Thursday, December 27, 2018

Good Morning

It's been one of those nights/mornings where I can't turn off my mind.

My husband and I are currently trekking our way across Texas, working our way up to Missouri -- spending time with our families for the holidays. We generally like to start these 13-hour jaunts in the wee hours of the morning. And when we wake up early, it means deep sleep is usually impossible for me.

Rather than sleep, my mind soars through a seemingly endless list of things.
Costa Rica.
Foster Care.
Living more radically.

I've written somewhat recently about some of the happenings in the Beal family, but what you don't know yet is that in the two months since that blog post, a few things have happened.

  • I wrapped up the fall semester of grad school and my mind is still reeling from all the information and how to practically apply it in my life. 
  • We filled out and submitted our application for Foster Care and attended our first RAFT training (Relative Adoptive Foster parent Training). 
  • We booked tickets to Costa Rica for 4 weeks to see if the Lord might be leading us to a permanent move there. 
  • We found renters for our second rental home! 
Wait wait wait, back up... 
How does Foster Care coincide with Costa Rica? 
We aren't sure yet. 
But we're taking steps forward because, regardless of where we land, we know we have to do more. We know we want to do better. 

And as my mind spins in the dark hours of the morning, I'm still pondering Christmas in the midst of all of this. Jesus came

I don't know if I fully grasp the significance of this yet, but I think I learn it more and more, the older I get and more I learn about God's character. These are the truths that zoom me out of my limited, earthly perspective and remind me that God is faithful. That God comes to us. It's actually quite unbelievable...when you really think about it. 

And despite my list of worries and wonderings, there's a steadiness attached to the unknowns. It's an assuredness that it'll all work out. Whether we stay or go, whether we have kids or never do, when we mess up and when we fail. 

I'm scared of failing. 
Probably more than I've ever admitted. 
But somewhere, in these wee hours of the morning, there are the reminders that even when I fail people, or mess up at work, or can't have kids, or say the wrong thing at the wrong time or in the wrong tone... that God has me. And, because of that, there's a call on my life to reflect His image more fully. 

God comes to be with His people. 
Jesus came as a baby, and dwelt with His people. 
The Holy Spirit lives in us. 

So despite my best efforts to distance myself from people, I keep getting slapped in the face with the need to come back. If I am to be like Jesus.... if I am to be the image-bearer of God that Genesis declares that I am... I need to go to people. 

All people. 
The ones who have hurt me. 
The ones who are hurting. 
The ones who I have hurt. 
The ones who are lonely. 
The ones who are in need. 
The ones who are not like me. 
The ones who have lost their husbands. 
The ones who have lost their family. 
The ones who are broken. 
The ones who have no voice. 
The ones who are defenseless. 
The ones who have sinned "greatly". 

This is what I mean by doing more. 
Because the more I learn about the Lord...the more I learn that He is a God who cares deeply for all people. 

We aren't sure what "more" needs to look like for us yet. 
But we're praying that our hearts would be willing, ready, obedient to whatever the call my be. Even if it means moving away from our comforts and our community. Even it means inviting children to come to live with us for a day, a month, or forever. Even if it means becoming more involved, more aware, more vocal, more uncomfortable exactly where we are. 

We have to do more. 
We have to love more. 
The self-sacrificing type of love. 

I sat with Kel's grandmother this past week a few different times. She lost her husband a few years ago. Sitting with her wasn't exhilarating. But as I listened to her stories and asked her questions, I thought to myself: this is what love can look like

Just showing up. Listening. Asking. Paying attention to the needs of those around us. 

I want to hear more. 
And I want to respond.
I want to do more. 
I want to love more...even if it means being inconvienced. 
Because of what God has done. 

We can have no other response. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Monday, November 5, 2018

Pursuer of Purpose

I took scissors to my hair in 9th grade. It wasn’t a good decision, but something needed to change. The blonde locks of my youth had turned into a mousy brown that no amount of Sun-In could remedy. I was officially a brunette—an acne-faced, frizzy-haired, and (now) unevenly ear-length bobbed adolescent brunette. I had been denying the effects of puberty for a few years, but I couldn’t live in the ignorance any longer. The self-cut was a bold move, a regrettable move. It was a move that spoke to that stage in my life. Independent. Able. Willing. Strong. And probably, in reality, it was an attempt to hide a whole lot of insecurity.

