Trusting God’s Process

Faith quoteOur pastor shared that thought on Sunday, and it hit me so hard, I didn’t hear anything else he said for the next few minutes. I was a few years away in my memories….

During the time when we were waiting for Kaylia to be born, we were often asked why we didn’t choose to adopt a baby. I thought about it a lot, but there was this one little thing holding me back – I felt like God had told me He was going to give us a baby girl.

I had just had a miscarriage, and as I lay there sobbing after it was all over, I felt like He said to me, “That was your baby boy, but I’m going to give you a girl.” In the moment, it felt incredibly real, but the next morning, I thought I was crazy for thinking God would speak like that to me.

And then four and a half years went by. It was really easy to doubt and lose hope during those years.

Sometimes, it seemed as though it would be so much easier to go get ourselves a baby some other way. We could adopt, or we could try all kinds of intense fertility treatments. But I never had any peace about doing anything – I felt like God was holding me back. Through it all, Ben was just super patient and understanding, willing to do whatever would be best for me in our difficult situation.

But one weekend, everything reached a climax for me. I felt as though I could not handle the waiting and the grief for one moment longer. I was so tired of it all, I just wanted to do SOMETHING. Anything.

We were living at Red Rock Bible Camp at the time, and it was Family Camp weekend, so Ben was really busy for a few days After I would put Anika to bed, I had many hours to think and pray, seeking direction from God. Did He want us to keep waiting, or could we take action?

Although I prayed a lot that weekend, I didn’t feel as though God was speaking to me, and I started to get even more discouraged. I remember going to chapel near the end of the weekend, and the speaker was talking about Abraham. I can’t remember exactly what he shared about Abraham that morning, but as I had my Bible open to the passage he was speaking on, I happened to keep reading further:

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:8-14)

Do you ever moments when you read something from the Bible, and it hits you so hard, it feels like it was put there just for you, for that exact moment? I read those verses about the mess they had made – Sarah wouldn’t wait for the baby God had promised, so she took things into her own hands and made Abraham sleep with the maid. But when she got the baby she’d been scheming about, everything went wrong. When God finally gave them the baby He’d actually promised, she despised the other boy, and wanted him gone.

I read about them wandering around in the desert, begging God to save them, and all I could see was one big mess, because Sarah refused to wait.

And then I felt like God said to me, “I want you to wait.”

Adoption can be a really great option, and infertility treatments have done miraculous things for some people, but for me, in our situation, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was saying we were supposed to do nothing. I needed to stop the scheming and the desperate planning, and just trust…and wait.

It was hard to hear that, but at the same time, it also gave peace. I knew what I needed to do, even if it was hard. We waited another whole year after that before we finally found out that Kaylia was on the way.

Waiting is HARD. But it can also be beautiful, when we do it in the right way. I wish I could have done it better. I wish I could have trusted God’s process, and been more patient and at peace until the time came for Him to fulfill His promise.

I don’t think about that time very often anymore. While we were in it, it felt like it would never end. But now, we’re so happy and busy and life is so full, it’s easy to forget how long and hard we waited for the joy we have now.

But when hard stuff comes, and I find myself growing frustrated and impatient, I remember those dark years, and the peace I missed because I didn’t trust enough. God still blessed me with the answer to my prayers, but I hurt myself during that time. I suffered spiritually, emotionally, and even physically because I wouldn’t rest in His promises. I didn’t know how to trust His process. It took awhile, even after Kaylia was born, before I felt like I had healed from that difficult time. I wish I would have done things differently.

But I don’t want to waste time now regretting what happened in the past. I want to learn from it, and move on, trusting that God provides, even while I’m waiting for Him to provide! He gives me everything I need in the process and the promise.

 

Video: Our Miracle Baby

Today is Everett’s birthday! He is currently stuffing his face with pancakes and turkey sausage, so I think he’s enjoying the day so far.

birthday boyI’ll share his birthday favorites on Monday, but for today, here’s a video I’ve been working on – the story of how God gave us our miracle baby. If you’ve been a regular reader for awhile, you’ve probably read parts of this story before, but I wanted to tell it from the beginning. God is so good! Feeling so thankful for our sweet boy, today and every day!

