The Dreaded Question (With Illustrations from Harry Potter)

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mandrake_harry_potter“When are you guys going to have kids?”

“You better start soon, you won’t be young forever.”

“Aunt Wizzy, do you have a baby in your tummy?” (Thank goodness I was feeling especially skinny that day or I may have taken that as an unintentional shot at my figure.)

I dread these questions and statements. They come in all forms- both expected and unexpected, from the genuinely curious and as tips from the wiser. I never know how to answer them. Part of me cringes and rages at the question: “It’s really none of your business.” Part of me wants to reveal the deep wound I have in my heart, but bleeding all over an unsuspecting acquaintance is probably not the best route. Part of me wants to make the questioner feel as uncomfortable as I am feeling by making a cynical, snide remark. A huge part of me wishes I could just happily say “We are trying.” But that response always leads to more questions, “how long have you tried?”, “Will you continue to work at your job?”, “Are you charting your cycle?”, etc. Or it leads to more conversation about babies and conception and how the questioner conceived, etc. All roads that are very painful to talk about.

How are we supposed to respond to such a loaded personal question? And yet, it is a natural question. It is the natural progression of a marriage…for most. If you have been one to ask this question, I encourage you not to fret over whether you hurt an infertile friend. Because in reality, we (infertiles) assumed it was the natural progression for us as well. It just so happens, that it’s not. Our progression looks different and we are trying to come to terms with that. With that being said, I have said and thought some pretty rude responses to these questions and statements. I can’t believe I am going to write these down for the world to see, but maybe you have also put your foot in your mouth and need to know you’re not the only horribly rude Infertile Myrtle out there. Or maybe you just need a laugh. Or maybe your infertile friend said something super rude to you and now you see that your friend is actually quite reserved compared to what I have said to my friends. Whatever your reason for reading this blog is, I hope this helps. To aid with the humor of the situation I have decided to illustrate each response with scenes from Harry Potter, because why the hell not?

Top Worst Ways I Answered The Question: “When are you guys going to start having kids?”

  1. “Kids? What are those?”  Trewlaney
  2. “We aren’t” voldemort
  3. “We haven’t quite figured out how to accomplish that yet. What are the essential requirements to make a baby?”                                          hermione-potions
  4. “We have thought about it but we were scared we’d end up with kids like yours”snape harry ron
  5. “Why do you keep asking? Is that what you think is best for mine and Dean’s life? I’m sorry I wasn’t aware I needed your input.” (I may have had some repressed anger towards this person’s constant questions about when we would have kids.)umbridge
  6. “We’ve been trying for 5 years…” *Sobs*Hermion and ron sad
  7. “Why would I want to do that? I hear morning sickness is a b**ch”ron getting sick
  8. “hahahahahahahaha…as if we have any control in the situation…hahahahaha” *That was not a happy laugh either…more like a maniacal laughHermione Laughing
  9. “After we’ve saved up enough to retire”retirement
  10. “As soon as someone leaves their’s unattended.”Bellatrix-and-Hermione-bellatrix-lestrange-28967663-1920-1080

 I typically stick to the “In God’s timing” answer, but I haven’t always. There have been times in the past that I have let my rage and hurt feed my response. Let me tell you from experience: DON’T GO THERE! Don’t do it! Turn around. Allow yourself to feel those feelings but don’t take it out on the innocent. This is one of those “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” moments.

I’m not saying, don’t talk to people about this. We need to do that. We need those close people we can vent to and cry to. We need to be there for each other. We need to let others in so they can pray for us and encourage us. But we don’t have to do that for everyone. You aren’t obligated to tell anyone about that part of your life. Find an answer you are comfortable giving and practice it, so you aren’t caught off guard and become an Infertile Moaning Myrtle. Moaning_myrtle but if you do find yourself in a situation where you let your emotions get the best of you, don’t get too hard on yourself; I guarantee there will be a lot more opportunities to practice the nice responses.

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The Hawk

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IMG_6340It was hard for me to recognize God in the depths of my anxiety. I knew he was there; I had memorized scripture that declared he was. In the moments when my mind was frazzled, I could almost instinctively recite the words God had given me. But my feelings were taking control of my thoughts. I didn’t feel like God was there. I surprised myself when I boldly prayed, “God reveal yourself to me. I am supposed to know you are here with me always, but I am having trouble believing it. Can you give me a sign to let me know you are with me?” A part of me feared this was a way of testing God; I remember reading in the bible that we aren’t to test the Lord. But the broken part of me was done holding back honesty for fear of offending someone, even God. I knew my intentions were good, I needed reassurance in my time of weakness.

