Tag Archives: suffering

When It’s Been Too Long

I have about 20 blog posts in my head that never got written.Oh well. What can you do? What can you do? I am here now. 🙂

Though extremely busy, 2014 has been exceptionally good to us thus far. This place of grace and happiness has been a welcomed change, indeed.

I will update everyone on the changes we have seen in our lives soon. In the meantime, I just wanted to publicly thank my Heavenly Father for all He has done, is doing, and will do on behalf of my family. As I bask in His grace, I am continually reminding myself of just how good and sovereign He will always be, no matter our circumstances.

After all, it is not just on the mountaintop that we are called to say, “Blessed be Your Name.” During this time of vast earthly blessing, I am trying to consciously remind myself of that every single day. I am no stranger to the fact that, with God’s permission, life can drastically change. I am aware of the fact that, within minutes, life can hurt, can wound in ways you could never imagine. He, though, thankfully always remains the same.

Right now, though, after seemingly being asked to stay so long in one valley or another, I am standing on the mountaintop and see nothing but blue skies around me. I know I owe it all to the One who is the Giver and Sustainer of life itself.  I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us next. 🙂

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generationforever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

 

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Filed under 2014, grace

What 2013 Taught Me

I don’t know what yours was like, but my 2013 was quite the year.

2013 was a year I’ll certainly never forget and wouldn’t necessarily want to re-live. I won’t, though, go as far as to say I wish I could just re-do 2013 all over again. Though it was excruciatingly hard, the lessons I learned within the crazy that was my 2013 were well worth the pain and will never, ever be forgotten.

I’m not going to re-hash my entire year in this post, as there is plenty of posts already written (even whole series — read here and here) about much of what transpired in my life last year; others part of my life have remained more private, as they should.  If you haven’t been reading my blog the past year, just know I, even one with a wild imagination, could never have written the journey through which the Lord asked me to walk in 2013, especially the first 8 months of it.

As much as you’d like to think differently, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. 2013 was what it was and it’s my job to learn from it, embrace the brokenness that came in many areas from it, and walk in 2014 full of joy and hope, just like I did when I walked unknowingly into the madness that was last year.

So, what did 2013 teach and/or remind me?
Well, lots of things.

Here’s some examples, in no particular order (except the 1st one):

  • God is still good and sovereign. Absolutely nothing can change that fact.

Though 2013 was my hardest yet, my steadfast belief in God’s sovereignty and goodness did not change. Were their moments I struggled with why God allowed me to become unexpectedly pregnant, let alone why He then allowed our child to die? Of course. I’m a human, after all. I am a human, though, who has seen the hand of God all over their life time and time again, even when things look the darkest from an earthly perspective.

  • My life is not about me.

After almost dying at 19, I am blessed to know from a young age that my life is not about me but instead the glory of God being displayed through how I respond to not only life’s highest highs but also its lowest lows. Though I know I didn’t do it perfectly, I hope that this year I brought Him glory through how I dealt with the circumstances He allowed into my life for my refining and His glory. I pray I do the same in 2014, no matter what happens.

  • My marriage is rock solid and can withstand anything that life throws its way.

I didn’t say my marriage is perfect, because it most certainly isn’t; it does involve two humans, after all. 😉 It is, though, rock solid, and it just keeps getting better. 2013 was the hardest year yet for our four-year-marriage. I’m thankful to say, though, that everything we went through this year brought us even closer together, horrible miscarriage included. During this year, at times, we fought a lot. At times, we cried a lot. At times, to be honest, we struggled a lot…but we came out on the other side a stronger, more unified couple. We came out a better definition of two people living “one flesh.” We came out of the struggle closer to the Lord on an individual basis as well as a corporate one. As  a couple, we came out of 2013 changed, changed for good! I can’t imagine displaying God’s love for the Church through marriage with anyone else than my best friend.  He rocks my world. 🙂

  • I long to be a mother more than sometimes I even know.

This could, and eventually will, be the subject of a whole post. Stay tuned. 🙂

  • Adoption (at least our journey) is hard – really hard – but so worth it. We can’t wait to meet Noah and Hannah and pray they join our family at the same time. 🙂

The giant mountain of paperwork hasn’t even been the hardest part. Being married to a really detailed-oriented person, though, definitely helped in that area. 🙂 No, the paperwork has been a breeze compared to other things, mostly emotional in nature, through which we’ve had to work; some of those things are just a part of the usual process (and will be written about in another series) and others are unique to our particular situation. No matter what comes up, though, the important thing is we’re committed to working through it; we’re committed to finding our children and bringing them home. No matter what, we Paynes don’t ever give up.

