Counting the Treasure

Max Lucado once said, “Rather than ask God to change your circumstances, ask him to use your circumstances to change you”.

I’m going to be honest, not once in the fifty months that we have been going through infertility have I stopped asking God to change my circumstances. I still long to have children of my own and I believe it is right to keep seeking God’s face for the fulfillment of this promise. Furthermore, I suspect that whether we take up the challenge within this statement or not, it’s likely that one way or another our circumstances will change us anyway. I am not the Helena of 2013 when we first started trying for a baby, and whether I had got pregnant easily that year or not, over time my circumstances would have changed me. Change is inevitable, as much as we resist it. We can’t help but be suspicious of it, figuring that we like ourselves as we are thank you very much, and actually we didn’t think there was much that needed improvement.

But how naive we are.

Infertility has an unfortunate habit of making one incredibly insular and self-involved. As my previous post, Badges of Honour, explains, for many of us, infertility can leave us feeling that we are the only one to have ever experienced this struggle, the only one to know what it is truly like and we battle to think outside of ourselves and our own situation. But my struggle to conceive has also blessed me with the unique opportunity to consider the ways in which I am being changed and what I have learnt along the way. In the beginning, I wrongly assumed that God must need to test and teach me something that many of my friends didn’t need to learn, and that attending life’s School of Infertility was the best way for me to receive this education. These days, I simply believe that through my circumstances I have been given the chance to embrace Lucado’s dare, humble myself and invite God to transform me. And whether it’s infertility or the breakdown of a marriage, or job redundancy, or depression or loss, in it all God is beckoning us forth to learn more of who He is and how much He loves us.

These days I find myself contemplating and counting the treasure that Father God has bestowed upon me over the last few years. These jewels around my neck are precious and costly and I wear them with pride. They are the treasures of Isaiah 45:3, hidden in the darkness that we have been walking through, and stored in secret places. They have indeed revealed more about the God I worship and adore; the One who calls me by name. They have changed how I see myself and how I see my God and they remind me that I live a different way now.

These treasures haven’t come easily. They have required much seeking and persistence. The treasure hunt itself has defined and refined my character. I have learnt along the way that Father God delights in a treasure hunt. I can feel His smile as together we uncover another gem. He adores the hiding and the finding, and He loves to watch my face as I uncover a new gift. There is so much glee in realising how much we both love a happy surprise, especially one which has been gained through trouble or refining.

As I share them with you today, I want to encourage you to look to the gems that you now also wear around your own neck. Celebrate them and marvel at their beauty, for they come from the One who loves to give good gifts to His children and who calls you to live a richer life than you had planned for yourself.

Treasure #1: The renewing of my mind

It took me a while to cotton on to the fact that the renewal of my mind was the key to everything. For a long time I couldn’t work out what this verse in the book of Romans even meant! I assumed that one day God would take hold of me and like a Marvel comic book protagonist going through a laboratory superhero transformation, He would simply reprogramme me with a new way of thinking and in an instant I would be changed to approach everything with a Christ-like mindset. How silly I was! I have learnt that being a follower of Jesus means just that: following to see where the Lord leads and choosing to actively participate in His way of life. Once I realised that by reading God’s Word, worshipping Him in how I live my life and actively choosing to declare the truth of His promises to dispel the negative thoughts that plagued me, the way I thought and spoke about myself, my circumstances and my heavenly Father changed. When I choose to focus on what God says about the world, my situation and who He is, I find freedom from fear and sadness, joy in the little things, an overwhelming sense of hope and a deeply grateful heart. I have had to work at this discipline. Renewing my mind seems to be an ongoing work, requiring time, patience and practice as I delve into layer upon layer of my life, my history and my heart. But as I choose to apply God’s word to my life, to surround myself with words, songs, pictures and choices that reflect who He is, my life has become a richer, steadier and more hopeful place than I could ever have imagined.