I don’t know if you ever hear the Lord speak to you or if it’s the same way as when he speaks to me. I don’t hear his voice audibly outside my body. I hear his voice inside of me. It’s not the same voice that speaks inside my head. I feel it deep within my heart and soul. Sometimes His voice is clear, and other times it is muffled by my distractions. On this day it was as clear as when you find the sweet spot on the radio dial, “What would you like to see?” I asked for a sign and God was asking me what type of sign I wanted to see? For some reason I thought he would tell me what to look for. How thoughtful and loving that He, the creator of the universe, wanted to give me something I wanted to see.

“I would love to see a hawk,” I replied. On my weekly hikes I try to find secluded spots as high as I can go and there I sit and watch the birds. I watch the turkey vultures soar overhead, sometimes they get so close I can see their beady little eyes searching the ground for prey and I can hear the wind push their feathers as they flap their wings. And every now and then I will see a hawk flying majestically above the vultures. It’s smaller in size, and it can’t glide as well as the vultures, but it flies with purpose, strength, grace, and beauty. It is in these moments I feel closest to the Lord. I call them my “thin” moments because heaven feels so close, as if only a thin piece of fabric separates me from it. I hadn’t seen a hawk in months and I would absolutely love to see a hawk.

A week went by and no hawk. I searched the skies and the telephone polls as I drove to meetings, but nothing. I didn’t doubt that God would send me a hawk. However, I did doubt my ability to see it. I was on a hike when suddenly I realized I hadn’t looked for the hawk for days. I probably missed it! I hadn’t been looking and I probably missed my sign and I was so bummed.

Good days and bad days followed. Some days the anxiety was so bad that it was hard for me to get my mind back into a good place. But looking for the hawk helped get my mind off the endless swirl of fears and concerns in my head. When I looked for the hawk I was able to remain in the present moment and not get ahead of myself. Just looking for the hawk calmed my mind.

A week and a half after I asked God to send me a hawk, I was having a very rough day. I had actually forgotten about the hawk. I went outside on my deck where my husband was working; I needed to be in someone’s presence. And all of a sudden I heard a racket in our trees. I looked up and there was a hawk being attacked by a little turd of a bird. The hawk and the turd bird flew in and out of the tree squawking loudly. The hawk must have been trying to get at some baby birds in the tree.

I couldn’t believe it! There was no way I could have missed that if I tried – and in my own backyard! I have since seen the hawk every single week. One evening as Dean and I ate dinner on our deck, it swooped out of our trees and flew just below the deck so we could see the patterns of its beautiful feathers. Another time it flew right over my head as I prayed. And yet another time it fought with another bird over a rodent. I could not believe how blessed I was. God surpassed my expectations of a sign. He saw my hawk and raised me a hawk that would live in my trees and bring me more delight than I ever dreamed.

Merry 5 Months Until Christmas!

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ChristmasIt’s July which means I have fasted Christmas music for over 6 months and it’s time to get my fix! Yes, I am that obnoxious person who listens to Christmas music way too early. Don’t worry, I won’t be obsessively listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving (or the week before), but I always find myself craving my Christmas tunes right around mid-summer.

Three years ago I stopped hiding my mid-summer Christmas fix, and now I am boldly telling it on the mountain (see what I did there?)! Unfortunately, two weeks before last Christmas my hard drive crashed and I lost all of my Christmas music. I lost all of my other music too, but we are talking about Christmas right now. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to lose all of your Christmas music, because honestly, how much Christmas music can you really own, right? WRONG! You are so wrong! I had tons of Christmas music. I started establishing my collection from the time ‘NSYNC released their Christmas album back in 1998. 

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Since then it grew every year in variety and abundance (especially the year I discovered Sufjan Stephens and his multiple Christmas albums). Now, I am at a loss. I must start from square one, which is why it is so important for me to start this now, in July, before November, when I will be listening to Christmas music every day, nonstop until January 1st.

I’m really diggin’ music of the indie/folk variety right now and that is where I will begin rebuilding.  If you are a fellow lover of Christmas in July then check out this fabulous indie/folk Christmas playlist. I would also love to hear your favorite Christmas songs, so if you have suggestions leave comments and help me rebuild my collection. Merry 5 months until Christmas!!