  • People like other people’s drama and shy away from public expressions of grief.

I learned this lesson back in the Spring/Early Summer. I had thousands of people (mostly strangers) suddenly flocking to my blog to read all 21 posts about our hard-to-believe adoption/surrogacy/pregnancy/miscarriage/adoption journey. Only an 1/8 of that audience read, though, after the 13th installment of the aforementioned series when I was heartbroken, and therefore devoted three blog posts to redeeming my miscarriage; most of the sharing of my posts stopped, too. Not surprisingly, most of that audience (and shares) returned once again when the other more-appealing series resumed for the last 7 posts.

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely appreciated the concern (or curiosity) others showed (either through reading and/or contacting me) during my large series full of twists and turns. I just was rather shocked that my readership went down so much when I took a break from the other series (since I was initially hiding (even from my own parents) the fact I was sick post-miscarriage) to publicly deal with the intense grief that came with all that drama people loved to read. Though they were much, much fewer in nature, the private messages I did receive from that miscarriage series made the emotional exhaustion from writing them well worth it. It also reiterated to me just how important it is for me to obey His voice and live as transparently as possible, so that He can use me to encourage others who often feel alone in how they feel. I was amazed how alone so many women who have had miscarriages felt; it made me incredibly sad. It shouldn’t be this way, and as long as I’m alive, I will continue to be as real as possible (on that issue and others) so that others feel the freedom that comes with living without satanic shame.

Though I was humbled by my viewership this year, I don’t write for certain stat numbers. I write in order to be able to breathe, to connect with my Creator, to glorify His name and have Him do whatever with it He wants.  Your guess as to what He does with it in 2014 is as good as mine. No matter how many read, it’s all for Him!

  • Living “transparently” doesn’t have to mean giving anyone and everyone 24/7 access to your life, emotions, time, thoughtfulness, etc. without requiring anything from them; no, that would be toxic and will eventually leave you feeling burnt.  Having Christ-inspired, personal boundaries is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and others.

I wrote about this topic in my “mid-life crisis” series.

  • Though he came in contact with thousands, and was followed intensely by 12, even Jesus’ inner circle only consisted of 3 people. Yours will look about the same; don’t kid yourself into believing otherwise.

Not every friend sticks closer than a brother, and that’s OK. Life is full of relationships, each with their own level of closeness. Oftentimes, those in relationship aren’t even desiring the same level of closeness, but unless they’re willing to be honest with one another, one just assumes (and prays) the other will “get a clue”. Somewhere between sometimes and usually, the other party eventually does get a clue and is consequently left confused; that is, unless you’re like my former self, and then often you are left clueless for far longer than expected. In my case, for most of 2013, I also didn’t believe in personal boundaries, so my addiction to emotional harlotry didn’t help my case.

Some friendships are for a season, then fade, then come back again. Some never come back. Some evolve and change over time. You can be someone’s friend without giving them permission to know every single thing about you and vice/versa. You, unbeknownst to me until this year, can also do this while still upholding Christ’s call to love. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let things change inside of, or even let go of, a relationship that is near and dear to you.

In rare cases, you will find those with whom your soul connects in a way that is, if I can say, not of this world. You will find people who just “get” you without you needing to explain yourself. They will give you the benefit of the doubt but be willing to confront you when needed. They will desire your good above their own, always without question. They will guard your heart as if it were their own. In your divinely-inspired friendship, you will give and take in a natural, beautiful exchange of wills. Cherish those people. Protect those people with a fierce and loyal love this world does not know.

  • With God’s help, you really can survive anything. Better yet, you can not only survive but thrive while in the midst of the deepest pain, no matter its nature.

I learned this valuable lesson in the physical realm back in 2005 and the emotional realm in 2013.

So what will 2014 bring?

I read a quote on New Year’s Eve that really spoke to me:
“A new year is at hand,” the king said. “We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.”
King George VI

That is my prayer for 2014, that I remain undaunted in my commitment to the Lord and His sovereignty and goodness, no matter what befalls me this upcoming year. Whether it be another year of not having the opportunity to be a mother, another year of disappointments and confusion, or even death. By God’s grace, as long as I’m alive, I pray I remain undaunted in my commitment to Him.

Lord, let it be so.

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Filed under 2014, Adoption, Baby, grace, Life, Marriage, Miscarriage, Prayer, Purpose

Seeing Red

Some dates are etched in your memory forever.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Days our loved ones pass away. Major life events. We all can list at least a few dates that automatically stick out in our minds, whether for welcomed reasons or not.