Treasure #2: The power of praise

This season of physical barrenness has opened up to me a beautiful, plentiful, colourful vista of praise. Over the last four years I have hungrily devoured a wealth of songs, albums, poetry and Psalms which have revealed and reflected the compassionate, powerful heart of God and provided me with the words I have groped to find to show Him how I feel in return. Whether in a place of deep loss and grief or soaring on the high of answered prayers; whether using worship music as a love song, a weapon against the enemy or a battle cry, my desire to lift my voice and glorify my God has intensified and grown. I am a hungry, passionate worshipper whether I’m in the car, the shower, at church, work, or home and whether the songs are by Christian musicians or secular singers. God can be found in everything! Praising God is a shortcut to hope and His presence on the bad days. It is intimacy and joy on the good days. Yes I have lifted my hands and praised Him with gritted teeth and a breaking heart. Yes there have been moments of apathy or indifference as I struggle to engage, but the overwhelming, urgent need within me now is that I have to praise Him! There is no greater privilege, no greater joy than to join with the angels in lifting my voice to the One who gave me the very breath in my lungs. Worshipping in all circumstances recentres us and shifts our perspective away from ourselves and onto the majesty, splendour and wonder of a limitless, loving God who holds the world in the palm of His hands and knows us better than we know ourselves.

Treasure #3: Surrender

I’m under no illusion that I am a bit of a control freak. I come from a family where everything is planned, everything is a known quantity, and if we don’t know something, we research it until we do. Minimal risk is a good thing. Spontaneity is to be treated with caution. And I’m on the more relaxed end of this spectrum in my family! But infertility has forced me to walk away from this constant ‘need to know’ attitude. Within months of starting to try for a baby, ‘everything going to plan’ lay in pieces at our feet and we found ourselves walking an uncertain path with no clear idea of where it would lead or for how long we would be walking it. So often our easy, luxurious Western lives go without a hitch. We make decisions and they happen. It’s only the rude awakening of something like an unplanned biological hiccup that pulls us up sharp and reminds us just how weak and feeble we really are. Surrender has not come easily to this independent, feisty, self-sufficient daughter. It’s taken me a long time and many, many moments of yielding and re-yielding my heart to God to enable Him to have my hopes, dreams, fears and character; to give back to Him the woman He created and to let Him love me into the person He made me to be. I am learning that resistance is futile in the arms of the Saviour – and why would I want to resist anyway, when what He has, who He is and what He can do is so much greater than I could ask or imagine?!

Treasure #4: Hope

Hope has been my battle cry over the last four years. Very quickly I realised that if I wanted to survive this tricky time, I had to choose to fix my eyes on Jesus: the one who pierces darkness with His light. There have been so many times over the last few years when giving up has felt like the best option for us. We have regrouped on many occasions and asked ourselves whether we should simply accept defeat and find a new dream. And without fail, every time that we have got to this place, a verse of HOPE has sprung up in a text message, a sign outside a church, a sermon on a Sunday, and many other places. I have studied and soaked up the many verses on hope in the Bible and they are all rooted in the One for whom nothing is impossible. So how can we not then be expectant? Father God has been teaching me how to hold despair and hope in tension and to always choose the latter; how to keep my eyes fixed on all that He is capable of; how to believe for what we can’t see in front of us but to have the faith for the impossible; how to trust in the more that He has in store. God always has another move – and this is the hope we cling to, the gold which sparkles despite the dross.