  1. Once In Royal David’s City By Sufjan Stephens 
  1. Go Tell It On the Mountain by Branches 
  1. Xmas Time Is Here Again by My Morning Jacket 
  1. Mvmnt 1: Rejoice! Rejoice! By Oh Hellos 
  1. Darlin’ (Christmas is Coming) by Over the Rhine 
  1. Christmas Time by Noah and the Whale
  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Peach & the Giant 
  1. No Christmas for Me by Zee Avi
  1. Auld Lang Syne 
  2. I heard the Bells on Christmas Day by The Civil Wars 
  3. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes 
  4. Men of Snow – Ingrid Michaelson 
  5. Come on Let’s Boogey Elf Dance – Sufjan Stevens 
  6. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem – Stylusboy 
  7. Breaking Up Christmas- Old Crow Medicine Show 
  8. Oh Holy Night – Bombadil 

 

God and The 3 Little Pigs

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Three Little Pigs

We are all familiar with the tale of the Three Little Pigs and the lesson that comes with it. Build your house of bricks, because the big bad wolf can blow down houses made of straw or sticks. As a child I remember learning that the story meant more than what it seemed. I think I was in third grade when we studied fables and how we can apply them to our lives. I remember trying to figure out why a pig would make a house at all – didn’t he have a farmer to take care of him? But even still, if he must make a house, why would he make it out of straw? Was he lazy? Was he weak and bricks were too heavy? Was he cheap? Was he stupid? And the same went for the pig who made his house of sticks. Maybe he was slightly less lazy, weak, cheap, and stupid. I tried to learn from the story as best as I could, and I decided I must work hard, be strong, not cut corners, and be smart. It would be a lie if I told you that this story shaped the way I lived my life from third grade on. I didn’t ever refer back to the Story of the Three Little Pigs and think “am I doing the equivalent of building my house of straw or sticks?” However, it did become one more reminder that I was in charge of my future. My future successes depended on me and my abilities.

Although there is some truth in what I learned, it wasn’t the whole truth. The story of the pigs is missing a very important structural piece: foundation. Houses of straw or sticks can still be blown over by a simple huff and puff from a big bad wolf, even with a strong the foundation. But a house of bricks with a strong foundation can stand up to almost anything. A house of bricks with no foundation can stand up to a huff and a puff from a bad wolf, at first, but what about years later when the house starts to settle. Without a foundation the structural integrity of the house is in jeopardy and it gets worse with every year that passes. Although the 3rd pig ate the big bad wolf for dinner when the wolf tried to come down the chimney, there are sure to be more wolves as life goes on. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

I have spent my whole life trying to build a good life with my own hard work, my own strength, my riches/abilities, and with my own understanding; but I never took a good hard look at the foundation I was building it on. I had heard the parable Jesus told of the man building his house on a rock, but it never occurred to me that I was the man who built his house on sand.

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I always thought because I believed in Jesus I was the man who built his house on a rock. I didn’t realize that the way I was living my life proved otherwise. I had a plan for my life: I always wanted to get married, own a house, and have kids. When Dean and I fell in love I could see my life coming together. It was only a matter of time before I would be living the beautiful life I had planned for myself. But my plans were flawed. I did not plan for the storms of life. Turns out, I built my beautiful house on sand and years later it fell apart in front of my eyes when I was hit by one storm after the other.

I put my faith in my plans. I started to believe that I would only be happy if my plans succeeded. That worked out fine when everything went according to plan, but then life started happening. Dean had some health issues that scared me half to death. The horrible monster of infertility made its presence known in our lives as well. And in the midst of all this I started to have my own health concerns. No matter how hard I tried I could not fix, figure out, or plan these things away. I had no control over them and they were ruining everything I had built. I was so scared of everything I had built fading away that I spent all my energy on trying to fix things as they broke. There were so many broken things to fix that I couldn’t keep up with it, let alone make future plans. And then it happened, one last storm blew through, I don’t even remember what it was, but it leveled me. I crashed. My “house” could not stand.

I still remember the moment I sunk to the floor and sobbed. I felt like I lost something or someone very dear to me. In a way I had. I was grieving the life that I wanted and worked for but didn’t get. (Dean if you are reading this, you are amazing and are in no way a disappointment to me. I love you more than anyone on this earth). It sounds selfish and ungrateful. And in reality it is: any outsider would look in and say my life is amazing and I have been blessed. But at that moment when I was sobbing on the floor it didn’t matter if it was selfish or ungrateful. God didn’t condemn me for that (he later brought it to my attention so I could grow), He simply wanted me to see that I was putting my faith into my plans instead of Him. He wanted me to see that my plans were sand, they could not support me against the storms of life. He alone could keep me standing during the squalls.

