Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What a Friend

I have been really struggling lately to work on my prayer life. Sometimes when I'm faced with a painful circumstance I tend to clam up and try my very best to get through it alone. I don't want to do that. We have the amazing ability to give our burdens to Jesus and talk to God directly in prayer, even if we don't always choose to do it. He wants to be a part of our happy times and our sad times. When I've been neglecting Him for a while there comes a time when I feel Him calling me back. I'm learning to rely fully on God but I still need reminders. I guess I'm stubborn like that.

The other day I heard a familiar hymn at church. Do you love old hymns as much as I do? I also love to hear the stories behind why they were written. What a Friend We Have in Jesus was written in 1855 by Joseph M. Scriven. He wrote the song specifically for his mother, "to comfort her in a time of special sorrow." Scriven had certainly known grief and loss in his life, leaving his homeland of Ireland to immigrate to Canada. Later he lost his fiancee just before they were supposed to be married. His hymn is so positive and sweet, you might never know it was born out of tragedy. It reminds us over and over again to take everything to the Lord in prayer.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happening All Along

Last night I finished a book I'd been reading. The book had nothing to do with infertility, miscarriage, or really anything else I've ever been through. It was just a book I was reading for fun. Toward the end, however, I came across these lines and it felt like they were meant for me:
When you spend all your time desperately hoping that something will happen, you lose sight of the fact that something is happening. And has been happening all along.

I'm beginning to realize and accept how true this is. I will never love infertility. It is horrible and I truly hate it every single day. As much as I can't wait until it is behind me, though, I am coming to a place where I can accept it as part of who I am. No, I'm not getting ready to have a t-shirt made with "Ask me about my infertility" printed on it. But in a way I'm starting to look at it as a part of me, albeit a small one. This whole time that I have been desperately waiting for something to happen, something has been happening! God is using this awful experience to teach me amazing things, to open my eyes to the hurts and struggles of others, and to connect me with some incredible people to share in this experience, whether they're also going through it or not.

Over the past few weeks I've been amazed at the ministry opportunities and the overall good responses and support from people in my life. It wouldn't be a true and honest picture, though, if I didn't also tell you that yesterday was a particularly bad day. It was one of those days when all the bad stuff seems to come at me at once. An insensitive comment, unwanted advice, a completely crazy and unthinkable suggestion from a family member - it all hit me like a ton of bricks. But I'm not new at this. It still isn't easy, but I'm learning how to handle even the bad days.

I know that sometimes it will be really hard. I don't know what my future holds. All of these lessons that seem so clear and wonderful are hard to find when there is a new loss, when the pain becomes fresh again and the old wounds are opened back up.

I'm willing to trust God's plan and His timing, and to learn a few lessons along the way. Right now, today, I realize that something is happening. And it has been happening all along.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Things My Momma Taught Me

I wanted to share some pearls of wisdom that have been passed along to me from my mom. Growing up in South Louisiana and with Cajun grandparents, my siblings and I heard quite a few treasures, many of them in French (if I knew how to spell half of them I'd share those too). I’m not so far from home here in SE Texas, but I know if I uttered some of those things around here I’d surely get some strange looks.

First, you should know that my mom is really, really a clean freak. She is a homemaker extraordinaire and she’s full of practical advice about keeping a home clean (advice that mostly involves elbow grease). When my sister and I lived at home, Mom wasn’t one of those strict parents who had to have everything just so, where it felt like you couldn’t "live in" your house. It wasn’t unusual, however, to walk into a room and find mom down on all-fours cleaning some spot (unseen to most by the naked eye) off of the floor. Mom has never owned a dishwasher. SHE is the dishwasher. It’s the kind of situation where you’d better be done with your food and drink if you’re thinking about leaving the table. If not, you may come back to find your plate picked up, washed, rinsed, and in the drying rack. If there are no dishes to wash, Mom will find something in the kitchen to work on until someone drops off a plate. After all, you never know when the cabinets might need a good wipe-down.

I owe a lot to these superior cleaning skills. When we moved into our house six years ago, it looked like the toilet in the master bathroom had never been cleaned. I mean never. The entire bowl was black with stains. Mom went in there with a washrag and various cleaners, and for the next couple of hours we stood back while lots of sounds and smells came from that room. Mom finally emerged, sweaty and exhausted, and the toilet to this day looks brand new. I still don’t know exactly how she did that. Just last week when we were getting ready to evacuate for Hurricane Ike, Mom called to be sure I was going to clean out my refrigerator. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we did that before we left! Coming home to that would have been a nightmare. Thanks for the heads-up, Mom.

