Tuesday, November 25, 2008
As much as I will miss reading all of your blogs for the next week and a half, it will be kind of nice to spend some quiet time in the country. I have packed several books that have been on the nightstand waiting to be read. I plan on at least starting Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (book 3 in the Eragon or Inheritance series) and/or The Host by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Speaking of Twilight, I'm finally going to see the movie this weekend! I haven't gone yet because my mom, sister, brother and I had agreed to wait and see it together. After hearing a few mixed reviews from friends, I can't wait to go check it out for myself.
I will be eager to catch up with all of you when I get home. Please know you will all be in my prayers next week. I plan on keeping a prayer journal just for you while I'm away. I'm thankful for you guys!
One final note: please pray for my husband's grandmother and the whole family. She is not doing well at all and we fear it may be a very hard time this weekend. Your prayers would mean so much to us!
Monday, November 24, 2008
This has me thinking a lot about something. If there is any topic I have wanted to blog about, that has been rolling around in my head for months and months, it is this one. It is the subject of blessings. What does it mean to be blessed by God? Am I blessed by God? I regularly hear people tell mothers how blessed they are. They walk right up to them and say, "Wow, God has really blessed you," or "You are the most blessed woman." I don't think anyone has ever told me how blessed they think I am! Am I less blessed than a mother? Why do we usually associate blessings with children?
I know I've just thrown a bunch of questions at you! I have been thinking on this and trying to study about it and soak up everything I hear on the topic like a sponge. I've talked it over with friends and family, listened to sermons, read the Bible, prayed about it, and spent hours discussing it with my husband. Today I want to share some things with you that I have learned about blessings. I'm definitely no expert, and I welcome any insights you might have on this as well.
Yesterday at church we had our annual Thanksgiving service and luncheon. During the worship time our music minister called for folks to share how they were thankful. I sat and listened as person after person stood and talked about how God had blessed them with such wonderful parents, families, and children. I have to tell you, it was special and I also thought about how thankful I am for my family. But I couldn't help but feel sad too in a way, for myself and for others in the room who perhaps didn't feel blessed. Maybe there was someone else like me who didn't grow up in a stable home with two godly parents. Maybe someone else had a dad who left them and drank too much. Maybe there was a single or divorced man or woman who felt alone and had a tough year. Maybe there were couples besides us who prayed all year long for a child and were disappointed and heartbroken. While I was sitting there in church I had the overwhelming desire to stand up and speak for those people. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I knew I had to do it. I stood and told everyone there that even if they didn't have loving Christian parents or a spouse or a house full of children, that they were also blessed! I told them I was thankful for God's blessings like our salvation through His son Jesus, and hearts that are obedient to Him. I don't know whether it meant anything to anyone else, but it meant something to me. I didn't get through it without tears, which disappointed me, but I hope the message was clear. Please don't get me wrong, I DO think we must thank God for our parents, spouses, and children and everything in between! I just don't want to lose sight of what our blessings really are.
A few minutes later in that testimony time at church, a young man stood up and said that he was thankful to God for all of the trials in his life. He was thankful for all of the family hardships that he'd been given that have made him the person he is today. This young man is about 20 years old and has known more trials than I could even know. He came from a family of alcoholism, abuse, and neglect and was adopted by a loving couple. They have, I think, 4 biological children and I believe another 8 or 9 adopted and foster children, and this family has been living in tents and mobile homes ever since their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike two months ago. He didn't say a word about any of that stuff yesterday, only how thankful he was. I was amazed. I'm not normally an "Amen shouter" but I couldn't keep myself from speaking out right then and telling him afterwards how much he had touched my heart.
In the Bible, in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives us what we call The Beatitudes. I think it's interesting to note whom He calls blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn. (Are you feeling blessed yet? This one stands out to me.)
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
The Bible shows us that Jesus used external "blessings" like miracles and healing to open the door for what He really came to do. I believe that our real blessings are internal: those that happen in our hearts. God's greatest miracle is that He saves us and changes our hearts and calls us His own. A good definition of blessed is to be fortunate. We are fortunate to have God's hand of protection upon our lives. If you do have a happy marriage, you are fortunate to have that. If you do have children, you should consider them a blessing and a gift. But the absence of those external things does not mean the absence of God's blessing in your life. Those are not the ultimate blessings!
Through all of this study I've learned something very valuable. I don't want to pursue having children more than I pursue righteousness and obedience to my Lord. I want to seek His kingdom first and let Him take care of the rest.
Even when I don't feel blessed, I know that I am. I'm careful about how I use that word now. I don't want anyone to look at anything I have on the outside and see that as a blessing, but I want only to be seen as blessed if people look at me and see my Savior. I want to tell you, single friends and childless friends and my dear friends who are parents, we are all blessed because we are God's children.