Treasure #5: Prayer

Many years ago a friend prophesied over us that we were a couple of faith and that we would be endurance pray-ers We were newly married and they sounded like great qualities. Never did I consider how these two gifts would be honed and put into practice in this time! I have always loved to pray and prayer has become a constant conversation as well as those specific moments in a quiet time. Sometimes when I get alone with my Daddy, I talk more than I should. Sometimes I find myself stuck on repeat. Sometimes the words dry up and all I have to offer is the groans of my Spirit. Sometimes I have no words at all and find myself needing the words of another close heart to pray for me. Always, always I am learning how to pray. Prayer is as vital as my heart beating and developing my prayer life in this time has been one of my favourite treasures. These days there are verses and pictures, prophecies and song lyrics pinned up all over the walls of our nursery bedroom, our prayer room. Prayer is stepping into His presence and being heard and healed. Prayer is putting God back on the throne of our lives. Prayer is allowing Him to be King. Prayer is intimacy, vulnerability, repentance and restoration. Prayer is urgent, fiery and passionate, but it’s also gentle, quiet and uncertain. Prayer is worth the effort even when we wonder whether our requests and offers of thanks have been caught by heaven, for God has shown me on too many occasions now that He is definitely listening!

Treasure #6: Choosing joy for those whose answer has come before yours

Over the years, as I have sat in the waiting room of infertility, a steady stream of courageous friends have passed through. And as we have sat and waited together for a while, the one issue that has come up more than any other is how to be joyful for someone else’s pregnancy. It seems to be one of the toughest challenges of them all: celebrating with someone who has what you long for. Even now, after all this time and with so many opportunities for practice under my belt, I am amazed at how the words “I’m pregnant” still sting. I still find it tricky to choose wholehearted joy without a tinge of jealousy. And yet those times when I have triumphed, when I have whooped with delight over a friend’s scan photo or held a baby shower, bought beautiful gifts or gladly held a newborn and marvelled at their beauty, I know that I am sowing into my own future. Each time we choose to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, we bless those that God loves and we hear the echo from the future of what’s to come for ourselves. And in doing so, I also feel I am sticking two fingers up at my enemies, Fear and Doubt, and letting them know in no uncertain terms that love is stronger and I will not give in to the anxiety that my time will never come. This jewel has been earned with grit and sacrifice, with tears and transformation. It is a pearl of great price and it is a beauty.

Treasure #7: Who I am in Him

Isn’t this one the biggest wrestle for us all? Every single day we’re labelled, defined and pushed into boxes. The question we ask someone when we meet them for the first time is so often, “What do you do?”. Moreover, deep within each of us is a desire to stick a label on ourselves, to say “This is who I am. This is what I do”. Having purpose makes us feel good, needed and seen. Over the last few years my CV has recorded a wide-ranging scattering of different roles, none of which really represent me. I had hoped to add to this the position of mother and would quite happily have let that define me if it hadn’t evaded me. So what a wonderful privilege to have found myself in a long period of life where rather than being pigeon-holed, God has brought me before Himself and asked me to explore with Him how He sees me. Isn’t it wonderful that Father God simply says to us, “Do you know who you are?”. In heaven when He created us He didn’t slap a sticker on our chest and categorise us by our family, social position or talents. In God, there is a huge expanse of freedom to explore who we are in Him. This particular treasure changes everything. This beautiful gem is the one where the deepest transformation is taking place. Like a precious diamond being cut, the process is painful as the unnecessary is cut away, and yet the final product will be stunning.

Moments of Wonder, Moments of Joy

Don’t you just LOVE it when God interacts with you in a way that leaves you in no doubt that He really is listening and walking alongside you!?

There have been times in my life, as I guess there may well have been in yours, when I have felt that all I can hear is silence. Prayers go unanswered and God seems to have decided that He’s done with talking for a time. In this quiet I have listened to sermons and read books that assert that God is speaking to us all the time, if only we would slow down and listen – but it is in those moments that I dare to suggest to myself that it’s me who is present and God that isn’t.

His nature and His Word say otherwise.

Recently, my hubbie and I escaped for a few days away to the Lake District – a favourite retreat of ours to refresh body and soul by immersing ourselves in the grandeur and beauty of mountains and lakes. It’s in this space that we are able to ruminate, ponder, pray and dream together again, and inevitably the conversation at some point or other will always come back around to our future family. One day we tackled a familiar tourist trail, starting with a steep ascent surrounded by spectacular views before striking out across dense, craggy moorland, using the map to guide us on a wide loop which would take us back through forest and along the shore of Derwent Water. We passed skipping lambs and blossoming trees and felt our spirits soar and settle as we exhaled in creation beauty.

