Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't Discount Your Testimony

I remember sitting at the dining room table with my grandma two years ago on Thanksgiving talking about a Women's conference I had just been to in the Quad Cities.  I talked about the speakers and their excitement and zest for the Lord even after everything they had been through.  Their testimonies were so powerful.  I distinctly remember thinking after that conference, and sharing at that Thanksgiving table with my grandma, that I just hadn't had the struggle that these women have had.  How will I ever have a profound impact on the world if I've never truly had to struggle and wrestle with my faith?  Why would anyone want to hear my story? Its so basic and boring.

My grandma is one of the most wise women I know.  She exudes joy in every circumstance and glorifies God with everything she does.  Her response to my "complaint" was, "Mi hija, some people don't go through that dessert.  Some people are just there to be strong enough for those that struggle.  If you haven't struggled through that, there is still so much power in being strong and supporting someone during their difficulties.  You don't have to be the one going through the dessert, you just have to commit to being strong for those that need it."

She referenced the story of Moses in Exodus 17:12:

When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

Sometimes you are Aaron and Hur, but sometimes you are Moses.  

I soon realized, I'm not Aaron or Hur in this story and my complaint about not having a story would change right before my eyes.  A month and a half after that conversation at Thanksgiving, Jake and I decided we wanted to start trying to have kids, and that is when our story began.  Twenty months later, we are still trying for those kids.  Throughout these twenty months God has broken me down to (what feels like) the very core of my being.  Twenty times I have hoped, twenty times I have been disappointed.  Twenty times I have believed, twenty times I have been told "not now."  Twenty times I thought I was ready, twenty times I realized I was not.  Twenty times I have fought with God about His plan, twenty times He has shown me it is better than mine.  Twenty times I have argued and complained to Him out of anger, twenty times He continued to pursue me, love me, and encourage me.

I have no idea how long it will be until we discover God's plan for our family but I do know that we have gone through a lot.  I have had that hurt, that pain, and that brokenness that those women conveyed during their speeches but I don't know how much deeper God will bring us into this.  I am working on getting to the point of that joy and conditioning myself for that zest for Christ, while doing my best to be humble and genuine about my emotions.  I'm walking through the dessert of infertility without an end in sight right now.  

I share this to say that you should never discount your testimony.  Wherever you are at, God is at work in you.  If He isn't, that is because you aren't allowing Him to be.  Be open to His plan for you but be present in your current moments. 

A friend of mine recently said that she has never really had that serious struggle with her faith.  My immediate response was, "Be careful what you wish for.  That is exactly what I said the month before we started trying to have kids and here we are.  Trust in God's development of your testimony and don't overlook the work God is doing in your heart right now."

Know this, God will break you, tear you apart, and put you through the fire, if that is what He needs for your life.  You will feel heartache, disappointment and frustration but He will comfort you, surprise you, and bring back hope when you least expect it.  At the end of the day, God will create a more beautiful work of art from that brokenness than you could ever imagine.  Today you have no idea how your response to your struggle can impact those around you.  Christians are watched every day.  Just like Potiphar's wife wanted Joseph to cave to sin and Job's wife wanted him to rebuke God, there are people that want to see hard times tear you down. 

I don't know what the end of our story is but I do know that I am being refined for a greater purpose, my actions are speaking to others whether I realize it or not and my faith is growing exponentially.  I choose to trust in God's plan and I choose to let Him break me so that I can become a new creation because those that are special in my life and my someday baby deserve the best version of me possible through the grace of God.

"Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." Job 5:17-18

"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Hedge of Protection

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During a conversation with my mom tonight we were talking about spiritual warfare and feeling the spiritual battles raging around us.  I mentioned that I can feel a fierce battle surrounding Jake and I right now that I know the devil is not going to be quick to surrender on.  Her response was, “Dane, you are surrounded by such a hedge of prayer warriors that even in the times that you feel too weak to battle, we will carry you, or drag you if we have to, across that finish line.” 

This got me to thinking about how thankful I am for our “hedge.” Our hedge is full of seasoned and not-so-seasoned believers who believe not only in us but most importantly in the amazing God that we serve. Our hedge is full of people who are strong when we are weak, hopeful when we are hopeless and faithful when we are not so faltering. These are the people who are walking through the very depths of this hurt with us and keeping the hope when we don’t have any.  These people are in our hedge out of their own volition; because they care so much it makes our hedge that much more meaningful. These are the most important people in our lives. They love us as Christ loves us; they love selflessly and without boundaries. They are our stronghold.