So magically my house was rebuilt before my eyes and everything was beautiful and shiny. Dean and I had a stable full of unicorns, and a house full of babies that pooped rainbows and never cried.

 

In reality, I was still very much leveled. My life looked (and still kind of does look) like this:

 

I had a lot of pain to work through, and a lot of things to rebuild. But I knew when I started to rebuild I had to build on a rock: God.

The past several weeks have been all about me recovering from my fall. I have been nursing my wounds by bringing them to God. He has brought me so much peace and comfort. Now he is slowly starting to reveal to me how I build my life on Him.

So far God has shown me two steps:

1. Just be and Let it BeBe still and know that I am God – Pslam 46:10: No matter what, I need to spend my time with God. It doesn’t matter what others say or think, all that matters is that I rest in his presence. God has allowed me to truly experience this blessing and it will not be taken from me. 

2. Give thanks,praise, and gratitude. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18: This is a lot harder than I thought. I am spending my time thanking God for his blessings and even for my suffering. My suffering has brought me closer to Him and that is worthy of thanks and praise for sure. When I start to feel the weight of anxiety I quickly start to thank God for all my blessings. It really does help. 

As I start to live into these first two steps I know God will reveal more to me and help rebuild my life. 

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, while himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. – 1 Peter 5:10

When I Am the Most Beautiful

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I was challenged on facebook to post 5 pictures I felt beautiful in. Naturally, this got me thinking about my beauty and what makes me feel beautiful. I love that the challenge says “feel” because feeling beautiful and looking beautiful do not always align for me. Some days I feel like a million bucks, but then I see a picture of myself and think “oh gosh, that’s what my hair looked like?” or “wow, that outfit makes me look lumpy” or “I really should have put on makeup”. And just like that the feeling of beauty has been shattered. It’s sad that all it takes for me to feel ugly is my own critique. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing, because the problem lies within me (the only person I actually have control over).

It goes both ways though, some days I feel like a hideous monster, and later when I see a picture I am surprised to see how beautiful I looked. It baffles me. One of the pictures that I look the most beautiful in, is one of the days that I felt like a hideous cow. I was in a wedding and my bridesmaid dress was a little too snug. I was a curvy woman in the midst of a skinny bridal party, and I couldn’t have felt more out of place. I was so consumed by my fear of looking like I didn’t belong (as if my weight and size would raise the question “how did she get to be such good friends with the bride? Why is she part of the bridal party?”) that I started to feel like I didn’t belong. Most of the pictures captured from the wedding remind me of feeling out of place, because it is written all over my face and my posture. But one picture was taken while I was listening to my good friends say their vows. I was so focused on them and their promises to each other and how beautiful it was that I forgot about me. I forgot about feeling out of place. I forgot about feeling fat. I forgot about what I thought others thought of me. I was just present in a beautiful moment wherein two friends declared their lifelong love for each other. And in that moment, when I let my guard down, I was beautiful. 

Nelly Weddnig Close up

So what about those times I do feel beautiful? I started looking through my pictures and began to feel a little awkward. What if people don’t see beauty in the pictures I felt the most beautiful in? There I am again. I am constantly getting caught up in what others think, when in fact, I don’t actually know what they think. And really, it doesn’t even matter what they think. What matters here is that I am getting my worth from God and not man. What matters is that I see beauty in myself because God created me, and in His image no less.

I started to focus on the moments the pictures were taken instead of the image themselves. When did I FEEL beautiful?

  1. The day I told Dean, in front of God and my family, I would love him forever no matter what.Me and Dean wedding
  2. The day I boldly wore red lipstick just because I liked it. (It took me 3 months after I bought the lipstick to summon up the courage to wear it)Red Lipstick
  3. The day Sarah and I met the most joyous old woman and we laughed together despite our language barrier. (I’m a boisterous, belly laugher)me laughing
  4. Any time I am able to be silly, goofy, me without fear of judgment. This time was when I stole my friend’s glasses and proceeded to act dignified and British.me with glasses
  5. When I am doing things I love just because I love them. In this case, dancing on the beach because I felt like dancing on the beach.Dancing

The challenge was to post five pictures, but I have six because I couldn’t bear to leave this one out:

  1. The day I pretended to be Herb (How could you not feel beautiful with a face like that?)Herb

When do you FEEL beautiful? I challenge you not to just look for pretty pictures of yourself. Find the pictures that captured moments you felt beautiful. I’m realizing that I feel the most beautiful when I allow myself to just be me. 