Mom is also pretty darn tough. She has been through a lot in her life and she is afraid of very little. She loves romance movies, but she also loves horror movies – the scarier the better. I’ve seen her kill a snake with a shovel, yet she is terrified of lizards. She’s not all business, though. My mom loves to laugh and she has a great sense of humor. If I had to pick a few very favorite (or most humorous) expressions I’ve learned from Mom, I’d go with these:

1. Evil communications corrupt good manners.
I wish I could remember the exact moment my mom found this verse in 1 Corinthians in the King James Version. I wonder if you could literally see a light bulb appear above her head, or if she jotted it down to remember to make it her new mantra. Either way, it's what she always said to my sister and me as we left the house. We never had a strict curfew; Mom trusted us not to stay out too late or get into any trouble. I don't know how she did it exactly, but the last thing we wanted to do was disappoint her so we were pretty good kids. Mom used this verse as a reminder for us to be careful not let bad company influence the good manners she'd taught us.

2. Don't make the corners come to you.
Mom picked up this piece of wisdom from her grandmother. My Granny was a hard worker too, the old-school kind who could wring a chicken's neck with one snap and have it on the table for dinner. None of this boneless, skinless, grocery-store chicken I'm serving up. Granny sounds rough, but actually she was the sweetest, gentlest old lady you could've ever met. Anyway, this bit of advice means you have to work hard. If you're sweeping the floor, go all the way to the corners. They won't come to you. If you see something that needs to be done, do it, and do it well. It's wisdom like this that helps keep me on top of my housework. I don't think I'll ever be as efficient as Granny was and there's no way I'm ever touching a live chicken, but hey, a girl can try.

Finally, my favorite:

3. You have your butt in your face.
That's right. Your butt. In your face. I've taught this gem to a few of my local friends and it catches on like wildfire. I would love to hear your examples of trying to use it this week. Basically, it means you're in a bad mood. You're a grump. Your butt is in your face. Doesn't that somehow perfectly explain a really bad mood sometimes? Try it out. Your husband comes home from work and he's all bent out of shape because someone cut him off in traffic. You just say, "Honey, I'm sorry you have your butt in your face today." Who knows, it might just lighten the mood. A word to the wise: it works for minor inconveniences, but don't try to use it for problems that are too serious!

So thanks, Mom for teaching me how to keep a house clean, how to have good manners, how to be a strong woman of faith, and how to laugh. I hope I can do all of them half as well as you have.

Here's a photo of my mom with three of her siblings and two of her cousins in 1956. I love this pic. It's a serious occasion: her oldest sister's First Communion (Mom was raised Catholic but we are now Protestant). That's my mom in the red dress, with her tongue sticking out. She was always the black sheep, and I love her for it!

Home After Ike

Here are a few photos from our house after Hurricane Ike. Our roof lost quite a few shingles.
This is a view of the side yard (that's our house on the left) and the damage to our fence.
This big limb left a large dent in the roof of our little shed in the backyard.
Now we're sporting this lovely blue tarp on the roof - just for protection in case it leaks.

Overall we are very fortunate that this is the worst of our damage. Things are slowly getting back to normal in our area but for some it will be a long time.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Asking Why

Evacuating for a hurricane this week gave me an opportunity to listen to my iPod in the car for 13 hours round-trip. I have lots of playlists and am always thinking of a new way to organize my music into categories. I love to listen to music in the car and it's great when I know just which playlist I'm in the mood to hear.

I love songs that are genuine and honest, telling the truth about life and hardships and the ups and downs of the Christian walk. I can probably count on one hand the songs that I know of personally that I would put into this category. That's why I love artists like Caedmon's Call, Jeremy Camp, and Bebo Norman. And a few years ago the song Never Alone by BarlowGirl blew me away with its amazing reminder about trusting in what you know about God instead of the feelings that come along with circumstances.

For yesterday's trip home I selected the playlist that should be labeled "Comfort Songs." I got to thinking about a song from Rich Mullins' album The Jesus Record, which was released after the singer/songwriter's untimely death in 1997. The album is a two-disc set, with the first disc consisting of nine demos roughly recorded by Mullins in a church just a few days before he died. In my opinion, Rich Mullins was one of the first to write songs that were truly about Christianity. True Christianity - helping the poor and needy, the widows, the orphans, and living out our faith every single day.