As we passed a sign on the final leg of our walk warning us to be aware of pregnant ewes, my thoughts, inevitably, turned to my own desires for pregnancy. Once again we found ourselves in a place of considering the options before us, feeling our way into the right timing and choices, wondering what God’s heart for our next steps might be. As we chatted and prayed aloud, committing our thoughts and plans to Him, we entered a beautiful section of forest by the lakeshore; water rippling and mirroring the surrounding scenery.

FullSizeRender2And as our prayers concluded, there in an opening we came across a striking sculpture entitled ‘Entrust’: a huge pair of hands, the size of a small boat, carved out of wood. Wow!

I didn’t think twice before jumping in and nestling down, in awe of the timing and the kindness of this intimate confirmation of our prayer requests. The word ‘entrust’ means to authorise, commit, hand over, leave with, confide, deliver, deposit with.

So often I think, when we try to trust God, we feel the onus is on us, that there’s an active participation from us that is constant in its momentum. But in reality, entrusting things to God means handing them over and leaving them there. Entrusting is a powerful exchange which asserts that personal responsibility is relinquished and passed over, finally and fully, to the One to whom we are delivering our cares. As I sat in this pair of huge hands, I felt encircled, empowered, protected and joyful. I could see out, but I was surrounded on all sides. It reminded me of Jesus lying in the bottom of the boat as the storm rages overhead (Matthew 8:23-27).

Be in no doubt, God has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Even more than that, He wants us to know that He hears absolutely everything we say (so be warned!) and He longs to interact with us. I so often forget that God is listening to my conversations, but it is precious moments such as these, which reignite the wonder and joy, and remind me that God came down to earth in Jesus and left us with His precious Holy Spirit. Just as children enjoy playing hide and seek, so Father God has hidden beautiful gifts of His goodness along our path for us to find. On this day, we were given a powerful reminder of His strength, might and presence and His keen love and interest in the things that matter most to us. What matters to us, matters to Him too.

Brilliant Perspectives – Graham Cooke

I recently read this blog post by Graham Cooke from his website http://brilliantperspectives.com/. It’s a huge encouragement. Enjoy!

Without This, It’s Impossible To Live By Faith

By Graham Cooke

We are all familiar with the importance of living by faith, yet we often overlook the trust we need in our relationship with God before faith can even be present.

Trusting the Lord is not situational; faith is. Trust is a constant, and we are practicing our trust all the time.

When you trust, you are trusting in the nature of God: what He is like.

The nature of God is unchanging; it is true even if we are not doing well. It doesn’t depend on our capacity to do something, it’s really about His ability to do something for us.

By trusting Him, we get a confidence from His nature that causes our situations to no longer have power over us. This allows us to have faith in what He wants to do.

Faith is trusting and believing in something that we can’t see, seeing it as a reality that will come towards us. It’s not always logical, but rests in TRUSTING His unchanging nature.

Simply put, to live by faith, we must first learn to trust.

The Holy Spirit is teaching us every day how to trust the Lord, while simultaneously bringing us to a place where He trusts us. In this process, here are three keys to apply to your life in order to see this type of trust and faith grow.

  1. Trust is released in you from your own measure of faith. According to Romans 12:3 “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Even if you don’t feel like you have any faith, you do; you have a measure of it, and it needs to be growing. As you remain connected and abiding in the Lord, there is a trust that is released from your measure of faith. This gives you the ability to come and present yourself to the Lord.
  2. God must become the object of your confidence; you have to look to Him and His nature. Our tendency is to make our circumstances the object, rather than God. It is critical that you put blinkers on and look to Him.
  3. So when you are praying, don’t make the circumstance the object rather give thanks to God for who He is. This continuous givings of thanks makes Him the focus.
  4. You must change your inner state to a place of security in the Lord. God isn’t just interested in resolving your life issues. He is interested in you growing up into all things in Christ. The primary responsibility of the Holy Spirit is to change your internal state to become like Jesus. Therefore, all of your life circumstance are about training to become Christ-like.