December 4, 2013 will always be one of those days for me. That was my estimated due date for the child I miscarried on April 1st at 5 weeks gestation. That was the day our child, as microscopic as he/she was, went to be with the Lord. That was the day part of me went to be with Him, too.

To say I was heartbroken after we miscarried is a gross understatement. If you recall, there was a lot already going on in our lives in early Spring. It was so much that the most grounded people would feel like they were losing their grip on their sanity prior to what transpired on April 1st. As we all know, the roller coaster wasn’t over, though.

Once the bleeding stopped, I was emotionally as empty as my formally impregnated uterus; in a matter of a few hours, the life had been sucked out of me, literally and figuratively. Like millions of women each year, I was left to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and move on.

For me, though, “moving on” was going to be a long, long journey.
It was going to be a much longer, harder, more private pilgrimage through grief than with what I (and, in some ways, others) was comfortable.
It was my journey, though, nonetheless.

The first few weeks, I would come home from work some days and just sit on the floor in our empty nursery. I would begin to replay over in my mind the trauma that had been the few weeks leading up to me unexpectedly getting pregnant, as well as the subsequent drama which led to finally having a confirmation that I had indeed miscarried and wasn’t losing my mind...or was I? 

When I was alone, the previous few months played out like a dramatic Nicholas Sparks’ movie in my head. Scene after scene, I saw the characters, i.e. me and my husband, develop and the plot thicken and thicken some more. The plot became so thick, I felt as if I were traveling through a dense fog in my head, a fog which would last for months. Some days the fog was so thick, I couldn’t tell if I was indeed the protagonist or the antagonist of my own story; some days I felt like both, sometimes simultaneously. As I dealt with post-miscarriage health complications for months on end on top of my grief, there seemed to be no climax of events (let alone a resolution) in sight, in my real life or in my imagination.  I wanted out of the madness. Honestly, some days I wanted to just go to sleep and never wake up. I wanted peace and rest, and those things seemed hard to come by at the time.

After all, it was hard to feel at peace when you feel you have failed as a woman, and more importantly, as a wife. For a myriad of reasons, that’s the way I felt for a long, long time. Thankfully, though, after months of spending time with the Lord, countless hours of conversation with my husband and a few close friends, and being forced to deal with the root of my feelings, I (for the most part) don’t feel that way anymore.

Thank God, I don’t usually feel that way anymore.
One day, I hope to say I don’t ever feel that way anymore.
One step at a time, though.

I don’t really feel it necessary (at least now) to take you through the play-by-play of the highs and lows of my journey of grief. I guess after the realization I came to during my mid-life crisis, I don’t feel anymore like I “owe” you, the reader, an “all-access” pass into the most personal caveats of my life. I guess I’m still learning to have boundaries in my relationships, online and off. I have to say, after a year of a lot of hurt and heartache, it feels good to not (usually) feel guilty for protecting myself emotionally.

Just know that the last 8 months of my life have been filled with extremely personal, heart-wrenching moments. It hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, many times it’s been rather ugly, but it’s always been one thing – real and raw. After all, love it or hate it, I know no other way to be. If there’s one thing I’ve re-learned during the craziness that has been my 2013, it’s that I can’t control a lot in my life. God, in His sovereignty and goodness, numbers my steps, oftentimes much differently than I would. On the flip side, though, I’m learning there are some things I can control, namely having healthy boundaries with people and owning and being proud of, instead of shaming, my own journey.

And oh the journey it has been.

I’m thankful, though, I’m finally far enough down the path that I can say I’m thankful for the past 8 months. I may not ever understand why John and I had to lose a child, or why it had to affect me so deeply, but I do know good has come of it.

do know that what Satan meant for evil, my gracious Lord meant for good. Yes, He meant it for my good and, more importantly, His glory. Those nights I lay crumbled up on the floor in my empty nursery, when I wasn’t sure if I was the protagonist or antagonist of my own story, I had forgotten to ask the Author and Finisher of my story who I am. Instead of trusting Him, I listened to my doubt. Instead of believing I am who He says I am (beloved and loved, far from a failure), I believe the father of lies who is always out to steal my (and your) joy and vision. Thankfully, I don’t forget anymore.

In the Old Testament, when God’s people had an unforgettable encounter with the LORD, they often built a memorial out of stone in commemoration of the event. They (and sometimes the LORD Himself) wanted a tangible reminder of what the LORD had done. I, too, wanted a tangible reminder of how the Lord had restored and healed my heart, so I completely changed my appearance (at least for now).