Hard To Get is one of those songs that stops me in my tracks. It's like a prayer to God spoken by someone who is hurting. (I won't print the entire lyrics here but you can find them at this link.) It asks some hard questions and I like that. Does God really hear our prayers? Does he know how we feel? I remember when my own prayers were guarded by my fear of offending God by letting Him know how angry or hurt I was. How wonderful when I realized that He already knows how I'm feeling! I might as well be honest about it and tell Him. He knows my anger, fears, worries, and hurts. And because of Jesus, He understands them. He knows what it's like to be human.

There are so many gems within the song, and I'll mention the ones that speak to me the most. In my own life, and especially since being confronted with infertility and recurrent miscarriage, I get overwhelmed with the WHY. Why, God? Why me? I begin to think if I only knew a reason why, I could deal with it so much better. Mullins writes in the song, "And I know it would not hurt any less even if it could be explained," and I realize that's true. If I knew why, would it hurt any less? No. Even if I had a detailed explanation from God about why this is happening, it wouldn't hurt any less. I am not able to forget the pain of loss. It would definitely still hurt. Maybe that doesn't sound like a benefit but it does help me to work on letting go of the need to know why, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike as well.

To me, the best line of the song is this one:

I can't see how You're leading me
unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led

That's exactly where I need to be. Lost enough to let myself be led. When I can't see how God is leading me, that's where trust becomes crucial. I know that He is leading, even if I don't see how.

Finally, thanks again to all of you who prayed for us during this hurricane. We got home yesterday to find that the house is ok! We still have lots of debris to clean up out of the yard, but we only have damage to our fence, shed, and roof (we lost a bunch of shingles, but no water got in the house). We are so thankful to be home and to have electricity. We know that many are still without. Please keep those in your prayers in the coming weeks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Post From Away

This is the first time I've posted from someplace other than the comfort of my living room. I wanted to give an update on our situation with Hurricane Ike. We evacuated yesterday and went north to stay with my in-laws as planned. What we didn't really expect, however, was that our town would get a direct hit. We honestly thought Ike would hit south of home, but it continued to creep northeast and will be making landfall shortly, right where we hoped it wouldn't.

We are so thankful to be safe and with family. It's good to be able to be back in my husband's hometown, the town we called home for a few years when we were first married. There are lots of great friends here still and we plan to make the best of the time that we have here. Today we were able to accompany my mother-in-law to the cancer center as she continues her treatment and it was nice to see that she is in good hands!

We have heard from many friends and family members today and it seems that most people got out. We do have a neighbor and some friends nearby who decided to stay, so we are concerned about them and praying for their safety.

We have no idea what will happen at home. Before leaving town we boarded up the doors and windows and tried to pick things up off the floor indoors in case of flooding. We are worried about the very high winds and the storm surge. Our house has never flooded due to heavy rain, but a storm this huge and the associated storm surge are a different story.

As we evacuated, our car was loaded down with our most precious keepsakes - about 10 full photo boxes, all of my scrapbooks, and our computer (which has hundreds more photos). Everything else can be replaced, but it is still very unsettling to leave so much behind. It's completely out of our hands.

Thanks to all of you who are praying for us and keeping up with this storm. My family in SW Louisiana decided to stay put, and as of tonight they still had electricity. I'll try to write another update as we find out more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Other News

It's amazing how much has happened since the last In Other News post. Hurricane season is in full swing as I've talked about quite a lot lately and it is really keeping us on our toes. Whether we need to evacuate for Hurricane Ike or not, I'm pretty sure we have decided to leave town this weekend and go visit my in-laws. That way we will be safe no matter where the storm goes. We may be boarding up the windows before we go.

So, let's jump right in. Here's what's happening with us In Other News:

