, he displayed an unshakeable confidence in his God and a consistent joy in the midst of persecution.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. –Philippians 1:21

…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. –Philippians 4:11-13

I think, for me to grow in my understanding of this, I have to continually grow in my knowledge and experience of God. The more I look to Him instead of my circumstances, the more I will be able to find joy and blessing even when life isn’t going the way I want. As I more consistently root myself in the truth of His character, the more consistently will my soul remain satisfied even when life is inconsistent.

The truth of His character – that He is intentional in His timing, especially in our transition from life in Fayetteville to a new season as we move to Conway. While we may not be able to see it right now, it’s no mistake that this move is coming right when Eric and I both thought we had our jobs and our community and our ministry figured out.

The reliability of His sovereignty – that He is in control, even when the future seems to have more question marks than plans.

The sweetness of His goodness – that He loves me and cares for me and is patient even as I freak out and question what He’s doing.

I have not only accepted that humidity is unavoidable in a Southern summer, but I have grown to appreciate it. It’s something I can count on each year as May turns to June. Since I can’t change it, I might as well learn to savor it.

And while I would prefer to not walk through pain or disappointment, I have learned to count myself blessed because of the nearness of God no matter the sorrow or celebration. There’s a certain joy in God’s certain character as we walk through an uncertain life.

the darkness, and the One Who is bigger

I’ve been rereading The Chronicles of Narnia this month. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the books, but each time I do, I learn something different about myself and about God. Different lines or phrases pull me closer to the heart of God, give me a deeper desire to know Him and to long for eternity.

“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me [Aslan] here for a little, you may know me better there [in your own world].”

And the part of the saga that grasped my attention this week came from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Towards the end of the journey to the end of the world, Prince Caspian and the crew on the Dawn Treader (including Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace) are sailing towards a dark mass that they thought was land but turns out to be an overcoming darkness. While they are rowing through the darkness, they hear the voice of a crazed man begging them to take him on board, so they pull him up and he tells them to row away as fast as possible, for they have reached the Island where Dreams come true – not daydreams, but dreams. As the crew tries to change direction and row away as fast as possible, each man begins to experience different dreams coming to life: they hear noises, sense presences, and start to feel mad and desperate themselves – until, of course, Aslan.

How many times have I felt myself being pulled by “the dark,” the voice of fear and the creeping sensation of doubt taunting me in what I cannot see? Or how often do I give in to comparisons and self-pity, not realizing the tight grip they gain around me as I give them room to come near?

A lot has happened for us in the past month. We realized there was a good possibility Eric would get a job he had been interviewing for in Conway. Then he was offered the job and set July 1 as a start date. Then we worked like mad people one weekend and listed our house for sale by owner, just to see what kind of interest we got. Four showings and two offers happened in the first two business days on the market (and the other two showings were trying to work with their banks so they could put together official offers). So I quickly had to learn next steps for selling our house on our own when we accepted one of the offers. Then we drove to Louisville and back for a wedding of a dear friend. Two days later, I drove to Lawrence, KS and back for a quick 24 hour trip to visit more friends. The day after, we went house hunting in Conway.

The word I would use to describe the past month is exhausting: emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally. And it won’t stop for awhile, between wanting to see friends here and say goodbye, to potentially going down to Conway again for round two of looking for a house, to packing up our things, to my brother’s wedding at the end of this month, to my sister’s wedding at the end of the next month, to a third wedding for one of my college girls in which I am a bridesmaid…

Despite so many things on the calendar, there’s also a lot of uncertainty in the immediate future. We don’t know where we will live in Conway. We don’t know how long we will need a temporary housing option. We will be starting over to make friends. We have ideas of what my job will look like, but there are some other options out there and nothing is set in stone. Eric’s job is pretty much the only certainty at this point (that, and my parents’ excitement to have us in Conway), and even his job contains some unknowns when it comes to how to transition from a corporate workplace to a church staff.