Gracefully Let Go

I’m not in the habit of quoting Buddha, but I came across this quote on Pinterest recently, and could not resist:

Buddhasource

That last part of the quote is what grabbed my attention. It sums up perfectly what’s been on my mind recently….

When Ben and I were dating, we would talk about kids – how many we wanted, and what our family might look like.

I though four children would probably be necessary, but Ben said two.

I asked if we could compromise, and have three, and he said, very Ben-like, “We’ll talk about it when the time comes.”

So I never really decided how many kids we would have. Because I knew there was a good chance it would be hard for us to have kids, a bit of me wondered if we’d have ANY.

Well, Anika came along, and life was so awesome, there was no doubt we wanted more where that came from. But when it took so long for us to have Kaylia, it made me not only desperate for two kids, it made me quite certain I wanted three.

However, after Kaylia was born, it became clear that three might not be possible. For a long time, I remained hopeful that my physical limitations would heal up in time for me to squeak one more baby out before I turned 35. After that, I said I would give up. (In case you’re wondering what Ben thought of all this, his opinion was that he would be sad if we never had another baby, but he was happy with the family we had.)

Thirty-five rolled around this summer, but it turns out, I still didn’t want to give up my baby dream. There was a part of me that still desperately hoped of Baby #3. We had all that baby stuff sitting in the basement, and I was unable to part with it.

I felt stuck and frustrated. My therapists said “No.” Pregnancy would not be a good idea, and I didn’t want to wreck my body any further – I wanted to be strong and healthy to enjoy the children I have been blessed with.

But my friends all talked about how when you’re done, you KNOW you’re done.

I didn’t know. I never got to choose.

I wish I could know what it feels like to be DONE. I wish the baby clothes could get shipped out victoriously, speedily followed by the crib and stroller. I don’t want to be sad about this.

One mom who had decided to stop at two said she felt a pang of longing every time she saw a family of three, even years after making the decision.

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering “What if…?” I didn’t want to have regrets when I was eighty, thinking we should have had more kids.

But I didn’t get to make the choice. I still feel as though I need every person to know that we only have two because we couldn’t have more, not because this is what I wanted – I’m not sure why I feel the need for everyone to know that.

I don’t want to see our family as incomplete, and I most definitely don’t want to be discontent. I praise the Lord for these sweet girls of ours.

“Gracefully let go of things not meant for you…”

Isn’t that beautiful? It’s what I want in many areas of my life. I feel as though God is teaching me to find it in this situation, as well. In the last month or two, as I’ve prayed about it, and tried to release it to Him, I feel as though He’s giving me such peace and contentment.

He knows the longing I’ve had, and He holds it. It is safe with Him, and I am safe with Him, and there are so many other ways to live and love and do family. If we can’t have more children, we will find other ways to reach out and share life with those who are lonely.

God is surprising me with His ability to make my life seem full and good, even when I can’t have exactly what I want.

familyMorgan Jane Photography

He will not leave me longing. I want to let go of my desire for another baby so there is room to desire Him, and all He has for me.

Is there anything in your life that needs to be gracefully let go of?

4 Reasons Why I Love Our Wide-Gapped Family

Our girls are five and a half years apart in age.

This used to bother me a lot. I never wanted our family to be this way – I wanted a “normal” family, which, in North America, means having kids exactly every two years, bonus points to those who could squeeze them even closer.

We never had the luxury of choosing. I spent many years feeling anxious, depressed, and jealous of other people’s families. Ben always kept telling me, “Our family will be what our family will be. We’ll think it’s normal, whatever ends up happening, and it will be good.”

Yep, good. And then I’d cry myself to sleep another night over yet another negative pregnancy test.