For almost 28 years, I was a blonde. Now, I’m a red head. 🙂

2013-12-05_16-12-01_263When I look in the mirror, I am constantly reminded of the fact I not only look like a completely different person, I am a completely different person because of God’s gracious work in my life! I’m pretty sure I will eventually go back to my roots (or closer to them than I am now 😉 ), but for now, I needed an external expression of a very powerful, inward change. The dye is temporary, but the branding on my heart is forever.


I finally see He is bringing much beauty from the ashes of my once shattered heart.
He is mending and strengthening. He is healing and restoring.
He is being what He always is – good. So, so good.

I’ll leave you with a song that has meant so very much to me over the past several months.

 

Father, thank you for loving me so.

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Filed under Baby, grace, Life, Marriage, Miscarriage, Redeeming Loss, Sanctification

Cosmic Shift

Drafts. A post. Lots more drafts.
That’s been the extent of my blogging the past several months.

Tears. Refining. More Tears. Did I mention tears?
That’s been my life the past several months.
Much of that just hasn’t been put into words, here or even in-person.

Why?
Well, because…

Sometimes the most powerful, gut-wrenching yet healing moments in life leave us simply so undone we (even I) am unable to utter a sound, let alone wax poetically about the cosmic shift occurring within. We are unable to ascertain just exactly what our Creator is doing in the miry depths of our disheveled soul, which can leave us feeling vulnerable to the core and, at times, scared of what is next. All I know is that, if we surrender to the beautiful chaos, when He’s done chipping away and putting back together, we will never be the same. I will never be the same.

Thank you, Father, I will never be the same.

More to come. 🙂

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Where Our Adoption Stands

Don’t worry. Our plans haven’t changed (again).
As I told you last month, we’re still adopting. 🙂

Sorry I haven’t really updated you all on our progress lately.
I guess working through my mid-life crisis, and life itself, just got in the way.
There’s been a lot going on here at the Payne’s, I guess you could say.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, so I figure it’s time to update you again!

I have some exciting news, though, on the adoption front!

If you didn’t catch it in last month’s update….

As of mid-September, we have an official, completed home study! 😀 😀 😀

This makes us officially “legal” and able to take a child, if one would be offered to us. In case you couldn’t already tell, this is a huge, huge deal and was a giant hurdle to cross.

Last time I checked, though, even if you’re legally able to say “yes,” to a child, it’s rather rare to just get called out-of-the-blue and offered the opportunity to parent one, not that it couldn’t happen if the Lord saw fit, though! 😉 

That being said, logistically, we’re making progress.
Not enough, though.
There’s still much work to be done. :/

To be completely honest, October wasn’t a fun month for me. I had grandiose hopes and dreams for the month with our call to fasting/prayer for our adoption, ones that (for the most part) did not come to fruition. When God wasn’t meeting my expectations for the month, I oftentimes struggled with feeling depressed, emotionally tired, confused, alone, and every other negative feeling the enemy tried to throw at me. I didn’t always stand firm on the promises of the Word. Many times, I let my circumstances, ones that weren’t changing fast enough for my liking, determine my level of joy instead of my confidence in Him and Him alone.  Many times, though I was participating in my own call for prayer and fasting, I wasn’t actively participating. Instead, I was just going through the motions, tapping my foot, waiting for Him to “just do something” because we were doing all that we could do and seemingly getting nowhere. Consequently, during those distracted times, I missed out on seeing what the Lord was doing in our midst, even if those things upon which He was working weren’t at all for what I had been praying so fervently and weren’t exactly fun to process.

You see, God certainly did move in October; it was just mostly in ways I hadn’t planned. In hindsight, I am reminded of the verse in Isaiah 55 (v.8) which tells us, ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.”

The Word tell us that man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (I Sam. 16:7). How does that relate to us?

The Lord showed me that oftentimes I, like most people naturally do in my situation, have been coming at the adoption from a purely logistical (“outward”) standpoint. After all, if you know anything about adoption, there are a lot of logistics to think about. When I wasn’t thinking about the logistics, I was thinking about our child and the awesome privilege and responsibility it is going to be to be their mother. Obviously, these were all good things on which to ponder. God, though, in His divine sovereignty and goodness, has been coming at it all along from a holistic standpoint. Moreover, because He so lavishly loves us and longs to reveal Himself to us, He has been thinking not only about not only our precious child and all the details that go with bringing them home to us but, just as importantly, about ME, about US, this whole time, too. 