Once your heart is set on who God is for you, then you can make a decision in faith and move forward in your situation.

Remember to keep your heart open to the Lord at all times; and take time each day to tell Him what you are trusting Him for. You will find it easier to approach your circumstances with faith, because trust is naturally operating in your life!

 

How deep, How wide, How high

When was the last time you sat and really thought deeply about how much you are loved?

I don’t mean the fleeting acknowledgement that you’re a Christian now, so you’re a sinner saved by grace and you know God loves you*.

I mean, when did you last allow the holes in your heart to be filled once again by the resonating, perfumed, purifying truth that God’s redeeming, reconciling, passionate, self-sacrificing, aching love pursued you, sought you, gave everything for you? When did you last stop long enough for this fact to penetrate the deepest, darkest parts of your heart and fill your soul to overflowing?

In the run up to Easter this year, my Bible readings turned to the words and actions of my wonderful Jesus during his time on earth. Over and over again I read of his compassion for the people he met. So often when he could have carried on his way, he allowed his time to be interrupted by desperate, broken people who wanted his attention, love, time, healing and kindness. Sometimes they had the courage to call out to him as he passed by their home; other times they snuck into his presence, too ashamed to ask for their heart’s desire. And he never turned them away, never let them down. Not once.

When we are hurting, when we suffer, when we are afraid, it is all too easy to start believing that God’s compassion for us must have evaporated – that He doesn’t love us and care about us, that he doesn’t mind us suffering and can’t want what is best for us because of what we’re going through. Perhaps He’s as fickle as we are. Perhaps we were mistaken about Him after all. As we tread water in our place of pain, spluttering as the waves of stormy times engulf us, we can’t see a lifeboat, a lighthouse, a lifeline anywhere. We wonder where Jesus is now, when we need him most, and we start to believe that right there in that salty, overwhelming sea, we will drown before he comes running across the water to rescue us, before we see our situation change. We tell ourselves that we’ve been forgotten, that help is not coming.

In this lonely place it’s so easy to begin to catalogue all the friends, family and acquaintances that you know whose lives seem to look so very different to yours. Where you know barrenness, struggle and lack, you can see only the fullness, richness and success that others are making of their lives. Where they are flying, you feel that you’re sinking – that you’ve been sinking for a very long time now in fact. Where those around you are being blessed, especially in the areas that you’re crying out to God for, you start to believe that He loves them but He doesn’t love you, because if He did you wouldn’t be going through what you’re going through.

But the truth is, my friend, social media is a liar and the ‘I’m fine’ conversations at church on a Sunday are a cover-up.

None of us are immune to trials and disappointment. We might not all be going through hardships at the same time – one person’s summer months are another’s coldest, darkest winter – but we are all bruised at heart and simply trying to figure out how to do this thing called life. I suspect if you conducted a survey, not one person would say that life had gone exactly the way they had hoped and planned.

In our Bibles God makes it clear that following Him doesn’t bring immunity from the tough stuff – and this honesty doesn’t bring us much comfort. But we can’t say He didn’t warn us! Yet more importantly, our suffering isn’t God’s intention and it certainly wasn’t His original design for us when He created us.

In our pain, we equate suffering with being forgotten by the One who loves us most. We forget that God’s heart is full of compassion for us at all times. Suffering is not a sign of how he loves us – fully loving us was a done deal the minute he thought you and me up. His love for us doesn’t change – and we have to dig our heels in and remember the unchanging nature of God even as our circumstances throw us about. We have to remember to trust our Father first and foremost.

God has been spending every day since the beginning of time devising ways to win us back to Him so that He can love us. And His Ultimate Plan was Jesus.

Jesus’s willingness to die on the cross that first Easter was the final and complete extension of the compassion he displayed on earth, revealing his full heart of love for us. And Jesus’s actions on earth were a reflection of His Father’s heart in heaven.