We finally found out that Kaylia was on the way, just before Anika’s fifth birthday. (It’s funny how that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but at the time, it seemed to take FOREVER.)

But these days, Ben is right – our family is what it is.

There are still times when it’s easy to focus on the negatives to having such a wide age difference between our girls, but lately, I’ve been getting comments from people about how nice it must be. And they’re right – there are totally benefits to our family being this way, even though I would never have chosen it, in that imaginary world where I always get my own way.

So. For anyone who’s waiting for a baby that isn’t coming, or worrying about how family will work out in the future, or thinking about how close in age you want to have your kids, here is the perspective I wish people had shared with me, back in those tearful years:

1) We have a built-in babysitter.

In two years, Anika will be old enough to stay home with Kaylia, while Ben and I date up a storm. We have big plans for our impending freedom. Okay, not really, and we’re not going to take advantage of Anika or anything, but we are pretty excited about how this will give us more flexibility in our schedule.

And until then, Anika is incredibly helpful with Kaylia. She loves being in charge, and will get Kaylia’s snack ready, gets her dressed in the morning, helped with potty training, and many other things that make my life easier. She doesn’t always feel like doing these things, but most of the time, she is very willing to help out. Leaving Kaylia in Anika’s care is a wonderful and natural thing around here already, and I love seeing the bond they have.

2) We have a built-in entertainer.

girls

All those people who say your kids have to be two years apart in order to play well together may not be completely accurate. Our girls play together from morning till night, and Anika is completely amazing with entertaining Kaylia. Kaylia drinks in everything her big sister does, and Anika was a born leader, so she looooooves having someone to boss around. They do fight like crazy, but Ben keeps reminding me that most siblings do, and they love each other very much in between fights to make up for it.

Interestingly enough, my sister is 5 1/2 years older than me, and when I was a kid, I was completely in awe of her. I thought there had never been anyone who could sew Barbie clothes like her, or make Kleenx flowers for our imaginary weddings the way she could. I thought she was amazing.

It is fun for me to see Kaylia looking up to her sister the way I look up to mine.:)

3) We get very interesting questions from random strangers.

Oh, the things people have said to me about our children.

“Are they both yours?”

“Girl, what happened to you??” (Said my hairdresser, who couldn’t figure out why on earth I would wait so long between having babies.)

People feel the freedom to ask all kinds of questions, and then I get to share all over again about how God blessed our family with our Miracle Baby, and I got to watch the most incredible bond grow between Anika and this sister she prayed for.

4) We get beautiful one-on-one time.

I loved that special time with Anika before Kaylia was born. I read books to her for hours and hours. She had my undivided attention. I soaked in every single moment of her growing and changing, because I had no distractions.

And now, as Anika gets a little older, she wants more independence, so she goes off to her room to play or read sometimes, or goes to a friend’s house to play, and I get to spend special time with Kaylia.

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Basically, it comes down to the fact that Ben is right, once again: “Our family will be what our family will be.”

We love the way our family is, but I’m sure there are many beautiful, awesome things about having kids close in age, as well. I think it’s amazing that no matter what kind of family we have, there are blessings and gifts to enjoy. There will also be hard things about any kind of family, but I’m so very thankful that God is giving me the clarity to see the good that is coming out of doing family this way, even if we didn’t choose it.

And really, wouldn’t it be kinda boring if we all had identical families?

What do you enjoy most about your own unique family?

If I Could Have Seen the Future

We went to Tinkertown this last weekend with some friends, and had a wonderful time.

There were so many moments of the day that were just plain wonderful, and made me mentally stop still for a second, in an effort to take it all in.

The weather was absolutely beautiful. Hello, September-dressed-up-like-July.

The first thing I saw when I came in the gate was a tree covered in bright orange leaves, surrounded by all the other crazy colors of Tinkertown. It was the most festive fall scene I’ve seen in a long time.

I loved seeing Anika with her friends, bravely taking on every ride in the park. She’s a little daredevil. It makes me kinda happy.

