Infertility – The Struggle & Unexpected Blessings – PART 1

When I was younger, I knew I wanted children. I used to have a certain number in my head – 8 to be exact. I remember talking to my married, child-raising friends about that number and being told, “Wait until you have at least one, first!” And so I looked forward to that day with great anticipation. I’ve always loved children, even in my years as a child. I couldn’t wait to have my own. I really wanted a son. My husband would laugh at me because most women seem to want daughters, but not me. I wanted little boys. I wanted him to have a ‘mini me’. It really warmed my heart to think about him with a little shadow!

When my husband and I got married, about 2 months in, I had gotten sick. All food started to make me nauseous, especially the smell of it. After dealing with the symptoms for quite some time, I went to my doctor and was met with her predictions. “Oh I know you’re pregnant, but let’s get these tests done. I will be more surprised if you aren’t!” I went to the lab and sat there, texting my husband, a feeling of nervousness and excitement in my belly. All of the what-ifs flooded my heart and mind and I allowed myself to imagine life 9 months from that moment. My name was called, specimens were collected, and I headed home to wait for the results. Those hours of waiting were hard. Finally, later that evening, that call came. My doctor called me personally to tell me the results. I wasn’t pregnant. She apologized for her negligent words and told me that she understood if I did not want to continue seeing her as my provider.

Over the years that followed, I was so mindful of everything – a late cycle, unexplained nausea, fatigue seemingly out of nowhere, headaches – you name it. Each month brought tears when my cycle would come. All of my friends were getting pregnant and our church experienced many ‘baby booms’ each year where babies were being born back to back over the course of several months. All the while, I tried to sustain a happy outer demeanor, explaining that it was all in God’s timing when I’d be asked about our desire to have children. There were many times that I cried to my husband, heartbroken over my unfulfilled desire and the careless words from others.

“You’re not getting any younger!”

“Do y’all even WANT kids?”

“You know – you’re next!”

“Have you tried changing your diet?”

“Look at you holding that baby, getting practice in, I see!”

“You know, if you want to adopt, you should get started soon!”

“When you (fill in the blank), then those babies will come!”

I heard all of those things and then some. Those comments made me even sadder. And I realized – we can say that we know that God is in control but or comments and thoughts can betray us, which is what happened with them and with me. The comments were unhelpful and mindless and often lent themselves to driving me into deeper sadness over our lack of children.

Baby showers were hard and I would avoid them often. I was happy for my friends, but mourned the absence of children in our home. The sight of cute little baby clothes and shoes pained me. I couldn’t do it! It didn’t seem fair to me!. There was no medical explanation for my inability to conceive. I was upset, but my husband helped me to realize that my beef was really with the Lord. Because He opens and closes the womb, and He had chosen not to for His own good purposes, my ultimate problem was with Him. That was a hard one to grapple with.

It became harder & harder seeing news stories about irresponsible, abusive, and negligent parents. They can have kids, but not ME, Lord? Really?! It was hard, it was sad, it was lonely. But, blessing came with it as well.

[ To Be Continued in Part 2 Next Week ]

 

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A Merciful, Grace-Filled, God-Given 37 Years

37

Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday. In the early hours of the morning, on September 26th, I was born.

A big deal is often made about birthdays. And rightfully so (The Lord’s grace), but also wrongfully so. We can often make such a big deal over a day we had no control over, often demanding special treatment and praise, expecting people to bend over backwards to make it all about us.

I grew up getting cards each year from my grandmother with money that matched my age. My mom and dad would take my brothers and me to the restaurant of our choice, or my mom would cook the meal of our choice. One year, I actually asked for lobster! And my mom made it! I wasn’t even a teenager at the time. She’d bake our favorite cakes (straight chocolate for me) and it would be such a fun day of celebration. The next day, life went back to normal. As a kid, it was always sad for me; I wanted to continue the party! But I had to wait another 12 months to do that.

As I have gotten older, birthday celebrations look different. Since I have been married, my husband has done sweet things to celebrate with me. One year, he researched and found a bakery that had gluten free cupcakes and bought me FOUR (4!!!) of them. I always look forward to the cards from family and friends and having dinner at special places with my guy. Yesterday, we ended the day with him praying for me; I loved that.

But I think in a way that I didn’t when I was 10, or even when I was 20. As each year passes, I think, “Whoa – where did last year go?” and birthdays are more deeply appreciated. I used to set my alarm at the time I was born and wake up to thank the Lord for another year, but now – I have to get up at 5:30a for work and getting older (for me) means my sleeping patterns can easily get thrown off. A super early wake-up turns into a clock watching session until it’s time for me to get ready for the day haha. So now, I just thank Him when I wake. He’s been merciful.