Someday soon, these violent, wintry winds will calm, these calamitous seas will still and your little boat will tootle along once again in the warm sunny breeze of a summer’s day, as you carry on your way. It’s a cliché and we hear it a lot, but the truth is seasons do change, and what you’re going through won’t stay like this forever.

But one thing won’t change: the Father’s love for you. And so this really is the most pressing question, the one you’ll spend your whole life getting to grips with: Do you really understand yet just how much the Father loves you?

*Want to know more about who God is and how much He loves you? Check this out here.

Badges of Honour

We wear our years of trying to conceive as a badge of honour, proudly displaying to our fellow infertility comrades for how long we have endured the hardship; keen that none should forget how deep the scars run, how much we have sacrificed, and for how many months or years our arms have remained empty. We can’t help but to compare with each other, some more subtly than others, just how tough our time has been, just how heavy the burden we’re carrying.

I don’t know why, but alongside this monthly score, I keep a list of babies born since we started trying to get pregnant. So far I have recorded forty announcements over the last four years, and that’s only of friends and family, for there have been many more social media status updates along the way. Forty babies conceived and born since we started trying for just one of our own. Forty cards or gifts or hot meals or congratulations offered alongside the strain of waiting for our own.

I am always in awe of those who have been trying for longer than us – wondering at their tenacity, bravery and determination, whilst secretly hoping I never reach their rank in the army of women who know this particular fight.

But there is also an uglier, less gracious flip-side, for I find at times I judge any woman who has endured fewer months of trying to get pregnant than me, or who now has a healthy child even as she looks to conceive the next. I give in to the bitter cheapness of thinking how little she must know of what it’s like to be in this. It’s not the same, I tell myself. It’s not the same as what we have endured, how horrid it has been for us, how much longer we have had to keep going and keep believing.

And it isn’t the same. Every story is different. Every medical complication, every bump in the road, every yearning looks and feels different to each mother-in-waiting. But in reality, pain is pain. Whether it has been three months, 12 months, 48 months or many more lived in the trying to get pregnant – and whatever the biological rollercoaster or triumph of conceiving has looked like along the way – the waiting is an agony and the cycle of hope and disappointment seemingly never-ending.

And why am I – or you, if you’re like me – even comparing? I know full well that there is a lonely, isolating, envy-inducing weariness that comes as month after month drags on and on. It does not benefit from the sin of comparison. Hasn’t infertility taught me to be more aware of another’s pain and want to speak life into each situation I encounter? Haven’t I felt another’s loss almost as keenly as if it was my own? Haven’t I wondered at how Hannah endured the taunts of Peninnah in 1 Samuel and been so grateful that I am not ridiculed for my lack in this way? Wouldn’t I choose to eradicate barrenness from the world so no other woman ever had to endure it?  Aren’t I already declaring over every little girl I come across that “No woman shall be barren”?

But being totally honest with you now, the truth of the matter is, I am fearful. I am fearful not just of every other woman ‘beating me to it’ and getting pregnant before me, but I am fearful that I may never carry a healthy baby to full term. And as much as we huddle together in our shared distress, or the brave endurance of the Two Week Wait, or as we ready ourselves for medical tests, so too are we constantly bracing ourselves for the impact of a fellow trier sharing her good news with us and leaving us behind – again. Perhaps for forever.

Perhaps I’ll never, ever get out of this boat…?

And in this way, I forget the gifts of choosing solidarity. When I see myself once again as a victim, I forget that each story is unique. It escapes my attention that every miracle healing or unexpected pregnancy is a testimony which I am allowed to claim for my own life too. When I see these sisters as adversaries I fail to remember that when God’s goodness touches their wombs, hearts and dreams, it shows that it can happen for me too. Envy, jealousy and judgment are poor companions to choose in this time. They are thieving little grease-balls that talk a good line and are quick to stick close, but they blind us to the opportunity for growth, favour, generosity of spirit and maturity.

