Joy Shared is not Divided, It’s Multiplied

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Luke 1:41-45

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

 

My husband Dean and I were moving to Annapolis, so I met up with my friend, Daisy, to hang out before we left. Daisy was one of those friends that entered into the sad and scary places with me. And not only that, but she struggled with infertility too. Her infertility struggle of 4 years began after Dean and I were already 3 years into ours. We had been in this journey together, crying with each other when others became pregnant…and then pregnant again…and again. It was with her I could be brutally honest about my feelings, no matter how ashamed I was of them. I had decided that if I ever got pregnant or matched with a baby through adoption I would tell her in person.

I wanted to enter into every feeling she had, no matter how sad or upsetting. I wanted to show her that I recognized my joy brought pain and I wouldn’t shame her for that pain. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her friendship and how much I wanted to be a real friend to her just like she had always been to me, which meant, entering into her pain.

But I hadn’t planned on being matched with a baby just days before my time with Daisy. Was this the time? I didn’t even know for certain the Baby would be ours. We still had 9 days left in his revocation period (the time that birth mom can change her mind)! And we had only told family, but I wouldn’t be able to see her in person before bringing the baby home (if he was to be ours), because of the move.

The whole drive there I prayed, and God said, “Trust me.”

“But, God, So many years I have worried about which one of us would be a mom first, which one of us would be ‘left behind’, and how much it would suck to be the one left and to be the one to do the leaving. (I know having a baby doesn’t mean you have to drop your non-baby having friends, that’s not what I’m saying. In the infertile world, us women, tend to remove ourselves from our baby having friends just because of how painful of a reminder it is all the time. We do it to protect our hearts.) God I’m so scared to be the bearer of “bad” news when this news is so incredibly joyful for me. How will I tell her?

“Trust my spirit within you.”

“Um…easier said than done God…going in without a plan is one of my biggest fears!”

“Elizabeth…(*God chuckles to himself*) you aren’t going in without a plan, your plan is to trust that my Holy Spirit will provide you with the words you need. That’s the best plan!”

So I went in with a plan to trust the Holy Spirit within me, and before I knew it, Daisy was crying and telling me she was 8 weeks pregnant!!!!! I hadn’t even had a chance to mention our news and here she was telling me the best news in the world and crying for the pain she was inflicting on me! But she didn’t know…she wasn’t inflicting ANY pain on me!  It still gives me chills. She was crying for me, and joyful for her, and I was just joyful!!! And then the joy burst forth from me!

“We have been matched with a baby!!!!”

Daisy and I jumped up and down, hugged, and cried together. The joy was beyond anything I have ever felt. There we were, completely unprotected by ourselves (but fully protected by God) and we were both so full of joy! It didn’t seem possible. This was greater than I could have ever imagined! I felt like I got a small glimpse of what Elizabeth and Mary felt when Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb at the approach of Mary’s pregnant belly.

And the best part was to come. Daisy was really nervous about this pregnancy and had not heard the baby’s heartbeat yet. She had her first ultrasound in 10 days and she was waiting for that day with bated breath. We were in the same position, waiting for the “ok” to celebrate the fulfillment of a dream and a promise from God.

But God wanted us to praise Him and experience the joy NOW and always, not in the “if…then…”statements, but in the moment. We are to praise him in the present always, because he is with us always, because his protection is with us always: Emanuel, God with us…Always. That doesn’t mean everything will work out the way we want it to, but it does mean God is good and God is good to me! It DOES mean that I can praise Him now in the joy because he is good, and I can praise him later in sorrow because he is good.

And even though Daisy was worried about the reality of her pregnancy, I was not. I was so certain this was her time and I was able to fully feel the extreme joy of this long awaited dream of hers. And although I was worried about this revocation period, Daisy was not. She was certain that this Baby was mine and she was able to fully feel the extreme joy of my situation. So the more we talked, the more I experienced the joy for myself, and vice versa. Her joy for me allowed me to experience the joy for me and my joy for her allowed her to experience the joy for herself. Together we praised our God and savior. It was like an extra awesome blessing from God to help us both experience the joy of this waiting period and we couldn’t do it without each other.

 

I Do Not Give as the World Gives

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“When you hold your baby, you’ll understand why God had you wait.”

“It will all be worth it, I promise.”

“I prayed that if I wasn’t to be a mom then God would take away my desire to be a mother. In the months that followed, God multiplied those desires.”

“I prayed that if I wasn’t to be a mom then God would take away my desire to be a mother and he did. He gave me a new desire; one that is in line with my spirit even more. I have never been so joyful and content in my life as I am now.”

“These years of waiting are preparing you and growing you in ways that will bear fruits of blessings in your years as a mother.”

“God’s got this, trust him.”

All these things have been said to me over my seven years of infertility. These words of advice were different from the well-worn “just relax and it will happen” or “once you adopt you’ll get pregnant” words of advice. They were different because of who they came from. These words of advice came from women who waited too; women who waited 4 years, 5 years, 8 years, 12 years, even 15 years for their precious children; women who miraculously became pregnant; women who adopted; women who found their miracle in IVF, women who found their calling in their career instead of motherhood; you name it! And God didn’t just provide an answer to prayer for these women, he showed off! God went all out and blew their minds with his amazing plans for them. (Don’t worry, if you don’t struggle with infertility that’s ok, God will use something else to blow your mind…just wait…because well, the waiting is part of it!)