So yes, the darkness, and the voices from what I can’t see taunting me? That’s very real for me right now. The panic that builds in my mind is paralyzing when I start to worry what will happen if we can’t find a house we want to buy, or – worse – if we buy a house that we don’t really like and we feel stuck. Or, for some reason, having to rent for a year feels like the end of the world. But panic is like that – it is irrational, and it takes over all common sense.

When we give in to worry, our current, momentary situation feels bigger than we can handle. Our present troubles outweigh our view of an eternal God.

“We shall never get out, never get out,” moaned the rowers. “He’s steering us wrong. We’re going round and round in circles. We shall never get out.”

When it comes down to it, I know that there’s always uncertainties in life. But there are some seasons where it is heightened more than others, and I am there now.

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting-top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” 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.

The what-ifs can drown out the reality of how “okay” you are right now – unless you re-fix your perspective from the darkness to the truth of God that is not dependent on circumstances. God is God no matter the presence of darkness or light. And just as Aslan whispered “Courage, dear heart,” to Lucy before they were out of the dark, God whispers “Courage, dear heart,” to you and to me, even if we still have to walk through a little more of the unknown.

Like Lucy, I need to fix my eyes on the One Who is bigger than all of those fears and concerns. Instead of allowing the darkness to overcome me, I want to look for the Light, no matter how small it may appear at first, and I want to fix my gaze there. Salvation lies in rowing straight for that light, not in looking around at the darkness and trying to visualize what’s hiding there.

All at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been… “I reckon we’ve made pretty good fools of ourselves,” said Rynelf.

There’s still lots of things that I am tempted to worry about – friends, finances, a place to live, a continued desire to start a family even in the midst of all of this – but when I find myself drifting toward the darkness again, I want to instead more quickly re-fix my eyes on the One Who is bigger than all of those questions and concerns – and the One Who is even sovereign over all things.

when mother’s day is painful

I confess that I’m anticipating Mother’s Day this year with hesitation, with anxiety, with sadness.

I don’t share this as a melodramatic cry for attention.
It’s a sweet day, and I do want to honor my mother, because she’s incredible.

But when you yourself long to be a mother, and you observe young families all around you, it feels like an isolating holiday. What about those who want to be mothers but who, for one reason or another, aren’t yet?

The ones who are recovering from a miscarriage.
The ones who don’t have answers, despite tests and medical procedures.
The ones who are waiting for a call from the adoption agency.
The women who are longing not just for a baby, but for a husband.

So I share these thoughts for them.

Mother’s Day is just another day, and we who are in this place know that. But it’s also a tangible reminder of an unanswered prayer, one that pushes me to the feet of Christ asking for grace to endure what I do not understand but want to trust that He does.

On Mother’s Day, it’s not that I want to spend the whole day wallowing in self-pity, or hiding under the covers, as if that helps me hide from life. I want to genuinely celebrate with those who will, most likely, announce their own pregnancies on this day. It’s timely, and I get that. I also get how much of a miracle a healthy pregnancy actually is. I want to affirm my mom for what she has meant to me. I want to affirm my friends who are moms as they walk the tiring road of motherhood – I get that it’s hard, and it often comes without thanks.

But I also want to take a moment and allow grief to have its place. I want to encourage other women I know who are also walking the path of infertility – you are not alone. There may be days where it seems like it, and you may have to wrestle with the feelings of being left behind, but you can rest assured that there are many other women out there who “get it.” 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility for one reason or another.

It’s okay to feel sad on this day.

It’s okay to find yourself falling to pieces from the little things: the baby dedication at church, the greeting card aisle, the Instagram pictures of happy little families all snuggled together. Allow yourself to fully absorb and process why those things upset you.

Just don’t stay in that place.

I have learned that it’s one thing to acknowledge and experience grief, but it’s another to let it take over your life and define your circumstances instead of allowing God to define your circumstances.

Isaiah 38:17 says, “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back” (ESV).

The NIV translates it this way: “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”

What would it take to be able to say that? What do you need to believe is true about God in order to see a season of pain and sadness as for your benefit?