And Kaylia followed in her footsteps, like usual. Awesome. Motion-sick Me will take pictures while everybody else whirls and twirls like crazy.

But deep down, there was something else really amazing and meaningful for me about being at Tinkertown. I kept thinking about it all day long, and if it wasn’t such a bright, crazy, colorful, fun place, I might have gotten emotional.

Five years ago, we took Anika to Tinkertown for the first time, and she loved it. We loved being there with her.

But it was right smack in the middle of those years we spent dealing with infertility. Our family was so small. It often felt like we almost didn’t qualify as being a “proper” family, just because we were so small.

So our tiny, little family went to Tinkertown five years ago, and I tried very hard to have a light heart that day. I tried to enjoy Anika as fully as possible, and not long for more. I wanted to feel like we were enough, just us three.

But I found it difficult to be surrounded by so many other families with tons of children. I wanted to have tons of children. I wanted to be one of those frazzled parents, being pulled in 10 different directions.

But we calmly walked through Tinkertown with our one child, perfectly calm and under control.

This last weekend, we walked through Tinkertown with another vibrant, chubby-cheeked little girl, full of life and enthusiasm, lisping mature words she’s heard from her big sister.

Now I can feel like we’re enough. Not a ton, but enough. If I didn’t have health issues to deal with, maybe there would be more. I don’t know. But this is the life we’ve been given, and it’s so good.

I wish that in those dark, heavy times, I would have done a better job of waiting. I wish I would have chosen to rest instead of panic. I wish I could have given myself fully to those days when we were a family of three.

I often felt back then that if only I could see the future, if only I could know God was going to answer our prayers for another child, then I would be able to wait for a miracle with peace and joy in my heart.

But in wishing that, I actually missed a miracle. I missed the miracle of waiting in faith, with the peace and joy only God can give, instead of joy in receiving what I asked for.

I once heard a preacher say we need to long for the Giver more than the gift.

I missed my chance to learn how to long for the Giver in that situation.

I’m sure there will be many more chances in the future, but the chance to learn it in that situation is over. I received the miracle I was longing for before I learned the miracle of how to wait in patience and faith.

If I could go back five years ago to tell myself something, it would be this:

There is no need to see the future.

God was good back then, He is good now and He will always be good.

He had miracles for me back then in those dark moments, whether I could see them or not, and He has miracles for me today.

The miracle of today erases those hard, hard years.

We all know that in this world, there many sorrows and hardships. Sometimes the future looks very uncertain.

But I see Kaylia, and I am reminded that the future also holds many blessings beyond anything I can imagine. I want to be surprised with all that joy. These days, I don’t long so much to see the future. I’m learning to live in the moment.

And not just because I got what I was longing for.

As soon as I got what I wanted, you can be sure I came up with new desires pretty quick. It was then that I started to realize joy and contentment would not come from getting what I wanted.

It comes when we just live today. When we see the miracle we already have in this moment.

It comes when we trust God with the future, and thank Him for all that we have right now.

When Dreams Are Marinating

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments and thoughts on dreams this week. It seems there are two main thoughts which keep surfacing: 1) It can be difficult to determine which dreams come from God, and which ones are our own, and 2) It can be difficult to wait on God to see those dreams fulfilled.

On Wednesday, I shared a few thoughts on clarifying which dreams come from God, and today, I want to talk about the dreams that require some waiting and patience!

Reading Heather‘s book, Dream Big, has gotten me thinking a lot about the balance between actively pursuing our dreams, and staying still while prayerfully waiting for the time of completion.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone through a number of experiences which felt as though God was teaching me about the art of waiting – to stop planning, and stop pursuing, and just learning to abide in Him.