When I think about the passing years, I often shake my head at how kind God has been. He’s been faithful. Gracious. Kind. Long-suffering. Steadfast. Enduring. I don’t deserve to be 37. I have classmates who have long been gone. I have had countless times of rebellion against the Lord, yes, even since being a Christian! I am thankful for His grace. I am thankful for salvation.

So here’s to another year that the Lord has given me. I plan to work through Donald S. Whitney’s “10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday” and prayerfully consider how I can spend the next year, if God gives it, honoring Him and serving Him more effectively.

Summertime (& Beyond!) Goals

bitmoji-20170602125601I often wish I had a job where I was off for the Summer! As a former preschool teacher, I appreciated those few months that I had to just have some really good downtime. While I miss that, I do not miss the pay. I remember driving around Austin and seeing the marquee signs of fast food restaurants, advertising starting pays of more than I was making as a preschool teacher! But anyway – Summer is coming! As I think through the Summer and what I would like to have accomplished by its end, I think of sewing, reading, and health.

Last Wednesday night, I was chatting with two close friends about reading. We were discussing books we’d read lately and how they are becoming better readers. Because being a better reader is something I want to grow in, I made a small list of books I would like to read this Summer. I am a frequent visitor at my local library branch and have these books on my virtual bookshelf. I have “Rise” in my possession and have started it already. “Brave New World“, “The Explicit Gospel” , & “Fahrenheit 451” are on the way, being transferred from other branches.

My list for the Summer consists of:

“Rise” – Trip Lee
“Brave New World” – Aldous Huxley
“Fahrenheit 451” – Ray Bradbury
“The Explicit Gospel” – Matt Chandler
“1984” – George Orwell
“Amusing Ourselves to Death” – Neil Postman
“The Screwtape Letters” – C.S. Lewis
“Til We Have Faces” – C.S. Lewis
“The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce” – John Piper

What do you have on your Summer reading list?

Another thing I want to get done this summer? I’d like to continue to grow in my sewing skills & sew at least 10 garments. At least! Sometimes I wish I could have dedicated days to sew, but I have to sew when I get a moment. In one of the sewing books that I have read recently, the author suggests sewing everyday, even if it’s just 15 minutes here and there, and eventually you’ll be done with that new garment. Right now, I am in the process of dropping 20 – 30 pounds so I am focusing on outer garments like this Simplicity 1318 pattern & items that will adjust along with me like a nice maxi dress. I dread making a dress for my current measurements & doing necessary adjustments just to not have it fit me in a few months! So – that is the plan for now. Hopefully, by the end of August, I will be sewing some dresses. I have my eye on completing several patterns, especially some from “Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book” (soooo many that I want to make!)

Do you keep a sewing to-do list?

That leads me to my health & fitness goals. A couple of years ago, I was running & exercising pretty regularly, losing weight & feeling pretty awesome in the process. I had surgery in May of 2015 which sidelined me for some time, then a series of events happened – injuries (patellar tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, hip pain) allergies, moving, and the list somewhat goes on! I have had a hard time being able to exercise consistently which bothers me. I felt so much better when I weighed less. With the injuries & such, the weight came back on and it’s been hard to get it to go away again. My husband and I have goal weights we want to reach and have come up with an ultimate reward, so in addition to the reward of having good health, I have a monetary reward in view. I often look at it like this – the next few months are going to pass whether I am active or not. Either I will weigh the same, weigh more, or weigh less. I’d much rather weigh less & be healthier! I want to be a much better steward of the health & body that God has given me. And so that is my goal for the Summer as well – consistent exercise, weight loss (& maintenance of that weight loss this time!)

Do you have any Summer goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Fire-starters, Fury Makers, & the Humility of Christ

Image from Flickr

I often like to read online comments on various articles or news stories to see what people are talking about. They often give me insight into how viewers are thinking or processing the information contained in the story. It seems to be inevitable that there will be commenters arguing about anything from typos in the story to facts to what they think should have been the outcome.

This morning, I was reading a Facebook post by The Gospel Coalition where 2 commenters were going back and forth in a heated discussion. The discussion could have been civil, but one of the commenters had to go there. Where is there? There is where the conversation gains new heights of irritation, where fuel is heaped onto the fire. What took it there in this conversation?

“Are you smoking crack?”

