How am I a woman?

My infertility journey struggles onward.  It is painful every single day.  I don’t know what to liken it to.  It feels like such a lonely suffering, unlike any other form I can understand. Many other physical deficits can be healed by modern technology.  Even people who have completely lost their limbs are able to have a prosthetic one put in place.  Yet, there is no guaranteed operation that will allow me to produce a child.  And sure, certainly there are surgeries that may have complications; for example, a triple bypass that won’t take, or chronic conditions that leave people in forever pain.  But none of those illnesses can prevent a woman from creating life and from bringing another human into this world.

I have heard, read, and seen many accounts from women and men describing birth as a miracle.  God’s miracle.  I think God knew women would suffer in this world in a uniquely profound way that is different from men, so he gave her this gift of reproduction, and chose her, specially, for that purpose.

So where does that leave me?  What does that make me?  How am I a woman?

I have all the parts to be a woman, I have all the traits of a woman.  But I can’t participate in the one thing that signifies womanhood.  I struggle so much with the notion that I am made like a woman, but I don’t function like a woman.  It seems like an unsolvable puzzle.  I daily feel like a mathematician, staring at a chalk board, numbers and variables stretching wide, while she scratches her head trying to figure out the right formula for a solution.  I wish I were the Will Hunting of fertility.  I pray for the ingenuity.

One of the biggest challenges I have when meditating with God about my infertility is the fact that He associates fertility with blessings.  So I can’t help but think that my inability to give birth is linked to a curse or some sort of evil that has befallen me.

Aside from the beautiful descriptions of Mary’s birth of Jesus and that foretelling, the Bible is littered with references about the blessings of birth:

Psalm 127: 3 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward”;

Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…”;

Genesis 25:21, “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord answered him, and Rebekah his wife conceived”;

1 Samuel 1:20, “It came about in due time after Hannah had conceived, and she gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the Lord”;

Luke 1:13, “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John”.

Psalm 113:9 “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.  Praise the Lord!”

Every day I ask God, “Why won’t you bless me?”  And then at the same time, as if it’s an instinctual tick of faith, I am reminded of the unseen and unknown, for I know God is good, omniscient and omnipotent.  Perhaps God is preventing more pain that could come from a sick childbirth.  Perhaps he has a blessing in store and I’m just being impatient.  Perhaps He made me to be the mother to others’ children.  I know He is teaching me something in the waiting.  But as a woman of this world, my lack of blessings from childbirth leaves me feeling less than.

I recently joined a Sunday morning Biblical Women Bible study.  That’s why all of this is resurfacing.  The discussion asked us to reflect on where we find our value and meaning.  Is it in what our culture and society tells us it should be, or is it in Jesus?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am in right relationship with Him as an adopted child of God.  I am also loved, and made in God’s image.  So why don’t I feel that way?  I had a brief epiphany in the Bible study that morning, recognizing that I feel so rejected as a woman because I have been rejected by important women in my life.  My mother rejects me, my sister rejects me, and I even feel rejected by some of my girlfriends.  To top it all off, the world rejects me as a barren woman, and so I link that to God’s rejection and my ultimate abandonment.

I also struggle with Jesus understanding my suffering.  Jesus was a man.  He could never know the loss associated with a miscarriage or the inability to bear children.  He made me—-full of maternal yearning and instincts, and still nothing.

I do believe.  I believe God is good.  I believe God has a good plan.  I believe He is waiting for me to make Him first in my life, not this desired pregnancy.  It is a challenge every day as my friends have babies, as I get another invitation to a baby shower, as I walk around pregnant women at work.  Every day I am reminded that I’m not quite a woman.  And that is evil at work, I’m sure of it.  So this I pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, please keep the spirit of evil away from me as I walk this treacherous, lonely walk of infertility.  Thank you for the women in my life who have partnered with me, inspiring me to not give up hope and to listen to Your will.  And, God, I do pray that Thy will be done, for I know that whatever comes from You is better than anything I could ever imagine.  Please God, wrap me in Your peace and love and lift me up when I am sad.  God, give me patience and understanding.  Send me the Holy Spirit in the waiting and provide me confidence for a future as a mother.  Thank you for my husband who accepts me for this failure to reproduce, and bless him for his faithful, loving kindness in this area of weakness and vulnerability.  Help me to feel whole, Father.  Bless me.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Faith in the Storms

faith in the stormAfter a long hiatus, I come back to the blog world as I continue my faith journey.  Part of why I disappeared was because of the writer in me that wouldn’t allow for imperfect posts.  I would read and re-read, edit and re-edit, and it was taking me hours to get out a single thought.  But after MUCH time off, reflection and inspiration from my amazing husband, I am back at it, understanding that the sharing is more important than the writing itself.  What’s more, NOTHING is perfect except God, so why aim for something I can never achieve?