When I write that Christmas letter this year and when I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I'll be thanking God for my blessings. And perhaps for the first time I will truly understand what that means.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My Top Five favorite things about Christmas:
1. The music and movies.
Every year I can't wait to get out my Christmas CDs. A few of my can't-live-without favorites are Elvis Presley (of course), Harry Connick, Jr., and Aaron Neville. Some new favorites include Bebo Norman, Third Day, and Josh Groban. I love Christmas carols, and hearing my old favorites gets me so excited for the season.
You might think my favorite Christmas movies are It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Nah. My pick, hands down, is The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love that movie! It's funny, sweet, and sentimental, and it stars such great actors as Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog. How can you go wrong? I also enjoy watching Little Women (the one from 1994) and Home Alone 1 & 2 this time of year.
2. The decorations.
Is there anyone who doesn't love Christmas decorations? I love the lights, the ornaments, the nativity scenes, the garland, the candles, all of it! Yesterday I attempted to make a garland for the fireplace mantle for the first time. Normally I just throw some plain green garland up there and go with it. I like to decorate but I get intimidated by plain, prominent, flat surfaces. I never know what to put up on the mantle. I have mantle issues. This post at Nesting Place motivated me to try something new. A trip to Michaels and about 3 hours later my husband and I came up with this:
Monday, November 17, 2008
I spent the weekend with my mom, brother, and stepdad. They came for a visit and we had a great time, mostly eating! Mom was catching up on my blog here since she doesn't own a computer, and watching her reaction really had an effect on me. She didn't sob or freak out, but she just sat there with silent tears as she read. She finally put it aside and said she'd finish reading the printed copy later. It made me realize that although I sometimes feel alone in this valley, I'm really not alone. I'm not the only one who feels the pain of my own infertility. Sure, I may feel it the most - physically and emotionally, but I'm beginning to understand that my family grieves with us over this. They're sad and they feel pretty helpless about our situation. That makes me very sad too, but it also makes me thankful. They have stood by us through thick and thin, and they have never stopped hoping or praying for us.
In addition to family, I also have several faithful friends who have chosen to walk this path with us. They haven't given up on us even though it is taking a very long time and there has been little progress or rejoicing. They, like my family, have continued to encourage, pray, and try to understand what we're going through and how they can help. They are truly awesome friends!
Finally, there are those of you who have never even met us before but you choose to make a connection. You read these words and maybe leave a comment or send me an e-mail, or maybe you pray for us. I can't tell you how much it means to my husband and to me. Every day I can't wait to wake up and see what God will do. I love talking to new people all over the country (and world!) and realizing that I'm not alone. You guys inspire me. I hate that so many of you are dealing with infertility and/or miscarriage. But I praise God for bringing us together. I truly feel like I have a support group and some lifelong friends.
Some of you haven't been down this road but you still choose to get involved. For one reason or another your heart has been softened to this struggle and you keep coming back to support and encourage. There are many of you, but specifically, thank you Lauren for making a difference in my life this week! The post on your blog really touched my heart.
I know, it's a love-fest! Seriously, thank you. You should know that today I'm thanking God for you. Pat yourself on the back or give yourself a hug from me, and know that you're making a difference!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Remember that song from the '90s that had the line in it, "You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today"? (Bonus points if you can name the song and the artist, no googling allowed!) Sometimes I start the day out with that thought. I'd just like to get through today with my cheeks dry. I don't want to break down and cry when someone asks me how things are going. I want to be honest with people but I don't want to come across like an emotional basket case.
I find that it's hard to answer the question when someone asks if I'm ok. I always feel like if I say yes, then they will think I'm doing fine and have "gotten over" my pain and grief. But I think if the answer is no, they think I'm on the verge of giving up and usually recommend counseling (especially if I cry). I think an easier question to answer might be am I ok today. That I could probably answer pretty honestly. Is it a good day or a bad day? Because really that's what I want people to understand. It has been nearly two years since my last miscarriage, but every day has ups and downs. Some days start out great but then I have a major setback. I'm happy to say that most days lately are good days. Oh, but the bad days are still around.
I'm trying to find a balance here. I can't pretend that recurrent miscarriage/infertility is not a part of my life but I want everyone to know that it's not all I'm about. Most days I'm happy and hurting all at the same time. Like everybody else I have daily joys and struggles. True friends are those who stick around with you through both, and I'm so grateful for those in my life.