  • Of course, Hurricane Ike will be making landfall in Texas this weekend. The farther south it goes, the safer things will be at our house. Even if we don't get a direct hit we will still be on the "dirty" side of the storm with much wind and rain. We are hoping people will be safe and evacuate if necessary. People around here are stubborn after all the heavy traffic with the poorly planned evac for Hurricane Rita a few years ago.
  • Note: I've decided that my husband's nickname on this blog will be "Chuck." Early in our engagement my dad mistakenly called him by that name and it has been a joke between us ever since. Our friends get a kick out of it because apparently he doesn't "look like a Chuck," however one should look! So, in the spirit of anonymity (and inside jokes) I will be calling him Chuck.
  • September is the month for doctor appointments at my house. Chuck and I have the always fun, shared dermatology appointment tomorrow unless we evacuate sooner, and we will both be taking care of our 6-month dental checkups and cleanings this month. That's not at all interesting, I know, but hey, it feels great to get that stuff crossed off of my list.
  • It only took me two weeks to read the entire Twilight series. I loved it! Here's my breakdown of the books. Don't worry, I'm not into spoilers so it's safe to read on. I thought the very best book in the series was book 3, Eclipse, followed very closely by book 1, Twilight. I liked book 2, New Moon, but it definitely had a darker quality to it and was a little harder to read. Book 4, Breaking Dawn, in my opinion was a little too graphic and gory, and frankly too long. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there could ever be too much Edward Cullen so I was still interested in the plot. I just thought it could have been wrapped up more succinctly. I have to give credit to the author Stephenie Meyer. Although I occasionally read some SciFi-type books, I never thought I could be interested in a book (much less a series) about vampires. She did a great job writing it and she had me hook, line, and sinker. I passed them along to my sister, and now my brother and my mom are enjoying them as well. It has been a lot of fun to talk about the books with several friends who happened to be reading them at the same time. I can't wait for the Twilight movie November 21!
  • I actually took a short break between Twilight and New Moon to read a book entirely unrelated, The Shack by William P. Young. I don't normally interrupt a series like that but I was trying to get it finished before I got together with some friends who had already read it and wanted to discuss it. Some consider it controversial, but I found it very interesting. The more I try to briefly write about it here, the more I think it needs its own post. I actually have NOTES from the book, so that should tell you something! If you'd like to read more about it or discuss The Shack with me, look for a new post soon.

With the possible evacuation/trip to see family I will probably be out of touch for several days, which means I won't likely be able to read my regular blogs. I hope you all have a great weekend and we'll hopefully catch up next week!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What is Our Purpose?

How great is it that we live in the age of information? I love that there is so much out there to read and study at the click of a button. I’d be a little embarrassed to admit how many times I use Google every day! Sure, sometimes it can all be overwhelming, but it’s worth it when you find something that is just what you were looking for or needed to hear.

I have been having an internal debate for quite some time now. Does that mean there are voices in my head? Maybe so (ha ha). It all came to a head a few weeks ago when I was handed a book to read. If you read my blog regularly or know me in real life, then I hope you know that I’m not here to drag anybody through the mud. I won’t mention the name of the book here, but if you wish to know it feel free to e-mail me.

It would also be crucial to point out that this book came to me in a Bible study setting. Like any material for a Bible study, I think we must be very careful when considering someone else’s opinion or personal conviction, as opposed to what is actually scriptural. There were many, many things in the book that I disagreed with, both personally and spiritually. I decided immediately that I could not participate in the study. After some discussion between the group leader (who is a trusted friend) and myself, and then the leader and our pastor, the book has been tossed out as Bible study material for our group of ladies. Please understand that I don’t think everyone must agree with my opinion! I think it is wise and healthy to discuss differing opinions and viewpoints. In fact, I hope that is exactly what will happen now that the book has been in the spotlight at my church.

I’ve kept you in suspense long enough. My main issue with the book is that the author seems to be pushing the idea that every married woman must be a mother, and that it is her primary purpose and calling. Interestingly enough, the author is a middle-aged single woman with no children. She has obviously come to terms with the fact that as a Christian woman it is acceptable to remain unmarried. However, she clearly doesn’t think that married Christian women should be childless. This raises so many concerns for me. The most obvious one, of course, is that I don’t wish to remain childless! I haven’t chosen this path. The only one who can rescue me from this situation (God) has not yet done so. I don’t like it one bit, but I trust Him completely. I’m willing to let Him handle this, through natural means or through medicinal means. Either way, He’s in control.

There are other situations to consider on this topic besides infertility. I don’t believe that every married woman on the planet WANTS to be a mother. Is she ignoring her primary purpose in life if she chooses not to have children? Is she missing her calling? I don’t think so. I personally believe that a Christian woman should seek to serve the Lord as her primary purpose, no matter if she is married or single, fertile or infertile.

A couple of days ago I came across a blog post that rocked my world. I can’t wait to share it with you! I believe it was no coincidence that it came my way. I wanted to stand up and shout after reading what Amy had to say here. The post begins with some political talk, but that’s not what I want to debate here. I want to direct your attention below that and to the heart of the post, about a woman’s highest calling.