Though we (especially I) couldn’t see it for the longest time, He hasn’t left us in the desert. We aren’t aimlessly walking around year-after-year, experiencing trial after trial, locked out of the “Promised Land” of parenthood because we’re being “punished” for whatever reason. No, He knows exactly what He is doing, and, contrary to the lies Satan would have me believe, His goal isn’t to break my heart; actually, it’s quite the opposite. No, before He allows us to enter the new “land” of parenthood, He sees the utmost importance in beginning to heal our hearts (in particular mine) first before He moves us elsewhere, especially into such an important season as the one upon which we are about to embark.

No, He isn’t purposefully withholding parenthood from me to torment me. No, instead, He longs for me, for us (individually and corporately), to feel whole before He moves us to a different, very challenging land. The Lord loves us, and our children, enough to tend to our hearts before He ever brings them into our lives.

Sure, He could have parted the waters by now and easily allowed all the tangible, logistical things to fall into place for us to be able to adopt. We could have been richly blessed with a child (or more than one) and going about our lives with our newborn(s) feeling extremely tired but blessed. He chose not to, however, because we never would have felt completely whole. Consequently, things never would have been completely as they should, and the Lord loves us too much to allow that.

He loves us too much to allow us to gain what we want tangibly but, in the process, settle spiritually and emotionally for much less than we could have with Him and with each other as husband and wife. He loves our children too much to leave their parents (i.e. us) as broken beings unable to fully embrace and appreciate our family for what it will be. All this time, He hasn’t been withholding from any of us but instead protecting us, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Though I couldn’t say it much last month, I am so thankful for that fact. I am so thankful that God did not abandon us in October but instead was preparing and healing our hearts, in particular our marriage, in ways that are crucially important for the well-being of our family once we finally do become a family of three (or four 😉 ).

So, where do we go from here?

  • Well, we pray. And then we pray some more. We have extended our October month of fasting/prayer into November and would love to have your support in our efforts to be bathing our adoption in prayer. You can find an outline of our specific requests (which have been updated) by going here.
  • We refuse to lose heart.
  • As Charles Stanley would say, we “obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”
  • We stand back in awe and wonder and watch Him move.

Lord God, thank you for how You’re moving. You are all we need.

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Filed under Adoption, grace, Marriage, Prayer, Purpose, Sanctification

8 Years: Reflections on Life Post-Transplant

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

8 years.
2,922 days.
70,128 hours.
4,207,680 minutes.
252,460,800 seconds.

It’s been 8 years since I was wheeled through those double doors and taken back for my double lung transplant. It’s been 8 years since I said goodbye to a room full of family and friends, never knowing if I’d see them again this side of Heaven. It’s been 8 years since the Lord saw it fit to rescue me from my physical brokenness and save me from the brink of death in a matter of just 12 hours for my good, but most importantly, His glory. It’s been 8 years, but those years have been so very full, it feels more like a lifetime…and then some.

So much – so much more than I ever could anticipate – has happened since that time. It would take several blog posts to go through it all, but thankfully I’ve already written about much of it in my book, Breathtaking, as well as documented the most recent happenings here on the blog. If you only recently started following my story during the series on our adoption/surrogacy/miscarriage/adoption journey (thanks for reading, btw :)), I’d encourage you to get to know my life prior to 2013 through my husband’s and my book, if you get the chance.  It truly is a miraculous story of God’s sovereignty and goodness amidst human suffering, a story I could never, ever conjure up on my own in a million years. When I occasionally stop and read portions of the book, or even blog posts I have written this year, to remind myself of how faithful the Lord has been to me during my 27 years of life, I sometimes have a hard time believing that the person I’m reading is about me.

The ways in which I have seen God move in my life are staggeringly beautiful and constantly leave me face-down in a posture of humility before my King, as they should. On days like today, when the vivid memories come flooding back, and the tears fall like fresh rain, I am once again left speechless and so in awe of the work He has chosen to accomplish through me instead of choosing to take me Home years ago, which He so easily could have done. Words can never express my gratitude for the 8 years I have had to walk this earth. No matter how many more years I get, I have been blessed beyond measure to have had the fullness of life I have experienced since September 25, 2005. He didn’t have to practically raise me from the dead for Him to be sovereign or good. By His sheer nature, He can be nothing but those things and more. Friends, He didn’t “owe” me 8 more years, and He certainly doesn’t owe me any more.