Purely incendiary! Not to mention, offensive. However, we are all often guilty of saying the most unhelpful things in a conversation that ultimately bring up walls and end conversations quickly! Things like:

“Are you serious?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You don’t really believe that!”
“You can’t be that _____!”
“You ARE that _____!”
“Where did you get THAT from?”
“Oh, please!”
“You have LOST your mind!”
“No person in their right mind would think something like that!”
“Oh, you think you know everything. Right.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

The list can go on and on and on… and on. Now, reading those, we will probably cringe, especially if we remember ourselves using any of those phrases before. I will admit, though embarrassed to do so, that I surely have. We become those that start the fire and create fury. As one who is a believer & follower in Jesus Christ, I understand that saying these things reveals a heart of anger toward the other person. In those moments, there is a failure to love that person as I should (Matt. 22:39) which is ultimately a failure to love God for He has commanded me to do so (Matt. 22:37). I am failing to see the other person as an image bearer (Gen. 1:27) who is deserving of my respect and dignity. It shows that there is a preoccupation with self as well, a self seeking preoccupation, a self serving preoccupation, and that is wrong as well. I am more concerned in those moments with winning an argument, than winning others & being kind to others.

When I think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in regard to those moments, I’m reminded of Philippians 2:

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-11 ESV

Jesus is my perfect example of humility. He was never concerned with winning an argument; He was concerned with winning people to the Kingdom of God. He was never self centered or self serving, but rather, Scripture says that He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He loved God and He loved His neighbor. He did everything that I fail to do day by day.

But – there is hope in the Gospel! I fail daily because I sin daily! I am born in sin! I, Jenn, am a natural born sinner like everyone. I know that this presents a problem in light of God’s holiness, therefore I need a Savior. I need Jesus! Praise God that He provided His Son, Jesus, to save us. Christ lived the perfect life, the life that I could never live, yet He died the death that I deserve to die. We all deserve to die that death. We all deserve to bear the full brunt of God’s wrath. But Jesus bore that wrath on the cross so that all who repent and trust in Him would receive His righteousness. He died on the cross for sin, and rose 3 days later, ascending to the right hand of God, and He is there now. My sin, our sin, deserves wrath, but, because I have trusted in Jesus and have received eternal life, I don’t get God’s wrath or judgment. I am forgiven! I have received the Holy Spirit and He convicts me of sin when  I fail. And when I fail, I can run to God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful & just to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Christ is our only hope. He is the only way (John 14:6).

Because of Christ, there is hope for me. There is hope for all of us, all who are fire-starters and fury makers. When I am prideful and humility is the farthest thing from me, I can look to Christ, my perfect example, and hope in His glorious Gospel.

The Gift of My Beloved Husband

wpid-20131207_200733.jpgOn mornings when my husband wakes up before me, I know where to find him. I sleepily stumble into the dining room where I see him sitting at the table, iPad and/or Bible open, with a cup of hot coffee. It’s an encouraging sight to me; I walk toward him and he embraces me. (His hugs are one of my favorite things!) I try not to linger around too long since he is having his quiet time in God’s Word but I can’t help but sneak a quick snuggle in. It’s a precious sight to me to see my husband pursuing the Lord in His Word. It blesses me because I know that as he learns and reads, the Lord will bless him and cause fruit to bear.

Lately I have really been reflecting on the grace that the Lord has shown me in granting me David as my husband. Although he is not perfect (and neither am I!), he is perfect for me. Through many ways and in many times, the Lord has used David to clearly show me His Son, the Gospel, and remind me of His own love, protection, guidance, & provision toward me.

As I prayed one Tuesday afternoon, I thanked the Lord that I do not have any worries or concerns when it comes to finances. My husband handles the budget, makes sure all bills are paid, puts money in our savings account, and spends time forecasting for the future. I worry about nothing in this area. I am not worried that our lights will get turned off or that our car will be repossessed or that there will be a lapse in any area. I am not worried that we will get a notice on our door saying our rent is late. I am not worried that he will put me in harm’s way; I know that he fiercely protects me and looks out for me. I know that he loves me. I don’t doubt it at all. And in this same way that I am so secure in David’s leadership, protection, and provision, I know that my Savior is all of those things and more!

While David fiercely loves and protects me, my Savior does all the more! David provides for me what I need; my Savior does so all the more, perfectly! David shepherds me well; my Lord is the ultimate Shepherd. And while as humans, we let one another down, we sin against each other, we hurt each other, my Savior will never be guilty of any one of those things.

Yet, in all of our imperfections, I love him dearly. I always tell him that he is ‘my favorite’. He is my best friend, my sweet man, my Beloved. He is a true gift from a gracious God to me who always holds out the Gospel before me. He stands with me and helps me fight lies, suffering, and pain with the Truth of God’s Word. He encourages me to read it rightly, to make sure I’m reading the Word in its proper context. He shepherds me through wrong thinking and he has grown to be an empathetic and sympathetic man. He embraces, yet laughs at (!) our differences (and they are many!) but respects me as the individual that God created me to be. The Gospel and the Word of God is never far from his lips and in that, I know how extremely blessed I am!