I am so grateful for these people in my life and I am so sorry if I do not recognize you or thank you enough for the roles you play in our lives and in our marriage.  Thank you for being our hedge.  Thank you for being our warriors, thank you for being our hope when we need it most.

Who are the people in your hedge?  Do they battle for you as Christ does?  Do they support you selflessly and love you without limits?  If you have these people in your life, thank them for playing the role they do.  Thank them for their support and love. 

Lastly, be someone else’s hedge.  Be willing to do life with them.  Be open to their hurts, their hearts and their happiness.  Be there.  You never know how much it will mean to them or just how much they count on you. 

Romans 12:9-10

Don’t just pretend to love others.  Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I Thessalonians 5:14

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Loving Unconditionally

I Corinthians 13: 4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails. 

On May 6th, we began meeting with a fertility specialist.  Through a series of tests we have figured out that everything on Jake's end is good, praise God! We also found out that there may be more strikes against me than we originally thought.  While initially that was a blow to my ego and my pride, I realize that I have been battling Satan against feeling inadequate for a year and a half now, I can handle a couple more strikes.  I know that regardless of my reproductive "flaws" I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I hold onto that truth and I believe it in my heart.  

Last month we decided to pursue our first treatment called an IUI.  Last night, after a long month of blood tests, hormones, ultrasounds and shots, we found out that the IUI did not work.  Our doctor warned us that he thinks my right tube is blocked and we knew this going into the treatment.  After taking the hormones my nurse told us that the dominant egg was on the right side of my uterus.  We knew going in that if I do in fact have a blocked tube, this egg will not be released.  As such, there was a reality that both of us were facing during our two week wait that this may not work.  While neither of us thought "it" would happen this time because of the tube situation, because we believe God is our healer and the doer of miracles, we had hope that it might work anyways.  

We took the news pretty well, better than I thought we would.  I took it much better than I personally thought I would.  On Sunday our pastor did a sermon on taking things one day at a time and quoted Matthew 6:34  34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  This brought both of us peace and really took away any anxiety or worry we were harboring about receiving the test results the next day.  

Regardless of this peace, when we heard the news I began to feel numb.  So many thoughts ran through my head like: How old will we actually be once we have kids?  How many tries is this going to take?  Will we get pregnant naturally or do we need to start looking into adoption?  What if we are one of those couples that just can't have kids?  Does my husband blame me?  God, why are you making us wait so long?  Are you going to bring us through deeper heartache than what we've already gone through?  Can I really submit all of this to the Lord?  How much is it going to take to "build" this testimony?  What if all my friends get pregnant before I do?  How will I handle all of that?  

I realize that each of those questions are situational.  They all reflected how I was feeling.  None of them were said in a submissive posture but rather a proud posture, an angry posture, a selfish posture.
We always hear I Corinthians 13:4-8 said at weddings and we quote it often referencing love in our earthly relationships.  However, for the very first time in my life, I looked at in terms of my love for God.  Is my love for Him patient? Kind? Proud? Self-seeking?  Easily angered?  Am I keeping a record of wrongs?  Do I always hope? Trust? Persevere?  

I write this morning to confess that I do not love God the way I should.  I have failed to love him in the way that He calls me to.  So often I reference that verse in the way I am loving my husband and how I am treating him, but I now realize that that needs to be the standard of my most important relationship, my relationship with Jesus Christ.  

People always ask me "how do you know you are ready for kids?", and my response is that I don't.  We won't know we are ready for kids until we get pregnant.  When God blesses us with a baby, then I will know He thinks we are ready.  Until He decides to trust me with one of His children, I need to work on preparing my heart and my faith.  This is not my choice.  It is not my time.  

Nonetheless, as of this morning, because I want to love God the way He calls me to love I will hope, I will trust, and I will persevere.    I will not be angered, and I will try my hardest not to be self-seeking.  I will not chalk up this failed IUI as a negative point for God.  I will do my best not to envy others whom God decides are ready for kids but rather I will be kind, I will be humbled and I will know and believe that God's love never fails.  

And finally, I will see this "kid-less" time with my husband as a wonderful blessing and an opportunity to continue to build a solid faith foundation for our marriage and our family.