I love being a wife and I believe it is part of God's will for my life. I try to honor God and my husband daily. I strongly desire to be mother and have the utmost respect for those who do it well day in and day out. As long as I am living for Jesus I feel as if I am serving my purpose, whether I ever have children or not.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Being Anxious for Nothing

... is easier said than done. Some days worry and anxiety feel so heavy that it's literally like having a weight on my chest. The past couple of days have been that way for me. Strangely enough, it has had little to do with the threat of hurricane season (not that that isn't worrisome). It has been the kind of week where multiple little things have added up to create a giant mound of anxiety. Things that I know I shouldn't let bother me have found a way to sneak in and wreak havoc on my otherwise peaceful life. People's responses and reactions to my situation, and the insensitivity of some have really gotten me down lately. I know that these are human reactions and that they aren't uncommon. Still, I'm embarrassed to admit it. It's not part of my good side. I've got to confess, though, that I'm struggling.

I often turn to God's Word when I'm feeling this way. I wish I could say that I "always" do, but that just wouldn't be true. Thankfully some of these verses are tucked away in my heart and are there when I don't even think to search for them. For example, Philippians 4:6 (NASB) is one I've had memorized for years: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." That's an excellent reminder for me. I like practical advice. Today, however, I came across a new verse that was like a breath of fresh air. It spoke to exactly what I was feeling. "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25 (NIV). What I need, then, as a cure for this heavy, anxious heart, is a kind word!

Isn't it true that sometimes when we feel like a total failure, when it's like we're stuck in a rut and can't seem to gain any traction, or when we feel like giving up, that a kind word can be so helpful? No, it won't change my situation. But it can help change my attitude. Knowing that someone is out there who genuinely cares, who sees me for who I am outside of infertility yet doesn't pretend that it's not there can make a huge difference. I probably sound pretty needy right now. But let me tell you what a positive difference it makes for me when my husband wakes up in the middle of the night to keep me company when my mind is racing and I can't sleep. Or when a friend makes contact and allows me to take my mind off of my troubles for a while. What a difference, and all because of a kind word.

I'm not a very poetic person. I write like I think, which is pretty darn practical. There's a song that says what I'm thinking, though, called Borrow Mine by one of my favorite artists Bebo Norman. I'll leave you with the lyrics. Let us not forget about those we know who are hurting today.

Take my hand and walk with me a while
Cause it seems your smile has left you
And don't give in, when you fall apart
And your broken heart has failed you
I'll set a light up
On a hilltop
To show you my love
For this world to see

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

Take my love when all that you can see
Is the raging sea all around us
And don't give up 'cause I'm not letting go
And the God we know will not fail us
We'll lay it all down
As we call out
Sweet Savior
help our unbelief

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

When you are weak
Unable to speak
You are not alone
The God who has saved us
Will never forsake us
he's coming to take us
Take us to our home

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

Take my hand
Take my love
Don't give in
Don't give up

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Things are back to normal at our house. I'm feeling sad for my beloved home state of Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav. There are still a few of our relatives and friends who haven't touched base with us yet after the storm. I know many are without electricity and some are still away from home. I've been hearing that the Baton Rouge area was hit pretty hard. My husband's grandparents had to evacuate from a town near Lafayette, and it was especially hard since Pop had a stroke last March and has been in a nursing home. They are back home now with electricity and are only missing a few shingles from the roof, thank God.

Fortunately my sister's family returned home yesterday and found nothing wrong. After almost completely gutting their house from Hurricane Rita and then again from a random flood a year later, they were especially grateful! My mom made the decision to leave our house yesterday and return to her home without the power on. After they arrived and unloaded the car, the electricity came back on within about 5 minutes! I was so relieved that they didn't have to be without power in the unbearable heat (like they did for several days after Rita). Besides a yard full of branches and debris, things were fine there too. The outer bands of the storm are still around and resulted in a tornado touching down in my mom's town just last night. I've heard that Gustav has caused nearly 40 tornadoes so far.

It's amazing that Gustav isn't quite over. It's still causing some bad weather throughout the state and in Arkansas and beyond. It was hard to believe that it was still at Category 1 strength all the way up to central Louisiana. Even our family and friends in the northern part of the state lost power for a little while.

After so much activity it's kinda sad for me to be alone at home once again. Yesterday I washed 4 sets of sheets and a big load of towels, and swept and mopped the house after my family left. Today things are quiet here but I'm still watching the Weather Channel. My TV hasn't been on anything else for days besides Monday night's season premiere of Prison Break! I'm hoping that Hurricane Hanna goes easy on the east coast, and I'm keeping a wary eye on tropical storms Ike and Josephine.