I think one of the hardest things is when the lines of communication are broken. Unfortunately I've seen too many friendships dwindle away because we stop talking about things. I even have some friends who have been through infertility, had children, and moved on, never to bring it up with me again or ask how my situation is going. They've had their prayers answered and I don't know if they remember me way back here, still pleading with the Lord to remember me too. I hear them talk about how much God has blessed them and I wonder what that means for me. It's awful to feel the awkwardness creep into a friendship, and eventually watch the friendship all but disappear.
Yesterday I wasn't really ok, but today is better. I don't know how tomorrow will be, but I hope you'll hang in there with me either way. Likewise, I hope that you will count on me to help with your heavy load too.
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Let me say that I absolutely adore my grandparents-in-law! I have never been particularly close to my own grandparents, although my relationship with my dad's mom has gotten a lot better in the past few years. She is 91 years old now and her last remaining sibling died last month. I've realized with each passing year that my time with her is short. My love for Chuck's grandparents started when we were just dating. They are four very special people and I have loved every moment I've had with all of them for the past 12 years. Each one welcomed me into their family and made me feel loved. I have always felt a special affection for older folks, I think because my great grandmother was so very precious to us. I adore spending an afternoon visiting with an elderly relative, asking them questions and listening to their stories of the past. I never really had a chance to know my grandfathers very well. Both of them died before I graduated from high school. I always told my husband how lucky we were to have all four of his grandparents in our lives for so long.
Things have changed tremendously in just two short years. Grandpa passed away last February after several weeks in the hospital. Grandma has since moved into a nursing home. On my mother-in-law's side, Pop had a severe stroke in March of this year. He survived but he has lost the ability to speak and has paralysis on one side. Granny spends every single day visiting him in the nursing home. It is so hard to see him going through this but he continues to inspire and amaze me even more than he did before the stroke - and that's saying a lot!
After the war, Grandpa worked for 30 years as a Farm Labor Representative for the State of Louisiana. After he retired he worked diligently around his home, maintaining his garden and lawn and cutting his own firewood until he was well into his 80s.
Pop grew up in South Louisiana speaking French as his first language. He worked with his father as a boat builder before becoming a preacher and lifelong missionary. He continued using his amazing carpentry and woodworking skills until the very day of his stroke at the age of 86.
Each of these men served his country with honor and pride. They returned home from overseas to marry their beautiful wives, raise their children, and eventually become wonderful grandfathers. I am so honored to call these two my family, even if by marriage.
Happy Veteran's Day.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Here are the criteria I remember:
1. If a family's house had more than one story, they must be rich. Why I thought the existence of stairs in a house meant tons o' money is beyond me, but somehow it made sense back then.
2. If a family had a built-in swimming pool, they just had to be rich. My sister and I used to beg our mom all summer long to take us to the public pool in a neighboring town. I remember it was usually so crowded that we'd just claim a spot along the wall and hang out there all day. There was very little swimming involved. To me it seemed like having your own pool would be the ultimate in luxury.
3. If one of my peers wore designer clothes, their parents were most certainly rich. I have blogged before about how we didn't have very much when I was growing up. I was very grateful for what we did have but I was just sure I might be cooler or have more friends if I had the right clothes.There was a short list of people I knew who actually had all three! It practically blew my mind. I just knew that they slept on mattresses stuffed with cash and used dollar bills as toilet paper.
Seriously though, I don't want it to sound like my childhood days were spent dreaming about fancy clothes and swimming pools and houses with stairs. They really weren't. But isn't it silly how we think this way? Sometimes I think I still do it in my adult life. I look at families today who have children and I think, wow they sure do have everything. In reality I know that every family has struggles. We don't usually know what secret hurt someone else is dealing with, or what thing they are longing to have. I'm not talking anymore about jealousy or covetousness as much as sheer longing for the desires of your heart.
Lately I'm not happy with my lack of contentment. There are many areas in my life today where I do feel very "rich." I still don't have a multilevel home, a pool, or designer clothes. I no longer care a single bit about those things! I'm rich in other ways that aren't necessarily tangible. Those are the facts, yet I'm still longing. Can longing and contentment go hand in hand? Where do we get contentment? I know the answer but I'm still trying to get a firm grasp on it in my own life. I'm humbled by the Apostle Paul's words about contentment in the midst of circumstances far worse than any I could imagine (Philippians 4:11-13, printed below). I know he achieved that not on his own but because of Christ's strength within him. Despite his situation, I can look at Paul and recognize that he was indeed a very rich man.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
First you should know that our bodies are on two completely different schedules. I'm a night owl and I always have been. It takes me a very long time to wind down at night. I usually get in bed around 10, then I watch late night TV or read a book until I get sleepy. This takes a few hours. I usually turn my lamp off sometime between midnight and one a.m. (and even later if the book I'm reading is especially good). Fortunately my nightly routine doesn't bother my hubby one bit. As I've gotten older it seems like I've become more and more particular about my surroundings when I sleep. I never used to be this way. When I was growing up I shared a double bed with my big sister and no joke, if we had a friend over we'd fit all 3. I, being the runt, always got the middle. We'd also leave the radio on when we went to bed. Somehow I always managed to sleep. Now, however, I have to have it very quiet. The temperature must be cool but not too cold. It's almost like the stars and planets must be aligned for me to be able to get to sleep.