You matter. 
It's a statement I struggled to believe for much of my life. I constantly wanted affirmation that these words were, in fact, true.

Prove it. I would typically spit back. Because (I was sure) if I really mattered, then my life would be different. People would treat me different. God would have pulled through on the array of different requests I had thrown up to Him.

So, naturally, it's easy to go through life believing the opposite is true: you don't matter.

I'm finding more and more that I'm not the only one who has walked in the wake of this lie. I'm not the only one who has suffered through it, who has agonized over the rejection, who has desperately attempted to prove to herself that maybe it's not true. Because, when you believe the lie--it's not really a lie. It's your reality, it's the voice you hear on repeat in your head: You don't matter.

When you live your life believing somewhere at the core of who you are that you don't actually matter, it seems to play out in a variety of different ways. Some people self-harm. Some people try to fight the lie, trying to prove that they do matter to someone or to something. Some people try to pretend it's not really there.

I think I did a lot of fighting and a lot of pretending. I tried to find validation in boys. Or sports. Or grades. Or being a "good Christian". Or having a sweet haircut. Because, if I was loved by someone, or if I was MVP, or if I was an A-student, or a really great Christian who read my Bible and prayed, or if I was hot... wouldn't I matter? Wouldn't that amount to something? Wouldn't that mean that I had done something right?

For one of my classes this past year, we had to detail out our entire life story in such a way that caused us to examine our strengths, our passions, our purpose. At the same time, we were asked to walk through the events where we had face opposition and look for the commonalities in them. As I made my list, I began to see a core lie emerge: You don't matter.

In so many instances throughout my life, I could see the devil at work in his attempt to persuade me with this blatant attack. You don't matter. For so long, I believed it. For so long, I pretended to be an upbeat, happy-go-lucky girl that was winning at life. In fact, I think I was so good at pretending that I actually started to believe that the facade was true. I started to believe that the success mattered significantly more than whatever was going on inside. Avoidance and pretending seemed to be working. 

But, on one harrowing Thanksgiving break in college--all my walls collapsed. I remember sitting at the table and after an awful statement (made by yours truly) caused quite the commotion among the family... being broken. Like, fall on your face, weeping type of broken. Broken because there was this flood of all the things I had pushed back for years suddenly surfacing in the mind of my 20-year-old self. Words that had been said. Things that had been done. Every single one of them communicated the same thing: You don't matterYou never have

I ran that night. Out of my parent's house and into the arms of my oldest brother who had chased me out the door. He held me tight and wouldn't let me go, despite my every attempt to escape his grip. You matter. You are loved. He proclaimed truth. His direct opposition to the words I had unknowingly believed for so long felt like a bright light suddenly shining in my dark world. It hurt. It made me mad. I wanted to fight it. But it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. 

I wish I could say that from that moment on, I've never believed the lie. But, I think that moment was only a step toward a necessary healing that would take years and years to be complete. In fact, I would have to admit that at any moment of opposition I encounter, it's hard for me to not immediately jump to a place of thinking I don't matter. 

This same class assignment required a re-naming of ourselves as we begin to embrace more of our giftings and strengths. As I processed through all the life events, both the good and the bad, I ended up with this "new name": Pursuer of Purpose.  It speaks to the way I interact with people and the way I long for things to be in my relationship with the Lord: purposeful. I want Scripture to have purpose, to move me toward action. I want my actions and life to reflect the purpose that I believe Scripture calls me to. I want to overcome the challenges, but allow them to have a deeper significance, for there to be purpose to them. I want to learn from the past and to know how I can use the elements of my story for the Lord’s glory.

This lie that I keep coming back to seems to counter this passion and desire of mine in a way that attempts to strip me of purpose. You don’t matter. And if I don’t matter, how can I do anything good? How can there be purpose in anything that I do?  It seems that if the enemy can convince me to believe the lies, it can easily veer me off on a course to be self-absorbed, especially in a way that doesn’t reflect forward-propelling purpose. Instead, I’m debilitated, feeling sorry for myself and wrapped up in my own sob stories and heartaches. Instead of asking how the Lord can use what I’m going through to impact the Kingdom, I’m caught up solely in what I’m going through and how it makes me feel about myself and the Lord. I’m void of purpose. 