He may not owe me any more, but I’m still a human. I still desperately want more time with the ones I love, especially my husband and my children, with whom I have yet to get to spend any time. If we’re truly honest with God, ourselves and others, we all want “more” of something. Whether that be something as simple as more understanding of why a life circumstance had to occur, more children, more money, more friends, more prestige, more whatever. At the end of the day, though, Jesus is asking us – is asking me – if we (I) ultimately only want more of Him, no matter if we get our desire for “more” ____.

That’s a hard pill to swallow (and believe me I’ve swallowed thousands of pills in my life), though, when more of Him may never mean more of the thing you so desperately want. You want the good news, though?

He promises He’ll always be enough.
Always. No exceptions – ever.

I wish I could say I live like I believe this 100% of the time. Like all humans, my finite mind has a hard time sometimes grasping why certain things have to happen. To be honest, 2005 was a lot easier for me than 2013 has been thus far. I know that will sound dramatic to some. It is what it is, though. I can’t really articulate for you all the ends-and-outs of exactly why that is. That is my reality, though, whether you (or I) understand it or not.

As I continue through my post-transplant journey, I admittedly struggle at times feeling like a ticking “time bomb.” In some ways, this feeling has gotten better as time as gone by; in others, it has become harder to escape. 8 years out, 1 year always feels like 5 years, if not more. In the beginning, 1 year would feel like a decade.

After all of these years, I think I’m finally starting to realize why:

The longer I live, the more people die who began their transplant journey around the same time as me (60-70%); that’s a fact of life I can’t change. I don’t have to be a slave to it, but I can’t hide under a rug and act like it doesn’t exist. Consequently, though I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God can choose to have me live another 50 years, time certainly doesn’t seem on my side. Just like an older person who most likely has lived at least 1/2 , if not much more of their life, I am left with not only a keen awareness of time but this insatiable desire to not only be a good steward of my time but also for more – lots more – of it in general. To not be enslaved to the awareness of life being but a vapor (James 4:14), I also have to daily (especially during this season of barrenness) give my desire for control over my time on earth over to the Lord, the One who numbered my days before time existed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer that being cognizant of time isn’t all a bad thing – hardly so. In fact, I believe (for me) having a healthy awareness of post-transplant patients’ life spans, and thinking through how your family is going to be taken care of if/when you’re gone and unable to be there for them, is not only the responsible thing to do but the Godly thing. That’s why I took the time to plan out my funeral 8 years ago when I was faced with the very real possibility of death. I refused to leave that difficult task on my parents to do with the help of my close friends, who also would have been grieving (though not as deeply) upon my death. My mom didn’t understand my reasoning for such planning at the time. Understandably so, she refused to take part in it. It had to be done, though; at least it had to be done for me, if even only for a few months, to live with a clear conscience. Even though  God had other plans for my life, and those written-out funeral plans were obviously never used, I know to this day I was obedient in doing it, even 8 1/2 years after sitting down with a group of people and planning out something that never came to fruition.

Now, 8 years, a loving marriage and Lord-willing soon-to-be, precious children later, my focus has shifted from my parents and close friends to my husband and children. My love for my parents hasn’t waned in the slightest (in fact, it has grown as I prepare to be a parent myself), but my priorities have changed and rightfully so. I still want more time with my parents, other immediate family and friends, of course. After all I had been through, I had no idea how much marriage, and the oneness (spiritually, emotionally and physically) that comes with it, would change the way I process time. After my surgery, I was made aware of how precious time truly is, but my urgency for spending my time well has only been heightened since marriage. I’m sure it will become even more sensitive once our children are here. Now I just don’t think about how I’m spending my God-given time and what type of legacy I am leaving. I also have a  physical longing to be a good steward of my time with my spouse and kids. I daily long to “redeem the time” we have with one another. I’m consciously aware that my days with them are (most likely) fewer than we all would like and for which we would ask, and that knowledge changes the way I view everything.

To illustrate my point, I’ll give you an analogy:

Sometimes I feel as if I am standing within an hourglass made of impenetrable glass, which is quickly burying me with sand, i.e. lost time.

As I look out at 99% of the world, in particular those my age, I see those whose glasses seem to be pouring much more slowly than mine. They are standing only knee-to-waist deep in their sand and hardly aware of the urgent feeling they, too, will one day feel to “redeem the time.” For most of them, that realization of their finiteness will come many years later in their journey called life. Due to feeling as if they, even those older than me, “have all the time in the world,” I see mostly a generally worry-free attitude when it comes to redeeming their time left on Earth.