Despite us wondering, “Why her and not me? Again” and “When will this ever end?”, He has not forgotten us. Your story doesn’t look like hers or mine because the impact of your testimony is as unique and wonderful as you are. When we compare ourselves with another mother-in-waiting, we devalue the power of that which God is unfolding in our own life.

Our Daddy in heaven values each one of our hearts as His most prized possession. He tenderly runs His fingers along the fading ridges of our timeworn scars. He massages the newest hurts that are only just healing. He grieves over the deep, open slices of longing that have pierced us.

We don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone in this place. He sees it all. And He is determined to bring the fullness of His glory and goodness to pass in your life. And in mine.

I am not Saint Helena!

The journey out of grief is a sticky one.

Grief takes time. There’s no quick fix. No shortcut. No getting around it. 

If I can pass on any pearls of wisdom in dealing with the tricky stuff of life it’s to reach out, reach out, reach out. I unashamedly lean in hard to the faith of my friends and family in this time, using their words, their hope, their trust in my Saviour to drag me through, one day at a time. When one’s mouth is dry and one’s heart is in a state of cardiac arrest, we need the determination of others to pump life back into our veins when we’ve simply reached the end of ourselves. And I knew myself to be wrecked by an overdose of pain.

For days and days and days I feel like an aeroplane in a holding pattern. Round and round and round in circles with the loss, disappointment and hopelessness. Round and round in circles with the questions.

How to believe in a limitless, all-powerful God now…?

How to open my Bible…?

How to make sense of my heavenly Daddy allowing this double portion of despair…?

How to believe we will ever, ever move into a time of joy and having a family of our own…?

How to sing a song of worship in this place…?

I allow myself to be the victim I feel I am. I let myself indulge in the sadness of our situation. I give myself permission to believe that our circumstances are worse than anyone else’s.

I am grateful for the messages of comfort, the verses, the silly cartoons, the cards and flowers from those who care. I try to utter the words of faith that I shouted in the centre of the storm, but I don’t believe them now. Such a weak and fickle faith after all?!

I am blind to the foundations I thought I was building my life and hope upon. My renewed mind has trauma-induced amnesia and I can’t remember one wise word or one golden nugget of God’s faithfulness.

St Helena

I am sent a photo of a stained glass window of St Helena – the mother of Constantine the First and the woman who is believed to have discovered the cross on which Jesus was crucified. I stare at the photo of this amazing, faith-filled adventurer and I weep. I see her leaning her head against the cross, her arm wrapped around it in peaceful contemplation, and recognise that I too am holding onto the cross of Jesus for all I am worth. But I am not behaving like a saint! I am anguished and distraught. I am clinging to Jesus with every ounce of strength, my face pressed into his chest, screaming agony and fear. I am a shadow of myself. A self-defined victim of circumstance. Yet I know that I have no other option than to hold on for dear life to my God. I can’t walk away now as much as I might want to. Where would I go? What would bring me comfort instead?

My marriage reels from the turmoil of this intense pain and begins to flounder. We are classic examples of Man and Woman in our grief. As I see-saw between the inability to simply start the day and an urgent craving for busyness, my husband retreats further and further into his cave and we lose sight of each other. We can see it happening, as we harbour our resentments and our reluctance to find the extra energy to put the other first, but there are too many diary commitments, too many excuses, to create the time and space for a solution. I am grateful for our unsuspecting foresight in planning a break away which forces us into a place of pause and the walls soon come tumbling down.

We had been warned that infertility puts strain on a marriage, but I had ignorantly assumed that the IVF treatment would bring the pressure and not the unexpected detour down Miscarriage Mile.

And yet God is on a mission of restoration, and slowly, slowly we begin to lift our heads. We hear two sermons in a row at our church exploring the pain of pregnancy loss. Never in my 35 years of attending church have I heard a single talk on miscarriage and suddenly here are two! We are astounded and grateful as we unlock doors to prayer, community and fresh healing. I unwrap my birthday presents and see how my friends have invested in my heart through books and a new journal to aid my spiritual growth.