When I believe the lie that I don't matter, it becomes more about what the Lord can do for me, instead of what He is doing in me and how I can live more intentionally with those around me.

Now that I am more aware of the connections, I am able to see how I might be better able to recognize the lies and be more equipped to resist and act in such a manner that is true to my design. This involves stepping back, being aware of what is really going on and how it may be an attack and a deterrent from my calling. 

In fact, awareness of this allows me to react to the lies differently, in a way that can bring me back into a place of better understanding that sometimes the opposition is there to distract me from what I am meant to do. I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote in his sermon, Satanic Hindrances:

If Satan hinders you, I have already said that this opposition should cheer you. If you can trace the opposition distinctly to Satan, do not sit down and fret. It is a great thing that you can actually trouble the great prince of darkness and win his hate. …Stand out against him because you have an opportunity of making a greater gain than you could have had had he been quiet. You could never have had victory over him had you not engaged in conflict with him. …Press on then; the more opposition, the more honor.[1]

If I can approach the hardships and challenges in a way that still enables to me to live out my name, my design—to pursue purpose—I think there is greater victory to be found in this story that I am living as I quest after the things the Lord would have for me.

I matter
Not because of anything I have done or haven't done. Not because of how I look or because of what I have to offer. Simply because the Creator of the universe calls me daughter.

There’s a consistency of the Lord reminding me of who He is and of His love for me. He is constantly addressing the core lies, the doubts, the hurts, the worries—and reminding me that He is God and He is good.  It isn’t always the speediest process or when I think I need it to happen, but it happens exactly when I actually need it to happen. God remains faithful, unchanging, and steadfast and the patterns of His appearance in each of these scenarios in my life prove that. Not only is He communicating that I am His, but He is communicating that He wants good for me. The process isn’t just about salvation, but it’s also about being His daughter and a co-heir with Christ. 

It is always humbling, always beautiful, and always Him coming to me, exactly where I am, and being exactly what I need Him to be. 

He's coming to you, too. 

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Spiritual Warfare in a Believer's Life, ed. Robert Hall (Lynnwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1993), 123.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cereal and Dishes

I've made it a habit the last few years to do a mushy gushy anniversary post....and while our 4th anniversary came and went this year, and while I had every intention to sit down and write about how great marriage still is...

I never got around to it.

Sometimes that feels like a theme of life: Never getting around to things. Like cleaning my house. Or actually preparing real meals. Or brushing our dogs. Or looking like a presentable human being. So life just becomes about priorities and getting through the things that matter more when they matter more. And then you sleep. And then you wake up. And then you do it all over again... still thinking, "I really ought to...."

So here I am a month later, still reflecting on our last year of life together. And, rather than pages and pages of all the crazy, here are some paragraphs about what our life has entailed for us in our third full year of marriage. And mostly, you'll learn, that this is basically just a list of all the ways my husband supports me and how blessed I am by our marriage.