And while I don’t want to end this with a band-aid statement about how God works everything out for good, I want to encourage you – just as I am encouraging myself – that our God is purposeful and loving. He can create beautiful things out of what the world discards as worthless, and His perspective is more complete than what we are able see in front of us. He is present even in the midst of pain.

There’s also a sweet blessing in allowing others to walk with you through the struggle – finding friends you can be real with on your hard days, friends who will tell you that you are loved and valued for who you are, friends who will remind you that you aren’t waiting for a baby to complete you. I am so thankful for the women who have been strength and love for me on days when I feel like I am falling apart. Don’t carry the weight of infertility alone.

Happy Mother’s Day to the women who long to be mothers. May you know God’s peace and presence in a tangible way as you trust Him in the midst of uncertainty.

 

P.S. If you have a friend walking through infertility but don’t know how to encourage her (or him!), here are some ideas.

enough

Matthew 19 tells the story of the rich young man who wants to experience eternal life from God, so he boldly asks Jesus how to obtain it. He confirms that he has shaped his life in accordance with God’s rules. Jesus then tells him the last thing he needs to do is sell everything he owns and give the profits to the poor to follow Him. And the man goes away sorrowful, because he has to make a choice between Jesus and his possessions, and he can’t imagine giving up his wealth.

I don’t think this story is meant to make a literal statement about wealth, though it certainly can apply to materialism – I think it’s about what you treasure most. The commandments not mentioned in the list He gives are the first three about having no other gods before Him, no idols, no irreverance toward His name. Jesus wants us to treasure Him most. He wants us to choose Him when given the option, to be willing to let go of even the things He has blessed us with, to choose the Giver of gifts rather than the gifts themselves. He wants us to see Him as enough.

I don’t feel like God often makes me actually give up the gifts He has provided. I have noticed that He brings up the possibility of me having to let go of things, to see if I am willing to do so (kind of like Abraham being willing to give up Isaac but in the end God providing a ram). And not that He hasn’t asked me to let go of some things, and not that He won’t in the future. But it’s when those potential surrenders come up that I see the true holds on my heart.

And infertility has brought one up.

I have a hard time giving up being able to relate to others — I don’t want to feel left out or left behind.

I don’t want to be a cause for pity. I don’t particularly want to be singled out in a room full of women as the only one who doesn’t have kids. Those have been some of the most painful moments in this journey – the moments where I have felt isolated and alone. Like I am “falling behind” everyone else. And it’s not a reflection of insensitivity of people – on the contrary, my people have been constant and compassionate. It’s my own heart fears that isolate me.

But if Jesus is enough, like He wants the rich young man to understand, then I don’t need to fear being “incomplete” without a baby. If He is enough, then I do not have to live in hopelessness during infertility, no matter how long it lasts. I have to choose to see Him as enough and to rest in His sufficiency, even if it’s not an easy, tangible alternative.

And when that choice is hard to make, I bring myself back to the truth in Scripture to calm my weary and worried heart.

Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will meet all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 7:11 – “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I don’t know what it is for you, what object or relationship or status catches your breath as you think about God asking you to let go. It can be anything. But I believe we all have something. The woman who discipled me in college set such a beautiful example for me. She knew hers was materialism, and she would share with me how she was learning to identify the line between enjoying the things in her home and her closet versus when they would become an obsession, overshadowing her love for God. She confessed to me when she was struggling, and she modeled a constant awareness of the state of her heart.

I want to be continually re-evaluating the state of my heart. Am I clinging more to God, or to comparisons and desires to be “in it” with everyone else? Am I more focused on desiring pregnancy, or desiring God no matter what story He has for our future family?

What is it that keeps you from whole-heartedly, without abandon, following Jesus? What are you holding back? What are you afraid to lack?

No matter what it is, do you believe that, with or without it, He is enough?

marriage letters: on pulling for each other

Dear Eric,

One of my favorite times of the year is upon us. It’s when you slip on the red spandex, air up your tires, and hop on your bike to start training for race season.