This past year, specifically, has been the longest and most daunting faith walk I’ve ever had to take.  In my life.  My marriage has been through trials that I wish no woman would ever have to face.  My body has been through trials that I wish no woman would ever have to face.  And now I’m in Texas.  To sum it all up, God has been working in his miraculous, mysterious ways and has called my family to move from Massachusetts to Texas.  For what reason, we’re still not quite sure.  It’s only been three months, so we are confident that his purpose will be revealed soon.  But looking back, here’s how I have  often felt since my last post:

I have walked, or should I say trudged, through the storms, soaked, cold, chilled to the bone.  I have dropped to the muddy ground, sobbing in tears, begging for the tumultuous weather to stop.  I have crept up on my knees, with my arms open wide, neck stretched out to the sky, eyes straight into the tempest and screamed, “Why, God, whyyyyyyyy!?  What have I done to deserve this?!?!”

His answer?  Nothing.  It is not a punishment.  Our good God doesn’t work that way.  He provides opportunities to get our attention.  It’s all about getting our attention and re-focusing our eyes on Him and on the path He has set forth for us.  But that isn’t always the most comforting thought.  Out of habit I would sit and suffer in silence and brood over my misfortunes.  And the pain was real, and the suffering was agonizing.  But because I know God is good, I can acknowledge His presence, thank Him for the strength He has given me (and will ALWAYS give me) to weather life’s hurdles.  Because after the rains subside, there is life again.  There are lush, green pastures and oftentimes rainbows.  If we could only hold on to the hope of the rainbows, and remember in the squall that He is there providing the precipitation for a reason.  I know in heaven He will show me the reason for that suffering and that pain.  But for now, I work hard to demonstrate my faithfulness in the trials.  I am a sinner, but I have faith.  I encourage you to hold on to Hope because God has never, and will never, let you down.

In similar fashion to my previous posts, my blog will contain a prayer and a passage from Scripture.  It is my hope (and prayer) that you will be able to connect with the prayers, and Scripture regarding any storm you may be experiencing at this moment.

Sinner Share #8: It’s so hard for me to have faith in the storm.  The pain is so real and sometimes the answer and the value seem so far away and unattainable.  A pastor from my home church used to say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, that it’s fear.  And I’m afraid all the time.  I want to be a woman of faith and not of fear.

Prayer: Dear Father God in Heaven, You know my struggles.  You know my saddened heart.  God I’m sorry for the times I have lacked faith.  Dear God, I believe, please help my unbelief!  As a sinner, as a human I come to you for my strength for you are my Rock and my Redeemer.  All things are possible through You and You alone.  When I feel alone and abandoned, send me the Holy Spirit as a reminder of your ever present and everlasting love, mercy and grace.  I pray to you today, Father, for all of those readers who feel lost in their own personal storm.  May you bless those who are weak and weary, and send them Your peace and reminders of Your promise that the suffering will end, and that Your purpose will be revealed.  We love You and we need You.  Thank you, Father.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 23: 1-6 “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

For those who are in Christ…

…There is no condemnation! (Romans 8:1) What a comfort this passage provides. If we have Christ in our hearts, there is no disapproval. In regards to the Lenten journey, Christians may feel tempted to give up if they falter, much like a New Year’s Resolution. Upon slipping once, it’s easy to say, “Well, I gave it a fair shot, better luck next time”. And instead of committing for a year, it’s just 40 days, and the guilt may set in at our weaknesses in the face of all that Christ was able to sacrifice. Journey on the Cross, the seasonal devotional, urges us not to give up, but instead, for those who have already fallen off the Lenten wagon, so to speak, to run to the cross. I love that imagery. If then were now, how many of us would be running to the cross. I hope that if I could transport back in time, knowing what I know now, I would humble myself in the sight of the Lord.