  • School. Distance learning at its finest--including a trip to Charlotte, NC and Boston, MA and lots of pages to read and write in the meantime. If my calculations are correct, my master's degree could be complete by next December. None of this would be possible without the endless amounts of support from my husband. This is a man who selflessly lets me read every paper and post aloud to him before submitting, who lets me disappear into my books every Saturday, who dialogues with me constantly about all the things I am learning, who doesn't complain about eating cereal because I'm too behind to cook, and who has washed more than his fair share of dishes as a result of my studies. Resuming classes is, hands down, one of the best decisions I have made in a while and I could not have done it without him by my side. 
  • Children. In the last year we went through some basic testing to determine why we were not able to have children. While we weren't provided with any clear answers, there's been some peace in knowing that there's not anything "wrong" with us. There's been some peace in knowing that we can let it go and trust the Lord more fully in this area of our lives. In fact, the past month or so we've been in the process of considering what foster care could look like for us and if that's something we want to pursue. Foster Care hasn't ever been something on my radar, but for whatever reason on a random Sunday (with probably a whole lot of other factors influencing us) we felt the urging to open our hearts and home up to children (or even teenagers) in Santa Fe who may need a safe space for even just a short amount of time. Your prayers in this process would actually be awesome... 
  • Trips. In addition to our school and work travels, we've found ourselves back Hawaii this fall (we just l-o-v-e Kauai and can't seem to get enough of it). We also worked our way to Florida to meet our newest niece who was already a year old! The ocean and the sun have held a special significance in our hearts during this last season which also led us to...
  • New Tattoos. Of suns (no, not turtles and not matching). Because the sun always rises. Because the sun rises on all people-- both evil and good--and it reminds us constantly to pray for those who have hurt us, for those who are harder for us to love, and to help us not show partiality to others (Matthew 5, James 2). And also, because... from the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord shall be praised (I can always hear my friend, Lyndi, singing this song based on Psalm 113:3). Basically the sun is awesome and it holds a lot of good reminders for us as a couple, but also us as individuals. 
  • Houses. We just closed on another house in Columbia, MO that we hope to be another rental property. Have we seen it yet? No. Do we own it? Yes. Basically we're crazy. Pray that we can find renters quickly! 
  • Pottery. In addition to supporting me fully in my school workload, Kel encouraged me to take another round of pottery lessons. I just wrapped up a 7-week stint that involved me being gone for hours and hours twice a week. Just the clay and me, fighting with each other until it decides that I'm actually in charge and it will be a bowl. Or a plate. Or a mug. Or something that will look cooler once it is glazed. And even though I was kind of dreading the time commitment the class would require, this time has been good for my soul. 
  • Church. Our church involvement throughout our marriage has gone from zero to nil. This last year, however, we have realized the importance, the beauty, and the richness of caring more and giving more. Through church, we've been more actively involved in serving at a homeless shelter once a month. Through church, we have begun hosting and leading a Bible Study that challenges us to, together, reach up, reach in, and reach out. I've been proud of Kel's desire and commitment to being a part of growth, in not only our camp community, but also our local church community (and eventually beyond)!
  • Pain. We have gone through a more painful season in our marriage this year than we ever have before. In it, we have learned, through brokenness and tears, what it looks like to lean on the Lord and also each other. We have been supported by a community of friends and family (both near and far) who have believed in us, prayed for us, fought for us, and reminded us that God is good, all of the time. We have been humbled by an outpouring of kindness and grace, we have been humbled that God's plans are not our plans, and we have been forced to open our eyes a bit wider to the world around us and asked to consider where and to whom the Lord might be calling us. 
  • Rhythms. It's also been a year of learning more about rhythms--the need to rest and the need to lay down other responsibilities and commit ourselves to spiritual rhythms that lead us to the foot of the cross more consistently. We learn over and over how we cannot do much of anything good if we are not centered more wholly on the Lord and allowing the Spirit to move in and through us (vs. us always trying to do things on our own). This has involved a greater commitment to Sabbath-- to planning our lives around things that focus us on Christ and allow us to be more intentionally connected to Him, each other, and those we care about. Our Sabbath often involves corporate worship, solitude, time in creation, time with each other, and "family dinners"....and it definitely doesn't involve work or school! 
  • Discipleship. It is one of our greatest pleasures in life to journey alongside others in the quest to be more like Jesus. Both Kel and I have a deep passion to see other grow in their relationship with the Lord and are tremendously humbled when we are asked to be a part of this. When we get these opportunities, we try our best to support each other to love and serve others in ways that encourage growth, change, and more disciples of Jesus. This last year has been challenging to both of us in different aspects of discipleship, but also exciting and hopeful in other aspects. We have gotten to launch a new discipleship program at camp that is pretty sweet, too! 
So maybe that's more of a Christmas letter on the Beals... but, in my absentee from the blog-o-sphere, there's been more going on in our lives that my quick response "life is busy" can really attest to. 

The short of it? 
Marriage is still awesome. 
I'm blown away that I have a husband who I can talk to about anything and everything, who I can laugh with, who I can pray with, who I can be the ugliest in front of (physically and emotionally and spiritually and in every other way you can possibly imagine), and who loves me despite all of that. 

Perhaps we're still newlyweds in the grand scheme of marriage. But, I'm still so blessed. The Lord has been so, so good to us. 

Maybe I'll write more later. 
Or maybe I'll never get around to it. 
I guess we'll see. 