Over the past few years Chuck has begun snoring. I don't remember exactly when it started but it's gotten increasingly worse over the past year. It doesn't go on all night and it doesn't rattle the windows, but it's definitely enough to be a problem. This morning he was sawing some serious logs around 5:30 and I woke up just wide awake and unable to go back to sleep. He gets up for work around 6, so I stayed in bed until about 6:30 while he got ready and then I just started my day early. I had a Bible study to go to at 9 and normally wouldn't have gotten up until about 8, so 5:30 was a pretty early start for me! I am by no means a morning person, but it was nice that Chuck and I had breakfast together. I even got some chores knocked out early, as I found myself cleaning out the refrigerator at 7 a.m.!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In that video clip, Obama first states that "if" he could talk to Jesus Christ... If? Christians have assurance that we can approach the throne in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can and do talk to Jesus. There's no "if" about it. Next, he says he would ask Christ whether he is "going up or down." Again, as Christians we know that our souls are bound for Heaven. We have the assurance of our salvation, as promised by Jesus' death and resurrection (John 3:16; 17:3). We don't wander through life not knowing what will become of us. For a man whose campaign speaks of hope, this would seem pretty hopeless.
Obama also says that he doesn't think it is appropriate to assume that his faith is absolute. Again, it is a fundamental Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). We call ourselves Christian because we are followers of Christ! Of course we are expected to live peacefully with people of other faiths, but to claim that your own religious belief is not absolute is to negate your entire reason for choosing to believe it. Furthermore, Christians should seek to be more like Christ, and as Alan Keyes points out in the clip, Obama's voting record proves that he is headed in a different direction.
Today, Election Day, is a big day here in the United States. Because I am a Christian, I must vote with my mind as well as my heart. I have made an educated and moral decision not to vote for Barack Obama (trust me when I tell you that religion is not the only reason). The purpose of this post is not to debate politics as much as it is to encourage you to defend your faith (1 Peter 3:15)! I can't hear a clip like this of a man presuming to speak on behalf of Christianity while having his facts completely wrong, and not feel the urge to speak up. Obama's lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of the Christian faith leave me feeling very sad and wondering why he would choose to associate himself with it.
If I wake up tomorrow with Obama as my President, I will continue to respect the office and trust for God's will to be accomplished through it. Either way, I am not without hope! I have been greatly encouraged by this video clip of John Piper that I found on his blog, Desiring God. I'd like to leave you with these thoughts:
Monday, November 3, 2008
I'm confused about a few things. Every now and again I get some comments from my mommy friends about how they're jealous that I get to travel. In fact, the most recent one was more like, "Let's not talk about how you went to New York last week." I don't know what to do with that. Here's what I find confusing. My friends know that as much as I love to travel, my heart's desire is motherhood. I have a lot of friends who talk about their kids 99% of the time, yet I never say to them, "Let's not talk about how you get to be a mommy." That would be taboo, right?
Yes, one reason I'm able to travel so much is because I don't yet have children. Chuck and I have made some wonderful memories over the past few years, and we've been amazed at the opportunities we've had to see parts of the country we never thought we'd see. We are so grateful for those times. Traveling doesn't erase the pain of recurrent miscarriage. It does, however, help us make happy memories in the midst of our grief.
This all boils down to a larger issue that bothers me. Let me preface this by saying that I've never been a mom before. I can try to imagine the struggles, the exhaustion, and the constant demands of having children, but really I don't know how that feels. That being said, it bothers me how many people out there talk about their children as if they are a tremendous burden and inconvenience. The notion that a person could sure do a lot of traveling and other fun stuff if they weren't tied down by some kids drives me batty. For one, most (ok, all) of the people I know with children weren't forced to have them. Second, who says that traveling and having kids are mutually exclusive? I'm sure traveling with kids is expensive and somewhat difficult, but lots of people do it.
I guess I'm tired of being looked at by some as the "lucky" girl who gets to have lots of time to herself, sleep in, and go on cool trips... all because she doesn't have kids. I love all of that stuff, but you should know that I use all of it to fill the void in my life that recurrent miscarriage has left.
I'd give it all up for the chance to have children. No regrets.