This does not come naturally for me. I am a planner, and I like to be in control of my schedule and my life. Learning to let go of “The Plan” was difficult for me, and is something I wrote about in a blog series called, “Chucking the Five Year Plan” (Part 1, 2, 3, 4)

It has been an interesting challenge for me to process Heather’s thoughts and suggestions for having a one year, and five year plan, and being intentional about pursuing dreams. As I read her book, and worked through her exercises for coming up with a plan, I realized how much I’ve allowed myself to swing to the “No Plan” side of things, as I’ve tried to leave room for God to take the lead. I admire Heather’s wisdom in allowing God to do things in His time, while actively and intentionally preparing yourself to be ready for the time when He starts to move in more noticeable ways.

She writes,

When God plants His dreams in us, we often have to wait to see them fulfilled. However, this doesn’t mean we sit around watching TV, checking Facebook, and waiting for our big dreams to come knocking. There are little opportunities every day…that God uses to prepare us for our big dreams. If only we weren’t so easily distracted.

I know how tempting it can be to try to force our dreams to happen. I know how it feels to believe in something so much, to be so sure it is from God, and to be completely confused as to His timing and what He is doing to bring it about.

Sometimes, seeing ourselves in a time of preparation is a very difficult thing. Waiting for seemingly endless amounts of time can be very hard. I have not always faced my times of waiting, the seasons of “marinating” in my life, with as much grace and patience as I wish I had.

The most difficult season of waiting I have ever experienced was before Kaylia was born.

I had two amazing experiences when I felt as though God was clearly telling me we would someday have a baby girl. In the moment, those times were powerful, but by the next morning, doubts would always set in, and it was hard to believe God had really spoken to me.

There were times when the waiting was almost unbearable, and I didn’t know how to be faithful in the waiting. I was so blinded by my desire for a baby, I couldn’t see the opportunities for growth or preparation in that time.

We were asked a number of times during those years why we didn’t just adopt a baby. Part of me wanted to pursue adoption, but part of me was held back in a way I couldn’t understand or explain.

I remember one weekend in particular, when my thoughts and feelings reached a climax. I was tired of waiting for God, and I was tired of the longing and unhappiness in my life. Would it be so wrong for us to take the situation into our own hands, and just go adopt a baby? (That makes adoption sound easy, but I realize it’s not! It just seemed much more possible than pregnancy at that point.)

The weekend of this emotional climax happened to be Family Camp at Red Rock Bible Camp, and I attended a chapel session one evening. The speaker was talking about the Bible story of Abraham and Sarah, and as he was speaking, I got caught up in the story, reading farther along. I read about how God promised them a baby, and then nothing happened – for years, and years, and years….

Because they are Bible characters, it is easy to assume they handled this well, but they really didn’t. Sarah decided to take things into her own hands, and made Abraham sleep with her maid so they could finally get that promised baby.

But it wasn’t the promised baby.

It was the maid’s baby, and as that child grew up, he caused a lot of grief for everyone involved. It was unnecessary, avoidable grief, because it was wrong for the whole situation to ever have happened. If Abraham and Sarah would just have waited with faith and trust, Isaac would eventually have come along.

As I sat there in that chapel, it suddenly struck me how tempted I was  to be a little like Sarah. I really wanted to adopt a baby, not because Ben and I felt called to adoption at that point, but because I wanted to be in control. I was tired of waiting on God, and since adoption is not a sinful thing to do, surely it would be okay to pursue.

Except that deep down in my heart, I knew God was saying “no”. We weren’t meant to adopt our “promised” baby. I still felt God had spoken to me years before, and His words had been, “Wait on me.” But in my times of doubt, it was hard to keep believing, and extremely tempting to start thinking like Sarah.

And so we waited. I have no idea what would have happened if we hadn’t, but I am so thankful and happy and blessed because of the life we have now.

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So how do you know? How do you know when it’s time to take action, and when it’s time to just sit tight, because God is up to something whether we know what it is or not?

When do we “marinate” in all that confusion and waiting, longing for these dreams we have deep in our hearts?

I am still working on the answer to those questions, because I think it’s different in each situation, but I’m starting to realize that the answer might be in the “how”.

How am I taking action?

Are my actions pure? (Sleeping with the maid…not so much!)

Do I feel peaceful about my steps forward, or am I just getting a “no” from God?