Thanks for tuning in. 
(Free free to shoot me over any questions you may have about any of that, too.) 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The One who is Worthy

I had this vision the other day of standing with outstretched arms, face toward the sun, a heart filled with praise. While every part of my soul cried out, while every part of my being tried to keep my eyes fixed on the One who is feet were surrounded by mockers, tempters, distracters, mutilators of truth.

I tried and tried to push them away, to throw them off of me, to get them to leave me alone, but these poor, unfortunate souls wouldn't go. My gaze returned to the One who is worthy, and quickly the thieves of the night were no longer consuming. Still there, yes. Still wrapping their horrors around my ankles and attempting to grab onto my outstretched arms, but my foundation was firm, my determination unyielding.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

The surprising cry of the "Friday Night Lights" mantra rang from me. Clear eyes, focused on the One who is worthy. Full heart, filled with the truth of the Gospel and the many who love and support me. Can't lose, a promise of victory over death, defeat, destruction, despair and the tears that pour from my eyes.

I might look broken, vanquished, and abandoned with predators up to my neck--but my feet are secure, my legs are strong, my arms held high, and my heart beating solely for the One who is worthy.

There's a lot I don't know about the world--and I feel like I learn that more and more every day. There's a lot that still takes me by surprise, a lot that causes my heart to ache, a lot that tries to break us. I know that we exist in a world where evil dwells and tries to muffle our praise of the One who is worthy. I know how it feels to be up against the wall, with the odds against me.

But I also know the One who is worthy.
I know that, despite all of the darkness, all of the depravity, all of the confusion--there is much to hope for.

For through it all, my eyes will always come back to the One who is worthy.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Summer is Here

Our summer staff arrive tomorrow.

For those of us in camp ministry, that means that a "normal" life for the next three month is virtually impossible. Our world speeds up and we struggle to breathe. But it's so, so good.

On this night before the chaos ensues, I find myself researching vacation spots for my husband and I post-summer (open to any recommendations you may have!), jamming out to some old school Shane & Shane, and letting my mind go down memory lane to the first day I arrived at camp as a summer staffer.

I'm going into my 15th summer of camp...but I'll never forget the first day I arrived at Camp Eagle in 2003. Everything was new and I didn't know a soul. But, it was the first place I remember going that I could be fully me. It was the first place that I went that no one else I knew had gone before me. I was on my own, embarking on a new adventure. In most ways, it felt like the most radical thing I had done in my just-turned-19 years on earth.

It makes me think a lot about the staff that are coming in tomorrow and how they must be feeling and what they must be thinking. They may not ever forget tomorrow for the rest of their lives. They may look up 15 years later and be working full-time at a camp with several of the people they worked with that first summer. Crazier things have happened.

I probably don't even know all the ways that first summer changed me, but I know that I was different afterward. I know that I continue to learn and grow and, hopefully, become a better version of myself. Not just because I work at a camp. Mostly because God is good and gracious and patiently waits for me to realize how much I need Him (over and over again).

I want to be like I was that first summer again.
Open, willing, ready, eager, excited, nervous.
Willing to dive deep into relationships with others, excited to see what the Lord was going to do, eager to learn and grow in my relationship with God and my study of Scripture so I could teach it to campers. Open to whatever the Lord had for me. Ready to work hard and learn all the new things required of me.

Join us in praying for our staff as they arrive. Pray for safety. Pray for their hearts to be prepared for a summer of intense ministry... a summer of investing in eternity. Pray for their lives to be malleable and ready for God to change them, as He works through them and in them--even in the most exhausting, selfish moments.

Pray for our full-time staff, as they go from a busy season of serving and preparing into an even busier summer of leading our summer staff and serving thousands and thousands of guests (literally).

We have incredible opportunities around us. Pray that we would be bold with the Gospel, that we would live out of the Spirit, and that we would be diligent about investing in our relationship with the Lord and those around us.

I'm pretty pumped for whatever this summer entails.
Let's do this.

Your entries will remain anonymous

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Jumbled Mess

It's harder to try. 
I don't want to try anymore. 

It's hard to explain to your husband how trying hurts more. The disappointment is greater. The risk feels higher. There's a constant awareness that the trying brings-- every twinge in my gut, every day that passes, every possibility. I found myself Google-ing a lot a few weeks ago. Did you know that practically everything can be a pregnancy symptom? But also that the biggest (most obvious) symptom is a missed period? But, for whatever reason, our irrational brains have a hard time waiting just a few more days so we read into every plausible "symptom" that could indicate that, yes, maybe this time it worked. 