We may not have the answers. We may wonder at the strange wilderness of the last four years and counting. We may still struggle with every new pregnancy announcement and each newborn photo that is sent our way. But we do have a God who has promised to climb into the slimy mess of sadness with us and who continues to weave His goodness into the tapestry of our lives, as He sews the deep tears of our wounded hearts back together.

The battle is to stay soft and open-hearted. The desire is to remain surrendered. The deep, character-defining belief is that this is not the end of the story.

Grief takes time but joy will come in the mourning.

He will live with them

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children”.”

Revelation 21:3-7

 

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The passage goes on to say this……

“GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from GOD. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself.

Enter the silence.

Bow in prayer.

Don’t ask questions:

Wait for hope to appear.

Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way: Stomping down hard on luckless prisoners, Refusing justice to victims in the court of High God, Tampering with evidence— the Master does not approve of such things”.

Lamentations 3:19-36 (The Message version)

You’re Gonna Be OK

How to journey through this fresh grief and anger in such a way that one moves through to the other side of it, with heart rebuilt and not destroyed by the tears and the inner screaming……?

It seems impossible to bypass the pain…..

We can’t go under it…..We can’t go over it…..We can’t go around it…… We’re going to have to go through it…..

I don’t plan to linger long here, but I cannot deny the utter devastation of miscarriage. I cannot focus on what was nearly; on the joy of finally getting pregnant. I can only think about what I am now without, what could have been. For the second time in six weeks.

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I have thrashed around inside my head these last few days; questions ricocheting off the walls of my heart.

I have no answers for this. I have no answers.

He is still GOOD. I know that is fact. But this ache. This yearning. This double portion of loss. This physcial confusion. How to make sense of it. To find a purpose. To find my purpose on this planet……To come to terms with this latest twist and to come up for air and not drown in despair….

Where is hope now??  She was fading fast and this latest blow has near finished her off. I feel taunted by pregnancy and ridiculed in the disappointment.

I cannot pray neat and tidy requests and musings. Much to my husband’s horror I am simply brutally honest with Father God this time. I try to hold back but still the wretchedness of this ordeal lashes out of me. I swear wildly as my heartache overflows. I think, “I would stamp on your foot, punch my fists into your chest, scream in your face if I could, Jesus”.

HOW COULD YOU ALLOW THIS????

HOW COULD YOU BLESS THEM WITH THEIR MIRACLE AND GIVE US THIS GIFT????

I am fury and fear. Faith cannot bear to watch this display, but I cannot pretend this pent-up raging isn’t in there.

And it has to come out.

I love my heavenly Father. I love Him so much! And I know He can take this. It’s not pretty. It’s not how to treat the King of Kings and the Creator of the universe, but I conclude that He is big enough – way bigger, in fact – than this tiny woman’s grief and I give it full throttle. He can hear my thoughts anyway!

I remember a friend telling me once that when a friend of hers went through a miscarriage, she drove over to her house to be with this almost-mother, climbed into the bath with her and simply held her in her grief. And I think, “God, if you would only climb into the bath with me to hold me and tell me that everything is going to be ok. It doesn’t need to be like Hollywood. It doesn’t need to be weird. I just need this body that you made to know that this is not the end”. And I ruminate on this reassurance….to need to know that somehow it’s all going to be ok.

And when He answers me, as I stand with cardigan pockets stuffed full of tear-stained tissues in my bathroom, I know it’s not because I deserve it but simply because He loves me.

Papa has my full attention and I bathe in the song that He sings over me, washing over my pain……

It’s all we can do…..to hold on, to put one foot in front of the other….and to trust that He – in His infinite grace, goodness and mercy – will lead us through…..

Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow could be The Day.

He longs to comfort us. He loves it when we seek His face even as we don’t know what we really want or need. And He always, always answers and comes into our situation. 

Don’t let go. Don’t give up. You’re gonna be OK.