hope found at the cross

But we don’t need a physical representation to do it. We just need to embrace this moment, this opportunity to sacrifice and to communicate with God. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He’s waiting for us to confess them. And if we aren’t yet aware, He has been trying to reach us, we just need to silence those distractions which overtake His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Wouldn’t it be great if the truth about Lenten abstaining came like a stork in the night with a baby? We could wake up in the morning, look on the front step and open our special package. Would we follow it still? If God sent a personalized note informing me that it was His intention for me to give up my car for 40 days, would I do it? That is more daunting than pasta, which is a task in itself! I think this is a faith test like many other trials God provides us. It’s about knowing that the conversations we do have in the privacy of our homes and our hearts, are God-driven, and are expected to be followed, regardless of any hand-written note of approval letting us know we were on track.

faith is doing what God has called you to do

While I have been writing this post, I had a GOd wink. I was searching for appropriate photos to add to my commentary, when I came across the InstaLent Photo Challenge . God spoke to me to do something similarly. I will search the Bible for words that inspire me to focus on every day throughout Lent. Today’s word is inspiration. Tomorrow’s word is Listen. Can you think of any others?
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Sinner share #5 – Faith IS doing what God has called me to do. I know He has called me to be a kinder, more patient person and I have a hard time doing that. Years of hurt and anger and frustration with the way the world works inhibits my ability to love my neighbor and to bask in the light of His love. Self-absorption and pride are sources of evil and we need to arm ourselves with the armor of God. This I pray.

Ephesians 6:10-17 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

30-something share #5 – I am stuck. I want my husband to want to go through this journey with me, but he hasn’t. I know faith is personal, but I also had grandiose ideas that it would be a “we” activity that he would want to take part of daily. It doesn’t make me love him less, but it does leave me confused about how to engage in this with him enough to satisfy my, and not too much to aggravate him. I know God wants us to enjoy Him together, I just wish I could accept that whatever we have in our faith as a couple is enough. Do you have similar struggles with your partner?

Romans 14:3 – “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.”

Search me, oh God, and know my heart…

Day 3 of Lent and I’m searching as I invite God to search me. I look for ways in which to best honor God’s ultimate sacrifice over the next 40 days. It’s easy to take so much time choosing the right things to abstain from that time flies by. Perhaps it is a stalling technique. Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me wanting to give up the “right thing” or add the “right thing”. But as we invite God into our hearts, minds and spirits this Lent, may we be able to discern what He is telling us to look it. I suppose the process of finding the true temptations to avoid comes with meditation that must go into pre-Lenten practices (I’ll have to take note of that for next year so as to not waste so much time! It snuck up on me this year!). In a late attempt, I perused an online resource for ways to better devote myself to the Lenten journey found here:. The author asks, What habits/tendencies of self-absorption do you need to tear yourself from? Where do I begin?  For starters, I must invite God into this process: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).

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Sinner Share #4 – Self-absorption in my life comes in various forms:

Snacking
snacking
Some may think it’s a mindless, harmless hobby. For me, it’s being disobedient and ungrateful for God’s daily bread, turning it into a gluttonous, monotonous, comfort-filling habit. May I allow God’s grace to fill me more than any bag of chips ever could.

Road Rage
highway traffic
The devil certainly knows I’m vulnerable in a car. There’s something about other drivers’ and traffic that sends me to a dark place. It’s truly self-absorption in its worst form, thinking that no one can drive as I do and that everyone on the road is out to get me. It’s not about me! Help me to travel on the roads this Lent viewing every driver as a Brother or Sister and accepting it for what it is, no more, no less!

Marital Disputes
arguing
My husband’s #1 complaint about me is that I “get on him” too much. If I would just accept circumstances as I would a glass of spilled milk, I could shrug it off and move on. I am so self-righteous sometimes that I do get on my husband’s back constantly insisting that he gets things right more often. I’m a sinner and I fail all the time. I fail in my marriage when I don’t just love him instead of picking him apart. May I let our one true Judge take the reins and sit back and just love my husband.

TV
couch potato
It is a habit that keeps me from getting closer to God. The television steals my attention away from my devotionals, prayer time and being active in God’s name. It has a grip on me that lets me to sneak away from more pressing obligations. In small doses, almost anything is tolerable. Over indulgence leads to great sin! Take away my addiction to the viewing box and help me to use my time wisely and productively for our Christ.

James 3: 14-16 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

30-something share #4 – I often wonder how many other 30-something year olds are fretting about these issues. I’ve shared it before that in the North East, many Christians are nominal and don’t discuss these struggles, let alone blog about it! I’m in a funky age bracket in my faith where I can’t connect with moms (not having any children, of course) and those younger than me don’t share the marital piece. I have no right during Lent to ask God for anything, but I do seek Christian friends to walk with me down this reflective road.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”