I cried again. The weird part is that I still don't know why I get sad. Maybe it's pride. Maybe it's a fear that I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I feel like there's a great number of people cheering us on, praying for us, supporting us--and sometimes all I want to do is bring you good news. Maybe it's because I really do want kids and I'm too scared to actually admit it. 

I have been on a journey with spiritual disciplines for the last few months. 

"Disciplines" is one of those gross words that kind of makes you want to vomit in your mouth a little bit. Or, at least, that's kind of what it used to be for me. The trendier word for it right now seems to be "rhythm" - a safer, gentler, cooler sounding vibe. Spiritual rhythms: melodies we live our lives by that are rooted in a spirituality. 

A lot of my classes lately have had elements of disciplines, rhythms, rules attached to them. It's a part of being spiritually formed, of being centered in God, of casting off the old and living in the new... part of living in such a way that envokes transformation in those around you, that asks us to dig deep, to reflect, to be willing and open to change in ourselves. 

When I used to think of spiritual disciplines, I used to think about praying, or reading the Bible, or journaling. In my mind, the list of disciplines was pretty short. But for the past few months I've been practicing the presence, service, memorization, gratitude, retreat...and now I'm entering into a two-week stint of "slowing". Slowing down my life, giving room for God to move by creating space in the midst of the hustle and bustle of being busy, taking time to give the Lord my days before I take my head off of the pillow, driving in the slow lane, choosing the longest line at the check-out. Because I'm too busy, too unwilling to pause and let the little inconveniences open my eyes to the world around me. I pretend to be too busy to even really process how I feel about infertility and only give myself a few minutes to cry before wiping my eyes and returning to work again. Too busy, too unwilling to let people see the rawness and the pain of it. 

Have you ever felt something stirring in you? 
Something deep, something big, something unknown? A feeling that there's something coming your way and you may need to brace yourself for what lies ahead? 

I've been feeling like that lately. That something big is around the corner. I don't know what it has to do with, but I have felt like the Lord has asked me to be patient in the process and to seek Him all the more. I wonder, often, if it has to do with children...and more recently I wonder if it might have to do with my growing passion and awareness of social justice and how Scripture repeatedly takes up the cause of the orphans, the widows, the poor, the oppressed.  

This is the second Sunday in the last few months where I have left church and told my husband that I feel like adoption is in our future, even if I don't know what that tangibly looks like. Sometimes I think that a child with no mother or father might just show up on our doorstep (probably not literally) and that we just need to be ready. 

I say all of this, and I say it all over the place because I don't know how to succinctly make it sound pretty or well-thought out. My mind is jumbled. But, I know, more than any other track of self-improvement that I could choose right now, this is the journey that I must take...and the one I want to take. More than the attempts to keep my skin young or to shed a couple pounds, I need to be disciplined in my quest to draw closer to God. I need the transformation of the soul, I want to be more like Jesus. I want the things I say I want to be the things I really want--I want God's word to impact me to the core of my being. 

I think these disciplines, these rhythms are preparing me for what is next. Perhaps they're preparing me for a life without biological children. Perhaps they're preparing me to move to Africa. Perhaps they're preparing me for a life of simple obedience in the mundane, ordinary day-to-day. 

I want to boast in the Lord.
Only in Him. 
I don't know if I know how to do that if I continue to hold on too tightly to the world I think I want. 

So for now, I will pay attention to the stirrings... waiting patiently until He calls, and press further into knowing Him. 

Your entries will remain anonymous

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Swimming Forward

Science is crazy.
So is the human body.

Last week, we were presented with some new news regarding our fertility. You ready for it? Basically, we're both fine. Healthy, even.

My husband's got a lot of forward-swimming little guys with funny shaped heads (but enough normal shaped head ones to not matter). My ovaries are in the stellar shape of a 23-year-old lady (that's ten years younger than me, folks) with no tube blockage and plenty-o-eggs to be implanted.

It wasn't shocking news.
But, now we know.

"So, Doctor-man, you're saying there's no apparent reason that we aren't getting pregnant?"
"Honey... it's amazing anyone gets pregnant."
(okay, so he didn't say "honey", but it seems like he should have.)