There are many reasons I love this time of year.IMG_2879

First of all, the spandex.

Enough said?

Secondly, I love watching you do something you love. It relieves your stress, recharges your mind, renews your heart. You hop off the bike a better man each and every time you go out for a ride.

Thirdly, race culture is fun! Rid and I love coming to watch you race and mingling with the other bike wives and soaking up the sun while you work your tail end off.

Fourthly, thanks to burning 1500+ calories per ride, you look dang good. (Apparently not enough was said after my first point.)

I enjoy getting to ride bicycles together, too – and I appreciate that your speedy legs slow themselves down to a leisurely pace as I huff and puff up the Reed Valley hill. I’m pickier about my riding weather and more focused on the fun of it as opposed to the challenge (one of the only areas I oddly enough don’t always feel competitive), but I do enjoy going out on long rides together. The conversation, the scenery, the silence, the sound of our gears shifting in unison ties my heart to yours, reminds me of the journey we are on together.

One of the things about marriage is that, even when we are walking through different things, we are always walking together. Work is stressful for you, and while your tasks at work don’t affect me, the way they affect you then affects me. Sometimes this is a beautiful thing – it allows me to enter into your life and encourage you and spur you on.

Sometimes, though, it’s a frustrating thing. It causes tension because I don’t understand what you are walking through so I don’t want to engage you in that place, or I don’t want to give you sympathy. I want you to be able to leave it all at work, not bring it home to me. I get annoyed and I forget the beauty that I just described above of my role as a wife to enter into your struggle.

I am sure you often feel the same way with the junk I bring to the table. And the tears – goodness, the roller coaster of emotions that you have had to deal with over the past several months has been enough to make anyone crack.

We are two broken people trying to make a marriage work, and often one of us doesn’t have the strength to press on like normal.

So we pull for each other.

You are so good about “pulling” for me on the bike. When it’s windy and I am complaining, or if we are climbing a hill and I am struggling, you slow down and allow me to draft behind you, getting my front wheel as close as possible to your rear wheel. This takes some of the burden off me – and it puts us closer together. It forces teamwork.

And that’s how I want our marriage to be. Let’s be real, I will probably never have to pull for you on the bike, but when you are struggling in life (whether it be an off day or an off week or an off month), I want to get as close to you as possible and help pull you until your legs are strong enough to confidently pedal on their own. I want to work together in understanding that we take turns pulling – sometimes, it’s your turn, and sometimes it’s mine – and that we don’t keep count of how many pulls each of us has taken. We’re not about fairness in our marriage; we’re about working together on this journey and arriving to our destination at the same time and with the same pace.

So let’s get out our bikes and ride into new adventures together, both literally and metaphorically. I’ll be by your side in case you need someone to pull for awhile.

And so I can check you out in your fancy spandex race wear.

Love,
me.

my heart behind my vulnerability

Hushed tones accompany the topic. The one with the secret feels broken, and insecure, and hesitant to share in case the one listening will feel awkward.

We’re trying to get pregnant.

It’s a topic rarely spoken about publicly, similar to miscarriages. Understandably. And it’s easy to feel alone because of this reality.

I experience the tension between wanting to be vulnerable, but not wanting to share something so personal with someone who might not know me as well yet.
Or someone who might not want to go that deeply into my life.
Or someone who might then feel awkward around me or sorry for me.
Or even someone who might try to give me advice that is more hurtful than helpful.

Why do those of us with this story feel this way?

Well, it implies we are having sex regularly at intentional times each month. (EESH that’s personal.)

It implies we want something really badly, and at least I personally fear people will judge me, assuming I have made an idol out of this desire.

It means the possibility that something below the surface could be wrong – which no one wants to think could be then be true for them.

And it’s a reminder that it’s not easy – and maybe scary for those who aren’t at that place yet. It’s not something you can necessarily know ahead of time, but the more people you know with that issue, the more of a fear it can become.