Mother for an Hour

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had never been a mom. I didn’t know what it felt like. So when I was one for one, beautiful hour I didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until weeks later I made the connection.

                I was in the rural village of Nyakach in Kenya. (How I got there is a story in itself, maybe I’ll tell you sometime.) I was with a mission team from my church, working with a wonderful organization called One Life Africa. Worship service in the village came to a close and all of the mzungu(foreigners) were approached by the villagers. As we exchanged smiles and pleasantries with the locals I was approached by a very young girl. She was around the age of 3 or 4 and wore a dark green velvet dress. It was a little strange that such a young child would so fearlessly approach me. The older children rub our arms and hair and laugh and smile as we play with them. But the younger children are usually very shy around white people. Not this girl, she came right up to me and lifted her arms up as if to say “up!”

                I picked her up without hesitation. She wore the most solemn face. Everything about her looked sad and defeated. It broke my heart. I asked her what her name was in Swahili, but I knew she was too young to speak it. She could only understand her mother tongue, Luo. I asked the older kids her name and they told me it was Chantal. I talked to Chantal in English, even though she couldn’t understand. I told her she was beautiful. I rubbed her back. I gave her stickers. I held her hands in mine. I did everything I could to try and get a smile out of her. I wanted so badly to cheer her up. But nothing I did cheered her. Nothing I said brought a smile. I felt her sorrow in the very depths of my own heart.

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                She stayed with me for the hour we remained in the village. She wouldn’t leave me side. Most of the time she wouldn’t allow me to even put her down, and that was ok, because honestly, I didn’t want to put her down. Her presence meant the world to me. I didn’t understand why at the time, but I didn’t need to understand, I just needed to be with her.

                At one point a very old woman approached me, she spoke to me in Luo. I have no idea what she said to me, but I gathered she was Chantal’s guardian. She pointed to the side of the church to motion that she would be over there if I needed her (I think…). This woman was clearly not Chantal’s mother, she was way too old. I wondered where Chantal’s mother was. Was she alive? Was she sick? Was the absence of her mother why Chantal was so sad?

                The time came when our team had to leave. Every part of me wanted to stay. I couldn’t leave Chantal, but I knew I had to. I waited until the very last minute. Everyone else was on the bus when I finally approached the old woman and attempted to hand Chantal over. Chantal clung to my neck for dear life. She would not release. My heart broke as I pried her tiny hands from around my neck and handed her to the old woman. I held my breath so I wouldn’t cry. Chantal turned her body to face me, reached her arms out, and burst into tears. She cried bitterly as she reached for me. I turned away and got onto the bus. It felt like an eternity before I finally reached what little privacy I had in the form of a bus seat and there I wept.

                That image has been burned into my mind for eternity. Chantal’s delicate arms reaching and reaching, using all her might to escape the grasp of the old woman. Big, wet tears streaking her cheeks. It crushes me every single time I think about it. Why would God do that to me? I had longed for children for 4 years. This felt like a taunt. I knew it wasn’t though. What did God want me to learn? Why did he give me this experience? I racked my brain for an answer, but I knew the answer would not come from me. All I knew at that point was that my heart was breaking. Why did she choose me? How did I feel so connected to her so quickly? Why did that experience have to end? I felt like I had so much love to give to Chantal, and yet I knew she couldn’t give anything in return. She could not even muster up a smile. But it was so evident she needed comfort; she needed to be held and loved without any expectation of it being returned. And for one hour I was able to give her that. I provided a safe place of love and comfort. For one hour I was a mother to Chantal. 

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Being vs. Doing

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I am loving this post so much. I am in a season of my life where I am learning how to be. God keeps telling me “just be and let it be.” It’s so hard to do that when my humanness keeps yelling at me to keep doing.

Dharmablonde

I’ve been told that I’m a ghost lately on my blog and Instagram. Which is entirely true. Sometimes, or oftentimes in my opinion, a post that is born out of a spontaneous, organic thought is more sincere than a contrived one. I’d rather have my writing be authentic than forced. So if I don’t feel an urge to write, I don’t. Hence the gaps in posts. But, I did write something the other night (on paper in a notebook…old school; the way I used to exclusively write) that I think is worth sharing:

It’s become imperative that I figure out how to cultivate a kindness toward myself. For the health of myself and my relationships with others. When I become irritated with my boyfriend John, I believe this to be a direct reflection of the way I’m feeling about myself, or treating/responding to myself..which is often with irritation and impatience.

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