I remember, years ago, when we were in the courtship phase, I confided in a sister and told her that I could see myself submitting to his leadership! Years later, I must admit – it is a joy to come up under him! In a world where submission is a dirty word, I readily do so.

Beloved, I pray that our marriage is one that honors and glorifies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love you!

Learning to Run with Couch to 5K

runningRecently, I started Couch to 5K (and when I say recently, I mean this week)! It is a system designed to get you in shape to run a 5k (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. With a total of 27 workouts, each week is designed to get you accustomed to being able to run without stopping. Week 1 starts with a brisk 5 minute walk, followed by intervals of 60 seconds of jogging & 90 seconds of walking, and ending with a 5 minute walk as a cooldown. Each week slowly increases the amount of running while decreasing the amount of walking.

I had thought about doing it many times before, but what did it for me was a trip to the lake a few weeks ago with my husband. The lake is beautiful and has a great trail around it. Runners, walkers, and bicyclists alike flock to this trail daily! We’d been there once before, but decided to venture there again one Saturday morning.

I felt so confident as we walked toward the trail! David looked at me and asked if I was ready. I sure was! We were off, jogging and taking in the scenery. Since he’s taller and has much longer strides than I do, he quickly got ahead of me. And about 20 seconds later, he got further and further ahead because I had to stop. I was out of breath! I couldn’t handle it, and we’d just started! Oh boy, did I have a long journey in front of me!

I learned the importance of cross-training that day as well. I go to the gym and put in 40 – 50 minutes on the elliptical so I was surprised at my lack of endurance while running.

By the time we’d both finished the trail, almost 4.5 miles later, I was sore, tired, red in the face, and hot. Because of my inability to truly run, my poor husband’s run was limited due to waiting for me at some points. I determined that I wanted to go back to this trail sometime over the next few months and conquer it!

I researched Couch to 5K again, solicited feedback from Facebook friends on their experiences, and finally put it into play this week. I am praying that I am able to commit to these workouts. I want to run! I will still do the other cardio & strength training on the in-between days, putting me at 5 days of cardio per week. Nothing wrong with that!

Using the RunDouble app is a huge help. It prompts me when to run and when to walk, lets me know how many intervals are left, and tracks my pace and mileage. Using GPS, it also tracks the route that you run.

If all goes well, I should be done by the end of August. And hopefully, by then, I can go back and dominate that trail!

 

Going Gluten Free! Again!

I am not really good at blogging frequently. One look at my blog and you have probably figured that out. Now that school is out for the Summer, time looks different, so hopefully my posts will be more frequent. (And by frequent, I am hoping at least 1 weekly!)

gfreeAbout 3 months ago, I decided to get back to my ‘gluten-free roots’, haha! I was gluten-free in 2010-2011. I’d noticed that when I ate certain items with wheat, I’d have some strange reactions so I decided to eliminate that from my diet. I had blood work done to test for celiac sprue, which came back negative at the time, but I knew how consuming gluten made me feel. When I moved to Austin in late 2011, I let go of my gluten-free diet and started to consume it again. I didn’t have the same reactions so I thought that maybe I was in the ‘clear’ and it was just a temporary intolerance. Breads, cakes, and cookies were my friends again! Or… so I thought.

Due to several reasons earlier this year, I decided to do some research and conduct my own personal experiment. I went gluten-free for a couple of weeks. I attended small group during that time where spaghetti and bread was being served. I decided to partake, thinking I’d be okay. Not even! Later that night, I felt horrible. I felt sluggish & exhausted for days, nauseated, and my body ached pretty badly. Those were just a few of the things happening to me! I thought to myself, If this is how I feel after eating gluten now, how has my body been reacting internally all this time? I decided at that moment to completely go back to being gluten-free.

Has it been difficult? Yes! Some of the restaurants that my husband and I enjoy have some amazing bread! Hello, Olive Garden! Hello, Longhorn Steakhouse! And oh, how I miss eating naan when we have Indian food. However, I know that this has been the better option for my health. I do feel a lot better these days, and I can tell when I’ve been ‘glutened’. Because I have been gluten-free these past few months, my body has a strong reaction when I do eat it. I have been finding new ways to make the foods & sweets that I have enjoyed. One thing my husband and I like is homemade spaghetti. In addition to wheat pasta, our local grocery store offers corn pasta. I have been using this when I make spaghetti and it has gone over well.

What about chocolate chip cookies?! Thankfully, I have a recipe for those that uses oat flour. Slowly, but surely, I am finding healthier, gluten-free ways to enjoy the things I miss. For any of you that are considering going gluten free, I thought I’d share some of my favorite substitutes and recipes that have been in frequent rotation. I’ll also share some of the not so great substitutes! Look out for those in my next post!

Are you gluten-free (or considering it)? What have been your experiences?