Is there a deeper reason why I might be held back from taking action?

I felt frustration whenever I was held back from actively pursuing my dreams, but looking back, I can see growth and purpose during those times of “marinating”. Sometimes we need an extended period of time to just sit, soaking it all in, learning to live in the tension.

Reading Heather’s book has enabled me to better define what I choose to do during a season of “dream marination”. 🙂

Sometimes, the pain and struggle of living in the tension IS the preparation. I don’t think I could have handled a five year plan in that season of my life.

But I’ve moved into a different season, and I can see how the dreams I have now could benefit from an intentional plan of preparation.

Just as I couldn’t force God’s timing when it came to having a baby, I cannot force God in His timing for my new dreams.

I’m starting to see the peace that can be there for us in the season of marinating.

I believe that allowing God to control the timing of our dreams is just as important as allowing Him to determine what those dreams are in the first place.

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Okay, everybody, last chance to comment, and have a chance to win Heather’s new book!

My question for today is this: How’s the marinating going? Are you able to “actively wait”, with intention, peace, and purpose, or do you struggle with impatience?

The Hard Thanksgivings

We lost a baby on Thanksgiving weekend five years ago.

When we got back from the hospital that day, Ben and I tried to choke down the meal some kind friends brought over for us, but food seemed so unimportant. And I didn’t feel very thankful that Thanksgiving.

It was a horrible time. I did not deal well with everything. I kept crying, and Ben kept asking, “Isn’t Anika enough? Can you be happy for the one that we already have?”

But my arms ached for that baby we would never hold, and I desperately wanted a sibling for Anika.

It took many, many months for me to pull out of that dark time. And even once I was able to go on with life, and stopped crying every night, I still had such an all-consuming desire for a baby. I would sit in church and watch all the other families with two or three kids, all sitting together, and there we sat, our tiny family of three.

I felt so guilty, because it should have been enough. I already had a wonderful little girl. But it still felt like our family was barely a family. I wasn’t enough of a mom yet. I wanted to be busy with my children, and I wanted to know what it felt like to have many little people climbing on me and cuddling up close to me. I had never pictured us having the quiet, controlled little life that we had with only one child.

I knew that for lots of people who couldn’t have any children, what we had would seem like a dream come true. And I was thankful. But I still wanted more.

And I kept wanting, and wanting, and there was so much anger and bitterness towards God, and so much jealously towards anyone who had multiple children, or who had babies so easily that they believed it was completely in their power to choose the size of their family, with their perfectly-spaced, two-years-apart-each-one, row of children.

We lost one more baby before God gave Kaylia to us. And I don’t know exactly when my heart healed. Some of it happened before I ever knew that we would finally have our miracle baby. I was learning to accept things the way that they were, and I was ready to trust that God would do what was best for our family.

But a lot of the healing happened after she was born. And I don’t know if I would have been fully able to accept things the way they were if she had never come. I would like to think that I would finally have been at peace, even without another baby, but I will never know.

I do know that I wouldn’t change a thing. As I sit here now on a quiet Thanksgiving morning, while my beautiful, wonderful family still sleeps peacefully, I know that God is good. He redeems anything. He takes the mess of our lives and does good things with it.

How is it possible that I can look back on all those years of pain, and be thankful for it? It made our family what it is today, it made me what I am today. What I suffered and what I learned was what God knew I needed to go through.

When I think about what our home would be like with four children instead of two, or I think about those babies in heaven I’ve never met, I feel sadness and regret, but I know that those things are not for me to long for. God has chosen the very best for my life, and I would much rather spend it being thankful for His blessings, than wanting what will never be.

And when Anika takes Kaylia by the hand, and Kaylia toddles after her big sister, my heart could burst. How could I want anything more?

Sometimes Thanksgiving is hard. Sometimes we don’t feel very thankful. But thank goodness that God redeems anything, and keeps giving us another chance to surrender everything over to Him.

Trust Him with the hard thanksgivings.