And he's right.
It is amazing. Miraculous. For every single thing to go right that has to go right for a couple to conceive is crazy. I don't know when the last time was that you watched a little clip on "how babies are made" (probably 7th grade, like me)...but, it's fascinating. And weird. And fascinating. And miraculous.

So, now what?
Do we keep moving full speed on the fertility train of IUIs and IVFs and wherever else it may lead us?

I don't think we're quite there...and, honestly, we may never get there. More than anything, the cry of my heart is to be open to what (or who!) the Lord might have for us in this journey of life. Since before I was married, I have always thought adoption was something I would want to do (I even wrote this blog about it, long ago). Then again, I was also sure kids were something I wanted to do.

But that's the prayer.
Not my will, but the Lord's will.
Maybe we'll get pregnant.
Maybe, someday, we'll come across a little child that needs a family.
Maybe we'll never have kids. 

But, that's the prayer.
That, no matter what our circumstances may bring... we would be faithful. Joyful. Content. Open. Willing. Obedient. Abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit.

Beyond that, I'm not too worried about how it all plays out. There will be hard days...and good days...and mediocre days. There will be days when my heart cries out for a child, days when I feel like my life is flying by and I just can't catch up, days when nothing is as it should be. But, despite those moments, I know I'll be okay.

Pray that we'd be willing.
To go, to be, to give, to receive, to let our lives truly be transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ.

On a note of practical updates:
I am taking Clomid for a few months and we do plan to reevaluate and see what our next steps might be, depending on how that goes.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Turkey Baster

Today was the day.
I hadn't really put too much thought into any of the details of what would transpire, aside from asking people to pray for us.

Pray for us to know more.
Or to have clarity.
Or something. I don't even know.
We had been praying a lot ourselves. Looking back, I'm not even sure what we prayed for.

Lots of paperwork. Intimate questions. How often do you sit in a sauna or hot tub? (every day, people). How many caffeinated beverages do you have a day? How many times are you intimate with your partner each week? Medications. Surgeries. All the things.

A nice doctor man.
We sat down with him and talked through our history and where we were at, what we had tried, what we had come across.

"I assume you're here because you want to get pregnant."

Nice doctor man... while that might be the normal assumption of a couple at a fertility clinic, that's not exactly the case here. We just were hoping for some answers. Just to know if we even can have kids. I don't know if I'm really ready to pull out all the stops.

He described it as a journey and began to tell us the step by step process of how things typically go, what they'll try and a bit of what we could expect. Asked if we had questions. "Sir, we have a hot tub. Does that affect sterility?" "No, I think you're fine." I had asked my husband a few weeks ago, after reading online all the negative ramifications of hot tubs on sperm count, if he'd rather have a baby or a hot tub. He hadn't answered...

Before I knew it we were being given an ultrasound, tested for vital sperm and taken into a room with a nurse to sign my life away. More tests. Prescriptions. Specific days of my cycle to take medication, test for ovulation and come in and get a turkey baster of my husband's goods planted in utero (I promise that the doctor actually referred to the medical syringe as a turkey baster).

I remembered at this juncture that a friend had told me recently how, once you go into the fertility clinic, they just throw you onto the moving train of baby-making. I got a little panicky as I listened to the nurse's words. There was no, "If you want..." or "think about it...". Just, "do this" and then "do that". BUT WHAT IF I DON'T WANT TO!?!?!  My heart was racing.

"Could we just try the medication for a bit before jumping into IUI (in utero insemination)? My husband and I haven't had a chance to talk about all of this..."

Finally seeing my panic, the nurse backed off a bit. She assured me that I could take my time and that signing the papers was just a formality to get out of the way so we wouldn't have to worry about it later. I could just take the medications for a few cycles and see how that goes before coming back to the clinic for an IUI.

Next steps involve another blood test and a few more tests on me to see that no tubes are blocked. The good news is that I have healthy looking follicles and eggs (and no cysts). The bad news is that I still feel a bit lost as to what to pursue and how much to pursue it and how far is too far. We haven't even talked about the dollars involved in this entire process yet....

So, my husband and I left feeling a little more exposed, sat at the bar of Texas Roadhouse (they were giving away free appetizers if we sat there) and talked about our fertility treatment options. I'm sure it's perfectly normal to have a couple at a bar, drinking Dr. Pepper and water, praying and talking about IUIs.