When I heard these words of advice I knew they were genuine, because every single woman told me their amazing story of how they found joy in God’s plan for them. I knew these women understood my pain because every single one of them cried when I expressed how I felt. Every single one said, “I remember that feeling.” Every single one became a kindred spirit, but they also became my cheerleaders. These were the women who would encourage my broken heart to keep hoping. These were the women who were living proof that God is faithful. These were the women that reminded me, “it doesn’t hurt forever, but you have to be willing to go to those scary places with Him.” And these women were everywhere; some were friends, some were friends of friends, some were church family, some were blood family, some were counselors, and one was even my Physical Therapist!

I tell you this because I want to encourage you to start talking about your struggle. You are not the first person to struggle with this. Whatever it is, there are others out there too; others who get it. Not everyone gets it, and a lot of people think they have the answers (they don’t), but there are those out there who know who the answers come from (and it’s not them). Go out searching for them! Start talking, because the journey is so much better when you have a team of encouragers who understand the hardship.

I remember when I was talking to my physical therapist about my infertility. I don’t even know how it came up, but it did, and she confessed that she had struggled for 15 years with infertility. After 10 years her husband had found peace in his life without fatherhood, but she had not. She told me about how she prayed for the following 5 years that God would take away her desire to be a mother if she wasn’t meant to be one. And He did. It took a while, but slowly he removed the desire and she has no regrets, in fact, it has opened her up to be the best physical therapist she can be. How cool? I will never forget that day, because that was a story I needed to hear. So many people told me about their sister’s friend’s cousin who struggled and then finally got pregnant or adopted and now has 10 kids, etc. But as well-meaning as those stories were, I wanted to know that I would be ok with or without a child. There were times that I wasn’t sure if I heard God’s promise properly, maybe he didn’t call me to be a mom. But I was terrified to pray away my desire to be a mom. I wanted to be a mom so badly, that I just couldn’t let go of my plans if His plans didn’t involve motherhood. I couldn’t imagine that a life without my own children could still be a life of joy, contentment, and purpose. Hearing my PT talk about how God transformed her heart was so encouraging. She explained to me that He knew her wants and needs better than she did. He knew that her purpose was in the healing ministry. He knew that she would find more joy and contentment in His plan for her than in her plan to become a mother.

Her story didn’t end with the happy family of ten. Instead it continued with a happy family of two and their journey as husband and wife to live for God, and God blessed them beyond their wildest dreams.

John 14:27

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

“I do not give to you as the world gives.” That is the part of this verse that always sticks with me. If it was up to the world we would tie beautiful bows around every problem:

You want a kid? – Here’s a kid!

You need a job? – Here’s a job!

You hate your husband? – Here’s a divorce!

You feel ugly? – Lose weight!

But we don’t often see what comes after that. Having a child doesn’t stop the feelings of worry and fear of an unfulfilled plan. No, having a child brings about an entirely new set of worries, fears, and plans. Getting a job when you need one doesn’t stop the feelings of inadequacy; new feelings of inadequacy come with the new job! Divorcing your husband doesn’t suddenly cure your feelings of hatred and fix your relationship issues. Now you just have more baggage to bring into the next relationship. If you feel ugly and lose a bunch of weight without working through the roots of your insecurity, you’re still going to feel ugly in your skinnier body. As humans we want quick fixes, but it’s in the waiting that God fixes our hearts. It’s in the discomfort that we learn to rely on God instead of ourselves. It’s in the unknowns that we come to the conclusion that we are not God because God knows all and we definitely don’t know it all.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? I know, I’m jumping around a lot, but I have very limited time to write and I just need to get these thoughts out.

If Jesus gave as the world gave, I would have had a child 7 years ago when Dean and I lived in Columbia. I would have thought that would solve my unhappiness and it wouldn’t have. I’m not sure what would have happened in the years to come but I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to go to Kenya, I would not have connected with my dear sweet Chantal, I would not have become a Director of Youth Ministry, and the list goes on. It was my deep sorrow of infertility that drove me to my emotional breakdown, which in turn led to prayer within my yoga practice, which then lead to me becoming a Holy Yoga instructor. None of those things were in MY plan. And then the move!

God really boasted of his goodness with our move. I can’t even believe I get to live in this house, in this neighborhood, in this city. I can’t believe he has called us to the water, the beautiful water. I cried when I said goodbye to my beautiful backyard sunrises of my old house. In my new house the sunrise is blocked by trees and by my neighborhood, but when it comes down to it, I couldn’t really sit and watch it even if I could see it. Mornings are busy with feedings, snuggles, coffee, and prayer. It is in my evenings that I now find leisure, and wouldn’t you know it….God gave me a beautiful spot to watch the sunset! He gave me a spot where the water transforms from murky brackish brown to the pinks and blues of cotton candy; a spot where Sammy and I can watch daddy paddle in from his kayak excursion; a spot where mommy can walk the beach and pick up shells and stones and revel at all of God’s glorious creation.

God took my dream and enhanced it with elements that I didn’t even know were possible. And when I look into my son’s face I get it. I know why I had to wait, because any other child would not be Sam. Samuel was meant for us and we were meant for him. My entire being knows it. I knew it from the moment I held him in my arms and looked down upon his face, “This is my son.” Thank you Jesus!