As for me, no matter what the speed of others’ glasses, or how hard I try to move at their speed, I can’t crack the glass or slow down my sand. As a result, I continue to be (or feel as if I a being) swallowed up at a much faster rate than the vast majority of my peers. Those who are my age, including my own spouse, are naturally more concerned with their grandparents’ and parents’ hourglass at this point in their lives than their own.

As Christians, weasily say that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Most of us are planning on easily living at least 70-80 years, though, because that’s what statistics tell us we’ll most likely get.  In the process of living all of those years,  it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty and importance of redeeming ever single day, even the mundane ones. It’s easy to “bank” on things happening in life for you (whether graduating from college, marriage, having children, succeeding in your career, retirement, etc.), because after all, that is the natural trajectory of the vast majority’s lives. Furthermore, as people are moving through life and its natural ebbs and flows, most don’t consciously take their finite nature to heart, at least not every single day. This is especially true of those living within the first half of their natural lifespan.

People don’t consciously think about their own hourglass until tragedy strikes.

A few times in life, one will inevitably be rocked to the core and left to deal with a loved one’s mortality. This uneasiness is most likely first felt through the death of grandparents, in particular a close grandparent. Usually, after the initial blow (through the death/sickness of whomever is closest to them — usually the oldest loved ones still living at the time), life eventually returns to “normal.”

When tragedy strikes the younger (peers, spouses, children), however, it tends to “wake people up” a little more than when the elderly pass. Depending on how close and young the dead loved one was, the sting of death seems a little deeper, because all of us (no matter our religious affiliation) know the young aren’t “supposed” to pass away. We feel the effects of the Fall a little more during those tragic times.

Still, the formative life-changes that come from these times of grief, even in its most tense form, usually do not fully garner our attention to our own life clock. Even after the gravest of situations, the urgency to “redeem the time” wanes until the next tragedy, which starts the process all over again for a few days, months, or possibly a few years. 

Most of our lives are not lived under the part of the mantra that says “for tomorrow we die” but instead the former part, which says “live, drink and be merry.” And so we do. Like the old Tracy Lawrence song says, “time marches on,” and it does so without much thought from us most of the time.

Eventually, though, everyone starts to acknowledge their “sand.” After usually a very long, full life, people “suddenly” become aware of their hourglass filling up. They seem shocked and act as if it happened just overnight. As we all know, though, aging,  and consequent loss of time, is a natural progression; it is one that occurs whether we pay attention or not. Some life events, such as illness or a major birthday milestone, just make us more aware of that fact. Major life changes, such as graduating high school or college, getting married, having children, a mid-life crisis, or retirement can also remind us, at least for a bit, that life is indeed moving along.

Eventually, not only do people have to come to grips with time passing, they are faced with their pending death – the end of their “sand” falling – whether they’re ready or not. Psychology experts will tell you that it is during the last years of one’s own life, that deep reflection on one’s own life occurs for the first time for the majority of the human race. Some are eased into this pattern of thinking very slowly and reflect on-and-off for two or more decades before their demise. Others, however, are shoved forward into dealing with their mortality in a more tangible way when they are suddenly diagnosed with a severe illness (such a cancer or heart disease), diagnoses which can even come with a possibility of death for some. For many individuals, due to lack of self-actualization throughout most of their lifetime, oftentimes this period of end-of-life reflection brings up past regrets and disappointments in their personal, professional lives and even spiritual lives. It can conjure up feelings of  past hurt and shame and cause one to feel the consequences of the weight associated with a lack of fulfilled dreams, forgiveness for oneself and/or others, or a pattern of disobedience to God. Sadly, for some (even Christians who are confident in their eternal home), the darkest period of their life is the very end of their life – a very, very sad fact, if you ask me.

Whether we’re ready or not, whether we are at peace or not, the fact is this: We all die.

The question is this: Are we going to not only die well, but more importantly, live well? Are we going to live with conviction for the glory of King, the Author and Finisher of our faith, or are we to try be the masters of our own fate until that no longer works for us?

 Fast pouring glass or not, whether we choose to acknowledge our glass throughout life or not, in order to have peace, Jesus still has to be enough – in all things.

He has to be enough in life and in death. He is the Keeper of the glass, after all. He is the One who determines the number of our days, not us or a statistician who promises us far more, or maybe far fewer, days than we will actually live.

For me, that means a desire for more of Him has to be more than my desire for more time. On a tangible level, that means daily balancing the tension I feel to not focus so intently on my hourglass I feel paralyzed, but to be responsibly aware of its contents, nonetheless. That daily tension causes me to be cognizant of our finite nature, and therefore wanting to live my life to the fullest, but also wanting to be capable of relaxing and enjoying life while I have it, too. Some days, I walk the mental tight rope better than others.