But I have found such freedom in talking about it. Talking and writing helps me process and opens me up to the Lord speaking to me without me even realizing it until I read back over the words on the page or until I speak them out loud. It helps minimize the shame I feel at times in my grief. It reminds me that people love me and care about me and want to come around me in my sadness.

And one of the sweetest things in talking about a sensitive subject is that it opens my story up for others to see and relate to.

Before we started “trying” to get pregnant, I was praying that the Lord would bring women into my life whom I could walk through pregnancy with. All of the women in my community group were new moms, with babies born within the previous nine months, so I assumed that my pregnancy would come before they started trying for their second.

Then we didn’t get pregnant. I had all sorts of friends getting pregnant, so I kept thinking those friends were the answers to my prayers, and I would just be a couple of months behind them.

Then those friends had their babies. And I looked down at my flat stomach and empty arms and wondered what God was doing, how He was planning to answer my prayer for women to relate to and walk with.

For all of the reasons mentioned above, I hesitated to share openly on my blog or with people I maybe didn’t know super well. But once I started sharing how I was seeing God work through this situation, I was encouraged to find people who were walking through a totally different type of waiting, yet still related to how God was at work in me.

Some of the most encouraging words in the human language, in my opinion, are “Me, too!” and I have gotten to hear that so often – whether the person responding is also walking through infertility or whether they are simply experiencing the same questions as they figure out where God is in their own personal struggle. It’s affirming that you’re normal and that, if God is at work in that person and their uphill struggle, then He can be at work as you walk uphill, too.

Then I had friends and acquaintances start reaching out to me as a result of what I shared. Women I hadn’t really talked to in several years told me that they, too, were walking through infertility, whether only a few months of trying or multiple years of heartache. I made a list of women to pray for who were specifically in the waiting for a baby, and I was overwhelmed with how many names were on the list.

God answered my prayer for women to walk through this season with, even if they aren’t people I see every day. I have friends I can message or call who will understand the overwhelming grief that rolls in one morning, only to be gone by the afternoon. I have friends who understand the heartbreak of starting a new monthly cycle, the disappointment and dreams and plans that come crashing to a halt.

All because of God’s hand at work in the midst of a painful season – and the strength He has given me to be vulnerable.

When it comes to vulnerability, though, the struggle is not just limited to infertility. Anxiety, depression, singleness, unhappiness at work, marital tension, fear of the future, the daily struggles of a young mom… the list goes on and on. We try to hide the areas in our lives where we feel we don’t “measure up” or have it all together. We each think for some reason that we should be able to handle life on our own, whatever it throws our way, so unhappiness or pain means there is weakness in us. Instead of letting others know that we need help or encouragement, we hide our struggle behind a smile and a vague comment referencing “life is hard but I am making it.”

There’s discretion in who we share our pain with, and I am by no means suggesting that the more public level of vulnerability God has challenged me to is the best way for everyone, but I have seen power in choosing to allow others in. It reminds me that I am not alone. That we are all fighting to see God in this broken but beautiful world. And it allows others to respond as tangible expressions of God’s love for me.

Last week, the South was hit with buckets of rain. Each day I left the house, I brought along a rain jacket and an umbrella and water-friendly shoes to prepare for the day’s dampness. But in the midst of the fast-moving clouds one morning before the downpour started, I caught glimpse of a faint rainbow. God’s promise to never flood the earth again – a promise that He has kept. Which reminds me that He will continue to keep all of His promises. He is a trustworthy God, and vulnerability for me has started with first being real with Him, opening myself to hear His voice even when I may not see His hand.

Just to note: I am starting a section in my blog to share more of the specifics in my story so far relating to infertility. I probably won’t be posting these on Facebook the way I do my regular posts, and I don’t want my blog to become only about infertility, but I would love for you to follow along or share my blog as a resource for any friends who are also walking through this type of wait. You can access it through the menu and by clicking “infertility” or through the link samanthacbarnes.com/infertility.