I don't know if we have solid answers yet. Maybe my husband does and I don't. Maybe I just need some time to process and pray some more. I told Kel that I think I have this faulty expectation that if we go down this route, we will have a child.... and I'm still sometimes really not sure if I want one. But, I also realize that if we go down this route, we still might not have a child. And maybe that part is actually more unbearable to face. Pulling out the stops...and still being empty-wombed.

Keep praying, if you think about it.
We have some pretty decently quick decisions to make and I have loved hearing from those of you who have reached out (and in the very near future, once my classwork slows down, I plan on responding to all of you). I'm encouraged by the fact that there are others who have gone before me in this, others who are still struggling with it and others who are just here and with us, even if our battles look really different. I'm thankful and humbled by you all.

(Ironically enough, I am taking a Christian Ethics course this semester... which includes some content on reproductive technologies. So, that'll be fun).

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

To be or not to be...

I feel like for the last 3 years I have been slowly trimming out a baby-shaped hole from my heart. Every month that goes by is another cut in the paper heart. To be or not to be...? That is the question.

Right before Thanksgiving, I felt like it was the next to last snip before the baby-shape falls out completely.

And I lost it.

A tragedy about finding out that you’re not pregnant each month is also finding this out during your most emotionally unstable time each month. How can you ever trust what you’re really feeling in those quiet, lonely hours and days?

So I waited.
I waited because part of me couldn’t handle processing the emotions that were attached to that final cut. I waited because I couldn’t trust them. I waited because I certainly couldn’t talk about them. I waited because I was surrounded by friends and family who were raising up beautiful children and learning new things about life and the Lord and family and I knew that was factoring somewhere into the equation of my sadness.

I waited because I had never felt more alone in my pain. Realistically, I had never actually felt this pain before.

This was the first month that I had felt pretty hopeless, a little like it actually wasn’t going to happen, a little like I needed to start living life without this possibility that children may someday be in our future. A little like I needed to make the final cut and be done with it, learning to live life with this baby-shaped hole forever in my heart. A little like I needed to mourn the loss of never knowing what it might be like to carry a child in pregnancy. A little like I needed to stop thinking about what sort of cute pregnancy announcement we would come up with to share with the world that a miracle had truly transpired.

I still haven’t known how to talk about it.
Not on a real gut-wrenching, this actually hurts my soul, type of talk about it. Maybe it’s because those moments are few and far between. Maybe it’s because I still sometimes don’t know if I want kids. And maybe because sometimes I do. And maybe because sometimes I’m scared that if I say I do and it never happens, where does that leave me?

I don’t know how to connect with others and I don’t know how to let them connect with me. Instead, I find myself keeping them at an arm’s length: they don’t/can’t/ won't understand. Because…how could they? One day I think I want kids. The next day I don't think I want kids. One day I really want kids. The next day I really don't want kids. My journey hasn't been one of constant longing or undeniable desire. In fact, most days, as this blog can attest, I am content and absolutely grateful for the way this life is going. 

But then there's that day.
A day where loss seems inevitable, where mourning seems necessary, where moving on and letting go seems most wise.

My husband scheduled an appointment at the fertility clinic.
I suppose some of you are thinking, finally.
And maybe that's true. I sometimes think it myself, while also a bit in denial that we're here at all. If nothing else, we're just looking for answers. We'll both get some tests done at the end of the month and figure out where we want to go from there, if there's anywhere to go from there.

And so here we are.
In place I didn't think we'd be, but trusting the Lord in it--no matter how it continues to go.

Would you pray for us?
For discernment?
For wisdom?
For us to continue trusting the Lord in where He has us in the possibility as parents (even if that looks like us not being parents, or adopting, or pursuing some other options with fertility treatments)?

I'd also love to hear more from any of you who have been on a similar journey. We're entering into unchartered territory and the unknown always feels a little...questionable. And I'd love to hear from those who haven't had children (whether by choice or not)...and how that process has been for you.

There's the latest with us when it comes to this infertility saga.

(I wish one blog post could also sum up the hundred of other things going on in our life that are also on our minds and hearts...but I'll save those for a rainy day).

Thanks for reading.
Thanks for caring.
Thanks for praying.

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