Bottom line: I have to balance my keen awareness of the time at hand (which is a unique gift I’m thankful to have) with also a permission for myself to join the others and, at least in a way, “live, drink and be merry,” as long as I’m doing it for the glory of my King. After all, I’m not dead yet. 😉

Thank God, I’m not dead yet. 🙂


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Filed under Breathtaking, cystic fibrosis, grace, Health, Life, Marriage, Purpose, Sanctification, Simplicity, Transplant

Joy Through Infertility – Another Perspective

Sorry it’s been a while.
I really wasn’t planning on being gone so long.
Then life – lots of it – happened.
One day here soon, we’ll get to (most) of that. Promise. 🙂
If you need to catch up on our journey, now is the time.
Things will move faster from here, Lord-willing.

For the time being while I sort out this new season of life, I wanted to share with you a powerful piece I read today by one of my favorite writers, Holley Gerth. Even though I’ve never met her (or honestly talked to her), I absolutely adore her transparency and was extremely blessed when I read this today.

Thank you for your heart, Holley. It is astonishingly beautiful.

I’ll be back soon to update you on where we are in our ever-changing journey to parenthood; exciting things are happening! God is faithful. 🙂

When God Changes Your Plans {An Infertility Update}

Nurture Bracelet by Lisa Leonard

Nurture Bracelet by Lisa Leonard

Friends, this post has been a long time coming. And I’m going to ask for your grace in advance. Because it makes me knocking-knees nervous to write it. Infertility is such a personal subject for many different reasons besides the obvious. But enough of you have asked and I’ve done enough praying that I just want to give you an update.

Before I start I want to include this disclaimer: If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this journey it’s that everyone’s story is different. What I’m sharing applies to my hubby and I alone.

When Mark and I married in 2000 we thought starting a family would be easy for us. Doesn’t everyone? When we officially began the process to become parents about five years later, we soon realized that wouldn’t be the case for us. Long story short, we went through years of grief, loss, doctor’s appointments and some serious wrestling with God. Out of that process came my first devotional book, Rain on Me {recently released in a new edition as Under God’s Umbrella}.

During that time, over seven people on separate occasions prayed over me that “God would bring new life through my words.” I tucked each of those statements away in my heart, not sure what they meant. God provided many other instances where he used people, even women I didn’t know, to speak into my life that I was not barren. And one day I looked at the Scripture passage about Eve who was called “the mother of all living” and I knew in my heart that every woman is a mama. Yep, every single one of us brings life into the world in some way.

And mine was not going to be through physical kiddos.

It took me years to even dare to whisper that to the closest people in my life. Our culture is so focused on physical family that it felt scandalous–and possibly unchristian–even to speak those words out loud. When I began to, the response was usually, “Have you ever thought about adoption?” The answer: Yes, of course we had. We had thought, prayed, wrestled with it. And yet we never felt like God was directing us that way. That was also an extremely difficult decision in a generation that is passionate about adoption {and rightly so!}.

From time to time I would ask God again, “Are you sure we’re on the path you want us on?” And inevitably within twenty-four hours someone would send me a note saying, “I’m not sure why I’m sending you this but I think God wants me to tell you you’re already a mother.” Truly. I wrote every single time that happened in my journal.

So I’m here, friends, almost ten years from the time we started this journey. And I want to tell you this: my heart is healed, my life is full, and I’m a word mama to the hearts of thousands of women around the world. I’m truly, deeply blessed.

We could have gone out and found a way to get a baby. We live in a culture where we can make that happen. And it would have done away with a lot of the hard questions we’ve had to answer the last few years. But if we had, it would not have been God’s best for us. I would have been like Sarah and whatever option I chose would have been my Hagar.

So I’m officially announcing that our infertility journey is done. We are in a new season–one of so much life, growth, and joy. One I wouldn’t have chosen but now wouldn’t trade because as David said in the Psalms “better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.” In other words, I want to stay in the center of God’s will. I trust him to continue filling the mama-longing in my heart {Ps. 84:11}. I trust him to take care of me when I’m old {Is. 46:4}. I trust him to have a plan that is greater than mine {Rom. 8:28}.

And in that I can rest.

Even more than rest, I can rejoice.

It is well with my soul.

I am a mother. And it is good.

XOXO

Holley

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Filed under Adoption, grace, Miscarriage, Redeeming Loss, Sanctification